Friday, June 26, 2015

Sh'mirat HaChayim

I've been talking to quite a few people about the positive changes that I've been aiming to make in my life recently--positive steps to become a happier and healthier me. As many of you are aware, the past academic year has been an extremely challenging one, both personally and professionally. I am very lucky to have gotten back on my feet, but spent a ton of time feeling lost and down and trying to figure out what exactly to do to get out of my rut.

My first step was to ask for help. I went to Genuine Fitness and set up a meeting with a personal trainer (shout out to Tara!). The next morning (read: 7:30 a.m.) I was back in the gym for my first session with a second one scheduled for that Thursday (two days later). I had started to make changes, but still felt like this wasn't enough. I had started to make changes before...the problem was often follow-through, a difficult concept when you're lacking direction.

So on Friday, June 19th, I decided to give myself some direction. Remembering a staff learning session about areas of wellness, I googled the phrase and stumbled upon a great website: UCR's Seven Dimensions of Wellness.

I clicked on each section and looked at their questions for what they considered "healthy" or constituted "wellness" in each area. Unsurprisingly (in my rut), I found plenty of things that I felt were missing/lacking in these areas and took a page out of my Passion Planner to begin writing a plan. The image below describes what MY personal plans for self-improvement are:

I know the image may be small, so to reiterate in print:

  • Dedicate ONE HOUR PER DAY to interact with friends (in person or by phone)
  • Say "YES!" to more invitations (I often say no due to pure exhaustion)
  • Initiate more invitations (see above)

  • Dedicate ONE HOUR PER WEEK for therapy (ensure that this remains a priority)
  • Work on POSITIVE outlets for stress and utilize strengths to bolster weaknesses
  • Set weekly & daily priorities and try to live by them

  • Say "Modeh Ani" every morning
  • Dedicate 30 MINUTES PER DAY for meditation
  • Be more involved inside of services (rather than sitting outside of them)

  • Plan ONE DAY PER WEEK for house cleaning
  • Plan ONE DAY PER WEEK to take out trash & recycling
  • Vacuum 2-3 TIMES PER WEEK 
  • Do laundry ONE DAY PER WEEK  

  • Dedicate TWO HOURS PER DAY for reading & learning
  • Take advantage of all new learning opportunities
  • Pass on one piece of learning to others EVERY DAY  

  • Dedicate ONE HOUR PER DAY to physical activity (yoga, personal training, Couch to 5K)
  • Be honest and truthful when tracking nutrition
  • Go grocery shopping TWO TIMES PER MONTH
  • Get a massage ONCE A MONTH
  • Get a manicure & pedicure ONCE A MONTH


Why am I sharing this? For a few reasons. First, because others have asked about how and why I came about my new positive changes. Second, because by publishing, it holds me accountable and explains why I'll be posting certain things on social media (another way of keeping myself accountable and entering into a positive feedback loop). Third, because I'm excited about it.

While speaking with a friend about this tonight (hi Ari!) we were talking about sh'mirat hanefesh (guarding the soul) and sh'mirat haguf (guarding the body). Both of these are included in the action steps outlined above. But more importantly, I'm concerned about sh'mirat hachayim, guarding my life and making it worth guarding in the first place. One step, bite, smile, sore muscle, and phone call at a time.

Comments are always appreciated, but I ask that they be respectful--change is never easy.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Hod (Lag B'Omer!)

The next seven or so blogs are inexcusably I won't make excuses for them! Apologies for the delays, but expect that this weekend will act as a catch up as we enter into the end of the Omer with the next week...

This special Lag B'Omer (the name sake for #BlogBOmer) post is a mystery one. It goes out to 33 different mystery people. If you happen to think that you fall into one of the categories, "Like, Favorite, or Retweet or +1. If any of these inspire you, share the post with someone and let them guess their own mystery number! Chances are...these inspirations are due to more than one person. Here goes...

#1. I am humbled by the way that you speak to people with grace, understanding, and compassion.

#2. I am humbled by the way you're able to turn the darkest day into the greatest joke.

#3. I am humbled by the way you can find the perfect GIF or meme for any occasion.

#4. I am humbled by the tenacious way in which you lead.

#5. I am humbled by the way you are NOT afraid to have the difficult conversations.

#6. I am humbled by your seemingly endless effort to get the job done.

#7. I am humbled by your creativity, your candor, and your caring.

#8. I am humbled by your wisdom, and your humility around it.

#9. I am humbled by your patience for yourself and for everyone around you.

#10. I am humbled by your sass and your sense of humor.

#11. I am humbled by your enthusiasm and abundant energy.

#12. I am humbled by your ability to always put aside five minutes to listen.

#13. I am humbled by your brevity and your ability to make so few words so meaningful.

#14. I am humbled by how you were able to take me outside my own comfort zone.

#15. I am humbled by your grace, the way you move with such surety.

#16. I am humbled by your agility, the way you move with such freedom.

#17. I am humbled by your love, the way you are able to share it with so many around you.

#18. I am humbled by your silence, your ability to think before you speak and not say it.

#19. I am humbled by your stories, the way you weave them into life.

#20. I am humbled by your sense of direction, both on the road and in life.

#21. I am humbled by your sense of confidence, and how sure you are in your choices.

#22. I am humbled by your due diligence, the research you put into the choices you make.

#23. I am humbled by your organization, how everything has its perfect place.

#24. I am humbled by your minimalism, the realization that not every memory must be tangible.

#25. I am humbled by your kindness and your understanding without a word.

#26. I am humbled by your ability to remind me of years of memories with a single picture.

#27. I am humbled by your ability to teach me when I thought I was teaching you.

#28. I am humbled by your acceptance of my apology when I've made a mistake.

#29. I am humbled by your encouragement and engagement when I might hide myself otherwise.
#30. I am humbled by your easy laughter, when I know what seriousness lies beneath it.
#31. I am humbled by the way you make every moment beautiful and bold.
#32. I am humbled by your strength and the way you use it to protect/inspire others.
#33. I am humbled by your secrets, especially those you have chosen to share with me.

So many of you inspire me. So many of you have so many secret hidden yet still appreciated qualities. So much more than 33 of you are recognized in this post. My love to all who read it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Hod

While I meant to write this post earlier in the day, I'm still happy that I'm semi-on time with this particular blog (for once? for twice?). As we're working towards the end of the school year (only a few more weeks loves!), I kept thinking about who I think embodies the combination of netzach (endurance) and hod (humility). It's a strange thing to think about a quiet strength, that humility in and of itself is a strength, and that the quiet, thoughtful groups of people are the ones who often have a strong and lasting presence in the end. It occurred to me quickly that this particular blog should be dedicated to (especially as it's been inspired by) my OSU Hillel students.

Our Seder was cooler than your Seder (Photo Cred: Me)

From my first steps on OSU's campus, to biweekly visits (minus a month or so for double pneumonia!) to our first shared Passover Seder, this hard-working and dedicated group of students comes together not for the credit, but for the love of creating community among Jewish students at Oregon State University. We have put hours of conversations into bagel brunches, newly formed board meetings, flyer creating, tabling scheduling, and inviting friends, yarmulke-wearing strangers, and interested bystanders into a growing and vibrant Jewish community in Corvallis.

Ellie is a born tabler (but the others ain't bad either!) (Photo Cred: Me)

The road to success is not an easy one. Twists and turns, obstacles and opposition may stand in our way at times. But we interact with everyone with a smile--we want every student to feel at home in the Jewish community on campus, whether it's grabbing a Laffy Taffy from our table (of course we tabled on the hottest day of the year thus far!), meeting up at the MU for an impromptu indoor bubble wand fight, or talking about potential summer jobs for students in their hometowns, Oregon State Hillel students want to hear all about you. (Marathon sentence). By working together and approaching our leadership with a special sense of humility, we are restructuring our board to reach a greater cross-section of students--every person has a part to play and leadership opportunities are endless for those students who want to play a part in the process. 

I am honored by the time that I get to spend with these students, those who realize that "it is not the position that honors the person, but rather the person who honors the position." They are going places and their Shabbat on Campus is going to be stellar (as will their end of year Picnic in the Park!). I am very proud of you OSU students--thanks for a stellar year!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Hod

While technically the new day has started, this is the post that I would have written this morning/afternoon. Tiferet (an amazing sefirah that can be translated as beauty, balance, compassion, harmony) combined with Hod (humility) is how I would describe a community organizer, a force to be reckoned with. Whether it's interacting with fellow professors, community members, students, or her ever-so-appreciate Oregon Hillel staff, Reut L-T embodies this particular combination extremely well.

Reut & S volunteering at FFLC (Photo Cred: ME!)

Reut is much more than a friend to me, she has become an adopted family member, something that's sorely needed when you move across the country from your actual family! While there is so so much that I could write about, I decided to give a Top 5 for why Reut deserves this particular blog post.

5. Reut is an incredible pre-Birthright educator. Reut has one session of every Birthright pre-trip orientation rounds since I started at Oregon Hillel in November 2012. Utilizing her love of images (she's an incredible photographer), Reut recognizes the beauty that Israel has to offer and the different perspectives that each unique photograph gives to our own students. She always aims to be compassionate and balances the class she teaches to the needs of her students: she is always up for a challenge and always ready to challenge others.

4. Reut loves all things art-related. This is more of a concentration on beauty. Reut will sit with me for hours (and smile as she starts and finishes her second project in the time it takes me to do one) and paint pottery, head to the Hult Center to enjoy comedians, color pages that I've brought her, and does it all with a smile. While she probably won't admit it (there's the humility), she's an incredible artist and I love seeing her creations come to life as gifts for her loved ones. 

3. Reut loves Ellie. You need to have a decent sense of balance between accepting craziness and adoring sweetness in order to truly, truly love Ellie. However, Ellie is always welcome in Reut's house (and shout out to Izar who treats her as his own!) to play around with her boxer boyfriend (hi Hammy!) and shower S with kisses! Ellie is always given her own treats, water dish, and lots of love from Reut and family--when Ellie had her emergency surgery, it was Reut who distracted me with breakfast and hours of art therapy. 

2. Reut is an incredible community organizer and teacher. Every student I've met that's had a class with Reut (in fact, most people who have ever had a conversation with her) tell me that she is an incredible professor and community member, teaching everyone she interacts with in her own positive and personal way. Whether she's introducing me to friends from Boston when I accidentally crash a family BBQ or bringing flowers to graduating seniors at Shabbat or volunteering with S at Food for Lane County, Reut's presence brings a type of harmony to those around her. Again, she's probably denying this, but that's the humility talking--ask anyone, she's pretty awesome.

1. Reut made me the only food I could eat when sick. When I came down with double pneumonia (that's pneumonia in both lungs that hits you REALLY hard), Reut made me food and did grocery runs for me, bringing me cough drops, soup, and a lasagna. At the time, I couldn't keep anything down and had very little appetite. She requested that I have small pieces of lasagna at a time, freezing the majority and coming back to it later. It was the only thing I could eat when I was ill. And that was a beautiful thing.

While this blog may be one of my longest (the "bullet points" were meant to make it shorter, whoops!), it's worth it. Reut, thank you for EVERYTHING you've done. And tell Izar not to worry...his post is coming up soon enough :-)

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Hod

This post again goes out to a new friend, but a brilliant one. I met this person in August at Taglit Fellows and was lucky enough to get into a very long, very detailed conversation one night outside on the hotel bar's deck. Since then, we have shared countless in-flight text messages, Facebook conversations, and one pneumonia-filled phone call (thanks for the patience!). For Gevurah B'Hod, I was inspired by the work and creativity of Ari P!

 Hanging tight....(Photo Cred: STOLEN, it's Ari's cover photo)

To be fair, most of our conversations begin over four subjects: the students we have in common (many of my UO students have been involved with Ari in Ramah in some way), my dog Ellie (he has plans to steal her one day when I'm not looking), what flight/airport/city we're currently on/in, and Jewish education. Ari has a large amount of experience in all of these areas, and he's often one of the first people that I'll turn to when turning over a new initiative/challenge/program in my head. 

Why discipline? Ari has a passion for what he does, ensuring that creativity and discipline intermingle with each and every task he takes on. From posting enough photos/videos from his most recent MOL visit (so much so that I felt I was there!) to pushing forward my #BlogBOmer initiative to his own friends (and then texting me a picture of someone's first post!), to coming up with creative marketing, there's a precision and dedication to everything he does. Seeking out a creative Jewish text? He has it in his back pocket--and a great way to connect it to your intended audience. 

Why humility? Because he's not about the accolades. In fact, he's more excited when there's a student we have in common coming to work for Ramah then about what his plans are for the camp schedules and strategies this summer! Ari is about building relationships with others (and building them up) but rarely takes compliments that come his way with pride (or at all!). While he's probably rolling his eyes and shaking his head at this post for the third time by now, Ari knows that he's got strengths in building discipline in others, promoting only the best in those that learn and work beside him. He would probably also be shocked to know that he had a profound influence on my own Taglit Fellows experience, but for anyone that's headed to Ramah in the Rockies, know this: as hard as he works, he's also got jokes!

To Ari: Thanks for all of the wit, intelligence, and laughs/plane rides shared. Happy that you're home!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Hod

Stilllllllllll behind. But that's okay. No, really. You're just stoked that I've written another blog post, right? (Right). We're technically in the midst of Week 5 right now (with our big celebration of Lag B'Omer around the corner!), but I'm still at Day 1 of Week 5, so we're concentrating on Chesed (Acts of loving-kindness) in the area of Hod (humility or even secret). I dedicate this particular blog post to someone who calls me a "sister from another mister" (and who I love ever so dearly!), to the lovely Lihi G.!

Look at that gorgeous girl!

Lihi is yet another Birthright buddy that Hillel International paired me up with in December 2013--and I'm ever so thankful that they did! From the moment we were paired up, we began emailing, chatting during trainings, planning out fun times, Skyping with our tour guide (shout out to Itay!), and scheming out what our night before the trip would look like! The first night in Lihi's apartment, I got a glimpse of what her chesed looked like: we created milim hayom (words of the day) that we thought would make all of our students laugh (and learn!), talked about Shabbat programming, burned CDs for the bus, and groaned about the fact that we would have to be up in about three hours (all the while Lihi was also packing and in between folding repeating "Magniv...magniv...magniv...."

Once the trip started, I was amazed by Lihi's passion, tenacity, and enthusiasm. Whether she was joking with students, dancing down the bus aisle, or flirting with salespeople in the shuk, Lihi had a smile and a kind word for everyone she met. She also has a fierce intellect, a sharp tongue, and a quick wit--but you don't get to realize that until you really spend time with her. Since I've met Lihi, she handles everything with such grace and humility; while she appreciates recognition for her own hard work, she is much more interested in publicizing the work of her students, fellow Israel Fellows, and peers. In fact, while she was IN Israel, she shared the #BlogBOmer challenge so that others might see it and join in. 

Everyone who meets Lihi gets to experience that secret (another definition for hod!) air of kindness and compassion that surrounds her--her love of life and adventure are contagious (even when you pair her with a risk-averse person like me!). I know that whether it's one-on-one at a conference or among thousands at an Israel mega-event, I am lucky to have gained yet another sister in my life, someone who will always look out for me and give me that secret push to succeed.

Monday, May 4, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Netzach

Another belated posts...but don't they say that absence makes the blogs grow better? Either way, the person who I'm dedicating this blog post to won't mind. Late to the party is better than never!

In Hillel, there are a lot of incredible people to look up to. Some are fantastic engagers, others remarkable educators, still others flawless fundraisers, and multiple managers of every type (coaches, leaders, teachers, and more). There are some rockstars out there: those people who Hillel International knows are incredible role models for newcomers and veterans alike, those people who have the ability to impact professionals on incredible levels. Luckily, one of my first introductions to the Hillel world was one of these leaders (malchut remember?) who had incredible strength of conviction and is wholeheartedly the reason that I am where I am today. This particular post goes out to an incredible blend of leadership and endurance: Susannah S.

Susannah doing what she does best: inspiring everyone around her! (Photo cred: Jessica Lott)

Without going into the details of what it is that I did that initially impressed Susannah, I can say that it was her effort and kindness that allowed me to endure through new rounds of job applications after two years, forty phone interviews, 20 final interviews, and one job offer. While I'm not working at the east-coast OSU (shout out to the WEST COAST OSU!), it was her encouragement that led me to have a phone interview with Hillel International, inevitably leading to my first phone call with The Andy, which landed me in this beautiful job situation I'm in now. 

With every conference (be it in person or phone call), I get to enjoy the honest Susannah reaction, a person who believes that leadership is found through strength, endurance, questions, patience, and an ability to clearly articulate (to yourself AND others) what it is that you want in order to move forward. She is never too busy to answer a question or debrief a session with me (or anyone else) and is always willing to volunteer her time, energy, and passion into helping others succeed. When I was speaking with Susannah about how to better myself as a professional and get the best out of the conference I was attending, she explained that if I wasn't clear on what I wanted to do and to be, that no one was going to make it clearer for me. The decisions, the focus, and the inevitable impact of Global Assembly resided with me. The conference (and my professional direction) would/will be what I make of it.

While I'm often questioning my own leadership capabilities and personal/professional endurance (I am certainly stronger now than when I first interviewed with Susannah & Co.), I am thrilled to know that I have such an awesome coach in my corner. Questions, thoughts, jokes, arguments...I'm lucky to have such a dynamo to share them all.

*Personal note to Susannah: THANK YOU for helping me find Hillel and for helping Hillel find me!

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Netzach

Shockingly, this post is belated (as will be the next few)...but there are reasons: like an incredible Shabbat on Campus/Muslim Student Association Big Event/Sigma Family Weekend combination, a full 24+ hours in Portland (#akwdayoff) and visits with great friends (hi Shiran!). While I'm going to be making these all up, I am trying hard to be a bit more consistent for the last few weeks of the Omer. {We'll see how this/next week goes!}

In case anyone's been keeping track, my Yesod days (bonding, foundation) have been strongly bent towards the "foundation" side, people who have helped me to become the core of who I am. Recently, when I forwarded her a copy of the Meyerhoff email that came out with this initiative, my mom was excited to read ALL of my blog posts--and my dad commented that hers would come, probably after Ellie's. Well, I'm happy to have proven him wrong. This particular post, combining yesod (bonding/foundation) in the realm of netzach (endurance, victory) goes out to the one, the only, The Mom (LGW).

The Mom adopts a lot of people, here are two of her favorite adoptees! (Photo Cred:Julie Wallick)

Before I get started, I need to come clean: I have a really great relationship with my mom. When I'm in the country, we talk about 1-2 times a day (more if I'm having a VERY. BAD. DAY.) and I usually get to start off every morning walking with Ellie and talking to the Mom. She's one of the first people I call for advice, to talk something out, to hear an opinion (even if it's wrong...mine, never hers), or to share what's happening with me or with any of my friends [read: her other adopted children]. 

But why Yesod B'Netzach for my mom? The yesod is easy: she helped make me (literally) into the person that I am today. My ability to set the table correctly, act with compassion and kindness, turn up the charm (when I feel like it), give The Look, and be a good listener is mostly due to the time spent with my Mom (some credit may be given to the Dad). She spent days and dollars teaching me to find beauty in sketching, piano lessons, needlework, and other artistic endeavors, always encouraging me to go a step further (and always willing to buy me whatever art supplies I wanted [note: I very rarely needed, but "shopping is not about need"]). Also musicals. My love for musicals? COMBINED TRAIT OF MY PARENTS, but definitely more-so the Mom. You're welcome to everyone who has ever ridden in my car and saw the first pre-set of my XM radio set to On Broadway. 

The Dad (BFW), The Mom (LGW) & The Me (AKW)

The Mom is also one of the strongest people I know. She'll disagree with me (most likely as she's reading this, she's laughing while shaking her head). A woman who has built up her own business, advised others, works 80 hours a day, has more of a social life than I do, and was elected as a village justice (her "boxing" name: Judge Mental) deserves a lot of respect to begin with. To do it all most days with a kindness and compassion about her earns her even more. My mom taught me that you don't have to step on others to be strong, in fact, it's just the opposite. The strongest people build relationships with those around them and combine strengths in order to create a better community (just as long as they're not working together on committees). My mom knows what her weaknesses are (snow shoveling, tennis courts, and Ellie), but also knows that her weaknesses are only a small part of what define her. What makes us strong as people (and what we should highlight in ourselves) is honest, courage, endurance, and the constant ability to try. Because if you never try, you'll always fail. 

It's been a very tough year for both me (and for the labradoofus). And through it all, I've been lucky to have a mom who, along with multiple daily phone calls and consistent checking of flights to Eugene, will be heading out to the EUG this week in order to celebrate Mother's Day (and maybe a little bit my finally getting past pneumonia). It is her caring, confidence, charisma, and conscience that makes her such a good candidate for yesod b'netzach-- mostly, it is the way she inspires others to become stronger at their core. 

And so, I speak for all your children (temporarily adopted or otherwise) when I say "Thanks Mom!" I'm sure you don't hear it nearly enough as you're supposed to. But hey, we're kids. We're still learning. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Netzach

This blog post deals with the combination of humility and endurance, a quiet strength that lives within us and pushes us to move forward, to meet and beat our own expectations. While this blog goes out to a more recent friend, I think he embodies this combination well, and so I'm honored to dedicate this blog to Dennis K.

Stolen from Facebook, but remarkably pensive!

I met Dennis in August of 2014 at the first cohort of Taglit Fellows in Chicago. His reputation had preceded him--as a kind, quiet leader who always went on the Taglit-Birthright Israel: Hillel ASL trips (though I didn't know why as of yet). It happened that Dennis and I were sitting at a table together in a random free moment (they rarely happened) and I took a chance: I introduced myself to Dennis and asked him to tell me his story. Who he was, what he believed in, why he was there. More surprisingly, Dennis was game. He told me about his family, his history in Hillel, his love of the ASL Birthright trip and his poetry. His tone was quiet, humble, and he never bragged--but the words he shared were meaningful and memorable. He then turned my own questions on me: what was my story?

I claimed mine wasn't so interesting yet--after all, I was still getting through it. Dennis pushed and so I shared my ups and downs, my failures and flaws and what I've learned from them (and how to better some of them) and how I got to be at the Taglit Fellows conference in the first place. Dennis claimed that my story was more interesting than I had imagined--and that it might not matter that I was in the middle of it. If I were able to endure all of the challenges, the continuous ups and downs, I might be able to continue creating a fascinating and enlightening story. 

This meant a lot coming from Dennis, who had a love of and knack for words. Words endure or years after they're spoken--and quiet/humble ones may be just as meaningful (if not more so) than loud and proud ones. Dennis has since also taken chances, enduring in his own way and on his own merit. I'm proud to call him a colleague and thrilled that he took a chance on an odd question in the middle of a Chicago conference!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Netzach

We're officially at the midpoint of the Omer...and it's amazing to think that there's still 25 days until we get to Shavuot. Today is also a "square day," (yes 25, but also) a day where the theme of the day matches the theme of the week. Netzach B'Netzach or (super endurance) is definitely something that makes me think of goals set, strength-training, and enduring patience in the face of adversity. Let's pull up our sefirot map again, to see what we're looking at:

Netzach is in the bottom right corner of the map!

When checking out Netzach, we can see that it's part of what's refered to as the "Pillar of Mercy," connected in a straight line to chochmah (wisdom) and chesed (acts of loving-kindness). It makes sense that the person that I chose for this particular post has a decent combination of all three, and needs them to do his job as a Tour Educator. Here's looking at you Ran E!

 Ran making friends with a baby goat (Photo Cred: Me)

When my Summer 2014 Birthright trip thinks of Ran, they probably think that I'm picking him for endurance squared because of his workouts, his all-meat diets, or his ability to run around Masada without losing his breath. (Ran's nodding his head now). That's only part of his ability to endure. When meeting Ran this summer (Shiran and I hadn't had an opportunity to Skype with him beforehand), we were thrown into a whirlwind experience of trying to balance our expectations with Ran's talent, educational goals, and crazy sense of humor. He had to endure our desires and defenses of our students (WEAR YOUR HATS PEOPLE), our ability to get into fights with hotel staff when his back was turned, and our playing keep-away with green Laffy Taffys. 
Birthright isn't an easy thing to staff; it's a challenge to juggle forty-eight personalities in two-three different languages and then figure out a good structure for our bus driver, his madrichim, and our "guard." But Ran endured constantly, utilizing a good sense of humor, a loud voice, and an ability to adapt when Shiran and I approached him directly and openly. He recognized that sometimes the best way to meet our daily educational goals was to find a decent measure of fun and function, of education and exploration, of open debate and operational definitions of what Israel was to everyone involved. 

Blurry, but we were all cracking up laughing (Soldier's program) (Photo Cred: Me)

Ran endured during a drastically overscheduled program for our particular trip, including three nights out and a Mega-event that tested even the most patient of us (not particularly any one of our greatest virtues). He took care of logistics, defended his staff and his students, created a warm and welcoming environment, and did it all in 100 degree weather (yikes).  During my winter trip, when I faced some adversity of my own, he talked me through my own problems with a smile, a laugh, and a reminder that it was okay to sit down and relax once in a while. 

While I don't get to head to Israel with him this summer (hey, I tried!), I know that any trip that goes with him is going to get a strong, charismatic, and enduring tour educator, mentor, and friend. And if all else fails, don't worry...he can always catch a nap on the bus.

Caught napping on the job! (Photo Cred: Shiran!)

Personal note to Ran: Thank you for everything. (You know what you've done).

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Netzach

Wait, what? I'm actually caught up with this blog post? (Yes you naysayers...I normally post the day during the day of, and not at night when it starts!). HOW EXCITING! And it kind of makes sense to work on these enduring blog posts and catch up on the day of tiferet (balance is one of its definitions!). This particular blog post goes out to another enduring friendship, one that's had an intense amount of compassion, harmony, beauty, and balance thanks to the other person who's in it. I am so thankful in my life for having her in it--this post goes out to Shifra M!

 Sometimes Shifra steals my Dad when I'm not aroudn...NBD though. It's cool.

Shifra or "Shif'd'ra" was one of my favorite friends that I made during my time in NFTY-GER, meeting at our first Conclave in the Summer of 2000. We have been through a LOT together and can go for ages without speaking, only to have a two hour conversation one night when it's least expected (or when one of us is driving home late at night and wants a friend to debrief with). 

Throughout my entire high school experience, Shifra balanced out my ridiculousness with her calm demeanor and rule-following, making sure that I continued to not get kicked out of another camp, a conclave, or whatever setting I was making a fool of myself in. She followed carefully every relationship/drama struggle that I may have gotten into and always calmly and patiently endured every crying spell, hysterical laughter, and explained that perhaps, by thinking things through, I might be able to get over whatever "tragicomedy" had just played out in my normal life. 

 Can't. Stop. Laughing. (2003? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
P.S. Hi Joey!

Even as I started to really grow up, moving through college (pictured below) and planning moves to Philly, and then eventually to New York, Shifra was on the phone for every major moment. We cried together over losing Mama Malkin (to this day, I will never forget that phone call), cried over the ending of a seven year relationship on my part, cried from laughing over the reality of certain men never really knowing what they want. Her compassion never wavered. Shifra walked me through the balance of understanding that when I returned to NFTY-GER as an advisor, I wasn't really looked at as a kid anymore (i.e. I could use my cell phone without it getting taken away!), but should really act as a role model for my whatever way I could make that happen. She listened as one relationship ended and another began, and understood as I was moving away from being in any relationship at all. She understood every fear, every concern and treated every single moment with a special type of compassion, leading me to believe that even as I was packing in a blackout (thanks Hurricane Sandy), everything would be all right. 

Straight thugging. Outside my GWU apartment.

If it weren't for Shif's ability to endure all that I've put her through, our friendship would not be nearly as strong. I am so thrilled that we still remain close, and that we'll continue to be friends for a long time. Shif'd'ra, whether you're laughing or shaking your head at me for all the pictures (or stories), know that I love you and that I'm proud of you for all you do. Can't wait for your next late-night car call!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Netzach

When writing these posts, I'm pretty well aware of what my strengths are (mostly chesed and yesod) and I need to work on (mostly everything else). Netzach is a particularly difficult week for me to write for--I often struggle with endurance, tiring out after walking too far (don't get double pneumonia) or struggling when goals aren't met as quickly as I would like. Gevurah or self-discipline/restraint is another one of my struggles (okay, but really...I have trouble saying "No." I'm working on it).

I'm thrilled that the immediate person that I thought of when coming to this particular day was another one of my closest and oldest friends. I dedicate this one to the only person that can understand what I'm saying when English isn't my friend--this one's for you Josh L.!

He'll be thrilled that I pulled this picture from Facebook. (So disciplined).

Josh and I have been friends (somehow) since the summer of 2001 [we are SO old] when we bonded over the lovable and wonderful Kutz Camp. (Pictured below, we were adorable). Since that moment, we've spent countless hours on the phone, shared many a meal, enjoyed my senior prom (he was an excellent date), and most recently, he got the chance to lecture me on my very decent inability to keep myself out of a doctor's office [it should be noted that I saw him mere days before being diagnosed with pneumonia...]. He has a wicked sense of humor (and a horrible love of puns), a great sense of adventure, and is loving, caring, and committed to those he truly cares about. 

So why pick this crazy kid for the most serious of disciplines? When you think of discipline and endurance, you don't necessarily think about adventure, fun, and arguments with cab drivers. But Josh manages to do all that while working extremely hard (he's already disagreeing with me here) and planning out his next move for how to go further, do better, and take the next step (now he's nodding). But when you share a friend/familyship with someone for fourteen years, I'd call that enduring. Josh's discipline helps push me to make better decisions, to talk out confusing fears and failures, and to DREAM BIG (but only if I'm willing to put in the work to get there!). 

Every conversation that Josh and I have somewhat revolves around "starting from the beginning" and making sure that we're both hearing all of the details of every story/problem until we start co-problem solving. His cross-country concern and calm are often what puts me back on track for my own goals and processes--it is the combination of discipline and endurance that help us reach the highest of our goals. Josh for me is a friend, brother, coach, and not shy about sharing when he disapproves (which might be rare, but still happens enough for me to recognize the change in tone!) of what I'm doing. 

As promised, the photo of...2 years into our friendship?

Kutz Camp & UMC (Photo Cred: Shif'd'ra!)

*Personal note to JBL: I am very thankful for all the discipline and love you've put into this friendship and can't wait to hear about your adventures in Paris. Love you kiddo!

#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Netzach

We're currently about to be in the middle of the fourth week of the Omer (and I'm a little behind), but we are currently in the week of Netzach, thought of as endurance in this particular blog experiment. As I've been writing over these last few weeks (and catching up over the last few days!), I've noticed something--each blog MEANS something to someone. It may affect the person it's dedicated to, or a friend of theirs...but either way, that person who inspires ME may end up inspiring another. And that's a pretty cool reaction. Train of thought over...back to writing this blog. I hope that the #BlogBOmer posts endure until next year (and that I don't lag too badly once I've caught up!), but am thrilled that each week starts with a familiar theme: Chesed.

Chesed, if you remember, refers to loving-kindness. So when thinking about how these two things interact (loving kindness & endurance), I started thinking about people who really put their all into everything they do, especially when it comes to caring for others. I started thinking about coaches (shout out to my own volleyball coach who had enduring patience for me), teachers, and friends. I decided to dedicate this particular blog post to my own enduring teammate in the trenches: Becca M.

 Oregon Hillel family team again (Photo Cred: Paul Gitelson)

Becca came into my life in April of 2013, excited and well-prepared to begin a life in Eugene, Oregon as our new Director of Student Engagement. I was excited and nervous and happy and unsure of what it would mean to have a new coworker...I've never been particularly good at uncertainty. Regardless, Becca came into my life with a kindness, a brand of chesed and happiness that cheers me on a pretty regular basis. Whether it's dancing in my office, singing the Lego Movie theme song with me ("Everything is awesome....." during a particularly tough moment), sprinkling happy aura around me, or visiting me when I'm quarantined, Becca's kindness is abundant.
What you might not know about Becca is that she's also a marathon runner (woooo!) and that she uses her own personal endurance to get through every race, task, and opportunity that's handed to her. She's even managed to use her chesed/netzach combo to guide her in her personal weekly community service work with Girls on the Run, working with young girls in constructing their personal confidence as they find their stride both in their runs and in life. As the staff member currently working with Oregon Hillel's intramural team (I merely get to come and cheer them on from the sidelines!), she's already 2-0 in their spring season; it's her kindness and dedication that cause a warm and welcoming team atmosphere, regardless of the game's outcome.

Celebrating after their FIRST win! (Photo cred: ME!)

We've made it through two and a half terms so far and I'm very excited to see how our future unfolds. Regardless, I hope that some of Becca's chesed/netzach combination will rub off on me--running's not so much in my blood!

Monday, April 27, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Tiferet

I am getting there! It's hard to believe that I am wrapping up the week of Tiferet (even though I know we've already legitimately entered into the week of Netzach--whoops!). I find that I struggle with many (but not all) of the sefirot that we discuss through the Omer, but none more so than malchut--this idea of leadership or sovereignty. I think that I am constantly trying to find the type of leader that I hope to be, that I wish I could be, that I feel comfortable being...or some combination of the three. Being able to understand how leadership leads to compassion and harmony is a sign of maturity, creativity, and generosity.

One person who I think has this combination covered (and in style) is Lillian F-H. And so this blog begins...

Lillian, Lisa, and Me at Kutz Camp (Photo Cred: Lisa)

First and foremost, I have to thank HUC-JIR and Melissa Z-S for bringing Lillian and I together in a ridiculous, incredible, and wonderful manner. As participants in the HUC-JIR Certificate in Jewish Education Specializing in Adolescents and Emerging Adults program, we had an incredible amount of time to problem-solve, program-write, and personally reflect on what it is that we were trying to accomplish in our respective personal and professional lives. While she's across the country from me now, I am lucky enough to know that we've still got that ability to get together at a moment's notice to bring us back to that place of mutual reflection and reaction.

Lillian is an incredible leader in her own right, knowing herself to her fullest extent and knowing when to speak, when to hold back, when to step-in and when to let others shine. She's always one of the first people to volunteer, to set an example, or to debate a point, but she's also known for her incredible compassion and listening ear as others tell her their about their fears, fallacies, and faiths. I was lucky in my program to often sit near her (and Facebook message her) during our sessions, to watch her creatively approach problems with an artistic eye, and to sing incredible (if not incorrect) lyrics in our shared hotel room. 

It's no surprise to me that Lillian's doing well in her new job in MD, one of her (NOW MY) students at UO tells me all the time about how they've kept in touch...and at times, he even delivers messages from her to me. While I don't necessarily have the time always to keep in touch personally, every time I get a message from TJ (from Lillian!), I stop and smile, reminding myself that there's someone out there that gets it, that gets ME, and that I am very very lucky. 

But...most importantly, I introduced her to Crumbs.

This picture is awesome. Photo Cred: ME.

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Tiferet

This is  my third week writing about yesod (bonding), but every time I write it, I think about yesod as a foundation, something that made me who I am. The first week (Yesod B'Chesed) I wrote about my brother, Adam. The second week (Yesod B'Gevurah) I wrote about myself. So this week, when thinking about my foundation and who I think of immediately when I think of compassion & harmony, there's no contest: I dedicated this to my best friend and favorite person (aside from Ellie), Joey L.

My fabulous date at my brother's wedding (Photo Cred: Julie Wallick!)

Joey-bear has been one of my oldest and closest friends (really family) for as long as I can remember. He is all of the sefirot combined: loving and kind, disciplined, compassionate, enduring, humble, a strong leader, and a huge part of my ability to bond. His friendship, passion, and caring are a lot of what keeps me smiling (even if we don't get to talk as much as I'd like to.

But Yesod B'Tiferet, this idea of bonding in harmony and compassion: that's our friendship in a nutshell. There is never a time that I head home that I don't let Joey know first, and thus far he's managed to head back to Rockland to spend some time with me on each visit (that's FOUR hours of driving round-trip!). He's one of the first people that I ask to be my date to any family function (and to be fair, he's usually my family's first choice as well!) and I know that whenever we're together, everything's going to be just fine. 

For all of my craziness and up and down moving around, Joey is stable, happy, and my go-to favorite second brother. We are bonded for always, he is definitively a huge part of my foundation. Now if only all of his sefirot talents could rub off on me---then we'd be in harmony

*On a personal note, I love you Joey-bear. Thank you for always being a part of my life.

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Tiferet

In all full humility (and honesty): I am not much of a blogger. I think that I thought this challenge would be much easier than it's actually become--(but perhaps that's what makes it a challenge?). I was lucky enough to be invited to sit in on an AEPi banquet the other evening, where one of my students was given an award and asked to give a speech. "Awards are for egos," he said, and I choose to share this one with all of my brothers here tonight." (Shout out to Connor!). 

In thinking about the people who have inspired me through their own humility, I thought about who also inspired me through their ability to appreciate harmony and compassion in their daily lives. In thinking it through, I dedicate this blog post to Rachel N.

Shabbat at Hillel Institute, Rachel, Jordan, & Esther leading the party!

When I first met Rachel, I was at WHO Conference in the Winter of 2012, approximately three weeks into starting my job. She was my group leader at the time, ensuring that west coast engagement professionals were learning to bond and practice best practices with each other. It wasn't surprising then, for me to begin to look at Rachel as a teacher first, and a colleague second in my Hillel professional world. Rachel (also part of the Lunch Table Experiment) is a staple in my Hillel professional conference life--I can often find her teaching, dancing, or chatting with those around her and her level of compassion for her peers in the field is unparalleled. 

When the #BlogBOmer initiative was shared by Hillel International, Rachel was one of the first people I reached out to--unsure of how I felt about the publicity. Rachel's humility shone through in the conversation when she reminded me that I was struggling because "we aren't in this for the glory, but for the outcome." I don't know how many people are participating in #BlogBOmer (either writing, posting, or reading), but I know that my hope was that it would reach people in a new and positive way. I wanted to ensure that Judaism could be accessible, that it would resonate with people in a relevant manner. I'm hoping that these posts bring forward some harmony, some small amount of humble appreciation for all of the good that these people have done in the world and to hopefully inspire others to act in kind. 

Mostly, I'm thankful to have all these people to thank. They're pretty great. 

#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Tiferet

As I type this, there's some definite need for personal endurance...I think I can, I think I can, I think I can BLOG! I know I've said this before, but blogging every day is a real personal challenge--more often than not, I've usually started and skipped around on these challenges. When I realized that I was five blog posts behind, I knew that I had two choices: miss the days I missed OR slowly, but surely make my way back to the day at hand. I chose the latter because I think there's a special harmony to completing what you start...even if your pace is a little slower than it should be.

I want to dedicate this to another fellow Fellow of mine, someone who has a passion for helping others to endure, who finds ways to create compassionate opportunities for other Hillel professionals and her students to create harmonious communities. This particular post goes out to fellow #Hillelpro Jenna C!

Jenna with two of my other favorite #Hillelpros (shout out Rachel &; Jason!)
Photo Cred: STOLEN from Jason Oruch's photos

Jenna is by far one of the hardest working people in show Hillel biz. Her personal and profession endurance are unparalleled by most--this is part of the reason that she's one of the three Hillel professionals running the Hillel Mentorship Initiative, and is always one of the first people willing to help another #Hillelpro (or human!) in need. Jenna's confidence and kindness encourage those around her to put their heads down and get to work--to be the best people that they can be.

I got the pleasure of working with Jenna on a program during our Taglit Fellows Cohort I session in Chicago (August 2015). During the writing portion, we were struggling as a team to come up with a concept that we felt we could really get behind (there were limits/boundaries on our program with an unexpected twist card doled out). 45 minutes into the program, I had an idea pop into my head that I thought could get us past our problem--Jenna jumped on board and her enthusiasm (and ability to quickly write and streamline creative thinking) helped us come up with one of the most creative programs in the room [which is supposed to be in a database...somewhere].

All of this may seem small...unimportant even...but when running a marathon, it helps to have someone set a great pace in front of you--it gives you something to aspire to be. While I'm not a runner by any means, I enjoy having Jenna always being a little bit ahead of me--it inspires me to put my head down and work smarter, enduring for another day, month, or year as a #Hillelpro and attempting to find a work/life balance in the process! Thanks for being a connector to the Jewish professional community Jenna! <3 p="">

Sunday, April 26, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Tiferet B'Tiferet

In a week that's dedicated to Tiferet, I've noticed that Tiferet is a connector, something that hangs in the balance (one of its many definitions) of the rest of the sefirot. Let's pull up that sefirot picture again, shall we?

Check it out: Tiferet is in the MIDDLE, connecting all of the sefirot together in some way.

This particular week has been not so fabulous for my ability to keep things in balance, certainly, but it has been one of compassion, one of connection, cone of community. It's been told when you miss a day/night of the omer without counting, that you can count the day, but without the blessing. For me, at least, I may continue counting the omer with a blog post (or a million of them). 

Today's post, concentrating on the ultimate Tiferet B'Tiferet (Tiferet squared?), we concentrate on all of the things that Tiferet can be: harmony, compassion, connection, beauty, balance, equilibrium. As I'm catching up on my own blog posts (hey, never said this wouldn't be a SELF-challenge!), I think about those in my life who are the art of grace in their own connections and abilities to embrace the beauty, harmony, and compassion both inwardly and outwardly. So for this particular post, I think to one of my own beautiful inspirations: Danielle N. 

Danielle, always the life of the [Purim] party!

I am VERY lucky to have Danielle in my life. It is rare that you see someone with incredibly beautiful gifts and a large depth of compassion and Danielle has an abundance of both. At multiple conferences (and through the gift of Facebook videos), I have had the pleasure of enjoying Danielle's singing voice MANY many times and she has a gift of actual musical harmony while creating a harmonious community all around her (or around her campfire!). At conferences, you can often find Danielle chatting up friends and strangers (or friends-to-be) at every opportunity and she has an amazing knack for finding the beauty in almost every situation: not sure where exactly the next scheduled place is? Great time to meet someone new and ask. Have a 15 minute break in between sessions and not enough time to nap? Awesome time to sit outside, enjoy the trees, and have an excellent conversation. 

I was lucky enough to be randomly roomed with Danielle at a WHO conference within the first three weeks at starting work at Oregon Hillel. Besides being granted the ability to visit Starbucks every morning with her, I also got to enjoy a rare introduction to what it is to really be a Hillel team player, West Coast performer, and how to connect with the other professionals around me. Here's a fun photo from that fabulous time:

 I'm on the floor, Danielle and [beardless!] Andy dancing? Moving? Who knows!

Since then, much of my Hillel professional experience has been shared with Danielle. Chatting at lunches at professional conferences (she is also a member of the Lunch Table Challenge), debating the benefits of pre-school freshmen Shabbatons, and this year sharing in not one, but TWO simultaneous fellowships (shout out to E2E/Ezra and Taglit Fellows!). I feel lucky to be friends with someone who is so quick to find the beauty in every situation, who shares compassion with all those around her, and when all else fails, can literally create harmony as needed (as long as she has someone to provide the melody alongside her). On a personal note to her: thank you Danielle for connecting me to the Hillel family on a personal level, and for always finding a fine balance between fun and function at every event we share. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Gevurah B'Tiferet

As I was exploring the topic of Gevurah (Discipline & Restraint) and Tiferet (Compassion, Beauty, Harmony, Balance), I kept thinking about how I've been noticing new things during the Omer. As I've been working for Oregon Hillel, I now know when Rosh Chodesh falls on the calendar. Every year there will be a Rosh Chodesh during Chanukah. There will be more than one Rosh Chodesh during the Omer, the first of which happened last night (Sunday night) and started the combination of Day 16 of the Omer (theme above) with Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, the beginning of the second month of the Hebrew calendar. When it comes down to it, there's no better person to pick for a Rosh Chodesh/Omer crossover AND she's a rockstar at this particular theme. This post is inspired by and dedicated to my E2E Mentor and friend before that: Esther A!

That's MY mentor! (Jealous?)

Esther loves Rosh Chodesh. In fact, every month I get an email from Esther about the month that's coming up (or just been introduced) and what's happening in Israel that fits thematically around it. Iyyar is an interesting month with recognizable Israeli holidays: Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut (which are coming up this week!). It's also the time in the Torah where G-d gave us manna from the sky and where Miriam's wells opened with enough water for all to come and drink.

But wait...what does this have to do with the theme of Gevurah within Tiferet? Oh right! Thanks for reminding me. On top of everything else, Esther is the point person for all of Hillel's Israel Programming--my first go-to on every Birthright trip that I've been on, and a constant comfort to all Hillel staff that works on one of her trips. It takes a lot of gevurah to organize a Birthright trip and stay on top of everything (discipline, organization, restraints, boundaries) in order to reach a true state of tiferet, a harmonious rakaz or satisfied staff members. Esther needs to ensure that her trip leaders, tour educators, trip organizers, and participants are all working together smoothly, and that includes following certain protocols and working within clearly set frameworks.

As a mentor, Esther is NO different! Some of our first moments in every session are about my health (sheesh, get double pnemonia once...twice and everyone worries!) and my working hours. Next up, we usually talk about my expectations for work/the year and what concrete steps I'm taking to meet those expectations (sometimes the steps are not so concrete, but that's why I have a mentor!). It's easy to see that by framing the conversations/educational moments (using gevurah as a way of setting easily defined limits and utilizing self-discipline), there will almost always be a harmonious result (tiferet as a beautiful balance in compassion and comprehension).

Either way, I can't wait to spend time learning from her in person IN ISRAEL THIS JULY!


#BlogBOmer: Chesed B'Tiferet

Going slow with writing these blogs, but mostly making sure that I'm writing what I really mean...and that the examples I'm setting for myself in choosing my exemplars is on point: these people that I'm sharing/you're reading about really embody these particular qualities for me--and give me a higher level to aim for in the areas of each of these sefirot.

We've entered into Week 3 of the Omer at this point and the first day of each new week has the same focus: Chesed (acts of loving-kindness). I find this a bit comforting, knowing that each week starts off with acts of loving-kindness in each arena: it makes us focus on the positive first and foremost and then we move on from that bright point. Week 3's major focus is on Tiferet: a word that has many meanings--it can mean compassion, harmony (as we've cited in our #BlogBOmer examples), but it can also mean balance and beauty.  When thinking about the person to whom this blog is dedicated to, I realized that there could only be one real rockstar choice: Carly F(B!).

Shout-out to Erez (who is also an inspiration!)
P.S. Carly looks super kind and harmonious in this picture!

At almost every Hillel professional development conference, you can easily find me spending time with Carly--she is my conference person. She knows that the better party is always in our room (rather than down on the ground floor), that you can learn more in a half hour one-on-one conversation than you might in a two-hour planned session, and that you should always always always travel with a corkscrew (thanks Carly's mom!). 

I can't necessarily recall how I got involved with the crew at Illini Hillel, but I can say that my friendship with Carly has progressed past professional niceties and into something that I deeply respect. Trying to figure out how a program might work? Call Carly. Delving into marketing strategies? Carly. Figuring out what next steps there are for professionals to help train each other when at an equal level? Debate with Carly. Carly's always there with a smile, a joke, a hug, and a kind word. Her chesed is appreciated by all those who know her well, and so is her love of the Beatles!

I think that Carly believes that there's a certain pattern to the universe--that there's a way of balancing acts of loving-kindness with pragmatism in order to get a harmonious and compassionate campus. More often than not leading by example, Carly has been a part of the Lunch Table Experiment (see prior posts), is a part of the Hillel Mentorship Initiative (can't think of a greater mentor!), and really believes that the best professional development sessions are those that can further deepen our relationships with our students. I know that in my own way of interacting with students (I aim to be as non-judgmental as possible while simultaneously providing a safe space for communication), that I aim to be a part of this harmonious pattern. I also try to lead by example, emphasizing tzedek, g'milut chasadim, and kavod as three tenets of my own brand of Judaism (for the Hebraically-challenged: righteousness, acts of loving-kindness, and respect). 

A special end for this particular post: 


Monday, April 20, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Malchut B'Gevurah

I never realized that blogging every day would be such a struggle! Definitely a lesson in gevurah (discipline!) and making sure that even if I miss a day, that I get to it at a later date. But, even late at night--BOOM. Blog post. This particular post is about Malchut B'Gevurah, the last day in the week's theme of Gevurah (Leadership/Sovereignty in the area of Discipline/Restraint). This post goes out to an old college friend and buddy: Yael B.

Oh Captain, My Captain {Looking out for small dogs}
I tend to think that Yael's going to be surprised by this post since we haven't spoken in a minute--life gets in the way and things get busy and before you know it, another six months has flown by. HOWEVER, Yael was one of my closest friends and supports in college and was by far my favorite study buddy. So why Yael for the topics of leadership within the area of discipline & restraint
Yael was my inspiration to stay true to my goals and dreams of working in the Jewish world post-college. Aware of every intimate moment of my life with my pre-med textbooks, Yael was there when I realized that pre-med wasn't the right lifestyle for me (I wasn't very good at math or science!). As my library study partner, Yael pushed me to work harder in the fields of Psychology & Judaic Studies when I decided to double major while making me crack up in between sneaking in food to the library from Fridays, or staking out small study group rooms and pulling all nighters. Between the two of us, I think it was Yael's discipline that got me through those nights of color-coding, iPod shuffling and note-taking...all the while watching her work through creating and defending her own major at GWU and planning out what she would create once out of college.

On a personal level, Yael's leadership and disciplinary demeanor also helped me with my music and my social life in college. We were in the GWU a capella group Shiluv together and Yael encouraged me to compose, work on original songs and ideas, and has been the inspiration for many mash-ups/compositions since (though she's probably forgotten hours of hanging by my keyboard in a tiny dorm room!). Afraid of putting myself out there (and presently, forging back into old habits), Yael made me leave my apartment or dorm room and explore new friendship opportunities, new restaurants, new reasons to laugh and explore and TRY. 

Sometimes I miss my college years--the ability to go out and try new things, to figure out what my restraints were (or what restraints I had placed on myself that could be pushed wider). I was very lucky to have Yael's leadership in this particular area--she always convinced me that I was better and more capable of anything that I could dream up on my own.

~Miss you girl--hope you're living it up!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Yesod B'Gevurah

It's not that I haven't wanted to write my blog post all day (in fact I probably had some time in the morning where I may have been able to fit it in), but I've been struggling with the idea and the level of honesty that I feel comfortable in hitting these topics--gevurah (discipline/restraint) is a challenge in itself for me: saying no, watching my weight, watching my words, filtering my thoughts.

Yesod is about bonding, about finding a foundation within this concept of discipline. And all I can think about are diets, fasting, working out, and personal struggles. Obviously this particular combination on this day is a major place for growth for me--it's appropriate that it comes on the 13th day (the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Day!) of the Omer--as I explore this process in ways to find people who inspire me through their actions, to give me a chance to aspire to be better in areas where I don't thrive.

And who should I dedicate this blog to? My family--who support me in everything, but worry about my health? My friends who have asked (or politely not asked) about every gain or loss in exercise or health? My personal trainers from the past--or group exercise instructors? It's a struggle--but for now, I'm going to dedicate this one to me.

Me at age 17; happy-ish and rocking the bandanna!

I have always hated having my picture taken. Always. Thin or not thin, it's been something I've avoided more often than not (you can ask anyone, I'm usually the one behind the camera...or behind the one using the camera!). Bonding moments that were captured on film and saved in people's memories were lost to me due to my hatred of how I looked on camera. As someone who has always struggled on and off with my weight (for the last 8 years, definitely ON), even now I need to be really pushed to be put in front of the camera. My discipline gives way to what I consider priorities: getting my work done, being on the phone with friends, attempting (!) to get enough sleep. Meals might get skipped during the day, but often I make up for it with chips or junk food (or too much food!) by the end of the day. 

Tonight, I saw myself in a picture taken by my job at an event that I was at. I am in NO WAY the focus of the picture. But I'm in it. Can you see me?

Me tonight at age 28--can you see me?

In case you couldn't see me, I'm the one all the way to the left. I couldn't believe it. Is that what I looked like? Through trying to dress well for my size, I often forget how much weight that I know I need to lose in order to be healthy. But was that really me in the picture? Had I really lost that much discipline in taking care of myself? (The answer, in short, is YES). But how can I utilize bonding (yesod) to get it back? By talking about healthy habits (did I mention I've taken up yoga again?). By utilizing support groups. By taking small steps to get myself back in order (working up to larger steps as I feel up to it). Those who support me will do so through successes AND setbacks--the point is to be honest about both.
I understand that this blog is a bit more open and honest than most. I'm not asking for open support or comments. I just felt like this is an area that needs a lot of work--and thought that maybe a post like this might be inspiration for someone else to think about which sefirot combination you most want to work on.

Thanks for reading. ~AKW

Friday, April 17, 2015

#BlogBOmer: Hod B'Gevurah

Somewhat caught up--although a new blog post will have to be written sometime between tonight & tomorrow night in order to really be back in the game! Hod B'Gevurah or the ability to make humility a special type of discipline. This post is inspired by and dedicated to Esti S (P!).

First things first: on my first ever trip to Israel without Esti in my immediate staff team this winter, I had probably my worst day ever on a Birthright trip (well...up until that point anyway). I was trying to breathe in the crowd that was ridiculous as a #Taglit event in the Bedouin tents where a million people were staying all at one night. Exhausted and frustrated and in pretty regular contact with Andy over some major things happening at home, I found myself really missing Esti's cheer and calm in my life. A few minutes before our meal was served, I was tapped on the shoulder...ESTI WAS THERE! Bursting into tears and hugging her really tightly, I basked in the sunshine and support that IS Esti.

Esti's got a GOAT!
(Ran fell in love with the goats)
Photo Cred: ME!

What most people don't know about Esti is how humble she is in the organizing and managing of all of the Birthright trips, whether she's rakazing, working behind the scenes, or celebrating secretly-staged Shabbat staff onegs (or attempting to buy me York peppermint patties in Israel...and FAILING. But then she bought me ice cream...and that's what counts). Her discipline whether in managing exhausted and cranky dehydrated trip participants (or staff members) is amazing...she manages everything with a cheery tone, a smile, and a calm demeanor that ends up passing on to her sometimes stressed-out and always sleep-deprived staff members. But Esti never asks to be in the foreground, is always willing to sing into the mic if late, and is always ready to be the support or the backup that's needed in any scary situation. 

In my own Birthright experience, I've often been given the position as the lead staff person on our Birthright trips, often being teamed with first-time staff members and having the opportunity to mentor and guide. This summer I'll have the ability to work on my own balance of humility and discipline as a support staff on our campus trip--I will definitely look to Esti as my exemplar. I hope to be able to handle daily activities and needs with the tact, grace, and enthusiasm that Esti brings to the table--thanks for inspiring me to work on these parts of me in tandem, Esti!!! 


#BlogBOmer: Netzach B'Gevurah

Apologies for the late blogs (these won't be the last ones!), work has been remarkably productive and busy lately--meaning work first, blogs later. Consider it a bit of personal netzach (endurance) b'gevurah (in discipline) --the blogs will get done, but not always on time [whoops!].

This particular post goes out to someone very special in my life Chaya B.

Chaya at the EUG airport (Photo Cred: CHAYA)
P.S. Nice shirt!

Chaya was my remarkable chevruta partner during my second year at Drisha Institute, a place that didn't quite necessarily know how to cater to a Reform Jewish strong-minded student, but loved the talents that same student had at building strong communities amidst VERY different personalities. Enter Chaya, someone who shared my talent and love of building community AND who was willing to be patient with someone who was struggling with the language (or who created up very dumbed down translations). Chaya and I clicked immediately: it just made sense--we hit the books (not really, Jastrow and the Talmuds deserve respect) with a sense of humor that was pretty unparalleled. Jokes for days.

Whether it was talking about our struggles with relationships (or lack thereof) or singing down the streets, Chaya and I connected over our love of music, mensch-work, and making fun of ourselves (and everyone around us). When I moved out to Eugene, Chaya was actually my FIRST friend to come out and visit [to be fair, I have had a few more come out since: shout outs to Shira, Adam, Gabby, M&D, Josh, Ashley, & Chris!], but Chaya was the first. She helped me paint an office, organize a library, hang out with AEPi brothers, and generally got first-hand knowledge of how much I loved my job. In return she got to spend a decent amount of time with one of the many furry loves of her life.

Chaya and Ellie are BFF (Barking Friends Forever)

Generally speaking, Chaya is one of the most resilient and enduring individuals that I've ever met. Whether it comes down to her personal or psychological health, her social activities or her studies, Chaya's enthusiasm and endurance are unparalleled. With regards to gevurah (which can be discipline, restraint, or even strength), Chaya has it in spades, starting running programs, creating Purim shpiels, or even most recently getting engaged! (YAY!). In her second year of rabbinical school, Chaya has a lot to juggle, but still manages to deal with her friends cross-country coming up with crazy blogging initiatives.

Chaya loves Ellie

In my own way, I look up to Chaya a lot--seeking out her strength and wisdom when I feel myself faltering in the fields of endurance (I give up much more easily than she does!) or getting excited about the potential for new ways of incorporating discipline in my life (I love my Passion Planner--even if I don't use it correctly!).  I think she won't even mind having a post that's a day or so late--because she knows that usually, the surprise is worth waiting for!

SURPRISE! Ellie sneak attacks!
To make a long post shorter (too late), we miss you Chai-T! Come back and visit us soon!!!