My Dysfunctional On-Again / Off-Again Relationship

I called my friend Michelle early this morning (called, not texted). This is unusual behavior for me so she immediately had a bit of concerned confusion in her voice: “What’s up?” Me: “Well, I’m having a bit of a crisis.” Michelle: “Yeah, what’s that?” Me: “It’s about my mattress.”

You see, I have this inkling every now and again to get rid of my mattress (the last time I failed was about a year and a half ago). I think it’s partly the influence of the brilliant marketers on the radio telling me that I should have tossed it four years ago when it reached the elderly age of 8. It may also have something to do with the fact that I shared this mattress with my ex-wife (who I like, but, well, you know, it could still have “ex” energy—including a couple nights with Cruela!—despite multiple smudging attempts). I also just generally enjoy getting rid of things, to keep the energy fresh and invite in the new.

About a week ago an attorney I work for said she was selling her condo and had a queen mattress and box spring to sell (slept on only about 20 times). I knew for sure I needed a box spring. Mine was a creaky old man, keeping me up at night with his complaining. Maybe box springs age faster than mattresses? So yesterday my sweet, sweet, sweet nephew met me after school with his pickup truck to help me load, transport, and then unload my new mattress.

Upon arriving home, nephew and I were met with the additional help of my handsome and strong neighbor, Ben—most likely at the insistence of his gorgeous wife, Roxy. He not only helped with heavy lifting, but he drilled new holes into my headboard so that the new frame could attach to it, allowing me to keep the headboard but be able to ditch the footboard. It’s a small change that makes my small bedroom feel much bigger.

So great, right? All went smoothly and easily…why the need for a blog post? Well…yeah. That’s because I woke up at 4:30 this morning—BEFORE the sun was even up!—feeling like I’d been body slammed against concrete all night. I immediately flew into an anxiety attack and yearned for my old mattress. I even got up, no joke, and peered out into the night to see it forlornly abandoned by my back fence. Oh how I longed for it!

I returned to bed with a sense of pure dread about having to lie down again—though I sure as hell didn’t want to be awake for the day yet. Then I got a flash of inspiration and realized I should switch to a bulkier pillow. It worked! It felt like my head was on a cloud and I immediately fell into a deep dream-filled sleep and woke up a couple hours later feeling a bit more rested, though still sore.

Now, mind you, the woman who sold me the mattress warned me that it’s hard. In preparation I ordered a mattress topper, which is set to arrive Monday. But then I got to thinking, “Is it stupid to get rid of a SUPER comfortable mattress that I already own, to instead use a mattress that’s too firm and needs to be supplemented with padding to make it comfortable?” And then I thought again of my lonely mattress in the back yard and I got sad. And then I felt silly for anthropomorphizing a MATTRESS.

So then I called Michelle because I just wasn’t sure what to do. She agreed it might not be horrible to bring my old one back into the house to give me more time to decide. So I put shoes on and asked my neighbor Roxy if she’d help me haul it back into my house. She very wisely said, “I think you should let it snow on your mattress. It’s time to move on. Let it go.” To which my eyes teared up and I turned away before she could see me crying about a MATTRESS (which never works—she totally knew I was crying). So then I got dressed and fretted a bit more and made a pathetic attempt at getting quiet so I could listen to my heart. And then I walked my ass into the back yard, threw the mattress over my back, and hauled it BY MYSELF back into my bedroom. To get it out of the way of the animals, I tossed it on top of my new mattress, like so:


Sofie thought this was great fun. Here she is frolicking like the joyful creature she is. Chester found it to be a curious-yet-comfortable choice.

Now here’s a picture of how I’m going to sleep tonight:


Princess and the Pea, baby!! Two mattresses and one fine strong box spring! I’ll put a chair at the foot of the bed so the pups can jump up. Until I figure out how to proceed, this’ll work just fine.

What object in your home do you have an odd relationship with? Please tell me I’m not alone here!


The Vagina Rewind

I just performed in three shows of The Vagina Monologues. I feel like I could write that sentence fifty more times and still be surprised by it (as I’ve only ever been on stage one other time and it was almost 20 years ago). It was a soul- and heart-expanding experience. It required stepping into a world completely unknown to me. It required looking fear in the face and saying, “I just don’t care” (that’s a nod to “Glitter in the Air” by P!nk—her wisdom just intruded upon my thoughts). It required relying on skills I developed playing sports. It required leaning on those around me. It required saying yes to the very thing that simultaneously made me almost puke from nerves and yet has been a secret dream of mine for ages.

I Am Athlete, Hear Me Roar

Instead of choosing a happy-go-lucky family that encouraged personal expression in all its forms, I chose the All-American Athletic Family. I grew up on soccer fields and basketball courts, spent summers getting up at the crack of dawn to go to track practice, spent winters resisting my dad’s attempts to put a stocking cap on my drenched-with-sweat head when leaving the sweltering gym and heading out into the freezing night. I spent my youngest years following my brother around like a puppy dog, wanting to do everything he could do as well as he could do it (pogo stick, big wheel, bicycling, baseball, basketball, soccer, jumping off the swings, ping pong, sprinting…you name it).

I was molded by playing sports—physically, mentally, and emotionally. And what I learned from my experience with The Vagina Monologues is that doing theatre is based on similar principles. It’s about practice, practice, practice (rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal). Listen to what the coach (director) tells you. DO what the coach (director) tells you. Play well with others. Like, really, PLAY with the others and enjoy their company in the down times—standing in line during practice waiting for your turn to do the drill (hanging out in between the times you’re on stage), donning the uniform and all required athletic equipment before a game (getting all dolled up in stage-bright makeup and curling/straightening hair and putting on costumes before the show), and carbo-loading the night before the game at a teammate’s house (loading up on alcohol after the last performance). The following are what I fell back on to help me adapt to the new experience.

How You Practice Is How You’ll Play

This one snuck into the foundation of my consciousness without me realizing it. It was only last year that I came to understand how much this concept continues to shape my life. Last year when I was training for the couch-to-50-mile run (that actually became the couch-to-50K run), I knew in my bones that if I did the runs as instructed by my coach, I would build up mileage safely and I would succeed at the goal. I refused to shave even 2 minutes off a 2-hour training run (even if only I would know) because that’s how committed I was to maintaining the integrity of the training plan. I knew that building little success upon little success upon little success, integrity upon integrity upon integrity, would allow me to sail through the final goal with auto-pilot strength rather than fuck-I-wish-I’d-stuck-to-my-training-plan struggle. Wow, youth/high school/college sports taught me all that?!

So with The Vagina Monologues I knew that even though I might be shitting-my-pants scared to go on stage for the first time, I would be okay if I practiced the hell out of my lines to the point where the screaming of my nerves wouldn’t pierce the tightly grooved neurological pathways carved into my brain by the words written on my cards. And it worked!


Ah, this is the one that challenged me most during my years of playing competitive sports. And I realize now it’s because I believed in my young brain that if I didn’t perform perfectly, I would not be loved. I connected the dots to believe that my family’s love was conditional based upon my ability to perform at sports. And guess what? It was sometimes more than I could deal with. I seriously choked sometimes, like when I missed the game-winning penalty kick because I didn’t maintain composure, or when I played horribly in the state finals because I’d psyched myself out and couldn’t figure out how to recover. I even hyperventilated once on the pitching mound when I was 8 or 9 because I’d somehow convinced myself that if I didn’t strike everyone out, I would be considered a failure. (Why my parents didn’t start contributing to my therapy fund then, I will never know.)

So for The Vagina Monologues I did a lot of positive self-talk before the first show. I knew that a lot of my friends (my “posse,” if you will) would be in the audience and I used that to bolster me. I thought, “You know what, Erin? You’re grown up now. You now have the ability to know that your friends’ love is not conditional based upon how well you perform right now. No one will die if you suck, no one will die if you forget a line or stumble on a word or freeze under the lights or squeak into the microphone. Your friends are here because they care about you and want to support you in doing something new and fun. They will tell you that you were amazing no matter what happens—just because you got up there and gave it a go.” Might as well have that little voice inside my head be a friend rather than a frenemy, right?! (FYI for those not up on slang: frenemy means “one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.”)

Have Fun Out There!

This one sounds so incredibly trite, for sure, but if this one gets overlooked, what’s the point in doing anything? My friends Sue and Carla live a pretty damned magical life. They work incredibly hard but they also take magnificent care of their bodies, they take magnificent care of each other, they travel, they’re the biggest cheerleaders for their friends, and in everything they do, THEY HAVE FUN. Carla emailed me early on the day of the first show and simply said, “Just a quick note to say have fun today.” And it was a great reminder! I kept that in mind during moments when my body acted like it was being sent to the guillotine rather than to the microphone. It helped me keep proper perspective. And it helped that the stage manager is a super fun woman who enjoyed slapping my ass as I went on stage. That certainly lightened me up!

The Miracle of the Human Body

I enjoyed observing my physiological responses throughout the three shows. I had three small parts that required me stepping up to the microphone at the very beginning of the show, during the middle, and then near the end.

Show One: The undulations of adrenaline were like mountain-top highs and ocean-bottom lows. Just before I took the stage for the first time, my heart was beating at least double time and I kinda’ wanted to cry and puke and shit and jump out of my skin—all at once. When I got done with that first part, I rejoined my peeps backstage and it took a few minutes for my heart rate to return to normal. After my third time speaking, my job was to remain on stage for 7 or 8 minutes while my comrades did their bits. During the first show, no joke, I felt like I was standing on a full-body vibration machine—every muscle fiber was jackhammering up and down. I focused on my breath and bringing my energy lower into my body but mostly I just stood there and shook and hoped nobody noticed.

Show Three: My heart-rate increases were still pronounced but their onset was only immediately before going on stage, I didn’t do the full-body shake after my third time speaking, and my heart rate returned to normal almost immediately upon leaving the stage. I no longer felt the need to compulsively review my lines—in fact, during the third show they seemed to be delivering themselves. I was also more relaxed in general and talked to the other cast members more and laughed a heck of a lot more.

While I can’t really say (because I don’t know) how my performances varied from the first to the third show, I can say that I really appreciated how quickly my body adapted to this new type of stress.


The entire experience left me with a deep sense of gratitude and I feel like my love tank (and no, that’s not a euphemism for vagina…but perhaps it should be) has been refilled. I have no doubt I won the Lotto by getting to be part of this production—mostly because of the people I met and can now call friends. The experience was like a giant feedback loop of love, extending out in all directions. Hopefully everyone, whether audience or cast or crew, left with just a little more love in their hearts and a little bit more of a skip in their step. Also, immense gratitude to Lannie for hosting us at her Clocktower, thanks to Elana in the sound booth (is that the correct terminology?) for being so supportive and reminding us frequently that she’s a lesbian (that made my heart smile), and to everyone at The Gathering Place for doing great work. And to Coach Angela and Coach Cara—thanks for giving me time on the field and telling me exactly what to do. My only suggestion: maybe more ass slapping. 😉

Who Needs Intuition? I’ve Got Hallucination!

There are a fair number of you loyal readers (thank you, thank you!) who might not know about how I first realized I was gay. The full story is published in a book called Secret Sisters: Stories of Being Lesbian and Bisexual in a College Sorority, edited by Shane L. Windmeyer and Pamela W. Freeman. Perhaps I’ll post it here some time.

For the purposes of this post, however, I’ll simply set the scene by saying it was the end of my sophomore year of college, the night before my last final, and I hadn’t slept more than a few hours in three or four days because of cramming for finals. I had made the choice to prioritize getting a good night’s sleep over reading the book I would be tested on the next day (a gamble that I lost, by the way.) As life would have it, I was too tired to sleep. Or was I just tired enough to have THE REALIZATION? Either way…not many of my gay brethren can probably say they realized they were gay because they saw written on the ceiling in green neon:


True story. That’s really how it happened.

I like to imagine a whole host of unseen entities trying to figure out how to get me to finally realize what I’d known all my life. (‘Cause you know our lives are just reality television for entities, right?) They try all these different things until one of them puts all the pieces together: “She’s a compulsive reader and has an active imagination! Let’s just etch-a-sketch it on the ceiling and not let her sleep until she sees it!”

Needless to say, it worked.

So now fast forward almost 20 years to, well, a couple weeks ago. I was sitting on my couch, like I do, and Sofie, my little dog, was sitting on my lap. Something inspired me to lift her lip and look at her teeth (likely the result of a friend observing a few days prior that her breath was funky). What I saw was looney tunes: One of her teeth was so loose I could see it moving as she opened and closed her mouth (in an effort to bite my hand)!

I called the vet the first thing the next morning and got her an appointment. I looked at her teeth again that evening just to be sure. “Yep, that bad boy is LOOSE!” So want to guess what happened when I went to the vet? Yes. I made a total ass of myself. I was telling the tech, AS HE WAS LOOKING AT HER TEETH, that the loose one indicated to me that she really needed a dental. “Do you see the one I mean? It’s super obvious.” The cute 20-year-old kid was super sweet and nodded his head and said, “Yeah, maybe…” That tipped me off. If he’d seen what I’d seen, there would be no maybe about it! So I pulled up her lip where I’d seen the loose tooth and lo and behold, IT WAS GONE!! In its place was a tiny tooth, totally intact.

Right about now is when the veterinarian walked in. This is a new vet to me because I had to take my precious baby to the low-cost clinic (which was not a great experience and I’ll never do it again—it was like the time I tried to sell my plasma and was treated like a drug addict). He walked in with an obvious lack of bedside manner and he was very abrupt and rushed. I was in the middle of my “OMG, I’m losing my effing mind” moment, and he just looked at me like I was the biggest idiot he’d ever met. I explained my confusion while busily picking my jaw up off the floor and his response was to assure me that there’s no way she’d just lost a tooth because it would take a couple weeks to heal and he’d see the indications. So I walked outta’ there with my dog in my arms, my tail tucked, and my universe spinning around me. “So this is what it feels like to lose my mind…”

Today all the pieces aligned enough to reveal the method behind the madness. The Sofie debacle had prompted me to look at my cat’s teeth, which I could see were in dire need of help. So today I took both Sofie and Chester for dentals (Chester got to go to the upscale vet). Sofie ended up having three teeth extracted. Chester had to have one molar extracted and another root dug out where the tooth had broken off and left it exposed (which must have felt awesome for him). Clearly, this had been an urgent situation* that required my attention (as had my sexuality at the age of 20 been an urgent situation!).

So…next time I hallucinate and think I’m going crazy, please be my memory and remind me of this post. Please remind me that my hallucinations are a latent superpower.

What are your superpowers?

*Incidentally, so as not to seem a neglectful animal momma, they both checked out fine in their exams last year…

What Do You Mean, “You Think You Had a Date Last Night?”—The Confusion Continues

Okay, so it wasn’t last night, it was last week. (If you aren’t familiar with my previous post from September, 2013, about not knowing if I was on a date, please click HERE.) I’d met her a few weeks earlier at a fundraiser. She friended me on Facebook after the event and I soon realized from reading her posts that we had a lot in common: a love of reading, writing, nerdiness, and creativity.

When I first met her I got the idea she was likely bi. She was a smart woman at a political fundraiser for an out LGBT local politician; it doesn’t take a huge leap to assume she’s either a strong ally (in which case she wouldn’t take offense at a confused lesbian asking her out) or she’s bi at the least. I gave this not much further thought until I started receiving clear intuitive promptings that I should ask her out. So…one night I messaged her on Facebook to ask if she wanted to hang out, you know, so I could pick her brain about writing. Safe, true, keeping it neutral. Going in slowly, checking out the terrain…

She responded in the affirmative and what started out as coffee plans soon became sushi plans. From the time arrangements were made, the air felt a little tingly and I had that “Ooh, I have a date!” feeling. But then I thought, “Erin, you better check yourself. What if she’s not even into women? Don’t get too excited.” So I hopped on over to Facebook to check her “About” information—sometimes this is a great place to learn how someone identifies sexually—and my heart sunk when I saw the words “Interested in men.” Doh! So I immediately texted the couple of friends who knew about the “date” to let them know I’d misreported about having a date. Not a date. Definitely not a date.

So, night of the not-date, I pulled up outside her apartment building and texted her that I’d arrived. She shot back, “Okay, be down in just a few!” 30 MINUTES (and one “Where are you?” text) later she finally came down. While sitting in my freezing cold car waiting for her (learning my lines for The Vagina Monologues because what else is a girl to do?) I’d realized, “Maybe this is a date! If she’s being total girly right now and getting all dolled up and changing her outfit five times…maybe this isn’t just two strangers getting together to talk about writing.” And sure enough, when she got into my car I could see that she looked beautiful and I was mesmerized by the amazing scent that washed over me.

To top it off, somehow within two minutes of being in my car she slipped into the conversation that she’s interested in dating women. I wish I had a memory and could recall just how that happened. She then explained that her Facebook setting is “interested in men” because that’s all her family needs to know at this point. Aha! Mystery solved. Date on!

Dinner went swimmingly as we jabbered and jabbered and laughed and ate and outlasted a large party that arrived well after us. On the way back to her apartment she said in the cutest way imaginable, “So, ummm, my gaydar totally sucks, I just don’t really have it. How do you, umm, identify?” I thought, “Holy shit! Date foul! How did I not convey my position?! How did I not say one thing during dinner that would have put her at ease about the issue of MY sexuality?!” Sometimes my life too closely resembles episodes of Seinfeld!

The evening ended nicely at her place—can’t go wrong with red wine and talking and laughing. I reinstituted the Seinfeld shenanigans the next morning, however, when upon awakening I texted my friend Michelle to let her know that, in fact, it HAD been a date. I typed, “So…last night was definitely a date.” It was only as I pushed Send that I realized I’d just sent it TO MY DATE and not to Michelle. Always nice to be awakened by a flood of sheer panic! What can I do but find myself infinitely amusing?

If this continues to go well, in whatever capacity, we’ll undoubtedly soon be laughing about the time she didn’t know if I was and I didn’t know if she was. And, as compared to the 2013 instance in which I still didn’t know by the end of the date whether it was a date, I’m gonna’ call this progress.

Soul Light Repair Complete, Commencing Recharge

One of the most unique things about Ariel is that she absolutely trusts and follows her guidance. She is a pure conduit for the light and love of The Holy Wow (as Rob Brezsny might say). Her method of work, from what I understand, is to repair the energy grids in and around her clients’ bodies and then to fill them with light and love. In her own words (from her website):

Sometimes there are obstacles, often there are puzzles. But the goal isn’t to have everything go “right”. It’s to keep your energy bright all day, no matter what happens to you or around you. That’s where an energy healer can help.

People come when they feel stuck in life, off balance, unhappy, afraid or lost. They also visit for help in easing physical conditions or assisting with more serious health issues. These are the things that affect their energy field – an electromagnetic field that’s quite elaborate, but basically looks like a big bubble around the body. Energy healers like myself have the gift of sensing this energy field and are able to clear and repair it…even from thousands of miles away.

In order to be successful in her own work, Ariel MUST stay bright and shiny herself. It’s the old, “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” This makes her very qualified to give advice to others about how they can keep themselves bright and shiny.

As you’ll recall from my last post, Ariel had just repaired a couple of tears in my soul light and removed all the energetic detritus that had been covering it. She then commenced filling me with light, which tickled and felt awesome. At one point I could feel tingles running from my head down my body, down my arms, down my legs. It felt like someone was softly caressing my skin with a feather-light touch. I had goosebumps but I wasn’t cold. (And no, not everyone feels energy work palpably, and it makes no difference in the end result.)

As Ariel continued clearing, repairing, flushing, and filling, we were having a conversation. She made it very clear that after the repair of my soul light, I would begin to feel very different. She explained the importance of being VERY gentle with myself in the coming days, as the changes would still be settling in and taking effect. She also gave me some incredibly useful tips for how to be gentle with myself.

Ariel asked, “Okay, so tell me an unkind thing you think about yourself frequently.” I said, “I’m a failure. At life, in career, in love, whatever. The flavor changes but the gist is the same.” She said, “Okay, great. So you know what? You’re a failure. Pretend that’s absolutely the truth. You are a failure. I could try to talk you out of feeling like a failure, I could list obvious reasons why you’re not a failure, but will that change how you feel?” “Nope,” I said. “Right! It absolutely won’t. I’ve raised two girls through their teenage years and I can tell you that there’s no talking a teenager out of how they feel. I played a game with them that I want you to play with yourself. Basically, instead of trying to talk yourself out of how you’re feeling, I want you to ask yourself what three things you can do right now to change it. And then do those three things.”

So let’s say I’ve just had a bout of emotional binge eating and now I feel like shit (physically and emotionally). Ariel advised that a) if I’m doing it, I should enjoy the hell out of it and savor every bit of the experience, and b) if the end result brings up harsh thoughts about myself, I should play the “what three things can I do right now?” game. She explained that it’s like when a kid spills milk. Mom could try to figure out why it happened and fret about it and yell at the kid and carry on…or she can simply clean up the milk and move on. So…I can spend my time analyzing all the ways in which I’m a loser for having binged on unhealthy foods or I can do three things that will make me feel better. Perhaps I might choose to drink a glass of water, take the dogs for a walk in the park, and write in my journal. None of these things can go back in time to erase the behavior, but the milk has been spilled, so to speak. Now it’s time to clean it up and move on.

Or to back up one step: When I feel a binge coming on, I could focus on what’s up for me, what’s troubling me, and play the “what three things can I do right now?” game right then. Maybe calling a friend to say hi, drinking a glass of water, and having a solo dance party in the kitchen would shift my energy enough to negate the desire to binge.

During the week following my visit to Ariel I noticed that it became very quiet in my head. The shit talking had almost completely stopped, which made it easier to notice it when it was happening (and to hear what specifically I was telling myself). I haven’t consistently played the “three things” game, but somehow just learning about it created a shift for me. It’s a great reminder of, “Oh, if this sucks…I can change it.”. I’ve succeeded in being more gentle with myself and I’ve been experiencing frequent bouts of unadulterated silliness and joy throughout each day (usually only witnessed by my animals). And the influx of new fun people entering my life, which is something Ariel asked for on my behalf, has been staggering.

I can’t recommend Ariel’s services enough. I felt incredibly safe with her, I feel transformed by the experience, and I plan to go back at some point to get a routine maintenance check and to find out how the old soul light is faring.

“My Spiritual Near-Death Experience” or “That Time My Light Was Nearly Snuffed Out”

Her hand drew circle after circle after circle in the air above my sternum. Until this moment, she’d progressed fairly quickly and easily from one part of my body to the next. She seemed to be doing an energetic diagnostic to identify areas needing help. I was lying comfortably, not paying much attention to what she was doing. I enjoy receiving energy work; typically it sends my mind off into the stratosphere, leaving my energetic and physical bodies to soak in whatever they require. This was my first visit to Ariel and I was thrilled to be on her table finally.

I first caught wind of this healer about two or three years ago. In its kind and gentle way, the universe was YELLING at me to go see her. One night my friend Maureen told me about Ariel and gave me her business card, distinctive with its black background and blue curved grid lines. Then the next night I went to visit my friend Joey and she had Ariel’s card on her living room table. When I asked about it, she explained that she was planning to do a little tag-team experiment with Ariel in which she would channel information while Ariel was giving energy healings. Then within that same week yet another person mentioned Ariel to me! I went from having never heard of this woman to hearing about her three times in one week! That is how the universe yells.

At that time, however, I didn’t have two pennies to rub together, which meant I couldn’t go see her. It would be years before I had the money to see her, so Ariel fell off my radar until a couple months ago when I was in the throes of my “I must hate myself” inner dialogue. A visit to Ariel seemed just the thing to do. Got self-hatred? Go see Ariel!

So…I’m halfway through the wormhole and about to enter a parallel universe when Ariel starts tapping my sternum gently and then continues her circular sweeping motion in the air above my chest. By this point, she’s been there a while. She says, “What I’m doing here is clearing away the energetic dust and debris from atop your soul light…but I’m having a hard time finding your soul light.” This jerks me back into my body because I can hear the concern in her voice. “Your soul light is dangerously low.”

“Oh wait! There it is–I can see it now! Oh but…” Oh no. First she’s concerned because she can’t find it and now there’s an “Oh but…” And then I hear what one doesn’t ever want to hear: [with deep fascination in her voice] “In my 18 years of doing this work, I’ve never seen this.” [Pause that was probably two seconds but felt like 5 minutes.]

“You have a tear in your soul light.”

I have a tear in my soul light. My soul light somehow got torn. “Umm, what might cause that to happen?” I ask. She’s not sure but asks whether I’ve had a near-death experience or tried to kill myself. No and no. And then she says, “And you don’t just have one tear…you have two. One is at 12 o’clock and the other is at 2 o’clock.” I’m not sure at this point if I’m looking at Ariel with my physical eyes or if I’m standing outside my body near my head observing her, but all of the sudden she makes a sharp whooshing sound with her breath at the same time she forcefully whooshes something away with her hand. “I know what that was! That was an entity and it was in your soul light. That was the second tear.” And then she stands far back from me and starts working furiously with her guides and mine to commence the healing of my light.

As part of her intake she’d asked me why I had come to see her. I explained that I was fairly certain that I hated myself but I wasn’t sure why and I couldn’t seem to shake it. Upon the discovery of my twice-torn soul light she asked how long I thought I’d hated myself. My mind flashed back 5 years, 10 year, 15 years…all the way back…looking for a time when I didn’t hate myself. Hmmm. “I think it goes way back. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t.” She said, “Yeah, that seemed quite old, that tear.”

I think I’ve done a good job of not over-analyzing this thing to death. I don’t know why it was torn. I hope the entity is gone. I know that Ariel, with a team of highly qualified guides, took care of mending my light. The interesting part, and what I could tell Ariel hoped I would focus on, was, “What now?”

[to be continued…]

Because I’m All About that Base, ’bout that Base, ’bout that (Data)base

Okay, it almost works. I’ve had that damned song stuck in my head all day because of this awesome video of what the song would sound like in the 1940s. I’m slightly obsessed with it.

Let that be your background song as you read this post.

Who am I kidding? You’re transfixed and you’re not even paying attention to this. I’ll give you another couple minutes to enjoy being transported back in time.

And speaking of the past…I return you now to the yeshiva where Erin, the earnest gentile (non-Jew), is working away furiously at her computer, learning the database program as fast as her brain can rewind to pre-Windows software days. Yes, yes, if you’re thinking Oregon Trail on an Apple IIe you’re in the ballpark, at least visually. Except that despite its ancient-looking interface, its capabilities were vast (and vastly underutilized). I might have been able to launch a bochur (young unmarried male, especially a yeshiva student) to the moon if I’d been given training. But…training costs money and I was adequately consistent in my ability to know just enough to get by without.

And yet there was this particular non-software issue that tripped me up at first:

Note that Jews outside of Israel usually have two given names: one in Hebrew and one in the language of their birthplace. The latter name usually appears on the child’s birth certificate, but the Hebrew name is what he or she would be called in religious circles and functions. (from Judaism for Dummies)

Yaakov = Jacob

Dovid = David

Shmuel = Sam

Ahron = Aaron

Tzvi or Zvi = Ted

Yehoshua = Joshua

Moshe = Mark

Mordechai = Michael

You get the idea. So imagine how easy it was for me to miss that the Moshe and Rivka Goldstein in the database were the same couple listed on their check as Marc and Rebecca Goldstein (totally made-up names, by the way). If you’ve ever done data entry or maintained a database, you can imagine how this could lead to many a duplicate record in the system.

This multiple-name issue also complicated student record keeping. Which name should print on transcripts? Which should print on student identification cards? What about mailing labels? Reports? Diplomas? The legal or the Hebrew? Or is the legal the Hebrew? Or is the legal the English? Oh my! In a parallel universe there might be a policy, simple as: “X name prints on X thing.” At a yeshiva? At a yeshiva with an unruly database, no less? Policy, schmolicy.

So after some trial and error I became proficient at transliterating the names in my head. I also became quite proficient at merging database records and reprinting transcripts and diplomas and lists and mailing labels… It was meshuga (crazy) at its finest. “Welcome to the yeshiva family! Oh, and women aren’t allowed to be heard singing, so please turn down whatever that video is that’s playing on your computer.” 😉




Please Don’t Make Me Answer the Phone!

My first days of work at the yeshiva were anxiety-inducing because:

a) I actually wore pantyhose?

b) I broke a kosher rule immediately and felt embarrassed?

c) I was petrified to answer the phone because the people on the other end weren’t speaking English?

d) I was behind on getting my elder care certification?

As the title of the post reveals, it was most certainly…all of the above. But mostly C.

My very first phone call was from a woman speaking incredibly quickly. I thought I heard her ask something about Mishloach Manos but that term meant nothing to me. So I ran to my woman boss: “Umm, there’s someone on the phone asking about something like Mishloach Manos–does that mean anything to you?” Then someone called to say he wanted to give a Yahrtzeit donation. Then another called because he didn’t receive a receipt for his Yizkor donation. And all of these people, in addition to using words I’d never heard, were all sucking on marbles. What should have been sentences made up of individual words were instead long run-on phrases like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious spoken with an east-coast tinge of anger and impatience and delivered with the energy of Dementors.

And it was just as bad with visitors, whose mouths I could see opening and closing but whose words I could not comprehend. Ancient men came from towns all over Europe collecting on behalf of their charities. They all knew Rabbi and asked for him by name. (I will henceforth call the head honcho Rabbi either just “Rabbi” or “my Rabbi” to distinguish him from the multitude of other Rabbis at the school–and because it makes me chuckle to act as if I have a Rabbi of my very own. I would find it just as funny to have a priest or pastor of my own, for the record.) That part–Rabbi’s name–and only that part, I understood. I would escort the men into Rabbi’s office and there would be an eruption of conversation that sounded like German mixed with Pig Latin…Oh! That would be Yiddish.

Yiddish (ייִדיש, יידיש or אידיש, yidish/idish, literally “Jewish”) is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews. It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, providing the pre-existing language of the nascent Ashkenazi community with an extensive Germanic based vocabulary.

Great. So in my first days at Yeshiva I’d heard English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and even a bit of what is called “Yeshivish.”

Yeshivish (Yiddish: ישיביש), refers to a sociolect of English spoken by Yeshiva students and other Jews with a strong connection to the Orthodox Yeshiva world.

A sociolect?!! Guess what I did upon getting home every night during those first weeks. Yep. I walked the animals, fed the animals, spoke sweet nothings to the animals, then went to bed. I was in a full-on language immersion program that I didn’t see coming.


Thankfully, between my love of words and my love of being thrown into uncomfortable situations (not), I knew how to handle the situation. I became SpongeBobJewishSkirt. I let my brain totally relax and I let the stimuli rush in without fixating on any of it. I let my ears get used to the sounds, I let context give definition to strange words, I asked for explanations but even then I let the answers wash over me like water in the shower. And before long, I had adjusted. My head had wrapped around these new beautiful words and made a home for them in the synaptic connections of my brain. I was used to looking frum, I was passable as an unmarried Orthodox Jewish woman, and I was no longer afraid to answer the phone.

I’m Not an Orthodox Jew but I Play One on TV

The evading started the moment I walked in the door for my interview.

My thought bubble: “Don’t reach out to shake his hand, don’t reach out to shake his hand, don’t reach out to shake his hand.” (Touching between men and women is not okay in the Orthodox Jewish community unless two people are married to each other…and even then it’s only okay sometimes.)

Man Boss #1: “Well, hi! Great to meet you. So how do you know Cruela?” (She will also be referred to at random as Girl #0.)

My thought bubble: “Oh shit, I knew he would ask that. Don’t cuss–there’s NO cussing here! Not even in your head because it might spill out accidentally! How do I know her? Ummm, okay, I can’t say that we’re dating. I could say she’s a girlfriend and that wouldn’t be too far off the mark…”

Me: “I met her at a party one night; we share a close mutual friend.” Okay…not bad, all true…what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him (or me)…

And so this became the story that Cruela and I perpetrated whenever asked how we knew each other. (She worked for a sister organization of the yeshiva, so if I knew someone, it was likely she also knew that someone). It was nice to have an established script because, quite frankly, we’re both shit liars and for largely the same reason: Neither of us has a good enough memory to make things up that aren’t true.

The interview went well, my references gave glowing reviews of my previous performances (wondering quietly why the hell I was choosing to take this job), and before I knew it, I was being welcomed into the “yeshiva family.”

The first order of business was to raid my nearby thrift store for ALL the long skirts it had in my size. For this gig, I would be expected to wear skirts that were at least knee length (pants were NO JOKE not an option) and my shirts were expected to be at least three-quarter sleeve and have a high enough neckline to cover any hint, any whisper, any possibility of cleavage. Shoes were expected to be close-toed unless there was hosiery underneath.

Here’s Emma Watson looking the part (the flats seal the deal):

FrumEmmaWatsonThis way of dressing is an essential requirement of being frum, which means the following:

The Yiddish frum, meaning devout or pious, means committed to the observance of the 613 commandments of Orthodox Judaism. This appellation is generally, but not only, applied to Orthodox Jews, and used by that group as a self-reference. (per Wikipedia)

I often heard it used in such instances as, “So and So was raised frum but is no longer” or “She became frum later in life.” In my case, as a female employee of a boys’ school, I was expected to look ultra-frum (haha–that’s redundant!) in my manner of dress so as not to give the boys any ideas–especially because I was on the younger and bustier side.

Now truly, not being an Orthodox Jewish female, I got off easy on the clothing requirements. Were I Orthodox and married to a man, for example, I would have been required to wear a sheitel (aka wig, pronounced “shaytl”). It is the custom that once married, nobody but a woman’s husband will ever again see her actual hair. The explanation I was given for this by a younger woman in the community is that they perceive of a woman’s hair as a form of self-expression. By keeping this a secret shared between only the woman and her husband, it becomes a sacred, intimate, and private thing.

A good sheitel is not cheap. The better the sheitel, the more real hair it will use. And one sheitel generally won’t do. Most women have at least two–one for everyday wear and one for Shabbos (which I’ll elaborate on in a future post). My frum friend told me she has a few of those foam head-forms on her dresser and that’s how she stores her sheitels when they aren’t in use. I’m thinking that could scare the hell out of hubby on a middle-of-the-night bathroom run in the dark!

sheitels on foam headsA good sheitel is truly almost indistinguishable from real hair. Because I wasn’t expecting it (in all my ignorance of Orthodox Jewish culture), I was a bit shocked the first time I realized my woman boss was wearing a wig. She scratched her head and the whole unit of hair shifted back and forth in a suspicious way. I felt super stupid for not realizing it sooner, and from that point forward I couldn’t unknow that the women were wearing sheitels. I enjoyed observing the various levels of qualities and styles. There are even women in the community who specialize in cutting and styling sheitels. The perfect job for an introverted hair stylist!

It takes a newly married woman some time to get used to wearing a sheitel because they are hot and itchy. The learning curve sounds steep, rough, and mostly unavoidable. The thing most women prefer to use as a hair cover, especially when minding the children and cooking and cleaning, is known as a snood (rhymes with food, not wood). This is a blingy one, but it gives you the idea:

blingy snood

Not being an expert on this topic, I’m going to refer to this cool blog I just found called Wrapunzel. If you’re curious to know more about head covering, why it’s done, how it’s done, what the possibilities are…this seems to be a great resource.

My particular frum style turned out to be quite hideous. I brought the laziness to it that I bring to all endeavors involving putting clothes on my body. I had a few skirts that I alternated with the same five tops. I never wore jewelry or makeup. Sometimes I was only minutes out of bed before reporting for duty. Only my footwear changed with the seasons. I figured, “Hell, you want me to look unattractive to these boys? No problem!”

I was always happy to see other frum women looking cute, though. 😉

Oy Vey! You’re Writing About WHAT?!

This post is dedicated to Carey, a woman I am humbled to call friend. She is brilliant, creative, passionate, empathic, and totally comfortable with both power and vulnerability. She’s the smartest (and therefore sexiest) person I know and she inspires me by example not to be complacent. I’m infinitely grateful to have her in my life.

The other night we were catching up after a long spell of not seeing each other and I was telling her (and the people to either side of us, I suspect) stories about the couple of years I worked for the Orthodox Jews. I mentioned that I’ve wanted to blog about it but that I hadn’t figured out how to balance telling my stories with being PC (because boy have I been nailed to the cross for not being PC!). She told me in her gentle manner to get over it…so I did. Thanks, Carey. You opened a massive can of worms.

Let us begin:

Yeshiva is a Hebrew word meaning generally “a Jewish school for religious instruction.” Also:

1) a school for talmudic study

2) an Orthodox Jewish rabbinical seminary

3) a Jewish day school providing secular and religious instruction

(Does anyone else’s brain read “seminary” as “cemetary?” Mine does…and then has a great laugh. Haha!!)

Anyway, the yeshiva I worked at is a boarding school for boys in grades 9 through 12. There’s also a Beis Medrash (college program).

Here’s what I mean when I say Orthodox Jew:

Ultra-Orthodox Israelis Rally In Protests Against Army Drafts

This is also an Orthodox Jew, of the Chasidic variety, and this is NOT who I’m talking about (notice the difference in hair and hat):


The men of my yeshiva keep a lock of hair long enough to tuck behind each ear but they don’t do the long side curls that the Chasids wear. Their black hats are a source of great pride, especially among the younger men (and yes, the kippah, which is synonymous with yarmulke, which is pronounced yamaka, is still worn under the hat).


This is a society in which hat boxes are a common thing—among the men! How cool is that? Some of the students even had these plastic hat-carrying devices that helped them transport their very expensive hats safely as they traveled.

Now hopefully we’re clear on exactly which Jews I’m talking about.

You Worked Where?!

My general modus operandi in life is to see every situation as an opportunity to observe myself and those around me. I’m the lab rat of my own reality and in this particularly long experiment the name of the game was

“Don’t pin the kippah on the DYKE because, Baruch Hashem,

she’s a woman and we’re Orthodox and that’s NOT okay.

Oh, and what do you mean by dyke?”

This, my friends, is the first of many posts I will share about my experiences working for the Orthodox Jews. I will endeavor to educate, draw lines, blur lines, offend (inadvertently but most inevitably), and entertain.

Walking into the yeshiva every day was stepping into a world that is not mine. It’s also a world that has very little room for someone like me. It was a fantastic and oftentimes beautiful adventure, though, and one I look forward to sharing.