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Isn't it pretty?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I don't have words to express how I feel about what's going on in Israel right now. Even though I don't have words, I still wanted to post something, just to show how important I think it is for us all to have Israel and those who are fighting, and captured, and scared, in the forefront of our minds and at the tops of our list of those to pray for. Other bloggers like Jameel and Ze'ev do a much better job than I can at keeping you posted about what's going on, so please stay tuned to their blogs, and pray a lot. Update: I'm not ignoring the comments, but I just don't have words to respond. At the excellent suggestion by the writers of the JBlogosphere, I've added the "Always thinking of Israel" icon on the right, to show that my thoughts, prayers and concern are in Israel these days.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


"Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot." Pirkei Avos 4:1 I was chatting with someone yesterday who recently got engaged. He was giving me all sorts of suggestions of shadchans to contact in order to find a guy (which I don't really do, which I attempted to explain to him, to apparently deaf ears). At one point, he said to me, "I'm just so happy, I want other people to feel this way." He was very sincere in wanting to help, and wishing that I would find the happiness that he has, and I did appreciate that. His intentions were definitely good. But on reflection, I realized I was getting annoyed because of the insinuation that I couldn't possibly be so happy if I hadn't yet found my bashert. I often feel a bit of irritation when people start desperately suggesting tactics for me to find a guy. Or when they find the need to mention that they hope I get married soon. The emphasis put on marriage as the standard path to happiness bothers me. Because I am happy. Yes, I would like to be in a relationship, married, sharing my life with another person. But I also appreciate what I have now - wonderful friends, a job that I can live off of, and school that I love and is heading me in the career direction that I want to go. I have lots and lots of people who love me and fill my life, and honestly, that's the most important thing to me. I think focusing on the things that we don't have is a recipe for unhappiness. So many people have so much, but all they want is more, all they can think about is those things in life that people, and themselves, tell them they should have that they don't currently. And it causes so much negativity and despair. Again, I'm not saying that people shouldn't want to get married - of course you should. But you should also accept what Hashem gives you in the time He gives it to you. And you should enjoy and make the most of every moment that you have, rather than cursing and pleading for what you don't. I have a friend whose sister was a bit older when she got married. She told me that her sister decided that with each date, rather than getting upset that she wasn't married, she was going to go into it with the mindset that she would at least learn something from each guy she went out with. If he had an interest in fishing, then she would learn about fishing. In this way, she would appreciate what she could take from each encounter along the way without feeling like it was a waste of time unless it culminated in her ultimate goal. So, I am happy with what I have, even if it's not yet marriage. I don't think I, or others, should look at my life, and feel that I am missing something. Because I have so much, and I am abundantly thankful for all those gifts Hashem has given me thus far. I am happy with my lot, and according to Pirkei Avos, that makes me rich. I agree. Update - Apparently not everyone agrees with me... (not that I'm shocked by that)

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I've spent the past week and all of today researching and writing a paper on attachment and the lasting effects it has on a child. (If I start writing this post with citations, it's because I'm still in APA mode.) As with most situations that affect humans, there is no direct cause and effect relationship to be seen in every single case. However, there is significant research to indicate that the health of the primary caregiver in the first year of an infant's life makes a large impact on a child, possibly for the rest of their life. I read research that suggested that children who experience insecure attachment in the first six months are handicapped emotionally when entering school and beyond. That the mother-infant relationship (and I'm not trying to politically incorrect here, the research I read focused almost solely on the mother-infant relationship, very few male caregivers mentioned at all) has significant impact on that infant's ability to handle conflict, to be autonomous, to feel secure in new environments. What disturbed me even more were the descriptions of children who got mixed messages from their mothers and developed disorganized attachment. Many of these children failed to bond to their mothers and had great difficulty bonding or having the ability to appropriately interact with peers and others who came into their lives. Now, the research I read didn't discard innate personality characteristics that are evident in children since birth. There do seem to be some tendencies that children have ingrained in them, and these often can impact both the way the caregiver responds to them, and how they end up interacting with others later in life. Though the whole things makes me wonder about the chicken-egg argument, and while I know you can't discard the fact that some parents do have more difficulty than others with the ability to be secure and nurturing caregivers, I think some children are more difficult than others to properly nurture as well. It's scary to think about what an impact you have on your children, especially during such a short time period of life. In watching friends with their infants in the first year, I have seen such different parenting styles, with vastly different outcomes. But when I think about the lack of sleep and the stress of adjusting to being a new parent, and trying to juggle that with the ability to properly nurture an attachment relationship with an infant, it seems a bit overwhelming. Again, my research did indicate that there is hope for those children who have insecure relationships during the first year - it's not an all or nothing deal, and relationships are not unrepairable, but it does make it much harder. I've never given that early relationship with a baby so much thought. I always considered a working mother to be normal, and couldn't really conceive of staying home with my children. I still don't know if I'm cut out to stay at home with my kids, but it does make me realize how important those first few months are, and how the more time and nurturing you do give your infant, the better it probably is for them. And it also makes me want to work on being the most emotionally healthy I can possibly be before having children, so that I don't pass my own issues on to them, so that I can give them the best start possible. Life is hard enough as it is without being handicapped from the beginning. I'm glad I did this research now, so I can work on nurturing my nurturing abilities.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Wedding

Tuesday night was the wedding of one of the most special people I know. After missing her engagement, there was absolutely no way in the world I would miss her wedding. I drove down to Baltimore on Tuesday with an hour to spare before the festivities started, and came back up to New Jersey yesterday bright and early. I would have liked to have spent more quality time with everyone, but school calls. The only complaint I had about the wedding was that I just didn't have enough time to see everyone. I hadn't been down to Baltimore in quite some time, so I wish I could have stayed for a few days to really get the chance to visit around and see everyone. The great thing about the wedding is that a lot of the people I love were there for me to see. Seeing everyone made me really, really miss Baltimore. I made a pact to come back during July for a whole weekend so I can really catch up. I got to dance with my favorite almost five-year old, who greeted me with a huge hug when he saw me. I caught up with some of the wonderful families who used to have me for Shabbos. I saw the niece of a friend, the sister of friends, cousins, parents and a jumble of others who I had a blast catching up with. And the family of the bride - as always, they made me feel like part of their family. Having been around for a few years now, I have met much of the extended family as well. I was greeted with huge hugs and kisses and made to feel like an honored guest. I was invited by each family member separately for the "family" brunch the next day, but unfortunately I had to leave too early. And the kallah, who I love as much as if she was my own sister. She was beautiful, of course. I had tears in my eyes from the bedecken through the chuppah and then again when I had to leave, because I just love her so much. Since the first time I met her, the incredible chesed and caring of her huge heart has just shone through. I danced up a storm with her and couldn't stop smiling watching her be so happy. I'm sure the dresses and flowers and chuppah and food was all beautiful as well, but I can't say that I noticed that much. What I did notice was the warmth and love in that room, how there were so many people there who love that amazing family. I wish them simcha after simcha and hope to share in their happiness as I have done for the past four years. I'm very fortunate to have such special people in my life.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Latest at Beyond BT

I'm officially a Jew Jersian (or whatever they call themselves). I have New Jersey license plates (though they aren't yet attached to my car) and a New Jersey driver's license. And it only took me 10-1/2 months and 35 minutes standing at the station for them to figure out how to tranfer my title over. I didn't know what to tell the guy who asked me what crazy thing I was thinking to move up here. I just shrugged. Will have lots to read, probably tomorrow about the beautiful wedding I attended in Baltimore last night. For now, check out my latest at BeyondBT: More Lessons from Psychology

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Important Papers Box

After almost a year in New Jersey, I decided that it's time to make it official - I am going to get my New Jersey driver's license and plates for my car. (Okay, this wasn't such a decision on my part, it was more about the fact that my Maryland plates are about to expire, so I have no choice). New Jersey requires all kinds of documents in order to make this change, so this morning when I woke up at my usual annoyingly early hour, I decided to try to find them. I'm not the most organized person in the world, but I do keep documents that I feel might be of significance in a file box I call my "important papers box." This is where I deposit insurance records, tax returns, and thankfully, the title for my car. My "important papers box" had a couple file folders in it; unfortunately they are neither labeled nor utilized, they are just in there hanging out with the rest of my stuff. Going through that box made me feel like I was going through my past. Every time i go through it, I realize that I have forgotten what I keep in there. Not only official documents, but also the sentimental items that I haven't wanted to discard over the years. Having moved so many times, I've been forced to limit my repository of meaningful cards and photos, but in that "important papers box" I found quite a few this morning. I discovered cards from old bosses who were sad to see me leave over the years. I found a card from my mom for my college graduation last year. I stumbled upon a little cat pin that the receptionist at my job in Atlanta gave me, just because (I really should e-mail her to see how she is doing). I unearthed pictures of me and my brothers spanning the years during my annual visits to Alabama (and those great Niagara Falls shots that I remember fondly from a July 4th not too many years ago). Some letters and more cards from friends, souvenirs from good dates, my passport (which I need to get my new drivers license). Lots of little mementos from years past - it's really amazing what I have managed to stuff in that box. I realized that the box, while not so big physically, is gigantic with memories of my life and years past. I didn't think I was sentimental, but I guess I really am, it just stays hidden in that "important papers box." I think the treasures inside are much more important than my insurance records - they are my life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

One of My Least Favorite Topics

We did another exercise in class last night, this time focused on one of my least favorite topics - homosexuality. It's not one of my least favorite topics because I'm uncomfortable with the concept, or because I am homophobic, or even because I don't feel that it should be addressed. It's one of my least favorite topics because I am so conflicted about it. My professor had us close our eyes as he led us through a guided imagery. We were all to imagine that we were heterosexual in a predominantly homosexual world. Heterosexuals were known derogatorily as "breeders," children were taken from heterosexual homes to be placed in safe homosexual homes, heterosexuals had to hide their sexual identity from their friends, families and co-workers. Throughout their teenage years, when watching TV with friends, a sense of isolation and being different was felt when all your friends got excited at seeing someone beautiful of the same gender, and you didn't feel the same way. When insults and slurs were thrown across rooms in regards to your heterosexuality, they weren't corrected, because no one would think it offensive - no one knows that you are heterosexual, because it's not something you wear on your skin. You have to hide the gender of your "partner" from your co-workers; when something dire happens to your partner and you want to visit them in the hospital, you aren't allowed to - only immediate family can go in. It was a really powerful exercise; the point of it certainly struck home. I was almost in tears imagining what it would be like growing up with such an orientation - always feeling different and separate, not understanding what the majority was feeling when discussing attraction. The sense of alienation and loneliness that it can cause. Now, the situation is certainly better today than it has been in the past, but I can imagine that it's still incredibly difficult to live as a homosexual and not feel some sort of separation and misunderstanding. As someone who hates to see others in pain, my heart goes out to such a difficult situation in life, and I honestly wish things were different; maybe one day they will be. But again, why is this one of my least favorite topics? And why was I so uncomfortable in class when our professor went into further detail about the gay identity model that has been developed? Because of Orthodox Judaism's, i.e. the Torah's, i.e. Hashem's harsh decree for homosexuality. From the gay men (I honestly don't think I have been close to any lesbians) I have known, I honestly don't believe it's a choice. I think it is something that is inborn. But if it is, then why would Hashem make this natural desire something that is a horrible, punishable by death, act? I've had many discussions over the years with different people, and I can't figure it out. It's something that really bothers me. Because I'm not ready to abandon the Torah over it, but I also can't deny what seems to be nature. So I struggle with the topic. I feel incredibly fortunate to not have to deal with it personally. And I sat in class last night, as our professor discussed counseling students who are in the process of identifying themselves as gay, knowing that when I actually have to deal with students in this stage, which I am sure I will, I will be torn between my religious values and making a student feel he or she is fine and normal and encouraging them to take the steps towards that gay or lesbian identity. I'm torn, I don't know if I ever will work this one out.

Monday, June 12, 2006


We did an exercise in class the other day that is centered around privilege. Our instructor read a list of questions, and with each one, people had to take one step forward or one step back. Questions like, "If your parents told you that you could do anything, take one step forward." Or "if you ever missed a meal because your family didn't have enough money to eat, take one step back." I had engaged in this exercise before - in a camp that I worked at focusing on diversity awareness. It was an extremely powerful exercise and evoked strong emotion as the gap between the participants widened. Doing it in class reminded me of those strong emotions, and made me reflect on the difference between completing the exercise with a diverse group of high school students from all corners of Alabama and completing it with fellow students in a graduate program of a private university. Many of us, probably most of the people I am well-acquainted with, take the privileges we have for granted. I know I often do. We don't think twice about having the opportunity to go to college if we want to. We certainly don't think about where our next meal is coming from, or if we will have money to pay our electricity. Even through our hardest times, things aren't so bad that we have to fight for our very survival. The exercise made me reflect on those privileges - the fact that while I don't have an all-expense paid ride through college, I am able to do it regardless, that no one has really ever stood before my dreams and told me I couldn't manage them. I'm sad that there are people who live like this - and the truth is, there are many. It makes you take a step back and take time to appreciate what you have.

Career Considerations

I've talked to several people recently about what made them decide on their particular career. I have been struck by how different people take such vastly different things into consideration when deciding what to do with their lives. (Just a warning - I haven't had a lot of sleep, so if this is only semi-coherent, that's why. I have a feeling that my sentence structure is going to leave something to be desired this morning.) I'm not talking about just a job here. My current job I have because it pays the bills - but really, it's not something I plan on keeping once I have the qualifications to do something meaningful with my life (hence the stressful workload of both work and school). But since I was in high school and began thinking about what kind of career I would like to have, I was always focused on doing something I enjoyed, that I would be interested in, or that I would be good at. It took me a lot of trys to figure out what exactly I wanted to do. In high school I tossed around a different idea every week, before deciding on the path of engineering. Yep, engineering. That's the major I started with when I first went to college. Because I was good at math, and I liked knowing how things worked. But I quickly realized that engineering was not for me, I wanted to focus more no people than structures. So, on to psychology with no real career in mind, just a dead-end degree to please my parents. Well, that didn't work out very well as I decided I was sick of college and would be better off just working in an office. (There were other factors involved as well.) After a few years of office work, I had enough of meaningless copying and typing, and decided to finish my degree. While finishing my Bachelor's I tossed around a lot of ideas before deciding on my current path of School Counseling, because I like the educational environment, I want to help kids one-on-one, and let's face it, school hours are great (summers off - woo hoo!). At no time was I practical about financial realities, did I consider the desires of my family (or even future family) or did I think about whether I would be able to find a job once I finished my degree. I'm not the practical type I guess, I always like to say I believe in dreams. So I was surprised when I asked someone the other day, what they would do if they could wipe the slate clean, start all over and pick whatever job in the world they would like to do. The answer - work for their family, doing whatever was needed. This person's family had a good business that made money, it would benefit their family, make everyone closer, so that was the ideal. In asking another person why they chose their field, the response was that they didn't really know what they wanted to do and the field of choice made good money. Why not? I was a little taken aback by all this, because I never really thought about people having such different considerations than myself. I know that some people go after money in their professions, but I always assumed they had some kind of interest in it as well. For me, the meaningfulness and the fact that I will be helping others is what's important. For others, the fact that they would help their families is what it's all about. What made you choose your career path?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Over Shavuos, I was engaged in a conversation about one of my favorite topics - understanding people. The theory was proposed that difficulties in life foster depth of character - that our struggles in life cause us introspect and expand our inner selves so that we can handle and internalize those lessons we have learned from difficult challenges. The metaphor was given of those who have struggled having a deep foundation in the ground, digging deeper with each challenge we face; while those who have not gone through such difficult times starting at ground level. It was an interesting theory. I definitely think that I have learned the most and grown incredibly from the hardest struggles I have faced. Getting through those difficulties were great challenges - but managing to do so always left me on the other side feeling stronger, a little wiser and probably, as the theory goes, somewhat deeper. But as theories go, I feel there must be exceptions to the rule. Can a person be deep without having gone through struggles? Perspective is relative. I don't consider my life to have been terribly difficult, but when you compare the challenges I have faced with others, some of them make my life seem extremely difficult and some of them make it seem easy. But can someone who has, objectively, gone through few challenges be deep? And can those who have gone through major struggles come out on the other end without that depth of character? I guess part of it is how one faces those challenges. If they choose not to deal with them, to avoid them, or not to learn and grow from their difficulties, they can come out on the other side without having gained their deep foundation. But what I wonder more about is if someone who has had life generally easy, can also be "deep." Is depth an inborn trait? If it is, does that predict how a person will deal with struggles - if they will face them with introspection and growth? While someone without that natural depth will not have the natural tools to deal with it? And is it fair to compare depth of character between individuals? How do you measure it? Are some people more deep than others? Or are they just seemingly so at times? I don't know. It's the whole nature-nurture debate, which I have always felt has to boil to a compromise between the two, though I can't ever decide what the ratio of one to the other should be. I have to admit that the theory rang true to me on some levels, mainly because, like I said, I definitely think that my struggles in life gave me the most growth and depth of character, the most understanding of others and myself. But is the same true of others?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I spent my Shavuos in Providence, Rhode Island. I had been there once before for less than a day, so it was time to really experience it. I'm very close with a family who lives there - they have known me since right before I became shomer shabbos, and were actually extremely instrumental in my making that step to become shomer shabbos. Some people you just hit it off with, and keep in touch with. So it was with this family. Over the past eight years, in several different cities, we have managed to keep in touch and see each other on a semi-regular basis. They have really been there for me in crisis, and I have attempted, inadequately I'm sure, to help them out when I could. When I met them, they had two children, the oldest a year and a half. They now have six kids, from ages 10 to infant, all of whom I really love. It was such a treat over Shavuos to snuggle up with these kids, reading them books and cuddling. Because it was Shavuos, I also managed to get some intellectual stimulation out of the weekend. We had several interesting discussions about different topics pertaining to halacha, psychology, history and more. I really liked the community in Providence. It's certainly small-town; I think I managed to meet about half the community in my three days there. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming, I was obviously a visitor since they didn't know me, so I was welcomed openly and warmly. To this Alabama girl, it was a great feeling - I guess I didn't know there were communities in the North with the warmth of the South. Guess I had to travel to New England to find out (though according to some maps Maryland is part of New England). I also managed to have meals with a couple other families that I know there, I felt like an honored guest in each of their homes, and it was great to catch up with everyone and see how big their children had gotten. It was a weekend for feeling at home away from home. Semgirl commented to me about how much I travel. It's funny because I would actually rather be in my own bed, in my own house - that's where I feel most comfortable. But I realize how incredibly lucky I am that on any given Shabbos, Yom Tov, or probably any day of the week, I have friends in many different corners of the world who are willing to welcome me into their homes with open arms. I'm so glad I do travel, and that I was in Providence for Shavuos. I think what I learned most was that I really love this family - for who they are, for the friendship they offer, and for making me part of the family. It was a beautiful Shavous.