A Modern Mikvah

A little over a year ago, a few friends and I hosted a women’s circle to celebrate our bride-to-be friend Carrie. I never blogged about it although I got permission, because I don’t feel like I can capture its meaning and beauty in words. But, I’ll share our introductory words and the format in case it inspires, excites, or otherwise moves you to revisit and update your own rituals to bring more meaning to special times.

In the Jewish tradition, a mikvah is any body of mayim hayim, which literally means “living water,” or running water as opposed to stagnant water. Water like the beautiful ocean behind us in an example of an outdoor mikvah. A mikvah is often visited by Jews as a part of rituals as an act of purification. Brides have historically gone before their wedding day, often with her girlfriends by her side.
The word mikvah literally means a collection. Usually, it refers to the collection of water, but we can also think of this women’s gathering today as a mikvah, a collection of women. Our community is formed by women who have traveled from different places to sit in their circle, literally and metaphorically. Each of us has our own story, but it is Carrie’s role in each of our stories that created this particular collection of women. Together, in our closing mikvah ceremony, Carrie, we all are witnesses and supporters of your new partnership as well as your ever­evolving independence and kinship.

We had several of the women in the circle from different parts of Carrie’s life – family, crafting circle, lifetime friends – offer different blessings (seven total) and pour a small bit of ocean water over Carrie’s hands. We talked about it’s power to cleanse and refresh, and to ready her with a fresh slate to build a life together with her (wonderful) husband. Most importantly, we were able to draw from tradition and community to create a meaningful, structured gathering that marked a significant milestone with resonance to our friend and her mikvah.

In general, I think rituals – religious or otherwise – exist to create known structures to recognize the significance of a moment or place in time. From a courtroom rising when a judge walks in, to political appointees getting sworn in using a bible, to the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in elementary schools in the morning, to singing take me out to the ball game in the 7th inning stretch, to saying grace before a meal, to putting on your right shoe first, rituals aren’t always right or wrong, meaningful or not; they just are. They can help disparate people form connection or also distance, and inform process for those who like knowing how things will happen.

For me, I don’t like blindly doing things just because it’s how they’ve always been done. Carrie, my friend who is now a year happily married and growing her mikvah every day, is the same; bringing meaning to what we do and how and why we do it – the process – is more important than the end itself.

What’s one ritual that you want to rethink, revise, and rebirth?

Do things, tell people.

According to Carl Lange, these are the only two things you need to do to be successful, which he (very well) defines as taking advantage of personally interesting opportunities. Matt Swanson wrote a follow-up post with the reminder that telling people about what you do can come in the form of writing, of blogging. I absolutely agree that sharing what you do, what you have a passion for, with other people opens doors; I have found this true in my life with my paid job, side gigs, hobbies, friendships, and invitations to happenings I wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. Nobody wants to listen to a boastful, overly self-confident jerk, but people generally respond well to learning of sincere personal successes. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to share your passions.

Do things, tell people.

One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about.

Mindy Kaling, in her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Mindy’s book is fantastic, and also the second pink item that I own. It’s really inspiring (but not in a cheesy way), pithy, perfectly composed, and unexpectedly relatable. Definitely worth reading and sharing with all of your favorite people. Also, as the Introduction correctly indicated, my aunt bought me the book.

Obama & Chavez were smooching?! Not really…. it’s part of United Colors of Benetton‘s effort to bring awareness to their Unhate Foundation, which seeks to contribute to the creation of a new culture of tolerance and to combat hated. The ad campaign, featuring world leaders kissing and made possible by photoshop, is self-aware in its boldness but never got permission from the leaders themselves and has certainly enraged several constituencies. I personally take issue with the irresponsibly approved ads, and don’t think that photoshopped fake imagery about brotherhood conveys its importance with any weight. Further, a political angle is especially tough to take, given that political leaders and the system on whole are not always so well-viewed in the public eye. The fashion world has power, too, so I hate to see Benetton just do this with it. I’m all for innovative, controversial ad campaigns, especially about new precedents for tolerance, but I frankly don’t think that this accomplishes much at all and that the Unhate campaign has failed despite it’s valuable premise.

I wrote a poem (?)

Don’t know if any of you faithful readers remember way back earlier this summer when a friend was looking for other friends to write a poem, but I finally did it. And I kind of like it. So, I now (with extreme trepidation) share it with you.

Untitled (right?)

i don’t know exactly what a poem is
how is this any different from just jotting myself a note
or writing a super simple paragraph?


i love how people are everywhere and build my world
whether i know it or not
and that friends are people in it, who do even more
they inspire, excite, engage, challenge, humor, and support me
whether they know it or not.
so in this really hypersensitive yet unaware world
where unintentional insincerity poses as sincerity
and gchats can be started and x-ed out so easily but define relationships
and charity abounds but effective solutions are elusive
and incredibly crafted products come at a price often unknown in its entirety
i stay grounded by faith in the relationships i may know or not know
that i have
and all that is bound and shaped by them.

i think poems let me ramble without necessary punctuation! so that’s excellent

The Etiquette of Being Late.

Being late happens. Here’s the plain, non-sugarcoated truth about what to do when you’re late or waiting for someone who’s late, and how to make up for it both in the moment and in the future.

For the purpose of conversation, I will refer to the below scenarios resulting from a person’s affinity towards tardiness and the given circumstance:

For definition and your thought processes:

Seldom late – Generally on time. Lateness isn’t a quality you associate with this person.

Perpetually late – Almost always is more than 15 minutes late.

Relatively uncontrollable – Examples include: last minute subway rerouting, coming from another appointment that ran late and was not possible to scoot out of, babysitter for a child you are responsible for shows up late, personal injury, extenuating circumstances

Controllable – Examples include: no planned professional time with anyone before, roommate in bathroom, slow but running subway / normal traffic, no good outfit, getting more work done, phone call (unless from other country), weather

ok, now that we have a framework….

Before Arrival:

Luckily for us, it’s 2011, and you likely have at least a basic cell phone. If you’re running late, communicate. Don’t text, call. Leave a message if no answer, then send follow up text, and email if you can. Be direct and realistic about your ETA. This applies to A, B, C, and D…. even if you are without service, as soon as it’s back, you are obligated to let the other party know that you will be late.

If you are doing the waiting, it is your right to contact the person after 15 minutes to find out where they are, and leave after 30 minutes if there has been no communication. Give them the benefit of the doubt (A or B) until proven guilty (C or D), but you don’t have to needlessly wait, either. If you leave though, make sure you follow up in a bit to make sure that your acquaintance is ok.

If you are going to be late in a work context, try to at have another staff member fill in or at least call in your absence, and reschedule if you will be more than 15 minutes late. It will reflect poorly on your entire business, not just you, if you are late, so better to be proactive than reactive in this situation. And, hopefully you aren’t a B or D, because it might have negative implications internally at your office. Coworkers will get tired of covering for you and you may eventually find yourself left high and dry.

After Arrival:

Apologize. Recognize that your tardiness was unfair

  • If you fall into A and explain the circumstance, there should not be a problem.
  • If you fall into B and explain the circumstance, you sound like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. So, don’t bother over-explaining, because it doesn’t help your cause. Instead, make a resolution to be on time whenever it is possibly in your control so that your sob story could some day hold weight. 
  • Ah, the C category. Hope it’s not your first time meeting someone, because they’ll get the wrong impression for sure. Best here to state how much you value timeliness and recognize your mistake.
  • If you’re in D, you have a problem, because you can’t make excuses and people will get tired of meeting up with you. Your apology will sound completely insincere, and unlike the B’s, you couldn’t possibly shift the blame to something else. If you really value that relationship, find a way to make that apology sincere by changing future actions. Shedding a tear may help.

If you are super late, don’t just profusely apologize; buy the other person a drink or dinner and be WELL on time the next time.

Be mindful of the other person’s timeframe, and if you don’t know, ask. Just because you are late, don’t make them late if they had something planned afterward. If that only gives you another half hour, tough. But, being in A or C here is helpful, because you will probably be shown a little more flexibility because of your track record.

For the person waiting, it’s ok (in fact, probably good) if you’re ticked and let the late person know. Don’t make the entire gathering stink, but it’s ok to express disappointment and hope that it will not happen again. If you do not express this sentiment, it’s unfair to both of you for the future.

Prevention is the best form of dealing with lateness.

If you fall into categories B or D, you have a problem. So give yourself a chance next time. Plan ahead. Look up route. Check for delays. Budget an extra 10-15 for stuff that just plain happens (slow subway, roommate in bathroom…). Bring an umbrella or hoodie if it’s rainy. Wear shoes you can walk in. Don’t overbook and allow reasonable time for items on your calendar. Be realistic. Buy a functioning watch and set it 15 minutes fast (and then forget that you did). Even when uncontrollable things happen, you should have made every effort to be more than on time, because you know you have a problem.

ALSO, B and D, if you choose to change your ways, don’t be surprised or upset if someone shows up late on you. Why? They’ve probably factored in your tardiness to their own time of arrival. That’s totally fair. Until you have a better track record, you can’t complain, although you can absolutely tease the person that you beat them there and that you will continue these victories. 

If you’re in A or C, you obviously don’t usually have a problem, but time is clearly a value to you. Think about what made you late, and how you can avoid it in the future. Also, remember that just how you didn’t mean to be late or have other ill-intent, others generally don’t either. So, next time you’re on the waiting end, cut your buddy some slack (within reason).

Also, all of you late people…. if you didn’t already, think about what you’ve done! You should feel a little bad. Your tardiness affects the other person’s plans both before and after, it sends a bad message that your time is more important than theirs, can cause people to spend money and/or energy waiting for you, and is just plain irritating. Also, it’s your fault, so seriously, own up to it – not just to them, but to yourself.

[author’s note: I am biased in that I do not generally approve of tardiness.]

If you like this, you can link to it so that your friends can see what’s sometimes too hard to say.

Better than Paint by Number: Paint by Beard!

It’s true. Great art with even better motivation. Graham Clark, who’s a super funny and cool guy living the dream in Vancouver, started churning out these ridiculously talented paintings using his newly-grown out beard as his paintbrush, and is selling the works to raise money for his buddy Ryan. Ryan, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, needs funds for a wheelchair, and even Canada’s awesome health care system has limits. I fully support Graham’s crusade to be a rockin’ BFF and make up for deficiencies of the system.

So far, the paintings are selling! I think they’re really neat and am considering getting one. See:

That’s a pretty cool interpretation of Norman Rockwell if you ask me! Read more about it or put in your bid for the original, signed piece here. And at the very least, tell your friends! This is art, philanthropy, and friendship in a nutshell, folks!