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Isn't it pretty?

Monday, January 31, 2005

Stubborn People

Stubborn people are so annoying. I can say this because I will freely admit that I am incredibly stubborn. And I know it is really annoying to those who know me best, because they are usually the ones that I am the most stubborn with. A friend of mine used to get so frustrated with me because after months of her making a suggestion to me that I would ignore, I would suddenly come up with a "brilliant idea" of my own. She would groan at me and say, "I have been telling you that for months!" The truth is, I just don't like being told what to do. I would much rather think that I know best for myself, and don't need the suggestions of others to figure out how to lead my life. I know this is ridiculous and probably keeps me from being the best I can be, but let's face it, I'm stubborn. This weekend, I got a dose of my own medicine, and it made me realize how insufferable I can be. A friend of mine was sitting there telling me how he realized something that he needs to work on. Guess what? I have been telling him the same thing for months! How annoying is that? I guess you could say that it is not fair for me to get annoyed at my friend for something that I am guilty of all the time. But why didn't he just listen to me months ago? Oh, is that what everyone says about me? I have known for a long time that my stubbornness is something that I need to work on, but I don't think I could have had it smack me in the face quite as well if I had orchestrated it myself (and I am sure I would have preferred it that way). So, I am now officially working on being less stubborn, and consequently, hopefully much less obnoxious to those around me. (Just don't tell me what to do.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Family View

While visiting with my family recently, I was struck by a few things. I have lived independently from my family for almost six years now, and the four years before that I was only intermittently at home. When I first moved out, I saw them frequently - once or twice a week since I was living in the same city. That frequency has dwindled quite a bit, and now I only see my family on rare occasions, maybe once or twice a year. Since I left Birmingham, I have grown up a lot, as you would hope a person would in such a number of years. I know I have grown very independent, but more importantly, I think I have grown very much as a person. I think I am much more capable of taking things in stride these days, of letting hurtful encounters go without inflicting permanent scars, and I think I am much better at dealing with those around me than I was when I left home. My parents view me as I was when I used to live with them, almost ten years ago now. During my recent visit, I found myself doing two things. The first was I found myself, in some ways, reverting back to my old self, because that is what my family expected of me. The other thing I found myself doing was trying to convince my parents, who see me as the 17-year old I was when I left home, that I am not the same person I used to be, that I have grown up a lot during my time away. They know this, but I think because they don't see me on a regular basis, they have a hard time really viewing me as an adult. Throughout the visit, these struggles made me realize a few things about how we act with our families and how it is different than how we act with anyone else. I found that my family knows me both more intimately, and the least intimately, than anyone else I know. Because they have know me since I was born, they do know me better than anyone else does. They know which buttons to push to upset me quicker than anyone else, and they know how to calm me and what to say instinctively. But because there is so much history there, they have an extremely hard time seeing me as I am now, and not as a child. And because they have seen me at my very worst more than anyone else, they also have an impression of me imprinted that is not who I feel I am seen as by the majority of those around me. I have a friend who says we revert back to being children when we are with our families. I think she is right. It is hard being a child when I am used to being an adult. It is hard having parents treat me like I am my former self, who (I hope) I have grown out of. But it is nice to have someone who has seen you at your absolute worst, and have them still love you, and take care of you. Family is really hard sometimes, but it is good to know they are there.

Remembering the Wannsee Conference and the Liberation of Auschwitz

This article is posted by participants of the January 27, 2005, BlogBurst, to remember the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, sixty years ago, on January 27, 1945. On January 20th, we marked the anniversary of the 1942 Wannsee Conference. In the course of that Conference, the Nazi hierarchy formalized the plan to annihilate the Jewish people. Understanding the horrors of Auschwitz requires that one be aware of the premeditated mass-murder that was presented at Wannsee. Highlighting these events now has become particularly important, even as the press reports that '45% of Britons have never heard of Auschwitz' (Jerusalem Post, December 2, 2004, BBC: 45% of Britons have never heard of Auschwitz). Get the full story here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

To Shadchan or Not

Okay, just to be clear, this post is my thoughts on using an intermediary when dating. It is completely independent of my thoughts about using someone to set two people up (I have plenty of thoughts on that topic also, but that is for another post). Here is my take on whether it is necessary for two people to have someone in the middle of the dating process. I was recently approached with a shidduch suggestion. A friend of mine had a neighbor who knew a guy who they thought would be good for me. Follow that? They wanted to set the two of us up. My friend told me what she knew about the guy, and I asked some other people who knew him about him. He sounded interesting, I figured it was worth exploring a bit further. I told my friend to tell the guy to look up my Frumster profile. It is something that I worked pretty hard on, that I feel reflects who I am and what is important to me, and that will give a person a first-hand look at the kind of person I am, rather than a second-hand reflection from someone else who doesn't know me that well. After looking at my profile, I told my friend to have the guy e-mail me. I figured we could e-mail back and forth a bit, see if we are on the same page, and take it from there. My friend had issues with that. She wanted us to use herself and her neighbor as a go-between after dates. I told her that I didn't see the necessity in doing that. I am an adult, and so is the guy who was suggested for me. We are both dating for the purpose of marriage, and it is my understanding that if that is the case, then we should be mature enough to be in a marriage. She agreed with me about this point, but said that some people don't want to hurt another person by telling them they don't want to go out again. My argument against having a go-between is this. Being married requires the ability to communicate with another person, sometimes about things that are not incredibly easy to deal with. Learning sensitivity, tactfulness, honesty and forthrightness (without being rude) are all characteristics that will greatly help a person in marriage. They are also attributes that one will fail to adequately develop if all interactions with members of the opposite sex are facilitated by an intermediary. Using a shadchan is like depending on a crutch that you never plan on pushing aside. It cripples a person, and causes them to not be able to actualize their potential for growth. Personally, at my age and at the ages of the majority of my dates, if a person does not know how to handle themselves in a awkward or difficult situation, I want to know that about them before I agree to marry them. And I don't want to marry someone who can't deal with a rough or possibly disappointing situation in a mature manner. Because I don't want to be in a marriage with someone who can't communicate when the going gets tough. Life is hard. All situations are not easy. But learning to deal with these things proves to be character building, maturing and an incredible investment for the future. To demand the use of a shadchan is to admit openly that you are not mature, or ready to deal with the situations that you are going to be faced with in marriage. And that to me, is an incredible shame and a sad statement about those individuals who are "dating for marriage." I would like to see more individuals step up to the plate, and make the statement (by not using shadchanim) that they are mature adults who can handle the curveballs that they will have to face when developing mature relationships with others.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Jewish/Israeli Blog Awards

I promise that I will be back to blogging about real stuff very soon, maybe even this afternoon (but no promises). But in the meantime, a bit of shameless self-promotion. I was nominated for "Best Personal Blog" (thank you to the person who nominated me - you are very sweet!) in the Jewish/Israeli Blog Awards. The preliminary round of polls are now open - so if you think I am worthy - go vote for me! Thanks! Update: Me being oblivious alert. Apparently, I was also nominated in the Best Politics, Current Affairs, and Academia Blog category. Vote for me there also!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Sweet Home Alabama

I spent the first part of this week visiting my family in Alabama. I spent my high school and post-high school years (a total of nine) living there, but moved away about five years ago. I hadn't been back in two years, and it was a weird sensation being there again.

Things have changed a lot since I last lived there. My father is remarried, living in a new house, one of my brothers has moved out into an apartment, and another brother is living in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide). There has been a lot of construction, new license plates (see the pic above), and people moving in and out since I left. My friends are, for the vast majority, gone; I didn't have many people to visit.

It was really weird, I expected to be returning home. My old stomping ground, where I (kind of) grew up. I expected that the minute my plane touched down, I would feel as if I had never left.

That isn't exactly what I found. There was something slightly elusive that kept me from feeling like it was home. It was familiar, but not completely comfortable. Maybe it was all the new things; the fact that I was staying as a guest, not a resident; or the fact that so much had changed over the past two years. Heck, I have changed. A lot.

As my plane to come home to Baltimore (I realize that my home is Baltimore now) was taking off, and the cars and buildings became smaller and smaller from my window, I saw what I had felt during my trip. Like seeing things from a plane window, Alabama is not quite real to me any more. It is a memory that you don't quite recognize, that is just a bit too far away from the reality you know. You can't touch it, or maybe it doesn't quite touch me, anymore. Home has changed. Or maybe it is me who has done the changing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Back Home

I spent the past few days in balmy Birmingham, Alabama (okay, maybe not quite balmy, but definitely warmer than here) visiting my family. I come home, and what happens? It starts snowing.

So now I am in this beautiful winter wonderland, with the new snow covering everything like a big fluffy cloud (just a lot colder). I hope to be back to real posting in a couple days - once I get caught up on everything I missed during my trip. Enjoy the scenery!

Friday, January 14, 2005


Having flowers always brightens my day. They are so pretty and colorful and just make my whole apartment happier.

So, for my readers' enjoyment - here are some flowers, just for you!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Work has been extremely busy, which has cut into my blogging time the last few days. Blogging will probably continue to be light through the next week or two, as I am working hard on a huge quarterly project at work and I am going home to Alabama for the first time in two years for the first part of next week. Since I am going home, I thought I would share a story. There is a man in Birmingham named James who has been working at the JCC for years and years. James is a black man in his 50's or 60's and is legally blind. He works as a massage therapist. Because he is blind, and very different from most of the people who frequent the JCC, not everyone is always so comfortable around him or friendly to him. I used to work at the JCC as a receptionist. I loved working there because I developed relationships with many of the regulars, and there was always something going on - kids running around, sports groups competing, jewish activities. When James didn't have a massage scheduled, he would regularly come to my desk and talk to me and we would chat about the day. He is a very sweet man, and always had interesting insights to share. I never thought that much about it. Now, almost six years since I last worked at the JCC, every time James sees my parents, he still asks about me and about how I am doing. He has told my parents over and over about how much he liked me and what a nice person I was. He is one of the few people that I absolutely cannot miss seeing when I go to visit. It didn't take very much for me to be nice to James. A few minutes of conversation and a friendly word here and there. But it has stuck with him for years. You never know what small gesture might really touch a person. It doesn't always take a lot to make a difference in someone's life.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Turning Over a New Leaf

Words of wisdom from Oprah: “No one is insignificant, and a person is not their faults.” I was having a rough morning. I was letting little things get to me, and I was valuing myself based on my perception of others’ actions. It was one of those mornings where I was letting small things blow up in my mind, and I was extrapolating way beyond reality. I was focusing on the negative, rather than the positive, in my life and I was taking offense at the way others’ interact with me, without being able to see that they are doing what they can, in their own way, not in my way. I don’t like myself very much when I get in these moods, which occur on occasion. (Come on, we all have our bad, blue days when nothing seems to be right.) When I am in these moods, it only spirals down and down – I then get upset with myself for being in such a mood, and allowing myself to be down, and I devalue myself more and more until I feel unworthy of whatever things are going right. As I was getting to this low point, I remembered something that a friend often tells me. It is all in my mind. I have the power to make myself feel low, or make myself feel good. My thoughts are what drive me. And I have the power to change my thoughts. It is not always easy, but I can take control and change my reality. So that is what I decided to do. I decided that my value is not dependent on what others do or say. I have to love myself for my good attributes and accept the mistakes I have made in the past and move beyond them. And I have to love others for their good attributes and accept their mistakes and move beyond them. The good doesn’t change with the day or mood. And it is a choice to look at the positive things and focus on them, rather than look at the negative and focus on faults. No one is perfect and everyone works with the tools they have. I am making a conscious decision to love myself and others for the positive and good that is in each of us. When I get disappointed or hurt about something, I am consciously going to tell myself that it is not a reflection on me, or even the other person. Everyone makes mistakes; a person is not their mistakes. Each person works within their own reality, and does the best that they can do on that particular day. And I am going to appreciate myself and everyone else for that. I am going to look at the positive and attempt to let others know what I appreciate them for. Basically, I am going to do my best to look at the positive in situations and let go of the negative. It is not easy to do this, and I realize that I am faced with a tall task. But I honestly believe two things. 1) I can do it if I put my mind to it. 2) I will be 100 times better off for just having tried. I challenge everyone to embrace this philosophy of love and acceptance and see what happens.


I am a bit down this morning, so I have decided that I am going to focus on something that made me feel good recently, in hopes that it will help cheer me up a bit. Yesterday, someone told me out of the blue that I am special. As this person is someone who I really like a lot, it was nice having her say that to me. It meant a lot to me to hear it.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Beautiful Movie

Last night, I got the pleasure of sharing one of my favorite movies with a friend of mine. He appreciated it so much that I thought I would share it with everyone else also.

October Sky is the true story of Homer Hickam, a NASA engineer who grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia. It is the story of following your dreams, your heroes and your heart. It is about not giving up, and of working hard for what you want. And it is the story of success and dreams coming true. It is about believing in yourself and others. I loved this movie from when I first saw it, and every time I have seen it since (several times), it has won me over again. There is just something so beautiful in the characters and I identify strongly with the relationships portrayed. This is not heart-pumping, action-filled, rolling on the floor laughing movie. But it touches you and moves you in a gentle way that I can't quite describe. The fact that it is a true story just moves me more. And after watching it, I just feel so grateful that Hickam shared it with everyone. Insert Blockbuster commercial music: Go rent it today.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Intelligent Women are Doomed

JDatersAnonymous mentioned an article in the London Times which stated that the smarter a woman you are, the less likely you are to get married. My first reaction to the article was one of being angry at the writers for publicizing the fact that intelligent women have trouble getting married. This stems from my past. I spent many years hiding my intelligence in fear that guys would be intimidated, or think I was a smart geek. In fact, I distinctly remember cringing at the moniker "Honors Nerd" being spouted in my direction by the object of my (obviously) unrequited affection. My second reaction was that I should read the article. I found the article (sorry about not having a link - the London Times does not make it easy to include one) and read it with interest. The article makes several interesting observations. It says: "The results are borne out by evidence from psychologists that successful career women are struggling to find “interesting men” who are interested in them. Relationship experts say professional men prefer to marry women “like their mum” who will provide the domestic support while they go out to work. Women achievers, however, find it difficult to find men willing to sacrifice their careers to become house husbands." I don't understand why men would have to be "house husbands" in order to be married to an intelligent woman. Maybe this quote is exclusive to women who have their sights set specifically on the head of the board room table, but I know many, many women who work and take care of families - and their husbands, while not being a "house husband" help out around the home, and with the children, as I believe it should be. (How many women do you know who will free their husband from all responsibility of changing diapers?) "Marriage experts say the results reflect changes in society. Christine Northam, a senior counsellor at Relate, the relationship guidance organisation, said: “IQ measurements are frightfully judgmental, but it is true that men do not want women more intelligent than themselves. It bolsters their position if their partner is not too challenging.” " Is this true? Men don't want a woman to challenge them on anything? Why is it okay for a man to be smarter than a woman but not the other way around? And wouldn't it get a bit boring for a guy to always have to explain or know that his wife couldn't follow his thought processes? I just have issues with the insinuation that men's egos are so fragile as to not be able to withstand dealing with a woman of equal intellect. "Dr Paul Brown, visiting professor of psychology at Nottingham Law School and an expert on relationships, said: “What we are finding is that women in their late 30s who have gone for careers after the first flush of university and who are among the brightest of their generation are finding that men are just not interesting enough. “It is a really difficult issue. Women want independence but we are all hard-wired into wanting to be into relationships. The paradox of the post-feminist position is how we create a social system in which both independence and inter-dependency can flourish.” " Again, I don't see why career and relationships must be mutually exclusive. Just because I am an intelligent female who at some point would like to have a career that means something to me does not mean that I am not also capable of being half of a meaningful relationship. Just because I have the ability to support myself does not mean that I want to always be forced to do so. The key is in knowing your strengths but not letting them get in the way of your relationships with others.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Machlis Family

Inspired by a new blog dedicated to the Machlis family of Jerusalem, I wanted to share a memorable moment from my past. Aish Hatorah has written a couple beautiful articles about this incredibly special family, but I thought I would add my two cents as well. I traveled to Israel for the first time in July 1997. It was a trip of firsts - my first trip overseas, my first exposure to Orthodox Judaism, my first Shabbos, the first time I spent time in a place where there were more than a handful of Jews. During that month, I went through so many experiences that I then had to take home and integrate into my life. One of those experiences was the beauty of Shabbos. I was fortunate to stay in the Old City of Jerusalem for one Shabbos of that month. On the following New Year's Eve, when asked what the most memorable day of my year had been, that Shabbos was the first day that came to mind. After watching the sun set over the Kotel (which can't be described in words), a few friends and I traveled to Ma'alot Dafna, where the Machlis's live. They have an open home on Shabbos, and many, many people take them up on their hospitality each week. We arrived along with about a hundred other people. Tables were crammed into every corner of the modest apartment. Children ran around singing songs and welcoming all the guests. Tons of food was prepared for the meal. The apartment held a very recent addition that week - air conditioning to help cool down the extremely hot Jerusalem summer. It was pumping hard, doing it's job, until it hit a snag. All the lights in the apartment went out. There were a few gasps from the guests, and we sat in the dark. Instead of getting upset or panicking, since nothing could be done on Shabbos, Rabbi Machlis stood up and asked everyone to be calm. He then began speaking about how lucky we were that the lights were out. He spoke about how lucky we were to have this opportunity to really appreciate the beauty of the Shabbos candles that his wife had lit in honor of Shabbos. How they illuminate and usher in Shabbos the way Hashem illuminates our soul. Wow. I am still speechless when I remember those beautiful moments and the incredible perspective Rabbi Machlis shared with us. The lights came back on a few minutes later but I kind of wished they had stayed off. That night was certainly one to remember.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year (A little late)

I wanted to wish everyone in the blogosphere a very Happy New Year. I spent my New Year's with a good friend, engaged in good discussion (which may be blogged about later). I hope that this year brings happiness, health, love and many other wonderful things into everyone's lives!