rebecca_in_blue: (excited grin)
On Thursday night, I accidentally took a sleeping pill instead of an aspirin for a headache and slept for twelve hours. But I'm glad I got some rest in then, because I feel like I've barely slowed down all weekend! But it was fun, so I can't complain. On Friday night, I did my laundry, crocheted, and watched Star Trek at Mom's house. I finished my second plarn mat! It took me about two months to crochet, and its final measurements were 26" x 84". (My first one took about six months and its measurements were 22" x 76".)

Saturday was a full day. That afternoon, I walked the mall again with Briana; we hit a few bumps that I might need to contact our case worker about. Then I drove by Sassy Jewish Grandfather #2's house to drop off some hamantashen. He just had surgery and won't be able to come to temple for a while. I was happy to bring them to him, but I didn't have the best directions to his house and finding it was kinda stressful. Then Sara and I went over to CJ & Co's to visit Athena.

But Sunday was really the big day - PURIM! The Purim carnival that we'd working on for so long was finally upon us! Making noise on Purim is a mitzvot, and Maggie couldn't believe we were letting her get away with making noise in the temple sanctuary. All the kids loved booing Haman and banging those groggers during the Megillah reading. After the Megillah, we turned the kids loose in the social hall, where we had pinatas, face-painting, horseshoe throws, balloon animals, cookie-decorating, pin-the-crown-on-Esther, and more! It was so much fun, it should've been illegal. I think these smiling faces speak for themselves. (I took a ton of photos.)



Me and Sarah in our cowgirl costumes. I almost said to her mom, "Hurry up and take the photo so we can eat these hamantashen!"


Maggie the Cat. Those two girls are always so much fun.

And Sunday evening, of course, was the Oscars! I missed the pre-shows and first hour or so because I had to attend a long boring meeting at work, but after that, I went over to Mom's house and watched them there with Sara. I was most excited about two child actresses attending (and one of them with a nomination!!) and all the nominations for Les Miserables. Even though the medley was a rather odd mash-up of Suddenly, I Dreamed a Dream, and One Day More, it was so exciting to see it performed onstage! Samantha Barks (Eponine) looked so sexy in that black dress, and I love her voice. I think she's definitely the best singer out of the entire cast. Seth McFarland's spoof of The Sound of Music when he was introducing Christopher Plummer just killed me! Especially since we just saw it on the big screen! The only two Oscar movies I saw this year were Les Mis and Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I want to see Lincoln and Django Unchained once they're released.


Samantha's posing was kinda odd, yeah, but she's a relatively new star, so it's understandable.

Ahhh, good times. But I was up very late for three nights in a row, and I was so busy that I never got around to washing my hair. It's getting kinda gross.
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: (raised eyebrows)
I've been working on cleaning out the apartment for the past week or so. Partly because Sara and I are hoping to move later this month, and partly in preparation for Passover. (Did you knows it's a mitzvah for Jews to clean their houses before Passover?) It starts this Friday, and my temple is having a congregational seder. I can't wait!

Anyway, I have bags and boxes of stuff to either throw out, recycle, or donate. Last night, I tackled two drawers full of old papers and found that I held onto some very pointless, painfully embarrassing stuff. (Sara says that I'll end up like one of those people on Hoarders. Har har.) I had to look at every page to make sure I wasn't recycling anything I wanted to keep. For example, between several issues of my middle school student newspaper -- What the hell? Why did I save those? -- I found a drawing that my grandfather, whom I never knew, mailed to my dad when he was in the army.

I'm recycling large chunks of journals I kept during middle and high schools. I reread them last night, and it's almost hard to believe that all six members of my family ever lived in one house. It was such a monumentally bad living arrangement. There were several long, angry entries about how Mom believed whatever Adam told her, never wanted to hear my or Sara's side of the story on anything, never disciplined him, and often punished us for things he did. Most of it wasn't an exaggeration. My mom has mellowed a lot in recent years, but when we were kids, the smallest thing would throw her into the worst rages. I walked on eggshells around her (and out of habit, I still do) because I never knew what would set her off.

There was also an angry entry at Christmas one year when I gave Adam a new copy of a book he wanted (purchased at an overprice bookstore, since shopping online didn't exist back then) and he gave me a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts clearly labelled $1. And at least once a year, from middle school up through high school, there was an entry about how I was rereading Watership Down and how much I loved it. It's still my favorite book, and Adam still gives crappy gifts. Some things never change!

Me: [reading a movie magazine] What's method acting?
Sara: It's when actors draw from their personal experiences to convey emotions. James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Shirley Temple were all early pioneers.
Me: [dies laughing]
rebecca_in_blue: (happy smile)

What a weekend! I was off work, but I feel like I hardly slowed down at all. I spent Saturday evening with some friends from temple, Cheryl and her little girl, Maggie. We went out and all ate breakfast foods for dinner, then browsed in a lovely store that was all decked out for the holidays. Seriously, I should've taken a picture of all the decorations and lights and toys. It was like Christmas exploded in there! I didn't buy anything, even though I saw some cute ornaments. (Our tree has been a little bare since I got rid of our religious ornaments. I might buy some Hanukkah ones online - if I can find any.)

After that, we went for a drive along the lake to look at Christmas lights. A lot of the swanky houses on the lakeshore had very impressive displays, including one of Santa Claus in a pirogue pulled by alligators. My favorite were the Live Oak trees draped with Spanish moss and encrusted with little white lights - so pretty. One house even had a real live Santa on the curb giving out free candy canes. There was a Christmas parade downtown that we didn't go to, but after the parade, there were fireworks. We watched them from the opposite, infinitely less crowded side of the lake. Maggie said something like, "Fireworks are like somebody threw a lot of glitter in the air!"

I didn't get home late, but I was up very late that night. Some weeks ago, a lady at the temple asked me to teach a Hebrew school on Sunday morning, and like the fool that I am, I said yes. Do not ask how Rebecca, one of the least qualified people at the temple, got this job; I have no idea. And of course, I left everything to the last minute the night before (my bad habits never change!) so on Saturday night, I gave myself a crash course in Hebrew and tried to develop a lesson plan from scratch. Did I mention that the Hebrew students are 6- to 10-year-olds?! I have even less experience with both that language and that age group than I did with teaching French high school students to speak English, and you all remember how mightily I sucked at that.

Anyway, come Sunday morning, I arrived at the temple looking awful and blearly-eyed, and I'm sure everyone thought I hadn't slept at all (which was practically the case). Fortunately, the lesson wasn't so bad. We - me and another, infinitely better teacher - taught the Hebrew months to the older kids and the Hebrew alphabet to the younger ones. Our class wasn't an easy one to teach; we had some students who could read Hebrew better than me (which isn't saying much) and some who didn't know alef from bet. Debbie Friedman's alef-bet song was a big help with them. It was stuck in my head all day! It occured to me later it all counted as talmud torah: the mitzvah of Jewish learning/teaching, the most important mitzvot.

I had meant to run some errands after Hebrew school, but instead I conked out as soon as I got home. So the errands had to wait until this morning, and they were much more frenzied than I would've liked. They involved several failed attempts to make a Christmas tree ornament (for my grandma) out of a dreidel. Hooked screws from the hardware store didn't work because I would've had to use a hammer, and the dreidel was so small that I was sure a hammer would smash it. Super glue from the dollar store didn't work, because even though the glue was strong enough to take paint off the dreidel (and my skin off my fingers, it felt like) it didn't affix the string to the dreidel. Finally I used silver dress trim from the fabric store. It's not very nice-looking, but it was the only thing that worked!

Then I drove by Grandma's house to give it to her. It went much better than my last visit with her. She sat up, came to the table with help from my aunts, ate a meal, had a conversation with me, and (best of all) understood what I said in French and answered me back in French. She is still my bad-ass Cajun grandma. Hooray!

And just to prove that all my Hebrew cramming didn't go to waste, I'll sign off this entry with my Hebrew name:

שָׁלוֹם  -  רִבְקָה   בר   יַעֲקֹב   (Shalom - Rivka bat Yakov)

rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
My Sassy Jewish Grandparents treated me and another friend of theirs to dinner after services tonight. We had a pizza and "Kentucky Derby pie" for dessert. The pie turned out to be delicious, but none of us had ever heard of it before, and we had a time trying to figure out what kind of pie it was. Our waiter tried to explain it to us, but he was Hispanic, and every time he said "pecan," his accent made it sound just like "bacon!" (The sad thing is that I actually would've been willing to try a pie that had bacon in it!) We all cracked up when we finally realized that he was trying to say "pecan" - it was a lot of fun.

My Sassy Cajun Grandma has been released from the hospital and is walking with a cane again. We visited her in the hospital on Wednesday (Bikur Cholim: the mitzvah of visiting the sick, one of the most important mitzvot), and she was very weak, but fortunately, she has kept all her wits about her. There's an old lady Grandma's age at temple who is prone to forget her husband's name, where she lives, and what year it is. It's a mitzvot, but I still hate going to hospitals, and having out-of-town relatives come in to visit her was generating its own drama, so I'm glad she's back home.

And now that she's out of the hospital, I can get back to what I'm best at - whining about superficial, unimportant stuff! Has anyone else seen the new trailer for The Hunger Games? It just came out this week, and Sara and I are not thrilled. Apparently Jennifer Lawrence doesn't realize that Katniss is supposed to come off as kinda cold and mean, not sweet and soft-hearted. The "I just can't afford to think that way" is especially bad. Ugh.




Me: Sneezes three times in a row. (I sneeze a lot at night.)
Sara: "Stop it! You're out of control!"
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: (happy smile)
I'm on a little staycation from work right now. I don't have anything big planned, but I am trying to get out and do stuff. Today I drove downtown to help rebuild a local park that burnt down in an arson fire earlier this year. The original park (also volunteer-built) was huge, and this new one is going to be even bigger. I was on a team with a nice biracial couple who talked about bringing their son to the park after it was all rebuilt.

Most volunteers got simple jobs like digging, painting, cutting boards, etc. -- but not us! Together we assembled a big, four-person seesaw and a spinner. (And you practically had to be an engineer just to read the directions!) A spinner is a sort of big, flat disc that a kid stands on, and the weight of the kid and the angle of the disc makes them spin around in circles. Just the thought of it is enough to make me dizzy! They didn't have these when I was a kid; I first saw one on the playground in Villers-Cotterets. After it was built, a few kids hopped on and spun around (there were lots of kids there with their parents or church groups). Success!


(There are a few different types of spinners. The one we built was a stand-up spinner that looked kinda like this.)

They were both HARD to put together, but we did it and had enough time left over to get snacks from the concession stand. I had Cheeto's and a blue bubblegum sno-cone -- yum! I think it counted as the mitzvot of tikkun olam, so I was glad to be a part of it, and it was touching to see how many people from the community came out to help rebuild. But I was filthy by the time my volunteer shift was over -- covered in sweat, sawdust, and grime! Ugh! Update: I visited the completed park here.

A few other things I hope to do this week: see Athena, have coffee with my sassy Jewish grandfather, visit the Avenue of Flags at the cemetery on Veteran's Day, see a production of The Diary of Anne Frank at the local theater, and attend my first bar mitzvah. Which reminds me, today I overheard a middle-school-aged boy at the park say, "And on Friday I'm going to Jakob's bar mitzvah." Yeah, me too, kid!
rebecca_in_blue: (bemused shrug)
Here's my sporadic but thankful Thursday for today:

~ Real music from a real radio station at work! Hallelujah! (We'll see how long this lasts.)

~ Even Sara had to admit that Sable's bladder-control pills seem to be working. He's still not quite 100% accident-free, but he's been having them a lot less.

~ I finally bought a bike light and a mezuzah for myself. They were both more expensive than I would've liked, but I feel like I've been putting off buying them for forever, so it's good to finally have them. My mezuzah is rosewood, has a shin (ש) and a nun (נ) on it, and came with a scroll. Hanging a mezuzah is one of the mitzvot commanded in Deuteronomy, and while I have no intention of following all 613 of them, it felt good to do this one. My bike light is very bright (I almost feel like I'll need sunglasses!) and has strobe and solid options.


/\  My mezuzah. (Update: My mezuzah on the doorframe of our new apartment.)

~ And just look at what I came home to yesterday!!!  \/



It was such a beautiful surprise. One of my neighbors put up this stained-glass in the stairwell window right outside our door. It's really dazzling when the sun is out, and I love looking at the colored light shining through onto my mezuzah. :)
rebecca_in_blue: (happy smile)
Congratulate Rebecca! I actually managed to fast for most of Yom Kippur yesterday. I had a few bites here and there (I made the devilled eggs yesterday, and while cracking the eggs, I cracked too) but for the most part, I managed to abstain. The biggest mistake I made was running errands on my bike after I’d barely eaten all day. Very stupid of me.

As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one to bring devilled eggs to the break-the-fast, but I will say — speaking objectively, of course — that my eggs were better. The others had relish in the filling (yuck!) and were topped with paprika; they also looked professionally made. It is a useless fact that devilled eggs are so called because they are meant to be so spicy to make you think of
the flames of hell! You can’t deliver the flames of hell with mild, tasteless paprika. I topped mine with Tony Chachere’s. For any non-Louisiana readers, it’s a very spicy Cajun seasoning that we put on everything down here. (Barbecue! Beans! Popcorn! Crackers! Pizza!) It’s also not the way pronounced the way it’s spelt. I’m not crazy about it, but it was perfect for devilled eggs.

Of course, there was more food besides just devilled eggs — brisket, three kinds of kugel, salads, chopped liver, and various different desserts. I sat with Sarah, a young woman about my age who hasn’t been attending services long. She told me she was nervous being the new person there and not knowing anyone, and boy, do I remember how that feels. I said almost the exact same thing the first time I attended a dinner after services (over a year ago now). I had tried to sneak out early, but as soon as Mr. G and Rebekah saw me walk one step towards the door, they cried, “Rebecca, you’re not leaving yet? Oh no, you have to stay and eat with us!” (I was tempted to ask them if they knew my grandma. She says the same thing every time you try to leave her house. Even if she’s just fed you!) When I mumbled that I didn’t know anyone there, Rebekah grabbed my arm and said, “I’m taking you around the room and introducing you to everyone right now!” And she did. In fact, she introduced me to too many people for me to keep straight. I introduced Sarah to a few folks last night. I really, really hope I was as good at making her feel welcome as others were with me.

“The stranger living among you must be treated as one of your own. Love him as yourself, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Leviticus 19:34.
rebecca_in_blue: (trembling hand)
I had the strangest dream last night. I was at work, doing my job as usual, when Boss-Man summoned me to his office in his most serious voice. When I got there, he said, "Ms. C------, your rabbi tells me you haven't been a good Jew lately." I said something like, "What the hell? I am so a good Jew! Rabbi W would never say that about me!" And just then, Rabbi W walked into Boss Man's office. Our conversation went something exactly like this...

Rebecca: Rabbi, how can you say I'm not a good Jew? How have I not been a good Jew?
Rabbi W: You haven't been following all 613 mitzvot.
Rebecca: What are you talking about? Nobody follows all 613 mitzvot! You don't follow all of them! [Which is true, by the way. Most Jews don't.] Even God probably doesn't follow all of them!
Rabbi W: Well, Rebecca, when I converted you, you agreed that you would follow all 613 mitzvot.
Rebecca: That was never a condition of our agreement, nor was giving Han to this bounty hunter! [Points at Boss-Man]

It was so weird. I'm not sure what it means that this dream came on the night between my birthday and Yom Kippur.

Rebecca's been in go-mode since 8:30 this morning. After biking to and from work, I drove over to Grandma's house for dinner. She had spaghetti and cheesecake for me for my birthday. Then I had to pick up a few groceries, then I drove to the temple for Yom Kippur evening services, which lasted two hours!

One member of our congregation who'd been ill suddenly fainted away in the middle of the Kol Nidre! He was really pale, and I was pretty freaked when I saw him go down. (He turned out to be okay, but he had to leave early.) Just a few minutes before, Rabbi Z talked about how back in temple days, the other priests tied a rope around the high priest before he entered the Holy of Holies, in case the intensity of the moment made him drop dead. At the end of services, our temple president addressed Rabbi Z by Rabbi W's name and never even noticed.

Right now, I've got a Shirley Temple movie playing (Poor Little Rich Girl - I'd been wanting to rewatch it) and eggs boiling on the stove, for the devilled eggs I'm making tomorrow for the break-the-fast meal. And I know what you're thinking: "Rebecca, you think you're going to be able to fast all day when you have to make devilled eggs and have leftover birthday cake and six birthday-gift lemons in your refrigerator?" (Mom and Grandma both hit the same lemon sale and gave me lemons for my birthday. For as little time as they spend together, they sure do think alike about some things.) Hey, I said I would try. I never said I would succeed.

For any Jewish readers who might be attempting the fast too, T'zom Kal!
rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)
As regular visitors to this blog may have already noticed, Rebecca changed her layout! This is a huge deal for me, as I've had very similar versions of the same layout ever since I joined LiveJournal back in 2007. I'd actually been wanting to change to the minimalism style for a while now, but I didn't think it allowed header images, and I'm pretty attached to my header image of Victoire Thivisol in Chocolat. Then I found some CSS coding that lets you customize your content width and add a header image in minimalism, so I quickly switched my style. It took me a while to get everything just right, though, and I still worry that while my blog might look the way I want on my computer, it could be all jumbled up on computers with different brower widths. I need to visit it on another computer and check.

A few random thoughts for the week so far:

I've noticed that whenever I run into people who knew all of my siblings and me (certain former teachers, friends of Grandmas') the first and/or only one of us they ask about is Ben. I never noticed this before, but now that I have, it's irritating. Is it because he's the oldest? What did he ever do to warrant getting asked about first? He's not the only one of us worth asking about, nor was he ever. I should start telling people that he doesn't even support himself and still lives with his mom.

I finally came up with a New Year's resolution for 5772: to write more fanfiction about Jewish characters in different fandoms. (I already have a couple fanfics that deal with Judaism, but they're almost all about Ziva.) I think this counts as the mitzvot of k'lal yisrael, Jewish solidarity -- not to be confused with t'zionut, support of the state of Israel. My other resolution is to do more mitzvot. I've realized during these High Holy Days that even though I'm official now, I still don't really feel 100% Jewish. I suppose this will take some time. So I'm trying to build my Jewish identity any way I can.

On a similar note, I'm seriously thinking about fasting (or trying to) on Yom Kippur this year. Last year, my reaction to the whole idea was pretty much, "Fast? Like hell I'm fasting, you crazy Jews!" But this year, I'm officially one of those "crazy Jews," so I feel like I should at least make an attempt. It doesn't help that my birthday falls so close to Yom Kippur this year, and my grandma wants to cook me a special birthday dinner right when I'm supposed to be fasting!

I got a fortune out of a fortune cookie this week that told me: If you have to choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before. I LOVE that!

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