Wednesday, November 30, 2011

11/30/11: A Girl Can Get Hurt Trying To Keep Up With The Boys

This is what I was made to do! 
Because the title of this post is a bit misleading, I will start off by clarifying that I am not talking about feelings, romance, heartbreak or any abstract form of pain that usually accompanies any discussion about men; I am talking about the literal, physical pain I have been experiencing living with my crazy, amazing roommates. I must say that since I have been in Israel I have done just about everything I have wanted to do... except exercise. Now, I walk pretty much everywhere, which I guess counts for something, but aside from that there has not been much attention, unfortunately, to maintaining a healthy work out routine. In college I was a regular visitor to my gym for daily cardio, zumba, pilates, and yoga, when I was home in Palm Springs it was treadmill workouts, occasional bikram yoga sessions, swimming, and so on. The point is I was staying active. Then I came to Israel and realized that not only do classes and gym memberships cost a lot of money, but everything is in Hebrew... A bit discouraging.

Lucky for me, however, this lull in my attention to exercise is about to change, which is very important for my mental and physical health. Firstly, I am now settled enough in my work that I can pencil in time to relieve some stress and get a good run/strength training sesh in, and secondly I happen to live with two former Israeli soldiers, one of whom is really big on the whole work out thing. LUCKY ME! Last night was the first night we all decided to get a work out in together, and, well, it was really amazing during... not so much the next day! We started the work out with a light run. I HATE HATE HATE running, and I hate running with people even more than I hate the act itself, so I split off from the boys and went a different direction where I could keep to my own pace and not worry about trying to keep up with two men who are in significantly better shape than I am. I probably got about a mile in to warm up and then I rejoined the boys in the park near our apartment.

I was tired enough after the run (as embarrassing as that is to admit), but I wasn't about to stop now. I decided I might as well get back into the swing of things with a bang... again maybe not the best decision judging by the fact that, on a scale of 1-10, my body hurts a good 9 right now! After the run it was time for lunges, squats, and box jumps (I didn't do too many of these because I have a problem with my left knee which is also not doing so well today). I lost count of how many I did of each but I know I got at least 75 lunges in which is pretty good! After the leg workout we took a short break and then the boys did pushups. Now here's the deal; I have ZERO upper body strength and haven't done a pushup in forever. I figured I would skip this exercise and wait until we did our abdominal workout... That didn't fly with the boys so much. There was a fair deal of peer pressuring, and I was not going to be a pain in the ass, so I dropped down and did my 25 pushups. The boys were kind enough to say that after 10 regular pushups I could do the "girl" kind on my knees... so nice of them :-)

When the pushups were complete it was on to our 8 minute core workout. We did every kind of sit-up imaginable it felt like, and though I took a few rests here and there, I think I kept up relatively well considering I was just getting back into the swing of things. Once that was done it was back home to stretch, eat, shower, and relax! I felt really amazing but knew that I would be hurting the next day. I know one thing though, doing this 2 or 3 times a week with these boys will kick my lazy butt in to shape for sure! After stretching and dinner we figured a movie night would be a really good idea, and it was a perfect way to unwind. It was yet another fantastic night with the boys, and though I can't move today, the workout was just what I needed to blow off some steam from the stress of all of this school work.

Well that pretty much wraps up the excitement from yesterday. Today was pretty normal, and consisted of a seminar and Arabic (which you know I enjoyed for many reasons ;-p). I also finally made it to one of our libraries on campus during my two hour break and found some amazing sources for my papers on Sufism and Arab Jews (Dhimmi). When I was leaving the library on my way to Arabic I was stopped by a very nice man in the hall of my class bulding who was convinced he had seen me on TV,to which I assured him he was mistaken, but the incident made me smile nonetheless :-).

As far as what this weekend has in store, only God knows, but hopefully it will be exciting and not too bogged down with studying!

Until we meet again ;-),
Jordana Simone 

Monday, November 28, 2011

11/28/11: Forbidden Attractions And An Unstable Region

Syrian Protest Poster

Well another Monday has come and gone which means it is time to write a more political and informative blog post in terms of what is going on over here in the Middle East (that seems to be the general theme of Monday blogs). While Israel has been experiencing relative quite from her protest movements, other countries in the region are exploding with protests, anti government rallies, rising death tolls, and extreme unrest. It seems, at this moment, the whole of the Middle East has eyes glued to the ever worsening situation in Syria. On the one hand you have Iran and Hezbollah led Lebanon supplying Assad and his supporters with arms, while on the other hand you have major Mid East powers such as Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf states (to name a few) allying themselves with the resistance movement against the Shia Assad government. The death toll in Syria rises daily, refugees are flocking by the hundreds to countries like Turkey and Jordan, and the world is bracing for an all out Syrian civil war backed by Iran on one side and Sunni regimes coupled with the West on the other.

Though my country of focus is Jordan it is hard to escape putting a great deal of attention on the Syrian issue since, as I have previously stated, the Middle East region is so profoundly interconnected; what is happening in Syria absolutely effects the goings on in Jordan. Syria and Jordan border one another and, as of recent days, both Syrian resistance fighters and Syrian army defectors have fled to Jordan for protection from the brutality of the Assad regime. King Abdullah II also became the first Arab leader to publicly ask for the resignation of Bashar Al-Assad, and though his stance is still considered to be weak on the issue, possibly because of a fear of Syrian intervention in Jordan, it looks as though Hashemites are leaning more towards support of the resistance.

It is hard to say what is going to happen in the upcoming weeks, but with the crisis in Syria, the Nuclear program in Iran, talks of Israeli intervention in Iran, potential attacks on Turkey should any Western intervention take place in Iran or Syria, the Egyptian revolutions, and so on, this whole region could implode at any moment. It's an unstable and scary time here, but also a time of substantial and, in some cases, very necessary change. History is being made in the Middle East now and one day, when I am grown with children and grandchildren of my own (God willing) who will be learning about all of these things going on right now in the Middle East, I will have the great privilege of saying that I was lucky enough to be living in the middle of it all. Nothing makes me happier, nor does anything make me feel so incredibly lucky.

My studies are continuing to go very well and I am learning a great deal. I don't have much background in Middle Eastern history so I am very much enjoying catching up on information about the history of the area. Hebrew has slowed down a bit since I am only formally studying the language once a week, but what I am picking up from living with Hebrew speakers and having Israeli friends is invaluable. Arabic is absolutely fantastic and I must admit that I am putting much of my focus on the study of this language. I love how there are only 4 of us in the class which is amazing because we really get 1 on 1 attention. I really can't get enough, and it doesn't hurt that my Arabic tutor is gorgeous :-) Leave it to me to form attractions to Israelis who remind me of Arabs; pretty fitting if you know me and my Arab everything obsession. I'm pretty sure the chances of him finding this blog post are slim so I'm not really worried about expressing the fact that he is very attractive on here. However, if he does happen to see this... well let's just say, if anything, it will be an esteem boost for him!

Other than that everything has been pretty normal around here. Things in the apartment are back to normal after our big Thanksgiving party, we added a few new additions to the place including a rug, TV, TV stand, and washing machine, and we have leftovers from the party that will probably last us for a month! I think that every time we are running low on groceries we should just host a potluck and then we will never have to shop again :-). I'm still loving every second in the apartment and now I am just trying to get a lot of work done before my step sister comes to visit me for 2 weeks! I am so excited to have family here with me and I can't wait to show her all around Israel. We will of course be making an obligatory trip to the West Bank as well which will be a bit of a culture shock for her, but I think she will love it!

My step sister and me! We have a long history :-) 

Until we meet again ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone

Friday, November 25, 2011

11/25/11: Who Says You Can't Do A Good Thanksgiving In The Middle East??

When I looked at my blog and realized I didn't post anything the last few days I couldn't believe that I was so busy preparing for this Thanksgiving celebration that I didn't have time to write! I hope I can remember to account for all of the details :-) It all started yesterday; the actual day of Thanksgiving. Feeling particularly American, I felt it was completely appropriate to miss the one and only class I had that day to start preparing for the holiday. We were expecting over 20 people for our Thanksgiving meal and I was responsible for cooking some main dishes. Now, it is important to note that I have never really cooked before (making turkey sandwiches and deviled eggs don't really count), so this was going to be a huge test for me. I figured, however, that cooking is kind of in my genes so maybe it wouldn't be that bad! There is always a first time for everything :-) I just waited 23 years for this particular experience to take place :-)

Around 2pm I went to the store and took, what felt like, hours to pick out everything I would need for my three dishes; Pasta Salad, Sweet Potato Pie, and Stuffing. Along with all of the food, I picked up some other essentials for the house, checked out, and then attempted to make my way home... With pounds of groceries... Didn't plan that too well... Unfortunately, because I don't have a car, I had to try and walk all the way home with my bags, and it isn't so close; it is quite a schlep! Luckily Karma was on my side and the nicest man on rollerblades stopped, helped me with my bags, and walked me home. I don't know what I would have done without his help! When I got home I thought I would clean a bit and then start on the stuffing (which I thought would be the hardest dish to make). I took some time to clean down the tables, wash the floor, and then the cooking commenced!
The challah after 

Unfortunately in Israel they don't have pre made stuffing so I was stuck doing it all from scratch. I started with two whole challahs and diced each one until the pieces filled two baking trays. You are supposed to dry the bread out so I put it in the oven but didn't realize you had to periodically check to make sure nothing was burning... I set my timer for a bit too long and was only alerted to a problem when my roommate, Morgan, smelled something burning! Thankfully we caught it in time and I only had to scrape off the top layer of one of the trays. After avoiding that potential catastrophe, it was time to continue!

The challah before 

After the tedious labor was over with it was time to dice the onions, celery, and mushrooms, saute them in butter, heat up the chicken broth, and mix it all in with the bread. My eyes were burning from the onions, I burned my hand while sauteing, and almost ruined my bread, but despite it all, the food smelled wonderful and it was starting to look like real, holiday stuffing. After everything was mixed and properly soaked in broth it was time to bake! The end result was phenomenal :-) For my first cooking attempt I would say I knocked it out of the park!

The end result!! 
After the stuffing was finished I figured I would do the pasta salad and then save the potatoes for the morning. It was getting late and I didn't want to spend any more time in the kitchen than I had to. I made two huge things of pasta, followed my momma's recipe and used balsamic vinaigrette, olives, and cheese, threw it all together, and wallah! 

Pasta Salad! 

When the pasta was all done I spent some time with the roomies and then went to sleep. I knew it was going to be a long day the next day so I wanted to be rested! In the morning I woke up, did some cleaning, and then started on the potatoes. Michael and Morgan also had things to cook so we did some creative oven sharing. Surprisingly the potatoes were the hardest dish for me to make because no matter what I did the potatoes wouldn't get soft enough to mash. I added water and baked them at a higher heat but nothing was working. After an hour or so it finally worked out and the dish was well on its way to being AMAZING! I added a ton of butter (so necessary), brown sugar, marshmallows, and more brown sugar, mixed everything up (except the marshmallows which I threw on top), and then baked them for 45 minutes. They came out so well and were a big hit at the party :-)

My sweet potatoes 

After everything was made, while Morgan and Michael were busy making the meat dishes, I took the time to shower and get myself all ready to be a good hostess. Around 3:30 people started to arrive. The house smelled amazing, it was all cleaned and ready to be shown off, and everything was perfect. Each of us invited a few people over and I was so happy that I could share this day with my Israeli friend Maayan, my good friend Russ, and Gabrielle, a girl from my program who is amazing! She made Aliyah as well so we have been bonding over our new found nationalities (well my almost new found nationality!) 

Me and Gabrielle

Mayyany and Me! 
The day was really perfect. There were tons of people here, and the house was filled with so much life, happiness, and amazing food!!! I missed being at home so much, and I really missed my family, but I couldn't have asked for a better holiday. I love my boys more and more every day and we really do have so much fun here. Who would have ever thought I would be pulled out of my shell to the point where I value the time we are all out here together over solitary confinement in my room (something I used to love to do all the time). I still need to work on the "going out" a little bit more, but with all the work I have to do, once a week or so isn't terrible! It was an amazing holiday and the time with friends made being far away from home more easy to handle. 

Enjoying the festivities 

Some of our amazing food! 

Rus and me 

My roommate Ben and his beautiful girlfriend Bar

Maayany enjoying her hookah 

Stephan and Gabbi 

Gabbi and Me 

Some of our desserts 

If I've said it once I have said it a million times: You find out so much about yourself when you are on your own, and some of your abilities will absolutely amazing you. If I would have told my parents before I left that I would be cooking from scratch and hand building a whole room, they would have laughed in my face and told me I was delusional. But I have done these things, and while they might seem like small accomplishments, they signify so much more. 

Well that about wraps up my first Thanksgiving in Israel. I am so thankful for my wonderful family and friends (both near and far), my amazing apartment, my wonderful roommates, my fantastic life in the Middle East, my studies, and so much more. I wish everyone the most happy and meaningful holiday season <3! 

Until we meet again :-),
Jordana Simone 

Until we meet again :-),
Jordana Simone

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22/11: When Temporary Becomes Home, and Home Becomes Temporary

My Beautiful Palm Springs 

I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world to have grown up where I did. In a small town with a big city feel, Palm Springs is a rare treasure whose resorts, golfing, Indian lands, natural hot springs, casinos, and warm winter weather bring thousands and thousands of people in from all over the globe. While these people come to visit and escape their realities of home for a few weeks or a few months, I get to call this place my home year round. I don't think I fully appreciated how special Palm Springs was until I left for Berkeley, at which point I couldn't wait to find excuses to come home to my own personal paradise.

Palm Springs shaped a great deal of things for me that I would only discover after parting ways with her to reside on the other side of the world. We don't have skyscrapers; instead our skyline consists of the mountains that form the backdrops of all of our scenery.

We don't have trees whose leaves change colors in the fall  (in large part because we really don't have a fall); instead we have enormous date palms and cacti that line the streets and fill our desert with her green beauty (well that and the 5 million golf courses that cover our desert valley)!

Date Palms near our big hospital 

We don't have seasons. We go from hot to hotter to hottest, back to hot, then to cool (for like 2 months), and then right back to hot. However, we have 75 degree winters when the rest of the country seems to be buried in snow, and if you have ever seen a desert sunset in the summer, you wouldn't really mind the 115 degree days :-)

People call me a desert rat (hell I call myself a desert rat), and I don't think there can be a better description for what I, in fact, am. I love the beach, I love lush green settings, but unless I'm in a desert I'm not truly home. This is, of course, another one of the many reasons I have such strong ties to the Middle East where much of the land is desert terrain. Pretty much 90% of what I saw in Jordan could have been Palm Springs with a little Arab infusion, and the Deserts in Israel are absolutely breathtaking. It makes me feel like I have a piece of home with me every time I see those desert mountains, or feel that desert heat (even though these deserts are thousand of miles away from home).

Yet, despite all of this, Tel Aviv (and really the whole of Israel and the parts of Jordan I have seen and hope to spend a significant amount of time in) is starting to feel more and more like my home, while California is seeming like a distant, beautiful dream (and I've only been gone 4 months). Maybe it is because my life is so vibrant and busy here, or maybe it is because, with what I want to accomplish out of life, the Middle East is where I need to be, but my feelings of home are switching. Of course, Palm Springs will always, always, always, be my home, but it is no longer the only place I associate with that word.

I really feel so sad for people who never step outside of their back yards (so to speak). There is such a big world out there filled with the most amazing adventures and experiences, and for those who don't think travel is necessary, or for those who are too afraid to break away from the cradling ties of home (even if only for a little while), I feel profoundly bad for you. There is so much to see an experience, and even if you don't have a lot of money (I sure don't), taking some time to see parts of the world that interest you, or visit places that hold some importance for you outside of your home, will change your life in ways you can't even imagine. To think that there was a time I almost gave this up makes me sick to my stomach, and I can't imagine my life without this chapter (which could turn into so much more than that). Living on your own, in a far away land, teaches you so much about your self, and you find out integral things about your character that would never be possible if you are safe and sheltered in the everyday familiarities of life at home. I thank God everyday for my life and the direction it is heading in, and I hope to continue growing, developing, learning, loving, and living my dreams :-)

Aside from that I was selected to be posted on youtube for a "Solidarity with Syria" project where people from all over the world support the Syrian people against the violence inflicted by the Assad regime. It is so sad what is happening over there, the death toll is above 3,500, and the least I could do was submit that I stand in solidarity with the people who are being brutalized by a leader who is supposed to protect and serve them. You can see it here!

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and my Bubby and Zayde helped me put my recipes together, so we will see how they go! This is my first thanksgiving away from home EVER, and I'm so excited to make new traditions and experiences Expat style!!

Masa Il-khier ya habibis!! Minshoofak Bookrah (see you tomorrow) <3,
Jordana Simone 

Monday, November 21, 2011

11/21/11: Arab Jews And The King Who Came To Palestine

Everyday, as I expand my interests in terms of various subjects pertaining to the Middle East, I am amazed at how little I actually know, and how fascinating it all is. After wracking my brain for different topics that could potentially interest me for a paper, I decided to do some research on "Arab Jews"(Jews native to Arab lands). Now, it seems strange, even to me, that I would not have given this topic more thought in the past seeing as the "Arab Jew" combines the two loves of my life, but it just hasn't been a point of focus until now. Minority communities are becoming more and more fascinating to me the more I delve into deeper study of the region; from the native Arab Jews, to the Muslims living within the borders of Israel, it is all so interesting in terms of identity, defining characteristics, personal stories, and so on. I encourage anyone interested in seeing a very interesting documentary on Jews from Arab countries during the onset of WWII to click on this link and watch the 5 or 6 part series:

Hearing some of these accounts can bring tears to your eyes, and to listen to first hand accounts of the vibrant and rich Jewish culture in these Arab lands is absolutely amazing. From the Maghreb (Morocco-Tunisia) to Egypt, to Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, these lands hold such a wealth of history in terms of native Jewish inhabitants, and I'm so excited to learn everything I can on these fantastic communities.

In other very important news, today proved to be a very important day for both the Jordanians and Palestinians. Today, for the first time in the last decade (I believe), King Abdullah II came to the West Bank and met with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

King Abdullah II with PA President Mahmoud Abbas
In my opinion, this meeting was important for two reasons. Number 1, for those of you who don't know, about 80% of Jordan's population is made up of Palestinians, with the rest of the percentage being split up between the Hashemites and the Bedouins, and many people have speculated that Jordan should, in fact, be the Palestinian state. Fun fact for those of you who think Israel's stance is for Jordan to be "Palestine": Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan stating that they recognize the Hashemites full sovereignty over the land of Jordan, and thus can't push for Jordan being the Palestinian state. King Abdullah II assured Abbas of his support for the creation of a Palestinian state (along pre '67 borders), meaning, in my mind, that if Jordan plays any role in the creation of a Palestinian state (in terms of land given from Jordan to Palestine) it will be minimal.

The second, and far more important reason (at least for right now) for this visit to Ramallah was to discuss Abbas's possible reconciliation with the Hamas government. This poses a huge threat to Jordan (and Israel as well), and it is very crucial for King Abdullah II to follow this potential development very closely. For a long time now, Jordan has been regarded as a "moderate" Muslim country, and they have maintained fairly good relations with their Palestinian neighbors (which is actually a much more complex situation due to the 80% Palestinian population but that is discussion for another time), but they have worked extremely hard over the years to minimize radical extremist ideology and to keep radical Islamic groups, such as Al Qaeda, out of their borders, and to have Hamas right next door poses a huge threat to the country.

On the one hand it is easy to understand why Abbas wants to unite the entirety of Palestine, especially since an issue with their statehood and legitimacy comes from the fact that Palestine is split both geographically and politically, however, I don't know if it will help or hurt them to join forces with a radical, Islamic group recognized world wide as a terrorist organization. Regardless of what happens now, it seems likely to me that if Palestine is created and legitimized (which they should be), that a civil war between the fundamental Hamas and moderate Fatah will most likely occur. It's not likely that either entity wants very much to share their power, and since their views are so different (violent resistance vs. passive and peaceful resistance, etc.) it doesn't seem likely that a unification will last, or even occur in the first place. However, if such a unification does occur, both Jordan and Israel will have to remain even more alert and vigilant.

In other news from the Hashemite Kingdom, if you read my blog a few days ago, you will recall that Jordan had a very weak stance on the situation in Syria for quite a few reasons. However, because of mounting internal and external pressures, King Abdullah II was the first Arab leader to outright express his view that Assad should step down from power. If the citizens of Jordan, or members of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) were previous worried about Jordan's lack of position on the issue of Syria, it should be overtly apparent that the government has now taken a firm stand against what is going on in the region.

Well that just about sums up the Middle East briefing for this post. It is thanksgiving this week, and since I live with a bunch of Americans we have decided to do Thanksgiving dinner at the apartment! I am actually going to be doing a good amount of cooking (and I'm not the most experienced cook), so this will be quite an adventure! Other than that it's more studying, researching, and getting myself one step closer to becoming Dr. Pepper :-) That just has such a nice ring to it!

Until tomorrow (or the next day :-p) ma as-salame ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

11/19/11: The Family Is A Haven In A Heartless World

Meet the Peppers! 

I feel that an integral reason for writing this blog is to really give any reader a sense of who I am and why I am doing all of the things that I am doing. I have written about countless adventures, studies, and personal experiences, but I have never written about the people who have helped make this all possible, and who without, I would not be where I am today. "Other things may change us, but we start and end with family" and I am so lucky to have one of the best families in the world.  

"Any man can be a father.  It takes someone special to be a dad."  ~Author Unknown

My Daddy and Me

Perhaps one of the most influential people in my life is my dad. I don't know how he does it, but he seems to know everything from relationships to finances and everything in between. I couldn't ask for a better guide, and on the rare occasion I actually listen to his advice it always proves to be the best.  As much as a child HATES to admit her parents might actually know what they are talking about, I'm learning (slowly, slowly) to take his words and advice to heart. From his work ethic, to the way he interacts with people, he is such an inspiration to me. I miss my dad everyday but mostly during the holiday season, which is rapidly approaching. My sister, dad, and I take our holiday times very seriously, and starting with the watching of Nightmare Before Christmas on Halloween, and ending with White Christmas on December 25th (with tons and tons of holiday music and movies in between), it is proving to be a tradition that I am deeply missing. Everything from our holiday movie nights to my step mom's obsessive (in a good way) holiday decorating makes me very hungry for home during this time. 

And we all wonder why I'm lazy!!! It's genetic :-) 

Dad with his girls! 

My daddy and step momma

Dad, Sister, Step Sissy, Step momma! 

I would not be where I am today with the support of my dad who has truly given me so much to be thankful for (including 4 years at the most amazing university ever!!! 1ST DOWN... GO BEARRRRS!!! as we like to say :-p) 

"I love my mother as the trees love water and sunshine - she helps me grow, prosper, and reach great heights".  ~Terri Guillemets

Mommy and me!! 

 My mom wanted to be a mother from the time she was a teenager, and when someone wants children as much as my mom did you just know they are bound to be an fantastic parent. No matter where I am in the world, or who I am with, my mom is the only person who can make me feel infinitely better when I am sad or sick, when I feel alone or I am scared. I tell her everything (even things she could do without knowing), and I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my mommy around as a shoulder to lean on. Just as I miss my dad the most during the holidays, I miss my mom the most during the fall. Football season and the fall are my mom's seasons :-) Ever since I was a baby I can remember watching Ohio State football on saturdays, getting dressed up in Ohio state gear with our Ohio State pillows and pom poms, and that only intensified when I went to CAL and had a team of my own to follow. My mom gave me the love I have for sports, the fine arts, leadership, and so many other things, and she has helped me develop so many of my most important skills and attributes. 

Mommy and her girls 

Go Bucks! 

At the Rose Bowl! 

At the Fiesta Bowl 

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life." ~Isadora James
"If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child."  ~Linda Sunshine

These two quotes sum up my relationship with my baby sister perfectly. There were times when I wanted to kill her, still are, but she is my best friend in the whole world, and someone who will be there for me until the very end. My sister can best be described as the miracle child. She was born 3 months premature, weighing only 1 pound 10 ounces, and now she is bigger than I am!! 

Hard to believe she is bigger than me now!  

A sister is such a special thing to have, and I am discovering the truth to this more and more everyday. Whether you want someone to do something with, or just need a family ally, a sister is always there for just those purposes. A friend who is so so much more. Elana and I have had some crazy times over these past years, from 8 hour long drives starting at 10 o'clock at night, to watching planet earth at 3 in the morning, to football games, to sorority invites, and even raves, we have done it all, and I couldn't think of anyone else I would have wanted to share in these activities with! I can't wait until she joins me in the Holy Land so that we can continue on our epic sisterly adventures :-)

With our step sissy!! 


"What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance.  They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life.  And, most importantly, cookies."  ~Rudolph Giuliani (or in my case...TUNA!) 

I am so lucky to have the most amazing grandparents in the world. I will first talk about my dad's parents; my Bubby and Zayde. These are two of the most amazing people anyone will ever meet, and I don't know what Elana and I would have done without them. Because we are the only grandchildren (my Uncle didn't have children), we really were so lucky to have the full attention of Bubby and Zayde since we were babies. 

My Zayde is the smartest person in the whole world, and my Bubby is care-free, adventurous, and fearless. Both of them have such a different personalities, and I have learned so many different, essential things from each of them. In times of great hardship they have been my rocks and saviors when I felt like I had no where else to turn. They provided me haven unlike any other, and still, to this day, provide that same comfort and safety net. They are two other heros in my life, and I thank God everyday that they are here with me. I don't know what I would do without either of them so they better stay put for a long time :-p. They are my favorite people in the world. 

Yup... In Mexico with Bubby! 

I am also so fortunate to have my Muzzy (mom's mom) in my life. It is so amazing to have 3 grandparents alive and well, and it is such a blessing that we are so close to them. My Muzzy is the artist in the family (a gene which skipped most of us), and she has the most amazing sense of fashion and style of anyone I have ever met. I constantly admire her impeccable taste, grace, and sense of style. She has one of the most interesting histories and families around, and I love hearing about my great grandparents and all of the amazing things that they did with languages, printing, politics, and so many other things. 

Muzzy, Me, and Cousin Alex

"An uncle is a gift whose worth cannot be measured except by the heart."- Unknown 

There isn't a truer quote to describe the relationship I have with my Uncle Scott (dad's brother). He is one of the most special people in my life and I don't know where I would be without his kindness and generosity. My Uncle has always been someone I have idolized, and his fearless and adventurous life has been a huge source of inspiration to me. My Uncle marches to the beat of his own drum, and I aspire to be more and more like that everyday. Along with being the care-free, crazy (in the best sense) uncle, he has proven to be one of my greatest resources, and sources of encouragement and strength during very difficult times in my life. His generosity is overwhelming, and he has given me so much in terms of love, encouragement, and general support. I am so lucky to have him in my life! 

The rest of my family, My mom's brother and his son, live in Ohio so we haven't spent much time with them over the past years, but the time we do have with them is absolutely amazing. My Uncle Lon is one of the funnies people I have ever met, and is so brilliant. My cousin Alex (my only first cousin), is a brilliant musician and one of the most fun people to be with. They are amazing and I can't wait to spend more time with them in the future! 

Well that just about sums up my small, but amazing, family! Now you know a little more about us Peppers (and Mendelsohns), and these are the wonderful people who have gotten me to where I am today! 

Tisba7 3ala Khier ya habibis! 
Jordana Simone