Monday, June 30, 2008

On driving

I drove on the highway. And I drove on the highway in the dark.

But can I drive over a bridge? And through a tunnel? At night???

After a long bus ride???

Can I drive somewhere new? That is tricky to get to? And that is not Serach and Ezzie's apartment? Somewhere I can't visualize in my head?


I want to and I don't want to.

Help!

Excessive amounts of moral support are most welcome because, kinda, I'm, uh, terrified of this prospect.

Life is a jigsaw puzzle

Wow, lots of posts today. Sorry about that...wait, why am I apologizing? This is my blog, after all, right? Ah well. Still sorry. :)

I thought of this and was inspired to write it. Today is a thinking day.

I think that life is a puzzle. You can interpret that however you want, but what I'm talking about specifically is an actual, physical puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle. It has over a billion, gazillion pieces and, somehow, we - as the Human Race - have to put it all together. Each of us is a piece. As we go through life, we have to find just where we fit in the puzzle. It can take a whole lifetime. First we have to decide what kind of piece we are - a middle piece? an edge? a corner piece?

Then we have to discover just where in the puzzle we might fit. What region? Next to which other pieces?

Hopefully, as we get older, wiser, and more experienced, we also get closer and closer to figuring out just where in the jigsaw puzzle we fit in.

There is a place for everyone. The question is, where?

Funness

I am going on a plane in two days! I can hardly believe it!

Remember this?

Things to do while visiting SJ:

1. Avoid Devil Squirrels
2. Have adventures
3. Have fun
4. Write
5. Have adventures
6. Go driving with SJ (that's sort of intertwined with 2 and 5)
7. Go Parking (when it's sunny and the sky is blue...don't forget to always bring a snack, and to carry boggle on your back)
8. Play Boggle
9. Personal Boggle
10. Watch fun movies

Things to do before I go visit SJ:

1. Clean my room some more
2. Write some more
3. Pack

Hmmm, have I forgotten anything anywhere?

Writing to Yourself

I've been kind of cleaning my room this summer (it's an on and off project) and have been coming across various diaries I kept as recently as my year in Israel and as far back as third grade. Then I thought about this post that I wrote a while ago. Finding things that you've written when you were little is a bit like uncovering a secret within yourself. It's funny to see how you viewed the world as a little kid and how similar yet different you are now.

Here's something I wrote when I was in third grade (spelling and grammar errors kept for fun):

February 5, 1995

Today I thought about how I like being the oldest and how I don't like being the oldest. I like being the oldest because I get to stay up late. (Sometimes.) I get my own room. I get my own new furniture and I get to hold Mavis (my baby brother) by myself. I don't like being the oldest because my little brother and sister (Trademark and Straight Man) bother me alot. And when we watch t.v. they get to watch what they want and I don't. Also on shabas Trademark (my little sister) gets to eat supper befor my father comes home from shool and I don't even if I'm starving.


Okay, this one was an entry for my teacher (we had to keep a journal in class):

February 12, 1995

How come I always have to write in my Journal every friday? Sometimes it's anoying. Maby sometimes I will not have anything to write. If I do that's great. But if I don't then I'll be in trouble. Why can't I write in my Journal every other friday?


Hmmmm. I was shy as anything in third grade but I guess I felt comfortable enough complaining in my own journal. :)

But then, of course, me being me, I kept my journal into the summer when school was already over. This, apparently, was how I dealt with bullies (I was good friends with a girl who used to bully me a lot):

August 4, 1995

Dear Journal,

Today I might go to bossy Friend X's house. I have a plan. If Friend X get's bossy then I'll get bossy too. I hope my plan works.

Erachet


And, interestingly enough, I wrote an entire book in the back of the journal called A Guide Book About Handeling Bullies.

I was a very interesting little kid, I'm discovering.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

When push comes to shove

I've probably already shown this to nearly everyone who reads my blog but I decided to post it anyway. This song really speaks to me.




Also, if anyone has any advice about the post below this one, please share it. Thanks so much.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pressure

Pressure comes from all over the place. Parents, friends, schools, society...

How do you know what you're doing out of pressure and what you're doing because you actually want to? What about what you're not doing? How do you stay yourself while still living up to what others want you to be doing?

I know, it's easy to say - "Live your own life! Don't give in to pressure!" But sometimes that's just not possible, you know? Or just very, very hard.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Making Connections

I really liked this post by Northern Light.

My favorite parts were:

"It's actually GOOD that kids grow up with internet skills; just like other habits that can be deleterious if overdone, they just need to be taught how to manage them properly.

As the coauthor of a book that largely warns parents not to let kids watch TV, I've been in the habit of assuming that children should spend their time away from anything with a screen. While that's still true to a point--I still think TV is harmful, as the content is selected by the provider and not the consumer--I think there ought to be more considered comment not about how MUCH time kids spend on the computer, but exactly HOW they use it."

"
I don't have THAT much time to surf blogs, or, frankly THAT much interest in most of them, but what a luscious little treat I can give myself to peek into some fascinating other worlds now and then. It's not the superficial "all about me" world of Facebook (yuk) but words written from the hearts and lives of people who are consistently fascinating and stimulating."


Just like with anything, there are positives and negatives to reading blogs. There's always an issue of safety - not everyone is who they say they are, not everyone should necessarily be befriended, etc. You have to decide what you want to expose yourself to and what you don't. But at the same time, the internet - and blogs in specific - provides an amazing forum for human connections. We can wander in and out of someone else's point of view, soaking up as much as we'd like before dipping into the opposite point of view from a different blog. We can gain a greater understanding of people - ordinary people with ordinary lives, experiences, and opinions. And yet those, perhaps, hold greater truth than the opinions of public figures. There is the world we're shown by newspapers, television, and politicians. And then there's the greater, richer world underneath - that lived in by the laymen of this earth.

The internet is not something to be feared. It takes a certain wisdom to appreciate it and to navigate it. But once you learn how, it's like a treasure hunt. There's a lot of junk, but hidden among all that are real, amazing discoveries.

I think one of the biggest problems in this world, especially among the Jewish community, is that people really just don't understand each other at all - and many are not even making an effort to. At least with blogs, the words are there. All you have to do is read them - and lots of people are too curious not to, even if they do so without commenting or telling anyone.

I once heard a quote that goes, "When all think alike, no one thinks very much." It's okay to be different from someone else. It's okay to have different opinions. In fact, that's a good thing. Discussion and debate are what make us human. Otherwise we'd all just be robots.

Everyone has a point of view. Everyone has opinions. We just have to be brave enough to share them - and we have to be open-minded enough to understand and respect those of others, even if we disagree.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Things I learned this year...

About life:

1. There are rarely second chances so grab onto opportunities the first time they come around
2. People tend to like you better when you show them the real you, not the you that you think they want to see (see the quote at the top of Ezzie's blog).
3. A good attitude usually draws people to you, a negative one usually pushes them away. People generally tend to like being around happy people, not moody ones (who are moody for no reason - this is different than those who have reason to be upset, in a bad mood, etc.)
4. Don't make assumptions
5. Everyone is flawed. Usually the closer you are with someone, the better you know their flaws. Just because people seem nearly flawless when you barely know them doesn't mean they don't have the same struggles as everyone else when you get past that surface-level understanding. Even people who are brilliant or talented or really popular have flaws and fears and obstacles to overcome.
6. Be cautious, but not too cautious. It's good to think before you act, but if you spend forever thinking, you'll never do anything. At a certain point, stop testing the water. Just jump in.

About me:

1. Usually a good mood and a good day go hand in hand
2. Usually a bad mood and a bad day go hand in hand
3. I definitely need alone time, but I also love being around my friends. I don't even have to be talking to them, but just being in the same room as them gives me the security and warmth of knowing that there are people who care about me and they're there with me.
4. In a similar vein, I don't love huge crowds - especially of people I don't know - but I do love small groups of close friends. Especially if the friends are people I'm really close with, it's like an extended fake family or something.
5. Even though I'm afraid to sometimes, I can pull off being assertive. And I usually feel really good afterwards, too.
6. The less people bother me about things, the more inclined I am to do them. However, there's a difference between being bothered and being encouraged/being given moral support. I love having the latter because it means people care. I don't love the former so much.
7. I'm insanely shy except when I reach a certain comfort level with a friend, and then I can get rather bubbly. I like that side of me and I really liked seeing it come out this year.
8. I love being there for my friends - as an ear, a confidant, an adviser of sorts, or a companion. In fact, I'm happiest when I'm all four. It makes me feel important to them.

Things I'm working on learning:

1. Friends don't desert each other for no reason. Just because I haven't spoken to someone in a bit doesn't mean they've stopped thinking about me or stopped wanting to talk to me.
2. If I want certain results, I really do have to put in the effort. Life isn't as easy as certain classes in school.
3. Know myself. Listen to myself. If my instincts tell me something, they're probably right. Also, I have to stop confusing real instincts with instincts based on imagination.
4. Just because I have no real frame of reference doesn't mean I should put down things that happen to me. If something happens to me that's big, I should recognize it as big, not say, "but I'm Erachet, things like that don't happen to me." On the other hand, don't blow things out of proportion. Something can go wrong - that doesn't make the whole day bad.
5. Related to the first part of 4 - give myself a break. I'm allowed to be upset or scared or both. Just because my world isn't coming to an end doesn't mean I have to keep everything inside out of fear of bothering people. My friends want to be there for me, they don't want me to have to take every little blow - because all those little blows will eventually add up to something too big for one person to handle. A reaction to an issue that's really bothering me is not "eh, I'll get over it eventually."
6. Don't be afraid to talk to people I'm not super comfortable with yet. I'm never going to become friends with people if I'm too shy to talk to them.
7. The more confidence I have in myself, the more confidence others will have in me.
8. I can't fix the world.

Just because I learned these things does not at all mean I've mastered them, but I work on them all the time. And there's still so much more for me to learn...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Adrenaline

Adrenaline. It's the juice that flows through our veins, the energy that pushes us forward, the sweat on our brow, the wheels in our head. Ideas come in a flash - you have to grab them! You have to catch them! Because as quickly as they come, they slip away. And sometimes you want to do something but you just don't have the energy. You know you should be doing something, but you can't find the willpower.

Someone once told my dad that to be a writer you need two things and talent is the second one. The first is persistence. I'm sure that's true with anything you do. Any talent, any ability, any sport, any profession - any activity at all requires persistence. You can have all the G-d given talent in the world but without persistence, without practice, without holding onto that adrenaline, it goes nowhere.

Even within Judaism - how many times does it happen that on Rosh Hashana you decide you're going to be more careful about x or spend more time doing y? How often does that actually last?

Adrenaline usually comes when you're first inspired to do something. But how do you make sure you don't lose that inspiration? How do you hold onto that adrenaline so that you have it always? How do you avoid getting burnt out? How do you avoid giving into the laziness that creeps up, as it always does, and tempts you to just give in?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Erachet's Adventures in Libraryland

Lots of unpacking to do + enormous amounts of free time = shelves organized into library-like sections, including but not limited to:

YA
Literature
Shakespearean Drama
Foreign Language
Humor
Textbook-ish
Judaica

These sections are then arranged alphabetically by author.

For your viewing pleasure (click on the pictures for larger viewing):

Photobucket

(In this photo: YA: The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide
by Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Racso and the Rats of NIMH by Jane Leslie Conly, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane, The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones, Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones, The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones, Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Arabian Nights Entertainments edited by Andrew Lang, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine, The Giver by Lois Lowry, The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Treasury by Betty Macdonald.

Adult: Emma by Jane Austen, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Wieland, or The Transformation by Charles Brockden Brown, Evelina by Frances Burney, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Four Complete Novels: Great Expectations, Hard Times, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Hard Times by Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Wit by Margaret Edson, Joseph Andrews and Shamela by Henry Fielding, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Caleb Williams by William Godwin, The Odyssey by Homer, Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories edited by Irving Howe and Ilana Wiener Howe, Four Great Plays: A Doll's House, The Wild Duck, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Alone in the Forest by Mala Kacenberg, The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston)

Photobucket

(In this photo: YA: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett, Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates by Howard Pyle, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, Falling Up by Shel Silverstein, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers by J.R.R.Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, The Once and Future King by T.H. White, Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Humour/Just for Fun: 101 President Jokes by Melvin Berger, Murphy's Law and Other Reasons Why Things Go Wrong by Arthur Bloch, "Wit" Rides Again by Des MacHale, The Honeymooners' Companion by Donna McCrohan (it came with the TV Show DVDs - my dad is obsessed), The Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents by Cormac O'Brien, Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson, Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster

Foreign Language: [can't type in Hebrew on here and don't feel like transliterating]

Adult: A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre, The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire, Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire, Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Atonement by Ian McEwan, Paradise Lost by John Milton, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Metamorphoses by Ovid, The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, The King Must Die by Mary Renault, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Pygmalion and Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion and My Fair Lady by George Bernard Shaw, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark, East of Eden and The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck, Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Exodus by Leon Uris, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf)

Photobucket

(In this photo: Shakespearean Drama)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cep yor balins


This is the picture on the background of my cell phone. On the bottom of the background it says, "Cep yor balins." This is the PT speak for "keep your balance" (that was the only way the sentence would fit in the screen of my phone).

I think one of the hardest, yet most important challenges in life is being able to keep a healthy balance. It's obvious in things like, say, balanced eating (and, by the way, balanced eating doesn't mean eating salads three times a day. It may seem healthy to eat so many veggies, but it's good to eat yummier other food, too!) but less obvious when it comes to just life in general. Relationships need balance. Work needs balance (which means you should save time every day for PLAY. You know what they say - all work and no play makes you a very boring person! Or something like that). Er, on the flip side, play needs balance. Joking around needs balance.

There's a time for everything, right? Et le'ehov, et lisnoh, et milchama, et shalom, et l'blogging, et lishon, etc. etc. etc. That's all part of being balanced. We need each one, and yet we can't do each one in excess.

To quote some cliche phrase said by someone or other, life is a balancing act. It's like there's this really, really, really long balance beam running through our lives and each person crosses it differently. Some run. Some skip. Some walk with confidence. Others timidly force one foot in front of the other. Sometimes people wobble a bit. Sometimes they fall. But when they fall, hopefully there's a safety net to catch them. Then they can get climb right back up and continue going. And what is the safety net? Family. Friends. Your own self-confidence. I suppose that last one is the most important, though as much as everyone stresses how crucial it is to be self-sufficient and believe in yourself, there's so much value in having people there to help out and give moral support, too. Again, it's a balance. It shouldn't be all your friends and family, yet it doesn't have to be all you all the time, either. Balance. And you, of course, can be there for your friends and family when they go through hard times, just like they're there for you. And for happy times, too. And yet, it isn't good to rely too much on outside help. You have to trust yourself, and you also have to trust that others who care about you will be there for you when you need it. It's sort of like, those who care about you are your safety net so they're there to catch you when you fall and to ease the pain somewhat, but you have to pick yourself up and climb back on board. No one can do that for you - all anyone else can do is provide support so you don't fall even further. Also, I'm talking to myself as much (if not more) as I'm talking to anyone reading this.

Balance is everything. The most important thing to realize is that the better balance you have, the easier it will be to cross that beam.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chessed

The conversation went like this:

Person A: Do you want to go sometimes for shabbos to help people who are disabled?
Person B: Um...not...really...
Person A: Oh, it's totally fine.
Person B: I'm sorry. I know it's horrible but chessed's not really my thing.

Person A then went on to explain that just because a person is either uncomfortable with or doesn't like doing things like Yachad, Camp Simcha, Kulanu, etc., it doesn't make her a terrible person. And just because other people are able to take advantage of those chessed opportunities doesn't make them ten times more amazing than someone who isn't able to for whatever reason. Chessed, Person A explained, comes in many different forms. Helping the disabled or the very sick is one form, but certainly not the only. Inviting a stranded friend for shabbos or yom tov is chessed. Brightening someone's day when he or she needs it is chessed. Listening to a friend in distress is chessed. Helping someone out in any time of need - be it a crisis or just something trivial - is chessed.

The idea that if you don't help out at the major chessed organizations you're suddenly a bad person is wrong. Yes, people who do chessed work like that are incredible and strong, but not everyone is able to work with disabled or sick people and that's okay, too. It doesn't make you terrible or horrible or awful or anything like that in the slightest. It doesn't make you second-class, either. You can be an unbelievably caring, kind, thoughtful person with excellent midot and yet not work for Camp Simcha or Hasc or Yachad. I don't want to belittle those who do such chessed because I have tremendous respect for them, but the attitude that you must work for those organizations in order to be an amazing, caring person is ridiculous. This is something I've been struggling with for my own self-image and I've finally come to terms with it. I used to think there was something wrong with me that I wasn't drawn to going to Yachad shabbatons in high school like the rest of my grade was or that I did not at all look forward to nursing home trips. But now I realize, perhaps that form of doing chessed is not my strength, but another form may be. And that's true for everyone.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Breaking free

In life sometimes you can tend to feel "stuck" doing things you really don't want to be doing. And as much as you know you shouldn't be doing them, you can't seem to stop. Whether it's wasting too much time watching TV, leaving everything for the last minute, getting too caught up in your own anxieties, or even something more serious than any of those, I'm sure everyone's experienced some sort of "stuck-in-a-rut" feeling, probably more than once.

The crazy thing is that when you're stuck, it's terribly hard to get out, but once you do get out, it's one of the best feelings in the world. It's terrible to feel trapped inside something and it's even more terrible when part of your brain is screaming, "get out!" and yet the rest of you is reluctant to do anything about it because it's easy to stay where you are or it feels good or it provides you with something you didn't have before. But whenever you do something to excess or something that makes you feel kind of uncomfortable and your brain starts telling you to get out, the most important thing to remember is to listen to yourself. You always do know what's best for you, even if you try to ignore it or even if you manage to convince yourself otherwise.

I know this is so much easier said than done - aren't most things? But it's important to recognize this issue all the same, even if it's not so easy to follow. Sometimes you need help from your friends and that's okay, too. I know I used to hate being helped. I felt like I had to do everything myself or else it wasn't really my own triumph. I'm starting to get over that. And sometimes friends help you out when they don't even know. This is happening to me, too. And maybe you're helping out a friend and you don't even know.

It's always so important to listen to your friends and also to listen to yourself. Your friends (should) have your best interest in mind and you, of course, have your own best interest in mind. It's easy to delude yourself into thinking you know what's best based on what feels the best, but you always do know what's really best if you make an effort to look deep inside yourself. It's hard, but it's possible. Overcoming challenges is possible. Climbing out of ruts is possible. Finding your way is possible. I'm learning this and I haven't even had the world's worst ruts to climb out of. But let's just say that Jblogging has helped me probably in more ways that it knows (er, and by that I mean, all of you jbloggers).

Anyway, remember - bloggers never say die!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Point of View - Stepping Out of the Box

As a writer, a blogger, or just as a thinking person, I find myself constantly seeking various sources of inspiration. At first, it seems overwhelming. I don't want to over-think and over-analyze because that always feels somewhat false. I don't like to make things bigger than they actually are - or bigger than I perceive them without trying too hard, anyway. But I found that when I let my mind weave in and out of the images around me, they themselves offer inspiration. It's like a different way of looking at things - not deeper, not making anything bigger than it is, just looking at them from a different angle.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, in a scene between Milo, Tock, and a curious boy named Alec who grows down instead of up (his head is always at the height he will be when he is fully grown and his feet grow towards the ground, so as a boy he walks in the air) explains it like this:


"Everyone should have his own point of view."
"Isn't this everyone's Point of View?" asked Tock, looking around curiously.
"Of course not," replied Alec, sitting himself down on nothing. "It's only mine, and you certainly can't always look at things from someone else's Point of View. For instance, from here that looks like a bucket of water," he said, pointing to a bucket of water; "but from an ant's point of view it's a vast ocean, from an elephant's just a cool drink, and to a fish, of course, it's home. So, you see, the way you see things depends a great deal on where you look at them from."


Then, the epitome of seeing things from a new angle - when Milo and Tock think they are lost in the forest and are told to go ask the giant for help:


Milo and Tock walked up to the door, whose brass name plate read simply 'THE GIANT,' and knocked.
'Good afternoon,' said the perfectly ordinary-sized man who answered the door.
'Are you the giant?' asked Tock doubtfully.
'To be sure,' he replied proudly. 'I'm the smallest giant in the world. What can I do for you?'
'Are we lost?' said Milo.
'That's a difficult question,' said the giant. 'Why don't you go around back and ask the midget?' And he closed the door.
They walked to the rear of the house, which looked exactly like the front, and knocked at the door, whose name plate read 'THE MIDGET.'
'How are you?' inquired the man, who looked exactly like the giant.
'Are you the midget?' asked Tock again, with a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
'Unquestionably,' he answered. 'I'm the tallest midget in the world.'


And so on and so forth - the fattest thin man, the thinnest fat man, etc. The point is - the way you see things all depends on how you look at them. If you look at them in a straightforward manner, only from the front, you'll only see them in one light. But if you manage to look at them from the side, from the back, from the top, from underneath, from inside out...that's when you'll find that things are generally not stuck in one interpretation. There's always another way to see them. You just have to let yourself.

This goes for objects and ideas but, more importantly, it goes for people. Someone may seem one way, but if you try to understand where they're coming from, they may seem another. And if you try to understand them from the perspective of one of their friends, you may understand what that friend sees. The most difficult exercise is trying to look at yourself from the point of view of someone else. You may see yourself in a whole different light - and that can be scary. Scary, and yet, extremely revealing. It may help explain misunderstandings. It may help clarify why a friend feels a certain way. It's easy to see ourselves from our own points of view. I think to really know yourself is to also know how you come off to other people. True, it isn't good to judge yourself based on other people, but I think it's important to know what other people see when they see you. After all, we live in a social world. We interact with people all the time. We have to. To understand others, to understand yourself, and to understand the world, it's sometimes vital - and very interesting - to take a step back and view things from the outside. Out of the box.

Harper Lee describes this beautifully in To Kill a Mockingbird (which also happens to be one of the best books ever) when Scout is standing across the street from her house:

I turned to go home. Street lights winked down the street all the way to town. I
had never seen our neighborhood from this angle. [...] Atticus was right. One
time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk
around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.


A couple of years ago on Purim, I remember bringing shalach manot to a family across the street from mine. As I turned to go home, I had the same experience as Scout. In my family, we don't generally venture across the street because we aren't friendly enough with those neighbors, so I couldn't remember seeing my house from that perspective before. It was like looking at a different house. I felt a stranger to it - like I was looking at someone else's private place instead of my own.

It's freeing, in a way, to look at things from outside of our own self-created boxes. The world becomes a completely different place. People become different. Your own role in the game of life is different. It's new and exciting and adventurous. It's fresh.

Seeing things in a new light is what gives me inspiration. It's what helps me write. It's what helps me describe things. And it helps me try to understand people and their motivations and emotions. Besides, it's fun. It makes the world less boring.

P.S. Another life lesson - "Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Then you'll be a mile away and you'll have his shoes." - A. Nony. Mous.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Face to face

Long vacations, like the summer, are times when you come face to face with literally everything you need to overcome. This is the first summer I've ever had where I've had absolutely nothing to do except:

A. Write
B. Read
C. Overcome fears

Writing - awesome
Reading - amazing
Overcoming fears - scary and hard. What makes them even harder is that they seem really stupid and that makes me feel even more ridiculous for being afraid of them.

But I'm working on it. I guess that's all I can ever ask of myself.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Writing

As a writer myself, I hate to use someone else's words to express an idea when I can very well use my own, but at the same time, the words of Ian McEwan in Atonement which describe what goes on in the mind of Briony, the protagonist, are so exactly what goes on in my own mind, and what went on in it when I was younger, that I feel the need to quote him here:

"A taste for the miniature was one aspect of an orderly spirit. Another was a passion for secrets: in a prized varnished cabinet, a secret drawer was opened by pushing against the grain of a cleverly turned dovetail joint, and here she kept a diary locked by a clasp, and a notebook written in a code of her own invention. In a toy safe opened by six secret numbers she stored letters and postcards. An old tin petty cash box was hidden under a removable floorboard beneath her bed. In a box were treasures that dated back four years, to her ninth birthday when she began collecting: a mutant double acorn, fool's gold, a rainmaking spell bought at a funfair, a squirrel's skull as light as a leaf.

But hidden drawers, lockable diaries and cryptographic systems could not conceal from Briony the simple truth: she had no secrets. [...] Her effective status as an only child, as well as the relative isolation of the Tallis house, kept her, at least during the long summer holidays, from girlish intrigues with friends. Nothing in her life was sufficiently interesting or shameful to merit hiding; no one knew about the squirrel's skull beneath her bed, but no one wanted to know. None of this was particularly an affliction; or rather, it appeared so only in retrospect, once a solution had been found.

At the age of eleven she wrote her first story -- a foolish affair, imitative of half a dozen folktales and lacking, she realized later, that vital knowingness about the ways of the world which compels a reader's respect. But this first clumsy attempt showed her that the imagination itself was a source of secrets: once she had begun a story, no one could be told. Pretending in words was too tentative, too vulnerable, too embarrassing to let anyone know. Even writing out the she saids, the and thens, made her wince, and she felt foolish, appearing to know about the emotions of an imaginary being. Self-exposure was inevitable the moment she described a character's weakness; the reader was bound to speculate that she was describing herself. What other authority could she have?"

It's so true - writing is scary. It's extremely revealing. It's embarrassing, too. How could I, as naive, innocent, and inexperienced as I am, have the nerve to attempt to write about characters who experience things I could never dream of? How can I write about things that don't exist in my tiny bubble of a world? How can I know enough about people and human emotion to successfully create realistic characters?

And yet writing holds the only escape from an existence where very little of real interest and intrigue happens. I have no secrets. I have no mysteries. By being so ordinary, so uninteresting, I have nothing remarkably interesting to write about. How could I? Any time I try to create characters who don't belong to my own world, I hold back. Because how can I really know them? How can I understand them? Isn't it rude to try and write about people who are more complex and difficult than myself? Isn't it presumptuous to think I can actually understand them? It feels like overstepping a boundary.

This is why I used to be very attracted to writing fantastical stories when I was younger. I didn't have to know about the world, then. At least, I didn't think I did. Now I disagree. But in my mind, I could make up whatever rules I wanted. If I got to create the world, I also got to create the rules. Then I didn't feel like I was entering anywhere out of my league. It was all in my league. The world was mine to write about when it was my own invention.

Now I'm less interested in writing about made-up worlds. I'm much more fascinated by this one. I want to write about real people, real emotions, real situations. I want to be taken seriously. I just don't feel worldly enough to attempt it. I don't feel adult enough in my experiences. I don't feel wise enough. I have questions, but how can I write about resolutions when I don't have any answers? How can I tread on unfamiliar terrain when I have no life experience in most areas? Research is fine - up to a point. A lot of it's got to come from yourself, doesn't it?

Wisdom in dreams

Sometimes there is untapped wisdom that comes to life in dreams. At least, I think there is. In any case, I dreamed this quote last night:

Anything good that one attempts is worth the shot.

(Alternatively - anything worth doing is worth the attempt)

I like it. I think it's really true because even if you don't achieve exactly what you want to, a lot of what you gain by reaching for goals is whatever you learn while doing so. There is value in trying, just as there is in succeeding - maybe even more. Life is always, always a learning process and if you pay attention, you'll find yourself growing and achieving in ways you never expected or planned. And those are the best ways.

Monday, June 2, 2008

COUNTDOWN

(my status: HOLY WOW - that's just scary)

scraps:
what's scary?
erachet: the fact that 127 people so far have read my blog today
or at least, people came back enough times that there are 127 hits
and it's only seven at night!
I don't think my blog has EVER broken 100 hits before
in one day
scraps: woohoo!
good for you!

Sent at 7:09 PM on Monday

(my status: if my blog breaks 150 hits today, I think I'll go into shock):-D

scraps: how many hits are you up to?
erachet: 141!
scraps: i bet you'll breat 150 ;)
*break
you might even break...175...or 200!!!
:-D
then you'd really go into shock, wouldn't you?
erachet: um...yes
the day my blog sees 200 is...
a scary day
scraps: today? ;)
why scary?
erachet: I dunno
I doubt it'll get THAT many more hits today
scary because...my blog has never broken 100 hits before!
scraps: why not?
erachet: why now!
scraps: cuz you're FUNNY
and cuz bad4 gets a lot of traffic ;)
erachet: hahaha
and ezzie
scraps: yeah, him too
erachet: 'cause I was already getting a ton of hits before bad4 linked me
scraps: but her audience is more likely to check it out
ok, so both of them get credit :)
erachet: hehe
they do
Sent at 7:54 PM on Monday
scraps: i still bet you'll break 150 though
erachet: maybe
142 now
scraps: nice :)
Sent at 7:56 PM on Monday
erachet: eep
144
that's 12 x 12!
scraps: w00t!
at this rate, you really ARE going to break 150, and probably quite a lot higher ;)
erachet: you think so?
scraps: hello! in the last 5 minutes, you've gotten 3 more hits!
erachet: hmmm
scraps: you're so totally breaking 150
erachet: you sure it's not you refreshing?
scraps: nope, i haven't been on since 7 or so
erachet: hmmmmm
scraps: so no, i'm not cheating ;)
although i'll admit that i might be more than one of the 144
erachet: hehehe
scraps: but it's all been from one comp
erachet: well, I don't REALLY think 144 DIFFERENT people are reading
scraps: right
erachet: it's probably, like
30 people
scraps: but it was a good post :)
erachet: hehe
things have been on the rise since the spoon post
but until today, my average is 45 hits
scraps: the spoon post was AWESOME :-D
erachet: and before the spoon post, my average was...like...14
scraps: heh
Sent at 8:02 PM on Monday

erachet: THREE MORE
what'll I do once it breaks 150?
scraps: faint, probably :P
Sent at 8:07 PM on Monday
scraps: anyway, i gotta head out
keep me updated ;)
erachet: okay!
scraps: layla tov :)
erachet: (148)
layla tov!
scraps: w00t!

scraps: maybe i should stay on for the big 1-5-0 ;)
erachet: hahaha
maaaaaybe you should!
scraps: and i'm exercising TREMENDOUS self control right now and NOT cheating by going and checking your blog again!
erachet: NO CHEATING
it has to be REAL hits
:D
scraps: i'm NOT cheating!
promise!
me: okay, GOOD
scraps: nu?
update?
erachet: still 148
scraps: yeesh
Sent at 8:13 PM on Monday
scraps: it's ok, i'm going to stick this out, i want to see you make it to 150!
erachet: hahahaha
I dunno when it'll be! I seem to be stuck on 148
scraps: boooooo
you'll make it to 150! i know you will!
erachet: 151!
scraps: YAYAY!!!!!!!!!!!!


(by the way, it's up to 155 now)

UPDATE: It broke 200! That's just...wow.

Stick to the Status Quo - shidduch version!

This song was written to be a part of Bad4Shidduchim's shidduch musical!

The parody is below but the real song goes like this (WARNING: some girls singing):



Stick to the Shidduch Quo

Yossi:
Take a look
There's nothin' but books
When I am in the beis and on a roll
But I've got a confession
My own secret obsession
And it's making me lose control

Other yeshiva boys:
Everybody gather 'round

Yossi(spoken):
Well if everyone's telling their secrets then I can tell mine...I have facebook!

Yeshiva boys(spoken):
What?

Yossi(spoken):
I have facebook! Statii, pokes, even weird dorm life pictures

Yeshiva boys:
Not another sound

Yossi(spoken):
Someday I hope to have the most friends in YU!

Yeshiva boys:
No, no, no, nooooooooooo
No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
Yeah, to be just like us
Stay away from that shtus
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status quo

Malkie:
Look at me
And what do you see
Such tznius, it's beyond compare
But inside I am stirring
Something strange is occurring
It's a secret I need to share

Girls:
Open up, dig way down deep

Malkie(spoken):
Bright colors are my passion! I love wearing green and pink and blue and red!


Girl(spoken):
Is that even legal?

Girls:
Not another peep

Malkie(spoken):
They're just colors. Sometimes I think they're cooler than wearing black.


Girls:
No, no, no, noooooooooo
No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
If you wanna be frum
Then don't beat your own drum
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status quo

Out of towner:
Listen well
I'm ready to tell
About a need that I cannot deny
Dude, there's no explanation
For this odd situation
But I'm ready to let it fly

OOTers:
Speak your mind and you'll be heard

OOTer(spoken):
Alright, if they're all telling their secrets... then I'm coming clean! I want to live in New York!

OOTer 1(spoken):
No way!

OOTer 2(spoken):
Where is it?

OOTer 3(spoken):
In China?

OOTer(spoken):
No, dude, it's on the East Coast!

OOTers:
Not another word

OOTer 1(spoken):
Do you have to speak with an accent?

OOTer(spoken):
Shaw do!

OOTers:
No, no, no, nooooooooooo
No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
If you wanna be down
Then please stay out of town
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status quoooooooo

Everyone:
No, no, no
stick to the stuff you know
It is better by far
To keep things as they are
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status quo

Shadchan 1:
This is not what I want
This is not what I planned
And I just gotta say
I do not understand
Someting is really

Shadchan 2:
Something's not right

Shadchan 1:
Really wrong

Shadchans:
And we gotta get things
Back where they belong
We can do it

OOTer:
Gawta stay!

OOTers:
Stick with what you know

Shadchans:
We can do it

Malkie:
Colors hooray!

Girls:
She has got to go

Shadchans:
We can do it

Yossi:
Poke away!

Yeshiva boys:
Keep your voice down low

Everyone:
Not another peep
No, not another word
No, not another sound
No

Shadchan 1:
Everybody quiet!

Girl 1(spoken):
Why is everybody staring at you?

Girl 2(spoken):
Not me, you.

Girl 1(spoken):
Because I have a blog? I can't have people staring at me! I really can't!

Everyone:
Noooooooooooooo, no, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
Yeah, to be just like us
Stay away from that shtus
Don't mess with the flow, oh no
Stick to the status quooooooooooooo
No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
If you wanna be frum
Then don't beat your own drum
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status
stick to the status
Stick to the status quo

Alternate third section:

New Yorker:
Listen well
I'm ready to tell
About a need that I cannot deny
Dude, there's no explanation
For this odd situation
But I'm ready to let it fly

NYers:
Speak your mind and you'll be heard

NYer(spoken):
Alright, if they're all telling their secrets... then I'm coming clean! I want to live in Dallas!

NYer 1(spoken):
Awesome!

NYer 2(spoken):
Where is it?

NYer 3(spoken):
In China?

NYer(spoken):
No, dude, it's like down in Texas!

NYers:
Not another word!

NYer 1(spoken):
Do you have to speak with an accent?

NYer(spoken):
Y'all know it!

NYers:
No, no, no, nooooooooooo
No, no, no
Stick to the stuff you know
If you wanna be down
Then don't go out of town
Don't mess with the flow, no no
Stick to the status quo!


You can't stop the beat!

Today is a serious day, sure. I'm sure there will be lots of blog posts out there commemorating the importance of Yom Yerushalaim. But it's also a very happy day!

Last night, my brother called from Israel. It was four in the morning for him so at first I was afraid something was wrong - but no! He was at the Kotel after having marched from Merkaz Harav into the Old City. They walked through the Arab shuk and somehow one of his good friends was leading this huge pack of people. While they were in the shuk, it got really quiet and then his friend shouted out - "This is ours!" And everyone started cheering and running to the Kotel.

That is what Yom Yerushalaim is about. It's our city, our history, our holiday!

Yesterday there was an Israel parade in Manhattan. Today there was a parade in Yerushalaim. That's brotherhood, for you. Those of us in chutz la'aretz, let's not forget what Yom Yerushalaim is like in Israel and let's celebrate along with them!

It's time to celebrate the Jewish People (all Jewish People - more religious, less religious, Israeli, American, everyone).

From a girl who spent a year in the Old City...every steep staircase, every hidden doorway, every secret square, every winding passageway - it all feels like it belongs to us. We emanate from it. It all breathes out the dust of our history, our heritage. Yup - that's why the Old City's so dusty. Uh huh.

People may try, but no one can take Jerusalem from us. Not really. Not truly.

I'm a writer, I pride myself on my ability of expression, but there is no way for me to completely express the importance of Jerusalem - except I don't have to. You all know it. Anyone reading this blog knows it.

I love that city. We all do.

So let's all be EXTRA HAPPY today! If not for our own sake, then for the sake of Jerusalem! Be happy! It's a good day! Eat a blue and white cupcake! Go lion taming!

Although - no one can tame our lion! We roar, we growl ferociously at anyone who tries to take our city away!

Okay, thank you for listening, you may all go about your daily business now. :D

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Israel Day Parade - 60 years

Today's the Israel Day Parade! Raise your hand if you're going/were there (depending on when you read this)!

Yay Israel pride!

And, uh, this post is dedicated to my friend Winky who is an officer in the Israeli army and who is also getting married to one of my best friends next march.

Er, I tried to make this post more interesting but it's not really - not very. So then I tried to find the Shalom Sesame theme song on youtube and GASP it's not there! It's a travesty! I used to love Shalom Sesame! And since I don't really have time to start being all inspirational about Israel, I figured I'd just post this instead:

Ah, childhood (Pobody, feel free to change the words to "rubber penguin" if you'd like). Enjoy!



UPDATE: Things that will always be at the Israel Day Parade:

1. Fathers in baseball caps
2. Mothers in fanny packs
3. Grandparents in brightly colored foam or plastic visors
4. Non-Jewish marching bands
5. Neturei Karta
6. Rambam boys (and others) creating a scene around the Neturei Karta
7. Dorky, over-sized T-shirts
8. Dorky, over-sized 3/4 sleeve T-shirts that reach your wrists
9. Miami/Yeshiva/Other Boys Choir songs
10. Everyone from your entire life ever except for the ones who you actually want to run into. Rule: you're guaranteed to run into every single person you hoped you'd never see again