Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ride of My Life

Last week, I decided to enter a contest that was being sponsored by the City of Edmonton's website. The contest was to write a "tweet" about a favourite Edmonton memory on Twitter The two best tweets would win tickets to the Edmonton Indy and a ride around the track in a pace car.

Not being a huge race fan (I mean, I sometimes watch NASCAR on tv, but that is about it) the prize really did not entice me. The thought of how to creatively convey my feelings about Edmonton in 140 characters or less, however, did. Still, I really did not bother to think about it much until the afternoon of Wednesday, July 22 - the final day of the contest, which closed at 11:59 that night. I happened to be strolling around the High Street area, a Fat Frank in hand (vegetarian at that), doing some shopping. Suddenly, the line "hot dogs on High Street" started to roll through my mind. I thought it would make an excellent line in a poem. Since it was something specific to Edmonton, perhaps I could fashion it into an entry to the contest.

However, writing a poem in 140 characters is not easy. I decided upon the Haiku form since it is short yet can often convey a lot in terms of emotion or scenery. I have a lot of experience writing Haiku, as I was a contributor for one of the seasonal cycles of and was published in the first print volume published by this site.

I tend to use the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure for Haiku, even though some modern poets deviate from this. "Hot dogs on High Street" already was five syllables, so I could have used it as the first or last line, but I decided to add to it to make it the middle line, since I wanted to write about my experience and was shopping at the time. Hence, the middle line became, "Shops and hot dogs on High Street." Seven syllables!

Now, I needed a first and last line. For me, the festivals are an integral part of life in Edmonton. "Summer festivals" is five syllables all on its own. My first line was born. I only needed another five for the final line. I tend to spend a lot of time in specific parts of the city, like Whyte Avenue - which is four syllables. I could only add one more word if I wanted to stick with tradition. "Fun" seemed too cliché. Nights? No, that implies bar-hopping more than anything. What do I do on Whyte? I hang out with friends, have meals, shop, walk . . . "romps" came into my mind. "Whyte Avenue romps." A Haiku was born!

Early evening on June 22 I submitted this tweet:

An Edmonton haiku: Summer festivals/Shops and hot dogs on High Street /Whyte Avenue romps

I even had enough characters left over to be able to add the identifying hashtags of #yeg (for Edmonton), #yegmoment (the identifying tag for the contest), and #yegstories (for Edmonton Stories).

The following afternoon I received a call from informing me that my tweet was one of the winners! Surprised does not begin to cover it. I decided to take my ride on Saturday, the 25th which gave me two days to mentally prepare. Truth be told, this bicycle commuter who does not own a car had never been to the Indy before and did not even know what a pace car was. I was relieved to find out that it does not go as fast as a race car, but as someone who finds the rides a little too thrilling at Capital EX, I was still somewhat nervous. Reality started to hit when the City issues this press release about the contest and winners.

My time at the Indy was quite interesting and enlightening. The place was huge with lots to see and do besides just sitting in the grandstands, watching the cars zipping by. I saw all kinds of cars from different time periods, people working on cars, people talking about cars - it was almost like being in a great big outdoor museum. I took a lot of pictures, which you can see here. And it was loud - you can hear the racing all the way at my home in the west end, but up close it was an exercise for the eardrums. I found that I did not need the earplugs I bought for the occasion, however.

Shortly before 4 p.m., the film crew from the City and I met up and we did an interview, and I got signed in for my pace car ride. While waiting I also did an interview with a reporter from the Edmonton Journal. You can find that story online here. The photo, which clearly shows how hot I was (it was around 33 celcius that afternoon) ended up on the front page of Sunday's Journal, with the story on page A2.

I was also handed a small video camera to take in the car with me to record my ride. I asked the driver a few questions, particularly just how fast we were going to move. 150 km/hour is about a third of what a race car goes at, but it was very fast nonetheless. I could see the city skyline zipping by in the distance and could not refrain from screaming a couple of times as we went around the twists and turns of the track. Yet it was over within a couple of minutes and stumbling like a new-born fawn I emerged from the vehicle triumphantly. I had experienced something new, fast, and exciting. It truly was the ride of my life.

To get a good look at what happened, this page at has photos and videos from my big day!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July/August 2009 Boyle McCauley News

Our July/August issue is online - you can download a copy here.

VOLUME 30 NUMBER 6 - July-August, 2009

* EPSB Opens Public Discussion Over the Fate of Our Schools
* McCauley Cleans Up
* Heart of the City Wraps Up for Another Year
* Community League Updates
* Community Soccer Update
* Dining Out: Nyala Ethiopian Restaurant
* Cop’s Corner: Summer Safety
* Plan to End Homelessness will address housing needs of most vulnerable citizens

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Week in the Life

The past week has been a whirlwind. Between work, events, and activism I have hardly had a chance to catch up on relaxing, let alone blogging. Add to that the fact I have been trying to get in as much bike time as possible, and you have a recipe for Paula not being in front of her computer very much.

On Monday I went to Capital EX. This was the first time I have been there since the event re-branded from Klondike Days. The midway was owned by a different company, and there seemed to be fewer rides. Not that I am much of a ride person. I was tricked into going on the Crazy Mouse and had a sore throat for the rest of the afternoon from screaming. I actually found the displays in the Agricom the most interesting part of the afternoon, especially the butterfly area. I also enjoyed going on the big ferris wheel and getting photos from the top. Here are the photos of that and everything else.

On Tuesday I went to Taste of Edmonton for the second time. I enjoy trying different foods from different restaurants. I just wish it was not so expensive! Here is a look at what I tasted and tried. Most of it was good, and some of the portions were not bad values.

Prior to heading to Churchill Square, I took some shots around McCauley. We had a really intense storm last Saturday evening that resulted in a lot of trees going down, including this one on 93 street. I also got a few pictures of new community murals that have gone up along the LRT pedestrian/bike trail.

I attended a board meeting of the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society, for which I have been writing articles about interfaith cooperation. It is always great to be able to put faces to names of people with whom I have been working. The board consists of representatives from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths.

On Wednesday I attended an animal rights event for the first time. It was presented by Voice for Animals and Friends of Lucy and took place in front of City Hall. They are calling for independent experts to examine Lucy the Elephant at the Valley Zoo and determine whether she should stay put or be moved to a sanctuary in Tennessee. I am trying to keep an open mind on this issue and think City Hall should be taking a mroe active role in getting involved in the discussion. Here is a look at the rally (I admire the woman in the elephant suit - it was a hot afternoon!) and a short video.

Thursday had me bring my bike out to Terwillegar Park for some off-road fun. I don't really like riding on non-paved trails, so this was a bike and hike. Besides, the scenery is so beautiful I had to keep stopping to take pictures.

I also worked at my music this past week. "The Side of Peace" is another song I have written about the situation in Israel/Palestine. I performed it once live at an event called Expressions Against Repression, but I wanted to do a more "serious" recording of it. I also uploaded it to my main YouTube account with the hope of more people seeing it as they come to my channel to view videos about activism. Here it is.

Back at my music YouTube channel, there have been two new additions. I recorded a cover version in Spanish of a song called "Maria del Campo," a very old León Gieco song. In my video I got so into the song I did not realize my head was at times getting cut off! Also, by popular demand, I did a quick video of "Solo le Pido a Dios" yet again, clearly showing the guitar chords I am playing.

I had another huge adventure this past week, but it is worthy of its own blog post, so that is what I am going to do!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Civilian Weekend

I ran into a friend of mine outside the Commercial on Saturday. Camera in hand, I was strolling the avenue checking out the Art Walk (link leads to my photo set). He said he had never seen me before as a "civilian" and could even sense a different aura around me. That got me to thinking, that I spent the weekend pretty much apart from activist goings on, at least in public.

My weekend pretty much started on Friday, when I headed to Fort Edmonton for the third time this summer. On this visit, the train was not working (first time I ever remember that happening) but I checked out a few buildings I have not been in for quite some time, such as St. Anthony's Church and School and the Masonic Hall (the top part, not the food concession). Here is my ever-growing photo set.

Earlier last week I went to the Alberta Aviation Museum for the first time ever. I don't know how many times I have passed the museum, since it is not far from McCauley where I work. This has to be one of the most overlooked attractions in the city. I was blown away by the number of full-sized aircrafts, numerous cabinet displays, and other nooks and crannies filled with airplane and military memorabilia - although I have to admit the Third Reich stuff sort of creeped me out. You can even go into the area where they restore the aircrafts. I was literally blown away when I went outside to look at a few of the aircrafts too large to fit inside the museum (it was a very windy day), including a full-sized Boeing 747. Check out my photo set here.

On Sunday I briefly passed through the final afternoon of the Street Performers, then walked to Little Italy for a celebration of the young soccer players in the community. After that I enjoyed a potluck supper with a friend and his family. Good times all around.

It wasn't good times when the heavy rains last week resulted in my office flooding. Fortunately, I happened to be down there at the time and everything was able to be moved before it got damaged. I had the opportunity to go through a few boxes of archival materials, and am going to try to have to hook up one of my old zip disk readers to see what is on a bunch of old disks I found.

Speaking of discoveries, I have finally started to tackle the last ten year's or so worth of spring cleaning. I have found old diaries, journals, and notebooks containing early attempts at poetry and songs. I have found books, photos, toys - all kinds of junk and treasure. In particular, I went through some old sketchbooks of mine and scanned some of the better stuff. I posted it at my online portfolio at DeviantArt.

The "Lights Down, Stars Up" photo exhibit at City Hall may be over, but a slideshow of the photos in the exhibit is online here.

Finally, two of my songs are now available for download on iTunes: "Walls" and "Falling." "Walls" is a song I often sing at peace rallies, while "Falling" is a very early song I wrote about life. Both downloads are 99 cents and can be found by searching on my last name. For some reason, when you use my full name "Walls" does not appear in the search results.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just Friends

I wrote this article a while back, partially to vent and partially by request. I want to dedicate it to all of my incredibly wonderful platonic male friends.

Just Friends

He looked at me across the table at our regular haunt, a coffee shop not too far from my neighbourhood. We had been dating casually for about six months, and it was time for “The Talk.” Decision time over the future course of our courtship had come. Both of us had our doubts, due to various differences in our worldviews, interests, and goals. However, he wanted to make one thing perfectly clear.

“You are such a super, incredible person. If this does not work out, I really hope we can be friends.” It was the kiss of death to our relationship, because basically what he was saying that he thought I was an incredible person – just not good enough for him.

This was not the first time that I have been on the giving or receiving end of the “just friends” scenario. It usually comes at the end of a romantic relationship, when things are fizzling out, but for some reason one or both of us just want to keep hanging on. Sometimes it comes at the beginning, when the chemistry is not right (or there at all), and instead of completely blowing the other person off, being friends seems like a viable option.

Yet now I find myself questioning my motives, as well as those of the other person. It is way too easy to end a relationship, then keep the person around as a friend – just in case one of us changes our minds. Or, as a way of working through unresolved emotions left over after the romance is over.

There don’t seem to be any rules or etiquette when it comes to being friends, post-dating. How much time are you supposed to spend together? Too much can result in a relationship mutation, dating without actually naming the activity as dating. Boundaries become unclear and feelings end up getting hurt.

Going back to being just friends can appear like a natural evolution, a coming full circle. But getting so close changes things, and I find it hard to look at the person the same way as before, especially if it ends badly. However, since most of my boyfriends were platonic friends with me first, making a clean break when the romance is over is difficult. When the person is gone, he leaves a very obvious voice in my life. Can friendship fill that gap, or create more problems?

Let’s look at my track record. Just about every friendship post-romance I have ever had has eventually fizzled out. New girlfriends make me redundant. New boyfriends get jealous. Growing apart, a major reason for relationship breakdown in the first place, takes its toll. I guess when the substance of your conversations consists of “Hi, how are you?” and “How about this weather we’re having?” it’s time to move on.

The whole “just friends” thing might even trivialize friendship itself -- the relationship did not work out, so let’s settle for something less. What then, is friendship? I don’t think I could be a lover to someone without being his friend first. It builds an important foundation. Any two people can have sex. Any two people can go to a concert or other public event. But not every two people can connect on that intellectual, emotional, and sometimes spiritual level that is called true friendship.

And that kind of friendship is a gift and a blessing, not a consolation prize.

Friday, July 10, 2009

On Jewish Mothers

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

Few figures in Judaism are as mocked, feared, and respected as the Jewish Mother. Here are some thought and observations about our Yiddishe Mommas.

On Jewish Mothers

Jewish mothers. Are there any other two words that when juxtaposed, they illicit feelings at once of both reverence and fear. That is, only if you happen to be the child of one of them.

The stereotype of the over-protective, constantly fretting Jewish mother is well-known across cultures and religion -- the woman who does not cut the apron strings even after her children have passed the age of 25. Heck, even after they passed the age of 40, and have children of their own. Do you know the old joke about what the difference is between a Jewish mother and a rottweiler? The rottweiler will eventually let go.

Yes, there are indeed some Jewish mothers who fit the mold, and we all have our stories and experiences either encountering or living with them. I don't know what it is about being Jewish that turns a woman who would probably otherwise be normal into a worrying basketcase. Does being Jewish have anything to do with it? Does being a woman? Woody Allen is Jewish, and certainly is known for portraying characters that are more than slightly neurotic, and he isn't a woman.

Families are important in Judaism. Most of life cycle events and holidays are geared to be celebrated within a family unit. But family is also important in other cultures. Greek and Italian mothers have also been known to watch over their youngsters closely, but still do not have the stigma attached to them that Jewish mothers do.

Could this stereotype be a form of anti-Semitism? Perhaps. But at the same time, it is not exactly a false profile. I can't count how many times I have commiserated with other Jews about my parents, only to see them nodding their heads in empathy. There is such a thing as self-hatred, but one's experiences are their experiences: if we come from a home with a nutty Jewish mother, than that is our experience, and chalking the stereotype up to anti-Semitism is an aside.

So, here are some suggestions about why things are as they are with our maternal bonds. I mentioned earlier that family is important in Judaism. So is food. Food is crammed down our throats at every available moment. Food is linked with Jewish holidays. So when we refuse to eat for no reason other than we are simply not hungry, it is easy for one's mother to get offended or worried that something is wrong ("No mom, I won't waste away if I don't eat my third latke/blintz/cabbage roll/fill in with the ethnic food of your choice.").

As well, in a world where it is only recent that Jews are not pariahs in society, a person who lived in more dangerous times may feel more protective of her flock. I don't see the worry and fretting in my contemporaries -- it is mostly older women who were alive during the time of the Holocaust. Women who may have lived part of their lives in an Eastern European Jewish shtetl, then experiencing the culture shock of North America, and the non-Jewish cultural and religious influences that being part of a more dispersed Jewish community brought into their lives and families.

Basically then, I think the problem is with a certain generation of Jewish women who have their mindset in another time and place. Let me give you a personal example. My mother would not allow me to ride my bicycle unaccompanied, even though I was well into my teens, because she was afraid of me getting caught in traffic. We live in Western Canada. When my grandparents visited one summer from New York, my grandfather (of blessed memory) asked me why I did not go for a bike ride. When I explained to him the reason, he promptly marched inside and in a bewildered tone of voice asked my mother, "What traffic?" Thanks to Grandpa, she relented. But until then, my dear mother's vision of congested roads was still focused on the hectic streets of New York.

With these women, the universal and general become the local and specific. We must eat because children are starving in Africa. We must be home before dark because someone's sister's best friend's aunt's cousin was attacked twenty years before.

The stereotypical Yiddishe Mama is probably a species that will not remain beyond another generation, as the face and makeup of Jewish families change and we are more used to living amongst non-Jews. But her mark upon Jewish literature, popular culture, and our lives, will ensure that the legend of the Jewish mother will remain a part of the Jewish consciousness.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

They're Closing the Airport

So, it is official. City Council voted to progressively close the Municipal Airport yesterday. This issue has been on my mind since I visited the Alberta Aviation Museum a few days ago (pictures are here), which is very close in proximity to the airport. The museum will not be affected, as it is a protected historic site. I wonder if the same could not have been done for the airport. Or, at the very least, a city-wide plebiscite vote should have been held. This doesn't have to do with "yay" or "nay" - when it comes to a decision of this magnitude, the entire city should have been involved.

Most of my activist comrades from whom I have heard voice an opinion on this matter have been in favour of closing the airport. The main reason is that one of the plans for the area is high-density, affordable housing in a green community. While I admit that this is a need in Edmonton's core, to my knowledge the plans at this stage are all talk. There is no proposed business plan or developer (other than the City itself). The only thing that can be counted on is the NAIT expansion (definitely worthy in its own right). We don't have any assurance that these affordable housing units will actually come to fruition. Some smooth-talking, high-rolling developers could come onto the scene and persuade things to go their way and ritzy condos could sprout up. Don't forget, it's going to be public money that will front most of whatever happens in that space. "Affordable housing" and "green" are buzzwords making closing the Muni attractive to progressive folks. My activist comrades, do we really take at face value the words of those in authority?

The Muni has the city's medevac service. I know someone personally who flies search and rescue out of there. The close proximity to the Royal Alex hospital has been essential. But according to Mayor Mandel, that really doesn't matter because, after all, health care is a Provincial, not Municipal concern, so we're not under any obligation to provide land for it. I hope he gets a chance to tell this to the critically injured person who will have to land at the International Airport and be transported to a hospital via ambulance.

In many ways it is a good thing the vote is finally over, so there is a place from where to work. But that in itself is not an excuse to rush or force a decision. I stand by what I said earlier that this should have been voted on my the people. Power to all the people -- not the 13 who sit in City Hall.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Fuss About Intermarriage

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

Intermarriage is one of the biggest issues that is blamed for assimilation. Yet the number of Jews who intermarry is on the rise. This really isn't news and in the years since I wrote this article, the rates have only increased.

The Fuss About Intermarriage

When statistics that indicate that, for the most part, 50 per cent of the Jewish people who choose marriage partners choose non-Jewish, the first instinct can be that of alarm. If, that is, you happen to be one of the people who are happily married to a Jewish partner, and/or believe that intermarriage equals the certain destruction of the Jewish people.

I live in a large city with a disproportionately small number of Jews. The intermarriage rate is extremely high. Most of the people who marry Jews either leave the city, or find someone from someplace else who is willing to relocate.

What is a Jew in a small community to do? The Internet has helped create some long-distance matches, but long-distance relationships are not for everyone. Nor is relocation. Staying single out of loyalty has been done, but is not realistic.

There are a lot of Jewish singles in areas of higher Jewish populations, so the problem of finding an appropriate Jewish spouse is universal. When you combine the necessary factors of sharing spiritual goals, feelings for one another, and having enough in common to sustain a marriage, the pickings can suddenly seem very slim.

Without laying blame, or explaining the (mostly obvious) reasons why, intermarriage is a fact of life for contemporary Jews. We can raise children with as many Jewish values as possible, but if there simply are not enough kosher fish in the sea when they grow up, most of them will marry out.

For women, this is not that big of a deal, because our kids are still Jewish in all of the movements. For men, their children will only be considered Jewish in the more left-wing denominations. We cannot bank on false hopes that the Orthodox will ever accept these children as Jewish, or accept Reform conversions as valid.

I have seen that Orthodox communities will still welcome the Jewish spouse in an intermarried couple, and if the woman is the one who is Jewish, the children as well. And Reform, of course, welcomes non-Jewish spouses.

What it comes down to, is whether or not Judaism is passed down through the generations. A child who has had positive experience with Judaism is far more likely to make Jewish choices. Children of intermarriage who experience loving, affirming Jewish grandparents are more likely to stick with Judaism than dive headfirst into the religion of the other parent.

Even if the child is not halachically Jewish, there is still hope -- a boy born to a non-Jewish mother may indeed marry a Jewish girl, thus restoring the lineage. Stranger things have happened.

I honestly believe that deep down inside, a lot of Jews who marry Gentiles wish their partner was Jewish, but due to circumstances beyond their control, it just didn't happen. "Fighting" intermarriage is like fighting industrialization or desegregation. Frowning upon it isn't going to stop it from happening. Disowning our relatives who "marry out" is only going to further alienate them from Judaism.

The worry that intermarriage is going to completely erode Judaism is, I believe, an overreaction. First of all, there is always going to be the Orthodox branch of Judaism, which has the lowest intermarriage rate of all the movements. Secondly, look at all of the adversity that we have survived over the centuries. And yet we are still here.

While I am not going to go so far as to say that intermarriage always has a positive outcome, there are cases where marrying someone who is not Jewish increased one's sense of Jewish identity. Let me explain: when a Jewish person marries a non-Jew, there is negotiation, the explanation of rituals and holidays, and a true effort has to be made to inject Judaism into the home. One has to soul-search about what being Jewish really means. When two secular Jews marry, there are no such issues. You simply exist as a bona fide Jewish family, when the home might actually be devoid of Jewish spiritual flair.

The trend towards intermarriage might very well turn itself around. But I am not counting on it. Whether one's children's children are Jewish will likely depend on too many variables to control. The face of Judaism is changing, while Halacha remains the same. We need to respect our laws and traditions, while accepting change as a fact of life.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Other Half

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

I got a lot of flack over this piece, mostly by Jewish men saying it just wasn't so. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it is. I will add that some of the Jewish men I have dated have gone on to marry Jewish women - only after "sowing their wild oats" and/or finding someone matching and essentially secular and tenuous attachment to Judaism as a culture rather than as a faith.

The Other Half

I wanted to call this article "The Problem With Jewish Men," but I decided against it. This is for all of the Jewish women out there having problems finding a partner. The Jewish singles scene is a difficult place. The gripes of Jewish women tend to focus on – you guessed it – Jewish men.

Before I get started, I just want to say that I do not intend to offend anyone here (although I am sure it is more than likely to happen). I like Jewish men. I really do. I find them sexy, funny, intelligent, and cultured. I like dark hair. I like piercing eyes. I like eccentricities. I think it is cool when someone is close with his mom.

So then, why don’t Jewish men like me?

I’m apparently not alone in my amazement. There are multitudes of Jewish women who have a sincere desire to marry a Jewish man, only to take one look at the dating scene, shrug their shoulders, and ask a resounding “huh?”

The first problem is finding where the Jewish men are keeping themselves hidden. Many of us live outside of major Jewish centers, where a Jewish social scene is non-existent. Plus, Jewish men are more likely to fade into the background. According to Jewish relationship pundit Shmuley Boteach, Jewish men are twice as likely to intermarry than Jewish women.

So what happens to the Jewish women? I think we’re more likely simply never to marry at all. After all, Jews in general tend to get married later anyways, and finding decent, available guys in their 30’s and 40’s without excessive baggage or “issues” is about as likely as winning the lottery.

As a last resort, many Jewish singles are turning to online dating services, such as, one of the most popular Jewish dating sites. Purely in the interest of research for this article (why don’t you believe me?), I placed an ad. I used photographs in which I allegedly look good and which reflect my personality. And much to my surprise, there is a fair amount of men in my locale on the system. Most of them I have never met or dated before.

At last count, my profile had been viewed a grand total of – drumroll please – 19 times.

Men who are supposedly interested in marrying a Jewish woman are not even reading the profile of a single, available gal in their own city. Either something is wrong here, or I am horrendously hideous. (In case you would like to judge for yourself, my profile name is ArtsyGal2652)

However, this is apparently a universal problem. A friend who was recently visiting form California has had similar experiences. She does not yet have a photo on her profile, but as soon as she sends a prospective date her snapshot, she stops hearing back from him. And just for comparison’s sake, she is blond-haired, blue-eyed, and slim. So much for the argument that Jewish guys are only looking for skinny blondes.

Oh, but we don’t seem to have any problem finding non-Jewish guys to date. First off, there are far more of them, and secondly, we’re “exotic.” Halachically, our children are Jewish no matter what. Good deal, no?

Not necessarily. Prospective gentile partners have families also who might object; have their own childhood cultural and religious experiences they may want to pass on to their children (and rightfully so); have issues with our Jewish traditions and practises. Some years back I wrote an article about my Jewish and non-Jewish dating experiences, here. Likely one of the most popular articles I have ever written, sadly, nothing much seems to have changed. We either don’t fit the “mythical shiksa” body type, or we are simply “too Jewish” in practise (even if we are not Orthodox. I have had guys cringe and run for cover when I tell them I don’t eat bacon).

Which brings me to another issue. Many of these guys on Jdate are never-married who are also getting on up there in years. I question just how much of a momma’s boy a man 35 and up is who has never been married. Yes, they are looking hard to find a Jewish woman, but with all of their effort, they just don’t seem to find one they can build a life with. Hmmmm. I know what it is – their standards must just be too high. Yeah, that’s right.

So what hope is there for those of us Jewish single gals who have passed the ‘30’ benchmark? I honestly can’t answer that question. And it saddens me. We live in a world where shallowness and liaisons based exclusively on physical attraction reign supreme, and it is pathetic and discouraging that such this worldly influence has infiltrated our ranks. Instant gratification has replaced the pursuit of higher actions leading us into a deeper relationship with the Almighty. Jewish women are guilty of this also, but Jewish men are far more likely to say they want a Jewish woman, then find every excuse under the sun not to marry one.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Drumming, Caravanistas, and Life: Mid-Week to Weekend Recap

July 1 was Canada Day. It felt strange to have a holiday in the middle of the week. Most of my friends who work regular jobs were slightly ticked at the fact that they could not turn it into a long weekend. Lots of celebrations went on around the city, but since I hate flag-waving nationalism even more than I hate crowds, I opted not to go to any of them. Instead, I opted for a bike ride and took some pictures around the grounds of the Royal Alberta Museum.

On Saturday, I played drums for the first time in months. The coolest part was when I was warming up by attempting to play "Wipe Out" (albeit much slower than the real thing) and someone actually recognized it! My philosophy on drumming is that you have to be totally into the music. Your headspace has to be concentrating on all the other instruments around you. One wrong move, and you can throw off the whole works. I think it is a good idea for someone who plays the drums to also play another instrument to have a better understanding of orchestration, dynamics, and timing.

That afternoon, after lunch at Ricky's, I went to a presentation by Pastors for Peace about their annual caravan down to Cuba, bringing with them much-needed medical supplies and other necessities. This is the organization's way of trying to break the US embargo on Cuba which is starving the people there. The keynote speaker was a "caravanista," and we saw a short film about a school bus that was detained on its way to Cuba. Notre Dame Des Bananes and The People's Poets performed some socially conscious music. Here are some pictures.

On Sunday I went to a bridal shower, which was a lot of fun. I got to spend time with a lot of friends and met a lot of new people, which is always a good thing. I took a lot of pictures, which went on Facebook - so if you want to see them, you have to add me as a friend (hee hee!). Seriously, I don't put "family" photos on Flickr. Anyways, if you ever want to make new friends, carry a camera with you - I am telling you, it has saved my social life many times over the years!

This past week, I also wrote a review of The Hydeaway which I neglected to do back when I saw Yves Engler speak there last month. Last Thursday and Friday were spent distributing the July/August issue of Boyle McCauley News, which included putting a distribution box in front of the Italian Centre! Passers-by can now grab a copy of the paper without having to run around in curcles trying to find one (we also have copies in the Italian Centre, Zocalo, the Mohawk on 87th and 108 Ave., and Mini-Mart on 95 St. and 107A Ave.). The web version of the paper should be coming imminently. The article I wrote for the Phoenix Multi-Faith Society about the Genocide Memorial Garden dedication ceremony is also now online.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Finding Shalom

This is a very personal piece I wrote some years back that I came across again recently. There really is a correlation between pain and creativity. We should always remember how our past shapes us, even things that happened before we were born, and how our actions affect others especially when we are young.

Finding Shalom

My grandmother wanted to go to college, or so the story goes. I have never asked her myself. Of course, since women did not do that back then, she held her dreams inside and desired my mother to attend post-secondary education.

Which she did, but not the kind of which my grandma hoped. My mother trained as a legal secretary, in hopes of snagging a nice, rich, Jewish lawyer. She got my father instead. He was an elementary teacher in a ghetto school who was pursuing his doctoral studies in the evening.

For the first six years of their marriage, they lived in my mother’s parents’ duplex. Then, when he earned the right to put ‘Dr.’ in front of his name, my father found the position that moved him and my mom from their close community of Brooklyn, New York, to the wilds of Edmonton, Alberta.

‘Culture shock’ probably did not begin to describe the change. Being an Orthodox Jew, my father soon realized he was no longer in walking distance of the nearest synagogue. There were two kosher butchers, each purveying their own brand of inedible delights. My mother, who enjoyed television, was dismayed to discover only four channels at her disposal – one of them in French.

Moving back home after my father amassed enough of a C.V. to get a position at another university, preferably one in the East, was definitely a consideration. However, the digestive disturbances which plagued my mother en route to their new home turned out to be more than food poisoning or a touch of the flu. It was my older brother.

The 1960’s turned into the 1970’s, and a few years later I was born. The family was settled. My mother, forever doting and over-protective, was concerned about problems back home and decided it was best to stay put.

For a variety of complicated reasons, my brother and I never attended the local Jewish day school. I was the mystery of my elementary classes; the girl who always got to miss school to celebrate exotic holidays. The one who could never go out on Friday night; the one who had to turn down invitations to birthday parties because she could not eat the food being served. Still, I never resented who I was until the kids from the day school, which only went up to grade six in those days, joined us in junior high and treated me as an outcast. On top of that, I was daily being stalked, verbally harassed, and beaten by a Lithuanian Jewish boy who came up to my shoulders.

Things were not much better with my non-Jewish classmates, even though it felt easier and more gratifying to use my experiences as a source of rebellion with my parents, who had done their best to raise my brother and I with their customs and traditions. I could no longer relate to the meanings that were behind all that we did as part of our heritage.

I turned to my few friends, my painting, my writing, my music. I wrote songs almost every day, and swirled colours of tempura on paper. My father gave me an old camera of his, and I started combing the neighbourhood, looking for subjects to photograph. The trees and the birds and the flowers became my best friends.

Eventually, junior high came to an end. A bad case of chicken pox made me miss my graduation. To this day, the group photo of the grade nine class of 1988 hangs on the wall in the school, without me. But I still have most of those photographs, those paintings and songs, and the scars from which my art flows.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Body Is Jewish

My culture and faith has profoundly impacted my written work. I used to be the Editor of the Judaism site for until time constraints forced me to stop. My work remained on the site for a while but has since vanished from the web. I will be posting some of the more resonant articles I wrote here, to keep them real and alive.

Body image is a concern for all women. Jewish women have particular gripes and issues, due to our ethnic makeup and often stereotyped features. Here is a meditation that was inspired by my own experiences as a Jewish woman after many years of looking in the mirror.

My Body Is Jewish

I am a Jewish woman. My soul, spirit, and mind is Jewish.

My body is Jewish.

I have Jewish hair. It is wavy, dark, and perpetually frizzed. Only a bottle of extra-hold mousse stands in the way of it looking like rejected merchandise created at a Brillo factory. I have no desire to change it. I have long since given up.

I have Jewish lips. Full, red, often chapped -- likely due to my own mistreatment. I don't need lipstick; for me, it's built-in.

I have Jewish hips. Even when I was at my "ideal" weight for my height I had to buy clothes in the plus-sized section, or else I simply could not pull them up or dare to close the. (My mother always said I was too skinny as a child, but that's what a Jewish mother always says even if you develop the Jewish equivalent of a Buddha belly. A Judah belly?) This I wish I could change, but resistance seems futile.

I have Jewish eyes. Dark and piercing, I get accused of staring and winking much to my oblivion. If I gaze in your direction, you will remember.

I have Jewish thighs. Like my hips, no amount of Pilates, chocolate deprivation, and running makes a dent.

I have a Jewish nose. That quintessential Jewish feature. Here is where it is said I am lucky; genetically pardoned. Only slightly too wide, it still could never pass for the turned-up buttons in my wishful thinking.

As I dressed in the darkness of a Shabbat morning, I stood nude in the bathroom. My profile facing the mirror, I turned to see myself. My breasts covered by my arms, I saw the curves of my waist leading around to the fullness of my buttocks. Silhouetted by the glow of early morning, I gazed in disbelief at the almost statuesque-like quality of my stance. More than substance, there was truth -- the truth of who I am.

My body is Jewish.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Moving On When the Relationship is Gone

Back in 2004-ish I wrote a series of articles for a start-up website called The site was intended to bring together a number of relationship "experts" to discuss aspects of, well, relationships. Amidst the psychologists and therapists there was I, talking about being single, dating, and breaking up from a young woman's point of view. My work got a pretty positive reaction even if the website did not reach the heights its team aspired towards. The site, after years of inactivity, has since gone offline and as a result so have my articles. In an effort to keep them online I am going to be reposting them here. After all, this did start off as a blog about singles' issues. Just bear in mind that these articles are a few years old and as such may not reflect some current situations in society, the online world, and my life.

This is an outline of a seminar I gave over the phone concerning moving on after a breakup. It was a timely topic for me, as I had just gone through a major breakup myself. Following the main presentation, I answered questions from the callers.

Moving On When the Relationship is Gone
Seminar Outline

  • introduce myself
  • seminar purpose
  • with the exception of people who meet and marry their first significant others, all of us will experience break-ups

    Part One: When It’s Over
  • knowing when to end a relationship
  • how to end it
  • knowing when to let go when the other person ends it

    Part Two: Stages of Emotions
  • losing a relationship can be like a death (stages of grief)
  • stages:
    1) shock
    2) bargaining
    3) anger
    4) acceptance
    5) resolution (forgiveness)
  • stages more intense when you did not want the relationship to end, but differ for everyone

    Part Three: Dealing With It
    How to prepare to pick up the pieces
    Surround yourself with people:
  • friends/family
  • church/faith
  • activities you enjoy
  • don’t: overindulge (eating, drinking, spending, etc.)
  • For some, this may mean having to find a new place to live.
  • Some may decide to relocate, but this is extreme

    Part Four: Moving On
  • Get back into circulation
    - take part in singles’ activities
    - place personal ads
    Even if you’re not ready to get serious, symbolically you are accepting the fact that you’re moving on

    Part Five: The Ex Files
  • Deciding whether or not you can be friends
  • Handling seeing the person in work or social situations
  • Beware of unresolved emotions: motive for hanging on
  • Some situations it is absolutely necessary to get along (if you have children)

  • better to be alone than with the wrong person
  • all just stepping stones on the way to finding the right one
  • Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    How to Break Up Gracefully

    Back in 2004-ish I wrote a series of articles for a start-up website called The site was intended to bring together a number of relationship "experts" to discuss aspects of, well, relationships. Amidst the psychologists and therapists there was I, talking about being single, dating, and breaking up from a young woman's point of view. My work got a pretty positive reaction even if the website did not reach the heights its team aspired towards. The site, after years of inactivity, has since gone offline and as a result so have my articles. In an effort to keep them online I am going to be reposting them here. After all, this did start off as a blog about singles' issues. Just bear in mind that these articles are a few years old and as such may not reflect some current situations in society, the online world, and my life.

    How to Break Up Gracefully

    Most romantic relationships eventually come to an end – except for the one with the person with whom we spend our lives. In every break-up, there are always two sides. Here are some tips to make your side a little easier if you are the one who has to end it.

    1. Don’t act surprised or taken aback if your ex gets emotional. It is only natural to feel hurt, even if the writing was on the wall for a while.

    2. Say what you need to say, and do not become insulting or derogatory towards the other person.

    3. If the other person becomes hostile or irrational, remove yourself as tactfully as possible. Perhaps say something like, “We can discuss this when you are in a more reasonable mood,” then head for the door.

    4. Never give the “let’s just be friends” speech, unless you really mean it. Make sure your motives are pure, and that you are not really trying to stay close to your ex just in case you realize you’ve made a mistake. Likewise, if the other person is not interested in staying friends, don’t push it.

    5. As much as possible, avoid using those stale clichés: “It’s not you, it’s me.” “I love you, but I am not IN love with you.” Please – we’ve all heard them before, and we know in 99.99 percent of the case they are not even true.

    6. Make sure you have returned anything that belongs to the other person, and if he or she later comes to you asking for something of theirs, give it back. Gifts given to each other are never returned (except for an engagement ring).

    7. Don’t gossip about your ex, especially to any of your mutual friends and acquaintances.

    8. Be clear – the other person has a right to know why you are ending the relationship. Unless, of course, you are leaving an abusive relationship, in which case you need to get out any way you can.

    9.“Goodbye sex” is a definite no-no. Besides sending mixed signals, there is always the risk of ending up with a little “surprise” nine months later (believe me, I’ve heard of it happening).

    10. At the same time, don’t be afraid to show some emotions. Cry if you have to. After all, this is someone that you spent a significant amount of time and energy caring for. Just because you’re doing the breaking up doesn’t mean there is no pain for you also.

    Paula E. Kirman is a freelance writer and website designer in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her website is: