The World Was Created For Me

I wrote this piece for my reading evening at Tmol Shilshom, Sweet Beginnings, in honor of the Jewish new year. Sign up for my mailing list to hear about future events.

deena levenstein reading at tmol shilshomIt was just me and my parents home for Shabbat. On the brink of adulthood, I was absolutely unsure about the next steps in my life. But that Shabbat I was home. And since my mother had decided to tell each of us in person, it seemed like the perfect opportunity – to my mother, that is – to tell me that she was pregnant.

Oh my effing God. I was imminently turning 20 and my mother was pregnant of all things.

I was alone. None of my other four siblings – the people who were ultimately about to go through this with me – were around.

I shuddered. I shook.

I hid my reactions and nonchalantly said that I was going out for a walk. I paced the Katamon streets, struck and angry.

A few weeks later, in Toronto, my brother stepped out of a moving car upon receiving the same news.

Comrade.

A few months later Shabbat began, this time with my mother in the hospital hopefully in the process of giving birth, and a few of us at the Shabbat table thinking of nothing but.

We had a quick meal – I couldn’t eat – and I ran down the hill to the hospital to get the news.

My father told me I had a new sister. A little, yet very real, person in my life. A person who I loved before I even met her.

I went into the labor room and quickly met the tiny little thing.

I then went out to the hallway, sat on a cold metal bench, bent over and wept.

And wept and wept. Until one man walking by reminded me that this was indeed a joyous occasion.

Silly man, I thought. Does he not know that one can weep. And weep and weep, from joy?

Eight years later…

I had broken up with my boyfriend. I was now very alone in Vancouver. I worked in a job that spit me out after four days. I’d miscalculated and overspent during my move to an apartment with a higher rent.

My God. Good God. What was I going to do?

I knew I needed income immediately in order to keep afloat and so, in this state of urgency, I searched. Although I wanted a job in the Jewish community, I even looked in Craigslist.

Very quickly I found a position in the community posted there. But… with old people? I simply couldn’t work with old people, I thought. It will bring me down. Even more down than I already am.

But I went for the damn interview. I begrudgingly went and begrudgingly put on my best face. During it, on the other side of the room, I could see the elderly people sitting around a table for their morning activities. One man – who I later learned was named Sam – sat slumped over in a wheelchair. The entire site broke my heart. Just seeing the elderly people from afar made me sad.

I got the job. I got the job and I accepted it too. Because I needed to. But it seemed like such a bad fit that I felt like I was misleading my new employers; I really did not see myself lasting there for more than a short while.

But what could I do? I was being dragged along for the ride we call life and I didn’t have much choice.

I hesitantly arrived to my first days. I smiled at the clients, who almost always smiled back. I made conversation and they were happy to talk. I ran programs for them about the Jewish holidays and Jewish history and they loved it all, the ones that stayed awake, that is.

And we had a musical kabbalat shabbat together every Friday. I played the few chords I know on guitar, and we all sang together, the men with synthetic teepee kippas, the women with doilies, all of us smiling at each other.

The opposite of my fears had come true. I noticed that no matter my mood in the morning – which was often down – it was raised by the people I’d so dreaded from afar. They’d stopped being “old people” and instead became just people. Some became acquaintances, some became friends and some became very good friends.

The fact that the two people I became closest with – Cecil and Yvette – have since passed away, does not exactly matter.

What matters is that Cecil, a Jamaican Jew, would have swept me off my feet and never let me go if he had been around half a decade younger (so he said). What matters is that whenever I was talking about Jewish history, I knew I could look over at him and find him listening intently, and laughing in all the right places.

What matters is that I had a kinship with Yvette, a French Holocaust survivor with a similar demeanor to mine (I like to believe). What matters is that after moving back to Jerusalem, we would send each other voice recordings which I adored receiving (Allo Deena, I hope you are well. Have you found a husband yet? Don’t worry, things are not how they used to be…”). What matters is that I was able to offer her my love during the terribly painful end of her life. What matters is that I know she loved me, and I still love her.

My desperate situation forced me to make a desperate choice, leading me to a year of meaningful memories that I cherish.

For me or dust and ashes?

It is said that Reb Simcha Bunem carried two slips of paper. One pocket had a note that said: Bishvili nivra haolam—“For my sake the world was created.” The other pocket had a note that read: Veanokhi afar vafer”—“I am but dust and ashes.”

In these stories and many others in my life, I have felt like things are happening despite me and all I can do is react -

I have often felt like afar vaefer.

But now I wonder, am I dust or, in fact, is the world not being constantly created for me? Especially for me…

And in that case, what is a sweet beginning? What really are beginnings? And what might make them sweet?

I’ll tell you what a beginning is. It’s what is happening all the time. It is doors or windows unlatching, allowing movement. It is the potential all around us. It is the availability of that potential.

But this is not necessarily a pleasant experience. It can be terrifying, it can be painful.

And so a sweet beginning, a sweet moment, is one that we somehow open up to, possibly even embrace, fears and all.

I, for one, think I’ve more than internalized that I am dust and ashes. Now it’s time for me to focus on “The world was created for me.” Because, it is!

And that is a sweet beginning.

שנה טובה ומתוקה.

My latest favourites: Adorable comic of what parenting looks like, hilarious autocorrects, heartbreaking photos and more

There is a lot about parenting in this one. So it shall be. :)

Louis CK on cellphones

louis c.k. about cell phones
Louis CK, a pretty amazing comedian, explains cellphone behaviour and why kids shouldn’t have them. Click to watch the video.

Grand Snider’s adorable comic about parenting

Grand Snider created this beautiful, sweet comic about what it's like being a parent.
Grand Snider created this beautiful, sweet comic about what it’s like being a parent. Click to see the whole thing.

One man dances like everyone’s watching

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_xIoJzZtKg

HILARIOUS autocorrects

Click on the picture for more.
Click on the picture for more.

Pictures that go straight to the heart

These pictures are heartbreaking, beautiful and chilling.

Glenn McCy’s comic: Dad, Mom… I’m a gatherer.

dad i'm a gatherer (he caved)
Just really cute. (Glenn McCoy)

Aziz Ansari on how texting has ruined dating

Not so funny because it's too true.
Not so funny because it’s just so true. Click to watch the video.

Michael McIntyre on how people without kids don’t know

Another one about parenting. “Singles do things that they don’t even realize are things.”

Michael McIntyre about parenting. Click to watch the video.
Michael McIntyre about parenting. Click to watch the video.

Dog wiping his paws

Just so cute!!!

dog wiping his paws
Just so cute!!!

Bill Cosby on cursing

Bill Cosby is baaack and here he talks about how terrible it is that people curse so much. Love it.

Certifying Facebook friends

This really gets across the absurdity of random Facebook friends.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO-1VaR3PPo

My favourite latest from the web: National Jew-Graphic, North Korea, glass gem corn and more

The Amazing Rabbis singing Sound of Silence

GORGEOUS.

wait but why about North Korea

I can only imagine that this website is getting a huge amount of traffic. The writer, Tim Urban, creates highly intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny articles on an array of topics. I read an amazing one by him about why my generation is unhappy (I totally got the story he told) and most recently I read a fascinating inside look at the world’s black hole—North Korea. I highly recommend giving this piece the time it necessitates considering all the photos, videos and links.

Read the piece to learn why this video is unbelievably disturbing.

And while you’re on the site, don’t forget to check out the hysterical About page.

The guy leaving a voice mail message about a car accident

Just press play and weep from laughter.

Random people conducting an orchestra

I must say this video seems to confirm all of our suspicion, that orchestras really do not need a conducter all the time.

Improve Everywhere had a small orchestra sit on a sidewalk in New York city and put up a conductor’s stand that anyone was invited to come up and use. Sweetness ensued.

Glass gem corn

You won’t believe that this is real corn but it is. There are people who are expert glass gem corn growers. It’s breathtaking.

Take a look.

Colour footage from the Jewish quarter in Warsaw 

I’ve come to believe that one of the things that inhibits us from getting the Holocaust, or many other events in history, is the lack of colour in the photos of that time.

Here is a short movie with footage of Jews in Warsaw. It’s lovely and terribly sad all at once.

National Jew-Graphic Original Film

Such a cute video about Israeli religious and secular.

Kids performing a song with cup for percussion

Click to watch it on Facebook. It’s amazing!

En dash, em dash, hyphens—how to use them and how to create them in WordPress

How many of you writers differentiate properly between the usage of the hyphen, the en dash and the em dash? Not yours truly! Until today, that is. I hereby vow—well, not exactly, of course—to explain to you how to use these three little beauties properly in your writing and to then use them properly myself.

Photo source
Photo source

According to this piece on Get it Write Online

The hyphen is used like this:

Twentieth-century
or
Well-being

The en dash (which is the width of the letter N) is used like so:

7:00PM–9:00PM
or
August 17–September 2

And the em dash (which is the width of the letter M) is used like this:

I went to the store—the one on Keren Hayesod—and I bought the damn apple.
or
The apple turned out to be rotten—or so I believe.

Now how do you create en and em dashes in WordPress?

Aha! This is the second most exciting part of this post. Turns out WordPress is all ready to go with en and em dashes. I learned from this post that if you simply write two hyphens next to each other, without spaces, you’ll get an en dash and if you do the same with three hyphens, you’ll get the em dash.

- this is a hyphen
— this is an en dash
— this is an em dash

Finally…

All this being said, is this whole topic passe or do you think it really is good for writers to make sure to use these punctuation marks properly?

P.S.

According to this piece, the official way to create en and em dashes is like this:

In any software program that handles text, the em dash can be typed on an enhanced keyboard as Alt + 0151—that is, hold down the “alternate” key and type, using the numerical pad on the right side of the keyboard, the numbers 0151. The en dash can be typed as Alt + 0150.

My favourite latest articles: Stunning photographs of lions, why Generation Y is unhappy and more

Some articles speak to me so much that once they’re opened in a tab, it’s hard for me to close them. Once my computer starts slowing down because of all the open tabs, I know it’s time to say goodbye. No! Don’t make me do it! So I thought, why not share the wealth with my readers? And that’s what I’ve decided to do. I hope you enjoy these amazing articles I’ve come across over the last few weeks.

My close encounter with lions in Botswana

I hail Nicolai Frederik Bonnén Rossen who went to Botswana for a photo shoot with some dudes and some lions. As he put it:

Can’t explain in words how anxiety-provoking it feels to be just three guys and no weapons whatsoever face-off with six adult, male lions and not a soul to hear you within miles.

The photographs in this article are stunning. The descriptions are so eloquent too. Such talent.

Why women should be more like men

You’re Just a Dumbass is a blog I just found which is about dating (found it after the author “Liked” one of my pieces on Habitza.com). She is definitely more crass than me but she’s quite insightful. Here is the best line from this post:

…[Men] don’t say to themselves: I’m not pretty enough, I’m not at the sexiest at the moment, I put on some weight, or whatever else that would stop them from trying to get what they want.

Check it out. Her advice in her piece “How to stop being single” is pretty sensible as well.

Find your calling: How to ask yourself the right questions

Here is a piece with a few simple tips for figuring out if you’re on the right track or not. I loved reading it because it made me feel great about the direction I’m currently taking at a time when I can use all the positive reinforcement I can get. She starts by saying you should ask yourself two questions:

1. What am I really good at? 2. What can I be passionate about for a really long time?

And then she gives more tips on how to get to the bottom of it. Read more.

4 Beliefs That Will (Eventually) Lead to a Nervous Breakdown

I admit I’ve had this one open for a while already, to remind myself about my inner thoughts that could definitely lead to major nervousness, if not a nervous breakdown. The writer mentions destructive thoughts like:

If people really knew me, they’d hate me–and probably want nothing to do with me.

So bad! What are your self destructive thoughts? Read all four here.

The 12 types of procrastinators

This funny-cuz-it’s-true comic strip depicting 12 kinds of procrastinations. Of course it’s not as if I can relate to all 12 of them, or anything like that. Why would you even think that? Check it out. That is unless you haven’t yet admitted to yourself that you’re a procrastinator, just like the rest of us. :)

Why Generation Y yuppies are unhappy

What a great explanation about why my generation tends to be unhappy. Beautifully done with great diagrams. For example:

Pfff I can't relate. Can you?
Pfff I can’t relate. Can you?

It’s a little long but very worthwhile. That’s all, folks. Let me know if you enjoyed this. Have a wonderful week, Queen Deena (I’m considering that career direction, testing it out.)

What links should open in a new tab and how to do that in WordPress

Sometimes when you click on a link it opens in the tab you’re in and other times it opens in a new tab. Here I’ll explain when to choose each option and how to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress’s editor and menu. These instructions work for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Which links should open in the same tab?

All regular links within the same website should open in the same tab. That means that if on the deena.co About page there is a link to My Writing, it should open right here, where you are.

And now the above paragraph has two examples of links opening in the same tab because this piece is in deena.co and so are those links.

Which links should open in a new tab?

All external links should open in a new tab. So, for example, if I now mention that I have a new post on habitza.com, the link should open in a new tab. Here is a link to Dear Introverted Man,.

Also, links to media should open in a new tab. For example, if my friend’s catalogue page includes a link to the catalogue in PDF format, when you click on the link to the PDF, it should open in a new tab.

These rules apply for menus as well.

How to make a link open in a new tab in WordPress

In a regular editor

1. Click on the link you want to edit.
2. Click on the Insert/edit link button in the WYSIWYG:

linking1

3. In the popup check the box “Open link in a new window/tab”:

linking2

4. Save and check your changes.

In a menu

1. Click on Appearance > Menus
2. At the veeery top of the page, click Screen Options:

screen options1

3. Make sure Link Target is checked:

Screen options2

4. Minimize Screen Options.
5. Go to the menu item that should open in a new tab. Click to expand this item. Click on Open link in a new window/tab:

menu new tab

6. Save and check your changes.

Good luck!

Twenty four hour screening of Christian Marclay’s The Clock

A good piece of art absorbs you, making you forget about space and time.

Except Christian Marclay’s The Clock which doesn’t let you forget about time for a second.

photo source
photo source

The Clock (2010) is a movie that directly relates to the exact time in which the piece is being screened. In other words, sit in the movie theatre at 3:03am and the scenes you’ll see are from many movies where someone references that time or a clock is seen showing  3:03am.

This editorial feat (to be particularly appreciated by anyone who has ever edited a movie) is a 24-hour movie made up of thousands of excerpts from movies across different cultures and eras.

During work breaks at the Israel Museum, I take the opportunity to visit The Clock. I walk up to the little theatre created for this piece, sit on one of the comfy white couches set out facing the screen, and allow myself to not get lost in time but to definitely get pulled into the story lines woven into one another, with music from a black-and-white movie overlapping into a colour film, a woman looking up in one movie to a clock tower in a different movie. And on and on.

Every time I’ve gone it has (purposely) been a different time of day. My favourite so far has been high noon. This is usually a dramatic time of day in cinema and it is a touching one in Marclay’s piece. Suspenseful music plays as people across many years and nations wait expectantly for the news or event to transpire at this auspicious hour. At noon, clocks around the world and over the course of cinema history chime in unison.

I always go in for five or 10 minutes at a time, knowing it’s unnecessary for me to look at my watch. We’re so used to losing track of time while watching a movie but here you always know the exact time. It’s the dissonance of getting pulled into a piece of art while simultaneously being reminded every few seconds exactly when you are in your real life.

Special 24-hour viewing

The movie which is normally only accessible during regular museum hours is open for a 24-hour viewing over Sukkot (2013). From 2pm on Tuesday, September 24 until 2pm Wednesday, September 25, there is one complete 24-hour screening. Yes, you can come hang out in the theatre (for free) at 3am, 5am, whenever.

Here are more details about the exhibition.
Here are more details about the 24-hour screening.

Will you venture out to see parts of The Clock that most people never get to experience?

What separates the optimists from the pessimists

I just read an article on inc.com that advises entrepreneurs to assume there are solutions to their problems. To me that was a revelation and it got me thinking.

My theory is that we can easily categorize ourselves as pessimists or optimists by answering one question:

When you have a problem, do you assume there is a (good, doable) solution?

Really now. Be honest, with yourself, at least.

Of course pessimists assume there are no solutions and they are surprised and skeptical when solutions arise, often wondering if the solutions presented are really any good or if everything’s going to go to hell again momentarily.

Optimists, on the other hand, assume there are solutions and usually, instead of fretting over a problem, will naturally just start looking for the/a proper solution (whether or not you believe there is more than one solution connects to your belief in fate).

Often pessimists think they aren’t pessimistic but, in fact, realists. They think they see reality in the most objective way possible and that optimists walk around with pink-pigmented glasses. And since no one can prove one way or the other, both pessimists and optimists continue to exist. Each group continues on with their beliefs – pessimists thinking about how much the world sucks and optimists probably not thinking about this topic much at all.

Because my next theory is that optimists are much better doers. Pessimists are the philosophers because they’re too depressed to actually do anything.

Which one are you? Which one am I?

The woman who made me eat pizza and the massage that enlightened me

Today I left work at 3:00pm in order to be at my physiotherapy appointment at 4:00pm. I got on an empty bus, sat at the back, and called my sister in order to discuss our next evil plan.

As you can imagine, I was worked up and excited about the suffering we’re planning to inflict on a group of people this coming Thursday (spoiler!). That mixed with bad reception on her end and a bluetooth on my end had me talking in, let’s say, a vibrant voice.

Meanwhile a whole bunch of other passengers had boarded.

Except more bitchy (photo source)
Except more bitchy (photo source)

And then she hit. I frown as I write this because it made me so sad. A woman in the seat across from me started mumbling loudly to herself in Russian and somehow got across that it was about me she was being grumpy. I turned to her and said in Hebrew, “You just had to ask” and she said something mean and bitchy again about how uncouth I am for talking so loudly, “As if you’re at home.” Then I said, “Oh, you’re really nice” (in sarcasm, of course – it was the best I could come up with to at least attempt to instill some guilt in the lady’s soul) and then she said something mean and bitchy, part in Hebrew, part in Russian.

Blah blah blah, these things aren’t supposed to upset you. Stop wanting to tell me that. Stop thinking about how obviously it wasn’t personal and obviously she is just a bitter angry woman. It hurts and I was angry and I quickly began fantasizing revenge. Yes, right before Yom Kippur (because any other time of year would be more opportune?).

Specifically, I imagined jumping up, grabbing her goddam book of number games and shaking it to oblivion in the air, crushing it and then tearing out some of the pages. For some reason, only some. Maybe so she’d feel like she owes me.

My now-changed evil planning (first it was with my sister about Thursday, then it was all in my head about right then with the mean woman next to me) truly helped pass the time. How wondrous!

I arrived at my destination with 10 minutes to spare, walked by the pizza place and felt drawn towards it. I felt like I neeeeded that pizza after being made to feel so low.

And so I indeed ate that pizza.

It made me feel better knowing I still have control over when I eat one of the foods I avoid (cheese – not pizza per say). How lucky.

I went in for my appointment supposedly feeling a little better, still finding it hard to smile at my friendly physiotherapist. He asked me if I feel a difference in my back pain from doing the exercises and I said I don’t. He said, well let’s do some work on you then.

Suddenly I found myself lying stomach down on a massage table and he gave me a totally relaxing massage, loosening up my back muscles, particularly those that make me jump the most. He explained that this is in order to help the exercises work more easily.

I am a smirking yoga tree. Of course. (photo source)
I am a smirking yoga tree. Of course. (photo source)

Which made me realize.

Just like a body massage can help loosen things up, we also need soul massages to loosen up the crap there.

How exactly does one administer a soul massage, you might ask? Here are some ideas I came up with. I did #4 and #5 and felt much much better:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Meditate
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Make a list of things you’re lucky about in your life but only things you actually are able to feel lucky about at the moment you write them.
  5. Write our your thoughts and feelings in a private place (not for publishing).

Life whacks us around. We (well, I, and probably you too) need soul massages at least once daily in order to fortify against the poo. Life is just too poo-ful to get through without a soulful combating strategy.

Dear WordPress client, those aren’t categories. WordPress lingo 101

Lingo shmingo and yet one cannot deny that if we all take a moment to speak the same language things will go that much more smoothly. WordPress clients often call items in the menu “categories,” which is understandable. The problem is that the word category has a very specific use in the WordPress Universe.

photo source
Please take my hand and I’ll tell you all about it. photo source

The main menu/main navigation and menus in general

You know those items at the top of the site with lots (or just a few) links to other places around the site? That is called a Menu. The main one that shows in the header on every single page of the website is called the Main Navigation. But it is made of a WordPress Menu. (Tip: WordPress Menus are created and edited in the Dashboard at Appearance > Menus.)

WordPress has the most easy-to-use menu system. You can create countless menus and stick them in different places around the site. You can also create one menu and use it in multiple places.

Here are the main places where you would use WordPress menus:

  1. One main menu in the header
  2. Possibly a second minor menu in the header
  3. A list of useful links in the sidebars
  4. A list of links in the footer

Tip: Menus are entered in the sidebars and footer using Widgets (stay with me! you can do it!).

Got it? So the main menu in the header is called a Main Menu or a Main Navigation.

Pages

Pages are static items on the site like the About or Contact page.

Pages can be related to each other as parents and siblings.

parent_pages

For example, under the About page can be Our Staff and a Mission Statement. About is the Mama Page and Our Staff and Mission Statement are the beautiful children. What a lovely little family!

In order to give the WordPress website owner ultimate control (evil laugh) relating one page to another within the page editor (see screenshot just above) does not automatically make it show up that way in the main navigation. It makes sense that you very possibly will choose to have Mission Statement show under About in the drop down under About but it’s totally up to you. (Tip: Again, this is edited under Appearance > Menus.)

Categories

Categories. OK, you ready?

Every WordPress site comes with blog functionality built in. This can be used as a standard blog or as a news section or, with a creative web developer, it might be used for other things as well.

Posts are individual pieces in a blog. They are time marked and they can be organized by category.

For example, this post which I’m writing right now is about WordPress and so I am going to put it in two categories: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Check it out:

categories

These are categories I created on my site because I know I write enough about WordPress that it warrants a category (in my case, two). You will create whichever categories you need.

And check it out, at the top of this post you can see that WordPress.com is a link. Click on it and you’ll get to all my content on WordPress.com.

Categories are general areas of interest covered on your site. You create them as needed and categorize your posts before publishing them.

How do categories connect with menus?

It’s totally possible there will be a category that is of particular importance to you and in that case you may choose to put it in your main navigation. On my site, for example, Photography is a category in my main navigation and if you click on it, you get to a mini blog, a list of all the posts I published categorized as “Photography.”

category_in_menu

And if you click on it, you get to this URL: http://deena.co/category/photography/.

An item in a WordPress menu is not necessarily a category

All this is to say, dear WordPress client, that items in the menu are not (necessarily) categories and are not called categories. There might be categories in the menu but a WordPress menu can be made up of anything: page, posts, custom post types, external links, categories or tags.

Bottom line: Categories can be in the main menu of your site but it isn’t necessary. The main items in a menu are usually pages though they can be anything.

So what do you call the different levels of a main navigation?

Because a WordPress menu can have any kind of item in them, each item is called a link. Here, let’s practice:

A link!

OK. And as far as the levels, there is the top level and then there are either the second and third levels or the first dropdown and the second dropdown. Etc. etc.

That’s it. Thank you for your courtesy towards WordPress nerds.

Sincerely,
A Wordy WordPresser

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