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I Embraced my Heritage and Found Solice at The Skirball Center

I Embraced my Heritage and Found Solice at The Skirball Center

Nearly a year ago I made a new years resolution that I would be more conscious of and limit my need to apologize for everything. Along with this new initiative, came a new desire to embrace myself without vindication for the things that make me who I am.

In my tiresome “need to be liked by everyone and not to make waves where there needn’t be any,” I admit I had allowed my Jewish heritage to become somewhat invisible through the years. Being Jewish in the current society had just become more trouble than it was worth. I’d married a Catholic man who had always wanted to support my traditions, but even so, celebrating my culture’s customs had become such a chore amidst a Christian holiday society. Being non-religious, I didn’t really see a need to make it a priority. As far as I was concerned there were more important things to fight for, and quite frankly, I didn’t feel like fighting anyway.

So for a while I took the easy way out, jumping into the celebration of Christmas with both feet, dressing the tree, hanging the stockings and telling stories about Santa and his elves. It was so much easier to celebrate without the fear that I would be targeted. I guess you could say I conformed to fit in.
Through the years, I’d think back to Hanukah, spin a driedle or two in remembrance, but the truth is it felt a bit like I was letting a part of myself die a little. It saddened me, but I wasn’t sure of what I could do about it. The area we live in is sparsely Jewish and what little Jewish circles there were, I didn’t run in.

This year, along with swearing off my addiction to apologize, I realized I no longer wanted to deny my Jewish Heritage. Religious persecution in a less diversified suburb might have led me to choose not to worship at all, but this was no longer about religious beliefs. This was not a choice.  The same way a Chinese or Italian person cannot deny their ancestry, I cannot deny mine, nor would I teach my children to deny theirs.

This year, Hanukah came earlier than Christmas,  a perfect time to celebrate it without the chaos or the competition of Christmas. By gosh, I was going to take advantage! Hanukah is not yet over and already we have had a wonderful time spinning dreidels, making latkas, hiding presents, and telling the story of the Macabes and the miracle of the burning oil. In honor of my reborn heritage, my husband and I brought our boys to the Skirball Center for the Hanukah celebration this year. It was such a wonderful time for all of us!! Full of laughter and celebration.

It felt like home.

We learned such things such as the correct title for what most of us call a Menorah: The Hannukiah. The most wonderful revelation is how many of my non-Jewish friends and neighbors have taken part in helping me celebrate. They have set aside any preconceived notions and have seemed genuinely interested in learning about my heritage and all of its traditions.

What a glorious time all of us have had!

If only I’d realized earlier the importance of pride, I would not have spent all those years being afraid to be my very self, my only self, and all the things that make me exactly who I am. I didn’t choose to have frizzy kinky hair and freckles, I did not choose to be born in a free country and I did not choose to be Jewish. But I am grateful that each of those choices were made for me.

New Years Eve is still a month away, but I already know that my resolution this year will be to embrace my birthright and honor myself in love and festivity!

Embracing Drama

Written by Ally Loprete

Drama has been with me for so long, I don’t even remember where we first met. I think it was sometime during elementary school because by the time I was in junior high, it was sitting next to me in every class, eating lunch with me, and keeping me company while I walked home from school each day.
It started out shyly stalking me. It followed me wherever I went and hid behind bushes and buildings so that I wouldn’t see it. But I always knew it was there. At first, Drama was just sort of annoying to me, and then its presence began to torment me to the point where I’d try to avoid it at all costs, outsmart it, or hide from it by getting lost in a crowd of people and disguising myself as no one special… but Drama always found me. I tried to reason with Drama, asking it to leave me alone, locking it out my bedroom, and refusing to feed it or nurture it. I had hoped that it would just give up and find someone else to pursue, but nothing worked. Like a lost puppy, it had found its home with me, stayed loyal to me and waited outside all night in the cold for me, happily wagging its tail the moment it saw me. It would continue to tag along side me, each and every day. Some days Drama was more present than others, but it never left my side.
Drama came with me to high school, stayed all 4 years, and then followed me out of state to college. It lived with me and all of my college roommates, in the dorm, the sorority house and even in my first apartment. It stood next to me at graduation, was there when I took my first job, my second job, and pretty much every job after that. Eventually I just began taking Drama with me to job interviews so that potential employers wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Drama would be following me to work each day. Some employers graciously accepted it, and others did not.
Often when I went out with friends, Drama would be there. It accompanied me on blind dates, to parties, or even just out to the movies by myself. Drama has lived with me at every apartment, condo or house that I’ve had. It’s made its way into every group I’ve gotten involved with, and every friendship or romantic relationship that has come into my life. Drama was there when I first met my husband, on the day that he proposed and it even made several appearances on our wedding day. Drama has been living with my husband and I ever since.
It’s with us on weekdays and weekends, it joins us on all of our family vacations, holidays, and special events. We brought it with us when we purchased our first house, when we bought new cars, and whenever we have changed jobs or careers. Drama was with us when my husband and I decided to start a family. It stayed by my bedside throughout both of my pregnancies and was there at the hospital the day both my children were born.
Drama has become such a part of our lives, that if it ever left us, we’d feel that there is something missing. Some people seem put off by the fact that Drama comes with us wherever we go, acting almost as if they are allergic to it, afraid to go near it, or even hoping that if they ignore it won’t exist. Others have been very accepting of it, and have come to understand that it is part of who we are. We have embraced Drama as a member of the family, and honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s taken some time, but we’ve learned to be grateful to Drama for being present in our lives. It’s because of Drama that we’ve become the well-rounded, seasoned and experienced people that we are today. Drama has taught us love and acceptance, how to lower our expectations, strive for growth, take risks and have a sense of humor about ourselves. It has shown us the difference between good friends and GREAT friends, brought us together with those we love during times of anger and sadness, war and disease, and other life tragedies. It has shown us that we are resilient, even during our most vulnerable times. It has introduced us to new people and situations, and taken us on journeys, both thrilling and exciting, that we never expected to go on. Drama has given us incredible material for our acting careers, our one-person shows, our books and our blogs. It has inspired us to create, invent, take risks, start new business ventures, and connect with others who also have Drama, similar to ours, in their lives.
We love to tell stories about Drama and do so over and over again at family reunions, and Thanksgiving Dinners. We will continue to pass the stories down to our children through the generations. Drama has brought laugher into our lives, as well as tears.
It’s because of Drama that we are who we are, where we are, how we’ve come to choose so many of the paths we’ve taken in our lives, and even how we’ve learned to survive. Drama has been documented in our history books, our newspapers and magazines. It is in our favorite TV shows and movies, the books we read, and even the commercials we watch.
Drama is everywhere we are, and once we embrace it, we are able to realize how it has nurtured us, emerged us into new opportunities and possibilities, teaching us how to make lemonade out of lemons.
We love Drama, and we are not ashamed to admit it, as others may be.
I have grown to feel sad for the people who don’t have at least a little Drama in their lives, and wonder how boring and empty their lives must be. Although, Drama has been known to follow others from time to time…even those that deny they know anything about it, lurking in the shadows and showing up when they least expect it. I know how Drama must frighten them, but I also know that they have nothing to be afraid of.

But it’s the people that have welcomed Drama into their lives that seem the healthiest, the least threatened and the most blissful. Drama is a gift.

Surviving the Recession (Yes, It’s Possible)

Surviving the Recession (Yes, It’s Possible)

Written by Ally Loprete

I have a plan that I’d like to share with you — because it involves YOU. Actually, it involves everybody. If everybody does their part, we not only have a chance of surviving the recession together, we have a chance of rebuilding our society into something spectacular.
First, let me ask you a question: When was the last time you were given amazing customer service? I don’t mean service that simply gave you what you paid for and did it with a smile and a bonus “have a nice day.” I mean the kind of service that throws out the rules of business and treats you like someone of value and an individual with needs different than the last customer’s needs. Not a one-size-fit all approach that we’ve come to know as the norm.
Is good old fashion customer service so far a thing of the past that the majority of this generation never really knew what it was to begin with? Have we gotten so used to the automated systems and virtual relationships that nothing is genuine anymore?
I am not complaining. I am proud of where we are… although I wasn’t at first. I was more skeptical and angrier than most. I don’t mean to harp on the big businesses — after all they are run by people who have needs just as you and I do. But very often in big business we are unable to speak to real people who are able to meet our needs as their customers. Big business has become a large robot not programmed to care about our feelings, sensitivities, and real human experience. We grew up being told that everyone is special, but big business has taught us that everyone is exactly the same and that extraordinary needs are not tolerated — or, at least, the robot is not programmed to understand them.
However, the good news is that recently I’ve seen a shift in that energy. People are needing to connect on a more human level. True we are communicating through text messages, emails, and blogs (ahem), but we are still connecting. And in some ways there is more of a connection because we all have access to one another on a level much greater than ever before: The Internet.
The Wonderful World of Web is a really good thing! So good that, if we read between the lines, we will see our unlimited potential and how capable we are of getting back to that sense of good old fashion customer service mentality.
Since we are able to shop and do business online, we can now choose from literally millions of companies to work with. If we don’t like their service, we can go elsewhere, just as easily. It’s not like we have to drive over to the next town because we didn’t like the clerk at the grocery store. We can buy from just about anyone we want.

Do you realize how much power this gives us?
It means the big businesses are losing us and, actually, the loss that big corporations have already suffered is a primary contribution to the recession we are in right now.
But that’s OK. It’s all part of how society rebuilds itself. Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can go forward.
So, if we see the recession as a not-so-bad thing, we can use it to our advantage. Are you with me?
What this means is that smaller businesses, for the first time in decades, have a fighting chance. And in case you haven’t noticed, small business is exploding.
They have something big businesses don’t have: a personal touch.
For those of you who don’t remember what it was like to have this so-called “good customer service,” don’t feel bad. I don’t know that I do either, but I’ve seen a lot of movies and I’ve listened to a lot of old people talk about what it was like in “their day.” I imagine it to be something like this:
People GAVE because they were in a position TO GIVE. I imagine there were some people who didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, but hey, it probably all evened out in the end. Some people call it Karma — and Karma is a concept that has been around since the beginning of time.
So, there is your answer! Karma is the way that we are going to survive this recession.
You have something? Give. You need something? Take.
This recession is a way for the universe to clean the world up a bit, and rebuild the social order of our culture. You can’t have a rainbow without first having a storm.
This new (or should I say old fashioned) way of business is creeping into the general public more and more. And I am mighty impressed, I have to say.
Here is the best part: You can choose who to do business with, and if you choose to support the small business men and women in our society, I can pretty much guarantee that they will support you, and give you that personal touch which has been missing for the last 30 years.
P.S. You can find those men and women at http://www.ourmilkmoney.com/.

Ally Loprete is the Co-Founder of OurMilkMoney.com, an online directory of self-employed parents across the country. Ally’s focus is to help expose parents working to create a better life for their families and her mission is to educate consumers on the value of purchasing from the small business owner. Ally is passionate about inspiring parents to connect with one another, and will often write about the brilliant ideas that seem to come to her only in the shower or while blowing her hair dry.