If not now, when?


My laptop is in the shop. Well, actually, I think it’s currently in the FedEx storage space, because a very nice and perceptive Fedex man stopped by today (shabbos) and told me that he had a delivery I needed to sign for. 

After my deer in headlights reponse, he queried,

“Should I come back on Monday?”

I nodded gratefully. One of the perks living in a heavily orthodox area is not having to explain the idiosyncrasies of observant life, like how even though I would really, really love my computer back, I’m still not signing for it on shabbos. 

That’s all prelude to this announcement that I’m typing this post from my phone. I despise typing long things from my phone. I really, really dislike it. 


I’m tired of putting off writing a post, and so I’m taking a “no time like the present approach.”

In keeping with my current focus on musical endeavors, I haven’t had much time to write. As you have perhaps noticed. 

As happy as I am with the music making (and there’s so much going on right now! It’s great!), I miss this. I miss you guys, and I miss the self-reflection that comes with the push to public a post on a regular basis. 

Getting out of the habit of writing reminds me of how I feel when I get out of the habit of davening, or of saying morning brachos. I feel unmoored, slightly guilty, and fogging disconnected. And then when I open my siddur and connect to those words that I love, it’s like a shot of endorphins. I love that. 

For the curious ones, wondering about all the music things I alluded to, I’m prepping for a short Chanukah concert of Yiddish songs, two February performances and also, my recent acceptance as a fellow for the Cleveland Jewish Arts and Culture lab, where I’ll get to collaborate with other local Jewish artists. I’m planning to do some more multi-media works like the recent video I posted and the one with the carrots. You guys remember that one, right?

That’s all. I hope you all get a shot of endorphins in whatever area you need it in.  

Also this guy is a year old already. What?!?!?!?!


New Song and Video – Bereishit


The reality of my life is that I have a finite amount of time to do creative stuff. And given my currently mercurial relationship with blogging, I’ve been giving more priority to music. That’s a little sad for the writing side of me (and, I suppose, for the reading side of you, haha), but the up side is that I made a new song and video!

Inspired by the poetry of my muse, Rachel Kann, this piece was specifically inspired by her latest poem on Hevria “The Beginning.

(if you’re not into the actual structure and composition of music, feel free to skip these next paragraphs and just go listen to the song/watch the video, which is at the end of the post, down there at the bottom. See it? Great.)

A piece I simply adore is “In C” by Terry Riley. It begins with a keyboard piece playing a simple set of octave Cs. Each musician has a set of different musical ideas, and one by one, they add a new idea until the piece is a cacophony of separate ideas creating a whole, slowly shifting as the musicians stop one idea and add a different one. It’s glorious, and different every time since the musicians are in control of when they add their new idea; it’s not rigidly scripted like most classical pieces.

I modeled this piece off that idea of discrete musical ideas (I chose ones that are four measures in length) creating a shifting whole, and layered these ideas over each other so that there would be overlap as the “old” ideas phased out and the “new” came in.

This is what that looks like

This is what that looks like

In the middle of the piece, I started bringing in more of the old ideas to give a fuller sound, and to provide some more complex contrapuntal action. After that somewhat climactic (I hope) point, I bring in a line which modulates the piece from minor (mainly g and a minor) to Major (Bb and C, hello to relative keys!).

I began the composing process with the piano lines, designing an accompaniment for the clarinet line that I later brought in. I wanted the piano part to be interesting enough to stand on its own. Once that was finished, I improvised a clarinet line on top of it, using a similar melodic and rhythmic figure at the beginning and end to give a feeling of symmetry to the piece.

I did some of the recording while my children were occupied with a video, and you can hear them in the background on some of the musical segments. I could have re-recorded those lines, since they are fairly short, but I like the inclusion of the sounds of  my life. I create art with and around my family, and it is the reality that even with designated times and spaces for creativity, my creating will spill out into other times and areas and overlap with other parts of my life. I love how this piece demonstrates what my creative process can be like, how my children are unintentionally incorporated into the piece.

For the video, I’ve had an idea to play with food coloring and water for a while. I placed a large clear, square bowl on a stool in front of my porch door, taking recordings from different angles in the waning light of the day, which kept with the melancholy mood of the music, I think. Just like the musical segments blend together to create a whole, the discrete colors swirl together in the water to form a new creation.

I especially like when the clouds are reflected in the water after it has become suffused with color.

Should You Make Art?


I saw this graphic on Facebook today:

I love this. I wholeheartedly agree with it. And I need to remind myself about it all the time.

About a month ago, maybe more, my husband and I were discussing how I never practiced anymore. This is a problem because we both feel that if Hashem gives you an ability, you better use it. And I wasn’t using mine. For those of you who are musicians, you may be familiar with the problem of without having a performance or regular schedule, you don’t make time to practice. This has been my life since, oh, 2003, when I graduated from college.

When I’ve had a performance, which, thankfully, has been somewhat regular, at least a few a year, I’ve brought out my clarinet and practiced. I’ve occasionally been involved in community bands or orchestras, so that provided me with a weekly reason to play. But outside of those reasons, I did not make time for my music, my art.

And this was a mistake, albeit an understandable one (hello, four small children and a bunch of moves, etc. etc.).

So we made the decision to send my cute baby to a babysitter (yay Fraidy!) for a couple hours in the morning right after my bigger kids go to school. During that time I practice. I do not do laundry. Not even just to throw in a load. I do not do dishes. I do not pick up the disaster that is my living room/dining room/office. I play music. That is all I’m allowed to do.

For the most part, it’s working really well. I have cheated a little and gone on Facebook or checked my email (agh, self control!! I need you!!!), which is difficult to avoid because my metronome is an app on my phone (my children destroyed my actual metronome years ago). But other than that, I’ve been remarkably disciplined. And it feels amazing. Really amazing. I’m also noticing a marked improvement in my playing (Imagine that! Practicing makes you better!!)

So I encourage you all to carve out a little bit of time for your art. Ignore your other responsibilities for a minute. That should be easy, right? I’m assuming at least some of you are ignoring your responsibilities right now by reading my blog, hehehe. So instead of spending more time online, go on and do some art. It could just be coloring in a book. Or writing something. Or decorating your house. Or singing along to your favorite song. Whatever you like.

Why I Changed My Mind About Using Social Media to Support Israel


When I was in college, I thought Israel was this crazy aggressive country. Like, ridiculously, over-the-top, oppressive and out of line aggressive. This was because whenever I heard about it in the news, it was always taking some harsh action against the Palestinians. I had no personal allegiance to Israel, and took the news at face value. I had friends who visited the West Bank, Gaza, who volunteered to go and help the people who lived there. We all tut-tutted together about plight of Palestinians. It is good to be empathetic, but my view lacked nuance.

Then I became interested in Judaism. Seemingly overnight, I became introduced to a whole other world of information about Israel, information I had never realized existed, that had never been hinted to me. It was astounding. This was my first clue that there was more to the story than I had been told.

When I mentioned my newfound interest in Judaism to an acquaintance from college, her face contorted into a mask of disgust, and she challenged me, “the next time you talk to a rabbi, ask him why the Jews think they have a right to the land when it says [in the Haggadah] ‘my father was a wandering Aramean.’ ” This was my first clue that there were people who would vehemently deny that Jews had any right to be in Israel at all.

Predictably, after becoming observant, I became unquestionably pro-Israel, in that never-deviating-from-the-party-line sort of way. This view, too, lacked nuance, and when a friend challenged my narrative about media bias, I was shaken. I realized that it was still necessary to look into things for myself, to educate myself about the situation and not just parrot what I heard from popular Jewish sites or organizations.

And so I started an informal education of sorts. Besides reading up more on the history of Israel, I became slightly obsessed (let’s say focused, that sounds nicer) with reading about Arab and Islamic culture and history. I wanted to understand more about the people and culture which surrounds, and is often opposed to, the tiny state of Israel.

I read about the lives of Palestinians living in refugee camps in Syria (well, not anymore), in Lebanon, in Jordan. I read memoirs of Iranians who experienced the revolution. I read about the rise of Wahhabism and the role of Saudi support of this ultraconservative branch of Islam, and how it’s impacting the world. More challenging is when I read social media posts from Arabs who live in Palestine, in Gaza, in Israel.

That one is often hard; obviously the viewpoints are often very different than mine. It gives me pause to know that there is a parallel narrative going on which is sometimes diametrically opposed to mine. And it confounds me how two peoples in such a tiny space can have such wildly different beliefs of what is true. But even with the cognitive dissonance it brings, I think it’s important to hear what they are saying too, even if I don’t agree with it.

Even after all this research, all this information that I have crammed into my already cluttered head, I still felt deeply hesitant about posting about Israel. I was still shaken by the knowledge that some of my friends would look askance at my support (yes, that’s my deep-seated need to avoid confrontation and to be liked by everyone rearing its head).

I rationalized my silence by telling myself that my posts will simply be viewed as yet another Jewish supporter of Israel, yet another predictable post lamenting media bias or presenting a one-sided view. That I shouldn’t get involved in politics. That I still didn’t know enough. That none of my online posts are going to change anyone’s mind anyways. That my links will be viewed as biased and dismissed out of hand as uncredible. That by flooding my feed with posts supporting Israel and detailing the very problematic idealogical challenges we face, I’ll just be viewed as another strident Jewish voice to ignore.

And so with the more recent flare-ups, I have been conspicuously silent.

But then I remembered that young, naïve college girl, the one who didn’t know there was another narrative besides the one on NPR, and I became ashamed at my silence.

I realized that I had a responsibility to share my side of the story, even though it’s just one side, even though it may cause people to roll their eyes. I realized that my friends in Israel look at us over here, with our American tendency to be politically correct, to go on with our life as usual, disconnected from life there, to be quick to condemn Jewish violence against Arabs, but not vice versa. They wonder if we care. And how will they know unless we show them?

And so I removed my cloak of silence and began posting. Not just calls for our own need to rise above the fray, to contribute spiritually to the solution, but also posts that are more critical, that publicize some of the threats and challenges that form a barrier to trust, to peace, to hope.

I pray for peace to come. I pray that someday the entire world accepts that the Jews in Israel aren’t going anywhere, no matter how many wars, how many terrorist attacks, how many ridiculous UNESCO resolution drafts happen. We are staying in Israel. We are not some European colonizer that has a country to return to when civil unrest reaches a boiling point. Israel is our country. It’s our homeland, a land we mention every day in our prayers, in our blessings. A land we’ve yearned for for centuries, a land I still yearn for.

And maybe when the inevitability of Jewish presence is accepted, Palestinians will stop supporting organizations like Hamas, which actively calls for the cessation of Israel, that actively promotes and effects terror. Maybe then they will stop calling for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” Maybe clerics will stop encouraging stabbing attacks. Maybe there will be no more music videos calling for Palestinians to run Israelis over with their cars. Maybe someday people will learn what the words genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid actually mean and stop applying them to the situation. Maybe then we can really talk about a solution.

I don’t think that sharing information on social media is gong to create this acceptance, but maybe, just maybe, there will be one person here or there whose pre-conceived opinions will shift.

But note, this cannot be done through ad hominem attacks, and it will not be done by making derogatory remarks about Palestinians or through expressions of violence. It will not be done by supporting or encouraging vigilantism. It will not be done through sharing pictures without verifying their authenticity (even the most well-intentioned organizations can make mistakes in their enthusiasm to be supportive). It will not be done through snarky memes.

We are supposed to be a light unto the nations. We are supposed to act with decency, with empathy, with wisdom. So be smart online. Be calm. If you are too upset to comment nicely, take a break. Rest assured there will still be people being wrong on the internet when you come back. There is no urgency that warrants devolving to petty-name calling or nastiness. Educate yourself on the history of the land. Try to read a variety of sources. Try to see where the other side is coming from, to find a point where commonality can be reached. It is not always possible, but it behooves us to look.

And, most importantly, in my opinion, continue to work on your own personal spiritual work. This is the most potent tool we have, and it should not be neglected. Chaya Lester wrote about it beautifully over at Hevria. Lift up your holy spark. Do a mitzvah. Do another. What speaks to you? What calls your name? Lighting Shabbos candles? Making a blessing before eating? Saying Modeh Ani when you wake up? Pledging money to charity? Giving someone the benefit of the doubt? There are 613 mitzvos, surely you can find one to focus on and to perform with the intention to bring peace to the Land.

In the meantime, I will continue to support Israel publicly and proudly. Libi b’mizrach. My heart is in the east.

Wait, What Day Is It?


Moadim l’simcha! Gut Moed!

Tishrei is always a busy month. I was explaining to someone recently that I basically make the equivalent of about eight or nine Thanksgiving meals this month. And that’s not including Shabbos. And that’s just the meals, not any of the other cooking/cleaning/planning/whatever that also need to happen.

Some years there are a bunch of three-day Yom Tovs, which have their unique challenges, and other years present the Everything is Erev Something challenge. That’s this year.

For the past month, it seems, every day that’s not a holiday or Shabbos has felt like either a Sunday (coming down from a day of resting) or a Friday (preparing for a day of resting) or both (so confusing!!!)

Somehow in my planning for what I was going to cook, I neglected to include plans for the Shabbos right after Rosh Hashana, and also the one in between Yom Kippur and Sukkos, AND also the one chol hamoed Sukkos.

Because, come on, that’s a crazy amount of food and planning, am I right? Yes, yes, I am.

Thankfully, when I was going on my cooking rampage before the holidays started in earnest, I made a bunch of sides (yay kugel!), so that takes the edge off what cooking I still need to do. And I found some very easy chicken recipes, and a roast is also pretty easy to make. So I realized that I’m not as stressed as I thought I  should be.

This was a revelation.

I suppose that’s the beauty of experience. Somehow over the past decade or so, I’ve gotten into a rhythm which has made life much smoother, especially during this busy season. Yes, I still get stressed out sometimes, and I have been forced to really find ways to be and stay organized to maintain my sanity. Overall, though, I’m able to do a lot more in a lot less time.

If only it were so easy when it comes to relationships and parenting, right? Hahahaha, alas, those things take a bit more effort than learning how to make an easy chicken recipe or some quick kugels.

Ruchi Koval recently mentioned Shalom Bayis 911 and then one of my friends told me that I absolutely must sign up for the emails because they were aMAZing. So I did. And they are! It’s nice to get a daily email (even if I don’t always open it) with tips on how to connect to my husband and how to keep my marriage at the forefront of my mind, because, well, for me that’s not such an easy task (and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling).

Okay, I have a bris to go to this morning and then other stuff to do, and then, you know, more cooking (ahahahahaha).

Have an amazing chol hamoed, I hope everyone has great weather and is able to eat in their sukkahs, and I hope everyone’s last days of Yom Tov are great and full of simcha, and full of good company and food and the energy and motivation to make it through to Chanukah.

That Time I Thought I Could Be a Fashionista


Some women are eternally stylish, effortlessly fashionable, always chic no matter the setting. I have never really been one of those women. I was the girl in high school who found her prom dresses at the thrift store, and rocked caution tape for a sash at Winter Formal. I have never really understood the mystery that is seasonal fashion, or why certain fabrics work best in certain seasons, or why some things go together when others don’t.

Usually I don’t care. I’ve reached a point where I wear what I wear, and it’s mostly flattering (though I will occasionally get tagged in a photo and realize that NO that shirt is NOT FLATTERING at all, and promptly donate it), and I’m more or less comfortable with my style.

And yet, every once in a while I will get in the mood of reinvention, and start trying to be, well, more stylish than I typically am.



My last fashion frenzy coincided with my taking Facebook off my phone. I went a little nuts with Instagram, and started posting my daily outfits. I totally got into it.



I discovered that if used the timer feature on my camera app and propped up my phone on a stroller, or the swingset, I could really get a decent angle. This worked well as long as I wasn’t too anxious that any of my neighbors would see what I was doing. Because that would be mortifying. I mean, I don’t normally lean casually against the side of my garage while staring pensively off into the distance. And the more pictures I took, the more I tried to channel my inner fashionista, striking dramatic poses in my kitchen because I don’t have access to cool graffiti-sprayed alleyways.

After a couple weeks, though, I was no longer capable of taking myself seriously. How all the real fashionistas can post so many selfies (or pics of themselves taken by a real photographer) and not feel cripplingly self-conscious about it is a mystery to me. Kudos to them! I don’t have it in me. Plus, I ran out of interesting outfits to photograph.

My creative streak did take over, though, when I figured out I could make pictures like this:


Now that’s what I’m talking about. This is likely the adult expression of buying prom dresses at thrift stores.

I will continue to enjoy the Instagram accounts I follow that are by people who do actual fashion, because it’s pretty. But I will enjoy it in my maxi skirt/comfy shirt combo, sitting on the couch and possibly eating ice cream, until the next time I get into the mood of being a little fancy.

Stop Looking At Other People’s Grass Already And Plant Your Own Garden


I love connecting with people. I enjoy the stimulation of reading the articles my friends post, seeing what others are up to and laughing at the brilliant silliness that can be found online.

But at some point a darker emotion edged in. It snuck up on me as I saw a website launched that I thought I would have been a natural fit for, but wasn’t invited to join. Or when a group of writers got together, without me. Or when a friend’s post would get traction and shares while mine languished.

Yes, I was jealous. I was jealous of the successes of my peers, my friends. I would open my computer and watch all the creative, exciting, innovative things going on, while I sat there, mindlessly scrolling, my feelings of frustration and self-pity mounting.

Uch, it’s so embarrassing, but there it is.

As I saw the rising stars of other people’s successes, I felt more buried under the rising levels of parenting, laundry and housework in my own life. The needs of my family were growing, and with the move to a new city and the reality of my children home with me most of the time (they are still not in school as I type this sentence), what precious free time I had was spent decompressing, not creating.

And that was so difficult for me. Despite the wise counsel of a friend who urged me not to have high goals until my baby was a year or so old, I found myself caught in a cycle of wanting to create, not having energy to, and then being envious as I saw others achieve successes.

It’s petty and dark and mortifying.

So I closed the computer. I shut it down. I stopped opening it to “just check something” or “just send an email.” I took Facebook off my phone (though I kept messenger and the app for my blog’s Facebook page on there). We visited my parents, who don’t have wifi (the horror!), and I didn’t go on Facebook for ten straight days. After we returned from that trip, I barely opened my computer at all, and when I did, I tried not to go online.

The results were pretty immediate. I found that without opening my laptop or just taking a quick peek on my phone (and when is that peek ever truly quick, am I right?), I was surprisingly content with the work of keeping my house humming along. Dinner was made more or less on time, our family’s schedule was consistent and comforting, and I didn’t feel distracted and irritable when parenting my children. I felt very present, very centered, and very happy. My desire to share and post and contribute to the online community waned.

But entrenched habits linger, and over the past couple days, I found myself scrolling through that familiar feed, and those dark, icky feelings began to resurface. I saw friends who were posting intelligent, thoughtful, helpful words. Whose thoughts were welcomed with a flood of likes. I became snappish with my family, impatient and dissatisfied. I looked at the piles of dishes on my counter and instead of seeing the natural consequences of a wonderful Shabbos meal, I saw a roadblock to my own creativity. I saw restriction, burden, imprisonment. It brought me down, way down.

Yet while I was floundering in those heavy feelings of sadness, overwhelmed with my fear of missing out, of somehow become irrelevant, I had a flash of clarity:

This is exactly where I’m supposed to be now. This place of petty jealousy and mountains of laundry together with my underlying desire to create, to matter. But while I am supposed to be here at this moment, I don’t have to stay in this place. And I shouldn’t. I can take my dissatisfaction and angst and convert all that negative energy into something beautiful, something positive and tangible and constructive.

I’m fairly certain that when I succeed in reframing my view, in flipping the switch (climbing the mountain is probably a more realistic metaphor) from negativity to positivity, I will find joy and pleasure in the success of those around me. I will continue to find satisfaction in the domestic work that this stage of life brings, but find time to create as well. I will recognize that it is a process, a struggle, and that there are times of abundance and times of inactivity.

I look forward to this new year, which will hopefully be one of creativity and mutual celebration, where I will be able to find the balance between being centered in my real life and engaging with those I enjoy who I have never met in person.

K’siva v’chasima tova.