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Isn't it pretty?

Friday, April 29, 2005

Friday Stuff

Sorry for the lack of posts. I haven't been away for Chol Hamoed, I have just been bored and without a whole lot to say the last few days. I have part of a full post bouncing around in my head, but it's not ready to come out yet, so here are a few random thoughts du jour:

  • I found this incredible blog yesterday: Voices From Our Side of the Curtain It is written by women, but I don't think necessarily exclusively for women. The contributors are strong, passionate, intelligent Orthodox Jewish women who are proud of who they are and their stories are beautiful and heartbreaking to read. These are the honest, open stories of the women you know, but don't necessarily truly see. Check it out.
  • My roommate has been gone all week for Chol Hamoed. I usually enjoy having the apartment all to myself, since it is fairly rare, and I do really enjoy my alone time. But I realized when I got home yesterday to a third day of a completely empty, quiet apartment that I actually missed her, missed having someone there, and didn't feel completely comfortable being all by myself. Who would have ever expected it?
  • Why is it that my father can rattle off my brother's soccer team's record day by day, and tell me the details of every one of his games, yet he would be hard-pressed to tell you which school I have been attending for the past two years? I know it's partly my fault because I am the one who moved so far away, but it hurts. And I don't know how to tell him, because he doesn't deal well with that kind of stuff.
  • I am horrified by those who tell you not to question. I know that it can get annoying at times if it is constant questions with the specific purpose of being annoying, but I don't understand how an educator can, with a full conscience, tell a student not to ask questions. It limits whatever is being questioned as not being strong enough to handle being questioned and tells the questioner that there is no answer.
  • Finally, have a good Yom Tov these last few days of Pesach - and enjoy that first bit of chometz, whatever it is!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The World of Difference between Submitting and Conforming

I read something last week that got me thinking a lot, and I think it even fits into the Pesach theme. It was written by a female baal teshuvah who was trying to figure out how to fit Torah into the life she had already built for herself. One of her main struggles was how to maintain her individuality within the framework of Torah. It was definitely something I could relate to. The most profound statement she made, that really struck a chord with me, and has kept me thinking for the past several days, is that she had realized that she must submit, rather than conform, in order to bring Torah into her life. Reading that, it struck me as the absolute ideal - to submit to halacha and Hashem's will, but not to conform to those external standards that are often imposed upon individuals in an effort to force people to "fit in." I found this to be an extremely important distinction, and one that I wish I had thought of much earlier, though to be honest, I think that is the path that I have been trying to form for myself for a long time. It is an ideal; I won't say that I am there, or even close. I often have trouble submitting to halacha; there are those things that I just have a hard time bringing myself to accept. Many times I will follow the halacha, because I know that is what I am supposed to do, but in my heart I know I don't really accept it. When I was first becoming religious, it was something I did on my own. And I hesitated for a long time because I saw the importance that many put on conformity, and it really bothered me. I couldn't become a cookie cutter model of others. But it was something that I wanted a lot, and so I forged a path for myself, wavering sometimes, strengthening others, hopefully growing a lot in between. And I don't imagine that I have finished yet. And there are also times I find myself conforming to standards that are not necessarily Torah, because as much as I strive to be an individual, and need to be an individual, it is hard to always be on your own and to stand alone. I think this ideal takes a lot of knowledge and not everyone desires to put the effort in. It is so much easier to just follow the crowd and not ask questions. But I don't think that it is the true spirit of Torah. It takes courage and guts to stand apart, especially within a certain framework. But I think it is important to realize the difference between submission and conformity, because Hashem created each of us with our unique talents, attributes and skills. And I don't think He would want each of us to be the same and subdue those individual gifts. Instead, to actualize the differing potentials in each of us, it gives flavor and color to the beautiful world that Torah can be.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Chag Somayach

In honor of having something new and special for Pesach, I bought this, so I could read this. Yay! Something to look forward to over a long Yom Tov. I hope everyone has a wonderful Pesach with their friends and/or family - Chag Somayach!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Let the Appreciation Flow

A while back, Passionate Life wrote a post about "Non-Dating Related Words of Appreciation" that caused quite a stir among his commentors. He wrote a letter of appreciation to a woman he didn't feel he was compatible with dating-wise, but incredible nonetheless. He felt she deserved to hear kind words regardless of whether they were suitable for dating purposes, and unfortunately, the response was not incredibly positive. This morning when I checked my e-mail, I found I had two messages waiting on Frumster for me. When I logged in, I saw that both messages were from men who are much older than me (which happens on occasion, and I usually gently turn them down, as I am not comfortable dating someone whose age is significantly different from my own). But these two messages were different. They were not intended for dating purposes. They were both just to tell me they appreciated who I am, and to wish me a Chag Sameach. Instead of feeling let down, I have to say that the messages greatly uplifted my morning and gave me a great feeling. Here is what they wrote: The first message was: Greetings and Salutations to a Fine Jewish Southern Belle. Just a brief word to let you know that I thank you for being who you are. It gives me hope and inspiration to see that there is such a fine person like you amidst us nowadays. I believe what you wrote in your profile and I think it reflects that you were brought up with a great amount of love, acceptance, understanding, and endorsement from your parents. I am not asking you out because I am too much to the right of you philosophically and politically and age wise. Bu that is all not relevant to the fact that you are just a marvelaous holy Jewish woman and I d believe that you are a very kind loving person. G-D bless you. You are an inspiration. All the best and chag somach ! The other was: To The Woman with such a rich traits: warmth, chochmat halev, inquisitive mind., compassion and broadly open heart best wishes for a Happy Passover from all of us! Wow! Those are the best non-dating messages I could have ever received! Thanks guys, and may you continue to spread your kind words to others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I don't have a lot of patience. For the past month, I have been rushing home and obsessively checking the mail. Every day, nothing, no word from the illustrious graduate schools that I applied to. Are they enjoying keeping me in suspense? Don't they know I have to figure out what I am doing next year? It has been so annoying. So when I got home yesterday, and found a large, thick envelope with the monogram of one of the schools I applied to in the mailbox, I couldn't believe it - the end of my suspense! I opened it up and.... YAY!!! I got into graduate school! I am going to be a school counselor someday! And now I can forgive the mailman for prolonging my anguish.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Incredible Sensitivity

I was stunned yesterday. My professor shows such incredible sensitivity to my religious beliefs I am a bit embarrassed by the lack of respect Jews probably show to hers. Let me explain. First of all, this particular night class is one where we decided that one person would bring dinner for the entire class each week. Knowing how difficult it would be for the others to accommodate my kashrus issues, I told them not to worry about me. My professor insisted that I participate and told me that they would do what was necessary in order for me to be able to eat. When it was her turn to bring dinner, she called an Orthodox friend of hers, had her friend take her shopping, took everything back to her friend's house and made dinner in her friend's kitchen, using her friend's dishes, in order that I could eat. I was blown away then by the inconvenience that she went to in order to make it possible for me to feel a part of the class. Yesterday, when I realized I would be missing class because of Passover, I e-mailed this professor and asked her if she would mind if I had someone record the class for me, because I didn't want to miss her lecture (she actually teaches a lot during class). When I got to class last night, she asked me to explain exactly why I would be missing class. I explained to her that the first two days of Passover were holidays and I wouldn't be able to drive to class, take notes, etc. Her response to me was, "Well, should we cancel class then? That doesn't seem fair. We wouldn't have class on a Christian holiday, why should we have it on a Jewish one?" I honestly didn't know what to say. I have never had a teacher even consider canceling class because it was a Jewish holiday. Especially considering I am the only Jew in my entire class. She persisted. She said, "I'm serious. If this was a Jewish school, would we have class next Monday?" I replied to her honestly, "No." So she responded, "Okay, no class next week." I couldn't believe it. I was absolutely blown away by her handling of the situation. She put herself completely in my shoes, and refused to let me feel like I would be missing anything because of my religious beliefs. What an outstanding person. We should all show the same sensitivity.

Monday, April 18, 2005

How many Sweet Rose's does it take...

to change a light bulb?

Well, it was actually a bit more complicated than that. Last night, as I was cleaning for Pesach, the combination of doing laundry and running the vacuum caused the circuit for my bedroom, living room, and dining room to trip. Not one to panic in the face of a unexpected situation, I remembered that our circuit box is in the back of our furnace closet in the kitchen (luckily a part of the apartment that still had light). The problem is that it is in the BACK of the closet. And I am not tall. The circuit box is quite out of my reach. The last time this happened, we called maintenance and they took care of it. But this was Sunday night, and maintenance was off-duty. So, I did what any other woman who has been living on her own for quite a while and doesn't feel like sitting in the dark would do. I dragged a chair over, climbed up and reached my arm as far back as it would go. I felt around for the circuit that was not in the same position as the others (because it was too dark to see that far back). And I reset the circuit. All by myself. It only took one Sweet Rose. And now my apartment is all clean also.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Interview with God

I have a full post in my head, but it is not ready for immortalization (or blogization) yet. So, for now, here is a beautiful video to watch that Sara (who comments here on occasion) sent to me: The Interview with God Took a while to load (on my extremely slow Internet connection), but well worth the wait. Thanks for sending it, Sara!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Destruction of Anger

I’ve never really understood anger, the anger that causes one person to want to hurt another. I have been through plenty of pain, and disappointment; I get frustrated fairly easily. I can understand the desire to lash out in response to something that hurts you, but it has been a rare day when I have actually been able to do so. But what I really can’t understand is the long-standing anger that consumes a person so much that they continue lashing out long beyond the event that upset them, the desire to really hurt another person, to exact revenge. The anger seems to possess the person that holds it, harming them much more than the object of the anger. It takes so much energy to continue trying to hurt another person, so much energy that could be used on much more positive, constructive projects. I see people who are angry at the world, and they exude such angry, dark energy that it just makes me sad. And their need for revenge, their need to hurt others just digs them into a deeper and deeper hole. It is the revenge aspect that I have never been able to bring myself to do, or even understand. I don’t understand why it would make someone feel better to hurt someone else. Why it is better for both to be hurt rather than just one. It seems so much easier, and better, to let things go. I am not a pushover – I can stand up for myself when I have to, but when someone insults me or hurts me, I have never seen how it helps to hurt them back. I have always felt that it just brought me down to a lower level, and while it might hurt them back, it really hurts me more. Because then I have to acknowledge the fact that I let my pride allow me to hurt another person. And my pride is better off with the knowledge that I try my hardest not to hurt others (though I admit that I don’t always succeed, I do at least try). So I have a lot of trouble with being the brunt of such an anger. The actions taken, the insults flung at me, don't hurt me so much. What bothers me is that there is a person out there who is so upset, so angry, that they would feel the need to expend the energy to TRY to hurt me. That they are so consumed with the need to hurt me that they let it burn them up inside, and let them focus on pain, rather than trying to let go of it and walk away and pursue more positive actions. I don't know how to resolve such anger. Ignoring it, confronting it, trying to remedy it. Nothing seems to work, because I know it isn't really about me, it is about the person who is angry. I guess the only thing I can do is hope that the person who is angry finds it in themselves to let their anger go, not for me, but for themselves.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Lesson Learned from The Bachelor

I was watching The Bachelor last night (don’t even start, I know it's trash television, but it is seductively addictive) and the importance of tznius was driven home to me. For those of you who don’t waste your time watching The Bachelor, let me set the stage. One of the women vying for the Bachelor’s attention, Kimberly (who happens to be a swimsuit model), was taken out on a one-on-one date. She decided against one slutty outfit in exchange for another one that her fellow Bachelorette’s deemed a bit more suitable for an art gallery. Her outfit consisted of an extremely short dress with a very low-cut top and a jacket over it that of course was off pretty early in the evening. As the date wore on, she was very obviously flaunting her body in hopes that it would win her a rose. She went to long lengths to show off her cleavage, rub her body next to the Bachelor’s, and ended up making out in the Bachelor’s bed with him. This, of course, won her the coveted rose and a spot in next week’s episode. The show saddens me for several reasons, but what struck me most about this particular episode was the seeming lack of respect Kimberly had for herself as a person. I am a typical woman – I like to look nice, I love when a guy compliments me on how I look, I put on makeup. It makes me feel better about myself when I know I look good. But I also know that there is a lot to me that is deeper than how I look or “flaunting my assets.” And I also know that a relationship based ONLY on my body and looks is one that is not even worth my time. And that is what I saw last night. I saw a woman who didn’t feel like she could catch the Bachelor based on WHO she was, so she was selling herself based on only her body. And that cheapens who she is. Which is why tznius is really important. Without trying to sound like a Gila Manolson book, tznius does allow a woman to try to project more of herself than just the external. Do guys still look at a woman who dresses tzniusly for her body? To an extent. But they are also given the opportunity to look beyond it by a woman dressing modestly. Do women who dress modestly still not respect themselves or have a belief in WHO they are, rather than what they look like. Absolutely, but tznius does give them a greater chance and a bigger push to work on who they are on the inside, rather than flashing around flesh and hoping to grab attention with that. Tznius is not an answer to superficiality and focusing on external, but it does give one an alternate route to looking at a person. I think it is important for a woman to know that she is much more than just a body, and to force men to look at her in that manner. I think it gives a lot to both men and women to go beyond externals and find what is inside. Because the inside is what counts, even if it is fun to look pretty.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Can Work Be Rewarding?

Is there anyone out there who loves every aspect of their job? Has absolutely no complaints? They are doing what they love, and they don't have to engage in paperwork or boring, menial tasks, or something they just can't stand? And of the people who really love their jobs, do any of them get paid decently? Or is it a trade-off. I met several people this weekend who really love what they do (not every aspect, but most of it), are wonderful at it, are dedicated and care about those who are benefiting from it. But they are making so little money with no benefits that they are wondering whether it is worth it. It is really discouraging to see this. I am stuck in a job that I care very little about, I am working hard at night so that I can hopefully find a job that I find meaningful, but the prospect of it paying so little or having so many aspects to it that I don't like it is a bit daunting. I have always said that people spend too much time at work to hate what they are doing. I hope I can at least find a happy medium somewhere. Right now, while I am getting paid to be so bored that I don't even want to surf the Internet or look at more Frumster profiles (what a fun past-time by the way, there are some real doozies of profiles - Passionate Life will share them, I'm too nice), I hope that at the end of my long haul of school, I won't be disappointed. I just want a job that I care about, where I feel like I am making a difference to someone, somewhere. Is that too much to ask? (Sorry for the rant, I am just in one of those moods, hopefully I will cheer up in time for a much cheerier post tomorrow.)


I had a few really interesting conversations over the weekend, but I don't have time to write about them right now (maybe later). But what I am so excited about is the fact that it is so beautiful out! Everything is blooming and colorful and the air is fresh. It is such a pleasure to go for a walk, and I just LOVE it! Here are some of the pretty flowers that I have been seeing that I thought I would share:


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Don't Count Anyone Out

Every semester since I started back to school, I have had a particular professor teaching at least one of my classes. Because I have seen him on a weekly basis for the past two years, I have gotten to know him fairly well, and have gotten used to his teaching style. He frustrates me greatly, mostly because he is HARD, and he does not stroke one's ego. My lowest grades have been in his classes. He doesn't hand out A's to anyone (in fact, students in his classes very rarely get A's at all). I have to admit though, that I have learned a lot from him, and work harder for his classes than most of the others, because I know that I have to earn my grade, rather than just receive it. He doesn't apologize in the slightest for his teaching style; in fact, he says his job is to toughen us up for grad school. I had a huge test in his class last night. It covered an enormous amount of information that I felt I would never be able to remember. It was tedious, confusing and just incredibly intricate, with very little room for differentiation that would make remembering everything easier. Going in to the exam, I honestly felt that I would fail it. I was a bit upset that my professor would expect us to remember such amounts of information, I just didn't feel that it was possible to do well in such a situation. It didn't seem fair. As class started, before he handed out our tests, the professor got up and read the academic integrity policy to the whole class. He then asked us to confirm that we understood it. After we nodded, he announced that we could use our books and notes on the exam. Wow! What an unexpected relief! You mean, this professor actually has a heart? He actually realized that it was too hard and gave us a way to do well. I was very pleasantly surprised. It just goes to show - people will surprise you, and you can't count anyone out.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My Newest Friend

Due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to upload pictures of my newest friend to share with everyone. But he looks something like this:

(though of course, my newest friend is much more beautiful) One of my friends had a baby boy on Monday, and yesterday I was privileged to go visit mommy and baby. He doesn't have a name yet, but already, I could tell that we are cosmically connected. I am not one to go completely gaga over babies, and to be honest, a lot of the time newborns just aren't that cute, but this one is absolutely beautiful and sweet. He slept in my arms for over half an hour until he got hungry, at which time his mother took over. It always blows me away what an incredible miracle it is for a baby to be born. Just a few days ago my friend was carrying this perfect, tiny person inside of her, and now he is breathing, crying and stretching all on his own. I don't know how people can look at a baby, understand what happens in order for it to be born, and be able to deny that there is a God. It just absolutely does not seem logical that this whole incredibly intricate process evolved on its own, by chance. One day, when I am ready, I hope to be able to take part in this miracle. Even though it is one of the most common occurrences on earth, it is also one of the very coolest. And we shouldn't take that for granted.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Different People, Different Perspectives

I was talking to a friend of mine the other night about being practical versus having a career that pays a living wage. My friend is a social worker who works for a government program. She makes enough to get by, but not much more than that. She has a roommate who is also a social worker, who has to put in overtime in order to pay her bills. My friend's roommate gave up a second job as a store clerk because she wanted to be able to focus on really helping the teenagers she is working with. The store position paid better than the social work position. I was saying that I understood this, because I am planning on spending years and a lot of money in school in order to have a job where I will probably make a very similar salary to my current pay, or maybe even less. Certainly less than I could if I would continue working with my current company, where my boss has told me over and over that I have a lot of upward mobility if I choose to pursue it (though I have absolutely no interest in doing so). We were saying how some people are practical - they go with the money and security. Those things are important to them. To those people, that security and material comfort is meaningful. But to those of us who pursue the helping professions, money is not meaningful. Helping is more meaningful. And the reason why we get paid so little is because we are willing to. Meaningfulness is so different to each person. Some find it in being able to financially support their family, and in being able to buy the newest innovative technology and coolest cars. Some find it in social work or teaching. Still others find computer work that enables us to do things such as blog meaningful. It is sometimes hard to understand what is meaningful to someone else, because it is not our own priority. What is meaningful to you?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Link Day

I have some thoughts of my own, but they are getting back seat to a few links that are definitely worth sharing today. On Brianna's blog, this incredible article that is definitely worth reading. Yes, it's long, but print it out and read it when you have time. Next, this article from Aish.com that expresses how I often feel in my lower moments, and gives a good perspective on our relationship with Hashem. Happy reading!

Friday, April 01, 2005

One Source of My Discontent

Okay, get ready for some kvetching, because I am annoyed. I was told earlier this week, via a man who I was considering dating, that I am not serious about getting married. Why am I not serious about getting married? Because I want to go to graduate school. Now, this irritates me quite a bit. For quite a few reasons. The first reason is because I don't see marriage and graduate school as necessarily mutually exclusive goals, and I am not quite sure why this guy felt that they were. Lots of women go to graduate school while being married and raising children. Many of the people in my school are married and have children. Do their spouses feel that they are not serious about their vows just because they want to pursue an educational or professional goal for themselves as well? I doubt it. The second reason it bothered me is because I don't understand why someone would rather I am stuck in a boring job that I hate than spend a few years pursuing a dream, even if that means that I have a bit less time at home. Doesn't the eventual reward of having a meaningful and satisfying career outweigh the cost of two years of having to focus on my education? The next reason is because I don't understand when this person would have me go to school. Right now I am single, and I feel like it is the best time for me to pursue my education. Maybe it means that I don't have quite as much time for dating, but I would rather take the time now than after I get married and want to start a family. I would rather steal time from myself than anyone else. If that means that dating is not the #1 priority of my life right this second, then so be it. I would assume my future marriage will be happier because of it. Another thing that bothers me, and I hate saying it, because I don't consider myself a feminist, but I do believe it is a factor here, is that I honestly don't think anyone would have made that remark to a guy. I have had these kind of comments thrown at me several times in the past when I mention that I want to pursue educational goals. Who says that a woman has to be only a wife and mother? There is nothing wrong with the woman who wants that for herself, but some of us want more. I personally know that I would not be a good stay-at-home mom, and I would think that my future husband would appreciate my desire to do what I feel is best for my entire family. I feel I will be a better mom if I take a part-time job outside the home. Why would someone not want me to be the best mother I can be? Maybe the person who made this remark didn't mean it in such a derogatory manner. He is at a different stage in life than I am - he already had the opportunity to pursue school and has a job that he is very happy with. So maybe that was the basis for our failure to connect. But I have to say that it bothers me for someone to dictate to me what my top goals in life should be at this moment. Not every woman my age is the same, and not all of us have the same focus. I think an effort should be made to accommodate and understand those of us who are working incredibly hard on our own, to secure a happy future for ourselves. It doesn't mean that I am not serious about getting married. It means that when I do get married, I want to be happy with myself, because I think that will benefit my marriage greatly. And if graduate school is a step in making that happen, I am going to pursue it with everything I have.