Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Welcome to the Jungle

I'd meant to blog more humorous posts, in the aftermath of my great and hilarious weekend in Toronto. I'd meant to post sooner. But for the past few days, my mind has been occupied by a totally unanticipated and unfunny situation in my shul. Despite my deep dislike of shul politics, I've found myself smack dab in the middle of it.

The Background
The shul General Meeting, during which new board members are elected, will take place in a couple of weeks. In past years, the number of nominees has been exactly the same as the number of open slots. According to the shul by-laws, additional candidates can be nominated by petitions receiving a requisite number of signatures. A current board member circulated petitions adding three additional nominees to the slate. This year, therefore, there are more candidates than positions, meaning that some of those running for re-election may not win.

What Does This Have To Do With You?
I am one of the three additional candidates. I did not ask to be nominated (although I am honored to now be on the slate), so I really had nothing to do with the petitions.

No, Really...What Does This Have To Do With You?
One of the other nominees sent out an email to members of the community directly attacking me. He indicated that I was somehow trying to stage a coup and pull the board "to the right", and that I was the ringleader of this plot to add myself and "two of my friends" to the slate. He implied that I am immature, and lack commitment to the shul. He didn't even mention the other two write-ins by name. It was just about "Cara and her friends".

Yeah, that's what I said. It was an unwarranted, unprovoked attack. Don't ask me why he chose to single me out, because I honestly do not know. I don't even know who he sent his email of lies to initially- I only received it after it had been forwarded to those who thought I should know what was being said about me.

What Happened Next?
I immediately wrote to this individual, calmly and maturely defending myself against his accusations. The rabbi and shul president were copied on that email. One of the other maligned write-in candidates also wrote to him, copying the entire shul board on the letter, asking that the three of us be given a public apology.

It's now been two days since I sent my reply. I've received private replies from the rabbi, the president, and various members of the board, all of whom have sympathized with me and distanced themselves from him. The only public reaction has been a letter sent to all board nominees, offering us a chance to write position statements that will be sent out before the election.

There has still been no apology, or response of any kind, from the person responsible for sending out lies and insults.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Wedding Dance Mix- Limited Time Only!

Having never had to plan my own wedding, I can't speak from personal experience about the weird phenomena that are DJs and wedding bands. However, I have been to many weddings, and noticed that whenever secular music is played, there are always selections that I find odd, inappropriate, or downright disturbing. Sometimes insider information reveals that these questionable musical melodies (maladies?) have actually been chosen by the bride, groom, or family members who could not be refused. Other times, it seems as though the DJ or band has abused their authority or whimsically added to the play list. An example of the latter scenario would be when the band opted to play "Brown Sugar" during a secular dance set. I guess nothing is more romantic than a master taking advantage of his slave girl.

Recently I attended a wedding where it seemed that practically every secular song played was questionable. To protect the innocent, we will say that this wedding took place in a city called "Sporonto". The medley included:

* I Will Survive- a romantic solo about getting over the man who screwed you up for so long and not letting him back in your life. Key lyrics include: "I should have changed my stupid lock/ I should have made you leave your keys/ if I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me" and "I'm not that chained up little person/still in love with you".

* Bad Bad Leroy Brown- this soulful ditty tells the story of a man who gets his ass kicked for hitting on another man's wife in a bar. Is this meant to be a reminder for the wedding guests? "Hey, fellas, you see the pretty girl in the long white dress? She's married now, scumbag! Stay away!" And is the groom supposed to be Leroy, or the guy who beats Leroy? (Note: This song is also great for simcha dancing! Separate, of course.)

* Build Me Up Buttercup- sure, this one sounds upbeat and cheerful. Perfectly appropriate for a song about a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. Key lyrics include: "Why do you build me, Buttercup baby/ just to let me down/ and mess me around" and "Although you're untrue/ I'm attracted to you all the more".

Here's your opportunity to weigh in and offer up suggestions for the Inappropriate Wedding Songs Compilation CD. This item not sold in stores.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In the House of J-Smoov

After giving in to the overwhelming requests from my dubious Canadian fan-base, I find myself sitting in front of a computer late at night, feeding their egos by "being brutally honest" and telling them what I think of them. Really, it's J-Smoov who wants the shout out, and wants to be publically known
in my world by the aforementioned code name.

Honestly, it's a lot of pressure. I mean, it's hard to be funny on demand. For me, at least.

However, there are a few things I can say with certainty:

* Gustav and Javier are great names for Jewish boys.
* The best way to make someone feel comfortable in a room full of strangers is to sit in complete silence and stare at her when she walks in.
* Gaby looks amazing in tights. Great legs. I mean, we're talking phenomenal.
* It's very easy to be accepted if you start making jokes about H-Bomb's weight and the amount of food he can consume (see postscript)
* It's very easy to be accepted if you start making fun of H-Bomb. Period.

There will, of course, be more to come. But if I don't post something soon, some of H-Bomb's friends will wear themselves out by all the constant running to the computer to see if I've posted.

Postscript: H-Bomb is not, in fact, fat. There's just a lot of him to love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Oh, Canada

I realize that it's been nearly a month since I last posted about not having anything to post about. Obviously, not much has changed. There have been moments where a potential topic flits through my brain, but there really just hasn't been time to flesh it out, type it up, and post.

I mostly blame H-Bomb for this. In a good way, of course. Since I've been so happy with my life over the past few months, I have nothing to kvetch about. And since I'm nowhere near sick of his company, I'd rather hang out with him than sit in front of my computer and blog.

But really, I think it's more of the first reason. Even things that habitually bothered me in the past, like stupid shul politics, don't rile me up to the point where I need to use this forum to vent. If something does happen that gets under my skin, I can vent to him, and it instead becomes a conversation instead of a frustrated rant. If I'm grumpy or cranky about anything, he magically knows how to make it all better. So, in effect, he may be the best thing that ever happened to me, and the worst thing to ever happen to this blog.

In other news, I am excited to meet many of his friends this weekend in Toronto. And if any of their wives happen to know of a decent place to get a pedicure on Sunday before Eli's wedding, I'd appreciate the feedback. My normal places were all mysteriously closed today. And does anyone know if the kosher gluten-free pizza place is still open?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why I Don't Spell My Name With A 'K'

Props to H-Bomb (or, more specifically, to his friends who went in search of my blog and mispelled my name) for discovering the truly bizarre and disturbing rants of Kara.

Her world scares me. I'll stay here in mine.

Blogging is Not for Happy People

For some strange reason, the most interesting blog posts (and blogs in general) tend to be about something controversial or the trials and tribulations of life. There are so many blogs out there that are full of posts pointing out what's wrong in the political arena (domestic or international), what's wrong with religion (pick your god and/or denomination...there's a blog for you!), what's wrong with the blogger's life, or what's wrong with everyone else in the blogger's life. The major exception to this is, of course, Trep's blog, which manages to balance the good, the bad, the annoying, and the interesting.

The obstacle that this currently poses for this blog is that I'm happy. In the past handful of months, there've been some posts about shul-related frustrations, but that's really been the only irritant that might be of interest to others. I could post about why my classes aren't very satifactory this semester, but who would really care? I have a loving family, fabulous friends, a great boyfriend, an amazing internship...there's really nothing to kvetch about. It makes for a great life, but a terrible blog.

So, to those of you who actually read this, I'm open to suggestions for post topics. I'm coming up empty.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Polling Places Now Closed

Props to the very few people who read this and offered suggestions for the boyfriend's blog name. I thank you for your suggestions, and have decided not to go with any of them. I would particularly like to thank Anonymous Sibling's anonymous boyfriend (also known as Jeremy).

I am now bestowing upon my wonderful boyfriend the codename "H-Bomb". The reason for this is simply that this is the very silly name he likes to use when singing karaoke, and Karaoke Wednesdays were a strong contributing factor to his reeling me in over the course of the summer.

And for those who are fascinated by my love life (or the fact that I suddenly have one), I can honestly say that after spending the entire chag-filled month of Tishrei together, I am still not tired of H-Bomb's company. More amazingly, he isn't sick of me either. And really, at this stage of a relationship, what more could you ask for?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Name That Boyfriend!

The boyfriend needs a codename. I'm giving you all a chance to make suggestions.

For any OTI alumni in the audience, please note that 'Doughboy' is already banned from the list of possibilities.

Didn't See That One Coming...

At first, I could not figure out for the life of my why one of the visits to my world came from a Google search for "shoe repair dog teeth marks". I mean, it's better than some of the other weird searches that I can imagine, but it was still a puzzler.

So I did what anyone else would do...I opened a new page, went to Google, and performed the same search. I'm actually the 10th result (out of 851,000)! Turns out it links to an old post about my brother's dog eating a pair of much-loved black sandals last summer. Not nearly as bizarre or noteworthy as I had hoped.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd!

I just wanted to wish you all a chag sameach. I found myself suddenly really looking forward to sukkos, and filled with nostalgic memories about sukkah decorating as a child (and an adolescent, and an adult).

I always enjoyed the hanging gourds. No idea why. I just think they're funny, in a happy way.

Anyway, a gut yontiv to all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A "Big" Goodbye

This will most likely be my last thought on the Big vs. Aidan toss-up, because there is no contest anymore. I'm so happy with "Aidan" that is really places the entire dramatic saga with "Big" in a new perspective.

The reason I'm putting up this last one is because I noticed today that "Big" no longer lists himself as single on Facebook, and I wasn't remotely jealous. In fact, I'm kinda proud of him. I was undoubtedly as wrong for him as he has proven himself to be for me, and I'm glad he seems to have grown up enough to commit to a woman. I hope that also means he'll treat her better than he treated me. If he's willing to stop seeing other women, it's already a start.

The flip side of that is that I had actually found out from someone else that he had begun seeing this woman, and that he had started seeing her by the time I told him about "Aidan". The fact that he and I are supposed to be friends, and he didn't bother telling me that he was seeing someone as well was perhaps the final nail in the coffin. It made it so crystal clear to me that I simply have no patience left with his inability to communicate (or, alternatively, our differing opinions on what is important to communicate about). After all, if I've already acknowledged to being with someone, why should it matter? Particularly since "Aidan" and I went to his bday party the following week, and he was physically demonstrative with his new girl. Had I not already known of her existence, I'd have been very surprised, and therefore hurt. Not jealous, but hurt that our "friendship" didn't matter enough for him to give me a heads-up. I guess I'm still slightly peeved about it, but I just shrug and say "Typical". Because it is typical for him.

So this is a public farewell to my personal Mr. Big. As I hope we maintain our friendship, he may still potentially be referred to here in Cara's World. He just no longer has the same codename, as he no longer plays that role in my life.

A Post-YK Confession

I'm not ashamed to admit it. In fact, in this particular case, I'm delighted to have the chance to admit it.

I was wrong.

I had hoped to have a chance to blog this before Yom Kippur, but it turns out to be an added plus that I had to wait until now. This is the latest installment of the Rabbanit Debate. Again, I'm not addressing whether women should or should not have an equivalent title to "rabbi," but rather the specific leadership issues surrounding the recent staff appointment at my shul.

I had dinner on Thursday night with the new Programming and Ritual Director of my shul. Since she needs a shorter code name for blogging purposes, we shall give her the acronym "The PRD". She'd invited me to come over and join her, to follow up on an interesting conversation we had begun weeks before during a shabbos meal.

To be honest, I was more than a bit apprehensive. She'd given a speech from the bima on Rosh Hashana that had bothered me a great deal, and I was uncomfortable with the notion of airing my grievances in her own home. It simply didn't feel right. Turns out that my fears were groundless.

Instead of having a heated confrontation, in which one or both of us offended the other, we had a candid, open conversation/discussion about the shul community, its leadership, "public" sentiment towards the PRD and roots of those sentiments, and even contemplated what she could "do" about the situation. I also learned far more about her, and the details behind her hiring.

Of particular interest were her emphatic statements that she does not want to be a rabbi, and the information that the Board never intended to hire both her husband as well as her. Not only did the conversation help the two of us solidify the foundation of our friendship, but it also framed the Debate more squarely in terms of shul leadership and obligations/responsibilities towards the community.

This all could have been said before Yom Kippur. The nice thing about having been forced to wait until now is that I can add the post-YK postscript. Right before Neila, after giving a brief description of the shul's new Torah Institute programs, she took the opportunity to publicly acknowledge the segment of the community that resents or fears her, to ask mechila for anything she may have said that was offensive (however unintentionally), and to admit that she has no desire to ever be considered a rabbi. It was a brave, admirable move.

So, the debate isn't over. I still have very strong feelings and opinions about the role the rabbi and board have played in creating such confusion, hurt, and resentment. But I'm grateful to have had the chance to learn just how wrong I had been about the PRD, and the dangers of attributing motivations to people I don't really know.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ahoy, Me Hearties!

Avast, ye scurvy knaves!

Today be ITLAP Day. Let's hoist the Jolly Roger and sail the fickle seas! Those who stand in our way shall be made to swab the deck and feel the lash of me cat o'nine tails! Arrr, ye scallywags!

In honor of this merry day, I've gone back into the archives and dug up two pirate quizzes for the lundlubbers in the audience:

What's Yer Inner Pirate?
For those interested, I be the Quartermaster!
You, me hearty, are a man or woman of action! And what action it is! Gruesome, awful, delightful action. You mete out punishment to friend and foe alike – well, mostly to foe, because your burning inner rage isn’t likely to draw you a whole lot of the former. Still, though you may be what today is called “high maintenance” and in the past was called “bat-shit crazy,” the crew likes to have you around because in a pinch your maniacal combat prowess may be the only thing that saves them from Jack Ketch. When not in a pinch, the rest of the crew will goad you into berserker mode because it’s just kind of fun to watch. So you provide a double service – doling out discipline AND entertainment.)

What's Yer Pirate Name?

My pirate name is:
Red Mary Bonney
Passion is a big part of your life, which makes sense for a pirate. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Quick Update

5768 is already turning into a very busy year. This is a good thing, but leaves me little time to blog. So here's a brief update:

* Lots of shul stuff. Rosh Hashana was highly political, but I'm not ready to blog about it. I'd like to wait until I actually speak with key players in the shul leadership.
* I have the world's greatest boyfriend.
* School expects me to actually read stuff.
* Work expects me to actually do stuff.
* Chagim require that I take time out from reading stuff and doing stuff.
* I still have not seen OU JellyBellies on the shelves.

That is all. You may go now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I Heart Buttered Popcorn

Maybe I'm way behind on the news feed, but it has recently come to my attention (kudos to the boyfriend for telling me) that JellyBelly beans are switching to OU certification. I, for one, am super-excited, and hopped online to find out when they're expecting to hit the shelves. I couldn't find an exact date, but everything said either "later this summer" or "later this month" which tells me nothing.

The question then becomes, if you were a JellyBelly flavor, which would you be and why?

The "Rabbanit" Debate- Part 2

In an earlier post, mainly devoted to my abhorrence of shul-bashing, I mentioned the new staff appointment at my shul. Conversations over the past few weeks have prompted me to expand on this discussion, particularly since it's taken an interesting turn.

For those who wish to engage in this debate, let's make one thing very clear: this is not a debate about whether or not women should be given the title "rabbi" (or an equivalent title, if one exists). It's a interesting debate in its own right, and we wouldn't give it justice if we discussed it right now. This is really a debate about leadership, community, and public perception.

So here's the back story: my shul has a new "ritual and program director". This director is a woman. She also holds the title of "Rabbanit Chair" (still not sure what that means, though), which is an endowed position, paid for by the generous legacy of a staunch feminist who had been a member of the congregation for years.

The debate was originally about calling this woman "rabbanit" as the modern Hebrew equivalent of "rabbi", and employing her in what is, essentially, an assistant rabbi capacity. I had adamantly opposed considering her to be "assistant rabbi", and was critical of those who bestowed such a title upon her. Without really knowing her, I was critical of her as well, interpreting this debate as largely stemming from her own feminist leanings. Calling her "assistant rabbi" was a sure-fire way to ruffle my proverbial feathers.

Then I went to New York, and spent shabbat with people who knew her, and had learned with her (one of whom happens to be the person who engaged me in this debate the first time around). All of them were under the impression that she was, in fact, the assistant rabbi of the congregation, and that we were happy to consider her as such. And this is where the "rabbanit debate" took an interesting turn. It is no longer about whether or not she should bear such a title (as mentioned above, I do not want to discuss that here), but about how her hire as shul staff was portrayed to her (and her friends), and to the community of which she is now a part.

From my NY friends, I gleaned that she, herself, considered the position offered to her as being an assistant rabbi job under a different name, and that she (and her colleagues) were excited to find an MO shul that was ready for such a step. She, apparently, accepted this position under such an impression of the community, which she had only been able to visit once, when she and her husband came to interview.

The community, by and large, was under a far different impression. When she and her husband came for that interview, we were told that he was interviewing for the assistant rabbi position, and that she was under consideration for education director. They came, they left, and soon afterwards the congregation was informed that she, and she alone, had been hired as "ritual and program" director. Not long after that, it was announced that there was this new endowment for a "rabbanit" chair, which she would hold as well. The shul rabbi also gave a drasha somewhere in this time frame about bestowing the title "rabbanit" on women who had attained a level of learning equivalent to that of smicha.

So here is the debate: how much should a congregational rabbi do to forward his own agenda? The shul rabbi has made his own views on women in Orthodoxy very clear, and hiring this woman in this capacity is a step towards furthering his agenda. However, there really isn't a part of the congregation that backs him on this. While the congregation is divided on feminist issues, the divisions are pretty much between those who 1) don't know about the issue, 2) don't care if there is an issue, and 3)adamantly oppose change. There really is not a strong segment that wants to be at the forefront of pushing the boundaries.

Is it fair to the community to ignore the fact that the majority never wanted such a controversial staff appointment? Is it fair to this woman to hire her under the misperception that the community is ready for a "rabbanit"? Should a congregational rabbi ignore his communities wants in favor of his own?


(Note: One more time- this is NOT about whether or not women should be called by any title. This is about the role of leadership in a community. Also, this is not in any way meant to be an attack on the woman mentioned. I respect her, and look forward to developing what I hope will be a close relationship with her.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back To School

When I was a kid, 'back to school' was synonymous with getting new clothes, massive quantities of "school supplies" (most of which got lost or were never used), and the dual end-of-summer-blues/new-year-energy.

As an "adult", I find that there's still a certain parallel rhythym at this time of year. Ok, I'm a student, so I am literally going back to school now. I'm talking about more than simply beginning classes again. Of course, I did buy "school supplies", which consisted of a notebook and a couple of folders for class notes. I considered buying a protractor, just for old time's sake, but I think I've forgotten how to use one.

I've already started thinking about fall clothes and shoes, and the need to buy a new outfit for yontif. Maybe even new shoes. I love shoes. The great thing about being an "adult" is that now I get to buy the clothes that I really want, and not the ones that my mother thinks will simply look darling on me.

More importantly, there's still that conflict between being a bit bummed that summer is ending, and being excited for the year that's beginning. Yes, this also parallels Elul and Rosh Hashana, but why be profound when I can be shallow and talk about shoes? I had a really great summer: I played softball, I won a bike (to be time-shared with the rest of my trivia team. Or donated to charity, which is more likely), I sang karaoke (badly), I started seeing a truly amazing guy, I made new friends, I started my new field placement. Now that school has started, the free time with which I did so much has already dwindled considerably. It's hard to adjust. On the other hand, my classes seem great, I'm enough of a dork to like school, and I enjoy my field placement more and more as my caseload increases and I get more involved with the kids and families that I'm seeing. It's great to see my school friends. And there's just so much to look forward to.

The point of all this? It's been an awesome summer, and the forecast shows high probability for an equally awesome autumn. The sun is shining in my world.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Lied (Kind Of)

I'd mentioned in a previous post that I might eventually blog about my personal version of the Big v. Aidan debate.

I'm not going to. (Sorry, RWAC!)

I'd started to, but it just got way too personal. If this blog were more anonymous, I might have gone through with it. But too many people who read this actually know who I am and who I associate with, so it just doesn't feel comfortable to post that much insight into my love life where casual acquaintances can read it. Besides, both guys involved in the debate have been known to peruse this blog, and they didn't agree that I could write about them in such a way. Even if I gave them code names, it wouldn't be appropriate.

So all I will say is this: if Big and Aidan were horses on the Racetrack of Love, Aidan would have just pulled ahead by a length. This is a first in the history of the Cara Derby.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Think I'll Stick to Victoria's Secret

At first, I thought, "Cool!"

And then, I thought "Eww!"

A few minutes later, and I still think this invention is just kinda icky.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shul-Bashing: The Latest Manifestation

This is an old pet peeve. It goes back years. Those who were floating around the blogosphere back in the days of the Chicago Chevra, as MoC once called it, might remember discussions/debates between Velvel and myself regarding the portrayal of our shul to others. I’m sorry to say that the situation has not improved. If anything, it’s probably worse.

My perspective on this issue is likely to be different from that of other shul members. For one, my general course of action is to sit back and observe before jumping into the fray, so I’m less likely to shoot my mouth off at the slightest provocation. This also means that I observe the behavior and provocation of those who are shooting their mouths off. More importantly, my family has been a member of this particular shul for over 100 years, so I have a strong attachment and desire to defend it. The caveat is that I wish to defend what the shul once was, not what it is now. Overall, I cannot approve of the direction the shul has taken over the past 10 years.

Here’s where the peeve part comes in: not a week goes by that I don’t here someone criticize, slander, or mock some aspect of the shul. Such criticisms and mockeries are rarely based on anything legitimate. Two examples come to mind: the mechitza, and the new program director.

  1. The mechitza: I’ll be the first to admit it. The mechitza is very low. In fact, it is as low as is halachically acceptable. But the important part is that it’s halachically acceptable. Would I like a higher mechitza, so that there are fewer weirdos looking at me while I daven? Sure. Is it worth kvetching about? No. It was built according to halacha, and given the okay by R’ Yosef Soleveichik. If he was okay with it, why does anyone else need to complain? Particularly all of those anyone elses out there who do not have smicha, are not in a position to accurately debate R’ Soleveichik’s poskin, and are wholly ignorant of who even gave the mechitza the okay to begin with. I heard over the weekend that there are people in NY who refer to my shul’s rabbi as “Rabbi Low-Mechitza”. This irks me even more than the people who actually attend this shul and kvetch about it. Where are we taught that it’s permissible to mock like this? If someone can please point to the daf, perek or pasuk that teaches us that such mockery, such ignorant slander, is a good thing, I would much appreciate the lesson.

  2. The new program director: she’s a woman. Gasp! A woman that was hired to coordinate the shul’s programming. Chas v’chalilah! So why the big stir? Because the shul’s rabbi, an unabashed feminist, calls her “rabbanit”. Therefore, people mockingly refer to her as the assistant rabbi.

    She’s not.

    Sorry, folks. Her title is “programming and ritual director” not “assistant rabbi.” True, the staff member who recently left the shul was the assistant rabbi. While one can’t ignore the shul rabbi’s feminist leanings, one also should pay attention to detail: if she was the assistant rabbi, they’d have called her that. There is no reason to tell people who do not attend this shul that it has a female assistant rabbi. There is no excuse, for example, to refer to her husband as “the new rebbetzin”. There’s no excuse to disparage this woman before she’s even held her job for a full month. Yet all of these things have happened. Again, not cool.
    (For the record, I’m currently having my own issues with the new shul staff member. But that’s because I don’t understand why the new shul program director didn’t stick around after maariv last night to attend a shul program.)

I’ll probably expand on both of these at a later date, since I don’t foresee either topic magically vanishing. But they really boil down to the same thing: speaking negatively about a shul and community, without any thought to the image you are helping to create (or perpetuate). And some people wonder why Moshiach hasn’t turned up yet.

Things on which I may soon blog

1) My own response to the Noah Feldman malarkey. Belated, but this is my blog, so who cares?
2) Shul-Bashing. It’s a pet peeve, and time to revisit it. But now with a new feminist (or anti-feminist?) twist!
3) My personal Big. V. Aidan debate.

Emphasis on the word may. It all depends on how much time I have and whether or not I change my mind about sharing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Just returning the shout-out...

Actually, I'm flattered to be remembered,though it makes me feel a sudden urge to step up my own blogging. But did you have to bring up Amshi?

Things I Don't Normally See On My Way Home

My normal routine on my way home from work is to hop on the train/bus and either 1) talk on the phone, 2) read, or 3) zone out. The other day, I found myself abruptly yanked out of my post-work zone, when my attention was caught by an object not normally seen from a bus window. We'll slip into a first person retrospective to help you visualize...

It's around 5:15, Friday afternoon. I'm standing on the bus, zooming down Lake Shore Drive, lost in my own little world. Sometimes I'll look at the sunlight bouncing off Lake Michigan, and contemplate how shiny and sparkly it looks today. Then I'll simply stare off into space, pondering thoughts that occassionally may border on 'deep' but usually stay in the realm of tangential.

Idly, I watch the cars go by. One of them is clearly owned by people in the midst of moving. Strapped to the roof of that car is a medly of household items: blankets, small boxes, a teddy bear, a stuffed elk head...

Wait, what was that? I snap out of my zone, and look more closely at this car. Sure enough, amid the jumble strapped on the roof (and I'm not sure how they've rigged it so that nothing is flying off), I see what is unmistakeably a dead, stuffed animal head. It may not be an elk. Perhaps it is a reindeer, or a caribou. Nor is it merely a dead animal head; after closer inspection, I see a couple of dead animal legs poking out of the various blankets. Soon, the elk-bearing car has outstripped the bus, and the dead animal goes zooming off to its new home.

Naturally, I laughed, and immediately reached for my phone to tell a friend about this oddity. While she and I texted back and forth, I got off the bus, and walked home. As soon as I got to my street, I noticed a woman walking a few paces ahead of me. Every few moments, she would stop walking, and start dancing. Then she would walk a few steps, stop, and dance again. It seemed to be the day for odd sightings.

As I walked by her, I became aware that she wasn't a woman, after all...

Friday, August 10, 2007

A 'Big' Surprise

One of the first things I saw online this morning was an announcement that Chris Noth signed on to play Mr. Big one more time, in the eventually-coming 'Sex and the City' movie. I don't know how I missed hearing that this movie was even a reality, being the S&TC aficionado that I am, but I was really surprised with this morning's article. And surprised at my own reaction.

I think I'm a little disappointed that they're making this movie. I would have thought that I'd be jumping for joy. More S&TC! More, more more! But something about the whole concept of a post-finale feature-length film just isn't sitting well with me. After a few moments, I figured out why...

I liked the ending. It was believable. Every character's personal drama was resolved in a satisfying way, without being sappily 'happily ever after.' I don't need to know if Mr. Big and Carrie ultimately get married and have munchkins wearing miniature Manolos. I don't need to know how long Samantha really stays with Smith. I'm perfectly content leaving them where they are at the series' close. Creating this movie means reopening old drama or creating new drama, and that somehow seems to interfere with the entire vibe of the series and the finale.

True, no details of the storyline have been disclosed, other than that it will take place a couple years after the finale, to take natural aging into account. But if Mr. Big is making an appearance, one can reasonably speculate that some of the storyline will involve miscommunication and friction between Carrie and Big. After 6 years of miscommunication and friction, can't we leave them be? Can't we just hold on to the notion that even the most dysfunctional couples can eventually get it right and make it work?

And herein lies the real reason why I'm so on the fence about this movie. It's punching holes into the underlying romanticism and optimism of the series. Despite the honesty and cynicism of the characters' attitudes towards sex and relationships, the ultimate message was about searching for love and that one right person. The finale left me happy that each character had finally found what they needed. I don't want that image to be marred.

Of course, this is probably impacted by the fact that I've always been more of Big fan than Aidan aficionado, both in terms of show fandom and real-life preferences. So I really just don't want to have been wrong.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Overdue Snayim Stats

Ok, so the softball season actually ended a couple of weeks ago. I've been remiss in posting the incosequential details of my inconsequential summer pastime.

In a nutshell: we were solidly mediocre.

We finished as the 8th seed in a 12 team league. We were eliminated in the first playoff game, 4-3 in extra innings. It's not such a bad way to go, all things considered. More importantly, we had a blast.

I already miss seeing my teammates every week. I do not really miss having to be up early on Sunday mornings. Since I have several weeks before Sunday school begins, this means that I now have several Saturdays nights to play with. There's no excuse for coming home before 2:00am. 4:00am is preferable.

In other social news, Softball Sundays have been replaced with Trivia Tuesdays and Karaoke Wednesdays. I'm good at the first, and lousy at the second.

Hold the Ketchup!

This gives new meaning to Chicago-style hot dog

Further evidence that Chicago is, in fact, the greatest city in the United States.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dodging Bullets Vs. Dodging Drafts

I generally refrain from posting my thoughts about current hot topics in Israel, for the main reason that I do not yet live there. This is not to say that I am not entitled to an opinion, but rather that I don't feel qualified to express it in such a public way.

However, with today's op-ed about haredi draft-dodging, I feel the urge to add my voice, however ignorant and/or insignificant, into the blogosphere. So here it comes, the opinion I've been holding in for years:

Draft-dodging really, really pisses me off.

The aforementioned article specifically refers to haredim evading army service, but that pisses me off for different reasons than chiloni draft-dodging. Both, however, make me angry.

1) The haredi issue: This, unfortunately, is inextricably linked with the "Eretz Yisroel vs Medinat Yisrael" debate. For me, I don't care what you call it- you're a citizen (for those who are not citizens...well, that's a rant for a different day...), you're getting government aid to raise your children, feed your family and keep a roof over their heads, and you should have to follow the same laws as everyone else. You want to be a Kollel husband? Then do your years of service in the army, and spend the rest of your life learning. No one person can claim that their life is more precious than someone else's, so why should someone else's child risk their life so that yours can learn Gemara and pretend that the outside world doesn't exist?

2) The chiloni issue: As much as the non-haredi world likes to sling mud at the Men in Black, let's not forget that an uncomfortably large percentage of the draft-dodgers don't play for Team Frumkeit. Unless there's a genuine reason not to serve in the army, I just don't understand why so many are trying to back out. Obviously, it makes sense not to be eager to put yourself in a situation where you might be maimed or killed, and are almost guaranteed to lose friends. But to actively try to avoid protecting Israel? It simply doesn't sit well with me. It makes me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Maybe this is just a very normal "Religious Zionist in America" perspective. I'm sure that, if I were a mother in Israel with army-aged children, I would stay awake at night worrying about them. IM"H, I'll someday be that mom. And I can't help but feel that, as much as I would worry, I would be far prouder to have children serving Tzahal, and protecting the country I love so much, than to know that I raised draft-dodgers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Is This What the Sofa Feels Like?

As mentioned previously, I've been extremely restless the past few weeks, and have been questioning almost every aspect of my life. Frumkeit, men, friendships, men, staying in Chicago, and men are currently at the top of the list. Last time, I raised the subject of frumkeit, but we'll leave that on a back burner for now. We'll skip over men, and jump on ahead over to the realm of friendships...

I have a good friend who's a grad student in clinical psychology. Actually, I have several friends studying clinical psych, so we'll give this one the codename "JL". In a recent conversation, JL and I shared an empathetic moment over being Wierdo Magnets. They just seem to find us, and we decided the primary reason for this is that we are nice to them, whereas many other people just make them feel like freaks. Okay, so we're nice people. What's the problem? Well, this thought was apparently percolating in my brain for a while, and suddenly out popped:

Uncomfortable Realization #264
I'm always the therapist, and rarely the patient.

For years, I've found myself in the position of sounding board, Wise Guru, stalwart friend, and/or shoulder to cry on for many, many people. And I'm not complaining, though it probably seems that way. I'm happy to be there when people need me. In fact, I carry lingering guilt over the few times I wasn't able to be there for someone.

The issue here is that there are very few people that serve the same role in my life. Admittedly, I'm usually a fairly low-key, level-headed, self-aware individual, and thus rarely truly in need of a sounding board, Wise Guru, stalwart friend or shoulder to cry on. And in the cases where I truly have been in need, my friends have always come through.

But what about those times where I'm not actually in crisis? What about when I'm just inexplicably disgruntled? So many of those friends who repeatedly call on me to listen to their gripes, however small, just don't have time for me when I wish for them to return the favor. Or, just as often, I'm in a good mood, and they're too busy dealing with their own issues to let me bubble (or babble). Or they're just plain busy.

Am I a doormat? Am I really just letting people take advantage of me? Probably not. But asking such questions led directly to:

Uncomfortable Realization #265
I have intimacy issues, and have difficulty letting others in.

To be continued. I don't feel like talking about it right now. Let's talk about you...

House Cleaning

Dear Honored Visitors,

Please be informed that the appearance of this blog may change in the near future. The Fraggles will probably stay, but everything else is yet to be determined. We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience.

Cara's World Ministry of Tourism

Maybe this is just a tiny aspect of the restlessness that's been plaguing me lately. Whatever the cause, this is just a heads-up to those few people who visit here that it's time for a new look. This may be a temporary revival, due to my having more downtime and more computer access than I've had in the past year, but I've decided that it's time to revamp my little cyber-world.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Questions, Questions, Questions

The rav of my childhood, Rabbi Joseph Deitcher, z"l, taught that, in Judaism, it was always permissible to question, as long as questioning didn't stop you from doing. I've had reason to reference this concept many times over the years, usually in the context of the weekly vort I give at my shul during seudah shlishit. I live in a community with a very large, very newly BT population, many of whom are still trying to figure out this whole frumkeit thing. Many of whom are "shabbos frum" and not yet at a point where they are careful about (or aware of) other mitzvot that impact the other six days of the week.

Why do I bring this up? Because, for the past month or so, I've found myself really questioning why I do what I do. Why I live my life this way. Don't worry, I'm not falling off the derech. Just taking a close look at who I am right now. For example, do I only wear skirts because I truly believe that wearing pants is beged ish, and not tznius? Or do I only wear skirts because I'm used to it and would feel awkward going outside in pants? Or do I only wear skirts because it's what people expect of me? The act remains consistent- I only wear skirts. But the motivation is so very different. I'm trying to figure out what motivates me right now, in this current phase of my life. If I'm doing what, according to some, is the right act but for the wrong reasons, is that enough?

Wearing skirts is an easy example. This questioning, however, is bleeding over into every single aspect of my life. Well, with the exception on my kitchen. Never once have I questioned why I keep a kosher kitchen.

I suppose this is all part of one larger question: How frum do I want to be? I was at a meal this past shabbos with a couple of very nice, very BT families that are on the fast-track to fanaticism (IMHO). When a women who was once working towards her PhD starts talking about not sending her daughters to college, I get the willies. Experiences like that draw a nice, bright line in the sand for me, and I have no intention of crossing it.

In essence, I guess I'm having a Modern Orthodox moment. How modern can I be without leaving the world of Orthodoxy, and how frum can I be while still staying modern?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alone in a Large Crowd

I wasn't going to post this, but my friend Trep just inspired me to do so after all. I don't like to write posts that seem to kvetch about other people, especially on matters of religious observance. It's actually one of my largest peeves that so many people in my shul like to gripe about others. It seems particularly wrong on Tisha B'Av, when hatred between Jews led to the destruction of the Second Temple, and to our continued exile.

However, Trep's post about searching for the right atmosphere on Tisha B'Av resonated so strongly that I felt the need to express myself on this subject.

Last night, during Eichah and afterwards, I found myself disgruntled because so many of the people in my shul were treating this as a social event. They couldn't even wait to leave the shul building before the hand shakes, back slapping and laughing began. Someone had even brought a small child into the shul during Eichah, so some of the men reading had to compete with the sound of a child's laughter. Normally one of my favorite sounds in this world, it was completely inappropriate last night. And this happens every year. The rabbi always makes a special point of emphasizing that we traditionally do not greet people on Tisha B'Av, and it always falls upon deaf ears.

I always have the same reaction. First I find myself irritated that so many people 1) seem to miss the point, and 2) blatantly ignore what the rav of the shul just said 2 seconds ago. After all, I clearly remember my father teaching me that we don't greet people on Tisha B'Av, that this is a sad occasion, and that no one will take it as rude if I don't say hello. I learned this well over a decade ago, so why can't other people grasp this concept?

Then the second reaction sets in- I feel guilty for thinking negatively about others. I start thinking that these kind of thoughts, directed at other Jews for not behaving in the way that I was taught as proper, are really no different than the thoughts that eventually turned into sinat chinam, the baseless hatred that caused the destruction of the Temple. And then I start thinking about relationships between different Jewish denominations today, and how little has changed. We still have these giant chasms between different groups of Jews, and still have far too many people unwilling to bridge those chasms.

Last night followed this same pattern. So I did what I always do- I made my way through the crowds of people, not greeting anyway, and scooted on home to think in solitude. Trep's post, and the beautiful picture he posted, made me realize that it really doesn't have to be this way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Snayim Stats- Weeks 6 & 7

Being behind on my sports reporting, I'm lumping in the past two weeks of softball. I'm guessing that, since none of you particularly care how my team does, none of you particularly care about a lumped post.

Week 6: This one was a heart-breaker. We quickly found ourselves down a few runs, something like 4-1. And then it was more like 7-1. And then, in the very last inning, we had a late rally...and ended up 2 short. Final score: 7-5. But it was a good game nonetheless.

Week 7: WE WON!! Like the week before, we soon found ourselves down a few. Like 6-1. I, personally, played as though I'd never had an opposable thumb before and couldn't quite figure out how to work it. Then we scored 6 in one inning. Now it's 7-6 Snayim. Then we scored more. Final score: 13-7.

So, we go into the final game of the season with a 2-5 record, playing against an 0-7 team. I've been practicing using my opposable thumbs every day, so maybe I won't suck quite as much this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Smarter Than Othello

I know I usually don't get very personal with my posts. This was different in the past, when my paternal unit didn't know that I had a blog. Ever since my world was discovered by the Paternal Exploration Team, I've been reluctant to share thoughts about certain realms of my world, particularly those inhabited by the strange alien creature commonly known as Boy.

Given my current dry spell, there's really not that much of interest to report on interactions with these creatures. I have noticed, over the years, that I do have a particular tendency towards a certain emotion when I'm particularly intrigued by a Boy creature.

I get jealous.

I'm not proud of this at all. I like to think of myself as being somewhat more level-headed and down-to-earth than many 20-something females, so I have never liked this particular irrational tendency. Even worse, being jealous has led me to do and say some truly stupid things. Like drink too much, and then call the particularly intriguing Boy creature in the wee hours of the morning, pouring out my heart and demanding to know 1) what's going on with the other girl, and 2) how he really feels about me. Not smart. Very not smart. I don't like feeling not smart.

I found out over the weekend that a particularly intriguing Boy creature (who has intrigued me for a particularly long time) had gone out a few times with a girl I know from a past life. Did I get jealous? Yes. Did I go psycho? No!

I totally kept my cool. In fact, I'm not certain he even knows that I know. And it doesn't matter. Why? Because I was able to stay logical. Rational. Down-to-earth. Level-headed. In other words, my brain retained its normal level of functioning. I learned what I needed to learn, and then I processed it, and arrived at a very important conclusion: It doesn't matter.

Not that this particularly intriguing Boy creature doesn't matter. He really, really does. But his taking this other girl out doesn't matter. There are several factors indicating that whatever is/was between them is going nowhere. There are multiple signs that indicate that he continues to find me particularly intriguing. Nothing has really changed at all. And, since he and I are not in any kind of exclusive relationship, he's 100% allowed to date other girls. And I'm 100% allowed to be intrigued by other Boy creatures.

At the end of the day, I'm so proud of myself. I finally conquered a personal demon. Take that, green-eyed monster! You, and the Iago you rode in on!

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Heart Killer Squirrels

I realize that I've neglected to post Snayim stats for Week 6, as well as for yesterday's game. I'll get to it later. I really just wanted to take a minute to say how much I love my team.

I joined the Snayim because I wanted to play softball. My pal Eric asked if I wanted to play, I said yes. Easy. I only knew a couple of other people on my team. I realized after the first week that it was a great chance to meet some new people (something I really need to do) and get out more. And these people are fantastic.

What makes me rhapsodize about the Snayim right now? In a nutshell, they care. My very good friend Elizabeth lost her grandmother, a"h, this past Shabbat. I sent an email out at 9:35 this morning to the team, with shiva information. By 9:41, I had four responses from people who wanted to go, and were offering to drive so that others could go as well. Only one of those people had really been friends with Elizabeth before the softball season, and he and I had already discussed carpooling the previous night.

In other words, it took people a total of 6 minutes to decide to go to the shiva of the grandmother of a girl they've known for less than two months, whom they see once a week. And since it's so early in the day, and the week, I have no doubt that there will be more emails coming from other Snayim.

Maybe this seems like nothing to an outside reader. But for someone who's been feeling socially disconnected, and disheartened about the difficulty of forging new, strong friendships, the past 20 minutes have been heart-warming.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Grad School: Year Two

I started my new field placement this week. I'll still be working part-time in the Autism program for the rest of the summer, but now I'll be spending 3 days a week at a new location with a new supervisor, a whole new client population, and a whole lot to learn.

Don't get me wrong- I am super, super excited. My new placement is absolutely amazing: an intellectual paradise. There's so much fascinating and truly cutting-edge research going on, in an atmosphere that encourages curiosity and questions. Since it's part of a teaching institution, trainees are welcomed and encouraged by the entire faculty. We're there to learn, and they're there to teach. It's amazing.

That said, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I'm going to be working with children with a very different set of presenting concerns than I'm used to. And these kids can converse, which means therapy will be structured very differently. There's just so much to absorb, and I've already been given my first 5 cases. Sink or swim!

I won't be posting much about the details of what I do. Confidentiality, and all that. But I may post periodically on my reflections about what I do. Unlike last year, my second year of grad school is very focused on my area of specialization. And I'm specializing in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. So all of my classes are about mental health: social work practice in mental health settings, mental health policy, mental health with children...and that's just 1st semester.

I'm so excited!!! And yes, I am a dork.

Snayim Stats- Week 5

Ok, so this is a bit late, but...


That's right, folks, the Killer Snayim have finally won a game! And this was a very important game, too. In the time-honored fashion of Jewish singledom, this game was replete with drama. Two of the male Snayim had ex-girlfriends on the opposite team, creating that "must win" drive we needed. The competition going into the game was fierce (and I'm not being sarcastic here), to the point that one of the Snayim recruited a former college baseball player to join our pack (temporarily), just in case we were short a player.

It was a beautiful game. We simply crushed them, winning 11-1 by slaughter rule. And it wasn't just that they were really bad...we also happened to play really well. All of the little fielding errors and overthrows that had cost us bases and runs in previous weeks miraculously disappeared. We were like a well-oiled machine. The one run that got by us had been hit so hard into left field that there was really no way we could have gotten it back to the infield in time. It was a legit homerun (or as legit as a homerun can be in 16" Jewish Federation softball).

Fielding highlight: we managed to turn a double play. It was gorgeous. Puurrrrrrr.

The Killer Snayim are now 1-4. This week's enemy is 2-3, but rumor has it that one of those wins was by forfeit, so we should be evenly matched. Time to stretch our winning streak!

Personal stats: I went 3-3 this week. At my first at bat, I sent the ball sailing over the shortstop's head. It taught her not to underestimate the little girl with the big bat. My other two hits were actually pretty weak, but I somehow got on base anyway. I did accomplish something unprecedented at practice last night: I learned how to make the ball go where I want it to. If I don't choke under pressure this week, maybe I can knock in a few RBIs.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Stick Mosquito: Band Name or Future President?

Introducing the 2008 Presidential Chinese.

Although I'm pretty certain that we've already elected "Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own".

If Only Numbers Lied...

Earlier this week, I gave in to impulse, and started "seriously pondering" making aliyah. A good friend of mine asked me what "seriously pondering" meant...did it mean just fantasizing about it, as so many on this side of the big blue(ish) ocean so often do, or did it mean actually beginning to plan?

I think of it as something in the middle, closer to the planning end. "Seriously pondering" means, for me, to go a few steps past just idly dreaming, and to start taking a cold, hard look at the steps involved, and then determining how close I am to being able to make those steps.

Talk about a reality check. Cold water in the face. Insert cliche here.

I actually didn't get much farther than the Nefesh B'Nefesh website, to which I am no stranger. I don't know why it hit me so much harder this time around, but I realized that, financially, it's just not going to be possible to make aliyah after I graduate. And yes, I realize that making aliyah is rarely a financially practical move. I'm not talking about practical, I'm talking about possible.

NBN offers suggestions for what the first 6 months in Israel would cost, as an olah hadasha...and it would take everything that higher education hasn't already taken. After 6 months, I'd be broke. And that's if I were able to ship every appliance, article of clothing, and home furnishings that I would need. It leaves no wiggle room.

Wait, there was something else...oh, yeah! Student loans! I still have student loans!

Honestly, this is depressing. While I wasn't really pinning my hopes on being able to make aliyah next summer, it's hard to let go of that remote possibility. But really, I just won't be able to do it. I would really just be setting the stage for an eventual return to the States.

So, for all my friends out there who love to ask when I'm making my move (*cough* Trep *cough*), it looks like I'll be a tourist for at least a couple more years. I need to fill my piggy bank and shoo away some of those loans before we can be neighbors.

On the plus side, I did find some surprisingly encouraging info about my professional prospects in Israel. While finding a job will most likely be difficult, and I'll have to take a lower status job, and my field isn't highly paid in any country, my work experience in the States may actually help me negotiate a higher salary. Turns out that social workers in Israel are 'graded' from alef to yud alef (alef is the highest) based on experience. (I don't know if this is equally true for other professions). So, essentially, being forced to work a few years in the States with my shiny-new MSW may actually, ultimately, be helpful once I really can make aliyah.

This may be the silver lining, or I may just be fooling myself. Either way, I'll take it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Circle of Friends, or Friendly Circling?

I've found myself musing on the strange, inexplicable process of making friends. One of the aspects of Life in Chicago that I'm still struggling with is the absence of a tight-knit group of friends. I had one in college. I had one in Chicago a few years ago. But people get married, have babies, move away, grow apart...and I've found myself on the fringes of the social scene, with no group that makes me feel as though I really belong.

Sure, I go out. Almost every Saturday night, and often during the week. But, with few exceptions, I rarely go out with 'good' friends. Instead, I go out with people I'm friendly with, always hoping that some of them will become 'good friends'. Real friends, the kind that you can call just because you feel like chatting, not because you have a question. Friends who share inside jokes with you.

For some of these friendly, occasional drinking buddies, I do feel as though we're slowly starting to become real friends. The part that I muse on is this: When did it become so difficult to make new friends (and not just acquaintances)?

I don't remember the process of become close with my college friends. We went from acquaintance to friend without really working at it. Same with my old chevra, now scattered to the winds. We met, we clicked. Was it really that simple, or is memory just selective? And if it was that easy, why does it suddenly seem so hard?

(Note: This is not to say that I don't have good friends. I do, and I'm grateful for them. Nor are all of them from the college or pre-college years. I have made some wonderful, close friends since graduating. Some of them even still live in Chicago.)

I'd hoped, when I moved back to Chicago last May, that I would make new friends, and create a new, satisfying social scene for myself. I was terrified of falling into the social rut that had partially sent me scurrying off to Israel the year before. And while I'm not quite back in that rut, the threat of it still looms. That wished-for social scene never quite came to be. Is it me? Is it a natural part of *gasp!* getting older? Or do I just think too much?

Snayim Stats- Week Four

We lost. Again.

We keep running into this problem in the first inning. We just don't really get our act together until we've been playing for a bit. Unfortunately, by that point, they've already put more runs on the board than we have.

First inning: We score 2. Although, in reality, my first at-bat did advance the runner, I was pretty disappointed in my puny hitting. Bottom half of the inning, they score 6. See above paragraph. This is a recurring issue. 6-2, them.

Second inning: We score 2. They score none. We feel better. 6-4, them.

Third inning: We score none. They score 1. We're determined to make up some of the deficit. 7-4, them

Fourth inning: We score 1. They score none. The gap is closing. 7-5, them.

Fifth inning: We score none. They score 4. This is not looking good. 11-5, them.

Sixth inning: We score 1. They score none. 11-6.

Seventh inning: We don't score. End of game, final score 11-6.

While this game certainly didn't have the excitement of last week's (which is good: means no trips to the hospital), it also lacked last week's momentum. Last week, the lead kept flipping up until John got hurt and we just fell apart. This week, the only time we had the lead was during the top of the first, because they hadn't gone to bat yet.

My personal stats were dismal. I was 0-3 this week. My fielding was pretty solid, though. And, I do have to note, for my last at--bat, the other team could be heard telling each other "Move back, she can hit!" That was soothing, especially since I didn't think my previous performances deserved such praise. The other noteworthy moment was after I relayed the ball from the right fielder to 3rd base, and heard the other team call out from the bench "Good throw!" I curtsied. They laughed.

Next week, I'm acting as captain, since our fearless leader will be out of town. I've never captained a softball team before. It'll be interesting to see how this goes.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Estrogen Levels Reach All-Time High

It all started with the haircut/donation (And yes, despite my anxiety, the haircut is very cute and I've received many compliments).

As soon as I had my shorter, sassy 'do, I decided that it was time to color my hair a more vibrant shade of red. My curls are now "Ruby Twilight".

No sooner did I decide to color my hair than I, upon noticing a Sale sign in a local shoe store, decide that I need sassy new shoes to go with my sassy new hair cut and color. I walk out with 3 pairs of shoes, although I told myself after buying 3 pairs in Montreal that I was done buying shoes for a while.

Then I went home and touched up my eyebrows. And then I decided that it was a good time to exfoliate, tone and moisturize. If I'd had time, I might painted my fingernails to match my recent pedicure.

I vaguely remember this happening the last time I donated my hair. At the time, I chalked it up to pre-Israel excitement. I don't have that excuse right now. So, I must conclude that getting a hair cut causes estrogen levels to rise, creating stronger-than-usual urges to primp, polish and purchase. I don't know if this is just a natural phenomenon that occurs post-haircut (seeing as how I only get haircuts once every two years or so), but I think this is like a girl version of what happens to men once they start doing home improvement and repairs. As soon as they fix one thing, they notice all the others that they should fix. Or so I'm told.

Should I Speak to My Financial Advisor?

My family has a long tradition of noticing ridiculous store names and signs, and then laughing at them. One classic was a nail salon with a neon sign stating "Nails: Head to Toe." In the obnoxiousness of childhood, I once called the salon and asked to make an appointment to have my head nails done (do Jews even have head nails? Or just horns?). I had to repeat the question 3 times before they hung up on me.

There's a clothing store that I walk past on a regular basis which keeps making me giggle. They seem to have very trendy clothes, but for some reason call the store "Buffalo Exchange." I can't help wondering:

How many clothes can I get in exchange for my buffalo? And if I decide to return the clothes, do I have to take the buffalo back?

I am so tempted to call...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Less than one hour until I venture forth to get my hair cut.

I find myself wondering if this is what the sheep feels like right before it's shorn...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Day At The Races

I love my job.

I don't know if I've ever felt that before. Certainly not in my pre-Israel desk job, or in my post-Israel desk job. Nor my job as a metapelet in Israel. I loved my time at Yad L'Kashish, but that was technically a volunteer gig.

This is not the first time I've realized that I love my current job. I just felt like this was noteworthy enough to blog. I guess the reason that I'm constantly so pleasantly surprised at how much I love this job is because 1) I've never loved my job before, and 2) I never envisioned myself in this line of work.

(For those unaware, I've spent the past year working in a pediatric center as a behavior therapist, working primarily with children on the autism spectrum.)

Today provides a great example of why this job rocks. On Tueday afternoons, my supervisor and I lead a social group for 2 very cute, high functioning autistic children. The whole point of the group is to teach them how to play together. Today's theme was Transportation. So, among other things, we made child-sized cars out of cardboard boxes, decorated them, put them on the kids, and then played 'Red Light, Green Light'.

Cars looked something like this
(but much cuter).

I also had fun putting on one of the cars and running around in it for a few minutes.

How can I not love a job that requires me to make arts and crafts projects with adorable children, play with adorable children, and then lets me get away with running around in a cardboard car?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Snayim Stats

We lost again. This one was really heartbreaking.

Top of the 1st:We started off the game batting first, and quickly put two runs on the board. I like to think this is partially due to the strategy session we had after Thursdays practice, conducted over pizza and beer (or hard cider and ice cream for us gluten-intolerants). The batting lineup will change from week to week, depending on who's able to come to the game. Originally, I was going to bat 2nd, but the league has a rule about how many boys can bat successively, so I ended up batting 3rd instead. Two outs, none on, and I hit a double. Andy bats after me, and brings me home. Andy makes it home before the inning ends. 2-0 Snayim.

Bottom of the 1st: the other guys score 2. (I'm playing 2nd base. Turns out I really like playing 2nd base, and I don't seem to be too awful at it). Tie game, 2-2.

2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings: We score, they score, we score, they score. We go into the top of the 5th down two runs. Score, 7-5.

Top of the 5th: We're back at the top of the order. Our lead-off man, John, makes a solid hit, an easy triple. He stretches it into a homer, taking out the catcher on his way. And dislocates his shoulder in the process. John goes off to the hospital, accompanied by his sister (also one of the Killer Snayim), and one of our outfielders. We're now down to only 3 girls, which violated league rules, but the ump lets us keep playing. We're all fairly rattled by John's sudden trip to the hospital, and the inning ends quickly. 7-6, we're down by one.

Bottom of the 5th: We just can't get our heads back in the game. They score several runs before there are any outs. Then they score more. And a few more. Score: 16-6. If we don't score in the next inning, we lose by slaughter rule.

6th inning: We manage to put one run back on, keeping us alive. And then give up two. Slaughter rule goes into effect, we lose 18-7.

This one really hurt. We'd been playing well until John's injury. But I can report that he's doing well, with no serious damage. One week in a sling, and then he'll be back out there.

For those who care, here are my personal stats for the game: Batting- 1/3 (1 double, 1 walk, 1 strikeout where I didn't even go down swinging). Fielding- 1 or 2 really solid plays, and 2 where the shortstop and I realized that we need to learn to communicate better. But at least I didn't drop the ball this week.

So ends week three. Next week, as John commands us, we'll "win one for the gimper!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I am such a weenie...

I made an appointment for next Locks of Love donation. This will be the 3rd time in less than 5 years that I've donated my hair. I should be somewhat used to this. There is no reason to feel any trepidation about having my hair cut.

Can you tell I'm trying to convince myself?

I know it's a mitzvah. I know that some little girl needs my long curly locks more than I do. I know that my hair will grow back, and relatively quickly. After all, if I'll be hacking off at least 10 inches of hair for the third time since November 2002, then my hair has grown over 30 inches in 55 months, so I'm growing at least half an inch per month. As I've said before, I'm kinda like a Chia Pet- water me and watch my hair grow.

And yet, despite all of this, I am a total weenie about having my hair cut. And msot of it is sheer vanity. I like my hair long. The uber-long, uber-curls are like my signature look. And I do not like my hair short. The first time I donated my hair, the only person who liked the result was my mother. Probably because I looked like a six year old (from the neck up, that is), and she could relive the memories of Wee Little Cara. The second haircut was actually really good (which is why I'm going back to the same salon- Tres Ambiance, on Lincoln. Insert plug here). So I know it's possible for me to look good with short hair.

And yet, as soon as I hung up the phone after making my appointment, I was visited by the Ghosts of Bad Haircuts Past (and Future), and now have visions of all the many ways I might emerge next Wednesday.

Maybe I should drink heavily beforehand. That way, if the haircut turns out awful, I can somehow blame it all on some stupid drunken escapade, and it will go down in Cara history as another funny drunk story. Or maybe if I get a little teary-eyed, they'll give me a lollipop for being such a good girl.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carasworld: The Book?

There's this girl that I know from college- she was a year or so behind me, but we shared a lot of the same drinking buddies and Jew pals. We grew apart as we grew up, especially after I graduated and was no longer on 'the scene'. I have no idea if we'd have anything to really talk about anymore, other than college memories and people we know.

I randomly discovered that she has a blog now, one that she hopes to use (according to the blog itself) as a jumping off point for a book about being a twenty-something in the twenty-first century. The idea is intriguing. Gain a following, write a book. I've often thought that it would be fun to write a book about life through my eyes (particularly if I include some of the thoughts and escapades that don't make it onto this blog).

There's only one problem...who cares? Seriously. No matter how funny, witty, poignant, insert-PR-word-here such a book had the potential to be, it would never really be about life as a twenty-something. It would be about life as this twenty-something. And I'm just not certain what the mass appeal would be.

Unless you turn it into a screenplay for a farcical comedy about single life. Considering the weirdos that get sucked in by my gravitational pull, that might not be such a bad idea...

(Management Update: I'm completely joking. I have no interest in writing a book or screenplay about my tiny little world. I'm not quite that ego-centric)

Monday, June 11, 2007

I am a Killer Squirrel

As alluded to in my previous post, I have joined a softball team this summer (part of the same Federation league I played in several years ago). It's co-ed, 16" softball, with some of the screwiest rules you can imagine.

We're the Killer Snayim (translation: Killer Squirrels). There's no real story behind the name. We just thought it was funny. The other two options were Kadurim ("Balls") of Steel, and Machbet ("Bat") Out of Hell.

We're now two weeks into the season. Our Stats so far: 0-2. Based on our record, you might be able to surmise that we are not, in fact, very good.

Our first game was a disaster. We lost by slaughter rule, 14-1. 8 of those runs were given up in the first inning. Our one run was a lead-off homer in the 1st inning. Half of our team had never met before gameday. I did manage to get a base hit.

This week's game wasn't as big a disaster. We lost 9-4. Six of those runs were given up in the first inning (I'm noticing a pattern...) by a new team member who really wanted to be pitcher. He loaded the bases on walks, and then gave up a triple. Then walked some more players. Then gave up more hits. I think one of those runs was walked in. It was painful.

I played horribly. I did hit a single, but it was such a weak hit that I'm still not sure how I got on base. And I had a sacrifice RBI. But I can hit much better. (Solution: get to the field early enough for batting practice before the game starts.) My fielding was also sub-par, by my own standards. I, literally, dropped the ball with a force at 2nd. Had I held on, it would have been the 3rd out. (Turns out, no harm done. We got the next batter. Still, Big Brother taught me better than that)

Stayed tuned for more updates on the Killer Snayim.

Hello, My Name is Cara...

...and I'm a Bookaholic.

(Your cue: "Hi, Cara.")

I accidently slipped into my "curl up with a good book" winter mode this weekend, and completely missed out on some of my favorite Summer-In-Chicago events (i.e. Blues Festival, Printers Row Book Fair, Old Town Art Fair). I don't really have a good excuse. I was just lazy.

I exerted myself enough motzei shabbat to send out a couple of text messages to see what people were up to. One friend wrote back, suggesting we go to the Blues Festival. I wrote back that I would be interested...and then curled up with a good book, and neglected to make any phone calls or pursue fun Saturday night activities. (I was saved from total lame-ness by a midnight phone call from a friend in need of I got off the sofa, quickly made myself presentable, and hit the bars.)

Sunday started off well enough- I was up bright and early for a softball game, and then we went out for lunch afterwards. (Mmmm....shwarma at 11:00am) My Sunday afternoon plans were canceled, so I sent a text message to a friend, went home...and curled up with a good book.

Five hours later, my friend called, having only just received my text. Had I exerted myself enough to actually call, I might have joined him at the Old Town Art Fair (where, incidently, he ran into an old summer camp friend that I had been trying to track down for ages). Or, I could have just gone to the Art Fair by myself. Or gone to the Book Fair by myself. Or done anything to take advantage of a beautiful summer day in a fabulous city.

Now, I could probably blame technology, for making it so easy to send a text message, thus saving me the effort of having a phone conversation. Or I could blame books, for being good and luring me onto the sofa for hours. I could also blame my friends, for not calling me and staging a Bookaholics intervention.

But, the sad truth is that I'm lazy, and far too comfortable staying home with a good book. This contradicts everything I have promised myself about taking advantage of summer, and having adventures. Maybe this is my wake-up call. No more wasted weekends. Books are for rainy days and Saturdays (and somehow, I feel like I'm quoting song lyrics, but I cannot for the life of me remember what song it is), or weeknights when I get home too late (and have to be awake too early) to responsibly go out and adventurize.

So maybe it's a good thing I missed the Book Fair. It would have been like buying drugs to feed my habit.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Yet Another Reason for Cara to Make Aliyah

How many times have my friends heard me say, "If only Israel had baseball..."?

In 15 days, Israel will.

With the creation of the IBL, I can now realistically dream about marrying a professional baseball player. (Obviously, I don't much care how good they are. I'm a Cub fan, after all.) Some of them are pretty cute, too.

I think I may actually know one of the players on the Modi'in Miracle. Now I have to decide if that's reason enough to be a Modi'in fan, or if I should wait until the season starts before choosing an allegiance.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

End of an Era

Now that I'm all growed up, special Daddy-Daughter time has lately taken the form of watching The Sopranos together on Sunday evenings. (Surprisingly, we also used to watch Sex and the City together as was only awkward 10% of the time).

This Sunday, however, is the final episode, and my father and I spent a good hour last night speculating on possibilities for that last hour. Those of you who do not watch the show will find this post boring. Those that do...your opinions are welcome.

Some possibilities include:
1) AJ gets killed (though this may be wishful thinking), probably through some stupid mistake of his own doing. Tony comes out of hiding to attend the funeral of his only son. Showdown between Tony and Phil Leotardo.
2) Phil Leotardo approaches Paulie about turning on Tony. Paulie proves his loyalty by offing Leotardo.
3) Phil Leotardo is so consumed by his hatred of Tony that he miscalculates and leaves himself vulnerable.
4) Little Carmine emerges as Leotardo's successor.

These are merely speculation, of course. My personal favorites are possibilities #1 and #3.

Monday, June 04, 2007

German Youths Pay To Treat Impotent Ostrich

If anyone can explain to me why this article is currently a headline on, I would be very appreciative.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Omen?

I woke up suddenly at 1:30 last night, convinced that I'd felt a spider fall from my ceiling right onto my head. I do not like spiders. They freak me out. It's all those legs. *shudder*

Half awake and horrifed, I turned on the light, and searched my bed, determined to ruthlessly crush the unwelcome intruder. There was nothing there. Then I suddenly realized what happened.

I tickled myself with my hair while sleeping.

I haven't cut my hair in just under 2 years. I knew that it was coming close to Locks of Love time again, but I've been putting it off, simply because I hate having my hair cut. Apparently, it's now so long that I roll over it in my sleep, and the ends tickle my face. Which creates the illusion, to my sleeping brain, that spiders are dropping from the ceiling onto my head.

I think *sniff!* that it's time to cut my hair.

The Embroidery Workout

I spent about two hours last night cutting fabric and creating a template for Bryan and Sarah's gift. It didn't seem like particularly strenuous activity...probably because it's not.

So why did I wake up this morning feeling sore? I can understand (somewhat) feeling a bit sore in my shoulders, as I doubt I have very good posture while bent over my work surface (aka, coffee table). But why the hell are my legs so sore?

No one ever warned me that stretching before and after was a part of taking up embroidery as a hobby.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The One Year Rule

Supposedly, we're given one year to get a new bride and groom their wedding gift. I'm not sure where this rule came from. Maybe it's linked to the notion that wedding gifts are for newlyweds, and the new couple gets to refer to themselves as newlyweds all throughout that first year. Maybe it's because it takes a new couple a whole year to get around to writing thank you notes. Regardless, I tend to take full advantage of the One Year Rule (just as I tend not to mail in my RSVP until the date by which the family wants to receive it).

My very dear friend Uri got married last Memorial Day weekend. Going to his wedding was important enough to me that it influenced my returning to the States in May, even though my ticket could have extended until mid-June. I just wouldn't have been able to forgive myself for missing his wedding by only a few weeks. I even thought out the gift beforehand, and starting making it during my last month in Jerusalem. Then again, I had no TV in that apartment, so working on his gift also served as a functional way to pass my spare time. And, since I returned to Chicago with no job, I was optimistic that I would have the present finished by the end of the summer. Three cheers for the One Year Rule!

I finished the present yesterday (now I just need to have it framed, and shipped). I've now violated the One Year Rule. And then I realized that the delay in finishing Uri's gift has also created a delay in starting Bryan and Sarah's. I have a month to go before their year is up. So I guess I better use my quiet time wisely, and get started. Since it took me approximately 48 hours worth of designing, preparation, and embroidery, I may not be very social during the next few weeks. Not counting weekends- weekends are for tomfoolery.

I may try to post a picture of the framed final product. I'm really proud of it. Now I just hope that Uri and Deb like it.

Into The (J)Dating Pool

Summer always holds the promise of new adventures. I'm not sure why that is. I associate winter with quiet walks through thick, slow-falling snowflakes, hot cocoa, and quiet Cara time. Summer, on the other hand, is for Cub games, summer sports, cute shoes, wild n'crazy Saturday nights, and general tomfoolery. When I got back from Israel last summer, I was really looking forward to those adventures, and making all sorts of new friends with whom to engage in said tomfoolery. It didn't quite happen the way I'd planned. Yet here I am, a whole year later, expecting this summer to be what last year wasn't.

So, in typical Cara-fashion, I decided to do something differently, following the age-old logic that you can't do the same thing over and over again and expect to get different results. (Sidebar: this piece of wisdom has been attributed to Mark Twain, Ben Franklin, and Albert Einstein. There's no proof that any of them ever said it, in any form.) What is this radical new change, you ask? Brace yourself...I joined JDate.

If that sound I just heard was you falling off your chair laughing, I can't be surprised. I've held out for years, adamantly refusing to join the ranks of the JDaters. I caved. Sort of- I'm not expecting to find true love over the internet. I'm really just hoping to meet people that I wouldn't have otherwise met. Maybe a few of them will turn out to be cool people. If not, bad dates make great stories, and my married/committed friends do look to me to provide them with entertaining stories of Singledom. Besides, if nothing pans out with any of the other JDaters, I at least know that I tried something new, and didn't sit at home twiddling my thumbs (or, more likely, wielding an embroidery needle, reading a book, or watching a movie. Or 2 out of 3 simultaneously) waiting for that one nice Jewish boy to realize how fabulous I am and sweep me off my feet.

I don't know if this signals the start of a cynical phase, a realistic phase, or a "I save my romanticism for special occassions" phase. Regardless, the water wings have come off, and I've dived into the pool. Good thing I know how to dog paddle.

Monday, May 21, 2007


I don't know if anyone (except perhaps Jon and Veronica) actually read this anymore. I've been debating just deleting it from the blogosphere entirely, but then I realize how much I enjoy knowing that it's there, waiting for me. Besides, I find it informative to go back and read old posts. I've never been consistent about keeping a diary, so it's not really a surprise that I've been so inconsistent about blogging.

But, here I am. It's summer now, and I've finished my first year of graduate school. I've now been back in America for over one full year, and I have trouble believing how quickly it went by. So much has changed, and so much has really stayed the same. Or, rather, has gone back to what it was before I left for Israel.

My career path has gone in a very different direction that I ever thought it would. Instead of working in geriatrics, and helping families adjust to their loved ones' deteriorating memories, I've instead decided to specialize in child and adolescent mental health. For the remainder of the summer, I'm a full-time behavior therapist. And I love it. I never saw myself working with children, but I love it. And not just because I get to play with bubbles and play dough in my down time.

One year ago, I was living with my brother and future sister-in-law. Now I have my own apartment (and my brother is a married man), and it's simply beautiful to have my own space. I can't say that either the apartment or building is particularly noteworthy, but that one bedroom space is all mine. I have yet to get lonely living alone.

School has been great. I've made some fantastic friends, and met people that I never would have had a chance to speak to otherwise. Immigrants, Iraq vets, Irish, Greek, Italian, Mexican, Southern, Yankee, you name it and we've got it. Sometimes I feel like the token Jewish kid (although there are 2 other Jewish girls, I'm the only frum one, so I get to field all the Jewish questions), but I also get to ask questions about other cultures and religions. It's nice to leave the Jewish bubble every now and then.

So, work is great, school is great, my apt is great. It's been a wonderful year in so many ways. I still miss Israel daily, but I've adjusted to the necessity of putting my dreams of aliyah on a backburner. And I may not quite have the super-spectacular social life that I'd hoped for, but summer always brings its own adventures. And I'm hoping to use this blog more often over the summer, to record those adventures.

So, if you're still out there...I'm back. I think.