Thursday, December 30, 2010

Goodbye 2010

As 2011 approaches, it seems like a good time to take a glimpse back at 2010 and think about this past year, and think about what I hope to accomplish next year. The end of 2010 was good for me, but unfortunately the beginning was not quite as great. Though that is sad, I would much prefer it being that way than the other way around. I'd rather have a year that started off bad as long as it ended up good, rather than have a year that started off good and ended up bad. 2010 started off on a pretty bad note for me, as January/February time things were not going so great in my life in general. Part of the reason I started this blog was to explore a different outlet for expressing my thoughts, and it has turned out to be more fun than I thought it would be. I was pretty lost and confused and was generally unhappy and worst of all felt powerless to change things. However, Hashem is in charge of the world, and though things seemed pretty hopeless back in January, I am luckily able to look back now and see how things were for the best and how slowly but surely the year turned around. Sometimes you just never know why things aren't going the way you want them to, but sometimes if you are fortunate then retrospect lets you see things you couldn't see when you were in the moment.

Despite my bad start to the year, my life started to get a little better in April and May. In retrospect June was pretty much the beginning of when things started to get better, but at the time, during June and July, I wasn't quite sure if things were getting better or worse. The last few months of 2010 were much better and have been Baruch Hashem going really well. One major thing I learned from this year is that there are things you can and there are things you can't control. Even if you can't control other things, you can control your mentality and you can choose to be happy, but this isn't as easy as it sounds. I used to think that if I was in a bad mood, all I need to do is tell myself to snap out of it, and I'm good to go. Sometimes this works, but sometimes it takes a lot more patience and effort and a lot of trying and failing to get there.

Another thing I learned in 2010 is that bad situations can always get better. Sometimes I just didn't see how it could ever get better, but that's because I was looking for a fast immediate solution. Change is slow and takes a long time. Just because you don't see it coming, doesn't mean that it's not on its way.

My hope for 2011 is to hold on to this lesson, that some things I can control and some things I can't. To keep letting go and not worrying about the things that I can't control, and taking the right steps to take advantage of the things that I can control. My hope is not only to hold on to this lesson, but to learn new lessons as well. I hope 2011 teaches me new things, that I grow as a person, and that I meet each challenge successfully. I hope that 2011 continues in the pattern of 2010 of getting better and better.

I wish you all a happy and a healthy 2011!


Monday, December 27, 2010

I love snow

Snow is magical.

Snow is beautiful.

Snow is wonderful and simply amazing.

Snow makes me believe that anything is possible and that good things can happen.

Snow reminds me that even small steps make a difference, because snowstorms start off with a snowflake, then flurries, and slowly but surely it all adds up.

Snow encourages me to be unique, as no two snow flakes are identical.

Snow is the light that brightens up the dark winter days when the sun rises late and sets early.

Snow is the white sign of purity that I look for when cold days are dreary.

Snow teaches me that if I must fall from the sky, at least I should dance joyfully while I do it, letting the wind carry me to wherever I’m supposed to go.

Snow moves me to be creative, making snowmen, snowballs, and snow angels.

Snow strengthens my resolve to fight obstacles, as each step I take over the mountains of unplowed snow is a challenge.

Snow makes me thankful for moments of sipping hot chocolate under a warm cozy blanket in a nicely heated room.

Snow inspires me to be in awe of Hashem who created precipitation that can bury cars, stop all traffic, and give children a chance to have fun.

Snow gives me something to hope for, something to sing about, something to smile about.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breaking My TV Addiction: Last Year's New Years Resolution

As 2010 draws to a close, I decided to reflect on last year’s New Years Resolution. I’m not big on New Years Resolutions, and in fact last year- 2009- was the first time I ever made one. I usually prefer to set my spiritual goals at Rosh Hashanah and use that time for reflection. Last year, however, the timing was right, and so I decided to make a New Years Resolution: to overcome my addiction to television. I made this decision not only for religious reasons, but for psychological ones as well. This is not a preachy post, it is not post venting about the evils of TV, rather it is thoughts about my own experience, which perhaps will encourage someone else struggling with the same issue. But before I get to the ending of the story, let me start at the beginning.

Let me start off my story by saying that December 31, 2009, was not my first attempt at giving up watching TV. As a child, I grew up with a TV in my house, but my family did not watch TV very much. Television was an occasional pastime for amusement, not something to be glued to for hours and hours a night. As I got older I watched more TV, and at some point in my early teens I became obsessed with a certain TV show. I would rush home from school to watch episodes and when I couldn’t make it, I would tape it so I could watch it later and not miss anything. Lots of people do this, but at some point I realized it wasn’t good for me to be so obsessed, and I slowly tried to stop. I remember one day, when it was time for that show to be on, and I forced myself to go to another room and not turn on the TV. The entire hour that the show was on was a struggle, as I had the constant urge to go watch even whatever was left. I didn’t just wake up that day and stop, I watched the show again after that, but slowly I weaned myself away from it until I was so firm in my resolve that it would be a struggle to get myself to watch the show. I grew to the point that I was so determined to stay far away from it.

Though I was victorious with that one show, I still watched other shows and movies all the time. Then came high school where I had teachers that spoke out against the evils of TV, and at some point in there I think I successfully gave TV up for a short amount of time, but then went back to it later. The longest I went without watching TV/movies was my year in Israel, and to be honest, I didn’t even miss it, not even a tiny bit. My time was spent doing other things and I never had the urge to watch TV. After I returned from Israel, I was resolved to keep this habit of staying away from TV, but that did not last very long. Although I was in college and away from my house with a TV, there was always my laptop and my friends’ laptops to watch movies, and it became a great way to procrastinate or relax, but it was also a social thing. It also always starts with one movie. “Oh, it won’t be so bad just to watch this one harmless film,” I would think to myself. But it is the beginning of a spiral. Numerous times I tried to limit my amount of TV-watching, knowing that it wasn’t realistic to try to give it up completely because that wouldn’t work. Those attempts were short-lived.

I would like to share my reasons for trying to give up TV. You see, I do not believe that TV is completely evil and that it is awful to watch any TV. In fact, that was a big part of my struggle. In many ways it is easier to fight something that is clearly wrong than it is to fight something that is only sort of bad. I kept justifying my television watching by telling myself that I wasn’t really watching anything so bad, which is pretty true, since most things were not inappropriate or obviously over the line. Watching relatively clean TV is not against Halacha, and since it is not Assur, that allowed me to rationalize that it was not really wrong, and that made it harder for me to stay away from. Finally, when I was able to verbalize my personal reasons that TV was having a negative influence on me and my life, I was able to stop. There are two main reasons, and as I mentioned before, one is religious and one is psychological.

The first reason is the religious reason, and my perspective on this is not the one that I have often heard, so let me explain it as follows. There is right and there is wrong. Pretty basic, not a novel concept that is difficult to understand. How do you know what is right and wrong? “That’s easy,” you might say, “I just know.” But the bottom line is that right and wrong, good and bad, are all determined by G-d and explained in the Torah. In society, especially in American culture, my experience is that morals are subjective and the entire realm of right and wrong is one big area of utter chaos and confusion. Everything is viewed subjectively and each person is left to decide for themselves, which is a task equivalent to trying not to fall down when someone much stronger than you pushes you with a heavy force and crushes you to the ground. If you’re left to fend for yourself to figure out what is morally correct and incorrect, your Yetzer HaRah will crush you. Your desires will take over your intellect. TV represents American culture. That is why it is very tricky.

I didn’t even realize it, but TV can mess up your moral compass. All of the sudden things that should seem outrageous to you seem perfectly fine. You watch people being murdered and violence, even in clean movies. You watch characters speak Lashon Harah, treat other characters in verbally abusive ways, act sexually promiscuous, and commit adultery. And the crazy part is that you’re rooting for these characters, the good guys, to do these wrong actions. And did you notice that most TV characters fail to ever show self control? They want something or someone and they go for it. They seek pleasure and don’t worry about consequences. Sure, there are some very good movies out there, movies that teach good lessons, movies that are inspiring. I have seen plenty of those. But those are not the majority, and it is difficult to know beforehand that the entire movie will be OK.

Entering the world of movies/TV is entering a world without Hashem. Often G-d’s existence is lacking in these worlds of fiction. Although I don’t believe watching TV is objectively wrong, I believe it is spiritually dangerous. Like all risky things, some people handle them better than others. I didn’t like the direction that I was going in with this influencing me. The bottom line of my religious reason comes down to the fact that movies were taking me farther away from Hashem and Torah. Since one of my goals is to be close to Hashem, I realized that watching movies and TV was not going to work for me.

The second reason, which for me was an equally compelling reason to stop, is the psychological one, and that is that I was using TV as an escape. I used to TV not just to relax, which isn’t such a bad thing, but rather I started thinking thoughts such as, “Wow, I had a terrible day. I need to watch a movie now.” I felt like if I watched TV then it would make everything all better. While it is great to be mindless for a little while and be swept into another world where you don’t have to think about real life, it makes returning to reality that much more difficult. While I was actually watching TV I enjoyed it, but afterwards I returned to feeling sad about my bad day. I realized I should live life and not just watch it, that I should appreciate my own life instead of living vicariously through others, and that I had to stop trying to escape my life, but rather deal with it and find the joy in it. There is a thin line between, “I am going to relax,” and “I want to escape my life for a bit,” and I was on the wrong side of the line.

For those two reasons, I decided to stop watching TV, but I had tried so many times before and was not successful, so I didn’t know how to go about doing it, until I had a break through. Most of the time the way to cure a drug addict or an alcoholic is not to tell them to reduce the amount of drugs/alcohol they are taking bit by bit. It is too hard to stop that way because once they have a little they want to have more. The way to stop is to just quit cold turkey. I decided to quit cold turkey. I would have never thought to do this because it wouldn’t be realistic. That goal is just too big; there is no way I could do that! My moment of break through was that perhaps it sounded too big, but I had to take the leap. The worst thing that could happen is that I would fail, but I had to at least try. So I jumped into my plan of starting January 1, 2010 to never watch TV/movies again. The one exception I made for myself is that I wouldn’t give up YouTube videos, because my friends post videos on Facebook all the time, and people email me cute videos all the time, and I knew that would be impossible. Also, I don’t think short 5 minute videos are equivalent to movies/television. The problem is that there are plenty of movie/TV clips on YouTube.

I am proud to say that I have pretty much kept my New Years resolution from last year. I have not watched a single movie since the year 2009, and I have not watched a single TV show, except for once, when I was in the same room as a friend who was watching a half-hour comedy show, which was loud and I was unsuccessful in my attempt to tune out. I also had a few partial slip-ups- times when I watched videos on YouTube for longer than I feel really fits into this resolution. In any case, everyone slips up. Putting those few slip-ups aside, overall I consider my resolution a success.

Interestingly, giving up TV was a lot easier than I would have imagined. It was not hard at all. In fact, all of the partial slip-ups were recently, in the past few months. The first few months, despite what I would have guessed, were actually the easiest. I knew the hardest part was going to be when friends wanted to watch movies with me. One thing I didn’t mention yet is that I only told two people about this decision. It was really important to me that no one know about it since I wanted to be sure that my intentions were pure and I wasn’t just putting on a show. Plus, it was a private decision, (which is of course why I’m writing all about it on my blog! :) - no, but seriously) and it wasn’t something I wanted to share with the world (or at least with people who know me). Which just goes to show you that Hashem helps you out in whatever direction you plan to go, because somehow this year I managed to get out of the few times my friends have asked me if I wanted to watch a movie with them by saying that I was busy. I don’t know how that plan managed to work for a whole year, but clearly Hashem was helping me out. The part of this decision which I thought would be hardest was not difficult at all in the end.

The impact that this decision has made on my life has been significant, but not enormous. While a nice ending to this story would be to say that it had a huge impact, the truth is that the effect was barely detectable. However, I do believe that this change has made me a happier person and the feeling that I accomplished something that I never dreamed I would ever be able to accomplish is a truly great feeling. I like my life better without TV, and I like myself better without it. I recognize that this is not for everyone, but for me, it was the right choice. I could probably write a lot more about this, but I will end by saying that I am glad I made the resolution, and that I took on something so big, and even more pleased with myself that I stuck to it.


Monday, December 20, 2010

EDIP: Emergency Dating Interference Procedures

Shidduch dating is risky business because you never really know how a date may go. You might have had the best phone call, and a person may have sounded great on paper, but then you arrive on the date, and suddenly things are not going quite as well. You notice that it has been a full minute since either of you has said something, which in dating time feels like an hour, and as you desperately rack your brain trying to think of something, anything to say, you try to sneak a peek at your watch. Only to discover that you haven’t yet spend an hour with this person.

If you’re a guy, then you’re in control and you have to just stick it out until it’s been long enough for you to say, “OK, let’s head back now,” or something to indicate that it is time to end the date, and then take the girl back home. If you are the girl however, then you are stuck waiting for the guy to end the date. And if he is having a jolly old time, while you are smiling on the outside and going crazy on the inside, then drastic measures are in order. Some of us are the blunt and comfortable type and don’t mind saying gently, “Are you ready to head back?” but sometimes guys just don’t seem to get the hint. Therefore, I would like to make a suggestion.

We need to establish girl code EDIP: Emergency Dating Interference Procedures. (Also called: eDip). My problem is that none of my eDip plans seem to work. In theory, the way eDip would work is that Girl A would make a plan with her friend, Girl B, to call with an emergency in the middle of the date. Then if all was going terrible, Girl A could excuse herself, answer her phone and apologize profusely and explain that she needs to take care of the emergency. The obvious problem with this is: who answers their phone in the middle of a date? That is just rude. So scratch that plan. My next idea for a plan is to take advantage when your date goes to the bathroom and pretend to be on the phone when he comes out, with someone who calls with an emergency. If your date doesn’t take a break, then this plan doesn’t work either. If your phone starts ringing while you are “pretending” to be on the phone, then this plan goes up in smokes as well.

My third attempt at eDip would be to tell the friend where you are going so the friend can show up and interrupt your date. But what do you do if you’re actually having a good time? How would you signal to your friend that the eDip should be called off? It seems there is no way for us to rescue our friends from bad dates early, nor is there a way for them to save us. I suppose we are doomed to being forced to stick it out.

Perhaps one of you has a better suggestion. Any ideas for a successful eDip?


Thursday, December 16, 2010

When good people do bad things

A recent story made me think about the fact that I am idealistic. Those who claim to be realistic have tried to convince me that I will not be this way forever, and that as soon as I meet an evil person I will turn cynical like them. I believe that people are good, and since that might sound naïve, I would like to quickly add that I also understand that people can do bad things.

I was having a conversation with someone about this man who I know who did something that is extremely bad and wrong. Just to be clear, this was something extraordinarily bad, and it is not like he just said a bad word or made some small mistake accidently. She blamed him for something else that he had been involved in, claiming he probably had bad motives in that instance as well. Though he behaved horribly, I suggested, “He probably didn’t think that. He was a nice guy.” This statement caused outrage. “He was a nice guy?!” she exclaimed. “Do you know what he did?!”

She knew very well that I knew about the situation since we had discussed it many times, and in all of those cases I had made it perfectly clear that I thought his actions were wrong, and that I found them to be completely unacceptable. I stared at her and told her that of course I knew what he did and that of course that was a terrible thing, but that doesn’t mean he is completely evil. “People are complex,” I explained, “Just because he did something terrible, doesn’t mean that everything he did was bad and that he was out to get everyone in every aspect of his life.” Looking at me like I was absolutely crazy, she insisted that he only put on show of being nice sometimes, but clearly his morally upsetting actions show that this persona was completely fake. Deep down underneath it all, he is a bad person.

For some reason this made me quiet and thoughtful for the rest of the day, and here I am writing about it to try to sort out my thoughts. Perhaps she is right, I thought, maybe it was all a show and I was completely wrong about him. This idea bothered me for a few reasons, firstly that I am a strong believer in my gut feelings about people. This is why when I first found out what happened, my shock lasted only a few seconds and then I knew it was probably true, even before I received confirmation. Although I always believed his friendliness was genuine, I could tell there was something additional going on with him that made me wary. Secondly, in addition to being bothered at the idea that I was wrong, I was also bothered by the idea that some bad behavior means a person is all bad.

I don’t live in a dream world. I know perfectly well that there are evil people out there, people who want to hurt people, people who do not have any good intentions at all, who are all bad. But I believe those are the few exceptions in humanity, and that most people are good, deep down. It is important to be prudent of people who do bad things, and of course I would never assume that someone who appears to be preparing to cause me harm is really good so I shouldn’t worry about it. Good people do bad things, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad. In fact, one cause of good people becoming bad is when they do one bad thing and believe they cannot fix it and that this one bad act defines who they really are. G-d allows for Teshuva. Ironically, today I spoke to someone in a way that I later regretted. Although I felt terrible afterwards, part of the reason I was upset is because I knew that I acted in a way that was not true to who I really am.
Since it has no practical ramifications to my life, as I don’t interact with this man on a daily basis, and since it is always best to judge people favorable, I concluded by deciding to think that although he messed up big time, aside from that I have faith that he is still a good person.

Questions for the readers/ food for thought: Do you think that someone who does something that is extremely bad and terrible, is all bad? Do you think that someone can be good and bad at the same time or is that too contradictory? Do you believe that there are people out there who are truly evil without any trace of goodness in them?


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dieting Challenges

I am quite ready for Adar Sheini. With all of the Chaggim falling so early, Chanukah ended up right after Thanksgiving, and I decided that their unusual proximity was to blame when I hopped on the scale and cringed at what I saw. At least during Tishrei we’ve got two fast days in there to offer some assistance. After all, by the time I finished with leftovers from the turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and other goodies from Thanksgiving, there were only a few days before Chanukah began, and the next thing I knew there was just so much to eat between the Chanukah gelt (I am a chocoholic), sufganiot, and delicious yet fattening, oily latkes. Although it is probably a good thing that at the time they were instituting the minhagim for Chanukah they had no knowledge of things such as fast food, French fries or high fructose corn syrup. I could only imagine if the story had happened in today’s day and age with the high rates of obesity, that the minhag would be to eat salad with an olive oil dressing to commemorate the oil burning 8 nights. While not as tasty, that would perhaps have been better for my diet. You know, the one that starts tomorrow (as diets always do).

I remember the first time I decided to try to lose a couple pounds. Baruch Hashem I only had a couple of pounds to lose-I was never overweight, though I was never skinny either. I had never considered exercising or dieting; I seriously enjoy eating good food and never liked sports or being active, as I was quite out of shape and would find myself huffing and puffing after anything longer or faster than a 5 minute walk. But in high school for the first time I got my act together and started eating healthier and started exercising. Losing weight is really difficult for a number of reasons, but one reason is that it requires a lot of motivation and perseverance to continue when it doesn’t seem like you are accomplishing anything at all. We often expect to see immediate results, and unless you go on some crazy diet to lose weight fast (which I am completely against because in most cases I’ve seen as soon as people go off of it they gain the weight right back and no one can stick to one of those crazy things forever), losing weight takes time. At least it does if you do it by changing your lifestyle and your eating habits.

I used to be jealous of people who are very skinny, especially those who insist that they are unable to gain weight no matter how hard they try. I always say that if I was super skinny I would never exercise at all and I would eat anything I wanted all the time. Which is why it is a really great thing that Hashem did not make me naturally skinny because then I would be very unhealthy. I realized that if I was born super skinny, I would not have learned some of the great lessons I learned from exercising and dieting. The first main lesson I learned was the one I mentioned above about perseverance, and along with that is patience. This comes in handy in so many situations in life, especially when it comes to working on middot. Sometimes I unrealistically think that I will just be able to change overnight, that I will just decide in my head to abolish a certain negative behavior from my life and that will be the end of it. Unfortunately, things are just not that simple. You don’t lose weight overnight, and you can’t change yourself overnight. Sometimes you might even gain weight before you lose weight. Sometimes you’ll fail before you succeed. But you can’t let that stop you or you will not get anywhere. You have to keep going day after day after day, even if you do not feel like you are accomplishing anything.

Another lesson that I learned is that it is not all or nothing. Just because I broke my diet and ate that piece of cake I promised myself I wouldn’t touch, doesn’t mean I should give up and decide to throw the whole diet out the window. One mess-up doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. The same thing is true for exercising. Ideally, working out for longer is better, but just because I don’t have time to work out for an hour every day, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t work out at all. If I can work out for 45 minutes one day, then that is great. If another day all I have is 15 minutes, then that is what I have and I go for it. I do what I can do and try my best. (As I wrote about before, every drop counts.)

Despite starting out completely out of shape, I started exercising regularly in high school and kept it up. I laugh when I think about how lazy I used to be and how I would get out breathe by walking down the block. When I go for a walk for an hour and feel like I can keep going, I feel great. Additionally, exercising turned out to be a great outlet for me to let out steam and de-stress. It’s a great way to take a break and revitalize. Although there are days when I don’t want to exercise at all and force myself to anyway, most of the time I feel great afterwards. To finish the story, I lost a relatively small, but for me a decent size amount of weight over a long, long time, most of which I kept off, though it’s been up and down.

Now that Thanksgiving and Chanukah are over, the diet starts today. Not tomorrow, today. Even if it is small, even if it is step by step, even if it seems like I’m not going anywhere. Even though I know I’m going to mess up, and won’t stick to my original plan. I will overcome my dieting challenges!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

As I sat down to work on the puzzle, I realized that it had been quite some time since I worked on a 1,000 piece puzzle. I forgot how putting together a puzzle is challenging, fun, frustrating, and how you receive a great sense of accomplishment and excitement when you finally finish it and the entire puzzle is complete, looking exactly like the picture on the box. The beginning was somewhat easy as I put together piles of pieces with the same color scheme that probably fit together. The problem arose when I was towards the end.

Most of the pieces were together, and the end was in sight. Except that I was looking for this one piece and couldn’t find it! I had all the other pieces in that corner together and just that one piece was missing. It shouldn’t be hard to find- after all it should be a light purple like the rest of the pieces, with a little bit of dark blue on one edge and a little bit of red on the other edge. But where was it? I saw pieces that seemed to be the right colors, but did not fit at all, and the pieces that were shaped in a way that looked promising were not the right colors. Maybe there was a malfunction and the puzzle was missing a piece? Maybe I dropped it on the floor?

Of course as I was searching desperately for that puzzle piece, I started thinking about how searching for a puzzle piece is like looking for one’s soulmate. You have certain things that you are looking for in a person, characteristics of that person. With each person suggested the question is, “Do they fit?” Like the puzzle pieces, which were sometimes the right color but not the right size, or the right size, but not the right color, some people have some of the things we are looking for in a spouse, but not others. Where is the person who fits perfectly? Life is not perfect like puzzles, but there is someone who is a close enough fit out there. Where is that person?

Well, I don’t know how my story of searching for a spouse will end up, but I will share with you the end of my puzzle story. Finally, of course, I found the piece. It was not missing; it had not fallen on the floor. The box was not defective, it contained all 1,000 pieces. After working on it and eliminating other pieces by finding where they went, and after searching and searching, I found the puzzle piece! It was that light purple color, but where I thought it should be dark blue, that part of the puzzle gets darker, so it was actually black. And the red ended right before that piece so there was no red. The piece was not the colors that I thought it should be, so I never considered it. You can probably guess where I’m going with this, but the point is that sometimes in life we meet someone who fits just right and they are not what we expected. We thought we were looking for certain characteristics, but in the end someone comes along and fits us perfectly in ways we never considered.

May all those of us who have not yet found our puzzle pieces, find the person who completes us and who we complete, so we can create our beautiful puzzle of life together.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Chanukah

As I sit here trying to write a post about Chanukah, a number of things come to mind: Menorah, candles, light, dreidels, Chanukah gelt, presents, latkes, miracles, Maccabees. If I had to sum up Chanukah in two words, though, it would not be any of those. However, before I get there, I am easily distracted by three videos, which you probably have already seen at least one of, since they have been widely circulated:

1. The Maccabeats' new video, “Candlelight,” a parody of the Mike Tompkins version of the song “Dynamite,” which has hit over 100,000 views in less than 5 days.
2. The Six13/ NCSY Chanukah Video.
3. Aish’s Charlie Harary video about Chanukah entitled, “Chanukah’s Secret to Greatness.”

Now that I got that out of the way, here are some of my thoughts this Chanukah:

• I find it interesting that both the Maccabeats and Six13/NCSY videos feature covers of secular songs, considering the entire point of Chanukah was to fight the slow assimilation which began with the incorporation of Greek ideas and culture, which are against Torah values, into the Jewish world. This is a great demonstration of our ability to take what is secular and uplift it and make it religious. We are so lucky that we are not forced to assimilate, that today it is possible to be a part of secular society (to a certain extent anyway) while still holding strong and remaining true to Torah values.

• Thinking about sufganiot, I noticed how they are the opposite of regular donuts. Most donuts (Entenmanns, Dunkin Donuts etc.) are all about the outside circle, with a hole in the middle. Sufganiot, on the other hand, feature a filling inside the donut. Perhaps this is indicative of the secular focus on the external and on appearances, versus the Jewish approach of who a person is on the inside. Don’t judge a donut by its cover.

If I were to sum up my view of Chanukah in two words, it would be: Potential and Faith (or rather, since Hebrew has the more accurate connotation of what I’m trying to say, Koach and Emuna.) Both of those aspects are connected to the fact that the main symbol of Chanukah is the Menorah/candles/light. Rabbi Akiva Tatz (and others) writes that time is not linear, but rather circular, and that certain times of year contain different potentials. This explains the idea that Avraham kept Pesach, which seems impossible since Pesach is a holiday to commemorate the exodus from Egypt which had not yet occurred. (Speaking of whether the Avot kept Torah, and speaking of videos that are being widely circulated, if you haven’t seen this one, check it out.) Springtime, the time of Nissan, has potential for redemption and freedom. Which is why I don’t believe it is coincidence that the State of Israel was established in 1948 around Pesach time. This theory also explains why the two Batei Hamikdash were destroyed on the exact same day. The months of Tamuz and Av have often been bad times for the Jewish people- it is inherent in that time period.

So what is the potential for this time of year? It is a time of seeing light through darkness. Which is why I find it very interesting that Christmas lights are everywhere. This time of year is strongly tied to the idea of light. Now more than ever is a time to focus on hope amidst despair, of finding direction and clarity amidst confusion. Sometimes life is dark and you don’t know which way to go, or sometimes we forget. Sometimes life is dark and it seems like things will never be good again. All it takes is a small flame. We have the ability to light up the darkness. How? The Torah is compared to light and fire. Through Torah we can find our way. That is why to me, Chanukah means: Potential. The potential to hold on to hope, to light up the darkness.

And as I listen to Miami Boys’ Choir’s, “Light Up the Nights,” as I do each year around Chanukah time, I think about the candles, flames, and fire. Fire is great because it provides both light and warmth, two things that are lacking in the winter months. Fire is another symbol of “potential,” as it has the potential to be positive- to be used for heat, warmth, for light, and for cooking and baking food. Yet fire also has the potential to be destructive, to burn, to be used in a negative way. And since I can relate everything to shidduchim, I’ll note that it is interesting that the way to create fire is to rub two items together, for example the match and the matchbox. Fire is when two come together as one. This is evident in the names for man and woman- Ish and Isha. If you take out the “yud” from “Ish,” you get Aish, Fire, and if you take out the “Heh” from “Isha” then you get Aish, Fire. The Yud plus the Heh is Hashem’s name.

The second word that I use to describe Chanukah, faith/emunah, is also quite connected to the idea of light in the darkness. When things are dark and cold and dreary, it sometimes seems like things will never get better. Just imagine the Jewish people before the miracle of Chanukah. Things were bad, there were terrible decrees, Jews were being persecuted, and the holy Beit Hamikdash was defiled. Things must have seemed hopeless. But the Jews believed in Hashem, they had faith that He would save them, despite all odds, even though it seemed impossible. And Hashem made a miracle for them. Hashem lit up the darkness. Chanukah is all about how Hashem can always save us from any situation, and light up the darkness for us.

On this Chanukah, may we all be zoche to light up the darkness, to have clarity, to hold on to hope and not fall into despair, to develop and maintain deep, unshakable faith in HaKadosh Baruch Hu and to absorb all of the important messages that Chanukah has to teach us.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year as it gets closer to Thanksgiving, it seems someone will bring up the topic about whether Jews should celebrate Thanksgiving or not. It is a secular holiday on the one hand, but on the other hand, as the Rabbi of my shul points out each year, being thankful is a concept that is emphasized in Judaism. He points out that the root of the word “Yehudi,” Jew, is “LiHodot,” to thank. A big part of being Jewish is being Makir Tov, recognizing the good things that we have, the good things that others have done for us, and the good things that Hashem has given us, and being thankful.

As a side note, I would hardly call it “celebrating” Thanksgiving as the only thing it entails is eating a meal with turkey, usually with your family. Compared to various complex Jewish rituals that are part of Jewish holidays, this hardly seems like it can be called “celebrating,” but if you want to debate whether to eat turkey or not, go right ahead. I just do what my family does, and we have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, the whole thing.

No matter what your minhag is, I think it is apropos to make a list for some of the many things that I am thankful to Hashem for. Hashem has given us so much good, and it is a great chance to recognize that. So, in no particular order, here are some things that I am thankful for:

• My family, both my immediate family and extended, who are kind, thoughtful, loving, and always supportive of my decisions.

• My amazing friends, who are kind, accepting, and who are there for me no matter what. The friends who make me laugh, the friends who are nearby and far away, the friends who I can have long, deep, meaningful conversations with.

• Health: This is something I tend to take for granted more than other things for some reason. It’s so easy for me to forget that it’s a miracle when everything works right. Thank you, Hashem, that I am able to see, hear, smell, move, walk, talk, and generally function well.

• Torah/Being Jewish/Faith in Hashem. Without these my life would feel empty and meaningless. Learning Torah and my relationship with Hashem bring me joy, happiness, and also help me get through the tough times. If I didn’t know that Hashem loves me and created me for a reason and is watching over me, then I would probably have a break down when things get tough.

• Tefillah. It is amazing Hashem gave us the ability to talk to Him and He answers us. The fact that we can do this is such a gift.

• Good food: Have you ever had a cold and not been able to taste food? Hashem created the world that we need to eat to survive. But He didn’t have to make food taste so good! Delicious food is a huge chessed from Hashem and I am quite thankful for yummy food!

• Shabbos. As I get older I appreciate shabbos more and more and more. I thought I appreciated shabbos in college- what a great break from studying and tests and homework! But now that I’m done with college, I find that I appreciate shabbos even more and I would not have thought that was possible!

• Vacation. Enough said.

• Clarity. Whenever I have clarity, I have to take a step back and realize how wonderful it is to not be confused and unsure. Feeling unsettled is like being in the dark, and when the light is turned on, things are absolutely beautiful.

• Running Water. What did they do before there was running water? Anytime you needed water, which is often, it was a whole process. Imagine how much harder it was to do things like, shower, go to the bathroom, laundry, washing dishes.

• Cell Phones. What did people do before cell phones? Being able to communicate with anyone anywhere anytime is definitely something I take for granted.

• Music/iPods/MP3 Players. Music has the power to uplift you like nothing else in the entire world. And iPods- because I remember the days when I had to schlep around a million CDs with me wherever I went if I wanted to listen to more than one CD.

• A perfectly timed message. Have you ever had the experience that someone said the exact right thing to you at the exact right time? You know, when you go, “Wow! I really needed to hear that right now!” I am thankful for the times that Hashem sends me messages that I need to hear, and I get the message.

• Sleep/ mornings/new days. Sleep is one of the things I am thankful for a lot. Not just because it is great to be well rested, but because without sleep we wouldn’t have a break and we’d just keep going and going without any new beginnings. Each day is a new day and a new chance and you don’t have to be who you were the day before, and you can just start new. Sleep is a chance to leave the past in the past and move on.

I am sure I am missing MANY things, and this list could go on forever. So today, on Thanksgiving, I say: Thank you, Hashem, for all of the wonderful things you have given me! Thank you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Press the "Shuffle" button

That song was stuck in my head again. My head swayed gently to the melody, until I got up to the part where I couldn’t remember the words. Or the tune for that matter. Wait, how did it go next? Where did I even hear that song, I wondered. It was a Jewish song so I knew I couldn’t have heard it anywhere. It kept getting stuck my head, but I only knew part of the song. Don’t you hate it when that happens? I kept desperately trying to remember how it might go next, or at least to remember where I heard it so I could listen to it again. That way it could get stuck in my head properly and not all choppy. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how the song went. And it might not have bothered me quite so much, but it kept getting stuck in my head and though I tried pretty hard, I could not get it out!

Fast forward a few weeks.

I was sitting on the floor in the corner of my room, taking a break by relaxing and listening to music. I had put my iPod on shuffle, letting myself be surprised by whatever song was randomly selected. And that’s when it came on. That song! I opened my eyes and sat up alarmed and stared down at my iPod in shock. There it was! The song that had been stuck in my head for weeks, which it turned out was on an old Miami Boys Choir CD that I had purchased ages ago, and apparently hadn’t listened to very much. A huge smile involuntarily spread across my face, and I could not stop grinning. I listened attentively as the song played through, taking in each note, each word as though it was just for me. There are many songs that make me happy, but I can’t put into words the intense joy and pleasure I received from listening to that song.

It was not because the song was such a great song. The song is relatively decent, but not incredible. What was amazing was the discovery that the song that I spent so much time searching for, was in fact something that I already had, it was already in my possession. I longed to hear the song again so badly, only to realize that it was already on my iPod! My search was over. It had been bothering me so much, and now, not only did I get to hear the entire song to hear how the rest of it went, but I could listen to it over and over and over. Which of course I did.

This happened a long time ago, but I put my iPod on shuffle recently and this song came up, and it reminded me of how happy I was when I heard it that time. Every time I hear that song I remember how intensely happy I was at that moment and the potential intense happiness that occurs when you discover you already have what you want. When you appreciate something that belongs to you, and you don’t have to go searching for it or chasing it down, but it belongs to you, it is a great feeling. It can be painful to want something intensely, but not be able to have it. The reverse is simply wonderful. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we have. We forget how much we would want it if we didn’t have it, whether it is something significant such as our health or food to eat and clothes to wear, or whether it is something insignificant such as a favorite mug that we assign value to.

At the beginning of the book “Battle Plans,” by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yocheved Rigler (a great book by the way, which I highly recommend!), a book about how to fight your Yetzer Harah, they quote the Maharal who says that the Yetzer Harah is the voice that tells you, “You don’t have what you need.” The Yetzer Harah emphasizes that something is lacking in your life, and so you try to fill that lack inappropriately and so you sin. They write that one solution to this problem is to realize that Hashem has given you everything you need. I thought this was a great point, and have found it to be true. I find that when I focus on what is missing in my life I’m not as happy as when I focus on all the amazing things that Baruch Hashem are in my life.

A lesson I learned was that sometimes we need to put our mind on “shuffle.” We need to dig through to find the things we take for granted, to try to seek out the positive, instead of playing the same songs that we always listen to, focusing on the same negative thoughts over and over. The good thoughts are in there somewhere, we just have to find them, although sometimes they show up when we expect it the least.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Dear Jews of the World:

Just pick and choose which Mitzvot you would like to keep. Sure. Why not? Some Mitzvot are too hard for you? Toss them. No big deal. Do whatever you want to do, because it is all about you anyway, right? Or perhaps maybe, just maybe, it is about dedication to G-d? I mean, do you really believe in Hashem? Do you really believe in Torah? If you do believe, why aren’t you strong enough to keep everything? If you don’t believe, why pretend to when it comes to certain mitzvot? Why do you keep shabbos, but not tzinus? Why do you keep Taharat Hamishpacha, but cheat on your taxes? Why do you do chessed and work on tikkun olam, but don’t keep shabbos? Why do you keep Kosher, but speak Lashon Harah? Why are you so makpid with Limmud Torah, yet so lacking in Bein Adam L’Chavero? Why do you fast on Yom Kippur, yet do not keep anything else to the point where you eat chametz on Pesach? Why do you teach your kids Jewish values, yet engage in acts of sexual harrassment? How can you do some things, but not others? Serve Hashem, or don’t serve Hashem. Pick one. As Eliyahu said to the Jewish people when they worshipped both G-d and idols, in Malachim 1, Perek 18, Verse 21: “Until when are you hopping between two ideas? If the Lord is God, go after Him, and if the Baal, go after him.” Either serve Hashem completely, or don’t serve him at all.

* * * *

Just pick and choose which Mitzvot you would like to keep. Some Mitzvot are too hard for you? That is OK. Hashem values every single positive thing that you do. Every Mitzvah counts. So perhaps you have fallen once or twice and haven’t been able to keep everything? Maybe you messed up. Don’t give up completely! Don’t turn your back on everything just because one thing is too hard. Do what you can do. Judaism is not all or nothing. Just because you broke your diet and ate one cookie, doesn’t mean you should finish the box. Pick whatever mitzvot you can do and do those. Even if it is just avoiding gossip or using foul language. Even if all you do is light shabbos candles, even if after that you drive to shul. No act is too small to be appreciated by G-d. Hashem loves you more than anyone else in the world and all He wants is for you to do as much as you can to bring Him into your life. He loves every Mitzvah that you do, even if you don’t keep all of them. So perhaps you connect to some mitzvot, but not to others. Perhaps you’re trying, but you failed. Pick yourself up and choose what is within your ability to achieve. It may not be everything, but it is something. Serve Hashem as much you can.

* * * *

Food for thought: Which approach do you take?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The System

Despite complaints directed against the shidduch system, I recently had an experience that reminded me of its advantages. I was talking to a co-worker who is a non-religious Jew, and she was telling me about the guy she is dating. She explained that although she likes him a lot, she knows he is not the right person for her, and she does not want to marry him. For those wondering why she was dating him at al, it had been clear from other conversations as well that she was just dating him for fun- she liked him, she enjoyed spending time with him etc. When I asked her why she would not marry him despite her feelings for him, she paused and responded that they have different values and went on to elaborate a few areas in which he did not share her outlooks on issues that were important to her.

The conversation reminded me why the process of finding out important information about a potential date before dating is a good system. If you’re dating because you want to find a life partner, it is important to first make sure you are basically on the same page as a person. Because if you don’t do it that way, then you end up meeting someone, developing serious romantic feelings for them, and by the time you realize that he’s headed in one direction and you are headed the opposite way, you end up with a painful break up. I guess, if you’re only looking for fun and not marriage, then why not go out with anyone who you get along with and are attracted to? In the case of my coworker, (or those like her) I think she is started to reach the point where she is done having fun and ready for a serious relationship, but is so used to just dating people she is interested in without checking out the important stuff early on in the process. That’s the problem with dating for marriage outside the shidduch system.

On the other hand, one problem with the shidduch system,(which I also wrote about here) is that at times, too much emphasis is placed on compatibility on the values level and not enough on the “do these two people get along” level. Or not necessarily too much emphasis on values, but rather emphasis on the wrong values, or on small details that people pretend are values. This video which I have recently seen posted in a number of places and has been emailed to me by a number of friends is a humorous demonstration of how extreme it can be. For example, people have suggested guys for me whose parents are divorced, and they made sure to tell me that in advance. Things like that (that is just an example) slightly bother me because they are not make-it or break-it items, as opposed to factors such as religious level/observance or the type of lifestyle that they would like to have. One might argue that a person whose parents are divorced is probably negatively affected by that and/or perhaps have not had a positive model for a healthy romantic relationship.

To that I respond that if that is the case, we should also be asking about whether a person has had any traumatic experiences that might affect their future relationships, such as being abused by a teacher or being bullied as a child or every single negative. Perhaps some people do ask about those things. In which case I wonder: Are all of those whose lives aren’t perfect (by certain standards, anyway), which describes most people because such is life, doomed to never get married? My decision to go on a date with someone is not based on if their parents are divorced, or what their cousins do for a living. Nor is it based on what happened to them on the second day of school in fifth grade or how many times they blinked when they were two weeks old.

Despite the flaws of the shidduch system, namely that people can get carried away in attributing importance to small details, luckily most people I have personally encountered are pretty reasonable, and my conversation with my coworker was a good reminder that the system is at least good in theory. Before you develop feelings and become invested in a relationship that you hope will lead towards marriage, it is good to make sure your basic values are the same. Once you know you’re headed in the same direction, you can meet up and figure out whether you would like to head in that direction together.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short Break + Story

I'm going to be taking a short blogging break, due to writer's block and busy things in life. (For those who are curious, don't worry/don't get excited, I'm not getting engaged anytime soon.)

Before I go, I'm leaving you with a story that I wrote a few years ago, long before I ever even read a blog or considered blogging. I hope you enjoy and I'll be back in a little bit.


When one small raindrop falls into a puddle, it causes all of the raindrops in the puddle to move. Each raindrop does not move very far, but each one plays an important role in the magnificent result; a ripple. The ripple effect starts with one only one raindrop, but in the end involves hundreds of other raindrops.

Some stories begin in lands far away where there are Kings and Queens, dragons and unicorns, wizards and witches. They take readers from their usual dull, unexciting lives on mysterious journeys and impossible adventures. They leave reality and travel to magical places of the imagination. This story starts out in an ordinary town, not too far from here, in exactly the place that most readers want to escape from. It starts off the same way as a ripple does; with one small raindrop.

Chapter One: Carrie

It was 6:15am on a rainy Monday morning in April. Despite the fact that the sun shone brightly at this time yesterday, today it was hidden so well that anyone might have guessed that it was the middle of the night. In fact, all of Carrie’s senses told her that it indeed was the middle of her night, and she would have continued sleeping peacefully if her alarm clock had not rang loud and clear, the beeping noises exploding in her ears like a million marbles dropping to a hard stone floor. She was instantly forced into consciousness and she automatically swung her arm to stop the loud booming noise. The first thought that entered her mind was, Why am I awake? It can’t be 6:15; it looks like the middle of the night! She heard the rain tapping like drums on the roof of her house. She sighed and slowly got out of bed to look out the window. Great. A disgusting, rainy day.

After a nice, warm shower, Carrie went to wake up her eleven-year-old son, Andrew, for school. Usually this was her husband Warren’s job, but he was in Australia on a business trip.

“Good morning, Andrew,” she whispered. “Time to wake up for school.”

Andrew groaned and turned over, as usual, and Carrie left to rush around the house, trying to get everything done before it was time to leave. At 7:29 Carrie was ready to go and looked at the clock. Annoyance filled her, as it did every morning, and she breathed in a deep breath. Andrew was supposed to be ready by 7:30, but he almost always was running late. Usually she called his name and asked if he was ready, and soon she would hear the sound of his feet running down the stairs. Well, she thought, I could try to be patient, or I could just start yelling now, and he’ll rush down right away. She thought some more about this choice, weighing the sides. How should she react? Andrew was a slightly sensitive child, but could she manage to hold on with all of her strength and resist the overwhelming temptation to scream? Would it really be so bad if she yelled just this once? Warren always yelled at Andrew and it seemed to work out alright. Finally she concluded, It’s a cloudy, horrible day, and I’m just not in the mood to wait right now.

As the clock turned 7:30 Carrie yelled angrily, “Andrew!! Get down here this instant! I’ve told you a million times that you’re supposed to be ready for school at 7:30! Where are you?!”

Just as she expected, Andrew came rushing down. “Ok, ok!!” he shouted at his mother. “I’m right here! Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything? And anyway we always get to school so early, would it be so terrible if I wasn’t the first kid in class every single day?”

“We’ve been through this so many times,” Carrie hollered back, “I need to get to work on time- it’s not all about you. You know you’re supposed to be ready by 7:30! Now, let’s go. Get in the car.” She paused. “It’s going to be a bad day,” she declared.

Andrew glared at his mother and folded his arms across his chest when he got into the car. They drove to the school building in silence. As Andrew got out his mother said irritably, “Don’t forget you have a dentist appointment after school today!”

“You’re right; it is going to be a bad day!” Andrew bellowed back as he slammed the door behind him.

Chapter Two: Annie Feller

Annie Feller always thought of herself as a normal girl. She had shoulder-length, perfectly straight brown hair and light hazel eyes. They were a beautiful mixture of chocolate brown and a bright green, the color of leaves in the middle of July. At nine years old Annie’s life so far had been pretty ordinary. She lived in the same simple brown house her entire life with her parents, her older brother, Sam, and her dog, Sunshine. She was quiet and slightly reserved, although she had many friends, most of whom she had known since she was in day care. Afraid of rejection, she was never the first person to start a conversation, but she tried to be cheerful in response to others’ greetings.

As she walked down the hallway on this particular day she saw an older, teenage girl from junior high named Margaret Weston approaching the door with lots of books in her hand. She was out of breath and it looked like the books were very heavy and weighing arms down. Annie saw the look of desperation on Margaret’s face as she approached the door. She tried shifting her weight to see if she could manage to free one hand to open the door. Annie continued to walk down the hallway in the opposite direction. I’m already past the door, she thought. It would take a whole lot to turn around now. Anyway, Margaret is doing just fine and doesn’t need my help. Besides, I’m a nobody and I’m younger than her. Annie would have continued walking, but as soon as she heard a large crash behind her, pangs of guilt and responsibility filled her. As she turned around she saw scattered books outside and she timidly went to the door and opened it for Margaret.

“Here, let me help you,” Annie said softly, taking some books from the floor.

“Thank you very much,” answered Margaret gratefully, out of breathe. “My bag broke on the way in from the car, and I tried to get in when everything toppled over.”

Margaret held up an old, dirty gray bag with a big hole at the bottom.

“I have an extra plastic bag, if you want,” Annie offered.

“That would be really great,” Margaret replied.

As Annie handed Margaret the bag she noticed that there was a package lying several feet away, hidden behind the door. She ran to pick it up saying, “I think you forgot this one.”

Margaret looked up and smiled a big, huge smile. She let out a sigh of relief.

“Wow, it’s a really good thing you found that!” she said to Annie. “My mother wanted me to give it to this boy in my class named Conner Henderson to give to his parents. She would have been so mad if I lost it! She must have told me a million times that I must remember to give it to Conner because Mr. Henderson needed it so badly. Oh, boy, I would have been in so much trouble.”

“No problem,” said Annie with a smile, “Glad I could help. Have a nice day!”

“You too!” Margaret responded happily.

Annie walked back down the hallway proudly, her heart dancing with the joy of knowing that she had helped someone today.

Chapter Three: Mrs. Bingeroni

Mrs. Bingeroni was more than ready for her sixth grade English class today. In fact, she was even a little excited. Her class had just finished reading The Phantom Tollbooth and she had a fun activity prepared that would get the kids to think about the book and improve their analyzing skills. She got to her classroom five minutes early to set up. She moved the desks around and brought in her large box marked ELIZABETH BINGERONI. Inside the box were all of her supplies: markers, posters, glue, and a big container filled with letters and numbers. Every year this project was a big success and the kids loved it. Soon the children stormed into the room chatting loudly. Mrs. Bingeroni could feel the excitement of the kids as they saw the surprise that awaited them in the classroom.

“What are we doing today?” they asked enthusiastically.

Mrs. Bingeroni just smiled and told them, “Just wait. You’ll see.”

As she turned around to continue setting up she heard Brian say, “Hey, Andrew! Look at my new watch! My mom bought it for me because I always drive her crazy asking what time it is and running late. Isn’t it awesome?”

Andrew frowned and stared at the watch, but finally growled back, “Actually, it’s not a cool watch at all. Why would you pick out a yellow watch? What a stupid color!”

Shocked and hurt, Brian snapped, “Hey! What is wrong with you? My watch is NOT STUPID!”

The next thing Mrs. Bingeroni heard was some pushing, yelling, and then a crash. She turned around and exclaimed loudly, “Andrew? Brian? What is going on?”

But there was really no need for her to ask, because as soon as she turned around she saw what was going on. Her large box full of letters and numbers had been knocked over and there were pieces scattered all around the room. The class froze in silence. All the excitement and anticipation that had filled the classroom evaporated into thin air like raindrops hitting hot metal. Mrs. Bingeroni sighed. So much for a fun project. It was going to be a long day.

Chapter Four: Mr. Henderson

Mr. Henderson sat on his couch in front of the television, flipping the channels and trying to escape from the world. Time was running out before he lost his job for good. It was almost a week since his boss had given a warning.

“Look, Billy,” he had said sternly. “I’ve been getting some complaints about you from the parents. The kids say you’ve been stopping short and have been having some trouble driving and reading the signs. The eye test that we did yesterday shows that you need glasses. I’m giving you a week off, and unless you can get glasses in that time, I’m going to have to let you go permanently. Do you understand what I’m saying, here?”

Mr. Henderson had nodded and sighed and gone home to report the news to his wife, who, needless to say, was less than thrilled. She urged him to call their friend Dr. Weston, who was an optometrist. Mr. Henderson had called him up and begged for his help.

“I don’t think that I can get you glasses in one week. It’s going to take longer than that.” Dr. Weston had said.

“Please,” Mr. Henderson had pleaded, “There has to be some way for it to work out. As a friend, I’m asking for a favor. Otherwise I’ll lose my job.”

Dr. Weston hesitated and after a moment’s pause said, “I think there might be a way…”

That was a six days ago, and if Mr. Henderson did not report back to work tomorrow, then he would be out of a job. He stared at the television screen which flashed images of people laughing. Then, he heard a key in the lock and the door to the house opened.

“I’m home,” a voice called. “I’m home from school!”

“Hey, Conner,” Mr. Henderson called to his son. “I’m in here.”

Conner came in with his backpack and gave his father a pat on the back. “Oh yeah,” Conner said, “This girl Margaret said to give this to you. It’s from her father, Dr. Weston.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Mr. Henderson. “Thank you so much!”

He opened the package and saw a pair of glasses. Trying them on he asked his son, “What do you think?”

Conner scrunched up his face in thought and put his hand on his chin. “Hmmm... I dunno, Dad, I’ll have to get used to them. Yeah, I guess they’re ok.”

Mr. Henderson reached for the phone. “Hello? Hi, this is Billy Henderson. I just got glasses; I’ll be at work tomorrow. What’s that? The 7:00am route in East Patterson? Sure. I’ll be there. Thank you so much!”

He hung up the phone smiling and looked at the ceiling. “I won’t take this for granted.” He promised himself.

Chapter Five: Trisha

Ever since she was a child, Trisha loved adventure. She loved sledding, biking, running, anything moving; anything that would carry her even a little bit away from the small town where she grew up. As she got older she loved roller coasters and airplanes and planned trips to travel the world. After she graduated from the community college, however, she realized that her plans were too expensive and would have to wait. Her longing to leave made it rather ironic that Trisha became a ticket collector on her local train line. She traveled back and forth between two big cities every day, stopping at a dozen small towns along the way. Although she enjoyed the movement of the train, she was never more than an hour away from her house.

On this particular day Trisha walked up and down the aisles collecting tickets as usual. When she first got the job she had tried to hide her disappointment, but it had been ten years since then, and she made no effort to hide her grumpiness. The train slowed to a stop as they arrived at the airport and passengers with luggage got on and off.

“Tickets out, please,” she mumbled, staring at the floor. She rarely looked anyone in the eye. She heard some noise towards the front of the car.

“Excuse me, ma'am,” she heard a man say. She saw a woman slide over and a man with luggage sit next to her, squeezing a big suitcase next to him. Trisha recognized that the woman was one of the regular commuters whom she saw every evening on the train ride home.

“I beg your pardon!” the woman declared loudly, “aren’t you going to put your suitcase on top?”

Trisha looked up again, surprised. She had recognized this woman because she always smiled and said hello to Trisha. At first Trisha had not responded, but after a whole week of being greeted with a smile, Trisha began to say hello back. Soon she had learned that the woman’s name was Elizabeth. She was surprised that Elizabeth would raise her voice over the small matter of a suitcase. She must have had a bad day.

“It’s very heavy,” the man said cautiously. “Would it be alright if I just left it here?”

Elizabeth stood up and looked at Trisha. “Excuse me, miss!” she exclaimed. “This man is refusing to move his suitcase, and I have had a very long day at work and do not appreciate being crowded on this long train ride home. Isn’t it the train company’s policy that all suitcases must be put on the shelves on top so that they do not block the aisles?”

Before Trisha had time to respond, the man said defensively, “I’m sorry, ma’am! I didn’t realize it was bothering you that much, otherwise I would have moved it right away!”

“I asked you to move it, what else should I have done?” Elizabeth replied angrily.

“What is the problem Elizabeth?” Trisha asked astonished.

It was just at that moment that one of the other ticket collectors, Herman, walked into the car. Herman was an older ticket collector who was superior to Trisha in rank. “What is going on here? I heard you all from the next car over. Is someone refusing to pay for a ticket?”

“No, sir,” Trisha answered, embarrassed that she seemed incompetent. “This lady here was just asking this gentlemen to move his suitcase.”

“Isn’t your job to reinforce the rule that all suitcases must be put on top?” Elizabeth demanded.

Herman stuttered for a moment and Elizabeth asked, “Do I need to call your supervisor?”

“No, ma’am,” Herman responded firmly.

Luckily the man spoke up and said, “I’ll be happy to put it on top if you’ll just give me a hand, sir.”

“Of course,” Herman replied and he and the man lifted the suitcase to the top. Herman asked the man where he was going and they arranged to take it down when the train arrived at the man’s stop. Elizabeth sat down saying quietly and politely, “Thank you.”

As she sat down Trisha noticed a big box with big letters that said ELIZABETH BINGERONI. Herman turned to Trisha and instructed, “You had better go up and down the cars making sure there are no more luggage problems. You got that?”

Trisha frowned and said, “Yes, Herman.”

She sighed and began to make her rounds.

Chapter Six: Scott

Every time Scott heard that rumbling sound he got knots in his stomach. He could always tell when the bus was just around the corner by its loud noise. Scott dreaded school, but more than that, Scott dreaded the bus ride to school. No one ever wanted to sit next to him, and because his stop was towards the end, there was almost never an empty seat. The kids on the East Patterson bus also took pleasure in teasing Scott, calling him names like, “Dotty Scotty.” The fact that kids picked on Scott was not the only problem on the Woodcliff bus; they also had a problem with bus drivers.

So far they had seven drivers in eight months. The last one had been their bus driver for three of those months, and everyone liked him, especially Scott, but he had been away for about a week now. Billy had always been nice to Scott, making sure the other kids shared their seats and scolding them if they said one harmful word. Even though he could be quite strict at times, the kids liked him because he was funny and loved to joke with them. They also liked him because he always waited for them when they were running late (as long as it wasn’t too late), which no other bus driver did. He whistled while he drove, and most importantly, he let them eat on the bus. Since his disappearance Scott’s ride to school had gotten worse. The new bus driver, Tony, had a habit of cursing at cars who cut him off on the road, and the children used these newly learned words against him.

The bus had now turned the corner and came to a slow stop at Scott’s corner. Scott held his breath as the doors opened, and when he looked up into the face of the smiling bus driver, surprise and happiness filled him.

“Hey, Scott,” the bus driver greeted him.

“Billy!” Scott cried. “You’re back!”

“Yes, I am,” Billy said. “And during my time off I did some thinking and I think I’ve found a solution to your problem.” He grinned and pointed to the front seat that was right behind him, which was empty. “I saved you a seat.”

“Thank you so much!” exclaimed Scott. He sat down happily, and as Billy drove off, Scott asked, “Where were you, Billy?”

Billy responded, “Well, my boss almost fired me, and I was going to give up, but a good friend helped me to find a way to get my job back.” As he stopped at the next stop, he turned to look Billy in the eye and said seriously, “In fact, it taught me an important lesson and I want you to remember it, too: Never give up. Sometimes other people in the world are mean, Scott, as you know very well, but there are always others out there who are nice. Never give up trying, alright? Ok, Scott?”
Scott stared at Billy a moment thoughtfully and replied honestly, “Ok, Billy, I’ll remember and try my best.”

Chapter Seven: Warren

Warren was glad to be back at home in the United States of America. He enjoyed his job, and didn’t mind traveling, especially to places like Australia, but this last trip had been quite stressful. He was still tense as he settled into his seat on the train ride home. Perhaps that is why he was so annoyed when the ticket collector came over frowning.

“Excuse me, sir,” she said loudly and harshly. “You must move that suitcase out of the aisle. Did you not hear me telling the other passengers in this car?”

“No, I did not,” he replied.

“Well, I only said it a million times,” she snapped back. “Now just move your suitcase.”

“Alright,” he muttered angrily, standing up. That’s it, he thought. That is the last straw. I don’t think I can take anymore. Why is everyone in the world out to get me?

When he finally arrived at the train station and got into his car, Warren was not in a good mood and his only thought was to get home as quickly as possible. He sped down the highway driving faster than he knew he should. When the world is out to get you, you gotta fight back, he said to himself as he rudely and swiftly passed a red Mustang. He thought of the ticket collector and how rude she had been. I’m always the nice guy. Well, not anymore. The red Mustang started to catch up to Warren and switched lanes to pass him. I’ll show you, thought Warren, and he put his foot on the gas pedal.

Chapter Eight: Barry

Barry walked out the door and shut the door behind him. At six feet, four inches tall, he was a big man who intimidated a lot of people. His wife had been rushing around the kitchen, trying to make dinner, when she called out his name in a panic.
“Barry!” she cried. “I didn’t realize this recipe needed a whole cup of oil and we just ran out! Would you please run to the food store and get some more?”
Barry agreed and was now on his way down the stairs to his car, when he heard the sound of a school bus driving away, and looked up to see his son, Scott, rushing towards him. Scott hated school and normally came home in a miserable mood, but today he ran to his father with a big smile on his face.

“Dad!” he called out as he ran.

Barry turned around and pulled his son into a big hug. “Hey there, Scott! How was school today?” he asked surprised.

“It was fine,” Scott answered impatiently. “But guess what? Billy’s back and he saved me a seat on the bus! I didn’t have to stand the whole way today!”

Barry smiled, knowing how much this meant to his son. It upset him very much how the other kids picked on his boy. He had also been bullied as a kid, and since then taken on some bully-like methods himself. He hoped his son would learn to stand up for himself the way he had and so he always tried his best to help boost his self-esteem.

“That’s great!” he said enthusiastically. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Yeah, I really like Billy.” Scott’s face turned serious. “He told me there are nice people out there and I should never give up looking for them.”

Barry kneeled down and said, “He’s right, Scott. I know the kids at school can make things tough for you, but maybe things will get better when you get to middle school.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Scott said hopefully.

“Alright, I’ve got to go run an errand, but I’ll be back soon, OK?”

“Ok,” Scott replied as he ran into the house.

Barry got into his red Mustang and started driving to the store. He had to go on the highway for a short while, and he merged on easily. As he drove along he noticed a blue Toyota driving crazy, in his rearview mirror. It quickly caught up to him and cut him off. If there was one thing that drove Barry crazy, it was being cut off on the highway by a crazy driver. He drove faster and caught up quickly. He knew this highway very well and knew that the lane that the Toyota was in merged into his lane. Barry sped up; he would not allow this driver to cut him off again.

The driver in the blue Toyota saw that his lane merged up ahead and glanced over at Barry. He sped up and made it clear he would attempt to pass Barry. The two cars were now side by side and Barry saw if he and the Toyota both kept this up, they would crash. It’s his lane that ends, Barry thought. He’s the one who should slow down and let me pass. There is no way that I’m going to be the one to give in. There is no way I’m going to let him pass. Why should I be the nice guy? The end of the other lane drew closer. Barry hesitated, but his son’s words echoed in his head. There are nice people out there, he thought. And I can show the world they exist by becoming one of them. At the very last second, Barry pressed down on the break. The blue Toyota clearly had no thought of giving in, and had not slowed down. He tried to zoom past Barry into the lane, but he was not fast enough. Barry heard the crash before he felt it.

The police and the medics arrived at the scene fairly quickly. They came with their sirens wailing up the shoulder of the road. Barry and the other driver had made it out of their cars before the police got there.

“Are you alright?” Barry asked the other driver cautiously.

“Aside from this big bruise on my arm, I’m fine,” the man said. “I held my arm up as we crashed and the glass must have cut it. How are you?”

“I’m also OK,” Barry said. “Just a bit shaken up.”

Other drivers had pulled over. When the police arrived they asked Barry, the other man, and the drivers who were witnesses, lots of questions and they inspected the damage to the cars. No one needed to go to the hospital, but the medics bandaged the other man’s arm.

Barry called his wife to tell her that he was in an accident, but that he was alright, and he heard the other man on his phone.

“Hi, Carrie, it’s me, Warren,” he said.

The policeman who had been inspecting the cars came over to talk to Barry and Warren.

“Hi, I’m Officer Green,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it doesn’t look like either of your cars can be repaired.” Officer Green looked at the two men and added, “You should know that you are really lucky.” He turned to Barry. “It’s a good thing you slowed down when you did. After inspecting the cars and listening to all of the versions of the story, it seems pretty clear that if you had not slowed down, the accident would have been fatal. You saved both of your lives.”

As Officer Green walked away, Warren stared at Barry, the realization of what had happened slowly hitting him. “Thank you,” he said to Barry. “I know I was wrong and I should have let you pass. The fact that you tried to let me pass saved my life, well, both of our lives.”

“You’re welcome,” Barry said surprised at Warren’s gratitude. Shock could certainly do a lot to a person. “I’m usually quite stubborn on the road, actually. It’s a good thing I ran into my son right before I got into the car. Something he said stuck with me, and if not for that I wouldn’t have slowed down for anything.”

Chapter Nine: Andrew

Andrew awoke to his father’s gentle voice as the sun streamed in from the window.

“Good morning, Andrew,” Warren said softly. “I’m home.”

Andrew got out of bed to hug his father, who had just returned from a business trip to Australia. As soon as he left, though, Andrew climbed right back into bed and fell back asleep. He woke up again at 7:20, and looking at the time jumped out of bed and sprang into action. As the clock hit 7:30 he put his hands over his ears and prepared to hear his father’s shout as he yelled at Andrew to come downstairs. But the shout never came.

“Andrew,” his father said softly instead, “are you ready?”

“Yes,” Andrew replied surprised that his father wasn’t yelling.

“Wow,” said his mother to his father, smiling, “you’re awfully calm this morning.”

His father grinned at his mother. “You’re right,” he said winking, “I am.”
Andrew’s parents drove him to school together in the most pleasant ride to school that Andrew could remember.

“Goodbye, Andrew,” they called as he left the car. “Have a good day!”

“Ok,” he answered. “You too!”

Andrew shut the door to the car smiling. It was going to be a great day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Random Thoughts of the Week

It has been one of those weeks and my mind is swirling with tons of thoughts. Here are just a few:

1. I hope all of my friends get married before me.
Yup, seriously. Ok, maybe not all, but a good portion. Don’t be shocked yet, let me explain. Every time we hear of another engagement, certain friends confide in me that they are hit with a pang of jealousy. This is perfectly normal, as when someone else gets something you want, it’s quite easy to feel a taste of bitterness that they have it and you do not. However, I do not wish to be the cause of anyone feeling bitter. When my friends dance at my wedding I”YH, I do not want them to be constantly thinking about how they wish it was them. If they all get married first, then by the time it comes to my wedding, they will all just feel so happy for me that I finally got married. Although of course there have been times that I have felt jealous when friends got engaged and married, in general I am lucky enough not to be prone towards jealousy, and can handle it better than others.

2. Sometimes I think I have pure motives, but when I dig deeper I discover the truth.
There is a story behind this thought. I was making food for shabbos to bring to a friend’s house and as I was making it I was hoping that it would come out good, so I whispered to Hashem, “Hashem, please let this food come out yummy and delicious L’chvod Shabbos Kodesh. If it comes out good then it will bring such kavod and oneg to shabbos, please let it come out good!” After it was all done and I was thinking about it, I realized that the real reason I wanted it to come out good was so that my friends would praise my amazing cooking/baking skills and declare that it was the best thing they ever tasted. Motives are not always black and white, and I won’t go so far to say that my request to Hashem had nothing to do with Kavod Shabbos, I did really want that as well, but when I thought about it I had to be honest about the main, real reason behind what I was asking.

3. There was a very large and scary bug in my room this week. I am usually not terrible with bugs, (actually that’s not entirely true- if other people are around I shriek and make them take care of it, but when I’m all by myself I somehow magically find the courage in me to take care of it) but this was a particularly frightening one. It ran away and I sat there paralyzed with fear that it would return. I could not focus on anything and could not take my mind off of it. That’s when it hit me that this is what having a constant awareness of Hashem means. It is something I’m working on, and as I realized that no matter how hard I tried I could not take my mind away from the fact that there was a bug that might come out, I realized that is what I should strive for spiritually- a constant recognition of the reality that Hashem is watching me. In a scary way, but in a good way too. Hashem sees all of the things I do wrong, but He is also always watching over me and taking care of me.

4. Why is it so comforting to hear about girls who are older than me who get engaged, yet I feel like my heart is being crushed when I hear about girls who are younger than me getting engaged?
This thought/question does not take much explaining. I don’t know why that is, but it is, and it really bothers me. I should just be happy when I hear about anyone getting engaged, but instead, when I hear about girls older than me getting engaged I think, “Wow! There is hope! There is hope for me,” and when the girl is younger it just reminds me that I did not want to be this age and still be single. Not that this is such an awful and bad thing. Baruch Hashem I love my life, but it is just not what I wanted. Let me clarify that this does not contradict my first point. It is not jealousy, which I would describe as the "I want what you have" feeling, it is just a negative, "This is another reminder that I am lacking something."

Those were just some of my thoughts from this week; feel free to share some of yours.

Monday, October 25, 2010

How did I get here?

Today I had a moment that made me stop and pause and think, “How in the world did I get here?” I kept going over in my head the steps that brought me there, but somehow that did not minimize my disbelief. I seem to be having a lot of those in the time since I graduated college. I guess it is because up until that point my life was basically worked out for me. I knew since I was little that I would go to high school, then college. After that was always the mystery. The irony is that if you had told me three months ago that I would be where I was now, I would not have believed you at all, but if you had told me 10 years ago, I would have believed it in a heartbeat. It just goes to show you how things come around full circle.

The funny thing I noticed about monumental moments is how insignificant they often feel at the time. In some cases it takes looking back to realize that your life changed that day, even if it was not a huge change, but while you were standing there it was just another moment of just another day. It didn’t feel huge, it was just the next step, and you were just following along with life. Like the day I made the final decision of which seminary to attend. I had debated between a few schools for a little while, but at that second, when I sent in the appropriate forms, it was just a continuation of the process. It just was.

In other cases it is the moment you’ve been waiting for and building up in your head and then you get there and you wonder why you thought it would be such a big deal. Like graduation, for example. Graduation is the day you dream about when you’re studying for midterms and can’t wait for it all to end, or when it’s 2:00 in the morning and you just finished the second page of a fifteen page paper. But then when I got there, it was so boring. Maybe there were one or two good speeches, but overall YU’s graduation was long and dragged out. When I walked up to get my diploma, I was just walking, the same way I walk to class, the same way I walk anywhere. Taking my diploma was just as easy as the act of taking the salt shaker that my mother passed to me at the dinner table. It just was the way it was and didn’t feel huge.

I don’t know what I expected, really. It is almost like I was waiting for an orchestra to burst out in beautiful chords, or for a loud audience to applaud and cheer. Perhaps it is because at other moments, which are small and minor, I have felt as though I were soaring in the sky or rushing through the ocean. Inspiration sometimes hits you when you expect it the least. Perhaps part of the burst is the surprise factor. When you build something up in your mind, then real life has to be pretty impressive to even compare. But when all you anticipate is for life to be ordinary, anything above or below average is moving.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

For Papa, for Mama

There is a line in the Fiddler on the Roof song “Matchmaker,” (a song which, as a side point, I do not particular like for a number of reasons) where the daughters dream about the young man they hope to end up with, that goes:

“For Papa, make him a scholar, for Mama, make him rich as a king…”

I couldn’t help but think about this line as I was on one particular date, and while I was listening to the guy talk all I could think about was how much my parents would like him because he had certain characteristics, and how certain of my siblings would like him for various other characteristics. There was a particular activity that he enjoyed that my father enjoys as well, and I could picture my father’s face lighting up were I to tell him I was dating a guy who liked such things. For some reason, however, I just didn’t like the guy myself. Just to set the record straight, I really tried to like him.

This got me thinking about how fortunate I am to be very close with my parents and to see eye to eye with them in most areas. Their opinion is very valuable to me, and I can’t imagine ever marrying someone who they did not approve of. They are very supportive of me and they trust my judgment, so if there was someone who I liked that much, I think they would probably like that person too. Even though some use marriage as another way of rebelling against their parents, I am quite the opposite and every time I date a guy I think about how he would fit into my family. Finding the right person is not just about finding someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with and who wants to spend the rest of his life with me, but someone who my family wants to spend the rest of their lives with too.

Interestingly, the situation has never happened in reverse. I don’t think I’ve ever dated a guy who I liked, but who I thought my parents would disapprove of. Probably this is because my parents are not pressuring and have never, ever told me something that they want or expect of the guy I marry, so long as I am happy. When I say I thought my parents would like the guy I mentioned before (even though I did not) I mean that I know them well enough to know that even though they insist they will be happy with any guy I choose (and who chooses me), there are still certain personalities and certain types of guys that I know they would get along with better than others.

So when I met a guy who I thought they would like, I was determined to give it a chance. But I realized that when it comes down to it, there is a certain point where you shouldn't be trying quite that hard. I’m the one marrying the guy, and not them, so even though they get stuck with whoever I choose, my opinion matters the most. Even though he might have been good “for papa” and “for mama,” the rest of the song continues with the words “for me,” and that is equally important to consider. But the point is that it is equal, it is not just about me. Now I just have to find someone who fits both the “for papa, for mama” and the “for me.”

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meeting Naturally

He looks at me, and I look right back at him. At the moment that our eyes meet, we both glance away blushing slightly, pretending we weren’t looking at all. Perhaps he thinks I’m cute, and perhaps I am thinking the same thing about him. This scene has taken place in various forms in any number of places, be it in the supermarket, on the train, during Kiddush at shul, or on the street. The question that pops into my head is always, “Now what?”

I have friends and know people who “met naturally” i.e. without a shadchan or person setting them up. I’m just not sure how they managed to do that. I mean, take the scenario above. Great, I noticed a frum Jewish guy around my age. Assuming he is not dating/engaged/married/otherwise taken, and assuming that there is a chance we are compatible hashkafically and in terms of personality (which of course you can never really know before you find out more about the person), then how do we get from the point of “we-are-both-looking-at-each-other-curiously” to the point of talking and then possibly to dating? Note that each of those steps is a giant impossible leap. Let’s start with the first step. There is no way that I would walk up to a random guy and approach him. Social rules say that is not accepted, and even if it was I am way too shy. Unless I could make up some sort of excuse. So that leaves the only possibility of us talking up to the possibility that he will approach me. Which he will probably never do for one of the following reasons:

1. Fear of rejection. I understand that, I would be too chicken myself. Any guy who approaches a girl he doesn’t know has got to have some guts.
2. Fear that I will think he is creepy for approaching me. Depending on what he says and how he says it, this fear might be valid and I might very well end up thinking, “Why did this random guy just randomly start talking to me?” I, however, consider myself a relatively friendly person, and if a guy came up to me and said something normal, (and not creepy, for instance, “You have nice eyes.”) then I’d like to think I would give him a chance.
3. What in the world is he supposed to say??

In theory I could think of ways he could say to me, but in my mind they never seem to play out. For example, if we are in the supermarket, he could say something like, “Do you know how much this box of cookies costs?” Firstly, this seems somewhat lame, and I would never say such a thing to a guy, and if he said that to me, then I would simply answer him with the price if I know it or that I don’t know if I don’t, and then there the conversation dies and we continue along our merry ways. To sum up, it seems that even if either one of us could conquer the fear of being rejected as a weirdo or a creep for approaching someone we don’t know for no apparent reason, then the problem is that we would simply have nothing to say to start off the conversation. Perhaps it is simply that my conversation starters need some work, but I can’t imagine how a guy is supposed to approach me.

If by some miracle we were able to start chatting, and this chat was going nicely and over the course of a brief five minutes there was a mutual positive feeling towards one another, then where in the world would it go from there? He can’t ask for my number or ask me out on the spot- that would just not be OK after 5 minutes of talking. So then we depart, never to see or hear from each other again, and there you have it, the impossibility of a date happening naturally.

I just don’t understand how people meet each other “naturally.” It seems to me that the only way to meet each other is if your friends know a guy (or if you are a guy, then your friends know a girl) and introduce you. But then how did they meet that guy?

Questions for the readers: Have you ever met someone “naturally” and if so how did that go? Have you ever/would you ever walk up to someone of the opposite gender to try and start conversation? What in the world would you say?? If someone approached you, would you be creeped out? What are your thoughts on “meeting naturally”?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Tale of the Good First Date

We are sitting comfortably on the couch with our feet up, our shoes neatly laid out on the floor. The hour is late, an ideal time for deep, meaningful conversations. As our talking begins to slow down she finally concludes with, “It was a disaster of a date!” I nod in agreement sympathetically, reviewing each detail that she shared with me in my mind.

Although it has never happened quite like that, this story has happened many times over. Friends will frequently tell me horror first date stories that range from ones that went completely wrong to stories of dates that weren’t terrible, but contain a good story of something awful or awkward that was said or done by their date.

Bad4 has a nice collection of bad dating stories over here and she links to one of the craziest stories I’ve ever seen over here -I think that story is pretty unbelievable.

While I enjoy listening to these stories, I tend to feel left out when these stories are being discussed, since I don’t have any really great bad first date stories. That is not to say that I’ve never been on a bad date, just none that were extremely awful that have any remarkable stories (Bli Ayin Harah!). My bad dates seem to consist of either too many awkward silences or just a general feeling of “Ok clearly we are not meant to be together and this is not going to work” based on our conversation. The only stories I have involve the time I was on a date when it was windy and the guy’s Kippah flew off and he ran and chased after it, and certain times when guys said things that I thought should definitely not be said on a first date, let alone any date, or actually ever.

I do, however, have a number of “good first date” stories. The problem with these stories is that good first date stories are only really good when the end of the story is that you married the person. In that case you can say, “He did such-and-such on our first date, and from that moment on everything went right!” Or something like that anyway. No one wants to hear good first date stories that don’t end with marriage because they are just not as fun as bad date stories. Bad stories with bad endings are more fun than good stories with bad endings, because bad stories you can just say “wow that was awful!” but good stories with bad endings just produce the following reaction: “Oh.”

I have decided to share these stories anyway, because I think it is important to stay positive. Instead of channeling frustration by making a list for guys of “don’t do this on a first date,” it’s good for guys to have a list of things that girls appreciate and like on a first date.

And with that nice introduction, here is my list of “good first date” stories, or things that guys did early on that I thought were really nice. One or two of these stories are from friends, but they are all written in first person to keep things more simple.

1. When we were on the phone discussing locations of where to go on our date, one guy gave me a choice of three options of where we could go. I thought this was better than the general "what do you want to do," since I feel uncomfortable choosing a location when he is the one paying, and it is better than just picking a place without taking my preferences into consideration at all. (Side note: I am pretty flexible and don’t care about location at all- so far no guy has ever suggested something that I wasn’t up for at all, but it is still nice to be asked.)

2. In between my phone call with the guy and our first date was shabbos. On Friday he texted me something to the extent of: “Have a Good Shabbos! Looking forward to meeting you.” I thought that was sweet.

3. After mentioning casually that I was traveling somewhere (not far) after a night-time date, my date expressed concern for my well being, since he was not sure if traveling so late to this place was safe (it was!) and he asked me to text him when I got back OK. Even though I was perfectly safe, I couldn’t help but smile when he said that. When I was almost at my destination, he texted me "Did you get home OK?"

4. This is a good second date story, but I’m including it anyway. For a second date, one guy suggested we go somewhere and the suggestion was based on an unusual activity I had mentioned on our first date that I enjoy. I was very impressed because it showed that he was listening to everything I said.

5. One guy complimented me on something I was wearing. After a moment of being alarmed and thinking, “Wait, why is he noticing what I’m wearing? Since when do guys notice these things? Why is he complimenting me- no guy has ever done that is that normal?” I realized he was just being nice and I should just accept the compliment. I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

6. I once went on a date when I was in a location not near my home that I was unfamiliar with. The guy and I agreed that it made most sense to meet up in the place we were going to go on our date. Having the awful sense of direction that I do, I of course managed to get lost. So there I was in some random place, which I knew wasn’t too far from where I was supposed to be, but I had no clue how to get there. Slightly embarrassed, I explained the situation to the guy, who was super nice about the whole situation, told me to stay put and he walked all the way to where I was to come get me.

After reading these you might be tempted to ask, “Why didn’t it work out with any of these guys? They seem great!” This brings me to a point that I have been longing to make for a while now, especially in the role I mentioned above which I find myself in very often, the role of the listening friend. The point is: Just because a guy is a great guy, does not necessarily mean I want to marry him. Hopefully, most people in the world are good people. In fact as an optimist, I tend assume most people are nice unless they prove me wrong. (Don’t worry pessimists, I unfortunately find myself sometimes slipping towards the deep end.) Sometimes people act as though a person being “good” is enough reason to marry them, and in my humble opinion, that is not the case. They need to be “good for you” as well.

Just because a story doesn’t have a happy ending, doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it, grow from it, or even appreciate the good aspects of what it is. I can’t help but end by saying that one day, all of us singles, will find the story that doesn’t only have a happy beginning, but has a happy ending, too.