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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Back to School

I started back to school yesterday. It was something I had been dreading, after having a not-long-enough break after my summer classes. The contrast to a year ago was so interesting. One year ago I started going back to school after a long break (long being years, not months). Last year I walked in not knowing anyone, dreading the amount of work I would have to do, not having any idea what I was getting myself in for. This year I walked in and saw old friends, spent the time before class catching up with people I hadn't seen since the end of the spring semester. I still dread the amount of work I am going to have to complete in the next four months, but at least I know what to expect now. I now know what it is like to write a paper, have an incredible amount of reading to do in a very short amount of time. It is familiar, and comfortable. The classes I am taking this semester are not my favorites, but even so, I took a step out of class yesterday and realized something. I love it. I love being in a learning environment, in a place that's purpose is to make you think. I love learning about new things, and exposing myself to new people. I love the exchange of ideas, and the widening of horizons. I love school. The moment I realized this, I also realized that my quest to be a teacher is a good one. If I can surround myself by learning for the rest of my life, I really think I will be happy.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Lesson Learned

My lesson learned this weekend: A small act of kindness can make a big impact on the recipient... and the giver.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Tattoo Jew Movie

Movie I might have to see, for personal reasons: Tattoo Jew Movie

One Week

It's been a week - a week of too much thinking, too much emotion, keeping myself busy so I can't think too much. Running myself into the ground so that by the time I get into bed I don't have the energy to do anything but sleep. Guessing, second-guessing, third-guessing. Coming to conclusions and then changing them over and over. Feeling so many different things, and not knowing which one to choose. Worrying about others, and then myself, and then others again. Wanting to put myself first but not sure if I can, if I ever really have. Wanting to do what is best for myself and others, but not sure if I can. Wondering and rehashing and reading too much into nothing. It has been doubting myself, and feeling like I am weak, though having my friends tell me and knowing inside that I really am not. It has been looking at my past and knowing that I have done what it takes to do the right thing and move my life on the right path, and that takes strength, not weakness. It has been a week of facing decisions that I have been putting off for too long. And I have finally realized that I need to take action in order to force myself to make the decisions I already know are the right thing for me. I need to take action to force myself to do the things I have been meaning to do while I have been telling myself I have time. I might have time, but it feels good to know what I am going to do, what path I am on. It is amazing how something that is unrelated to a lot of things becomes the catalyst for making other decisions. My decisions are not all final, but I am coming a lot closer, and that is a good feeling.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What I Needed to Read

Check out the following at Aidel Maidel's website - it is what I needed to read this week. Why Women Cry

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Somebody Loves Me

I just got the best voice mail message ever. The cutest 3-year-old ever called and told me that he wanted me to come for Shabbos. I can't tell you what that does to my heart to hear. At least someone loves me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Grand Canyon

I was talking to a friend earlier and he told me that, as I am typing this, he is headed towards the Grand Canyon. He has had a glorious summer enjoying the scenery, meeting a wide variety of people and helping in an eye clinic in Wyoming and now he is finishing his travels with a grand tour of what I am sure is one of the most amazing, beautiful, breathtaking sights in the world. My friend was lamenting the fact that he was traveling alone - a friend was supposed to join him but wimped out when she realized that the trip was going to involve being outdoors. I was so incredibly tempted to hop on the next plane to the Grand Canyon and join him. The closest I have ever come to the Grand Canyon is seeing that incredible crack in the earth from a plane. Alas, work, money and the fact that I start school in a few days keeps me in Baltimore. I wish I could go though, because I have one thought that stays with me. The thought of praying to Hashem in the middle of the Grand Canyon. I have been having a lot of trouble staying inspired lately, and I can't imagine anything more rejuvenating for my soul than praising G-d in such a beautiful, gorgeous spot that emphasizes the magnificence of G-d's creation. I think I am going to go get a picture of it to put on the wall in front of where I daven. On a side note - I am not sure how much I will be blogging in the future. I apologize to my loyal readers (all one or two of you) if my posts become much less frequent.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Right Decision

The right decision is definitely not always the easiest one to make. But I think, with each difficult decision, choosing the right path becomes a bit easier and the decision becomes more confident. Hashem tests us with these challenges, and through them, we grow and learn and gain a tremendous amount. However, knowing that we are gaining so much from the experience doesn't make it easier to deal with and get through. This past week I was faced with an extremely difficult challenge. I think I knew the whole time what the right thing to do was, but the wrong thing was incredibly tempting and looming so large that it made it almost impossible to care that it was wrong. I have been struggling recently with doing the right thing, because it is not always the fun or immediately pleasurable path, and because I sometimes feel that I have too much sense of propriety, that I need to just not care once in a while, to indulge. And I have had others who feel the same way who sometimes encourage me to compromise myself, because it is just too darn hard to do the right thing all the time. If everyone else is doing the wrong thing, why can't I also? This recent challenge was the most difficult I have faced in a really long time. Since my last challenge of this measure, I have grown a lot and strengthened myself in many ways. All that growth didn't make this any easier, and honestly, I didn't make the right decsion; someone else made it for me. Ultimately, I am following the correct, much more difficult path, and I am happy that I am, but I don't think I would have done it without someone else, and that scares me tremendously. But it also teaches me a huge lesson, one that I have been trying to learn and that I think Hashem has been trying to teach me over and over. That lesson is this: Sometimes you can't do it all on your own. Sometimes you need someone a bit older, and wiser, and stronger, than you are to help lead you on the right path. Thank you to the person who taught me that.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Wake Up!

This past week marked the beginning of Elul, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah. This month is typically known as a month of preparation, and emphasis is placed on the three T's - Teshuva (repentance), Tzedakah (charity), and Tefillah (prayer). Something I feel I miss out on during Elul is hearing the shofar being blown every day during shul. (There is no reason that I can't go to shul, but the excuse of not being obligated just always wins out when I am rushing around in the morning getting ready for work.)

The shofar serves as such an incredible wake up call to us to focus on preparing for a New Year and our judgment. When I do hear the shofar, there is something about it's music that hits me deeply inside. I wouldn't call it melodic, it is not the most beautiful of sounds, but it pierces through me and feels like a call from Hashem for me to focus on what is important and to strive for personal growth. As we go through Elul, I think we should constantly try to focus on that wake up call that the shofar gives us. Through Tefillah, we connect with Hashem to plead for His mercy and compassion in the next year. Through Tzedakah, we try to emulate Hashem's incredible compassion by being compassionate to others. And through Teshuvah, we try to wipe our slate clean so that we can enter the New Year with a pure soul, strengthened and prepared for whatever challenges and rewards Hashem will send us.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Edwin McCain

I have been working on broadening my musical horizons, so I recently bought Edwin McCain's latest CD entitled "Scream and Whisper." I have been humming this song all morning: Shooting Stars We keep our love in a plain brown box We keep it tied with a simple lock We hold it close 'cause it's all we got We think it's ordinary but it's not In a world that's starting to fade A little love could pave the way Don't keep it tied with the simple lock You think it's ordinary but it's not Chorus: Maybe this life is just a bout love and tenderness If all we are, are shooting stars Maybe we, we can fight All of this pain and lonliness if All we are, are shooting stars Tired of hearing 'bout the bling-bling We're so concered with material things It's all cars and diamond rings And do you think it's going to ease your sting Cause that's a hole that you can't fill Velvet rope overkill Free your mind let your hear sing And just remember that they're only things (Chorus) I used to live by the minute I was tooo blind to see Now I've found the strength to admit it Now it's all I believe Please (Chorus)

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


I was talking to a co-worker of mine earlier. She had traveled across country to meet her boyfriend, who subsequently broke up with her. She was understandably disappointed and sad, but I was really impressed with her. She was telling me about a man she sat next to on her flight home. He is in the military, and has been in Iraq, and will probably have to return there soon. My co-worker listened to his story, and realized how this man was putting his life in danger, with no way of knowing what will happen. And he was fine with that, he accepts that as part of what he is meant to do. To my co-worker, this showed that life could be so much more difficult than just dealing with a break-up. Yes, it is hard when you lose out on the potential that you were hoping would be realized, but life could so much more difficult. It made her, and me, count our blessings.

Monday, August 16, 2004

I love the Olympics!

Gymnastics: Diving: and many more sports are just so incredible to watch when they are played on such an incredibly highly skilled level. I love seeing so many world nations come together - even though they are competing, they are playing on terms that everyone agrees on and with the most incredible spirit. Go Olympians!

Friday, August 13, 2004

Partners In Torah

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I am spending this Shabbos in Lakewood with a friend who I met in an unusual manner. When I was on my way to becoming religious, I was living in Birmingham, which has very little in the way of Orthodox opportunities (I am sure this is a shock to you). I had returned from spending two months learning in Israel, and I was craving some kind of connection with other Orthodox people. (Don't get me wrong, there is an Orthodox shul in Birmingham, but it is tiny, and the members are slightly off my age range.) One day in shul, I came across a bookmark advertising Partners in Torah. I thought it sounded like such a great program - for no cost whatsoever, they would set me up with someone who I could learn over the phone with once a week. Great! Just what I wanted, a regular chance to learn Torah. Well, it turned out to give me so much more than I ever expected. Learning Torah was such a small part of the gift Partners in Torah gave me. Partners in Torah gave me a lifeline. Living by myself in Birmingham, I now had a weekly voice encouraging me to grow and enhance my life. To add meaning and purpose and strengthen my ties to our amazing covenant with Hashem. I looked so forward to that weekly call because it was a little light that connected me with the bigger community that I knew to be spanning the world, that had sustained for the past couple thousand years. More than this lifeline, Partners in Torah gave me a friend for life. I have shared so much with my friend - I attended her wedding, have held her baby, spent Yom Tov and several Shabbosim with her and her family. Her friends have become my friends. Our lives have become intertwined in many ways. We have a special connection. Whenever I really need it, my friend has an uncanny way of calling or sending me a letter out of the blue with exactly the message I need to hear. I am not sure how she does it. So I am in many ways indebted to Partners in Torah. I wish I could do more to pay them back for the life they have given me. I would not be the same without them. I encourage everyone to support and participate in this amazing program.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


A friend of mine has pointed out that I often conceal my true feelings for the sake of keeping peace between myself and those I am surrounded by. While this is obviously not done with any intention of malice, it turns out being slightly deceptive because it leads others to feel as if I agree with them when I really don't. Until my friend pointed this out, I never really thought much about it. I always just felt that I chose my battles very carefully, and didn't bother fighting when it wasn't something that I felt extremely strongly about. I do enjoy a good argument, and like debating, but only when I know it will be taken in the manner in which I intend, which is without personal insult, but to merely examine different ideas and ideologies. I don't like the thought that I am being deceptive, because I value honesty so much. But I also value not being confrontational just for the sake of picking a fight. I see too many people who build such incredible barriers between themselves and others over silly, petty disagreements. I would hate to give anyone else the opportunity to do that to me, or for me to do that to someone else. So is keeping the peace even when something bothers me deception? Should I air my annoyances more freely? If I feel someone is not going to actively listen and take anything from what I say, should I say it anyway? Is there a line between being deceptive and being peaceful that must be drawn, and apparently somewhere else than where I draw it?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Feeling Antsy

I have been feeling antsy for the past week or so. Have had that feeling that it is time to move on, do something new, get out of Baltimore, possibly for good. I have had trouble concentrating, I keep starting different books but can't get into any of them. I have just had a very unsettled feel. Last night, I was trying to explore this feeling a bit more and I think I figured out what it is - I think I miss school! I am enjoying being on break very much, and I like not having the pressure of 100 pages to read in a few days, but I feel like I have lost my focus, and I think that is something that school really gives me. It is nice to have time off, but I have gotten so used to deadlines, and assignments, and having something that I should be doing hanging over me all the time; that I am finding it difficult to not have those clearly defined goals laid out for me. By the end of the summer semester I was hoping that five weeks off would be enough for me to relax and be ready to go back to school. I wasn't sure it would be enough of a break. And like I said, I am enjoying my time off, but I have just had that vague sense that something is missing. Apparently, it is deadlines and stress and pressure. Who wants life to be boring?

Monday, August 09, 2004

My First Trip to Boro Park

I spent this past weekend in Boro Park, which for me is quite a monumental event, considering that I had never before set foot in Brooklyn. I spent the weekend meeting new people, seeing new sights and having new experiences. All of this was wonderful and interesting, though I have to admit I am exhausted. I think I still have a lot to absorb and reflect on, but what I found interesting was something my friend said to me right before I left. He made a comment about how different my Shabbos must have been, because the people I had interacted with were so different from those I typically spend time with. The truth was, that was the thing that I thought the littlest about. I saw a lot of different sights and modes of dress in those I met in Boro Park. But everyone I sat down to talk to acted very similar to those I already know. Yes, they had some different views and many different experiences from those I was accustomed to hearing, but at the core, they were people, and they were the same as everyone else. I have to say, it was a comforting feeling. In preparation for my trip, I was concerned that I would feel completely out of place and like a visitor of a foreign country. Or like a rare specimen that no one had ever seen before - some weird girl from the strange state of Alabama who has never before seen Brooklyn. And I felt it in a very small way, in the fact that the dress and accents were different from what I usually experience. Several people I met were surprised by the fact that I had never before been to Boro Park. But the way I interacted with everyone and how they seemed to react to me was with very little variation from my typical day to day experiences in Baltimore. I guess what I am saying is, at heart, it doesn't matter where you grow up - Boro Park, Baltimore or Birmingham. People are people and if you can see beyond external appearances, then you can feel comfortable anywhere.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Rose-Colored Glasses

I sometimes feel like I am becoming jaded, losing my rose-colored vision, and I am not sure whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. The things that used to inspire me don't always do it anymore. I just read an article about the beauty of the Orthodox world, how it makes everything so meaningful and beautiful, and my first reaction was to think that the author was really naive. That bothers me so much, not that the author describes Orthodoxy as meaningful, because I find that to be true, but that I had such a negative reaction to what I was reading. A few years ago, when I was first starting to become religious, I believed it all. I believed that wearing long-sleeved shirts in the middle of 100-degree whether showed dignity. I believed that Orthodox families were more well-behaved, loving and supportive of its members than the outside world. Maybe I have seen too much of the dark, hurtful side that is out there, but I am finding it hard to believe any more. Now, I know that all of the dark things that are in the Orthodox world are in the secular world also, and in an even greater measure. I have, in a lot of ways, cut myself off from that outside world that didn't make me happy to begin with. In fact, it really made me unhappy for a long time. I don't desire to be part of that world again, because I found it to be devoid of meaning and purpose. But I am worried that I don't find what I have chosen as inspirational and uplifting as I once did. I know you need balance in life, and you can't stay on a high forever. Maybe this feeling is normal. Maybe I am not jaded, just a bit more realistic than I used to be. I still feel that what I have chosen for my life is the right path, and I can't imagine going back, don't want to even think about going back. But sometimes I wish I had those rose-colored glasses again. Have a good Shabbos!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

My Comments are Back!

Yay! Through playing with my template just a bit more (determination is a good thing), I managed to reunite my blog with its former comments. Go me.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


I just read this article from Aish.com about Happiness. Go on, click on the link and read the article, it really is a beautiful, inspiring piece. After reading articles like that, I usually feel two things - awe and thankfulness. I am in such awe of those who struggle with so much and manage to keep a positive perspective on life. I see so many people who have so many challenges thrown their way, yet they always thank Hashem for the many blessings they have. I think a lot of people would be better off if they were able to keep such an uplifting perspective, I see many who complain (loudly) about dealing with a lot less than those mentioned in the article. But I understand that everyone has their own challenges to face and a good attitude does not come naturally to everyone. But I sure admire those who work so hard to keep their focus positive. The other thing I always feel is thankfulness. I have had challenges in my life, just like everyone. Some of them have been hard, but I really feel like I have not had to deal with anything so devastating that would cause a person to break. And I am so thankful for that. I know that Hashem gives me the strength and resources to deal with whatever I am thrown, but I am almost embarrassed to admit that I am glad that He decided not to give me (until this point, anyway) whatever it takes to overcome the incredible obstacles in life. So I am definitely thankful for everything I have been given and not given. I was inspired reading the article above, I hope you are also.

Good-Bye Blue

I was really bored at work today, so I decided to change my template to something other than blue. I like blue a lot, and I am not promising that it won't show up again at some point, but for now, I decided I needed a change of pace and different colors for my blog. Unfortunately, I couldn't manage to get my former commenting system to work on this new template. The old comments are stored somewhere, just not where anyone can get to them at this point. Not sure why I couldn't get it to work, not being a computer person, I am the wrong person to figure it out. So anyway, leave me new comments! With new colors comes well, not much of anything else new. But stay tuned, and maybe there will be more changes in the future.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Like a Kid Again

I have a memory from when I was about 4 years old. I was in pre-school and it was raining out during the time we were supposed to play on the playground. My best friend and I were skipping around the playground, arm in arm, singing "Singing in the Rain" at the top of our lungs. We didn't care about the fact that it was raining out, and we were getting wet - we were enjoying singing and each other, and just being alive. The way that is so easy for a 4-year-old. I have a ritual of leaving my office for half and hour each day during my lunch break so that I can get some air and get away from my desk and responsibilities for a little while. Most of the time I walk across the street to the Inner Harbor and sit by the water and read or just relax. Sometimes someone will stop and talk to me, but most of the time I just spend the time looking at the water and enjoying the air. Sometimes, I will have a couple errands to run, so I will walk a few blocks behind my office to a store and pick up whatever I need. It doesn't really matter so much to me what I do, just that I get out of my office.

Today, at my usual lunch time, it was raining. I was really not thrilled by the idea of staying inside my office, so I decided to grab my umbrella and walk to the drugstore anyway. I walked down the streets, watched people scramble for cover and just focused on enjoying being outside. Who cares that it was raining? I didn't sing, because that is much more fun to do when you have a friend to sing with, but it reminded me of that time long ago when I skipped around the playground.

I got to the drugstore only a little bit wet (though I did manage to ruin my sandals forever). It was worth it to be wet for the reminder of what it was like to be a kid - carefree and enjoying life.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Exploring New Places

I like driving. It gives me a chance to have quiet thinking time. I am not sure why I am unable to have quiet thinking time in my apartment, but I really like getting out on the road and driving off to some unknown destination, wherever my car leads me. So yesterday I was having a stressful morning, and by the time my inner klutz took over and I gave myself a nice injury, I decided it was time to get out of my apartment to take a drive and clear my head. I knew that Pennsylvania is directly north of Maryland, and that I could get there without too much complication, so I decided to head towards Amish country. The only other time I have been to Pennsylvania was one motzei Shabbos when a friend had a wedding in Gettysburg and I didn't want her to drive there by herself so late, so I went with her. But going at night, I really missed a lot. Driving up into Pennsylvania, the building get scarce and the hills and trees and water become more common. It has been raining on and off for the last few days, so everything was bright green and fresh looking. I found a spot next to a lake to pull off and I sat on the crisp grass, and watched a boy fishing with his family. I took off my shoes and walked through the grass and even got a little bit of mud on my feet. It was so nice, it made me feel like I was in the middle of the country (well, I kind of was). It was refreshing to get out of the city for a few hours and sit by the water, with the knowledge that no one knew where I was. Even though it was only for a little while, it was a real getaway, where my issues couldn't reach. I was only gone for a total of 3 or 4 hours, but it was enough to recharge my batteries. Sometimes all you need is some grass and water and trees.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

What a Difference a Year Makes

Today this blog is one year old. I am always amazed when I look back a year and see how quickly it has gone and (hopefully) how much has been accomplished. I feel like my life has really changed in this past year. I started school, I've made new friends, I've changed my life plans about 564 times (and they are still up in the air), and I like to think that I have become a more well-rounded, confident, knowledgeable person. I started this blog specifically as a place for me to get my thoughts out, not really expecting anyone else to ever read it. It has evolved over the year into a place where I share with others my opinions, hone and improve my writing, and get my thoughts out. Through this blog, I have met other bloggers, made some friends, possibly some enemies, and even encouraged someone else to start their own blog. I have comments now, and actually have commenters on occasion. I have discovered that I really enjoy writing, really love having the outlet to express my thoughts, and I have fun with the challenge of forcing myself to pin down how I feel about the topics I write about. What I think I like best about having my blog is that I feel connected to others through it. It is a special community of those who write and read blogs. I have heard from people who I would never have connected with otherwise, and found that there are people out there who share my thoughts on many topics. So here's to a great first year, and hopefully more to come!