downcast eyes


on your journey, i will bless you...

...and you will be a blessing

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.

Return again, return again, return to the land of your soul.
happy smile
I really love this late summer/early fall time of year. It's not as brutally hot as the summer, but it still stays light late enough to go bike-riding after dinner. I have been a serious bike-riding beast all this summer. I tried to bike ride for 45 minutes at a time, and I kept biking faster and going further to fill up that time slot, adding on another block, another side street. Now I pass by three different places where I used to turn around and go home. I love biking along listening to some of the same songs that I've listened to since 2009. ("Vida la Viva" and "Something Beautiful" have both been on my iPod pretty much this whole time.) I love biking through the quiet residential neighborhood just west of us, then to the big shopping center just east of us, which is so pretty at sunset when all the lights come on. I love this time of year just before the High Holy Days, when all us Jews are thinking about atoning and making goals for the New Year.

It's a little depressing to think that a month from now, it will probably be too dark and cold to go bike riding after work anymore! I'm really not sure how my sister and I will get through the winter without our walking and biking. Occasionally I go walking with her, even though I say that only a crazy person would walk for the enjoyment of it! This weekend we walked to the new Dairy Queen that just opened in our neighborhood -- it was packed! We haven't lived in a city with a Dairy Queen in a loooong time, and they have a lot more desserts than I remember! I might have to start going there more regularly.

We are still binge-watching ER, although Sara says the show jumps the shark and doesn't want to watch much further past where we are now (Season 6, I think). Last night, we stayed up crazy-late watching the two-part episode where Lucy gets killed, then The Ring, The Strangers, and the Sex in the City movie (even though we both hate it). I'm getting too old to pull off such long nights regularly, but they're still fun every once in a while. Speaking of old, today is ABRAM'S FIRST BIRTHDAY, and tomorrow marks thirteen years since Aunt Carolyn died and ten years since I boarded a plane for France!

May we all be inscribed for a good year in 5778.

The country would be in better shape with Kerry Weaver as president.
pursed lips
My roommate has gone from overdosing on movies every weekend to binge-watching old episodes of ER. She's been checking out all the seasons on DVD from the library. I don't mind because 1) I was getting damn tired of so many movies, and 2) I have fallen the fuck in love with the ER's chief doctor, Kerry Weaver. She is just such an awesome character. I love how tough and smart she is (but she can also be caring when she needs to be, like when Jeannie found out she had HIV). She reminds me of K-----, the one coworker that I actually like. We just finished watching Season 5 this weekend, and I'm disappointed that there's not much more to watch. Kerry deserved her own spinoff series.

The solar eclipse happened last week, and it was a pretty big let-down for me. We actually got a good amount of coverage in this part of the country, but I had expected it to get a lot darker. My coworker A----- and I went outside during it and looked around, and it was only slightly dimmer. But still, it was a neat experience to have. My sister and I meant to watch The Watcher in the Woods in honor of it, but then we never did.

We're busy right now planning our vacation. We're going to Washington DC this year (though even she keeps saying, "I just hate the idea of going while 'he's' there"), and I'm really getting excited about it!!!

There are better ways of spending money in July.
worried eyes
Well, my round of torture at the dentist this afternoon actually didn't go as badly as I'd feared. Some random things that helped:

  1. They put a blanket over my legs - it was frigid inside the office.

  2. I brought a piece of plarn to squeeze (I'd meant to buy a squeezy ball at Target but forgot) and my iPod to listen to (I hate the noise of the dentist machines almost almost as much as the pain).

  3. They gave me the shots first (three, I think) and after that, I knew the worst was over with.

My mouth was still so numb when we left that I didn't realize how much I was bleeding until I spat out a big wad of bloody spit in the parking lot. The sedative pill I took beforehand did take a little edge off my anxiety, but it certainly did not me as loopy and out-of-it as they promised. Next time, I'll probably just stick with gas and drive myself.

But I'm not ready for "next time" any time soon. Almost as bad as being at the dentist was my adverse reaction to the pain medication after I got home. I had fatigue, headaches, nausea, and vomiting for a lot of the rest of the day. I still haven't eaten much, and I'll probably just stick to Tylenol for my mouth pain from now on. Sara was a huge help: driving me there and back, picking up my medication for me, bringing me water after I threw up. I stocked up on matzoh-ball soup, oatmeal, ice cream, and other soft foods for the next few days.

Yes, Rebecca woke up early just to post this!
pursed lips
Seven years ago today, Rebecca published the first chapter of her first fanfiction. Year 6 Stats: 8 stories, 7 fandoms (Little Miss Sunshine, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, NCIS, The Secret Garden, The Sound of Music, Star Wars, and X-Men), 24 chapters/shots, 130 reviews. The first new story that I published this year (not counting stuff still in progress from last year) was So Much More, and the last was Together Again. The shortest was From the Other Side at 849 words, and the longest was So Much More at 11,957 words. My most-reviewed multi-chapter was Mother Nature's Daughter at 39 reviews, and my most-reviewed one-shot was Together Again at 11.

Two stories that I started last year, Devil You Know and Such Downright Domesticity, are still in progress (yes, still) and so are two from this year, So Much More and Boyhood. I'm pleased by this, because longer multi-chapter stories and fewer one-shots was my goal for this year, even though it has been challenging to have this many stories in progress at once. Sometimes it feels like I'm juggling too many balls. I don't have specific endings in mind for Boyhood or So Much More, so I think it will be fun to see how long I can keep them going.

Overall Stats: 113 stories, 34 fandoms, 220 chapters/shots (86 one-shots + 27 multi-chapters), 1,953 reviews for me, 2,174 reviews by me. This is the first ficaversary when I've given more reviews than I've received, although they were pretty close last year. My longest story overall is still Pages Torn Out at 22,522 words, and my shortest is still A Day's Work at 605 words. My most-reviewed multi-chapter is Defensive Wounds at 105 reviews, and my most-reviewed one-shot is Silver and Gold at 33.

Fandom Percentages: 37 stories, 32.8% for NCIS. 25 stories, 22.1% for Les Miserables. 12 stories, 10.6% for X-Men.

Reviews Per Chapter
1) With Blood on Her Hands. Reviews: 84. Reviews per chapter: 16.8.
2) Hell and High Water. Reviews: 98. Reviews per chapter: 16.3.
3) To Be Thankful For. Reviews: 47. Reviews per chapter: 15.6.
4) Rainchecks and Strawberry Jam. Reviews: 30. Reviews per chapter: 15.
5) Shattered and Mended. Reviews: 40. Reviews per chapter: 13.3.
6) Friday Night Double Feature. Reviews: 25. Reviews per chapter: 12.5.
7) Your Keeping. Reviews: 48. Reviews per chapter: 12.
8) Defensive Wounds. Reviews: 105. Reviews per chapter: 11.6.
9) Never Let You Go. Reviews: 20. Reviews per chapter: 10.
10) Out of Austria. Reviews: 35. Reviews per chapter: 8.7.
11) When the Wind Blows. Reviews: 43. Reviews per chapter: 7.1.
12) Those Who Favor Fire. Reviews: 27. Reviews per chapter: 6.7.
13) Pages Torn Out. Reviews: 96. Reviews per chapter: 6.4.
14) Boyhood. Reviews: 31. Reviews per chapter: 6.2.
15) Devil You Know. Reviews: 61. Reviews per chapter: 6.1.
16) Like You've Been Here Before. Reviews: 34. Reviews per chapter: 5.6.
17) Upon a Midnight Clear. Reviews: 22. Reviews per chapter: 5.5.
18) Always. Reviews: 37. Reviews per chapter: 5.1.
19) Cease Your Raging. Reviews: 25. Reviews per chapter: 5.
20) Mother Nature's Daughter. Reviews: 39. Reviews per chapter: 4.8.
21) So Much More. Reviews: 37. Reviews per chapter: 4.6.
22) Such Downright Domesticity. Reviews: 18. Reviews per chapter: 4.5.
23) Coping and Comfort. Reviews: 26. Reviews per chapter: 4.3.
24) Guilty Pleasure. Reviews: 7. Reviews per chapter: 3.5.
25) When Mary Holds Your Hand. Reviews: 13. Reviews per chapter: 2.1
26) I'd Know You Anywhere. Reviews: 4. Reviews per chapter: 1.
27) Power Beyond His Own. Reviews: 2. Reviews per chapter: 1.

Sun in the sky, you know how Rebecca feels.
red riding hood
I'm sitting outside writing this and keeping an eye on Mayim. She loves these long summer days, and so do I. We've had such nice cool weather ever since Tropical Storm Cindy blew through (although I think it was a tropical depression by the time it reached us), and I've been trying to spend more time outside to enjoy it. Sara and I have gotten into a pattern of alternating days that she goes for a walk and I go on a bike ride.

Riding my bike more has really helped with my anxiety; I love biking through sprinklers and seeing the rabbits on neighbors' lawns, all the robins in the trees, and minnows in the tiny brooke - I always stop and look over both sides of the bridge over the brooke when I bike across it. I've developed a route that's right at 45 minutes, although I don't know how far it is or how many calories I burn (both things that Sara is obsessed with keeping track of). When I get home, I have something cold out of the freezer - currently fudgesicles, but I think I'll go back to popsicles once I finish them - and it is so satisfying.

To reward myself for getting a pap smear last month (ugh), after I got the results, I bought myself a pair of Jerusalem Cruisers (a fancy way of saying brown sandals). I had a pair of these when I was middle-school age, and I loved them like I've loved few other articles of clothing in my life. It felt like I had them forever, even though it was probably only 2-3 years. I wore them constantly, until I wore them right out and one of the straps broke. I'd wanted Mom to get them mended for me, but since I wasn't her son, I couldn't always get what I wanted. Anyway, my new sandals are as close as I could find to the old ones, and my goal for the summer is to get a sandal tan from them.

Earlier this month, Sara and I went roller-skating at the local roller-rink, where we'd never been before. We were such pros at skating when we were kids, and today... we're still too shabby! Even though the rink wasn't very well supervised and I hardly recognized any of the songs they played. So many of the kids there were using skate-aids, to the point that it felt a little ridiculous to me. Sara and I probably got so good because they never had those things when we were kids!

Between good movies, good books, bike rides, and occassionally doing something, Summer 2017 is shaping up pretty nicely. Less than a week to go until my ficaversary on July 2!!!
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Rebecca has been picking blackberries every day!
happy smile
Earlier this year, Sara got into the habit of going for walks, and last weekend, I joined her for one. I thought, it’s just walking, how bad can it be? UGH. My Louisiana body could take the heat, but not the inclines. There was so much up and down, and Sara walked every side street and cul-de-sac like some sort of crazy masochist. I was briefly buoyed when we found a bunch of very crumpled $20 bills in some weeds (which turned out to be fake), but the bridge over the interstate nearly wiped me out, and by the end of the walk, I was just dragging myself along the pavement. (I’m pretty sure Sara regretted inviting me.) Then I remembered that I didn’t have anything frozen waiting for me at home and walked to the store for the biggest-size Icee available. No Icee has ever tasted sweeter!

Last weekend, I also dragged my butt out of bed early enough for Shabbat morning Torah study at the temple, which is one of those things I’m always meaning to do but never actually do. Next Saturday morning, there’s a meditation class at the library, and I’m hoping to make it to that, too. I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks while I crochet, and I need to check out a new one while I’m there. I’ve been busy crocheting custom orders since the food festival, which is a rare thing for me.

My child-actress movie for Memorial Day was Heidi (2005); Sara and I also watched Split and Dirty Dancing, which she wanted to see to get the taste of the new remake out of our mouths. I thought it was amusingly bad, but she wasn’t amused. I’d wanted to get out and do a little more for the Memorial Day weekend, but as I was coming back from the animal shelter, a Maintenance Required light came on in my car. I flashed right back to driving Muse Watson and almost threw up! It turns out, it comes on every approximate 5,000 miles as a reminder to do the scheduled maintenance. Whew.


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