Thanks to the Stars

This is a temporary title.

It’s what came to mind an hour ago when I first sat down to write this post. Then a number of events occurred, too boring to detail, which delayed my actually putting fingers to keyboard. But here we are now. So let’s see if we can recall anything that would lead us to answer the question, “Why in the world did I think that ‘Thanks to the Stars’ would be a great title for my first blog post in an eon?”.

We could start with the obvious – tomorrow’s Thanksgiving here. (See photo.) (I guess now that I’ve been back in the States for three years, I can drop the ‘here’ and just say tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, eh?) I’m thankful to have made it through another year. Even if it was the suckiest year of all. I’m still thankful.

I write (or, more accurately, have written) a lot about gratitude. This theme seems to be the go-to motivator for a lot of my written words, both those I publish and those I keep to myself. (For what it’s worth, this post is being typed right into the WordPress template, which for me means it’s a bit of a blended format – stream-of-consciousness that will go out largely unedited, which is to say, it may or may not have a cohesive theme – and yes, with a healthy dose of self-consciousness along for the ride.)

On Thanksgivings past, I’ve sat in many different settings and shared with you my list of thanks — I’m inclined to do that again, right now, but along the way, I also wanted to share a few of my thoughts about, well, me.

I think a fair bit about me. I’m sure others do too — think about themselves, that is. I acknowledge that, for better or worse, I have more time on my hands to think about me – my past, my future, my present, how they’re tied together, that sort of thing – than many, maybe most, other people I know. Thankfully, I do have a few responsibilities and interests that keep me busy enough so that I’m not just thinking about me! I really am thankful to be able to care for my small family, which — thankfully — includes no small children at this time. I’m thankful that I can offer my time and energy and yes, even knowledge, to the organization that currently provides me with gainful employment, and that I have other interests that I turn to when I have the time.

Those interests are many, and the one thing I’ve realized in this time of COVID, when others seem to have so much time on their hands for extra-curricular activities – nay, some complain of boredom, seek out Netflix recommendations, take on new hobbies, travel to areas just beyond home (or farther, if they dare). Even without small children underfoot, I seem to have very little time in my days for doing any of the things I’d love to do.

Art is probably the most important interest/outlet for me, and the one to which I give the least amount of time. This type of writing is part of that — and as evidenced by the date of my last blog post (I haven’t even looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s been a year), it’s taken me a while to sneak back up on it. I’m thankful for this unexpected day off of work – Erev Thanksgiving, if you will – which has provided today’s time to write. (And has reminded me that I need to take more days off from work.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about my love of performance, how far back in my life it goes, and how much joy I feel in my heart when I perform and receive the gift back from an audience. There is nothing like that feeling in the world, and I am thankful to have felt it. I’d like more of that.

From time to time, this being the latter of the two, I think – and am sure I’ve written – about my love of, and longing for, this part of myself. Performance for me is mostly about acting and singing, and also about playing an instrument or two with just enough proficiency to back up my singing – though playing well would be a lovely thing too – it just takes practice, which takes time!

I used to act, fairly well I was told, and then I didn’t any more. But over the past few years I have again on occasion, if only for my own private audiences. There’s nothing I’ve loved more of late than dressing up at work for Halloween or other themed events. It’s beyond delightful to crack up my coworkers by transforming into another person. Over the past two years, I’ve been a pirate, a rock-n-roll photographer, a cowboy, and an old lady. I’m pretty sure, based on comments, that if my team gave out awards, I’d be in the running for “Outstanding Commitment to Character.” I’d love to find more outlets for that side of me.

One of my favorite “hobbies” of the past decade was singing in community choirs. I really got into it in Vancouver – I figured it was a way to meet people while doing something I loved. The social aspect took a long time to click, but happily I found my tribe over my last few years there with the “Wednesday Night Singing Group” that met at either Elizabeth’s or Barb’s house each week. I’d show up after dinner, kibbitz a little with the gals, and have a cup o’ before squeezing onto a couch with the other “basses.” I was one of the youngest among them, and one of the strongest singers, which was a boost for my self-confidence. I loved all of it (even the “culturally misappropriate” songs, I’ll admit)…. singing together with that gang was just good old fun, and I miss those Wednesday nights. I know I’ll get back to harmonizing one day, but meanwhile, I sound pretty damn good in the shower, if I do say so myself.

Also meanwhile, I could use more music around me – simply said, it makes me feel good, so I’m making more of an effort to listen to my own collection (mostly downloaded from the hundreds and hundreds of CDs I used to own), and am also aiming to make more time to practice playing my bass guitar. I really want to get going on that so I can start jamming! I took the amp out of the closet and found it a nice spot in my bedroom, tucked away yet still functional, and started a few online lessons last weekend, so I’m on my way.

There’s more to be thankful for – but it’s time to end this writing session and to shift into the “regularly scheduled” part of my day, when I get to hang out with my beautiful mom and have a delicious meal and talk about our days and all that we’re thankful for. So much.

Maybe there’s more where these words came from, maybe soon. We’ll see. If not, at least I wrote something to share with you – and THAT makes me the happiest of all… that we had this time together. (Granted, we pretty much just talked about me, but then again, it IS my blog, right?)

It’s not even Thanksgiving, and my cup already runneth over.

PS – I just scrolled up and saw the title I wrote at the start. Sure, why not… let’s go with it.


Livestream Shabbat

I haven’t had what I’d call a deep spiritual experience over the last several years… in fact, it’s been a long, long while since I felt like I was really making a connection with a higher power. But last night, I had one of those moments that felt like what I imagine prayer feels like, and in the most unlikely of places – standing in my mom’s sitting (and TV and guest) room/office with the TV on and our synagogue’s Shabbat service livestreaming over our Amazon Firestick.

There they were, the four clergy members on the bimah – senior rabbi, cantor, cantor-rabbi and junior rabbi – sitting on uncomfortable-looking chairs placed in a semi-circle, bookended by the two rabbis with guitars. (“Two rabbis with guitars walked into a bar…”) They were seemingly alone in the sanctuary, except for maybe the camera operator and, I’m guessing, some anxious off-camera staff members. If you’d walked by the screen quickly, you might have thought you were looking at a CNN town square panel or a city council meeting on public television.

Sure, they were slightly self-conscious, but how could they not be? When have they ever conducted a Shabbat service this way?

Never. According to tradition, we never pray without a quorum of at least ten people. Tonight, it was just me and Mom in our sweats on the couch watching the four of them on the screen. It was surreal and, for me at least, strangely spiritual.

Here were the familiar songs and prayers that I’ve come to know from accompanying Mom to temple on Friday nights over the last two and a half years that I’ve lived here. We probably go once every 2-3 months, not every week but often enough so that I’ve come to know how this gang rolls. As I watched – and fully participated – in the service, I realized I’ve grown to really appreciate the approach this team has to group prayer. There’s a LOT of music – all four of them are musical, and though the senior rabbi isn’t much of a singer, he can do some nice guitar picking, and the other three all have nice voices. (If only they lowered every song by a few keys, I’d love it even more, but we can’t have it all now, can we?)

When they broke into the Wailin’ Jennys “One Voice” as a lead-in to prayer, my heart sang too. I saw the Canadian folk trio perform this gorgeous ballad at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 2004 (which happened to be my first year there, and theirs as well!). Such a perfect choice for the moment. (And even more perfect, as I was wearing a sweatshirt with “Canada” emblazoned across the front!)

When it came time for the Amida, the heart of the prayer service, Mom and I both stood for silent prayer. She sat after a few moments, as most people do when we’re at shul, but I decided to take this moment in the privacy of my home to check in with God, to ask for our good health — and our good senses — to prevail.

In that exceptionally quiet space, with no one else around except Mom, I felt a surge of emotion – some fear, some anxiety. Are we going to be okay, I asked? And as soon as the thought escaped, I knew – dare I say, heard – that we will find our way. There are enough smart and talented people on this planet to beat back this virus. I felt assured – a voice in me said clearly that though it may be hard, we will be okay.

“Judaism was made for this moment.” It was the perfect opening line of the rabbi’s unscripted sermon that came next, effortlessly and lyrically bringing us back together. I thought the following words might be about the practice of Judaism in the home, but instead, he talked about how our religion (most religions, really) offers us a sense of certainty in moments of uncertainty… how the stories of our past remind us that time and time again, against hardship, against all odds, we prevail. We go on.

When we came to the Red Sea, we didn’t know how we would get through. But eventually we gathered on the other side of the sea and “sang a song of redemption.” Hang in there, we tell ourselves… just hang in there.

The rabbi also suggested that the timing of this communal ‘experience of the unknown’ is perfectly placed between Purim and Passover, two holidays that share one of the most common themes in Jewish history: when faced with adversity, which we have often been, we always manage to prevail. Some say it’s been with the help of God – I’m not so sure about that, personally — but for sure, it’s always with the help of each other. Stories like those of Purim and Pesach always present a “bad” guy – a Haman or Pharaoh – who makes life hard for us. But the stories also always give us some “good” everyday folk like Mordechai and Miriam, the ones who step up and make a huge difference for others. That’s you and me. That’s our job.

This is a moment unlike any we have faced in our lives. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know how the coming days are going to unfold, but we do know things will probably get worse before they get better. Our faith teaches us that together, we will find our way to redemption, to the other side of the uncrossable sea. I’m reminded too of the core premise of “The Secret” and other modern teachings: that is, thoughts become things. We have the collective power to come through this, and we will. But we must act together. With one voice.

So this service-at-home thing was encouraging to me. It reminded me that spirituality really can be in my home. And it showed me something even more amazing – that I actually know how to watch livestream on my TV. Miracles never cease.


Thanks Giving

It’s Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada. Here in Los Angeles, we’re celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, a new holiday which I can only guess is what it sounds like – honoring the indigenous people who the settlers of this land mistreated, misplaced, and otherwise treated horribly over the last several centuries. I hope that in schools, they are teaching students about the histories of people who are native to their particular geographies – goodness knows we learned very little about that when I was in school.

At most public gatherings I attended in Vancouver, regardless of the topic, the hosts began by acknowledging that the event was taking place on the unceded lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh people. Granted, I don’t get out to as many events here as I did in Vancouver (one of the benefits of a living in a smaller city is that everything’s so much easier to access), but I don’t recall ever having heard anyone acknowledge the First People of Los Angeles at any gathering.

That may be changing, though (and maybe I just need to get out more).  Continue reading

Jiminy Cricket, It’s 2018

THIS PAST Wednesday afternoon, while walking in LA (let it not be said that nobody does it), I saw a house that I would love to own, in the area just north of Burbank and just east of White Oak. Here it is:

(That’s my future self avatar washing my future car too, for good measure.)

So right on time for the New Year, there was one of my 2018 intentions/visualizations, which I choose to believe I can transform one day into manifestations… or as I used to say, there’s a dream that I want to come true.

And hey, it’s a Super Moon tonight, so it’s a good time to set your intentions, right? Or wait, it’s a good time to get your hair cut? Or am I just supposed to wish upon a lucky star? I forget.

“When you wish upon a staaaaaaaar…. Makes no difference who you aaaaaaaare. When you wish upon a star, your dreeeeeams come truuuuuuuue…”  Continue reading

HappySpirit @ Home

I’ve decided to quit going to yoga.  That is, I’ve decided to stop paying to go to yoga classes. Instead of going to yoga, I’m starting to practice yoga. Maybe even starting to live yoga a little. It’s pretty awesome having a happy spirit with me in my own living room.

I’ve written about yoga before – it’s a practice that has been quite beneficial to me over the last two decades of my life, starting from the time I moved from LA to Oakland and had a 9-5 job in The City (that damn City that’s so pretentious, its residents just call it “The City”). (I love that place, goshdarnit.) Continue reading

Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing

I love these candles.


These candles that are almost all burnt, off to the side of me on the kitchen table, on this first Friday night since we moved the clocks forward. It’s 7:47 and almost dark, three stars in the sky, if ya know what I mean. And the Sabbath lights are lit in my kitchen window.

I lit ‘em, yep, I did.

And I said a little prayer. And then it was Shabbat. The Sabbath. Or Shabbos if you prefer. As in Good Shabbos.

The two candles are sitting in ceramic holders I bought in Jerusalem during my junior year of college at Hebrew University over thirty years ago. (Geez, that’s crazy. OVER thirty years.) Candlestick holders were a relatively easy relic for a naïve American 19-year-old girl with limited Hebrew skills to purchase from vendors in the Old City. Continue reading

Gratitude 2015

Thanksgiving almost didn’t happen this year. Even though, since moving to Canada, I have two annual opportunities to celebrate, it felt like the holiday might pass me by entirely. Still, there’s always time to be thankful. And right now, I’m blasting with gratitude.

Alas, my honey and I were both sick in the days leading up to “Canadian Thanksgiving” weekend in mid-October. The week before, we had invited a small group of friends over for dinner that Sunday night. Even though we were still sneezing and coughing Saturday morning, we were optimistic that the tide would turn, so we  did a big grocery shop — a big chicken and all the fixings. [Gratitude blast: I’m thankful for Thanksgiving!] Continue reading

Oh Canada!

download February 23, 2015 felt like my birthday, and in a way it was. For on that day, my life began as a Canadian.

On that spectacularly sunny morning, as I opened my eyes, my sweetheart presented me with a gift of red socks with the word “Canada” across the top – how chic!IMG_0026 And in the kitchen, I found a gorgeous bouquet of a dozen red roses, red carnations, white daisies and a white mum, plus six pink roses (“for love”). The vase was sitting on a souvenir tea towel with a huge red maple leaf and the word “Canada” across the bottom. What a welcome to my new home country!photo 3 But wait, there’s more! Continue reading

Remembering Nana

Nana_RunawaysToday, I honor the grandmothers.

As I write, a yahrzeit candle burns on my desk. A yahrzeit (Yiddish for “a year’s time”) is the anniversary of the death of a loved one, in this case my Nana, who died 23 years ago today.

This morning, I found the words I shared at her funeral the next day. They ring as true today as they did then.

February 5, 1992

Dear Nana,

I guess the biggest thing on my mind right now is just how much I’m going to miss you. You have been such an incredibly big part of my life – for all of my life. I have such vivid memories of you as part of my childhood —  always with your delicious “Nana cookies” and your streudel (which I’m so glad you taught me how to bake — I think it’s about time I tried that recipe out again!). I remember what a treat it was to stay over at your house on weekend nights, and how you always made Matzo Meal pancakes for breakfast for Eric and me. Continue reading

Thanks again

IMG_4983It’s nearing the end of American Thanksgiving, as we call it here in Canada (at home, of course, it’s just Thanksgiving, but that day happened here over a month ago… let’s leave it at that). Rather than making my usual trek to Southern California, I’m in Vancouver this year for what’s decidedly a non-holiday day. I spent it as I might spend any other Thursday, with a bit of work, a couple of meetings, you know, the usual stuff of everyday life. And yet, at about 4:30 this afternoon, I felt compelled to stopped by Hamburger Mary’s on Davie Street with my American pal Leslie for a hot turkey dinner, complete with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and a double helping of cranberry sauce. It was an extraordinary feast. You can take the girl out of America… Continue reading