Friday, April 30, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I am actually halfway done.

I currently have 51,000 words in my "novel." A few thousand more and I may even drop the quotation marks! In all seriousness, I am proud of myself for getting this far and not giving up. And reading over it, there's a whole lot of crap there, but there are also a few nuggets of pretty decent writing. It's a muscle, it really is, and it's been out of shape for a long while now. But I've been working it out again, and it's coming easier at last.

It's not all roses and sunshine over here though. So apparently my son, my beloved son, has decided that I am persona non grata around these parts, at least compared to Daddy. If Daddy leaves the room, and he's stuck with me, he cries. If he bangs his head and I pick him up, he reaches out his arms to Daddy. When Daddy's not home, I get his sloppy seconds, but the second that key flips in the lock.... Bam. Chopped Liver.

I know this is normal, and sometimes I even find it amusing, but it's happening so much these days that it's starting to hurt my feelings. Any thoughts?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Today I am 33...

...Which sounds really, really old and yet feels really, really young.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Wee Jack

While we were in Denver, my sister's friend Julie Harris, who is an amazing photographer, took pictures of Jack. I love how they turned out:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Why Today is a Good Day

1. Jack did not wake up at all last night

This was normal, up until we went to Denver. Suddenly, if he heard a noise at all (he only ever woke up while we were still awake and moving around, never in the middle of the night thankfully), he would wake up and howl and howl until I came and cuddled him for a little while. Then he'd go back to sleep. The trouble is, he got used to waking up and having a cuddle.

We did cry it out with Jack, only because he never really got hysterical. We just let him fuss and minimally cry, going to check on him every ten minutes, until he went to sleep. We got lucky, because it worked well, was only nominally uncomfortable, and he became a stellar sleeper. But this crying that he does now is different. He screams and screams and I hate it. I know he's not in real distress, that he's actually just angry that we're not coming and he's throwing a little tantrum, but I cannot stand to listen to it. It makes my insides ache. So we've just been making it worse by giving up and going in and picking him up. A few nights ago we made the stupid mistake of actually bringing him back downstairs for a while. I know, I know, stupid. A couple hours later he was awake and inconsolable. Even picking him up didn't work, because he didn't want to be picked up, he wanted us to take him downstairs again.

I didn't give in this time. But I didn't leave him to cry either. I just held him while he sobbed and sobbed and gestured for the door.

I believe in not giving in. I believe that teaching him is more important than comforting him sometimes, that learning to have a good night's sleep is one of the most important lessons I can teach him, that letting him know the boundaries from the outset is as crucial to his sense of security as are my arms around him. So even though he cried for well over forty minutes, until his voice was hoarse, I didn't bring him downstairs. He got the boundaries and the arms at the same time, and finally, after a tiny bottle to calm him, he went to sleep.

Last night he didn't get up at all. This makes me very, very happy.

2. I got up early and knocked off 1,200 words before 7:00 AM

I now have almost 44,000 in my "novel." I cannot express how arduous it is for me to write sometimes, but this morning it flowed and it felt good. I'm going to try and get up at six a few times a week, before Jack gets up. When I try to write at night I am just too zonked. It doesn't work unless I drink. and because I'm down to only three times a week of my red wine fix, that's not going to work.

But this morning was great. Never mind how exhausted I am right now. I feel good.

3. I lost three pounds

It's not really a huge celebration, because anything less than five actual pounds may just be a fluke, but hey, I'll take it. I've been eating so much better these days, drinking less, and working out more. Again, I feel good.

4. We've done, like, a bunch of big home projects in the past two weeks

Finally, with the help of David's cousin, who is staying here and is an angel from heaven, I'm getting to all those things that I've been putting off. We've organized the office and the reams of paperwork. We've cleaned the basement. We've laid new grass in the backyard. We've reorganized all the kitchen cupboards. We put up brand spankin' new shelves in the pantry. Damn, it feels good.

I feel good. Life is good. All is good.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I have tapped into the zeitgeist

Just when I thought I was original, snapping a photo of everything I eat for my fat blog, the New York Times reveals that, once again, I'm just like everyone else. Only fatter, obviously.

"First the Camera, then the Fork," NYTimes April 6

Monday, April 05, 2010

Celebrating Pesach

Passover is, without a doubt, one of my favorite holidays. It is a time of renewal and remembrance, a real spring holiday in which we gather strength from the winters of the past and move forward into the summer of the future, if you'll forgive my grandiose description. But Passover is grandiose. It is a celebration of the single most important historical event int Jewish history, the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites went from a ragtag bunch of slaves to an enduring and powerful people. The seder celebration is thousands of years old. The last supper of Jesus was a passover seder. He celebrated it much the same way as we celebrate it today, with wine and unleavened bread and feasting.

I'm not going to get into the "truth" of the Exodus or not. Whether or not it actually happened, believe it or not, is not all that important to me. So much of history is simply storytelling, collective myth-making, the creation of a cultural identity through a shared past. And that is enough for me.

Passover starts with a massive Spring Cleaning. Every corner must be emptied and cleaned, lest some "Chametz" be found there. Chametz is basically any leavening agent, or anything that has been leavened: bread, pasta, any wheat product that hasn't specifically been created for Passover under strict supervision. So we clean our houses, our cars, our closets, our offices, and we clear out everything. Kosher Jews bring out an entirely different set of dishes and pots and pans just for Passover, items that have never touched Chametz and never will.

After the cleaning, there is the seder on the first evening of Pesach (those outside of Israel have two seders, the first two nights). How can I describe the seder? It is a long, ritualistic commemoration of freedom, in which we who were once slaves are meant to lounge and feast like royalty.

The table is set with fine china and the seder plate, which contains the symbols of passover: Maror, or bitter herbs, symbolizing the bitterness and harshness of the slavery which the Jews endured in Egypt; Charoset, A sweet, brown mixture representing the mortar used by the Jewish slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt; Karpas, or parsley which is dipped in salt water to commemorate the tears of the people in Egypt; Z'roa, a lamb shank bone symbolizing the ancient Pesach offering; and Beitzah, a hard-boiled egg also symbolizing the offering. We eat these things, and follow many other rituals: washing of the hands at the table, breaking and eating the matsoh, drinking four glasses of wine throughout the meal, each one symbolizing one act of God's redemption. From one glass we remove ten drops to remember the plagues visited on Egypt, and to remind ourselves that our joy is lessened by the suffering of others, even our enemies.

But the most important part of the night is telling the story. We tell the story of the Exodus, however we want. I've been to seders where the children put on a play; I've been to seders where each participant was given a piece of the story to tell in whatever creative way they chose; I've been to seders where the story was simply read from the Haggadah, which is basically the program for the evening. We tell, we laugh, we ask questions--questions, in fact, are very important--we sing songs, loudly and late into the night. We discuss tyranny and how and where it still exists in the world, and how we as individuals can further the cause of freedom today. And somewhere amid all the ritual we eat until we feel sick. At the seder I went to last week there was course after course, and wine flowing freely, and we were there for five hours, singing and arguing (as Jews do). How could anyone not love this holiday?

After the seder, the festival lasts for eight days. Eight days in which we consume no chametz, only matsoh. At the end of the eight days we are free to eat bread again, until next year.

I love ritual; I love tradition. I know in our age that most people look skeptically on ritual, but I love it. I feel like it connects me to things that have been lost to time. It grounds me and roots me and makes me feel like I belong. It was the seder that first made me want to convert. I was in Israel, and my roommate brought me home with her family. They were all secular, not religious at all, and yet every year they got together and performed these rituals. There were at least thirty people there; it was warm chaos. I loved it. I wanted me some a'dat.

So just add Pesach to the list of Jewish holidays that are awesome. Anyone who wants an invite for next year, let me know. We'd be happy to have you!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

I'm Baaaaaaack!

I had far too much fun in Denver. It was an exhausting, food-filled, wonderful time with my sisters in a city that had more sun in a week than Cleveland gets all spring. I am only now beginning to recover.

One thing I recommend avoiding if possible: Wait, no, two things: One, traveling alone with an extremely active eleven-month-old. We made it to the gate just as they were making the final boarding call (I had to run the entire length of the concourse while pushing a stroller with one hand and dragging my carry-on, because I refuse to pay the f*cking airlines to check a bag). We are the last ones on the plane, only to be told that the pilot has to file some "paperwork." We sat at the gate for over an hour. Now distracting Jack for four hours, as he desperately tries to pull the hair of the passenger in front of me, pull things from the bag of the passenger beside me, and crawl furiously up the aisle while I chase him, this is not so fun. Not recommended. Number two on the not recommended list, is flying home on the afternoon of Pesach (Passover) when you have to prepare the seder that evening. I managed it, somehow, and thankfully it was just David, me, and my parents, but Wow. The Stress. Not recommended. Still, I produced, with my father's help, a halfway decent meal and set, with my mother's help, a halfway decent table:

So while I don't recommend you engage in my folly, it did turn out all right in the end. Now let me leave you with a few choice scenes from Denver:

My sisters have dinner parties, like, every night.

We went to the zoo!

And celebrated my nephew's second birthday:

But mostly just did fun sister things: