My First Post as a 29-Year-Old

Kind of felt apt to follow up the previous post with this title. So how are you?

Today was a busy day, if anything. I woke up at about 8, stayed in bed until 9. Took a shower, then treated myself to a birthday breakfast of pancakes, eggs, greens, biscuit, and ice coffee at Short Stack, then went to see a panel at the South Asia Conference at the Concourse. Then headed across campus to my office to meet up with Jenna to talk about APO stuff, and after that, to the Semi-Annual Library Book Sale where $16.50 got me a brand new pile for my apartment. Once home, I checked my blog stats, read some blog posts, replied to a bunch of emails, and watched some YouTube videos. Following that, I had planned to run a few errands but ended up only getting to Metcalfe’s for groceries. Had no time for gym, so I went over to Hanna’s for a dinner she was preparing for me.

And let me just say, I was not expecting this.

I get to Hanna’s place, there’s a ton of people there, and even more show up, until we’re roughly 20. 20 people! We ate out back in her sukkah, and then sang and danced around the campfire. Hanna played keyboard, with Edi on sax, Ken on guitar, and Jennifer on the drums. I sang along with Baobei, Esty, Gidon, Bonnie, Bobbie, Jessica, and Andrea, while Haruki watched from the side, and Mohamed, Roger, Judy, David, and Larry watched from the sukkah (I think that’s everyone!). Andrea cooked most of the dinner, which was fabulous: chicken and rice, edamame, lentils, and veggies. And for dessert, Hanna brought out not one but TWO birthday cakes, an orange-and-lemon cake made by Judy, and a tangy, zesty tangerine cake by la Andrea. Judy’s cake was moist and warm, while Andrea’s was juicier, with a little kick to it. After hanging around the remnants of the fire with Baobei, Haruki, Bobbie, Roger, Jennifer, and Raimund (who showed up out of the blue), it was time to go home.

So now I’m sitting on my couch at 11:30 PM on my 29th birthday, Friday, October 21st, 2016.

Jameson invited me out to Plan B, but I might just call it a night, since I have to be up tomorrow around 7 and my bed is covered in books.

Thank you to everyone who made this normally anxiety-inducing day into an amazing one for me.

And for the last time until 2017…

Happy birthday to me.🙂


My Last Post as a 28-Year-Old

So, here it is again.

It comes around every 365 days or so. In the East Coast, it’s already here, and it’ll be here in Wisconsin in less than an hour. My most favorite and least favorite day of the whole year; my birthday.

I’ve posted about birthdays in the past. I’ve had some good ones, some bad ones, some really bad ones, and this year it’s looking like my birthday’s going to be a busy one, but hopefully a good one.

So, in my last 30 minutes as a 28 year old, I am currently sitting on my couch, alone, watching too-loud infomercials about cleaning products in between tiny snips of The Golden Girls. My apartment is, as usual, a hideous mess. I just got home from dance class, after which I had a tea shake at Sencha. I’m still a little sweaty, and I’m wearing my black Fosse t-shirt, black pants, black socks, a bracelet, a blue bandana, and my gray APO quarter-zip. Along with me on my couch are various pieces of scripts, my gradebook, my phone, a box of tissues, papers to grade, some stickers, a fleece jacket and a red pillow. I actually did clean off some of the coffee table the other day, so there just the usual pile of books and some spare cash, plus a Starbucks from this morning, my meds, candles, and some other odds and ends. Other than dreading the dental work next week and being a little sore in my legs and hips from an hour of cardio followed by an hour of jive kicks (but a good sore). On my mind: how I’m going to get through all I have to do this weekend, working on my papers (writing and grading) – aww, cute puppies on TV – getting my lesson plan together for next week, figuring out what I need from the grocery store/dollar store, ATHE proposals, and dance routines.


I think I’ll finish watching this episode of The Golden Girls, then get myself some food and my third shower of the day (or first, of tomorrow), and then go to bed and do some pleasure reading.

Happy birthday to me. Send some love if you’re so inclined for the world’s newest 29-year-old.


…Cause I’m A Dentist…

Not to get all TMI here, but I’ve been to two different dentists in the past 4 days, and I have 2 appointments scheduled with the second dentist next week and the week after.

You connect the dots.

Basically, I’ve been in and out of pain (and a chair that leans back) and it’s not been fun.

But I know that this pain with go away. And I’m excited about that.

At least it’s better than the eye doctor.


Juuust an update…

I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, but due to tons of work, Yom Kippur, and this lovely periodontal issue I’m having, I haven’t been able to blog this week. Hopefully I’ll be able to redeem myself to you all and get something up this weekend.


Dooley, Unduly

Yesterday afternoon, I opened YouTube to look for a video – probably a song from Hamilton or a clip from Family Guy – and the first thing that came up on the recommended videos list had a thumbnail of a confused-looking redhead, and was entitled “Kids for Sale.”

So, naturally, I had to click…and I might have been sorry that I did, because the last 24 hours of my life have been occupied by one Stacey Dooley.

Ms. Dooley, who is just a few months older than I am, is a British TV journalist/documentarian who presents shows where she goes to different countries and investigates/attempts to solve/ingratiate herself in a local social issue, like human trafficking in Cambodia, cybersex in the Philippines, and the hard-partying lifestyles of the tourists of Magaluf.

Stacey Dooley gained fame on a show called Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts, where she was one of a few unknown fashion-obsessed British teenagers who went to India to see how much illegal child labor goes into making the bras, jeans, and sweaters that are so readily disposed of after one season in the UK. Dooley was so inspired by either the plight of the people or the attention that she decided to extend her one-off appearance into a television career.

I watched first the episode called “Kids for Sale,” where she goes to Nepal in order to free children who are illegally working in sweatshops. I was actually kind of impressed; she seemed to take no shit from people, have a genuine interest in learning about their lives, and in the welfare of the children in these situations. She managed to free a little boy completely in no time at all, which was incredible to watch, and then joined another boy on a long trek to find his parents, which ultimately failed, but at least she (or her producers) had the wherewithal to take the boy back to Kathmandu with them rather than leave him in the company of some shady relatives. The whole piece had a very positive, uplifting attitude about it, and I wanted to see more.

In my research, I found a few websites which threw her under a double decker Routemaster bus. There was an article about how her piece on Japanese suicide culture was so lame that it actually seemed to glorify suicide at times. People picked apart everything about her, from her constant crying to her lack of journalism experience to the fact that while we see subtitles when non-English speakers appear on the screen, she seems to be listening to them intently and nodding along, as if she speaks fluent Spanish or Filipino or Thai. Several comments sections and derogatory remarks later, I returned to YouTube to watch some more from her.

The next one I watched, about Cybersex and Children in the Philippines, made me cringe a little at first. After reading the comments of others, I saw the whininess, the crying, the repeated lines, and a few moments where I was going “really, Stacey? You’re just going to walk away as this tween continues to flirt with sexagenarian British men on Facebook? You’re going to get in a stranger’s face and tell him he is a bad bad person?” (As a side note – the raid scene was incredible to watch. I can’t believe they pulled it off, especially foreigners with camera equipment) Overall, this hour made her seem more like an uninformed, blithely attempting do-gooder from the West who was either ineffective or making things worse.

But I decided to watch just one more, and I definitely picked the right one, about Tourism in Magaluf, a hot spot on an island off the coast of Spain where British teenagers like to go and get knackered (or is it knickered? I don’t know). This episode just struck me as something that could apply to teenagers everywhere, not just in Britain – it should be required viewing for high schoolers. In the first part, Dooley tries to enjoy herself despite all her crazy peers who are not documentary-makers, and then she continues on as a worker in the resort town, volunteering with the police and the paramedics on different nights, and seeing how disruptive the behavior of British teens can be, not just for themselves but for an entire island whose population they outnumber each summer. I used to be curious about going to Magaluf as a tourist and seeing what it’s all about, but now I kinda want to do what she did and volunteer with the police to see all the crazy people. I’m sure that if any teen from the UK – or the USA – were to step into Dooley’s shoes on one of those nights, they would never drink again. And if my rowdy neighbors would watch the bit about the hotels, and how annoying all the drunk people were, maybe they’d cool it on Saturday nights (as in: right now, where every thought I have is punctuated by a door opening, noises and bodies spilling out, and then said door slamming shut). Even though drunk and entitled teenagers isn’t as groundbreaking as child sex workers, I do think that Dooley made some really good points and showed me, at least, something that I would not have seen otherwise. Because we’re almost the same age, it does feel like I’m traveling along with her, and that I’m glad to not be rotting in a ditch on the Punta Ballena. She doesn’t get particularly emotional in this piece either, and on the whole, it seems like a responsible journalistic work. Except for the part when she ran after some thieves, wanting to interview them, that was kind of stupid, she could have gotten hurt.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve gone with Stacey Dooley to visit the homes of tourism workers in Thailand and Kenya, and the mean streets of Cambodia where pimps and child prostitutes roam, and I’m not done yet.

But my feelings about Stacey Dooley have gone back to the admiration of how I initially felt about her. I don’t know about the British public, but in terms of their misgivings about her and her shows, as far as I’m concerned –

1. Yes, she’s young and emotional, and that’s okay. She’s braver than most of us are, and is probably in even more danger than her show leads us to believe. She doesn’t always ask the most rational questions, because she’s interested in the humans and their experiences, rather than delivering history lessons and listing off facts. And yes, she cries a lot. But I think I would too if I was sitting with a child prostitute in Cambodia or in a morgue for dead British teenagers in Thailand. She’s a human, with emotions, and if that annoys you, go do something else.

2. She’s doing something that you are not doing. So yeah, you donated twenty dollars, but she actually went there



In Praise of Holiday Time

Since my planner was empty, I decided to take the evening off from commitments and just watch TV and get some chores done around the apartment. Then, I remembered what I wanted to write about.

Growing up, Shabbat and holiday time was a time to unplug. No computer, no phone, no music…just the noises of people, and silence. And no car either, so your feet were the way to go. I think it started around college, when I was far from home and the work piled on. And that began my less-religious streak.

These days, I try to spend as much time as I can on Shabbat and holidays being observant, but I’ve either got some sort of commitment, have work to do, or just get too bored and realize that I’m an adult and I can do what I want.

But yesterday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, changed that…a little.

A parent of one of my students (at the elementary school, not from college) invited me over for lunch. I knew they were a religious family, but they lived kind of far away to walk so I drove and parked a few blocks away from their beautiful house. I waited for about ten minutes, thinking they might’ve forgotten, or got held up at shul, when I saw a little salmon-colored dot run down the street towards me. That dot became little Michael, who wrapped me in a big hug, and his mother, Sarah, wasn’t far behind, with his little sister, and another couple and their two kids (again, all names changed for privacy). We went inside, made kiddush, and enjoyed a lovely homemade lunch, courtesy of Sarah. The golden ratio of 5 adults and 4 kids (well, more adults than kids is a golden ratio any way you slice it), we enjoyed our food in leisure. No one was checking their email, and only once did a phone ring (it was the house phone, and Sarah ignored it). I ate my fill of challah and honey, salad with pomegranate seeds, fish, stuffed chicken, corn muffins, mashed potatoes, spinach, and cherry pie for dessert, all while enjoying conversations about the plight of Roma in Central Europe, where to find the best kosher food in town, remembering our favorite food products from when we were kids that no longer existed, using FaceTime to keep up with family, and more. After saying Birkat Hamazon, there was no rush to clean up; people just brought in plates, forks, and food items leisurely, and we continued to schmooze in and around the kitchen. I updated Sarah on what we were covering in school, and chatted with the other couple about theater and Jewish customs, and our upbringings, and such. I was having such a casual and happy time that I was honestly shocked when I looked over at the oven clock and it was 5:00 PM, for a lunch that began at 2:00 PM.

Upon walking back to my car, getting in, and driving home, I was simultaneously on a holiday high and kind of sad to be returning from the religious world to the “real world.” When I got home, I realized that I had a meeting I wanted to go to at 5:30, but as I watched the clock tick by, I was like…nah, not a chance. I’m staying in bed and watching the sun set, and doing nothing else (well, at least until dance class at 9:30).

For all those times I hated Shabbat and holidays from preventing me from doing what I wanted as a kid, I started to really miss those days. I don’t know what my future will bring, but this year I really do want to at least try to get back to the comforting way things were back then. I was so busy the rest of the holiday with meetings, school, work commitments, that I barely got any Rosh Hashanah this year. This year, if and when I can, I will do my best to at least get a few solid hours of Shabbat/holiday time each time it comes up. Not necessarily being in shul all the time, but trying to eat meals in the sukkah, going to a Simchat Torah event, and spending at least a little of my Saturdays either meditating, or reading for fun, or just doing nothing but existing, completely disconnected from anything with an on/off button and not thinking about anything that might take up residence in my planner.

Long live happy days of religious bliss, no commitments, and nothing but time on my hands.