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Punintentional: The Obtuseness That is My Life

When people tell me I’m funny, I tell them that I’m not. I tell them that I am the least funny person they will ever meet in their lives.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s moments like these that I feel like I’m a few steps behind the world.

This time last week, at Shabbat dinner, the topic of conversation was nails. Someone (Carly, maybe?) had gotten a manicure before Shabbat, and people were talking about crazy manicures and nail designs. I mentioned a friend of mine from college who painted a different design on her nails every week, according to the zodiac or something. Somebody mentioned how that was commitment, and I was like…

“Yeah, she must have had a lot of time on her hands.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

People laugh, and about two minutes pass before I understand what I just said.

I realized that I’ve done this from time to time. Back in high school, we watched the movie version of The Crucible after reading it in English class. The ending of the movie is much different than the ending of the play. After we watched it, we discussed it, and my first thought?

“I didn’t like this ending. It kinda leaves you hanging.”

I think a full five minutes passed before I got that one.

The third story is one that’s a bit more contextual, so apologies in advance if you don’t get it.

So, in my sophomore year of high school, we put on Les Miserables. Yes, that one. At our Orthodox Jewish high school. It goes without saying that it was pretty terrible, but we had a few great rehearsal moments. One time, early in the rehearsal process, we were all sitting around chatting during a break, and someone remarked on the lack of “Lovely Ladies” and the characters in that number, and people suddenly started asking questions like “where are the lovely ladies?” And some idiot said, “Do we have a Pimp?”

Without blinking, my drama teacher goes:

“No. Not anymore.”

For a split-second she looked up and around, and then laughed. Fortunately, I think she was making a joke.

I hope she was making a joke.

I have Diane to thank for this post. Thanks, Diane!

Also, hooray for being a five-continent day, all but Africa.

 

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Two Of Them Almost Kissed Last Night…

I went to Chabad for the first time in awhile tonight. It was the “midsummer Chabad event” thing or something, I don’t know.

Anyway.

I was going to save this story for the first Shabbat of the school year, but I can’t wait that long, so here it is.

Shabbat is a time for seeing and greeting friends, especially those you haven’t seen for a while, or at least since last Shabbat. I think it was one of the first Friday nights of my senior year at UMass Amherst. I was (and still am) a pretty affectionate person, and at Hillel, the rules of negia were not always in play. I mean, I usually messed up the first time I met anyone because I have terrible negia-dar, but after awhile, you know how to greet which friends, and you do it the same way every time. I would do the man-shake with a male friend, or a quick hug. With a non-shomeret female friend, I’d do the squeeze thing and maybe an air kiss or a cheek kiss if I felt close enough to her.

So, one Friday night, I was greeting people like I usually do, but with a bit more enthusiasm since it had been a while since we’d seen each other. I went to hug one of my female friends, who was similarly happy to see me as I was to see her, and with our heads turned to our left, I kissed her cheek briefly without my lips directly touching her face. Like I usually do, I exited the hug by stepping directly backwards, keeping my face turned away from hers until I was out of her personal space. Only this time, as we released the hug, she turned her head to the right, and her lips brushed against mine for a millisecond.

I know, I know, accidents happen, and this is nothing to write home about, but it was one of those moments that’s so sweet that it’s awkward and so awkward that it’s sweet. Her eyes went big as did mine, and we looked around; thankfully, everyone around us was talking and hugging each other so nobody noticed.

Well, until she started giggling awkwardly, and someone near her said “what?” and she said “Nothing, we almost kissed.”

Then it got a little awkward. I started apologizing, and she said something like “no, I know you weren’t trying to kiss me, our heads just went in the opposite direction.”

But fortunately, it was only awkward for like five minutes. Then everything went back to normal.

I will not be identifying said friend, but should she read this, she’s a pretty cool chick and a good sport. This story had no point, I just wanted to tell it.

Please enjoy this clip from Friends.

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Mr. Know-It-All

I am a pretty calm person when it comes to dealing with other people. I have a pretty thick skin and I can take it better than I can dish it out. But there are some things that people say and do that just rile me.

Like know-it-alls. Know-it-alls come in all types. There’s the child know-it-all, one part wunderkind, two parts annoying; the best friend know-it-all, which can be comforting at times but grating at others; the sibling know-it-all, known to be the cause of rivalry (but deny it to the death), and then there’s the worst type of know-it-all.

Yes, I’m talking about the know-it-all religious figure.

They’re the type of people who give your religion a bad name. For all the wonderful people I’ve encountered in my religious circle, unfortunately it’s the ones who act like bigshots who often have the most visibility. Not to say that others are shrinking violets, but the outspoken nature of the religious know-it-all overshadows all but the most bold of their compatriots.

Today, I had Shabbat lunch and third-meal at the home of a local rabbi, whose name I am not going to say, mostly because I can never remember what it is (one of the good things about rabbis – they all respond to the same name: rabbis). He’s a good guy, as most guys are, but sometimes there’s this smarmy aura about him, as if he imagines himself as the center of the universe. I’m not knocking his religious education, but one of the things about rabbis is that they shouldn’t put you down, or speak to you in a way that is a direct judgment on your character.

Lunch was fine, but at dinner, the topic of religiosity and religious parenting came up. I know I was kind of setting myself up here, but someone else at the table mentioned that her parents came from two very different religious backgrounds, neither of which were Orthodox, and I added in that my parents also came from two very different religious backgrounds, with one Orthodox and one not so much, causing Rabbi Know-it-all to say:

“It’s impossible to raise a kid with one Orthodox parent and one non-Orthodox parent. It doesn’t work. It’s too confusing.”

Oh boy…

“Mine raised me Orthodox,” said I.

“Tell me more,” says the rabbi.

Me:

<Regret>

So, I go through the basics of how my parents met, how they raised us, and how I am today vs. how I lived when I was in their house, ending with “…my parents taught me that Shabbat was important but that my studies were as well, and if that meant doing homework on holidays/Shabbat, so be it. ”

</Regret>

His response?

“Well, that’s a mixed message, you could just as easily go to a club on Shabbos and they’d never know. It’s like a gateway into breaking Shabbos ::smarmy smile::”

Um, wha?

First of all, you don’t know me. Okay, that’s more of a gut reaction and a copout. But seriously, second of all, you have never met parents, lived in my house, or experienced my childhood. Third, and the most hurtful of all, is that you’re basically telling me that I have no self-control and that my religious views/my parents’ are based on lies. Is that something a religious figure and role model should be saying? No. That’s what a petulant, nose-picking moron on the playground or in the hallway would say. Everyone judges and gets judged by others over the course of his/her life, and that’s fine, but keep it to yourself unless you’re certain that the person might have a serious problem, in which case talk to them privately about it, if it matters that much to you. Also, you don’t have a say in how religious I am, and when you put it out there like that, I’m less likely to believe things that you say in the future. And when you jump to conclusions, bring a parachute; you might knock yourself into a hole in the ground.

I thought I would have more to say on this topic, but I think I’ve said my piece for now.

There is one kind of know-it-all that I can tolerate, and that is my parents. Don’t mess with them; when you insult them, you insult me.

15 Life Lessons Learned From "As Told By Ginger"

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Naptime

They say that naps are for babies and old people.

I beg to differ.

I am 26 years old and in graduate school, with too much work to know where to put it. I waste too much time when I’m awake to waste any more time sleeping, so that’s become an activity of necessity for function rather than activity for pleasure/comfort. Similar to eating, which I should probably do after finishing this blog post, sleep just isn’t an activity that gives me pleasure. It’s just a momentary break to my usually stressful and depressingly lonely life, where I can, you know, do nothing but recharge my internal batteries.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I grew up with (and still have, actually) this wonderful gift called Shabbat, otherwise known as “the day of rest.” To child me, this meant no TV, computer, or fun of any kind other than reading books or running around outside, but now I wish I could spend my Shabbat doing less and less, since these days things tend to distract me from resting.

One of the best things about having Shabbat is that you can just fall asleep in the middle of the day, and no one will judge you or call you lazy. Growing up, my dad’s weekend job was taking naps, and when my mom would fall asleep, I’d cover her with blankets and arrange my stuffed animals around her head. When I fell asleep in the middle of the day…well, usually nothing happened, since everyone else had probably beaten me to it. But even if I ended up waking up when it was time to go to bed again, I’d just eat dinner and then stay up until I could fall asleep again because it’d still be the weekend when I’d wake up.

Today I got in my bed, with some books, closed my eyes…and then it was 6:30, and the film festival was starting, so I headed over there, watched a little bit of the film, and then went to the gym and had a surprising amount of energy. Maybe I’m onto something.

Oh, and dobrodosli to my new visitor from Slovenia. Bring your friends…where did everybody go? Lonely blogger over here.

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Putting Chabad Houses in Proportion

Since I didn’t have any work to do today, I decided to spend my Shabbat relaxing. It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision as I was asleep until about noon, but it was as relaxing as it could be, I guess. I did something that I don’t normally do on Saturdays, but should more often: go to the Chabad House for Shabbat lunch.

I got there, and I didn’t even know anyone was there – that is, until I heard children’s voices, then Rabbi’s head poking around the corner, saying “come join us!” I stepped in, and to my astonishment, instead of the normal four or five tables, they only had one set up, with 13 seats around it – exactly enough for everyone, once I was there. As the semester has ended as well as finals, just about everyone who can leave the frozen tundra of Madison (even if it’s for the frozen tundra of Milwaukee or Minneapolis) has done so. The diners assembled consisted of myself, the rabbi, his wife and three kids, four workers at Epic (who apparently never have vacation time, ever), and two other students who have chosen/were forced to stay in town until next week. Every time a new conversation started, so did a new round of screaming started, either by oldest boy who should know better, the middle boy who doesn’t know better, or the baby who’s a baby. And a sick baby (yeah, I don’t know either…). Usually once one started, another would join in yelling and screaming for no apparent reason and usually in a dissonant manner, and right behind my head. And of course, the rabbi’s response is timid laughter, unlike what I would say, which would not be appropriate to say in front of children that age, which is why I am not their father.

He also said, “Isn’t it funny, that the smaller the crowd, the louder the children?” Well, rabbi, you and I have different concepts of “funny,” but it’s actually kind of true. Back in Houston, I knew that whenever the children outnumbered the adults, it meant we were in for six more weeks of whining, and I was out of there.

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post:

Putting Chabad Houses In Proportion

The older the rabbi, the more awesome he is.

The younger the rabbi, the more he thinks he’s a college student.

The greasier the food, the better the cooking.

The sugarier the desserts, the colder the climate.

The prettier the sheitl, the more adult children of the rebbetzin.

The more the children, the higher the likelihood you’ll leave with a runny nose, a cough, pinkeye, or streptococci.

The nicer the silverware, the more the donors.

The more plastic on the table, the more drunk college students.

The more the alcohol…yeah, that doesn’t mean much.

The more decrepit the house, the more like home away from home it actually is, regardless of what you’re used to at home.

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And On The Seventh Day, He Rested

Most people know that Jews have holidays that occur intermittently throughout the year, usually in the fall. What they don’t know is about the most important holiday of all: the Sabbath, or as we like to call it, Shabbat.

Shabbat is like an island of peace to which we Jews can escape one day a week, every week. For the rest of time.

Growing up, my family observed Shabbat pretty strictly, starting off with Friday night dinner and continuing with 25 hours total of no technology (computers, TV, and later, cell phones). No drawing, no writing, no going anywhere in the car, no spending money. All there was to do was go to shul on Saturday mornings (where, if I was lucky, we’d have a luncheon) and then spending the rest of the day alternating between eating in the kitchen, sleeping either in bed or on the couch downstairs, or reading, anywhere. All up until an hour after sunset, when we’d do Havdalah at the kitchen counter. I always got to hold the candle since I was the youngest. One of the few perks of being a younger sibling.

After I left home, Shabbat became harder and harder to observe. I started to crack under the pressure of college life, especially one with few Jews. I remember resorting to counting the ceiling tiles in my dorm room over and over. I couldn’t go to the dining hall because I had to swipe in, so I’d have to make do with whatever food I had in my room. It was hard, and probably contributed to why I didn’t do so well there. I also ended up needing to do work on Shabbat in my sophomore year, a move which my parents didn’t endorse but approved of since it was for my education. It was also a move that worked in my favor, I think, for when I went to submit the paper to my professor I told her it was the first time I’d broken Shabbat in my whole life (probably not entirely true, but to this extent, at least), which earned me an apology for her and maybe a few sympathy points even though I ended up with an A anyway.

Through junior and senior years I tried to keep Shabbat the best I could, but it was mostly loneliness that caused me to break. One particularly lonely Passover, when everyone else went home but I couldn’t arrange it, I was on the phone with my dad and he told me that if I was really that upset and lonely, I should find a computer game to distract me for a little while, which is when I discovered (and became addicted to) Phantom Mansion, this weird little Internet game thing that I never did quite beat but I got pretty darn close.

In Israel, keeping Shabbat was much easier, but ever since that Passover, I did not feel as compelled to keep it 100%. I tried to, but sometimes I just needed to get on the computer for a little while. On a few particularly lonely Saturdays, including Yom Kippur, I spent the whole night and day holed up in my office at the theater, sleeping on my couch (which I wasn’t technically supposed to do, but no one ever caught me) and getting work done during the day so I could get a jump on the week.

Houston is pretty much when my Shabbat-keeping completely fell apart. It started when I told a friend (who wasn’t Jewish) that I would walk 2 miles each way to and from Chabad on Friday nights, which prompted her to say that if she ever saw me doing that, she’d pick me up and throw me in her car, so after that (and knowing how dangerous Houston at night can be) whenever I went to Chabad, save for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I would drive and feel incredibly guilty about it even though most people did the same because it’s Houston and you have to drive everywhere anyway. Usually I spent most of Shabbat doing what I did the rest of the week: watching TV, exercising, making food, doing work, and hanging out on the computer. I remember spending 8-9 hours one Shabbat on my computer translating some Slovak, without which I would’ve never finished my thesis.

One of the things I was looking forward to about moving to Wisconsin was observing Shabbat more strictly, because now I live merely blocks from Chabad, and I could probably transition back to not using technology pretty quickly. But it’s been hard not to check my email or my phone at all, but I hope that’ll change, at least as soon as the play is over.

I miss that feeling that I could be completely at peace, just praying, reading and doing non-technology-related activities that I enjoy, like taking walks, napping, or just kicking back and enjoying the day. I never liked Shabbat growing up because there was so much my parents wouldn’t let me do, but now I wish I could go back to then, that innocent time when Shabbat meant resting in its purest and highest form, and thinking about being closer to God and to myself. Maybe when I get back to Madison from Houston I can start, little by little. Shabbat is a weekly gift, and Friday night especially – as a girl I went to college with termed it, “my date with God.” Collecting my thoughts and connecting with my feelings is something that I could definitely use 25 hours of my week to focus on.

Shabbat, shabbat, I will forget thee not.