Thursday, April 30, 2009
"Do you think you can get me a cup of coffee?"
I hesitated. Coffee was not the sort of thing I was much experienced in. In fact, I had never made a cup of coffee before in my life.
"Sure...but I don't really know how..."
"Oh, it's easy! Okay? I'm going to explain it to you."
"Okay," said D2, and began slowly. "You take a cup. Then you fill it up about this much with coffee. Then you place it under the milk thing and fill it up some more with milk. Then you put two sugars in."
"Okay," I said. "I can probably do that."
So I went to the caf and, before I knew it, there I was standing in front of the coffee counter. I had never paid much attention to it before. I stared at it for a moment, D2's instructions suddenly becoming incredibly complicated.
I couldn't find a place where you get coffee from. There was a big urn that said "Caution: Hot Water" on it. Then there was a machine with three different kinds of milk. Three! Next to that was another machine with spouts for either cappuccino, french vanilla, or hot chocolate.
Okay. First thing first. Take a cup. I can do that, right?
I started to reach for a cup and then hesitated. There were two different kinds. Did D2 want a large cup? Or a small one? I tried to remember if she had specified but, my mind blanking on me, I had to use my own judgment. I figured I'd get her a large.
Large cup in hand, I then tried to decide which of the three flavors on the machine could one possibly mean when asking for "coffee." Clearly, the answer was not hot chocolate. Was it cappuccino? French vanilla? I had absolutely no idea and, after two whole minutes of deliberation, I stuck the cup under the spout labeled "cappuccino" and tried my luck.
After the cup was about 3/4 full, I decided it was full enough and went over to the milk. Here was another complication. Did D2 want whole milk? Skim milk? 1%? At home we get 1% milk so I figured that was safe.
As I was adding the milk, another girl looked at me with keen interest. "Is that good, what you do? Cappuccino and milk?"
I felt a little startled. Was there something wrong?
"I-I have no idea," I stammered, trying to sound like I knew what I was doing. "This is for someone else."
But something about her question made me think I had made a mistake. When she then took a small cup, put it under the "Caution: Hot Water" urn, and brown liquid came out, I knew I had completely messed up.
I decided to skip the two packets of sugar and instead covered the cup and brought it back to my apartment.
After having gotten wrong the size of the cup, the milk, and the coffee, D2 later told me she'd give me coffee-making lessons.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
This may seem obvious, but even when you have a bad day, it's not good to go to bed upset. The idea that, "Well, tomorrow will be better" is a nice one, but why can't today end off well, too? I think you should be happy about having lived each day of your life, even if there are things that happened that day that weren't amazing. I think it would be nice to try and find at least one good thing that happened, or to do something at the end of the day that makes you feel good. I don't mean to be selfish, I mean to try and be happy.
Each of our days is a gift and I don't think we are meant to dismiss days as solely bad, or as a waste of a day. Even if you do waste time, it's good to do at least one productive thing per day, to do at least one thing for someone else, to do at least one thing that makes you feel good about yourself.
Not every day has to be the best day ever. In fact, if every day was, amazing days would become routine and then they wouldn't be special. But each day should still make you feel happy or fulfilled in some small way. You should go to bed at the end of it and be able to say, "Today mattered."
Monday, April 27, 2009
I do not like my thesis-
Though it seems to like me.
I really need to finish it--
It will not let me be!
It bugs me when I'm eating
And when I'm sleeping, too.
It prods me when I'm reading
Or even at the zoo.
This stupid thing won't go away.
It's hateful and annoying.
Its unrequited love for me
Is burdensome and cloying.
Do not believe I get this way
With all who come to court.
It's just this thesis I can't stand--
I wish it would abort!
I've started writing now and, well,
The topic's quite appealing.
But I still hate my thesis so,
'Cause all my time it's stealing.
The only way to make it stop
Is facing it like rivals.
And then as rivals we shall join
Towards both of our survivals.
For if I end up well and sane,
Then so will what I'm writing.
So I guess I should get to work,
So we can stop this fighting.
P.S. To my dear thesis, I aver--
I'll always think of you as GRRR.
But in a loving sort of way,
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Yet through it all, no matter what happens or doesn't happen during the week, there is always Shabbos at the end of it. A friend said to me at the very beginning of the week, "Shabbos is important." It's important to think about even on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday...even before you can say TGIF. No matter what is going on in your life, there will still be Shabbos. Not just the day, but everything that Shabbos brings with it.
No matter what your worries are, your stresses, your difficulties, or even your joys, Shabbos will still be there, like a hug. You can't watch TV, you can't go on your computer, you can't really go anywhere. There are almost no distractions at all. You can actually daven without feeling like you need to be anywhere else. You can finally give people your full attention. You can really spend time with family and friends. You can take a rest from everything in the outside world that is yanking on your sleeve trying to get you to attend to it.
I know it's "only" Thursday, but tomorrow is Friday night. So no matter what any of your weeks have been like, I wish you all an amazing Shabbos.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
It's just very difficult to see family and friends go through tough things and feel like you can't make anything any better because, well, how could you?
During the height of the intifada in Israel, I was in high school. I worked on various school publications and we were always writing about horrible things going on in Israel. It got to the point where another girl and I decided we wanted to start a newsletter devoted only to good news. We never actually did, but I think the idea behind it says something about...something.
Sometimes terrible things happen, but that doesn't mean an end to all good things. It doesn't even mean that good things aren't happening at the same time as the bad. I suppose it's all about what you allow yourself to see. And it's okay to feel happy even if other people are feeling sad.
Surrounded by bad news lately, I wish I had some good news to share. Does anyone else? I have heard some good news lately from various people, actually (interestingly, it's the same piece of news from completely unrelated people), but the more the merrier, you know. The good news I can think of to share is also kinda scary, but...my college graduation is three weeks from Thursday (yikes).
This is a good thing because this week in school I suddenly came down with some Senioritis. And it's exciting to graduate from college. But it's a little frightening because I have no idea what I'm doing once I graduate or where I'm living. So...it's a bit intimidating to leave a comfortable world and step into the unknown. But I am told it is also exciting, so we shall see. :)
In any case, I suppose it's normal to feel completely powerless when it comes to helping other people. You try your best, but sometimes you wish you could give more than is in your power because you feel they might require more. It's uncomfortable to feel like you can do all you can and it still might not really help.
This post could go on forever in circles on the same topic. I think this Calvin and Hobbes pretty much sums it up. I love Calvin and Hobbes. In fact, I'm going to share a fun site with you of Calvin and Hobbes by subject.
I hope you all have a great day and think happy thoughts. The world is a good place, even when terrible things happen - and even when terrible things happen in quick succession.
You know, I think the world would be a fascinating place if there were special effects and dance numbers, don't you? A little too scary to imagine, huh? :)
Who played the kazoo
And he tried to enter a band.
But the band did not want
To have a kazoo
And held up their snobby hands.
The kazoo-player sniffed
And tossed up his nose
And said to them, "I will show you!"
He went to a street corner,
Pinned on a rose,
And played the Kazoo Snafu.
Hmmm hmmm hmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmm
And from all over town
The folks came to look
And they paid him a penny each.
"I'm rich!" thought the player--
Thought pennies were gold--
And took this good sign as his cue.
He gathered his money
And, feeling quite bold,
Skipped off while still playing Kazoo.
He's now near a hundred
And lives like a king
And none wish to tell him what's true.
Though he lives mighty fine--
Never paid for a thing--
His life's one big happy Snafu.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
(Feel free to ignore this post if you would rather. I am not talking to anyone in it. I am just sharing the way my mind wanders.)
It’s been a hard winter. The cold lasted for longer than usual. Only just this week the weather started getting warmer. Not quite warm yet, but warmer. I’m supposed to be asleep but I can’t seem to settle into that relaxed, unthinking state. Too much is happening around me.
For a young bird, the beginning of spring is a puzzling time. Everything seems so dead from the winter – like the icy wind has killed every piece of greenery (except for those resilient pine trees, of course, though they, too, seem dead in a way). The animals leave, like us birds, or burrow into a warmer place to wait for the sun to bring heat once again. The world feels empty.
Our return when the winter takes this long to melt away makes me feel concerned for the world. Will the earth sprout again? Will the trees bear leaves? Will the flowers bud and blossom? Will the stream burble joyously over smooth stones and gush with its own tinkling music? Or have we returned to a world stuck forever in winter, never to bloom again?
I perch on a low branch and shiver with the cold, mourning over the heat that determinedly keeps away. While I tremble in despair, a strange series of sounds pricks my ears. I perk up and look around for the source of the rich, musical voice. It fluctuates between deep trumpeting—
Chaw! Chaw! Chaw!
To a more twittery—
Wurgle wurgle wurgle…
With finally, a whistle—
“How marvelous!” I exclaim, hopping to the edge of my branch and craning my neck to see in all directions.
There, in a nearby tree, sits a beautiful bird of a misty green color. He is clearly trying to get attention. Sometimes his chest booms out that great “Chaw!” call. Other times a velvety calm overtakes him and he sweetly twitters away. When this goes on for a short while, he seems to lose patience and tweets in a frenzy, rather like a frustrated honking goose.
“Can’t anybody get some sleep around here?” grumbles my father from a branch above my own. I fly up to him.
“But I think it’s wonderful!” I chirp. “I can’t believe all that noise is coming from just one bird!”
“It’s because he’s mating,” my father yawns, ruffling his feathers and trying to drop back asleep. “Go to sleep.”
“Oh, but I can’t!”
I fly to a branch even higher still and watch the green bird. I wonder who he expects to answer his mating call. Is not every other bird asleep?
Strangely, the sounds that so irritate my father begin slowly to help me relax. If the green bird is searching for a mate, he must see a spring that I am still not aware of. The thought comforts me, for it means that this unnaturally long winter does have an end, after all. I try to see spring, too.
As I fall asleep, I dream of a tiny white bud at the end of everyone's unnaturally bare branches. One day, they will grow into beautiful flowers.
Monday, April 13, 2009
As a kid, I never appreciated just how wonderful growing up in a wholesome family is. In some ways, I didn't understand it. I thought all families were that way unless there were lots of older kids.
I am an oldest and, that being the case, I was not used to big people being in the house when I was small; I did not understand the way things worked when there were older siblings around. I was afraid of people's older brothers (well - they were all so big!) and much too shy of their older sisters. Most of all, I didn't know what it meant for a family to not all be on the same schedule.
At my own house, we were all home between four and five, at which point we would all eat dinner together (except my father, who was always still at work). Sometimes our mother would eat with us, sometimes she would wait for our father to get home. Regardless, she always sat with us, asked us about our day, and got us started on our homework when dinner was over.
After homework, we would run outside and play with the neighbors until bedtime. By that point, it would have gotten darker and colder so gradually that we wouldn't even have noticed it until we came indoors and started to thaw.
We would be in bed by eight (or 8:30, when we got old enough), with our mother saying shema with us and singing hamalach. Our nightlights reassuringly lit, she would shut our doors and we would all drift off to sleep (or stay up and eavesdrop on anything interesting going on downstairs).
The routine was not always like this at other people's houses - especially people with older siblings. I remember going to friends and having to put together our own dinner. That was confusing to me. Why wasn't everyone eating dinner together? Where was this person's mother?
At friends, we wouldn't always get put to bed, either. And there were sometimes too many people around. Big people who did things that were loud and foreign and intrusive on childhood, like sisters blowdrying hair and putting on makeup, or brothers thumping around like they were giants. I almost expected them to shout, "Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!" every time they passed by.
I was aware at a very young age that the more older siblings in a house, the less routine there seemed to be. Everyone appeared to be doing their own thing, was on their own schedule, lived in their own world.
But not in my house. In my house, everyone lived in the same world. Sure, we had different friends, different interests, etc. But when we were at home together, we existed in the same place in a way I didn't feel in some other people's houses. I think a lot of this had to do with my not being used to a world more sophisticated than my own. Girls my own age were part of something older and more grown up than I was because they were exposed to it in their houses.
Sometimes I felt I was missing something, but as I started growing up a little, I began to understand just how unique and important it is for a family to share a world with each other. That is what my family does, even now that we are all older. We are that wholesome family who plays catch with each other and goes on family picnics. We play games together and enjoy each other's company. We don't have any major family feuds.
I used to wonder what I would be like if I lived in a different family. Would I be shy of them? Would I be myself? Would I be a different person altogether? Would I be happy? Would they understand me?
The older I get, the more I appreciate how lucky I am to have been raised in a family like the one I have. We make many choices in our lives concerning ourselves, but one thing we don't have a choice about is our family. So when you find you are part of a great one, it's something to feel lucky about.
That is why I love being part of such a wholesome family. And I hope one day when I have my own, it will be just as wholesome.
(P.S. Happy Birthday, Straight Man, who is no longer a teenager, and who was Thing 2 to me for a long time.)
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
(Er, I think this is a rough draft. And it's kinda late. But enjoy! Have a Chag Sameach, everyone!!!)
In the far-away country across from the Nile,
Pharaoh the Mitzri was king for a while.
A bustling land. It was rich. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The Mitzrim had everything Mitzrim might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.
They were… until Pharaoh, the king of this plenty,
Decided the Jews in his land were too many.
“I’m ruler,” said Pharaoh, “I stand at the helm.
But the Jews overpopulate throughout my realm.
Perhaps they'd revolt in this land by the Nile.
What if they took over? How horribly vile!
Their ill-boding strength - it just cannot go down.
They ought to be fewer!” he said with a frown.
And Pharaoh, the Mitzri King, gave a command
To all of the midwives who worked in his land
That each Jewish baby, if it was a boy,
They throw in the Nile, to kill and destroy.
He made Jewish mothers get rid of each son
But Yocheved was smart and sent hers on the run.
She made him a teva and lined it with tar.
And sent him a'floating - though not very far.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh said, "Now I am strong!
My kingdom is safe. Not a thing can go wrong!
I’m the king of Mitzrayim! And I rule the Jews!
I’m the king of the Nile! I can never lose!
I’m Pharaoh the Mitzri! Oh, marvelous me!
For when I am ruler, there's nothing that's free!”
And for some time after, he sat up there high
Saying over and over, “A great king am I!”
Until ‘long about bathtime. Then Batya went out--
His daughter, to wash and to swim all about.
And she saw, in the Nile, a baby float by.
She stretched out her hand to console him his cry.
Looking up, she said, “Moshe shall be his name.
For I've drawn him from water. Who knows whence he came?
We'll have to adopt him - he seems rather tame.”
So Moshe grew up in the home of the king
And Pharaoh knew not what bad news this would bring.
Over time Pharaoh started to fear once again
For the Jews were not lacking some big and strong men
And so he declared, to assert his position,
His vision of slavery come to fruition.
"I'll give them hard labor!” his royal voice thundered,
"And then all will know I am king times a hundred!
“Hardship! More hardship!” he bellowed and brayed.
And the Jews in Mitzrayim were very afraid.
They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed.
From all over the land, they came working by dozens.
Whole families of Jews, with uncles and cousins.
They did not have much choice, were too scared to revolt.
And they got no respite, not a moment to halt.
Meanwhile Moshe had run far away
For he killed a Mitzri and so could not stay
Thus he lived in Midian and he watched over sheep
When he saw something that would make anyone leap!
A bush! And on fire! But it did not burn!
Through it, God spoke to Moshe, said, "It's Pharaoh's turn.
Go down to Egypt and take out the Jews.
And Moshe went down, though he tried to refuse.
But Pharaoh the Mitzri who sat up on high,
Did not care one wit 'bout the Jews and their sighs.
“Begone!” shouted Pharaoh. “I’m the king of the trees!
I’m king of the birds! And I’m king of the bees!
I’m king of the butterflies! King of the air!
Ah, me! Do not whine 'cause I really don't care!
I’m Pharaoh the Mitzri! Oh, marvelous me!
And I'll make your work harder - that is my decree!”
Then again, from below, on the palace room floor,
Moshe and Aharon said one thing more.
“Your Majesty, please… we don’t like to complain,
But our Jewish brethren are feeling great pain.
If you won't let them go, we'll be frank, won't be vague,
Our God will come smite you - He'll bring you a plague!"
Though Pharaoh's magicians at first said, "Yeah? Bring it!"
With just a few proofs, knew God's finger was in it.
“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Pharaoh.
“The Jews can't go free! I will give them more sorrow!
I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea!
There’s nothing, no, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!”
And, while he was shouting, his heart was quite hardened
It seemed that the Jews might not ever be pardoned.
Until the plague of blood and the Nile was scarred-ened.
“What’s THAT?” snorted Pharaoh. “Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Pharaoh the King?
I shall not allow it! They'll work harder still!
I’ll keep myself higher! I can and I will!
My Jewish slaves shall not ever go free!
I'll keep them forever, now please let me be!"
But, as Pharaoh, the Mitzri King, lifted his hand
And gave out his orders and barked his command,
That bustling land that was rich and was neat
Where the water was warm, where there's plenty to eat
Was smote by God's hand, nine more plagues on the way
Frogs and then lice and wild animals -- nay
They weren't enough, the Jews still had to stay.
Then the animals of the Egyptians all died
Boils, and hail, even locusts, God tried!
Then thick, heavy darkness, which was not enough still
So God killed the first born of each Mitzri until--
Pharaoh, who thought he was king of the trees,
And king of the air and the birds and the bees,
Said, "Get out, you Jews! Go on out of here, please!"
For Pharaoh, the King of the land 'cross the Nile,
Was no match for Hashem, who beat Pharaoh with style.
And today we remember how God set us free,
How He saved us from Egypt, so His we may be.
We got our first Mitzvah after that escapade
For a nation we are now, and so long we have prayed
That next year in Jerusalem our seder'll be made.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
At a certain point when you get older, though not even that much older, you suddenly realize how important that bracha is. The idea of a young person becoming ill is suddenly not a completely foreign concept. It's actually a very real, horribly frightening one.
Sometimes it's like there's this lack of control because no matter how well you take care of yourself, you are never completely immune to anything. I guess the safest way to take care of yourself is to turn to God. Imagine how unbelievable it is that we have the opportunity to keep on reminding God that if anything goes wrong with us, "Iy efshar l'hitkayem v'la'amod lifanecha." We won't be able to get up and stand before Him!
I know saying that doesn't make anything less scary, but I think the bracha itself is so vital to say. I used to always forget to say it but a few years ago, I started to and each time I say it, I feel an overwhelming thankfulness that I am currently healthy and functional.
There is so much out there that is frightening and terrible and too many of us know some of it too well. But we can't thank God enough for each healthy moment we have, because each second is a gift. We can't forget that.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
I think the fact that I forgot about it is a good thing. It's shticky, you know? Does it really matter that my blog has a birthday? Is announcing it just an opportunity to hope for some comments in this comment-less blogworld these days? I think what I'm happy about is that my focus is more on what I am writing than that I am writing. Though this blog is not necessarily devoted to any one topic, nor even devoted only to serious writing, I do think I try to keep it as much myself as possible. I am not only serious or only silly, so neither is my blog.
I actually cannot believe it's been two years. Last March does not seem so long ago. I hope you've all enjoyed so far and found my blog either meaningful or funny or...interesting, at least. I hope there is something for everyone here, from those who like lighter posts to those who like to read more serious, deeper ponderings. As I said in the post below this one, I want someone to be able to read my writing and feel as though I am writing specifically to him/her. Maybe not every post, but sometimes. I think writing is about connecting, which is what makes blogging so much different from, say, facebook or twitter. You think you are connecting on those sites, but do you read someone's twitter and say, "wow, that is so me?" It's a very surface level connection.
I think the connection we make through reading and writing is much, much deeper. There is real human expression involved, real exchange of ideas, real speaking from and to the heart. I have enjoyed this ride so far. I hope you have, too.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Sometime yesterday, I said to a friend, "You know, I really miss the Harry Potter books."
I didn't mean I want there to be more of them. I'm certainly not looking for HP8 (heresy, I know, but the series feels over to me). "Over vacation, I want to go back and read Book One," I said. Because that is what I miss. I miss the magic.
The magic in Harry Potter exists not only in the world of Hogwarts. It exists in the way the words travel around your senses and pinch your imagination in little sparks, nudging you here, then over there, then a little to the left, to the right, until you are in love. You don't even know what you are in love with, but you are in love. You want nothing to exist in the world except you and the book you are reading. What's more - it is your book. You don't want to share it with millions of fans. You want it to be yours and yours alone. You want to sit cross-legged on your bed with your hair falling over your face as you read avidly, devouring the book 'til the very end, when you can turn right back to the beginning and devour it again.
But as you sit there on your bed alone in the absolutely lovely world your imagination has created, millions of other children are sitting in the same exact position, equally stirred by the same exact words. If a giant were to stand on our planet and look down at the world, it would see millions of children engrossed in books. And not just children. Teenagers. Adults. People who have sworn off reading long ago. Children who can't be paid to read for school. Everyone.
That sight must be one of the most glorious sights in the world. Just imagine every being on this planet pausing in work, in games, in war, in fights, in stress, in time and together stepping through a portal to another world, to a world which hugs you and shows you that evil truly is evil and good is quite good indeed. That it is not the power we have but the choices we make that matter.
"It is our choices, Harry, that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities," says Dumbledore.
Imagine making the choice to write a book about making good choices. A book about friendship. A book about family. A book about love. About courage. About strength. About never giving up.
In a documentary, J.K. Rowling was asked, "How do you want to be remembered?"
"As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had," she said.
You can watch that part of the documentary here, though I would recommend started from part one if you have time:
We never know what is going to happen to us in our lives. For me, I'm at a significant turning point. I have a little over a month and a half left of college and then...that's it. Then I'm on my own. I don't know what that will come to mean and I don't even know how much I'm looking forward to it, but I also know that by not looking forward to it, I am betraying my more adventurous side. I am suppressing the magic of possibility.
In The Once and Future King, King Arthur, when he is a little boy, gets turned into various animals by Merlin as part of his education. He turns into a fish, a hawk, a goose, even an ant. Later, when he has already become king, Merlin asks him, "Do you remember anything about the magic you had when you were small?"
"No. Did I have some magic? I can remember that I was interested in birds and beasts. Indeed, that is why I still keep my menagerie at the Tower. But I don't remember about magic."
"People don't remember," said Merlin.
When I read that passage, I was overcome by a profound sadness. Only children can experience magic because only their minds allow for that possibility. As they get older, they enter "reality" and all possibility for magic vanishes.
What J.K. Rowling did was reignite the spark of imagination. There don't have to be spells and witches and flying broomsticks in order for magic to exist. Magic lives in the imagination and imagination is what helps us see possibilities in this world.
Writing brings the world to life and that's why I want to write. I want to be involved in the world. I want to be part of the magic. I want to speak to people, but not on a platform. I don't want to be famous like J.K. Rowling. I just want people to pick up something I've written and feel like I've written it specifically for them. I want to explore my world and then share it. I want to make a difference to someone.
I want to bring out the magic.
Most importantly, though, I want to look back on my life and say, "I did the best with the talent I had."
What matters is that you can talk with someone, not that you can outdo someone in something -
What matters is that you care and that you are friends, not that you can win in a competition. Because it probably feels a lot worse to lose friends than to lose competitions.