Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Sensory Christmas

No Chinese food, no movie. But I was at Google Tel Aviv!

For the first time in my life, I wasn't in the United States for Christmas.

Yes, I know, I'm Jewish, who cares, it's Christmas. But when you spend your entire life in a Midwestern classic Christmas setting, there are aspects that surround the holiday that are so normative -- they're like breathing. The lights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes. They're all simply a part of my life. My genetics are bound to crave the smell of fireplaces, the site of lined and beaded lights, the taste of warm apple cider and holiday cookies.

I'll be Jewish for the rest of my life, but there will always be certain pangs of sadness at this time of year. And I don't feel guilty about it because the way I grew up, Christmas was about trees and presents and food and visiting Silver Dollar City* (where, for years, my aunt and grandmother worked) and dipping candles and eating s'mores. It was about driving around as a family looking at the city bedecked in holiday lights. It was presents, snow, and the knowledge that this is what everyone everywhere just does.


I was in Tel Aviv last night at the Google Tel Aviv Campus for an event (which was awesome), and on my way back I hopped the Jerusalem light rail for a few stops and got off at Mahane Yehuda (that's the shuk, the giant outdoor market). At that hour, the shuk was quiet and filled with cars and trucks dropping off or picking up late-night deliveries. A few shops were still open and closing, and a few people were using the walkway as a quick bypass to get from Agrippas to Yafo.

About halfway through the shuk, I experienced something beautiful. I closed my eyes, breathed in, and the corners of my mouth curled up in a smile. I was transported to Silver Dollar City, the smell of cookies and s'mores, constantly kindled fires, fresh wax from candle dipping, and the crisp, cold air. For probably 10 seconds, I got my piece of childhood, my piece of December in the United States, in the Ozarks.

More and more, I understand the role HaShem plays in our everyday lives. The things we don't realize but experience in fleeting moments of absolute awareness with all of our senses. Those are the moments when HaShem reaches down to provide us a comfort that we might not even know we need. It was a gift. A 10-second gift.

I think it will get me through until next year. In fact, I know it will.

To read some past posts on my Christmas-time experience ... check out these posts from 2009 and 2007 (which is a particularly emotional post).

*This place has changed so much since the days I went there and purchased American Girl cards, watched glass being blown, got tin-type photos made, and enjoyed the simplicity of a rickety train ride (where, of course, robbers would take over the train, Old West style). Now it's all water rides and fancy things. I haven't been there since 1996, and I'm guessing I'll never go back. Some things are better left to memory, aren't they?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Marriage: The Details

I walked in the store, it was the first ring I saw. It was the ring
I had always wanted. And the shop keeper told us, simply from
our birth dates and names, the story of who we are, what we
need, and what kind of couple we will be. It was mind blowing.

Okay okay!

So you're wondering what on earth is going on with me, right? Why haven't I been writing about every oozy love filled moment I'm experiencing with my fiance? Who is he? Where did he come from? Have I gone off the absolute deep end meeting and getting engaged to someone so very, very quickly?

Or, perhaps those of you who relished in my hair covering posts are simply elated that such posts will continue. Maybe there are some of you who are eager to see what me -- married part deux -- will look like in the blogging universe. I'm guessing someone of you are just waiting to pounce and the comments section will inevitably be filled with a mixture of mazal tov and "you're nuts, why are you trying to solve your life's problems with another guy you barely know?!"

Yes, I can read you (my readers) like a book.

The truth is I've been enjoying the past month of my life in a way that I haven't enjoyed my life privately for years. And when I say years, I mean years. For the first time, I decided to keep my dating experiences off the blog, as well as all of the information about the guy and how everything went down and how absolutely utterly perfectly imperfect we both are and how when you know, you just know. I've been relishing (although, I've been more public about it on Facebook and Twitter since we got engaged) about this man who is brilliant and funny and ridiculous and who has a life story that could possibly champion mine in a real bout of insanity. We've both been married, we've both really experienced all that there is to experience in the outside world, and we both were sold immediately on the potential of what is going to be a relationship of growth, communication, understanding, patience, love, and hopefully some babies -- together.

So what do you need to know? All you need to know is that Mr. T and I are happy. Yes, we're going to call him Mr. T, because every loved one needs a fun moniker on a blog like this. Mr. T is an Englishman, a juggler, a storyteller, a jokester, a father, someone who can fix anything, and that he treats me unlike I've been treated ever in the history of the many men I've dated. He proposed to me a half dozen times, including the second-to-last time by text message. While we were sitting at the same table. That's how well he gets me.

Fish and chips and phone calls and tea. 

We'll be getting hitched just before Purim in the world's smallest (okay maybe not) wedding (we're talking roughly 25 people), because I've earned the right to relish in the closeness that I feel with Mr. T. We don't want a big shibang, no fancy halls, no giant family reunions, no giant wedding dresses, no upscale bouquets. Just us, our family (in my case my adoptive family, although my intent is to Skype in my family back in the U.S.), and a few of our very closest friends. Then? A few of the traditional sheva brachot in Neve Daniel, Ramat Beth Shemesh, and Jerusalem (tentatively that's the plan), and then the rest of our lives just enjoying each other's company (he recites poetry from memory, I regale him with my many speeding ticket stories).

And that, folks, is what's happening. My life has become a whirlwind of busy things and entrepreneurial projects, which I hope to share with you all soon once they launch. Ulpan also starts next month, so my life will become even more heartily hectic.

Conferences, meetings in the sun on Emek Refaim, lots of tea, smiles, laughter, love, shiny bobbles, friends, and happiness.

This is life in Israel. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Going to the Chuppah

Another Saw You at Sinai success story. And I thought it couldn't be done. Who was I fooling?!

Just like aliyah, this was the smoothest, calmest, most meant-to-be thing that's ever happened to me. 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Very Narrow Bridge

Today, on the two-month anniversary of my arrival in Israel according to the Gregorian calendar, I am being utterly adventurous and brave and perhaps fearless and putting on the brand new boots that I received this time last week that attempted to kill me -- twice.

Yes, some nice, wide, knee-length boots that were shipped by the amazing Leah to me in Israel that cost me quite the pretty penny were worn last Sunday without a care in the world. I walked, and walked, and walked, and didn't even slip. Then, on Monday, I fell twice, busting up my knee pretty badly. Yes, it's doing all the beautiful natural things like scabbing over, but the bone is bruised and still incredibly sore. I'll be honest in saying that I don't even know if it's healing right because in my ramshackle life I had some gauze (which I was using in place of cheesecloth in an attempt to make vegan cheese that failed -- for now), and that was it. So I gauzed it without any kind of antibiotic ointment initially. I got some later (thanks to Yoni), but I'm beginning to think that it might be a touch not okay. We'll see.

So I'm putting the boots on, wearing a long skirt (protecting the knee in the instance of a fall, please HaShem), and going to go about my day.

This, I'd like to think, is a little lesson from the following.
Kol ha'olam kulo gesher tzar m'od.
כל העולם כולו גשר צר מאוד.
All the world is a very narrow bridge. 
If you know the phrase, it's probably because you were singing it in Hillel or at camp or on a birthright trip or something. I know I learned this while in ulpan back in 2009 that is now reverberating in my life now. What you might not know is the rest of the phrase, that comes from Nachman of Breslov -- "... and the important thing is not to fear at all."

I spent an amazing Shabbat in Ramat Bet Shemesh with some new folks that I think will now be a very regular part of my life. While at the Shabbat table, everyone went around and mentioned some way that they saw G-d in their daily life that merited another day in this world. For me, it was a recollection of the very significant moments that I experience every day where I'm reminded how amazing, beautiful, and absolutely right this place is for me. I'm in such a good place in my life right now and every day there are these moments where I feel like I'm being reminded, "You've made the right choice in the right moment, you are home." Riding on a bus, walking through the shuk, sitting at home -- I can't really describe the moments, but I try to capture them by being completely thankful.

I've fallen a lot in my life, and I've picked myself up and put myself someplace new, in new situations with new people in an attempt to stay on this very narrow bridge of life. I've always thought that the important thing was being on the bridge, always on the bridge. What I never really considered was that the important thing is to understand that we're meant to fall, because it is narrow. It's picking ourselves back up that is the important part.

Something has changed with me here. I'm more in-sync with who I am, what I need, and hopefully a little closer to understanding what HaShem wants from me. As everything slowly aligns and feels more whole and complete, I'm realizing how possible it is to be content, to be okay, to be happy.

Be fearless, be intentional, listen to the still, small voice within and let it really guide you to where you were meant to go, who you were meant to be. You'll be blown away at how easy it is.

Here is to two months in Israel and to years and years and years beyond!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

When Life is Happening

Oh hello blog. Long time no talk. This is what happens when I'm busy actually living my life, I guess, right? The blog slowly takes a back seat to everything else. I've been dealing with graduate degrees and jobs and marriage and everything that falls in between. Never before has the blog taken a random and unforgiving lull.

So what to say? Well, the past week or so has been filled with lots of work, purchasing my first Jerusalem-style chanukiyah (aka one in a box to be displayed outside), an excellent Shabbat with "family" in Ramat Bet Shemesh, a few amazing dates, my attendance at TEDxJerusalem, two major falls that busted up my knee royally, and my first-ever attempt at making my own gluten-free sufganiyot (aka fried jelly donuts).

Yum-my. Recipe can be found here

Check out my fancy chanukiyah!

My life seems much more easily documented in images these days than in text, which is a weird change for me. But pictures, you see, are so much easier to capture and post. I envision elaborate posts about every little emotion I'm experiencing, but I'm currently in a place where I'm really enjoying my own emotions in the privacy of my own space. That's a new thing, right?

So, keep tabs on my Instagram for quite literally up-to-the day (if not hour) updates on what's going on. I'm going to try to get better about posting here, but there is just absolutely too many amazing things happening in real life for me to post about right now.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Little Inspiration

"It takes tremendous battle to merit being able to have a true geirus and return to kedushah; it is comparable to the war against Amalek." 
Likutey Halachos, Btzias HaPas 5:47 

Perhaps I should change the name of this blog, Just Call Me Chaviva, Warrior Giyoret!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Motzei Shabbos Special

I ran this series a few times in the past, but after people were talking on message boards about how I was being needy and posting all the things I hoped people would buy for me, I figured I'd put the kabosh on it. Now that I live in Israel and the truth that these are just things I think that are awesome and not things I expect people to buy for me, I figure it's time to revive the series! So here we go on another round of The Motzei Shabbos Special!

Just Press Start
I'm a huge fangirl of Apple products, and when I spotted this iNecklace, I couldn't help but kvell. It also comes in cufflinks, so you and your fellow Apple sweetheart can make sure that you're properly fanning it up.

Oh Homer, Where Art Thou?
I was never a big donut eater growing up, despite my family's love of stopping at Krispy Kreme whenever we were in Omaha to pick up a freshly-baked batch of the heart-stopping glazed variety. I liked watching them processed through the machine, but they were too sweet -- even for me. When I discovered that there were some mass-produced gluten-free varieties, I gave them a go, but again the sweet factor just killed me. Thus enters Gluten-free Sugared Gingerbread Cake Donuts from The Urban Poser, which look like the perfect amount of donut with the perfect amount of sweet.

Jerusalem of Nosh
I've been watching as Serious Eats has been posting recipe after recipe of amazing nosh from the cookbook "Jerusalem." The book has gotten some negative reviews because it doesn't honor the kosher keepers, but the truth is the chefs who got together to write the book aren't of the Haredi variety (one is Palestinian, so, we can't hold him to kosher, folks). Mejadra is just but one recipe, and I have to say I am stoked to give it a go after having tried the Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar, I am pretty sure it's going to kill. I guess I'll have to buy the cookbook now!

Get Up, Get Going
I have to say I'm intrigued and perplexed by the holistic UP bracelet by Jawbone. Apparently, it tracks your sleep and movement patterns and then an app (only on iTunes) on your phone displays the data, letting you add things like meals and mood. The app then provides you with insights to help you moving forward. I've seen other devices that do this, and I've also been skeptical, but this one seems like a no-brainer. The bracelet itself is $129.99, and I'm assuming the app is included. For me, this would be a wonder, as my sleeping habits are getting crazier and crazier by the day. 

Letters for Your Heart
If you're not a complete and utter devotee to (it's a web comic), then you're really missing out. Yes, there are weeks that the craft goes above and beyond my head, but most weeks it's genius if not romantic and heartfelt. So buy a print already

Campaign for a Cause
Last year at the 2011 ROI Summit, I had the pleasure of meeting the man behind NU Campaign, probably the coolest T-Shirt business on the planet. You see, there's a cause printed in graphically awesome ways on the front of the shirt, and then on the inside (of the shirt, yes) you get the explanation of the cause! The big push right now? The One for Israel T-Shirt!

Let's Get Visual! Visual!
I love infographics. They are all the rage, and if there's anything in the world that will get your message or cause or information out there, it's a really well-done infographic. Where do I find my favorites? I hit up, because it's sort of a clearling house for just about any infographic you could possibly imagine. Case in point? This one. 

Gangnam Style "The 5 Basic Steps"

Scrubbin' Bubbles
I need one of these, hardcore style. Yes, it's a Shower Squid, and it will hold EVERYTHING you need in the shower, from your razor to that slippery bar of soap. Genius!

Come On Baby Light My Menorah
I'm a huge sucker for chanukiyot (aka menorot to the rest of the world), so this time of year is like magic for me. I keep walking by amazing ones with boxes (the standard here in Jerusalem), but I have yet to buy one. I didn't bring mine with me because the one I prized was a heavy iron one, so I really have to find a long-term keeper for this Chanukah and all of those to come. Here are a couple I spotted online that are absolutely festive. 

Bronze Chair Menorah via

Have something that you're raving about and want to share? Let me know!