Our marriage license

30 Sep

12087067_10101553720688105_1135964447794292806_oThere’s a long, long list of things to take care of before a wedding — don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about custom thank you notes, unique table numbers, and our list of “do not play” songs for the band — but one of the most important pieces is the marriage license.

In Cook County, where Adam and I will be wed, you must obtain a marriage license no more than 60 days before the wedding. So this week, we had an adventure at the ol’ courthouse, a beautiful place where criminals, judges with or without robes and wigs, and engaged couples can all share a parking lot in peace and harmony.

It felt a little funny to take a number like we were ordering an open-faced pastrami sandwich at a deli, but when number 76 was called, we were up. It was a bit weird not to have a special aisle to walk down, and to not at least have a fake veil like bachelorettes wear. It’s not like obtaining a marriage license means we’re married — of course we’re only married once our officiant, the wonderful Rabbi Annie Tucker, signs the license and mails it in — but how hard would it have been to have a playlist in the waiting room blasting “Here Comes the Bride,” “I Think I Wanna Marry You,” and even a little “Od Yishama”?

“Have either of you ever been married before?”
“Ahh, first time, huh!!”

The clerk asked if we were related (no) and if we could spell our parents’ names and states of birth (that was tough, Minnesota ain’t easy to spell!). “Hello, congratulations, sign here, and that will be $60,” she said, in that monotone voice you hear from clerks in the movies.

She did not ask if we loved each other or if we talked about the “big questions” like children and finances. She did not ask if we share religious beliefs or, more importantly, if we share the same TV shows. Come on, lady, at least ask us if we’re getting married to avoid deportation!

She printed the marriage license. Okay, I know budgets are tight, but is it really necessary for it to be printed on white printer paper — the cheap kind? How about a beautiful piece of white marbled stationery with our new monogram imprinted, or at least something slightly heavier than my oil change receipt from Jiffy Lube.

But, alas, it’s printed and almost ready to be signed, sealed, and delivered in a few short weeks (I’m pretty sure Stevie Wonder’s song actually referred to the marriage license, clearly laying out instructions to wedding officiants). Here’s to our first — and hopefully “only,” come on clerk lady, be a little romantic! — marriage!

Non-headache people, give us a shout!

23 Sep

headache-woman_182318933 (1)In honor of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement (and fasting), a post about headaches:

A few weeks ago, at my annual physical, my internist asked me how my headaches were.

“Oh, you know, pretty normal,” I said. “Not too bad, just once or twice a week or so. Nothing unusual.”

“I’m going to tell you something shocking,” my doctor said. “Did you know that there are people in this world who just don’t get headaches? You’re a headache person and I’m a headache person so it’s hard for us to comprehend, but there are lots of people who don’t experience headaches.”

Other than a couple migraines in my life, headaches have always seemed to me to be just another normal part of my health, like hangnails and hiccups. But to never ever have a headache? That would be something!

Non-headache people, are you out there? Reveal yourselves, please, and tell us your secret!

Sanctuary on the Edens Expressway

16 Sep

This post originally appeared as part of Temple Jeremiah’s “Jeremiah Gems: Sanctuary” series, with short stories from congregants writing about the theme of “sanctuary” leading up to the High Holy Days.

Driving-Directions-Header (1)

I absolutely love working at Temple Jeremiah, and I also love the neighborhood where I live – Lakeview, almost 20 miles away from Jeremiah. For many, an hour-long commute could seem like a nightmare; but for me, it’s my own personal sanctuary.

I am constantly on the go, running from one thing to the next. I rarely take time to sit and just “be” – it doesn’t fit into my schedule. But for two hours a day, in my car, I’m sitting, relaxing, and enjoying “me time” by myself. I don’t think I realized it until now, but it is truly a blessing.

In the mornings, I listen to audio books. I love to read, and audio books allow actors to bring characters’ voices to life – and my book list tells me that I’ve listened to more than 80 audio books (ask me for recommendations!).

In the evenings, I call my mom. We chat daily for almost an hour, sharing stories from our day, and, recently, getting excited about wedding planning details. I truly treasure this time for us, and it feels like she’s right there with me in my driving tour of the Chicago suburbs.

While many people grumble in traffic jams and are filled with road rage, I think about the sanctuary that my car has become. It’s my time to think; it’s my time to relax; it’s my time to make connections with my mom and other relatives and friends; it’s my time to lose myself in a good book as it transports me to other countries, other times, and other cultures.

Sometimes if highway traffic is bad, I drive down Sheridan Road, with beautiful mansions on one side and a sparkling, shimmering lake on the other. I take a deep breath and just relax.

My stealthily hidden graduation gown fanny pack

9 Sep

Lately I’ve been wondering if I should rename my blog from “bri-lia-nce” to “The Blog About Fanny Packs.” Along those lines, friends, I’d like to share with you something that I kept a secret from the world during the recent Spertus graduation ceremony.

Remember how much fun I had, graduating in my cap, gown, and hood?


Spertus staff told graduates to arrive two hours before the ceremony’s start time — mainly, I discovered, for us to put our advanced degrees to good use by figuring out which direction the hood goes. They told us in advance that we weren’t to bring anything with us — no rooms would be secure and we couldn’t carry anything on stage with us.

That meant no purse, no cell phone, no mini 24-hour pharmacy that I sometimes carry with me.

How would I even get to the place without car keys, or bus card, or at least a phone with which to Uber?

But then, wait a minute. Who are we dealing with? It is I, Lia, queen of the fanny packs, about to spend all day in an extremely roomy graduation gown that could have fit my entire cohort inside of it.

See anything odd in the picture above? Of course you don’t. Because the mini fanny pack that I wore underneath my graduation gown while I graduated was perfect.

My fanny pack beautifully carried my phone, lip balm, lipstick, a credit card, cash, and my bus card. It made me feel beautiful.

I don’t mean to brag, but I was totally the coolest person in that entire room, with my stealthily hidden pack.

If any of my readers are still anti-fanny pack at this point in my blog, you may as well terminate our friendship. Because not only did I proudly parade my pack at graduation, but I wore it on three separate occasions this past weekend. So, friends, as summer winds to a close, let’s not forget the moments when we are the happiest — it’s when we have no weight (or purses) on our shoulders. Good night, everyone!

You may call me master.

2 Sep
With my fellow MAJPS classmates Shalom Klein and Rachel Kesner

With my fellow MAJPS classmates Shalom Klein and Rachel Kesner

I am pleased to announce that after two and a half years of weekly classes, intensive seminars, papers, mentoring sessions, and a final thesis project, this past Sunday I graduated with a Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies from the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Since September 2012, my classmates and I embarked on this journey of learning about Jewish history, modern Jewish culture, non-profit management, and working with others. In addition to top-notch classroom professors, I loved learning from my fellow classmates, who were like unofficial teachers to me. We discussed experiences and challenges in the Jewish community and put our heads together to imagine a future world where our community thrives.

With my amazing mentor, Betsy Gomberg

With my amazing mentor, Betsy Gomberg

I gained an amazing mentor and friend, Betsy Gomberg, the director of marketing and communications at Spertus. I treasured our monthly meetings as a chance for me to learn and grow from one of the best in the business.

A requirement of our master’s program was to complete an outside course, so I decided to enroll in a program to earn a Certificate in Jewish Leadership through Spertus and Northwestern University in the spring of 2013. Through this program, I gained another incredible cohort of classmates who became friends and mentors.

As the classes (such as “This American Jewish Life,” “Working with People,” “Major Jewish Value Concepts,” “On Becoming an Effective Jewish Leader,” and “Fundraising,”) came to a close in summer 2014, I began working on my final thesis project. After what seemed like months of deliberating over a topic — this is my one chance to save the Jewish community in 50 pages so I better make it count! — I decided to focus on chavurah groups in synagogues. If you would like to read the 54-page essay, which includes case studies from synagogues and churches, click here.

My thesis was accepted in January 2015.

This past Sunday, I graduated with several of my classmates and dozens of other Spertus students from other programs. Donning the traditional cap and gown, along with a special master’s hood, the completion of the degree finally felt real to me.

I am deeply grateful to everyone at Spertus who made this program so worthwhile — to the Spertus staff, the professors, the members of my cohort, and my mentor Betsy. Thank you to the staff and congregants at Temple Jeremiah, my amazing employer, for being so supportive of this program and helping me every step of the way. And finally, thank you to my parents and my fiance, Adam, for being the world’s best editors (even when my paper was more than 50 pages) and the world’s biggest supporters.

Blog ideas that don’t deserve a full post

26 Aug
Night caps -- warm and comfortable!

Night caps — warm and comfortable!

I keep a running list of blog ideas, and whenever an idea strikes me, I add it to my list. Many of these ideas turn into real live blog posts; and some of them have been on the list for so long that they’ve never seen the light of day.

So, today, I present to you: The top four blog ideas that don’t deserve more than a sentence or two.

  1. My friends Tanya and Aaron live in the West Loop near the Blommer Chocolate Company. That means their neighborhood always has a strong bittersweet smell of chocolate. That must be weird, right?
  2. Adding the word “extravaganza” after anything is an easy way to make something boring sound awesome. Tonight I’m having a flossing extravaganza! Will you join me for my Walgreen prescription refill extravaganza? Looking forward to our apartment cleaning extravaganza!
  3. Two cell phones ago, I used to have a Palm Pre, which was a pretty rare (but amazing) brand of phone. When I saw strangers in public using their Palm Pre phones, I felt like we were long-lost cousins and I felt the need to bond with them about our shared special object.
  4. For a Halloween costume a few years ago, Adam and I bought matching fuzzy onesie penguin pajamas, and they came with a night cap (pictured here). On a cold, winter night, oh boy does that night cap keep me warm.

A post about lasagna

19 Aug

lasagnaSome weeks I use this space to write about important, meaningful issues like pre-wedding jitters, travel, or social media banking; but today, I’m going to write about lasagna.

Not that I need to justify what I decide to write about on a weekly basis, because, well, it’s my blog and I can do what I want, but I just think it’s important sometimes to slow down and really ponder life’s cheesy questions, like finding the perfect combination of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

I loooove pasta. It is definitely my favorite food (okay, maybe together with a well-balanced meal of pizza and ice cream) and I try not to let food rule my moods, but I just can’t help but smile when eating my beloved noodles.

But lasagna and I have always had a somewhat tepid relationship. Something about the dish doesn’t do it for me. It’s usually pretty hard to cut, and it’s impossible to make it look pretty on your plate — it’s either way too small or it’s sloppy, and you’re embarrassed because it takes up more space on your plate than the salad and veggies. You feel lasagnashamed.

Then there’s the question of the extras. Is this spinach lasagna? Fine. Meat lasagna? Sorry, can’t eat that! In a large group or potluck setting, until you cut into it, you often are in the dark about what additional items are lurking in the dark cheesy noodles.

Finally, the taste. It’s just not my favorite. I could never really put my finger on it, but it just has never called to me the way other types of pasta say, “Liaaaaaaa, come eat meeeeeeeee.”

But — and now here’s the point — I now know why. The culprit: Ricotta cheese.

A few weeks ago, I ate lasagna that was served at a Shabbat meal, lovingly cooked by the kosher dairy restaurant EJ’s Pizzeria. People could not get enough of it; strangers came up to me asking if I knew where the food was from. It was the best lasagna I’ve ever had, and I heard a faint voice coming from the tin container, begging me to get more. (The voice of my wedding dress, though, was also calling me and begging me to stay the same size.)

Upon further inspection, dissecting each of the layers carefully, I found noodles, marinara sauce, and mozzarella cheese. No ricotta as most lasagnas have. Eureka! I don’t like ricotta cheese!

I feel like I’ve been born again. I really CAN like lasagna! We CAN coexist in this small world together. Just as long as we don’t invite that awful ricotta.

Luckily for my wedding dress, I haven’t seen any other lasagnas like this anywhere else yet. Or, well … maybe it does exist, but just under the nickname “baked ziti”?

Okay, back to pondering life’s big questions. See you never, ricotta.


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