If you'd like me to expand on any of these themes, I can do that. Let me know.
First, in order from most recent on backward, is an untitled post:
[starts here]Blogger keeps improving itself (love ya blogger! please don't ever lose my content!) and it now provides page-view data. Of course I had to know which of my posts had the most views. That honor goes to Soothing the Savage from July 2009, which is about music, of course.
This post would not be tops if I was to list them in order of brilliance. I mean, it's pretty good, but it's not award-winning. So why all the page views? I'm guessing it's the fact that I mentioned a number of band names, such that Soothing the Savage is a result if anyone searches for Spock's Beard, Porcupine Tree, Alphaville, or Grey Eye Glances, to name a few.
See what I did there? I named those bands again. And for the rest of this writing I'll see how many music references I can make. We'll see if this adds to my page view total! (Yes, I know that I [know that I what?? I have no idea what I was going to say here. But going out of my way to name musicians is a good idea.]
I've been thinking about why I go to the synagogue and pray when no one is telling me that I have to. One reason is that my parents used to tell me I had to, and that still sticks to some degree. As I've told you before, my father was the cantor at our synagogue the whole time I was growing up, so that going to shul included the bonus-extra of hearing him lead the service. It was important to him that we go, that we participate, that we learn, and so we did. This might have faded but it will never go away.
I also just plain believe we're supposed to thank G-d for things, and this is a good way to do it. My favorite prayer of late is the Modim Anachnu Lach, which means this (in part) in English :
Thanks from us to You, for You are Adonai our God and the God of our ancestors forever and ever; the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation through every generation. We will give thanks to You and declare Your praise -- for our lives which are committed into Your hand, and for our souls which are in Your charge, and for Your miracles, which are every day with us, and for Your wonders and Your goodnesses, which are with us at all times, evening and morning and noon.That last part is the part that resonates with me. "Your miracles, which are every day with us, ... at all times, evening and morning and noon." This is true, isn't it? I mean, [And that one ends there.]
Not sure where I was going with that.
The next draft was titled "Gaps in the Gadgetry." Man, that title is really super, isn't it? Too bad I don't know what I meant by it.
[starts here] In the afternoon of September 1, 2011, my mother-in-law took her own life. The evidence strongly suggests that she had been planning to do this for some time.
MIL had made her wishes known: she wanted to be cremated, and she did not want a funeral. So, we couldn't do the usual Jewish stuff that we're used to once we've had family members die: burial occurring as expeditiously as possible, following a short funeral service with a closed casket, then after all that there's a shiva house, where folks come and go, try to offer comfort as best they can, be there for the quorum needed to say kaddish. It was several days before the actual cremation happened, a weird limbo period in which it was hard to move forward.
We decided that we should have family and friends gather for a memorial service at our house. In her right mind, MIL would have considered this a no-brainer, too, and we were told by more than one person that what happens after a person dies is really up to those who remain.
Planning for this was strange for me. I was on two different planes at the same time. On one plane I was planning to have people over and I worried about making sure we'd vacuumed and my kids picked up their socks and we had enough food (I tried not to have more than enough, and as always I failed). On the other I was all "my mother-in-law is dead! my husband lost his mother! my kids lost their Gammy! FIL is alone! she's gone forever!" It was not unlike being under the influence of ... substances, where you act totally affected by those substances, while at the very same time you are completely aware that you are acting foolish, and why it's happening, and what might result from it. There is probably a psychological term for this with many syllables, but I will just call it SplitBrain. SplitBrain is probably a good thing, because if I completely gave over to the underworld, I would have been lost, and my memorial-service planning skills would have been wiped out. (We also could never have accomplished this without the help of a number of friends. Special shout-outs to our next-door neighbors on either side who went above and beyond, and our rabbi.) [ends here]
That one started out pretty good, I think, but I'm not sure where I was going with it. During that time, I thought a lot about how the burial/mourning rituals are really like a to-do list; they literally tell the mourners and their loved ones what to do when someone dies, and when to do it. Way back in school we learned this, and then I experienced it when my grandparents passed away, and especially when my father passed away, because I was a full-fledged adult by then and had to do stuff because my mother was pretty paralyzed. So when you have to deviate from that, you do end up lost. Having said that, I have learned that cremation is a whole lot less expensive, and that's important when caskets and cemetery plots haven't been prearranged. Also, there's the view that it's environmentally better to do cremation, but those brought up experiencing death in the traditionally Jewish way get a little uncomfortable with the notion. I think there are some who wonder how we could have even considered it.
Nearly two months after this, my father-in-law passed away as well from complications after a surgical procedure. Many surmise that he died of a broken heart. It's certainly possible. I also think that G-d might have been saving both of them from much more prolonged, smoking-related deaths that would occur down the road.
This is very depressing. Let's move on.
This next outtake is titled "Ass-Pocket Embroidery."
[starts here] If you are a girl, you probably wear jeans but have a hard time finding a pair that looks good, is not prohibitively expensive, and doesn't dig into places, or gap in embarrassing ways when you crouch down to get eye level with a child. (By the way that's why they call that jeans store The Gap. Just kidding. Maybe.) If you find a good pair, you will probably purchase multiple pairs if you can afford to. I have a couple types that I like. Levi's 515s (which always makes a song by The Who start going through my head when I speak of them). I have one from Kohl's that is nice. But I have purchased several pairs of Eddie Bauer boot-cut curvy-fit jeans. I'm wearing one of them right now. [Ed. No I'm not. I'm wearing my beat-around jeans with the bleach stain. This post LIES.]
The regular price of these jeans is $60/pair. I have never paid that, however. (I've also never paid more than $50 for a handbag. I just saw a photo of Heidi Klum wearing $1600 Jimmy Choo sandals, and they really weren't all that pretty. What is up with that? [If I cared about this post, which I don't because I'm just glomming it in with all this unfinished material, I would delete this Heidi Klum bit. Who cares?]) I purchased them on sale for $40. Then one day I was at the Eddie Bauer outlet and thought I'd pick up one or two more pairs.
I couldn't help but notice that these jeans weren't exactly the same as those I had bought in the mall. The saleslady explained that the company makes somewhat different stuff specifically for the outlet store. The most important difference for me was that the back pockets were plain. The ones I'd bought from the regular store had a nice stitching pattern on the pocket. I tried to get a photo from eddiebauer.com to illustrate this, but guess what? All the pockets are plain and that's where it ends.
I must have had some enormously clever analogy that I was going to make, comparing something in life with these jeans that aren't the same when you buy them from the outlet. They don't fit the same either. They are a total ripoff and I will never do that again. There's a life lesson for ya. If the ass-pocket embroidery is missing STAY FAR AWAY. Aren't you glad you read this? You're so much more learned now.
This next bit of flotsam has no title, and it talks about the 2009 high holidays.
[starts here] At Kol Nidre (the service for Yom Kippur eve) one year, the rabbi asked everyone to think of their favorite Jewish artifact, and also their most remembered spiritual moment. We were supposed to talk to someone next to us about the two for a few minutes, but I had come to the service alone and was sitting at the end of a row next to a married couple, so I sort of sat there awkwardly silent until the rabbi resumed his sermon. [YES, you read that right. I am the ONLY ONE in my family that goes to Kol Nidre. This is terrible and you should give them all grief about it. I had to go alone, and had no one to sit with. FEEL SORRY for 2009 ME.] But I enjoyed this exercise.
The artifact was easy. A bat mitzvah celebration is a gift-giving occasion. Like many others I received gifts of cash, checks, bonds, a few books, Shabbat candlesticks from the synagogue (every girl got those; boys got a Kiddush cup), a number of pieces of jewelry and a couple of jewelry boxes to keep them in. Other than the candlesticks, I only remember receiving one piece of Judaica. It was a challah knife, with a blue on white decorated handle, and a long serrated blade with the words (in Hebrew): "L'chvod Shabbat," which means "to honor the Sabbath." My mother said that I could choose whether we should use the knife now, or save it until I got married. I liked the idea of saving it, so I did. Looking at it now reminds me of that time, and that choice. [If this sounds familiar, it's because I grabbed this bit and used it in another post. You are not experiencing déjà vu.]
It was a little harder to pick a single most-spiritual moment, because I can think of a number of such moments from various points in my life. One that came to mind occurred in camp (the good camp, not this crappy camp). One morning a man taught a group of us how to make tzitzit. (I know that's a weird-looking word. The i's have a long "e" sound. In Hebrew there is a letter that sounds like "tz" or "ts" like the end of the word "bits." So, you're almost saying "zeet-zeet" but with more of a hardness to the first consonant. I hope that helps.) Tzitzit are the fringes on the four corners of the tallit, which is that thing guys (and, increasingly, gals) wear when they pray (if you are observant you wear a garment with these fringes hanging from the corners all the time). The fringes are knotted and have one strand wrapped around the others, and this is not for decoration; there's significance to the number of knots and wraps, devised from Jewish numerology, or gematria (this is one of the coolest things about Judaism--the math...another post or twelve in itself). Hence the lesson in the right way to make them. [some link I can't find anymore]calls it "ritual macrame." [How's that for accurate attribution?]
Our workshop was held at picnic tables outside. At some level I think I knew how fortunate I was to be there, in this mountain setting, learning all about the right way to follow and perpetuate an ancient religious practice. When I was little, I used to sit on my father's lap in synagogue (when he wasn't "on duty" as the cantor) and played with the tzitzit (they are almost as hard to resist as a Slinky; you sort of have to play with them). The fringe I made in camp was tied on to a hole in a piece of cardboard. I don't know what happened to it, but I can picture it clearly. [Was I going to say more about the tzitzit? The spiritual moment? Probably, but then I abruptly move to...]
One year at Chanukah time, my coworker told me she made latkes for the classmates of ALL THREE of her sons. She works part time, and I envied her ability (and shlep-willingness) to do this. This year, Pumpkin's preschool class had an entire week of Chanukah-based lesson plans, even though Pumpkin might be the only Jew (there might be one other, in another room, maybe). One of the teachers asked me to make latkes for the class, after all that learning about the holiday, and I got myself together and did. Yes, the teachers are playing up Chanukah to the exclusion of all other holidays. And yes, they did lose a point or three for having the kids make Magen David ornaments for the school's Christmas tree. But the effort was roundly appreciated, and they certainly deserved some crispy fried yumminess. [it ends here]
I made latkes for day care? I barely remember doing that. That was cool of me though, right? To make latkes for one class, one time? Yeah! Mmmmm, latkes...
The next not-post is titled "Pesach--Part 2 (aftermath)" It seems I never get to the aftermath of Pesach part. Instead I post three videos, one of which I ended up using in Switchback. So I'll just delete that part.
.... deleting ...
Okay, we're back to September 2015 and I've crumpled up this post and thrown it at you. Gently.