scarlettina: (Default)
It's like clockwork around here: Labor Day comes and Mother Nature flicks a switch. Though Seattle summers are usually mild, this year, we're going from scorching hot days to cooler temps and now the rains have come. They started yesterday and continue today; I think we've seen the last of the sun for a while.

I'm not quite ready for autumn. I haven't changed over my wardrobe; I suppose that happens this week and weekend. Last night I changed my blanket from summer- to winter-weight. I don't have quite the right shoes for this weather; the boots that I've worn for three years now have got holes in them--perhaps not the quality I thought they were when I bought them.

And Rosh Hashannah is bearing down upon us with me, once again, not having tickets for services anywhere because I don't belong to a synagogue and because it's the busiest time of year for me at work. (Most synagogues don't know what to do with me anyway; they're set up for families, not for independent Women of a Certain Age.) I failed to get tickets for services at UW's Hillel, which I've done before. I live within walking distance of the local Chabad House (the only congregation in town that doesn't require a donation for High Holiday tickets), but I wasn't brought up Orthodox. And though their outreach is friendly and welcoming, I'm a little intimidated by the prospect of what will surely be a less-than-egalitarian approach to services. I'm not the sitting-in-the-back-row type. And so I'm once again a little bereft at this time of year.

And, as mentioned above, it's the busiest time of year at work, which means I've got tons of work to do, oftentimes overseen by a million managers, all of whom want to have check-in meetings to ensure the work is getting done. Which means talking to my actual manager about the irony of negotiating the work needing to be done versus attending meetings to report on said work. I can meet or I can execute; I can't do both effectively simultaneously. This year, it seems like it's worse than it's ever been. I keep putting off or declining meetings, and the managers who run said meetings want just five minutes, which often ends up turning into an hour anyway. And then I have to explain myself and my work to everyone. Especially irritating are the compliance managers, who insist that they don't have to be familiar with our website (on which I work) but then insist that I give them a tour to ensure I'm doing the work. It's maddening.

So, yeah. The turn of the calendar comes and the darker, cooler, wetter days, the busier days, come along with it. I miss living somewhere with a more gradual segue into autumn and winter. But every now and then we get a glimpse of the beauty that autumn can offer and I'm pleased.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
Haven't mentioned it previously, but now that I'm here, I will: I'm on Long Island for the holidays. After the year I've had, despite the stupid amount of money it costs, I decided that I really wanted to see my family. So as I type, I'm sitting in bed at my brother and sister-in-law's house on Long Island, and am very glad to be here.

Both flights--red-eyes--were . . . challenging for different reasons. The first (Seattle to Minneapolis departing at 12:30 AM) featured a child no more than a year old crying and screaming for most of the trip. No matter what her mother did, she as inconsolable. Very little sleep was had. The second (Minneapolis to LGA) featured a beautifully dressed older woman as my seatmate who it became clear about a half hour into the flight was suffering from some sort of memory loss. She'd have the same conversation and ask the same questions over and over again. Her husband was sitting four rows behind us. She was very sweet, obviously of good and kind heart, but clearly unaware that she wasn't fully with it--and obviously wanted to be social. After I realized that I wouldn't get any sleep on this leg of the trip either, I decided to try to help out as much as I could and gamely participated in the conversation she obviously wanted to have. At the end of the flight, she pointed out her husband to me, who gave me a look that meant he understood and appreciated my help. I don't know whether they had failed to choose their seats when they purchased their plane tickets and thus gotten separated, or if he had deliberately taken the opportunity for a little respite from what must be a tough caretaker role, but his expression suggested he knew it had probably not been the flight I'd hoped to have. I helped her get her coat and the right bag and made sure they connected before I took off. So sleep wasn't something I got much of on my red-eye flights.

My brother S picked me up from the airport, took me to lunch at a classic Long Island diner (which I loved), and then got me back to the house. My sister-in-law M, niece V and I caught up, we eventually had dinner, and then V and I made Christmas cookies. Doing this without a rolling pin and with dough that wasn't as cold as it should have been was entertaining. When we were done, I helped her study for her science test, introducing her to the idea of mnemonics and suggesting that rather than just memorizing words she look up pictures and definitions. It helped. This morning, M and I are going out for breakfast and then a little last minute holiday shopping.

The weather is incredibly mild; I may have brought clothes too warm for the trip. It's in the 40s here, with a promise of no precipitation until Saturday, I believe.

M and S recently bought a new house in the same development they've been living in for several years now. They wanted a larger unit, given that V is now a teenager. The new house is still a work in progress--but the progress they have made has been impressive, with some new appliances and a new tiled backsplash in the kitchen that my brother installed himself; it's gorgeous. It looks like a contractor did it. V's room is complete in beachy blues and whites. They had new lights installed in the living room, and opened up the kitchen a bit so that they've now got a breakfast bar and the space feels very open and social. So the place is at least ready enough for the 14 family members coming over on Christmas day.

I'm generally feeling good and have laughed a LOT, which is something I've really been needing. Also, everyone is very huggy and loving, and that's been healing. It's especially been satisfying to be around my brother, whom I know so well and who knows me so well that the jokes and the glances come fast and furious and communication is at once very verbal and almost completely nonverbal at the same time. I have that with very few people in my life and it's a gift. It's also been satisfying and validating to be with my niece, for whom I'm apparently the cool aunt.

I'm staying in what they call the play room, which is a third bedroom that V uses for hanging out and socializing with friends. The futon has a memory-foam mattress and soft covers and is tolerably comfortable. V has her own Christmas tree in here with a little nativity scene at the base, situated right next to an exercise machine. In the dark, the thing looks like an antlered demon looming over the bed. It freaked me out when I woke up halfway through the night.

It's time for me to get up now, and get the day started. I'm trying not to be self conscious about the weight I've gained and the hair I've lost; it's hard. These things will be resolved in time, one way or another. I've got to be here now and not let them get in the way. I love my family. They love me. And I'm going to bask in every moment of that for as long as I can.

FAQs:
Will you be coming into the city while you're here?

Sadly, no. Much as I'd like to, I don't have the time or the transportation required.
Doesn't that make you crazy? You have friends there, and there's theater and museums and and and . . .
Yes. Please don't rub it in. :: sigh ::
What about the friends in Nassau?
Again no time or transportation. You're killing me here.
Do you sound like you're from Long Island again?
Yep. That didn't take very long at all. It's my sister-in-law's fault. We'll have cawfee and tawk.
scarlettina: (Christmas ornament)
It's clearly holiday time because All the Gatherings are gathering.

On Friday night, I kept a promise to see SL play with her band, Vixy & Tony at the Wayward Coffeehouse. It was their new CD release party. They played two sets, a combination of original music, covers, and filks. (It's the first time I've ever heard a mash-up of the Mahnah Mahnah Song and Kashmir--and probably the last! It worked way better than it had any right to. It takes a special kind of genius to come up with that.) I had the pleasure of seeing [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus, along with LS, AH and a number of others. The show was great, a lot of fun, and certainly the most purely fannish thing I've done in months.

Saturday was Productive Day: chores around the house and holiday shopping (of which I've done nearly none this year, but more on that in a moment). Saturday evening was NK's annual holiday party. Usually the agenda is chat, hors d'hoevres, drinks and charades. Two of the guests rebelled against charades, which has been a staple of the party for years. They proposed a different game, which never got played. NK was somewhat dismayed, but in the end, a good time was had by all and I was glad to be there.

Sunday was about getting more chores done. Gifts were completed and wrapped, and I attended [livejournal.com profile] varina8's annual holiday gathering. It was smaller this year due to V's slimming the list and people being unwell. It was good to see her C; given his ongoing illness, he was actually looking good, and was in fine spirits and good form. And of course it's always a delight to spend an evening with the usual suspects: EB, [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden and her C, [livejournal.com profile] mimerki and [livejournal.com profile] butterflydrming. I was glad for a quieter get-together. After the weekend--and the year, frankly--it was a welcome thing.

Regarding holiday shopping: there's been almost none this year. Finances are tight right now as I continue to pay off medical bills. I also spent quite a bit preparing for the company craft fair. I probably broke even there, but still have plenty of stock should I decide to indulge in such madness again. I suppose I ought to write about that experience at some point. But I digress.

In any case, the second half of the year has been at least as expensive as the first. The first half of the year's costs involved travel and bathroom renovation; the second my hospital stay. I've promised myself some serious financial discipline for the first few month of the new year to try to repair the financial damage. We'll see how it goes.

And now, on to the work week....
scarlettina: (Snowflake 2)
Baby, it's cold outside It's finally feeling like winter. Am I celebrating? No. It's just . . . well, it's December and it's finally cold. Reality is catching up with the conceptual template of our calendar. I may not have enough warm clothes of the proper size to wear this season. I really do need to clean up the bedroom, shop in my closet and see what's what.

Only crazy people travel at Christmas time In a nod to my emotional needs, I've gotten plane tickets to visit the family for Christmas and Chanukah despite my dislike for traveling at this time of year (with all the amateurs) and despite the fact that I shouldn't be spending such money when I'm still paying off August's medical adventure. Given that my brother and sister-in-law have made the typical Long Island marriage (he's Jewish, she's Italian), we'll be celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas, and we'll be doing much of it with her big Italian family. It should be fun, and I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone.

If you don't fit the work, make the work fit you I've started to do informational interviews at the day job to understand what my career movement options are in-house before I start looking elsewhere. It has been suggested that I have the chops for (watch out: technical jargon ahead) product owner, program manager or business analyst. Business analyst is beginning to appeal to the part of me that enjoys taking things apart, understanding them and putting them back together again in more efficient, effective ways (not unlike book editing). More research to do on this front, but it's helping to alleviate the dissatisfaction and frustration I've been feeling at the day job.

Color my world Painting group was last night and I think I may have said everything I wanted to say on the canvas I was working on. I've asked the instructor to get me another canvas to work on. I'm not going to start on the new one until I look at the current work one last time to make sure I'm really done with it. I tried some new materials and techniques last night (working with a high-flow paint that feathers beautifully when squirted with water) and want to see how it all dries and resolves. Things are sparking in my head, and I'm liking the sensation.

Gemstone jam I may or may not have mentioned here that I'm going to be a vendor at the company holiday craft fair. I'm generating jewelry, but it's going more slowly than I need it to, and the fair is barreling down upon me. It has occurred to me that I've spent a lot of time making elaborately pretty things, but I need to make some really simple things that will be less expensive. Tonight I need to put together some simple, easy pendants. But this means going over to Fusion Beads to spend money on chain and cord. :: sigh :: I'll never make back the money I'm spending on this experiment. It's a worthy experiment but it's a costly one.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Star)
Tonight is Kol Nidre, the holiest night in the Jewish calendar, the night that begins Yom Kippur--the Day of Atonement. I am not at synagogue tonight and won't be tomorrow because I didn't plan properly. I had dinner around sunset; technically my fast has begun. And so I'm thinking hard about trespasses and forgiveness. And other stuff.

I recently had a devastating falling out with someone I love. The trespass was his; it's been hard for me to get over it, more so as I learned of its magnitude. I'm mourning what we had, what I lost. He keeps apologizing. I've been thinking hard about those apologies and what I've come to is that there's apologizing, and there's asking for forgiveness, and they're two very different things.

An apology is an expression of regret: I'm sorry I did thing X. I have acknowledged the apologies. I understand that he regrets what he did.

There has been no request for forgiveness. I looked up the word in the dictionary to be sure I understood its technical meaning. Merriam-Webster's says that to forgive means:

to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone) : to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong) : to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed).

I'm still angry. I still feel betrayed. I still hurt so much. Mostly what I am, though, is sad. Disappointed. Bewildered. Exhausted. Every time I think about the trespasses committed, I get upset all over again. He hasn't asked for forgiveness; perhaps he believes that my response is justified. I certainly do. I don't know how to let it go, perhaps because I know that some of the circumstances that precipitated the trespasses haven't changed and most likely won't. I don't know what to trust anymore. I miss him terribly. But I know that I'll never be comfortable with the new state of affairs he has created. I don't need another source of pain.

On Yom Kippur, we are supposed to admit our trespasses and ask for forgiveness: of G-d, of ourselves, and of others. We are supposed to make a clean start to the new year. Make a clean slate.

I have been vain. I have been selfish and inconsiderate. I have been covetous and jealous. I've been impatient and unkind. I have been angry and hostile. I admit all these things and I do regret them. I ask G-d and the people I love to forgive me of those things.

Am I worthy of forgiveness if I can't find it in my heart to forgive someone else? I don't know. I'm not perfect; I don't expect others to be. I suspect that G-d doesn't expect me to be perfect either. But there are some things I do know: I deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. I hope that those I love will give what they've received in turn. I deserve to be a priority -- someday, I hope, someone's first priority, though I know that such particular prayers sometimes just never get answered. Sometimes the answer is "no."

When I was a little girl, a Hebrew school teacher told me that she'd seen her father cry in synagogue every year on Yom Kippur. She said that he stood in fear of G-d as he asked forgiveness. As an adult, I've stood in synagogue on Yom Kippur and wept, mostly in regret for things I've done. The first time it happened, it surprised the hell out of me, but I couldn't stop, and didn't, for more than an hour. I asked for forgiveness. I promised to strive to do better. At the time, I didn't know if I was promising G-d or myself. In retrospect, I think I was promising myself by way of G-d. One way or another, it was cathartic, and I suspect that Yom Kippur, in part, is intended to be a catharsis. It's sacred time set aside for reflection and resolution.

So tonight I reflect. Perhaps resolution will come tomorrow. Maybe forgiveness will come. For myself, I hope. But if I am to hope for forgiveness for myself, it's only just to try to find my way to forgiveness for him. I don't know when or how that will happen. Or even if it will. If nothing else, I need to find my way there for myself, because carrying all this anger and resentment can only be self-destructive. Maybe it's just too soon. I'm still so raw; I feel like I'm just one big gaping wound. Forgiveness doesn't just happen and it can't be forced. So if I ask tonight for forgiveness for myself, then perhaps I'm also asking for the time and strength and healing to find it for another. Some day.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Cartoon Menorah)
Several friends have mentioned to me this week that they had attended Chanukah parties. These friends are all far away. No one locally is having Chanukah parties; such a small percentage of my local friends are Jewish, and most of them are involved with their families. No parties were in the offing. So yesterday, as is so often the case when I want to have a Thing, I decided to have a Chanukah/latke party this afternoon for myself, which is what I did.

I invited about 10 people over, only one of whom is actually a member of the tribe (that being my most fine and precious [livejournal.com profile] suricattus). She brought delicious home-made apple sauce. EB and CH brought Martinelli's Sparkling Cider. [livejournal.com profile] varina8 brought veggies and hummus. I made and served many latkes. I lit my chanukiah. I read everyone a charming little picture book called "The Hanukkah Mice." And I enjoyed the company of my friends. It was a goodness.

Janna reading The Hanukkah Mice

And now the house is quiet and still, and smells like latkes. It was quiet and still before the party and I felt terribly lonely. I don't quite feel that way now, but I'm not ready to go to bed. Perhaps I'll read for a while and then hit the sack. I hope the kitties come to sleep with me. It's always better when they're both there.

Mother's Day

Sun, May. 11th, 2014 11:49 am
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
So . . . it's Mother's Day in the US. For those of us who lost their mothers young, it's always a tough day. I miss my mom. I was angry at her for years -- when she got sick, when she died. I was angry at her for how she dealt with my father's death, but that's mainly because at 11 years old, I didn't truly understand what she was mourning, and I was busy mourning, too. When I lived back east, Mothers' Day was the day I went to the cemetery. Fathers' Day, too. I had a lot of residual anger at my mom that I've worked my whole adult life to process and, somewhere around 10 years ago or so, it seems to have just evaporated. I'm sure that this was the result of a lot of years of therapy but, more importantly, I'm sure it was also the result of just getting older, accumulating more experience, thinking and processing everything that happened, and then letting go of the things I had no control over back then and things I'll never be able to change. This is part of the process of growing up, maturing -- in one fashion or another. I can love her for who she was and all that she brought with her. I can love her for what she tried to do and for what she succeeded in doing. I can love her for making me and my brother. I can love her.

I always wanted to be a mother. I very much wanted to have children. I think I've written about this here before: that I wanted to have a family, but I didn't want to do it alone. I considered single motherhood. I wrote up a list of the friends I thought I'd ask about donating sperm, though I never floated the suggestion with any of them. (My list today would be significantly different than it was back then, with one key exception.) But in the end, doing it with a partner was key, and I never quite managed to find that partner. (Not saying it won't happen, but the childbearing aspect is pretty much a non-starter at this point.) And so there are no children. It still makes me sad. And I still find myself thinking things like, "When I have a daughter . . ." I can't seem to break the habit.

On Facebook today, I've seen people saying things like:
  • "And for all women who chose not to be moms: you made a valid choice that was right for you."

  • "My deepest love and respect to any who have accepted that extraordinary challenge; to all who seek to do so; and to all who made the equally righteous choice to leave motherhood to others for one reason or another."

  • "So, happy Mothers' Day to all you women out there; chances are that, even if you haven't mothered a human child, you've mothered a cat or a puppy or a friend in need. Cheers, all of you, all of us."

I find these posts enormously comforting. I made my choice for the right reasons, even though they were hard reasons. But they were the right ones; of this I am certain. It's a balm to me to see acknowledgment of those choices as valid and worthy.

And you know, if that last quote has any bearing at all, then for Flatbush, Merlin, Spanky, Sophie and Ezekiel, I've been a mother -- mother enough at any rate. And if it's not too self-aggrandizing to say so, I think maybe I've been a mother to a friend every now and then.

I'll take that, for what it's worth.

Thanksgivukkah 2

Fri, Nov. 29th, 2013 08:47 am
scarlettina: (Jewish: Little Dreidel)
Had a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving with J&KG at their place with the usual suspects and with the usual fantastic feast--turkey by our hosts, sides and desserts by the guests. I contributed my apple-crusted sweet-potato casserole, but the traditional turkey was also accompanied by mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, two kinds of dressing, mushrooms, green beans, delicious dinner rolls, salad, and several kinds of wine. Dessert was cheesecake, pumpkin pie and apple pie (I had only the apple; I was thoroughly well fed); vanilla bean ice cream was available as a pi accompaniment. And more wine because . . . wine. Conversation was excellent as always, the most contentious subject perhaps having been opinions about the quality of Star Trek: Into Darkness. I love my friends and so I will not judge them by their taste in this matter. :-)

Today's pledge of rededication is a promise to myself to take better care of myself. I have let my vigilance about food and exercise slip (evidence of which is already becoming clear to me). Other kinds of self care must become a priority as well: dental care, vision care. If I am to be a good friend, sibling, companion to my cats, I must attend to myself so that I can be present and available for everyone else.

Thanksgivukkah

Thu, Nov. 28th, 2013 08:49 am
scarlettina: (Jewish: Dreidels)
Good morning and a happy Thanksgivukkah to you all! Yep, this year, Thanksgiving and Chanukah fall at the same time. Chanukah is weirdly early this year, and it's causing all sorts of timey-wimey dysfunction for me. It means I am both thankful and reflective at the same time.

Giving thanks
I am thankful for my family, my beloved circle of close friends, my extended family and friends across the country and even around the world at this point. I am grateful for my Sophie and Ezekiel, my four-footed sources of joy, exasperation and cuddles. I am thankful for the brains, skills and courage that have given me the life I have, and I'm grateful for the rights and freedoms provided by this country that allow me to have that life at all. I am grateful for my health, for love, for sweet potatoes, for hot chocolate laced with hazelnut, for my mother's brisket recipe, for books and balcony gardening (and the vegetations begotten of same), for art and travel and long walks in pretty places. For, you know, life.

Rededication
A friend over on Facebook, who is a teacher, wrote the following a couple of days ago:

I would like to propose "The Eight Days of Re-dedication". Hanukkah is about the re-dedication of the Holy Temple after it was defiled by the Greeks. Thanksgiving is about being grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives.

I don't know about you but I am often guilty of not dedicating enough time, energy, resources, thought to the people, interests, causes or places that make me the most grateful. I would like to propose that for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah we each promise to re-dedicate ourselves to something for which we are grateful but that we know we don't value quite enough right now. I will be posting my eight areas of re-dedication during Hanukkah.


Last night she wrote: Happy first night of Hanukkah. Tonight I rededicate myself to making staying in touch with my family a priority. Three time zones and busy lives are no excuse.

I couldn't say it better myself. With my brother, sister-in-law and niece, I am pretty good about it. With newly reconnected family, I now have a wider circle to keep in touch with regularly, so my first pledge of rededication for the holiday is to stay in touch with the family I thought I'd lost forever.

And now I must dedicate myself to starting my day and cooking for today's feast. My goodness, I have work to do!

To everyone, I say, "Good Gobbletov!"
scarlettina: (Five)
1) I have a long list of books about which I want to post capsule reviews. Suspect this won't happen until the long weekend.

2) How can Chanukah be starting tomorrow night? It's not even December yet! On the upside, I got my brother's holiday gifts out the door early enough to be there for him as the days tick by.

3) The last two mornings, the fog locally has been so thick that visibility has been less than a block. As I look out the balcony door, I can see as far as the cabin behind a house two doors down. Beyond that, the fog casts a white blanket over the neighborhood so thick that Cthulu might sleep just beyond its edge and I'd never know.

4) I yearn for the long weekend. With our annual Thanksgiving feast in Kent on Thursday, some crafty plans for Friday and no plans at all for Saturday and Sunday, I want very much to Be There already.

5) I have this seed of an idea for a post on belief in God, spurred partly by [livejournal.com profile] jaylake's musings on the difference between faith and science, and the questions each answers, but I have to get dressed so I can catch the 8:30ish bus. Oh dear, how the time flies!
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
Apparently I celebrate all holidays the same way: Chinese food and a movie.

In what has become an annual July 4th tradition, [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden picked me up and we met a group of friends at Jumbo's for dim sum. The food was delicious and the group was, as ever, congenial, funny, and full of good feeling. I made a date with some of the folks there for an evening at Banya 5 spa later next week. We had an excellent time.

Celebrating my independence from work for the day, when I got home I read the internets, played with the cats, and took a nap.

I then woke up, got on a bus, and headed over to meet [livejournal.com profile] varina8 for a burger and a viewing of The Audience at SIFF. Helen Mirren really is a national treasure of the British theater. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth is just marvelous and the script is wonderful. If you have an opportunity to see this film of the stage production, I highly recommend it.

I got home about a half hour before the fireworks at Lake Union got started, and stayed indoors to be with the kitties. For those of you who don't know, Lake Union is four blocks from my house, and the Lake Union show is the big, municipal celebration. It always sounds like there's combat going on in the streets outside my building. It was Zeke's first Independence Day, and I had no idea how he'd deal with the noise. Well, he didn't like it very much at all. He huddled under the bed, growling. Sophie cuddled up on the bed with me. We all survived and are fine this morning. I'm glad the fireworks are only once a year.

Now, don't get me wrong: I love fireworks--but my kitties don't, and since they have no understanding of what's going on, I feel like I should be here, that maybe it will make them feel safer. I don't know that it does (see above re: Zeke's behavior) but we do what we can. There will always be other opportunities to see fireworks. In the meanwhile, things at Boom Boom Central have quieted down and we can now get back to the business of watching birds from the balcony, harassing me for food, doing gravity experiments and, in general, being cats and living with cats again.
scarlettina: (Christmas ornament)
1) Had a really great holiday weekend. Attended [livejournal.com profile] varina8's Post-Apocalyptic Solstice Gathering. Had delicious dim sum on the day before Christmas with a group of friends at Jade Garden in the International District and then saw Life of Pi with [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus. And then had dinner on Christmas Day with [livejournal.com profile] grubbstreet, his lovely bride, and a cast of delightful irregular regulars. I feel as though we rang this holiday weekend for all it was worth.

2) Having observed the traditional practice of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas, I am delighted to learn that "a lost Talmudic tractate has been discovered that answers age-old rabbinic questions about the appropriate way for Jews to fully accomplish the obligations associated with eating Chinese food on December 24th/25th." In something of a rare occurrence, I have, for once, correctly practiced a mitzvah, according to the rabbis. I await the discovery of the Tractate Cinema to be sure that I've accomplished both mitzvot appropriately.

3) I am down to the last two calendar pages in my Moleskine calendar notebook for the year. They are remarkably blank. I don't know whether to make a point to fill them up or to keep them blank to ensure some quiet time for reading, cleaning, and contemplation, all of which I'd like to have. I look to next year's notebook with anticipation, all clean and pristine, yet unblemished by a year's worth of jostling about in my pocketbook and note-making in restaurants and coffee shops, among other things.

4) Life of Pi was an absolutely beautiful movie. Visually it was just stunning and the story, with its twist ending, is remarkable. While I don't think anyone is going to be nominated for an acting Oscar, I wouldn't be surprised to see a raft of technical award nominations for the film. Ang Lee has created something quite special and used 3D in the best possible way. I enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

5) There's still a whole list of movies I want to see. Let's see: Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Argo, Flight, Hitchcock, Anna Karenina, The Sessions, Chasing Ice. I've already seen Skyfall which I thought was one of the best Bond films we've had in a while, Lincoln which was remarkable and which I may have to see again, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey which was overlong, self-indulgent and yet still entertaining and well worth seeing (though I don't expect to see it again in the theater even though Richard Armitage alone is worth spending the money to see). Previews and Streisand made me want to see The Guilt Trip for its sheer ridiculousness, but given its Rotten Tomatoes rating, I don't think I'll be able to make myself do it. I'm also trying to find a way to make myself find Silver Linings Playbook more appealing since it's getting all sorts of Oscar buzz, but I haven't been successful so far. It has been suggested that I see Holy Motors; I need to learn more about it first.

Plus one: Rest in peace, Mr. Jack Klugman. I grew up watching "The Odd Couple" on television, with Klugman's joyously schlubby presence the perfect foil for Tony Randall's fuss-budget persnicketiness. I grew to really respect him not for his comedy but for the humanity he brought to his dramatic roles. He was a terrific actor and I loved watching him whenever the chance presented itself. Thanks for hours of entertainment, Mr. Klugman, as well as for your activist work connected to the Orphan Drug Act. You made a difference in the world, an admirable legacy indeed.
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
And so the Great Feast is over and the long weekend began. I celebrated Turkey Day by eating the bird with [livejournal.com profile] grubbstreet, his lovely bride, and the usual cast of witty and brilliant companions to be found at the House of Grubb. The menu was extensive featuring, among other things, the time-tested and company approved, world-famous rumaki appetizers, the beloved brined bird, two different kinds of stuffing, a corn souffle that couldn't be beat, my (or perhaps I should say Weight Watchers') apple-topped sweet potato casserole, potatoes of the mashed kind, green beans, sauteed mushrooms with onions, lots of wine, and for dessert, two different apple pies, two different pumpkin pies, and a pumpkin cheesecake. The company was excellent, the food quite fine--overall a lovely way to spend the holiday.

I spent the better part of yesterday doing a teeny bit of shopping and not much else--though I did go to see Skyfall with [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus. For my money, it's the best Bond we've had in a while: character driven, relying on action just enough, great turns by Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, and Albert Finney, who is unfailingly delicious in just about everything he does. A friend over on Facebook complained that she thinks Craig is too ugly for the role and that she can't connect to him. I disagree. I mean, if she can't connect to him, that's her problem, but I think Craig is beautiful in his craggy way, and I also think that his look is part of the point of this new interpretation of Bond: this guy has seen some mileage and lived to tell the tale. It's also nice to have a Bond who's handsome to look at from the neck down, too. Bond films are famous for their beautiful women. Bond himself has always been slim and handsome, but we rarely got to see much of him outside his tux, and what we usually saw, for the above-average face, was an average body at best. Craig is buff and beautiful to behold without his shirt on. But more important to me than the looks is the fact that this film tells a coherent story driven by who these people are and the things they care about most. (And the action? Pretty great, with some over-the-top sequences on rooftops, bridges, and underground where perils of the urban kind await our trusty, craggy hero.) Bond films are rarely so substantial and, for my money, that's the best thing about Skyfall.

The Scrubbing

Fri, Nov. 23rd, 2012 08:20 am
scarlettina: (Fork You Back)
In a world where turkeys are massacred once a year to satiate the appetites of millions . . . where pots, pans, and implements of preparation rend the flesh that those millions will consume, the greatest horror yet waits in the night.

When morning comes in the wake of the Great Consumption, those millions awake to the final devastation: kitchens everywhere . . . piled with cookery yet unclean. They prepare themselves, resolutely strapping on aprons and approaching their sinks with mouths set and shoulders squared to face . . . The Scrubbing.


This, my friends, is the morning that awaits me. I don't actually have a lot to scrub, as I washed up the remains of the dish I prepared yesterday, but I left one or two things to soak overnight. It shouldn't be that bad. Nevertheless, I too will resolutely strap on my apron because, on the morning after, the price must be paid.)
scarlettina: (Autumn)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Because we are a post-TV generation, our traditions are, perhaps, different than our parents', but that makes them no less precious. We must enjoy the full range of holiday cheer. To this end, I offer an incomplete but entertaining collection of Thanksgiving entertainments--my favorites, anyway:

WKRP in Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away!" The complete episode from Hulu. "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!" With, among others, the astonishingly hot Gary Sandy and the unspeakably cool Howard Hesseman. (As a post-script, a friend pointed me at this oral history of the origin not only of the episode but of the show. Wonderful stuff.)

Friends: The One with All the Thanksgivings: This is but a clip from a flashback episode of the show, in which Monica's trying to cheer up Chandler. It may be one of the weirdest stunts I've ever seen in situation comedy--I can't help admiring Courtney Cox for being game enough to do this thing--but it never fails to entertain. The quality of the video isn't great, but it's still worth watching for the fez and the dancing turkey wings.

Alice's Restaurant, 40 years and counting. I know that [livejournal.com profile] kradical prefers the original version, but I dig the one at my first link because Arlo makes some great side comments--just a couple--about it being, well, 40 years from when the incident occurs. Time passes for us all, but this song remains a classic.

Happy Turkey Day!
scarlettina: (Rainy Day)
...and when I say "rainy," I mean torrential downpour. It's been raining hard and steadily for the hour that I've been awake. There is little less encouraging for the freeway commuter than hard-falling rain.

I was supposed to be productive this weekend. Mostly what I was, when I wasn't being the steward of a feline or sociably engaged, was vegetative. I just couldn't wrap my head around the many things that I need to get done. I also had a holiday anxiety attack, in that Chanukah starts far sooner than usual, and I'm nowhere near done with Chanukah shopping, mainly for my brother. I ran out last night and got a little done; more to be done today after work.

This year, with its trauma and grief and, yes, wonder and delights, has flown. I'm still not ready for the holidays--and yet Thanksgiving is Thursday. Gee.
scarlettina: (Default)
This morning in his link salad, [livejournal.com profile] jaylake included a link to a National Geographic piece about language loss, a magnificent photo essay/slide show showing people who speak vanishing languages, including words from those languages. Most of the languages shown are Native American, though they are certainly not the only languages we are losing in the world. I'd encourage you to look at it because, really, the portraits are extraordinary and the effect of seeing these people and sampling their words is quite moving.

Looking at the words and images reminded me of my first, extraordinary Passover here in Seattle. I was working at Wizards of the Coast and was invited to seder at the home of a coworker. Her parents were Greek immigrants, and so I knew that I would be attending my first-ever seder in the Sephardic tradition. I figured that the foods would be different from what I'd grown up with as an Ashkenazic Jew. What I hadn't expected was to hear an entirely new language--and providing the same experience myself, though unaware that I would be doing so. My coworker's parents spoke Greek and Ladino, a mixture of Spanish and Hebrew, much as Yiddish is a mix of German and Hebrew, a language that has been designated in danger of extinction. It was beautiful and musical, and I was completely enthralled listening to it. It sounded a little like Portuguese, and a lot unfamiliar; I couldn't get enough of hearing it. What I didn't expect was how delighted her parents were that I could say prayers and read in Hebrew. They asked if I wanted to make one of the blessings that night or, well, pretty much anything I wanted to. They wanted to hear me read and speak Hebrew*, as they'd never heard it before, even in synagogue (where, apparently, Ladino was the primary language). I was surprised, delighted, and a little humbled, to do so; I felt like it was nothing compared to listening to their beautiful Ladino and was not nearly as important or impressive--but these experiences are in the ear of the listener, aren't they? We did the seder in four languages that night: Greek, Hebrew, Ladino, and English, and to this day it's one of my most precious holiday memories.

That memory brought on another: of seeing a documentary about the "homeland" that Stalin tried to establish for Russia's Jews in the southeastern portion of the country. The one thing I remember most clearly about seeing that film was a moment of pure, almost instinctive memory. One scene shows a group of seniors singing a Yiddish folksong, Tumbalalaika. I hadn't heard that song in . . . well, probably since I was too small to really remember it consciously, but as soon as they began to sing, I remembered it, and it was a revelation, uncovering something that had been buried for decades--and I could sing along! I didn't sing out loud, of course; in a crowded theater that would have been rude. But I sat there and quietly mouthed the words for as long as the scene lasted. And I still remember it today, a waltzing melody that is sweet and a little sad.

So here I am this morning, hopping through this chain of language and memory. I think that music is as powerful a memory trigger as scent is, at least for me, and for me, language and music have always been closely tied. Which all brings me back to the thing that provoked this post, because I can't help but mourn the loss of the music that's disappearing right in front of us as we lose a language once every fourteen days. On the one hand, with globalization and colonization and forced assimilation, it was bound to occur. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, with things like the Endangered Languages project, which works to preserve languages in danger of extinction. I hope that Yiddish and Ladino will both be preserved and survive. Like so many of the languages profiled in the National Geographic slide show, it's not just a language that will be lost, but a rich culture and heritage, traditions and practices, that we'll never see again.


* It should be noted that my Hebrew is the product of early training and that what comes out of me is either done from memory or read phonetically. Though I have basics, as any good Hebrew school student might, I can't translate or speak it in any meaningful way without significant brush-up.
scarlettina: (Independence Day)
The revolution will be tweeted (via [livejournal.com profile] suricattus)

There's always one. What happens when you fire a gun near fireworks? The Kitsap Peninsula here in Washington state got an early fireworks show. Not quite Darwin-awards level of stupid but damn close.

USA.gov offers some fun facts about the Fourth of July.

Must poke around my closet this morning to see if I have anything to wear that is chromatically appropriate for the day. (This is a long tradition of mine. I look good in red, white, and blue, and I believe I still have star-shaped silver earrings.) Must also run errands (oooh--groceries!). A lunch engagement and a game day are on the docket, with the possible addition of fireworks since, you know, they blow things up only a few blocks from my house every year. Seems silly not to go out and enjoy it.

Happy Independence Day!
scarlettina: (Jewish: Ceramic dreidel)
More than twenty years ago, my mother gifted my brother with my father's college ring. It was a special thing: a ring from Hunter College where my dad attended on the GI bill during the first year the school was coed. The ring was beautiful, with a lavender-colored stone, highly detailed, but made of metal a lot thinner than school rings are made of today. My brother appreciated it and wore it.

Then one day, while working on his very first car, he removed the ring, put it on the ground nearby . . . and forgot it was there. He rolled the car right over it and crushed it. By then, my mom had already passed away. I was furious with his carelessness. He wouldn't talk about it, but he kept the poor, crushed thing all these years.

About three months ago, unbeknownst to my brother (but beknownst to everyone else in his life) my sister-in-law absconded with the ring and took it to a place called something like the Jewelry Hospital. They took on the job of repairing the damage. Sis-in-law says that the jeweler said that he'd work on it for a few hours, start cursing, and step away, then go back to it again until he'd start cursing again, and so on. For three months. He went through four stones trying to replace the original. But he did it. He restored the ring. The ring came back to us wrapped in tissue paper in a pill bottle. It was gorgeous.

Sis-in-law gave it to my brother on Christmas morning. At first, he didn't look at the bottle carefully and thought she'd given him jewelry polish. We had to prod him a little to remove the tissue paper and unwrap it. When he finally saw what was inside, he cried. I nearly did myself. It was like we'd found a family member we'd thought we'd lost forever.
scarlettina: (Jewish: Cartoon Menorah)
It's all already becoming a blur, frankly. We've been going nonstop for two days, and I barely know where I am. Here are the things that are currently standing out in my memory.

According to my sister-in-law, before my visit, my eight-year-old niece wasn't counting down to Christmas; she was counting down to the day I arrived. Apparently she's more excited by me than her other two aunts. I think it's because I'm far away, I send her stuff, and she doesn't get to see me often. My brother and sister-in-law think it's because when I'm here, I actually pay attention to her. Could be. Also, I'm silly. This also seems to be true of her cousins, all of whom were excited to see me, and all of whom called me "Aunt [livejournal.com profile] scarlettina." It's nice.

At Christmas eve dinner:
I bring out the apple-crusted sweet potato casserole.
Guest: Wow, that looks great!
Janna: I slaved over it.
Guest: Hey, give me some of the Slave Casserole!
And for the rest of the night (and probably forever), my sweet and delicious side dish was and will be known as Slave Casserole.

Also? The lamb roast I made was a huge hit.

The Slave Casserole calls for five pounds of sweet potatoes. In Seattle, you can get sweet potatoes that are practically a pound per potato. My brother came home from the grocery store with four sacks of fist-sized sweet potatoes that added up to five pounds. When I say that I slaved over that casserole, I wasn't kidding. You know what it's like to cook and scoop out five pounds of fist-sized potatoes? Holy cats!

My brother went on for about 20 minutes about the special crackers he'd gotten for serving the cheese before Christmas eve dinner. He finally brought them out. They were Soylent Green crackers. I smiled and chuckled--and he was vastly disappointed with my reaction. He thought I'd be hysterical. What he didn't know was that I'd bought him a tee shirt that said, "Soylent Green: Recycling is in Your Future." He understood when he saw the shirt. When I opened my first gift this morning, it was a box of Soylent Green Crackers. It was our Very Soylent Christmas.

I introduced my niece to Simon's Cat. She was tickled, as was my brother.

My sister-in-law, the pediatric speech pathologist and Mary Kay consultant, gave me a super-quick facial which, as it turned out, was a preview of some of my holiday gifts. Looks like I may become a Mary Kay regular for some of this stuff. Good bonding time with her, too, which I was pleased for.

On Christmas eve, my niece prepared cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, then she went to bed. My brother took the bowl of carrots, went out onto the patio, crunched on some of the carrots and scattered them around the yard. He took bites of the two cookies and spread some crumbs on the coffee table, then sipped the milk. This morning, my niece went to the coffee table, and then I "noticed" the carroty mess beyond the sliding doors. She went and looked outside and grinned from ear to ear.

Everyone has been impressed with my weight loss. It's been nice to get the extreme reaction, since no one here has seen me since last April. Feelin' good about that.

Lastly, I must remember to post in detail about my brother's very special Chanukah present. Can't forget that, because it brought a tear to everyone's eye this morning, but I'm too tired tonight to do the story justice. But . . . must remember.

And now . . . to bed.

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