Friday, December 28, 2007

Overload

My brain feels overloaded.

Too much thinking and second-guessing and doubting going on up there.

I discovered something about myself over the past few months -- well, maybe discover isn't the right word, more like articulated -- I am a person who likes it when things under her are solid. I don't like the unknown phase, the up-in-the-air time, being in limbo. I like to have closure and finality. Waiting around for something to materialize is not something I enjoy. I am not patient enough to always let time do its work. Heck, I'm not patient enough to let other people always proceed at their own pace. I need to go according to my own speed, but I want everyone else to be moving along at the same rate, which is of course not so fair to ask of others, because people have different personalities and needs and operate differently.

But I don't *want* to wait. I don't *want* to have to let time swirl around me and let myself drift slowly in its wake. I want to be the one in control, the one determinedly pushing through things and being in total control of the situation.

Gah. My wiring is bothering me. I wish I was built differently. I wish I was one of those people who relaxes easily, who relinquishes easily when they know that they can't do anything to affect what's happening around them -- not giving up, but being realistic and not letting the helplessness of waiting overwhelm them.

Am I being too hard on myself? It's possible. I see all my faults very clearly (even though it may not seem like I do -- mostly it's just that I wish I didn't have them and so choose to ignore them). But I need to relax and just let myself go with the flow. To just breathe and let go of the reins that I'm clutching so hard, my knuckles are turning white and my hands are hurting. Not to mention that I have finals coming up, and if I don't give them the attention they deserve, I'm probably not going to be so happy with the results.

Well, I think that's quite enough self-indulgent angst for one post. I'm gonna go eat some cookies now.

"Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength."
--Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Inner balancing act

It's funny sometimes.

I wonder how much I let what other people think of me guide my decisions. I would like to think that I've gotten to the point where I just don't care anymore, and while I will try not to violate halacha and I stay within the comfort zone of my hashkafic parameters, I pretty much do as I please without constantly worrying, "What is everyone else going to think?"

And then I just have these moments where I do something that I normally wouldn't, because I'm suddenly seized with fear that if someone would find out what I did, they would react in a way that would make me feel bad about what I had done, even if there's no problem with it per se.

Okay, all my pronouns are probably making you confused, so I'll try to concretize what I'm saying.

The other night, I spent the night at friends instead of in the dorm. I decided not to tell people where I was, because I assumed that they would react negatively and with suspicion.

So when people asked me where I was, I ... kind of lied. Okay, I didn't lie, per se, but I didn't tell them the entire truth. And the thing is, as I only told them half the story, I felt uncomfortable and uneasy with what I was saying - but I did it anyway.

What on earth motivated me to only tell a half-truth? Why was I so afraid of what they would say, what their reactions would be? Am I not secure enough with myself and my motivations that I can't handle people not necessarily agreeing with every move I make?

This set me off on thinking about how I react to mussar that people give me. When my friends tell me that they disapprove of what I'm doing, or when someone tells me that I'm being rude or ignoring someone, or that I interrupt, or the lots of other things that people see fit to tell me that I'm doing wrong (and hey, I'll admit it - I'm probably doing something wrong), what do I do?

Generally, when someone tells me that they don't agree with or like a certain behavior of mine, it makes me go waaaaay defensive and I spend lots of time justifying my behavior to them. Or I shut down and I don't listen to the other person, or I think of a million reasons why they're wrong and I'm right and how they also do way worse things so why should I bother to listen. Now, many people might say that this type of reaction is normal, but just because something is normal doesn't mean I shouldn't be working to change it.

As a certain friend would say, it's all about balance - being able to accept mussar and even act on it, while at the same time, being yourself and being comfortable with who you are. It's a tricky place to get to, though - it's so easy to go too far and disregard any mussar that you get, because you emphatically feel that you are you and so you should do what you feel most comfortable doing, because to not be yourself would be dishonest. But it's also easy to go the other way and be so disoriented by mussar that people give you that you constantly try to please others without being truly happy yourself.

I discussed this with a wise friend, and she asked me what I would want my friends to do in the event that they saw me doing something that they perceived to be damaging or injurious to myself - emotionally, physically, spiritually, or otherwise. Would I *want* them to say anything to me? Or would I rather them leave me alone and assume that I am an adult who has thought things through and has made her own decisions? In other words, do I *want* to receive mussar/guidance/perspective? Or do I just want my friends to leave me alone and go about making all my decisions using my own judgment?

I want to be open and willing to hear mussar. I really do. So why is it so hard for me to hear it? Maybe it's because I don't think they understand the full picture, and even when I try to explain, they still don't. That frustrates me - that even when I explain, no one really gets it. But then am I really just justifying my behavior without bothering to take a step back and evaluate myself and really take a good, deep look at my motivations?

I feel like I'm walking a very narrow inner tightrope sometimes. I'm afraid to take a step in any direction, because I'm afraid I'm going to fall off and everything will shatter. But I need to take steps, because if I stay in one place, I'm going to wobble.

I need to go forward.

P.S. Will you hold my hand?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Little Shop of %#$*!@

Okay, I need to blog about something QUICK so that I don't think about the upcoming show. (One of the other main parts might have mono, I keep forgetting certain lines, I still get confused with some of the lyrics [at least it's only one of the eleven songs I'm in], no one seems to come onstage at the right time, we've never had a practice with every member of the cast, and the show is on Sunday. ::sigh:: I'm *really* looking forward to Shabbos.)

So.

Uh.

Yeah.

I made up a haiku:

Don't be in school shows
Tolls will be taken on you
Have regret after.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

7 things meme

As many other bloggers have noted, this is very reminiscent of the 8 things meme that went around in the summer. I was tagged by Scraps, though, and I like memes, so I thought I'd do it again.

1. I'm an extremely light sleeper. I wake up from the littlest bit of noise or light, so I need to sleep in pitch darkness and complete silence. If I'm really tired enough, I can sleep for 9-10 hours, but on average, I wake up after having slept only about 5 hours. Usually this means that I'm a complete zombie during the day.

2. I never seem to know how much milk to pour into a bowl of cereal. It always ends up being too much, so then I add more cereal, but then I need more milk . . . breakfast takes me a really long time :D.

3. The first time I took my road test, I failed in five different ways. (Let's see if I can remember all: didn't signal on the K-turn, drove too slowly, forgot to signal before pulling out of a parked position, messed up parallel parking [two wheels over the curb. No idea how it happened.], and one more thing which I've forgotten.)

4. When I was younger, I pretended I had a catering company and kept a notebook of clients and menus.

5. It drives me crazy when people around me daven shemona esrei loud enough that I can hear every word. Not to mention that it's halachically incorrect.

6. I got my first pair of glasses when I was in third grade.

7. I dislike the taste of mint, unless it's in toothpaste or mouthwash. Oh, and Thin Mints - the Girl Scout cookies. Those are goooooooood. But I don't like mint candy, mint gum, or chocolate with that nasty mint goo inside. Or actually, chocolate with any kind of goo inside.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Interesting similarity

This article is from a couple months back, but the comments thread on this post made me think of it. Excerpt:
"For scarf-wearing Muslims like me, premarital interaction between the sexes (touching, talking or even looking) is strictly controlled. Our mosques have his and her entrances and stairwells. Men and women pray, eat and congregate separately. At private dinner parties, women exit the dining room so the men can serve themselves platefuls of spicy curry and kebabs. Family celebrations are segregated: boys sit on one side of the hall, girls on the other, and married couples in the middle.

When out in public — at school or the mall or the movie theater — interactions with non-Muslim boys tend to be less constrained but still formal. A playful push from a boy would bring an awkward explanation of how touching is against my religion.

So my friends and I had high expectations when it came to marriage, which was supposed to quickly follow graduation from college. That’s when our parents, many of whom had entered into arranged marriages, told us it was time to find the one man we would be waking up with for the rest of our lives, God willing. They just didn’t tell us how.

There were no tips from our mothers or anyone else on how to meet the right man or to talk to him. It’s simply expected that our lives will consist of two phases: unmarried and in the company of women, and then married and in the company of a man. There is no middle ground and no map of how to cross from one phase to the next."

I find the similarity between the communities to be both unsurprising and oddly comforting. I don't think we're quite as on our own as she and her peers seem to be with regard to people handing out marriage advice and stuff though ;).

Monday, December 3, 2007

**tantrum alert**

This is NOT RIGHT.

You're taking advantage. Do you realize that?

I committed to it - fine. But that doesn't mean that you can suck up every SINGLE FREE SECOND that I have. I need that time. It's really important to me. And frankly, I don't care about it anymore. Certain other aspects of my life are a little more important and far-reaching than a college performance.

It's not fair.

And you're making it very, very hard for me to feel at all excited or happy to be a part of this.

Ugh.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Awk-WARD!

I learned many things this weekend. They include:
  • High school boys are really rowdy. And they make awkward shidduch comments regarding their advisors.
  • Apparently you can become an MD even if you go to osteopath school.
  • Sometimes the YU shuttle isn't a white minibus thing.  Sometimes it's a different kind of van, kind of silver and campy.
  • If you look pretty, the chassidish man will want your phone number so he can find you a shidduch.  (Or even if you don't, probably. I didn't look so spectacular that afternoon.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thoughts on this semester, and a prayer

What follows is a highly personal post.  I have published it because I need to get this stuff out of my system and into actual words to alleviate some of the stress I'm feeling right now.

I'm exhausted, but cannot fall asleep. I have too much on my mind.

This semester has not been my best.

Between outside stresses, a highly charged living situation, and a somewhat lazy constitution, I am not achieving the way I'd like to be this semester. Unlike previous semesters, when I focused more on my studies, I find that I am increasingly distracted and less motivated. Oh, I do my schoolwork, and I study for my quizzes and tests, but always at the last minute. I have this weird notion that things are going to magically get done and figure themselves out on their own, without me having to do anything, which of course is delusional, as nothing will get done unless I actually do it.

I know that a few of the reasons why I am not working the same way I used to are in my control, but there are quite a few factors that are outside of it. I find that I worry more about the things that are out of my control though and ignore that which is in my capacity to change. This of course is counter-productive, as I end up wasting time thinking and worrying about that which I cannot change rather than working on modifying my study methods and the way I spend my time so that my schoolwork will get done earlier and more efficiently.

I just need to snap out of this worrying cycle and concentrate on the things that I have to do.

Hashem, Hashem, I need You to give me the presence of mind and the self-control to do what is most pressing, and to use my time well, so that at the end of the day I'm not upset that I wasn't productive.  Please help me to relinquish my need to worry about things that are not in my control, and to realize that even though the waiting is hard, and that sometimes difficult things happen to me, I have it within my power to change my mindset and to approach things healthfully.  Please help me have the courage to use my resources effectively so that I can properly use my energy to serve You.  Sometimes it's hard for me to do things even though I know they need to be done.  You have put role models and mentors in my path to guide me.  Please let me be open to their mussar and their guidance so that I can best achieve my goals.  Please . . . I need You.  I feel Your presence, and I know that it's there . . . just please let me understand the hints You are giving me and utilize them effectively.  Please help me make the right, Torahdik decisions.  Please let me make my family and those around me proud and happy.  I know you gave me the capacity to do all these things - I am trying so hard.  I really am.

Making lists

In light of recent posts around the Jblogosphere, I dug up this poignant story from my youth . . . just kidding. Actually, I think this story says more about my parents than it does about me, maybe.

Anyway, when I was younger, there was a period of time during which I thought my mother was going to lose her job. Both my parents work b"H, and if my mother would have lost her job or stopped working, we would have been living off my father's salary.

Something compelled me to make a list of the things that I could forego - things that I thought we should cut back on, should we only be subsisting on my father's salary.  More or less this was my list at the time (in no particular order):
  • No more ballet lessons
  • No more music lessons (my brother and I were playing violin at the time)
  • Cancel magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • End book club membership
  • Don't buy unnecessary foods, like sugary cereals, cookies, candy; try to buy less food so things won't get wasted
  • Don't go clothes shopping so often
  • Disconnect cable TV
  • Don't go to the movies
  • Don't rent videos
  • Go to the library instead of buying new books (to be honest, this would probably end up costing us more, as we are notorious for returning books late and incurring huge fines.)
  • Wear the same clothes without complaining
  • Get rid of one of the cars (we had three at the time if I recall correctly.  Actually, it might have been two.  Doesn't matter really.)
  • Join Sam's Club or something like that so we can buy groceries in bulk
  • Turn lights off
  • Don't leave water running

That's about all I can remember.  I think my mother saw this list (I don't remember if I showed it to her or she found it) and she agreed with me on most of them, but she said that even if we were only living on one income, we would continue our violin lessons, which were private in-home lessons, because they gave an income to the violin teacher who earned very little money.  Also, the violin teacher would feel terrible if she lost the business, and my mother was very concerned that she should feel successful and that people appreciate her talents.

I think that you can catch a glimpse of the values that my parents have (and that they tried to teach us) that I understood that certain situations would call for giving up things that padded my life and made it more comfortable.  Even though we never lacked for anything, thank G-d, my parents worked hard to help us appreciate the things we had, and taught us to use them well so that our belongings would last and we wouldn't have to throw things out unnecessarily.  My parents are not wasteful people, and they work very hard to give me and my siblings comfortable lives.  I only hope that I'm putting what they taught me to good use.

As a curious sort of exercise, I made a new list for what I would cut back on now, should I need to do that for any particular reason.  It's probably not complete but it's what comes to mind now (again, in no particular order):
  • Possibly switch colleges, so my parents won't be paying the room and board fees at Stern (I'm on full tuition scholarship, which is a huge part of why I actually go to Stern).  Attend local college and live at home.
  • Fewer cell phones.
  • Don't go shopping so often.  Make do with clothes that I already have.
  • Wear contact lenses infrequently so that we don't have to buy new ones so often (because those are so expensive!  As are the lens solution and saline that I need to use [I'm sensitive about that {awwwww . . . }.])
  • Whenever I get money, put some in checking account and most into mutual funds.
  • Think through purchases before actually buying things.  Do I really *need* that?  Or do I just want it?
  • Don't buy sugary cereals, cookies, candy, expensive crackers.  Buy less food so that things won't get spoiled and go to waste.  Don't eat out.
  • Try to walk to local errands so that we don't have to take the car and spend the money on gas.
  • Buy books used, or take things out of the library (the former is probably a better option - as I said before, we're notorious for paying late fees).
  • Turn off lights when leave rooms.  Or better yet, if it's daylight outside, don't turn them on.
  • Get rid of one (or two) of the cars.
  • Print less so that we don't need to buy paper.
  • Don't leave water running.  Try to use dishes carefully so we don't run the dishwasher too often.
  • When buying things, look for items that are on sale.  Don't get hung up on brand names.  Use coupons.

Huh.  The thing is, most of the items on this list are things that don't necessarily have to be implemented in times of monetary distress . . . they are strategies or attitudes that need to be cultivated all the time, so that I can more effectively use my resources and be a little less wasteful.

Thoughts?

(And also, does anyone know why the sentences after the first set of bullet points get closer together? How can I fix that?)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I feel like a rubber band

It's interesting how one thing can make you both really happy and really sad, all at the same time.

Y'know?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ack

I have about seven drafted posts, but I can't bring myself to publish them. Somehow, knowing that nearly all my commenters (I don't know about the readers) know who I am makes it harder for me to use this blog as a venting place, because I am a wee bit scared of revealing too much about myself that maybe I don't want you all to know. That makes me kind of sad, because I liked being able to write about things without everyone knowing who I am. I want to write about myself, and feelings I have about things, and vent, and do all kinds of other things, but there's an inner plug stopping me and telling me to be more cautious. Also, because many of you will understand who I am referring to in some of my posts, I don't want anything to inadvertently become lashon hara about others.

This would be why I haven't posted anything of substance in a while.

I don't know that I can trust myself to reveal so much anymore.

Am I afraid of people knowing these things about me?

How much of what I write is for myself, and how much is for my audience?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Monday, November 5, 2007

Closing the doors of the tent

UPDATE: I was informed that I might be misunderstanding YU's reasoning behind this move, and iy"H I will be contacting the proper people to clarify what is happening. Until then, I will leave this post up, unedited.

Okay. I am seriously, seriously annoyed.

All because of this.

YU has decided to cut Neve Yerushalayim (and its affiliated programs, I presume, since all the schools use a Neve umbrella transcript) from its Israel program. This means that students who come to Stern College for Women from any of these schools will receive not an ounce of credit for their year of study in Israel, all because YU is retaliating for negative publicity that the schools generate. Because these schools tend to discourage their students from continuing at Stern, YU has decided to award students who do go on to Stern from these schools by not giving them any credit at all.

Why does this matter?

It matters for many reasons. Firstly, students who are considering going to Stern may reconsider their choice of seminary based on this information. Frankly, I think that if there is a compelling enough reason to choose a particular seminary, receiving college credit for that year shouldn't be as much of a factor, but it is certainly convenient to know that you'll come back to the States as a college sophomore (or even a junior, depending on APs or college credit earned in high school) as opposed to starting as a freshman.

But another reason, and one that cuts deeper, is that this elimination of schools that talk anti-YU rhetoric is another way for YU to say, "We're not interested in those of a different hashkafa. If you don't believe in Torah u'Madda precisely, we're not interested in having you in our school."

This attitude frightens me.

I am a junior at Stern. I went to a bais yaakov seminary on the Neve campus for my year in Israel. I received credit for that year (albeit not as much as my counterparts from Michlalah and the like), and so entered Stern as a sophomore.

And oh, the pain that my seminary put me through for choosing to go on to Stern. But I went anyway. And I love it here. I have made some of the best friends of my entire life in this school. I have leadership opportunities here. I am learning Torah here. Was my seminary against my going to Stern? Yes. Did their negativity affect my initial perceptions of college? Yes. Were they wrong? Yes. Was I angry at them? Very. But do I think that such a school deserves not to receive credit from the Israel program? No.

It disturbs me that YU would be so narrow-minded as to reject schools that are of a different hashkafa than their own from the Israel program. YU President Richard Joel often speaks of a "big tent," that YU is an institution where people hashkafically to the right and left of Torah u'Madda should feel comfortable and welcome. In fact, I had a personal conversation with President Joel about this at the end of last semester. I was curious to know how he felt about students who came to YU with the philosophy of Torah u'Parnassa (i.e. coming to YU to get a degree so they can get a good job, not coming to YU because they necessarily want to be poster children for Torah u'Madda). He told me that if such students choose to attend YU, they would prefer that they not flaunt their disagreement of Torah u'Madda, and that they shouldn't say that their derech is better, because in President Joel's view, Torah u'Madda is lechatchilah, and students who openly disregard that, he feels, would not be showing respect to the institution.

I understand that position. But President Joel was referring to individual students who disagree with the Torah u'Madda hashkafah. These types of students don't automatically come from institutions that are anti-YU. In other words, the Israel institutions are not necessarily the only factor to contribute to a student's hashkafah. Assuming that all students from more right-wing schools believe in their institution's anti-YU perspective would be wrong.

And so it is unfair, and narrow-minded, and restrictive to deny Israel credit to schools that do not agree with the YU hashkafah. Because that is assuming that students cannot make hashkafic decisions of their own. And because it is gives these schools an excuse to justify to their students why they shouldn't continue at Stern, even when continuing at Stern could allow them to thrive and contribute and grow in a way that will make them happy.

What happened to the big tent? Why are its doors closing to certain populations?

What is going on here?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hehe

You know what I realized after my last couple of posts?

I have not discovered any magical secrets of life. I am simply coming to recognize the human condition, as it is - flawed, imperfect, but always reaching for more. Coming to these realizations, as universal as they might be, are always exciting and new when you can articulate them for yourself, and somehow hold extra meaning when you achieve this understanding for yourself and aren't just parroting what everyone around you says.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Confidence

This train of thought sort of follows from my previous post and from subsequent conversations I had with various people about the feelings I expressed before.

A friend mentioned to me that perhaps my perception of reality is not at all how things actually are. I perceive myself not to be helping anyone necessarily, while in reality others do feel that I to help them to some extent. I think that misunderstanding reality is something that we all struggle with to some degree or another, and that it manifests itself in different forms. For me, it's an occasional insecure or doubtful feeling.

I think that part of the reason this happens to me is because I tend to overanalyze and read into situations much more than what is actually happening. Because in my mind I jump ahead of what's actually happening in real life, my understanding of what's really going on gets skewed. If someone responds to me in a way that seems like they are irritated, I assume that they are annoyed with me, even if they're not, and I jumped to conclusions based on their tone. Remember being in high school and a teacher looked at you funny, and automatically you thought to yourself, "She/he hates me!"? Well, that was me. Heck, I sometimes still do that. If I'm standing by myself, and a group of girls near me starts whispering, I think that they're talking about me and making comments on the way I look. Is this a somewhat selfish trait? Well, yeah. Is it a sign of insecurity? Probably. Is this unusual and abnormal? I don't think so.

Part of the process of me getting comfortable with myself (and it's been a long road, and it isn't over yet) is coming to the understanding that feelings I have about myself and my role vis-a-vis others are often shared by other people. That it's okay to feel unsure about yourself sometimes. Everyone has moments of insecurity. The key is to (a) realize that you're not unusual in your struggles and (b) equip yourself with the tools to bring yourself to a correct mindset. I think (b) is something that needs to come from within more than without - having others around to be the ones to reassure you that you're not as bad as you think you are is great, but in the possible absence of having others to build you back up from those insecure moments, you need to be able to achieve it on your own.

Basically, you need to believe in yourself. You have to have a strong sense of yourself so that you can bounce back from those moments of insecurity. You need to have confidence.

So after I've said all this, how am I going to get to that place? How do I get to that point where reality won't be so skewed for me? Where I'll be less insecure, where I'll have clarity about how people see me and will truly believe that in my own way, I'm having an impact?

Working on relaxing my thoughts and not letting myself get too ahead of what's happening is one step. Truly believing others when they give me positive reinforcement and encouragement is another. Remembering that people have other thoughts in their minds besides for me (and that everyone has nisyonot) is a third step. Not getting bogged down in and discouraged by setbacks is a fourth. And perhaps not the last.

I think that if I can really put into practice everything that I've written, I am on my way to becoming even more of a better me, a stronger self, and a person who (hopefully) won't be so wrapped up in herself that she doesn't have the wherewithal to think about others.

(Wow. I can't believe I just posted this for everyone to read.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Usefulness

I wrote this last night, but before I could post it, the internet in my dorm room shut down. I'm posting it anyway, even if the feelings are somewhat less acute this afternoon, because I think that this is a post that a) represents feelings that other people share and b) represents feelings that can surface depending on the situation, but are always somehow lurking. Let me know what you think.

I'm feeling a bit sad tonight.

I'm not so sure what brought on this mood. (Possibly excessive sugar consumption. I really need to cut down on that. Not to mention that my caf card supply is going waaaaay down . . . and I'm an in-towner! But I digress.) And I heard happy news today. News that made me feel relieved.

But I'm feeling a bit down in the dumps.

I wonder if I'm making a difference in anyone's life.

Does it matter to people if I am with them or not? Or am I just fodder for funny jokes or entertainment? I don't *really* mind being teased by my friends, because I know that it's not malicious and they only mean it in fun, but sometimes, it is a little discouraging when it seems that the only way I contribute to the general circle is by being funny/silly/one-track-minded and so they can use things that I say/my mannerisms as gentle jokes. I want to feel like I'm contributing more than that.

I can't remember the last time someone came to ask me for advice. I always seem to be the one going to others, asking others, complaining to others. Rare is it that someone turns to me for these things. Even good friends of mine - whom I consider myself to be close with - when I think about my relationship with them, I realize how one-sided it is: I will tell them personal things about myself, and they hardly tell me about themselves. (Then again, I do have some friends who do tell me their feelings/emotions/about what's bothering them, and it is two-way relationship. But sometimes it seems like those are in the minority.)

Does this have to do with me not being open enough? Am I not listening well enough to other people to make them feel like they can confide in me? Am I too focused on myself? Do people think that when they start talking about themselves, I'm going to ignore them and redirect the conversation to me? Am I that selfish?

Or maybe I'm just an initiator. Maybe people are happy that I reach out to them, that I approach them. Maybe my job is to make other people feel needed. Maybe I'm meant to help others feel good that people see them as people to turn to when in need.

But I want to feel needed too. I was SO happy this week when I was asked by my school's administration to act as a student ambassador for the school's open house. It made me thrilled to know that people thought that I would be a good representative of the school, that I have contributed things that have made a difference in school. That made me so happy. I have a lot of hakaras hatov to whoever suggested that I would be a good student ambassador.

Does this mean that I need recognition to feel good about myself?

I get in the habit of comparing myself to others sometimes. My sister, for example. My sister has quite a different personality than I do. She is much more introverted and much less critical. She has one of the sweetest, most golden hearts I know. Every motzei Shabbat (and sometimes more often than that), she goes to the home of a girl in our community who has cerebral palsy that affects her motion and her speech. My sister sits with this girl for hours and talks and laughs with her. They watch movies together. She helps the girl use the bathroom. She is this girl's friend. This girl loves her very much.

My sister is so much more of a giver than I am. Throughout high school, her friends (from high school and elementary school) would call her often to talk. (I was rarely called at home.) People felt comfortable talking to my sister about many different things. They still do.

I wish I could be like my sister. I wish I could be the person that others turn to for help. I wish people saw me as a confidante.

Am I helping anyone? Do I help people understand more about themselves or feel better about themselves? Or am I just on the taking end of my relationships with people?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"My house has a hundred bafrooms!"

I'm not *such* a huge fan of Homestar Runner, but for some reason I find this video really hilarious.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Numbers of the week

3: Wedding invitations I got this week. (All these weddings are in a 4-day consecutive period in November.)

640: Letters of the Arabic alphabet I will be writing at some point this weekend (8 letters x 4 positions of each letter x each position 20 times).

$186.72: Cost of two items I returned to Anthropologie this week. (YAAAAAY!)

5: Packages of chicken I cleaned for Shabbat. (BTW, for those of you who know what I'm talking about, the chicken I made came out very yummy. Thanks for the pre-cooking tutorial - it was helpful. Although I ended up cooking the chicken @ 350 degrees, and I put the lemon sugar [how can you even call that a lemon curry chicken? There's like one teaspoon of curry that gets completely lost in the sugar] mixture about an hour after the chicken had been in the oven, and then cooked it for another hour and a bit. It came out just fine and tasted soooo good. :) )

ummmmm . . .

Huh. For some reason I'm completely blanking on everything else I did this week.

I really need to go to bed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gaaaaaaaah

Why does everything seem to be going wrong lately?

(And before you start in, yes yes yes, I know I know I know: look at things positively, hashgacha pratis, it all happens for the best, etc etc. I KNOW. I don't need you to tell me. For the moment I just need to let this all out without people trying to get me to see the good side right away. I'm not so happy about certain things and I need to express that without people jumping down my throat with positivity.)

(Yes, I'm not in such a good mood right now. Can you tell?)

First of all, for those of you who didn't know yet, I was in a car accident this past Wednesday. It was extremely frightening and upsetting, and I haven't gotten over it yet. It could have been MUCH, MUCH worse than it actually was and so I give many heartfelt thanks to Hakadosh Baruch Hu for really saving me from what could have been a terrible situation. However, what happened was still very, very, very scary and I've been thinking about it quite a lot.

Secondly, (and I can't give the details of this on the blog because they're too personal) other things in my life are not working the way I want them to right now. Who knows, maybe tomorrow everything will change and I'll be happy about them again. But for the moment things seem to be going in a really dissatisfying direction and they're not making me feel so great.

Thirdly, I am feeling spread veeeeeery thin with school commitments. Things are going to get a lot busier for me soon (busier than they already are, which is kind of frightening to contemplate) and I'm kind of freaking out about that.

And I KNOW that I have much to be thankful for. I just need some sympathy without the overly pious "let's look at this positively" attitude that will make me feel like it's not normal for me to feel down about this stuff. Because I DO, and I'm REALLY not in the mood for a lecture on how I should be feeling versus how I am feeling.

Sorry. I'm being really rude. I know. This isn't the best side of me. Please don't assume based on this post that I'm an overwhelmingly negative person. It's a nisayon for me, and I really try hard not to be negative all the time. In fact, for all the things that I've posted here I've already thought of good angles or good excuses for why they're going the way they are. Just sometimes I need to wallow a little and get some TLC.

:::::sigh:::::

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

OH MY

Okay, so I have a paper due on Wednesday which requires me to go through all the reading that I've done so far from the class and then concisely (but not too concisely) summarize it in a logical, well-thought-out argument. I have not really started this paper. I have like four measly lines that need to be, ahem, developed. Just thinking about this paper and how little I've done for it makes me start breathing faster. I am deluding myself into thinking that this paper is going to magically write itself, which, of course, it will not do, but so far the delusion is holding.

Then tonight I misplaced my ID, which not only lets me into all the school buildings but also functions as my food debit card and has my keys hanging off of the handy plastic container that it's in. Which brings me to two points:

1. THANK G-D I decided to remove the little paper that tells everyone what room the keys unlock, so at least someone who doesn't know me and doesn't know where I live can't break into my room.

2. I have no idea how I'm going to afford to eat food in the caf tomorrow until I get a new ID (or find my regular one. Sob.), so please accept this blog post as a desperate cry for foodage in the caf. (I like the word "foodage." My roommate in seminary made it up. Also she made up the word "sleepage.")

3. Why the heck in NYC so darn humid and hot in OCTOBER, for goodness sakes? This is unrelated to my ID card but I thought I'd throw that out there. Also this is my third point, even though I wrote that "this brings me to two points." Well gosh darn it, I'm a woman and I'm allowed to be contradictory!

I'm a bit of a weird mood right now.

Plus there's some other personal stuff going on which is making me all stressed out. And I feel squeezed very tight with all my extracurriculars. Plus if I don't return that majorly overpriced skirt to Anthropologie VERY SOON I am afraid that it will end up sitting in my room all semester, and in a moment of sheer desperation I just might wear it and thus render it unreturnable.

So basically I feel like a pat of butter spread too thinly over a too-big piece of toast, to paraphrase Bilbo's metaphor.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

515

I reached 515 views of my profile today! Yay me! (And this was without obsessively checking it like ten times a day.)

Kinda funny, though, that people are still looking at my profile, considering how little time I have spent taking care of this blog lately. Truth is, I have been composing a bunch of posts in my head for a while now . . . but none of them seem to be "good" enough to post. None of them are interesting enough, or thought-provoking except maybe to me.

What happened to my blog energy?

This summer gave me some great introspective fodder for posts. Of course, I wasn't exactly having the time of my life. So does that mean that for me to post something on this blog I need to be sad and miserable and thinking sad and miserable thoughts? I don't really think so. I think that what galvanized me into posting about such strong feelings was precisely their strength and intensity. My feelings were fairly extreme and so it was pretty easy for me to compose soliloquies on them.

And it's not like I haven't had any strong feelings or deep thoughts lately. I wanted to post about my thoughts during neilah on Yom Kippur. I wanted to post about my grandmother. I wanted to post on kollel. I wanted to post on making my first shiva call.

But as I started writing all these posts, the strong feelings that I'd had about these topics died away. They didn't seem so interesting to me anymore. They lost their intensity. Now I just have drafts and drafts piling up of half-written, unfinished thoughts that just seem . . . blah.

I think that some of this is a fear that's been creeping up on me about not wanting to put my private thoughts out there so much anymore. Usually doing that doesn't bother me. I will share my feelings with just about anyone, whether I know them or not. But somehow I'm encountering a sort of writer's block that prevents me from really writing what I want to. Maybe because I'm not really anonymous ... ? I know that (all?) the people who comment on this blog know who I am, and I know who they are. Maybe that takes away a bit of the excitement that I had when I thought I was anonymous, or at least semi-anonymous, and there was this little game that I was playing with people by putting myself out there and them not really knowing who they were reading about.

Or maybe it's just my horrendous ability to actually keep a journal manifesting itself in a different way.

I don't know.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Houston, we have a connection

I am very excited, because we figured out how to connect my computer to the scanner. Wahoo!

In honor of this momentous event, I am posting a picture of myself that I scanned:


Look, an early blogger!

When water coolers are alive

Setting: Hot, yet quiet kitchen. A few hours into yom tov, when the kitchen (and its occupants) are still recovering from the mad cooking dash of erev y"t. Suddenly, the water cooler gives an ENORMOUS belch and several bubbles rise to the surface of the water in the container.

Guest (jumping up in alarm): What was that???

Me (reading my book, unfazed): Just the water cooler. It burps from time to time.

Guest: How strange.

Me (shamelessly taking the moment to be immature): Well, it's better than the alternative.

Guest: ......

Me: Oh, never mind.

***

And as it turns out, substituting applesauce for margarine is *not* always the best idea.

Especially when you decide to short the sugar.

Grr.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Is there such a thing as "ideal"?

Wow, I haven't posted in a while.

(Truthfully, my life's been somewhat boring. I worked in a law firm for a few weeks, sat around on the computer, and then ran off to Chicago, where I had a most adventurous Friday visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, spraining my ankle, walking through the streets of Chicago after 12 a.m. on crutches, coming back to a pitch-black house because there was no power, and being woken by a house alarm 4:15 a.m. Shabbos morning.)

But anyway!

I've been wondering something for a while:

Is there such a thing as a universally ideal lifestyle?

Is it a good idea to teach that there is a certain ideal lifestyle that every Jewish household should aspire to or try to be?

What are the consequences of such teaching?

What happens to the people who can't (or don't want to) live up to that ideal?

I have been doing a lot of thinking on this myself (and maybe I will follow this up with a post on what my background is on this), but I would like to hear your thoughts.

P.S. In case you weren't sure, when I say "ideal lifestyle," I mean being a man who is learning Torah full-time or being married to a man who is learning Torah full-time.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hmm

I tried on someone's sheitel today, and I looked really good. So now I'm wondering if I should grow my hair out again. If you could do me a favor, I've posted a poll at the side of the page to get your opinions [EDIT: I reformatted the poll at 2:20 a.m. on August 12th, so if you voted in the old one (that only had two categories), can you vote again please? Todah robbers!]. Even if you don't know who I am, you are welcome to vote. This is basically what my hair style is now:


I cut my hair in 2005, after I graduated from high school. My hair was sooooooo long before - almost to my elbow. I cut it for a few reasons: a) it was way too long; b) I wanted to donate it to make wigs for kids with cancer (which I did); c) I had always kind of wanted this haircut ever since I saw this ad. I just didn't work up the guts to do it until after high school.

On a separate, more random note, did you know that when you Google "halacha of going clubbing" my blog shows up as the third hit?

Monday, August 6, 2007

How did I mess up today? Let me count the ways ...

[Ahhhh, Internet. *deep breath* I have withdrawal symptoms from not having Internet access ALL DAY.]

Oh gosh, did I make some hilariously embarrassing mistakes today.

1) I faxed something to an attorney whose first name I thought was Lillian. Upon closer inspection I discovered that the actual first name was, in fact, William. So not only did I *totally* get the name wrong, but it was even the wrong gender. Smooooooth.

2) I spilled food all over the floor.

3) After a caller identified herself, I breezily said, "Hey! What's going on?" Bad. Baaaaaad. She was not happy.

Oh, did I mention I'm working for a law firm?

You'd think I have no experience working in an office based on this.

Well, in my defense . . . okay, I have no defense, except to say that I haven't worked office phones in, like, a week, and also, "William" in script looks a lot like "Lillian." Okay? Hmph.

But I don't think anyone noticed anything! And also, there's no Internet at the office (which means no G-chatting, or AIM, both of which I have become seriously addicted to recently). So nothing to while my time away, except for game after game after game of Solitaire, which requires almost no brainpower. I should really do crossword puzzles or something.

Besides, it's much better to be able to laugh at yourself than to get all worked up about these kinds of things, right? Right.

As long as I don't get fired . . . la la la la la . . .

Sunday, August 5, 2007

My summer in review

I was curious to see for myself what exactly I did this summer in Washington (since I seemed to spend a lot of time doing, well, nothing). This was what I found:

I wrote letters and/or did research on the following topics:
an outreach letter to constituents on minimum wage
the Realtime Reporter Act
drug safety
resolution calling for Turkey to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate
noise from car stereos
lobbying reform
check hold times
tax on alcoholic beverages
military postage (APO/FPO shipping)
adoption regulation
the CLASS Act
funding patient navigators
protecting workers
9/11 memorials
military policy on DUIs
pet food safety
breast implants
the Executive Branch Reform Act
reshaping the NYC taxi system
a recommendation letter for an old intern
direct-to-consumer drug advertising
small business grants
letter congratulating the Tuskegee Airmen on receiving a Congressional medal
funding for the arts
congratulations letter to the Women's Business Council
Bloomberg's congestion tax
letter to fifth graders about the Congressman's school visit to them
water for the poor
employer-provided tuition tax breaks
NYC DEP police labor contracts
scholarships available for people with disabilities
Internet gambling
(In case you're wondering, constituents write to their representatives on anything they feel like. Including cell phone bills. And car stereo noise. And to thank them for passing bills that don't actually exist [no clue as to how they get their erroneous information]. And the list goes on. Of course, the phone calls can be even more ridiculous. I had an irate constituent threaten to march down to the district office with a sign saying "Congressman So-and-so is a piece of ****" if I didn't call him back RIGHT AWAY to tell him the answer to his question. Then there was the constituent who expressed himself using, ahem, a lot of profanity. Then there were the people who called about the increase on the cigarette tax, who had been forwarded to the office by tobacco companies. Half of them either a) didn't know whom they were calling; b) didn't know why they were calling; c) didn't really care, or some combination thereof, or, alternatively, yelled in my ear for five minutes straight about how smokers are now a minority being discriminated against. But I digress.)

I also:
- wrote a press statement on grants awarded to hospitals in the district
- wrote a statement for the Congressional record on a constituent who had turned 90 (and voted in every single local and national election since becoming of voting age)
- wrote a floor statement for the Congressman to say on the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War
- researched the voting records of the New Democrats on 3 bills
- called every single Democratic office in the House to find out the name of the trade legislative aide
- put together a "pitch list" of articles from the Washington Post, NY Times and WSJ on carried interest
- made a pitch list of articles on SCHIP
- spoke on the phone to Congressman Ron Kind, Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman Joseph Crowley and Congressman Eric Cantor
- chatted in the elevator with Congressman Marion Berry
- heard Senators Chuck Hagel, Bob Casey, Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Amy Klobuchar, Sam Brownback, Arlen Specter and Susan Collins speak
- heard Congressmembers James Clyburn, Eliot Engel, Bill Pascrell, Gus Bilirakis and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen speak (in person, not just on C-SPAN)
- shared an elevator with Congressman Jeff Flake (and other Members whom I couldn't identify)
- heard Tony Snow, President Bush's press secretary, speak in the Old Executive Office building
- attended briefings on: the visa waiver program; preventing the spread of HIV from mother to child; the creation of an education coalition to help minority students; Turkey's current problems; how Greece has become a good example for nations in the Balkans
- wrote a memo on the Hamas takeover of Gaza
- summarized the 2007 Farm Bill
- watched Congress vote on H.R. 2641 from the House gallery
- gave tours of the Capitol
- brought cosponsor sheets to the Democratic cloakroom
- rode the subways from the Capitol to the House and Senate office buildings
- went to the Supreme Court and heard Justice Samuel Alito speak in the chamber of the court
- ate lunch in the Members' Dining Room with the Congressman I worked for (in the middle of the meal, Mayor Bloomberg called to speak to him)
- compiled Hill-related news stories for the staff every day for about two weeks (from the New York Times, WSJ, Washington Post, USAToday, NY Daily News and Roll Call)
- went through the passports of the foreign relations staffer and made a list of every country he has been to in the past four years
- heard the Secretary of the Senate and the Senate Historian speak
- did general office stuff, like answer the phone, sort the mail, sort faxes, bring letters to staffers to approve for signatures, gave out Hill publications to all the staffers, went to the office supply store, greeted people who came to the office (visitors ranged from ex-Members of Congress, important lobbying people, really irritating lobbying people, deranged people, interns sent on errands, Congressional pages, other Hill staffers on occasion, mail delivery people, soda delivery people, furniture delivery people, computer maintenance people . . . )
- signed up for my first screenname EVER in order to communicate with the staff and other interns online
- attended the kick-off dinner for the Endowment for Middle East Truth

In my own time, I:
- visited the National Air and Space Museum
- went kayaking on the Potomac
- saw the 4th of July fireworks on the National Mall
- visited the National Building Museum
- went on a Jewish interns cruise on the Potomac and heard Jeremy Katz, the White House liaison to the Jewish community, speak
- went shopping in Georgetown
- visited the national sculpture garden
- went to the Spy Museum
- wandered up and down the National Mall
- rode up and down the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere every day (Wheaton station of the DC metro)
- ate dinner at every kosher restaurant in DC (okay, there's only two)
- visited the National Archives

Huh. That's some pretty good stuff. Looks like I did a lot more than it felt like I was doing :).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Home again

For AL, because you asked.

I came home yesterday from Washington.

What a heady experience this whole summer was.

I ran the emotional gamut, from completely miserable to so happy, and everything in between. This summer was totally not what I expected at all, in many, many ways. My internship didn't end up the way I thought it would, the program I was on was completely different than my initial perception, and I learned a lot about myself, about what I can tolerate, and how I react to situations that are not ideal or that are challenging. I'm a little ashamed to say that I was very quick to call a day "bad" if it didn't go exactly as I wanted it to. I judged people very quickly, usually jumping to the wrong conclusion. I didn't think things through, and did a lot of complaining.

I think that there were times when I was justified for feeling the way I did, as expressed in my previous posts. But at the same time, now that I look back on myself and my behavior, I am sorry that I did not behave in a more adult way: often, I turned into a whiny, petulant child who expected everyone to deliver on a silver platter exactly what she wanted. Instead of dealing with situations with a smile or trying to see the bigger picture, I saw myself as the only person who could possibly be right and so my way of doing things had to be done. And of course, that wasn't possible most of the time. In fact, it wasn't possible for nearly any of the time. At some point, I had to grow up and take stock of the situation, and realize something very important about being one in a crowd - other people aren't going to change for you, and you're not necessarily going to change them. The only thing you can do is say to yourself, "Look, I am me and they are them - I have to accept that. Now I have a choice: I can live unhappily and grouse all the time about how difficult it is for me. Or I can look past what makes us different and find common ground and take it from there, and smile and try to see how this situation, even though it's hard, will be good for me in the long run."

Unfortunately, I chose the former. I wish I had chosen the latter more often, but this is all part of the learning experience and maturing and handling myself properly as a frum Jew. I'd like to think that I will choose more properly and wisely in the future (not that I want to be a place of tremendous nisayon again, please G-d, at least not without a good religious support system).

So am I happy that I did this internship and this program? Well, yes. I don't want to whitewash the experience, because I want to remember it clearly, both good and bad, but in the end, I left on a happy note. I want to remember how I felt during the course of the internship, because I think that it's part of the growth process to remember where I came from, even if I'm a little embarrassed of some of it (i.e. how strongly I reacted to a situation when if I had just taken the time to relax a little I wouldn't have been so upset. But then again, by reacting strongly, people saw that I took certain things seriously. Not that they always cared to take them as seriously as I did. But whatever.).

To all the people out there whose phone lines I cried into or whose email inboxes I poured my worries into, thank you, thank you so much. You were an immeasurably valuable support system to me and I appreciate it so much.

And for the people in Washington who helped me . . . thank you. I don't know if I can really put into words what it meant to me when you sat and listened and encouraged and critiqued and advised, but thank you, from my heart.

***
Glinda:
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them, and we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you - I have been changed for good

Elphaba:
It well may be that we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird in a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you

Glinda:
Because I knew you

Both:
I have been changed for good

Elphaba:
And just to clear the air, I ask forgiveness
For the thing I've done you blame me for

Glinda:
But then, I guess we know there's blame to share

Both:
And none of it seems to matter anymore
...

Both:
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better

Glinda:
And because I knew you...

Elphaba:
Because I knew you...

Both:
Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good . . .

--"For Good," Wicked, composed by Stephen Schwartz

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm tired.

I'm tired of being mocked.

I'm tired of not being accommodated.

I'm tired of people making fun of my ideals, my lifestyle, and my standards.

I'm tired of people knocking my hashkafos.

I'm tired of people not recognizing my needs.

I'm tired of people ignoring halacha.

I'm tired of it all.

So thanks for a great summer, guys. I really learned a lot.

Have a nice life.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Here I am

Wow, I haven't posted in a while.

Don't worry, I'll be back soon. I've got some ideas percolating in my head, so as soon as I work out my thoughts, I'll be posting.

Stay tuned!

P.S. In regards to my previous post . . . everything is well now, baruch Hashem. I just needed some time and someone to talk to. But it's all good now.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Lightbulb!

I had an epiphany recently.

It wasn't a happy epiphany, but it was a good epiphany.

It means that I won't be doing too much emotional damage to myself anymore.

Yay!

Now I just have to undo all that I did.

::sigh::

I need a hug.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

8 things meme

Chana tagged me with this meme. I have to list 8 things about myself, and then tag 8 people with this meme. Here goes nothin' . . .

1. I have always wanted to be a figure skater. In fact, in seventh grade I begged and pleaded with my parents to let me take ice skating lessons, which they allowed me to do. My technique was good, but I was afraid to go fast, so I didn't progress very much. When I went to see Toy Story On Ice, I had this secret desire that they would ask for an audience member to skate instead of one of the principal cast members, and that they would ask me to do it. Didn't happen.

2. Starbucks Frappuchino drinks always give me stomachache, but I drink them anyway.

3. My pet peeve is people who chew with their mouths open.

4. I danced en pointe in ballet for 5 years and did some pas de deux (partnering) for one year. It was an exhilarating experience.

5. I really like gummy candy. This includes, but is not limited to: gummy worms, gummy bears, gummy worms with that white marshmallow thing, marshmallows, puffy monsters (those pink and blue candies shaped like penguins), and these strawberry and peach heart-shaped candies that I found in Israel and have not seen anywhere else. However, I do not like sour gummy foods, like sour bears.

6. In third grade, I was elected mayor of my class. I don't remember actually doing anything in the capacity of mayor, but I beat out two of the most popular girls in the class to win the election.

7. I have a favorite pillow that I've slept with since I was a toddler.

8. I haaaaaaate heights. I hate cable car rides, huge staircases, living on a high floor, rooftops (unless there is a big wall around it), elevator rides that take more than a minute, balconies with bad railings, looking out of the window in an airplane, and just about any amusement park ride. I am petrified to do any of these things.

I think all the people whose blogs I read regularly have been tagged for this, so I tag my commenters Rebecca, Jackie and Chaya to do this in the comments section. Plus anyone else who wants to.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The carrot, the coffee and the egg

On Thursday June 21, my program heard from an interesting speaker. He is a very well known person in Washington and has contacts at all the top tiers of government. He is a very frum man, wears a black hat and suit everywhere he goes, and deals with many delicate issues that come up for Jews working in government.

He shared with us an excellent mashal that I thought I'd post about:

In a pot of boiling water, you put in a carrot, an egg and coffee grounds.
In the case of the carrot, it goes from being hard to soft.
The egg keeps its shell, but the inside still changes and hardens.
The coffee itself doesn't change - it changes the water and turns it into coffee.

And, the nimshal:

The boiling water is the environment you're in. Are you going to be like the carrot, who softens and loses its edge? Or will you be like the egg, which retains its protective shell but becomes hard on the inside? Or will you be the coffee, the one thing that isn't changed itself, but changes the environment it's in?

I thought this mashal was so, so perfect for the job I have now/the social situation I'm in. I've spilled much liquid (in the form of tears and blog ink) about my social life currently, but what the heck, I'll spill a little more. On Sunday, I was miserable. Absolutely taken over and suffocated with misery.

Why, you ask?

Well, a bunch of the interns planned on doing something involving water and boats. Now, when I went to camp, doing activities involving water and boats meant that you had a pretty definite chance of getting wet, sometimes to the point of your clothing becoming translucent. My decision was absolutely not to participate. I am not going to do a wet activity in front of boys that I'm not related to. No way, no how. I felt that this was a completely untzniusdik activity and would cause people to be nichshal.

However, by not going, I was left all by myself.

Now, here is where it gets sort of complicated: I don't want to do too much coed stuff. Pretty much all we ever do here is in a coed group. BUT I don't want to be alone. I hate being lonely. Being lonely makes me cry a lot. But I don't want to do things in a coed group. And so on. Basically, it's a catch-22: I don't want to be lonely, but I don't want to do the activities that would keep me from being lonely.

Aaaargh.

So when everyone left bright and early Sunday morning to go do the water sport, I broke down. I felt such an all-pervading sense of loneliness. I felt like Hashem was punishing me - I couldn't even be proud of myself for sticking to my convictions because I was so unhappy that I had done so.

And then, to add insult to injury, when I decided to go to DC to do some shopping (I've been indulging in some very expensive retail therapy recently), I locked myself out of my apartment. In my apartment were my keys, my cellphone and my SmarTrip card (the DC metrocard equivalent), and in the hallway was me with a couple baggies of Cheezits and some wet tissues. Unfortunately, since it was the weekend, the building management charged me $25 to let me back into the apartment. This just made me start crying all over again. And even though I was clearly in distress, they didn't waive the fee, which I was hoping they would do.

Muttering wetly under my breath about stingy building maintenace people, I boarded the Metro to DC. In a flash of inspiration, I decided to go to Georgetown, where I'd heard there was good shopping. And boy was there shopping! Up M street and down Wisconsin was pure retail bliss. I wandered happily from one hideously expensive clothing store to another. All the clothing was gorgeous, like candy. I wanted everything, but restrained myself. I actually found a really cute skirt when I went shopping. I was really happy to acquire it. But that didn't make up for the intensity of the feelings I experienced earlier in the day.

At once, I was angry, hurt, resentful, lonely and felt excluded. How much of this was in my head and how much was the reality doesn't matter. At that moment, that was my reality.

I felt like nobody here in the program with me even cared at all if I was happy. If I felt like I was being included. If I was comfortable.

I just felt like no one cared about me at all, with the exception of my friends, who are all hundreds of miles away. That nobody else cared that my standards are different, and that maybe my standards should also be accommodated.

This made me so angry. How dare people just disregard my feelings and emotional well-being that way? Why didn't anyone think to say, "Oh, Apple isn't coming. Hmm, I wonder why that is. Maybe she's not comfortable with this activity? Well, then, let's try and do something she will be comfortable with."

Ooh, what a thought.

But did anyone think this? Nooooooo. Did anyone take me aside and ask me why I wasn't coming? Nooooooo. They all just left me alone! By myself! In an apartment with almost no furniture, with no discernable plans for the day. That was not fair.

Maybe I'm being really selfish right now, thinking that I should be everyone's main consideration in making plans. But that's not what I'm asking. I just want people to take a look around, realize that other people's sensitivities and needs are different, and to try and plan accordingly.

And then, when everyone came back, they were all, "Oh, how was your day?" I wanted to scream. I wanted to say, "Oh, it was great. Just great. In fact, it's really scintillating and fun to spend an entire day by yourself. You should try it sometime!"

I think I'm turning into the egg, but I'd rather be the coffee.

And I was hurtful and mean to someone who has really tried to help me feel better and enjoy my experience more (you know who you are, and I think - I hope - that you're reading this). I sincerely, sincerely apologize. I really have no excuses. I heedlessly let my yetzer hara get the better of me and you got the brunt of it.

I am very, very sorry.

Please forgive me, for I am the egg, and I need you to help me crack my shell a little.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Of granola bars and happy days

Today I helped one of the LAs organize press clips and information regarding immigration bills. I didn't think much of it, but a few hours later, I had this instant message exchange with him (I did some creative adjustment of the actual screennames):

hisfullname: do you enjoy an occasional granolabar?
apple87: sure
hisfullname: sure is not a satisfactory answer
apple87: okay, do you have a granola bar?
hisfullname: no.
apple87: alright then.
hisfullname: you still havent answered my question
apple87: I enjoy an occasional granola bar. Occasional.
hisfullname: why occasional?
hisfullname: too much?
hisfullname: too sweet?
hisfullname: i enjoy the nature valley, honey and oats
hisfullname: what about you?
apple87: personally, I prefer the peanut butter flavor
hisfullname: interesting
apple87: but it all depends on how hungry I am
hisfullname: that totally came from left field
apple87: indeed
hisfullname: well i have a slight situation
apple87: oh no. what is it?
hisfullname: well i wanted to get you something for your help today. however there arent many kosher things (atleast that i could think of) in the cafeteria
hisfullname: so i got you a honey and oats granola bar cause its my favorite
*he comes to my desk with a granola bar*
apple87: oh, thanks so much! that's so sweet!

Isn't that the nicest?

It made me so happy.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Is my bar too high?

This is a particularly long post, so I'm going to just tell you the topics that I address in this post: representing Jews as a whole, fitting in at work (how to go about getting coworkers to like you), and being in a situation (for me, a highly coed atmosphere) where your standards for yourself are challenged.

That being said, I commence:

My program had a Shabbaton this Shabbat, and Friday night we had a roundtable discussion about being a Jew in a gentile environment. Of course, since we are interns working on Capitol Hill, a goyish place if there ever was one, the questions raised were particularly germane. The underlying question of the discussion: How much of your Judaism do you "flaunt"? Should you be openly frum in your office, or keep your customs/faith to yourself?

The discussion veered in the direction of asking how much of our role in our office is as an ambassador for the Jewish people. Personally, in the office, I feel acutely aware that I am an Orthodox Jew, and so any time someone asks me a question about Judaism, I really think about what I say, so that I don't misrepresent things or mislead people in any way. A few of the other interns disagreed, and told me that I should relax, since non-Jewish people are much more open and accepting of Judaism. But this isn't what I'm worried about - if someone is open to learning about Judaism, they'll ask me a question; if they're not, then they won't - but I am nervous about saying the right thing, nervous that I will make Judaism sound antiquated, not the vibrant, alive religion that I believe it is. I don't think that this is too over the top. If I'm the only Orthodox Jew that someone knows or has access to, I want to be the best possible representation of Orthodoxy and Jewry in general.

I don't quite remember what was said next, but someone suggested that in order to fit in more with your co-workers, if they are all discussing the latest news on Paris Hilton, to contribute to the conversation so that they'll realize that you're "normal." No! I argued. Why do I have to ingratiate myself with my coworkers on those terms? Why should I stoop to the level of having to discuss TV and movies in order to gain their respect and liking?

Now, I used to watch a lot of TV. However, since I spent a year in Israel, during which I did not a have a single TV-show related conversation with anyone in seminary (except to mourn the amount of TV I had watched over my lifetime), I realized that actually you can have fun with people and have good conversations that don't have to hinge on a commonly shared liking of a TV show. As a result, I am trying to cut back on the amount of TV that I watch, and the TV/movies-related news that I see. Now I pride myself on being clueless about celebrity developments and what movies are coming out when. I also avoid watching movies if I can.

So why, when I am entering a summer FULL of challenges to the sensitivities that I've developed, do I have to go backwards and start educating myself about pop culture? That's not my definition of "normal."

When I started interning, one of my biggest worries was fitting in with the other interns. Unfortunately, all the interns I work with currently are boys. The guys reading this might not understand what a big deal this was for me, but I RARELY hang out with boys. And no, boys are NOT the same as girls - it's much different to talk to a boy than it is to talk to a girl. It was extremely difficult for me at first to be able to talk to them, so I kind of just didn't. I would ask them questions about their schools or something neutral, but mostly I didn't participate in any of their conversations. Also, it should be noted that they spend an awfully long time talking about going drinking and hitting on girls - two activities I don't have much of an interest in.

I'm not quite sure what happened - maybe the conversation about Orthodox dating we had and their realization that I would only marry someone Jewish - but the tension I felt lightened considerably. While I still am not best friends with the guys, I find it much easier to talk to them, although there are still some funny moments.

What's my point? I guess it would have been easier for me to "get in" with them if I had just gone out to a club with them, or participated in their conversation about the merits of jailing Paris Hilton. Going clubbing is out of the question. Period. Admittedly, celebrity gossip is more innocuous and innocent, but since I developed the sensitivity of not wanting to know about these things, I prefer not to join conversations about celebrities. However, this does put a sort of barrier between me and the rest of the people in my office - because it's one less thing that we could have in common.

But I don't WANT commonality to be on those terms.

I'd rather share the same values.

Am I setting the bar too high for myself?

Wow. This post is very long-winded and rambly and somewhat incoherent. Am I making any sense? Do you understand my dilemma? Although, to be honest, it's not really a dilemma, since I am sure that I don't want to regress in my sensitivities to pop culture and being around boys casually.

This weekend, I was feeling particularly down in the dumps about the intensity of the coed situation that I'm in, and so basically spent almost the whole day alternately crying or feeling very sorry for myself, neither of which helped to make me feel better. Someone advised me to understand that while I have standards for myself, because I'm in a situation that I've never been in before, I need to adjust my standards, because otherwise I'll go nuts trying to keep to the gedarim that I've made for myself.

But isn't the point of standards is that you draw lines for yourself that you won't cross? Although, I think that this person was right, because if I persist in attempting to isolate myself from the coed situations (which are basically all the time), I will end up very lonely. But when I think about spending so much time casually with a big group of guys, I shudder.

Sigh.

What have I gotten myself into?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

You Rule!

Alright, Ezzie tagged me with this (for which I am very honored, oh blogmaster Ezzie, when you read this), so I'll do my best. Please bear in mind that this is full of generalizations, so don't jump down my throat for assuming that it refers to any one specific place.

You rule, Oh Clique-iest Clique of High School Girls! Without you, who would know whom to snub, what definitely, like, not to wear, and which barrette goes best with the uniform? Your amazingly keen sense of nerdiness and how to stay far, far away from it surely helps keep your perfect little outfits from any sort of contamination. You're not mean, or standoffish - you just have a deeply-felt sense of self-preservation. We understand. So when you don't talk to us, or look at us, we know that you simply are trying to communicate to us just where we are on the social totem pole. That way, we won't misstep our place or anything, which could be fatal, for us and for you. Thank you, clique-y ones, for allowing us to know our status in life. Thank you for introducing us to the world of perpetually glossy hair, weekly new wardrobes and Goachi bags (you know, fake Coach + fake Gucci). In fact, to thank you, we'll give you a no-contract cell phone, so you're not locked into any of those icky plans or anything. And when the shoe style changes next season, you can change your cell phone plan along with it. What more could be better? Oh, and for an teeny extra fee, we'll throw in a cell phone cover to match your handbag. So run, don't walk, because supplies are limited to the first fifty girls pushing and shoving to get this great deal. Competition will be fierce, ladies, so remember to file those nails and wear your extra-pointy shoes so that you'll have some, uh, clawing and scratching leverage. Buh-bye now!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dinner at the Supreme Court

That's right. Mm-hm. I had dinner at the Supreme Court tonight. Oh, and I took a picture with Justice Samuel Alito. Uh-huh.

HOW COOL IS THAT??

Okay, so the organization that I got this internship through is having a 2-day lobby mission to Washington. They invited all the interns to participate in as much of the programming as possible. And the major highlight of today was having a dinner reception at the Supreme Court and then being addressed by Justice Alito.

So I left work early today (more about what I did today later), and headed out of Rayburn, the House building where I work, up Independence Avenue and left on First Street down to the Supreme Court building. The Court building is just a gigantic marble edifice, really a beautiful structure. I met a few other interns and we walked around to the Maryland Avenue entrance, through a small grassy area with some benches and flower beds. Then we went into the Supreme Court building, where we walked through a metal detector and put our stuff through an x-ray machine. About every forty feet was a new guard, presumably to keep people from going nuts and trying to get into the offices of the justices or something.

Anyway, we rode up one floor to the East Wing Conference Room, where a buffet dinner was set up (the food was AMAZING and totally beat cereal and milk). I noticed a man who wasn't wearing a kippa walk into the room, but I didn't realize that he was Justice Alito. First of all, he's young. Like fifty or so. I always associate being a Supreme Court Justice with being somewhat ancient and decrepit, so his youthfulness threw me off. By the time I understood who he was, though, he was so surrounded by people that it wasn't even worth it to try and talk to him. And the truth was, he didn't remember anyone after he saw him/her. When so many people are thrust in your face like that, it's all just a blur. So even though I didn't get to talk to him, I don't regret it at all. What would I have gained, anyway?

Am I regretting now that I didn't talk to him?

Well, too late now.

I got a picture with him, at any rate.

After dinner, we all filed into the chamber of the Supreme Court, where Alito spoke to us. He didn't talk for so long, actually, and answered a lot of questions. I took notes of his speech, but because I'm assuming that no one expected that it would be published, I won't write what he said. Sorry - I keep leaving these tantalizing little bits of information that I can't expand upon. The truth is, Alito didn't say anything too earth-shattering. He talked about how fighting for religious rights is important to him (this was tailored to his Orthodox audience) and didn't really give such personal answers to a lot of the questions.

It was mostly just fascinating to actually BE in the Supreme Court, and to look at the bench, and realize that we were sitting in one of the most powerful bodies of government in the United States. Major things have happened in that room - Brown v. Board of Ed, Miranda v. Arizona, the recent partial-birth abortion ban - things that changed American life, that affected the way that things like school, and police arrests, and reproductive rights are all run. THAT was incredible.

And the building itself! All gorgeous, clean marble, open space, huge pillars - it lends a feeling of power and strength to the whole experience, which is of course what the architect intended.

At the same time, I tried not to be overawed. True, it's the Supreme Court of the United States, where major decisions and verdicts are handed down. But there's no kedusha to it, no inherent holiness, and it's an institution that prides itself on being divorced from religious influence. That's not a Jewish concept. There is never an occasion in Jewish life when an observant Jew purposely separates him or herself from the influence of halacha and hashkafa (okay, okay, I'm talking about an ideal life here). What makes us special is that we don't integrate Torah into everyday life - we integrate everyday life into Torah.

Am I getting preachy? I think it's maybe because I spend most of the day in a very goyish environment - bad language, casual talk about drinking - that I almost need to go to the other extreme and very clearly delineate lines between myself and such behavior. That is not the way I talk, not what I do to enjoy myself, and not an okay lifestyle for me. I'm sure that there are people out there who would vehemently disagree with my approach. But that's what's best for me, the Apple, as a halachic, hashkafic Jewish girl working in an environment not necessarily conducive to or encouraging of Torah values.

On a lighter note, here's what I did the rest of the day and on Monday:
This morning started off soooooooooooo slowly - no phones, no faxes, no mail, nothing - and all the interns were sitting around practically ready to scream with boredom. Then Kelly (the intern supervisor) gave me a big ole stack of constituent letters to update, so I had something to do. And wouldn't you know it, the second I start doing a lot of work, the phones begin to ring, people come in and out of the office to meet with staffers and the Congressman, and in general the pace picks up.

Then - and this was embarassing - apparently the Congressman was going to be introducing some homeland security amendment that would be debated on the House floor. Well, apparently no one felt a need to tell the interns about this, but we started getting all these phone calls about the amendment: "Is the Congressman going to issue a Dear Colleague about this?" "Is this the Congressman's amendment?" "Can I speak to the legislative aide about this amendment?" The problem was that I didn't know what the amendment had to do with, and Kelly wasn't around, so I danced around the questions. Actually, I transferred a bunch of people to the press secretary's voicemail, which was incorrect. Oops.

Oh, and I bungled a call to the Chief of Staff. She wasn't too pleased.

And I kept forgetting that I should IM staffers rather than go over to them. I know people don't mind too much, since I'm still relatively new, but I don't want them to think that I'm dumb. One of my favorite quotes from All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot, is when one veterinarian says to the other, roughtly quoted, "This job affords you some great chances to make a chump of yourself." Well, guess what. So does interning in Congress, apparently.

MONDAY:
Finished calling ALL 232 Democratic offices in the House and getting the name of the trade LA (this was a feverish two hours of nonstop phone-calling).

Spoke on the phone to some psycho constituent who yelled at me and then subsequently at everyone else he spoke to. He was really nutso - he had written a letter and gotten a response back, but was mad about the response. He had written in about the comprehensive immigration bill that the Senate was trying to pass and was really p.o. that the government was trying to increase the number of highly-skilled workers in the country.
"Why do we need so many highly-skilled workers, huh?" he yelled at me.
I felt like saying, "Because they're highly skilled, duh." But I didn't. And when I kept saying, "Okay, okay, and may I have your name please?" he snarled back, "Okay? Is that the only word you know in the English language? Why you trying to get rid of me? Huh?"
Finally I just snapped and said, "Because you're being rude and abusive and I don't want to be spoken to that way!"
Then I hung up. He was really mad and called again. Because he had been so rude, we transferred him to the tax counsel and then the legislative director, who proceeded to have a great conversation with the constituent during which he pointed out to him that this country was founded by immigrants. The constituent didn't have much to say after that.

Answered the phone (what else?)

Did a crossword puzzle (in my downtime, i.e. when the phones don't ring and the faxes don't come in).

Handed out newspapers and Congressional newsletters to all staffers

Went to a briefing on China's success in the world economy (snore, snore, snore. In fact, it was so bad that I left after half an hour).

Made the cover for the weekly press clips packet.

***
All in all, it's been a full two days. Tomorrow I'm taking off of work to participate in more programming with the organization, so we'll see how it goes. We're going to meet with top Senate leaders and then we're off to the White House.

Stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Feelings about Washington

Well, my other post was really technical, more like a sort of diary of what I've done (read my other post, My First Day and Beyond, before you read this one. Sorry, I don't know how to link from one post to another. Can anyone give me a tutorial in HTML?). In this post, I want to share more of my feelings and perceptions of Washington and Congress.

First of all, an important concept to understand about being an intern in Washington is that you have very little preparation for what you're getting into. You're thrust into the middle of an office without any clue about the office dynamic, who should be talked to when (or not), who likes whom, who hates whom, who controls the office atmosphere. I was lucky, to an extent - I talked to a girl who had interned in the same office the summer before, so she was able to give me some advice. However, there was some personnel changes that took place in between this summer and the last, so not everything is the same.

Someone described to me all 535 offices in Congress as being 535 distinct businesses. To a certain extent, things are run similarly (meaning, there are basic positions in every office, such as a chief of staff, a legislative director, and legislative aides), but HOW the offices are run is wholely dependent on the personalities occupying it. For example, in some offices, the interns are all buddy-buddy with the paid staff. In other offices, the paid staff is NOT TO BE TALKED TO by the interns. Each office is different.

My office is sort of a combination. A few of the interns are buddy-buddy with the staff, and joke with them and things like that. I don't. First of all, I'm a girl, and most of the staff are men, so it's hard to know how to balance it. Also, I want things to be professional, and I want to give an impression of professionalism. Not to say that I want to be standoffish - I just want to be seen as serious and hard-working. Also, I'm still trying to work out people's personalities, and who likes to be approached by the interns and who would prefer not to be talked to unless they speak to us first.

Because of all this uncertainty, at the beginning, I really was very unhappy. I was unhappy being the only girl intern (what would YOU talk about to a bunch of boys who spend their free time drinking and partying?), I couldn't tell if the staff thought I was intelligent or stupid (even though we're expected to make mistakes, you want to come off as mistake-proof as possible), and I wasn't thrilled with the commute. Now, thankfully, it's gotten better. As the days go on, my rapport with the other interns gets better, they understand me a little more (although they still don't know about shomer negiah, which can be awkward at times, as one of the boys is constantly brushing my arm), and they are more friendly to me. As far as the staff goes, I think I'm overall doing okay, but they may think that I'm still standoffish.

Above all, I really hope that I'm making a kiddush Hashem for everyone in my office. For a lot of them, I'm probably the only Orthodox Jew they ever came into contact with (and for some maybe the first Jew, but I know that for sure one of the staffers is Jewish). It's really important for me not to give them a negative impression of Orthodoxy and Judaism in general.

I tend to eat lunch in the office, just because since I have to bring my own lunch anyway, there's no point in going to the treif cafeterias. I bring a sandwich every day, which means that I have to wash and bentch. No one has asked me anything about that yet though. We'll see what they say if they do.

I haven't had a chance to explore DC at all. At the end of the day, I'm really tired - the schedule is very draining - and I don't have the energy to walk around. Also, I don't want to go alone - DC isn't the safest place, especially later in the day. At one point, I want to stay in DC at night and walk down from the Capitol to the Washington memorial. It's supposed to be beautiful.

That's basically a good summary of what it was like to adjust to the whole office atmosphere and Washington in general. I'll be adding little thoughtful tidbits as they come up and will try to be better about posting.

Toodle-oo!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

My first day and beyond

Wow. I am, like, sooooooo exhausted.

It's been a rough first few days.

I don't know if I can describe the overwhelming, body-swallowing feeling of panic that you have when you first step into a Congressional office as an intern and don't know what you're doing.

I came into the office at 8:55 a.m. Monday morning, totally and completely petrified. I didn't know what to expect, I was scared to meet the staff, I didn't know who the other interns are at all, and I didn't know what I'm supposed to do once I actually get inside and sit down. I said hello to the receptionist and identified myself as a new intern. She smiled back at me and extended her hand for me to shake. I sat down on the couch and read through the intern handbook that the receptionist had handed to me. It was all sort of blurry . . . how to answer the phone . . . how to sort the mail . . . how to schedule a tour of the Capitol . . . (This booklet is essentially the intern bible, since we refer to it all the time when we need to know procedure.)

Anyway, we chatted for a little bit and then she asked me if I had any questions. I felt like asking her to hold my hand and tell me exactly what to do, because I felt really, really lost. The trouble was, of course I couldn't ask her to do that - I just had to wing it!

I sat down at the intern desk, completely clueless about what to do next. Thankfully, the other intern in the office had been there the year before. From now on, I'll call him Patrick. He was really great - right away he started showing me around the office and pointing out the different things an intern would need to do. Patrick is from Boston, but goes to some university in South Carolina (don't ask). While Patrick was tutoring me, two other interns were taking a couple of constituents on a tour of the Capitol. I met them when they came back. Sean looked just like Patrick - big, blond and Irish. Jerry was a big guy, dark (I found out later that he's Persian). (By the way, these are all pseudonyms. And the receptionist's name is Kelly. Also a pseudonym.)

Anyway, I won't bore you with the excrutiating details. Here's a list of what I did the first day, Monday:
Wrote a tribute to a constituent for the Congressional record (how cool??.) The constituent was turning ninety and had apparently voted in every local and national election since becoming of voting age.

Researched two issues - alcohol tax and water quality (oh my gosh, talk about an initial disaster. The water quality one took me FOREVER because I wasn't sure what I should use as a resource. The next one was easier, since I remembered that there's Congressional Research Service - an amazing resource of accurate, nonpartisan information that is provided to all of Congress.)

Answered the phone (like a zillion times. I'm a pro now!)

Ate lunch in the Rayburn cafeteria by myself, which was sort of sad, but my friend from Israel called to see how I was doing and that cheered me up enormously

Made the cover page for a packet of press clips – every week, the press secretary gathers any articles that have the Congressman's name in them or where he's quoted and compiles them. Then - and this was AWESOME - the press secretary asked me and Sean to work with him on a project to collect non-Congressman-related issues that are about hot topics. This might sound sort of stupid, but any time a paid staffer asks you to do something it's considered a major honor.

People were dressed VERY casually – jeans and sneakers, except for the interns, who were dressed more formally. The reason for this was that the Congressman wasn't going to be in (I think he was in California, but I'm not sure).

TUESDAY:
Got my ID - me and two other interns waited on line for an hour to get it

Went on tour of the Capitol with two interns (we went up to the gallery and Democratic cloakroom, where legislation gets dropped off)

Entered the legislative director's contact info into Microsoft outlook off of business cards

Drafted a floor statement for H.Con.Res.152!!!!!! This is a resolution recognizing the 40th anniversary of the 6-day war. Basically, this was how I got the job - when I finished entering the LD's contact info into the computer, I gave him back his business cards. He seemed really surprised that I had done it so quickly. Fast forward about five minutes: the LD came over to where I was sitting and asked me if I had any particular interests. I said foreign affairs, specifically Israel, and he sort of ruminated for a minute, then called out to the press secretary (PS), "Hey PS! Should we let her write a floor statement?"
I was FLOORED, to say the least. Anyway, I wrote the floor statement and they really liked it.

Answered phones

Drafted letter to constituent about tax on beer

When I was sitting at the front desk, I met the Larouche people – wackos! This is a lobbying group that is full of "brainwashed teenagers," as Patrick put it. They're EXTREMELY liberal and basically came to the office to let me know that Dick Cheney should be impeached. I was like, riiiiiiiight.

Fixed the tribute to the constituent (can you say b.s.?)

WEDNESDAY:
Went to a hearing on immigration. My Congressman was a witness - it was the first time I saw him/heard him live. I positioned myself strategically so that when C-Span focused on him, you could see the corner of my shoe and a little bit of my right hand.

Did research on a bunch of consituent letters for the legislative correspondent - scholarships for students with disabilities, tax paid on employer-provided tuition, the lack of contract for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection police, and one thing that I passed off to another intern about Lt. Cpl. Chessani (anyone heard of him?).

The LD gave me a job - to call all the Democratic offices in the House and find out the legislative aide in each office who deals with trade. There are 232 Democrats in the House. Ahem. That means a lot of phone calls.

There was some other stuff too, but I've forgotten it.

THURSDAY:
Went to a lecture with two other interns. The lecture was the first in a series of lectures specifically for interns. The speakers were the Secretary of the Senate and the Senate Historian, who both exuded an incredible sense of Senate superiority over the House. Hmph. While we were waiting for the speeches to start, one of the interns started asking me about my contact with boys. Here is the conversation:
Mike: So, where you go to school, are there any boys?
Me: Um, no. But my school has a boys' counterpart.
Mike: Oh. So do you guys ever mingle?
Me: Well, there are coed events.
Mike: Do you go to them?
Me: No. I don't really hang out with boys.
Mike: So you don't date?
Me: Well, I will only date for marriage, so I will only date when I feel ready to get married.
Anyway, the conversation continued in this vein. I think they basically learned that I'm off-limits, so they feel more comfortable around me. In fact, they tell me about their success in hitting on girls. Hmm. Kind of awkward.

Umm, what else happened? I made more phone calls to the Democratic offices (to find out the trade LA's name) and started entering business contacts for the Chief of Staff (CoS). She had many, many, many business cards. Answered the phone, distributed faxes, etc - all the usual stuff.

Ooh! I just remembered - we all had a meeting with the CoS. She basically told us to take advantage of being in Washington, if we want to take off a day to explore, go for it. The office is very happy to have us, blah blah, and the way that they like to communicate is through instant messaging so they don't have to keep getting up and they can say things privately to each other. Only catch: I don't have IM, and had kinda promised myself that I would never use it. Oh well. Now I have to, for the sake of my job. But I only use it during the day, for professional reasons.

Funny side note: one of the interns had seen a picture of the CoS on her window sill, and thought she was about 50. Um, that picture was of her mother, and the CoS herself is 31 and pretty. The boys were all really surprised.

FRIDAY:
I thought I wouldn't come in at all because my supervisor had promised us all a day off. But at the end of the day on Thursday, the foreign affairs legislative aide told me about an AIPAC briefing. Anyway, I thought I would go, so I decided to come in and go to the briefing, and then just leave right afterward. Of course, I forgot to go to the briefing, but here's what I did on Friday:

Entered in business contacts for the Chief of Staff (like over a hundred. It's the most tedious thing you can imagine.)

Entered constituents' name off a petition into the computer to see if we could dig up their addresses (it's a complicated program, so I won't bother to explain it. Suffice it to say that the program is designed to store the addresses of constituents that the office writes to, so we were entering the names off the petition to see if there was an address stored under the name. Again, supertedious.)

Researched the voting results on three bills for one of the staff. He needed to know who how the votes turned out and also how the "New Dems" had voted. I don't really know what the New Dems are. Maybe I'll check them up on Wikipedia.

Okay, I've been working on this post throughout the week, and I'm getting kind of nauseous of it. Hopefully I'll post every day about what I do, so it won't come in one big chunk like this.

Any questions or comments?