rebecca_in_blue: (subtle sigh)
I had a pretty busy (and mostly fun) weekend here. On Friday night, our temple enjoyed the most wonderful Shabbat service with Marshall Klaven, our guest rabbi from the Institute of Southern Jewish Life. We also used him as an excuse to host the most delicious Shabbat dinner. There was brisket, kugel, challah, brownies, and Rebecca ate almost the entire saucer full of lemon slices that people were supposed to put in their ice water! I biked to services for the first time since last fall (I think it was the first time I'd biked all year, period -- it's been so darn cold!) and I can't wait until the weather is warm enough that I can do it regularly again.

Jacob (Sassy Jewish Grandfather #3) had set up a large screen in the social hall, and during dinner, we watched a compilation of clips of local news coverage of our temple from the '90s and early '00s. There were segments about our annual corn-beef sandwich sale and Hannukah latke dinner, among other things. I almost died laughing when I saw the hairstyle that one Sassy Jewish Grandmother wore during the '90s, and I saw the same hat stand and silverware holder in our social hall that we still have today! I wonder how old those things are? Also, right before services, one couple in our temple got officially engaged! He proposed to her right there in the temple, and every old Jewish lady in the place started bawling. It was a very special evening.

On Saturday, my mom and I saw Sassy Jewish Grandfather #1's latest play in a theater downtown. He's playing Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie, and he was so good. The play was a bit too sappy for my taste, though. Mom read the book and liked it, which I think was the only reason she agreed to go (she's not keen on meeting anyone from the temple). Practically the whole congregation was there, because none of us wanted to miss Rabbi Klaven's service and come on premiere night. I tried to hang around and talk to them after the play, but Mom was practically shoving me out the door.

And on Sunday, I got together with Briana again. Can you guess what we did? That's right, we walked the mall again. *sigh* She did seem less bored out of her skull than usual, though. I was just irked that every store seemed to be playing the Rihanna song "Diamonds." Ugh, I got so sick of it. Anyway, I'm hoping that later this month or next month, we can go to one of the Mardi Gras events around town. I just don't know.

From the mall, I went straight to the hospital (yeah, that was a change of scene) to spend the night with Mrs. S again. It was very stressful and exhausting. I collapsed into bed as soon as I got home, and stayed there until it was time to go to work. I hope she gets better soon, because I really don't want to spend the night there again, but I also don't think I could say no. I keep thinking that as hard as it is for me to spend the night in that recliner, it has to be way worse for her elderly husband. Ugh.

But there is good stuff to look forward to this week -- tomorrow, another new episode of NCIS, and on Wednesday, going to the movies with Sara!!!
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
I don't think I've ever been so happy to have a Shabbat service over with as I was last night! I still can't quite believe that I actually conducted a decent service as lay leader at my temple. I wasn't planning on posting anything about it, but it was kinda a "Shehekianu" moment for me, so here are some notes.

Of course, the evening had some bumps in it. For perhaps the first time in the two years I've been attending this temple, I arrived there early to set up. Only to find the whole place was locked! Apparently I arrived too early, and beat even Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2, who has the keys. So I called him, told him to get his butt over there ("I just to kennel my dogs first") and waited in the dark courtyard for about ten minutes until he pulled up. Other bumps were that I made at least one mistake that I noticed (asked the congregation to stand up when they were supposed to sit down) and probably a few others that I didn't. Also, the bimah was freakin' sweltering! I'd never stood up there for very long before, and I don't know if it was me or the bright lights or how nervous I was, but I was sweating like a Baptist preacher! Ugh!

For the most part, I read straight from the siddur, without ever raising my head to look at everyone, lest I panic and clam up, but I did try to give it a few personal touches, too. In the space allotted for a sermon, I played Matisyahu's Hanukkah song "Miracle" from my iPod speaker, then I blathered incoherently about faith and miracles. I talked a little about the connection between the Maccabees and the Mi Chamocha before we sang the song, and before the Kaddish, in addition to the names on our yartzheit list, I read the names of a few Jewish sailors, soldiers, and Marines who were killed during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (An idea I got from summer camp, where they read the names of the Israeli athletes killed in Munich at the Shabbat service during the Olympics.)

To unwind from all that, Sara and I spent the evening at Mom's house, watching Star Trek episodes with Adam. Have you ever heard a funnier exchange than:
Picard: Good Lord, didn't anybody here build ships in bottles when they were boys?
Warf: I did not play with toys.
Data: I was never a boy.
O'Brien: I did, sir.
Picard: Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.

Tonight was the first night of Hanukkah, and I didn't do anything except light the first candle by myself. But I hope to open presents and maybe even try cooking latkes another night.

Happy Hanukkah!
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
I was off from work this weekend, and man, it was a pretty packed one. It kicked off on Friday evening, when our temple was treated to services by an amazing guest cantor, David Mintz. He's from New York, so afterwards, we took him out for a taste of traditional Louisiana cuisine... at the nearest Chinese restaurant. There have been group dinners at Chinese places after services before, but I always skipped them because I really don't like Chinese food. I only tagged along this time because Sassy Jewish Grandparents #1 literally blocked the door and wouldn't let me leave until I agreed to go (also because they gave me a ride and paid for my food). You know that cliche about how Jewish people love Chinese food? Yeah, it's real.

On Saturday, our city was holding two events downtown, an arts festival and a culture festival. Our temple had signed up to run tables at both! We've been planning and working on this for a long time, and I honestly thought the temple president and secretary must've lost their minds to sign us up. I was like, "We're a small congregation! We can't pull off something like this!" But I was wrong. We might be a small group, but our booth on Israel at the culture fest was by far the biggest one there. We had activities where visitors (we had about 300!) could see Israeli currency, listen to HaTikva (the Israeli national anthem), make a Haman hat, learn to write shalom in Hebrew or play dreidel, and we gave away little mini Israeli flags. The whole thing went so well, and I am so beyond proud of us for pulling it off.

I was working the booths for most of the day, but I managed to break away for part of the afternoon. I took Sarah (a girl in my congregation) around to all the other booths while her mom worked at ours. We each picked up a little pretend passport and got them signed or stamped at each country's table. So many countries were represented -- the local geneology library had a table on Germany and German immigrants to Louisiana, the French Club of a high school had two tables on France and Belgium, the martial arts school had one on China. We saw Chinese dragon dancers, Spanish flamenco dancers, and more! Sarah and I had so much fun.

Me and Sarah in the HUGE Haman hats we made out of newspaper

Today, Briana and I browsed in a Halloween store, then hit the mall -- the third time we've done this, but it's hard finding stuff that doesn't seem to bore her. It went pretty well, mostly because we bumped into a friend of Briana's family, who shopped with us (he was pretty fun and knew way more about fashion and shopping than I do) and bought us each a cookie from the Great American Cookie Company. Any situation that involves free food can be considered a win, right?

A stray cat showed up at our apartment tonight, and she immediately scarfed down an entire bowl of food, poor thing. The newcomer has been very calm and gentle -- there are some feral cats in our area, but she must be domestic, since she let me pet and hold her -- but Tovah and my sister are freakin' the hell out. Tovah's reaction I can understand, but not "You are so HATEFUL, Rebecca! [I'm also stupid, selfish, and don't care about Tovah at all.] How could you DO this to Tovah?! My poor baby is TRAUMATIZED FOR LIFE!"
rebecca_in_blue: (subtle sigh)
Everyone in my neck of the woods has been talking about Hurricane Isaac all week. It got a little ridiculous. Isaac was a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall on the other side of the state, and yet schools and businesses across the parish were closed for two days, and I even saw a few places with boarded-up windows, which made me roll my eyes so hard. For all that worrying, we had two days of 20-30-mile wind gusts, one day of rain, and our electricity flickered a bit -- a whole lotta nothin'. But I know I'm lucky to be able to say that. Other parts of the Gulf Coast got slammed hard.

Business has been slow because of the weather, and I've worked long, slooow days all this week. Ugh! This getting up early is really starting to wear on me. But Athena will be in town this weekend for Labor Day, and I'm hoping we can together and do something fun.

25 DAYS LEFT UNTIL SEASON 10 OF NCIS! And CBS just released a teaser promo, which you can see here. Have I mentioned that the premiere date, September 25, also happens to be Yom Kippur?! Why, oh why, couldn't they have chosen September 18? Why did they have to choose the highest High Holy Day in Judaism? Ugh! I had been looking forward to watching the premiere when it aired, but I'll just have to catch it online later because I really can't miss the Kol Nidre service. I recently had this conversation with Sassy Jewish Grandfather #1...

Me: Did you know the season premiere of NCIS is airing on Yom Kippur?
Michael: [nonchalantly] Well, you won't be able to watch it.
Me: [embarrassed] Actually, I've been thinking about skipping the service.
Michael: [horrified] Rebecca! It's Yom Kippur!
Me: But... it's Season 10 of NCIS!

(Don't worry, I'm not really going to skip services. I'm not that bad of a Jew. As much as I love NCIS, I know the Kol Nidre service is more important. I'm going to keep this countdown going, anyway.)

In other Jew news, they finally finished construction on R-street downtown, so biking to services tonight, I was able to take a new route that felt infinitely easier and shorter. Shehekianu! Shortly before I left, my sunglasses broke and while trying to glue them back together, I got glue all over my hands. So I spent most of my time picking glue off my fingers rather than looking at the siddur, but I still said all the responses. Finally Paul (Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2) turned to me and said, "Rebecca, how are you doing that? Do you have the whole book memorized or something?" Haha, hardly, but I've always had a good memory for text, and I've been saying the responses for +2 years now! Shabbat Shalom, y'all!
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Today, August 27, is the two-year anniversary of my first time attending services at the temple. In some ways, this day is more important to me than the anniversary of my conversion. I can't believe it's been two years already! For the first several services I attended there, I wrote detailed journal entries describing each one. Well, I reread those over the weekend, and I just about sat there with my mouth hanging open. I was amazed at how strange and unfamiliar so many parts of the services felt to me then, that have become comforting and familiar now.

After two years, I feel like the honeymoon is over, and what happened over the weekend kinda contributed to that. On Saturday morning, we had the first session of religious school for this school year, and it is not off to a great start. Rabbi W is a nice guy, but he can be so boring. I really think he has no memory of what it's like to be a kid, and no concept of what kids today find entertaining. I felt so bad for the kids, to the point that I'm thinking about e-mailing Rabbi W with more exciting lesson suggestions. I'm kinda paranoid about their faith becoming boring or burdensome to them. Maybe I'm taking this too seriously.

But after religious school, the grown-ups had Torah study, and that went even worse. We didn't talk about the torah portion for the week at all! Instead, Rabbi W passed out copies of an article about Iran trying to develop nuclear weapons, the threat it poses to Israel, and what America should do about it. I do think that's a topic we should care about, but I'm not sure Torah study is the right place to bring it up. We stayed off-topic from there, and things got very political and divisive. A sample of what was said:
  • "Well, Romney is very pro-Israel. Israel will have a friend in Romney." UGH! Don't even get me started on the whole idea of voting for an American president based on Israeli interests! Wtf?
  • "Obama has always been very pro-Muslim. I mean, just look at his middle name." Well, of course, if you're pro-Muslim, then you must hate Israel! The two are completely exclusive!
  • "But it says in Torah that all Jews are supposed to live in Israel." I was seriously tempted to get up in this woman's face and yell, "Well, I don't see you there!"
It got so bad I actually had to get up and leave. Ugh.

On Sunday afternoon, I played basketball with "Briana." (Sara said when I told her after, "But you don't play basketball!" Me: "Yes, we definitely established that.") During all of the previous stuff we've done together, Briana has been kinda shy and quiet, but I definitely saw another side of her come out playing basket ball. She was very competitive and even a little aggressive and braggy. She scored about 30 hoops to my 5. I couldn't have cared less about getting my butt kicked, but I could've done without her showing-off attitude. But she's just a kid, so I'm trying not to let it annoy me. We played basketball until we were sweaty and hot, then it stated raining right in time. The basketball court was covered, so we just got cool breezes and a little mist on our faces. It felt so good. Then we drove down the street to Burger King and got two 50-cent ice cream cones (yum!) and listened to the two girls behind the counter argue about the right way to dress a hamburger. They got so into it that we both cracked up. For the most part, it was a fun afternoon.

I guess I should a lesson about this from temple. It took several services there before it stopped feeling weird to me. And hopefully, I'll get better at religious school and doing stuff with Briana with time and practice, too. Fake it till you make it, Rebecca.

I wasn't planning on doing anything to celebrate this day, but, almost as if he knew it was my two-year templeversary, Sassy Jewish Grandfather #1 took me out for a drink at the coffee shop. (Cheryl & Maggie took me out on this day last year, which is back here.) He's also burning me a CD of songs our choir does at services. :) I might complain a lot, but deep down, I know I'm very blessed.

28 DAYS LEFT UNTIL SEASON 10 OF NCIS! Less than month to go, people!
rebecca_in_blue: (Default)
Shabbat services at temple tonight marked a very special occasion for me (and for Rabbi W, who is finally back in Louisiana after a trip to visit family in Israel, where he fell ill, had to be hospitalized, and worried the crap out of all of us). Today, August 10, is the one-year anniversary of my conversion to Judaism. My entry on that day is back here. It's hard to believe it's been a year already! A year ago, I never would've thought that I'd get roped into teaching Jewish Sunday School, or that I'd spend a week at a Jewish summer camp.

While I'm grateful to be Jewish and it has enriched my life in many ways, there are certain things I didn't know before I converted that I now wish I had.

More complicated thoughts under the cut. )

As an aside, I rode my bike to services tonight, which I haven't done in a while, and I'm a little embarrassed by how quickly I felt out-of-breath and exhausted. I really hope I can start bike-riding in earnest again once the weather is cooler. I pushed two little kids in my congregation (who will both be new students in religious school in the fall) around on my bike after services tonight, and they loved it.

rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)

Well, today was the day that I'd been both dreading and looking forward to. After a delicious breakfast of hot chocolate-chip scones in the dining hall this morning (I will miss having all of my meals prepared for me!), I finished packing, checked Muse Watson's tires, and went on my way. The trip back home was smooth, and I only had to make one stop outside Baton Rouge to eat, use a restroom, and buy gas. Muse Watson made good time, and I'm so proud of that cranky old car; I don't think either of us really believed he would make it safely there and back!

I am definitely happy to be home -- I missed Sara, Tovah, my hair straightener, my room, etc. -- but I was also sad to leave such a beautiful summer camp, even though my time there had some rough spots. I posted in my entry on the first day about how hard it was being there by myself, but really, it was hard the whole week through. I've always sucked at meeting people, and my week there was no exception. Still, there was a wonderful, welcoming, relaxed, safe atmosphere at camp that I can't really explain. I will miss the cool weather, the slow-paced summer days under the pine trees. I will miss the sense of a shared Jewish identity, which is something else I can't explain (and unless you're a minority, I don't think you can really understand). I'd never been in such a huge group of people who all knew how to sing the HaMotzi or the Birkat Hamazon. It blew my mind the first time everyone in the dining hall started singing it, and I hope I never forget that.

But what blows my mind more than anything else is knowing that at this time in 2010, just two years ago, I'd never even set foot in a Jewish house of worship. Seriously, never. I was still researching and learning about Judaism on my own, biking past the temple frequently, and trying to get up the nerve to walk through those doors. If you had told me then that in a year, I would officially convert, and within two years, I'd spend a week working at a Jewish summer camp -- would I have believed you? Probably not. Already, Judaism has become a bigger part of my life and my identity than I ever could've imagined. I hope I can remember to never totally lose faith in what might seem unlikely or even impossible.

I'll find my way home on the western wind
To a place that was once my world
Back from where I've been

And in the morning light, I'll remember
As the sun will rise
We are all the glowing embers of a distant fire

rebecca_in_blue: (pursed lips)
I can't believe it's the end of only my second full day at camp. The day here is long, busy, and active, so this morning's breakfast already feels like days ago! The Maccabiah Games wound down today. Team Yarok won, which surprised me because Team Adom won most of the contests that I was a judge for. I stayed busy doing administrative work for the office, mostly sorting mail, but I did have some free time. After dinner, Alan Goodis, a touring Jewish musician, gave a great outdoor concert that I just got back from. He sang "One Day," a song that a few different Jewish singers have covered (I have the Maccabeats' cover of it on my iPod) and I was amazed when everyone in the audience seemed to know it. Seriously, they sang along for every word!

Beautiful crepe myrtles are in bloom all over camp, including these right outside my room.

In fact, I've been amazed by many of the things I've seen here. Like at evening services, when the campers bow during the Baruchu, cover their faces during the Shema, and whisper the second line of it. Maybe it's because I wasn't raised Jewish, or maybe it's because I attend a temple where we don't usually do any of those things, but it blows my mind that kids as young as these campers do that when they pray. They also sing the Birkat Hamazon, the full version, after every meal here! I felt pretty stupid after my first meal in the dining hall, when everyone was singing it except me. I'm trying to learn it, but the Birkat Hamazon is a very long prayer and I'm not familiar with the melody.

This young woman leads the campers in all their songs/chants after every meal. She is so talented and looks and sings just like the camp's own personal Taylor Swift.

In short, I realize that I've been living in a very narrow Jewish world. I think this is understandable, since I only officially converted less than a year ago. And I've learned a lot during my first year as an official Jew, but here at camp, I see that there are still so many different ways of being Jewish and practicing Judaism for me to discover. I am so grateful to be here.

A portion of the mural on the wall of the dining hall. This photo does it no justice! The words at the top say, "If you will it, it is no dream. To be a free people in our land of Zion and Jerusalem..."

At his concert, Alan Goodis sang several Jewish songs (like a great catchy version of "Al Sh'losha D'varim") and a few secular ones -- a few by James Taylor and two by Warren Zevon. One was "Keep Me in Your Heart," which made me a little emotional because it was the song we played at Dad's funeral. The other one was "Don't Let Us Get Sick," and this verse especially struck me because it so perfectly fits this camp, the atmosphere here, and the lake at night. It almost made me wonder if Warren Zevon had ever been to this camp.

The moon has a face, and it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in time
I'm lucky to be here with someone like you
Who maketh my spirit to shine
Don't let us get sick, don't let us get old
Don't let us get stupid, all right
Just make us be brave and make us play nice
And let us be together tonight

Ken y'hi ratzon -- may this always be God's will.
rebecca_in_blue: (trembling hand)

Even though we had a large turnout and an oneg afterwards, there was a pretty sad feeling at services tonight. We had a farewell oneg for a family in our congregation that's moving to Texas. Our temple is so small that our congregation really feels like a family, and it can be hard when folks leave.

I am going to miss this family a lot. I celebrated Purim and Passover with them for two years in a row. Rachel so friendly and welcoming to me when I was new there. She was also the driving force behind the temple Sunday School. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it wouldn't have existed without all her hard work -- and her kids were half the school! I don't even want to think about how we're going to carry on without her. She got me involved in so many new things: she was the one who invited me to the conga-drum line and pushed me to get over my shyness, stand up, and recite all of the Who Knows One game during the Passover seder (which I did!). She gave us all home-grown cucumbers from her garden at the oneg -- I took two -- and I hope that with them, we'll get a little bit of her spirit and drive.

Another mom in our congregation will probably be moving away soon, too. Our temple is shrinking! I'm surprised none of my Jewish grandmothers have told me to marry their grandson and have four kids to replace the ones who'll be moving.

L'chi lach to a land that I will show you
L'chi lach to a place you do not know
L'chi lach, on your journey I will bless you
And you will be a blessing, l'chi lach

rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
A few notes on the week that was:

I have a recurring nightmare that I have to go back to high school because it turns out, I never actually graduated. I had it a few days ago, and I remember thinking in it, "I have to go back to high school? Seriously? This is what always happens in my nightmares, only now it's happening for real!" This time, though, I put on my hideous old uniform (plaid skirt and everything), along with my Star of David necklace and tefillin, which I never wear. I remember thinking, "Well, if I have to go back to Catholic high school, they're not sucking the Jew out of me!" It was very strange.

The ball of plarn I was making grew too big to fit under my bed, so I started crocheting it. It's slow going. I was never very good at crocheting, I'm very out-of-practice, and plarn is tougher to work with than yarn. We'll see what happens. I think I need to upgrade to a bigger crochet hook.

I've started watching Storage Wars with Sara. One of the guys on it, Barry, reminds me of my Sassy Jewish Grandfathers. Maybe he's somebody else's. And speaking of Jews...

Last Friday, I happened to wear my oldest, rattiest shirt to temple instead of a nice blouse (which is what I usually wear), and of course, the rabbi called on me to say the blessing over the candles. Ugh. I should've known. Which brings me to...

One of my goals for 2012 is to be a lay leader for services some time this year. (I'm thinking about July or August. My temple anniversary is in August, so that would be nice.) I know my Sassy Jewish Grandparents would help me with the Hebrew. I go every week, so I already know most of it pretty well -- the real problem of me is getting up in front of the whole congregation. I get nervous just saying the blessing over the candles! Ugh.

Has anybody else seen this trailer? Sara showed it to me last night. She loves exorcism movies, and this one has a Jewish spin to it -- and two child actresses. (She thought I could translate the Hebrew. As if.) I have to say, it looks pretty scary. We might have to rent it when it comes out.

rebecca_in_blue: (raised eyebrows)
It's kinda hard to believe, but this morning's religious school class was our last for this school year. We won't meet again until the fall. For as much as I griped about it, I got a little emotional when we all said goodbye. It's kinda like the fig tree we planted for Tu Bish'vat back in January, which has already grown noticeably and even has a few tiny green figs. The kids have grown and learned a lot this year, and (most miraculously) I've gotten better at teaching them.

It can be hard in such a tiny congregation in a city with so few Jews, and I imagine that goes double for the kids. I mean, just think of all the ways our culture mass-markets Christmas and Easter and shoves them in kids' faces. Think of how many Christians proselytize, advertise, and tell anyone who'll listen that they should worship Jesus. Yes, our lessons rarely went as planned and were often made up on the fly, but I hope our little religious school gave the kids some sense of Jewish identity, so their faith will not be burdensome or meaningless to them.

So, for our last class, we did a mitzah project. Everybody brought plastic shopping bags, and the kids cut them down and tied them into "plarn" (plastic yarn - they loved that word) that charity groups use to crochet into sleeping mats for the homeless. The kids were all very enthusiastic helpers and had fun. The balls of plarn might not look like a lot, but they were. The kids tied enough to wrap around the entire social hall and beyond!

"Everybody say plarn!" (These are only some of the kids.)

I know, I know, look at all those red eyes! Innocent victims of a horrible photographer with a bad camera. My Kodak seems to have finally died, and my GE is no good indoors -- or from a distance, or in motion, or at night! Ugh! Fortunately, the photo editing tools at Picasa are great (way better than Photobucket) and create decent photos, no matter how awful my originals are.

Kein Y'hi Ratzon -- may this always be God's will.
rebecca_in_blue: (Default)
I have a lot to blog about today -- even though I shouldn't be blogging at all, but packing! -- so I'll split it into two entries. Today is Yom HaShoah, and my city (for the first time) hosted an observance day for it. It was all planned mostly by folks from the temple, so I've been hearing about it long time. Unfortunately, Rabbi W couldn't be there -- he to attend a funeral in Baton Rouge -- and neither could Sassy Jewish Grandfather #1, who really spearheaded the whole event. So, the only religious leaders there were Christian ones, but fortunately, nothing offensive happened (it has before).

The first event was at a downtown exhibition center. It's a big, beautiful old building that used to be a school -- my aunt and uncles went there -- but during my lifetime it's always been a museum/theater. There were lots of photographs and artwork on display, some of them on loan from the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. (I've been there, and to ones in Houston and Paris. The one in DC was the most impressive.) My favorite part had to be the Episcopalian school student choir. They did two songs, "Ani Ma'amin" and "Torah Orah." Their Hebrew wasn't great, but their singing was amazing!

The only thing that really bugged me was that refreshments were provided by Chick Fil-A! I thought it was hugely inappropriate. Gays were persecuted and killed in the Holocaust too, and Chick Fil-A is an very homophobic company that fires its employees for "sinful" behavior and donates millions to groups that encourage gay discrimination. For them to serve food at a Yom HaShoah event? Rebecca wanted to puke. Never again means never again, not never again unless it's the gays.

The second event was along the lake front, and it concluded with all of us throwing a flower into the water. It was very solemn and moving.

The "Ani Ma'amin" is an ancient Hebrew declaration of faith. It can be translated as:

I believe in God, in a greater truth,
and in things greater than this world.

I believe that the Messiah will come,
and he will find me waiting.
No matter how long he may delay,
I still believe in him.
No matter what happens,
I believe.

I loved that I was able to ride my bike to both events. I'm going to miss living so close to the lake -- which brings us to Part 2.
rebecca_in_blue: (pursed lips)
Rebecca's had a busy few days celebrating Passover and, to a lesser extent, Easter. On Thursday night, I dyed a few eggs with Adam. It's one of those little-kid activities that geeky, grown-up Rebecca still finds fun. These are the eggs I made (ew, look at how gross and veiny my hand is!):

Clockwise from top: the Israeli flag (I drew the Star of David with a marker; it was even more smudged in person!), the French flag, purple with white stripes, purple and gold (LSU colors, as any fellow Louisiana reader will know), and the Italian flag. I'm not sure why I made one of the Italian flag, since that country doesn't have any special meaning to me like France and Israel, but who cares?

Friday night was our congregational Passover seder. It was fun, but so exhausting! I'm not sure why, but Jewish Grandmother #2 made the seating arrangements and put me with the C. family. They're such nice people, but I admit I wasn't too thrilled about sitting next to the 6-year-old. The food was delicious, and there was so much of it! I ate everything on my seder plate, all three courses of the dinner, and an extra bowl of matzah-ball soup. The practicing I did on Who Knows One paid off, and I got all the way up to thirteen this year! Rabbi W looked so impressed.

It was fun, but I was absolutely sedered out by the end of the night. It started at 6:30, and I didn't get home until after 10! Holy Moses! And then I woke up early on Saturday morning to go to Torah study with Rabbi W. We read a little of the parsha, but mostly we discussed the mistaken belief by some Christians that Jesus's Last Supper was a Passover seder (it wasn't), which was interesting.

I was still so tired that I spent the rest of the weekend napping, writing fanfiction, watching The 10 Commandments, and eating slice after slice of matzah-bread pizza. (Sassy Jewish Grandparents #1 gave me a box imported from Israel, and I put Little Caesar's Crazy Sauce and mozzarella cheese on it. Yummy.) I did venture out today to have a lovely, delicious Easter lunch with JC & Company. All in all, it was a great weekend.

Ni Hao Yall
rebecca_in_blue: (bemused shrug)
I cleaned out the boxes under my bed a few days ago, and I was continually scratching my head and wondering why I kept some of these things. I am such a packrat! A small sample of stuff I found: a high school book report on The Catcher in the Rye (2000), a parking ticket from 2006, a receipt for lunch money to the Lycée Européen cantine (2008), and a stack of paycheck stubs dating back to 2009! I packed a lot of the paper stuff in a bag and took it to the recycling center. I wish I could've weighed the bag before I brought it there. It was so heavy I could barely lift it! We also have five boxes of stuff to donate to the Salvation Army.

I also two shirts that I forgot I had (a navy tee that I really love, and a nice blue blouse that I might wear to the Passover seder), as well as a thick stack of cards and letters that Grandma mailed to me while I was in France. Until I saw it, I had almost forgotten just how much she sent me -- not just letters, but magazines, food, money, etc. She was so much nicer to me than I ever deserved.

Tomorrow is the first night of Passover, and our congregational Passover seder. I have been practicing at the Passover game Who Knows One, and I've gotten pretty good at it. The goal is to say every item on the list without drawing a breath. You have to talk really fast! The list varies between congregations (I know some Conservative congregations use more Hebrew in their list) but the one we use is beneath the cut:

Take deep breath and... GO! 13 are the attributes of God... )
rebecca_in_blue: (happy smile)
I'm still not doing well with being at home by myself without Sable (Sara is at work right now), so I'm glad to find any excuse I can to get out. Luckily, the annual corn beef sandwich sale is here again. It's our temple's main fundraiser, and it's insane how much work we all do in making sandwiches, bagging pickles and cookies, and packaging them all into individual boxes along with napkins and mustard packets. This year, we sold about 1800 sandwiches! You've never seen as much corn beef, rye bread, and pickles in one place as we had stacked to the ceiling in the temple kitchen and all over the social hall.

Last year -- which I blogged about here -- pickle-loving Rebecca spent six torturous hours bagging pickles but not eating them. This year, fortunately, bagging pickles went much faster. I still worked for six hours, but I was able to spread out it between pickles, cookies, and sandwiches. It was fun, and I think everyone enjoyed coming out and working together, but I was so exhausted that I conked out as soon as I got home.

A very, very small portion of all the pickles we bagged. They were delicious Kosher dill spears. (Yes, Rebecca may have snuck a few into her mouth.)

Sarah, one of the kids in our religious school, was my sandwich-making partner. She worked harder and longer than most of the grown-ups and never complained! (Well, not too much.) I was impressed. We both agreed that the corn beef smells GROSS! She actually said something like, "Eww, people eat this?" I'm not a fan of corn beef either, which is funny because I always thought it looked appetizing when they ate it in Meet Me in St. Louis. But in real life, no thank you.

These guys are Jacob (left, Sassy Jewish Grandfather #3) and Paul (right, Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2). They're so much fun, they're almost like kids themselves.

It's hard to find anything to look forward to right now, but I do have a few: Tuesday's new (finally) episode of NCIS looks fun, The Hunger Games comes out on Friday, and sign-ups at
[ profile] ncis_ficathon should start soon!

Sunday Snapshot
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
I had a pretty busy weekend here. For services on Friday, we had a very special guest rabbi-to-be, who's an amazing singer, and her fiancee, who's an amazing piano player. They did the most beautiful duet of "L'cha Dodi" that almost brought tears to my eyes. Best of all, it was followed by a delicious oneg! Oh, and apparently Rebecca has gained a reputation at temple as the girl who can eat half of the dessert table by herself. It is true, but I thought no one had noticed. Oh, who am I kidding? They probably all noticed back when I ate enough cream puffs for ten people.

On Sunday morning, there was another session of religious school. We had a guest teacher come and teach the kids about Purim. Purim is such a fun holiday, and our guest teacher is great lady, but the lesson... didn't go very well. Oh, well. After that, I had work, and after work, Sara and I went over to JC & Company's to watch the Oscars. I wanted to bring over Little Caesar's, but not everyone has my high tolerance for greasy foods, so Aunt Connie made tacos and a delicious yellow cake with chocolate icing (my favorite!) instead. Sara brought Coke in glass bottles, which we all enjoyed drinking out of.

I kinda dropped the ball on watching Oscar movies this year -- in fact, I think the only one I saw was The Help -- but I still enjoyed the show. The Good: Rico Rodriguez's pre-show sketch, Billy Crystal returning to host, Melissa McCarthy pulling vodka out of her bra, all those thick French accents from the cast and crew of The Artist, and Meryl Streep's win! The Bad: Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz's ridiculous poses (didn't you just want to punch them?) and Angelina Jolie's random leg while presenting. The Child Actress:
The Descendants's 11-year-old Amara Miller. At least one child actress (age 17 or younger) has attended the Oscars every year since 2006! The previous ones were, in order, Lorraine Nicholson, Ivana Baquero, Abigail Breslin, Miley Cyrus (3), Saoirse Ronan, Rubina Ali, and Hailee Steinfeld. What a time to be alive! I wonder how long this will last?

Amara at the Oscars.

On the art calendar, I'm currently looking at Initial G with the Birth of the Virgin, a 14th-century (!) parchment painting by Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci. Can you believe it's almost March already?
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
For the most part, I had a very lazy weekend off, but I did do a few things. On Friday night, there was a beautiful Tu Bish'vat seder at the temple after services. We had one of these last year, but I don't think I ever blogged about. The social hall looked as amazing as I'd ever seen it, with rows of tables laid out with seder plates, all complete with personal name places and fancy folded napkins.

This picture of the seder table does it no justice. Jewish Grandmother #1 practically lived at temple all last week, setting everything up. I wish I could've gotten a picture of her, but she was at the front of the hall with the rabbi. I sat with Paul, Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2, and I overheard someone ask him, "Rebecca's your daughter, isn't she?" I've heard him get asked this at least once before. I was tempted to say (but I didn't), "Yeah, Paul, you lost a child, and I lost a parent -- we're made for each other!" Wait, that's actually kinda sad.

Tu Bish'vat is the Jewish New Year of the Trees, so we ate foods that grow on trees. Here's a picture of my seder plate, with bits of cranberries, blueberries, grapes, cherries, olives, coconut, banana, pineapple, apple, orange, grapefruit, almond, walnut, pecan, and more! Yum!

The weather here has been very nasty this weekend. It was raining so hard on Saturday morning that I practically had to swim to Torah study. Rabbi W must not have brought his umbrella, because he walked in soaking wet, and somebody said, "Does that count as a mikvah, Rabbi?" Haha. It hasn't stopped raining since then, and now it's cold, too! Ugh! I had to crank up the heater when I woke up this morning, which was no fun. I really don't want to go out in this weather, but I need to go grocery shopping, and it's a nice day to curl up and watch a child actress movie, so maybe I'll pick one up while I'm out.

On the art calendar, I'm looking at Lady of the Lake, a 1936 oil painting by Horace Pippin. The Met website claims it's a literal take on Arthurian legend, but Rebecca doesn't see it.

TWO ... DAYS ... LEFT until NCIS's 200th episode!
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Rebecca's been up to her elbows in latkes for the past two days! Yesterday morning, a hodge-podge of folks from the temple got together at Sassy Jewish Grandparents #1's house to fry some up. This was my first time making latkes, and who knew it was so much WORK? We peeled and chopped a small mountain of potatoes and onions (the job of peeling onions went to Paul, the only one of us who didn't cry!), mixed the batter, fried the latkes, and had drops of hot oil splatter onto the stove, the counters, the floor, and US! Still, it was fun.

When they were finally done, we ate a few, but most of them we delivered to eldery/ill members of our temple who weren't able to attend the latke dinner there tonight. I delivered to two old couples I'd never met before, and it made me feel pretty good to spread some holiday cheer. The second old lady was so surprised and kept exclaiming, "Latkes?! For me?! Oh, thank you!" One of my favorite Jewish songs is Debbie Friedman's "L'chi Lach." The chorus ends, On your journey, I will bless you / And you will be a blessing, l'chi lach. Being part of this temple has been such a blessing to me, but it's not often I feel like I get to be a blessing back. I just have so little to offer.

I also brought a plate of latkes to Grandma. The weather was horrible yesterday morning, but just as I started making my deliveries, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I was in a neighborhood with lots of ditches, and they were all full of rainwater and looked like the most beautiful little streams sparkling in the sunlight. I almost crashed Muse Watson staring at them!

And today, I spent the evening in the temple kitchen, helping make enough brisket, latkes, green bean casserole, and challah bread for our whole congregation! Our temple hosts an annual dinner on the Shabbat during Hanukkah and invites everyone to bring their menorahs and light them together. My mom gave me my own little menorah on the first night of Hanukkah this year, and it was a lot smaller and plainer than the others there, but I like it. And I loved eating and talking with everyone over the candlelight. But boy, am I exhausted after all that cooking and eating! Think I better sign off and crash into bed.

P.S. My mom called while I was typing this entry. When I mentioned that I'd brought Grandma some latkes, she asked, "How was she? Was she weak? Was she tired?" Then she complained about how badly our other relatives are taking care of her. Ugh. Way to kill the holiday spirit there, Mom.
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Rebecca has taken some good-natured teasing from folks at her temple for putting up a Chris -- uh, I mean, a holiday tree. It probably didn't help that I accidentally called it a Christmas tree in front of Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2. (It just slips out!) I figure since Sara is a heathen, we live in an interfaith apartment, and therefore we can have a tree. Besides, it's not like anyone can throw me out of the religion for having a tree; the beit din told me when I converted that no one can throw me out. So, the Jews are stuck with me!

I have, however, tried to play down Christmas and put the focus more on Hanukkah. I put up a tree, but I got rid of our few religious ornaments (and I'll admit, I did with a heavy heart - I have fond memories of those). I got rid of my old Christmas-themed stocking and bought a more generic one that just has doves and the word peace. After services today, I bought several dreidels from our temple gift shop. The temple secretary bought a big bulk pack of dreidels from here and re-sold them for very reasonable prices. They are the most adorable little painted wooden dreidels!

Best of all, I found my dad's old Hanukkah mug in a drawer! I had forgotten he even had it. I gave it for him for Christmas 2001, ten years ago. My dad wasn't Jewish, but back in high school, I used to buy all my friends (all two of them!) cookies for Christmas. One year, the cookie shop was giving away free mugs to people who spent a certain amount, and I got a choice between a red-and-green or blue-and-white one. This was just before I started wearing glasses, so the blue-and-white mug was just a blur I assumed to be a generic winter scene. Later I saw the dreidels and menorahs. Looking back now, I can't believe the cookie shop was giving these away for free. It is such a big, beautiful, painted ceramic mug. It means so much to me to have it. Update: You can see my dreidels and my dad's Hanukkah mug here!

P.S. I had to watch a video on YouTube to learn how to play the dreidel game. The guy in the video said, "There's really no skill involved." I hope I can find some folks to play it with me.
rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)
Lately we've been having our air conditioner on during the day and our heater on at night. Last night, I woke up twice -- once to crank the heater up because I was cold, then again to turn it down and open a window because I was so hot! Ugh! But November is always pretty up-and-down in Louisiana, so I guess I should be used to it.

Tomorrow is my last day of freedom before heading back to work, and ugh, I really cannot bear the thought of going back to the salt mines on Monday. Here's a little recap of my staycation:

On Thursday night, we all got together for lasagna dinner at Grandma's new house. Her doctor has diagnosed her with spinal stenosis (I think) and she's had to start walking with a cane. After that, Sara and I stayed out late visiting with Athena. I'm so glad I got to see her, because the last time she was in town, I had to work and hardly got to see her at all.

On Friday, I spent most of the day baking, frosting, and decorating about fifty cupcakes while watching a Criminal Minds marathon, pausing only to bike to the grocery store for more muffin cups. Then I got dressed up, did my hair in a new style that actually looked okay, and took them all to temple, where we were having ... a bar mitzvah! We had a bat mitzvah at our temple back in May, but I didn't go for a few reasons. (I had to work, I wasn't a Jew yet, and I didn't really know the family. This family has been super-nice and welcoming to me.) The bar mitzvah boy did so well -- like I would know the difference if he screwed up -- and the reception afterwards was delicious! Unfortunately, my cupcakes were not as popular as I'd hoped. Oh, well.

Today I went to Torah study in the morning (talmud torah: the mitzvah of Jewish learning, and the single most important mitzvot of them all), ran some errands in the afternoon, and saw a local theater production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" that I just got back from (zikaron: the mitzvah of remembrance). I've always known a lot about Anne Frank -- I did three school projects on her back in middle school -- but I was unprepared for how much seeing the play would effect me. Maybe because I'm Jewish now. Maybe because seeing people act it out right in front of me made it so much more real than the book and movies. Either way, I was bawling through the last two scenes, and I do not cry easily -- unlike my mom, who was suspiciously dry-eyed the entire time. It was almost like watching a horror move, only scarier because you know what's coming, and you know that it all really happened.

It Is Raining on the House of Anne Frank
By Linda Pastan
{I bought Good Poems for Hard Times on our last trip to Houston and opened it at random for the first time to this poem.}

It is raining on the house
of Anne Frank
and on the tourists
herded together under the shadow
of their umbrellas,
on the perfectly silent
tourists who would rather be
somewhere else
but who wait here on stairs
so steep they must rise
to some occasion
high in the empty loft,
in the quaint toilet,
in the skeleton
of a kitchen
or on the map --
each of its arrows
a barb of wire --
with all the dates, the expulsions,
the forbidding shapes
of continents.
And across Amsterdam it is raining
on the Van Gogh Museum
where we will hurry next
to see how someone else
could find the pure
center of light
within the dark circle
of demons.


rebecca_in_blue: (Default)

March 2013



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