Friday, April 16, 2010

this state of in between

Do you ever stop and wonder, "What is this life I'm living?" "How did this become me?"? That's exactly what I've been thinking lately. If I were an outsider, looking in at my life, I'd say, "What in the world are you doing, and who are you?"

I'm finding it hard to recognize myself, and I'm not sure how to find who I am again. In high school and college, I was the overachiever. I packed my academic and extracurricular schedules full of AP classes, clubs, honor societies, dance classes and competitions, orchestras and more. I always put my all into everything I did, and was typically rewarded for all that hard work. In high school, I was chosen for various orchestras, did well in dance competitions, and was my graduating class' salutatorian. In college, while I didn't get into my top two choices of schools (which was certainly a major disappointment in my life), I made the best of where I was, graduating in three years with highest honors and becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa, not to mention making lifelong friends and learning a whole lot.

Since graduating college almost three years ago, what have I done? What are my "real world" accomplishments?

Yes, I have a job, and that I am very thankful for. But in the three years I've been here, I have yet to receive a promotion despite working extremely hard and excelling at what I do. More than that, I find myself craving something new to learn; something more to do in my day-to-day work life. I'm still living at home with my parents, who I am so very grateful to for actually wanting me to stay with them. They are, for the most part, very easy to live with and I love them, but at 24 years old, I'm feeling the itch to want to be on my own, taking care of myself, being more independent. I've dated some great (and not-so-great) guys over the years, but haven't had a boyfriend since college. I miss really being with someone. And I wonder when "the right guy" is going to come along, like everyone keeps telling me is bound to happen soon.

Now I don't mean to sound all "woe is me," because I know how lucky I am in life. Things don't always go perfectly or exactly as planned, but that's life for pretty much everyone, not just me. Over the past three years I have had some amazing and wonderful experiences that I am very grateful for - traveling to Israel, visiting Vic in Puerto Rico, weekend trips to visit friends, my brother and Diana getting engaged, just to name a few.

Still, I feel very stuck in my current state of in between. I've been trying, for quite some time, to make some changes; to do some things that will make me feel like me again. Dance has helped tremendously, but it's time for something else. Should I go back to school? Should I pick up and move? Should I become a nun? (Are there Jewish versions of nuns?) What is the next step, and how do I get the courage to just do it?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

do what you want, be what you are

Oh bloggy blog, how I've missed you. I have neglected you for far too long, and it's time for some love and nurturing in the form of a brand new post. So much, yet nothing at all has happened in these past two months, so I won't go back and rehash insignificant details of life. Instead, I will tell you about my current obsession: Daryl Hall & John Oates' Do What You Want, Be What You Are box set. Four CDs, 74 songs, and a 59-page booklet with all the stories behind the songs. Pure happiness. I've only listened to and read about the first disc, but I've already heard songs I never knew existed, and learned about the sometimes-strange inspirations behind some of my favorites. For a long-time fan like me, this box set is amazing, and I've really fallen in love all over again. And for a casual fan, or someone who only knows their greatest hits, it will open up a whole new world of H&O to you.

No matter what mood I'm in, there is a Hall & Oates song I can relate to. They have written songs for so many different life experiences, about so many themes, and even 20 years later, these songs still resonate with so many people. They are still extremely relevant.

And so my love affair with Daryl and John continue. I can't wait to listen to all 74 songs in the set, and learn so much more about my favorite group of all time. Many may make fun of my so-called obsession, but I really think if more people went out and bought this brand-new box set, they too would be under the Hall & Oates spell. For a steal at only $35, you can order Do What You Want, Be What You Are here. I promise you won't be disappointed, but be warned: You just might become obsessed.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

there's beauty in the breakdown

I finally did it. I broke down and entered my credit card number into the iTunes Store. And I made my very first purchase. It was Imogen Heap's Ellipse, and it cost me $12.99 for the brand-new, deluxe-edition, 26-song album. Since buying the tracks, and instantly receiving them, importing them into my library and uploading them onto my iPod, I have been listening on repeat. Her music is so interesting, as is her voice - not like anything else out there right now. The entire album is both uplifting and haunting, if that's possible. Plus, my deluxe version includes all the regular songs sans lyrics - 13 completely instrumental tracks. Love.

So now that I've bought my first iTunes album, I'm afraid I won't be able to stop. As I browsed the store, I found artists and songs I wanted; I needed. And since iTunes uses "1-Click," it's just so darn easy to buy buy buy. And then I'll be broke broke broke.

It's a good thing I have restraint, because I could have easily bought 5-6 albums within 5-6 minutes last night. But I didn't. And I decided to set a limit: I will only allow myself to purchase one album per week at the most. Spending almost $50 a month on music is still a lot, but it's music - new music. And I love music. Music helps narrate my life, and I'm definitely due for some new narration.

Friday, August 14, 2009

world cookie domination

My Nanny absolutely loves red velvet cake. Personally, I've never understood the appeal - cake with red food coloring and cream cheese frosting (that I don't particularly like, anyway). What's the big deal? But since I love my Nanny, and want to bake something she'd really love, I decided to take the plunge into red velvet. Of course, since cookies are my forte, I had to take the beloved red velvet cake, and turn them into cookies somehow.

I found a few red velvet cookie recipes online, but only two that were from scratch - one from Paula Deen and one from Rachael Ray Magazine. I sort of combined these two ideas, made some lower-fat substitutes and came up with my own version of these recipes. My take on this classic doesn't have any icing or frosting, but you could definitely frost these with some homemade cream cheese frosting, if that's what you're into. Personally, I think they are just delicious on their own. Here's my cookie-loving take on red velvet cake:

Red Velvet Walnut Cookies

*makes 18-20 large cookies

1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-4 handfuls chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons 1% milk
2 teaspoons apple cidar vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chopped nuts
3. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Then beat in milk, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring. Once combined, add the dry ingredients to the wet. Mix until throroughly combined.
4. Drop batter onto greased cookie sheets by tablespoonfuls - batter will spread, so leave space between cookies.
5. Bake 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of cookies comes out clean. Cookies should be light and cake-like.
6. Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

sick sickly

I went on vacation and came back with the flu. Is it swine flu? Could be, but I have no idea, nor do I care to know. All I know is I have been sick for a good 12 days. It all started with a sore throat while I was in Puerto Rico two Tuesdays ago. Then the sore throat was replaced by clogged ears and a very stuffy nose. Luckily, I didn't really feel too sick while on my vacation - just had the symptoms without feeling run-down or overly "sick." I came home last Saturday after sleeping about two hours Friday night due to awful sinus pain. I really did have an amazing time in Puerto Rico with Vic, but at that point, I was ready to be home. I think the plane ride back got me re-sick, if that's possible, and after starting and finishing medication and still only feeling worse each day rather than better, I realized this was not good. I woke up Thursday morning with a body-aching, chill-inducing 101 fever and decided the doctor, not work, was where I was headed.

I haven't really beed sick in a while (knock on wood), but this has certainly been a doozy. After being stuck in the house, and mainly stuck in my bed, for three full days, I had to get out for a bit today. Luckily, I woke up this morning without a fever, which was a great sign. After showering and actually doing my hair, makeup and getting dressed, I was nauseous and exhausted. Not a good sign. But I rested a bit, and went out for just an hour or so. It was good to get out. I needed to get out. And tomorrow, I will attempt to get back to work. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 29, 2009

flashing back

As I was driving into work this morning, I had a very intense, very realistic flashback. I was so entranced in this vision, this reenactment of a past time, that before I knew it I was just an exit away from where I usually get off the highway. I guess while driving isn't exactly the best time to have such a lifelike flashback, but lately, my dreams and reality are getting completely mixed up. I find myself unsure of whether something actually happened, or if it was just a dream.

Today's flashback was of getting off the airplane at JFK at the end my Birthright trip to Israel. Actually, it was first being on the plane. Feeling so exhausted, mentally and physically, that I felt almost drugged. Everyone around me was dozing in and out of sleep, and I found myself not being able to keep my eyes open for very long at all. I found time to write down some thoughts and share those with Rachel and Jeanine, but we all didn't speak that much throughout the long plane ride. So many days running on three-hour-of-sleep nights was finally catching up to us. So many days of learning, of exploring, of overcoming fears. So many days of melting in the desert heat. So many days of epiphanies; of life-changing moments. Finally weighing down on us.

Then my flashback jumped to walking through the airport after getting our luggage; our luggage that had taken this journey with us, thrown around, squished into buses and carrying just some of our memories. I saw everyone's parents and relatives waiting for us to meet them. Most of them knew we were changed from this trip; others were completely unaware. My mother ducked under the flimsy barrier to hug me as tight as could be. She couldn't wait to grab hold of me, knowing I was safe, knowing I had a million stories to tell. Not knowing I would be unable to fully explain what this journey was for quite a long time, if ever.

I think we were all in shock. We went our separate ways, not knowing how to end this trip, not knowing how to say goodbye. We had experienced so much together in such a short period of time, and now it was all over. I hugged my friends, old and new, and walked away. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed. I didn't know when I'd see these people again - if I'd see these people again. I didn't know if it would ever be the same. And I certainly didn't know if I'd ever be the same.

Now, it's over a year later, and I'm still unsure. I'm flashing back to those memories quite often - not wanting to forget them, but not exactly sure what to do with them either.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

reflections, part 3

An excerpt from my Birthright journal: Day 9 - Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Today was yet another incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Ali G., Jill and I walked to the Goldenberg family's apartment to spend Shabbat lunch with them. David Goldenberg was a Rabbi, but for English-speaking beginners in Judaism. They were an older couple with a family friend. They fed us a five-course meal that was really great. We talked and asked and answered and really learned a lot. Also, it was a ton more walking (and sweating). We got back to the hotel after three and a half hours of lunch, and got to swim a little, then get ready for the evening.

We went to Ben Gurion Street which was SO much fun, just hanging out, shopping, drinking on a street filled with people and excitement. Then we headed to a bar/club that was pretty small, but was literally the most fun I've had in a long, long time. Everyone just danced and was dripping in sweat, and it didn't matter. Matt and I tore up the dance floor and just really had the time of our lives. Everyone was just dancing with everyone, and I can't imagine a more perfect night out. Of course, getting everyone to leave was tough, especially since most of the soldiers had come out to meet us, so no one wanted to say goodbye. The bus left without several of our group members, including Rachel and Jeanine. Bev stayed behind to round the rest of the gang up, and head back to the hotel via cab. I was locked out of our hotel room for a little bit of time, but soon the girls made it back, just to leave to go downstairs with a bunch of others. They came back after raiding the hotel kitchen, and I can't even describe the scene of the two of them, olives quiche, bread and eggs in hand, bursting into the room. They are too funny and fun, and we had a fabulous night that I wouldn't mind having every weekend."

This day last year was jam-packed, as evidenced by this excerpt from my journal. I remember that lunch with the Goldenbergs like it was yesterday. It took us a long time to walk to their apartment, and we got lost more than once. We asked someone in the community if they knew where the street was, and they actually knew the Goldenbergs themselves. How nice to belong to a community where people know you by name even several blocks away. Another distinct memory of this lunch was that David Goldenberg called us by our Hebrew names, which was really just a little detail, but meant a whole lot.

The evening portion of June 21 was just as memorable as the day, but for very different reasons. The daytime was all about learning and culture and community and Judaism. The evening was pure fun and enjoyment. The energy on Ben Gurion Street was incredible - so many young Israelis and Americans, just having fun and being together. It was great that we were able to meet up with our new Israeli friends, who had to leave our trip a few days earlier. Really, the bar was very claustrophobic for me, and at first I wasn't sure how much I was going to enjoy it, but once I just let go, and took a deep breath, I ended up having the time of my life. In that moment, I had no worries; I had no cares. I forgot about the extreme lack of sleep; I forgot about my fears. And there was nothing better than just dancing the night away with 30 of my friends, singing and sweating and laughing and living truly in the moment. If I could live that night over again, I would, and I'd do it exactly the same.