Road Trip 2015 Entry 3 (Day 2 – KY to MO): I Crossed the Mississippi And None of My Oxen Died (with Couchsurfing!)

Day two was pretty amazing.  I’m currently importing all of the photos from the GoPro, and I can’t wait to see this timelapse (This might be delayed, y’all.  It’s really big).  Kentucky continued along with rolling hills until Illinois (which I was in for all of about 10 miles).  Torrential downpours from the end of KY through the beginning of MO made the trip a little gross, but when the sky cleared up.

So you know how you know something will happen but you don’t know it because you just didn’t think about it?  Yeah, totally had that moment crossing the Mississippi.  To be fair, it was pouring and I’d just crossed several other rivers.  But there was definitely a “oh hey, look at that!” moment.

Crossed into Central time at some point.  Have no idea where.

Missouri was beautiful.  A little flatter than I expected at first, but then I entered the Ozarks.  Best part of the Ozarks:  passing all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stuff while simultaneously passing Amish buggies on US-60.  For a hot second, it felt like being in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  With cars.

Stopped in Poplar Bluff, MO at a Harps grocery store for a homemade hoagie.  Totally worth the stop.  Am starting to think I’ll stop at grocery stores instead of fast food joints from now on (except Taco Bell.  Please.).

Made it into Springfield in early evening and met up with my Couchsurfer hosts Melanie and Holly.  If you’re looking to do this same cross-country route, I highly recommend them as hosts.  Holly and Melanie, their two dogs, and one super fluffy cat made me feel quite at home.

Beer Mac and Cheese.  OM NOM.

Beer Mac and Cheese. OM NOM.

After arriving, they took me to downtown Springfield, which has a wicked cool college town vibe.  After dinner at the Springfield Brewing Company, we popped over to this amazing townie bar, the Patton Alley Pub, which was having a tap takeover by Mother’s Brewing Company, a local brewery out of Springfield (beers I tried:  McJagger Irish Red, Ruby).  Another friend of theirs, Devin, joined us, and we had a fantastic time.  At the end of the night, we returned to their place to marathon HIMYM and have a few more beers.

Congrats, Melanie and Holly, you have set the CS bar way too high.  I look forward to seeing if my next couple stops can compete!

Today I head to Amarillo, TX by way of Shawnee, OK (where I will be having lunch with my awesome Aunt!).  Leave me some love!

Trip Stats:
Starting OD (Fort Knox, KY):  214326
Ending OD (Springfield, MO):  214830
Stop 1:  176 miles (Paducah, KY)
Stop 2:  114 Miles (Poplar Bluff, MO)
Stop 3: 191 Miles (Springfield, MO)

Fill-up 3:  11.187 gallons @ 2.59/gal – $29.08
Should have done Fill-up 4 before I got to my host’s house…

MPG Day 2:  25.65 for first tank.  Not sure what the second one is.  Given I was averaging in the 30s before I left, I’m going to blame weight and the untested cruise.  Other suggestions would be welcome.  This is making me angry.

Grouplove – Never Trust A Happy Song
Fall Out Boy – Save Rock And Roll, Folie A Deux, and Infinity On High
The Heavy – The Glorious Dead and The House that Dirt Built


Road Trip 2015 Entry 2 (Day 1 – VA to KY): “Sister” Time and Childhood Lies

The first part of my trip was relatively short and pleasant.  I met my college best friend (and “big sis”) in Lexington, KY along with her family before a quick jaunt to Best Buy (I’ll explain) on the way to Fort Knox, KY.


Morton Travel Plaza, WV

The trip started pretty frustratingly.  My plan to use the GoPro for the trip was (nearly) foiled by a firmware update.  Went to update the Hero3+ Silver for the first time in (probably) months, and for some reason, it wouldn’t turn back on after the install.  Several bad words later, I left for breakfast with the brother, the brother’s roommate, and the brother’s roommate’s dad.  After a brief respite from the camera stress, we went back, hoping that it had magically fixed itself.

It hadn’t.

Angry, I made my last stop on the way out of town, gassed up at the University City Kroger, and headed out.

IMG_3519Not going to lie, I was super bummed about the GoPro.  If you’ve never done it, the drive up US-460 West to I-77 North/I-64 West through Charleston and Huntington, WV is some of the most beautiful driving on the East Coast.  I’ve done the trip a few times (though never past Charleston prior), but never in bright, green spring.  Nearly every time I drive through West Virginia, some well-intentioned person always warns me about being “safe.”  “Hillbilly” prejudice drives me nuts, especially given I was raised in WV for many years (and I’m related to half of Keyser, WV…).  It’s a bias that just grates on me.  Not having the video of the trip to show people just how lovely one of my homes is is going to be one of my biggest regrets of the trip.

IMG_3651Yesterday was my first time in Kentucky.  Fun fact:  the grass is not blue.  It’s not.  At all.  I feel lied to.

Once I crossed the WV/KY border, the mountains died down, and I was driving through gorgeous piedmont.  I don’t know why I assumed KY would be more mountainous.  Probably because elementary school geography was over twenty years ago… (my G-d).  The drive was stunning.  I cannot wait to see more states I haven’t seen before!  Plus, the roads seriously opened up the second I entered KY.  If this is any indication about how driving is going to be in “the middle part of the US,” I’m really looking forward to the pace.

Made it to Lexington with relatively few problems (springtime roadwork is going to destroy me on this trip, I think).  The cruise control has kind of a weird relationship with my throttle, but I’m getting used to it.  Ate at the Cracker Barrel in Lexington (I seriously hadn’t eaten there since college.  It did not disappoint.) before swinging by Best Buy.  My awesome partner ordered me a new camera for the trip (we’re not 100% if the other one is fixable.  It’s being sent off), so we did manage to get video from Lexington to Fort Knox.

This was set to take photos every 5 seconds.  Let me know if you have any suggestions on changing that.

Today is a chill day in KY with J.  Watching The Fast and the Furious 1-4 (relationships make you do funny things…) and staying in on a truly miserable rainy day.  Tomorrow I leave at the crack of dawn to drive to Springfield, MO.  Looking to Couchsurf across the country (Yes, it’s safe.  No, don’t yell at me).  Any suggestions for stuff to do in Springfield if I get there early?

Remember, please signal boost if you’re enjoying these updates!

Trip Stats:
Starting OD (Blacksburg, VA):  213894
Ending OD (Fort Knox, KY):  214326
Stop 1:  108 miles, 2 hours (Morton Rest Stop, 77N/64W, WV)
Stop 2:  201 miles, 3 hours (Lexington, KY)
Stop 3:  119 miles, 2.25 hours (Fort Knox, KY)

Fill-up 1:  8.18 gallons @ 2.09/gal – $17.17
Fill-up 2:  11.335 gallons @ 2.69/gal – $30.59

MPG Day 1:  27.6mpg.  Terrible, given I’ve been averaging over 30 since I had all the work done.  I blame weight (my entire trunk is full with clothes and books) and mountains.  We’ll see how this goes now that I’m in flatter areas.

Beck – Mellow Gold
Broken Bells – Broken Bells and Meyrin Fields (EP)
Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
Lieutenant – If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat For A Week
Plain White Ts – All That We Needed
Silversun Pickups – Seasick (Single)

Road Trip 2015 Entry 1: Car Upgrades and Music Requests

Well the road trip officially starts Friday, but I’ll be packing and getting ready all day today and tomorrow.  Finally got all the last bits of Nigel squared away, including her stickers and cruise control.

Still need to fix the stickers...

Still need to fix the stickers… “SUBARU” is a bit wibbly and in the wrong spot, and the Impreza sticker is wrong and in the wrong spot.

Look, Ma! No Feet!

Look, Ma! No Feet!

Thanks so much to all the fantastic employees at Shelor Motor Mile Subaru (especially Michael in the Parts and Accessories department) for the new car parts and at Main Auto Spa for all the hard work they put into making my old girl sparkle inside and out.


Compare that to the paint on my last post!

Now we all know how boring those 2700 miles I’ll be taking can get, even with brand-new scenery, so I’m asking for your help, Constant Readers.  I’ve gotten a bunch of new music for the trip, but I could use some suggestions.  If you go over to my profile, you can see my overall top artists plus what I’ve really been jamming to the last six months or so.  Anything alt. rock (especially lesser-known stuff) would be right up my alley.

So feel free to leave me a comment here (or wherever it gets publicized) with an artist, album, or if you’re feeling really creative, an entire playlist!  If you need to email me something, just let me know, and I can shoot you my email address!  The music you suggest will help me both get to California and through the writing of my dissertation this summer!

Finally, if y’all are interested in this trip (or know someone who may be), please feel free to give me a signal boost along the way.

Love: It’s What Makes a Subaru MY Subaru

I will start this post off by saying that yes, this is shameless pandering on some level.  But nothing I’m about to say about my car isn’t completely true (and anyone who has ever heard me wax on and on about my nearly eighteen-year-old car can confirm the validity of the sentiments hereafter).

My parents purchased our 1997 Subaru Impreza Brighton (2-door, green) at the end of the model year, just prior to the unfortunate exploding of our faithful 1987 Volvo 240DL station wagon.  The car was my mother’s, then my father’s after the Volvo’s demise (Mom got a 1999 Honda CRV that she still drives).  When I finally got my learner’s and then my license in 2003, the Subaru became mine.

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Early 2014 (or: the Year I (Finally) Learned To Park Backwards). Look at that pretty Impreza (covered in salt)!

Her name is Nigel.  Yes, her.  My roommate M. was there when she was finally named.  I really wish I had noted how many miles she had on her when I got her.  Definitely over 100,000.  Probably closer to 110,000 because that’s when her last timing belt went on until recently.  She currently stands at 214,000 well-earned miles.

There is a bond that comes from your first car, whether you like the car or not.  My brother’s first car, my cousin’s Passat, met an early demise due to rapidly falling snow, and I’m pretty sure my brother is still mourning its loss.  I wasn’t around for my partner’s first car, but the first car I knew him with, a purple (yes, purple) Honda, was one of my great loves (though, I’m pretty sure, he would have purposely wrecked that car to collect the insurance money if it had been worth it).

So many times different people have told me to junk this car.  The vinyl is starting to tear, I’ve had to put about 1500 bucks into her this year alone (all general maintenance stuff i’d have to do on a 5-6 year old car, too, I would add), and I’m sure she’s not as safe as a brand-new car.  But I love her, and like the love of Joni Mitchell, true love lasts a lifetime.

Clearly she needs new paint (and a bath)...

Clearly she needed new paint (and a bath)…

So now that she’s just hit 200,000, and I get ever closer to 30, I find myself getting nostalgic.  In an attempt to channel that nostalgia in some meaningful way, my goal this summer is to drive my love across the country to San Jose, to spend the summer with my partner writing (finishing?) my dissertation:

Roughly 2800 miles.  The first half I have places to stop (J. and Aunt T., you’ve been warned).  After that it gets murky.  If you live along this route, and I don’t know it (and you want to see me), please respond.  Or if you want me to pick you up and you want to come along, I can promise Haribo and music.  All in all, it’ll be about 6000 miles before I return to the East Coast just in time for my 30th birthday.

In an ideal world, some of the people who have taken the many East Coast road trips I’ve been on (Boston to Atlanta, Savannah to Orlando, North Carolina to Ohio to Boston) would be there for stints of the drive.  And in a really ideal world, Nigel won’t blow up from the stress (notice I’m taking the southern route).

In the most amazing world ever, Subaru would make an epic commercial out of the experience.  They’ve done it before, focusing on families and the lived, loved experience of owning a Subaru.  Why not make one about a (nearly) vintage car still on the road?

My father, in what I can only hope is my 30th (and 40th…) birthday present (it’s on the internet now, Dad, so it must be true), has taken care of having most of her current wears and tears replaced or shined up.  She’s even had her headlights realigned, so now she can see properly.  Add to that a new axle, new hubcap covers, and a paint job to cover with new bumper stickers.  Heck, with the amount he’s done, there’s probably a new primary buffer panel and port compression coil (with functioning catalyzer) in there somewhere (seriously, thanks again, Dad).  In addition to all of the repairs Dad did, I have replaced the head gasket and the steering column wiring.  I also splurged for cruise control and new window cranks.  I’m waiting on the last couple stickers to put on the trunk (It’s a Subaru Nothing at the moment), and then I’ll post photos.  According to my mechanics at the wonderful Shelor Motor Mile, what I’m doing is actually “restoring” this car, not “repairing” it.  Who knew?

I’ll be writing a few more posts in the next couple days.  One will most definitely be a request for music suggestions and/or playlists.  Once the last touches are on the car, I’ll post a gallery of photos.  And I will definitely be GoPro-ing and live-tweeting the trip as I go.  Wish me luck!

I haven’t told my daughter about the Chapel Hill shooting

A must-read.

Shabana Mir's blog: Koonj - the crane

I haven’t told my eight year old daughter about the Chapel Hill shooting.

I don’t want her to know that Muslim college students who are model citizens, work hard, and do everything right are still at risk of being murdered in cold blood by their neighbors.

barakatI want to conceal from her as long as I can, that basketball-playing, all-American, joyful young Muslim college students are at risk of being executed in their apartments.

After being murdered, these community volunteers who devote themselves to the poor and the needy, are blamed. They used a parking spot. They laughed and talked in their own home. They wore clothes that reflected their faith.

This young radiant couple and the young wife’s sister – ‘best third wheel ever,’ Deah called her – had a bright future and they looked toward a better world for all of us.

What was their fault? What did they do to be executed?

A shot in…

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Sun Salutations in Shul

In June, my partner and I drove from Blacksburg to the Poconos to spend time with his family and on the return trip, we visited his Shanti Mama – Big Mama to many of those there.  It was definitely a kindred spirits sort of moment, wherein Big Mama and I immediately began speaking of our mutual love of comparative religion.  He took S. aside at one point and began talking with him about the connections between Hinduism and Judaism and how he and I could find much common ground between our religious backgrounds.  I joined into the conversation and (as usual) derailed it to other things, but the ideas stuck in the back of my head.  Part of the wonderful challenge of being in an interfaith/intercultural relationship is having to navigate these differences in religious traditions.

Yesterday, when I attended my first yoga class at Hillel at Virginia Tech, the concepts I had discussed with Big Mama resurfaced in my mind.  My Hillel has partnered with Blacksburg Yoga Collective to offer donation-based yoga classes once a week at at our Jewish center.  The new Hillel center has many multipurpose sorts of rooms at the center, so I was quite shocked when our yoga session was held in the main room normally reserved for services.

If you are unfamiliar with the Malcolm Rosenberg Hillel Center, the sacred space is actually one of my very favorite.  It is simple, multipurpose, and not one piece of furniture or decoration in the room stands out to me as ostentatious and unnecessary.  Natural light streamed through the room coming in from narrow windows starting halfway up the walls and going up to the top of the vaulted ceiling.  It was the first time I had seen the space not set up for worship – the chairs were stacked at the periphery of the room, the ark housing the Torah was closed, and yoga mats and blocks were stacked at the side of the room.  Sunlight poured in, heating window-shaped blocks of warmth on the carpet under our bare feet.

I was immediately struck by how awesome (an overused worse, to be sure, but in this religious setting awe-struck was how I felt) it was that we were practicing an ancient Indian form of bodily and mental meditation in a religious space dedicated to a (not quite as equally) ancient monotheistic religion from Palestine.

I will admit that with regard to the meditative quality of yoga, as with most meditation, I am completely unable to clear my mind or focus solely on my breath or the alignment of my body.  And often, when trying to ease into a particularly difficult pose, my lack of poker face shows the instructor (in this case, Thea, one of the best yoga instructors I have ever had) just how much I loathe them for a single instant (after which, I attempt to, you know, remember that I’m there to relax and care for my body and not to have angry thoughts and facial expressions…).

So it should not at all have come as a shock to me that my mind wandered back to Big Mama’s words about the similarities between Hinduism and Judaism.  And, being in a space where I’ve sung Kol Nidre, where I’ve attended Shabbat services several times, I began to hear the Hindu-inspired words from our instructor and attempt to put them into a Jewish context.

There are two things I cannot shake from brain thoughts yesterday, the first being Thea’s reminders to find support in the earth below us, to press our hands into the ground below us, to place our weight back onto our feet that ground us.  We have a phrase in Hebrew, tikkun olam, which translates to “repairing the world.”  If you research the word olam in Strong’s, there are connections with this word and eretz, or earth/land, in the Hebrew Bible.  So often my brain hears tikkun olam as “repairing the earth,” however etymologically problematic.  Tikkun olam is the directive we have as G-d’s created beings to care for or be stewards of creation.  In our yogic practice, instead of repairing the world, we actively used the earth, or land, or world to repair ourselves.  We found strength pushing against the ground beneath us, finding stability and strength in its immovable, constant nature.

In Christianity, there is a Golden Rule, given down by Jesus:  Do unto others as you would have done unto you.  In most of the World Religions textbooks I’ve taught from, they point out that “Eastern” (I use this with a slight rolling of my eyes.  Eastern from what POV?) religions generally have a version of this rule in the negative sense:  Do not do unto others what you would not have done unto yourself.  It is a difference point of view on the same basic concept.  Of course, we cannot just call this something unique – these texts refer to this negative sense of the Golden Rule as the Silver Rule, and those of us who grew up under the influence of the modern Olympics know that Silver Is Not As Good As Gold.  The Silver Rule, if we choose to call it that, is not inferior to the Golden Rule; it is simply a different way of describing the same concept.

As I stretched and pushed my body ever so slightly past where it was willing to do, finding strength in my breath and the ground beneath me, I was struck how my yogic practice was the inverse, or a different point of view, on the same practice only a few weeks ago I had done in that same sanctuary space.  Instead of vowing to help repair the world, the world – the earth – was repairing me, was helping me to realign my sore joints and come as close to achieving five feet of height as I ever will.

The second thing I was struck by was the sunlight itself.  As part of our morning practice, we performed the surya namaskara (sun salutation) multiple times.  I have performed yoga in multiple states, over about a decade, in various spaces, but never in a space with that much sunlight washing over us.  In college, yoga class (my PE credit) was held in an auxiliary gym with no windows.  At Virginia Tech, our on-campus classes are held in an, again windowless, gymnasium.  When I lived in Athens, my favorite classes were held in an old warehouse, again, sans sunlight.

To perform a sun salutation, in my Jewish house of worship, while being mindful the creation words of Genesis 1, was powerful.  It was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside when I left for yoga, bundled up in a hoodie, but inside the sanctuary, I was not cold at all in my yoga pants and tank top.  It was the first time I had ever truly performed a sun salutation (and I’d never realized I hadn’t!), and the feeling was almost overwhelming.

I am one that tends to get quite sad during the winter months.  The shortening days and the lack of sunlight (we don’t call it Bleaksburg for nothing) really does get to me.  Even as much as I love rain, days on end of bleak weather can bring me down.  This year, I have read/reread about 100 books preparing for my comprehensive examinations for my Ph.D., and I spent as much of that reading time outside as I could, either on my back porch or, for most of this summer, in California, soaking up the sun like a lifesaver.  In fact, I think this summer was the first time in my life I’ve been even remotely tan (yes, Dad, I did wear sunscreen).  And the fact that most of the major changes in my life that have come in the last year have been supported by my partner whose name literally means Sun was not lost on me as I stood there, toes grounding me to the earth, beams of light flooding the room.

I doubt I would have felt this way if we had had our practice in any other room of Hillel.  The merging of two forms of religious practice, and the meaning that can come from interfaith dialogue, should never be taken for granted.  Shanti mama, you are right; there is much that can be found in common between Hinduism and Judaism.  I had not, however, expected to discover some of these connections so powerfully as I did at my Temple during what was supposed to be just me getting up that day and heading to yoga.

In Defense of the Selfie

So I promise you this post isn’t trying to piggyback off the success(?) of ABC’s new show, but hey, if it gets me traffic, who am I to complain?

There are tons of arguments out there against selfies.  That they add to our society’s narcissism.  That people are taking them at really inappropriate times.  And this might be a fair assessment, but I look at it this way:  if someone wants to find a way to express themselves, they’re going to.  This generation’s way of doing it is selfies.  And it’s not like we haven’t done this before (Polaroid selfies ftw).

But today, I write in defense of the selfie.  And this is why.

For my parents’ twentieth anniversary, I thought it would be nice to get twenty pictures of them from throughout their marriage to put into a matted picture frame.  My parents’ anniversary was in mid-December, so I had to find a day when my brother and I were home and they were out to go through photos and pick out the best ones.  It was a hurried affair, as we didn’t have much time before they got home, so I didn’t notice the size of the pile as I went through.  I pretty much just threw anything aside that might vaguely count, figuring I’d go through them later after they went to bed.

Wait, did I say “pile”?  I really meant a complete lack of pile.

In the 20 years of marriage my parents had had prior to that point, there were 16 pictures.  I’m not including any formal Olan Mills’ family shots.  I mean candids and home photos.


But why?  Why would there be so few?  My parents were together constantly.  Neither traveled much for work (Dad had the occasional Navy TEMDU, but that was about it), and nearly both always went on vacation together.  You’d think there would be more photographic evidence of their marriage.  My mom has had a beautiful film SLR my whole life and was the photographer of the family.  I had just been through bags and bags of old photos and found a mere 16.

Mom always took the pictures in the family.  The few pictures of my mom separately from my dad were from the random times he would grab the camera to make sure there was at least one picture of Mom from our trip (usually so my grandparents could see it).  There are lots of pictures of me/Mom/bro and me/Dad/bro, but very few of the four of us together.

Now, I’m sure if I went to my aunts and uncles, I could have found many more photos.  But in my parents’ personal collection, in twenty years, there were so few pictures chronicling their life together.

I’d give anything to have some ridiculous pictures of my parents in their 20s and early 30s.

So why write this post, and why now?  I just sent on a seven day road trip with my partner from Blacksburg, VA to Boston, MA.  Seven days together is an eternity when you’re in a long distance relationship (He’s in SoCal; I’m in SoVa).  When you have so few moments together throughout a year, everything suddenly becomes more important.  So yes, I have pictures of our food, of that horribly amazing round of Cards Against Humanity that Rando Cardrissian won, of our family and friends.

And of course, of us.

Are most selfies ridiculous wastes of “film”?  Probably (thank G-d I didn’t have to spend money to develop these).  Exhibits A-D:















Then, there are the ones that your mother gets pissed at you for:

Okay, so she *may* have a point...

Okay, so she *may* have a point…

But then, when you get it right, it makes her so happy:

You're pretty gorgeous too, Mom!

You’re pretty gorgeous too, Mom! Also, my screenshot skills are really poor.

Yeah, we’re (and by “we” I mean those of us lucky enough to have cell phones…) taking more photos these days.  Front-facing cameras and the fact that you don’t have to pay to develop film mean we’re photodocumenting our lives at a much larger rate of speed.  But I hope that when my kids (G-d willing) are going through old photos, whether it be for my 50th birthday or my retirement from teaching at the ripe old age of 80, they will have evidence of a happy life, full of friends, family, and love.

So if the selfie is the only way I can take a picture with my partner near the Robin Williams memorial in the Boston Public Gardens:


Or during one of my best friend’s wedding reception:


Then, I’m going to do it.  And when I go through the photos with someone else, I’ll have a story I can put with each photo.  A snippet of a memory, captured in pixels (or if I can actually get myself to CVS, ink!).

So I stand firmly in support of the selfie.  Selfies, you’re alright.

5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.

This East Coast woman has been living in California the last almost-month, predominately in Irvine, with stints to LA, Hemet, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach. What I did not expect was to experience complete and utter culture shock in my mother’s own home state. So what I plan to do in this post is to give all of you attending an Indian wedding for the first time some tips for getting through the multitude of events you are about to experience.

My current S.O. is Indian, and as part of this trip, I attended the wedding of the fantastic N. & N. (names redacted to protect the spiderphobic subjects of this post). I’ve been to all sorts of weddings, and for crying out loud, I study and teach both religions (Jainism/Islam) covered by this wedding. I’ve heard stories of other weddings and seen my fair share of Bollywood movies. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for these series of days.

Yes, days. We actually missed one of the first events, being held on a Wednesday, or otherwise, it would have been a Wednesday thru Saturday celebration. Traditional American weddings: take notes.

I won’t bore y’all with the details of every single ceremony (by my count, we attended at least 6 separate things spread out from Orange County to the LAX Hilton), but I thought I would share some things I’ve learned about myself and my new partner’s traditions while attending the various portions of this wedding week.

(Thanks to N&N if they’re reading this for inviting me to be a part of their special week. But seriously, y’all, stop getting married. What are you up to, 15 separate sets of vows?)

5 Things I Learned the First Time I Wore a Sari. Or, Bring Aspirin to an Indian Wedding.
1) Let’s start with “bring aspirin.” Unless you’re a dancer used to dancing barefoot, parts of your body you didn’t even know could hurt will hurt for 2-3 days afterward. And yes, part of this may be a “Holly needs to be in better shape” issue, but part of it definitely was a lack of arch support. And with regards to arch support, in the immortal words of Danny Glover’s Murtaugh, “I’m getting too old for this shit.”

2) Aunties are your friend. No seriously, collect them like Pokémon or POGs. Aunties will help you redo your sari when the pleats get screwed up (they will), will reattach your bindi, and will explain to you what the hell is going on with all the ceremonies you’ve never seen before (assuming you’re white or non-Indian like me). They are basically G-d’s gift to first-time wedding-goers. Ask questions. Many people from the community my own age didn’t even know what was going on (Indian traditions are so varied, after all), so chances are you’re not the only one with questions.

3) Prepare to be emotionally and physically wiped. Seriously. You’re going to be active for 15 hours a day. And most of what you experience is going to be brand new and wonderful, from the music, to the food, to the conversations. There will be so much sensory input your brain is honestly just going to get tired. And after your third night of only 5 hours of sleep, you’re going to get cranky. Plan ahead, stay hydrated, and remember, you will have fond memories of your experience (G-d willing) after you get some much-needed sleep. (And you will need sleep. Prepare to take an entire day off after the last event).

4. Don’t be surprised when you start picking up on Hindi/Indian vernacular words in future conversations. You absorbed a lot more than you realized the last few days. This literally just happened to me. Some woman on my plane literally just hollered “Chalo!” (Let’s go!) at her kid. (If you’ve ever travelled to the Middle East, this is gonna be your “yalla.”) My head whipped up like I was being yelled at. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you start acclimating to the new culture and traditions you find yourself surrounded by.

5. Finally, embrace the sari. Or whatever clothing you wear, even if it’s Western. I was terrified of the sari for the first hour I wore it. It wasn’t mine (Thanks, S., for letting me borrow yours!), it is different to wear than any other formal clothing I have ever worn, and I was terrified I was going to trip and munch it horribly. (I did, once. And I didn’t faceplant, so go me.) And know that there are probably at least 5 other people there just as uncomfortable for that first hour as you. At least two Indian women approached me to tell me I was wearing the sari well and asked me how often I’d worn them. They were shocked to find out it was my first time and responded that even they avoided them at all costs. What I’m trying to say is you’re going to be far more comfortable and confident than you thought you would be. Be prepared to kick off your shoes and dance for hours. Feel free to move and have fun in whatever you’re wearing, whether it be a sari, kurta, or suit.

So, hopefully the spirit intended by this list comes across. Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, but this is what has been mulling around in my mind since the wedding was over on Saturday (at 2 a.m.). On my way back to Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) now. Y’all have a pleasant sleep.

Accidental Chametz

Well, it’s the first morning of Pesach and we’ve already had a chametz fail in the House of Jordan.  R. came over to sign tax forms (blech, April 15), and I offered him breakfast.  Eggs or cereal.  A perfectly fine offer if it weren’t the first morning of Passover.  He poured out cereal.  I then freaked out and realized what I’d done.


This year's seder.  Photo credit C. Matheis.

This year’s seder. Photo credit Christian Matheis.

I’m starting to think that the annual Passoverification of one’s home isn’t as much about the ritual cleaning of the home, which strips it of any leavened product, as much as a way to force yourself from doing exactly what I just did:  forgetting it was a special week of our year and offering chametz to the first unsuspecting victim.  It forces you to start the week acknowledging it’s different and special.

In case you missed it in Sunday School or didn’t learn about this in high school or college, the story of the Exodus hits its climax when the Egyptian Pharaoh allows the Israelites to leave Egypt and head home.  Of course, this happens with little warning and everyone must flee immediately.  The story goes that they left so quickly that they did not even have time to let their bread rise before baking it.  As such, Jews now eat matzah (unleavened bread) during Passover and strip their homes of chametz, or leavening.

By strip, I mean a top-to-bottom cleaning of the home to remove even a crumb of chametz.  It’s kind of like spring cleaning and sets you up for the rest of the holiday cycle.  In recent years, I’ve gotten kind of lazy about it.  Passover hits right during crunch time during the school year, and frankly, I can’t often afford to give away (or G-d forbid throw out) all of the chametz in my home (This is a cool tradition btw.  You’re supposed to get all the bread, flour, etc. out of the house and either burn it or donate it to a needy family.  Nice!).  Sometimes, I’m responsible enough to put it all in a bin and hide it for the week.  But no, not now.

I found this awesome resource about the history of the cleaning out of the chametz that says even better what I’m feeling this rainy morning:

In cleaning for Passover, we are first and foremost fulfilling the mitzvah of biur chametz — getting rid of chametz. Biur chametz is actually quite an easy mitzvah in terms of physical exertion. The Torah says: “tashbisu se’or mibateichem” — make all your sour dough rest. The Torah commandment is that you can possess all the chametz you want, but in your mind it must be dust — ownerless and valueless.

Now obviously we are dealing with something subtle and vague. What goes on in your mind, no one knows except you and God. It’s quite easy to think you have considered everything “null and void,” when in truth you can’t wait for Passover to be over so you can partake of all those goodies!

So the Sages instituted a requirement to physically destroy chametz. This mitzvah is known as bedikat chametz. The Sages say it is not enough to emotionally write the chametz off as “dust”; you must actually search out any chametz you can find — and physically destroy it.

(from  Ironically, aish means “bread” in Arabic…)

So I learned the hard way why the bedikat chametz is so important.  I fully plan to get my tuchas in gear next year and start doing this correctly again. Lesson learned.

In close, may you have a blessed Passover.  Chag samach, y’all.

New (Totally Awesome) Lyft Service in Tampa

So sometimes this blog deviates away from academia to travel.  Given I used a brand new form (to me) of transportation this trip, I figured I’d give them a shoutout.

I was in Tampa for the 2014 AAG National Conference, but my flight (through Allegiant Air) was out of St. Pete’s.  SuperShuttle wanted 56 bucks (what?? Hosers) to get me, so I started looking for other options.  My awesome partner-in-crime S. suggested Lyft, which I’d not heard of prior (I live in the sticks, y’all).

I'm seriously.

I’m seriously.

I downloaded the app and was immediately rewarded with 50 free rides in Tampa Bay.  Seriously.  50 free rides.  I asked my driver if this was going to affect his pay, and he said absolutely not.  So yeah, don’t feel guilty about using these free rides.  At all.  Why the free rides, you might ask?  Well, Lyft just opened up its market in Tampa four days ago, so they’re trying to boost business.

So anyways, back to using the service.  I of course had the typical raised-in-the-90s paranoia about strangers, but Lyft is awesome.  People sign up with their cars to give you a ride.  Drivers go through background checks and their vehicles go through safety inspections prior to being allowed into the fleet (clearly I did some research on their website).  They show up with a massive fuzzy pink mustache in their back window (their icon/symbol), and you are required to sit in the front seat and actually talk to your driver.  You pay completely thru the app (I thought the app allowed for tip, and if you can tip thru the app, I’m techno-stupid and couldn’t figure it out.  I’m so sorry, Collin!).

Say hi to Collin!

Say hi to Collin!

Speaking of Collin, my driver was awesome.  A graduate of USF, he actually got to work with Susan MacManus during the Bush/Gore election. The Susan MacManus.  In Florida. The national capital of hanging chads. Awesome.  We also talked about SEC football, family stories involving La Jolla, Calif., and the ridiculousness that is mass transit in Tampa and Atlanta.

This repartee is what sold me on Lyft.  I’m a naturally social person, so cab rides where I sit in the back seat through interminable minutes of awkward silence are just awful.  A taxi service focused on actually providing a fun ride instead of just a service is something I can totally get behind.  And the driver had a similar school background as me.  How awesome is that?

Excuse the grammar and adverbtive vomit.  I'm on a lot of DayQuil.

Excuse the grammar and adverbtive vomit. I’m on a lot of DayQuil.

Reservations are made through a smartphone app (sorry dumbphone users) and payment is made through the same app.  A receipt gets mailed to you immediately for those of you who need it for reimbursements or tax purposes.  And the fees are reasonable.  I was able to calculate my fare within a dollar before I even reserved.  When you pay, you can leave a review and vote 1-5 stars (Collin totally earned a 5).

So yeah, I wholeheartedly recommend Lyft.  Safe, clean car.  Awesome driver.  Totally convenient.  And given how G-dawful Tampa’s mass transit it, this service will be a blessing for both professionals in the city and people traveling for vacations.  Good choice, Tampa.  And thanks, Lyft.  I will definitely be using your service again.