And a sweet one

Wednesday, 28 September 2011 22:07
epershand: A picture of a castle with an arrow next to it. (Castle)
I'm writing this post in the empty space that used to be my apartment. I'm sitting in the corner where there used to be a TV, using an internet connection from my cellphone because my actual phone and internet service have been moved elsewhere. I spent the last several hours repairing and disassembling furniture for pickup by a line of strangers who found me on Craigslist.

It is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the first night of the two-day holiday that marks the beginning of the new year. A block from here, my congregation has already wrapped up their evening service, a service I had a ticket for, but did not attend. I was here instead.

Symbolically, if not doctrinally, I have almost certainly spent tonight in the spirit of the holiday. Rosh Hashanah is a celebration, but it's also the beginning of the Days of Awe, the ten days when one is meant to clean one's worldly slate in anticipation of cleaning one's spiritual slate on Yom Kippur.

Here I am converting the rooms I lived in for three years from home to... not. Six blocks from here is another set of rooms, one that has over the last week rapidly become a home via a lot of laughter, many houseguests, many cuddles, a whole lot of booze, and Erik Lensherr's sharkface.

But in order to let myself be fully present in that apartment, I have to do this too, clear the way for the next person who will make this set of rooms into a home. I felt mindful of that tonight, which made the evening's activities--taking a part a desk; scrubbing a wall; poking ineffectually at the adhesive my landlords told me I wasn't allowed to put on the wall, feel like part of something bigger. The desk and the bookshelves I passed on tonight are moving off to new places and new people just as I am, and that feels really good.

But? If you happen to know any good ways to remove adhesive velcro from a wall without bringing the paint with it, could you let me know? Marcelino was totally wrong about rubbing alcohol.
epershand: T-Rex from Dinosaur comics says "Utahraptor when I stand like this it means HUGS PLEASE" (T-rex needs hugs)
Ok, this was actually a very excellent Christmas. For one thing, my family's gradual mellowing of our celebration reached its nadir this year--yesterday my Mom said to me "Um, actually we haven't gotten you a gift yet." And then I said "It's ok, remember which daughter you're talking to?" And then she said "Um, what do you want?" And I said "A waffle iron." And then we went to the hardware store and bought one. There was no tree, and there were no lights, but we did make a nice lunch where my parents ate roast chicken and mashed potatoes and I ate vegetable quiche.

And my sister is down south with her boyfriend's family who are all about Christmas, so EVERYONE was happy! (I adore my sister to pieces, we just don't see eye-to-eye on the celebration of holidays and it was nice not to have to compromise.)

I am all about days where one is allowed to lounge about in one's pajamas reading Yuletide. (There's the exact Rebecca fic I've been searching the universe for! And Mary Poppins/Tipping the Velvet crossover smut! And Brontes! And fannish trends in Bellwether fic! And, and, and.) I've been cheerily updating my AO3 Bookmarks with my particular favorites, although the archive loading issues means not all of them have saved successfully and I'll have to go back through.

In general, I'm REALLY HAPPY about the recent changes to the archive, because they work to enable my way exactly of reading Yuletide. If I just want to say "Yay! I have read your story and it makes me happy" I can leave kudos--I'm leaving kudos on every story that grabs me for an actual read-through. If I want to leave a more in-depth comment I can comment on the story. If I want to track it for later and share it with others I can bookmark it.

The static version of the archive makes me feel ok about spawning my five million tabs for batch reading, and then once I finish each story I can jump back to the archive proper if necessary for commenting or bookmarking. And I don't even have to jump back for kudos! It's great--my absolute love and admiration goes out to the AO3 developer team.

Tonight my parents and I went to a shiva/havdalah service at the home of some family friends who just lost a loved one (Esther was 91 when she died last week and had acute Parkinson's). It was a beautiful service, and it felt so good to be sitting in a group singing in Hebrew, something that I've never actually done while at home--my spiritual home is something that I found for myself after leaving my literal home, and having the two united into one was just so wonderful to have. Also, if post-holiday smalltalk gets too frustrating, I now have the perfect conversational kryptonite in the form of "What did you do on Christmas?" "I went to a funeral." It's not 100% accurate but close enough if I don't want to deliver a lecture on Jewish mourning practices. #BadPerson.

So ultimately I'm really thankful for a lot of things about this Christmas:
  • A set of good friends with whom to be grinchy when I needed it--this year I think I had more conversations with people who were frustrated by the ubiquity of Christmas and the assumptions that come with it than I had where people made assumptions about the ubiquity of Christmas!

  • A really wonderful visit with my mom and dad.

  • A really lovely and peaceful Shabbat, concluding up with a gorgeous havdalah service.

  • YULETIDE

  • My sister's leg is healing rapidly from knee surgery and it sounds like she too is having the Christmas that she wants with her boyfriend and his family.


Thank you all, flist/droll. I love you.
epershand: A tied-up duck with a sign that says "beware of duck" (Beware of Duck)
And lo, with the passing of Thanksgiving, it is now Christmas Season everywhere I go. I never quite know how to handle this time of the year. I grew up with all the correct "do not feel sad, little Jew, there is stuff for you in December too!" books, but my general takeaway was always that they were protesting a bit too much. No matter what Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House says, there are no magical flying grandparents that come to visit Jewish children and make them feel better about not celebrating Christmas.

Chanukah is just such an unexciting holiday. I mean, it's not unexciting of itself, but it's a lot like carob--very tasty until you start pretending it's an adequate replacement for chocolate, at which point it just becomes a bit tragic. And in my case, things were complicated by the fact that my dad's family was Christian, and we did celebrate Christmas, but I was always a bit resentful of the fact that we did so. I settled into my "not a Christian" identity a long time before I had a Jewish community outside of my family and was able to formulate my own Jewish identity.

So it wasn't until college that I finally realized that Judaism had all sorts of kick-ass holidays, they just didn't fall in December. F'rinstance, I'd rather have Purim than Christmas any time--that's when all the other kids are eating chocolate, but you are drinking mimosas until you forget the difference between your friends and enemies and it turns out you never liked chocolate much anyway. ssshhh, don't tell anyone

Granted, there are tons of Christmassy things I love, but they're mostly from my somewhat bizarre Waldorf education and its tendency to appropriate random German holidays? The things that I love about Winter Christian Thingies are bell choruses and St. Nicholas Day on December 6, and St. Cecelia Day on November 22, and Advent Candles, and the smell of pine, and the odd story in The Seven Year Wonder Book about the line of apple trees from the seeds Adam and Eve took from the Garden of Eden that only bore edible fruit when the Christ Child was born. (Like I said, conflicted confusing religious education in early childhood!)

So I generally spend the month of December alternating between sympathetic giddiness collected from the people around me, and seething resentment of all the times it's been taken for granted that the holiday is everyone's. (One of my least favorite tropes ever: Christmas in [Alien|Fantasy] World X, because everyone across the universe celebrates Christmas, silly! Doctor Who and Yuletide fic are the two biggest offenders here, but I quickly learned to skip any Yuletide fic that bears a hint of December holiday theme.)

Recently, there has been the bonus fun of ongoing reporting on the "war on Christmas", wherein evil atheists and their lackeys the people with religions other than Christian intentionally water down the winter holidays with commercialism and non-denominational cheer. As though so much as mentioning on occasion that we do in fact exist is a grievous offense. To be fair, though, I have my own resentments of the PC genericization of "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays", in which Chanukah and Kawanzaa are tacked on sloppily to Christmas sentiment to make the wisher feels less gauche about being in the majority. This, more than anything, is the reason for my creeping avoidance of Chanukah--it reminds me all too much of attempting to explain to highly religious Christian friends that I didn't believe in Jesus even though his story was in the Bible and thus incontestable truth. Christians, you are welcome to December. Just know that I will be making you jealous when I am wasted in March.

This is not, of course, intended as a complaint against the many lovely Christians, religious and otherwise, who I know and love, who I encourage to celebrate their major holiday as they choose! It is just not my holiday, is all. It's the institution I'm complaining about, not your practices.

tl;dr [personal profile] epershand is a conflicted grinchy Jew. PS I like "Grinch Night" so much better than "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", even though it is objectively not as good.

Things

Saturday, 27 November 2010 17:18
epershand: Goat reads a tag on the back of Pig: "100% pig. Hug. Hold. Feed. And please... be nice." (100% Pig)
Thanksgiving/Chanukah Observed
My family tends to celebrate Chanukah, no matter when it falls, on Thanksgiving, since that's the only time we get the full set of descendants at my grandparents' house. Despite a lot of anticipation and lead-up, this year's Thanksgiving/Chanukah Observed was very low-drama, easy, and, in fact, fun. Possibly because we used up all our drama points in preparation for it?

I went directly from work to my grandparents' on Wednesday night to meet my parents and sister there. My grandmother and I managed to miss each other for ten minutes at a very cold Caltrain station, but otherwise Wednesday night was pretty great. Thursday my sister and I ran all around Redwood City, Menlo Park and Palo Alto looking for last-minute gifts for our cousins, and ultimately came up with a rather excellent set of gifts from the only stores that were open. Namely, a hardware store and a drug store.

In the original plan, my parents, sister and I were going to drive up to my hometown Thursday night, spend Friday there, and then drive back down to the Bay Area on Saturday morning to take my sister to the airport and send her back to Chicago. Happily, about a week ago I pointed out that this seemed like the most stressful driving-to-time-at-home ratio possible, and instead we all ran away to a hotel in the Marina after Thanksgiving. This had the fun advantage of letting me stay in San Francisco while also feeling like I was in a radically different city than the one I live in. Fun fact: when I am in the Marina with my family Marina People stop being my sworn enemy.

Friday we went to the Contemporary Jewish Museum and saw Harry Potter, braved a mall (fools!) and went back to my place to meet Olivia for dinner. This morning, they were all off again.

Olivia's Parents Theatre, a phone call:
OLIVIA: Diane is FILMING Olivia's Parents Theatre!
DIANE [in background]: I am NOT filming OPT...
OLIVIA: There's an acronym for it now?
MOLLY: You should register oliviasparentstheatre.com! And make a YouTube channel! And sell OPT merchandise!
Best fact learned from hotel-room History Channel programming:
According to facts derived from ancient Hindu texts, there were atomic bombs at Sodom and Ghamorra. These atomic bombs came from the same aliens the Aryan race is descended from, and Hitler hoped to harness these powers for the Third Reich. Or... something.

My sister and I used to make fun of the History Channel for being the Nazi channel 11 months of the year and the Jesus channel in December, but apparently at some point they became the Aliens in the Past Channel. Sigh.

Best fact learned from the Curious George exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum:
The Reys (AKA the Reyersbachs) escaped from Nazis ON BICYCLE, not once but TWICE. They biked away from both Hamburg and Paris immediately before those cities fell.

I am pretty sure that that is more interesting than people in tin hats explaining why the Daleks worked with Nazi Germany.

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