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Catching Up with Jewish News & More!

Did you remember to say ‘rabbit rabbit rabbit’ this morning? First of the month.. it means good luck! In other news… even tho I woke up and said that, my throat is a little scratchy, and I’m not feeling so hot. Not a good week to be feeling this way with super long rehearsals the next 3 nights. Oy vey.

First things first, weekend notes:

-I had this crazy-insane burst of energy where I was able to throw myself into getting a lot of work done for the entire weekend almost non-stop.
-Early Sat/Sun/Mon mornings: I had some crazy, crazy, crazy dreams where I actually woke up and said to myself, “That was every bit of something crazy,” and then, I went back to sleep.
-I am ecstatic that I got to listen to my shows–the ones that I’ve been listening to since I was 12 years old–LIVE via a radio (yes, one that still has a cassette player, thankyouverymuch) on NPR this weekend instead of via podcast or a later listen…can I get a hallelujah?
-Found a rainbow colored planner for Aug 2019 thru 2020 that says “organized chaos” … yep… saw it, loved it, bought it, so totes Ahava.

WRITING UPDATE
This is very big news: I am half way through reading Anne Frank’s compilation of her short fiction/non-fiction stories, and you won’t believe what happened….. so in one of her fiction stories she writes about meeting a famous movie star family in Hollywood, staying with, and becoming good friends with the family. In 2016/17, I started writing a novel with Anne Frank being an important part of it. Well, I stopped writing on it, because I got to the difficult part where I didn’t know–even though it is fiction–if I wanted to save her and mess with history or let history be. It’s bothered me this whole time, and I haven’t been able to go back to it. Well, while reading that chapter in her book, she–herself–gave me an idea (even though, parts of the question still remain) and I feel like… finally, maybe… I can finish the story by the end of the year…. and it will in thanks to her, as she was the one who gave me the answer I was looking for. Funny how things happen if you leave them alone for a while.. suddenly, at the right timing, the answers there.

WEBSITE UPDATE
Some time in August I will be revamping this website to be specific to what my future branding will look like as JewishMaeby. Updating everything–and hopefully opening a store (even tho it’ll be very small at the beginning). I’m obviously going to continue writing, but I need to figure out how to separate these blog entries (‘dear diary’) vs. important other events to do with Judaism, my journey, holidays, book reviews. The biggest part that I want to promo will be my mitzvah projects. I want to do/be a part of and promo at least 10 before the end of 2019, and get 25 on my map for 2020. This is something my future Jewish group will be doing as well….once I find the time to start that.

CATCHING UP ON JEWISH EMAILS

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience has officially moved to NOLA, and will be opening in 2020. I will make it a goal–that no matter what–I will make it to visit this museum sometime in 2020. You can read about their move HERE.

Everyone’s talking about Toy Story 4. HERE (Kveller) you can find what’s Jewish about Toy Story. I don’t know if I’m going to go to see it, I mean, I haven’t been to the movies in so many years… but again, TS3 broke my heart beyond repair. So there’s that.

Quote by Gal Gadot – “It’s just who I am. I believe that we have no place to hide or lie.”

One of the daily questions from Aish.com (over the weekend) was: What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you? Very good question. Think about it….then go ahead and pretend no one is judging you…. become your authentic self. Everyone that loves you deserves to see all of you. Yes, you’d become very vulnerable at that point—but is it really worth it to hide? Life’s so short.

Email from JewBelong.com… I knew about this was from a while ago… but very, very disappointed to see that DC Dyke March banned Jewish people from displaying Israeli Pride flags. That’s such an antisemite move.

I’m happy to see that the Tampa Jewish Federation has changed their name, and they’re adding educational type classes to their list. Yes, they’re already on my calendar.

The Forward brought up how Spike Lee talks about Jews in his movie Do the Right Thing. I loved that movie. It is very, very controversial. Very life changing, if you get a group together to discuss the underlying tones. Very poetic. Deep. The one instance that changed me is that they mention the weather being hot but it’s kind of in context to something else, like the heat is another word for something bad is about to happen. I really need to re-read this article they just wrote.

I love this Jewish Convert story. Please read if you have time. It’s by someone that writes articles on HeyAlma.com… one of my favorite newsletters.

Rabbis to follow on Twitter. (Left here for me, mostly.)

Okay I guess that’s all for now…. I’m no where near caught up, but maybe you are? I highly doubt I’ll be writing the rest of the week until my weekly Shabbat entry. Have a wonderful week, y’all.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

[Shabbat Edition 013]

Oooh lucky # 13. SHABBAT SHALOM Y’ALL. Happy Friday! I’ve been waiting–tapping fingers and all–for this day to arrive and here it is!

I came across this quote online yesterday. It’s very important and relevant to my life right now: You’re not stuck. You’re just committed to certain patterns of behavior because they helped you in the past. Now those behaviors have become more harmful than helpful. The reason why you can’t move forward is because you keep applying an old formula to a new level in your life. Change the formula to get a different result.”

A small synopsis

Life is all about the SOAs right now. Rehearsals have been every night for a few hours (except for tonight) but I still have work to do at the theatre once I’m done with work-work….so there’s that, then organizing who is going to take on / bring off what items during the show.

I haven’t been able to catch up with the Jewish world much at all — you know — all those 5,000 email newsletters I receive but I really hope I can settle in this weekend and catch up. I feel very left out.

On my very short lunch yesterday, I went through all of the events and things I have planned for next year….between Jewish Holidays and theatre stuff, I am almost completely booked up for all of 5780/2020. Oy vey. I know I’ve dropped a few things this year, but why do I love doing so much?!? There’s nothing else left to give up if need be! We’ll see what happens when it happens…

I’ve also decided–that once the SOAs are over–I will be taking the month of August to do multiple things, but one of the most important ones: gathering & finalizing my completed short 10-15 minute plays, looking them over for changes, and sending them out to places… It’s time. I’m sitting around watching everyone else do this and actually win or get chosen and I have done nothing to help myself. I call myself a writer for goodness sake, and I am in no where land right now. Time to get the ball rolling in my court for once. I think I am good enough to get picked or win something. Maybe?

Lessons Learned

Patience. Maybe it’s worth it… it seems worth it after what’s happened the last couple of weeks.

Everything still happens for a reason. Timing is absolutely everything.

Letting go of negative people and situations (no matter how much they may mean to us at the time or how long they’ve been in our lives) is the best solution to help one live their best life… I definitely know this is true.

What I have started or thought about is no accident… whether something doesn’t happen for a while like I wanted to at the time, it will happen later. This has happened with several avenues of my life. It’s amazing and crazy at the same time.

Events/Special Moments

I was going to say there hasn’t been, but this is pretty significant…. after a year and half, I broke my tradition of matzo ball soup and got nova nachos….which is another big thing: trying nova for the very first time.

I’m still looking back a few weeks on how special working Next Fall was, and my moment of conversion. And, Pride Shabbat was extra special too.

What am I looking forward to this week?

Apparently I have this weekend off, my plans (controlled by others) were completely cancelled. Good, now I can be lazy about and not do anything….because after this weekend, I’ll be going 21 days non stop and will lose 3 weekends.

Finishing up the rehearsals next week and packing everything to go to the CH for tech/hell week then performances.

I guess if 4th of the July is coming up soon, I might be walking in the small GP parade again? Last year I was a Pirate. Not sure what they have in mind this year.

Catching up on reading, writing my story, cleaning, organizing, and catching up on anything I may need to….

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

Thoughts & Things: Some Jewish & Some Not

This is going to be a very random bloggy post considering my brain is so full I need to dump it somewhere and I haven’t really been able to write in ages.

First things first: I need some jazz in my life. Like, pronto. Like, live jazz… like jazz that can be processed in through my ears/mind and immediately take over the core of my body all the way down that I can feel it deep within my soul… I need that. Story: When I was working Next Fall, they were playing all kinds of music backstage, and I asked them to play jazz (they chose blues, really), and the first song that came on was the song that belongs to Momma (h/s teacher friend) and I — Frank Sinatra’s My Way. That’s our song. How fitting it came on first. Of course, I had to text her and tell her. But anyway, wish I could find more Jewish Jazz. I know about Paul Shapiro – I love his “To Life” song and I’ve posted about it before. It’s just not enough.

My life is solely revolving around the Summer One Acts right now. I only have a few final things to tend to for finalization of props, then I get to work on moving props/furniture and sit on book for the remainder of rehearsals….Once I know we’re settled on show order, then I need to assign jobs for the CH. A few more weeks, then it’s over. Must remember to stay in the moment and enjoy all of the new people I have met. Next week we have 3 rehearsals at our home, then we move that weekend, do two weekend performances (7/11 – 7/21), then the whole theater will take a break until September (with the exception of our private awards ceremony sometime in August). Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a break after shoving so much into the past couple of weeks.

I have so much to celebrate (mostly my new life / conversion), and I haven’t been able to do it yet…I purposely put it off because I didn’t want to get too involved/distracted in celebrating when I still have lots of work to do. I have to balance myself and stay humble. I was thinking about birthday plans how I might start celebrating Christmas in July Eve / Day (July 24) – maybe a private thing in remembrance of another father-figure of mine from the boating industry–Joe–who died a few years ago on Christmas in July (and I have a story/poem that came out of literally feeling his death at the moment it happened)... and continuing a celebration until the weekend after my birthday (8/1). I have to celebrate: my conversion, all the new things already, the plays, 3 years with GCP (4th SOA), a toast to the future, and so much more… !!! I have a few places picked out of where I’d like go meet up with friends: definitely a repeat of the same 3 things I did last year, go to John’s Pass, sunsets every night, get my ears pierced twice or nose repierced, kiss an alligator again (and possibly adopt one), adopt more hermit crabs, bar meetup, get a Cafe con Leche (since I haven’t had my favorite coffee in over a year), attend Shabbat, do more than one thing Jewish (OY!), catch up with friends I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, do a few good deeds, live out my favorite Katy song (#iwish), and I would really like to go and see a Burlesque show (don’t judge).

I sat down last night to write a little on my conversion story. I’m wanting to write an overall summary of the bits & pieces up until then, something I can turn into the Jewish paper here….but I am having a hard time sitting down and doing it though… just thinking about how all of the signs were clearly there the whole time, then I get really emotional, distracted on having to tame those feelings, and then it’s already time for bed. I need to do this while it’s still fresh. I would really like to share my story. It’s also hard to write an outline when it’s going to be an entire novel. That’s next.

After getting on Facebook and seeing all of the Pride pictures from friends, I’m actually really sad about not having attended. That heat, though. It’s really affecting me worse this year than it ever has.. heat used to be my friend. I know there’s a “Come Out” St Pete Pride in October along with a film festival in Tampa, so I will be very ready to do that.

Another funny thing that happened…..so I went on a whim and got my hair cut on 6/24. I woke up like, “I hate my hair. I need a change. I’m so very bored. Let’s just go cut everything off.” (Cool side note: found out (accidentally) that my hairdresser is Jewish. He asked, “You plan on coloring your hair tonight, right?” UGH NO. You mean I have to color it again? I just did it weeks ago! 3 boxes of bleach! I told him before I colored it, I was trying to grow out the natural color for my conversion but didn’t work out that way. That’s when he mentioned he’s Jewish, and he asked me what made me convert.etc.) Anyway, so yesterday I hop on Facebook memories for a minute, and I see that on 6/25/18 one of our directors for the SOAs last year had cancelled the last rehearsal… and I went to get my hair chopped off. Seriously self? I had to laugh. I don’t do things in patterns. I try NOT to! I do things on whims, on random. BUT ALMOST THE SAME EXACT DAY A YEAR LATER I JUST WOKE UP LIKE I HATE MY HAIR, NEED TO CHOP IT OFF? I had no idea, I don’t keep up with things like that! I just find it crazy. I’m supposed to do things randomly, not in sync! OY VEY. Maybe I need to write a song about this. Seems crazy.

I tried nova for the first time yesterday… and on nachos for Taco Tuesday. It’s my new favorite thing. I can’t believe I broke tradition after 1.5 years. What happened?

I’ve been thinking more and more about my goals and I have a few I really want to accomplish before the end of the year. Of course, I have some private goals of stuff I need to take care of that I won’t be mentioning here, but here’s some other plans…

-Working on my Jewish art + turning profit. I want to be able to test out the market, so that I could maybe set up a tent at the Jewish food festival next year.
-Publish short version of conversion story to Jewish magazines.
-Finish the full novel about my journey thus far to conversion and publish it.
-Have next year’s schedule planned out. If I’m following the Jewish New Year, then that won’t be so bad….but I’m committing to so many things, I need to know ahead of time when to say no to new projects.
-I’ve been discussing some ideas with close friends on a “Jewish-based group” that I started making plans for in December, but it wasn’t the the perfect opportunity to do it at that point. I feel like now (very soon) is the time, or maybe starting in late summer, so now I need to go back to the old proposal and revamp it.
-Figure out what’s going on with my other group.
-Fix my websites.
-Update everything that needs updated. (Which is so very much.)
-Start my own biz again to make extra money.
-Start making a difference.
-& so maaaaannnnnnny moreeeeee!

I’m not quite sure what’s happening
but the tides are changing
and the wind has captured the sail
pushing it in a different direction.
What is in a name, Ahava?
Love, unconditional love?
Did I fall in line with my journey
to find and embrace my beshert?

I’m not sure that I want to question it.
Some things are better left unsaid.
Actions speak louder than words,
but what I would give for an embrace, a hug.
Gleaming with happiness last Shabbat
I wore my Pride kippah for the first time
:
Proud to be Jewish, and one day, a coming out.
I lead a colorful & glittery life.

I am Proud of everything
I am becoming in the name of Ahava.
I found the light, and now: the love
in the ultimate wholeness of life.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

Pride Shabbat Weekend

I didn’t do a specific Shabbat entry on Friday due to coming right off 3 weeks of nothing but working performances of Next Fall (there’s already an entire entry dedicated to that), then going straight into working rehearsals for Summer One Acts. That means: I have not been able to do anything else. Can’t report on something that didn’t happen!

Friday I went to our Pride Shabbat. I was decked out in color and glitter, sat with my friend from my Jewish class to support to him as he read “Blessing for Pride” out loud in front of everyone. I wore last year’s kippah in celebration for both ONE YEAR at CBI and being able to wearing the first kippah I’ve received after becoming a Jew. This was also the first service I attended after my conversion. My friend (who also celebrated his one year at Pride Shabbat) asked, “Why are you wearing last years???” Ha. I told him the above, but I did grab a new one. I guess next year I’ll be caught up with the times and wear the one they’ll provide. It was just extra special for me to wear my first this year!

What a beautiful Shabbat service. We had both our Rabbi, some others that recited work, and then a Rabbi from Bradenton that spoke. His speech was beautiful and deep, and he spoke the actual true meaning of Pride (Stonewall)….of which I still have a lot to learn on this after being new to the LGBTQ world…. One thing I admire about him and would like to talk to him more is that he worked with Keshet, and I love that LGBTQ-Jewish specific organization so much… and would love to work with them one day. We read a prayer that was originally from Los Angeles Pride Parade. We recited every other paragraph and it was very emotional for me, especially when it came time to read “Prayer for the End of Hiding” with the speaker who led us to read. Both of those prayers can be found on my Instagram. I suggest you print them out or something, and tuck them closely to your heart.

Ever since that first day of finding light in Judaism in Dec 2017, I’ve been pretty loud and proud about my desire to become Jewish, and that’s not going to end now that I am Jewish. It was through my journey of becoming Jewish that I found out that I’m closer to the LGBTQ world than I thought. Back in school–many moons ago–an incident came up, I was questioned, and then I was very much put down, laughed at/talked down to in negativity and etc. I hid more than half my identity all throughout the years and lost myself deeply in the meantime. Meaning, I couldn’t be the true self that G-d placed me on this Earth to find and be. (Even though: I watched/lived/breathed Rent religiously, followed Lady Gaga when she spoke about the community, her major speech about the don’t ask don’t tell movement and Born This Way, falling in love with the song by Katy Perry “I Kissed a Girl”… and owning that t-shirt–from when I worked at Rue21 in 2008, the year it came out–is still my favorite, etc.) I have about 30 years to make up for my hiding. It wasn’t until I started working with the theatre, that it opened up another part of my soul, and through words of plays, characters, and writing (myself)… that I really began discovering me, then specifics to my journey to becoming Jewish helped with the rest. I am in the best place I’ve ever been, and people are really beginning to see the colorful and glittery girl that G-d intended me to be. I am going to be as loud and proud as possible of everything that I am… as AHAVA<3!

One day–and I hope soon–that I can be well on my way to help those that a) are Jewish but haven’t practiced it in a while or dropped it–find it again, b) find those Jewish souls who haven’t converted yet, and c) help those who are hiding come out and be proud…I just want to make a difference in the world, and in others lives.

I talked to a friend on the phone last night and she said, “You have already gone through so many changes this year…. and it’s not even half way through.. changes for like 20-something people!” Ha. I live a fast life. I love it. Wouldn’t trade the fast for anything. Even though, I wish my memory wasn’t getting so bad… but alas, I guess when: every day feels like one week and every week feels like one month… it’s bound to happen?

Now that I am about a week and half away from the day I converted….there are a few things I have considerably thought of the last few days of stuff that is changing, something I didn’t really have an answer to last week:

-the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that… I have had no problem blurting out what I think and without apologies. I used to sugar coat everything, but the last week and half, I haven’t been.

-decisions are being made more wholly (it that even the right spelling????), and I don’t spend that much time making up my mind anymore (on some things, still working on this a bit!)

-if it isn’t somewhat Jewish-related, bringing some sort of light, or happiness to my life… it’s going going gone. I’m working on that one day at a time. That’s the best I can do right now!

-I’m asking myself more questions like: what is truly close to your heart that you want to do–not because you feel you have to, but want to–and what is the right thing for you to do at this moment? (That has to do with extra activities.)

-Is this healthy for you and your future? (This goes for absolutely everything, including what I read, listen to, and do.)

As Ahava, I feel so much more whole that I have ever had in my entire life. It has always been my policy to believe that there is everything to a name, and boy is that true, I feel it within every letter… even in Hebrew. In the next few weeks, maybe next month (since my time is sold to the SOAs right now), there will be a thousand more changes coming to my life. I am excited!

By the way, I’m not writing about how amazing Pride was… because I didn’t end up going. After Pride Shabbat, I went downtown, and that heat (even at 10pm to midnight) just about killed me. Saturday I walked outside, and right back in, and Sunday the same thing… so I did miss everything even though I wanted to go so badly… I just didn’t want to have another heat stroke again. I had a pretty bad one last year. And that was really scary. But alas, I literally slept all weekend… and caught up on not having slept but more than 4 hours every night for the last month. It was one of those Jewish questions I asked myself: do I go play and risk my health, or do I stay in and catch up on sleep knowing that I will not be able to get extended sleep for the next month once again? Sleep it is! I also put all of my new Jewish books on my bookshelf, cleaned some trash up, prepped some stuff for the upcoming yard sale, and so on. I think it was a decent weekend.

Until next time, much love,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

PS – In 2003 & 2008, I went to Philadelphia. Both times I fell in love with the “LOVE” statue that is in Love Park, and it instantly became my favorite thing from there. Who knew years later, it’d have even more meaning to me and my life.

Second note for the day…

Ahava means love in Hebrew.

But apparently it also means “water” or “river” in specifics to the Bible.

Not only that, but as notorious as I am about writing things down, I found in my iPhone notes this…

3/6/19: I had a dream about seahorse hatching. (I wish I wrote specifics about this, but that’s all I wrote.)

3 months, six days later… I went through my conversion.

Maybe the seahorse hatching is a better analogy than the hermit crab one I gave in my private note of what happened in the water.

From Google: The seahorse is a luck of good fortune/charm an attribute of the sea, the seahorse is considered to be a symbol of strength and power.

#HolySnap #ThisIsCrazy #WhatIsHappening

Remembrance of one year on 6/19.

Yesterday was kind of a sad day: I woke up feeling the rain in my soul, then I thought about my 2nd dad, Larry Noe. As always, my strong intuition told me to look up his obituary because I couldn’t remember when he passed away last year… and boom.

It was 6/19. Yesterday.

Larry gave me so much when he allowed my parents and I to stay on his houseboat during the summers for so many years throughout my middle school / early high school days. At Lee’s Ford Marina, we’d have this “made up” holiday (that is now finally being celebrated in the boating industry) called “Christmas in July.” It’s where you decorate your boat with lights, find a Santa, have major cookouts then wait until dark when there’s a parade and a contest to see who wins best decorated boat. Basically, this is exactly what we really get to do in December in Florida.

I have favorite stories from those days. I wrote a lot while on the boat. I once wrote a really long novel (don’t remember what it was about) and I was almost finished with it, then I went into a brand new year at school, and ended up with a teacher who discouraged my writing… so I tore up every inch of that full notebook, and any of my work from those days. Writing has always been a struggle with me: I’m ultra sensitive when it comes to it, one wrong word out of someone and I’m done. I was born a writer. I was born to be a writer. It’s literally been an inner struggle all of my life to keep going despite being kicked. But I digress….

I slept in the middle of the houseboat, on the top bunk, and I would have my personal CD player tuned to Mozart (yes, I’m a nerd), and I’d look out of the window hatch and see the reflection of the moonlight, the stars, life. I prayed to G-d a lot, then. Probably for everything that I have worked towards having today, honestly. I knew there was a better life out there for me. More than I had when growing up, and well into my 20s. Around the houseboat days, I’m pretty sure, is when I really started reading Anne Frank. I think.

There were a lot more to be had than just parties on the boat. We talked. We laughed. We ate loads of beer cheese. We went out fishing, and even bunked together with another boat out in a cove.

My favorite memory would be when he was dating our friend. Both of them–together–it was just hilarious, absolutely hilarious. We didn’t stop laughing. Larry was definitely known for his crazy humor. I miss that the most.

After I left the state, like almost everyone else, we parted ways for a while then we connected on Facebook and he always commented on something of mine. We were supposed to get together when he was making a trip to Florida, but never got to. He went through (I think) 3 or 4 rounds of cancer and beat it up until the end. A very strong guy.

Needless to say, I really miss my 2nd dad. At least I have the memories to thank him for, as well as a love for the water, and a peacefulness of finding G-d in the beauty of… the days where my soul began finding itself within the sunsets and the tiny moments of life.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

[Next Fall] Everything happens for a reason.

….I will always believe in that.….Especially after these last 3 weeks.

HI MY DEAREST READERS! I am finally back (sort of) to tell why I went missing for almost a whole 3 weeks.

The play “Next Fall” that I wasn’t supposed to work–but ended up working–ended today, Sunday 6/16. I am actually home BEFORE 11p/midnight for the first time in 3 weeks. What an exhausting (in a good way) and intense show this was, but the most memorable and overall spiritually the best of all the many shows I’ve worked in the last 3 years. I’m going to try my best to recount my steps. I wrote down notes at the beginning but then life took over and haven’t written anything since.

In the beginning, the Universe works out in mysterious ways….

Ever since BNC ended last year in March, I was asked by the same director if I was going to work his next show. (No, I was doing too much at that time.) He left for a while, then I took a break, then he came back, and I was still gone… but I was available to help with auditions. He asked again, and no was still the answer, because I was organizing the SOAs, and rehearsals coincided with the performances. Well, guess what? It just so happens that the Universe threw a wrench into the whole plan and I ended up ASMing “Next Fall” with him after all, and it was okay that I miss SOAs first week’s readings.

The first week of three: Since I joined very late to the game, the first week was spent trying to gather/study notes, watch the play and figure out all my responsibilities. That first week’s weekend we moved the set to the CH. The second week we went into “hell week” where we practiced all week until Wednesday and had 6 performances in 5 days. (After the first performance, our director made some major changes to the order of the play, and it ended up working out for the better.) The third week was our final week, with the first 3 days we usually have off, I was at the other location in rehearsals for the SOAs.

In case you’re wondering…. “Next Fall” is an lgbtq-related play that talks a lot about religion and the couple’s relationship in line with that over 5 years. (I found two good synopsis online: synopsis and synopsis2). We had a pretty big ad in the local Jewish paper here, too. This was also the very first play we’ve put on for Pride, and probably in this area… so cheers to a lot of firsts we’re doing! So very proud of my group for doing this.

So, let’s get Jewish, maybe? There’s a lot of Jewish-related lines and moments in this play. Part of the play takes place in a Jewish hospital. One of the characters is Jewish. We had screens in the back of wall for each scene: in the church scene, we had a beautiful Star of David showing. We also had a few kippahs as props… and today as we were loading everything up to take it back to our home, our prez said, “what are we going to do with all of these? Someone needs to write a Jewish play!” ON IT!

The moment I’ve been waiting for a really long time.

So, here I am in the middle of working a semi-religious play with so much depth straight into the Universe, and on that Friday of the 2nd week, the first week of performances, I get a text message from my Rabbi and also another classmate…. with the question of “do you want to do your conversion next week?”

UH YES! YES! YES! YES!

“Well, when?”

“You guys pick the date. I’ll be there.”

June 12th.

Now, when I’m this deeply involved in a play (especially one at this intensity), I go severely missing. You don’t hear from me or see me until it’s over. I even dropped off the face of the social media planet. So that is what happened. However, I was seeing: work, Next Fall and SOA family… and those were the only folks I was talking to, ONLY because I saw them daily.

I was at work when I got those text messages. When they texted me back the date, I started crying so hard. The guys at work turned around and stared. I could barely get out the words that I was going to have my conversion ceremony the following week. They were super supportive and started singing Hava Nagila. (Side note: they haven’t stopped singing this yet.)

Something else that happened: I took a look at the date, June 12th, and I felt something about that date. Something inside told me to look it up. I did. It was Anne Frank’s 90th birthday. HOLY SMOKES. Was I really going to be converted on Anne Frank’s Birthday? Was that some sort of sign? I found out about the Holocaust from reading her diary, it had always had an impact on me, and I felt such a connection with her. Even today, I feel the need to help keep the Holocaust stories alive. I just couldn’t believe it when I saw the date, her birthday, and my connection with writing and the Holocaust. Not only that, but I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before… my birthday was her very last diary entry and my parent’s anniversary was the date that they went into hiding. That’s some spooky meant to be stuff right there, don’t you think?!

Also, my classmate was texting me “You have to find a Hebrew name!” I’m texting the Rabbi saying, “WHAT? I HAVE TO FIND A HEBREW NAME?” Then he’s like, “Don’t worry, we’ll find one together. Let’s talk.” Soooooo… I ended up going through the entire Jewish baby name dictionary and since there’s NOT a name for “GLITTER” … I chose Ahava. It means love. I love too much sometimes, I do think love is the best gift in the world, and I always write “love always, Karen Maeby” on almost everything… sooo.. in retrospect, my Hebrew name has practically been there the whole time, just in English. So that’s how I picked my name.

On Friday: I left work for NF performance and I told a few people there… and that turned into telling more than I liked to, but I just couldn’t hold it inside. It was too much of exciting news, but I also didn’t want to jinx it.

That same weekend was Shavuot, so I brought cheesecake, and we ate it during our second Saturday show’s intermission. I left a note there of why I had brought it, and they really appreciated it, and started asking me questions about my journey.

Sunday was NF performance, then Monday & Tuesday I was in rehearsal for SOAs.

Wednesday 6/12 was the big day.

I get to CBI, and there my Rabbi was… filling out papers with my Hebrew name, Ahava. Let me tell you something, it wasn’t even close to being time to immerse in the water yet, and I was already tearing up with just seeing my name on the papers. Soon after, my classmate arrived, and then we went before the Beit Din (separately, of course) and asked questions. Then it was time to go to nature’s mikvah out in Ft Desoto.

It was time. I was already emotional as I got into the water, had a little bit of an almost panic attack (considering I can’t swim) but I made it to the water being reasonably high. We dunked 3 times each. Spent a moment collecting ourselves in the water. (I have something written out from what I felt in those maybe less than 10 minutes in the water, but it’s almost too personal for me to put on here. I’m not sure if I’m ready to share that part of my soul yet.) Then we walked back to shore to do our prayers.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t believe it.

I still can’t believe it as I am writing this out a few days later.

I am still so emotional over my chance at becoming Jewish, and becoming Jewish a few weeks earlier than planned. I am just over the moon. (Side note: I was in painting mode last year around June. I remember painting a bunch of “love” pictures with rainbows and saying to myself “I wish I had a June birthday”…and in my Jewish life, I do now.)

After we left Ft Desoto, we left to eat at Meze119. (This was already planned by my classmate, otherwise, I would’ve been at my third home in a heartbeat. That’s where I felt my celebration should’ve been…but I digress….)

I went to rehearsal that evening, and everyone congratulated me.

On Thursday, I was back at the other place for Next Fall’s final week of performances… and everyone was giving me hugs and congratulating me and just so much support. They even gave me a card with “Ahava” on it … and I cried. Yep. Buckets. I cry so much when I see my Jewish name. It has more meaning to me than my real name or the second half of my stage name that I came up with. It’s just… crazy. It’s like my heart is taken to another planet or something when I see “Ahava” and they’re talking about me.

Over the rest of the week of performances, there were still many more congrats and etc. We had our cast party in between both of our shows on Saturday 6/15 (wow, what a long day that was, maybe 14 hours or something). We had Chinese food, so much wine, cake. They gave us backstage people gifts or cards like they always do… my card’s envelope had “Karen / Ahava” and I didn’t even want to open it because I was very emotional from just seeing… Ahava once again.

AT THE CAST PARTY….. I did a thing. I had notecards of about 15 different questions to ask the cast about the play. Since we were a group that was already discussing some points in depth, I decided to make it a game, and I was not disappointed. I am just so happy I got to do this! I’ve waited 3 years and a ton of plays to do something like this! The questions are kind of spoilers so I can’t write them here, but basically, there’s a whole lot of philosophical thoughts, metaphors and the like where everything ties in together for the whole story and I wanted to hear everyone’s answers.

My favorite line of the whole thing is the most poetic, one of the characters says something along the lines of, “….my body may not be fat, but my soul is….”

I get that. So very much do I get that! And, just a few words… can speak volumes.

What an emotional rollercoaster these last 3 weeks have been. I cannot believe that I was working a play that discussed religion–one I wasn’t really supposed to even be working–during Pride month (also while working the SOAs–my favorite show) and close to celebrating 3 years with my theatre group….and becoming Jewish. Wow. Wow. Wow. I am so speechless. Theatre. Writing. And Jewishness…. THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS….!!!!!!!

Fun Facts … about working Next Fall:

-This was my first time working a show with this many scene changes, getting to practically be a part of the play (even while being backstage) AND we even got to take a bow like the rest of the cast!

-This was the first time we ever played loud music in the greenroom as everyones getting ready. Usually, everyone wants silence.

-This is the first time we did shots of Cinnamon Whiskey. Three.. nights..in a .. row… now I’m addicted!

-This is the first play of 3 years worth of plays that I was able to sit down and have a true discussion with the cast about the depth of the play.

-We have a new backstage person, and she is wonderful. She’s practically my new backstage bfffff, and we connected since day one. I really hope I get to work with her again. Even if not, we’ve got plans to hang out in the future.

-On the set bookcases they had a Jewish book that I have at home. My eyes lit up when I saw that. They later added a book about Harvey Milk… and I actually got to take that home with me! Yay!

I’m sure there’s more that I’m forgetting…. but this has practically been my last 3 weeks. It has been the best last 3 weeks I’ve had in such a long time.

Now that I’m Jewish….I really need to start helping change the world a little bit more than what I had been before. (I have to be a mensch not a grinch!) I have plans, and ideas… but mostly, I need to start where I’m passionate at and that’s writing… and like my director wrote back to me in an email: trust yourself and keep writing.

I need to listen to him.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby (Ahava)

This one’s for Shavuot.

I have only five seconds to write this. I’ve been in rehearsal working the most intense show I’ve ever worked in the history of my last 3 years of doing theatre…and I wasn’t even originally scheduled to work this show. I have zero time for anything else, and I have been using my lunch break to run errands or catch up on personal things. I haven’t even been getting home until close to midnight for the last week…. only really giving me about less than 5 hours of sleep per night the last week as well.

Happy Shavuot (I know I’m a few days early) but I am not going to be able to write about it until a couple weeks after it’s over. I’m bringing cheesecake on Saturday for the cast/crew, so I can (sort of) celebrate since we have two shows and we’ll be there from 11a-11pm. I hope I get a few moments on Sunday to read Ruth. I wish I could go to CBI for the service, but I have a show during the time of.

I’m making a thousand notes (all over my 70 page script that I’m following along backstage) of updates for here when I get a chance to make a daily appearance again. I’ve already thought of a brand new play, a new monologue and we haven’t even started performances yet.

with the tip of my pen
and the signature within, i kiss you
when the ink flows
on the paper and my words
from my heart to yours
filling stories of truth–that we together–
feel within
and on this day of Shavuot
we stay up learning of our people

while eating ice-cream and cheesecake
and our souls speak to one another
carrying out the truest of love
as we reflect upon one another
and all the things that scare us the most
bringing out the fear in us,
bringing out all the things we need to fix
leaving us amidst the world of confusion
of what to do, and always making us wonder
do we belong to one another?
and if so….will things change?
or will we keep them the same?
time doesn’t last forever,
but destiny does… as we look in one another’s eyes.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby