rebecca_in_blue: (happy smile)
Well, there was no Purim carnival or Oscars, but Rebecca still managed to stay busy this weekend. Sara and I were both off on Friday, and we went out and had lunch at a deli. We both ordered meat dishes -- I love buying meat on Fridays during Lent. I get a very childish satisfaction from it, which I guess comes from being a Catholic school veteran and hating all the seafood commercials that always get shoved down your throat at this time of year. (I mean, shrimp tacos? No, Taco Bell. Barf!)

After lunch, we visited the art gallery downtown. They're having an exhibition right now of the 50 most famous photos from National Geographic, and it was a really cool show. These were my favorites:



Veiled Rebellion, by Lynsey Addario (women by a roadside in Afghanistan, 2009). I love how lonely and evocative this is, and how the blue of the women's burqas is set against the mountains and the sky.


Shelter, by Joanna Pinneo (a family napping in their tent in the Sahara desert outside Timbuktu, 1998). I love how the tent diffuses the sunlight and creates such a warm, peaceful glow, and the baby's toes in the sand.

There was also, of course, the Afghan Girl. The photos were so beautiful, and it was very striking and powerful to see such big reproductions. I'm going to miss this little art gallery. It's so charming, and we've seen some cool collections here. I think big art galleries can be kinda serious and obnoxious. After the art gallery, I just had time to go on a brief bike-ride it got too chilly. It just won't get warm and stay warm -- ugh!

On Saturday morning, we had a session of religious school, and I think the kids actually enjoyed it. We did a lesson on King Solomon -- read a storybook about him, learned a song about him, and practiced writing his name in Hebrew. Sarah's the oldest, and she wanted to read the Solomon story to the younger kids. So we let her (anything that equals less work for us is a win!). She read King Solomon and the Bee, which is based on a traditional Midrash, and Maddy laughed so hard at the silly voice she used for the bee. I'm going to miss this group.



Sarah reading to Maddy -- aren't they so stinkin' cute?

I should've gone home after religious school, but I stuck around for Torah study. Oy vey. I'm not going to miss that. Do we really need to read the entire parsha before we can discuss it? Do we really need to go around the table and see how everyone's Torah translates Exodus 33:14? Does yours have My presence will go with you, My face will go with you, or I will go with you? That just seems like missing the point to me. It was so frustrating, because I know Torah study has the potential to be really interesting.
rebecca_in_blue: (stiff shoulders)
Rebecca has had a busy few days getting ready for Purim. Today, I spent about five hours in the temple kitchen helping to make hamantashen -- from scratch! I'd never made hamantashen before, just eaten them, but it wasn't hard once we got an assembly line going. I got the job of brushing on the egg wash and spooning out the different fillings. I enjoyed it, but my hands were coated in jelly and flour by the time we were done! We made apricot (yuck!), chocolate, and strawberry (yum!). Rebecca tried sneaking a few into her mouth, but we're going to sell some as part of a temple fundraiser, and the rest we're saving for the Purim carnival at the end of the month.

 photo Hamantashen.jpg
A small sample of all the hamantashen!

Speaking of which, on Saturday morning, we had another class of religious school. Our temple plans to host a big Purim carnival this year, with all sorts of fun activities and guests from other temples. We teachers have all been working hard on it, and the kids have, too -- they're going to perform the megilla play! On Saturday, we assigned roles and the kids had their first rehearsal. It all went pretty well -- two brothers are playing Haman and Mordechai, and they loved pretending to shoot each other with their toy guns. We even found a role for the super shy kid who couldn't handle being on stage -- audio technician! He was happy to sit in the wings and work the CD player. The kids enjoyed it, and everything was going so well until...

This happened. )

P.S. When I get frustrated, it's good to remember there are certainties in life.
Things I Will Never Like
1) When I make plans with someone, only to have them cancel on me later. This is probably #1 on my list of ways to piss me off. I hate when this happens.
2) People who bitch at me about things that haven't even happened! Yeah, I don't understand the thought process there, either. But there are people who think they can see the future, predict my actions, and feel entitled to yell at me about it now. Gag me.
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Right now I'm in the middle of working six days in a row -- ugh! But I do have the best carrot dangling in front of me to keep me focused. Once it's over, Sara and I both have a four-day weekend, and we're going to Little Rock to visit Athena! I can't wait! Tovah is going to stay at our mom's house while we're away.

This was a pretty busy weekend. On Saturday morning, we had religious school at the temple; straight from there, I went to Torah study, and straight from there, I went to work till close. We did a lesson about Purim at religious school this week, and I think the kids actually enjoyed it. We made small batches of popcorn for them to eat while they watched this movie about Queen Esther, and afterwards, they put on masks of the different characters and clacked all groggers. It's kinda early (Purim falls at the end of February this year), but we have a lot of stuff planned for the holiday this year. I just hope it all goes according to plan! You never can tell with the religious school.

Sticking around for Torah study was a mistake on my part. I hadn't been in a while, and I'd forgotten how phenomenally boring Rabbi W can be. I know that sounds harsh, but it's true. First he has to hold a Shabbat morning service (which I wish he could schedule at a different time that wasn't during Torah study) and cant "Elohai N'shama" about ten times over. And the Torah parsha for this week was Bo, which I think is one of the most interesting and packed parshas in the Torah. Oh, well. I should stop now before I start to sound bitter.

FOUR DAYS UNTIL WE LEAVE FOR LITTLE ROCK!
rebecca_in_blue: (Default)
2012 might be known in the future as the year Rebecca become obsessed with Les Miserables. (2011 was the year she became a Jew, and 2010 was the year she became obsessed with NCIS. There are worse things for years to be known by.) The other night, I was almost asleep in bed when Sara came in and told me Entertainment Weekly had released five new clips of songs from the Les Miserables movie that's coming out this month. So I stayed up late watching and rewatching them, then listening to all the Les Mis songs I have on my iPod. It's hard to say which song I'm most excited to see in the movie, but when Hugh Jackman sang "He gave me hope when hope was gone / He gave me strength to journey on" and the music started to swell behind him, I just about squee'ed. I hope Sara and I can celebrate December 25th in true Jew fashion and go see the movie (and maybe to a Chinese restaurant that day).

We had another session of our temple's religious school over the weekend. It didn't go very well, which kinda depresses me. I feel like there's nothing left to do except watch the school slowly peter down to nothing. Honestly, I don't think Rabbi W should be allowed to teach. Does he try to as boring as he possibly can? I guess I shouldn't let one awful class get me down, but it's hard.

Last night, I made another dish of nacho casserole and Sara made cupcakes while we watched old NCIS reruns. Good times. I'm off today and looking at the lights of our tree (I only bought one strand, so they're sparse this year, but soon it'll be time to light the menorah!), listening to the rain fall, and watching Criminal Minds reruns that I actually get to see the ending of!
rebecca_in_blue: (trembling hand)
Last night, the director of the closest Jewish summer camp (which I visited back here) was our guest at services, and we used him as an excuse to hold a congregational dinner. I usually bring deviled eggs to these things, but I got tired of being so predictable, so I made nacho casserole instead. There was none leftover, and I even got compliments and requests for more, which has never happened before! This dish might become a regular one for me, so here's the recipe for my own future reference (and if anyone else who reads the blog is interested).
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • 1 can Campbell's fiesta nacho cheese soup
  • 1 handful chopped onions
  • Tortilla chips
  • Grated cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
Brown the ground beef. Add the seasoning, rotel, cheese soup, and onions. Mix until evenly distributed and let simmer. Layer the tortilla chips in the bottom of a casserole dish (you can use Dorito's or whatever kind of chips you want; this is a good way to use all the broken little pieces at the bottom of the bag) and spread the beef mixture over them. Top with grated cheese and bake until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with shredded lettuce just before serving. (I found this recipe for taco casserole and made a few changes to it.)

Over dinner, Rabbi W and I threw together a lesson plan for the religious school this morning. I found a copy of Jewish Holiday Crafts for Little Hands (lifesaver!) in a classroom in the back of temple, and we did a craft project where the kids made their own mini Torah scrolls from paper and straws, then we took them into the sanctuary and showed them how to dress and undress a real Torah scroll. It just sucked that the infinitely better teacher was out of town, and Rabbi W and I just are not great at teaching or maintaining control of kids. I hope no one could tell that we threw the lesson together at the last minute.

After religious school, I went to Torah study with some trepidation, but now that the election is over, we actually talked about the Torah parshah instead of yelling at each other! Hallelujah! I'm glad because the Torah parshah for this week happens to be Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah, a deceptive title because it begins with Sarah's death is more about Rebekah), one of my favorite parshahs.
rebecca_in_blue: (subtle sigh)
My rolling birthday lasted a little longer than I'd thought. Athena made a surprise visit this week, and Sara and I spent Thursday evening at their place. Aunt Connie served a bag of Cheetos, a jar of pickles, hot dogs, and Milano cookies. (YUM! There were no leftovers.) She also gave me a bag full of hair-care products as a birthday present, and because she literally begged, I let her shampoo and blow-dry my hair. She and Athena were hoping they could fluff it up and make it BIG, but it didn't really work out -- my hair is just too flat and thin, which is fine by me. They honestly ooh'ed and ahh'ed over how quickly it dried. Looking back now, I wonder if they were trying to send me some message?

Saturday was a busy day. That morning, we had a class of religious school at temple, and it went well. The kids watched this movie about Noah and the flood (it was a little dated and hokey, but not too bad) and learned to write Noah's name in Hebrew. Jewish Grandmother #1 even brought sugar cookies she'd made in the shape of a nun and chet -- SO cute!



I had to snap a picture with my phone :)

That evening, "Briana" and I went to the local college football game and a pre-game tailgate party hosted by Big Brothers Big Sisters. They had free food and different activities and games to play. Briana and I played basketball for a while, then a game of doubles pool with a really nice Big & Little Brother. It felt like a big relief for me (and probably for Briana too) to have other people around to interact with. I hope we can go to more of Big Brother Big Sisters' match events. I was kinda bored during the football game -- I never go to sporting events; in fact, this was my first time at a college game! -- but Briana seemed to enjoy it, although we were both bummed that her cousin, who's a local celebrity, wasn't able to sing the National Anthem before the game.

And on Sunday morning, I woke up early again to visit my aunt. I feel kinda bad that I've seen so little of her since Grandma died, and I hope I can make it over to her house more often from now on.

Random news: Sara and I went to the movies and saw Sinister today. How scary was it? Sara grabbed my hand so hard, she left a bruise! Random good news: A new fanfiction idea came to me out of the blue today, and I'm already +800 words into the story! Why can't this happen more often? Random bad news: Because of the presidential debate, no new episode of NCIS this week! Boo!
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Rabbi W was back in town on Friday evening for Sukkot services, which I really enjoyed. They still keep it so cold in the sanctuary, so I brought my scarf and wore it like a prayer shawl. Maggie and I kept flopping it in each others' faces. After the service, it was outside (really warm and muggy) for drinks and challah under the sukkah. One little boy kept asking for wine instead of the grape juice his parents tried giving him (I kid you not) and Maggie and the other little girls were running around and having so much fun. I wish I could've taken pictures, but it was too dark.

So I brought my camera with me when I went back on Saturday morning for religious school, thinking that I could take pictures then. Wrong! It poured down rain all day, so we had to have our Sukkot lesson inside, instead of beneath the sukkah. Still, it mostly went well. I think I'm finally hitting my stride and starting to enjoy this. The kids enjoyed shaking the lulav and waving it around, but for me, the most interesting part of the lesson was showing the kids an album of the previous students building our beautiful sukkah, the same one our temple uses today, back in 2000 -- before any of the current students were born (long before converting to Judaism was anywhere on Rebecca's radar). Maybe someday, when that fig tree is no longer a little saplings, students yet to come will look at an album of us planting the fig tree for a Tu Bish'vat lesson.

It was a rainy, yucky weekend here, but with any luck, I will get to sit under the sukkah tomorrow. Signing off and going to bed now!
rebecca_in_blue: (pursed lips)
Last Friday evening marked the beginning of Shabbat Shuvah, the name given to the Shabbat that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (I've always loved this Shabbat. Previous entries on it are here and here.) It also marked the retirement of one of my Jewish Grandmothers, who's done administrative work for the temple for longer than anyone could remember, including her. When we asked her, she said, "Well, I was bat mitzvahed in 1947..." So, we threw an oneg in her honor, and the mayor of our city (one member of our congregation works for him -- all Jews but Rebecca are well-connected!) even came to give her a bouquet of flowers and a certificate recognizing her "outstanding contribution to the Jewish community of southern Louisiana."

Faye and Mayor
Faye and the mayor both asked me for copies of this photo I took of them.
I immediately replied, "Faye, yours will be complimentary. Mr. Mayor, five dollars."

We also threw a belated birthday party for Rabbi W. (His birthday was September 11, the same day as Grandma, but not the same year.) Somebody bought a big cupcake with 70 in wax numbers on top, and after he blew them out, we sang "Round the temple, he must go, it's his birthday!" and made him run around the social hall. The kids thought that was so funny, and Rabbi W was a good sport about it.

On Saturday morning, we had a session of religious school, and it went well. (Thank you, Lord!) The kids learned about yetzer hatov and yetzer hara and read the story of Jonah and the whale, which is traditionally read before Yom Kippur. It helped that there happen to be two pictures of Jonah hanging in our social hall for the kids to find. They love hunting for the afikoman at Passover, and they liked searching for Jonah, too.


Shabbat Shuva Religious School 1
We're short a few kids here, but this is most of our religious school. See the older boy in the yarmulke with his back to the camera? I have never in my life met a more polite kid. He also helps us out with the younger ones.

Shabbat Shuva Religious School 2

Coloring a picture of Jonah in the whale and learning about yetzer hatov with Rabbi W.

After that, I hung around for a Rosh Hashanah seder and Torah study. I wore a shirt Sara gave me with Praise Cheeses! across the front, and everyone cracked up at it. :)

On the page-a-day art calendar, I'm currently looking at Female Nude, Reclining, With Arm Raised, an 1853 salted-paper print negative by Julien Vallou de Villeneuve (trying saying his name five times fast).

JUST TWO ... DAYS ... LEFT UNTIL SEASON 10 OF NCIS!


Ni Hao Yall
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: (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: (subtle sigh)
Busy day here! We had three events at the temple this morning: Hebrew school with the kids, Torah study with Rabbi W, and a centennial tour. It's hard to believe, but this could've been Rebecca's last Hebrew school class for this school year. (Our official last class is next weekend, but I don't know what I'm working and might not be able to go.) Today the kids learned about the twelve-jeweled breastplate the high priest wore back in the days of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, then they created their own using graham crackers, peanut butter, and twelve different-colored jelly beans. It was fun, but it was hard for us teachers to keep them from making a mess with the food.

My city hosted a centennial tour downtown today, of a few buildings that were +100 years old. I went through the one at our temple (and learned a few things about it that I didn't know), the Catholic cathedral, and the Masonic lodge. I didn't volunteer as a tour guide for the temple, but now I kinda wish I had. The guy from our congregation who ended up as the tour guide can be very long-winded and know-it-all. I hate to think he might've given a bad impression of our temple. We had a lot of outside visitors from the community.



There he is, rambling on and on to the tour group.


A pretty flower outside temple that I decided to photograph.

When I got home, Sara and I bought a box of cake bites over to CJ & Co.'s, as a thank-you to Uncle John for helping us move in. After we got home from that, I was so tired I conked out. Today was the first time I biked to temple from our new place. It's much farther, but I think I do it regularly, as long as it's warm and light out.

Ni Hao Yall
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
My city hosted a downtown art walk yesterday (Friday the 13th); unfortunately, they hosted right during Shabbat services, so I couldn't really go, but I did catch the tail-end of it while I was biking home from the temple. There were still a few artists out with easels and framed stuff on the sidewalks. (I would've taken pictures, but I lent my camera to Adam to take to some comic-book convention.) Supposedly they painted a new mural on a wall downtown, but I haven't spotted it yet. I'm so glad it's not dark when I ride home from temple anymore! The weather is so cool right now, and everything's blooming -- I wish it could stay like this all year.

This morning, I woke up early for an abbreviated session of Hebrew school. We read The Passover Parrot, and the kids actually seemed to enjoy it (thank you, Lord) because after the teacher sang the Ma Nishtana, they got to repeat it after her in squawky parrot voices. The chocolate matzah didn't hurt, either. After Hebrew school, the grown-ups had Torah study, which means Rebecca clocked in a good three hours at the temple. Right as I was leaving, I got a phone call telling me Athena got into town very late last night -- or very early this morning? -- for a surprise visit. So instead of going home and taking a nap, I spent the afternoon visiting with her.

We're hoping to move out at the end of this week, and it's almost scary how much packing I still have left to do! UGH!
rebecca_in_blue: (worried eyes)
Midnight in Paris was very good, and so was Hugo, which I watched with Adam tonight. I was surprised by how sincerely feel-good and touching it was, without being too sappy. I hope I can stick to my goal of watching at least one child actress movie a month for the rest of the year. I can't believe I'm posting this and encouraging her craziness, but Sara decided to braid my hair while we watched Midnight in Paris, and this was the result. Believe me, it looked so much worse in person!

Most embarrassing photo ever under here! )

Anyway, now onto a more serious subject. This morning, we had another session of the temple's Hebrew school.

Thank goodness no one from my temple knows about this blog, because Rebecca's about to go on a long, somewhat angry rant. )

After Hebrew school, the adults had Torah study. Rabbi W asked me to talk to a lady in our congregation who's in the conversion process about the beit din and mikvah. It was so surreal for me, because it feels like just yesterday, I was the one asking questions about that, not answering them.
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: (stiff shoulders)
I'm up late tinkering with the laptop, making updates, reinstalling some programs and deleting others. We got hit with a bad virus earlier today (even though we have anti-virus software!) that frustrated me almost to tears. The good news is that I was able to restore it without spending any money, but the bad news is that we lost all our data! UGH! Oh well, at least I didn't have to completely reinstall Windows 7. Now for a little recap of my weekend.

I was off on Saturday, but I had an even busier day on Sunday. (Whatever happened to sleeping in?) That morning there was another session of religious school. We decided to teach the kids a song they can sing in front of the whole congregation one Friday evening -- which made Rebecca want to break out a guitar and say, "Let's learn a song we can sing for the rabbi when he comes! Now, what songs do you know?" We found a song about the Ten Commandments that the kids learned easily enough, but then we teachers came up with the bright idea to add motions to it. How do you get kids to sign out things like no adultery? Yeah, we don't know, either.

The Hebrew class had some bumps in it. My 7-year-old Hebrew study partner (I can't call him my student, because we're on the same level) is very enthusiastic and seems to think learning Hebrew is the darn funnest thing ever! We learned ש, the letter shin, and I told him that when shin has a dot on the right, שׁ, it says SH. When the dot is on the left, שׂ, it says S. That was when another teacher jumped in and rather snippily "corrected" me, saying that shin only takes a dot on the right and only makes a SH sound. If we ever see a shin with a dot on the left, it means someone made a mistake. (I make no claim to infallibility, but all the Hebrew research I've done has told me that shin with a dot on the left says S.) I didn't argue with her, but it did piss me off because she said this in front of my students and I'm 99% sure she was wrong, anyway! It was the first time I've ever felt a vibe of "I was born and raised Jewish and you converted, so I'm a better Jew."

That afternoon, I drove to Texas to see Sassy Jewish Grandfather #1 in "The Odd Couple." I'd been putting off going because it was still so freaking COLD here last week -- in the 30's and freezing! -- that I didn't want to go out at all, much less all the way to Texas. But I finally went, and I literally laughed so hard I cried! Here's a picture of him in all his slobby glory as Oscar:

Happy Valentine's Day to all those of you will be celebrating the day in some way. Rebecca won't, beyond maybe buying chocolate hearts for the two folks who helped me with my computer free of charge. But there is a new episode of NCIS tomorrow, and that's something we can all celebrate!
rebecca_in_blue: (excited grin)
I was going to sign off, clean the kitchen, go to bed, and post this another day, but then I decided to write it down before the feeling goes away. There was another session of Sunday school at the temple this morning. I've posted before about how it hasn't been going perfectly for me, and I expected today's class would be more of the same. We got all the kids together to plant a fig tree sapling on the temple grounds in honor of Tu Bish'vat, a Jewish holiday celebrating trees. I got my coworker EJ to switch shifts with me so I could go, and when I told him this, he said, "Y'all just have the most random holidays! That's awesome!"

To my surprise, I really enjoyed it -- and I think the kids did, too. They all worked together to dig a hole and plant the sapling. It's a Celeste fig tree, which produces the sweetest, juciest figs of all -- of course, it'll be a long time before this one produces any figs! -- and is very popular in the South. I took a few photos, and this one is my favorite. I don't even mind the insane amount of sunflare (it was early in the morning!) because you can really see how much fun the kids had.


I'll share this love I find with everyone
We'll sing and dance to Mother Nature's song

Afterwards, we had Hebrew lessons; not all of the kids could stay for that, so I ended up with just two little boys in my class. They're not twins, but they're brothers very close in age and look SO much alike. Even though I've known them for almost a year, some months ago I gave up on ever trying to tell them apart. (I'm not the only person at temple who has this problem. I've seen them both answer to the other one's name.) But this morning, I somehow did what I thought I could never do and learned who was who! Now I can call them by their first names, instead of "Mr. C----."

I also managed to teach them a little Hebrew, even though the older one speaks the language better than as well as me. I hope I never forget how their faces lit up when they sounded out and read new words for the first time.

Who's to say I can't do everything?
Well I can try, and as I roll along I begin to find
Things aren't always just what they seem
I don't want this feeling to go away

{Lyrics from "Upside Down," by Jack Johnson. Listen here. The video is adorable.}
rebecca_in_blue: (raised eyebrows)
There hasn't been much to blog about lately. Grandma is still dead, Sable is still alive, and Rebecca still isn't over this. Cold weather is back, and the coworker that I thought had quit is still employed. Ugh x 100! But on the plus side, as of today, only TWO WEEKS LEFT until NCIS's 200th episode. From the promo pictures and cast list, it definitely looks to be unique, if nothing else.

After Hebrew school last Saturday (Rabbi W was our guest teacher, and he brought a slide show of photos from his trip to Israel last year and talked to the kids about why each landmark was important to us as Jews – yay, Rebecca didn't have to do any teaching!) we had Torah study, and guess who got called on to read the hardest verses of the weekly Torah portion? Exodus 6:13-25 is nothing but one unpronounceable name after another! Ugh!

There might be something on the horizon I need to save for, so I've been trying to eat out less. It helped that I finished reading Angela's Ashes last week. It really made me appreciate what I have. There are scenes where the main character and his brothers have to beg, dig in dumpsters, and lick the crumbs and grease off fast-food wrappers. It was so depressing – especially because it was a true story – but also surprisingly funny and vibrant. And it made my life look damn luxurious. I'm now reading The Help, and it is very good too. I'm constantly guessing on what's going to happen next. I really hope I can read more books and less fanfiction in 2012 than I did in 2011, so please comment and recommend some books to me!

I've been trying to eat out less, but I cracked when I saw a Subway commercial for their new pulled pork sandwich. I tried one for dinner last night, and it was so messy and delicious and divine. I loved pulled pork, and I might not be able to stay away from it!
rebecca_in_blue: (dozing off)
Rebecca is starting to feel like she's living at temple again. Today was the third day in a row that I've been there. On Friday, we had Shabbat services, followed by a cheese-and-wine oneg in honor of our guest rabbi, Rabbi K. from Mississippi. On Saturday morning, we had Torah study, which was very interesting because rather than discuss the Torah portion at all, someone brought up “Jews” for Jesus instead, and we spent the whole time discussing that group and the best way to react when we encounter them. I hope it will be useful, because I've already had some run-ins with them, and they haven't been pleasant. Rabbi K. said it's important to never refer to them as “Jews” for Jesus or Messianic “Jews” because that implies that they are Jews in some way.

And this morning, there was another session of Hebrew school. (When Sara saw me leaving, she said, “Where are you going? Church?” Har-har.) We played some Hebrew bingo (I got to be the bingo referee) and did a project on the Shema. The kids read The Perfect Prayer, which impressed me in how well it explained the Shema on a kid-level. It went okay, but I can't believe I woke up early on my two days off! Ugh! A few other things I did this weekend: downloaded a better word-processing program, finished writing a new fanfic, and watched my first child actress movie of the year.

23 days left until NCIS's 200th episode! I am looking forward to it, but it's been hyped up SO much that I'll kinda be happy to have it aired and over with.
rebecca_in_blue: (red riding hood)
At services last Friday, our rabbi and temple president had arranged for a group from a local church to visit. One of my cousins happened to be among them, and to my utter mortification, I didn't even recognize her! She actually had to tell me who she was. In my defense, I hadn't seen her since Easter, and it can throw you when you see somebody you know in a place you didn't expect.

This morning, there was another session of the temple's Sunday school (the one Rebecca somehow got roped into teaching) and to my surprise, it was fun for both me and the kids. The other teachers and I showed them a movie about Hanukkah and helped them with a craft project where we made menorahs and edible dreidels. I brought several of my cute, colorful little dreidels (which you can see here) for them to play with, and they were a BIG hit - so much so that I was worried I wouldn't get them back! We decided to save the chocolate gelt for when Hanukkah is actually here, so instead the kids played with Hershey Kisses.

Still, it's hard not to feel out of my league there. The other teachers all have so much more experience with kids, and their Hebrew/knowledge of Judaism in general is way better than mine. I've never formally studied Hebrew and haven't even been officially Jewish for six months! But I'm secretly terrified that if I don't push myself to try new experiences, I'll end a mean, bitter old lady like the temple secretary (whom all the kids - and me - are scared of).

I came home with a bag of marshmallows leftover from the edible dreidels, and Sara said, "What's that? Marshmallows made from the blood of the Christian children you killed?"

Sara and I are reading Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries. It's been very good. Anne Frank is easily the most famous Holocaust diarist known here, but in Israel and some European countries, there are others who are just as well-known. Eva Heyman's diary has been the hardest for me to read so far. Sara read one that mentioned the Anschluss and asked me what it was. I tried to explain it by reminding her that it was referenced in The Sound of Music.

Sara: Uncle Max was screwed at the end of that movie, wasn't he?
Me: Uncle Max? Why?
Sara: 'Cause he was a Jew.
Me: Uncle Max wasn't a Jew. Hello, if he was a Jew, why didn't he leave Austria with the von Trapp family?
Sara: Maybe he didn't know what was going to happen.
Me: Uncle Max was not trash stupid, and he was not a Jew.
Sara: Hello, "I'll miss the money I could've made"? That's how you know he's a Jew.
{Something occured to me later about Uncle Max: Jewish? No. But gay? Possibly, and that also would've left him screwed at the end of the movie.}

P.S. God bless the radio stations that are still playing regular, non-Christmas music! I think the only Christmas song left that I'm not sick of is "Christmastime Is Here."
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)

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