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.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Changing Leaves

I was walking outside and started smiling as I noticed that the leaves are changing colors. I love autumn, perhaps because it is because the season with my birthday (and a number of other bloggers as well!), and perhaps because I enjoy the weather when it is cool, but not yet too cold, but also because fall is a time of change. I always love to watch the trees and the leaves starting at the end of the summer, as they turn beautiful different colors, from green to yellow to red to brown. Some of my best times for reflection when I was younger were those rainy days after school had just started, when I would sit staring out of my window, watching the rain drops hit the puddles in the street, and watching the rushing water full of colorful leaves. The leaves turning colors is just one sign for me that the end of summer and beginning of fall is associated with change. The end of camp, the beginning of a new school year, transition from one part of life to the next.

Recently I was talking about some event that will be happening in June, which seems so far away right now, and the first thought that entered my mind was, “Wow, I sincerely hope that my life is significantly different in that point in time in every way.” This gut reaction shocked me and I wondered, “Am I that unhappy with my life that I want to change it so badly?” I mean, I know things aren’t perfect- you can always find something to complain about if you try, but until that moment I hadn’t realized how much I wanted things to change. But does that necessarily mean that I am not happy with how things are right now? Life changes all the time whether we like it or not, so wouldn’t it be best to welcome the change gladly instead of fighting it?

Sometimes it is difficult to find the right balance of being happy with the with the status quo, the way things are now, and yet at the same time longing for something even better, wanting things to be different. If everything was just great all the time, there would be no force moving us forward. The dream that things could be better is often was pushes us to spring to action and accomplish. The key is feeling both satisfied and unsatisfied at the same time; happy enough not to wallow in misery all day long, yet feeling as though something is lacking and striving to change the situation.

They say Shlomo HaMelech had a ring that said “Gam Zeh Yaavor.” This too will pass. That message is important to remember both when things are good and when they are not as good. When things are not so great, it is good to know that this time will pass and that things will get better. When things are going well, it is helpful to keep in mind that things will change eventually so we should take advantage and enjoy every minute of the good times we are in. To me, autumn is the essence of Gam Zeh Yaavor, of transition from one part of life to the next.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I glance down at my watch and begin to head out the door. Within seconds I feel the cool breeze and smell the fresh air, as I join the many commuters headed back to where they came from, via various means of transportation. For some reason it’s when I’m headed back home at the end of the day that sometimes this sad feeling sinks in of “I kind of wish I had someone special to be heading back home to.” Not that I don’t like where I’m living right now, but it’s not the same as being married and going home to your spouse. Or so I imagine, though perhaps I’m just dreaming.

The truth is that every day is different. Some days I find myself thinking, “Ok, if I didn’t get married for another couple of years, then that is perfectly fine, what is my rush?” while other days just the thought of being single for another few months is painful enough.

I’m not sure which one is harder or hurts more: Hoping every day that this will be day that I find the right person and being disappointed day after day, or giving up and saying that maybe I should just not expect to ever get married because it’s hard to keep holding on. I can’t hold on anymore, but I can’t let go. Neither one works for me, but I have to do one or the other.

So I do both and neither, seesawing back and forth. I despair and announce that I’ve had enough, I can’t take it anymore, and try to move on with my life, focus on the great things that I do have in my life, and go on pretending that life will be perfectly fine if I never get married. Why bother dreaming that I’ll get married soon, when it might take years and years? Other times, however, I encourage myself, strengthen my attitude, and remain persistent with my optimism, declaring each day that at any second I could meet the right person, or at least receive a phone call that leads to meeting the right person. This is something that I want and I cannot simply let go of that desire.

At the end of the day, like with everything in life, what works best is to find a balance. On the one hand it is crucial to hold strong and have faith, to know that one day it will happen and that is all that matters. Don’t give up hoping, dreaming, and searching. Yet at the same time it is important to accept life for what it is, to learn to deal with the fact that I don’t know when I will find the right person, and it might be a while, but that is OK because Hashem made my life exactly the way it is for a specific reason. Like most things, however, it is much easier said than done.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Which type are you? Thoughts on Waiting

Which type of person are you? Let’s say you have two pieces of food on your plate, one you like more than the other. For example, you have a salad and a piece of kugel, and you like the kugel better. Which one do you eat first? One school of thought is “save the best for last,” while the other approach is, “quick, eat the good stuff because who knows what will be later.” Do you eat the kugel first because it is your favorite and you’re so excited to eat it, or do you eat the salad first so that the taste that lingers in your mouth is the kugel, your favorite?

I have always taken the first approach to save the best for last, even if it’s not always the smarter move, it is just how I am. This is true when it comes to the food on my plate, as well as the other areas of my life. I made sure to take all the requirements for college as soon as I could to get them over with, to save the fun and interesting classes that I really wanted to take for later. This is because I like to have something to look forward to. Somehow it feels like I can make it through anything if I know there is something good waiting for me at the end. You know, the light at the end of the tunnel attitude. Part of this thinking, however, involves the good ending point being at a fixed point in time. I know exactly when my birthday is, so it is easy to look forward to it, but if someone tells you, “I’m going to give you gift,” but doesn’t say when, then the longer that time goes by, the more you start to think, “So, um, when exactly are they going to give me this gift? Are they really going to?”

This is part of what makes dating so difficult or frustrating at times. In some ways I would be much better off if someone walked up to me today and said, “Stop being anxious! You are going to meet the right person in 5 years from today, so stop worrying” than I would be if I were to find the right person in only 2 years, without knowing that information in advance. Instead I’m stuck with that secret hoping of, “Maybe it will happen today…or maybe not for years.”

I was thinking about this recently and I realized I have it all wrong. Instead of being so focused on when I’m finally going to get married and I won’t have to wait anymore, I should be focusing on the fact that there is a lot of good in the fact that I have to wait- it gives me something to look forward to. You see, once I get the good thing I’ve been waiting for, I’m inevitably left with this drop of sadness of “Oh, now it’s over. What will I look forward to next?” I remember when I read the final book of the Harry Potter series. I had been waiting to read the seventh book probably ever since I finished the third and had to wait for the fourth, finish it, then wait forever for the fifth, then wait forever for the sixth and then wait for the seventh. As much as I enjoyed reading the book, and I enjoyed it a great deal, when I reached that last sentence on that last page, I was so sad that there was no next book to look forward to.

Marriage, of course, is a different story because it is not something you reach and then move past the way you finish a book or the way you eat a piece of kugel and then it’s over. But there is the point of waiting to meet the person, and then you’ve met them and the mystery of, “Who will I spend the rest of my life with?” is over. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’d rather stay on this side of the mystery, I can’t wait to be on the other side, spending my life with the person. What I am saying is that this side of the mystery has some good aspects, firstly that there is something to look forward to, something to hope for, something to dream about, and while I’m not there yet I might as well enjoy that aspect.

Another good aspect is something I touched upon in this post about appreciating the process. It’s a reflection that I had when I was looking back at the past year around Rosh Hashanah time, and that is the fact that I realized that last year at this time I was not quite as ready to get married as I thought I was, and that last year at this time my desire to get married was not nearly as strong as it is now. As each day goes by I feel more and more ready to get married and I want to get married more and more and more. I truly believe that there is a point where you cannot possibly want to get married anymore, no matter how many more years pass, no matter how many more days pass, no matter how many more Tefillot you daven, no matter how many more dates you go on. And as many times as I’ve thought I’ve reached that point, I am no where near that point at all. There is benefit, I think, from Hashem’s perspective, to forcing me to wait until my desire is stronger, because the greater my desire to get married, the greater my happiness will be when I finally meet the right person.

It’s like a child in a candy store. If the child asks her mother for a candy and the mother says, “Yes,” then the child takes the candy and eats it and is perfectly content and satisfied. But if the child asks and is refused and then asks again and is again refused, then ten minutes later when the child screams on the top of her lungs, “PLEASE, MOMMY, PLEASE????!!!” and the mother gives in and says, “Yes, my darling, Ok, I will give you a candy,” the child’s response is to jump up and down excitedly shouting “YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And while being content is nice, a big huge “yay” is a whole lot better. Every day that I wait I want to get married even more, and I know the “yay” gets bigger and bigger, too. Yet at the same time, I certainly hope to get married soon and that my “yay” doesn’t end up getting stretched to be as big as it could be.

I don’t want to wait forever to get married, and I certainly hope each day that it will happen soon, but in the meantime I appreciate that I have something to look forward to, because that is always fun, even if I don’t know the exact end point in time. And even though at times I get impatient or frustrated, I can feel the “yay” feeling growing until the time when I don’t have to wait anymore.