downcast eyes


on your journey, i will bless you...

...and you will be a blessing

But now Rebecca can't read a book outside of temple!
raised eyebrows
Back in the day, I used to come up with annual book awards, where I'd go through the list of books I'd read that year and name the best and worst in various categories. But nowadays, I don't read anywhere near as many books as I used to (fanfiction, yes, but actual books, no) and I haven't done book awards in years.

In 2017, I started listening to audiobooks instead of the radio while I crocheted, and I kept up reading kids/YA books from the temple library during Shabbat services (which I started in 2016). It didn't add up to a huge number of books (eighty books in one year will probably never happen again), but it was an increase for me from recent years. I didn't do any book awards for 2017, but I did rank all the books I read into the five categories below. Almost every one of them was either an audiobook or a kids book from my temple. It was a little hard putting adult and children's books into the same category, since obviously you don't judge them by the same standards.

The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue
What the Dead Know, by Laura Lippman
The Light Between Oceans, by ML Stedman
Olive Kitteredge, by Elizabeth Strout

Above Average
One More River, by Lynne Reid Banks
The Wedding Gift, by Marlen Suyapa Bodden
Butterfly's Child, by Angela Davis-Gardner
Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
Robin's Diary, by Claire Labine and Judith Pinsker
Love From Your Friend, Hannah, by Mindy Warshaw Skolsky

Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Candlelight for Rebecca, by Jacqueline Greene
Meet Rebecca, by Jacqueline Greene
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
Speed of Light, by Sybil Rosen
Push, by Sapphire

Below Average
The Adults, by Alison Espach
Independence Avenue, by Eileen Bluestone Sherman

The Cherry Cola Book Club, by Ashton Lee
Incredibly Alice, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

2017: The year in music and movies.
downcast eyes
Sara and I stayed up until midnight last night putting together a puzzle and watching Speed (our New Year's Eve tradition). We tried to time it so that the bus jumped over the gap in the freeway right at midnight (like we did back here), but we were a few minutes off. Today we're planning to make cheese dip and brownies.

I always post a lot of lists at the beginning of a new year. I'll start with the songs I listened to most and movies I watched.

Most-Played Songs on my iPod, 2016: NewCollapse )

Most-Played Songs on my iPod, 2017: "Old"Collapse )

And my movie lists. I don't keep track of the movies I watch as closely as Sara does, but I think I got all of them.

Young Actress Movies of 2017Collapse )

Other movies of 2017: Allied, Arrival, Beauty and the Beast (I've decided Emma Watson and Saoirse Ronan are grown up now, which is why this and Lady Bird aren't in the young-actress category), The Big Sick, The Bye Bye Man, The Edge of Winter, The Face of Love, Finding Dory, Their Finest, Get Out, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, It Comes at Night, Jackie, Lady Bird*, The Light Between Oceans (this movie and a few others had young actresses in them, but I didn't think the roles were big enough to qualify for the young-actress category), Lion, Manchester by the Sea, A Monster Calls, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Wonder Woman, The Zookeeper's Wife.

These lists last year are all back here.

"Here's to you guys for doin' your job and for not gettin' dead."
bemused shrug
The first sentence of my first post for every month of 2017. I know I sound old for saying this, but it feels like I just compiled my first sentences for last year. Where did 2017 go?


I must be getting old, because I opened my last Hanukkah gift from Mom last night and I was actually darn happy to have a new set of bedsheets!

Man, this work week has been rough.

Mom was supposed to come visit us this weekend, but her car battery died on the day of departure.

The thing that nobody tells you about converting to Judaism is how lonely it gets around the holidays.

For some reason, I decided that May would the month to do everything that I've been putting off doing.

Earlier this year, Sara got into the habit of going for walks, and last weekend, I joined her for one.

Seven years ago today, Rebecca published the first chapter of her first fanfiction.

My roommate has gone from overdosing on movies every weekend to binge-watching old episodes of ER.

I really love this late summer/early fall time of year.

I don't mind growing older, but I'm not crazy about having Happy Birthday sung to me.

Our clocks fell back last night, so that likely means no more weekday bike riding for me until springtime.

The nights here have been frigid lately, but today was sunny and pretty mild, so I went for a bike ride along my old summertime route.

On the twelfth day of working, Rebecca gave herself Christmas!
dozing off
Whew, after working that twelve-days-in-a-row stretch, this weekend was just what I needed. All the work of moving was so stressful and exhausting. Lots of long days, lots of heavy lifting. I dropped something hard on my foot. My commute is longer. Our WiFi at the new location still isn't up and running, and there's a lot less privacy in the bathroom and break room. UGH! I really wanted some wine to numb the pain, but I also wanted to sleep at night and didn't want to drink any alcohol with those sleeping pills. My bosses threw a little Christmas party on our last day (and let us off about an hour early) to show their appreciation. We had sugar cookies, candy, and eggnog. I didn't go to Shabbat services at temple. I came home and crashed.

The bright spots were the congregational Hanukkah dinner and my mom getting me a new pair of polar bear pajamas! I've had a blue pair since about 2010, and when I got them out this winter, I noticed how very worn they were getting. So the new pair arrived just in time! My mom's gifts usually miss the mark, but I love these.

On Saturday, I slept in and slept in and slept in. (Can you tell how much I've missed that?) My sister and I went out to eat, then we drove past the packed, madhouse mall to the quiet, almost-empty library. I'd just finished The Light Between Oceans and needed a new audiobook. We browsed and read and finished the communal puzzle. I finally went grocery shopping and did my laundry. We watched Meet Me in St. Louis, after I realized that I didn't have a DVD of Home Alone (my favorite Christmas movie) like I thought I did.

So on Sunday (Christmas Eve), I went out to buy one. I had to drive almost all over town trying to find some sugar cookie dough, which I'd wanted to give my sister for Christmas. Three different stores each had about a hundred facings for chocolate chip cookie dough but only one of sugar cookie, and only the last one I visited had any in stock. I also finally managed to give some stuff to a homeless man in my neighborhood. There are several homeless folks around, but this man is older, probably in his 60's, and he looks worse off than most of them. One very cold night I saw him out with no gloves on, and it really bothered me. For the last few days, I've been driving around trying to find him, and on Christmas Eve, I finally did. I gave him a brand-new pair of gloves, a little cash, and some granola bars and cough drops.

My sister and I used to make a big breakfast on Christmas, but last year's got to be a little too much. So this year, we had a repeat of Thanksgiving side dishes. We slept in, then we made green bean casserole, cheese-onion dip, and one of the rice-dressing mixes that we brought from Louisiana. It was all so good! We are, lazed around, watched Love Actually, and read the Christmas chapter of Betsy and Joe, the Betsy-Tacy book that Sara just checked out from the library. She has started calling the holiday Carmex. Haha! Oh, wait... that's actually horrifying!

Only to bring you peace, only at Hanukkah...
trembling hand
The nights here have been frigid lately, but today was sunny and pretty mild, so I went for a bike ride along my old summertime route. I've really missed it. There's this one pine tree with low branches that whenever I bike under, I always pluck a few needles off and smell them. I think of it as my own mini havdallah service. I did today for the first time in a while, and it made me think of the lines from "O Christmas Tree." It recently snowed, really snowed, in my hometown, which blew my mind pretty hard. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen all the pictures on Facebook of my high school and the city hall all covered in snow. Anyway, about what's been happening lately...

The national touring production of Les Miserables was in L-city recently, and last weekend, my sister and I went to see the Sunday matinee! It was pretty crowded; we saw crowds of people walking towards the theater for blocks before we got there. We got spots in a parking garage right next to the theater, but it was a long, slow crawl to get in and out. We were seated in the very last, highest row of seats, but I didn't care because I loved the show so much! A few random observations:

~ I really wasn't feeling Josh Davis as Javert. He had an odd accent and a very clipped way of speaking. Javert usually holds there in the line "There, out in the darkness..." but this guy sang it very shortly. I think he might've been the understudy. During the lead-in to "Who Am I?" ("This time, there is no mistake"), Javert stoppeded and stared at Valjean for several beats before leaving. I'd never seen that before, and I didn't really like it. It felt like he was waiting for Valjean to confess, and trying to guilt him into confession, rather than just accusing him outright, is dishonest in a way that I can't see Javert doing.

~ I also wasn't very into J Anthony Crane and Allison Guinn, who played Thenardiers, who were kinda screechy and over-the-top, even for them. Some their lines they screamed more than sang.

~ Melissa Mitchell (Fantine) and Phoenix Best (Eponine) were very good, and I liked that they took their bows together. (Sara said this happened when we saw it on Broadway too, but I didn't remember that.) Nick Cartell (Valjean) and Joshua Grosso (Marius) were okay. This Marius had a bit of a comedic slant to him -- his voice cracked on "Dear mademoiselle, won't you say?" and a few other lines, which I'd never seen before -- but I thought he redeemed himself in "Empty Chairs on Empty Tables."

We didn't dress up (unlike everyone else in the audience), but I did make sure to wear the same blue shirt that I wore when we saw Les Mis on Broadway. (The last local production that I saw is back here.) Another night, we went to the movies and saw Ladybird, which looks like another Oscar nomination for Saoirse Ronan! I'm exicted for her.

Then Friday was the annual company dinner for my job. It wasn't quite as horrific as last year's, thanks to a quieter locale and the fact that I was sitting at the more grown-up end of the table. C---, A------, and their spouses get so loud, immature, and obnoxious, but I sat as far from them as I could get. We went to an Italian resteraunt with a real-live pianist playing Christmas songs (so much nicer than last year's nonstop blaring band), and I had Shirley Temples and a goat-cheese pizza, though it arrived later than everybody else's dinners, and I didn't get to order dessert. Oh well, I am just happy to have the darn thing over with. Big changes are coming at my job, and I'm hoping I can find more good than bad, because I hate job-hunting, and I used to really like this job.

Today, I took my sister to her favorite Indian buffet for her birthday. I'd never been there before (I don't like Indian food), but she goes there so often that the employees say "welcome home" to her when she walks in. I can usually find something to eat, but this year, I mistook a
hot pepper for a sweet pepper and popped the whole slice right in my mouth! It was awful, and my lips kept burning forever afterwards, even after I scrubbed them with ice cubes like a crazy person. I was too scared to eat anything else after that, except for the cold rice pudding.

I had to take her out to eat this weekend because starting tomorrow, I'm working twelve days in a row. I won't get a single day of Hanukkah off. Blegh. And it's usually when I need sleep the most that my body decides to stop doing it. I've already had a few rough nights in December, maybe due to switching from magnesium citrate to regular magnesium (but honestly, I have no freakin' clue why I can sleep some nights and not others). Please pray that I can get the rest I need!

I don't believe that in a house with this many people, there's no shampoo! (Thanksgiving 2017)
bemused shrug
My sister and I left for our hometown around 1 on Wednesday and made good time, although I was pretty stressed by having to drive the last ~1.5 hours in the dark. Our mom called us when we were just outside I-town and sounded stressed; when we got to her house, we discovered that her oven had died! It apparently just stopped working with no warning (after at least 20 years) the day before Thanksgiving. Mom and Adam had to go to Wal-Mart that night and buy a confectionery oven, then Mom had to take the turkey apart and cook it in pieces, since the whole thing wouldn't fit.

Sara and I stayed in a hotel this time, not at our mom's house, and it was so much nicer that I don't know why I never did this before. Mom's house is creaky and drafty, and Adam was more annoying that I remembered. We went there on Thursday afternoon for Thanksgiving dinner, and you would never have known it wasn't cooked in a real oven. Mom had made turkey, rice dressing, and all the other fixings, and Sara brought two homemade pies, one chococlate chess (my absolute favorite) and one cherry-rhubarb. Aunt Carla joined us for dinner, and I was really glad to finally see her again. I got her a plarn rug and some photos I stole from Facebook of all her grand nieces and nephews. (It started out just as photos of Abram, but then I decided to include everyone else. Between them all, she has DNA in Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, the Netherlands, and South Korea!) After eating, Sara and I went on a long walk through the neighborhood -- past my high school, Grandma's old house, Bunny the Horse, our old apartment, C-school. We found the square of cement where I wrote my initials +6 years ago! It was so strange. Living in L-city wasn't even in the cards for 2010 Rebecca.

On Friday, I drove to services at my hometown temple. I hate driving there and almost never did it when I lived there, even in the dead of winter, but after I dragged Mom's bike out from the bowels of the backyard shed, I realized it had two flat tires! Services had a small turnout, but one lady brought a loaf of challah, and I brought Hanukkah sugar cookies. (Which I made at the very last minute before we left on Wednesday, smashing the dough flat with a can of chicken soup because we don't have a rolling pin.) The temple has recently rennovate their courtyard, but I was most surprised that they'd switched to Mishkan T'filah for their siddur. I think I was the only one who liked the old "Gates of Grey" siddur.

On Saturday, I dragged Sara to eat at my favorite pizza place, and then we visited Aunt Connie (and Uncle John, briefly), and it was fun, even though their lemon tree wasn't ripe enough to pick yet. They had just gotten back from a trip to Florida. They've fixed their guest bedroom up really nice, and I was almost tempted to stay with them! We didn't see our cousin O, but Aunt Connie says she's doing much better. They got a plarn rug too, although I felt a bit silly giving a crocheted rug to Aunt Connie, who can crochet much better than I can.

And inbetween, we spent a lot of time playing videogames at Mom's house (I'm still boss at MarioKart, but I can barely beat the easiest levels of Super MarioWorld!) and lying in bed at our hotel, watching endless hours of TV. One channel was playing Home Alone, my all-time favorite Christmas movie. One channel kept playing Titanic over and over. We caught old episodes of ER, Full House (the one where Nicky and Alex are born), every series of Law & Order, all of Adventures in Baby-Sitting, and bits of Sex and the City 2, but even Sara couldn't watch much of that, and she loves to hate-watch the first movie. We made Adam watch a little of The Great British Bake-Off on Netflix - he assumed Paul and Mary were a couple!!!

Night walking deserves a quiet night.
downcast eyes
I always say that my sister is crazy for walking so much during the day (she's now up to "five miles at a clip") and my brother is a freak for walking at night, but I've been looking for ways to fill the time between leaving work on Fridays and going to Shabbat services at the temple. If we're busy enough, I'll stay at work until services. I crochet or browse the Goodwill or go to the library or get something to eat. At this time last year, I was taking a nap in my car in the temple parking lot, which I loved and did every Friday until the weather got warm. I've considered going back to that, but tonight, instead, I went on a walk (pretty long by my standards, about 40 minutes).

And man, I loved it. The weather was windy and cool but not chilly, even in my short sleeves, and the neighborhood around temple was perfect for it. (I know some neighborhoods that I wouldn't walk in after dark, but this is a very wealthy residential neighborhood.) I loved the dark, quiet streets. I loved the smell of the pine trees, the wind blowing leaves across the pavement, seeing all the lights on in the big houses. I loved moving under the streetlights, through patches of light and dark, light and dark. There were occassional cars but nobody else walking, so I felt like I was alone in the world. It was like being inside a poem.

It reminded me of my old bike rides through the Garden District and downtown. And one week from tonight, I'll be back there! Next Thursday is Thanksgiving (or "Rice-Dressing-Giving," as we're calling it this year), and my sister and I are planning to leave for our hometown on Wednesday. Ken y'hi ratzon.

Anyway, if the weather doesn't get too cold, I might make a habit out of this. Will have to find a more visible shirt to wear, though.

Alone in the living night
Away from the babble of tongues
Alone with the old delight
Of the night wind in my lungs,
With the smell of the pelted earth,
The tearful drip of the trees,
Making him dream of the sound of mirth
That comes with the clearing breeze.

I have made me a vagrant song,
For my heart is warm to the core.
And I'm glad, Ah, glad that the night is long,
For I follow the road once more.
And the dim trees beat the dark,
And the swelling ditches moan;
With the joy of the singing, soaring lark
I travel the road -- alone.

Walking at Night, by Amary Hare

Wake Rebecca up when December ends.
stiff shoulders

Our clocks fell back last night, so that likely means no more weekday bike riding for me until springtime. Ugh. (Although I did just ride my bike to McDonald's for breakfast this morning. :) ) Last weekend, the temperatures were close to freezing, but this weekend has been in the '70s and we had to turn our air-conditioning back on.

Honestly, I'm feeling pretty done with 2017. From here on out, there's not much more to look forward to for the year, except the latkes. I despise the annual company dinner and exchanging gifts. I usually really like Thanksgiving (because there are no presents), but last year's Thanksgiving left such a bad taste in my mouth that I don't want to get my hopes up for this year. For the last few years, Thanksgiving is the one time a year that I go back to my hometown (aka Trump Supporter Country) and see my family, and I feel like once is enough. I am not about to sit quietly and let my aunt scream at me again.

This morning I got started on some of my holiday shopping, and I'm hoping to have it all out of the way before Thanksgiving. Mom and Athena are each getting a rice mix that supports the local foodbank (the same thing I got them last year), and one other thing each from other nonprofits. I haven't bought anything for Adam or Sara yet, and I don't know what to get them. Adam hasn't sent me a list yet, and I've been scouring the Internet for the one thing Sara's asked for and can't find it anywhere. Ugh! I'm thinking about giving the M's and Aunt Carla each a plarn product (likely a rug), which they will probably just pretend to like. I feel bad that I haven't seen Aunt Carla the last few times I was in town, and I'm hoping I can this year.

I'm currently reading Olive Kittredge on audiobook and Meet Rebecca at my temple, and I'm hoping to finish them both and at least one more book before the end of the year. Sara and I have been watching old seasons of The Simpsons, and it really takes me back. I can remember watching the "Kamp Krusty" and "Radio Bart" episodes when they first aired when I was a kid, and thinking they were the funniest things in history.

Sleeping recap for October: Aside from one sleepless night in the teens, I slept every night this month! I still woke up most nights, but I was able to fall back asleep quickly. I've been taking a magnesium supplement with a small snack, usually a slice of toast, at bedtime. (Back in high school/college, I religiously had to have a snack right before bed, or I could not fall asleep. But over the years, I fell out of the habit of it.) I don't know if this is the actually the cause of my sleeping better, or if it's just random. I was also able to sleep with my window open a few nights this month, and having a cooler room helps, too.

Rebecca's birthday and angry thoughts on declawing cats.
dropped jaw
I don't mind growing older (I'm now wise enough to realize that it's a blessing), but I'm not crazy about having Happy Birthday sung to me. We've always done this at my job whenever someone has a birthday, and I've always found it embarrassing – like, aren't we too old for this? This year, I had it sung to me twice, once at work and once during the oneg at my temple. I share my birthday with an old Jewish lady at temple whose the matriarch of a big family and probably related to half the people there. (She was probably turning 200.) I think they were planning to sing just to her, but then they realized it was my birthday too and threw me in. We were having outdoor services that night for Sukkot, and they gave us each a cupcake and sang to us under the sukkah. The temple's sukkah is so beautiful this year.

On Saturday morning, Sara and I woke up early (ugh) to take the cats to the vet. Our old vet is no longer open on Saturdays, so we took them to a new one, and I'm pretty sure she now thinks we're awful pet owners. We couldn't remember which one of them was microchipped, and while she was examining Tovah, she said, "She's front declawed." We hadn't known.

It was HARD news to hear. I was gutted because I know that declawing is deeply traumatic torture for cats, with a long, painful physical recovery and emotional and psychological scars that NEVER heal. I have seen it on so many cats at the animal shelter where I volunteer. I was furious that some ignorant jerk did such a horrific thing to my sweet Tovah. I was guilt-stricken because after five years of owning Tovah, we didn't know. We weren't told at the shelter where we adopted her. Our old vet never mentioned it. I thought sometimes that she might be declawed, then I'd think, "No, if Tovah was declawed, I would know."

Tovah has always been SO high-strung and anxious. She is constantly on alert and startles and runs away at the slightest sound/motion. Maybe she was always like that, but more likely it was an effect of the declawing. Claws are a cat's natural means of protecting themselves, and without them, declawed cats feel completely defenseless. Sometimes they never feel safe again. After five years with Tovah, I think she feels safe with us now, but it is so sad to imagine that she could've been much happier and more relaxed, more like Mayim. She could've been an entirely different cat. It's sad to imagine that with the cats at the shelter, but with my Tovah, it really hits hard. We've had her for five years now, but she was already about 9 when we got her, so it's only a third of her life.

But anyway, getting back to my birthday. On Saturday afternoon, Sara treated me to my favorite pizza place, then we went to the library, and that was my birthday. Mom sent me a shirt and some money, but otherwise, I got no gifts, and I was happy about it! Gifts with my family get too darn competitive.

On Sunday afternoon, Sara and I walked to the Dairy Queen again. And this time, I suggested it! I must be losing my mind, but I had a craving for pulled pork sandwich, and the long walks aren't as rough for me as they used to be.

P.S. This new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was just released today, and I have already watched it about 100 darn times! December 15, you can't get here soon enough!

Where's this cooler weather Rebecca's heard tell about?
downcast eyes
Sometimes when you're bike-riding, you go through patches of random, inexplicable smells. A few days ago, I biked through one that smelled like my hometown temple. It really hit hard. How I miss the smell of that place, the feeling of walking through those doors. I miss it every single Friday evening, but especially around the High Holy Days.

But sometimes I wonder, would I still love that temple so much if I still lived in my hometown? I'd lived there for too long and gotten sick of pretty much every single other thing in that town. It's hard to imagine, but maybe if I were still there, I would've gotten sick of that temple, too. I know it would've been hard watching the G's and the B's move away.

I haven't been a very good Jew lately. I arrive at Shabbat services late pretty much every Friday evening, so I won't have to talk to people during the oneg. (Making small talk has always been nerve-racking for me, and in my +4 years at this temple, I've only gotten worse at it, not better.) I read during the service and practically bolt out the door afterwards. I'm not any better with my coworkers at work. I know what an unfriendly bitch everybody must think I am, but my attempts at being friendly have gone wrong too many times. (My tone. My expression. Ugh.)

Yesterday was Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I have good memories of this Shabbat (here, here, and here) and it's the Shabbat when we read my favorite Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, in which the biblical Rebekah is kind to animals (memories of that here and here). So I decided to go a little early and force myself to interact with people.

I'm so glad I did, because who should be in town for the High Holy Days but Sharon, my former Jewish Grandmother. She and Al were two of my favorite people at the temple, but Al died two years ago, and Sharon moved back to their home state not long afterwards. I hadn't seen her in a long time, so it was a real surprise to see her face in the crowd. We sat together where she and Al used to sit, which made her cry a little. It was very bittersweet.

Will you seek afar off? You surely come back at last,
In things best known to you finding the best or as good as the best,
In folks nearest to you finding also the sweetest and strongest and lovingest,
Happiness not in another place, but this place—
not for another hour, but this hour.


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