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

I believe in God.

Monday, December 19, 2016

This and That

  1. My vision problems can be corrected with therapy.  It's the best answer for which I could have reasonably hoped.
  2. I am, right now, feeling sad that I have health problems in the first place.  I am allowing myself to feel whatever I feel.
  3. I made a meaningful collage above my bed today.  I started with the pictures of "my" Reece's Rainbow kids which I had printed yesterday.  Then, next to them, I hung the three photographs of their girls which Lev Lalev orphanage in Israel sent me when I donated my first-ever tzedakah box full of money to their mental health fund back in May.  Now I have a tangible reminder of the good I have done in the world, as well as a visible push to do more, hanging where I can easily see it.
  4. I wrote a wonderful letter to God this afternoon, if I do say so myself.  It started with...confusion about why God would make me with so many health problems, and ended in a sweet moment of connection.
  5. When my tzedakah box gets up to 30 dollars, I will roll up the money, deposit, and donate.  I have gotten up to that recently, but "stolen" several dollars from myself as I waited for the box to fill...this has happened more times than I like to admit.  I need exactly 30 dollars, to "purchase" honeybees to be donated through Heifer International.  If I have extra money, I will use it to start saving again.
  6. When I first began keeping a tzedakah box, I came up with three organizations through which I wanted to rotate donating: Lev Lalev (perhaps a different fund each time...they have many), Reece's Rainbow (specifically whichever child I am praying for at that time), and Heifer International (a different animal each time, among the ones I can afford).  This is only the second time my box has filled, but it is my third donation (complicated story).  On the next go-round, it's time to start over!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Feeling Happy Again

(I would much, much rather be talking to a human friend right now.  However, none of them are picking up their phones.  To my mind, blogging was invented for those times when one just needs to talk and there's no one to listen...certainly that's how I got started, seven or eight years ago.)

I am happy again, for two reasons. Let's work our way up.

The less significant reason is that pictures of "my" Reece's Rainbow kids are finally, finally hanging above my bed! This is something I have wanted for years; I don't know what's been stopping me up till now.  I actually printed the pictures so I could tell others about Reece's Rainbow, but trying that once or twice showed me that that really doesn't work.  Later, thinking things over, I realized I had really printed the pictures for me, so I hung them in a prominent place in my apartment.  It was only after they were hanging that I remembered how much I wanted this, and for how long.

The second, more significant reason is that tonight, while writing a letter to God, I CAME UP WITH A NEW NAME FOR THE NOT-SO-SECRET LIST.  No, my psychiatric health is not in danger; this was a Sarah-originating thought, not a God-originating revelation.  I don't feel comfortable sharing contents of that list on the blog--and this new name is so new I don't feel comfortable sharing with anyone yet--but, still, it's exciting.

For a while now, until I don't feel like doing so anymore, I am going to end every blog post with pictures of "Jacob" and "Rheann."  I know how their stories will likely end, but I pray for miracles anyway, and I'd like to know I did my part to attempt to bring them about.  So please see their pictures below.

Jacob smb8jn5-165jf Rheann 2016

Tikkun Olam Mission

I can't sleep, because I had a very sad dream.  (I don't remember much about this dream, just that it was very sad.)  The Rabbi whose house I go to for dinner on Friday nights now said something very powerful and moving this week.  He said that, if one gets into bed to go to sleep, and cannot figure out what one did to improve the world that day, one should get out of bed and improve the world before going to sleep.

Tikkum Olam literally translates to "repairing the world."  It is the business of every Jew to make the world a better place.  My personal bit is to pray for Reece's Rainbow children.

Though Reece's Rainbow prefers each person to only have one assigned child, I actually have two. This is because my first (actually my second; my first got adopted in a matter of months) is in Russ!@, where pretty much all foreign adoptions are banned.  Also, she will age out in a little over a year.  It's basically a hopeless case.

When I realized how hopeless that one was, I asked for a new assignment.  I was given a little girl in Ch!n@; when she got adopted (in a matter of weeks!), I got another Ch!nese child, a little boy this time...my "Jacob", the child for whom I have prayed longest, not counting the Russ!@n girl for whom I will probably be praying for the rest of my life.

The first child mentioned in this post is "Rheann," and the second is "Jacob."  Recent pictures of both worry me greatly.  In "Rheann's" last picture, posted about two to three years ago, she looks all rosy and smiley, and now...well, now she just doesn't.  She finally looks her age (she's always looked younger), but she also looks all beaten up and tired.  "Jacob," similarly, looks as if he's slowly starving to death, wasting away.

Below are both their pictures, one below the other.  Maybe, just maybe, someone will see them and go after them.  It's a long shot, but I can always hope and try.

Jacob sm

b8jn5-165jf Rheann 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Gonna tell you how much I love you, though you think you already know."

*Title quotation from song "My Little Girl," by Tim McGraw.  I have considered several potential titles for this post; this is the one I like best.*

How many of you remember "Rheann?"  "Rheann" is a Russian orphan with Down syndrome, who was listed with Reece's Rainbow.  She was also my second-ever Prayer Warrior assignment, after "Grady" got adopted.

In late 2012, Russia outlawed US adoptions, including stopping the ones already in progress.  Reece's Rainbow reallocated the grant funds of its Russian children to those it felt had a better chance of being adopted.  I asked for a new Prayer Warrior assignment, and was given "Isabella;" when she was adopted, I was given my "Jacob."  Three and a half years later, I am still praying for my "Jacob;" however, his story is for another post.

Today I watched a documentary on the Russian orphan crisis, "Children of the State."  It was not exactly in the spirit of the Sabbath, but I could not find a law it actually broke, and the documentary would only be available for free on Youtube until Monday...so I watched it.

Break.  My.  Heart.  Then tear it into pieces.  I had never seen, or for that matter, heard, an orphanage in action before.  Absolutely horrible.  I also learned something I did not know, which is that the same law halting and banning American adoptions, also halted and banned adoptions in many European countries: Germany, Italy, France, and Spain among them.

I still pray for my "Rheann" every day.  She is second to "Jacob," but I make sure she gets her share of prayers too.  "Rheann" will turn 15 in January...and then, a year later, she will be headed for an adult mental institution, unless God works a miracle fast.  I pray for that miracle day in and day out. It's the least I can do.

I will close this post with the two pictures of "Rheann" that can still be seen if one knows how to search.  The first is the first I ever saw; the second was new a couple of years ago.

EDITED TO ADD:  Oh! Oh! Oh! There is a new picture! Unfortunately, she does not look nearly as happy as she did in the previous one, which makes my heart flop and my stomach sicken...but at least she's still alive, and people can see what she looks like.

b8jn5-165jf Rheann 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Something I've Wanted for my Entire (Jewish) Adult Life

FIRST: I went to a new social group tonight.  It was a horribly disappointing experience, but at least I tried.  I might or might not write more about it later (like tomorrow), after the swirling feelings have died down.  Tonight I need to soothe myself, then go to bed.

SECOND: I thought about several titles for this post, but this one conveys the magnitude of the event, so I went with it even though it is a bit wordy.

NOW: For my entire adult Jewish life (so starting from Bat Mitzvah)--and even before, in the months leading up to my Bat Mitzvah, as I thought about the equipment an adult Jew needs--I knew I wanted a pink tefillin bag.  I wanted my tefillin wearing to have feminist flair as does all the rest of my Jewish life, but pink tefillin bags simply do not exist on the commercial market; apparently not enough women wear tefillin.  I got a maroon bag, the next best thing.

It wasn't good enough; for almost twelve years now, I have wanted that pink bag.  I finally decided to make one.

Gathering materials was easy.  I had just enough of a pink-and-white check for the bag; it closes at the top with a pink circle button.  (Tefillin bags usually zip closed; I don't know how to do zippers.)  A tefillin bag is usually richly, ornately embroidered.  I knew I could not do anything like what is usually seen, but I had to decorate my new bag somehow.  By luck--or the grace of God, depending whom you ask--I had narrow, bright pink ribbon.  I made a large Jewish star on the front of my bag, using strips of this ribbon.

I absolutely love the result.  Once again, I have used my very best craft skills to make something I will be proud to use.  It does not get much better than that.

Making a Mizrach, Part Five

MIZRACH COMPLETED! In the last "Mizrach" post, I said this was going to be a six-part series, not a five-part series, because of the extra space at the end of the word "Mizrach."  (See photos below.)  However, I have decided that I like this minimalist look, so this is a five-part series, after all.

As I said in the italicized portion above, MY MIZRACH IS NOW COMPLETE.  I did have enough extra space to add additional decoration, and I was thinking of adding a Jewish star, in strips of the same fabrics that made the letters.  However, extra space or no extra space, I decided I liked the look of just the Hebrew word "Mizrach," no additional decoration.

So now I have all four letters of the word Mizrach: mem-zayin-resh-chet.  With the vowels that are part of this word (not intrinsic to the letters; see "Making a Mizrach, Part Four" for an explanation of that), these letters spell out "Mizrach."

There are two pictures below.  The first shows the Mizrach laid out on my bed, as I have positioned it for every photograph in this series.  The second shows it hanging on the wall above my dresser, where I can use it when I pray.  I am so, so proud of how it turned out.  I have made something beautiful to use in my worship of God; there's no better feeling than that.

Next up? A pink tefillin bag, something I have wanted since before my Bat Mitzvah, something unavailable on the commercial market.

Making a Mizrach, Part Four

This is Part Four in my six-part series, "Making a Mizrach." It was originally going to be a five-part series: one part done before I started the lettering, and one part done as I completed each of the four letters.  Then I noticed how much blank space would be left at the end, and realized I needed something more than just the word "Mizrach."  Anyway, the three posts directly below this show previous phases of the project.

Now I have completed three out of the four letters of the Hebrew word, "Mizrach," mem-zayin-resh. These three letters spell out "mizra."

This might be a good time to tell you an important thing about the Hebrew alphabet.  In the Hebrew alphabet, there are no vowels.  Every single letter is a consonant.  The vowels are a separate system of dots and dashes that go underneath and above, and sometimes in the middle of, the letters.

Obviously, without vowels, consonants make no sound at all.  If I had space on my Mizrach, which I don't, I might put the vowels that go with the consonants that spell the word.  I might not, however; by the time one gets to my level of Hebrew knowledge, one is reading and writing, fluently, without vowels.

Anyway.  Here is a picture of my Mizrach, currently spelling out "mizra."

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Making a Mizrach, Part Three

This is Part Three in my "Making a Mizrach" series.  Parts One and Two are directly below.

So now my Mizrach has two letters, the letters mem-zayin.  Together, these letters spell out the syllable, "miz."

My friend Katherine gets all the credit for my correct, cursive Hebrew zayin.  The zayin is made with a curve; all the other letters can be made with strips.  For the life of me, I could not figure out how to make one.  Katherine, you might surmise from her name, is not Jewish at all, and has no Hebrew knowledge.  However, she is much craftier, and much more spatial, than I am.  Knowing this, I posed the problem to her.  She suggested cutting a shape out of paper, pinning that to cloth, and then cutting the cloth.

Making a Mizrach, Part Two

This is Part Two in my five-part series, "Making a Mizrach."  Part One is one entry down.

Now my Mizrach has the first letter attached.  The word "Mizrach" in Hebrew is spelled with four letters: mem, zayin, resh, and chet.  I have completed the mem, out of strips of gray and brown.

Making a Mizrach, Part One

At least as planned right now, this is going to be a five part series.  Each update will summarize work done up to that point, and end in a recent photograph.

"Mizrach" is the Hebrew word for East,  Because Jews face towards Israel when we pray, and in America that is East, "a Mizrach" has come to mean a special wall hanging, hung on the Eastern wall of the room where one prays.

A year and a half or so ago I sat down to make a Mizrach.  That wall hanging, which I did not end up using as a Mizrach, was a row of Jewish stars, each in a different blue or blue and white material, on white background.

Today I sat down to take up the project again.  My new Mizrach will have a blue print background.  It will say "Mizrach" in Hebrew, the letters made in strips of gray print and brown print.

At the time of writing this update, I have hemmed the background in my best stitches, which, admittedly, are not very good.  I have also started the lettering, but I meant to post this before I did that, and the picture below does not show any letters.

Documenting Kippot (by Color)

Every so often I do one of these posts, where I categorize and photograph my growing collection of kippot.  I set up the photographs according to various categories: for this particular post, I grouped by color.  I am proud of my collection, and I have acquired several since the last time I did one of these; I am now up to 39.  Every single kippah I own made it into a picture for this post, except the one currently on my head, which I will describe here.  That one is a purple "Bat Mitzvah Beanie."  The term Bat (or Bar) Mitzvah Beanie comes from my father, and I have adopted it.  When we use that term, we mean one of the large, cheap satin ones, readily available at most B'nei Mitzvah.

PINK! Bottom Left: "Geometric Shapes Magenta" embroidered silk, by designer Yair Emanuel; "Pink with Pomegranates" embroidered silk, by designer Yair Emanuel.  Middle: "Bat Mitzvah Beanie" collected for me by my father.  Top: suede, from my own Bat Mitzvah; hand crocheted, by my friend Sami.

RED! Left to Right: Velvet, extra large, collected from family drawer; "Flowers Magenta" embroidered silk, by designer Yair Emanuel; dragon, silk, bought on Etsy; machine embroidered silk, extra large, by designer Yair Emanuel.  The middle two were specifically bought to wear with undergrad university t-shirts, which were red...I specifically bought one of my warm-weather skirts to go with them, too.

GREEN! Left to Right: Hand crocheted by my friend Sami; crocheted, free from Bar Mitzvah.  That particular Bar Mitzvah actually had them in two color schemes, and the other was blue and purple.  I thought that one was prettier, but as you will soon see, I had lots of blue and lots of purple already; I needed the green one more.

BLUE! Bottom, Left to Right: "Bedtime Kippah," probably the first I ever owned, though I don't remember receiving it; "Bar Mitzvah Beanie;" "Bar Mitzvah Beanie."  Middle, Left to Right: canvas, free from Bat Mitzvah; machine embroidered silk from designer Yair Emanuel, and also the only one in this picture I purchased, rather than receiving free; crocheted, free from Bat Mitzvah; satin (not "Bat Mitzvah Beanie" due to size, quality, and internal clip), free from Bat Mitzvah, and actually hand made by Bat Mitzvah family.  Top, Left to Right: suede, free from Bar Mitzvah; suede, free from Bar Mitzvah; suede, free from Bar Mitzvah; suede, free from high school graduation.

PURPLE! Bottom: Hand embroidered, high school graduation present (one this special could only be that sort of gift; I intend to get another as my college graduation gift, because no, I still haven't gotten that); hand-painted silk by designer Yair Emanuel (background was supposed to be blue, but that's another story); crocheted, bought from Kippah Man, shop on Ben Yehuda street in Jerusalem; suede, free from my own Bat Mitzvah; suede, free from "Emily's" wedding ("Emily" was a roommate my sophomore year of college).

GRAY! Left to Right: Genuine US Army Issue, from the last set of uniforms;embroidered, came with my Bat Mitzvah prayer shawl, and used to be purple (When I first started wearing a kippah full time, I only had two, and one was this one, so they got a lot of use, and therefore faded.); crocheted, first that I can remember receiving, from my father.

BLACK! Left to Right: Velvet, ultra-Orthodox style, originally bought to thumb my nose at them (nobody gets the joke but me: ultra-Orthodox people just think it's a kippah, because they don't know any different; and the people who would appreciate the joke don't recognize it as ultra-Orthodox), and now I wear it on fast days and other solemn occasions, because it looks appropriate; embroidered, free with older brother's Bar Mitzvah prayer shawl, by designer Gabrieli; velvet, free from younger brother's Bar Mitzvah (I don't have one from older brother's Bar Mitzvah because I wasn't wearing/saving/collecting kippot yet...wish I did).

RAINBOW/MISCELLANEOUS! Bottom, Left to Right: Extra large, found in family drawer; crocheted, almost extra large, made in Uganda.  Top, Left to Right: Crocheted, gay pride (made by hand, really quality workmanship, bought on Etsy; I went back to the same seller and arranged a bisexual pride kippah for my birthday this year); crocheted, second I can remember receiving, gift from my father.

PAY ATTENTION.  I gave this one its very own picture, and saved it till last, for a reason.  I got this one with the "flowers magenta" (see the reds) and hand-painted silk (see the purples), and at first I didn't think much of it.  Then, in a vision, God revealed to me that if I really want to get close, to almost touch God, I should wear this kippah...and I've been using it that way ever since.  I have to be careful: if it's a day when I might already get super-close, such as Yom Kippur or just any day when I feel my defenses are compromised, I absolutely cannot wear this one...or things get unsafe really fast.  Oh, and it's plain raw silk.  Almost forgot to include that.

Sunday, December 11, 2016


So, Friday night, I got two reactions to my tzitziot.  One was a man doing the adult equivalent of staring: I watched his gaze travel the length of them when he came into synagogue.  The other was from the Rabbi's daughter, "Leah" (I cannot get consent for real names from that family because I can never tell them about this blog: they would learn that I am bisexual, and they would also read bad things about themselves, and I can't let either of those things happen): she asked the tefillin question.

I was so, so glad I had mentally role played, over and over again, how to answer that question, because I was able to calmly answer truthfully.  Then she took it one step further.  She asked, "Don't you know it's forbidden for women to put on tefillin? Don't you follow Jewish law?" In the moment, the best response I could think of was something about how, in the Conservative movement, Jewish law changes over time; and I used ordaining female Rabbis as my example.  Poor, sheltered "Leah" did not know there were female Rabbis, at all, anywhere! It would be one thing for her not to approve of female Rabbis...but not to know they exist?

Friday, December 9, 2016

Miscellaneous Musings

Yes, a second post today.  Trying to kill time till I call my mother (totally ready for the Sabbath), and I have things to say.

There is an unintended consequence to my not being in pain.  For a very long time, I used pain as the buffer between me and God.  In other words, if I started getting too close to God, I caused myself pain (usually by scrunching my toes), and that pulled me back.  Now, I physically cannot do that.  I cannot protect myself from close spiritual interactions of the supernatural kind...close spiritual interactions of the supernatural kind are not safe for my mental health.  My farther suggested I break off in the middle of stuff, and tell God I would love to get closer but it isn't safe, and then finish stuff...we'll have to see if that works.

One of the Rabbi's sons is going to attempt to start a fight with me over my fringes tonight, I just know it.  He's an angry person (doesn't agree with his parents' religious views, visibly fights them), and he will start a fight with just about anybody who will fight him.  However, I've got one up on him.  I know I'm coming in fringes, and I know how he will react.  He doesn't know I'm coming in fringes.  Therefore, I simply do not have to fight him.  Period, end of story.

Totally Radical

For the longest time now--think months--I have worn my tzitziot (carefully, ritually knotted fringes on holy undergarment) tucked into my skirt, brushing against my legs.  I simply didn't like getting reactions to them; and I always got reactions, wherever I went, because they're just that unusual on a woman.  (In my entire life, I have met two other women who wear them: both were Rabbinical students at Hebrew College, a nondenominational Rabbinical school in the Boston area.)

Last night, I decided I was going back to wearing my tzitziot dangling loose, brushing against the outside of my skirt.  I would wear them that way everywhere, that is, except the Orthodox synagogue I go to now.

Then, as I wrote to God, thought about things, and went on with my evening, I changed my mind: I am going to wear them dangling loose EVERYWHERE, including to synagogue! I am tired of hiding who I am.

Given who goes to this synagogue and how they behave (for instance, there are women who wear the big prayer shawl, and this is the same commandment), I may get no reaction at all.  However, I have prepared myself for three questions, which I will answer with the simple truth:

  1. "Do you wear tefillin [phylacteries]?" The answer to this one is a simple "yes," because I do.  Just as I am tired of hiding my tzitziot, I am tired of hiding my tefillin.  I will not bring it up if nobody else does, because why start fights? (In their world, tefillin on a woman are more controversial than fringes or kippah.)  However, if they bring it up, I'm ready to stand for what I stand for, with a truthful answer.
  2. "Are you a Jewish feminist?" The answer to this is another simple "yes," because that's exactly what I am.  It's funny: once, in college, someone said to me, "So-and-so says you're a Jewish feminist.  Are you?" In that moment, I burned with shame and turned down the title.  Thinking it over in later years, however, I realized that's exactly what I am.  I do everything a man does (I will not say I do it "like a man," because I do it with my own feminist flair), and I believe I am obligated to do so, just as much as a man is.  That makes me a feminist.  My father told me this morning when we talked that I am definitely a Jewish feminist, but coming from our family he wouldn't expect anything different of me.
  3. "Are you [a] lesbian?" This question gets answered in the negative, because I am not.  They will ask, because in their minds, I am behaving "like a man;" and in their minds, lesbians behave "like men."  However, I am not lesbian! They will not think to follow the question up with, "are you bisexual?" so  my secret is still safe.
So, I would say I am prepared! Negative reactions, positive reactions, confused reactions--I can handle them all! Bring.  It.  On.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

So Proud!

I am so proud of myself.  You must, must, must read this story.  (I almost said "hear," but this is a blog, so "read" is the appropriate verb.)

Today I was out doing my grocery shopping, and I passed a man out on the street asking for spare change.  This has become a common sight in my life since I moved to New York, and I must admit that sometimes I give and sometimes I don't.  Today, I didn't, because I don't have a lot of spare change this week and I want to save it to put in my box tomorrow.

I'm wearing a black velvet kippah today (not the ultra-Orthodox one; the other one, from my brother's Bar Mitzvah), not one that screams "Jew" from a mile away.  However, as I passed close to this man, he noticed it, and loudly said something derogatory about Jews.  I don't know what it was because I only caught "...JEW," but I did catch the voice tone, and it wasn't nice.

I was really, really tempted to just keep walking.  I didn't think I had the courage to face him down and stand up to him.

Here's the thing, though: when I first started wearing a kippah all the time, publicly, I knew I was choosing to represent my people: all the time, publicly.  I knew I would have moments like this, and when you're representing, well, you're representing.

So I turned back around, marched back to where the man could see me, and, just like this, said, "DON'T.  INSULT.  MY PEOPLE."  Then I spun back around, and continued on my way to the store.

And on my way home, when I passed him again? He didn't have a thing to say to me.  Ha!

So very proud of myself.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Living the Dream

*First of all, the full name of the man who healed me, used not only with consent but with encouragement, is Joseph Antoine Alston.  I promised him I'd throw that into my next entry.*

I am living the dream.  I never imagined feeling this good, this consistently, again.  Tonight my feet were cold, and, almost without thinking about it, I went and put on socks.

Read that again, people.  I WENT AND PUT ON SOCKS! I haven't gone to sleep with socks on in forever.  And, OK, so I haven't gone to sleep yet, but I'm very close...and it isn't the socks keeping me awake.

This is going to stick.  This is going to last.

I am discovering who "able-bodied-Sarah" is again.  Do remember, I haven't been consistently able-bodied since my first month of high school, nine years ago.  Nine years of time is a lot to lose, but it isn't too much...because I am going to gain it back.

On that, I am determined.  Whatever I lost in my RSD years, I have within reach again...life is mine to claim.  I will "grow up," and I will live...this story can have a happy ending, after all.

Gratitude again to Joseph Antoine Alston.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The "Magic Touch"

It's completely OK if you don't believe me.  If I hadn't experienced the following for myself, I probably wouldn't believe me either.

That being said:

There is a man up near my grandmother's house in Massachusetts who can heal by touch and gentle exercise.  Due to lack of consent to use his real name (not that he refused, and in fact he would probably agree; I just forgot to ask), I will call him "Samuel."

I came to "Samuel" in tremendous pain.  I almost don't need to say that part; if you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you know how bad I've been feeling.  For three days, I allowed "Samuel" to work his "healing magic" on me: gently touching the parts of me that hurt, and having me move around, mostly while lying flat on my back.

Oh.  My.  Lord.  And I don't say that often.

After three sessions with "Samuel," I am very nearly pain free.  I have kept my bedtime medication regimen the same because I know I need to sleep, but I have not touched pain medication during the day since the day before I saw him.  This is not some great act of will power; I simply haven't needed it.

I am back to full Sarah walking speed; I haven't moved this quickly or freely since pre-RSD.  I don't mean pre-diagnosis; I mean pre-RSD.  That's nine years, people.  NINE YEARS.

And the best part? It is easy to keep his results in place.  All I have to do is lie on the floor, with my head cushioned, and move my hands and feet freely...for twenty minutes a day.  That's it.

"Samuel" is a worker of miracles.  My gratitude to him, and to the God that both he and I believe in.  Miracles.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vending Machine Religion?

*DISCLAIMER: The term "Vending Machine Religion" originated with my mother, not me.  For thoughts that did originate with me, see below.*

Today I have been reading backwards on a very Christian blog I check regularly.  (Will not give any identifying details; this is the internet, the blog writers could see this, and I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings.)  Over the course of their blog, I have noticed a disturbing trend: at least according to how they write it, they pray for X and God gives X; they pray for Z and God gives Z.

No.  No.  I'm so sorry, but no.  Of course America is a free country and you can believe whatever you choose, but to my mind at least, God is so much more complicated than that! A true relationship with God is one involving both giving and taking--and yes, I do mean the human and God both give and take.

I do pray for specific outcomes.  I do.  I don't even know why, given what I just wrote above, but I do.  But I would never, ever actually believe that God is doing something I asked because I asked it. That is giving the human too much power.

In the end, I think that's my main problem with their blog: they are giving humans too much power in their relationships with God.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Milestone Birthday

Yes, I know my birthday's not till February (because I celebrate my Hebrew birthday now, it "moves", and this year it's February 13th); no, it doesn't bother me to commit to a birthday gift this early.  This is because for my birthday this year, I am getting a...BISEXUAL PRIDE KIPPAH!

Yes really! They really exist! I contacted the same Etsy seller who made my gay pride kippah years ago, and she said she could do a bisexual pride one for me! She seems great to work with.  She named a reasonable price considering she's doing this crocheting by hand (and, if my gay pride kippah is any indication, it will be high quality and look machine-done) of 30 dollars.  She double checked what size to make it.  She even told me she is not doing much crocheting any more, but she will do this for me anyway! And...she wished me Mazel Tov on my latest self-discovery! It doesn't get better than that.

Jewish days begin the night before, so I will open my bisexual pride kippah after dark on February 12th.  I will wear it for the first time February 13th.  (I deliberately asked for it to be small enough--four and a half inches across, same as the gay pride one--that I could wear it during the week under my new "weekday kippah" rules.)  I am proud of who I am: as a Jew, as a woman, and as a non-hetero-normative being.  I can't wait to show off.

So just a little bit excited over here...and metaphorically jumping up and down.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Milestone Day

Today is a milestone day: it is the day I order another round of stationery for my letters to God. I always think of this day as a milestone because it shows how often and intensely God and I converse. Amazon by far has the best deals--today, for example, I am getting a 100-sheet pack for 13 dollars plus shipping, probably around 20 dollars total, which is five sheets per dollar--and having discovered that, I now only  order  there.  If I am really careful about only using the paper for letters to God, which to be fair I didn't manage on the last set, this package should last me 50 days, which works out to about a month a three quarters assuming I write two letters a day every day (which I also don't always do)...which  puts me ordering  more  right around New Year's.

I wrote a long (seven paragraphs, two page sides, yes, with RSD hand cramps!) letter  to God about half an hour ago about our paper.  (I firmly believe God will listen to anything.)  It worked out to be less private than some of our other letters, so I can share contents here and that will  also give a window into my correspondence with the Holy One, Praised be She.  (And no, the S in She is not a typo. I did that quite deliberately.)

First of all, for a long time I was upgrading to something prettier each time I got paper for this purpose.  The first package I ever bought was five-color--pink, dark pink, lime green, dark green, vanilla--card stock; I enjoyed having different colors to choose from, and it was most definitely an upgrade from the "just-whatever's-around-but-usually-loose-leaf-or-printer-paper" I had been using before.  When that ran low, I bought my first ever package of real stationery for any purpose: the paper that's running low now, pinkish purple with a big Easter lily in the corner (though the name should have given it away, I didn't realize that was a Christian symbol until after I had ordered...and I wasn't about to  waste 80 or 100  sheets.)  This time around, I selected paper that is white for most of the writing space, with a pinkish purple border and darker pinkish purple orchids in  the upper right and lower left corners.  Today I am contenting myself with describing it; I will photograph it, and share those pictures, when it arrives.

As I wrote to God today and mulled over my words, I realized why I keep getting increasingly feminine paper.  It is not, as I thought, because I am so feminine myself, or at least not only that. Rather, at least when I can handle the unconventional and unpredictable in my spiritual life, it is because I think of God as delicate and feminine...and I like to honor Her holy identity.  To me, that's how it all makes sense.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

(Very) Early Morning Musings

I am up at an incredibly early hour today...we are talking 2:08 am.  I am not going back to sleep for a couple of  reasons. The first is that I just don't want  to.  The second, and more serious and important, is that in the  past, when I've been up and then gone back to sleep on nights before big events (tomorrow I am seeing a neuro-opthalmologist), I miss my alarm in the morning.  So no, I am not  going back to sleep. Oh, well.  One night of lost sleep won't kill me.

In any case--I am up at this incredibly early hour.  Two of my favorite  commandments can only be done in the daylight.  I didn't grow up with either, but really  want to add them to my life because I love the beauty and  the meaning of them. I keep  forgetting (and to my understanding, once I speak upon  waking, I cannot fulfill them), but I stuck a note-to-self under my clock, and we'll see if that helps.

In any case, my point is, These commandments cannot  be fulfilled for another three and a half hours.  At least I'll be already awake and cognizant enough to remember them!]

The first of the two is to sing a hymn, Modeh (for males)/Modah (for females) Ani.  Modeh/Modah Ani literally translates to "We Thank You."  In it, we thank God for returning our souls to our bodies upon waking.  No, I do not  believe God takes souls while people sleep; however, singing these words creates a meaningful moment with God upon waking.

The second commandment is ritual hand washing.  In the post from last night, you can see the pretty cup and towel I use for this.  This also is away to let God  in every morning.   Washing hands, which takes  three seconds, literally  changes the feel for my entire day, especially if I follow it up with morning  prayers.  Also, my cup and towel are too pretty, and cost me too much, not to be used.

God is wherever we let God be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hiddur Mitzvah (beautifying the Commandment)

In Judaism, there is a wonderful concept called "hiddur mitzvah," which literally translates to "beautifying the commandment."  We are taught that it is not enough to merely carry out the commandment; the objects that we use to do so must be physically attractive.  Hiddur mitzvah is a concept that is near and dear to my heart, and I really try to make it part of my everyday life.  I needed something to do to soothe my soul before bed and prepare myself for sleep (I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping recently); my ritual prayers for the day are done, and I have written two letters to God, my daily limit.  I decided to go around my apartment and photograph my beautiful Judaica.  Below are the results.

The following three pictures are of my kippah collection, grouped as follows: suede in picture one, non-suede small in picture two, and the rest in picture three.  Only three did not make it into the pictures: my Ugandan one which is currently on my head; my "pajamas" one which seems to have disappeared; and my black velvet, ultra-Orthodox one which I save for days of mourning and/or fast days.  In any case, here are the suede ones, which are the only ones I will wear to work once I am working.  Left to right: pink from my Bat Mitzvah, dark purple from my Bat Mitzvah, lavender from "Emily's" wedding, plain navy from my high school graduation, navy with a notched navy and silver border from a Bar Mitzvah since I moved to the city, royal blue with a notched burgundy and silver border from a Bar Mitzvah since I moved to the city, turquoise (quite a bit larger than the others) from a Bar Mitzvah since I moved to the city.  (In case you haven't caught on yet, most suede kippot are freebies from various events.)

This picture shows the rest of the kippot I will wear during the school week, all selected for size.  Left to right: gay pride crochet; purple and black crochet bought in Israel; very first ever (crochet), a gift from my father when I was eight; second ever (crochet), a gift from my father when I was 10; green and yellow--neither was a color I had before--made for me by my first friend in the city; embroidered, free with my Bat Mitzvah prayer shawl, very faded now.

And here is the entire rest of the kippah collection, minus the three mentioned above! Yes, my new weekday rules mean many of these do not get worn; I make up for it on the Sabbath and holidays.  There are five rows in this picture.  Top, Left to Right: hand painted silk by designer Yair Emanuel (actually small enough to be a weekday kippah, but it's so fragile I save it for special occasions; also, the background was supposed to be blue, not fuchsia); silk with red dragon (bought to go with Rutgers tee shirts); navy crochet from Bat Mitzvah in the city; purple and pink crochet by the same friend who made the yellow and green in the picture above; green and white crochet from Bar Mitzvah in city (they had them in two color schemes that day, this green and white or blue and purple; I thought the other was prettier, but I needed the green more).  

Second Row, Left to Right: bright blue satin with internal clip, handmade by Bat Mitzvah family (Bat Mitzvah at my undergrad); turquoise canvas from Bat Mitzvah in the city; golden raw silk from designer Yair Emanuel (this one is God's favorite; and no, I don't know what I mean by that, but yes, I'm totally serious); machine embroidered silk "geometric shapes magenta" by designer Yair Emanuel; machine embroidered "flowers magenta" (also bought to wear with Rutgers tee shirts) by designer Yair Emanuel.  

Third Row, Left to Right: machine embroidered blue silk by designer Yair Emanuel; "pink pomegranates" machine embroidered silk by designer Yair Emanuel; very soft black velvet from younger brother's Bar Mitzvah, lining repaired by me; standard Army issue from the last camouflage print,lining repaired by me.

Fourth Row, Left to Right: free with older brother's Bar Mitzvah prayer shawl, by designer Gabrieli; midnight blue "Bar Mitzvah beanie;" sky blue "Bar Mitzvah beanie;" ivory brocade found in family drawer.

Bottom Row, Left to Right (These are all Friday/holiday evening kippot): burgundy/maroon embroidered velvet, found in family drawer; machine embroidered, red silk from designer Yair Emanuel; "Birds in Color," hand embroidered, by Yair Emanuel (high school graduation gift...I don't spend that kind of money on a kippah every day.)

Now we move on to Judaica other than kippot!  This is the prayer book I've had since first grade,  with the cover I made for it in tenth grade.  The flowered material is reminiscent of the painted flowers on the first book cover this prayer book had.  The ribbon bow is just for an extra-feminine,finishing touch.  Because this prayer book is starting to fall apart (it has been 17 years), I save using it for special occasions.

This is my Sabbath and/or holiday candle setup, except without the candles! I am still using the little brass candlesticks I have used since I was very young because something went wrong with my graduation gift and I am still sorting out the problem.  In any case,the cloth runner you see under the candlesticks, I made right before my last semester of  college to go under electric candles.  (I was living in a dorm; can't light real candles in a dorm; and yes, that means I used an electric menorah come Hannukah that year, as well.)  Now I use this runner under real candles, just with foil in between.  I maintain that the cloth is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen, ever...certainly it ranks in the top three.

This is my hand washing cup! A Jew is supposed to ritually wash hands, with a blessing, every morning upon waking and also before eating bread.  I've been really bad about remembering, but today I wrote myself a note and placed it under my clock on the windowsill; we'll see if that helps.  I want to remember; I find the ritual powerful and  meaningful, and besides, the cup was expensive...not to mention gorgeous.

This is the towel I bought  to go with the cup! The writing is in Hebrew; it is the last three words of the  hand washing blessing. I put the towel through the wash once and the embroidery started coming loose.  Lesson learned...will never put that towel through the wash again.

This is my tikkun, the book out of which I learn my Torah readings! I have had it since I started studying for my Bat Mitzvah...so 12 years now.

This is my "Prayer Portfolio," as I call it.  It is a many-pocketed folder in which I keep all the letters I write to God.  The front pocket is for Reece's Rainbow  related letters; the back pocket is for extra paper; beyond that, I deliberately do not  organize.  Every so often, I like to go back through and reread every letter I have ever written...a process that can take hours, as I have been writing for years.

This is a picture of my current stationary, the prettiest Letters to God paper I've ever had! I didn't know when I ordered it that the Easter lily is a Christian symbol...but I've decided I don't care.  God is being worshiped beautifully...that has to be enough.

I didn't want to take my tefillin (phylacteries) or tallitot (prayer shawls) out of their bags, because somehow that seemed like too much exhibitionism.  So the next three photos show them in their bags.  Here are my tefillin, traditionally only worn by men but you should all know by now that viewpoints like that never stopped me.  I had wanted a pink bag, but I guess there just aren't enough women wearing tefillin for pink bags to be profitable.  This was the next best thing.

This is the tallis I made, also bagged.  The atarah, or neckband, matches the bag; the tallis itself is white and flowered, with off-white ribbon stripes.

And this is my Bat Mitzvah tallis! I'm incredibly proud of this one.  Not much to say about it, except it's really well made and I enjoy wearing it in the cooler weather.

This is my tzedakah box.  It is here that I collect money to donate to charity.  "Tzedakah"  is one of those words that doesn't really translate.  "Charity" is the usual translation, but charity carries overtones of a nice-yet-optional thing to do.  Tzedakah is not optional; it is my obligation as a Jew to give.  Once I am working, I will give ten percent of my earnings; as it is, right now I just collect my spare change in this box.

Last but not least, this is my mezuzah! A mezuzah is a container holding a scroll with holy words.  We normally hang these on our doorposts, but I am waiting to have the proper scroll.

Back in Touch and It Feels So Good (!)

As of yesterday, and carrying into today, I am back in touch with both my religious and my spiritual dimensions.

I do consider them different, and maybe that takes some explaining.  I follow Jewish law because I am religious.  I keep kosher (never gave that one up), observe Sabbath commandments (never gave those up), attempt to pray three times a day (I had given that one up; at the moment, I am managing twice, with the one I miss being morning because with the clocks turned back I wake up too late) and try to remember ritual hand washing upon waking (not managing to actually carry that out yet) because I am religious.  The "extras"--conversations with God, letters to God, this blog about my Judaism, making tallitot k'tanot in fun prints, matching my kippot to my outfits--are all voluntary; I do them because I enjoy them, because I am spiritual.

Whew! The above paragraph gave more information than I intended to give all in one paragraph.  I intended to just explain the difference I see between religion and spirituality, but in doing so, I also painted a comprehensive picture of my religious and spiritual life.  Now you know.

I went to my bisexual discussion-and-dinner group last night, and had very interesting experiences in terms of other Jews.  The less religious ones who were threatened by my presence last time apparently no longer feel threatened (yes, I can tell; I have a talent for reading emotional vibes); I suppose my being there without telling them what to do last time helped.  Also, an actual Orthodox man came! We are talking black velvet kippah, tzitziot hanging loose, and beard.  I will call him Abram for purposes of this blog.  Last but most exciting: there was another young, Jewish, single woman who had recently moved to the city there! Do I know that we will end up together? NO.  Is it my absolute best prospect since moving to the city? YES.

For those who wonder, I am in touch with God about my sexuality, very deliberately.  It took a long time to get there, but that is part of how I nurture my spiritual side.

Monday, November 7, 2016

More Cheerful Stuff (Mostly Judaism, Predictably)

I did not want to leave you all with the taste of the effects of my chronic conditions in your mouths. That is not who I am, or what I am about! My diagnoses affect me, but there is more to me.  So:

  1. I have found two queer social groups to attend, because sitting in my apartment and only socializing on Shabbat, through synagogue, until I went back to school again, was not a tolerable situation.  The first is a bisexual discussion and dinner group; the discussion goes from 6 to 8 pm and then we all gather for dinner.  I have been once before, and am going again tonight, actually leaving in just over an hour! The second is an Orthodox Jewish lesbians group...yes, really! No, I am not Orthodox, but in many ways I basically am; and certainly I face the challenges of integrating my religious and sexual identities that I am guessing these women also face.  The next meeting of this group, and the first one I will attend, is November 17th.  Unfortunately, that is the same night as the next meeting of the bisexuals group (they meet the first Monday and third Thursday of each month), but I guess sometimes you have to pick and choose.  And no, I will not be able to keep up with either of these groups once I start school again, but that is not what is important right now.
  2. Yes, bisexual pride kippot actually exist! I did a little bit of scouting on the internet and discovered that the same Etsy seller who did my gay pride kippah also does bisexual pride kippot.  I messaged her to ask about things like prices and timing.  If she can make one in time, and the price is what I think it will be, I have a new idea for a birthday gift! As a PROUD bisexual Jew, it is very important to me to have a kippah that accurately reflects my identity.
  3. In honor of tonight's meeting, I am dressed in what I consider my "bisexual pride uniform" of pink and purple clothes (in this case, pink skirt and purple top) and gay pride kippah.  Until the weather turns cold, I can always dress that way for meetings of this group: I own two pink skirts and one purple, and one top each in pink and purple.  I do not have any pink or purple Winter clothes, so once we hit Winter weather, I will have to rely on my kippah only to express my sexuality and my pride in it.  Naturally, at the moment, my "bisexual pride uniform" involves my gay pride kippah because that is the best I can do; when I finally get my bisexual pride kippah, I will switch.  And even throughout the Winter, I can wear the appropriate kippah to the appropriate event.
  4. Because the clocks have been turned back, we are now in the phase of the year when it is very easy to squeeze in evening prayers, almost inexcusable not to...and coincidentally, I am getting back into my Judaism again.  Technically, I could complete evening prayers in between arriving at the group tonight and waiting for the discussion to start, but I am not going to do that.  This is because several culturally-but-not-religiously Jewish Jews who come to the group seem to be uncomfortable with my level of religious observance, even though I am just quietly going about my business.  I am not telling anyone what to do, nor would I ever tell anyone what to do! Nonetheless, they seem to think I am.  I cannot control their feelings about my necessary fulfillment of commandments, such as eating vegetarian at dinner and wearing a kippah; I cannot eat nonkosher food or not wear a kippah, because that validates my own beliefs.  For the sake of harmony, however, I do not have to do more Jewish things than absolutely necessary.  I can wait to pray tonight until I get home, just as well.
So that is all my news for now! Isn't this more fun to read than health condition news?

Not Good News, or Bringing my Readers up to Speed

It has been a long time since I posted here.

I have been struggling with chronic condition symptoms, from both conditions; and also struggling with how to put those experiences into words.

I am in a lot of pain, and very impaired.  I have switched which synagogue I go to, from the Conservative one where I really fit religiously, but it's a mile away; to one five blocks away that I can always get to, but it's Orthodox.  I do think this switch is permanent, and when it comes time to think about synagogue membership again next year, I think I will switch.  It is not as bad as it could be: the Rabbi's kids are all my age and all really like me (what's not to like about the only other religiously committed young person in your area?) and I am really bonding with his daughter, who, for purposes of this blog, I will call Leah.

In terms of physical impairment though...everything hurts, all the time.  I am on multiple pain medications, prescribed by two different doctors...a good day is when I only need two doses.  I cannot hold a full size prayer book or stand up when the Torah scroll is carried around during services.  I can barely do stairs.  I can barely walk.  And it may never get better than this.

I also struggled recently with mental illness symptoms.  Due to what I thought were two short episodes (one about a month before the school year started, and one right after school started, each lasting about two weeks), but which my psychiatrist says were actually one long episode, I am on medical leave until next semester.  I simply could not cope with the requirements of my program. That said, I. Hate. It.  I hate being idle, not in school, not working.

When I go back to school, I will be taking a reduced course load.  My adviser wanted me to take two courses (a full load is four); I talked her into letting me sign up for three, on the understanding that if it turned out to be too much, I would drop the "extra" one during add/drop, so as not to incur another W grade.  It is awful to know I cannot fully do school, but everyone in my life (both parents, adviser, me) agree "better safe than sorry" right now; nobody wants to see me lose another semester.

Also, my adviser has decided to hand pick my professors to be a "good fit."  She says she and the department did not know enough about my condition at the beginning of this year, and they will do better next time.  I have conflicted emotions about all this.  On the one hand, I really do not want to be so sick that I need this much help...on the other, if I am sick, I am sick, no way around it; and I did not ask, she offered.

So that is what has been going on in my world recently.  It is not good news, but I thought it only fair to bring my readers up to speed.  And you know what? I will get through this.  I always have; I always will.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Obsessive-Compulsive to the Extreme!

Recently I have gotten obsessive-compulsive to the extreme (and no, I do not actually have OCD), enjoying planning school outfits the Sunday before.  Right now I have to plan two sets, warm weather and cool weather; according to current weather forecast, I will be wearing my cool weather Monday outfit tomorrow, and warm weather outfits the rest of the week.

For reasons I don't feel like publicly discussing yet, I have chosen to restrict myself to my smallest kippot when going to school; I will restrict myself still further, to suede only, once I am working.  In the meantime, I am left with roughly 14 from which to choose for school.  Recall that my school week is four days long; this system works fine.

I am allowing myself one day to wear my special super-fancy clogs, and I have one colorful tallit katan.  I have worked those in, too.

Now for this week's outfits (and no, don't worry, I won't do this to you every week)!


MONDAY: Plain Purple Long-Sleeve Shirt; Short Pink Skirt; Gray Leggings with Rose Pattern; Pink Suede Kippah; Purple Clips.
TUESDAY: Pastel Pink Long-Sleeve Shirt; Long Pink Print Skirt; Black Footless Tights, White Socks; Pink Suede Kippah; Pink Clips.
WEDNESDAY: Sky Blue 3/4-Sleeve Shirt; Short Blue Skirt; Flowered Tights; Flower Kippah S'rugah; Blue Clips; Homemade Tallit Katan.
THURSDAY: Denim Button-Down Shirt; Medium Denim Skirt; Black Tights; Navy-Suede-with-Chain-Link-Border Kippah; Blue Clips; Clogs.


MONDAY: Pink-and-Blue Tie Dye T-shirt; Short Pink Skirt; Pink Suede Kippah; Blue Clips.
TUESDAY: Pink Polo Shirt; Long Pink Print Skirt; Pink Suede Kippah; Pink Clips; Homemade Tallit Katan.
WEDNESDAY: Dark Green "Stop Following Me!" T-shirt; Short Blue Skirt; Green-and-Yellow Kippah, Crocheted by Sami; Blue Clips; Clogs.
THURSDAY: Blue Habitat for Humanity T-shirt; Medium Denim Skirt; Navy-Suede-with-Chain-Link-Border Kippah; Blue Clips.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Probably Ashamed; Donating Tzedakah; and the Perfect Fall Sabbath Outfit

I have three topics--yes, three--to cover in this post.  I will cover them in the order mentioned in the title.

First of all: At the moment, probably because I am so different, I am feeling ashamed of who I am as a Jew.  I think in terms of other Jews, this is because I've never quite found one just like me (keeps all commandments "like a man," does not believe in divine origins of Bible), while in terms of non-Jews, it's just that I am so conspicuous with fringes dangling and an often-large kippah.

I am taking step to make myself conform.  In the past, when I had these feelings, I would drop the practices that made me so conspicuous completely.  At the moment, that's not an option for various reasons.  The first step I took was to tuck my fringes into my skirt.  I tried that while I was out shopping, and instantly felt more confident.  To my surprise I could feel them through my leggings.  My leggings are the thickest thing I have, so that means I will feel them through everything.  I don't have high sensory thresholds, so that's going to drive me up a wall, but I judge it to be worth it.

when I got home, I went through my kippot, and I made a list of the ones that were small enough to wear to school/work under the new system.  You know what? I came up with a list of 14! That's the nice thing about collecting something for years: no matter how you sort, you will always come up with enough of any category you want.

Second of all: I know I've said it before, but I really love to donate tzedakah.  I have left the word untranslated because it's really not translatable! The closest translation I've seen is "charity," and even that doesn't really get it.  See, charity carries the sense of "optional nice thing to do."  Tzedakah isn't optional at all; we are commanded to give.

Once I'm working, I will be commanded to give ten percent of my earnings.  At the moment, I am not working, so I don't let that part bother me.  Instead, Sunday through Thursday, I give two coins if I have them, any two coins...so I guess I could end up giving anywhere between 10 cents and $2.50 over the course of the week.  On Fridays, I empty my change pocket, and I donate four quarters if I have them, and whatever's left over that isn't in quarters.  Donating tzedakah might be my favorite part of being Jewish.

Third of all: Tonight (and most likely tomorrow) I'm going to wear the perfect Fall Sabbath outfit. The blouse is a midnight blue, silky button-down patterned with birds' nests; it's just starting to be cold enough out to wear it.  The skirt is my royal blue, silky, with the ruffle around the bottom; it will only be warm enough out to wear it for a few more weeks.  I feel that this outfit screams "FALL!"

And now I must go clean etc.!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Beged Finished!

Yesterday, at school before class, I finished the beged (body--literally translates to clothing) of the tallit katan I am making in the Ultimate Fun Fabric.  Below are pictures.

Here is the whole garment hanging over my prayer-and-other-holy-purposes chair.I am starting to experiment with neckline styles; here you see my attempt at a v-neck.  It's not perfect, but it dips quite low, and the garment will not be seen under my clothes.  (I just tried it on over my shirt; feels wrong, somehow, to wear it as an undergarment until it has the fringes and everything.)

I hemmed each hole in one of the elephant colors, just to make the garment more fun, and I even went around each hole twice so the colors would be seen! So going left to right, across the front and then the back: ...lighter purple...



...and blue, which you can't see because the hole happens to go through a blue elephant, exactly the color of the thread!

Very, very soon--probably as soon as I let my parents know I want it--I am going to get my Hannukah gift VERY early.  Five sets of strings, and half a yard each of black, blue, brown, pink, and yellow fabric: to be used to make enough tallitot k'tanot that I'll never have to wear the boring white men's kind again! This is going to be fun.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Day Off and a Couple of Treats

Today I am being especially nice to myself, because I need that in order to conquer health conditions.  I am not going to class tonight; I don't think I could act normal, and I have the professor who's triggering even when I'm not sick.  That's not a good combination.

I am giving myself two treats today, as well.

First: I am just not dealing with business.  I have something from my insurance company to open and an internet bill to pay; I refuse to deal with either till tomorrow.  Also, I am taking a day off schoolwork.

Second, I am ordering a set of strings for the tallit katan I am making.  They only cost ten dollars; I can spare ten dollars basically any time, and this will make me very happy.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Ultimate Fun Sewing Project!

FINALLY, I get to work on the ultimate fun sewing project! (No, I shouldn't be sewing this much during the school year.  However, my brain is fried due to episoding.  I can either study now, or go to class later, but not both, and I judge class attendance to be more important.  Therefore, I am sewing/blogging now.)  When my father brought me the three fabrics I used on the wall hanging of which I blogged pictures yesterday, he also randomly brought me the best fabric ever, saying he knew I'd be able to use it for something.  What makes this fabric the best ever? Well, the background is purple [my favorite color]; the print is elephants [my favorite animal] in four colors and pink [my second favorite color] polka dots [adorable!].  The instant I saw this fabric, I knew what it was for: the ULTIMATE tallit katan!

What goes into the making of a tallit katan? I made one last year as a Hannukah gift to myself.  The project actually started around this time of year, and took me about a month or so.  In case you don't remember, or are a new reader and don't feel like scrolling back, I will recap.

  1. This step only exists for fabrics that have a clear "right side up" to the pattern; otherwise I just use the fold in the fabric as the shoulder fold.  So with the one I made last year, I just used the fold, and with the one I'm making now, I had to do this step.  If one has a pattern with a clear "right side up," the first step of the process is to cut two panels to the right size--I lay out a commercially-made one whose size I know I like, and size against it--and sew them together at the shoulders.
  2. Cut a hole big enough to slip over one's head at the center.  This can be any size at all; just make sure it's big enough!
  3. Figure out, with a ruler, how much you want to fold in on each side for the hem.  Measure and mark where you're going to fold.
  4. Pick a side.  Fold in and pin, then sew. Repeat on all four sides.
  5. Repeat outside hem procedure on head hole.
  6. Cut four holes, one at each corner, and whip stitch each.
  7. Tie strings according to Jewish law.
You may be wondering about the legalities of making one of these.  The only rule for the clothing part is  that it has to be a fabric one would wear.  I generally assume Wal-Mart quilting fabric is close enough.  The strings have to be wool or the same material as the clothing piece; since I don't know exactly what I'm working with for the clothing piece, I buy wool strings.  At the moment I forget where I get them, but wherever it is, I can get a complete set of 16 strings for four dollars plus shipping--ten dollars shipped--a phenomenal price.

To tie a corner (I have never described this process on the blog before, I don't think), one slips four strings--one long and three short--through a hole and evens up seven ends.  (The eighth will do the winding.)  One ties a double knot up near the garment, takes the long string, winds it around the others seven times, and ties a double knot.  Then eight times, and a double knot; eleven, and a double knot; thirteen, and a final double knot.

That's all there is to it! There's nothing so hard about it.  I get great satisfaction out of making my own.  And, here are pictures from this one.

I'm sorry to say it didn't occur to me to document this until I was well into the process, but I did what I could.  This is the cloth body part; you can see the shoulder seams and the hem at one end.

These are all the tools I'm using in this project! (OK, my cell phone's in the picture too, just randomly.)  You can see a pair of scissors, a ruler, a pin cushion, and five colors--that's right, five colors--of thread.  Why five colors of thread? The darker purple is to hem the outside edge and the head hole.  Each of the other four matches an elephant color; I want to whip stitch the holes with them.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11, 2016

(As promised, here is the more important of my blog entries today.)

I just got done watching two 9/11 videos.  For years now, I have been watching "Heaven 9/11," which is a little girl talking to her father who died on 9/11.  (Does not specify how.)  She's always been talking as though a year had passed; this year, someone updated the video for five years out, ten years out--that got me crying.

A custom I added in recent years (starting just a year or two ago) is to also watch one--and only one, because I am super sensitive and nothing's going to change that--video of actual news footage from that day.  The video I chose today was really long, and I almost quit in the middle several times.  In the end, however, I made it through.  I am tremendously proud of myself for that.

Part of what helped me make it through was holding a teddy bear; I am not ashamed to admit that holding a doll or stuffed animal helps me through things.  All my dolls etc. have assigned ages; this bear, Theodora, is the only one old enough to watch news clips with me.

I believe in the power of spontaneous prayer; I believe God hears when we cry out; what came to my lips today--and yes, I said it aloud, if only in a whisper--was "God be with their parents; God be with their siblings; God be with their children."

So may it be.

My Wall Hanging: Finished!

(Two blog entries today; by all means, this is the less important one.  Today is September 11. and I happened to finish my wall hanging last night. Therefore, I am blogging the promised pictures of my wall hanging, then watching my usual 9/11 Youtube videos, then blogging a 9/11 entry.)

Before I show you pictures of my wall hanging, I wish to talk a little bit about the process of making it.  First of all, remember that each and every stitch was sewn by hand,which takes much more time and patience than using a machine.  (I don't like sewing machines because, at least when I use them, they seem to tangle/break as often as they work.)  So by no means did this project come out perfect, but I also wasn't aiming for that.  The hand-done look appeals to me.

Because the project was all hand-done, and I wanted it to look semi-perfect, it took me a very long time.  First I hemmed a half-yard piece of brown print fabric all the way around.  (You'll soon see that the wall hanging is a stylized garden scene.)  Next, I got to work on the greenery, the step that took me longest.  I sewed on 14 green print triangles for grass, and three tall strips for stems. Each stem has one jagged edge and one straight edge; the straight edge came from the edge of the fabric, and the jagged edge is where I cut.

Once the greenery was done, I turned to the main point of this project: purple flowers! Each flower has five petals.  I tried to arrange them neatly; I think in the end, flower number one came out best and flower number two came out worst.  In any case, my grandmother had let me pick out buttons for the centers, and I think they make the flowers really pop.

And now, here are pictures.

This is the first picture I took, when it had just occurred to me to document this process.  You can see the border hem, the grass, and one flower stem.

And in this picture all the greenery is done! That's fourteen "grass blades" and three tall flower stems.

And...first flower finished! In terms of shape and petal arrangement, this is really the one that came out best.

This is the second flower, and even I will admit it: it did not come out very well at all.

And...the second flower again! I meant to photograph the third, and really thought I had...but it was late last night (I was pushing past bedtime to finish this project), and I guess I made a mistake.  Oh well.

Here is a picture of the finished wall hanging laid out on the floor...

...and hanging on the wall above my dining room table.

Just for comparison's sake, I wish to show pictures of my two other wall hangings I made, both of which are much smaller and neither of which is a particular scene.  This is the first one.  The background is made of two gray handkerchief pieces sewn together (so the hem was already taken care of); the blue paisley Jewish star in the center is covering up a defect in the center seam, but also, what else would I put in the center? Each corner has a different scene going on.

This is actually the least involved of all the wall hangings I have made! I originally made it as a mizrach, a thingy to hang on my Eastern wall as a nice thing to face when I pray.  However, East in the first room I had to hang this in turned out to be straight into a corner: not exactly the best place to hang something, so I hung it somewhere else.  This apartment had a big blank space over the fireplace, so I hung both little wall hangings there.  What's funny to me about this one is that I actually hung it upside down, but because all it is is a row of Jewish stars, no one can tell but me.

And now that I'm done with that tremendously involving wall hanging (yes, it was fun to make; I am not implying that it wasn't), I get to move on to meaningful Jewish projects! First I want to make myself enough tallitot k'tanot (holy undergarments with fringes) to phase out the plain white men's kind I wear during the week.  (I will continue to wear the women's kind when I get dressed up, because they're already special and I need the more discrete neckline and shape.)  At present I have fabric for one other.  I think it is the ultimate fun fabric: purple with elephants and polka dots.  My current Hannkah gift plan is fabric for four more sets--blue, brown, pink, and yellow--and the strings to go with them.  It's really the price of strings that adds up fast, not the material.

After I finish the tallitot k'tanot in fun fabrics (which will take forever and a day; I don't get much time to sew now that I'm in school),  I think I want to make myself an actual mizrach, because this apartment has an actual Eastern wall on which to hang it.  I'm thinking blue background, green and brown shapes...we'll see.


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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!