Matzo Ball Soup

Specifically written for my family at my 3rd home. 8/2018.

After the Gilmore Girls “A Year in the Life” reboot on Netflix in 2016, I remember whispering to the Universe that I really wanted my very own “Luke’s Diner”….I was seriously pining for a place where I can go to eat often and have great conversation, and not even have to order anymore because they’d know what I wanted as soon as they’d see my face… and above all, a place that felt like home. Thank you Universe for giving me my wish… my 3rd home, my Luke’s Diner.

After the sacred “lighting of my soul” moment the first night of Hanukkah, going home to throw my nose into the deep roots of the internet to find out more about Judaism, I eventually started looking for all Jewish places to go to eat or things to do in the area around January 2018.

At the time of discovering my very own Luke’s Diner, I found out that it was only a mile or two down the road from my workplace: one turn off the same exact road and almost in the same exact spot when you looked at a map. How odd, right? My visits were frequent for a while until we moved further away temporarily for a few months leaving not much time to visit in between trips to/from for lunch. (Note: Luckily, my work signed a lease that brought me back much closer to my favorite place.)

At the beginning, I would mix up what I would eat between a turkey sandwich or soup, but then… fell into the forever coma of magical Matzo Ball Soup which completely changed the game for me. Why do I say that? Because I will be quite honest, I have despised all “chicken soup” ever since I was a kid. I could be sicker than a dog and still not want it, even though—supposedly—the rule is that chicken “noodle” soup is for the soul and it will heal you. Or maybe they were referring to the book series. But Matzo Ball Soup? It is the soup for the soul: good days, bad days, celebrations, anything, everything. It heals, fixes and makes my heart very happy. So that’s why I have stuck with my soup for so long. It’s not that I’m afraid to try new things, it’s just I’m satisfied, and there isn’t a problem with that, right?

I think—at this point—it’s safe to say I officially have my table, just like Lorelei and Rory Gilmore had theirs….and everyone knows what to get me as soon as they see me. It’s an awesome feeling. I have only been visiting for about six months now, but it feels like forever (a good forever)! At my table, during lunch and in between wonderful conversations: I have written out about 6 stage management plans of the plays I’ve worked since my first visit, I planned my marvelous gift idea of the “Dundie Awards” for the Summer One Act group’s cast party, I’ve plotted out goals/dreams/to-dos that need accomplished, scribbled some lyrics or poetry, scheduled my months out, and have managed to write several pages of whatever I was writing about at the time.

If I get to stay long enough, I see the interactions with their customers, and it makes me fall into a serious daydream about my very first job. Once I worked my way up to being one of the retail managers—almost owning seniority—I started to grow my list of regular customers. We would chat about what was new since the previous week that I last saw them, or do a long catch up if they had been out of town for a while. And, there probably wasn’t a day that went by without me writing down something funny that happened for my future stories (and boy, do I have stories!). But—the fact of the matter is—that was the only job where I ever had that long of a list of customers that “belonged” to me and the last time it was ever “that” special (small town, small store, same people).

On the evenings when I was the closing manager, there was this elderly Jewish couple that always managed to come in at the very last minute. Both were just as sweet as pie, and the wife wanted her husband to find shoes. They were always looking for shoes. I don’t remember much about them, and barely remember what they looked like, but I have this false hope that some day I will run into them again—even though I live in a completely different place—and it’s been over 13 years now. I’m not even sure why my memory is still calling out to them after that long. Although—needless to say—there’s been constant reminder through some of the plays I’ve worked with that talk or sing about shoes. So there’s that.

When I was doing my research and looking at their website, I discovered that they started in Gulfport… which is the place that I fell so completely in love with enough to call it my adult hometown. There’s just something so wonderful about a story behind why a small family business is started, how it survives through the years of whatever may happen in the economy, community, changes or staff and everything else in between. Even though I’ve never had the opportunity (yet) to work in the restaurant/grocery business, it does run in my family. My Grandma Applegate—my closest & last grandparent who died when I was 16—owned and ran “Lucky Stop Restaurant” in downtown Maysville, KY during the 1950s. I don’t know much about those days, but I can only imagine her restaurant was just as embracing and welcoming with the feeling of visiting with family when each friend or stranger came in to eat.

I am such a firm believer in ‘things happening for a reason’ and I truly believe with all of my heart and soul that I was supposed to find my favorite place and meet the family behind it. It’s scary to think about the major what ifs: had I not walked to the park that one day to see the first Menorah Candle being lit, I would have never had my moment which in return would’ve kept me from doing my research… finding all the things…wanting to learn about Judaism…that path that led me to finding family at what I call my 3rd home….and so on. 2018 has been life, and—for once in my (at the time) 31 years—that was the first time I ever started truly living the life I know I was supposed to have, growing into the understanding of who I am, and what roles I’m destined to fulfill in this crazy world. I feel like all things good—that will be an almost permanent thing for the remainder of my life—has began in 2018. Judaism has it right: 18 = life. So true that it’s poetry.

I celebrated my 32nd birthday lunch with them and they made it magical. I almost felt like a Queen—all I was missing was a crown with glitter on it! But seriously, there was certainly no other place I would have rather have been than there. Like I mentioned before, I feel as if it’s been a lot longer than six months since I found my favorite place… it feels like a good forever. And, from day one, I have felt right at home. There’s a story about that home that runs as deep as the threads on the spine that holds a book together… and all of the pages… filled with memories and memories…and I only hope to be able to some day give back to what they’ve given to me…and here’s to the future, many more bowls of Matzo Ball Soup, plans being written and conversations to be had.

A letter to Anne Frank.

While I’m superbly without words today–and my hands/wrists hurt so badly–I thought I would share a letter that I wrote to Anne Frank that is a part of the book “Dear Anne Frank” that I wrote/published a long time ago. (Don’t go looking for it, it needs to be updated before anyone buys it again.) I was living in North Carolina at the time of writing said book and I was close enough to visit DC. I went to several places there including the Holocaust Museum, where I decided I would document my entire trip in a “Dear Anne Frank” letter style. Once I finished the “book” I hosted it on a website called Posterous, then once they concluded their online life, I published the book on Amazon.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dear Anne Frank,

In the very last entry of yours, you had discussed being a “bundle of contradictions” and that you were split between two personalities. The one that everyone knows and the one that only you know.

Today? This week? Last week? Perhaps it’s been my entire life so far? I have been fighting the same battle within myself, on different circumstances, ways to explain it and how, when or if one or the other personality shows up. Or, if I really do have that problem. I am my own contradiction.

Just in the last month, I was thrown on the path of self discovery… a personal journey to figuring out who I am (in general). And, once again, I am living by the quote of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” and LeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”. The words… the words of the poem and two songs, they keep me going; they give me the strength to make decisions and move forward.

You once said that paper is more patient than people. After having read your diary when I was younger, I lived by that quote for the longest time. I didn’t really write to anyone particular, except in middle school when I wrote to “Wolfie.” I tried it, but it was quite awkward for me to write to a girl, considering boys seemed to have the goods of being quiet when you told them something. And, even though it was just paper, I still felt the comfort of writing to a male much better off for me.

I continued writing in diaries from middle school up until 2006. I had actually found an online journal website where I wrote from 2001 to 2009. That’s when my writing on paper kind of seized down, until I needed to share deeper thoughts that I just couldn’t bring myself to writing online. The online journals gave me a chance to read and share my life with others and get feedback via notes. Last year, I decided it was time to pack it up at that website and I never went back. I casually document entries on a blog site, but that’s about it. I haven’t trusted paper in so long, other than notes for stories and poetry. I need to find that comfort on paper once again.

Like you, while growing up, I had a hard time finding a friend to confide in. If the truth may still be out there, I still have a hard time letting myself go in front of people and letting them see the “true” me because I’m afraid what people would think, say or just in general, do. Basically it’s just a trust issue.

Who can I trust with my inner most feelings? Most people just don’t get me, like you thought they didn’t get you. Sometimes, as like you did, I find myself viewing myself as two people, the more reserved in front of people up against who I really am. Plus, what would people do with that information? Blackmail? Gossip? Ditch me as a friend? Support me? It’s more than likely the first two and then I’d feel really betrayed and I don’t want to walk back into that trap again. I don’t need that going on. At all.

And so, as I conclude this diary entry I want to say that I have decided to write to you about my Washington, DC trip. I haven’t written much of anything, let alone a ‘real’ diary entry in so long. Granted this isn’t written on paper but it will now be forever documented. As a friend that shares parallel thoughts, welcome to me, which oddly seems to be you many years ago… enjoy.

Your Friend, 
Karen Maeby

A very serendipitous tune to the sound of Purim Spiel music.

A reflection of the day while trying to wind down for the night (2/10/19). 

“A Corset Line” was a sold out show at the CH both Sat/Sun. I’ve worked at least 15 productions at the CH since 2016 and none of them have ever had the audience to actually freely comment or answer open ended questions of our actors conversations while they’re on stage like they did! I’ve also never heard so much laughter! There was so much laughter that I couldn’t even hear a few of the most loudest laughing people I know! It was an amazing feeling to physically hear people having a good time. I also got a chance to see some theatre family members that I haven’t seen in ages, and of course, some of us had a date at Siris just like we always do after a show. 

Backstage went a lot harder than what I imagined too….which was really weird (and super frustrating) because that’s the stage that I am used to working 75% of the year. But I guess when you just came from a place that is half the size where we could only use one side instead of two, oy vey, there will be new problems to replace the old problems which were finally solved by moving to a different location! We survived though, and the audience had a great time. So many wonderful compliments! Those are the things that matter in the end. 

So….here’s where the title of this entry comes in …. 

At the end of our play “A Corset Line” the ladies are lined up to do an actual dance with the song “One” from A Chorus Line, that’s what the whole play leads up to, and the entire cast also takes their bows to this song. 

Get this. 

CUE second event of the day: my first rehearsal for the Broadway Purim Spiel

Before we even got started, I flipped through the pages of the full script that our cantor gave us and I saw “One” from A Chorus Line in there (I only noticed it once though). 

I said, “Well, you just had to pick that song to put in here, huh?” (This would be relevant because we did “A Corset Line” there first before our CH weekend, and they heard so much of that song while we were practicing.) She replied, “No, this was something I put together years ago, so it just happens to be in there.” 

By the end, it’s in there once per normal, a reprise and it is the final ending song…..of which we’ll also be taking our bows to……

Some of our actors/dancers come from that Temple, but only one of them is in the Purim Spiel with me. I leaned over to say, “Don’t you find this really strange that we’re doing a play where this song “One” is the dance and bow song… and now we’re doing that here as well?” She’s like, “YES.” I said, “I usually take this as a sign. It’s some sort of a sign!” 

Every single play I have ever worked, there has been something in the storyline or metaphorically or by symbolism that either connected me to the past, how I’m feeling in the moment, or I just relate to it somehow. I didn’t have “a story” to come out of “A Corset Line” with until that moment—at the Temple—getting ready to study deja-vu. 

Last year I wanted to do something with music again, but never really had the chance, because I was full force with theatre and writing projects. I sort of helped out with a Broadway-based show from two local cantors at one of my homes… but that’s as close to music that I got. In fact, I didn’t even get to go watch my favorite bands play last year. 

Now I can’t believe after 15 years, I am dipping my toe back into music again. It only took me 12 years to get back to the theatre. It’s also so strange how I was saying to myself (inside my head, not out loud) how it would be cool to do something with the “One” dance and music somewhere else, because it looked like so much fun. Now (it appears) I will have the opportunity to sing and dance to the song I’ve had to watch our ladies from “A Corset Line” do for the past several months. That’s seriously some sort of weird serendipitous magic going on there. 

PS – This Broadway Purim Spiel is probably going to be one of my most favorite shows I’ve ever been involved in. The entire script is so much fun, and the way the relevant lyrics (about Purim) are arranged to certain songs is just pure gold. 

Always, Karen Maeby 

Starting (nearly) at the Beginning.

My story of finding Judaism at Hanukkah 2017 is so close to my heart, but I don’t want to share it just yet. I want this particular post to be my first.

It was the weekend of January 19-21st, 2018. I was finishing up some projects at the theatre when my mom called and said my aunt was in the hospital, wasn’t doing well, and I should probably call her. I called my aunt and was only able to speak to her for two seconds before the nurses had to come in and give her more oxygen to her already maxed out tank. It wasn’t looking good, and my strong intuition told me so. I texted with my cousin and asked if I wrote a note for my aunt could she read said note to her “just in case” I don’t get to tell her myself. This is what it said (note written 1/20/18):

Dear Aunt Patsy, 

I wanted to tell you a secret that only a few of my close family-friends in FL know. I want you to know that I am on the beginning journey of the soulfulness of Judaism and finding God through that religion. While it isn’t Christianity or where the rest of you–my family–have stemmed from, this is my journey and since finding it… I’ve never felt so alive, and I have reconnected with the soulfulness that I used to have. I’ve always been opinionated about such, and have studied and tried so many religions, and that fits me well with what I believe in and the way I measure my soulfulness all of these years that I have lived. I went to a Jewish restaurant and they go to the synagogue that I am wanting to go to, so I’m super stoked they will be introducing me to their people. If you have ever worried about me and my soul, don’t, I believe I am in good hands now right where I belong. I wish you could come down here and meet all my theatre family– I’ve found such a good group and they take care of me, I them, and we have so much fun. They are my people. They’re all saying prayers and positive thoughts for you. I need to go now because I have to start setting up for the second production today. I love and miss you, Aunt Patsy. 

By the grace of something, I had the chance to help out with a theatre production that I was not scheduled to work. It kept my mind busy. Thankfully. It was the very next day when I was hosting my writer’s group that I received the text that my aunt passed away.

A few months later, I texted my cousin (my aunt was her mom) to ask her what she told her after reading my note. This is her reply:

When I read her your message she sat there quietly, looking upwards and she got big tears in her eyes and she was smiling. I will paraphrase what she said, “Please let Karen know that i am proud of her and she has always been so artistic and I love that about her. I love how she goes for her various passions. A good place to start her spiritual journey is Judaism. Jesus was Jewish so she can’t go wrong starting there.” She said to follow your heart and look to God and he will answer all of life’s questions.

My writer’s group hosted our first event in April 2018, and my aunt’s death inspired me to write a play called “Anna’s Serendipity” that had to do with Anna finding a way to tell her grandma about her path of Judaism–but there’s a whole lot more that happens in that journey: death, possible love, etc. I have plans on eventually turning this into a full length play & movie script.

I don’t know why I was keeping my new found faith a secret at that time, I think I was more afraid of putting it out there and it not be able to happen. But then again, I had researched so many religions and nothing ever fit… except for this one.

One year later: I remember this letter and how much has changed since then. One year since losing my aunt who loved God so much, and–like my grandma–she wanted me to find him too. One year since looking into Judaism. A few weeks ago was my one year anniversary since I had been going to the restaurant as mentioned, and nearly more than six months since I started going to the synagogue with three months into my Intro to Judaism class.

I have had a lot of awesome experiences thus far, and they’re still continuing. I can’t wait to share my past and future with all of you.

Until next time,
Karen Maeby <3