My Trip to the Holy Land

Let me ask all of you a question…

 

“If you could travel to any one place in the world, and price wasn’t a concern, where would you go and why?”

 

Think about it for a minute.

 

I’ll bet not many of you answered with: “I want to go to Israel and visit the Holy Land”, did you?

 

It’s almost Christmas, so I feel a bit compelled to tell you all about my recent visit to this sacred spot in the Middle East, and why you might also want to experience it someday yourself…

 

Most spontaneous trips I make in my life are within driving distance of my house in North Carolina. One time I actually drove to Miami on a whim, now that was pretty nutty. So you can imagine my surprise when one of my colleagues invited me to get on a plane and fly to Israel in two weeks. He was visiting family there and working remotely. Our conversation went something like this:

 

Colleague: “We have some business that could be done over here in a couple weeks…meetings with doctors and what not. You have so many frequent flyer miles that your flight would essentially be free. Why don’t you jump on a plane and help me out over here?”

 

Me: “Um, really? Israel? In a couple weeks?”

 

I left my mouth open to say “NO”, because a trip like that would require much preparation. I would need to research the area, find the most comfortable flight, make arrangements with my family, prepare any documentation, and of course read “Hebrew for Dummies”. This was not a trip to be taken lightly, or spontaneously for that matter, but for some inexplicable reason, I hesitated. I mean, this was the trip of a lifetime, and would cost me hardly anything. I had a passport. I was well over 21. My son would be visiting his dad that particular week. What could possibly get in the way?

 

Me: “Okay, I will book my flight tonight.”  And I did.

 

My entire experience in Israel was amazing and surreal, but I want to specifically write about my adventure in the ancient city of Jerusalem, and the different emotions I experienced throughout my visit there. It was a magical city, indeed, and simply being there had a significantly profound impact that will resonate with me for the rest of my life.

 

 

 

PART 1: The Wailing Wall

 

Immediately following a breakfast of goat’s yoghurt, wheat bread, and vegetables, we headed out on the Israeli highway towards the sacred city of Jerusalem.  I was staying at a friend’s house near the bustling party city of Tel Aviv, which was ironically about an hour from the Holy Land.

 

The sky was bright blue and free of clouds, and the view coming into Jerusalem was about as picturesque as a postcard. The temperature was a mild 70 degrees, and the mountain gave way to a slight cool breeze.

 

We parked and walked up to the entrance of the old city. Children lined the sidewalk, begging for shekels and offering gum. I politely refused, not because I didn’t want to give them money, but because I honestly was out of shekels.

 

My friend would aggressively bark something in Hebrew at the kids, but they continued to briskly walk beside us, batting their big eyelashes and thrusting cartons of gum in front of us. They were so cute and pitiful, I wanted to scoop them up and bring them home with me.

 

“They should be in school,” my friend grumbled, and continued on.

 

The old city consists of four separate quadrants: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian. We entered the city at the Jewish side, mainly because I was extremely anxious to visit the infamous Wailing Wall and finally get to place my written prayer into its blessed cracks.

 

We approached a huge open area, where people were scattered about like ants. Although this area bustled with people of all races and cultures, the vast majority of them were adorned in similar conservative attire. The men wore black suits, wide rimmed hats or yamakas, and their faces were covered in full beards. The women wore long dresses or skirts, scarves, and head coverings of some sort. Most of the couples had three or four children with them, also dressed the same way and obediently walking beside their parents.

 

It was explained to me that these people represent a small percentage of Jewish culture that is classified as Orthodox or Hasidic, which is a much more conservative and traditional style of Judaism.

 

The Wailing Wall (technically known as the Western Wall), stood to my far right, and its lower half was covered with hundreds of people, standing in front of it and humbly placing their hands upon it. I was moved at the mere sight of it.

 

I walked up to get a closer look, and I noticed there was a partition that divided the Wall to separate the men from the women. The men’s side was significantly larger than the women’s side, yet was sprinkled with very few people, while the women’s side was packed with a myriad of ladies and children. There was even a line that formed to get in. I found the uneven division to be somewhat odd, especially since women, by nature, are much more emotional creatures that would be more likely to visit the Wall. That’s simply my opinion, of course.

 

I draped a scarf around my neck and slowly walked towards my designated side. As I got closer to the wall, I suddenly felt a powerful pulsing energy that I simply cannot describe. It was as if I had just taken the stage at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, and the massive crowd was all cheering in unison towards me. It was a surge of emotion, and it swirled around my body like a million butterflies. I took a deep breath and continued towards the Wall.

 

It was lined with women, some bowing their heads, others kneeling, some chanting, others crying. I found an open spot and gently went up to it. It was interesting to me how easy it was to get to the Wall. There were tons of women waiting to approach it, but not one person was pushing or shoving or wiggling to get through. Everyone just sort of floated in and out of each other’s way, gracefully permitting each suffering soul the exact time they needed to pray at the sacred Wall.

 

I looked at the ancient Wall in a blank stare. Cracks ran from top to bottom, and tiny wads of paper were crammed in each and every crevice. I closed my eyes and lifted my hand to touch it. I could hear the countless whispering voices of prayer on either side of me, humming with passionate emotion.  I took a deep breath and as I exhaled, I softly spoke my own prayer.

 

Let me interrupt myself to tell you that I am not a religious person by any means, and I do not label myself with any sort of organized or structured belief system. I am a very spiritual person who believes in our Creator and a divine purpose for every living soul. That being said, I’m not much of a “prayer person”. I save the times I speak to God for when I really need Him. I guess I somehow always felt that He would be more inclined to listen to me if my requisitions were few and far between. This particular prayer experience was as divine and spiritual as any one I’ve ever had in my life. I felt as if my heart expanded in my chest for the brief moment I held my outstretched hand to that Wall, and in one split second I was overwhelmingly convinced in the power of prayer.

 

I slowly opened my eyes and looked down at my other hand. I opened my palm to expose the tiny folded piece of paper that it held. I slightly panicked when I realized how difficult it was most certainly going to be to find an empty spot to hold my written prayer, but my eyes were quickly drawn down to my left, where a tiny crack remained visible. I wedged my paper into it, and it fit perfectly. I studied it for a moment, as if I needed to mentally let it go, then knew my time at the Wall had come to an end.

 

I made my way through the quiet crowd and walked up the ramp to meet my friend back in the gathering area.

 

“Well, how was it?” he asked, as he handed me my belongings.

 

I just smiled and shook my head.

 

“Yeah, I know…” he said.


A Scantily Clad Performance Taught Me a Valuable Lesson

It was a cold February in 2005. I was having some problems in my marriage and felt as if heading out of town for the weekend would cure everything. I called my cousin and she agreed that New York City was just the medicine I needed. We booked our flights and within a few hours we were pounding the pavement of this luscious city.

We ventured down Broadway and decided a show was in order.

“What do you want to see?” she asked me.

“Not sure, let’s mull it over in the next bar.”

Without hesitation, she ducked into the next drinking establishment and before we knew it we were downing Irish Car Bombs with some locals.

“We wanna go to a show tonight,” I announced to one of the smiling, red-faced gents we were sharing drinks with.

Before he had a chance to answer, a tall young guy with tousled brown hair and a giant Adam’s apple chimed in, “You need to catch a burlesque show. It’s the new hot thing around here. My roommate performs at this great little place called The Slipper Room, you’ll love it.”

“Whoa…burlesque, new?” my cousin asked, sarcastically.

“Well, it’s kinda being reinvented. People like the tease…” he responded.

I looked at my cousin and she shrugged slightly as if to say, “why not?” I nodded back.

“So, where is this Slipper Room place, anyway?”

That night we got all dolled up in our best NYC hooch attire and caught a cab to the Slipper Room. It was a quaint little place that was whimsically decorated with old paintings and dusty velvet curtains. Votive candles sat atop each round table, and a large bar made from mahogany wood lined the entire back wall.

We found a table near the front and claimed it.

“I like this place,” my cousin said through a smile.

The lights dimmed and the sound of a saxophone drowned out the crowd’s babble. We watched intently as the curtain slowly lifted, exposing a toned, fishnet-covered leg, one inch at a time.

I was hooked.

Exactly one year later, I was holding auditions to create my own show in North Carolina. I put ads in every paper and on Craigslist, searching for classy dancers that were desperate to perform.

I was scorned and laughed at for my attempts. Naysayers were telling me that no one would support that kind of show in Greensboro, and that it had been tried more than once, only to flop on opening night.

I ignored them. I was going to do something totally unique, and I was going to do something else that no one had done before: donate the proceeds to a charity.

After months of auditions, costuming, and rehearsals, we had finally prepared a great little show. I had named my troupe The Stiletto Starlets, and was submitting press releases everywhere I could imagine. I happened to get a half page feature article in the local paper, showcasing my troupe and our charitable efforts. It was entitled, “Burlesque Comes to the City”, and under the heading was an ultra-large picture of yours truly, donning full burlesque attire. I’m sure my mom was proud.

We pre-sold 250 tickets for $30/each, and 50 VIP tickets for $45/each. Flop? Hardly.

The craziest thing is that the charity we pre-selected to receive the funds sent me a letter only two days prior to the show refusing the money. It was the MS Society, and they didn’t want any part of what we were doing. Their letter basically said, in a nutshell, the following:

“We appreciate your choosing us, but after much careful consideration, we feel that burlesque is demeaning to women, and do not want your money. Thank you.”

I was flabbergasted, especially since I had sold the tickets on the pretense that the money was going to the MS Society. Gulp.

I had to embarrassingly address the audience the night of the show, but luckily everyone agreed to vote on a new charity. Brenner’s Children’s Hospital won the vote and we sent the money to them.

This worked out to my advantage because when the press caught wind of the mishap, they were all over it. My troupe got even more exposure and therefore pushed me to put on yet another successful show just five months later.

I’ve been swamped with my new company and have since retired from my stint in show business, but the valuable lesson I learned was to never let anyone stop you from pursuing what you want to do. The only way you can ever fail is by not giving it a shot, and by listening to others who, quite frankly, just don’t have the balls to do what you can. Period.

Cheers,

Julie

http://www.hotrawks.com

 

 


Medicating Ourselves To Death

Adderall. Xanax. Ambien. Zoloft. More than likely, anyone reading this blog immediately recognizes all of those words. Those words, along with a plethora of other pharmaceutical terms, are now a common fixture in the English language. We are introduced to these chemical substances from the time we’re born, and anyone not having took some sort of prescription drug in the past 6 months probably leans toward the minority.

Is anyone else petrified at how medicated everyone is? Does anyone else see the dangers lurking behind every little amber-colored bottle in your medicine chest? I am dumbfounded at the number of prescription drugs that are out there, and even more so at the number of people I personally know who talk about their current medications more than they talk about their own kids.

Our bodies were miraculously created to cleanse, detoxify, and adapt. We can occasionally consume a harmful substance if our immune systems and organs are pure and strong since our body will process and remove the toxic substance out of the body as quickly as possible, but if our delicate systems are overloaded with chemicals and foreign substances, the body cannot process it quickly enough. So what happens? The substances are stored in the liver, pancreas, nervous system, fat, and brain. Your body becomes a cesspool of toxins and free radicals that are bouncing all over the place, destroying everything in their path.

Feeling forgetful? Let’s take a pill. Stomach upset? Pop a pill. Headache throbbing? Pill time! Low libido? Oh, there’s a pill for that too. Do you see what’s happening here? Your body is telling you something isn’t right by constricting blood flow, slowing digestion, and jolting the nervous system, yet we take that little piece of paper to the local pharmacy and fill yet another bottle full of poison.

Ever heard the term, “survival of the fittest”? As living animals, we were designed to procreate. This means we are born with a strong inclination to mate, right? Now think about the last time you were sick. Maybe you had the flu, or a bad cold…did you feel like having sex? Chances are, probably not. Your body was too busy working on healing itself to worry about sex. In theory, this same process happens when the body is constantly trying to purify itself of toxins from prescription drugs. Your libido is smothered, sperm count lowered, and eggs are weakened. It makes sense that approximately 9 million couples have turned to fertility treatments in the United States alone!

I am not saying that prescription drugs cause infertility. I am also not saying that we should never swallow another pharmaceutical pill as long as we live. I think that there are certain instances where these drugs can benefit us, as in pain management and certain antibiotics. For example, if I am passing a kidney stone that looks like a porcupine I would consider taking something to ease the pain until the stone passes. Also, let’s say that I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I would definitely want to take an antibiotic to control my condition!

What I am talking about is the overuse and daily dependancy on chemical drugs for every single ailment. I am talking about the number of people who use their everyday drug regimen as a “crutch” for survival. So many people feel as if they can’t function or complete their everyday tasks without swallowing handfuls of chemicals. This simply isn’t true. In fact, quite the opposite effect is taking place.

I can’t write this without also mentioning the amount of processed food and drink we’re consuming in addition to all the drugs. The plants and animals we eat are contaminated with a concentrated amount of poisons, which has a negative effect on our bodies as well. When are we going to realize what’s happening here? When are we going to start making better choices? When are you going to treat your body like the luxury vehicle it is?

You want to lose weight, have a sharper mind, a soaring libido, and a body free of disease? Then quit medicating yourselves with drugs, chemicals, poison, toxins, bleached/processed foods, and sugary sodas! Eat clean, pure food and take high-quality herbs. Drink clean water and exercise regularly.

Listen to me now: Stop trying to fix the symptoms and start trying to heal your body! This nation’s dependancy on pharmaceutical drugs is alarming and quite literally sickening.

You are what you consume. Every second your body is regenerating itself, sloughing off cells and making new ones. What are you swallowing as fuel? What are you made of?

-Julie Wilson

http://www.raw-nation.com


A Revelation in Spirituality

The reason no one wants to ever talk about religion or politics is because they know they will be fighting a losing battle if the opposite person doesn’t share their particular viewpoint. People are passionate about their various beliefs, and no matter how much sense the other argument makes, they will almost never budge.

I have lost some of my family due to certain religious beliefs. I have spent the last 8 years trying to convince myself that someday they would come around and see past their judgement and accept me into their hearts again, but I have finally realized that will never happen. This is a sobering revelation, and has cut me to the core, but in the end they are the ones who are suffering the greatest. I guess this is what hurts me the most, since I do still love them very much.

I was raised in a strict religious environment and I am thankful for it. It taught me to overcome adversity and remain strong throughout various trials and tribulations. It taught me to be bold and courageous. It taught me to love with my whole heart, soul, and mind. Nevertheless, it also taught me to feel as if I were somewhat exhaulted above others because of my beliefs. In no way did that ever come out literally, but every teaching had a thick undertone of self-righteousness and stern judgement. I worshipped out of fear. Fear of death. Fear of loss. Fear of abandonment.

I made a mistake, like all humans do, and was condemned from the church. In turn, part of my family condemned me as well. At first I thought I understood why and I made excuses for them. I explained verbosely how they had excommunicated me out of love and sincerity, not malice or judgement.

I was told by the church I could lift my “disfellowshipped” cloak by repenting.

“I have repented. I married the man I love and I am now living a clean life. I pray every day and I know in my heart that God has forgiven me,” I would explain.

“No, no. You must come to the church regularly and then write a letter to the elders of the church. When they feel as if you have repented, they will pray and lift your scorn.” This would be their repetitive answer, and I didn’t agree with it. I started to feel heavy with guilt for questioning this process. You see, when you are taught something your entire life, from the time you were born, it makes it virtually impossible to undo that belief. If you no longer believe something to be true which was always considered gospel, then what else can you depend on? What is reliable? What is the truth?

I didn’t want a group of imperfect men to be responsible for my standing with God and the condition of my heart. I didn’t feel as if I needed them to make that decision for me. I wasn’t being stubborn or independent, I was simply being realistic. Isn’t man imperfect? Why should my family and loved ones wait until a group of men say it’s okay for them to talk to me? Didn’t they see I was living an upstanding and steadfast lifestyle? So many of whom they chose to hang around were leading adulterous, sinful lives themselves but they didn’t have that “cloak” over them, so that was okay? I was muddled with confusion.

I have recently realized that I will never again be close to certain family members that I once was. This isn’t by my choice, but theirs. I understand now that just because I have grown past certain teachings and chose to let them go, not everyone is ready to accept that, and that’s okay. Not everyone can swallow the bitter pill of admitting certain lifelong beliefs may be unhealthy and unloving. I am blessed that I now have a full heart, one of love and forgiveness and non-judgement. Am I perfect? Absolutely not, and that is why I don’t expect anyone else to be.

I was reading my favorite scripture the other day that speaks of unconditional love. You know, the one that states the fact that love is not jealous, it doesn’t brag, it endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things? The one that says “love never fails”? God is love. We are undeserving of His graciousness and ability to forgive, yet He showers us with it anyway, out of pure, unconditional love.

If my estranged family members surprise me one day and want to be in my life again, I will welcome them with open arms and most importantly, an open heart.


Take A Plunge

I grew up spending my summers in California, and every August my family would pack up the RV’s and travel to Yosemite National Park for a week-long adventure. I was the youngest of the brood, and therefore suffered serious small-kid persecution on a daily basis. This attributed to the desperate need to “keep up” with all my older cousins.

If you’ve ever been to Yosemite National Park you know that there is a ghastly tradition of climbing to the top of “The Bridge” and jumping down to the freezing cold river below. All the water is basically melted snow that runs down from the tops of the mountains so it really, literally, is ice cold. When I was only 11 years old, my cousins decided it was time I sucked it up and took a jump.

“Come on, Julie…don’t you want to be able to hang with us now?” they would chime in together. I bit my lip and swallowed hard. I knew if I said no I would be the laughing stock around the campfire later, but if I said yes, and happened to barely survive, my parents would go ahead and finish the job by beating me to a pulp.

I decided my life would be over if I didn’t jump, so I climbed my way up to the top of that bridge. I stepped atop the tall, stone wall and looked down to the icy waters below. I froze. Suddenly everyone was laughing and pointing, including complete strangers as they called me a coward (newsflash: kids can be mean). I gulped and held my breath, but still couldn’t move.

I glanced over to see my cousin Shanel glaring at the crowd as they laughed and pointed. I saw a fierce rage in her eyes, one I had never seen before.  Apparently she could poke fun at me all day, but how dare someone else? She nonchalantly walked over to me and whispered through the side of her mouth, “Just do it. I will jump right after you and swim you to shore…”

“But I can’t…” I responded in a frightful tone.

“Just trust me!” she whispered loudly.

I continued to hear the snickering banter behind me.

“Hurry up! There’s people waiting who are actually gonna jump!” a random voice shouted from behind me.

I despairingly looked down in shame.                                                          

“Look at me,” I heard Shanel’s loud whisper once again and glanced over my left shoulder at her stern face.

“Trust me…” she said and winked.

Before I had a chance to say, “huh?”, I felt her hand position itself in the arch of my back and shove.

Just like that, my body was forced forward and I realized it was too late to turn back. I held my breath as I soared through the air and eventually splashed into the icy cold waters below. As I struggled to swim to the surface, I suddenly felt an arm wrap itself around my waist and gently pull me up to safety.

“You okay?” it was Shanel.

All of a sudden I heard a booming sound of cheers and applause coming from the bridge above. I looked up to see my naysayers clapping and holding their thumbs up. I flashed a smile of relief and paddled to the shore.

“Sorry about that, but you were ready to jump. You just needed a push,” Shanel said.

“It’s okay, I’m glad you did,” I said through chattering teeth.

“Wanna do it again?” she asked.

I grinned.


Caviar Dreams…My Ass!

“Entrepreneur”-one who owns, launches, manages, and assumes the risks of an economic venture.

I have been very excited since taking the plunge into the world of the self-employed, thus becoming a tad liberal with my time and money. Seriously, someone needs to put a potato sack over my head, drive me to an unknown bridge, then dangle me over the edge and very forcefully explain that I’m not making the big bucks just yet! Yes, I am unfortunately known for diving head-first into anything that excites me, and lately I’ve been simply fascinated with new business ventures (whatever they may be). Case in point: This past weekend I took a 3-day real estate investment course. Now, let me just start by telling you this wasn’t some flim-flam bogus bullshit that you go to and decide to give up your firstborn child and sell your soul to the devil just to be a part of. This advertised as a legitimate educational course with a planned curriculum. It was taught by a real professor, who also happened to have made it big time in the real estate biz. It cost a total of 500 bucks, but I’m a sucker for success stories…plus the housing market has me intrigued right now, so I signed up for the course and got ready for a long weekend of learning and inspiration. Yeah, right.

First of all, I will say that the course was slightly educational. I did learn a few techniques about wholesale real estate, pre-foreclosures, and mortgage options. I also met a few people who, like myself, were hungry for a great investment opportunity but not sure where to start. With that being said, let me explain how this ingenious plot works to have you saying “Here’s my American Express…” before your coffee gets cold.

Day 1: They prep your emotions by filling your heart with some great motivational stories. I love that shit. Then they tease you with a tiny bit of informative and educational material, just enough to have you taking notes and sitting on the edge of your cold, hard seat. Then they tell you how important it is to have great credit. Once they have everyone in agreement, they tell you that during lunch, you need to pull out your plastic and call to increase the limits as much as you can. This theory, (or so they say), is to give you a higher credit score. This makes sense because the less you owe compared to your limits, the higher your score. This is the part where my red flag went flying, especially since they just finished explaining how you should use “other people’s money” to buy property, and never put anything in your name. Hmmm. This “assignment” was to be done by everyone and then we all had to report back after lunch and say how much we got our credit limits raised. I’m sitting at my table, totally dumbfounded and wondering if anyone else in the room had figured out what the hell was going on. As I watched them race to their cars with their cellphones, I realized they didn’t.

Day 2: I contemplated not going back for round two, but curious to see how quickly my opinion would be validated, I simply couldn’t resist it. I walked in the class a few minutes late only to suffer glares from the professor. She quickly explained how she had been to boot-camp courses taught by (insert real estate tycoon here), and HE would have charged her $50 for being late. I slowly removed my oversized sunglasses and sipped my coffee through a smile. Bitch.

The first hour was another tease-o-rama for real information. Just as I started thinking I may actually start to learn something here, alas, get my money’s worth, the Bitch starts telling us that in order to ever make wise real estate investments, we must enroll in “Advanced Training.” Advanced training? Then what the hell had I paid for, a hand job without a happy ending? Apparently so. She then proceeded to list the various courses needed in order to become a millionaire. I was flabbergasted when she wrote down the final figure for how much this “Advanced Training” would cost us. $48,000. Yes, I said $48,000. For a 6-week online course and a fucking mentor. Once I realized no one was going to come out and start talking about timeshares, I looked for Ashton Kutcher’s hot ass since I was absolutely sure we were all being Punked. He never showed up.

Day 3: Remember those lovely credit cards you increased the limits on the first day? Well, now is the time to whip those babies out! Don’t even think about saying you don’t have the money for “Advanced Training”, since the instructors vividly remember each one of the poor suckers who felt compelled to share their stories with the class after lunch that first day. I specifically remember the sweet little guy at the table next to mine. He was an ambitious young man who worked overtime at two different jobs just to afford THIS class. What he lacked in brains, he made up for in spirit.
”I called at lunch and they raised my Visa limit to $2500!” he excitedly proclaimed.
”Good! Now you need to fill out a few more applications so you have more available credit on your report. This way, you can get approved for more houses and become a millionaire quicker! Now here’s the phone number for Citibank…I have it memorized for some insane reason…hahahaha!” the Bitch said.
Heaven forbid there be any naysayers, since she would make them feel like Tom Thumb in front of the room and tell them they were destined to a life of poverty since they were too pussified to take the “Advanced Training.” Who knew the Anti-Christ was a short, pudgy white lady? 
I didn’t participate in the assignments, but she never gave me a hard time. I think it’s because once I removed my sunglasses on that second day, she saw the question of authenticity in my eyes. I locked her in a stare-battle and refused to look away. That was when the Bitch realized I wasn’t intimidated by her browbeating, and she avoided me at all costs. 

Before lunch on the third day, I packed up my shit and left early. I still had some of my weekend left to do something productive, and maybe even a little partying…after all, this entrepreneur was ready to get off her butt and start hanging out with some real motivators…her friends!