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Isn't it pretty?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A-Z Meme

Ok, no one tagged me, but I actually have some time on my hands (which is so weird) and I am still working out other posts in my head, so I decided to complete the A-Z meme, in the hopes of learning more about myself. Here we go... Accent: Remnants of a Southern accent that I actively worked to get rid of so that I didn't have to deal with NYers saying with their jaws dropped, "Where are you from??" Booze: Fruity girly mixed drinks Chore I Hate: Mopping Dogs: Growing up, we had them, and now there are two at work daily - and I am glad i don't have to deal with them at home. Essential Electronics: My laptop. Favorite Perfume/Cologne: Really not into it, I would rather myself and everyone else just smell clean, like soap or shampoo. Gold/Silver: White gold. Hometown: Too hard to say at this point. Insomnia: Horrible and persistent. Job Title: Office Manager, but in school to one day be a school guidance counselor. Kids: None yet. Living Arrangements: Apartment with roommates, possibly soon to change. Most Admired Trait: My capacity to care for others. Number of sexual partners: Nobody's business. Overnight Hospital Stays: None, thank G-d. Phobia: Driving in Manhattan (though I have accomplished it once). Quote: "Knowing is half the battle." Religion: Jewish. Siblings: 3 younger brothers, 3 step-brothers. Time I usually wake up: 6:00 (AKA way too early). Unusual Talent: I drive a stick-shift (I don't think it's that unusual, but others seem to). Vegetable I refuse to eat: Tomatoes. Worst Habit: Being stubborn. X-Rays: Only for my teeth. Yummy Foods I make: Challah and cookies. Zodiac Sign: Saggitarius, but I don't believe in it. Since I wasn't tagged, I won't tag anyone else. But feel free to consider yourself tagged if you want.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Internalizing Tznius

It's been a while (school, Pesach, etc.), but here's my newest at Beyond BT: Internalizing Tznius Enjoy!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Black Sheep

I'm over half-way through writing my final paper of the semester, so I decided that it's time for a blogging break. Over Yom Tov, I spent my time with my friend and her family. My friend's older sister was there for Yom Tov. I had only met this sister once before; she doesn't live in the same town as my friend and her family and doesn't make it home so often. We talked a lot over the chag, we are both working on advanced degrees in similar fields, are similar age and had a lot of similar interests. However, what I observed was that she didn't have so many interests in common with her family; she seemed to be the "black sheep" of the family. It got me to thinking about the nature of the black sheep - is it about difference only, or does it necessarily have a negative connotation as well? I thought about many of my friends, some of whom would definitely be described as the black sheep in their families - but it definitely is not because of any negative association. A lot of my friends are black sheep merely because they have become baalee teshuva and their lives are so distinctly different from the environment in which they grew up. I also thought about those friends of mine who would be considered black sheep who aren't baalei teshuvah. They have struck out in a different direction than that of their upbringing - some of them much more religious than their families, some of them less so. Some of them probably on a similar religious plane, but taking a different direction in other realms. I guess if I have to place myself in some kind of box, I would admit to being the black sheep in my own family. I find it difficult to place myself in that role, however, because each member in my family is very different. In some ways, I have remained true to my upbringing - strong Jewish identity, major emphasis on education, open-minded, non-materialistic. In other ways, I have certainly strayed - becoming religious, moving far from my family, not placing an emphasis on TV and movies that seem to permeate the existence and fill the majority of spare time for my family members. But again, each member of my family is extremely different, so while I am certainly the farthest away geographically, I am not sure I am the farthest in terms of values. Whether I am the black sheep or not, I know that it is difficult feeling this perceived difference and distance from one's family. Often, people will ask me how often I visit or receive visits from my family. The answer is very rarely, which to others often seems odd, but to me is just a part of my life that, while not necessarily easy, I have gotten used to. I think the physical distance is often not as hard as the emotional distance however. I think it's this emotional distance, regardless of how close geographically you live, that causes the gap between family members to widen. The black sheep is often criticized and ostracized; family members don't understand his decisions, constant explanation of personal decisions is required. It's hard being a black sheep and standing out. What does a mistunderstood black sheep do? Some of us move away from home. Some establish a psychological distance from family. Some close themselves off emotionally from those who question their decisions. The lucky ones manage to develop relationships with those outside their families who become their support system. I feel lucky that as a black sheep, I have managed to build an alternate family for myself, and I have seen that many of my friends who are black sheep have also done the same. But that feeling of being a black sheep, of distance, whether geographic, emotional, or physchological, from family is always there, under the surface, lurking. I wonder if there is a way to be different and maintain a close relationship with one's family?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Tel Aviv Bombing "Legitimate"???

This article on Yahoo makes me want to scream. How anyone can legitimize, even to themselves, not to mention the entire world, that a fair response to Israel's "aggression" is to have someone walk into a public place, a food stand, full of innocent tourists, citizens, children and bystanders trying to enjoy a holiday and blow himself up, is completely beyond my comprehension. And to those who say that the Palestineans don't have enough people supporting them, here's another article about how they managed, in the wake of this attack, to pick up another $50 million in funds to help support their terrorist cause. Yes, I did say the "T" word. I can't consider any other word appropriate for such an attack. It seems legitimate to me. While I can honestly say that this news put a huge damper on my holiday, I can't even imagine what it has done for those affected. My thoughts are in Tel Aviv today...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

I was sitting in shul the other day and thinking about this time each year when we start counting the days from Pesach to Shavuos. I really think it's amazing to think of the fact that we, in our own way, reenact our time of accepting our committment to Hashem. I think by doing this annually, it serves as our yearly reminder as to what our lives are about. I am going to attempt to hold onto those thoughts while I sit through the sederim with my friends who have become my family. I hope that everyone else has family or friends to celebrate our freedom with. Next year in Jerusalem!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Death and Dying

I am very fortunate to never have had anyone I am close with pass away. To go further, no one I am close with has had to deal with the death of a loved one when I was a close friend of theirs (I have friends who have lost parents, relatives and other close friends, but never when I was that close to them). A friend's mother passed away recently. She was ill for a long time and my friend had to deal with the situation on a daily basis. This friend happens to live far away from me, so when I heard about the death, there wasn't a whole lot I could do to help. And honestly, I was glad. Which is so selfish. It breaks my heart to think about my friend dealing with such a loss, but I have no idea how to help. Even with the distance, I still don't know how to deal with the situation. I don't know whether to send e-mails and try to reach out, or to just leave my friend alone, not wanting to be a bother. If I was there, I don't know what I would say or how I would act. I feel very helpless when it comes to situations of death and dying. Because there are no words that can make things better. And I feel like if I was there I would just be in the way. I know that in the future, I will probably have to deal with such a situation. I am sure that at some point I will be counseling someone who is going through a similar situation, or I will have a friend (who lives close by) who will go through it. But I have no idea how you go about it, how you comfort someone who is having to deal with the death of a loved one. I feel that one of my personal strengths is being a comfort to others in times when they are in pain, being a good listening ear and being supportive. But apparently it only applies to certain situations. I feel very helpless with this one.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Class Reflections

We had an interesting class last night. The topic was Feminist Therapy. I have written previously about my ideological struggle between Orthodox Judaism and feminism. I have yet to figure it out, and I know that once I become a wife and mother that struggle will probably get even more difficult as I attempt to adjust to new roles for myself, while at the same time trying to hold to those things that I find important outside the realm of the traditional gender roles that many within Orthodox Judaism espouse. I spoke to the class about what it was like trying to balance being an Orthodox Jewish woman and the values inherent within that life, and at the same time, going to graduate school, living in the modern world, and wanting to work outside the home, even when I have children. I acknowledged that I might feel very differently once that time comes, and I also acknowledged that I do see some truth in traditional gender role stereotypes, but again, that I struggle with it. What I didn't say out loud was that I kept thinking about the skirt I was wearing and realizing that, at least compared to many of my classmates, I'm not a feminist at all. Our class dicscussion branched out and touched not only feminism, but also other areas in which people are oppressed - by race, religion, culture. We broke into small groups to discuss - my group consisted of myself, the only male in our class who happens to be white, a white female, and a Puerto Rican female. We discussed our different orientations to racism and discrimination. I reflected a bit upon the fact that my life has changed so much in the years since I became frum. We had to fill out a questionnaire called the "Quick Discrimination Index" which was developed to show how much discriminiation you have internalized. There were questions on it such as "The majority of my friends are the same ethnicity as myself" and "I think it's valuable for my children to go to a school with a diverse population of students." My answers before I became frum would have been very different. I realized that my upbringing wasn't the typical Jewish one. The truth is, it wasn't that typical period. The white classmates in my group both grew up in suburbia and were not exposed to much diversity at all, though the male has branched out a lot since then. But the white female in my group really hasn't. I grew up with friends of all races, religions and cultures. My parents were extremely liberal and open-minded. I never heard a racial slur growing up. While I still espouse that open-minded philosophy, I can't say that I have such a mixed group of friends anymore. I still have a few non-Jewish, diverse friends, but the majority of my friends are other Orthodox Jews. While I know that's normal, it was, and has been, a transition for me. The other thing I kept thinking about was the fact that, in my classroom at my Catholic University, with no other Jews in my class, I do see myself as different. I see myself as "the Orthodox Jew" in the room. That has been my experience since I went back to school - in my undergraduate classes as well. There have always been a smattering of other Orthodox Jews at my school, but never another one in my classes. But what I found interesting was that I was trying to reflect upon the time when I wasn't Orthodox, whether that feeling of being a minority has changed and I feel more different now than I did then. The truth is, the answer is no. I went to a high school in which I was the only Jew - I stood out then, especially being in Alabama. When I was in elementary school, there were a couple other Jews in my school, but I was the one whose parents came to explain Hanukah to the class. I was always different and stood out. It hasn't changed, even as my attachment to Judaism certainly has. And while being different is hard, and it still is hard, I have always seen my Jewish-ness as something special and something that stands out, but doesn't have to stand in the way of getting to know others.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Time Heals

Taking a break from writing my massive paper. I feel like I am in good shape now - over half-way done and a whole three more days before it's due! And I always maintain that starting is the hardest part - once I start writing, it generally flows pretty well. I just wish this was my last big assignment of the semester, but it is only the first. Anyway, I was driving to the store a little while ago (another break from writing) and a song came on my CD player that used to have major emotional attachment for me. In other words, every time I heard it, I would cry. I had associated it with a guy that I came very close to marrying. After we broke up, I couldn't bear to hear the song, it just hurt too much. I guess I have a song like that for every serious relationship I've been in. It was a few years ago now that we broke up, but I still remember it as one of the extremely difficult times in my life. I was hurt very badly, and in a lot of pain for a long time. So it was interesting to me today, when the song started playing, that it didn't make me sad. It didn't hurt to hear. I actually could laugh that I was once in so much pain. Because time has give me a lot of perspective, and I have grown and changed so much in that time, that I look back and am now thankful that things didn't work out, rather than feeling hurt by the experience. It's incredible how much time heals wounds, and changes your perspective on things. In the moment, things can hurt so much, but later you can look back and laugh. I just wish it was easier to do the laughing at the same time as the hurting, because it seems that would be easier. But I do know that the pain that you go through leads to growth, and it's that growth that allows us to laugh. It's a process that we have to go through sequentially. There are so many cliches that we say to try to help our friends who are hurting - "time heals all wounds," "that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger," and "life goes on." It's not always easy to hear these things, but they are true. The hard part is working through it all to get to the point where you can hear that song and laugh.