Friday, February 3, 2012

Figuring it out.... 1 step at a time...

OK, I have to make this VERY brief but hopefully will post more thoughts about this later.

There are really 2 things you need to know about me to understand why this might make a little sense:

1) I love to sing. I love it, love it, love it. I have annoyed friends and family with it for a quarter of a century and when I was little my friend actually asked my mom if I HAD to sing ALL the time. The answer is YES! Because I JUST LOVE IT! However, I'm terrified to really try it in front of people because I'm shy. So I've never tried to do anything about it.
2) What was 2 again? I don't know how to write songs? That's true but that wasn't it. Seriously, I completely forgot.

Oh right,

2) I love the experimental memoir genre of writing (probably not a real thing, I made this term up, I think). I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Like Julie and Julia? Or The Year of Living Biblically? Or Sleeping Naked is Green? I'll post links later... I just think it's so much fun to see how a person changes because of something that they try to do.

So.... today I replied to a couple of ads on kijiji looking for female singers. I guess what I'd like to do is start up an acoustic duo kind of thing, but I need a person who really knows how to play guitar. I can play backup guitar, but not front-up (lol). So, here's hoping. I know of a couple of open mic places that I/we could play at and after a serious ego boost from a couple of my sister's friends on the weekend, I think I'll actually give it a try. So wish me luck! And follow my adventures!

Oh, and don't let me get lazy! I love comments on my blog and am likely to do whatever those comments say. So, if in 3 months I haven't even posted a video of myself so that you guys can let me know how much of a good or bad idea this music thing is, ask "hey! Where the hell is that video you promised us?" and I'm likely to post it. Because I almost always bend to peer pressure.

So thanks all - hope to keep you updated later! SOON! But later.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Israel - hopefully part one of many

Our trip ended yesterday. It was probably one of the saddest things of my whole life to leave the amazing people that I was fortunate enough to travel with and the amazing country that I got a front row seat to seeing for ten amazing days. While I'm happy to see my family again and it's nice to have a hot shower and be able to sleep in (even though I couldn't sleep past 4 am), I'm really upset that it's over.

However, one thing that I'm hoping for is that this is nothing near the end. I'm really, sincerely, hoping that this experience was the beginning of a community of remarkable human beings who can keep in touch and really be friends from all across the great land that we call home.

I guess I'll just share a couple of thoughts now - hopefully more to come later. Actually, I'm certain there will be more to come later.

I guess the first thing is that, looking at the pictures that I'm trying to post to facebook is that there is absolutely no way that the pictures I took do any degree of justice to what I saw, felt and experienced. If I could, I would share it with the whole world because it really has changed my life, as promised by Alana (one of the Canadian staff members) on the first day.

I think the idea is to give participants a taste of as many pieces of Israel as humanly possible in ten days, which I could not imagine could be done better. We saw an outrageous amount of different places and learned so much about Israel, it was really hard to keep up.

In any case, I'm hopeful that we will all be able to take this experience and make it into something that matters in the world - that we might be able to pay it forward in one way or another. For my part, I think the first step might just be figuring out how I can do that. I guess that's kind of obvious though. I think that I need to really commit to it this time - I've had a few experiences in the past that have inspired me to do better - like TEDxCalgary and the It's Up 2 Us thing - but I guess it has never really stuck. And this time, I feel like the change in me and the inspiration that I feel is largely due to the people with whom I experienced this amazing trip. And I do not want to let them down. Or myself, I guess.

Anyways, more to come for sure, but just to say that it was so amazing. I haven't really had time to think it through yet, hopefully I'll have some interesting things to say - but for now here is a picture of the sunrise we woke up early to see in the Negev Desert. Oh so beautiful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Holy Land

I just wanted to put up a really quick post about something that I am SO excited about.

In 2 weeks (actually, a little less) I'll be going to Israel.

The trip is organized (AND PAID FOR!) by an amazing organization called Taglit-Birthright Israel. It's funded by the government of Israel, local Jewish communities, and private donors. It pays for 10-day trips to Israel for people aged 18-26 who are either Jewish or have 1 Jewish parent and don't practice any other religion. I applied for it back in September and I am soo soooo excited that it's coming up so soon.

Obviously the real time to talk about this is when I get back and I have good pictures and stories to tell, but I guess I have a couple thoughts to share now, although it's mostly my excitement that I wanted to share because I have little idea of what to expect. I guess that some of the things that I think will be particular highlights are that we're doing a winery tour & wine tasting, I think we get to ride camels, have a bonfire in the desert and have Shabbat at the Western Wall, a bonfire in the desert, floating in the Dead Sea, and if I'm reading the itinerary correctly, we get to volunteer together as well.

I am really, really grateful for the opportunity - not only to go to Israel, but to go to Israel for free and as part of a group of other Canadians my age to experience this with.

I'm not entirely sure what kinds of hopes and expectations I have for the trip, or maybe I just can't articulate it. The night before I went to TEDxCalgary I decided that my goal would be to be open to whatever the day had for me, and I'd say that is my top goal. I think that when I had that as my goal at TED it helped me to be as open to what the day had in store for me as I possibly could have been, and while I don't feel like I followed through on the inspiration that I felt at TED, I would definitely still say that the day was a success and that my goal helped it be the success that I feel it was.

Another goal that I have is to try and learn lots of new things. I don't think that it's possible to go on this trip and not learn new things, but I just thought it should be said.

I'm a little worried that I expect it to change my life. I don't want to walk in there thinking that these 10 days will change everything and be disappointed. I think it will change my life but I don't want to expect it to. So I don't know what to make of that.

Anyways, I can't believe it's only 13 days away! I can't wait to experience all the things that are there for me and for my new friends (that's the other thing - I'm really looking forward to meeting other Canadian Jews my age and hopefully making new friends!) and I know that the memories will absolutely last the rest of my life and I'm really excited about it.

13 days, 13 days... Amazing. I am so lucky.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stars of David

This morning I picked up a book I haven't read in a little while, but one that has made a huge impact on my life.

It's called Stars of David, by Abigail Pogrebin and it's a compilation of interviews she did with a group of "prominent Jews" (as is written on the cover). I don't remember exactly what made me actually buy it in the first place, but I very vividly remember seeing it at Chapters and being immediately drawn to it. After seeing it a few times, I picked it up and started reading it on a car trip to Olds to meet my cousins who were vacationing in . I remember opening it and reading the introduction and reading "... I consider myself a journalist, not a sociologist..." and thinking, as the questioning natural science major that I was at the time "I've done it again". Around the same time, I had seen a movie called Mixed Blessings at the Calgary Jewish Film Festival and I was very drawn to the film (it's about interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews, something of which I am the product of). I emailed the film maker, Jennifer Kaplan, and asked her what she studied in school, and her answer (which was no surprise to me at this point) was that she had studied sociology.

Anyways, these two pieces really made me think about where my university life was going. I had no interest or passion for the natural sciences and felt just on fire by this book and movie. I had always felt less than whole when I heard people say things like "just do what you're passionate about" or "follow your passion" or whatever, and I was always so disappointed in myself that I didn't feel that way about anything. I guess that's when I discovered what that passion was. I'm still not sure if I could explain it or do justice in mere words what I'd say my passion is. The best I can do is "Sociology" and "Judaism" - two things that I think are increasingly difficult for me to define, even as I feel I learn much more about both every day (which is how it goes, I think).

What's interesting to me now, looking back at that year when I found a book and a movie that would change my life are a few things. One is that I don't really think I realized that sociology and Judaism in Canada were interests of mine that could coexist as easily as I have since realized: that studying sociology could be a way that I learned about who I am as part of a bunch of different communities (Calgarian, Jew, Canadian, woman, feminist, etc). I guess that at that point, I didn't realize that school could be a way to do the things you love, not something that keeps you from those things. I think I also didn't realize the extent to which who I was would change. I think it's why I'm so drawn to writing and to films, because I'm very aware of how much they can change another person you don't know and will never meet. And because I'm so grateful to Abigail Pogrebin and Jennifer Kaplan for putting themselves out there and starting these projects that would change my life in what I perceive as very profound ways.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oh Canada....

I know that we Canadians have our quirks and there are lots of things we do well and lots of things we do not so well, but I've been thinking about how lucky we are. There's lots and lots of things we should be grateful for, like freedom, the right to vote, and lots of other things that we are truly very lucky to have, but......

I guess I've had a couple of very Canadian experiences the last couple days that I really enjoyed. The first one was being on the bus coming to Edmonton and I brought a bunch of DVDs to watch on my laptop on the way up. I, in my infinite wisdom, forgot that my laptop has no DVD drive. Luckily the bus has wireless internet and I started watching Fubar on Netflix. Now, not that Fubar is necessarily the best example, but I was thinking how cool it was to be going from my Alberta city to another Alberta city and watching a movie that was made right here in Alberta. I know this seems kind of silly, but I just so enjoyed all of my Albertan-ness in that moment.

My other very Canadian moment was today when I took a jog in Edmonton's breathtaking river valley.

So, Edmonton isn't so bad after all (even though most of us Calgarians won't admit it happily). Anyways, while I was experiencing some of the most beautiful urban nature that we are so privileged to enjoy, I was listening to Stuart McLean podcasts from The Vinyl Cafe. For those of you who aren't aware, The Vinyl Cafe is a long running (and wonderfully fantastic) radio show on CBC. I first fell in love with The Vinyl Cafe in my high school best friend's parents' van, in which I spent a lot of time. Kate and I were totally inseparable and I used to be invited along to a lot of their family events and even a few great road trips. I'm pretty sure that the only radio stations that that van received were CBC stations. I remember listening to The Vinyl Cafe on Sundays and to CBC from Tofino, BC all the way back to Calgary after being on the island for three weeks. Anyways, I decided that one thing I could do while I jog is listen to The Vinyl Cafe podcasts (thank you CBC :) - I can't really listen to music because it ruins my pace). So today I enjoyed a Vinyl Cafe show helping commemorate the CBC's 75th anniversary (way to go CBC!). I'm not totally sure I've had many happier experiences; I can't even explain how much I was enjoying myself. Nothing like enjoying some amazing Canadian scenery and enjoying something as Canadian as The Vinyl Cafe. And I will be doing that again.

My second Vinyl Cafe podcast I listened to was the show from Oct. 8, and it included The Arthurs, which is described by the website as "awards that recognize acts of kindness and generosity that, too often, go unnoticed". The only one I actually heard before I reached my hotel was a nomination from a man whose father bought a vacation home when he was four years old and had sold it 46 years later. Every time they would leave the cabin, they would say goodbye when passing under a set of Christmas lights that had been there the whole time they had been vacationing at this property. This man wanted to nominate the person who had strung and maintained these Christmas lights through the years, whoever it was. I really can't tell the story right but I was completely crying on the street in Edmonton, but would highly recommend that you hear how the story pans out ( - it's the one from October 8th - The Arthurs).

So thanks to this amazing country and for all my fellow citizens who make this country what it is. I know that there are lots of things that we can and need to improve, but I'm very thankful for this wonderful, beautiful, diverse, cooperative (and polite) nation and our fabulous people.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Will be a Hummingbird

A few years ago I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Professor Wangari Maathai speak at a "Power of Women" event. I had never heard her name before and have to admit I was a little more excited to hear Barbara Walters and Erin Brockovich (both of whom were pretty darn cool to see too). However, when Wangari Maathai stepped on to the stage and started talking, I was mesmerized.

Please, please watch the video below to hear the story she closed with.

There's literally nothing that I can say that even does justice to some of the other amazing things she shared that day, but I would definitely recommend reading some of her books, especially her memoir, Unbowed. Here's a link to her books that are available at the Calgary Public Library.

She was an amazing woman and an amazing human being. Reading her memoir and getting just a taste of what she went through in her lifetime was completely inspiring. I think the most amazing thing about reading the memoir was how she never seemed to lose hope that she could really make change happen (or perhaps just that change is possible).

The basic background that you need to know is that she started an environmental organization in Kenya called The Green Belt Movement, which plants trees in Africa to help protect against the erosion that makes it difficult if not impossible for the people there to grow food (rather than cash crops like coffee) to support their lives, create firewood for fuel and provide jobs for women. She was also the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Here's a New York Times article that was written when she passed away on September 25 this year. I have to say that though I'm not sure a lot of us understand how much impact this one person had on our earth (I know I don't), it is a true loss for the human race.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Judaism and Vegetarianism

I'll be quick here because I'm on my way to a family brunch, but I just wanted to post some really quick thoughts that I had last night when I attended a talk called "Eatin in Eden: Judaism and Vegetarianism" last night at the Calgary Jewish Community Centre as part of a series called "Just Jew It" (funny, no?)....

I have spent a lot more time in Christian churches than the average Jew has, and I think I discovered something more that draws me to Jews and Judaism last night. And it's something more thought-through than just feeling like this is a place that I (at least kind of) belong. Last night, the speaker was Rabbi Michael Skobac, from an American organization called "Jews for Judaism".  I'd like to post some of my thoughts about the content of his talk (like all the other talks that I've skipped over but still would like to share thoughts about, like 3-month-old thoughts about TEDxCalgary... but that's another story).  Aside from loving the fact that the crowd had to be shushed a million times and that multiple conversations go on between small groups of people and all the other, more superficial observations, I feel like in Judaism you are kind of enough, if that makes sense.  I feel like you should try and be the best you you can be (and not think that you are inherently a sinner) and when you bring your best version of you to the proverbial (or actual, I guess) table, you will be enough to take on Tikkun Olam (which is repairing the world). For instance, the Rabbi said that he didn't want to tell us what to think, just give us some points for consideration.  I remember hearing the message (whether these were the words or not) that certain things are dangerous roads to go down. And I feel like that is someone else ("Christianity", or my own head, or something) telling me what and how to think. I feel like so many roles are like a shepherd and his or her sheep, which is such a control-based relationship.  I've never felt that way from a Rabbi, which is probably a function of my very limited experiences with Rabbis, but I think they tend to provide points for consideration rather than rules or guidelines or... boundaries.

I realize that this sounds rather weird, particularly because Jews are the "people of the law" and they really do follow so many rules in a literal sense than Christians do, but I feel like those rules are suggestions for how to be a better you.  If you don't follow all of the kosher rules, I don't feel like there's a lot of judgment. Certainly this is not everyone's experience of Judaism, and mine is so limited it isn't fair to say, but that's just how I felt about it.

Finally, I don't mean to say that Jews are good and Christians are bad or that Jews are better or whatever, it's just the basis for comparison that I have. I always enjoyed being part of my old church and the people were so nice and welcoming. 

Hopefully more details to come later. Just had to say that I really enjoyed myself.