Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I See Your Pain: An Explanation of What I'm Looking At Before I Ask if You're OK

I know, we are instructed, basically from birth that showing sadness or pain or any other negative emotion is not okay and it means you're weak. I am here to tell you that this is not true. it is OK not to be OK. And you are going to try and smile and laugh it off, just as I do when I'm upset, but your face gives you away. Here's what I see:

1. Fake Smiles: This is a ridiculously common one. People give me a so called reassuring smile. However, in real smiles, the corners of the eyes are crinkled, and this is not the case in fake smiles.

2. Eyes outward: This blue is easier to notice when you are not speaking or actively engaged in a program. The eyes shift away from one another.

3. Mouth corners turned slightly down--yet another sign of sadness

4. Inner eyebrows raised. This one is often very subtle, and I often miss it.

This all being said, I want to make a point. I read people who I care about. once I spot a fake smile, i start paying more attention to that person's face when they don't think that anyone is looking at them. When I ask if you are okay, I don't mean to pry. I just want you to know that I care, no matter what.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Home is Wherever I'm With You: Sukkot At School

Let me begin by pointing out the fact that if I was back home in Chicago, I wouldn't even notice that Sukkot existed let alone spend the majority of the first two days of Sukkot in a Sukkah. Occasionally while growing up, I would visit a friend's Sukkah and eat some food in it or something, but it was never a big deal. But this year was different.

My Sukkoth started the way that most of my Shabboses do here at school: setting tables. The meal coordinator and I would run around, counting plates, silverware, etc, you know the drill. Once the sukkah was all set, and the decorations were properly attached with the Tardis sign hanging front and center, we went back to our dorm rooms and took a break. When I returned, the Sukkah was filled with people. I spent the majority of my night with these people, playing card games, laughing at ridiculous jokes and talking about the future of the Jewish movement. On Erev Sukkot, I left the Sukkah after 1am(Does that mean it wasn't Erev anymore? Somebody remind me to ask a Rabbi that...).

We joined back together today at noon for a casual lunch, and then my afternoon continued with, you guessed it, setting more tables. Once the tables were set and I had edited my peer reviewer's essay on Genesis 16, we sat around joking about the amount of Jews that there are at my school(mind you, this is not an uncommon thing). Finally, dinner came, and every few minutes;, I would be once again awed by this amazing community that I have found myself in. i was sitting with a few friends and the Orthodox rabbi on campus when he suddenly asks, "Who are you?" First, I laughed because this conversation had literally been going on for a half an hour before he asked me for my name, and ten we continued talking, vaguely about me, and he said something to the effect of "oh so you're dad grew up and got married and no longer cared about having a girl's first name as his last name..."I burst out laughing. First of all, because my parents are no longer married and I made the rabbi feel super bad about saying that, and second because what was this conversation we were having? I guess we all really do spend too much time together. Oh well, I guess I call Hillel my home for a good reason.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Have Some Fire, Be Unstoppable

In a Grey's Anatomy episode sometime back in Season 9 or 10, Cristina said to Meredith that she needed to be unstoppable. I think that this is good advice to live by. If whatever that you are believing in isn't worth fighting for and throwing yourself into, it isn't work believing in at all. This applies to stupid things like TV shows--you all know how passionate I am about my shows, to serious things like religion.

I am passionate about the stupid things that I love for serious reasons as I referenced in a previous post(Why We All Need A Little More Liv in Our Lives). I love Shondaland shows(The three ABC shows all produced by Shonda Rhimes) because they address things that I am passionate about in real life. For example(WARNING SPOILERS), in the Grey's Anatomy episode this previous Thursday night, the doctors treated teenage lesbian lovers that were being bullied for loving each other. Their parents failed to accept them, and not only did the doctors on the show feel for them, but the audience did as well. The amount of celebratory tweets I saw when Maggie Pierce(one of the doctors) punched the homophobic mom of one of the lovers in the face brought tears to my eyes. In a world where there seems to be so much bias and pain, it is nice to see people band together for what they believe in even if it is in relation to something fictional.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Why We Shouldn't Hate Yom Kippur: I'm looking at you, Mom

First of all, quick primer: Yom Kippur is a Jewish holiday, occurring 10 days after the Jewish New Year. It is the Day of Repentance, and it is customary to fast from sundown the night before to sundown on the day of(this is how most Jewish holidays work).

I'm not going to tell you to have an easy fast as I try to ease off of the caffeine in time for Wednesday myself. Apparently if you drink a gallon of water the day before it helps? But I am going to tell you that the fast is not intended to be difficult. The purpose of the fast is to clean our souls and be as close to angels as possible.

The purpose of these Days of Awe and the day of Yom Kippur itself is to ask forgiveness from ourselves, others, and God.When we ask for forgiveness, we are at our most vulnerable. But at our most vulnerable is when we have the most potential for compassion and loving. Yom Kippur is our chance to right wrongs and start the New Year in a different mindset.

We speak about all of the bad things that have happened to us. Sometimes, we may even wonder why God does not apologize to us. By no means will I say that everything happens for a reason, however I will contest that we have more control than we give ourselves credit for. We can choose to make the most of what we have. For me, today, that meant having Grilled Cheese for breakfast so that i could finish this post before I go to Yizkor. And on a bigger scale, it's meant learning from harsh experiences instead of allowing them to break me.  We make a ton of choices every day, let's choose to have compassion and love.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Micro-Expressions: The first 20 minutes of the GOP Debate

I'm going to present this in a matter of posting a picture and then explaining what I notice in each expression. Once I get to the end of the debate, I will do a specific post on each candidate but since every 20 minutes takes me almost an hour, i'm going to do this bit by bit.There will be a sole blog post on Trump once I finish the debate because I have too many expressions of his. As always, please ask if you have questions!

1.  Jeb Bush: Fear
Our key indicator here is the raised eyebrows which when presented only for a second show surprise, but when they are pulled back and apart, and the corners of the eyelids are pointed down, fear is indicated.

2. Carly Fiorina: Contempt
In this example, Fiorina is trying hard to conceal her contempt, but her squinted right eye and raised right upper lip corner give her away. Contempt is the only one of the Big 7 emotions that is asymmetrical, so it is generally very easy to notice. You can also see that her smile is fake by the lack of movement in her eyes. in a genuine smile, the outer corners of the eyes are crinkled.

3. Marco Rubio: Contempt
While this is similar to the above example of concealed contempt, Rubio does a better job at making the smile look real with his eyes, however, his mouth gives away his true contempt.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Hate the Concept, But I Can't Help Loving Them

I hate the concept of celebrity. The idea that someone deserves to be held up on a pedestal seems to turn them into some sort of God. That being said, there are a few celebrities who I still love despite my best judgement. Also, some of these people are youtubers. I have no idea if they count as celebrities. Yes, I know I sound like a ridiculous teenager girl.

1. Kerry Washington: I can't help it; I'm sorry. I'm obsessed with Scandal and all the political activism work that she does for the Arts is too much for me. Also, she's the first African American female lead on network TV in something like 30 years.

2. Mariska Hargitay: Not only does she play a kickass detective on SVU, she makes it a point to stand up against sexual violence in the real world as well. She started the Joyful Heart Foundation which provides resources to victims of sexual assault.

3. John Green: Okay, i know that his books aren't the best works of literature out there, however, his videos are not only hilarious, but I would not have made it through AP US History without his help.

4. Shonda Rhimes: The Queen of groundbreaking television.

5. Laci Green: A sex-ed activist on the Internet, Laci has been one of my favorite Youtubers for many years now.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I'd Tell You I Miss You, But I Don't Know How

"Look for me in the people I've known and loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind."

In 2006, I started going to OSRUI. The first memory I have of camp is of Heather, my counselor, teaching me how to make friendship bracelets when I was missing home. I have no idea why it worked, however, I used that same tactic with my own campers this past summer. Heather was cheerful and loving, and I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to camp. One year later, on yet another first day of camp, I ran straight from my dad's SUV into her arms. The next year, however, I was met on the first day of camp with the news that she had cancer. Obviously, at the time, i was in 5th grade, so i didn't really know what that meant. Three years later, I got dropped off at my first youth group event. Heather greeted me like she hadn't just been through a round of chemo. Her smile was nurturing as she pushed me to have fun and make friends. Two years after that, our team, Chemosaurus Rex, was campaigning for Relay For Life. Physically, Heather wasn't doing so well, but she never let us see that. She just kept encouraging us to fundraise. A month and a half before our Relay, Heather passed away. I have never met someone as selfless as she was. This past summer, I got to be a counselor at OSRUI. There wasn't a day that went by when I didn't think of her. All I can hope is that I made her proud.

I don't remember when I met Oz. I started swimming at YWCA Flying Fish somewhere around age 5, so it was probably within those first one or two years. Initially, he pushed me harder than any other coach, so i dreaded my practices with him, but over time, my feelings about Oz changed. I started to learn to take risks because I always knew that no matter what, he would have my back. I let him push me off the diving blocks when I was scared. As much as he called me Emmy, which drove me crazy, i still can't help but think of him every time that I smell chlorine. i just wish I had gotten the chance to thank him before he died. From him, I learned to take risks.

I can truly say that without these two people, I do not know who I would be today.
May their memories be for a blessing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Why We Could All Use A Little More Liv in Our Lives: Benson and Pope and Why I Love Them

WARNING: TW Abuse/Sexual Assault, Spoilers regarding Scandal and SVU.

Quick Recap for those of you who aren't as TV obsessed as I am: Olivia Benson(Played by Mariska Hargitay), the lead character on NBC's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Olivia is a NYPD detective who investigates sex crimes--everything from acquaintance rape to pedophilia. Olivia Pope(Played by Kerry Washington), the lead character on ABC's Scandal. Liv is a Washington DC fixer. Her job, besides having a steamy love affair with the President(Played by Tony Goldwyn), is making her clients scandals disappear.

Both of these characters are caretakers. Their jobs are to make sure that other peoples' problems get solved. Both have a hard time taking time for themselves. Olivia Pope grew up with a mother that was supposedly dead and a father who was absent. Olivia Benson grew up being abused. When the Olivias have bad days, they don't immediately have someone to turn to. Not only do I strongly relate to this, but I think that too often we see television characters who appear perfect, and teenage girls desire to be them because they never fall apart. But these aforementioned characters are not human. Benson and Pope are. The audience sees them cry, screw up professionally and personally, and run their mouths when they shouldn't. I imagine that's why their fans care so much about them.

Both of these characters have demonstrated the great effects that abuse can have on a person. Pope was kidnapped, fearing for her life until a friend came and rescued her. She was beaten and demeaned. Benson was held in a room, tied to the bed with her own handcuffs as a man beat and raped her. Yet, both of these women portrayed strength. The shows did not skirt around the issue. We saw the blood and heard the screams. The flashbacks were painful for me and many others to watch. But it's important to see these things.

Olivia Benson was seeing a therapist for much of Season 15, and I can only hope that Pope gets the help she needs for her PTSD in the upcoming Season 5 of Scandal. For a long time, having to go to therapy was seen as making someone "broken" or "crazy," and watching a popular TV character go through this and get help reduces this horrible stigma.

But beyond all that, the Olivias have taught me that it's okay not to have your life together all the time. It's okay not to be okay. It's a phrase that is wiped from our minds because we have expectations on us. But we're all human. It's okay not to be okay.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

And It Feels Like Home

Over the last couple of days, I have spent my first high holidays away from my home synagogue. I'm not going to lie and say that it was easy, because it won't. I still longed to hear my Rabbi's voice and hang out with all of my friends. But this Rosh Hashanah was great in its own way. I got the chance to spend it with new friends in a community that welcomed me with open arms.

The wonderful thing about going to a school that is so Jewish is that even though I do miss home so do all of my friends, and we compensate for that pain by eating large amounts of meals together and laughing. Tonight, I sat between our Jewish chaplain and one of my friends and we spent the meal telling jokes about Jewish Mothers.

 I think we often forget to laugh during the Days of Awe. We forget that our years must be filled with joy as well as with meaning and introspection. We are so focused on our mistakes and asking forgiveness that we forget how important it is to savor each moment that we have with the communities that surround us.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Forgiveness. The Healing of the Soul. A chance for us to turn to ourselves and to those around us and heal the wounds we've caused. During the Days of Awe(The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), there is a strong emphasis placed on asking for forgiveness from others inner lives.

But just as we cannot love others until we love ourselves, we cannot help to heal others until we hear ourselves. We must forgive ourselves for all the things that we wish we had or hadn't done. We must forgive ourselves for making human mistakes. We must forgive ourselves for taking care of our own happiness over another human's. In order to survive in this maze of Life, we must learn to move forward instead of being stuck in the mud of the past. This is a New Year. We choose to nourish or diminish our souls. Let's choose to not beat ourselves up this year. let's accept ourselves and see where that takes us.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Blog Elul: Give

I love giving gifts. I always have, and I always will. I love sappily thinking about what my friends would want and going on a wild goose chase of the internet to find it. I love personalizing T-shirts and phone cases and mugs...You get the point.

Sometimes I emotionally give too much. I tend to pour out all my love into other people and not leave any for myself. I've got to fill myself sometime. This coming New Year, I am going to make a point to pour some love, not only into others but myself as well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Blog Elul: Bless

I never really connected with prayer until I was a senior in high school. I always loved the community nature of the services at synagogue and at camp, but I was never someone who would pray to God before I went to bed at night.

But then, I realized something: God is with me in every breath and every step. God isn't going anywhere. He can't decide He doesn't want to be friends with me anymore or get too busy for me. I can be angry with him, but He will still be there forgiving me with open arms.

I am blessed every time that the morning light streams into my room through the blinds I forgot to pull and every time that I successfully make it up the hill to class. I am blessed to have absolutely incredible role models and great friends. I am blessed to have my incredible camp that taught me how to be independent. I am blessed to be strong against most of the odds.

We all get dealt a hand of cards. We don't control which cards we get, and sometimes, those cards that were originally turned down, get flipped over at the most inopportune times. But we still get to choose which ones to play. We choose the person who we want to present to the world. God blesses us with the ability to do so. Even if your hand may seem like the worst one in the world, you choose the rules of the game. If you don't let the cards you've been dealt hold you back, they won't.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Blog Elul: Create

We create our meaning. We choose whether an experience means something us or not. We are the canvases that carry our own experiences on them. We may not get to choose what kind of material that we start out as, but we do get to go from there.  In David Foster Wallace's brilliant essay/speech, This is Water, he refers to the"default setting." The "default setting" is the waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic without thinking about our thoughts. Let me explain. I'm waiting in an airport security line, nervously checking my watch every 30 seconds to ensure we won't miss our flight. I want to scream at the five year old in front of me who is whining to his parents, and the young couple edging in front of me in line, but I don't. I imagine that the five year old is just as tired and hungry as I am and that the couple is on their way to their honeymoon and their flight leaves before mine. These things may not be true. But I create these stories in my head to not only calm myself down but to lift my anxious mind out of it's self obsessed "default setting." I'm creating meaning in things that would normally make me angry. 

When we create art, we are making visual meaning of intangible emotions. How does one express the true nature of heartbreak without lovesick poetry? How does one express their jubilation without drawing with bright colored pencils? The lyrics of a song can tell you 10x more about a person than 1000 conversations. Especially during adolescent, people need an outlet to healthily make sense of their emotions. The so called "quality" of the art does not matter. If the emotion is there, the art is meaningful. 
And so we create.

To breathe easy.
To sleep.
And to find closure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Blog Elul: Intend

I of all people know that those with the best intentions can end up with consequences they didn't expect. We always mean to help the people we care about, but sometimes, we can overstep our boundaries in doing so. We may think that we are superheroes, and even so, superheroes make mistakes. Nobody has to be strong all of the time. Of course, none of us intend for bad things to happen to us or others.

But all we can control is ourselves. People have come and go in my life, and I know that it's just a part of growing up. I intended to keep the friends that I had in middle school with me for my whole life, but betrayal and drama stepped in and I started over, much as we are commanded to do this Rosh Hashanah. There is always room for more good intentions and more good people in one's life.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Blog Elul: Hope

Hope. What Pandora left in her jar. What we swear to have when a tragedy hits.

Hope and Faith go hand in hand because as much as we do try, we cannot control the future. Bad things will happen, and instead of allowing them to break us, we need to hold strong. We need to convince ourselves, no matter how hard it will be, that we will win the next fight. Even when it feels like you don't want to get out of bed in the morning, we have to have hope. And if you cannot have hope for yourself because you are stuck so deep down in the valley of darkness, I will have hope for you. I will hope that someday soon, you will see the light again. You just can't stop fighting. I know the pain of a forever uphill battle. You may feel broken, but nobody dies with all of their pieces put together. People may seem to have their lives together, but I'll let you in on a little secret; A lot of the time they're just pretending. We just have to hope that each day we will find a piece of ourselves to add to our collections. And after all, broken crayons still color just as well.

Why I Miss My Synagogue

Last night, I participated in a shabbat morning service that took place in the library at a Jewish Day School. I was on my school's Hillel retreat. The service combined three different traditions even though it was advertised as a Liberal service. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pluralistic services. They allow us to learn more about each other. However, I couldn't help feel a pang of missing home.

My rabbi liked to say that I lived at our temple. This is not entirely untrue. From the age of 5 through my high school graduation weekend, I was consistently involved at Beth Emet. For a lot of this time, it was the most stable thing in my life. I went through different friend groups and grew up, but I always knew that I could come home to Beth Emet. When I think of each room in that building, thousands of wonderful memories flood my mind. In the synagogue, we had Purim shpiels and song sessions. In the basement, we played Hide and Go Seek and made menorahs. In the kitchen, we made chili all night and decorated cookies. Even the hallways illicit joyful memories of playing flashlight tag during Lock Ins. Our confirmation trip, all be it filled with delayed flights and miserable weather, was one of the most influential weekends of my life.

The people are what made my experience so special. The clergy helped me through everything. I have seen an Associate Rabbi become a Senior Rabbi; I have seen 5 Youth Programs Directors; I have learned from 3 Cantors. My group of friends are a lot more like family. We have thousands of inside jokes, some of which I don't even remember the origins of. We have laughed together, cried together and prayed together. I couldn't miss them more. While I may not be at Beth Emet this high holiday season, a piece of my heart will be hiding on the couches outside the elevator upstairs or collecting food at Yom Kippur, just so they won't forget me.

Shana Tov to all of you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Blog Elul: Begin

These past few weeks have been filled with beginnings. A new city. A new place. living with new people. Having consistent internet that doesn't cut out every five minutes. New teachers. New hilly area and therefore, new calf muscles. Each year at Rosh Hashanah, we get the opportunity to begin again. To have our slates wiped clean. To start anew. But that new beginning is coming a little bit late this year because I'm already through with orientation. However, I am beginning to feel comfortable here. I have incredible friends and a routine. It's important to spend some time thinking about the past even during new beginnings. The slate can never fully be wiped clean. Our pasts inform our future. So we'd better be ready.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Blog Elul: End

I have forever said that I am terrible at endings. Havdallah makes me emotional, I hate closing activities with a vengeance, and I dread New Year's Eve. These moments, they just feel so final, so limiting despite the fact that some things do have to end. I had to say good-bye to three sets of campers and my fellow counselors. Summer has to end so that fall can start and my dorm room can remain a bearable temperature(Also, yay New England fall!). I had to say good-bye to those at home when I left for college. But with each ending, comes a new beginning. New experiences teach us about ourselves, and most of all, they show us how much people can truly mean.   While I truly despise saying good-bye to those who I love, I know that they live with me in my soul. What's that line from Wicked again. Oh right "because I knew you, I have been changed for good." And it's never truly good-bye. It's always just see you later.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Microexpressions and Politics

I am obsessed with the television show Lie To Me. If you haven't heard of it, here's a quick summary: It's about a scientist and a psychologist who use the reading of micro expressions to solve various cases.What is a micro expression? There are 44 muscles in the human face. They come together to form thousands of emotions. However, there are really only eight that need to be watched for: shame, disgust, contempt, happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, and fear. These emotions are reflected on the face by the "reptilian brain," the more primitive and instinctive part of our brains, for less than 1/2 a second. Even if you are attempting to hide an emotion, your face can betray you.

With this information, I decided to do an experiment. We are coming up on primary elections and eventually, next November, we will elect someone to be the president of the United States. These candidates have debates with audiences. This is what I'm doing: I am watching each debate and taking notes on the expressions I notice and when I notice them. I am attempting to use this to predict who will come out on top. Let me stress this: I am trying to prevent my political biases from getting in the way of this experiment. This is science, not politics. Ideally, after two or three debates, I will make a post with my notes on micro expressions and my interpretations of such.

Welcome to Unapologetic Enthusiasm!

I can't study all of the things that I want to study. it's just a fact of life. There is not enough time in the world to analyze the psychology of Grey's Anatomy, question the existence of free will, and examine the prevalence of heteronormativity in high schools. Here is the place where I will write about all of those things and more. I can't promise that this will have any structure topics wise, but my goal is to post twice a week unless I get too busy in which case I will drop my posts down to once a week.