Thursday, December 27, 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?

Tuesday, December 25, 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!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Bid for Palestinian Statehood

Look at all that Jewish land! Oh wait, 60 percent of that is desert. 

Today is quite the important day for Israel. It's Kaf-Tet B'November. Kaf-Tet is the date, with kaf (כ) being 20 and tet (ט) being nine, you can deduce that it means it's November 29.

The significance of this date is that on November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted on the Partition Plan for Palestine (also known as UN General Assembly Resolution 181). The plan was approved by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

The plan would have partitioned the territory of British-Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, with the greater Jerusalem area (including Beth Lechem) coming under international control. The Jewish contingency was not pleased with the amount of land allotted, but agreed for the sake of moving forward. The Jewish state comprised 5,500 square miles (60 percent of which was desert), and the Arab state comprised 4,500 square miles (of lush land). In both states, Jews and Arabs would live side by side.

Unfortunately, instead of seeing a dual state as a boon, the Arab nations attacked in May 1948 in an effort to destroy the nation, they lost, and Israel began to expand back to its natural and historic borders, which continued through the late 1960s.

Note: The historic/natural land of Israel was known as Judea until the 2nd century after the Bar Kochba revolt. After the revolt, Hadrian decided to punish the Israelites and named the land Philistia after the great enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines. The name evolved into Palestine with the British mandate, and suddenly an entire nation was born of people who called themselves Palestinians. The interesting question is this: If Hadrian hadn't punished the Israelites and the land's name remained Judea over these hundreds and hundreds of years, would those who identify as Palestinians today call themselves Jews as well? Would this be a battle fought of Jew vs. Jew?

Today November 29 is important because today is the day, 65 years to the date later, the United Nations is voting again. Today in New York, Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. General Assembly to recognize a non-member state of Palestine in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as the Hamas-ruled Gaza strip. The Palestinian collective is confident, and it they're playing this off as if a declaration of acknowledgement will make "peace talks" a more viable option. Any idiot knows this isn't true, of course, and recognition by the United Nations of a terrorist-controlled land -- in my opinion -- proves once and for all the complete and utter failure and insignificance of the United Nations.

Luckily, the vote won't mean that much. According to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.N. vote "will not fulfill the goal of independent Palestinian and Israeli states living side by side in peace, which the U.S. strongly supports because that requires direct negotiations."

To show just how against the vote the U.S. is, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch filed an amendment to a defense bill Wednesday that would eliminate funding for the United Nations if the General Assembly changes Palestine's status. Hear hear, I say. 

After everything that has happened in recent weeks, I think this request is incredibly ballsy and a little bit out of bounds. The fact that Israel agreed to a ceasefire on the same day that Hamas terrorists blew up a bus in Tel Aviv says to me that Hamas and it's Palestinian puppets seem to think they have the world wrapped around their little finger. My hope, in the end, is that more countries abstain than vote, and that those who vote make a sensible choice. 

The Palestinian people are not ready for statehood. They haven't been for a long time. Abandoned by Arab nations who don't care about them or their plight and operated in Stockholm Syndrome-style by Hamas, the Palestinian people have a lot of growing up to do. You cannot change adults, so you have to start with children, and this requires a lot of education. A lot. Unfortunately, this isn't happening, thanks to Hamas. Someone -- a lot of someones -- need to rise to the challenge, to push out Hamas once and for all, to reclaim the peoplehood, to stop living in fear and confusion and hatred. It takes responsibility and leadership -- two things that are simply missing. 

Only then will I support a two-state solution. Only when Hamas is driven into the sea and the people teach their children the value of words, promises, and human rights.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Observance and Conversion

Now, for another installment of ...

Don't forget to ask your questions, too.

The first question is bold (and a little presumptuous).
Given your many changes, what would you say to prospective in-laws who were questioning your ability to stay frum?
Simple: "Hello. I'm Chaviva. I want to marry your son just as much as he wants to marry me." What else is there to say? I don't think there's anything to say about my "ability" to "stay frum." I am what I am, and the right man and his family will take me for who I am, no questions asked.

The next question is a toughie, but a question that comes up a lot.
What is the most difficult thing about being a convert? 
Honestly I don't know how to peg just one thing. I suppose the easiest one to pick out is the feeling of never being completely up to snuff. At a recent Shabbat meal, we were discussing some of the bizarre traditions that it takes a while to get the hang of (let alone to seek out the origins of such things), and I quipped how for converts it's a long and dusty trail to get all of these things down pat with full understanding and comprehension. Someone pointed out that it's just as difficult for people who grow up Jewish or even for ba'alei teshuvah (people who don't grow up religious but "return" to religious Judaism). It was a true enough point, but what it doesn't account for is the fact that someone born Jewish who isn't quite up to speed on certain customs or traditions won't be scoffed at for his lack of knowledge. He'll be embraced, educated, and come out all the better for it. Oftentimes a convert will be scoffed at or questioned as to where exactly they did their learning and conversion. It's just not the same. Kiruv (outreach) is Jews converting Jews; it doesn't go far in the world of helping converts or wannabe Jews in fulfilling the calling of their neshamot (souls).

This last question is just as tough, and it hits on a problem with which I think all converts struggle.
One of the things I didn't expect when I started off the conversion process was the loneliness. I have great friends and family, but sometimes its hard for people to "get" it. What tips do you have for getting through without burdening the people around you with your kvetching about Jew-issues? 
I think one thing you have to do is establish your Jewish "family" and find a few individuals who can and will be there for you to listen -- not necessarily to say "I understand," because no one really can -- to the ups and downs and everything in between. There's a reason I set up a support group for converts at all stages of the journey, but even still, all of our journeys are different and because we're all in the thick of it, we're not always the best listeners. When I was going through my Reform conversion, I had an amazing rabbi and congregation (not to mention online community even back then) that helped me deal with some of the loneliest of moments. When I was going through my Orthodox conversion, a family sort of "adopted" me and took me under their wing every Shabbat and Jewish holiday for nearly an entire year. They listened to me kvetch, they listened to me kvell, they were there through it all and to this day I consider them my mishpacha (family).

No one will ever full "get" what you're going through; we all have such individualized experiences with conversion that the best we can do is try to listen and offer encouragement. That's what I attempt to do when people send me emails or ask me questions. You just have to find a safe space with non-judgmental people who will truly listen without attempting to understand something that they really cannot.

I don't know if that helps. I hope it does!

Have a question? Just ask online!


This is completely unrelated to the post below, but I thought it was funny.
Spotted this at Max Stock (an EVERYTHING store) today. Party plates!

An article that came out today in the Times of Israel paints a contradictory picture of Israel.
The report finds woefully inadequate transportation infrastructures, low productivity in an Israeli work hour, an education system producing a generation of low-achieving students, and employment levels dramatically lower than in much of the industrialized West.
And further,
Based on OECD data that links GDP to the total working hours of the economy, Israel ranks 23rd out of 34 OECD states in terms of the productivity of an Israeli working hour. Worse, Israel has been falling ever farther behind the OECD average since the mid-1970s.
Everyone tells you when you move to Israel that there are particularly frustrating aspects about the country's infrastructure. 

The fax machine is still king here, but the bank likes to send you text messages updating you on activity. The army has a crazy active social media presence where you can find the most up-to-date information, but getting an appointment with your aliyah counselor might take a good month. And the list goes on and on. 

The most obnoxious case-in-point for me is the banking system here. It's not enough to send me screaming or taking up hard drugs, but it is pretty annoying. It's like they want you to have to come into the branch (and, on that note, you better go to the branch where you set up your account or else things just don't work right). In the U.S., when you set up a bank or credit account, you set up your PIN to access the ATM when you set up your banking account or by calling into a 1-800 number and choosing the PIN. In Israel? No dice. In Israel, you have to come to the bank (the right branch, remember) to get your PIN, but first you have to request it. And then wait a week. And if they never send it or something strange happens, it could be a month later and you still can't access your money through the ATM. Instead, you have to go to the branch to get your money whenever you want it. And the card not working at retail outlets? Yeah, that one is a mystery -- to you, your banker, and the shop owner. (Note: The you in all of this is, of course, me.)

You can't call a number, you can't choose your PIN, it's all pretty arse backward if you ask me for a nation that calls itself the Start-Up Nation. In a place where high tech abounds, lo-tech seems to be the norm in most places, and I find it particularly frustrating. There's one place in Jerusalem where you can find quality Apple products (resale!), and there are tons of places that just plain don't take credit cards. And yet we have some of the most amazing medical and military technologies in the world. If quality counts in only some things, I guess medicine and defense are it, but why is it so hard to find quality floss or Q-tips in this country?

Walk by any given shop in Jerusalem and you'll find the shopkeeper standing outside smoking or schmoozing with his fellow shop owners. So it doesn't surprise me that we rank so low in productivity. The busiest shops? Shoe stores. Israelis love shoes, did you know? It doesn't take much to be productive in a shoe store. 

If anything, I suppose knowing the slowness of the system gives me pause as I consider what going to the doctor is going to be like. I anticipate putting it off as long as humanly possible, at least until I'm in the midst of a good book that might keep me occupied for however long it takes. I don't mind waiting. It's just knowing that Israel has the potential to be such a magnificently First World country that drives me nuts. I find it difficult to accept the fax machine and a banking system that doesn't let me choose my own PIN and insists I wait a week to get it.

They say Israelis are prickly on the outside and soft on the inside, which is 100 percent true. I suppose that the country itself is quite the same, with the personality it projects as being one of technological advances and an internal struggle with old tech. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where Have I Been?

IDF in the shuk handing out brochures from the Homefront 
Command about what to do in the instance of an attack [Nov. 21].

It's been more than a week since I updated the blog with substance about how exactly I'm doing. Since I blogged, there were days without sleep, more sirens in Jerusalem, a heightened attack by Hamas, a ceasefire, a calm in my life, an aron (closet) delivery, an utter annoyance with men, Thanksgiving, an amazing Shabbat in Ra'anana, and lots of sleep.

That's a week in a nutshell.

I meant all week to sit down and write how I was feeling, what I was thinking, what life in a "war" zone really feels like, but I was far too busy documenting it on Facebook for the sake of others, for the world to see how absolutely biased and ridiculous 99 percent of the news that goes out really is. Just today I had some guy try to tell me that Hamas dragging Gaza citizens through the street in a bloody display of retribution for supposed "spying for Israel" was fake and not real news. Google it. You'll find dozens, if not hundreds, of sources and images. It happened. Believe it didn't, but those are the kind of thugs that are running Gaza. And I pity the citizens of Gaza who are either brainwashed, suffering Stockholm Syndrome, or too scared to breathe a word of fleeing to a safer place like, oh, I don't know, Israel. The truth is, Muslim, Christian, or Jew, Israel is the safest place for anyone in the Middle East these days.

Sirens last week again in Jerusalem had me leaving some cooking in the oven, running out of my apartment in my frilly, girly apron, to the miklat (bomb shelter) across from my apartment. It was still padlocked up, so a neighbor with a crowbar hit the scene and an Israeli managed to get it open. After breaking a second lock downstairs, and after the sirens had subsided, we entered the miklat to discover a blast from the past in the form of an old office with tons of office equipment. It's rumored that some guy was using it as his office space, and there were other rumors it was rented out as a music school at some point. Chances are both are true, which just makes me laugh. This is how poorly prepared and ready Jerusalem is for an air strike -- this is how completely unlikely we thought the situation was.

After days of rockets and fear, rain swept the country. B"H.

When the ceasefire talks seemed like they were honest and serious, there were lots of mixed emotions from Israelis, myself included. Although I needed the break -- the 24/6 news cycle was creating a culture of no sleep and emotional exhaustion -- I was also willing to go months without sleep to ensure that once and for all Israel would stop allowing Hamas to terrorize Israel and Israelis, that Israel would wave its mighty fist of justice and truth and smash its enemies while showing the world its sincere commitment to human rights and life.

But it didn't happen. The ceasefire came, life has gone back to normal, and I'm finally sleeping. With one eye on Twitter and Facebook at all times, I'm waiting to see what will happen with Hezbollah in the north. When it comes to terrorism and the pursuit of murdering Jews and Israelis and destroying the state, Hezbollah wins. And they haven't even gotten started yet.

At last, it resembles a real apartment. Video forthcoming (maybe)!

Beyond war, of course, there is normal life. I went to a Thanksgiving event at Hineni on Thursday night with an e-friend turned real friend, which was a blast and a half. I'd share some pictures with you, but unfortunately the photographer for the night has failed to post them yet. Although I didn't eat much, my funds went to a good cause for those impacted by the conflict, and I got lots of my favorite Thanksgiving goodies on Friday night for "Shabbat Hodu" -- that's sort of like Indian Shabbat. I was elated and surprised when my friends in Ra'anana put together Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole for me. It felt like home, it felt like Thanksgiving, for the first time in years. My apartment has finally been filled appropriately with an aron (closet) and a table, so I am not living 24/7 on my bed. I have an oven and plenty of cooking items, so my kitchen is finally feeling like a real place to cook and bake and ease my mind on long days again.

Tonight I made Gluten-Free Oven-Baked Fish & Chips. 
Tilapia + Potato + Seasonings/Corn Meal = Roughly 23 shekels ($6)
Homecooked Meal = Priceless

And dating? Well, that world has continued to perplex me. Men who don't know what they want or can't see what's right in front of them seem to appear at my doorstep, which leaves me nowhere. I haven't had much luck with any of the guys I've encountered on JWed (formerly Frumster), and I just got one match on Saw You at Sinai that I'm contemplating. Meeting people in real life always seems to go well, until the point-blank shoot-down after what appears to be flirtations. I'm either horribly out of practice, or men have become women with their uncertainties, mixed signals, and inability to conjure an honest thought.

So that's life right now in Israel. I'm still happy as a clam here, and I can't imagine any other life for myself. I start ulpan -- intensive Hebrew language learning like I did back in Vermont -- in mid-January, and I'm incredibly eager to make it happen. I hold my own well here, arguing with the bank and bad delivery drivers over the phone without a second thought, but I want fluency and confidence, to fill the gaps, to be able to function fully in Hebrew. Everything's fallen into place with the greatest of ease, and every day that I breathe a little here in Jerusalem is another day I'm sure that I've made the best decision for me.

With that being said, when are you guys coming to visit already!?

A Nutty Giveaway

It's that time of year again, where I get a delicious sampling of my favorite nut and candy shop's tastiest Chanukah treats, which also means it's that time of year where you, my lovely readers -- in the United States and Israel -- get a chance to win your own Chanukah nosh from Oh!Nuts.

The Chanukah gift I received was the 3-Section Ceramic Gift Tray, although the truth is that it didn't come looking like this at all! The tray wasn't ceramic, and the treats given weren't exactly what's pictured either. (I'm guessing this is because in Israel the products cannot be as standardized as they are in the U.S. where Oh!Nuts is based.) However, I was pleased with what arrived. The chocolate was divine and creamy, the nuts were salty and hit the spot when I was in need of snacking.

So here's the rundown on instructions to win here on Just Call Me Chaviva.

  1. Visit the Oh!Nuts Chanukah gifts page, and choose your favorite gift.
  2. Come back here, and comment with your chosen's URL and name (and anything else you want to add).
  3. I wil pick a random winner on December 6 who will receive a $25 gift certificate to Oh!Nuts!

Here are some other ways to win free goodies, too.

  • Visit the Oh!Nuts Facebook page and post on their wall with the URL and name of your favorite Chanukah gift paired with "I am here via!"
  • Follow @OhNuts on Twitter and be sure to tweet: "Win a free Chanukah gift from @OhNuts! Follow and RT to enter!"

Also, head over and buy your own favorite Chanukah gift today (Monday, November 26, 2012) and use code APFS12 at checkout to receive free shipping on orders over $50!

Ready, set, enter to win!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Getting Back to Normal, Whatever That Is

Today I woke up sick. I had a migraine. My stomach felt fully ulcerous. I was exhausted emotionally and physically. I texted my co-volunteers (we're rocking out Stop the Rockets and @StopRockets) and told them I needed to take some time off.

So I took my agalah (that's a cart in Hebrew). I got an espresso, which I chugged, I went to the bank, and then I sat on a bench on Yafo for about 45 minutes, just watching the world pass me by. It was therapeutic, it was peaceful, it was exactly what I needed.

I went to the shuk (where the number of IDF soldiers at the entrances had tripled since yesterday) and picked up oodles of ingredients to make several different delicious things this week, came home, and then met up with a friend and her kids at the park and watched the sun slowly fall behind the buildings as the weather cooled to a brisk chill.

I went home and got to work cooking these delicious Spicy Indo-Chinese Noodles from Vegan News, which also was therapeutic. (And delicious.) (Recipe at the bottom.)

And then? I got back to work, doing what I do best, putting out quality, meaningful, and well-branded content. Facts, not memes. Content, not rhetoric.

My goal for this week is to focus on work, focus on eating healthy (I'm sticking to a strictly veggie diet -- I've been cheating because cheese here is so good, and I really have to stop because I'm feeling the effects), getting plenty of sleep and fluids, and being honest with myself about my limitations.

I can and should say no sometimes. It's hard for me, but I've come too far to let stress, anxiety, and living an unhealthy lifestyle destroy me.

Recipe for Spicy Indo-Chinese Noodles Modified from VegNews 

1 8-ounce package of  Vermicelli Rice Noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed in cold water (these are hard to find kosher in the U.S. and here you can find them EVERYWHERE)
1 Tbls sesame oil
1 Tbls olive oil
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
4 cups shredded cabbage (I did this the old fashioned way, but feel free to buy pre-shredded)
2 small green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp agave
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes (because I like it hot)
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce (tamari)
1 tsp Sriracha
2 Tbls ketchup
2 Tbls rice vinegar
2 Tbls water
Options: carrots, broccoli, other Asian-y veggies

  1. In a large bowl, toss noodles and sesame oil and set aside. 
  2. In a large skillet over medium, heat the olive oil and add the onion, cabbage, bell pepper, garlic, and whatever other veggies you have on hand and saute for 3-4 minutes. 
  3. Add agave, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and saute another 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Add cooked noodles, tamari, ketchup, Sriracha, vinegar, and water, and saute for 3-5 minutes more until heated through.
  5. Serve hot! (Top it with more Sriracha, if you're like me!)

Aliyah: Looking for the Mikvah

I've had a lot of people ask me where the kelim mikvah (the place you take your new utensils, dishes, and cookware to be ritually immersed before using), so I decided to just make a Google Map! Why is this not listed online already? Nobody knows. But I'm all about making people's lives easier, so here you go.

View Nachlaot Mikvah in a larger map

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Aliyah: It Just Got Real.

Reasons to get married: I don't want to go through another air raid siren alone. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Israel Under Fire

I'm safe. I'm alive. I'm helping with a new type of diplomacy -- the one where social media tzars run the universe and information is only posted when it's confirmed and accurate. I'm part of an amazing team.

If you want to see the most up-to-date and accurate reports of what's happening, please watch my Twitter feed @TheChaviva, and be sure to "like" Stop the Rockets on Facebook.

Stay tuned. This is going to be a doozy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aliyah: One Month Down

I was considering writing a blog post about how you should never ever rent a car in Israel because the gas here is too expensive and the fees are too expensive, and did I really forget in a single month how expensive owning a car was?

(I guess so. But seriously, the adventure to IKEA in Rishon Letziyon was pretty amazing. And the kosher nosh? Totally totally worth it. Even if I did break the bank.)

Yes, that's dijon salmon and crinkle french fries. With a soda.
I spoiled myself. Okay?! It was my one-month aliyahversary!

Instead, I wanted to pop in after a month in Israel (where oh where has the time gone) to say how inexplicably pleased I am with life. There have been a few giant lemons since arriving (in the form of men and mosquitoes and a hole in my wall with water pouring out of it), but by and large it's all bliss. I've made dozens of new friends, many who I see on a daily basis thanks to the close quarters of Nachlaot. There's something unbelievably special about walking a few seconds to the shuk for fresh produce and returning home and passing the park to see a friend with her kids playing there. I stop, I chat, I watch the Mayanot guys playing soccer, the cats sniffing around piles of food someone's left out, watch the clouds rolling fast overhead and the chill coming in, and I'm home. Home where I now have a gigantic toaster oven (thanks Amy and Miriam!), a nifty table from IKEA so that I can stop eating and working on my bed (thanks for the encouragement Lany!), and a space that I have made uniquely my own.

I was the girl on the No. 18 with her oven. It had its own seat, yes it did. 

I guess today for the first time, I really feel like I have a home. I've always felt at home, but now I have a space that is uniquely mine, filled with my things, my hard work (oh this furniture gave me blisters), scents of my cooking, the sites of my life. This place is mine at last.

Lunch today at Ben-Ami on Emek Refaim with besties Miriam and Amy.
Don't be fooled -- they don't actually serve gluten-free pasta. 

It feels insensitive to really enjoy feeling so at home, so happy, so at peace. Yes, I know what's going on in Israel, in the south, where I have friends living. Yes, the Iron Dome is a lifesaver. Yes, the news is biased and ignoring the reason for Israel's returned agression against Gaza militants and Syira. Yes, we're probably going to end up with another war (let's be honest, we're in one), but if I were going to be anywhere I would want to be here with Am Yisrael, standing firm and strong, staring hatred and death in the face. My people, my land, my home.

Every Sunday and Monday I go to At Home Cafe. Coffee. Friends.
Gluten-free baked goods. That scone wasn't, but I had biscotti. 
It's like I'm living in an amazing dream world where people
want to be part of your life and want you to be part of theirs. 

This is my life, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I've spent just about every night for the past week on roughly 4-5 hours of sleep. I've had days like that where I'm miserable, but here, I power through. I don't cancel on social activities. I embrace my life as it is and relish in these moments. I have friends, I have love, I have family, I have happiness. It's amazing.

Two doors down -- life imitates art. 

I'm spoiled. HaShem is spoiling me. If this is aliyah, I wouldn't want anything else. I'll take the leaks and my Bank Leumi card not working and missing exits on the highway ... I'll take the lines and bureaucracy and imminent danger. If this is what happiness and peace and internal calm feels like, then I'll take it. I'll take it all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ask Chaviva Anything!: Of Aliyah and Marriage

Now? Another installment of Ask Chaviva Anything!
As an American who married an Israeli, I am bracing myself for the move to Israel in a few years. I feel paralyzed by fear sometimes and, just as quickly, guilt-ridden for not wanting to dive head-first into what I know is the right place for us as Jews. I am also a convert, and feel devastated that I'll be leaving my family here. Can you give me any advice or motivation on how to stay positive?
This is a tough one. A very tough one. And I'm not sure it's one I'm fully equipped or prepared to answer because I come from a pretty different place than you. I only saw my family so many times a year and relied largely on e-communications to keep in touch, I wasn't married, and the motivation to move to Israel was wholly my own. That being said, I think that having the time to plot and plan almost makes the entire waiting period worse -- you'll hyper-analyze every aspect of what could possibly go wrong on the move. It's an incredibly frustrating thing you're going through, I can only imagine. 

So I'm going to put this one out to my readers. Does anyone have advice? 

The next question?
Can you post more of your cute apartment?
Yes! But only after my closet shows up. Hopefully it will be here by November 21. Stay tuned!

Here comes another, closer to home. 
I thought you weren't looking to get married again or so you said on the blog multiple times awhile back. When did this change?
Late last year/early this year I had said I wasn't sure I wanted to get married again. But that's also when I was dating someone outside Judaism, was bitter and angry about a lot of things, and was still coping with divorce and family problems I was having. A lot of therapy later, making the decision to keep my happiness at Number 1 on my priorities, and making aliyah, marriage has been in the cards. The truth is, my desire not to get married was largely a result of the guy I was seeing not wanting to get married. I was doing my best to believe in the "marriage is a sham" bit. But I want very much to get married, to have kids, to do my part in growing Am Yisrael. Shockingly, it's not nearly as easy as I thought to meet people in Israel.  

And we'll end with an easy one. 
How long do you think you'll stay in Israel?
Forever? I made aliyah -- I moved here, permanently -- and my intent is for Israel to be my home indefinitely. I'm not naive enough to think that life hands us things we are most unprepared for, so who knows what is in store for me, but making aliyah means moving to the land, possessing it, making it my home. So that's what I'm doing!

Rainy Days and Sundays

Today it rained. It's actually still raining, a lot. And it's glorious. 

So days like today are meant for soup. Warm, spiced soup. 

Served in a coffee mug, of course. 

I woke up today not feeling very well. I'm guessing it's the abrupt change in weather, as it tends to do this to me. So I've got a sore throat and every last inch of my bod is aching and sore. 

My Shabbat in Neve Daniel was beyond outstanding, but it was incredibly cold and windy up there, which smacked me in the face because I was ill prepared. I looked at the weather, it said roughly 63 degrees F, so I assumed a scarf would do me. What I forgot is just how quickly the clouds move there and how windy it does get. I sleep best when it's cold, however, so you can only imagine how well I've slept the past few nights!

The beautiful thing about Neve Daniel is how tight-knit the community is. The shul was beautiful, and even the 99 (or was it 100) stair climb to get there wasn't as bad as I had anticipated. The friendship, the warmth, the children everywhere -- this is my Judaism. Perhaps someday, when I'm hitched, I'll end up in Neve Daniel with all of my amazing friends there. 

Until then, I'll warm myself up with homemade soup. 

I schlepped out in water-proof rain jacket and sneakers to pick up potatoes, apples, eggs, coconut milk, and other essentials for soup-making and weekday meal basics. I threw this together on the fly. Don't ask for specifics, because I can't provide them!

Cinnamon Apple Sweet Potato Spiced Soup
2 green apples, large dice
2 sweet potatoes, large dice
1 regular potato, large dice
1 yellow onion, small dice
1/2 can organic coconut milk
water (or vegetable broth)
olive oil
toasted walnuts
  1. Sautee the onion until translucent. 
  2. Add cinnamon. 
  3. Pour in the apples, potatoes, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for about a half-hour or until everything is tender. 
  4. Pour in the coconut milk, dabble with the spice mixture, and puree. 
  5. Once you've gotten the flavor right -- to your liking, you'll figure it out -- top with toasted walnuts and enjoy. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

2002: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

I'm what we in the biz call "an early adopter." When it comes to new technologies, I just adapt to them. I download them, install them, explore them, learn them, become fluent in them, and then prepare as the target moves. That's the nature of the beast that is social media and the digital world.

It began way back when in the late 1990s when my family invested in a computer. I can't remember the exact year but I think it was 1998, because that was the same year that I started my first LiveJournal account. I also can't remember what my first account name was on LiveJournal, but I think it was "shakinbakin02," which still exists on the interwebs as a purged user on LiveJournal.

Yes, when I was in high school I went through many an over-emotional phase where I created and deleted accounts, some locked up tightly to write about someone I was dating or hating, others public. But that account was the big one up until college. I repeated the overly emotional antics in college, but the unique thing here is that there was one LiveJournal account that survived from 2002 up until the present, off and on, sometimes skipping entire chunks of years, but it's still there.

It gives me a sort of time capsule of 10 really strange and completely transformative years of my life.

It also shows me how incredibly ridiculously sentimental and quick to fall in love I've been in my life. I sometimes forget this fact, especially because since the year 2008, this hasn't been such an issue with me. But now that I'm single again, I'm finding myself in that quick-to-jump-in-and-get-hurt kind of headspace. I'm back to wanting romance and fireworks and that connection of what one friend recently called "profound understanding." If I could lead off every encounter with a potential zivug with requesting profound understanding, we might get there. Someday.

So where was my head at 10 years ago today? I posted six posts in one day on November 8, 2002. The benefit of LiveJournal was that you could post that many times a day and it was normative. They were more "this is what I'm doing today" and "this is how emo and cranky I am" than actual substantive and meaningful blog posts -- I transitioned to that arena in 2006.

I went from being unexplainably happy at 12:53 a.m. after a party in my dorm (the Honors Dorm, mind you) called "Bootie Grind," to being really depressed and crying at 1:48 a.m. Up at 7:54 a.m., I was poised to register for Spring 2003 classes, and by nearly 10 a.m. I was back to my happy cheerful self with this little gem.
today is the most beautiful day. more gorgeous than yesterday. the sun is hitting the leaves in all the right ways. the noise is enough, and the wind through the nearly bare trees is comforting. its beautiful, so very very beautiful.
(Note: I cringe at the day when I didn't use proper capitalization.) And then a little after 1 p.m. I was angry and depressed again, and by the end of the night I'd experienced my first visit to Knickerbockers for a show and a viewing of "8 Mile," yes, the classic Eminem film. 

Yes, I'm a personality of extremes. I've always been that way. I suppose I would have done well in the theater. The interesting thing is that LiveJournal was very much for me what Facebook and Twitter are today. I used LiveJournal as a microblogging platform, before "microblogging" was even a thing. I'd argue, as an early adapter, that LiveJournal was the first microblog -- people weren't using it as a means of collecting personal thoughts for private use, it was a sounding board for your friends. It was a broadcast medium. I don't think I know many people who wrote novellas on LiveJournal back in the day. 

So every so often, when I'm feeling curious, I'm going to adventure back to LiveJournal -- sorry folks, it's off limits to everyone and it's unsearchable on the web, so good luck finding it. And even if you did, so many of my posts are clouded in ridiculous mystery. I know -- even today -- what they're about. November 8, 2002, for example? I know exactly what was happening on that day and what was driving the emotional roller coaster. I was attempting to balance a complicated long-distance relationship while dealing with evolving emotions and a space full of new people and friends. When I think back to that period of my life, it was quite messy. One of the messiest. I ended up really hurting and destroying someone that I loved very much. 

I also was only 19 years old at that time. Those were some serious growing pains. Although I'm a person of emotional extremes, I don't think my life will ever compare to the emotional ups and downs I experienced over the past 10 years, especially in those early days. Why? I know myself a lot better these days. I know when I'm falling into an emotional up or down. The difficulty these days is finding the way out that came a lot easier when I was younger. 

Do I love having a 10-year catalog of my life? More than you can imagine. The 10 years before that, of course, are all in paper journals boxed up and packed away. Yes folks, as shocking as it may seem, I've been documenting my every move since at least 1992. 

For this, it seems, I was destined. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Soundtrack of My Life

Those of you know me know how important music is -- after all, I spent years going to shows and dated a musician for roughly four years (the great romance, they call it). In high school I did show choir and concert choir and appeared in musicals, and after that I became the girl with the band enjoying free drinks at bars in Chicago. I enjoyed being that girl, what can I say. Music is the soundtrack of our lives.

So living in Israel where the music of Rockland Kosher in Monsey, NY, is the standard in many shops and on many an iPod (that is if you're not listening to a shiur), I'm feeling the constraint.

I spend my days listening to Avett Brothers, Adele, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Local Natives, Fun., Branches, and all sorts of other music in the genres of indie, folk, and alternative. (I overdid it during a couple of breakups on Weezer, Rilo Kiley, and Deathcab for Cutie.)

My Hebrew tunes are limited, because I just can't get into the classic stylings of the Rockland Kosher set. One musician who has very limited supplies of tunes is Erez Lev Ari, who I've been listening to for several years. I prefer the Hebrew tunes, because there's something about music and lyrics -- I memorize lyrics like you wouldn't believe. Just about every Hebrew prayer I know by heart I know because once upon a time, I was singing it aloud.

While doing some frustrated music-searching Googling today, I happened upon this blog post. I'm not really taken with any of the musicians listed. Indie, I guess, means something different here than it does in the U.S. Usually indie is affiliated with more of a ... I don't even know how to describe the vibe exactly, but electronica it is not. Then again, Israelis love their electronica. I also was surprised that these musicians seem to all be singing in English. What gives?! I guess it makes you more universally acceptable and viable to perform in English, but ... can I not get some awesome Avett Brothers-style sounds in Hebrew?

Anyway, here's one Israeli musician I was particularly taken with. The video is pretty amazing, even if he is singing in English.

So, give me some suggestions. Music for me is a life force, and if I can use it to learn Hebrew better, all the more awesome. 

Ask Chaviva Anything!: The Get

Here's a doozy of a question, around which this entire post will revolve,
Was getting a get difficult? 
I say doozy because it talks about the topic of divorce, which honestly is something I am so very much over I sort of wanted to ignore the question. It's not a painful topic, it's more like, meh. The truth is I don't think I ever talked about the literal process of getting a get, or Jewish divorce document. There are a lot of resources online that walk you through the process, but the actual experience itself was pretty painless for me. In fact, it had a sweet ending from the rabbi. But I'm a bit ahead of myself here.

I asked for a get on a Monday. By the following Wednesday, I had it. By and large, the giving of a get and the organization of the whole thing doesn't happen this fast; most people were surprised at how fast a beth din (rabbinical court of three men) was mustered up for us. I had a friend come with me, which turned out to be a huge blessing because a lot of Yiddish was tossed around and she helped me out when they were talking to each other over something about what to write in the get itself.

The truth is that the get is a very simple document, and it is very short. Although the origins of the term get seem to be clouded in rabbinic tales and historic assumptions (my favorite is that the Hebrew letters gimel and tet can't be used to form a word, so thus a couple whose marriage fails cannot come together to create anything), the biblical term comes from Deutoronomy 24 and is sefer keritut.

The requirements for the get itself -- we're talking what it's written on, who is writing it, how it's written, how carefully it's written -- are incredibly important. The validity of a get can be chucked out the window for the smallest thing. The most interesting thing about a get is that it can't be predated and has to be hand-written then and there. (For a full text of the get document, click here.)

So yes, you're sitting in the room with the beth din, your soon-to-be ex, and a sofer who is using as steady a hand as possible to make sure that he doesn't have to write and rewrite the document.

In my case, it was the beth din, the sofer, my ex, and my friend in a classroom at a Jewish school in New Jersey. It was a stale room with a big board-room style table and fairly comfortable chairs. I feel like the entire thing took about an hour, and most of the time was spent with me talking to my friend out of nervousness, listening to the rabbis discuss my name and where it came from (one had to pull out a sefer to explain something about it), watching the sofer carefully dip his quill into a dirty pot of overly used ink with such precision ... and then came the ritual.

It was a very odd, forced, choreographed bit that I don't know if I fully understand even now. The document is completed, the rabbis look it over, it's properly dated and signed by the present rabbis, and then? We were informed of the documents contents if I remember correctly, the most important aspect of which are the lines,
And now I do release, discharge, and divorce you [to be] on your own, so that you are permitted and have authority over yourself to go and marry any man you desire. No person may object against you from this day onward, and you are permitted to every man. This shall be for you from me a bill of dismissal, a letter of release, and a document of absolution, in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel.
The rabbi took the get and folded it up into small packet. My ex took the document and dropped it into my hands, which were cupped with my palms upward. I took the get and was directed to walk toward the door, as if I was leaving. I stopped and walked back, and the rabbi took the get from me. Corners were cut, and the document was put away until our civil divorce was complete -- only after that would we get our official copy of the certification of our Jewish, religious divorce. Nice insurance, right?

After the entire thing was said and done, one of the rabbis dismissed the sofer, the other rabbis, my ex-husband, and my friend who accompanied me and took me into his office. I was pleased because it gave me a chance to ask about hair covering (about which he gave me the blessing from Rav Feinstein that as a young woman without children to uncover), but there was something that meant a lot more to me.

"I want to speak with you briefly," he said.

I walked into his office, and he said,
"You know, if someone walked in here and told me a convert and a born Jew were getting divorced, I would have thought you were the born Jew.  
"The reason," he said, "is that you seemed so much more involved and interested in what was happening, you seem more knowledgeable."
Wow. I'm permitted to any man (well, not a kohein), and this rabbi clearly thought there was something special there for me, and in that moment, it meant so much to me.

So, in a nutshell, was getting a get difficult? No. It was a cakewalk. Would I wish the experience on anyone? Never in a million years.