Upon returning to California after almost seven years living in Israel, navigating the waters of change and the tides of time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Blues For Challah Via JetBlue!

I didn't come back to America empty-handed. I wasn't raised in a barn, after all. My mother taught me never to visit anyone's home without bringing a little something. Since I'm visiting the Home of the Free and the Land of the Brave, and I brought Radio Free Nachlaot with me.

So this morning I decided that RFN simply had to participate in the upcoming 3rd Annual Grateful Deadfest "BLUES FOR CHALLAH" at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in December.

BLUES FOR CHALLAH describes itself thus: "Blues for Challah" explores and celebrates the universe inspired and embodied by the Grateful Dead—and makes the connections between that universe and our Jewish tradition and culture.
It's not a stretch—a wandering tribe forever transformed by peak experiences, centering around transcendent music, communal food, and joyous celebration—sounds familiar right?"

 So of course, how could I resist? But then again, how could I get there from California?

The answer came to me in a split second - JetBlue.

Come on, Blues for Challah - Stella Blue - JETBLUE - it all came together in one fantastic promotional moment.
 In no time at all I was on the phone with JetBlue and by the end of the morning they agreed to sponsor my travel in exchange for all the promotional love I can give them on the radio and in my social media spaces for RFN. (This appearance on my blog is what we call a Bonus Cheeseburger in the lingo, l'havdil and forgive the analogy).

Can I just mention that I LOVE JetBlue, and this is 100% the documented truth - when I lived in Long Beach, California from 1995 through 2007, Jet Blue was a big part of our community and played a starring role in all the cross-country travel I did for Charter Media ... but that's another story (like when I flew on JetBlue back from Washington DC where I had won the Beacon Award and the flight crew broke out the champagne ... but I digress, as is my minhag). 

So now that I created this cosmic convergence of Radio Free Nachlaot, Blues for Challah. the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and Jet Blue, I feel better.

And how was your day?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Astrologer, Heal Thyself

There was no way to avoid Mercury Retrograde this time. It was as if the airlines, the circumstance, the gravitational pull all conspired to ensure I would be leaving Israel for Berkeley exactly as Mercury entered his Retrograde phase in Scorpio.

If I was my own astrological client, I'd tell myself (me, that is, I mean me as the client) not to hold too tightly on to expectations, and don't be surprised if frequent stops, starts and re-calibrations are made during this period, which really doesn't end until around Chanukah.

So between now and Chanukkah, I'd tell myself as a client, you're going to want to be focusing and adapting, delving deep and gaining understanding of the new world around you (me, that is).

Well, that's all very fine and well. But the bottom line - TACHLIS, as we say in my village, is that everything I start during this time is going to go through so much change there's no use setting anything in stone - especially my expectations.

Because I didn't come to America for the scenery (which is lovely here in Northern California), or the shopping (which is legion), the entertainment options or the abundance of public restrooms. I came to do a big tikkun on my most important personal relationships - my children and family. So what does one do while doing one's tikkun?

Aye, there's the rub, Captain! Expectations should be put aside in favor of the experiential. Scorpio demands the deepest delving, the most brutally honest self-examination, the most profound passions. Mercury - "Mr. Communication" - reviewing the swath of my personal Natal Chart in my 1st House reminds me that I still have the power to define and redefine myself.

So if I was my own client I'd say go outside and take a walk and enjoy the beautiful day. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His mercy endures forever. Because there's nothing you're going to do about the Stars today, aside from letting them twinkle in your eyes when you smile.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Panda Puffs Are The Devil

I'm ensconced in a very special home in Berkeley, California where I'm helping a pregnant mother deal with her 6, 7 and 8 year old children during the "morning rush" - waking up, dressing, breakfast, making school lunches, collecting homework, backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, etc. and then out the door to school.

From the moment I walked into this fine family home last Wednesday night  - where the children are intelligent, literate and lice-free "A" students at a Jewish Day School in the East Bay - the topic of Panda Puffs has been the one and only source of angst, anger, jealousy, tantrums, and bad behavior in an otherwise serene and healthy family environment.

Based on first-hand observation, I must conclude that in fact, Panda Puffs are the Devil. Who but the Devil could make such otherwise perfect children so insanely bad?

Look at this package - purchased at Trader Joe's - the word "ORGANIC" is prominently featured, as well as a banner promising GLUTEN FREE goodness to the buyer, and of course the Green Packaging sticker, ensuring a responsible, recycling-minded mother wouldn't mind buying this product for her children.

But what happens when Panda Puffs, a.k.a. the Devil, is brought into the home? Instantly, they are ALL the children are interested in. Where are they being hidden? How much of them are left after everyone has received their allotted portion? Did someone have more than someone else? The night I arrived and was introduced to the home, the atmosphere was thick with suspicion. The 19 year old son of a family friend who is staying at the home apparently had the nerve to buy his own package of Panda Puffs and not share them with the children. How dare that be so? The indignation, the outrage of the children continued in sharp asides, whispered accusations and tearful declarations.

Mind you, there were more Panda Puffs produced almost instantly. The new box was declared off-limits to the teenager, as a punative measure ensuring he got the message - which was: DON'T MESS WITH OUR PANDA PUFFS!

This morning, after rising before dawn to cook a hot breakfast of eggs, toast and fried potatoes for the little ones, the youngest girl went absolutely ballistic because she was determined to have Panda Puffs instead of the hot breakfast, as she felt they were somehow owed to her because of previous inequalities of distribution between her siblings and others staying in the home.

I must add at this point that it's clearly the fault of the Panda Puffs and NOT the children. Because other than this one "food" (and I use the word loosely!) item, they are generous, kind, thoughtful children - unusually so, in fact. Warm, literate, not addicted to video or the internet, Kosher, educated children, a pleasure to be around in every way except when the subject of Panda Puffs arise - therefore prompting me to conclude (how could I otherwise?) that Panda Puffs are indeed the Devil, or at least one of his spawn.

And it's not just the children. Upon announcing to the parents that I'm writing a blog post entitled "Panda Puffs Are The Devil," the excellent, responsible and high-quality parents of the children in question embarked upon a 20 minute minutely detailed diatribe about the various cereal options, with or without wheat, sugar, gluten, organic certification, etc. etc. and of course no progress was actually made beyond another opportunity for the sitra acher a.k.a. Panda Puffs to cause two otherwise rational adults to analyze breakfast cereal options with such Talmudic precision so early in the morning.  Without coffee. So what other conclusion can I possibly draw about Panda Puffs but that they are indeed the hellish by-blows of the Prince of Darkness?

If a breakfast cereal causes strife in the house, it can't be "good for you," no matter how gluten-free and organic it claims to be. Because strife is never healthy, especially for breakfast.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

"But There's No Mechitza!"

Chayei Sarah, my first Shabbat in Berkeley, California -  I had what in retrospect was a poignantly amusing case of shock when realizing that I was davening in a "Modern Orthodox" shul for the first time in my life.
My shul experiences have been limited to Reform Californian shuls while growing up, then starting in 20004 Chabad in America, and in Israel from 2007: Chabad, Chabad-Carelebach, Carlebach, Carlebach-Breslov, Sephardi (Moroccan), Timani (Yeminite), "Stam" Ashkenazi (Chassidic), "Stam" Ashkenazi (Litvish), Yekke, Chik-Chak Sephardi, Syrian Sephardi, and the Great Synagogue (whatever nusach that is).

So there was, in my jet lagged, childishly bewildered and fish-eye lens opinion, "no mechitza" in this Shul, which otherwise conducted itself just like any other Orthodox shul I've ever davened at in terms of the liturgy and service.

I said (in a kind of almost stammering, disconnected way) to several people afterwards how disconcerting that was for me that there was "no metchitza," and I kept being told by perfectly nice, kosher, normal and not crazy people that there was indeed "a mechitza."

Finally came to the understanding that a "mechitza" is not necessarily understood the way I understand it or have experienced it, and that might be one of the manifestations of the word "modern" in "Modern Orthodox."

I felt extremely tense which wasn't because I was in a new place, alone, and didn't know anybody. Usually that's a fun and exciting activity for someone who is hyper-social, curious and friendly such as myself. The tension was because everything about the service was "normal" except that I felt naked. I was too disoriented to figure out a fix and just kept trying to talk myself down (which didn't really work).

Discussing it afterwards with various people reminded me that there are a variety of options and fixes to be applied to make me more comfortable, and I can deal with it next time.

I wouldn't have experienced this tension at all if I had gone to a Reform or Conservative or Renewal shul, because I would have expected and have calibrated my Neshama, so to speak, for the reality of davening in a community without either a mechitza or separate seating for men and women. It was the word "Orthodox" that threw me off, my assumption about what that meant in the phrase "Modern Orthodox" was not accurate (probably because I have never experienced it before).

I realized more than ever how important the feeling of private, sacred feminine space is to me while davening. I've never experienced the mechitza as a way to keep my feminine energy from "infecting" (as someone I know has said) the masculine energy on their side of the mechitza. 100% and from the first time I ever davened behind a mechitza I experienced it as a safe, sacred space of feminine spiritual energy and was grateful such a thing existed. I do love to join my relatives and friends at their shuls, often without a mechitza, but as I said before I calibrate my expectations and Neshama to that environment and it's always for a special occasion, not for my "regular" davening experience.

I can be inclusive and welcoming and non-judgemental better than anyone in the world - but I still know what I like!  I like privacy!!!
In which I return to California after almost 7 years in Israel, because when the heart is in one place and the soul is in another, both the emotions and the body suffer.
Welcome to the chronicle of this phase of the long, strange, trippy story of my life ...