Sunday, January 1, 2017

We Did It!

Hello and Happy New Year!  Hard to believe that another year has come and gone.  Feels like just yesterday that I was writing the blog entry on January 1st 2016. 

Today marks the end of our latest Holidailies challenge – where the family and I committed to write a blog every day for the month of December.  This is our 5th year in a row attempting this and I have to say that I wasn’t sure if we’d pull it off this year.  Everyone in the family is so extraordinarily busy this time of year that it’s kind of crazy to think that we say “let’s add one more new daily obligation to December just for the fun of it.” 

I’m really proud to say that we did it.  We updated the blog each of the past 31 days – amidst Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s, final exams and papers, holiday concerts, year-end work deadlines, and travel to different time zones.  We didn’t miss a day.  Sometimes we changed up our batting order to cover for each other when someone was especially busy on his/her day to write but we did it and I’m really proud of my family for sticking to it.  The truth is that the blog is fun and we all enjoy going back in time each year and seeing which blog entries get the most views and even which ones end up being our all-time highest ranked blog entries from the past 5 years.  They frequently serve as a time capsule or snapshot in time.

Most of us can agree that 2016 left much to be desired.  The world lost a lot of very talented people.  We elected a woefully un-talented (under talented?) President (and just for the record, by “we” I do not mean me).

For all that is lacking, 2016 brought lots of good things too.  Everyone is healthy and thriving in their respective school work and activities.  I’m very proud of them and all they continue to accomplish. 

Here’s to 2017 and hoping that it brings you and your loved ones health, happiness and all that you want.  See you next December! 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favorite Show Tunes

I seem to be in a mood for favorites this year so I might as well continue that in my last post. The following, in no particular order, are my favorite showtunes of all time.

1. Edelweiss- The Sound of Music
This is the first real musical I was in and the audition song I sang was Edelweiss. It's a beautifully sweet time that captures in a nutshell the love of home that the movie spells out.

2. Washington on your Side- Hamilton
What a rocking song. There is no song I'd rather sing in the car with friends than this one. Listen to it and you'll feel he same.

3. This is Not Over Yet- Parade
This song excitedly and adorably shows what a drug hope can be when all seemed previously lost. Pure happiness.

4. To Life (La Chaim)- The Fiddler on the Roof
Similar concept to This is Not Over Yet- life is worth living because it can surprise you in wondrous ways. Also, I love the moment where the Jews dance with the Russians and their music and dance transcends the fact that they're enemies.

5. You Matter to Me- Waitress
A simple song with a simple message in a seemingly hectic world. Probably my favorite love song/showtune.

6. Prepare Ye- Godspell
To me, this song captures what Christianity is supposed to be about: people are lost with their lives and then they hear a horn announcing the coming of their savior who will give them purpose. Also, just a fun song.

7. Epiphany- Sweeney Todd
A cool turning point in a story and a deliciously harrowing song I'm dying to sing in a part I'm dying to play. 

8. Stars- Les Miserables
I love this song so much. It's a sad but beautiful song, a man questions his entire morality and place in the world. 

9. No More- Into the Woods
This song is about wanting to do away with all the crap the world throws at us and just get on with our lives; it's a concept relatable to all.

10. Heart and Music- A New Brain
Anyone whoever has had a scary disease of any kind could do themselves a favor by listening to this song. Also the fear of not accomplishing anything to leave behind before death is really sad and real.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Climate Change - No Question

Today is my last day to write for Holidailies 2016 and I immediately know what I want to write about: Climate Change.  Why you ask?  It is simple; today we personally witnessed yet another example of the effects of the Earth heating up.  Over the last 5-10 years, my family has been taking our own private poll as we travel the globe.  We ask the people who are out in nature absolutely *every* day what changes, if any, they have observed. It is important to note that these naturalists and guides have no political stake in the game nor are they looking to make any great fortune; they are only interested in and appreciate nature. 

Back to today. Today we were hiking on a glacier in Iceland. Our guide explained how the glacier is a dynamic entity that moves and changes over time.  However, he then pointed to a boulder 300 yards away.  There, he said, is where the glacier used to begin and in fact was last there in 2008.  It had receded 300 yards in 8 years! 

Here is another example for you: there is a lovely video presentation done at the base of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.  After the video, the screen is raised and curtains open for a dramatic finish to see....nothing.  In the time it took to build this theater, the glacier had receded off to the far right.  These are professional park rangers - they know their environment. Nonetheless, they obviously didn't have the ability to factor into their location the dramatic change that would take place in nature.  

The next time you visit Rocky Mountain National Park, ask the folks there where the little mountain squirrels are.  They will tell you the little guys are dying off because they are struggling to live at a different altitude on the mountain to cope with the changing temperatures.   

And if you find yourself sometime in Costa Rica, ask the hiking guides if they have noticed any changes.  They will tell you they no longer need to wear gloves on any of their high altitude treks.  Out there every day, they see the changes.
Not sure what more proof you need.  Open your eyes and your ears: Climate Change is real. Here's to a new year where we recognize the part we play in this change and commit to doing something about it!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Weather Or Not

I’m fortunate to have been able to travel pretty regularly with my family.  We are very lucky.  Today as we got to Reykjavik and were met with a cold and windy rain, it made me think about how resilient our kids have become when it comes to the weather. 

After checking into our hotel and a few hours to nap and adjust to the time, we all geared up with coats, hats, scarves, etc. and set out to explore the city.  It didn’t rain all the time but it still was off and on.  Not ideal circumstances when you want to walk around but it really didn’t slow us down much.

In our various travels over the years, we have experienced lots of different weather.  In Alaska, we experienced cold and wind but still visited glaciers and went whale watching.  In Vail we skied during a very heavy snow.  We hiked the Na Pali coast in Kauai in a heavy downpour.  In Costa Rica we experienced heat and humidity so extreme that literally the only way you might feel cool all day was by jumping in a pool or going in the ocean.  It was so humid that if you left your suitcase open, your close would get damp from all of the moisture in the air.  We toured Spain last summer in 100+ degree heat and bicycled through Florence and Tuscany in temperatures that neared 105 degrees (that was a bit uncomfortable, even for us).

I would imagine that most families would have at least one weak link – that one family member who would reject the less than hospitable weather conditions and be resistant to continuing with planned activities until the conditions improved.  Luckily, we’ve raised our kids to be tough and we don’t have a single weak link.  They know that with the right layers and gear, they can feel pretty impervious to any sort of adverse weather and continue enjoying whatever adventure we were on at the time.

Looking forward to many more adventures with my road warriors.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our Top 10 Vacations in the Last 5 Years (My Opinion)

1. Africa
2. Norway
3. Hawaii '16
4. Australia
5. Italy
6. Spain
7. London
8. Hawaii '14
9. Disney World '14
10. Panama

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time Travel With A Twist

If you could go back in history or forward into the future, where would you go?  And what would you bring?

This is a question I recently saw printed in a magazine. I would absolutely prefer going back in time rather than into the future.  Let’s face it, nobody ever likes the future because it is different from the present.  Couple that with knowing when everybody you love (and you) dies, yeah -- I don’t need to know that.  So, it’s back to the past for me. More specifically, I think it would be cool to go back to the time when my parents were little.  It would be interesting to see first-hand what they were like when they were kids, as well as get to see the relatives up a few generations that we only know from pictures.

A follow-up question was What historic discovery would you most like to witness firsthand?  Nothing immediately came to mind for me – although I am sure there are many that would be cool.  Of course, I googled it for ideas and people seem to fall solidly into two camps with this: either they want to witness anything Biblical or an important juncture of a battle/war.  So much for faith and so much for positivity!  But then I came up with my own historical event: I would like to land right before the dinosaurs became extinct.  This way, I could see what nature was like with them and then I would find out what was the beginning of the end for them.  Was it one cataclysmic event or change in global temperature like we are seeing now or something else entirely?  I guess mine isn’t so positive either…

And perhaps my favorite follow-up question was If you were about to be transported to a random point in time, what would you bring? Here, a poll yielded some interesting answers.  41% of those answered said a Bible (perhaps so they would have a reference in the event that they got to witness one of those historical events?).  31% said antibiotics.  That one made me chuckle.  Are they thinking that they would share them?  Or just hoard them in case they picked up God-knows-what disease of yore.  I envision an entire medicine cabinet being hauled around just in case!  21% said a gun.  Although I am not a gun-toter in my present life, I have to admit that one might prove useful. And perhaps most interestingly, 3% of those polled said they would bring condoms.  I guess that might help cut down on the need for carrying around all those antibiotics…. As I mentioned, I like the idea of the gun, but if I could, I think I would bring my smartphone.  Now indulge me here: since we are talking about time-travel to begin with, I feel like I can have my cellphone and wifi so I can look things up as I encounter them – and of course, take pictures.

Where would you travel to and why?  And what would you bring?  Very insightful questions with very telling answers, indeed!

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Interfaith Home

I am half Jewish and half Catholic. It sounds kinda confusing; how can you be half one religion and half another? It's not like we're talking about race. But that's the way I was raised and that's how I identify. 

For a long time, that wasn't an issue, and it still isn't. But as I've gotten older, certain individuals have decided that this simply cannot be. The logic I am met with occasionally these days is that if I'm both, they cancel each other out and I'm neither. More often, some say that because my father is the Jewish parent (and not my mother), I am not Jewish, because Judaism usually says that the children take the faith of the mother. I think that this, in a word, is bullshit. 

And here's why! Religion, unlike race, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, is a choice. Meaning, I could feasibly practice any faith that made me happy. Hell, I could be a Muslim if I decided it was good for me, regardless of parentage. So what does it matter if I say I practice two?

Orthodox Jews don't perceive reform Jews as even being Jewish at all, yet they're still Jewish. They each practice the religion in the ways they see fit, even though it's the same religion. Same here. 

I don't blame anyone for being confused by the concept. It's definitely paradoxical, especially if you have no prior experience to it. My best advice (to myself and anyone else) is just to not think too hard about it. Religions change all the time. They're flexible. As it stands, many are only religious when it is convenient to them. Therefore, if we only listen to select rules, there really are no rules.