1. Faith in Love

    I have been taking a salsa class at a local community college for about three months now. It’s fun, social and pretty good exercise. I am in Level 2, and when you get up to Level 4, you have to teach the class a salsa move at some point in the semester. Occasionally we have students who we’ve never seen much go into the circle to teach us a move. Tonight there was a guy who we’ve never really seen, and he gets into the middle of the circle with a girl, and says,”Okay, so this move I’m going to teach, it’s really good, so you might want to take out your cell phones to record it.” My partner and I look at each other with a puzzled look on our face but anticipate this “great move.” The student then says,”With this one, you must have the right moment and the right time,” as he gets down on one knee and asks his girlfriend standing in front of him, to marry him. She, of course, says yes, and they have a long, sweet embrace while everyone in the class cheers and screams. All of us girls collectively swoon and say, “AWWWW, OH MY GOD!” It’s hard to not be affected viscerally by this type of raw love and such a special moment in these strangers’ lives. He then said,”We met in this class four years ago and here we are now. You all are like our family.” I don’t know these two, but I’m honored to be witness to this moment. These moments reaffirm my faith in love, and my faith that I will meet the person I’m meant to be with. Let’s just hope he dances salsa.

     

  2. This Beautiful Moment

    I am sitting in my room now, going through my box of cards and memorabilia. Since I am planning on moving in a few months, I’m slowing downsizing and trying to get rid of stuff.

    I come across an envelope with a lot of memorabilia from when I lived in Israel for six months on a volunteer program. I just came across a piece of writing that I had to share.

    For the first few days of our volunteer program, we stayed on a scenic kibbutz, which is similar to a sprawling farm or ranch. Our program staff gave us some instructions - take a piece of paper and a pen, go off somewhere on the kibbutz alone, with no one around you, and sit, write about the present moment you are experiencing, and then write three experiences you would like to encounter during this period (the six months we were there) and how I expect to grow as a person and my concerns for the program.

    This is what I wrote:

    Feb. 12, 2011

    Cold, chilly feeling on my arms
    Kibbutznik kids yelling playing soccer
    Beautiful green fields sprawling in front of me
    Cows mooing in the distance
    Ani po, I’m here אני פוא
    Emotions inside me a big mix, wonder, excitement, nervousness, doubt and homesickness
    I’m present though, in this beautiful moment
    I’m thankful to be alive, to have blood running through my veins, wind through my lungs
    Birds around me chirping
    The sky is unbelievable and gorgeous - like big sky country in Montana
    The boys playing have their kippot on.
    I remember myself, who I am, where I come from, who I still am.
    Everything I’ve been through makes me stronger
    A golden retriever, the most American dog, running with excitement on the soccer field.
    With a cute black mutt trotting up to me,
    I remember that we’re all living things just discovering eachother
    The sun is peeking out through the clouds
    then slips back nonchalantly.
    The cutie mutt comes back and I pet him and he sits down next to me for a second then trots off, never looking back.
    The Muslim call to prayer sings melodically in the distance.
    I can hear beautiful melody and “Allah” come through the air.
    Beautiful ancient tradition surrounds me.
    Then I realize I’m part of the story.
    A man with his two children on a bike come up the road, they’re speaking in English, an older woman throws her trash in the little dumpster.
    A little boy who looks like he really wants to play soccer stands there and contemplates, what should I do?

    3 experiences I’d like to encounter during this period
    ________________
    1) I would love to befriend an older person in Israel.
    2) I would like to make new Israeli friends.
    3) I want to go to a few synagogues in Israel.

    How do I expect to grow as a person
    _________________
    I expect to step out of my comfort zone in terms of living in a culture that is mine but also not mine. I expect to know myself better and love myself more, being proud of myself more for having courage. I expect to have grown by learning from others and taking what they have to offer me.

    My concerns for the program
    _________________
    Not liking my placement, not feeling 100% effective or useful and not fitting into the group in the way that I expect, however, I don’t doubt that I’ll make wonderful friends.

     

  3. My Path

    My path
    I am skeptical of my path
    Because my path has been taken off course before
    Well, more like delayed
    and unexpected detours
    some of which due to health
    I am questioning of my own path
    and my own desires
    second-guessing them and myself
    Third and fourth guessing
    Double, triple checking it’s what I really want
    Despite being pointed towards this path for years
    Yet maybe I wasn’t ready
    My compass was foreshadowing the path to come
    Teasing me with my own wishes and desires
    And now maybe there is no tease, no blocks, no curveballs
    Is this real? Will my plan work out?
    I am letting nature take it’s course,
    not forcing it
    not backing away from it
    slowly stepping towards it
    albeit with caution and fear
    but stepping there
    one footstep at a time
    slowly slowly

     

  4. Honored

    I am going through some of my old photos, trying to downsize my life and get rid of a lot of stuff, when I come across a few photos that bring me to tears.

    The first one is a picture of this woman named Anna, a proud African woman who lived in Tel Aviv and owned a tiny daycare out of her apartment. In this picture, she is hunched over, hugging one of the kids, and surrounded by five more precious toddlers. She took care of African refugee babies and toddlers for free or very low cost. I was honored to volunteer there. On one of my last days volunteering, I brought my DSLR camera (aka my big ass camera) to take pictures of the kids and I asked to take a picture of Anna. She said absolutely, yes, and she wanted the picture to look dignified and posed. This picture was that and more. It brings back a flood of memories that were some of the most precious in my life. I experienced pure joy there - my dear friend Juliette and I played with these toddlers, danced with them, sung to them, played soccer with them, broke up fights between them, and also hugged and cuddled them. In an American daycare this may be taboo, I really don’t know because I’ve never worked or volunteered in an American or Western daycare. Some of these moments of joy consisted of Juliette and I sitting on the floor of the daycare (there were limited number of chairs), hugging and cuddling the kids, while singing or laughing with them. A vivid memory - sitting on the floor cross-legged with the cutest 3-year-old kid named Victory, with his tiny hands clutching mine, squeezing my hands into his belly to get a tighter squeeze. All these kids wanted was love, warmth and affection. In no way am I implying that they didn’t get this at home - I only met their parents very briefly when they came to pick them up, but during the day, they just wanted our attention and to get a tighter hug.

    The other pictures that brought me to tears were pictures of me and my former clients. I used to work in an intensive mental health program with foster youth from San Francisco. In one picture, I am standing in the middle of my former 15-year-old client and her mom, who she was reunited with after 10 years of being separated. This picture marked her “graduation” or closing services with our agency. We were closing because she successfully reunited with her mom, meaning, her mother provided a safe and nurturing environment for her and they were both overjoyed to be with eachother again, and as much as they liked me, they were also overjoyed to have one more social worker out of their life. I was proud of them. They were proud of themselves. I was honored to be standing in the middle of this mother-daughter pair who had been through so much and had so many systems and bureaucracy in their personal lives for more than a decade. I was honored that they let me in to their lives and their homes and that they trusted me.

    The last picture was of myself, a former co-worker and two former clients. This picture also marked the client’s “graduation.” The client was an 18-year-old young man and his mom, who I worked very closely with. This woman was the rock for her family. For a year, her and I met every Friday morning in her home, and she opened up to me. She told me about her life, her lost loves, the children she’s raised, her deceased relatives, her hopes for her son, and her faith. Every Friday morning I was honored to sit with this woman. I was honored to be let in, to be taught by her about family and faith and hope despite all the troubles of life. I looked up to this woman, and as much as I was helping her and her son, she was helping me.

    Honored.

     

  5. The Organic Male Slut

    About three weeks ago, I was shopping at Trader Joe’s. I was minding my organic p’s and cruelty-free q’s waiting in line to pay when a guy behind me in line asks, “Do you know if we have to pay for bags now?” I say, “Hmm I don’t know, let me ask.” So I ask the clerk and she confirms that yes, we now have to pay ten cents per bag. Me, the clerk and the guy waiting in line all chat for a minute before I finish paying and I say goodbye. As I was putting my groceries in my car, the guy approaches me. “I normally don’t do this, but I thought you were so nice and genuine, do you want to have coffee sometime?” I say, “Actually I’m dating someone right now but that’s very sweet of you to ask.” He says, “Oh, just as friends of course! I just moved to the area so I’m really just trying to meet nice people and network.” I say, “Oh, okay, sure then!” and we exchanged numbers and Facebook names, giggling at our ethnic names and the spelling of them. Seems innocent enough, I thought.

    We messaged on Facebook and tried to set a coffee date and it wasn’t until yesterday that we firmed up a day this week.

    Today I was shopping at Whole Foods, and I picked up my usual fare: organic roasted Brazil nuts, non GMO dark chocolate that gives 10% of its proceeds to charity, Level 4 organic pasture-raised skinless chicken breasts from a chicken named Doug raised on a farm in Marin, a natural homeopathic remedy for allergies, on sale for $19.99, and two sad looking conventionally-raised avocados for $1.50 each. I did draw the line at the non-organic blackberries for $4.99 though – I couldn’t deal with that. The produce section at Whole Foods is like a high-class escort, beautiful, but it breaks your bank (and sometimes your heart). After taking some deep breaths after my shock and dismay at the price of the blackberries, I meander on down to the meat section and as I’m waiting to get their attention, I look over to the cheese section. Mmmm, cheese, I thought. Then I notice him – it’s that nice fellow who I met at Trader Joe’s! I start wheeling my cart in his direction to say hi, when I notice that he’s talking to a woman and they’re both all smiles. I sort of watch them for a moment and wonder what I should do. Then I see them both have their phones out, and what looks to be exchanging phone numbers and Facebook names. They’re laughing and giggling at the spelling of their respective names or some bullshit like that. The little vegan yogi on my right shoulder says calmly, “Okay, Shayna, DO NOT approach. Practice non-violence, self-restraint and detachment and walk away.” So I actually listen to the yogi and went to the check out stand. Then another voice, a little more rough around the edges chimes in: “That organic male slut! Picking up women in health food stores! What a douche! You got duped! Never again, NEVER AGAIN! You need to put him on blast on Facebook or something because that is so sleazy!” says the Walmart-shopping, meat-eating glutton on my left shoulder. I couldn’t help but laugh. A smile creeped up on my face and I smiled at the cashier thinking, “Honey, if you only knew.”

     

  6. Velma

    I was lucky enough to be graced with the presence of Velma, an 88-year-old African American woman from the South. I’ve met some interesting folks through jobs from my past, but Velma took the cake. She took the cute cake too. There’s something adorable about most 88-year-old African American women from the South. Their accent, their sweetness and the fact that they say things like “oh honay” and “and everythang else.” Not to mention her tenacity and wit, all bundled up in a cute 5’2”, 88-year-old little package.

    I pick Velma up from her home and she immediately thanks me profusely for giving her a ride. I say, “It’s my pleasure.” I enjoy the long ride with her, listening to colorful tales about her childhood and young adulthood. How she was married at age sixteen, but divorced the guy a year later because - “he didn’t treat me right.” How she moved out to California from the South, and how she is proud to have raised her two grandbabies. I am very curious about her upbringing in the South, so I ask her questions about her family growing up. She tells me about her mother. They were very close and it was hard for Velma when she passed away. Velma tells me that she wants to tell me a story that is very important and it’s something that I need to know:

    When Velma’s mother’s health began to decline, Velma’s sister and the sister’s family moved into the elderly mother’s home. In Velma’s opinion, her sister and her family were taking advantage of the mother and not treating her well in her own home. Velma said that her mother wanted them out of the house – she didn’t like the situation one bit. So what did Velma’s mother do? She prayed and prayed to God, asking the Lord to clear out her home. A few days later, something happened and there was a horrible fire in the home that burned the house down. “Thank God nobody was injured or killed,” Velma said. But that fire got the sister and her family out, that’s for sure. Velma’s mother told her after the fire – “When you pray to God, you gots’ to be ‘pacific!” Velma repeated those words for my young ears. She thanked me again for the ride, I got out of the car and hugged Velma goodbye. Velma hugged me and said, “Oh, I love you!” she walked to her door and gave me a sweet wave before walking into her home.

     

  7. My Target Guru

    They say that you don’t have to look for your guru, he or she will find you. Well I think my guru found me today, in Target.

    While I’m looking for some facewash, I hear a heavy Indian accent saying. “Do you need any help finding anything?” He is old, Indian and wrinkly, with white slicked back hair and lots of gaps in his yellow teeth. At first glance he doesn’t look like a Target employee because he is wearing a button-down, long sleeve MAGENTA shirt, not a red one.  Plus he looks out of place next to many of the young employees who seem to hate their job. He seems really happy for some reason. I first say, “No, thanks I’m okay,” because I thought I found my aisle, but then don’t see any face wash. A few seconds later, I ask him where I could find the face wash and without hesitation he leads me down a couple aisles over. I say thank you, and we part ways.

    After I check out and was on my way out, he’s standing close to the exit, smiles and says, “Let me see your receipt.” He shows me on my receipt, how I can enter to a win a $1,500 shopping spree at Target. He meticulously goes through the steps with me so that I know how to do it right. I say, “Thanks so much. Don’t tell any other customers about this so I have a better chance of winning.” He smiles and laughs. Then he says, “Have fun with it. Have fun with everything you do. Let me tell you the four ways to be happy in life. Do you want to be happy?” I nod and say yes of course. “Number one: life is a beautiful gift. Number two: life is THE most precious gift we could ever be given. Do you agree?” I nod and say yes. “Number three: work hard, do well and don’t expect any results. The people who work hard for an end result have too much anxiety in their lives. Do you want anxiety in your life?” I say no, of course not. “If you don’t expect a result, you will always be happy, you will be able to take what comes in life. The one upstairs never gives us anything wrong in our lives. We think it’s “wrong” but it was meant to be given to us. And number four: we are standing here today talking, right? Well, maybe tomorrow one of us won’t be here. So this goes back to the first two lessons, life is a gift so enjoy it. Another good thing to know: have fun doing everything. If you don’t then you will have anxiety in your life. That’s why I told you even have fun applying for the shopping spree. I try to make everyone happy too. If you have fun doing everything life is happy.” I thanked him and strolled outside with my red cart and a new smile on my face and felt lighter. 

     

  8. Zonah

    The most memorable experiences I had living in Israel were when Israelis insulted me. These experiences epitomized the collective Israeli chutzpah, honesty and balls-out nature. One of these experiences happened on a very ordinary day. I was on a volunteer program and my days were pretty scheduled and routine. On Wednesdays, my friend Juliette and I volunteered in the morning at Mesila, the daycare center for refugee and undocumented African children. Juliette and I regularly went to the shuk (open-air market) right after we volunteered there, since it was literally next door. Most of the time we shopped for groceries and produce, but sometimes we just meandered through the shuk, constantly entertained at the audacity and hilarity of everyday Israelis. On one particular day, we went grocery shopping and were carrying a few bags each. Because we had so many bags, we decided to take the bus back to our apartment, which was about a mile and a half away. We were waiting at the bus stop when a homeless man approached us. He was clearly begging for money by his hand gesture, but with our basic Ulpan Hebrew, we didn’t know what the hell he was saying. All we could regrettably muster up was “Lo todah, lo todah” (no thank you, no thank you) in unison, a sweet mixture of my American accent and Juliette’s French accent. Juliette looked at the man, her eyebrows scrunched up with sympathy. The homeless man had such intense, dark blue eyes – sad bottomless pits, bright in the Israeli sun. I must have been staring stupidly at these eyes, because suddenly the look on his face read disgust, and he spit right in my face, yelling “Zonah!!!” (bitch/whore). He staggered away slowly. All the religious women at the bus stop weren’t shy about staring at me in my shocked and embarrassed state. Juliette looked at me with her mouth wide open and gently wiped the saliva off my glasses. When I sense the hidden smile emerge on Juliette’s concerned face, we both look at each other and laugh so loud the women wearing head scarves and long skirts start to smile in our direction. 

     

  9. A Little Known Remedy for Women with Control Issues

    If you are a woman with control issues, I have the perfect remedy for you. Even though I love and believe in therapy, it’s not that. I’m not talking about getting all Zen or even calm for a minute, so no, it’s not meditation. It’s not science. It’s salsa dancing.

    I am a huge Latin music fan, so I’ve danced salsa before but I never really knew the steps. I recently took a legitimate salsa class at a dance studio and really learned how to dance salsa. Mind you, I’m a lady, so I was taught to dance salsa as “the follower.” Feminists please don’t throw shit at me right about now – I know how it sounds. But in salsa and the majority of partner dancing, the male leads. Plain and simple. I’ll be P.C. right now and say that if you are a same-sex couple, there is still one person who leads.

    During my first salsa class, I was unnerved that I wasn’t in control of the situation. I told my partner, “No, it’s like this…” and demonstrated what he was supposed to do as well as what I was supposed to do. I was being a woman – handling every little detail, taking care of my partner, helping him. I quickly realized that in the real world, that’s okay and often times necessary to “handle” everything. Not in salsa, my friend. We bumped into each other, jerked each other around. In other words, it was a hot, flaming mess. I realized that I needed to relinquish control, just a little bit. Since we rotated partners, I told myself that this was a fresh start – don’t fuck up this time! Maybe the last guy didn’t know what the hell he was doing, but this guy, wow he’s a natural, he’s a great lead! Or maybe it was me. Whatever happened, I let go of needing control, and all of a sudden, my feet were gliding as my hips sensually moved side to side. My partner and I were really dancing salsa! With the subsequent partners, I learned to let my partner take the lead, even if he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. It was his job to figure it out. And as our instructor said, it’s the follower’s job to feel what their partner is doing and let them lead. I was surprised at how relaxed I felt once I gave away the control and allowed my partner to lead. It takes skill to lead, and it takes faith to be led.

    I know plenty of women who don’t have the luxury of “letting go” and letting others take the lead – they have careers, families, screaming babies and a hundred other things to do. Yet, I must admit, it feels really nice, even for an hour and a half inside a dance studio, to let go of the need to control, handle and manage. This hour and a half could give a girl a little faith to let others take the lead – just sometimes. 

     
  10. I’m coming back to Israel in two days and I am peeing myself with excitement!