A Generic Title: Catching Up on Life

The best thing I could have done this year was give myself the summer off. It’s a wonderful perk of teaching if you allow yourself to pause- most of us don’t. In fact, I’m a workaholic and I usually don’t know how to stop. But I now know that if you have the ability to take time for yourself, you should.

Here’s how I envisioned my summer would go:

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All day, everyday. Mixed in with a ton of gym time, run time, and yoga time.

Somehow none of this came into fruition because I have managed to be busy every waking moment. Until now. At this exact moment I’m sitting on my couch watching multiple (as of right now 5) episodes of Laguna Beach re-runs. Why didn’t I watch more of this in high school? This show is hilarious.

So it’s not that I don’t want to write, it’s just that reality tv has been killing it lately and my thoughts are all over the place. So, let’s fulfill the title of this post.

Let’s see- I did some quality family time:

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And quality friend time:

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And quality food time… Pictures need not apply. I can’t even look at the amount of french fries I have ingested in the past week alone. French fries are the best food group, hands down. Clean eating has never been my forte.

And quality ghost time. Or lack thereof. John and I stayed in Jim Thorpe, PA for a few days to get away from the noise of life. We chose Jim Thorpe based on recommendations of friends for a good rafting spot. Our goal: chill out and stay active. Contradictions = my life story.

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As we walked into the “haunted” hotel, the automatic doors immediately scared the bejesus out of me. I couldn’t even pee alone. Literally peed with the door open and my foot holding the door, just in case a ghost decided to lock me in. I don’t mess around. I may have slept with the lights and television on for two nights. There was no reason for any of this of course and obviously, John was out cold both nights. Despite my sleepless nights and awkward bathroom moments we had an amazing time. We did a 13 mile bike ride one day and rafting another. Unfortunately, we learned they only release the dam for white water rafting on the weekends so it required much more labor for us.

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Another trip is in order for the fall, so book your cabin/tent now. A bear encounter in the woods is much easier for me than a ghost encounter. Unless there are ghosts in the woods. Then I’ll take a five star hotel.

And so I’m pretty into my life right now, but there are some things missing- like running. Between you and me, I have been such a slacker lately. I know why too. I’m not going to lie. Excuses. They are so easy! And in the summer there is so much going on and so many French fries to eat. Now that I’ve said it I think I can get back on track. I need to get my ass in gear and sign up for another challenge or I’m going to fall off the wagon entirely. You’ve been there too, don’t judge. I wish I could say I’m going all in today but I had a volleyball scrapple last night- a team member ::coughejcough:: landed on my foot with his elbow. Clearly, my immediate response was:

“How much do you weigh?!”

But seriously. It hurt. And now I’m bruised, but not broken. And yes, everyone made fun of me for my hobble off of the court. But dammit, I persevered and played for the rest of the night! And actually hit a few balls over the net… Which is a huge task for the resident LVP (least valuable player) of the Atomic Bombs. Get over the name, we know it’s not PC. We are working on future team names- any suggestions will be considered.

So, I shall try to go on a run today, but no promises. Fortunately this time I have a better excuse than the one I gave John yesterday- I am possessed by the ghost and she hates working out. Until next time, my friends.

Ghost Huntin’

You might say I’m a non believer… I believe in nothing because I prefer facts and I rather see it to believe it than simply accept what people tell me to believe in. Coincidentally I have an irrational fear of ghosts.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I watch horror movies from under a blanket or between the spaces of my ten fingers. The more unrealistic the movie, the deeper I go under the covers. Worst case scenario: I start to play on my phone or iPad. Despite knowing it’s all created in the mind of a psychopath screenwriter I can’t help but to crawl into my bed and lay restless imagining every worst case scenario of a doll killing me in my sleep.

Why do I bring this up?

Well- John and I booked a few day getaway for hiking, biking, and white water rafting. He surprised me with booking everything and I was super excited… Key word: was.

Lassies and gentlemen, he unintentionally booked a known haunted hotel. So known people from far and wide travel there. So known it was on an episode of ghost detectives. If you have 20 minutes to spare like I did before I tried to fall asleep last night click on the link below:

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Half of me is semi-thrilled. Half of me (the half of me that is convinced a witch lives in the closest and a monster is under the bed) is terrified. So, I will be sure to report on my active adventures and if I was successful in using the bathroom without a chaperone to wait at the door for me. Never go to the bathroom alone with a ghost.

Have you ever had a paranormal experience? When where how why?!!

Budgeting Life

On a plane ride to Seattle I found myself indulging in the young adult genre. Yes, I dabble in Harry Potter, but I generally do not read young adult books, or novels that my 9th graders love (we have different tastes believe it or not. Exceptions made for Forever 21). But I caved. I bought The Fault in Our Stars. And now I can say I cried sobbed on an airplane. I totally attempted to hide my tears under my hair that I brushed ever so casually in front of my face, while I pretended to look out of the window – hooray for a window seat.

To summarize, in a sans spoilers way, The Fault in our Stars is a very touching (and conversationally unrealistic- teenagers do not speak like this) story about two youths who meet in a cancer support group and subsequently fall in love. And that’s where my summary will stop so you don’t despise me for ruining a possible summer read.

This book would have made Bear Grylls cry, but it really got me thinking. I do not have cancer, I have never undergone chemo, my disease has not put me in the hospital, but… in a similar fashion to our protagonist, lupus has created an emotional blockage for me.

Everything I’m saying from this point forward is not to suggest that everyone with a chronic illness feels this way so I can only speak to my own experiences. Disease had a funny way of making me feel undeserving of love- no one explicitly told me I did not deserve love, but it happened. This is an interesting conundrum as a serial monogamist, but fully tearing down walls has been a struggle. When I love, I love with all of my heart, but I come with endless apologies. Please see: exhibit a: endlessly apologetic for feeling exhausted and exhibit b: I physically can’t. So shut up.

Exhibit A: I’m not falling asleep because I’m bored, I’m falling asleep because I’m fatigued. So shut up.

Energy needs to be budgeted when you have a chronic illness. Choosing to to spend your energy is a task in itself. Food shopping, laundry, cleaning, and other simple tasks can expend so much of this priceless commodity. Prioritizing friendships, relationships, and myself (god forbid) is an effort that can only be truly understood by a person who experiences fatigue.

I was fearful of jeopardizing my relationships by saying no. I also hated the idea of using my “lupus card*”and being viewed as the sick girl. I perceived my inability to juggle it all was a failure rather than my reality. So, I would continuously wear myself into the ground because I cared more to follow than to lead. How can others love you when you struggle to love yourself enough to prioritize your own damn needs?

This took a lot of time to come to terms with- aka, last year. I needed to accept that I had lupus in order to live honestly with it. On the day that I woke up and made a vow with myself that I would prioritize my health I could feel a weight come off of my shoulders. And yes, I do break out the “lupus card.”

Exhibit B: I physically can’t move anymore. I’m serious- my hand could not close into a fist if I wanted it to. So shut up. Or face the wrath of a partially made fist.

Exhibit B falls into the category of physical pain that can accompany lupus. It manifests itself in me like rheumatoid arthritis (severe joint pain and difficulty moving as a result) and ultimate discomfort everywhere. Best way to describe the sensation: imagine your body is one big black and blue. Now poke that black and blue. That’s what I feel when I’m experiencing physical pain.

Let me explain myself like a wild animal- if I show pain it’s a weakness and I don’t want you to know that I’m weak so I’m going to go into hiding until I die or feel better. So far I have crawled out of my den and survived the pain every time. Go me.

What it comes down to is that I have a big sensitive heart for those that I love. I hate seeing them in pain. When they see me in pain, they feel pain, and as a result I feel pain. It’s a sick cycle. For years it was easier to put up an emotional concrete wall and not let people get close enough to me to pity me. They will say they don’t but their eyes tell another story. When people pity me I feel pathetic- I need to get over this. And when I have gotten very sick, I have needed help. Now I’m dependent on others- oh boy. This is the worst stage for me because I love my independence. I have needed help on every level from getting a glass of water to unbuttoning my pants. As a wild animal, I rather die, but as a human I succumb to their love and allow this much needed assistance.

My friends- It’s so easy to trivialize someone’s daily tasks and compare them to your own. I know getting a water is easy and that being tired when you’re a hard worker is a norm. This is why I have grown accustomed to having people struggle to understand SLE lupus and chronic illnesses in general. This is why having a relationship when you have a chronic illness is challenging for both parties involved. The truth is: Illness or no illness, you are fortunate to find a person who genuinely accepts you as you are. And we all deserve that.

I’m lucky to say that I have many relationships (family, friends, boyfriend) in my life that do not judge or question or push or expect and that take me as I am. I’m not sure I will ever come to terms with the fact that this is a truth- I think I may always have trouble accepting this. But like I said, ten years ago I rather go into an isolated space and hide my pain, fears, and disease entirely. Now I’m shouting this shiz from the rooftops. I have lupus. Deal with it… Or shut up.

*lupus card – this is an imaginary card that I pull out when I’m saying no. Used in a sentence… “I can’t to tonight. Don’t make me use the lupus card.”

Saying Goodbye

I left my sneakers in Israel – the sneakers that began this whole journey with me. The sneakers that helped me find the better part of myself.  

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If you have ever heard the phrase “I left my heart in … [fill in the blank]” that’s exactly how I felt, but it just felt right. Call it over dramatic, but these shoes represent a part of my life that I didn’t know was trapped inside of me- so it was clear when I needed to bring a pair of sneakers to Israel these would carry me there. 

When given the initial opportunity to go to Israel as part of my Birthright (basically, being born a Jew) I held off- Selfish, busy, jaded, unconcerned, but mostly 18 and had more important Dave Matthews concerts to see. Somewhere in the back of my mind was fear- Israel has been a place of contention since it’s creation as a nation. So I procrastinated, as I always do, until the last possible moment- months short of my 27th birthday, the time the decide you are too old to get free trips to Israel (I now realize they cut you off because they realize at the ripe age of 27 my ass would quit the Masada after two steps.)

Now I was presented with the chance of a lifetime to experience a country across the world- a country so far, but so close to my heart, and like my sneakers, I hoped it would help me find a piece of myself. A Jew- a Jew that was afraid to tell people that I was Jewish. It was too complicated, too much explaining, and too much hatred. In a world of over 7 billion people Jews account for 13.9 million- to explain in simple terms: 0.2% of the worlds population. I am a minority. A high school memory: walking out to my catholic boyfriends car to find a swastika drawn onto the dust on his window. 26 year old me to care less about the insecurities of 16 year old me, and in many ways I wanted to find pride in my heritage. I was ready to experience Israel as I left two weeks ago- and experience is exactly what I did.

This post is not a post on the history of Israel- that’s what google is for (or click me!). This post is also not a diatribe regarding the current situation – that’s also what google is for, and your own solid research, not what Selena Gomez is posting on Twatter. This post is a reflection on my time spent in Israel. 

I refuse to go into a day by day account because:

a) that’s boring.

b) days blended into days.

And to summarize Israel is impossible, especially given the current circumstances. I cannot write about my 10 days in Israel without discussing to some degree my experience given the current political climate. As the situation in Israel worsened by the day (google if you have zero clue- please) we were told about every bomb shelter- and had to use them on multiple occasions. And when there isn’t a bomb shelter, lay down and cover your head. To use the word anxiety inducing is not enough- as the sirens blare you have roughly one minute to find a shelter. And yes, we did hear the iron dome in action.  

On our last night the siren sounded loudly as we sat retelling moments that stood out for us on the trip. Gradually, families arrived in the shelter with us as they ushered their children in. Mothers rocked their crying children into a state of calm and then danced around the shelter to help them smile. I was reminded of my fortune to never have to live in fear while simultaneously saddened by what I had witnessed- what is this world that we live in? 

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Yet despite the sirens, the rockets and the missiles, Israeli’s continued their day to day lives. And we did too. It reminded me of a post 9/11 New York- New Yorkers could live in fear, or they could live. New Yorkers chose to live because to hide would be to give in.  

To say this is a beautiful country is an understatement- the history, culture, and pride for Israel is palpable when you are there. 

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Every day was a new adventure: Golan Heights, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Kibbutz, Elat, Hummus, Sabras, chugging massive bottles of water, waterfalls, camel rides, sleeping in the desert, admiring the stars in the desert, dancing in the desert, dancing, Masada, ancient Rome, more hiking, King Herod. Sleep was overrated and not needed. That’s what the bus rides were for.

And when we made it to Jerusalem and to the Western Wall I was overcome by emotion. I felt a history sweep through my bloodstream. As I looked up I noticed a white dove on the wall. I’m seriously considering that they pay that bird because it was so bizarre and perfect. How this tiny white dove never left this perch and simply stared out from the wall memorized me. Call me weird and spiritual- it’s OK, I already know I am. This tiny bird gave me a sense of peace in the madness that we were living in.

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And so I prayed- I prayed for David, I prayed for my family, I prayed for the lives of every person in this region. I prayed that I will always have the ability to find the joy in the little things in life. I prayed and I never pray. 

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I cannot summarize Israel because I could never do it justice. I can summarize with a word of the day:

Mishpocha:  mish-PAW-khuh, -POOKH-uh  , noun;

an entire family network comprising relatives by blood and marriage and sometimes including closefriends; clan.

groupIn Israel we became Mishpocha. And I hope someday this world can find more likeness than differences, but I fear that’s wishful thinking.

As I said goodbye to my dirt covered, worn in, sole [soul] depleted, sneaks, *literally said goodbye out loud* a piece of me felt complete and saddened. I fell in love and I will never be the same.

Israel, oh, Israel

Let’s do this! Ready to board el al- feeling good (and safe)!

I got my nails did yesterday for my last hurrah. Let me just say… They’re awesome.

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My last night home was wonderful. Here’s to being fortunate enough to live in a beautiful country already- both inside and out (most of the time).

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Peace out America- in the wise words of my brother:

Have fun. Peace in the Middle East. Wear your sun block. Don’t talk to any shifty Jews.

Aw, family. See you in 10 days!

International Girls

With the way I’m freaking out, you would think that I’ve never packed a day in my life. I left this life detail out, but I’m leaving for Israel tomorrow!

For those of you that do not know, there’s a little (amazing, awesome, life changing) program called “birthright.” 

Taglit-Birthright Israel provides the gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26. Taglit-Birthright Israel operates on a belief that it is every Jewish person’s birthright to visit Israel. To date, over 300,000 young adults from 52 countries have traveled to Israel for the first time on Taglit-Birthright Israel trips. – Mayanot- (click

Well, folks, I will be 27 in a (insert witty simile that means I will be 27 quickly) so I thought it was about time to experience Israel. Hello! This is an experience of a lifetime- a free trip because I’m Jewish- h-e-double hockey sticks-yaaass. Now I leave tomorrow, but, in Talia-fashion… I procrastinated… everything. 

My negligence has left me without an international phone (that’s what happens when you mentally block out any kind of travel) and a buttload *technical terms only, please* to pack. And by buttload, I mean baby mountain *technical terms only.* And some missing clothing options- I have to cover my shoulders for shabbat (for non-jews, look it up, for jews like me, you can look it up too… google.com) 

The reality is, packing is the least of my worries, but I’m sure it’s easier to focus on travel rather than other truths. Truths like:

  • I have lupus. I was honest when they asked about my medical history- as a result I needed doctors approval before leaving. It’s all so obvious, of course I should need doctors approval, but it makes you feel like a pariah. Or a small child not able to make your own decisions. 
  • I have lupus. When I had my first real flare I was traveling abroad in Greece. As a result, I have some real fears associated with international travel and lupus. Sun is a trigger and I’m the kind of traveler that thoroughly enjoys a sunny place. Israel may range from 90-100 each day with a strong sun… oy vey. 
  • It’s Israel- smack-dab in the Middle East, a nation surrounded by other nations that don’t like it that much *technically speaking* I’ve received quite a few “wow, Israel… be safe- don’t leave your group.” My response is usually, “don’t worry, I have my eulogy written out as a draft on my blog if anything happens.” People don’t like that response… but that’s what I’m going to say if you are going to suggest I might die! 
  • I have lupus.

My friends, I’m off- and I’m certain I will see you soon and maybe even post something while I’m abroad. Mom, I promise to wear a lot of sunblock, hats, and stay well hydrated and rested. John, you know I only have the hots for Irish-Italian Catholics, so don’t worry. Friends, I will bring back evil eye bracelets, sea salts, and other exotic things that you could probably find in a mall but it’s so much cooler because I got it from Israel- I know you just want to see me struggle to carry my luggage. 

Shalom! 

How do you Fourth?

Happy Independence Day America!

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The day always feels better after getting in a good workout- I fully intend on single handedly beating the new Nathan’s hotdog eating champ… Because nothing says America like a hotdog anything eating contest.

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But in all seriousness, no offense to Ron Swanson, go educate yourselves! And laugh in the process! (Click me)

Wave that red white and blue- and if you’re not from the US of A, go have an America party! Or let off fireworks! Or cry at the sight of an eagle!

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Eye of the Storm

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The sky was black- all wind that once existed in the air appeared to stand still. Fire engines blazed in the not too far distance. We all joked were certain that this was the apocalypse.

The sky opened up and my team continued to play, not phased by the storm.

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The sky lightened. The games continued on. Everyone got a story out of it.

Cindertalia

Carpets are gross. And I say this as the farthest person from a germaphobe. For four years I have been begging my super to rip out my crusty carpets, the story is always the same, yes, Talia, of course. And then it doesn’t happen.

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Well, let me tell you about a teacher on summer vacation that doesn’t believe in vacation. That disgusting carpet is no more.

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Filth, dust, and more filth is what I uncovered… That and a beautiful and destroyed wood floor. The poor wood underneath was completely and totally covered in paint. Now there was no carpet to cover it with (since it was now in the dumpster) so I had no other option except for manual labor. Scraping off each paint chip with a scraper. I know, the obvious would be a sander, but for reasons I don’t fully understand I couldn’t use one on these floors.

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So I sat and scraped and then my love, Lauren, saw my pathetic attempt at cleaning and joined in. She sat with me for hours helping me scrape tiny paint chips off of the floor. And then she suggested painting…

Classic Lauren move: Tal, just paint, you’ve wanted to anyways.

And the next thing I knew we were at a hardware store picking out paints after over 8 hours of cleaning and scraping. It may have been the cleaning fumes and the dust, but I picked out a light yellow green. Not a typical choice for me, but like I said, cleaning fumes. We invited some girls over and did what all girls do when we get together, more manual labor.

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Ladies and gentleman. After two days, I reveal my almost complete product.

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And this my friends, is a real summer vacation. Now, off to the beach.

Also, help! Accent color advice?! Color for an area rug?! Decorating tips?! I’m not good at this stuff.