Thursday, November 26, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about the word "busy" lately. I guess I think about it because I really am busy...busier than I've ever been in my life. Well, at least it feels that way some days. The word "busy" gets thrown around too much, even by me. We use that word for more than its' actual meaning; often the word busy is used to create a barrier to keep others at a distance, usually selectively. It is a way for us to control how much or how little we let others into our lives. I can speak to this because I am guilty of doing just that.

Sometimes people are genuinely very busy. I can speak to that as well. And sometimes we think that our busy is more important than someone else's busy. Two weeks ago when I was finishing the writing of chapter 5 of my dissertation (I was very busy), two other people thought their broken computer problems were more important than my busy. Of course, I felt differently. However, I did stop the writing process to help one of the people that had called for my help...that was my sister. I stopped to order her a new computer because I knew that without it she would be too isolated. The outcome of that day is another story for another time...when I am less busy perhaps.

So back to the story at hand. Followers of this blog are probably aware that I have been writing my dissertation, or that I have been in the process of working towards a PhD for about four and a half years. This while maintaining a full-time job, doing additional research (and presenting it at conferences), and working on a major project (additional work at the job). I think that qualifies me as officially busy, especially when I got to the proposal portion of the dissertation (I had no idea about the level of busy I was getting into!).

At certain points during that past year I have been so overwhelmed with busy, sometimes to the point that all I wanted to do was run away and hide from everything. I didn't do that but I did seriously cut back the number of commitments I had. I also used the word "busy" as an excuse to limit my contact with others.

Recently I realized that others (one person in particular) was doing the same thing to me...ouch! Talk about karma! Perhaps that person feels as justified about using "busy" as I have felt. Perhaps there is a lesson for me in there...knowing how it feels to be on the receiving end of "busy". It hurts to be on the receiving end. It hurts because no matter how busy I am, I always find the time or make time for those I want to talk to. It hurts because I know that I use that word to maintain a boundary with those I need/want to keep at more of a distance, and I know in my heart that the same is being done to me.

I don't have any answers and I'm not really looking for any either. I think that maybe now that I've written it out perhaps I will be more judicious with my use of the word "busy".

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Year 5770

I haven't updated this blog in quite a while. I guess I just haven't been moved to write or life got in the way, or some other excuse. However, it is Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year, 5770) and I usually like to take some time and reflect on the past year as well as the one in front of me. Actually it's kind of like an attempt to look at the things I'd like to change, or that will change within the coming year. I guess the best way to do this is to look at what has already passed.

I became a Quaker (actually joined my Meeting)in the past year. I still identify as Jewish and I still have a hard time rectifying the two. I came to something of a happy medium with this: I am a Jew who prefers to worship in the manner of Friends. It is at Quaker Meeting for Worship that I find my spiritual center. This is not without difficulty for me and I continue to struggle. I struggle with the Christian aspect of Quakerism because for me, that is not a part of my spiritual journey. Sometimes it feels like it goes against the very core of who I am as a Jew, yet I stay.

Last night was Erev Rosh Hashanah (the eve of) and Shelly went to services while I stayed home, no longer a member of the synagogue. At some point I was listening to a blurb of Jewish music and it made me cry. Have I turned my back on my faith, my Jewish community, my core? I missed being at the service, a service I always dreaded. I miss the spirituality of Judaism that disappeared when we joined the "big" synagogue...when it became rote. My heart felt heavy and still does this morning, to some extent.

Tonight we will have a houseful of friends for Rosh Hashanah dinner and I am looking forward to it. I think that for me I need to feel okay to be Jewish and to be Quaker. I need to find that happy place between the two. That is the path that I will travel as this new year progresses. I think I can find the place because I honestly love being Jewish and I love being Quaker...I just need to learn to love being both at the same time.

Someone once told me that spiritual journeys can be daunting...she was right. But isn't it a sign of growth when one continues the journey despite the difficulties or obstacles along the path?

This is one step for the coming year, but it is the first step on the path that starts today.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Million Can March

Special thanks to my F/friend Dave for the heads up about this...please pass it along...
This all started with a vague notion that we should do something more than just have a good laugh at the next round of tea parties scheduled for July 4th. I thought that if teabaggers are so afraid of socialism, maybe we could show 'em socialism on a national scale. And what is more socialistic than sharing our food with others. Food banks across the nation are struggling with shortages as increasing demands meet head on with decreasing donations. But bloggers also reach across the nation - and the world - and we could make a real difference for our neighbors and make this a memorable 4th of July.

THE CHALLENGE: To collect one million cans of food for our nation's food banks, food pantries and shelters by July 4, 2009.

WHO: Progressive bloggers with a special invite to conservative bloggers.

HOW: Act locally. Here are some examples:

• Take a bag of food to a local pantry
• Organize a food drive where you work or play, your church or motorcycle club, etc.
• Organize some friendly competition amongst a group of blogs
• Challenge your Facebook & Myspace friends and your twitter followers
• There's no one right way to get involved. Look around you, see the need and do something about it.

WHAT: Nonperishable food items. Note: We've already had a cash donation to a relief agency reported (and I know this is a good way for some folks to participate) so if you report your cash donations we'll run a tally of those as well.

SPECIAL CHALLENGE TO OUR CONSERVATIVE READERS: Bring the drinks! Ask your readers to donate cannisters of premixed tea, lemonade, koolaid, etc. You could even set up collection barrels at your next tea party. After all, it wouldn't be a party without the drinks. And it'd probably give you a little better publicity this time...just saying. Now aren't you wishing you thought of this first?

AND THEN WHAT: Blog about it and send us the link. We'll add your amounts to the totals and keep a running tally of the results. And we'll post all your links so folks can see what you did. (Hint, hint: We especially love posts with pictures! Yeah, we're simple like that.) But wait! There's more! If you want more than that warm fuzzy feeling from doing something good, we'll send you the script for an awesome button to adorn your blog to memorialize your participation in the 2009 Million Can March!

Here are some food suggestions:

• If in doubt, call the agency you plan to donate to and ask them what they need.

Here's a basic list:

• cereal, instant oatmeal
• Canned meats & fish (tuna, salmon, deviled ham, canned chicken, etc)
• Peanut butter, jelly, crackers
• fruits and vegetables
• Soups, stews, canned pasta dishes like beefaroni, lasagna, ravioli
• Boxed potatoes and rice and pasta mixes in a box or pouch
• "Just add water" cake, pancake, muffin mixes, etc.
• Canned and powdered milk
• Infant formula and baby foods

You can also think in terms of a meal:

• Spaghetti sauce and pasta
• Tuna and macaroni and cheese
• Beans & Rice

You get the idea, and then add a vegetable, a fruit, and a sweet treat.

Really, this isn't rocket science. Give what you like to eat!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Positive Anger

I recently had dinner with a friend and one of the topics that we discussed was anger. I said that I like the emotion, the raw heat of the emotion. She disagreed and said that anger was something that needed to be controlled. I've had some time to think about this conversation and to try to make sense of what I really meant by my comment.

Unchecked anger can be a problem. We saw that yesterday when an anti-Semitic man with extreme anger walked into the Holocaust Museum and started shooting. This is not the type of anger I was speaking about...or not the level of anger. I certainly wasn't referring to a pathological level of anger. And at that point, I'm not sure that is controllable anger, not without years of therapy and medication.

Speaking of medication, this is were my thoughts come in. So many people are on anti-depressants. So many people walking around with their feelings kept in check through pills. Sometimes they are blank looking, void of emotion, sometimes not. But often, the meds keep the anger level so low, so controlled. And sometimes people control their own emotions without meds. This is when I say I like the raw heat of anger...mostly when people lose the control and let the emotion out, just for a moment and not to a dangerous level. Anger is real; it is hot and visceral. And sometimes it is good to see that in people who don't often show emotion. It is an opportunity to see past the glossy exterior and to get to the genuine person that is hidden beneath that surface. So it is in that way that I can say I like the raw heat of anger.

When I think about it, anger is what drives change. People getting angry about the status quo of a situation make moves to change the situation. I think it then becomes a choice of what we do with the anger or how we react to it. We have the chance to turn the anger into positive change or to sit and stew in the anger. That raw heat, that fire, that passion has been behind many positive changes. Does anyone really believe that the civil rights movement would have continued, facing a backlash of violence and hatred if it wasn't driven by the anger of injustice?

So I leave you with a totally overused quote that has nearly become a cliche:
"If you aren't angry, then you aren't paying attention." Of course, this has been written many different ways and I can't find the origin in order to give credit, but there is much truth in the statement.

Some people have accused me of being angry, while others think I am passionate...I prefer the latter and I believe it is that passion that makes me the person I am...which is sometimes too intense for others. Oh well.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Last week I was away at a conference in Chicago. While there I decided to attend Meeting for Worship at the 57th Street Meeting. It was a very welcoming group, a bit smaller than what I am used to. During MfW a first time attender stood and spoke about butterflies. She was a school teacher and her students where watching the change from caterpillar to butterfly. This, of course, is my fairly non-scientific rendition of the process. She spoke about how excited the students would get as the butterfly made its way out of its cocoon. There was one time when she and her students missed the emergence of the new butterflies during lunch but she was reminded that change happens regardless if we are there to witness it. This last statement stayed with me after I left that Meeting and throughout this past week.

Now back home, I was happy to return today to the Meeting where I am a member. I was struck by the messages that were delivered today. Many of the messages revolved around butterflies and change. From a group of students releasing their butterflies and saying goodbye as they flew away, to the question of what those butterflies might have been thinking as they departed...the thread remained throughout MfW today. I was shaken by the continuity of this theme from the Meeting in Chicago to this Meeting at home a full week later.

I've likely mentioned before that I am often astounded by the fact that someone else at Meeting will speak what is in my head and heart. This was kind of like that, except magnified 100 times. No question that there was change...two different Meetings nearly 700 miles apart. But there was also week later the same thread. Change happens but maybe it happens in order for things to continue to remain the same, in a sense. We don't necessarily need to see the change to know it has occurred, or maybe we're just not cognizant of the change, even though we know change has taken place. Regardless, we continue to progress in our lives...we go about our daily business and though that may be different, it is is still the same daily routine.

When I was younger I was not good with change...didn't really like change and tried to avoid it. I've come to realize change is constant; I change, the people around me change, the world changes. And every day I wake up, brush my teeth, have my coffee, shower, and work...all the same yet different each day. I've come to accept the changes (mostly) that are a part of the continuity of my life. Yet, I am still shaken and awed by this force/power/presence/spirit that causes this continuity between two Meetings nearly 700 miles and a full week apart.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Story of Stuff

What is the Story of Stuff?

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Click here to watch the film.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The truth is....

I thought I was sometimes struggling with finding the Light in certain other people. The truth is that I am struggling to find the Light in myself...