Carried in His Hands

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"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Sewing Project Plans

(I started graduate school yesterday; so far it seems a lot like college, only harder.  I will talk more about it in another post.)

My father brings me fabric when I need it, because it is cheaper and easier to get where he lives.  He has a Wal-Mart super center accessible; I do not.  I give him color, and sometimes pattern, ideas and let him loose.  He usually picks out something wonderful.

My current sewing project is a really big wall hanging, several feet long, to hang over my dining table.  It is the final thing I need hanging; after it's done I will go around the room taking pictures of everything on the walls, except my diploma because it shows my last name, and then I will blog the pictures.  This wall hanging is much the biggest I've made, and it's also the first to be an actual picture.  It will be a garden scene with purple flowers; my grandmother let me pick out fun buttons for the flowers' centers, and they will add just the right touch.  I planned this project so that each phase would be more interesting than the last; first a hem, then the grass, then the stems and flowers, then the button centers.

When my father brought me the fabric for the project described above, he also brought me the ultimate fun fabric: purple background with pink, purple, blue, and yellow elephants and pink polka dots.  I cannot use it for the wall hanging because the print is too big.  I would never get a full elephant showing, and it's a waste of perfectly good elephants to chop them up.  I decided, however, that what I need to do with that fabric is make another tallit katan; the width is perfect, and it is even a little too long.  I will hem the border and the head hole in purple; each hole for the fringes will be done in an elephant color.

The plans for the new tallit katan started me thinking, and I decided I needed to phase out the plain white men's kind I wear during the week.  (I will keep the ladies' kind I wear when I dress up; they work for that better than anything I could make, and they are already special.)  Therefore, I now have a new Hannukah gift idea: four or five sets of strings (if the budget allows five I will get five, but I haven't priced it out yet) and the material to make the garments (fabric is so cheap I'm sure my parents will let me max  out the budget on strings).

I need to think about, and decide on, colors for the garments.  I instantly chose brown and pink, because they are my favorite colors after purple.  (I go back and forth on which I like better.)  Then I chose blue, because if I had to pick a color to represent Judaism, it would be blue.  Finally, a while later, I settled on yellow.  I love yellow, and I really can't wear it anywhere that shows; this way, I can.  If I get a fifth, I'm thinking orange or green, for the same reason as the yellow.

Now that I'm in school again, my sewing time is limited.  I've decided to set aside ten minutes before bed as craft project time.  That way, I won't stray away when I'm supposed to be working on schoolwork, because I'll know my sewing time is coming to me later.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Lessons from my Grandfather's Funeral

My grandfather passed away Friday evening, and the funeral was yesterday afternoon.  It was my first funeral, and it really affected me in a way I didn't expect.  I felt a whole lot of grief, for which I simply was not prepared.  Judaism teaches that we don't speak badly of the dead, and I really do want my grandfather to rest peacefully because goodness only knows he had a hard life and he's earned it, but I will say we really didn't have the easiest relationship and I wasn't particularly expecting to feel anything.

Throughout the ceremony, I broke down in silent, shoulder-shaking sobs multiple times.  No one else had any way of getting to me and helping me (my mother snuggled me in the car on the way back), nor would it have been appropriate if they did, but there was one person who really helped without being aware of it.

My grandfather had been a Marine, so there were two active duty Marines present to do the flag ceremony.  One was positioned close to me, with his back to me, and the other was positioned on the opposite side of the grave, facing me.  Most likely, they were only a few years older than I am.  (They didn't know that, because I look so young.)  Most of their job at funerals consists of standing still and expressionless.  However, every single time I looked up, the one opposite me made eye contact; every single time I broke down, I could see the corner of his mouth twitch in sympathy.  I don't know why, but somehow his sympathy really helped.

Before yesterday, I didn't know that Psalm 91 is read at Jewish funerals.  91 is my psalm (I named this blog after it), and then yesterday, all of a sudden it was my grandfather's psalm, and then all of a sudden we were connected in a way we never could have been when he was alive.  I wanted to do something for him, so when it came time to shovel dirt on top of the casket, I did so...twice, just for good measure.

I think it shows my strength of character that I was able to cry for the man who hurt me growing up, but the moment of which I am most proud is actually not about my feelings at all.  My father, a mourner under Jewish law, also served as the Rabbi conducting the service.  He was doing just fine until he started reading his eulogy, and then he started breaking down.  I had one very clear thought: "Whatever happens, he CANNOT break down."  I stopped my own breaking down so that I could slip over and comfort him.

In a way, though, all of this was good, or at least, something good came out of it.  Judaism teaches that the greatest good a person can do is to serve on a Hevra Kedisha, the committee that prepares a dead body for burial.  (Every synagogue has one.)  This is considered the greatest good because the dead person can never pay you back.  Needless to say, it's been my dream to serve on one for a long time, but it was always a "when I'm ready...and I'm not yet" kind of thing.

The grief I felt at my grandfather's funeral yesterday showed me something.  I will feel very strong feelings of grief and possibly more the first time I do Hevra Kedisha work, and that's OK.  I will push past them, and I will be a stronger person for it.  I'm ready now.  My mother wants me to get settled into school first; I think that's sensible.  My program either allows one grade below B or no grades below B the first semester, so for this semester, I'll just focus on school.  However, next semester, better believe I'm starting to serve on a Hevra Kedisha.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Miracles, Miracles...Miracles!

I thought about several titles for this post; in the end I went with the one I went with because it seemed much the simplest.  I wish to write about three "miracles" that have all happened in the last 24 hours.  I put "miracles" in quotation marks because they weren't like God splitting the Red Sea, or taking Israel out of Egypt with "a mighty hand and an outstretched arm."  Still, if you look carefully, I do believe you'll see God in these events.

--First: I CAN WEAR THE ARM THINGY AGAIN!!! I am writing about this one first because it really does feel like the most miraculous of the three.  Let me tell you the story.  My pain has gotten just the tiniest bit better recently; each day as I prayed with the head thingy and my prayer shawl, I had a sort of nagging feeling that I should be wearing the arm thingy, too.  In response to that feeling, I kept saying, "One day.  One day soon I'll try and see."  Finally, I decided I couldn't put it off any longer, so I tried.  And you know what? I could! It hurts--bothers me a lot, not going to lie--but not so much that I want to scream, and more importantly, not so much that I cannot focus on my prayers.

--Second: THERE IS SOMEONE WHO CAN HELP MY VISION PROBLEMS (at least we think so) AND I AM SEEING HIM TOMORROW!!! My grandparents have a physical trainer, who works mainly with nerve problems.  Yesterday, my father suggested I give him a call, so I did.  He thinks he can help; I didn't want to miss more school than I had to, so I asked--not really expecting him to say yes--if he could get me in tomorrow.  He answered in the affirmative.  Not only that, when I asked what time, he said any time I could get there.  (He's in Massachusetts.)  Wow.  All the glory for this one goes to God.

Now, in order for the above arrangement to work, I do have to stay with my grandparents overnight. My grandfather kind of terrorized me when I was a kid.  Last night, I found myself starting to be scared...and then I said, "Self, that's ridiculous.  You are an adult; you don't have to let him."  He is very uncomfortable with displays of religion...and I am, well, very religious.  So I decided I will compromise on a few things; no point starting unnecessary arguments.

I am still going to wear a kippah, but I picked out one of my smallest.  (I have 13 in that size, so that's still a lot to choose from; the one I finally went with is the kippah s'rugah with the big flower, the second one I ever got, if anyone is interested.)  I am going to pray in my room, and pray silently.  I made sure I will not be wearing a shirt with Hebrew on it.  I refuse, however, to tuck in my tzitziot.  They make my legs itch, and it's a pain in the neck to make sure they're hidden all the time.

--Third: "MY FRIEND 'SHOSHANA' IS COMING TO SPEND THE SABBATH WITH  ME!!!" My friend "Shoshana" (I gave her that code name years ago, when I was still code naming everyone) is very, very Christian.  (Yes, I appreciate the irony of the Hebrew code name.)  We talked on the phone for over an hour yesterday, and had some really good interfaith dialogue.  I was trying to describe my synagogue (the Conservative one 16 blocks away, the only one I go to now) and explain why it is so special...and then I had an inspiration.  I invited her for the Sabbath.  I didn't really expect her to say yes, but she did, and she's coming next week!

I must check with my father (he's a Rabbi--ordained Conservative--he'll know) whether blessings carry the same status in other languages that they do in the original Hebrew.  I want to include "Shoshana" and make her feel comfortable, and I'm willing to bet she doesn't speak or understand a word of Hebrew.  However, I have to fulfill my obligation to perform these commandments; if I need to do them in Hebrew, it's just going to have to be Hebrew.

I'm reminded by these plans that God really does know all.  Years ago--my sophomore year, her senior--"Shosahna" (Protestant), her boyfriend (Catholic), and I (Jewish) were in the dining hall on campus together, having interfaith dialogue, because that's what we most loved to do.  On a random whim, I invited "Shoshana" for the Sabbath...to some random home I didn't have yet, wouldn't have for a few years, and whose location I certainly didn't know.  And now, about three and a half years after that lunch/dinner (I think it was dinner, but I really don't remember) she really is coming to my home for the Sabbath!

Friday evening, "Shoshana" and I will spend a relaxed Sabbath evening at home.  (I can't really walk sixteen blocks twice, and besides, I want to spend the time with her.)  I will have to cook each piece of chicken separately, both because the oven is so small (toaster oven) and because that's how I know the timing, but if I back up the cooking time two hours and 40 minutes, and start the first piece at 3:50, I should finish the second one just in time to light candles at 6:30.  I am getting green beans in place of my usual brussel sprouts because I am peculiar in terms of vegetable tastes, but pretty much everyone is OK with green beans.  Saturday morning, "Shoshana" and I will go to my wonderful synagogue.  She can't be counted in the minyan (prayer quorum of ten adults) because she isn't Jewish; if we actually get there on time/early and it isn't a Bar or Bat Mitzvah week, I may have to make that clear to someone.  We'll see.

So those are my miracles! I wrap up with a movie quotation; see if you know it!

"There can be miracles when you believe; though hope is frail, it's hard to kill."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back-to-School Clothes

It's been a long, long time since I put together a special back-to-school outfit.  However, I am starting GRADUATE SCHOOL next week.  (NEXT WEEK!!!) That calls for something of a celebration, don't you think? Below is a picture of the outfit I have chosen, and then I will explain each piece.  (Please ignore bed to the left and rug to the right.)


  1. Skirt: The skirt was chosen first.  I wanted to be a little "dressed up;" one doesn't start graduate school every day, you know.  I have two casual-but-dressy skirts.  This one, my "medium denim," is more versatile, meaning I could choose from a broader selection of shirts to go with it.
  2. Shirt: I wanted to be a little "dressed up" in terms of which shirt I would wear, too.  All my other Summer weekday shirts are t-shirts, so this pink polo was the natural option.
  3. Kippah: Obviously, with a pink shirt and denim skirt, one needs to wear a pink kippah.  You may recall that I had the following options: pink suede from my Bat Mitzvah, the pink crocheted from my friend Sami, or two different machine embroidered pink silk by designer Yair Emanuel.  As you can see in the picture above, I chose the second, the one made by Sami...objectively, it is probably the most special kippah I own.  And just in case anyone was wondering, I will wear plain black clips with it; they are bigger, and can hold the thickness better.
  4. Shoes: Yes, I am branching out from sneakers all the time! I am allowing myself to do this for three reasons.  First: let's be realistic, my feet are going to hurt no matter what shoes I wear.  Second: I have a podiatrist's OK that these really are almost as supportive as my sneakers.  Third: I am female, and feminine; that means that sometimes I need pretty shoes.


Turning to God

These days, I literally have quadruple vision: I see double, both up-and-down and side-to-side.  If I close my left eye--specifically the left--and squint, the side-to-side stays the same, but the up-and-down compresses just the tiniest bit.  In this position, and in this position only, I can do things such as read a book I have never read before, or walk down the street without bumping into people.

School starts in a week and a bit, and I was really hoping to fix this before that.  I saw an opthalmologist yesterday; not only can he not fix it, he doesn't even know what it is.  So now I have an appointment with a neuro-opthalmologist...for October 26th, because that was the soonest they could get me in.  That means I'll be doing a good two months of school--and the major Fall Jewish holidays--like this.

As usual when I am scared, I have been writing to God.  This time, I am so scared that we are simplifying the titles.  God gets to be "my Mother" or "my Father," alternating gender with each letter.  I pray for a miracle: vision restored to single; really, however, I am just hoping to learn to manage this gracefully.

So help me, God.

EDITED TO ADD: Side Note: When my graduation gift arrives, I plan to start using the candelabrum at earliest opportunity (can't really wait to start using a full-size thing for my candles).  The kippah, however, I plan to save for second night Rosh Hashanah, so I have something new to make the blessing on.  We say the blessing on a new day both nights of the holiday; there's an Orthodox custom to have a tangible something new, such as a new item of clothing or a food that hasn't been eaten in a certain amount of time (I forget how long) to make the blessing on, on the second night.  I think it's a beautiful tradition; I started keeping it last year by saving my new winter dress skirt (caramel suede) that I had just bought, and wearing it that night.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Graduation Gift--Ordered!

(I still officially have four minutes, so I'm going to blog, and then leave--slightly late--for my opthalmologist appointment.)

Finally, my graduation gift is ordered, and should shortly be on its way to me, if it is not already! The website even gave me a coupon code for ten percent off my next order; it's good through the end of this year, and I think my Hannukah gift is going to be expensive enough to merit using it.

My graduation gift will arrive in two to three weeks; yes, that is a long time to wait, but shipping from that site (they are based in Israel) is so expensive, that's the only option that makes sense.

I luxuriated in spending more on this gift than I've spent at once in a very long time.  I spent exactly 110 dollars (which happens to be exactly what I budgeted): 54 dollars on the candelabrum and 29 dollars on the kippah makes 83 dollars on the actual gift, and the remaining 27 dollars went for shipping.

That kippah is the making of a dream come true: I've literally wanted it for more than a year and a half.

Oh--and the best part? I should have these items before the High Holidays in October.  (I'm lucky that they're late this year, to give my gift a little extra time to get to me.)  I want to light my New Year and Day of Atonement candles in a full-height candelabrum; I want two really nice, hand embroidered, hat size kippot to wear to evening services for the New Year.  (I wear my white brocade hat size on the Day of Atonement, when we are supposed to wear white.)

And now I'm running late for my appointment.  See you later!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

An Appalling Deal-Breaker, and Tisha B'Av 2016

Friday night, at dinner at the Rabbi's house, one of his sons mixed up the definitions of rape victim and prostitute...in English.  I know that in Hebrew, they are the same word.  (Anyone who has sex with a non-Jew gets called by that word.)  I get that if you only have one word, you can only have one legal category.  Here's the thing, though: I refuse to be part of a world where I am reduced to a legal category...outright refuse.

Yes, Friday evening, better believe I leaned across the table and shouted at the guy who said those things.  I was the only one in the room protesting, and at least one person (the Rabbi) looked surprised that I would.  It may not have been socially acceptable, but I was so angry, I didn't care.  I remember that I had to do it twice.

It's taken me a long time to piece that memory back together.  Friday night, when it happened, I was just about literally blinded by anger; I got the first inklings of memory on the walk home.  I only remembered today which person actually said what made me so angry.

Refusing to travel in that world does require some sacrifices on my part.  I am majorly cutting down my synagogue attendance because I can't walk 16 blocks every time I feel like it, the way I could five blocks.  Also, I will have to go back to eating Friday night dinner alone.  Still, alone is better than in that household...anything's better than in that household.

New topic: today we observe Tisha B'Av (it was really yesterday, but except for Yom Kippur, we don't fast on the Sabbath), the day of national mourning for the destruction of the Temples.  I am having a very meaningful day, though a very difficult fast.  In order to observe the day, I am doing the following:

  • Fasting, except for water (and, in this weather, gatorade as needed), which I need because of my medications
  • Putting on tallit katan without the blessing this morning, and deferring tallis and tefillin till this afternoon
  • Not studying cheerful Jewish texts (I read Lamentations--which was read in synagogue last night--this morning, and this afternoon, when fasting gets hardest and I need something to do, I will read Job)
  • Wearing my special kippah saved for serious/sad days
There are all sorts of Tisha B'Av customs not on that list.  Here's the thing, though: in my entire life, I have not managed to keep Tisha B'Av two years running.  I figure I need to manage that before I take on more customs.

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!