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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Stuck Being Single

I just read the above article at Aish.com (great website, by the way). I can easily relate to the author’s thoughts on being single – and I admire her very much for her positive attitude, which I know is a struggle to uphold during the difficult years of being single, especially in a community that puts so much emphasis on family. The author makes an interesting point in her article, and I think it is one that singles often have difficulty focusing on. Yes, it is hard being single, and yes, it would be great to get married. But there are advantages to being single also. There are things that single people can do that married people can’t. I am not using this as a reason to not get married, but I think that singles should appreciate what they do have rather than focusing on what they don’t. Walking home from shul on Yom Kippur, I was thinking about how weird it will be when I am married, and have babies, and I won’t be able to attend shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. To me, what else do you do on those days? It must be so difficult to really feel what the holidays are about when you are sitting at home, watching your children. I would miss all the spiritual tunes, the Birkas Cohanim, the feeling of being with a group of people all pouring their hearts out to Hashem at the same time. If I was married, I wouldn’t have had many of the opportunities that I have been given. Almost two years ago, I thought I had found the one, the guy who I would spend the rest of my life with. If I had married him at that time, I probably never would have returned to school, I would have continued working in jobs that held no meaning for me. I would never have discovered that I want to teach, because I would never have met the professors at school who have inspired me. My life with him probably would have been fine, but if I had married him, I don’t think I would have been given the same opportunity to work towards my potential and I don’t think I would have had the same desire to do so. And I am extremely grateful for that opportunity; it has definitely caused me to grow into a more complete, fulfilled person. There are so many things I can do while being single that I won’t be able to do when I am married. I am constantly aware that I would be able to juggle all the responsibilities I currently hold if I was also a wife and mother. And I know that I have a lot of freedom and independence now that I won’t always have. Will I gladly give those things up? Yes, absolutely. But I think it is important for me to appreciate them while I have them, and to know that Hashem is giving me these opportunities for a reason. I truly think that having this time now will make me a better wife and mother later. The author concludes her article by saying “There are times when I feel like it's enough. I've grown enough from these challenges. I'm ready to move on to the next set.” I feel that way all the time. But I guess Hashem knows better than I do, and He will bring me the right person when I really have grown enough and am really ready for it. Until that time, I will strive to see the positive aspects of being and appreciate the opportunities I am being given now. And when I am married, I will look back on this time and know that I had all of it for a reason.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Yom Kippur

Yesterday, I was browsing at The Book Thing (one of my favorite places ever), when Russell, who runs the place, came up to me and said, "I have a weird question for you." Whenever questions are prefaced like that, I know I am in store for a question about Judaism. He asked me, "What do I say to people now that Yom Kippur is over? Is it weird to ask if they had a good fast? Can I still say Shana Tova?" I told him that was actually a really good question, because it is kind of weird to ask someone if their fast was good. I told him he can keep saying Shana Tova because the holiday season is still upon us. Then he threw out an interesting line that is probably not so appropriate for this blog (you can e-mail me if you are that interested) and left me to find wonderful, free books. So when I think about how to characterize my Yom Kippur, I guess the best word is meaningful. Which, honestly, was a surprise. I was talking to a friend Erev Yom Kippur and I was telling her that I didn't know what to expect this year. I have been feeling very distant from Hashem, so I wasn't sure how connected I was going to feel during my fasting and atonement. But for the first time in a long time, I really did connect. I cried my eyes out on Yom Kippur. Reading through the Al Chet prayer many times during Yom Kippur I realized a few things. The first is that I am human. I make mistakes. And those mistakes I make are the same mistakes as everyone else. If everyone wasn't making those mistakes, they wouldn't be part of the Al Chet prayer. Saying the confession over and over, I wasn't just doing lip service, I was really confessing the mistakes I have made over the past year. And Hashem was forgiving me for them. Which means I have to forgive myself as well. I often beat myself up for my imperfections and hold myself to a much higher standard than I hold others. I forgive others easily, but not myself. At the end of Yom Kippur, when the shofar was sounded, and my tears were dry, I definitely felt a weight off my shoulders. I know that I am allowed to make mistakes, confess them, be forgiven, and then move on. And that is what I plan to do. I was sent an e-mail this morning that I found very inspirational. The author said that at one point while she was single, she decided that she was going to be proud of her single years, she was going to make the most of that time of her life. That didn't mean that she would never have a bad day, but when she got married, she would know for herself that she grew and strived while she was alone. It is not easy being alone, I know I struggle every day with the pain of being on my own. But I hope that I can take that struggle and learn and grow from it and use it to strengthen myself.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Asking for Forgiveness

In the spirit of Yom Kippur, we are supposed to ask for forgiveness from those whom we might have intentionally or unintentionally hurt during the year. In return, we are supposed to forgive those who have hurt us during the year. I think both of these are hard to do, however, I have always felt that it is more difficult to really forgive someone than to ask for forgiveness. I think this is because, while we can forgive, we cannot really forget. The hurt that is in our hearts may have subsided, we may have moved on, but it is extremely difficult to really forget the pain we went through. But I think it is important to try our best to forgive those who have hurt us, and I usually do this by forcing myself to realize that, for the vast majority of those people who have hurt me, that was not their intention at all. The other part of Yom Kippur is the asking of forgiveness from G-d. I think it is absolutely amazing that Hashem loves us so much that by our asking Him for forgiveness, our slate is wiped clean. It is extremely powerful to know that Hashem continues to bless us with all the amazing things we have in our lives - and just the fact that we are alive - despite the many times we do things that are not what He would wish. I think the key to our forgiving is keeping in mind how Hashem forgives us. We should strive to emulate His kind and beneficent nature in our interactions with others. I ask forgiveness from anyone who I have hurt, intentionally or unintentionally. And I wish everyone an easy and truly meaningful Yom Kippur!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

What is Home?

My family moved around a lot when I was younger. They eventually managed to settle themselves in Birmingham, where they still live. I, on the other hand, am having a much more difficult time determining where I want to stay. In my ten years since graduating high school, the longest I have lived in any dwelling is here in Baltimore, where I have been for a little over two years now. And I am thinking about moving once again. Both of my parents have moved since I left Birmingham, so I have never lived in either of their houses. I don't have a bedroom, or any of my belongings in either of their homes, which I will admit makes sense considering it has been almost two years since I have even set foot in Birmingham (though that could change in the next couple months, I think I am due for a visit soon). All of this moving has caused me to feel a bit out of place wherever I am. I like my apartment, but I am not sure it really feels like home. Everything I own is there, and I know it feels better to sleep there than anywhere else, but it is lacking something. I am not sure if what I am missing is the sense of family, or love, or permanency beyond the end of my lease. I feel like the word has the connotation of a place where familial relationships are built. I feel like it should be a place where when you walk in the door, there is a sense of security, of belonging, or history, or at least of future. I don't have that sense anywhere at the moment, and I feel like the proverbial "wandering Jew" fairly often. They say "home is where the heart is" and I guess I don't know anymore where my heart is. I long for a sense of "coming home" to the place where I know I belong, for good. I hope that I can build that one day very soon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Everything Comes Back to Haunt Me

It is so interesting to me how everything in life just seems to revolve around and come back again. This time of the year it is especially noticable - we are again celebrating the same holidays, we will be start back at the beginning of the Torah in a few weeks, and a New Year is always a time for starting over. But I am talking about something a bit different. I was thinking today about some of the things that I have really been struggling with lately. They are issues that I have dealt with in the past, that subsided for a while, and are now back again. For the past year or so, I thought I got over and above some of my struggles. I focused on other things, I worked on myself, I really became a different (and hopefully better) person. But the same struggles are back again. I like to think that I am dealing with these struggles in a more constructive, healthier way now. I try to tell myself that I am working on a slightly higher plane than I used to be, that it takes more to get me upset and throw me off these days. But I am still fighting the same demons. I don't think I am unique, I think a lot of people out there probably fight their own struggles over and over as well. And from reading the blogs out there, and talking to friends, I think a lot of people are having the same struggles I am, and while I don't wish for anyone to have to fight battles, I do take some comfort in knowing that these things are not difficult just for me. I wonder sometimes if I will ever overcome these same hurdles. Or if they will continue to come back to haunt me.

The Motivation of Being Dizzy

It is amazing what will get you motivated to get things done. I'm having a very off day. This morning I was encountered with a horrible dizzy spell. Every time I moved, my head went spinning. It was kind of scary.

However, this dizzy spell gave me the motivation do the following things that I have been meaning to do for a long time: Get a doctor. (Okay, so of course she can't see me until 3 months from now, but now I can placate my mom by telling her that I have one.) In consulting with a co-worker who deemed my dizzy spell a result of having too many things on my to-do list (well, if I had a list, which she keeps encouraging me to start, though I keep telling her I am NOT a list person), I finally took care of two phone calls that I have been meaning to make for weeks, and I finally remembered to request a transcript so I can graduate when I want to. I did attempt to send my transcript request without an address on the envelope, though I am going to blame that one on the lingering effects of my dizzy spell. So now my to-do list (or non-list) has been pared down and I have a doctor so I can get sick after three months from now. I still have a ridiculous amount of school work to do, but for that I have a plan of action (consisting basically of actually spending time doing the work). I am no longer dizzy, though still a bit dazed, but I feel better that I actually accomplished a few things today that I have been meaning to take care of for so long. It is amazing what will motivate me to get things done.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Rosh Hashanah Recap

Rosh Hashanah was nice. It wasn't the amazing spiritual experience that it has been in the past, though I did manage to shed a few tears while davening (not that that is anything new). But there were some highlights of the holiday and I thought I would share.

Hearing the shofar always makes me tremble. There is something about the sound that penetrates straight into my heart every time I hear it. So hearing 200 shofar blasts over two days really permeates me and gives me pause. It causes me to focus myself on G-d and my relationship with Him.

I love Birkas Cohanim. If I lived in Israel, I think I would go to shul every day (or at least I would be better about going on Shabbos) just to experience Birkas Cohanim on a more regular basis. There is something so powerful about having these men stand before me, cover themselves with their talises for complete concentration, raise their arms, and give me a blessing. I never pass up a blessing from everyone, I wish they were offered more often, and I am just so moved by this special ceremony. And the words of the Blessing they say are powerful as well - May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. May Hashem tunr his countenance to you and establish peace for you. My final reflection on Rosh Hashanah is about family. The holidays are always hard for me because, since becoming religious, I don't spend the holidays with my family. Baltimore is a very warm community, and I always have a place to eat my meals, and I appreciate that hospitality so much. But I often find it difficult to be surrounded by other people's families when I can't be with my own. This year, instead of eating by a bunch of different people who I don't know so well, I chose to eat my meals with a few families that I am very close, and very comfortable with. It was really nice. And I was told that I am not considered a guest in their homes - I am family to them, they just expect me to be part of their holidays. It really touched me and made me realize that family is a lot of things, not just blood. I feel extremely fortunate that I have been able to build new family from those around me.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Shana Tova

From Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shemini Atzeres, we add the recital of Psalm 27 to our daily prayers. From the first time I read this Psalm, it really moved and inspired me. So instead of trying to be inspiring myself, I am sharing it with everyone as inspiration for the New Year.

By David. Hashem is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Hashem is my life’s strength, whom shall I dread? When evildoers approach me to devour my flesh; my tormentors and foes against me – it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army would besiege me, my heart would not fear; though war would arise against me, in this I trust. One thing I asked of Hashem, that shall I seek – that I dwell in the House of Hashem all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of Hashem and to contemplate in His Sanctuary. Indeed, He will hide me in His Shelter on the day of evil; He will conceal me in the concealment of His Tent, He will lift me upon a rock. Now my head is raised above my enemies around me, and I will slaughter offerings in His Tent accompanied by joyous song; I will sing and chant praise to Hashem. Hashem, hear my voice when I call, be gracious toward me and answer me. In your behalf, my heart has said, “Seek My Presence.” Your Presence, Hashem, do I seek. Conceal not Your Presence from me, repel not your Servant in anger. You have been my Helper, abandon me not, forsake me not, O God of my salvation. Though my father and mother have forsaken me, Hashem will gather me in. Teach me Your way, Hashem; and lead me on the path of integrity, because of my watchful foes. Deliver me not to the wishes of my tormentors, for there have arisen against me false witnesses who breathe words of violence. Had I not trusted that I would see the goodness of Hashem in the land of life! Hope to Hashem; strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and hope to Hashem.

Reflection on a Year

In reflecting back on the past year, I know I have changed a lot. Hopefully for the better. I am definitely a different person than I was a year ago. I have gone through a year of school, which has not been easy, but has definitely been incredibly rewarding and illuminating, both of myself and the topics I have studied.

I have met so many new people this past year, and many of them have impacted me in such a huge way, to the point where I can't even imagine my life, and who I would be at this point, without them. I have moved away from some of the people who used to be in life. Some of this I regret, for some I know it is a good thing.

I have opened my mind to new ideas, many of which have impacted how I see my place and role in this world.

I have overcome many obstacles this year, and when I think about the things I was struggling with a year ago, I see that my struggles are much different today than they were then. I have become much more confident and cognizant of my strengths...and my weaknesses. I have become aware that some of my strengths and weaknesses are the same things, just in different ways. I think I have gained tremendous perspective in the past year, of those around me and those far from me. When I reflect on the past twelve months, I can not believe how much has happened during such a short period of time. I look forward to another twelve months at the end of which I will hopefully be able to say the same thing once again.

Friday, September 10, 2004


Every Tisha B'Av, I read the introduction to Lamentations where the editor explains that Hashem collects each tear that we cry.

Lately, I feel like Hashem has been collecting an unproportional amount of tears from me. I find myself crying daily. The time when I find tears coming to my eyes without any other provocation is when I am davening.
There is something about talking to Hashem that lately has caused me to break into tears almost every time I attempt it. It might just be that it is Elul, and I know that my upcoming judgment is in the balance. But I think it is something more. I think it is because I know Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner, and this year I feel more distant from Hashem than I ever have in the past. And when I am davening, I know in my heart how far I feel from Him, and that causes tears to spring to my eyes. I hope Hashem is collecting my tears, and knows that my distance from Him is what hurts me. I hope that I can soon feel closer to Him, that maybe the fact that my distance moves me to tears can bring me closer in some way. I know He is there, and wants me to be close. I am just not sure I know how anymore.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


I've made up my mind. I'm holding out for "THE ONE." And I've even decided who he is:

Edwin McCain, the man of my dreams, whose lyrics stir my soul with his meaningful themes. His voice, his guitar, I know he's singing for me. The depth of his music is inspiring and free. He's insightful, openminded and sincere. His songs make my problems disappear. Edwin, I'm here waiting for you. Oh, if only you knew. (That was original poetry by me, in case you missed it. What? You don't think I should quit my job just yet? Oh well, when Edwin marries me I won't have to work.) In all seriousness, if you don't have one of Edwin McCain's CDs handy, you should run to your local music store to hear his ballads, or at the very least you could check out his lyrics.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I have been giving a lot of thought lately to how seemingly unrelated things can have a major effect on one another. I know that everything in life is interconnected, but I am sometimes surprised how events in one sphere of my life can have such a huge impact, often in an unexpected way, on another sphere. I see these surprising influences occuring in others as well. I see many of my struggles and the effects that emerge from those struggles reflected in my friends' lives in a very similar manner I see in my own. I also see that the more I struggle in one sphere of my life, the less strength or patience I have to deal with other spheres. When I am being bombarded by pressures from several sides, I have a tendency to shut down and not want to deal with any of it. And then I practice active avoidance, which I know is not the most constructive way to handle problems. But a lot of the time it is easier to avoid problems than to deal with them. But again, what fascinates me is how my frustration or difficulty in one area of my life causes me to be frustrated with or have major difficulty in another area. Maybe it is displacement of frustration, or an inability to compartmentalize my stresses. I think part of it might be that the more we deal with certain frustrations and stresses, the more we see the big picture and care less about minute details that used to seem so important. I think some of it is being pushed very hard in one area of life gives way to forcing other issues to be much smaller. I wish I could deal with everything all the time. But I'm human, and I fail, often. I let certain things get to me, and permeate other aspects of my life. I wish I knew how to keep certain frustrations from flowing through my whole outlook.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Personal Growth Through Pushing Your Limits

I am taking a class on stress management, and while actually doing my assigned reading, I came across a story of a woman who endured many challenges and managed to come away from them a much stronger person. She entitled her story, "Personal Growth Through Pushing Your Limits." She details many of her struggles and the subsequent accomplishments. What really struck me though, is something she said that I have thought over and over. That is, that the harder she had to struggle, and the more effort she had to put in to accomplish something, the more valuable and dear and important it was to her. I have always felt that when you are given something easily, it is also easy to let go of. Conversely, throughout my life, those things that I had to jump over tall hurdles to reach are also the things that have become embedded in the fabric of who I am. Those are the things that I can never let go of, that I am proudest of, and that have led me to grow the most. Challenges are incredibly difficult to overcome, but when you do, they often lead to the deepest and most influential rewards.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Watching the Ducks

Last week some friends were kind enough to take me to several beautiful spots in Baltimore. One of those spots was a quaint little duck pond hidden in a quiet neighborhood not too far from where I live. Today I had a lot of studying to do so I decided to head out towards the duck pond and spend a few hours sitting my the pond reading. It was such a delight watching these ducks. They are in turns graceful, playful, peaceful and social. They glide through the water so slowly, and then unexpectedly dive underneath the water and then come up several feet away, shaking the water off of their feathers. A little boy of about two years old stood by the pond and threw bread crumbs in the water for the ducks to eat. They responded by gobbling up these treats and quacking appreciatively to the little boy for the delightful snack. Because I was sitting quietly, they drifted close to me and I could see their webbed feet paddling underneath the water while the rest of their bodies stayed still. It was such a beautiful, enchanting environment to take in. Nature never ceases to delight and amaze me.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Being Judged

With Rosh Hashanah coming in just a couple short weeks (I can't believe it!), my mind has been on evaluating the past year to determine whether I deserve to be judged favorably or not. I came across Joy of Improvement on Keep Trying, and I relate very much to what Mike is saying. I recall last year discussing with friends about the fear of judgment. I felt a bit guilty saying that I am not afraid of it. This is not because I think I am so perfect that I have nothing to worry about, that I was so good of course Hashem would judge me favorably. It is much more about the sense of opportunity that comes along with a new year - the opportunity to do things better this year, to have this year be the best year ever, to have great things that I have been waiting for happen this year.

Along with having this feeling of opportunity, each year the impending holidays cause me to look back over my past year to see what has changed in me over the past twelve months - in what areas have I grown, in what areas have I faltered. Thankfully, most years I can look back and say that I have definitely grown and become a better person.

This year I am having trouble. I look at myself at this time last year and now, and I see a very different person. I have definitely grown in many ways, but there are many ways in which I have faltered also. I know that I can't grow in all areas of my life at all times, that there is a season for each thing, but there are aspects of my life that I know have weakened in the past year. Because of that, this year I am more concerned about my judgment than I have been in year's past. This doesn't lessen my sense of opportunity to work on these things in the coming year, but I wonder a bit at my worthiness of a favorable judgment this year.

I know I am harder on myself than probably anyone else is, but what about Hashem? I know He loves me very much, because He has given me so many gifts. But I have to wonder if He will be displeased with the changes I have gone through this year. And I wonder what that will mean in the year to come. Will it be more difficult? Will the things I hope to accomplish be delayed because Hashem will find the need to teach me other lessons?

All I know is what I can do. And what I can do now is be cognizant of those areas in which I need to work and work on them as hard as I can. Every day.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Good Quote

This quote was embedded in an e-mail someone sent to me and it just resonated so much that I had to post it: "Always remember that the right person will not be able to let you go."