Monday, November 29, 2010

I Have Something To Tell You

...is what Jughead's Hat said to me on Saturday night as we walked into the building of his old high school to get the mp3 player he supposedly left there a few nights before.

"What?" I asked.

He didn't respond until we got into the elevator.

"I need the proper setting. I'm such a ham."

Those lines sounded so familiar, and he said them in this way that sounded like something was about to happen. I felt nervous and a little confused.

We left the elevator and walked into a pitch black auditorium.

"Now THIS is the proper setting!"

His voice rang against the empty hugeness of the room.

What...? My eyes started to slowly adjust to the darkness.

"...Is this from Singin' In The Rain?" I asked.

~~~

The scene (he actually recited the lines):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqsrVQfNYPc

The song (he sang to me!):


I can't express in words what I'm feeling right now. Jughead's Hat is the most amazing person and I'm incredibly lucky to be engaged to him. I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Though I Walk

For the past few weeks, the third grade class in which I was student teaching was preparing for a Mexican festival they were learning about called Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead takes place on November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and is when people honor and celebrate the lives of their family members who have passed away. Each student in my class picked an ancestor or someone in their family who had passed away to present to the class.

Included in the activity was to write some information about the person they were presenting and to bring in an artifact that reminds them of the people they picked. For instance, one girl brought in a chess piece because her grandfather was teaching her to play chess before he died. Another girl brought in a picture of her cousin. A boy brought in an old pasta maker that can also be played as a kind of banjo.

The class then came up with ideas for how they wanted to celebrate and honor the people they had picked to present. They worked hard creating games, writing songs, and doing arts and crafts projects to be part of their Day of the Dead ceremony, in the interest of filling the ceremony with the culture of their particular class, instead of taking on a culture of which they were not actually a part.

Two Sundays ago, I went to the hospital to visit my grandfather. It was hard for him to speak, but he spoke a lot. Among the things he told me was that he loved Psalm 23 and the Dveikus song that went with it, Gam Ki Elech:

Gam ki elech b'gai tzalmaves lo ira ra ki ata imadi--Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;

In 1938, when my grandfather was eleven years old, he had to leave home forever. He left behind his parents, and after a few months he was separated from his sister, as well. From eleven onward, he walked through the valley of the shadow of death. But he remained good-natured, and he was intelligent. He served as a mentor for another boy in England during the war--and that was just the beginning. My grandfather mentored countless people throughout his life and spent his whole life fighting Hitler. He was truly unafraid. He went out to schools and other institutions and spoke passionately about the good in people and the fight we all have, as members of the human race, for the greater good.

My grandfather was also quite refined. He was a true European gentleman, despite having had a turbulent childhood and no formal education past the fourth grade. He was shy, but he was on a mission. Though he spoke with passion, his words were never harsh.

At his funeral on Thursday, November 4th, my brother read Psalm 23 (chaf gimmel). My grandfather's favorite Psalm was one that truly epitomized his life. His faith in the goodness of mankind persevered throughout all the evils that befell him. He somehow braved his way through World War Two, keeping his sanity and goodness in tact. He truly walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but was unafraid.

How fitting, then, that my father's last day sitting shiva was November 9th--the anniversary of Kristalnacht. Kristalnacht--the night that started my grandfather's terrible childhood journey.

Back in the hospital room that Sunday, I cried as my grandfather said we should think of him for a brief moment during upcoming family simchas. But though he won't be with us in person, I know he will be there all the same, together with his sister and his parents, my great-aunt and great-grandparents who never made it through the war, and who my grandfather spent his life trying to find information about.

And who would have ever thought, back in 1938 in Germany, when my grandfather ran over the border from his parents and his stable life into a world filled with war and confusion, that he would have an official American flag folding ceremony, with taps and all, at his funeral 72 years later? That he would have children and grandchildren living prosperously in America?

What will the world be like when we all have grandchildren?

When I returned to field work earlier this week, the third-graders were presenting the relatives they chose to honor for Day of the Dead. Though none of you will read this, 8-9s, this post is my presentation.

~~~


A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil:
For Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou annointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
~William Ernest Henley

My grandfather quoted the last two lines from this poem several times in the hospital on Sunday, which is the last time I visited him. "Invictus" is Latin for "undefeated." My grandfather, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and made his way to England as a little boy without any family, who never went to school and yet became a powerful orator, and who has struggled with many things throughout his life, always kept his mind and wishes his own. He was always undefeated - always the master of his fate, the captain of his soul.

I will miss you, Saba.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Who

There comes a point in time when life gets so crazy, that sometimes you can't remember who your friends are anymore.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writerly Maladies

This article about "maladies" many writers out there are afflicted with is hilarious!

Excerpt:

Description Overload: Upon this page there is a period. It is not just any period, it is a period following a sentence. It follows this sentence in a way befitting a period of its kind, possessing a roundness that is pleasing to the eye and hearty to the soul. This period has the bearing of a regal tennis ball combined with the utility of a used spoon. It is an unpretentious period, just like any other, the result of hundreds of years of typesetting innovations that allows it to be used, almost forgotten, like oxygen to the sentence only darker, more visible. And it is after this period, which will neither reappear nor matter in any sense whatsoever to the rest of the novel, that our story begins.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Swallow

The prickly feet of every tiny, inky word wills me to spit them all out
But the string of preservation tugs
And I close my mouth.
The tap-dancing words shuffle on my tongue until I swallow them
(scraping and rolling and coiling to the boxing match on the floor of my stomach)
In one big gulp.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Get It?

Do you ever feel like you could explain yourself 'til your brain turns inside out and yet people just won't get it?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Black Hole Of Never Here

Chug chug chug
Hello! We saved you dinner.
Fling a hug
What's going on?
Missing something--what? Not important.
Well, you're never here.
Chug chug chug
You're back! How was home?
My feet barely touched the soft carpet.
We're off to sing, didn't you know?
Well, you're never here.
Chug chug chug
Long hours in a classroom.
Square walls, powerpoint, smart board.
Chug chug chug
Please be empty, please be empty.
Empty. Quiet. Breathe.
Chug chug chug
Home again! Any laundry? Help bring bags in from the car?
Ah, my bed.
Off again!
Chug chug chug
A train, 1 train, all-day-long train
You missed it.
Missed what?
Well, you're never here.
Chug chug chug
Grandparents! Barbeque!
What? When? No one told me.
Well, you're never here.
Chug chug chug
Oh - it's you! Where've you been?
I'm not sure.
Leftovers from midnight dinner with the boys?
A little motion-sick.
Leaving again?
Well, you're never here.

Never here
Never there
Never anywhere.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Senses

I'm taking a class this June called Developmental Variations. It's a class in child development for kids who develop atypically - aka kids who have special needs of all various sorts. Yesterday, I was grouped with a few others to do a presentation on hearing loss. While working together, we came across the videos below.

Cochlear implants are actually a very controversial issue for the Deaf Community. Some members are extremely against the idea of getting a cochlear implant or of considering those who have one to be part of the community. Others are more open to the idea.

As someone who is hearing and who has no direct connection to the Deaf Community, it is not my place to weigh in on the issue. However, the videos below moved me enough to make me want to write a post about them.

Thinking about people who cannot hear - and who have to wear devices in order to simulate hearing - makes me really appreciate the fact that I can hear naturally. That I can see naturally. That I can taste and touch and smell. That I don't have to think about my senses because they work and they've always worked. Our senses play such basic, vital roles in our life experience - we may not even notice how much our lives would be different if just one of our senses was not working just a little bit. They are so fragile. Some of us may not have to ever think about our senses because of how basic they are. They are working constantly so they fall below our notice. But imagine how much in the forefront of our attention they would be if one of them wasn't working even a little bit?



Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Your Words Out

Every Sunday, I spend two hours helping out at a writing workshop for six wonderful third graders. I watch them write the kind of stories that eight-year-olds tend to write...the kind of stories I used to write as a kid. And sometimes...I'm a little jealous of them. They don't know many of the rules and conventions of writing. They don't all know about the proper way to format a piece of writing. And, being eight, they're not expected to know.

"Is it true you have to start a new paragraph every time someone speaks?" asks one girl.
"Yes," says the teacher.
"Oh...I haven't been doing that..."
"Don't worry about it," says the teacher. "Just get your words out. We'll do editing later."

I don't know when it happened, but at a certain point, I became too obsessed with the way stories are supposed to look and sound, and I became constrained in my writing. I sometimes wonder what changed about me. As a kid, I wrote furiously and prolifically. I was constantly in the middle of several stories. My imagination churned faster than I could write and, even before the days when I could type on the computer, I filled notebooks and pads and random scraps of paper with stories. I felt powerful, like I could write about absolutely anything in the world. I felt comfortable and free.

When did writing cease to be an activity of freedom?

I think I should hang a post-it somewhere near my computer that says, "Just get your words out. We'll do editing later."

Getting your words out is a big deal, and the more you mean them, the harder it seems to be.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Life's Good

Hi all. I know it's been a while. I don't have anything in particular to write, except that life is good. And busy. And good.

I hope you're all doing well, as well!

My first semester of graduate school ends in two weeks, so maybe I'll be able to write a real post then...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

If We Hold On Together

Seeing as it's Rosh Chodesh and I can actually post something with music, I'm going to post a song I really like. It's actually a Diana Ross song (featured in The Land Before Time), but this video is of a ten-year-old girl singing it. It's really pretty. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Little Footsteps

Little footsteps
Tripping in my stomach
Turning and coiling tight
Into quivering little balls.
I shake my head
And spoon out the cobwebs
To unearth searing clarity.
Why do I do the things I do?
Say the things I say?
Feel the things I feel?
Is any of it real?
Feet pounding on the dirt
Kicking up sand
Breath snagged on a cough
Hand outstretched toward an impossible end
No one can achieve perfection --
That word with no meaning
Because meaning is scratched and dented with deep reds, bright violets, soft blues, happy oranges, frank greens
And perfection is a glass table with an ice tablecloth
That you slide right off,
With the force of your glaring reflection.
I put on the hat that says my name across the front,
The only honest hat I can wear.
Thoughts swish in and out of words
And I cannot apologize for my scratches and dents,
My reds, violets, blues, oranges, and greens.
I can only present them as my painting,
My work of art.
And still, sometimes
Little footsteps trip.

Values

As I get older and interact with more people, I notice how different people have different values. Some people are very hospitable. Some have excellent table manners. Some are extremely generous. Some know how to speak to others kindly, even when being firm or opinionated.

Noticing others' values makes me quite aware of my own. I was taught that you always put others before yourself (when appropriate). I was taught that you always offer food and drink to a guest, especially if you're going to have some, and that you don't take something for yourself that you can't share with your guest. I was taught that you always speak to others respectfully, no matter how much you disagree with them. I was taught to sit straight at the table. I was taught to be honest. I was taught to use my brain. I was taught to respect my parents, and also my teachers. I was taught to be positive, to always see the glass half full.

Happy belated birthday* to my dad, who taught me these and other important values, life lessons, and other such things** when I was young. They are ingrained in me forever (even if I'm still working on some of them). I love you!

*It was actually on Sunday, March 14th
**Such as which bridges go where and how to spell the names of neighboring towns

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

These past years...

As certain things in my life seem to be coming together at last, I find myself thinking about the tempestuous waves that crashed against the walls of my beliefs, my self-image, and my entire thinking over the past few years. I started this post with many different headings, and then realized they are all equally important in sparking my journey toward who I'm beginning to become (though I'm not even close to getting there...).

The first thing I would like to mention is empowerment. Before I was able to figure anything out about myself, I was given (so, so generously by those close to me) a powerful feeling of "I can do this." I can get to know myself. (Amazing that it takes such a strong will in order to get to know one's self.) This feeling had to be renewed numerous times. I had to be reminded and re-empowered so often, it felt embarrassing. I felt like a horrible student of life, of myself. The patience I was met with and the persistence of people who empowered me was (and is) a tremendous gift. I think I've abused this gift, nearly, or maybe I'm just capable of empowering myself on my own now (even if it's not always easy...) and my friends know it. Either way, I've learned to dig into what's important about me and bring out that powerful feeling on my own. It's not always easy (I'm not always very good at it and still trip over myself doing it) and I don't always like that somewhat lonely feeling of "you're on your own now", but...I can do it.

After I felt empowered enough, I was able to recognize what was great about me, what was not so great, and, most importantly, what was true. This leads me to my next thing. Honesty.

Honesty is probably one of the most important lenses through which to see the world, others, and yourself. If you take only one thing away from reading this blog, please let it be the importance of clearing away everyone else's voices and opinions and what They say (whoever They are) and approaching the world and everything in it with true honesty. I had to work at being honest with myself. I had to word really hard. I'm not even that good at it yet. But I know that it is important, and I'm aware when I'm not being honest, even if there are times when I don't want to be honest and prevent myself from doing so. But I know what I'm doing - and that's an improvement.

Honest extends beyond the self, too. Do you really believe what you say you believe? I don't know everything I believe, but I think I know certain things I don't believe. Or maybe not. I'm not sure. But in any case, I don't like to say or do things just to make a point unless I can really, honestly say I believe in those things. I don't believe in just doing things to make points.

...I guess that's not really beyond the self, is it? But looking at the world honestly is important, too. Ultimately, I suppose it all reflects back on you, and so, in a way, it's all part of you, even as it extends beyond you. (I'm sorry if I've lost all of you in my rambling here...).

The last thing I thought of to mention is improvisation. I don't always know everything I believe, and I'm usually uncomfortable making across-the-board declarations. But as situations come up, I try and understand how I really feel about them, and I base my decisions on that. I remember a time some years ago when I first started dating. A friend of mine asked me a number of questions about my hashkafic beliefs and to each of them I stupidly answered, "I don't know..." To a lot of those questions, I'd still probably fumble around with some sort of incoherent answer, or just say I don't really know, because the truth is, I really don't know. Not hypothetically. But in actual situations, I find myself feeling certain ways, and then I'm not always as ignorant and lost about my beliefs as I am when trying to think about them on a hypothetical plane.

...I don't think what I'm trying to say is actually coming out right. I'm just thinking out loud, really. Most of these ideas are not mine, or not mine originally, but belong to other people who have inspired me. And who knows, maybe those people will say the ideas belong to people who've inspired them, or belong to humanity as a whole. Either way, I believe I'm a better, stronger person because of these (and other) ideas.

In some ways, growth hurts. It's like emotional and spiritual growing pains. It hurts to feel lost and confused and distraught. And, later, it hurts to feel others stepping away, giving you the space you need to pedal forward on your own. But I suppose it's just a change of relationship, really. They're not going away. They're just shifting places. Or maybe you are. Side-by-side instead of one supporting the other. Maybe.

For some people, my thoughts, my ideas, my opinions, the way I am will probably never really be quite good enough. The things I say, the way I think, my relationships, my performance...they're all always going to be...not quite there. Missing something. Needing something more.

I've learned not to care (much) about that. I can't. It only brings me down. Besides, the point isn't to be good enough for someone else. It's to be good enough for myself.

Where am I going with this? Have I confused everyone?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On Victory's Road

Mazel tov to Mavis' hockey team on winning their playoff game in triple overtime last night! After an undefeated season, they now get to play in the championship next Sunday. Good luck to them!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Anonymous

anonymous
a collection of ironed-straight hair,
stiffly gelled curls,
nondescript --
clones.
indistinguishable
blurred blades of grass in an endless meadow
black, white, brown, bright colors streaming
indivisible
watercolors running together,
invisible --
adjectives.
anonymous me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rejection!

It was a piece of paper. A piece of paper. And yet it held such power, such weight, such a determining factor in Lily’s life. Well...didn't it?

Rejection.

The sound of it reverberated like a verdict barked in a courtroom. And yet - the reverberations did not shock Lily. Rather, they bounced like little balls of putty going boing! boing! boing! up and down Lily's insides, tickling her rather. She felt empowered. She was rejected. What a wonderful feeling! She laughed gaily, a soaring pleasantness rising within her. All writers get rejected! You're not a real writer if you don't have a pile of rejections behind you before you get that first breakthrough acceptance!

Lily felt like a real writer now. Rejection did not mean she had to hide forever, never show another soul her piece of writing. It meant she got to send her writing somewhere else now; she could give herself more opportunities! This was only rejection #2. She was certain there would be many more - and she welcomed them openly! Giddily! For with each rejection, she knew she was ever closer to acceptance.

"I'm a real writer," she smiled. "My rejection collection is only beginning."

Discouraged?

No way!

Bring them on!

One day someone will recognize her potential and the others will be eating their socks.

:D

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning

Learning is this private, personal thing that becomes highly embarrassing if anyone were to walk in on you doing it. I suppose it doesn't have to be this way, but it often is. Suddenly, someone starts judging you and comparing you to the experts - or at least to the ones who do things significantly better than you (or maybe not even that much better, or even better at all, but who have more of a reputation for it). They don't take you or anything you do seriously. Shakespeare out of your mouth is the basest, simplest, rawest attempt at poetry. You won't be taken seriously because you are not a hidden wonder, or a known wonder even, but you're just a student, learning, trying, learning. And the thing is - you've got to be allowed that space to learn, to be bold, to be presumptuous and audacious and even a little cocky. You've got to be those things and trip and trip and trip over yourself while being them. You've got to feel your limits and then realize that what you thought were limits are really only self-imposed illusions of limits because of low expectations, or are just hurdles because you've never done this before and you're out of practice (any practice), and you've got to push beyond those limits. You've got to push farther and farther and farther than you ever dared dream possible.

But you can't if someone is watching you. You can't when people give you those half smiles, friendly, nice, understanding smiles - those 'aw, you're just learning' smiles - and close the doors - ever so sweetly - in your face. You've got to force those doors open - but then everyone will think you've got a temper, or you're trying too hard, and then they won't let you try at all. So you've got to hide away and build yourself up privately until you're good enough for them to finally respect you, to finally see.

So you see? Learning is a private thing.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Nightmare Awakening

A voice in the darkness monopolizes your attention until you realize you can move. You spring out of bed and the darkness swallows you, but with some just-discovered fortitude, you stand where you are until you can see - there is the light switch! You run over and stretch out an amorphous hand... Have you done it? Have you flicked the light switch? You definitely moved it - but enough? You try again, your hand heavy from something like pins and needles, but a kind you can actually see, not feel - except for the heaviness. The light will not turn on. Acid panic starts to gnaw at you from the inside. You frantically flip the switch back and forth multiple times, but the room remains enveloped in living darkness scratching against your inner sanctity. Suddenly, without a sound except a voice in your head telling you it is happening, lightening floods the room a stormy orange. You instinctively turn for your security object from childhood, but there are three stuffed dogs on your bed. You grab them all and you run to your parents' room. Your father gives you a surprisingly welcome look - you were expecting annoyance at being woken up in the middle of the night. 'You see!' you cry in desperation. 'There is only one of me - not three!' Then everything melts away and your eyes fly open. Your racing heart begins to calm as, twisted in your blanket, you fall out of your nightmare and embrace being awake.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Solitary

One drop of a drizzle
One drizzle of a rain storm
One glint of sunlight in a deep puddle on the street
One shallow footprint in the hardening snow
White-out world, gray sky frozen fog
Silent moans through the empty rustling trees
Numb fingers, numb face, squished toes
Hat itches
Sand in your head, muffled thoughts
Feeling strikes - burning
Flames of blood churning
Wind blows
Knocked over in the snow
Grip ice
Get up.

The Balloon

The balloon kept wanting to go up. The little girl tugged on the string. No, she said. Mine. The balloon sailed obligingly along beside her as she walked, bobbing up and down. They stepped through bushes, the little girl's shoes crunching on green and brown brush on the ground. A clearing opened up before them, green world bursting forth in a rush of twitting blades of grass. Dandelion laughter twinkled in the air and the girl grinned under the expansive sky. The wind whirled around the girl and her balloon, swirling them up. May I have this dance? asked the wind. Why, of course you may! the girl curtsied and giggled, jumping up and letting go the string. The wind swept up the balloon and it drifted slowly upward, away away away. Goodbye, Balloon! The little girl jumped up and down, waving.

Look! A college girl pointed to a red balloon slowly ascending above buildings, past her window on the 26th floor. Make a wish! said a mother. The girl wished. Her wish filled the balloon as just that wish could, and she watched the balloon until it was only a dot in the crystal sky, and then could be seen no more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Girl's Thoughts On A First Date

Bored Jewish Guy started a challenge about thoughts on a first date, so I figured I'd give my version of it (mostly because I'd love some feedback for the few questions I ask). Enjoy!

The Preparation:

Usually I start to get ready about an hour before pick-up time. I've probably planned out in my head what I want to wear much earlier in the day, so I take it out of my closet and lay it on my bed. I look at it, consider it, try a few different variations which turn into totally new outfits, and, after much playing around with options, end up putting on the outfit I originally thought of. Then I try to do something with my hair - usually putting it in a half pony or pulling some of it to the side in a clip, and also usually ending up unhappy with my hair in general. I put on a little bit of make up, but not too much because I'm not super comfortable in make up and I don't think it's very pretty when girls look like they're wearing too much of it.


The Wait For Pick-Up:

I'm usually ready a while before I'm supposed to leave (except for one time when the guy came 15 minutes early). Then I just wait around, usually hang out online nervously doing nothing. This is when I start to wish I wasn't going out because I get kind of anxious and would much rather curl up and watch a movie or something instead.

I often do not know what we are doing on the date. This is somewhat of an inconvenience because I don't know A. whether I should stay dairy and B. if I should eat dinner at all. I usually eat a snack in case we are not going out to eat, because I've ended up pretty hungry on dates sometimes.


The Meet:

Except for once, I've never been picked up at home. The guy usually calls either on the dot or about a minute after the allotted time and I go down from my dorm/apartment. If the guy is noticeably late - I don't mind, but I start to worry that maybe he forgot. Most girls probably wouldn't worry - but I tend to worry about these things. :) Especially if we have not spoken in a week.

The one time a guy came to my house, I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Do I invite him in? Do I just leave with him? Do I ask him if he's hungry, or is that weird because he's not coming to hang out? I ended up asking if he wants a drink, he declined because he said we're going out to eat, and we left. (I'm so glad I don't usually go on first dates out of my house.)

One thing I never know how to navigate is the "Are you hungry?" question. If he wasn't planning on going out to eat, and/or if he's not hungry, then he'd have to change his plans on the spot (and become hungry) if I said yes. If I say no and he was planning on going out to eat, he'd have to change plans the other way (and be hungry the whole date. I might also be hungry the whole date, which is just silly). I usually answer something noncommittal, but once I said yes. We ended up going to a bagel store where the guy told me he wasn't hungry but I could get something if I wanted. That was just AWKWARD.

I think date activities really ought to be discussed before actually going on them so you can both be prepared for whatever it is you are doing.

The Departure:

Car: I follow the guy to his car and stand there awkwardly as he opens the door for me. It's not that I'm this super feminist who gets offended if a guy feels he needs to do things for me. It's just that people don't usually open car doors for me, and I feel a little silly when a guy who, in all honesty, is a complete stranger does so for me.

Subway: Walking to the subway is actually not as awkward as getting into a car. For one thing, the guy can't open the subway door for me. It's also a good little walk to start the date on. We can start talking to each other without him also having to deal with driving anywhere. The wait for the subway can sometimes get a little awkward because you're just standing there. When the subway finally comes, you have to decide what you're going to do - stand? Sit next to the guy? Would he feel weird about that? If he offers you the only seat, do you take it? Or do you offer it to him back? Do you just stand with him and neither of you take the seat? What if you don't like sitting in between two strangers on the subway but he offers you the seat?

The Journey:

By car: The problem with me and cars is that I tend to stare out the window and lapse into silence during car rides (ask anyone who's been on a car ride with me). I have to tear myself out of that element on a date and make sure I talk. I don't really mind the car ride, though, as long as the guy's not a crazy driver. I've been in car rides where I was silently praying we would make it to the date and back in one piece. Those kinds of car rides are NOT pleasant.

By subway: I feel very conscious of the fact that there are a lot of people around us. There is usually not too much conversation on the subway, but if too much time goes by without conversation, that can get awkward. Usually we talk a little bit on the subway. If there are other Jews on the subway, I'm also very conscious of how much we look like we're on a first date. I especially hope not to see anyone I know.

The Entrance:

The entrance in this case most often refers to entering Starbucks. That is where I have been on probably 75% of my dates. (Bo-ring. But understandable from the guy's perspective.) The guy often asks me where I'd like to sit, or if a particular spot is okay with me. I prefer sitting somewhere away from any window where we won't be super obvious to passer-by. I like to sit somewhere a bit apart from other people, since I find first dates awkward enough without other people being able to see and hear us being awkward.

The Date:

I find first dates difficult - and this part is the most difficult. In my dating experience, I've never been hooked in a conversation by this point. Usually, I'm floundering around in my head trying to come up with interesting things to talk about, while simultaneously not being super interested in what the guy is saying. I try very hard to be interested, but I often find myself becoming bored, and, unfortunately, my mind starts to wander. I'm not always aware of my mind wandering until I snap back into the conversation and can't remember what the guy was just saying. This is bad. Every time I go out, I work on not doing this. Sometimes I feel like this is why first dates at Starbucks are a bad idea. When I become friends with someone, it's usually because I first met that person while doing something fun and we both had a good time together. I know people who feel differently, but in my opinion, first dates should probably be more activity oriented instead of putting yourselves in a position where all there is to do is talk. If you both have fun doing whatever activity, then you'll be more interested in finding out more about the person. Or I will, anyway. Of course, there should be some talking on a first date. But there should also be something fun to do. Some experience to share. Something that engages both parties in the date itself so that there isn't such heavy focus (and pressure) on pure conversation. An activity also gives daters something shared to talk about. Then they are not two random, separate people trying to be interested in each other but they are two people participating in the same activity and sharing an experience. Shared experience is usually what brings people together more than forced conversation. And it leads to more natural conversation.

I'm usually ready to go home waaaaay too early. That makes this part of the date even harder. I tend to become a bit more withdrawn and reserved when I've really had enough, hoping that will kill the conversation sooner. I also have no desire to share more of anything personal (or as personal as you get on a first date) with the guy if I'm really finished dating him. I do make an effort to keep the conversation going if I feel a pathetic amount of time has passed, though. I definitely try to give us a chance to interest each other in conversation in various ways, but at a certain point, I just feel bored-out. Once a nice amount of time has passed, I kind of try to steer the date toward its end without being too obvious about it. I always let the guy decide when he wants to end the date.

The end of the date is slightly awkward because eventually, when conversation really sort of dies, the guy says, "So...should we go?" I have to make sure not to sound too eager when I say, "Sure."

The Drop Off:

In my experience, I've never really felt like I wanted to go out again with the guys I've dated. Still, even though I have to make new forced conversation on the way back, I'm happy and usually much less tense because we're going back. I find awkward date conversations tiring though, and I don't usually want to talk anymore, but I do anyway. The one time I really felt annoyed at a guy at this part of the date was when he made me come meet him near his work, and then just dropped me off at the subway instead of taking me back. As much as I wanted the date to be over, I thought that was very rude of him.

I never know what to say once we get to the front of my building. I always thank the guy and say I had a nice time. The guy also usually doesn't really know what to say here and we both fumble around for some acceptable way to leave each other that isn't too awkward or abrupt or dragged out. Only once did a guy tell me right there that he wanted to go out again. I felt very put on the spot because I was pretty sure I did not want to go out again, but I didn't feel ready to say so just yet. I said, as noncommittally as possible, "We'll talk." But I really did not know how to respond. I needed time to decompress from the date before really deciding.


The Decision:

I usually agonize over my decision to go out again or not. I never feel like I had a good time on a first date (seeing as I don't find sitting in Starbucks having forced conversation particularly fun) so I'm not too keen on repeating it (hence the suggestion of actually doing something on a first date, so that even if you're not crazy about the guy or don't feel like it will really go anywhere, you still feel like you did something fun with him and are more willing to repeat that fun experience and give him (and yourself) another chance). Unless I feel very strongly like the guy I went out with is weird or a creep or completely not for me (has happened a few times), my policy is usually - I'll go out again if he wants to, and if he doesn't, that's fine, too. Usually we mutually do not want to go out again and that's that.

Other thing I recommend: don't stalk the girl to set you up with her friends after you both decide not to go out again. It'll probably ruin any chances of her doing so.

Additional Thoughts:

This is shallow (and everyone is more shallow than they admit to being. I don't believe you if you say otherwise), but if I found the guy really attractive, I'll probably actually want to go out again, even if our conversation was forced that first date. Unfortunately, this has not yet happened. :-/ If I find the guy extremely unattractive, it'll actually feel a little icky to sense him looking at me in certain ways. This has happened. :-/

I always have this desire to say to a guy, "I hate how awkward shidduch dating gets. Let's pretend we're not on a shidduch date and just do something fun." I never have the nerve, though.

I think guys should refrain from talking about wanting to find a girl to fall in love with until a bit later in the dating experience (as in, not on the first date).

Guys on a first date should also refrain from talking about times they got drunk and ended up in the hospital.

Guys should also not completely abandon a girl after a first date.

Don't express wonder at people actually stopping at Stop Signs.

I wonder where all the really quality guys are and why I never go out with them. :-/

Friday, January 29, 2010

Democracy

In discussing the reading for today's class, the five of us at my table started talking about how the attitude towards children changes depending on the politics and social norms of the time, as well as where you are culturally. I commented how here in America, we are very into Democracy...and Capitalism. I trailed off thoughtfully.

"They're not really the same thing," J, the guy sitting next to me, agreed when he saw me struggling to make sense of what I was saying.

I struggled because it seems to me that Democracy has taken on new meanings lately. I don't know if this is really a new thing or if I only just now became aware of political and social trends (probably a mix of both), but it seems as though people throw around the word "Democracy" in order to prove their entitlement to...everything. Anything should be allowed. After all, we live in a free country. We believe in Democracy. It would be un-Democratic to suppress any way of living or state of being. In this country, all deserve to have money. All deserve to succeed. All deserve to live comfortable lives. All deserve to behave however they like so long as it does not harm anyone else. All deserve everything - in the name of Democracy. In the name of Democracy, there is a desire for automatic entitlement to things without earning it; people believe they ought to have things coming to them just because they live on American soil.

Similarly, Democracy suddenly seems to stand for an overabundance of Political Correctness. It is like there is a warped idea of what it means not to discriminate against others. We are so afraid of stepping on anyone's toes that we have made ourselves ridiculous. Our pride and common sense has disappeared and we have become a community of people-pleasers, no matter who those people are or what they stand for.

Is this what the founding fathers of America meant when they created a Democratic system of government?

"No," I told J. "I think Democracy and Capitalism can be related."

I explained what I meant. To me, Democracy does not mean everyone gets free reign. It does not mean people can have whatever they want because it's a free country. To me, Democracy means everyone has the opportunity to have such things. You still have to work for it. There is still a need for competition. That's where Capitalism comes in. No one is entitled to anything. Those who work hard will rise. Those who do not - well...sorry. I feel as though America: the Land of Opportunity has somehow morphed into America: The Land of Entitlement. Entitlement is not what this country is about. The freedom in this country is the freedom to compete, to be heard, to matter. Everyone in our society is allowed to compete. Everyone is given a voice and a say. Everyone's opinions and individual successes matter. In other societies, certain social and economic classes are suppressed, are never allowed the opportunity to rise, to succeed. In America, all can do so. All can rise. All can succeed. But they have to work for it. And the more we compete, the more we all succeed as a society. That's the relationship I see between Democracy and Capitalism. Democracy (among other things, like the right to vote) gives us the opportunity for all to partake in a Capitalist society.

Part of our reading for class talked about children developing a sense of self. This is true not only for children, but for adults as well. Before we can become effective members of society, we must have a certain self-awareness. We must understand what precisely makes each of us individuals.
Individuality is precisely that: a sense of self. Being an individual is not being not-others; it is not going against the norm. That is not having a sense of self, but rather wishing to be not whatever anyone else is. A true individual is one who is, not one who is not. The individual is one who is true to him/herself: who truly thinks, feels, and behaves according to what he/she believes is true and correct. This is not a reaction to others, but a reaction to yourself. This is a sense of self.

A society made up of those with a true sense of self is a society of individuals, and our nature as individuals leads us to healthy competition. If we are truly such a society, we will be one that is self-aware, and therefore critical, constantly growing and trying to better itself. We need to see our strengths, and we really need to see our flaws. We need to be aware of who we are, what we stand for, and why we stand for it. And we need to keep our rights as individuals faced with opportunities, we need to take those opportunities, and we need to work towards a better world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Principles Of Learning

This week in one of my classes, we discussed two important principles of learning:

1. Building on what you know

2. Building on your success

So often, schools administer assessment tests in order to discover what the students do not know. Once this information is ascertained, teachers begin to fill in those gaps. They start from the top, from the end goal, and work downward.

This is actually not the most effective way of teaching. By introducing completely new concepts to students, you throw them into an unfamiliar arena and expect them to excel with steady confidence. Additionally, you don't consider the student, but rather the missing information you wish the student to acquire. You start from the goal and work down toward the student. A better way to teach is to discover what the student does know and build upon that. Instead of working from the top down, you work from the student's knowledge base and build upward. You learn about the student's interests, passions, and strengths, and use those to guide the student toward new ground. The student, in turn, feels more confident about every step forward, because each step is taken from a familiar starting point. The student perceives, "I have succeeded up until now. Now I can take another step forward."

That brings me to the second principle - building upon success. There is nothing that strengthens confidence more than success. With every feeling of success, a person is more willing and confident to move forward. If the person feels unsure or shaky, he/she will feel much less willing and capable to advance. You cannot build higher on a structure with a shaky foundation. That's why it's important to recognize your student's (or your own, by the way) every advancement. Praise, especially after a particularly important step forward, awakens that initial desire and inspiration to succeed.

This does not apply merely to students in a classroom, but also to all people, and to your own self. If you ever want to push yourself to succeed, or help someone else succeed, I feel that both these principles are vital. You don't need to throw a party every time you do something you've never done before, but don't be afraid to give yourself a little proud smile. You did it. You advanced! Now take that feeling of pride and accomplishment and throw it into the next step up on the ladder towards your goals and ambitions. Let every past success inspire your next success. And remember that every unfamiliar territory begins with what you already know.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Different

For those of you who don't know, I just started graduate school this week. I'm studying Literacy and General Childhood Education.

Didn't know I was interested in teaching?

Funny. I'm not sure how well I knew it either not that long ago.

Tonight was my second class of the semester, and in tonight's class (called Child Development), we each had to talk to the person sitting next to us for five minutes and then introduce that person to the class. I was sitting in a spot where there were three of us, not two, and both women I spoke to for those five minutes are career changers. They both are probably at least ten years older than me (if not more) and have several children. I felt very young talking to them, and in some ways, I didn't feel young at all.

"You know," I said to them. "I'm not a career changer, but I did have a very different idea of what I'd be doing after college not that long ago."

"Really?" one of the women asked.

"Yeah. Ever since I was in high school, really, I applied and applied and applied to internships and jobs in the publishing world. I was sure that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to work with books. But at a certain point, I just wasn't getting a job in publishing. So after some serious rethinking, I'm here. But imagine if I had gotten a job in publishing. My life already would be so different, and would go in such a different direction."

"Yeah, it's funny, the paths our lives take," said the same woman.

"Yeah..." mused the other.

Sometimes I do wonder if I was never supposed to go into publishing in the first place, if it was sort of on purpose that I never got offered a job in a publishing house. When I attend my graduate school classes, when I sit in the library for three hours straight reading for class...I can't even describe what that feels like. You won't believe me. You'll think I'm over-exaggerating. But...I'm not. I'm really not. Every single second I'm there...I'm filled with this intense feeling of...rightness. I am doing the right thing. I am in the right place. I have set foot on a path where I know I can make a difference in people's lives concerning something I am passionate about. This is where I'm supposed to be. Not behind a desk at a publishing house.

Do I sound completely crazy to you?

But imagine how different things would be if just one place had offered to hire me? Just one? In all those years of applying.

Imagine how different my life would be if Stern had never put on a bizarre student-written play some years ago. Imagine if the Commentator had never written a blasting review of that play. Imagine if I had been too lazy to attend a random meeting of the drama society and heard Chana talk about her blog. Imagine if I had never, on a whim that night, decided to start my own blog.

Imagine if Ezzie had never started talking to me on gchat. Imagine if he had never invited me for Thanksgiving. Imagine if SJ and Fudge had never brought me there. Imagine if I hadn't stayed for Shabbos.

Imagine if SJ and I had not had all the same classes a few years ago in Stern. Imagine if The Apple and I had not been in fencing class together. Imagine if I had not decided to stay in Latin class as an only student. Imagine if I had not been an English Major.

Imagine if I had gone to Queens College.

Imagine how each decision, even small ones, how each chance encounter (if you believe in chance encounters), even seemingly unimportant ones, shape our lives so completely. How they've shaped my life.

Who would I be today if even one of those things was different? Or hadn't happened?

What if I'd never had an utterly boring job two summers ago and hadn't started writing a story and emailing the segments? Would I still be in the middle of a book right now? Would it be this book?

There are so many other factors in my life that could be different if it weren't for small things I decided to do, small risks I decided to take, small encounters I had. It's a crazy thing to think about.

I'm so happy with the way my life is turning out. I love my friends - the ones I didn't even know until a few years ago. I love all my old friends, too. I love what I'm doing. I love where I'm going. I love what I'm writing. I love what I've already written. I love that when I'm not reading or writing or in school, I'm doing things like playing the flute or attempting to illustrate things I've written.

And none of those things would be there if it weren't for the small things that have, in the words of Robert Frost, made all the difference. Really.

Imagine how different all of our lives could be if it were not for the small decisions, the chance encounters, the tiny interactions that begin beautiful friendships and relationships, that start us off on paths not only towards desirable goals, but where the paths themselves are such amazing places to be walking along.

I love life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Beautiful

That girl, she sits alone in her chair
Off to the side of the room
And the rest of the people are laughing
And dancing
And feeling the flush of their bloom

And that little girl, her hands clenched in her lap
Her hair falling into her face
Her cheeks are pale white like an apple's insides
And she feels terribly out of place

And doesn't she know
She deserves to feel beautiful
Beautiful
Doesn't she know
Someone ought to be calling her beautiful

Tears spill down the cheeks
Of the girls who are filled
With the music's emotion
Those dancing duets
But not on the apple-white cheeks
Of the girl
Who is sitting alone
With no one to stir up her smile
And make her cheeks wet

Those notes pass right over her head
As she loses herself in her fantasy land
A place where a handsome lad
Sparkling a smile
Flashing his eyes
Offers her his hand

And he lifts her up from her seat in the corner
And spins her around so her dress and hair twirl
And they spin and spin and dance in the clouds
And he says she is beautiful
Because don't you know
She deserves to be called beautiful
Beautiful

And after they dance they go for a walk
Outside where the air is crisp
But she is not bothered by the cold
Because the cold cleanses her misty thoughts
And wakens her to feelings that are beautiful
Beautiful

Her lad, he is smart and they talk forever
They walk and talk forever
About life and philosophy
And things that are special
And at the end he calls her special
And beautiful
And important
Because she is
She is special and beautiful and important

The music stops and the room gets loud
Gets crowded nearby the chair
And the girl's eyes are misty
From her fantasy land
And she thinks
For the thousandth time
As everyone finishes their thousandth dance
Maybe next time
I will dance
My first dance
Maybe next time
I will be beautiful
Beautiful

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writing Journal #1

I'm such a bad writer. Not that my writing is bad, but I'm bad at actually writing it. I'm so annoyed at myself, but every time I sit down to write, I get blank. Even when I try to just start writing anything, I write a little bit and then hit a wall. What happened to me? Why can't I write for hours anymore? Have I run out of things to say?

I'm really so frustrated with myself, because I do care about this, even though it seems like I don't. Every time I do something that isn't writing, I feel guilty because I know I'm spending time doing something else when I could be writing instead. But I feel lost in my writing.

One of the things I love about the project I'm working on is that it's a story that was born, and continues to be born. It's not one I mapped out and that is being written chronologically according to a plan. It's an idea in the form of a story and it is constantly giving birth to itself, so that I am continuously writing the beginning and the end.

I don't know if that made sense to anyone but me.

In an attempt to keep myself writing, I thought about keeping this writing journal for you all to see. It will contain my thoughts, difficulties, observations, and ideas about the writing of the day. Or maybe not. Maybe it will just contain the number of pages I've written. Who knows. I'm just trying to help myself along here.

Today I wrote two pages. Blech.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things

Things I like (in no particular order):

1. Notebooks
2. .5mm lead pencils
3. Clean laundry
4. Fun colors and patterns
5. Playing the flute
6. Creative writing
7. Helping people with their writing/Editing
8. Brainstorming
9. Thinking
10. Analyzing
11. Socks
12. Pockets
13. Hair things
14. Chapstick (I'm not sure if I like it or if I just can't live without it. I think it's the latter.)
15. Snickers bars
16. Reese's
17. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream
18. Mint chocolate chip ice cream
19. Well-written books
20. Imagining
21. The Swings (at amusement parks)
22. Gmail
23. South African accents
24. Clean kitchens
25. Clean bathrooms
26. Perfect temperature indoors
27. Bundling up in a sweater/sweatshirt/blanket
26. Snow
27. Sledding/snow tubing
28. The idea of flying (for real, not in an airplane)
29. Simulator rides
30. Fruit roll-up
31. Gushers
32. Fruit Snacks
33. Logic
34. Being able to reach things
35. Surprises
36. Responsible people
37. The chocolate crunchies in Carvel ice cream cakes
38. Calvin and Hobbes
39. Riddles and brain teasers
40. Crossword puzzles
41. Games
42. Running around
43. Adventure
44. Hot chocolate
45. Feeling special/loved/important
46. Israel
47. Getting lost with friends (but not by myself)
48. The sound of the sea
49. Macaroni and cheese
50. Being in control of my day

Things I don't like:

1. Big messes
2. Washing dishes
3. Plates and silverware that were put away not fully clean
4. Things that smell stale
5. Gross noises
6. People writing 2 instead of to or too
7. Loud ringing or vibrating of a phone (mine vibrates way too loudly...)
8. Not getting enough sleep
9. Feeling stressed
10. Long subway rides, especially involving transfers
11. When my ears are too cold
12. Not being able to reach things
13. Letting people down
14. Irresponsibility
15. Too much immaturity
16. People who act inappropriately
17. Insensitivity
18. Getting set up with a guy just because he wants to make Aliyah (I'm not even planning on making Aliyah any time soon! I have two and half years of grad school, for starters.)
19. When one person dominates the whole conversation
20. When people act silly or stupid to get attention/make people laugh
21. Whining past a certain age
22. Self-centeredness
23. When people care only about their grades, not about actually learning
24. People who take advantage
25. Anything gross
26. Spiders
27. Things that are dirty
28. People who don't use a tissue when they need one
29. The middle seat on an airplane
30. Being on a crowded train when I am literally being breathed on by strangers
31. Driving in major cities
32. How nyquil makes me feel
33. Alcohol
34. Avocado
35. Fish (to eat. I don't mind them when they're swimming!)
36. The overuse of ellipses
37. Being alone on Shabbos
38. Taking naps (and waking up disoriented)
39. Headaches
40. Dehydration
41. Being nauseous
42. Manicures (especially when they file your nails. It always makes me shudder!)
43. Cutting vegetables (they're so cold!)
44. Loading the dishwasher (you have to touch everyone's dirty plates)
45. Knuckle-cracking
46. Unmade beds
47. When people eat before they brush their teeth
48. Zucchini
49. Having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night
50. Frizzy hair