aka Great Aunt Rose
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I’m dull. Well, maybe not completely dull. But duller than I’d like to be. I have not read the latest Pulitzer Prize winning novel, am not well-versed in any one particular subject, do not have a hobby or sport I’ve mastered through the years. Mostly what I am right now is stymied by vacation. I check my blackberry at regular anxiety-filled intervals and cycle my projects through my head in a panic. What have I forgotten? What haven’t I done? What could I be doing that I’m not? And when I’ve done with that exercise, I realize I have slowly, over five years time, become increasingly uninteresting. Faced with a day of no work obligation I am paralyzed.
Day One I gave over to Sig Other and his insistence that I learn to shoot. So we trekked out to Piru (a place where bucolic farmland meets Deliverance) and I learned to handle an HK, a Glock and a Remington. Turns out I’m a good shot. I don’t quite get the adrenaline high “yeehaw” of our instructor after shooting the shit out of stuff. But I’m good at it.
Day Two was Christmas – Sig Other and I took the dogs to Venice. Alpha Dog nearly ran off while Beta Dog sad idly by watching Sig Other and I run hysterically after her. We then harnessed both beasts, put on their Hanukah jingle bells and took them for a long walk by the beach before heading off to an over-indulgent dinner with friends. On our way we marveled over the number of Jews with Christmas trees and Sig Other raged about how he felt it disrespectful to Christianity to strip their holiday of symbolism.
And now its Day Three. Sig Other is off on his bike – he’s in training for the century he’ll ride on his birthday. Alpha and Beta are sleeping sweetly. And I’ve begun a novel I’ve wanted to read for weeks now. The start is unsatisfying. I realize I’m a little sick of drunk-lit. Ex-Husbands #1 and #2 were drunks and clearly there was a long period of time when the romance of alcoholism held an intense appeal. But those days are long past and the self-indulgence of an addict’s tales no longer hold me rapt for long.
And so I’ve put my book down and am instead focusing on how I got this uninteresting. I must do something to address this – take up a hobby, find a book I like, explore ways I can expand my brain past the limitations of the everyday challenges it meets. Wish me luck…
Monday, December 21, 2009
Great Aunt Rose is in hospice now. She’s 99. And she’s dying. Ninety-nine years. Imagine the change she’s seen. She lived through two world wars, the formation of Israel, the assassination of Kennedy, the rise of Frank Sinatra, the discovery of Elvis and the Beatles. Middle Sister told me that lately, Rose has been talking about how excited she is about Obama. About how she never thought she’d live to see the day. It’s very like Rose, to be excited about Obama. Rose never watched anything but public television and never voted any ticket other than Democrat her whole life. They considered themselves socialists, that side of the family.
99 years. For 99 years, Rose has watched as the world transformed around her. She has thrived as her hair turn from red to grey and as her stride went from brisk to the careful walk of a woman cautious of too many broken bones. She outlived her parents, her sisters, most of her friends, and of course her beloved nephew – my father. I wondered today, as I was thinking about Rose, when the world started to look different to her. In the span of 99 years, what are the watermarks? When do you start to clock the change in social mores? When do you take notice of the transition from analog to digital? When do really see your first wrinkle? Is there a day? A year? Or do these things just start to sneak up on you?
For me, it seems that 43 is definitively the year that things look different. There’s a certain sag to the skin on the front of my upper thighs. My cheekbones are both more and less prominent depending on the lighting and angle (jowls more emphasized in harsh light and diminished in lower light and from high above). The list of things that anger me has grown shorter but more profound. I care more deeply but for fewer people.
And today, one of my girlfriends made a lunch date with me pending bruising from her most recent botox appointment. Truly. It seems she bruises easily and her social schedule now revolves around the public unveiling of her face. If today didn’t go well at Dr. Needle, our lunch would be put off to next week. I laughed as she told me this and asked what lasts longer, the bruising or the botox. I knew the answer, of course. But it seemed right to ask, if only to remind her of the ridiculousness of the situation. She laughed and said she’d report back. In a few short hours an email arrived. Thankfully, the good doctor performed well and we’re meeting for a meal in just a few days time.
There was a time when we girlfriends got together no matter what – when the urgency of our meetings was dictated by boyfriend trouble or job drama and not by the vicissitudes of a paralyzing bacterium. And there was a time when our skin was tight, our troubles were fewer and we didn’t worry much about the effect of a second glass of wine on our ability to rise early in the morning. There were no husbands then. And no children. No complicated scheduling and no one to worry about but ourselves. And there were no sweet requests for a tuck in or a snuggle late at night.
The tautness of our skin yields to time. Life gets more complicated. And more difficult. Richer in some moments. Less so in others. I lay in bed next to Sig Other. Alpha and Beta dogs snuggled in for the night. Child Two tucked tightly away. And Great Aunt Rose, three thousand miles away, lies in a bed breathing what may be the last of her breaths. I wonder if she’s thinking about change. I wonder if she’s thinking about sagging skin or graying hair or wishing for a time when things were simpler. Or maybe, just maybe, she’s thinking about Obama and what programs she might miss tonite on PBS.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
One of the oddest things about the blogosphere is how intimately it is connected to the world of Twitter. Too intimately sometimes (recall my post about the inadvertent tweet which led to my mother’s discovery of what I thought was my secret blog). That’s the creepy downside. But the fabulous upside is the world of women I now know through the wonder of 140 characters that show up in a window on my computer or a screen on my blackberry. I’ve never met most of these women and probably never will. Few live nearby and many are in far away lands. I would say 50% or more of my twitter friends are Brits. And yet we’ve found each other and know odd details about one another’s lives.
Example: Spice Spoon writes one of my favorite blogs. I found her after she commented on one of my posts. I followed her to her blog, which is rich in delicious prose and amazing recipes. And so I began to follow her on twitter. Miss Whistle and CharlieCircus and Liberty London Girl and Mrs. Trefusis are also friends with Spice Spoon (I imagine it was one of them who led her to me in the first place) and our lowest common denominator – the thing that seems to unite us in spite of relatively disparate backgrounds – is a great passion for food: discovering it, cooking it and, of course, eating it. I would venture to say that a boozy party might be another one of our shared interests. But first and foremost is food.
Food may be the thing that introduced us but Twitter is the glue that holds us together. Through Twitter we learn of one another’s favorite books, the best place to get a haircut in a foreign city, the grooviest new stockings for winter. We share gossip, interesting articles, thoughts on politics or religion and of course interesting new blogs. Every now and then we share heartbreak about a child, a job or a friend.
It’s a uniquely inviting group – there is very little exclusive about it. All that is required is a genuine interest in the world around you and an ability to squeeze that interest into a compelling 140 characters. Usually those characters lead to an article or blog that yields greater fruit. And the bond is sealed.
And so when someone violates one of our own, we feel protective, we feel united, we feel downright angry and we bond together. The other day, Spice Spoon was insulted by a reader. And she tweeted about the fact that we are all, those of us in the blogosphere, so vulnerable to those we don’t know who come to visit our site and leave whatever comment they so choose. And she’s right of course. The great fear of blogging (which I still consider a bit wimpy) and the greater fear of "real" writing (the kind with an editor and publisher and such) is the fear of discovery and the fear that discovery will lead to criticism or worse, contempt. But the flipside of contempt is camaraderie - the camaraderie forged by women across the continent and across an ocean, drawn together by shared interests and hilarity. And to my amazement (and often amusement) the scary world of writing has also led to new amazing and supportive friends. Take that, critics!
Monday, December 14, 2009
On the 4th night of Hanukah, the canter’s wife sent me a Farmville Christmas gift. As did Sig Other’s kosher friend, Dan. He won’t eat a meal in my house without checking first to make sure it vaguely adheres to the basics of kashrut. And yet his Goyish farming alter-avatar-ego sent me a green wrapped gift to put under the tree I’m ignoring on my abandoned farm. He has a tree on his farm as well. But its hidden behind the barn so his son won't see. Sig Other’s mother sent three brightly wrapped presents. This is sort of less bad because she falls into the slightly more ambivalent category of immigrant agnostic. All told, there are twelve gifts waiting to be accepted in my Farmville inbox. And I’m ignoring them all. I’ve not gone to check on my farm in days and it takes every ounce of will power in my exhausted, depleted body to NOT check on my trees, my animals, my sweet little snow covered cottage. Poor Christian farm. Poor abandoned, wilting, ignored Christian farm.
I find it particularly challenging to ignore my farm this evening – I’ve tucked myself in before 9pm having survived and in fact triumphed with the success of last night’s Hanukah celebration. Happy, adorable children stuffed themselves with gelt and donuts and ran themselves silly around a house filled with friends and gifts. Child Two reigned supreme over an aggressive game of dreidel. Sig Other presided beautifully over the lighting of the candles. And I reveled in the joy of catching up with friends I see too little and love so much. But now its done and I’m snuggled into bed with farting Beta Dog and my lovely AirBook and its all I can do to NOT go check on my farm.
But on this fourth night of Hanukah, I will resist the urge to harvest, will resist the urge to plow and plant and will instead turn my energy to something more productive. I will go catch up with my favorite news sites, catch up on friends’ blogs, perhaps even catch up on much needed sleep. But I will miss my farm and my fellow farmers. And so I take this opportunity to thank my Farmville neighbors for their gifts, which will remain unaccepted and unopened. Happy Hanukah, former fellow farmers. And a very merry Jewmas to you as well.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Few folks know that in an alternate universe, I’m a farmer. I have a farm. It’s a beautiful property, nicely maintained with a quaint, single family dwelling in the midst of fertile land. I have 16 cows, 21 chickens, 8 horses, groves of various trees and ever rotating crops on my farm. I also have a herd of reindeer, a giant candy cane and a Christmas tree with branches laden with ornaments hovering over some forty-odd gifts from friends and neighbors. On my farm I am a natural blonde and wear overalls. This is, of course, my Farmville farm and the blonde girl is my avatar. And it occurred to me today, as I harvested an entire field of poinsettias, that my Farmville avatar is Christian.
It’s a little weird to have come to this realization the same week that I agreed to sit on the board of my temple and the same morning on which I woke early to grate potatoes for the Hanukah latkes. But it is nonetheless true.
I feel guilty about my farm. Feel guilty that I dedicate any amount of time, no matter how mindless, to its care. Feel guilty about having a Christmas tree and a giant candy cane next to the front door of my quaint cottage. Feel guilty about all the presents under the tree even though most are from my Jewish friends who are also clearly playing out their own Christian jealousy plays online. My guilt may be all the proof I need that a Douglas Fir, no matter how well decorated, does not a Christian make.
And so this morning, in spite of my great love for my farm, in spite of the fact that Child Two and I spend a good deal of time discussing our mutual farms, in spite of the fact that I do find it relaxing to harvest at the end of the day just before bed, this morning I have decided to abandon my farm.
It’s a sad thing really. And a failure on the part of the creators of Farmville. They should have realized that even the most advanced farmer will, one day, decide to move on. And so they should have created a realtor avatar to sell my farm. I think I’d do pretty well. Even in this market. After all, I have a tractor, a seeder AND a harvester. I even have some fuel left in each. My animals are well behaved and nicely lined up. And my trees yield good fruit. But I have to sell.
In a world in which I struggle to find an extra moment to myself, in a world in which I am trying to dedicate myself 100% in too many directions – finishing one movie, trying to put two more in the pipeline, figuring out Child One’s SAT prep classes, prepping latkes for the children for the first night of Hanukah while wondering how I’m going to manage feeding the 60 people descending on my house for a Hanukah party in just a few short days, this doesn’t really seem like a good time to farm.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
I am not. Not really. But it feels like it sometimes.
Following are excuses I give for my absence in the blogoverse: I'm busy. I have nothing to say. I have lots to say but none of it worthy for public consumption.
Therefore, I blog not. Which does not mean I write not. Only that I write things kept hidden away in a file called “best not published” and that I tap away quietly in the small sliver of space that exists in the dark when the children are sleeping and the dogs are snoring and Sig Other is breathing rhythmically beside me, oblivious to my restlessness. But if I’m writing in the dark, if my writing is a tree falling in an abandoned forest, then why bother? What is the point of setting out to be brave if I stay hidden behind “being too busy” or “having nothing to say?”
The rabbi talked tonite about modalities of prayer. She talked about keva and kavenah. Practice and intention. She talked about how sometimes you show up to pray and nothing happens. Sometimes you show up and you go through the shema and the amidah and the choreography of the ritual and you don’t just show up once, you show up three times a day. And three times a day you say a version of the same thing over and over and you may say it three times a day for weeks on end or even years and feel nothing. Or one day you show up and you do the same exact thing you’ve done for days or years before and something is different – you may get stuck on a word or an idea or a piece of the prayer and you are struck by how moved you are.
I think a lot about just showing up – for friends, for family, for colleagues. And I think a lot about whether it matters how I FEEL about showing up. Whether I go to a funeral or a birthday party or a sickbed or a premiere with good intention or ill turns out to not really matter at all. And it turns out that in Judaism, just showing up is half the battle. Whether you’re there for the right reason, whether you feel what you’re supposed to feel when you’re supposed to feel it – all that is really secondary to the doing of the thing. It doesn’t matter how you feel about showing up. It matters that you do it.
Writing, blogging even, may be the same. It may be that the greatest thing I can do when I don’t feel like writing – the greatest gift I can give myself when I feel that I have nothing to say at all – is to sit down and write. Because the practice of it – showing up at my computer – showing up on the page – may be more important than whether or not I feel inspired in the moment to write something beautiful or something profound or something funny. So here I am. And I’m making a pledge to show up more often.