.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime

I know this is true, and I know that every person cannot be a permanent fixture in my life, but it is always extremely bittersweet to me when I feel someone fading into the background of my life, their reason or season obviously complete. As someone who has moved around a lot in my life, this fading out has occurred much more than I would like. It is difficult to keep in touch with friends once you no longer live near them. Especially when they are in a different phase of their life from you, and you both are busy with many obligations and responsibilities. Maybe the friendship was based on your proximity to begin with - both people were a bit lonely and needed to give or take of the other person. Or maybe there really was some kind of lesson or message that was meant to be received or given by that person. I have a friend who I used to be extremely close with and has become progressively distant from me in the past year. At first I thought that I had done something to upset this person, but I didn't know what it was. I apologized, but it didn't seem to help. Then I realized that I was busier and busier and more distant, and so was she. I sensed that we were drifting apart, and it made me really sad. I am still in contact with this person on occasion, but it is not anything like our friendship used to be. I am very happy that we shared in each others' lives for the time we did, and I know I will never forget her, because she gave me love and support many times when I needed it. I hope that I didn't do anything to make upset her; that our drifting apart is just the natural splitting of ways that people take in life. She was there for a reason and a season, and while I am not saying a final goodbye, I know the time has come to let go.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Hold on to Your Dreams

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy, To be calm when you've found something going on. But take your time, think a lot, Why, think of everything you've got. For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. ---Cat Stevens I went to a shiur given by Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky the other night. I had never heard him speak before, but many people had told me what an incredible speaker he was. He lived up to his highly esteemed reputation. His message was about Chanukah, priorities and holding onto dreams.

He explained that the battle that the Maccabee's fought was one that didn't have to be - no one would have told the greatly outnumbered Jews to face a battle that couldn't be won. But the Maccabee's knew what was important, and they had a dream to defend. So they went against all common sense, they put their entire hearts into it, and they won.

Rabbi Orlofsky told us that it isn't easy to live your life like this every day; it takes a lot to hold onto your dreams. You have to figure out what is really important to be so fierce about. He spoke about a man whose family life is okay, but his dinner has to be perfect. Why? What does it matter? Put your efforts into those things that really matter; focus your sights on what you can't live without. He told the story of a single woman in her 30's who had been told by many that she was too picky, that she should let go of her dreams and just marry someone who was "fine." She asked Rabbi Orlofsky if those people were right, if she should give up on finding those traits that she was looking for in a man. He told us that he looked at her, and found that he couldn't tell her to give up her dream - because he didn't believe that she should. And a few months later, she found her dream and married. It is so easy to give up on our dreams, to not fight the hard battle, to take the easy road. But in the end, when we fight for what is really important - our dreams - we know that the battle is worth the effort.

Rabbi Orlofsky implored us, if we can't do it every day, to take the eight days of Chanukah - those days that symbolize an unwinnable battle that was won, that symbolize a miracle of dreams held tight - and fight as hard as we can for our dreams.

Friday, November 26, 2004


After procrastinating for the past two months, I have finally started my paper that is due on Monday (that starting is always the worst part). My paper is about bias in intelligence testing. Apparently it wasn't always the popular notion that Jews are smarter than everyone else. Once I finish my paper, I might post a bit more about the topic - I have mixed feelings about the use of intelligence testing in general and hate how it has been used to discriminate in the past but I don't necessarily feel that it is a worthless medium. Anyway, I have written about half my paper so I decided such hard work was worth a blog break. I have several things I want to write about, but don't really have the time to develop them fully at the moment. I watched the movie "Stepford Wives" yesterday and found it extremely interesting. It gave me a lot to think about on the topic of "perfect" and how perfect is often boring and not at all what someone thinks it will be. I watched "The Bachelor" the other night and was extremely pleasantly surprised to see two people on television who really seemed to be in love and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. I don't think I have ever before seen such a heartfelt moment on reality TV. I was actually brought to tears by it (but don't tell anyone). For my friend who wants to be the next Bachelor, here is the application. I heard Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky speak the other night about Chanukah, prioritizing and holding onto dreams. His shiur brought more tears to my eyes (okay, I am a softie, I admit it). But his message was absolutely beautiful and I really hope to give it an entire blog post in the very near future. Finally, just thought I would share some of the ways people found my blog that I found a bit amusing. People were referred to my blog by searching for the following terms: Frumster (several times) Here's a hint - go here. Star-K shidduch Go here. Chasidish Skirts I don't think anyone who knows me would accuse me of knowing where to find those. Chasidish bad girls Again, wrong place for that one. Blog basketball Lakewood I didn't know people in Lakewood played basketball, much less had blogs about it. Ways in which a rose is similar to a person In beauty and lovely fragrance of course. Each prayer accepted and each wish resigned (You should have heard Rabbi Orlofsky - don't resign your wishes yet) Have a wonderful Shabbos and a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I was talking to a friend last night when the topic of dating came up (as it often does). My friend asked me about my thoughts on attraction. It made me think more about attraction and how it works, so here goes – the Sweet Rose primer on attraction. I will be the first to admit that I don’t completely understand how attraction works. I think there are several different models which could happen between two people. The first model is the instant physical attraction between two people, often referred to as animal magnetism.

This level has very little to do with substance and a lot to do with hormones. You know how it is – you see someone across the room who you think looks really good, you catch their eye and smile; you might be bold enough to walk over to them and strike up a conversation. But when you start talking to them, you realize there is very little there besides a pretty face. Attraction usually fades with this realization, and though you can still appreciate the other person’s beauty, you are not necessarily so attracted to that person anymore. The next model is when you meet someone, you talk to them a bit and you acknowledge that they are pretty easy on the eyes; you feel some kind of pull towards them. You realize that there is something between the two of you; some kind of chemistry.

You wouldn’t mind getting to know this person better. You might get to know them better and things could get even better, or they could get worse. But you know that this person have something that draws you; that you wouldn’t mind having them around for a while. I think this type of attraction often stems from some kind of familiarity you recognize in the other person – they remind you of your opposite-sex parent (I know most people are probably saying “EW!” at that, but while it is not conscious, we are often attracted to someone who reminds us of a parent, because it is a familiar and comfortable feeling.), or someone from your past who you had a strong relationship with. This type of attraction can lead to bigger and better things, and can be the starting point for a great relationship. But it too can often fizzle out. There is one more type of attraction that happens, and while it might not be the most obvious, I think it is the most long-lasting. And this is what I was trying to explain to my friend, who told me that she often breaks up with a guy very quickly if she doesn’t find herself attracted to him right away. There have been plenty of times when I have gone out with someone who I didn’t find immediately, sweep-me-off-my-feet attractive. But then I talked to him, and got to know him. I saw what a kind person he was; how he treated others with respect. How our ideals and values were very similar. What an incredible husband and father he would be. And because I liked and respected him so much, my attraction for him grew tremendously. I would suddenly find myself very drawn to him, where initially I might not have been. I explained this to my friend and she asked me how long you should give a person to figure out whether this would happen. I told her she should give it at least a month, especially when you are seeing someone only once a week or even less. She was surprised; a month is a long time. But I think to take at least a month to really appreciate WHO the person is and let that appreciation turn into attraction is so important. Why is it so important? Because that kind of attraction will not fade with years and extra pounds. It will only grow. The essence of who someone is will not change with his hairline.

And the attraction you have to a person’s essence is an attraction that will make for an incredible marriage, and a solid foundation for a family.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Who Has It Worse - Men or Women?

Being a woman, I have often been in the middle of a group of fellow females when the complaining starts. I hear myriad complaints about how men don't understand women, how men are immature, how men don't treat women properly. It can go on and on. (Guys - hang in there, I will get to your side, I promise.) And in the shidduch realm, the fact that it is so much easier for guys to get dates, how they have lists or incredible girls to go out with, how there are so many fewer older unmarried guys who are put together and as remarkable as their female counterparts.

As for online dating, you hear the common complaints about how guys don't respond with the common courtesy that should be expected, how they judge a girl strictly on her picture even though their pictures are often just plain scary, and how men send e-mails asking completely inappropriate questions. Hearing all this, I could quickly conclude that women definitely have the raw end of the dating stick. The problem is this. When I am talking to guys, they have some of the same complaints, and some additional complaints about women. Men are always expected to be the ones to call, to bring up the hard topics, to initiate contact. I have had older guys tell me that it not easier at all for them to get dates, especially if they don't have a grand schedule of learning, making lots of money and doing chesed combined with being tall, dark and handsome (okay, some blondes can get dates also).

Women are focused on how much money a guy makes, if he is taller than she is, where he takes her to dinner. The women just have to look nice - the guy has to do all the planning, and the paying for the dates (which can really add up when a girl wants to be taken out to fancy restaurants all the time). For complaints in online dating, the men say that women don't want to reveal a thing about themselves, they can barely write a sentence, and their pictures are often just as bad as men's. I have even heard men complain about the fact that women have it so good because they really network with each other and have close, supportive relationships which men don't tend to have. Is this true? I am not sure - you guys out there will have to let me know.

So who has it worse? I think it sucks whichever side you are on. But maybe instead of sticking with our own gender and complaining, we should get out and empathize with each other. Get to know each other. Who knows, maybe something could even come of it. Chime in and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

God's Presence

I am doing a project for one of my classes about the relationship between religion or spirituality in one's life and the satisfaction that one feels with his life. I was interviewing a classmate yesterday and she told me that having a belief in God absolutely lessens stress in her life. Why? Because even when she is alone, she is not really alone. Then she said something that really hit me. She said, "I am not scared to walk alone at night, because I know that I am not really alone, there is always someone with me." Wow.

This is from a woman who goes to church a couple times a year and doesn't affiliate with any specific religion. It goes to show you that spirituality doesn't necessarily come in a pre-specified package.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Daughter of the Queen of Sheba

I just finished reading "Daughter of the Queen of Sheba" by Jacki Lyden, a longtime NPR correspondent. It is the story of a mother-daughter relationship turned upside down by bipolar disorder.

Jacki Lyden had to take care of her mother, the repeated refrain of "Jacki, cantcha come down" ringing in her ear over and over throughout the years. Her mother, long undiagnoses with bipolar disorder, cycled through manic and sane episodes that impacted the lives of her daughters as well as her own. Passionate and driver, Lyden's mother Delores, refuses to see her own insanity. She fights against every attempt at treatment, more than once requiring hospitalization to calm her mind and mania. When confronted with obstacle after obstacle, Delores clings on tenaciously to her tenuous grip with the outside world. Her relationship with her daughters is starkly portrayed - Delores must give over her maternal role to her daughters who are forced to care for her even when her wrath is turned upon them. From being dragged by Jacki from the side of the road during an icestorm to the application of "tough love" one Christmas that her daughters can't bring themselves to enforce, the familial connection that is present can not be broken. Underlying the frustration and anger portrayed in the book, Lyden manages to illustrate an even stronger force that holds the family together - LOVE.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Fantasy Land

Mondays are such rough days - it is such a hard adjustment to wake up early after a few days of getting to sleep in. So I am always overtired, which for me translates into overly emotional, and I don't usually have very good Monday mornings. This Monday morning I have decided to indulge in a little fantasy land, so here goes. In my fantasy world: I could just go to school and not work in a meaningless, boring job. I would take whatever classes I wanted, and have classmates that were also interested in the material and we would have stimulating, intellectual, interesting and thought-provoking discussions all the time. At least once a day, someone would tell me, for no reason whatsoever, that they loved me. And then they would give me a big hug.

There would be no need for grocery shopping. Or laundry. Or vacuuming. Or taking out the garbage.

I would have someone else to cook for, which would mean I would end up with actual meals.

The temperature outside would always be warm enough that I wouldn't have to wear a jacket. There could be snow, because it is so pretty, but it would be warm. I would have a loving husband to take care of and to take care of me. Even in fantasy land things wouldn't be perfect, because I know better than to even fantasize about that, but I would have someone who loved me for who I am, and pledged to be with me for the rest of my life. And I to him. And we would be building a warm home shared with many loved ones.

I would always be there for the people I know, I would always remember to call people on their birthdays, and I wouldn't let friendships slip through my fingers because I am not good at keeping in touch. People would care about each other's feelings. Sometimes even above their own.
Okay, snap out of fantasy land, it's back to my regularly scheduled program. The truth is, and I know this in my heart - reality is really not that bad either.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Now I Know

I always wondered what planet I was from:

You Are From Neptune
You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability. You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea. Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion. You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone. If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.

Coincidence? I'm not sure.

I have been thinking a lot about coincidence lately. Does everything have a reason for happening? Or are there things that happen that just happen and there is nothing deeper about them? I am not sure about it. I want to believe that everything happens for a reason, that there is a grand scheme to things, that every contact I make, has a greater purpose and spiritual karma for having happened. But then there are things that happen that I am just not sure have a reason. People that come into my life and I have no idea why they did. It doesn't mean that they didn't impact me, but I can't even determine whether their impact was good or bad, or what I was supposed to learn from them. Maybe it is because I can't see the bigger picture. I have no idea what strings are being pulled to cause the events that happen. Weird coincidences occur, and I don't know why. But maybe someone does. I hope so. But when people tell me that everything happens for a reason, that things that happen are signals or signposts telling you to act, I have to wonder. Maybe I have just had too many times where I thought something was supposed to happen and it didn't, so now I am jaded. Which I hate. For the moment I am skeptical, but who knows? Maybe some seemingly coincidental act will bear sweet fruit and teach me that there is no such thing as coincidence. I hope so.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Creature Comforts

There is nothing better (at this point in my life) on a cold winter morning than snuggling with the cutest cat in the world.

(Please note: My cat is much cuter than this one, of course.) Big Thank You to Hashem for making them so cuddly!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Have We Changed?

In class last night, somehow we managed to get onto the topic of how things have changed so much - people are so busy these days, so stressed out, families are so different, people have different expectations and priorities now. Except that I don't agree. In general, I feel that things don't really ever change, we just want to think that they do because we think we are so much more enlightened and advanced than we used to be. The example was made of the materialism that Americans today have put so much focus on, to the point that many individuals will work a ridiculous amount of hours a week in order to obtain material possessions that they then never have the time to enjoy because they are working so much. How is this a change? Didn't farmers and industrial workers spend just as many hours at their jobs to secure material possessions? Maybe they didn't have as much because they just couldn't afford it, but isn't that what they were working for? Do you think they were happy with less than their neighbors had to did they push themselves to keep up with everyone else? I think that the underlying desire to have what everyone else has and to live a life of pleasure has never been any different - what is different is the way in which people go about securing these things. I think there has always been and will always be those who need to keep up with the status quo. And I think there will always be those who defy societal norms and determine what is important to them individually. I think when we herald today's society as so enlightened, or when we decry our newfound focus on working for just the material, driving ourselves crazy in the process, we are being silly. We learned out values from those who came before us, and they learned it from those who came before them. Things may seem to change on a surface level, but deep down, I believe things always stay the same.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Winter is Upon Us

The last few weeks,
I have noticed that the squirrels have gotten fatter,
the sun has been setting earlier,
and the temperatures have been dropping! It is time to get out the hat,
scarf, and gloves,
bundle up in a sweater,
and say, "BRRR!"
I know people say Maryland is technically part of the South, but you know what? It is too darn cold around here! Will I survive another winter?

Monday, November 08, 2004


I love meeting people who make me think. I was at my favorite place yesterday when I got into a conversation with a photographer from the Washington Post. We were discussing different time periods when people lived with a lot less than we typically do today. He mentioned something about immigrants living three families to a tiny apartment, sharing a bathroom down the hall, living off a few dollars a week. And they were grateful for what they had. He said that was one time period he would love to be able to travel to and take pictures of. I made a comment about how I think it would be fascinating to see those times, but how I sure am glad that I don't live in them. He said that he guessed it was all a matter of perspective. Today, people in many parts of the world live with so much less than we in America assume is our right to minimally have. There are many countries where people live without things we completely take for granted, such as indoor plumbing or several pieces of clothing. It really made me think about myself. I don't consider myself to be materialistic, and I feel I am not terribly spoiled in comparison to most of the people I know. Money is not the focus of my life or the reason for what I do. But when it really comes down to it, when I think about those things that people live without or those things that so many in this world would be incredibly grateful to have, I really do take so much for granted, and am unbelievably spoiled. It was an eye-opening conversation, and one that I hope to keep in mind for a long time to come.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Find Me a Man, Receive $2,000...

Courtesy of the Star-K.

The Vaad HaKashrus of Baltimore, also known as the Star-K, has initiated a new program to encourage people to find husbands for Baltimore women. They are offering $2,000 to anyone who sets up women from Baltimore over the age of 22 and 2 months. You can see their full description of the program here.

So…who wants $2,000? Find me a guy and reap the rewards. If you have a potential guy for me, send me an e-mail and tell me a bit about him. But remember, my rules are these: I don’t care what kind of family he comes from, or what kind of hat he wears. Don’t tell me his income, his height, or his learning schedule. I want real details – what kind of person he is, what is important to him, if he treats every person he meets with respect. I am looking for a thinker, a questioner, a seeker and a striver. If you know a guy who meets these details, and is between the ages of 24-35, let me know. You might end up $2,000 richer!

Have a great Shabbos!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Frumster Defines Its Categories

Frumster recently published guidelines for members to use when trying to identify which observance level they fit into. You can find the guidelines here, under the question “How are the observance categories on Frumster defined?” I understand that some people feel the need to define themselves into categories and need clearly delineated definitions for putting themselves into those categories. But personally, I am an individual who doesn’t like to be placed into a category, and don’t feel that I fit into a specific label anyway. I feel that categories stand to separate rather than bring people together, and to discriminate between people rather than help foster community. And I feel that the fact that Frumster did this is a blow to seeing others as individual people who should be judged for their character rather than external attributes that are used as an easy way to judge and discriminate. And I feel it is a detriment and pandering to the problems that the current shidduch system is already deeply enmeshed with. Here are some specific issues that I have with the definition Frumster has come up with: Under the “Yeshivish Modern” category: “Identification with a "Yeshivish" outlook can reflect itself in dress.”

I have never, ever understood how one could define himself in a category of religious observance based on how one dresses. Outward appearance says so incredibly little about a person, and can be such a ridiculous mask that a person wears trying to hide those aspects about them that they are ashamed of. I have seen so many people wearing black hats act so despicably and rudely and speak such hideous loshon hara that I give absolutely no credit to someone just for wearing that hat. I also know many people who wear black hats who are wonderful, gracious, caring and loving; I am not against all those who wear black hats, just those who behave without regard to their fellow humans. As I am against all people who disregard their fellow humans, no matter what they are wearing. Under “Hassidish” Frumster writes:

“Such individuals embrace a Hasidic philosophy, which includes a commitment to the emotional/spiritual element of Torah observance.” Does this mean that other individuals do not commit to the emotional or spiritual element of Torah observance? If you consider yourself emotional or spiritual, you must be Hassidish? I think that much of commitment to Judaism is emotional and inherently spiritual, how can one say that if you commit in this manner, you are necessarily Hassidish? And what about those people who have many Hassidish minhagim, because that is what they grew up with but don’t necessarily affiliate with a specific group, or follow a specific Rebbe? Are they still Hassidish? This is a general point that makes it incredibly difficult to put oneself into a category. Frumster defines “Carlebachian” as:

"These are individuals who are Shabbat and Kosher observant and tend to embrace a more spiritual, and relaxed observant lifestyle. This observant outlook emanates from followers of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach who was an inspiration to many unaffiliated Jews in the 60's and 70's and who where drawn towards greater observance by a Rabbi who embraced a message of Torah, love of the Jewish people, and Israel, expressed through his own musicality." I am now more confused than ever about what “spiritual” means. Frumster needs to start defining the words in their definitions.

Again, I don’t believe that being spiritual can place you in any sort of category. And if you define a category by people following a “message of Torah, love of the Jewish people, and Israel” I would hope that every person on Frumster would fall into it. I have many other problems with the definitions, but I want to give my last one to the “Shomer Mitzvot” category. Frumster defines Shomer Mitzvot as: "This category was created out of a demand from many members for a no-name brand "Orthodox" category. While this group may comprise a diversity of observant individuals, it seems more readily chosen by modern orthodox liberal singles who feel that their liberal approach towards Halacha is satisfactorily shomer mitzvot." This is the category that I have chosen for myself, because I believe it comes closest to leaving me without a category. To me, being Shomer Mitzvot means that you follow the mitzvahs, which I would think every Jew who considers themselves Torah Observant would believe themselves to do. I am not saying that we don’t have our weaknesses, and that we are always perfect. If Frumster had left the definition at their first sentence, I would be overjoyed. But the fact that they go on and specify which individuals seem to choose this category, and that they say that those individuals “feel that their liberal approach towards Halacha is satisfactorily shomer mitzvot” leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. First of all, what does it mean to be “satisfactorily shomer mitzvoth”? And that one “feels” that they are so? I believe that the language used implies that those who generally choose the Shomer Mitzvot category are not actually Shomer Mitzvot and that they should be choosing one of the other categories that Frumster provides. And to me that implies that Frumster should have never bothered with the category at all. In general, I feel that the categories, and their definitions, are a waste of time. I wish they would get rid of the categories and let people define themselves based on their actions and their mindsets, rather than an easy label. Push people to really read the profiles and see what others say about themselves and what they are looking for – it reveals a lot more about a potential date than a general category that took someone two seconds to click on. I have a lot of issues with being defined by a label – I think I am much more than that, and strive to look at others as much more than that also. Give people some credit for being complex human beings who can’t be summed up with a word.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

In Response to a Comment

In response to my request for luck, Pyolski commented that: “It is not befitting a Jewish daughter to resort to [goyish] symbols, symbols rooted in alien beliefs, which should be cast aside rather than drawn close. Let's not forget, we're holy Jews and not just nice people. We are different, and we need to keep that way.” I want to respond with my thoughts about that comment. First of all, I would like to say that the word “goyish” would never, ever come from my mouth – that one is strictly Pyolski’s. I think a word used with such a negative connotation should be avoided in all circumstances, because it leads to generalization, stereotyping and hate. If it is okay to use such a term in reference to one group of people, then it is fine to use it with any group, including those groups the speaker is a part of. And few people I know want to be labeled with pejorative, negative titles that do a grave injustice to individuals, and justify the debasement of any human beings. Next, I would like to address his insinuation that these “alien symbols” “should be cast aside rather than drawn close.” First of all, I believe these symbols do come from our fellow human beings, and to label them “alien” is not appropriate. I have major issues with the separation that many seem to feel is necessary between Jewish and non-Jewish spheres of life. In fact, I don’t even like to say that there are necessarily different spheres to be a part of. Every person on this planet has value, and is created in God’s image. And every person, no matter their religion, ethnicity, observance level, etc. should be given consideration and treated with the utmost respect, rather than cast aside. Also, I think there is so much we can learn from different parts of life. To keep ourselves to strictly Jewish books, thoughts and people would limit us in so many ways. My life has been incredibly enhanced by learning beliefs and reading opinions of those who I don’t necessarily agree with, but I can certainly learn from. Further, in response to the statement that “we’re holy Jews and not just nice people. We are different, and we need to keep it that way,” I have a few points. First of all, I know many Jews and many non-Jews. I know many Jews who I would never consider holy or nice, and many non-Jews who I would consider both holy and nice. I don’t see how being Jewish confers the status of being holy, nice, or neither upon anyone. Again, Jews and non-Jews are both human beings. To me, that confers a lot of similarities, rather than differences. To keep things completely separate would be to live in a black and white world, rather than one where all the colors paint our palette of existence. Some may choose to live in black and white – that is their decision. But I choose the rainbow.

I Voted

This morning, before work, really early in the morning, I ventured out in the cold to the elementary school near my house, joined several hundred of my fellow duty-bound Americans, walked under a sheet into a private booth, and cast my vote for one of the candidates for President. There, I exercised and fulfilled my civic duty for the day. Did you?

Monday, November 01, 2004


For a large part of my life, I have suffered from insomnia. I have trouble falling asleep, I wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep, and I wake up ridiculously early. It goes in phases - sometimes I sleep pretty well for months and sometimes I go weeks without a good night's sleep. The worst I ever suffered from insomnia was when I was in college (the first time) and living in the dorms on campus. When I lived in the dorm, I used to lie awake for hours upon hours, sometimes in tears from being so exhausted, absolutely unable to fall asleep. I tried serotonim, sleeping pills, warm milk, reading until my eyes couldn't stay open, and many other tactics. But all to no avail, I still couldn't fall asleep. The memories I have of those nights are of frustration and exasperation. But I do have one other memory from those nights - the sound of the trains that passed through Birmingham at all hours of the night. At 3, 4, or 5 in the morning, trains would travel through, their tracks close enough to my dorm for me to hear the whistles blowing when they chugged by. In the stupor of my exhaustion, there was something about the sound of those trains that gave me comfort. Every night, without fail, that noise would lull me, not necessarily putting an end to my insomnia, but it would calm me and give me some measure of peace. Whenever I hear the train these days, it always transports me to those nights - not the frustration of being unable to sleep, but the comfort I felt in the constant sound of the trains passing through. I have recently begun to hear the trains from my apartment on quiet nights, and I love it and find myself stopping to listen to the soft whistle. In the past year, I have discovered that traveling by train is wonderful also. I love driving, but I can get so much more done, and it is so much more relaxing to travel by train. Yesterday, I took the train up and back to New York. On the way up, I managed to get a lot of studying done, and on the way home, I managed to get some sleep in (something I better not do if I am driving!). More than that, I have now gotten to be inside that source of comfort and I find it just as lulling and soothing to be inside the train as to hear it travel through. I am not sure what it is that I love about the train so much, but I think it is one of those sensations and feelings that I will always hold close.