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

I believe in God.

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.


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
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!