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.

[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)

Jewish Journey essay for Intro to Judaism class review.

Okay. This was extremely hard to write without tears forming in my eyes. It means that much. The first assignment of our packet was to write a spiritual autobiography. It would be appropriate I’d find my answers as my vacay is coming to an end. Here goes….

Going on an extended vacay to my hometown—to revisit where I was born and spent my first 21 years growing up—has really helped me clarify that I am exactly where I need to be on my Jewish journey: to embrace fully—to learn, to live and breathe Judaism—for the rest of my life. 

While on my flight, I read Elie Wiesel’s book “Night” where he wrote of his experience of being in the Holocaust. After landing, I went to my favorite sandwich shop near the mall, then I ran over to the used bookstore. The first time I went in there with no agenda and just looked around. I accidentally found two books by Harold Kushner and two books by Elie Wiesel. The following week I went back to the bookstore with a list and found a book by Philip Roth, a Holocaust book, and two books by Leslea Newman. All of my life I have read so much of everything but only had a few favorite authors….and now—thankful to this journey—that list is growing.

There have been a few very uncomfortable moments on this trip to do with my choices of food and toward my newly found religion and lifestyle. There seemed to be a slight interest in my journey, then twice the slight rude remark. After mentioning several times that I stopped eating pork since December 2018, ribs were put on my plate and bacon was cooked. I refused both. I stood my ground—for faith and health reasons. I know I made the right decision, considering I had a flash back to my childhood where I was pushed to eat some of the most unhealthiest foods that still remain valid in that hometown life. For the umpteenth time, I was forced to go to a church for a faith in which I have never believed, and was told “no” when I wanted to go to the local synagogue to honor Shabbat. Even though I have a long ways to go with Hebrew, I missed hearing the prayers and songs. I missed the way it feels walking into a synagogue vs a church. I miss how happy and full of life everyone seems to be in a synagogue. 

Even though I’ve have to deal with those issues, I have not let them get to me too much. I have been able to relax, gain strength of my mind once again, and have time to think. 

Every aspect of my life has become richer since following, studying and living Judaism. I can’t explain it. 2018 was the best year of my life: the people that I met last year are the best people I’ve ever met in my entire life and they’re no longer “friends” —they’re all family. The activities I either started or continued has made such an important impact on my life that I’m trying to figure out how to make it all tie in with Judaism. The art I’ve created, the Instagram account and blog where I write have been outlets for me to not only document my journey but to express major love towards my new life and share it with the world. 

There have been several surprises along the way: such as finding out my favorite song from high school choir “Go Down, Moses” plays an important role in Jewish life at Passover, or finding out that my favorite cartoon in the entire world that I watched obsessive as a child—Rugrats—has a Hanukkah and Passover episode. I often felt like the new year should start in the fall, and I have always had a horrible feeling around March or April (which happened again this year—and once Passover was over—I felt better). I have always had a connection with the Holocaust, and my feelings for wanting to preserve the memory get stronger as the days go by. There’s been a connection with me and trees, little symbolism in daily life, feelings that are exposed after reading Jewish books (ones I hadn’t thought about in a long time or saying to myself ‘well, now that makes sense as to why I felt that’), and so on. I have always loved Fridays more than any day of the week. I say “oy vey” more than I probably should. And, to top it all off, I used to really strongly dislike “chicken soup” until I discovered matzo ball soup…and game on. 

Not only have I found favorite authors, books, magazines and subscribed to a million of newsletters around the US, but I have discovered some of the best TV shows, and they’re chocked full of Jewishness… and guess what? I actually get the references or jokes, and I am so giddy inside when they mention something I know. I’ve also become that person who wants to download music to a specific holiday, or go absolutely nuts over the snacks that are served around that time. Over the past year, I have participated in a lot of the holidays, but my favorite was Purim – due to being in the Purim Spiel. I really embraced that with everything I had, and I didn’t stop talking about it for days. Also, Mitzvah Day, should be a holiday because that’s how special it was for me. 

Building a relationship with G-d on the basis that G-d is the light within all of us, and in everything that we do, is something that I believe in. In the last year, I have tried to build my choices around that fact: doing good deeds, saying no at times, trying to become a better person, becoming healthier in the heart/mind/soul, and so on. As someone who is converting, I feel that I should walk the walk and not not just talk. I have to be that good example, and help others follow. 

My journey—for the most part—has been about experience. The holidays or moments I experienced were the best, because I could: see, feel, hear, touch, smell…. then document about it later in some form. It is a very emotional connection for me. Everything about it. 

While I don’t know where I’m going at this point—other than forward, all the way—with this journey, I am excited in seeing what’s in store for me because I am completely open at this point. I know there are things I want to improve on, such as attending more services, being able to fully read Hebrew, continuing making way in my schedule to attend more Jewish functions and keeping Kosher. There’s also wanting to learn just about anything and everything that I can by experiences, reading and traveling around to Jewish places and sharing it in some form. Since the Holocaust has been so important in my life, I would like to be that future of Judaism that helps keep the memory of those who we lost. And one day, I hope to publish the several Jewish-type stories that I am writing, including my own journey. 

We all have a story in us, and we need to share it before it’s too late. Being a writer myself—I believe that is one of my purposes, and I hope that I can achieve that goal not only for me, but help others do the same….all by that light that stays lit within the soul.  

Love Always,
Karen Maeby

Day 3&4 Counting the Omer

Today is still day 3 of Counting the Omer and tonight will be day 4. I decided to look up Counting the Omer and the reason I point this out is because I’m getting really freaked out now about how closely Judaism is representing every aspect of my life. Not just…. Rosh Hashanah and Passover and things in between…but Counting the Omer too? (I’m posting direct content from aish.com.)

I was looking on aish.com again: day 3–say it out loud.

Take a moment and think: “What am I living for?”
Now try saying out loud: “I am living for…”

Why is “Saying It Out Loud” a Way to Wisdom?

  • “Saying it out loud” helps you clarify fuzzy ideas.
  • Articulation is objectivity.
  • The more senses you involve, the more of an impression it leaves on you.
  • What you speak is an expression of who you are.
  • Everyone needs a sounding board, a feedback system. Do it yourself!
  • Never say, “I can’t.” Because then you won’t, even if you could.
  • Language is the bridge where body meets the soul.
  • Talking aloud keeps you from falling asleep and day-dreaming.
  • Words are reality. “To say is to be!”

Day 4 from aish.com- understanding of the heart / introduce yourself to yourself

Did you ever get on a train going somewhere, only to find that you’re headed in the wrong direction?

The same thing happens in life. We set goals and make plans – and sometimes discover that we’re on “the wrong train.”

Often a crisis hits at midlife when people ask: “What’s my life about? Is this all worth it?” We’ve heard stories of people who suddenly change direction, quitting their job and getting divorced. You know, like the successful doctor who decides he never wanted to go into medicine in the first place – so he drops it and becomes an artist.

  • What is the purpose of life?
  • What is my goal in life?
  • Why did I choose this career?
  • How do I spend my spare time?
  • What is my motivation for doing what I do?
  • What really makes me happy?
  • Am I as happy as I want to be?
  • Is it more important to be rich or to be happy?
  • What are my future plans? Why?
  • What are my secret dreams and ambitions?

Last night, I had two separate conversations with two different friends and they both literally said the same thing regarding my life and they way they see me: I’m not doing what I love anymore, and I’m just not living up to my true potential. Life is too short to be unhappy and settling for less than I deserve. There’s too much out there. Opportunities that one would never thought to exist. They’re both right… you never know where an opportunity will take someone. By the 49th day, I sure hope to have my answer. I will be letting the Omer guide me the next 49 days to my own revolution, and hopefully by Shavout, there will be a new light.

Oh and the stuff from aish.com? Those were questions that kept popping up during my conversations. Looks like I have work to do.

One last thing before I go… when I was talking to one of my friends last night, I mentioned about my connection with feeling the way I do over Passover months and Sept/Oct being brand new start. She said that’s really strange because most people get really happy when spring is near because of the blooms and everything comes to life and then get sad and depressed in the fall. It’s the opposite for me. I struggle in the spring, I want the new year in the fall. It’s been that way my entire life. Now I have an explanation, I’m still a little freaked out how real this is becoming…. and now with these individual life lessons per day counting the Omer. Why is this happening?

I have really been a lost Jewish soul all this time, and I am really coming home.

I actually want to cry right now.

Love Always, Karen Maeby

Almost midnight thoughts after my first Passover Seder.

Forgive me G-d for I am breaking two distinct rules of Shabbat: writing and being on technology but there’s no way I’m going to remember this once I wake up because of my almost awful memory these days. And, wine. Much. Much. Wine. 

Wow. What a first Passover Seder. I don’t have any idea when it actually started nor ended. So I have that going for me. I got lost in time! Too busy making memories! And laughing for the first time in a while.

The food was so freaking delicious and there was so much foooooood. Soooo much fooooooood. I’m trying to sustain my weight here (a year or two after a major weight loss) and the food just kept coming out! My normal food schedule is eating a meal once a day! (Or very small things all day if I need to eat that way.) Oy vey. At one point, I told the guy who was handing out food “NO MORE!” and he’s like “Are youuuuu tapping out?! THERE ARE NO QUITTERS HERE!” Haaaah.  My entire table was laughing so hard. Yes. I had whine. Much wine. Bwahha. 

But anyway, on a more serious note. My 3rd family sure serves up some super duper delicious food. I can’t believe this entire time I’ve only had soup there (and turkey sandwich at the beginning)…but it’s my tradition to have *my* soup, conversation and do a little writing! But some traditions were made to be broken, right?! Well, Maeby. (But I did have the matzah ball soup and oh yummmy…..! That was so good and hit the spot just right that I wanted to cry. Yeah. Weird. Maybe wine?)

I have been craving pickles so badly and I got them! OH AND THAT EGG I WAS TALKING ABOUT? It didn’t come with glitter or colour, but I got it! I got my one egg. My entire month is made. I’m very satisfied. See? That didn’t take much to make me happy. Pickles and one egg. And soup! 

So, the wine. I am not much a wine drinker and by the end, I was toast. I ended up staying after and helping the helpers clean up. Met some amazing people that I didn’t know and had amazing conversations. Met the president, and he recognized me as a writer (which I’m not quite sure how people know this? Sometimes I’m happy being recognized then I get a little freaked out in another sense. It’s weird. I guess I just need to get used to it.) 

Overall, what did I think? 

What an awesome experience. I sat with my intro class. We told the story, sang a bit, ate and went back at it in the Haggadah. We all shared a lot of laughs, had great conversations and I can’t wait to do it all again next year. 

I even tried gefilte fish for the first time!!

This won’t be the last of my Passover blog entries, we’ve got an entire week left to talk about it. Oh and on the same topic….no bread all week. This’ll be interesting of what kind of menu I’ll be coming up with….Stay tuned. I might live off pickles for a while! 

Always, Karen Maeby 

PS – I might also have to sober up this post. 

My first ever Mitzvah Day.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I had missed the Mitzvah Days where I normally go to shul or know people, so I asked to join in with CBS up north when I found out they were going to have this day coming up.

I walk in, being greeted by anyone that I passed by, on the way to speak to the volunteer coordinator. She says hi, gives me a hug right away and introduces me to a thousand people. Everyone was so nice! Hugs as hellos!

I didn’t sign up for any specific job, I told them to put me where they needed me and they needed me where someone had switched to another group.

My group went to the Gulf Coast Jewish / Family Services in Clearwater and organized their food pantry. In a way, I secretly hoped that I would get to go to Gulf Coast, because someone else had told me about it, and I wanted to see what they were about. So. Answered wish!!!!!

While there… we cleaned all of their shelves, reorganized them, took out donations from bags and boxes, and pretty much got everything in order. Then swept and mopped the floor. I’ll post pictures on Instagram where you can see what work went into it, and ways to help if you’re in the TB area.

It was a very nice and quick turnaround of getting things done with the right amount of people. I’m so glad I got to help with this because I found yet another place I want to donate my time (or maybe work at someday, who knows what can happen). I just know I enjoy helping people who need it. There’s a feeling of accomplishment and happiness today…. definitely better than my strange and severe anxiety ridden Shabbat. Today made up for that. It was also another reminder that yes, I need to be less of a goy and become better in the kitchen, learn things and etc, but I still have that big desire to work in food after I had my chance to dip my toe in for a little taste of the crazy busy days once upon a time. In the end, I have to say it was definitely the most satisfying days I’ve ever worked. Ever. (I think 99% of this has to do with comparison to my most worked volunteer job as a stage manager. Food service is almost like that in a way. The way you have to prepare what’s being ordered upon you or by request–for catering–that would be called our directors to stage managers prep; then the daily stuff you know you have to do without question. Same thing happens in theatre, just not with food (except sometimes).

After we finished, we sat down and ate a little lunch and chatted. So funny because everyone I was with had different kind of nails–one or two had the glittery ones like me–and a few were talking about getting them done again or redoing them. I’ve never been around a more group of women who talked about their nails…can someone answer if this is a Jewish thing? Because, I’m right there, glitter and all… I was born into it, baby. Ha.

I really like everyone I met at CBS… so much that I am going to somehow fit them into my rotation as well. I plan on attending classes or events where I can….. Events all over the place! And then, build some sort of Shabbat rotation in my calendar (I now I have 4 shuls I can attend).

For my book, I really need to write down my firsts for every place so I can give credit where credit is due. My first Mitzvah Day goes down in the books to CBS… thank you for such a fun welcome and a wonderful day. I love you all!

Always,
Karen Maeby

PS #2 – Closing Day

WOW WOW WOW WOOOOOWWWW. Can I just say WOW once again? Yesterday was THE MOST AMAZING DAY I’ve had in such a long time. That energy has really sunk into my skin and is currently still in it today. I am feeding off yesterday for sure, like fuel…. like food…. like coffee.

First of all, it was Purim festivities day at the Temple and so I got to see and talk to several family members from my synagogue. There was this gigantic slide–it looked like so much fun–but I’m terrified of heights and going up that ladder probably would’ve sent me over the edge. I only had ~10 minutes to really take a gander at what was going on before we had a small rehearsal for the dance numbers and one or two songs.

Our closing show went very well, and we even had some surprises up on stage (during the contestants scene) that wasn’t even in Saturday night’s performance nor practiced in rehearsals. It was so funny. We were all cracking up on stage.

After the show was over, we mingled with the audience, and then had an unofficial official cast party–ate small snacks and talked–then we gathered together in the Temple lobby to watch Saturday night’s performance. Of course, we laughed and sang along to everything… what else would we do? But on another note, this is seriously the first time that I have ever watched a performance that I had either been in or a part of… even with all of the shows I’ve worked (with the exception of JS’s Peter Pan). As someone who works productions, and wants to expand and grow, I think it’s super important to do this…. to see where one needs to improve for next time…. and it can definitely be a blast to see yourself and everyone and say “Hey… we did it!”

I can’t say it enough how thankful I am that I had joined in with the Purim Spiel. I have met so many new great supportive people with love that just pours out of them. I wrote an email to everyone sharing about my journey and why/what this experience meant to me, and the responses back have been incredible (even with a few offers, suggestions or opportunities on the table). Some of them have shared their story with me. I’m feeling so lucky right now. Talking about everything happening for a reason.

And now, for speaking about being at the right place at the right time… after I left the Temple, I went to Tijuana Flats (something inside me told me to go there). I ran into a close friend from the theatre that I haven’t spoken to in ages. We caught up, I got to meet her friend she’s always talking about, and I’ve been invited to crash and sit in on some of their rehearsals. I think I will get to work one of the productions in May, but trying to see about the production going on during Passover because I’m uncertain what sedar(s) and events I will need to attend for my journey and for/with my Jewish class.

So, needless to say, I have reconciled with everyone that I have needed to, which puts me at a really happy and positive place…. and I have connected with a ton of new people that I have a feeling that will be dear friends for life.

To life.. .to life.. l’chaim to life… Judaism has given me so much life that I just don’t even know what to say right now…

Love Always,
Karen Maeby

PS #1 – Opening Night

Opening night of our PurimSpiel “That’s ESTHERtainment” was amaaaaazing! I was really calm before we started, excited when the curtain opened, nervous during the dance, a little shaky when I did my line, then afterwards…it was natural.

I think the best part was definitely the contestant line for “Need a Lady”. Everyone was laughing, because we have some surprises in there. What a fun, fun, fun gig. And I liked the fact that we didn’t need to be absolutely serious up on stage and we could laugh, sway, smile and just be happy.

And can I gush over our band? I love/love/love when they play Vashti’s song to the tune of “Under the Sea” — it’s the most coolest sound in the world.

On a personal note: It’s been a little over a month since last stage managing and then November was the last time I was on stage (as a first time actor). I must say–I have missed the rush of butterflies, lights/camera/action, then the energy that is given throughout the show and the feeling once it’s over. I have missed that. I love shows so much, it’s silly I’ve missed so many of them. Oh and…it is pretty amazing being involved in something musical once again after 15 years.

I had a few members of family spread among the audience, got to meet some new folks, and one of the band members (who actually has his own band) had been talking to me like he knows me or something. We finally exchanged names today. It’s funny, I always end up friends with the band. No matter where I go. I’m just fancy like that, I guess.

Some of my family said, “You’re in a show but you’re still doing stage managing things!?!?!” Ha. Yes, indeed….that will never end.

Tomorrow is the Purim carnival thingy…..and the closing day of our show… then we’ll have a cast party because some of our people will be going back up north for the summer.

I am truly so happy to have been a part of this PurimSpiel and to have met who I met at TBI. I loved every bit of this opportunity to dip my toes back into music. And, guess what? I did a thing: I went out of my comfort zone, joined an event where I practically knew no one, went back to something I loved in the past that I gave up, and even embraced every part that I had with no fear.

I love my new TBI family endlessly: they have treated me very well, like I’m one of them and like I belong there. It’s so pleasant to just fit in, be yourself, without the feeling of needing to impress someone. I really cannot wait until we all meet again to do this next year (yes, it’s already on my calendar).

Until tomorrow… closing day. A sad violin will play… and the energy of tonight’s show will keep me up way past midnight….

Love Always,
Karen Maeby

PS – I think I’m just going to live in my black tights, dance shirt and glittery hat.

New goal.

I want to learn Yiddish. Like, really badly. I already know (and have been trying to) use the words I recognize and understand…but in a way, I am also good at figuring out what the sentence means too….even though I don’t know!

I want to write plays and poetry in Yiddish!

I also want to know why these books are italicizing Yiddish words. It’s something I’ve noticed in multiple books now. But there’s a glossary at the end that tells what each word means.

PS. This book is amazing, I’m only in the first few chapters and it is making me cry!

UPDATE: I wrote the above last night before bed. For some reason, my bedtime has been unusually early around 9-930pm the last several weeks (maybe months?). I just can’t stay up… unless I have rehearsal, late meetings or something, and in that case, I’m on the road traveling back home. Well, the downfall of that early bedtime is waking up at the 3 or 4am hour… the last couple of days (maybe weeks), I’ve been woken wide awake at 3/4am…so it’s currently 438am and I’m awake. I finally decided I’m just going to get out of bed and work. I’ve already gathered up trash ready to take out, I cleaned out Havali’s aquarium and changed her food/water, made coffee, and sitting here listening to….

The Yiddish Book Center’s podcast aka The Shmooze. The same center that was founded by the author of the book I mentioned above. What a treat to have found that…and not only that, but there is an entire library full of Yiddish books to read for free on there. I cannot even dive into that until my Intro to Judaism class is over. I have to focus on that first! But nonetheless, it’s there.

Hey, there’s something else about this early 3-4am hour. I feel refreshed and I feel like maybe I can get some writing done before the world wakes up.

And on another note, I really want to travel around to all these Jewish places. It’s so important. Maybe one day I will be that writer of importance to be able to do that…. with the always dream of coming back to being embraced by the comfort of my third home, matzo ball soup and writing on my experiences to share and publish to the world.

One can only dream. … . and eventually do.

Love Always,
Karen Maeby

Esther, it’s getting closer.

Good morning! 

The only thing on my mind right now is PURIM! Well, maybe not the only thing on my mind…but just about. I’m having so much fun with the Purim Spiel. I was given yet another part today. I’m going to be one of the contestants. Our cantor gave me a dress to wear. It’s interesting, and for playing dress up. Not a fancy, fancy dress. I think I have to partake in 3 costume changes now. I’ve never done that before. 

One of the ladies had a wig and she mentioned that it was red and I’m like suuuure I’ll wear it but then I saw it. I was like, “I should have looked at it before I said yes.” (I said that very much out loud and everyone laughed.) I tried putting it on, but said no thanks, because I would’ve looked like a sister to Wendy (like the fast food place). I also went against everything I’m about by doing that. I have the biggest and deepest fear about wearing other people’s hats or wigs…. And now I’m just very, very itchy even hours later thinking about it. Ughhhhhhhh! Oy. But nonetheless, I guess I’m going to color my hair some funky color instead. However, this is the strangest thing for me, since stripping my hair of Hanukkah blue (which later turned black)….I just don’t even want to color my hair anymore. Which is weird. Have I become boring? What’s wrong with me? Me not color my hair? Am I ill? Ever since seeing a few distinct gray hairs…I just want to leave it alone and let the gray show. Weird. Right? I think I will do temporary color for the first time in my life (maybe pink?) and I need to find that hair glitter….you better believe I will be glittering it out. Eyes. Fingernails. Hair. Everything. In almost every place. 

Our cantor’s wife was there tonight and she’s like,”the more glitter, the better” and I literally screamed out from across the room “YESSSSSS! GLITTER.” I really don’t know what my fascination is with glitter but it’s there. Maybe my atoms are made with sparkle, therefore, when I was born it was just deeply embedded inside of me. Or maybe it’s because I was “allergic to it when I was a child” and couldn’t wear it so now I’m making up for it. 

I don’t know. I just know I love me some glitter. And lots of it! 

Also happy to report one more (Jewish) Corset Line member is in the Spiel! She was so excited to see me, as I her. Very good person. Our Purim Spiel dancers are going to be wearing the same outfits as Corset Line for the last number! I remember saying to myself while watching those dancers dance “I sure wish I could do this and wear those outfits” and boom! Wish granted. Still wrong Genie, but hey. It’s something. 

I need to write about this WONDERFULLY AMAZING Jewish book I that read that included several people’s narrative stories but I’ll save it for the middle of the week. I just love the heck out of these Jewish books I’ve been reading. There’s something magic in the spirit of the words contained on those pages that are so much different and better than any other. I have found my light source. L’chaim. ♥️

(PS. Ultimate countdown until my day off on Shabbat. I just need to get through Monday first, the Taco Tuesday and the rest of the week will be a breeze.) 

Love always, Karen Maeby