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

Isn't it pretty?

Friday, September 30, 2005

Shana Tova!

This is probably going to be my last post before Rosh Hashana, so I want to take the opportunity to wish everyone a wonderful, joy-filled, meaningful Rosh Hashanah spent with friends, family and loved ones. I saw a sign in a window this morning that said simply, "WHY NOT?" And I decided that I want to make that my slogan this year. When I come across something I want to do, I am going to say "Why not?" I am going to chase my dreams and enjoy myself along the way. "Why not?" No more excuses, I am going to really live this year. May the sound of the shofar inspire you to also grab hold of life and yell "WHY NOT?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rosh Hashanah Thoughts

I can't believe Rosh Hashanah is almost here. I know I have had all of Elul to prepare, but it is still incredible how quickly it creeps up on you. I made my New Year's resolution (wish me luck on that one!), I have been learning a lot, I have even written a few cards to those I miss. But I still don't feel ready to stand in judgment. But can we ever really be ready for that? MCAryeh sent an amazing dvar Torah that he heard from Rav Moshe Weinberger of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, Long Island. Here is a small excerpt from among the other incredible thoughts that were shared:

The whole selichot can be summed up in two words: amadnu lifanecha - we are standing before you. The Vilna Gaon writes in his commentary on Yonah, when someone is in this world, he sins, and he thinks he is able to run away from his Creator, that he is able to escape. This does not mean he is off the derech. Many of those "off the derech" are not actually so off. Many people "on the derech" are making hakafot. They don't think about it because they are "frum" people. When a person returns to HaShem, he is called a ba'al teshuva, master of return. What does it mean to return? HaShem never leaves. It means to face Him, open ourselves up to His gift of starting again, being brand new. To face HaShem and say I don't want to run away; I don't want to go in circles. I am stopping and standing before You. When we look at You, we are burned with embarrassment and shame, no matter how big our car or our house.
This concept of standing before Hashem is so scary. When I think about looking Hashem in the face, I do burn with embarrassment, as Rav Weinberger says. For several reasons. Most of all because I know that He gave me so much and with it I do so little. There is always some excuse - I am tired, I don't have the money, I need someone to help. Hashem gave me so much potential that I could be using, and I don't feel as if I fulfill it even marginally. I keep telling myself that when I do such and such, then I will focus on this or that. But I need to stop making excuses and start acting. And then I am embarrassed because of those moments when I am actually angry or upset with Hashem for the challenges He has given me. When I do know deep down that those challenges mean two things - 1) that I have been given the means necessary to overcome them, and 2) that I am meant to grow from those challenges and that I will emerge on the other end a stronger, better person. But sometimes I forget that, and I collapse under the pressure meant to make me strong. Sometimes I get caught up in the negative and forget the positive side of things. And then my embarrassment deepens again when I think about those times when Idefiantlyy go against what I know Hashem wants from me. Those actions I took and times in my life when I actually forgot about what He wants for me, and just focused on what I want. Completely forgetting that they should be one and the same. And yet, Hashem is giving me this chance to do teshuva and to start fresh and anew again. He continues to bestow this gift of repentance upon me, year after year, even though I probably don't deserve it. And that is why I should make this next year one in which I won't be embarrassed to face Hashem. Or I should at least strive to make it such a year. Facing Hashem is scary stuff. I hope I remember the love with which Hashem has showered me when I am feeling my embarrassment. And the fact that His love will never go away. For that I, and you, are truly blessed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Letter to Myself (the other side)

Okay, here is a letter to myself in 10 years from now. It's really incredible to think about what might be in store for my life in the future. And kind of scary. It's also a lot harder to write this letter, because I don't know what is going to happen and what advice I need to get there. But here goes anyway. Dear Me - 37 - wow! How did you get so old? I hope you are still young at heart, and refusing to grow up, because I don't know if I will recognize you otherwise. I assume you managed to find the right one and are married now, probably with a few kids. Don't forget the struggle that you went through to get there, and support those singles you know who haven't managed to do so. Maybe you can even be an inspiration to someone out there who wants to get married and is having trouble. And do everything in your power to help those who are still single, whether it is setting them up, giving them chizzuk or just being a friend. How is married life? I hope you appreciate your husband and let him know that on a regular basis. I hope you also make sure to nurture yourself as an individual (though for some reason I don't think that will be an issue!). Also make sure to work on your relationship, to give in, to be a little less stubborn at times. It is about working together to achieve goals, not doing everything on your own. Two people together can accomplish more than one, use that to your advantage. As far as parenting goes, I wish you luck! Make sure to give each of your children the individual attention that they need. Also make sure to recognize each child's specific talents and desires and nurture those things in each of them. Make each of your children feel special, hang their paintings or awards or whatever is important to them in privileged spots on your walls and fridge and don't be hard on them - be supportive. Even if their strengths are not your strengths, it's okay. And try not to embarrass them too much (I know a little bit is inevitable). Are you really a school counselor now? If you aren't, I hope it is due to the fact that you decided to study neuropsychology, or literature, or philosophy, or whatever other interest you came across on your journey. I hope whatever you are doing, you are increasing your knowledge, helping others and living a meaningful, fulfilling life. You worked hard enough when you were younger - you deserve it. I hope you take time out for yourself, and spoil yourself sometimes. I hope you eat ice cream out of the carton, and encourage your children to do the same after a hard day. I hope you still read great books, and have people to discuss them with. I hope you are still working hard on keeping your spirituality and connection with Hashem strong - you always feel better about yourself when you do. I hope you remember where you came from and those values you grew up with, no matter where you live today. Taking time for others is never a waste of time. I hope you have learned many lessons and grown so much and try to deal with your struggles with equanimity. I hope you still have some of the same friends that you had 10 years ago, and you have grown with them. I hope you still have this blog so you can look back on this letter and read it. And say to yourself, "Wow, I really have changed and come a long way." Enjoy life! Sincerely, Shoshana at 27

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Letter to Myself

The Rabbi's Kid started a trend by writing a letter to himself in 20 years. I was quite intrigued, so below is my letter, except this one is to myself 10 years ago, imparting those life lessons I wish someone had given me then. I also want to follow with a letter to myself 10 years from now, but you will have to wait for that one. It was interesting, in thinking about writing this letter, I realize that a LOT has happened in the last 10 years. At 17, I would never have had any type of inkling that my life would turn out the way it has. It makes me really wonder what the next 10 years will be like. Anyway, here we go: Dear Shosh – It’s been 10 years since you graduated high school, and congratulations! You finally graduated college as well. I bet you have no idea at the moment how hard it will be and the journey that is ahead of you, but you have quite a ride in store! The next 10 years aren’t going to be easy. You have a lot to go through, a ton of changes to make, a new person to become. I don’t want to ruin it for you, so I won’t tell you what happens, but you should know that you will emerge on the other end, no matter how hard it is and how much you struggle. Just remember, the times that are the hardest, are honestly the ones from which you will grow and learn the most. It hasn’t failed to happen yet. Here’s what you should know to help you on your journey: - First of all, more than anything else, believe in yourself. You have within you what it takes to make it through. Your instincts are actually fairly decent, but you have to follow them and stick to what you think is right. - Follow your heart. It knows better than other people what your dreams and passions are. Again, listen to yourself. - Learn from everyone and everything – there is so much out there. You are going to meet so many amazing people in your life, and they will all be different and interesting and you can learn tons from each of them. Don’t count anyone out. - Take time for yourself, spoil yourself a little, life has to be grabbed. Make the most of every day. Don’t get too caught up in your responsibilities that you don’t enjoy yourself. - Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one expects you to be perfect. Others will forgive the mistakes you make much more easily than you do. You are a good person and you should value yourself and believe in yourself more. - Education is important, but you have to enjoy it. Only do it when you are ready, or else you are wasting your time. - Sometimes it’s okay to let people go. It hurts, and you don’t want it to happen, but it is a part of life. You learn what you can from them and then move on. People come into your life for a reason, and sometimes it isn’t a lifelong one. Don’t forget the lessons learned and the times shared, but it is okay to let them go. - Both appreciate and proliferate the little kindnesses in life. Thank people and tell them how much their acts mean to you. Remember the acts you do for others as well, because it means a lot to them also. - Don’t hold your feelings so tight inside. It’s okay to tell people you love them and appreciate them. It’s not easy for you, but it gives such rewards. - It’s okay to accept help and depend on others during difficult times. You don’t have to do everything on your own. People really will be there for you, sometimes even those you least expect. Be there for others as well. In general, believe in yourself and dare to be true to who you are, even if it’s not what others want for you. You know yourself better than anyone else. Can’t wait to meet you in 10 years! With much love, Your 27-year-old self

Monday, September 26, 2005

Shoshana's Excellent Adventure

was rescheduled, due to unforeseen circumstances, also known as weather. But it was supposed to go something like this: My friend and I were psyched for a day of skydiving, but Hashem had apparently planned for us to go out to dinner instead. We rescheduled for two weeks from now, so on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we will hopefully enjoy flying through the sky. Anyone want to join us? It was a full weekend, nonetheless. I went to selichos Saturday night/Sunday morning. We went to a shul I had heard wonderful things about, but hadn't yet set foot in. It really had a warm atmosphere about it. I think I could enjoy davening there, which would be nice, since I have had trouble for a long time finding a place I like. There weren't many people at selichos (which I actually really like), possibly because this shul had the latest starting time, but those who were there managed to set a spiritual atmosphere. I tried to really feel the words I was saying, tried to set myself up for the upcoming week before Rosh Hashanah. I was trying to think about what I did last year for selichos, and I honestly couldn't remember (but I know someone who probably does). It's amazing how much can happen in a year. Last year I was in Baltimore starting the last year of my Bachelor's program. This year I am in New Jersey, starting my Masters. But it's much more than that. I feel like a different person this year. I feel like my priorities have changed in many ways, and my experiences this year have caused me to grow, at least I hope. I have a lot of different people in my life this year, and I have been through some big struggles. And I am still struggling with a lot of things. But I guess I am glad to say that I am a different person than I was last year. Stagnancy is not what life is about. I do feel, at the very least, that this past year I have managed to focus on living life more fully, on nurturing those things inside me that make me a stronger, healthier and more complete person. I think I have done a lot of introspection this year to figure out what makes me tick. (Even though I still confuse myself in many ways.) Skydiving would have been a great adventure, and hopefully will be in a couple weeks. But one jump from a plane can't really compare to a whole year of really living life - the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. So, I would like to say that my whole year was my excellent adventure. And I look forward to the start of a new one!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Goodbye NIMH

This is NIMH. Last night at about 11:00, he appeared in my bedroom and nonchalantly crossed the room and crawled into my closet (he is crouched in the back of my closet in the picture). The next hour proved to be quite an adventure. I have to admit that he is pretty cute and harmless looking. For two reasons, I felt the need to capture him however. The first reason was, I do have a cat (at least for a little longer). Unfortunately, my cat is really bad at catching mice. But he is good enough to corner the mouse and scare him and I felt quite bad about that fact. I felt that both the mouse and my cat would be much happier if the mouse was not in my apartment. The second reason I wanted to capture him was that I was just not incredibly comfortable with the idea of NIMH wandering around while I was sleeping. I have heard that mice get bolder when the lights go out and I didn't really relish the idea of him deciding that he needed to explore my bed while I was in it. So after watching NIMH crawl into my closet, I got down on the floor and peered inside. (That's when I took the picture.) I decided that the peanut butter that was in the traps left by the exterminator just wasn't tempting enough, so I brought out a piece of yummy muffin and left it on a plate for him right outside my closet. My cat was banished to the kitchen and sat outside crying like a jilted lover* hoping for the opportunity of one more glimpse at his beloved desire. NIMH liked the muffin, but not enough to hop completely onto the plate. And when I got close enough to catch him, I realized that the cup I had intended to capture him with just was not quite big enough. I had a friend on the phone with me who suggested using a hand-washing cup, and appreciating the great idea, I hurried to get one. NIMH decided he was tired of the closet, and he ventured out into bedroom and then ran under my bed, which I wasn't terribly happy about. So I let my cat back into my room and he crawled under the bed after NIMH. This caused NIMH to exit from underneath my bed and he then decided to explore the kitchen. My cat, again not being especially good at catching mice, watched NIMH walk right past, coming literally within inches of him. Once in the kitchen, I managed to get the cup over NIMH, a piece of paper under him, and carried out of the house, into my yard, where he will hopefully no longer be chased by cats, and will find a bed of his own to sleep in. Goodbye NIMH, and good luck! *To my friend - the dare has been fulfilled, it's your turn.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

School Thoughts

A few administrative notes before I get into my real post. - I have started a new blog for those little, not full-blown pondering that I have on a regular basis. It's for those things that I don't have enough thoughts about to form into full posts, but things that do occur to me regularly and I want to share. The new blog is Sweet Rose Ramblings. Check it out and help me sort my thoughts. - NIMH has received a reprieve. We managed to convince the exterminator to set traps for him that wouldn't hurt him, just catch him so that he could be returned to nature. I was so glad, because I felt horrible about the thought of such a scared, little, white mouse being killed because of me. - I have a BIG adventure in the works for Sunday. I can't reveal the details at this point, but stay tuned for the full story after the weekend. On to my real post: I have been in school for three weeks now, and I have held back on posting about it because I really wasn't sure at first how I felt about it. I'm still not completely sure. I was so excited about starting graduate school. The road to starting a career that I really want to do - one that will be fulfilling and meaningful, and I will get to help others, students, while doing it. I thought it would be so great to be in classes that really pertained to my career goals and that I would learn so much from. The transition has not been as easy as I thought it would be. At my school in Baltimore, I had a great group of classmates that I knew and hung out with. I don't know anyone in my classes now, and with the holidays coming up, I am scared I won't be able to keep up. In Baltimore, I was in class three nights a week, so I felt really integrated into the school. Here I am only there once a week, so I am having a hard time really focusing on the fact that I am in school and that is what I really want to be doing. There is a group of people in my program who are there a lot and really seem to know each other, and I am jealous of the camaraderie and feel a bit left out. And I feel bad because I know I probably made people at my old school feel that way. I am taking two classes, back-to-back, one night a week. It feels like one class because we have the same teacher, same classroom for both. The classes are an Intro to Counseling set - one on the background and theory behind counseling and one for actually starting to practice it. The theory class is BORING so far. It has been the nitty-gritty administrative stuff that I don't care much about. The history of the counseling association and all the name changes they have gone through. The credentialing process. Etc, etc, blah, blah, blah. The practicum class promised to be a little more interesting. I took a class during my undergraduate years that explored the different schools of thought throughout history that pertained to counseling, and had to come up with my own, personal approach to it, so I am pretty well-versed in the different theories, but I had never had any real opportunity to try it out, except for on my friends. Last night we got our first chance to practice. We practiced for five minutes on a classmate. I know it doesn't sound terribly exciting, but it was pretty cool trying it out. Several of my classmates said they felt incredibly nervous in their attempt. My partner went right to problem-solving instead of listening, and felt she would be a terrible counselor (I reassured her that it takes practice and she would be fine). But I felt really comfortable doing it. And my partner reaffirmed my feeling by saying, during our five minutes,"Wow, you're really good at this!" I know it wasn't real, but it renewed my belief that I am choosing the appropriate career for myself. I know middle-school students are going to be more difficult than my classmates, but it was a start. And it felt good to have a tiny glimpse of my future. For the first time, I really saw why I moved here. I still have my doubts about New York, but not about school counseling. It feels good to have direction.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Channeling My Creativity

Since moving here, I have been feeling a longing to reinvigorate my creative side. Something about this city just brings out the artistic urge in me that has been laying dormant for way too long (though I have subdued it with minor attempts at not painting by number). In the past, I have nurtured my creativity by going through phases of playing with different artistic genres. I have gone through periods of painting, sewing, coloring, needlepoint, making jewelry, knitting and others. Last week, I decided it was time to paint again. I went through a painting phase a few years ago, and loved it. I made a few masterpieces which still hang on my wall (though some dull, boring people I lived with deemed them "scary"). This is one that graces my bedroom wall: I have never really received any formal painting instruction, but I do love doing it. Since my last painting phase, I had kept all my paint and brushes (which I had confiscated from my mother). Last week, I went to the crafts store and bought a few more paints and brushes and some canvas, and the last few nights I have been having so much fun! There is something that feels so good about being creative and turning a plain canvas into a beautiful picture. When I take out my brushes and paints and begin to see a picture emerging, it is such an incredible feeling. It makes me really happy. I don't care much if my painting turns out amazing, but I just like the feeling of putting different colors together and channeling my energy into the canvas. So, last night in order to keep my lonely feelings at bay, I painted. I am in the middle of a painting that with each layer I add, I like it more and more. After painting for half an hour (which I should have been spending writing a paper), I felt more calm, more happy and more at peace. I don't think I am quite ready to quit my day job, but I must admit that painting is a great way to end my day and relax.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Warning: Whining Below

I miss Baltimore. I miss my friends, my school and classmates, my apartment, my routine. I miss knowing how to get around (except when I got lost, but that was always an adventure, not lost) and knowing who to call to find what I need. I miss feeling like I am at home. I have been trying to enjoy myself - I have been staying busy with the friends that I have here. But I miss those people who I used to see on a regular basis, those families that I went to every week for Shabbos, like family. I miss driving my car everywhere. I am going to miss my cat so much next month when he gets his new home. I miss my old school, where I hung out with my classmates every day and we worked on assignments together. Knowing that if I forgot something, or needed help, there were plenty of people for me to turn to or e-mail with questions. Change is always hard. I know that, and that what I am feeling is normal. It's just that when I get an e-mail from a friend who I love, and I know I can't see her right now or go for a walk with her, and she is so supportive and caring, it just brings me to tears, I miss it so much. I know it takes time to ajdust, and soon I hope that I won't even think about it. But right now I just miss it. Okay, whining done. Back to your regularly scheduled, postive outlook.

Welcome NIMH

Last night, I welcomed NIMH into my home. Okay, maybe it wasn't the real NIMH (actually I really hope not), but last night my cat, my roommate and I found a little white mouse surreptitiously hanging out behind my refrigerator. Because I like naming things, I decided his name would be NIMH. (In case you don't know what NIMH is, there was a Disney movie about mice that were experimented on by the National Institute of Mental Health. These mice went on to have some amazing powers from the experiments that were performed on them.) I was always fascinated by Mrs. Brisby and Nicodemus, but I didn't think I would actually get the opportunity, nor did I especially desire, to meet them in my own home. Fortunately, the NIMH that entered my home was devoid of supernatural powers - he was just a sweet, very scared white mouse that probably didn't want to be in my apartment very much. I take full responsibility for the appearance of NIMH. For some reason, weird things like this happen to me. When I lived in Atlanta, not once but twice, flying squirrels decided to take their layovers in my apartment. Those were fun adventures. Especially the one that decided to start screeching at 3 am to be allowed to return to flight. I helped it get it's running start by opening the front door wide and nudging it toward the great outdoors. Unfortunately, NIMH was too scared to flee. Like a deer in headlights, NIMH froze in the face of me and my cat (who was subsequently locked in my bedroom in order to not be more of a menace to NIMH than was necessary). But then he managed to hide behind the cabinet and I couldn't manage to convince him to come out. So NIMH was the honored guest of the evening. Rarely have we had such a small guest. I hope he manages to make his way back home safely.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Central Park in Pictures

I had such a beautiful day in Central Park yesterday. The weather was gorgeous, the setting was beautiful and I had good company joining me for the journey. Since a picture is worth a thousand words (something I am not sure I buy into, but oh well), here are some pictures of my day yesterday: My friend and I started our journey into Central Park with a view of rollerskaters showing off their tricks: We then went in search of a spot we never actually found, but had a great time along the way. We walked up and down most of Central Park, and saw several musicians: After the musicians, we saw a woman who thought she was a statue (and was actually pretty convincing): We wanted to see water, so we wandered down to a pond where people were sailing miniature sail boats. The ducks decided they were jealous and tired of swimming, so they built themselves a raft: Then we took a literary tour of the park. I got to sit in Hans Christian Andersen's (one of my childhood favorites) lap and hear a story: I gave him a kiss on the cheek to thank him for such wonderful stories before moving on to see Alice in Wonderland and all her companions: After walking through my favorite bedtime stories, I found my future home (location is everything): We finished up in Central Park by walking into a kumsitz. We listened, sang a little, and I even got to play an egg in accompaniment. This little girl and her sisters enjoyed the music as well: After all that walking, my friend and I went and had dinner before heading back to our homes. The waiter was having a rough evening, so I drew a picture for him on the paper tablecloth. He appreciated it and had a smile on his face before we left. All in all, a great Sunday afternoon in September. Hope you enjoyed your weekend as well!

Friday, September 16, 2005


Growing up, we always lived in suburban, middle-class, outskirts of small cities. We pretty much lived in planned neighborhoods, my friends and I running around all through the streets, rollerskating, bike-riding, softball playing. In one city we lived in there was a woman who lived up the street from me who gave out candy to all the kids on the block. We were allowed one piece a week, and sometimes we would color pictures for her to thank her. They hung all over her walls. We always looked forward to Easter, because that was when the Cadbury eggs came out - they were the best! (Though to this day I still don't understand why a bunny would lay eggs.) In Birmingham, where I spent my high school and college years, we lived in less of a neighborhood, on a small street with only a couple houses on the block. There was a golden retriever across the street that watched out for us and sat on our porch on a regular basis. We never locked the door to our house (I'm not really sure why I had a key), and I remember leaving the keys to my unlocked car sitting in the passenger seat in our driveway on a regular basis (that way, they didn't get lost). Birmingham is also the kind of place where everyone you pass on the street says hello and asks how you are doing. You make conversation with people you stand in line with, and usually find that you know people in common. Things move slower, but people are friendly and nice, and just don't care if it takes an extra few minutes at the expense of wishing someone well. So, I am not used to the atmosphere of suspicion that I am cautioned to have here in New York. I hate being told I am not allowed to walk by myself at night. I despise feeling scared that someone will steal my purse, or unexpectedly attack me, or just be rude. I have had no bad experiences thus far - in general I find that if you are friendly other people will be also, but I have to admit that my guard is up a bit, just because of all the warnings I have received and stories I have heard. And I really regret it when people tell me I should be more careful with revealing details of my life to others in case someone would want to use it against me. I know it is a bit naive to close my ears and eyes to the things that go on, but I want to. When I hear of the atrocities that happen around the world - I don't want to know about them. I want to help, but I don't want to know that they happen. It is a catch-22, of course, because I don't want to be ignorant and closed off to reality, but I feel it chips away at my idealism bit by bit when I hear things I would not have ever imagined a human being could conceive of. Though I have quite a bit of idealism left, and I don't think it will ever completely disappear, I don't think I would ever let it. I guess I choose my naivete purposefully, but the truth is, I feel lucky that I have it to begin with. I know that I had many things growing up that others don't have, and that feeling of security is chief among them. I am fortunate that I have managed to hold onto it, because I don't want to even think about what experiences it would have taken to rid me of it. So for now, I am happy to be naive, and I hope that my trusting spirit is never completely broken.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

To Strive Through Love

A friend recently introduced me to the book "Horeb" by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch and I have been absolutely blown away by the teachings I have been reading. It's philosophy is something that I am not sure I can even strive for, but I have no doubt that I should. In the Section on Mitzvos, the first chapter is entitled "To Strive Through Love to Draw Near to God." It says, "It was love which God desires to be your highest mission, your mark of perfection, and as an example which should constantly spur you on to further progress...He set Himself before you an a model and said 'Follow after Me in love.'" The chapter delineates examples of the attributes of love which Hashem showers upon us and that we should attempt to emulate - mercy, graciousness, being long-suffering, faithfulness, being true, remembering kindness, forgiveness, acceptance of repentance and remembering good deeds. When I think of all of these attributes and look at my life, I can see that Hashem does bestow them upon us and that following His examples of such would bring a beautiful life, and enhance others' as well. Not always easy to maintain, but very beautiful. But when I think about the fact that Hashem has shown me such love, it seems to make sense only to pass it on to others, rather than hold onto it for myself, and in doing so, I believe that we receive so much also. The chapter finished by saying, "The way again to the benefaction of mankind is through the benefaction of oneself. You must become a blessing to yourself before you can become a blessing to others. You must first cultivate the talents bestowed on you, you must raise yourself, before you can become a blessing to others. This is how God guides you along the path of life, this is how we must understand his injunctions of love." When I was in high school, I attended a camp for students of all different backgrounds, cultures, races, religions, etc. I learned a lot there about others, but even more about myself. At one point during the week I made the statement that you have to love yourself before you can love, or be loved by, others. I didn't think that much about it at the time, but someone else did. At the end of the week, a guy in my group who couldn't be more different than me - he was black, gay, Christian and from the "wrong" side of the city" - approached me and thanked me. He said that my statement had stuck with him all week. That he realized he had to love himself, because he desperately wanted to love, and be loved by, others. Love does truly transcend all barriers, and as Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch points out, Hashem lays down the example of that love for us to follow. May my days, and yours, be filled with love from Hashem, for yourself and for everyone you come in contact with.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Thoughts on Marriage

I have been having a lot of discussions lately about marriage. I have a lot of single friends, so it seems to be a pervading topic. I was talking to someone last night who is divorced. He was telling me how, during his engagement and leading up to his wedding to his ex-wife, he became depressed and knew that he was not marrying the right person. He spent six or seven years married to a woman that he told me he never really loved. He appreciated many qualities about her, and thinks that she is a wonderful person, but he never had a strong emotional attachment and love for her. Hearing this story scared the heck out of me. Why did he marry someone who he knew was the wrong person? Societal pressure, family pressure, not wanting to hurt the other person involved - I guess all of these could be reasons. But seven years and three children later, wouldn't it have been better to stop things before they had really started? It made me wonder how many other people I know who are married feel this way. How many people I know who possibly wonder, though don't admit it, if they made a mistake and married the wrong person, a person they respect and appreciate, but perhaps don't love. I have heard the story before, but with different results. I was speaking with a friend the other day about marriage, and what we are looking for, and how we are scared that the right person isn't out there, but we are more scared of settling. Often I think that I would rather be lonely by myself than be with someone who I knew in my heart wasn't the right one. Because it wouldn't be fair to myself to be with someone I knew wasn't right, and it wouldn't be fair to the other person either. When I get sick of hearing the goal of "marriage" pop up in every conversation, even when not related to the topic of discussion, I question why it is so important to get married. Beyond having children, my friend and I were talking about how being part of a marriage, a partnership, would hopefully enable us to fulfill our purpose as human beings at a greater level, and with more ease. I was saying that I feel like my purpose for this life is to positively affect and touch other people's lives on an individual basis. That is why I decided to go into school counseling - in order to help and give hope and support to children during their difficult growing years. And I had to admit that if that is truly my purpose, then being married could enable and possibly help me do that on a higher and more effective plane. I feel that if I was working as a partner in a team, I would have more support to enable me to touch more lives. I could share the mundane details with someone else, the other person could meet more people that we could touch, we could hopefully be a good example for others of two people who work together and offer a warm home and open hearts to others. I would have more emotional support to help me deal with the difficulties of being in a helping profession. And I would feel like I am offering those same things to my husband, therefore making me feel as if my life was being more meaningful as well. Marriage does make sense in the context of attempting to attain one's purpose in life, and the truth is, I had never really thought about it that way before. So now I know I am looking for someone with whom I would be better able to fulfill my purpose in life,and who I could help fulfill theirs. But how do I know whether someone would fit into that role? Is it obvious when you meet the right one? Does their presence in your life just inspire you to strive for reaching your goals?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Positive Thinking

In general, I find New York to be a bit overwhelming and I have to admit that I am not sure how long I am going to be able to spend most of my time there. But in an effort to focus on the positive, I thought I would throw out the following: - I have not yet gotten completely lost. - The public transportation is nice. I make much better use of my time to and from work while on the bus than I ever did while driving. It has given me the opportunity to start davening again, to get a lot of reading done, and I even studied on my way to work this morning. I wasn't able to do any of that while behind the wheel of my car. - I really like Port Authority Bus Terminal. This morning I decided I desperately need a belt to complete my outfit (and to keep my skirt on). So at 7:30 when I got off the bus, I descended upon the clothing store inside the bus station and in minutes found not only a belt but a scarf for my hair that matched my shirt perfectly. Never in Baltimore would I have found such convenient accessories so early in the morning. The bus station also boasts a post office, Radio Shack, drug store, coffee galore and many other necessities of life. If I ever become homeless, I am moving in. - I feel very free in the city to be myself. I don't feel at all self-conscious because no matter what I do in the city, there is someone doing something weirder. I used to get looks and comments while sunbathing (fully-clothed of course) at Baltimore's Inner Harbor (what do people think those grassy hills are there for anyway?) or for wearing purple finger nail polish (it matched my shirt). I walked past several men dressed as Elvis singing in Times Square today - that is definitely more of a sight than anything I could think up. It is quite freeing, and I have to admit that I feel myself branching out into a bit more funky day by day. It is fun. - There is a lot of kosher food around. I can even get it delivered to my office if I want. That is a really nice change. Okay, that's five positive reflections on spending time in New York City. I still can't believe I am here, and spend nine hours each weekday in Manhattan. As my friend from Alabama said to me the other night, "Yeah, who would have ever thought a little country girl like you would manage in New York?" Well, for now at least, I am managing.

Difficulties in Communication

I got in a fight with my mother last night. As I expressed in my last post, I have been having a hard time adjusting and have been pretty down lately, and my mom managed to add stress and say the wrong thing to me and I just exploded. I told her that our conversation was over and I hung up. After I hung up, I sat there fuming. I was upset and mad and all worked up. I realized I would never sleep if I left it like that; I needed to make things better, at least better than that. I calmed myself for a minute, gathered my thoughts a bit, and called my mom back. I explained to her exactly what I found so stressful and frustrating about our most recent conversation, and our communication in general. I told her how I had been feeling down, and what I needed was positive feedback and encouragement right now - that I just couldn't deal with added pressures and critical remarks. That speaking to her often added stress to my life, which was why I hadn't been in touch so often lately. I told her that I knew that she loved me, and cared about me, and that I knew she didn't intentionally try to upset me, but that I couldn't handle some of it right now as I was dealing with too many other things. She thanked me for bringing these points up and for being honest with her. She acknowledged that I had valid points, and that some of them she couldn't do anything about, but at least she now understood how I felt. She told me that she did love me, and that she was sorry that her actions upset me, but at least now she knew. The second phone call was ended on a much more positive note than the first. Yes, we acknowledged that there are conflicts between the two of us, but at least we are trying to accept them and work with them. I was glad I had made that second phone call and cleared the air. It opened up a lot of pent up frustration and guilt I had been holding on to for a long time. It gave my mom a much better understanding of what I have been going through and what stresses I can and can not deal with at the moment. It also helped her understand why I sometimes get frustrated with her - which is a hard thing to hear but I really believe can help two people in improving their communication in the long run. I hate being caught up in a misunderstanding, and feeling that I have hurt someone, but not really being sure what it was that I did to cause that hurt. Even if it is hard to hear that I have done something to make someone else feel bad, I prefer knowing what it is that I did to hurt that person, and having the opportunity first to apologize and second to try to ensure that it doesn't happen again. I can't do that if I don't know what I did in the first place, and I can't expect someone else to either if I am not honest with them. It's not always easy doing this - being up front and honest about exactly what is bothering you. I think it takes some reflection to figure out exactly what it is that is the problem, and then it takes a lot of tact and the right tone to express those feelings, because if it is expressed harshly or accusingly, it can just make things worse. It's really hard, and it does sometimes backfire. But I think honesty ultimately makes a relationship stronger. What's hard is knowing when to continue trying and when to let it go. In the past, I have had relationships end because I could no longer figure out how to make things better, and I was left with a feeling of unfinished business and loose ends that made me very uncomfortable. I couldn't do that with my mom, she will always be in my life. How much effort should one put into resolving misunderstandings?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Something's Missing

Once again, John Mayer has managed to sum up my thoughts pretty well: Something's Missing I'm not alone, I wish I was. Cause then I'd know, I was down because I couldn't find, a friend around To love me like, they do right now. They do right now. I'm dizzy from the shopping malls I searched for joy, but I bought it all It doesn't help the hunger pains and a thirst I'd have to drown first to ever satiate Something's missing And I don't know how to fix it something's missing And I don't know what it is At all When autumn comes, it doesn't ask. It just walks in, where it left you last. And you never know, when it starts Until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart: Something's missing And I don't know how to fix it something's missing And I don't know what it is At all I can't be sure that this state of mind, is not of my own design I wish there was an over the counter test, for loneliness. For loneliness like this. Something's missing And I don't know how to fix it Something's missing And I don't know what it is No I don't know what it is Something's different And I don't know what it is No I don't know what it is Friends -check- Money -check- A well slept -check- Opposite sex -check- Guitar -check- Microphone -check- Messages waiting for me, when I come home -check- How come everything I think I need, always comes with batteries What do you think it means How come everything I think I need, always comes with batteries What do you think it means As John says, I have been trying so hard to figure out what it is that is missing lately - I just know that something is off and I can't seem to find a way to fill in the hole that I am feeling. I have been keeping busy with friends, I have done everything I can to make my new place a home, but I am still not feeling it. I know transitions are hard, but how long does it take to feel settled in to a new place? I guess I still just don't feel a part of my new community. And it is a challenge that I am having a very hard time dealing with. I was davening this morning, and pouring my heart out to Hashem, because I definitely feel like my connection with Him is lacking at the moment. Remembering that it is Elul, I read Psalm 27, which has always really spoken to me: 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. I know that Hashem doesn't give us challenges that we can't overcome, and I also know that those challenges do make us stronger. I have seen that in my life, and I truly believe that the times that were the hardest for me ended up being the greatest growth experiences of my life. I came out of them feeling much stronger, knowing myself better and believing that I could make it through, with Hashem's help. I am trying to keep this in mind. I am also trying to keep in mind that it's okay to struggle, to feel bad, to have a hard time and to hurt. It's normal. But that doesn't mean it's easy. I have been scared about the impending holidays - I don't feel prepared to stand and be judged. And I have been taking the wrong strategy in dealing with that fear - I have been running in the other direction, trying to tuck my head under my pillow and hide from the decree I feel hanging over my head. Luckily, I still have a few weeks to gather strength. And now I am determined to face it head-on, rather than hiding. As Kind David said, "Hope to Hashem: Strengthen yourself and He will give you courage, and hope to Hashem."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Transcending Language

This past Shabbos was such an experience. I spent Shabbos with my friend and her family in Queens. First off, I have been to Queens exactly once in my life, and it was almost seven years ago, for one night. So I was definitely not sure what to expect. What I found of Queens was that it really was nice - it was residential, and pretty and quite unlike Manhattan. I decided I would be able to drive there, and hang out there without feeling the pressure of the city - the only problem would be getting there, since I have not yet shaken my fear of driving through Manhattan. The friend whose family I was staying with is someone that I met in Baltimore, and I had never met any members of her family before. I knew my friend was Sephardi; what I didn't know was that her family spoke, almost exclusively, Hebrew. And guess whose Hebrew isn't very good at all? Oh yeah, mine. In addition to my friend's parents and siblings being there, who probably would have spoken English to me on a more regular basis, my friend's two aunts and grandparents (who didn't speak English at all) were there for Shabbos. I had thought my Hebrew was decent enough that I would be able to pick up a few words here and there, maybe have some clue about what people were saying. Not really. But as much as I would have expected to feel completely out of place and uncomfortable in such a setting, I didn't. Because the hospitality, warmth and friendliness that exuded from my friend and her family transcended the language barrier. I felt at home there, even though I had only met my friend's family that day. It was just the little things that made such a difference and exemplified this family's hospitality. The fact that my friend's grandmother, having no idea who I was, came up and gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek and wished me a "shabbat shalom." The act that almost moved me to tears was when my friend's father gave me a bracha, in English, after he had give each of his children one. That is always the point in Shabbos where I feel the most left out, and he made me feel a part of the family. I've only experienced that once before. So even though I couldn't take part in the conversation, I really felt a part of the group anyway. The warm feeling that hovered above the table encompassed me as well. I wasn't surprised to find this hospitality, because my friend herself is a wonderful person and always takes care of her guests and makes you feel at home. She apologized to me several times, but she didn't need to - I was made to feel at home like I haven't been in many places where I could speak the language.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Distinguishing Characteristics

I often wonder what distinguishes me from everyone else. I was talking to a friend the other night and he mentioned a particular physical feature of mine that is different from the vast majority of people he knows. (No, I will not disclose what feature I am referring to.) I responded by saying that I don't really feel like I am distinguished from others based on such a feature, that I feel my differences are much more internally based than external. It got me to thinking. The argument that I wanted to make was that if someone had only one arm, no one would define them based on that physical characteristic, but unfortunately, that just isn't true. Unfortunately, everyone defines them based on such a physical characteristic. People do it with features that are less distinctive also. How often do you hear things like, "the red-head," or "that tall guy?" I recall my boss one time sending me upstairs to get something and telling the people I was heading towards that I was a "cute, little, short girl." I guess it makes sense. The physical is the easiest thing to see. But it is funny to me also, because I know that there are times when I try to recall the face of someone I know well, and I couldn't tell you whether they wear glasses or not, or what color their eyes are, or whether they have a large nose. I sometimes have to force myself to pay attention to details like this, or I just don't notice them. But the truth is, it is usually the people I know the best whose physical characteristics I notice the least. I think this is because the people that I have gotten to know well, I do think of them as whole people, with personality, and passions, and eccentricities. I have taken the time to know them inside and out, and it is the inside that I have really connected with, and that stands out to me. After a while, I don't need to know what they look like, it is what is inside them that bonds me to them. Because without what is inside, I wouldn't have the relationship, I wouldn't really know them. So then I wonder what distinguishes me to those who know me best. I hope it is for my compassion and caring. For the fact that my friends know I will take care of them and do whatever I can, whenever I can. That I always offer a listening, non-judgmental ear when they need it. I think I distinguish myself because I don't care what other people think, that I don't care whether I am doing what everyone else is doing; I do what I care about and feel is right. That I hold myself to a very high standard in terms of interacting with others and treating other people, no matter who they are, with respect. That I truly do try to give the benefit of the doubt. I wish I could wear these latter features externally. That everyone could see my virtues, rather than my hair style or eye color (or other features that seem to stand out to some). And I wish I could see everyone else's from the beginning, that it didn't take time to figure people out. Because I don't want to define them based on outward appearance, I want to see the inside. Because that's what really distinguishes a person.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is Romance Real?

I was walking down the street yesterday, a bit lost in thought, like I often am, and I remembered romance. I realized that it has been quite a while since romance and I have crossed paths, and I suddenly missed it. I missed that feeling of thinking about someone at random moments, and the knowledge that they might be thinking of you also. Of having someone who thinks you are great, who buys you flowers or other little things, who gives you attention and makes you feel special. Who makes you feel special - I think that's what I miss the most. Not that my friends aren't great - they make me feel special and smart and helpful. They appreciate me and I know I am loved by them. But it's not quite the same thing as feeling that romance. So there I was, walking down the street, missing romance. But I started to wonder - is romance real? Does it ever last? Because the times that I have experienced it in the past, it was great, for a while. But then it stopped, usually because reality set in. The day-to-day dealings met the utopian, euphoric feelings head-on, and up to this point in my life, overtook the romance. The veil of romance was lifted to reveal all the things that make relationships fall apart - immaturity, incompatibility, inability to see eye-to-eye on things that mattered. But that's just my experience to this point - maybe I just haven't found the right person? Can that romance, that passion, last with someone who you are compatible with? Can you keep it fresh and exciting throughout life? Or does grocery shopping and laundry and taking the trash out necessarily shatter those rose-colored glasses? A friend came to visit me this past weekend and she was telling me about her relationship with her boyfriend of two years. She says they really love each other, she is crazy about him, but they fight all the time. She told me about how when they first met, he would go so far out of his way for her, but now that they are comfortable, it is not quite the same story. It made me a little sad, but I know it's normal. So what is romance? Is it just the heady, intoxicating beverage to bring people initially together? Or is it something more lasting, that grows from infatuation to love? I know what love is - it is that deep caring, really feeling for and wanting the best for another person. But that feeling is independent of romance - I can love many people, without it being a romantic love. Can that real love be combined with romance and made to last? Or does the romance necessarily die when the relationship softens into love? I hope to find out soon.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sparkly Pens

I bought sparkly colored pens yesterday. They are so pretty - I really like them. Why is the purchase of sparkly pens significant? Because I always note the beginning of a new semester of school by buying a set of colored pens (this time they just happened to have glitter in them also). I always anticipate the beginning of a new semester. I think this is the first break from school I have had that I wasn't so bored and antsy by the end of my vacation (mainly because I filled it with big things like moving), but I am ready to start again. I am ready to learn new things, to meet new people and to start on a new path. Because this isn't just the beginning of a new semester - this is really different this time - this is a new school, a new program, and the first steps on the path of the career I have chosen, which is big. And a little bit scary. But also really exciting, and I can't wait. My classes don't start until tomorrow evening, but my sparkly pens are already in my backpack, waiting to take those first notes. Back to school, baby. I can't wait.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Being a Grown-Up

Yesterday, I decided it was time to get my hair cut. I didn't realize what a challenge that would be on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I finally found one place that was open and willing to cut my hair without an appointment. As I sat down in the chair for the woman to cut my hair, the first words out of her mouth were, "So are you in high school?" I was taken aback for a moment; high school is a distant, ten-year old memory for me. I explained to her that no, I was actually about to start graduate school, and that I also work full-time. She was impressed by this and proceeded to tell me her life story about the hippie days and drugs and her manic-depression. All while managing to give my hair a beautiful cut and style. One of her last comments to me was, "Meet a guy, but don't get married too young." I know I look young for my age, but I don't usually get confused for someone in high school. I get carded when buying alcohol on occasion, but I usually feel it is because of those signs that say, "We card everyone." It was funny to hear this lately, because I have been thinking a lot about the line of demarcation between being a grown-up and not being a grown-up. (I am not sure what the right word is for not being a grown-up, "kid" doesn't quite work.) I find that I don't really consider myself a grown-up. Which is funny, considering that I am ridiculously responsible - I work full-time, completely support myself, pay all my bills, and go to school on top of it all. But there is some quality of grown-up-ness that I just don't feel I embrace, not do I really want to yet. I have been trying to figure out what the elusive quality is that constitutes grown-up-ness. I am positive it isn't about age, because I definitely know people who are younger than me who seem to be more grown-up than I am. I am trying to decide if it has to do with being married and having kids - but I know some single people who seem like grown-ups. So that idea doesn't work very well. So I can't figure out what makes one person a grown-up and another person a non-grown-up. Maybe it is a mixture of age, responsibility, having a family, etc. Maybe it is a state of mind, which I don't currently possess. But if it is, when does it switch? And why? I don't know, right now, I am happy being a non-grown up. Maybe soon, I will decide to change...but I doubt it.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Being Normal

My roommate and I have been in search of a third person to share our apartment. In this search, we have come across several individuals who show questionable social graces and/or kind of actually scare us. Apparently, that is why those individuals are looking for a place to live. After these experiences, my roommate said to me last night, "Thank you for being normal." It was funny, because I knew what she meant - she was thanking me for not having major emotional issues and for being able to deal with others in a friendly, non-confrontational, aggressive way. But when I thought about being thanked for being normal, I thought it was funny, because I don't really consider myself normal (nor do I really know what that means). I had actually been a bit concerned that my free-spiritedness had freaked her out a bit, I know that for some people, I can take a bit of getting used to. But she seemed okay with the fact that I named our house after an ice cream flavor, and made a sign to advertise that name. She says that she is pretty random in the way her thoughts work also, so she follows and is not so bothered by the fact that mine jump from topic to topic without an obvious (though of course it makes sense to me) trail from A to Z. I guess it's really funny to be thanked for being normal because I don't even aspire to be normal. I just really want to be me. A good person, and someone who cares about others and hopefully make a positive impact on the lives of those I am in contact with. But my own version of that, not some "normal" model of what society and those around me profess a person is "supposed" to be like. I tried that at one point in my life, and it didn't fit. So I discarded it and started over. The truth is, I love not being normal, and not being like everyone else. I like being unique and feeling like I am being true to who I am, not trying to impress or pacify anyone else by acting like I am expected to. That doesn't mean that I act crazy or out of control, it just means that I make my own decisions, I don't follow the leader necessarily and that I can be happy not being a carbon copy of the model on the most popular magazine. So I am taking my roommate's statement as the compliment that I know she meant it to be. But secretly, I will remember the statement of one of my professors in college, "Normal people are the ones you don't know." And I know that my roommate obviously hasn't gotten to know me that well yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Funny Story

AKA - Why you should be nice to everyone. Yesterday I was walking through the bus station when a man saw me and said hi. I replied back with my own hello, thinking it was a little weird, but not really thinking too much about it - in the South, everyone says hello and "how ya doin'" to everyone else. He then asked me if I lived in New Jersey, and I told him that I did. He asked me which part, and I told him Passaic/Clifton. He told me lives in Jersey City, to which I responded that I didn't know where that was, since I was such a recent transplant to the area. We talked a little about the hurricane situation, he was telling me that he used to live in New Orleans. I told him about my family in Birmingham, and how they had lost power and had a tree down. Throughout the conversation, I thought it was a little weird that this random guy was talking to me, but he seemed nice, and I didn't see any reason to be rude. One thing I have found in New York is that you do see all kinds of stuff, and it actually wasn't that unusual that someone had said hello and told me to have a good day. As we continued to walk through the bus station together and walk towards the exit, I happened to glance at the guy's shirt. It bore the logo of the company that I work for. It then dawned on me. He wasn't a stranger. I work with him. He is one of our landscape foremen, so he is not always in the office; I had only met him once or twice, which is why I didn't recognize him in such a foreign setting. I was so glad that I had been nice to him. Instead of burning bridges or having turned a cold shoulder, I now had a walking companion to work. It didn't take much to be nice, and I am eternally grateful for it.