Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

White Dragon

I'm having way too much fun with this. Had a fun chat at the library about this site with Harry, the librarian who wears crystals.

A long time ago Harry said hi to me and remembered my name. When I asked him how he knew, he said it was because it's Tolkienish.

When I said, "I won't remember yours," he said. "Yes you will. Like Harry Potter."

I don't even need my library card when he's there.

What Color Dragon Are You?

You're a white dragon.

Traits:Kind, conservative and caring, you honsestly believe that there is good in everything, even though there might not be. You are full of hope and you are a fun person. Keep it up, because the world needs more people like you!

Power:You control light. A light emits from your eyes, which makes you a magnificent sight to see.

Location:You'd be found at the top of a mountain, where you can see for hundreds of miles and appriciate the view.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006


What Mythical Species Are You?

You're a pheonix. You are nobel, loyal and brave, and unlike the dragon, you aren't prone to anger. You have a curiously long life, you are strong and can carry very heavy loads. Your tears can cure the most serious of illnesses and you'd do anything for those you care about.

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What am I supposed to learn from this?

It's been a month and 16 days this time since I last got sick. Of course, this one actually started around the 13th at Purim. I've been holding it off with homeopathic stuff and it finally just needed to come out completely.

I'm trying to figure out on different levels what I'm supposed to learn from getting sick all the time. One is just the practical pieces of being careful around all the virus-carrying children I teach. I am new to this part of the country and immune to a lot less.

But I also know that some everyday lifestyle things that don't seem to hurt others really hurt me. When I eat sugar or dairy products like cheese I find I am much more likely to come down with illnesses than others. I can fill it almost instantly. Wednesday, for example, is pizza day at school. My throat gets raspy within my buckling and having a piece of that wonderful junk food because it produces more disease-catching phlegm in my throat.

Some people don't believe me on this, but I've tested it and found it to be true. Why would I want to believe this it if it weren't true?

Here's one thing that I don't like about it but sometimes I feel is the message... one of the justifications for keeping Kosher is that it separates us from non-Jews at least partially in that most intimate of settings in which people usually meet, eating.

Well, these food restrictions that Hashem has sent me, are they supposed to continue to separate me in some way? If so, why? As evidence by this blog in which I am sometimes more forthcoming than I sometimes in with people in real life, I want to learn to be more comfortable with interacting with others. So how shall I do that if I can't eat the food they're eating and seem like a wet blanket because of it?

Maybe the food is a shortcut and I need to find other ways to connect.

And maybe I just need to take care of myself better in other ways. I'm home from work for this and feeling guilty because of it again. Instead let me try to thank myself for taking care of myself.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Women's Megillah Reading

I've been meaning for awhile to post about the women's megillah reading here in Englewood this year. This is the second year they've done it, my first reading with the group. I got to do the first section of chapter 5 for my third time.

The first time I did chapter 5 was at Oberlin and I read the whole thing, but didn't much understand how so I just stumbled. Second time was last year and I did fewer verses. This year was 9 verses and I felt much more confident. I understand better what it should sound like, how to practice, how to recover after errors etc. I also am more familiar now with the text, what it means, and how it is expressed in the trope sounds. (The melody we use to chant it.)

It's such a good experience to read in this context for so many reasons. I think many people misread women's readings as being some type of reactionary gesture against traditional readings. But it's not that at all, at least not for most people. It's an opportunity for awe. Every week so many men have the experience of reading at the Torah. I suspect that many feel a sense of awe when they approach, especially if they don't get to as often or if they are newer to Judaism in some way. But I also know it is possible to slip into rote practice with the Torah. (I do not at all oppose this. Duty is more important than getting a spiritual high.)

But only three times a year in this community do we get to read publicly from a text... Megillat Esther at Purim, Breishit (Genesis) at Simchat Torah, and Eichah (Lamentations) at Tisha B'Av. It takes so much work to prepare if you are not accustomed to doing it, and each of the women puts so much care into it. I was sitting close enough to the megillah to see that the Yad (the pointer) was often shaking in the hands of the reader. I found that beautiful, like shaking at Mount Sinai.

There was also something lovely about leaving the chaotic and fun Purim setting in which the kids are having so much fun, in which there is chaotic but appropriate drinking, merriment, costumes and more, and enterring this somewhat more serious atmosphere of the women's reading. It is essential that listeners hear every single word of the megillah. This is not always easy when every time the villain's name is mentioned we shout and use noisemakers to drown out his memory. But in the women's reading, which was still light and festive, there was no doubt that we heard every word.

And beyond the experience of just enjoying the presence of other women, women are a crucial element of the story of Purim. There is so much to the interactions between men and women in the story -- from when the king has his wife, Vashti, executed so that all "wives will give honor to their husbands", to Esther's quiet bravery and enormous sacrifice.

Incidentally, I've never known what to make of that part in the story about wives giving honor to their husbands. It just now occurs to me what a downfall it is for men to demand honor from other's. That is, after all, what happens to Haman when he demands honor from Mordechai. Does Mordechai, the Jew, represent all of us Jews metaphorically as women, not demanding honor but only giving honor where it is deserved, to God?

I'm a little uncertain about that last idea, but it seems consistent. Let me know what you think.

Now I'm almost looking forward to this summer when we read Eichah. What a completely different atmosphere that will be. From absolute joy to utter grief. It's all part of what God has given us.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Role Models

I've always been big on role models. It wasn't intentional, but there have been so many times in my life when I modelled much of who I was after someone else.

Role models have included friends and family, sometimes rabbis that I know or other "wise" people, but usually one main person at a time.

I've learned from them about what music to listen to, how to dress, spiritual matters, religious matters, how to talk, when not to talk, how to treat children, the environment, my peers and more.

Every now and then I'll really latch on to someone to the point that I really want to be just like them. It's usually at about that point that they disappoint me by being human and/or by doing something that just doesn't fit me.

So then I feel cheated, keep my distance awhile, and then eventually respect that I am who I am, and that person is who s/he is and then all is well again.

The amazing thing since I've lived here is that I know longer feel such a need for role models. I still refer in my mind to, "What would _____________ do?" particularly about meditation or some other shaky areas in which I really do need (and don't have much) guidance right now.

But this weaning off of role models means two things to me:

One is that I have not yet met anyone who so thoroughly amazes me in some area that I want more of that I need to follow them so fully (this isn't to say that I don't learn from the many wonderful people around me).

But more importantly, I think that I'm now who I want to be.

A simple example is that I used to really look at what interesting foods people brought to work in their lunches, especially if I was around people into organics and what not. Now, every lunch, everyone looks at my lunch and asks what I made. I've simply learned over time.

Many people here have similar lives. When I mention that I grew up taking care of chickens, they're impressed. This is out of the norm. I feel very unique (and sometimes a little full of myself. I'm trying to watch that). I am THE hippie of the people that I know.

On a lighter note, I do have one weak point, which is there is one person I look forward to seeing each week that I really look up to. I appreciate that we have a certain distance between us so that I don't get too caught up in wanting to model myself after him. But also, our circumstances are just so different, I don't see myself actually trying to emulate him.

Almost as good as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, here's my current person to look up to.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006


Boy, have I got a lot I want to write and not much time to do it. This was one of those Shabbats when I was just filled with things to say and I still owe an entry about the women's megillah reading.

However, I've got parent-teacher conferences early tomorrow and then late late late on Tuesday after a full day teaching, so I'm busy getting ready for that and making the most of whatever leisure time I do have.

(I've made a list at my desk of things I want to blog about later. We'll see what comes of it.)

I starting getting sick this last week after the Fast of Esther. Friday it reached it's worst which was simply a sore throat and a very flushed face. With the use of this book I diagnosed myself (double-checking with the guy at the Health Food and Medicine store), took lycopodium because my throat hurt on the right instead of th left, and sure enough am far better tonight!

Anyway, this is basically irrelevant. I want to write about so many other things, but I do really need to finish up preparing for two more kids' conferences and then hit the sack.

In the meantime, for your listening pleasure, here is the problem with blogs. Sadly, I agree with everything this guy says. I have not been keeping up with reading others' blogs at all. I've always had this dream that someday I would be such a great writer that someone would come and decipher and catalog every word I've written (crammed into files and boxes and journals all over), but the extremely painful truth is, it's not likely. There's proof of that now. Sure, some people like my blog, but not every entry, not every word. Reading my blog is like passing me in a room. I'm good to talk to, maybe some good insights, but there are a whole lot of people in the room besides me.

I guess I just happen to be braver in the blog than in the room.

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cell. phone missiles

I just received a disturbing email reminding me not to drink and drive because it kills people. I'm supposed to sign my name to it along with thousands of others and pass it on. Instead I deleted it because I know better than to pass on emails too much.

However, here is a reminder... don't drink and drive.

Here's a concern I have every day even more and have been meaning to blog about for awhile. And knowing I have a new audience of blog readers recently I don't know who is going to read this, but I hope it has an impact.


People at work keep telling me that that's their only time to make phone calls. Forget that that's an awfully hectic life to live where you're rushing so much you aren't willing to have some alone time in the car. As much as I hate overpolluting, I really value my half hour commute when I can be alone with the radio.

But when you talk with the phone, even with a headset, your attention is not on the road. It just isn't. Listening to the radio is more passive than talking actively on the phone.

And while you might not value your own life and health enough to be concerned about that, your car is a missile hurtling forward at very fast speeds with the potential of smashing into someone.

I don't mean to be condescending, but this is about life and death. I really mean it. Please be careful.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Megillah and Rampant Emotions

I had a nice Purim, my first here in NJ. It didn't have the same punch as I had the first time I started to really fall in love with Purim and first realized just how much there is to the story, but it was good. I'll write a little later about the women's megillah reading. (Yes, I read.) Unfortunately right now I'm swamped with preparing for parent-teacher conferences and don't have time to download the pictures.

Besides, on the day before, I bought myself this commentary which I've been wanting for awhile. It wasn't groundbreaking for me, but I did learn a lot from reading parts of it. There is some fascinating stuff about the "coincidences" that take place. At Yom Kippur they used to cast lots on two goats. One would be sacrificed in a holy way. The other died a terrible death. In many ways that same essence hangs over the megillah of Esther. Mordechai is supposed to be hanged, but thanks to one thing after another that can only have come from Hashem, Haman is hanged instead. (This is not news to most people, but the Malbim goes into some surprising depth with it.)

But here's what I noticed this year. And I haven't studied this, just noticed it so comments are VERY welcome if you have more. The royalty in the Haggadah are very easily swayed by emotions. Take Haman. He is promoted as high as he can actually go without acting BECOMING king and he is very happy until he leaves the palace. The moment he sees Mordechai and remembers that Mordechai will not bow down to him, he becomes too angry to focus. A sure sign of an unhappy person who will never be happy with his lot.

Achasverosh is similar. At the end when Haman's plot is revealed, the king becomes angry out of control so that he has to leave the room just to calm down. He stays mad and highly emotional until Haman is hanged. It takes this external event to make him feel better. Kind of petty really. He's not upset for the sake of the Jews. He's upset at his position being slighted. In fact, even after Haman is executed, Esther still needs to ask the king to take back the decree against the Jews. It's like he completely forgot the whole point of her bringing up Haman's plot. And how does she get his attention? Not by quietly reminding him, but by throwing herself at his feet and sobbing. For such a modest person it is unlikely she is making a scene like this for her own theatrics. She knows that this is the best way to get his attention.

I didn't notice anywhere in the text that Jews get ANGRY like the king and Haman. They have joy and gladness at the end. And during the story there is mourning. But anger? What does this say about our identity? What does this say about anger? What does this say about people in power?

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Monday, March 13, 2006

3D Sidewalk Art

This is really incredible. I wonder how people react to this on the street. Don't they usually see it from the wrong angle?


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Live-action Simpsons

As U. says, someone has too much time on their hands.

The best part is watching for the supporting characters in the background like Barney and Bleeding Gums Murphy (whose name I just love to say).

For the few of you out there who don't know it (no offense) Matt Groening is from Portland and many of his characters are named after streets in Portland. My parents walk to shul along beautiful Terwilliger (as in Bob Terwilliger or Sideshow Bob) and there is a shop I like going to in NW Portland on Lovejoy (as in Reverend). And that's just the beginning.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

Local Bloggers

Lately I have felt like I'm between friends. Especially after my stint in Vancouver after which I lost contact with some Portland friends, and now that I'm away from Vancouver too, it feels like I do not yet have any local close friendships. But it also feels like I'm out of touch with previous friends.

In connection with all of that it bothers me how much I've been getting my social interaction through the computer lately, blogging with strangers from my "anonymous" site about bigger issues, and watching every day from entries from old friends that I actually once knew. I lose lots of time over the week on here and sometimes wonder if I shouldn't be putting my energy elsewhere. Actually discovered a blog that interested me recently only to find the guy was swearing off writing on the blog any more for awhile because of that very reason.

However, it's interesting that now I'll start connecting with local people through a blog. Partly inspired apparently (and I'm pleased about this) by some comments I made about blogging, the rabbi at my shul has now started Through The Lens Of Torah And Halakha. I've already left two comments and wonder how this will help me get to know this community a little better and maybe let them know me too. Of course now I have the possibility of people in this community finding Brainsite. How will what I write change as a result of a potential new audience?

Stay tuned.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

What song played on your birthday?

Apparently the number one song played the day I was born was "Silly Love Songs" by Paul McCartney & Wings. (June 23, 1976)

What was yours?


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Taking over the world

I kind of want one of these shirts or bags, but I'm also kind of shy about it. When would I wear it? How would people react? What's my motivation? I like that one on the left too that says "I survived."

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Jumpin' Jupiter

My songwriting, animatingfriend Ben is now the voice of Lunar Jim. Don't be intimidated. The games aren't nearly as difficult as you might imagine.

I think that's the highest number of links per words in any blog entry that I've written.

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