Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hitting the Snooze on Type A

The blogosphere is all atwitter with news of celebrity death matches, literally. Apparently, Michael Jackson trumps Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon, but he's the only one with a royalty-inspired moniker so it makes sense.

Rather than feeding into all the hype of a story that was actually broken by (even NPR used it as a source), I'm offering up this little reflection on my continuing life after being laid off from my job. It might not be as scintillating as revelations on child molestation or anal cancer or the Publisher's Clearinghouse sweepstakes, but it's honest.

For the past 25 years, I've created and thrived on routines. In elementary school, I consistently finished my homework by 4:45 and forced myself into a regular bedtime. In college, I developed a steady route between the local bars based on the spots with the best specials. For the past several years, I've carved out Wednesday nights for dance class, Saturday mornings for calling my grandmother and Sunday evenings for cooking.

So you can imagine how shocking it's been that I have made the transition into the vagaries of unemployment with little difficulty. Lest you think my Type A personality completely absent, I do still set an alarm clock every night, only now rather than sticking at 7:05, the dreaded time drifts wildly depending on the previous night's activities or lack thereof.

Whereas I once found tremendous comfort in routine, I now am finding ways to embrace the art of scheduling randomness. My ridiculously outdated PDA has become my constant savior (thanks Dad) and I am quickly becoming an expert on lunch menus and free in-town parking spots. No longer chained to a desk all day, I'm free to hit the grocery store at off-peak hours and I rarely stress being out late on a "school night."

The uncertainty of unemployment does always loom over one's head with its threats of mounting debt, loss of benefits, isolation and feeling like a drain on society. At the same time, it gives you enormous chunks of time to consider wild possibilites like launching a nonprofit consulting firm, writing a book, starting a concierge service business or creating a website devoted to burning Jewish questions.

In the past six weeks, I've given more serious thought to all these endeavors than I probably have for my entire adult life. Being cut off from the demands of a daily job and the soul-crushing frustrations of the daily office grind, absolutely frees your mind into the peaks and valleys of creativity, with all its commensurate pros and cons.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting a regular paycheck again, I'm also extremely curious to see which of my hustler brainstorms will carry over into the next phase. Who knows, maybe Amalgamated Missel Concierge Services will net me thousands or Ask a Heeb (Ask a Jew was taken) will become the Dear Abby of the 21st Century?

And yes, look for the launch of Ask a Heeb in the coming weeks. You can submit questions here or on the Shtetl Fabulous Facebook page.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ask A Jew

Originally, I was going to write a post today about my experience going to Monsey, NY for the first time on Wednesday for a friend's wedding. I had jotted down a few notes about how I couldn't decide if the employees in the grocery store stared at me because I had on a blue dress (normally, women wear very muted colors in that ultra-Orthodox enclave), or because my legs were bare below the knee or because I was wearing open-toed shoes with red polish common among harlots.

I also thought about opining on the women who power walked at 10 p.m. wearing snoods, dress skirts and sneakers while chatting in Yiddish. Or the yeshiva bochur (15-year-old kid) who claimed he'd never heard of I-287 when I tried to ask him for directions. Note: I later found a cop.

All these observations and culture clashes are certainly the stuff pithy blog posts are made for, but then I sat down to my computer this afternoon to find an email from someone I knew in college.
"Question: My husband's cousin is having his bar mitzvah and we can't go. What is the going
rate for $ as a gift. Also, would they have Bar mitzvah cards at Target? Thanks for the info.
Hope you're doing well!"

Or this one I got a few months ago from a high school friend getting married next year.
"I am looking for a little insight regarding Judaism and marriage and rabbis.We are trying to
research options, but could you recommend a rabbi in Phoenix? I would be interested in
learning more about him or her."

These are just the latest examples in a life's vocation I have decided to dub, "Ask a Jew." For better or worse, I seem to have absorbed more Judaic knowledge than many of my peers during my time in various Jewish educational settings. Plus, I tend to shoot from the hip, so people generally figure they're getitng straight-forward and honest information from me.

I'm always flattered when I get these questions, because it makes me feel good that others are comfortable enough to ask me everything from the deeply spiritual to the obscurely ritualistic to the blithely ignorant. It appeals to my inner know-it-all which I've certainly blogged about in the past and my sister has now suggested I pen a Dear Esther column here on Shtetl Fab or in another venue. Perhaps.

Of course, being a hustler as well as a maven, I also wonder how I can make money off this knowledge. One friend suggested (along with a Yiddish-language question) that I could set up a PayPal account and charge by the question. Interesting, but how do you set prices for that sort of thing? Higher cost for harder questions?

If I were smarter all along, I would have started to compile them in one place and then made a book. A nice book promotion tour would be the perfect way to scratch my itchy wanderlust feet. Wherefore art thou Simon and Schuster?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Jack Asks, "Why Be Jewish?"

My blog-buddy Jack wrote to a bunch of us in his network asking the simple question, "Why Be Jewish?" I, like many others, answered the call and he's compiled our thoughts into this great meta-post.

Whether you're struggling with this quandry or your brain is wrapped around something else entirely, it's pretty interesting.

Check it out here:

And have fun trying to guess which one is mine!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Courting Sonic

A local friend of mine recently got a pet hedgehog as a birthday gift. And since having excessive amounts of free time during the day to do things like play with friends' hedgehogs, I cruised over to her house yesterday to check it out.

The animals have been around since ancient times when apparently hedgehogs were considered a source of food in Egypt. Luckily, my friend keeps her hedgehog as a companion rather than a meal so I had a chance to play with him a bit sans fork and knife. (More hedgehog factoids here.)

First impression - he's smaller than I'd expected, fitting neatly in one hand, and his spikes really are sharp if they get you at the right angle. While he does have some personality, he's not quite as spunky as a cat or dog. Put it somewhere in the duller hamster category. I passed on feeding him an earthworm, though I learned hedgehogs can also be fed cat food. Duly noted.

While this particular hedgehog doesn't have any toys, I wondered how he would do in one of those balls we gave to our gerbil back home. Clearly his spikes and overall roundness precluded any of those neat tubes and cage accoutrement available to other small rodents, but he does seem to enjoy climbing in and out of cups and my friend's shirt. Of course, the fact that he rolls up into a little ball with a cute nose barely sticking out is kind of awesome.

After about 10 minutes, I have to admit that the hedgehog's novelty wore off me a bit. Even the fact that he's hypo-allergenic couldn't persuade me to fall in love. He doesn't play catch or do too many tricks like dog, and it's hard to just sit and pet him like you could with a cat or rabbit. Besides, my nurturing level is still at the plant stage and while my tomatoes don't do tricks, they're much easier to eat.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Everybody Dance Now

This past weekend, I got to celebrate at the wedding of a friend from grad school. We've stayed in touch these past three years and I've met both her fiance and her family on a few occasions. It was a beautiful ceremony and reception, complete with tasty food, lovely flowers and excellent people.

The wedding also included a band instead of the DJ that many people opt for in the interest of savings and variety. It was a great band and included a singer whose Rick Astley-like vocal stylings did justice to Barry White. But there's just something that a band - even those that include horns, drums and multiple singers - can't do. They can't take so many requests and obscure tunes just fall by the wayside.

Since I've been invited to a total of four weddings (and counting) this summer, I think my guest expertise is on the rise. Therefore, I'd like to offer my Top Five wedding tunes in a few select categories - mainly based on their danceability as I believe the goofiness of people dancing at a wedding is worth the cost of the dress, gift, valet parking and everything else combined.

Oldies but Goodies for the Parentals & Family Friends
1. Build Me Up Buttercup - The Foundations
2. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
3. Joy to the World - 3 Dog Night (it's my mom's favorite song)
4. Everybody Needs Somebody to Love - Blues Brothers
5. Shout - Otis Day and the Nights (classic to end all classics)

Rap - New and Old School
1. Bust a Move - Young MC (if you were a teen in the 90s, this is a requirement)
2. Rump Shaker - Wrexx-n-Effex (hey, it's MY wedding!)
3. Hey Ya - OutKast (because most of my guest can't crump with me to Bombs over Baghdad)
4. California Love - 2Pac
5. Yeah - Usher

Dance Music for the Rhythmically Challenged
1. Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
2. Don't Stop Believing - Journey
3. Boom - Bloodhound Gang (dedicated to all my Mtn. View Toros!)
4. Tribal Connection - Gogol Bordello
5. Get Up Offa That Thing - James Brown (everyone can dance to him)

Slow Songs - It IS a wedding after all
1. Glycerine - Bush
2. Thank You - Led Zepplin
3. Mivtachat HaShamaim - David Broza
4. In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
5. All I Want is You - U2

What's your Top Five? Submit your picks in any range of categories on the comments page.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What Passes for a Vacation

In my new jobless reality, a road trip to DC and Baltimore for a professional development conference and wedding passes for a big vacation. True, the networking opportunities at the conference make it seem a touch like a business trip, but since there's no one to reimburse me (unless I can deduct it from my taxes), it's a vacation.

On the much brighter side, I get a six-day break from the isolation that comes with unemployment. The next several days promise to be jam-packed with coffee and lunch dates, with schmoozing and chatting, and hopefully with ample fun.

Unlike most vacations, I am bringing my laptop this time, so I may even get a chance to blog about my adventures. If not, I will do my best to publish a recap or witty commentary on current events for your reading pleasure.

Have a great week!