Cookie Dough

I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking – from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

One of my friends has been posting lately about the preparations for her daughter’s upcoming wedding. There have been engagement photos, snapshots of the apartment they will be living in once they are married, and, of course, pictures of the happy couple.

She is gorgeous. Blonde, slim, pretty. He has dark hair and eyes with a strong jaw and a nice smile. Honestly, they could both be models. If they ever have children, there is no doubt they will be just as lovely to look at as their parents.

I have been watching the planning with great interest as the wedding will be held at the same location where the bride’s parents had their reception. I was a bridesmaid in their wedding and have fond memories of the place. (Also, there was a table with fruit and different types of melted chocolate to dip said fruit into. No one could get to through the wall of bridesmaids. Yum…)

Then the other day I was scrolling through Facebook researching something on my computer and came across a post my friend had put up celebrating her daughter leaving her teens.

This lovely girl is getting married, in a few short weeks, at age twenty.

My jaw dropped.

Now, granted, I got married at twenty-two – and we all know how well that went long-term – but I am having a hard time imagining being married at twenty.

The same age my son is now. (Who I also can’t imagine being married right now. Ye gods…)

When I was twenty – hell, even when I was twenty-two and actually standing at the altar – I didn’t know who I was. I had just finished school. I had never held a full-time job. I had never lived by myself, never maintained a household, never tried to mesh my life, likes, or needs with another person.

And, boy, did it show.

It showed in my inability to manage conflict. It showed in how I wasn’t able to advocate for what I wanted out of life, whether it was what restaurant to eat at or where to go on one of our rare vacations. It showed in how I allowed parts of myself to disappear rather than risk upsetting my partner.

The funny part is a few weeks ago, I bought a wedding dress. My ‘best dude’ – the offspring – and I went to the local bridal shop for National Bridal Sale Week. I tried on something like 7 dresses and found one that made me feel pretty and had some bling. (There will not be a picture posted as my fiance reads this blog, and he doesn’t get to see the dress until the day of the wedding. Love you, dear.) When they asked at the store if we had a date picked out yet, the answer was no, but we were working on it.

So, today we actually went out to look at wedding venues. We had an unexpected day off together and scheduled a couple of last minute appointments. We have visited two so far, both of which have Sunday dates available next summer. (Which means it looks like we are getting closer to that setting a date thing. Now we need to check on rabbi availability.)

Both are local. One has a lovely setting, with a gorgeously appointed inn attached to the venue, which would be nice for our wedding night (can you say whirlpool tub? I love whirlpool tubs.) as well as providing rooms for a few of our potential out-of-town guests. The downside is the timing on the ceremony. They plan for things to start at 4pm, but for a small fee can start a half hour earlier. Given that some of our guests are not exactly local, the timing would be a problem for those needing to drive some distance to get home afterwards. Especially on a Sunday where they might have to work the next day. We would love for people to stay and celebrate with us and not have to leave early to drive.

The second place is close to a somewhat busy road, so while the setting is nice there is a bit more noise, and it’s not a private location. That said, we can pick any time we want for the ceremony and reception, which solves the problem of people having to leave early. Another benefit is there on site splash pad/water park. Since it will be summer, and there will be a few younger children there, that is a nice plus. If there is too much grownup stuff going on, a parent can take them for a short walk and a cool down.

This time through, I feel more confident in my relationship and our ability to weather whatever life throws at us. It has been a roller coaster so far with each of us losing a parent within the space of two weeks, then him losing his mother just a year later. We have integrated households – mostly; there is still some work to be done – and each are considerate of the other’s needs and wants.

At twenty-two I wasn’t self-aware enough to know how to do this. At fifty-two, I feel like I have become enough of myself to accomplish it.

And when I look at those pictures my friend posts about her daughter, I wish her all the luck in the world making her marriage grow and grow happily.

It’s what I want for myself, after all.

Normality

We have normality. I repeat, we have normality. Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem. – Douglas Adams

I was thinking today that one of the things I have heard most often during the pandemic – other than complaints about weight gain and foggy brains – is this specific phrase, “Well, when things return to normal…”

Here’s the issue, though. I’m not sure things are going to return to normal. At least not for us. The next couple of generations? Maybe. But for us, I think there will be a new normal. One very different from the one we have been slogging through for the past year, but one not quite the same as the one we had before.

Am I ready to see people again? Well, sort of. I have been one of the fortunate ones over the last year in that I was at work on pretty much a daily basis with many, if not all, of my colleagues as well as a smattering of patrons picking up materials at our doorside hours. I have been to a couple of restaurants, not just for take-out but for actual in-store dining, which has been nice, although I was nervous the first time. And while restaurants feel okay, I am admittedly leery of heading back to movie theaters – I think because of the length of time you sit in one, although I haven’t quite nailed down the exact reason why. That said, I have been looking longingly at the Broadway selections coming to Hartford in the next year as well as the concert tour of one of my favorite singing groups. I guess because I can stream most movies from the comfort of my sofa on the giant television my fiance attached to the wall in the living room, but not the touring company of Dear Evan Hansen.

That said, I am still… uneasy would probably be the best word about being in groups of people larger than 15-20, not that I have ever been comfortable in crowds – hello fellow introverts! – and this past year has given me more reason to be wary, even though all of my family has now been vaccinated.

I am thinking this may be because of history.

The pandemic of 1918 lasted longer than one year and had three waves, with some historians positing there was a fourth that took place in the winter of 1920. It was less deadly than the three that preceded it, but was a fourth wave nonetheless.

Despite improvements in science in the last one hundred years, this fact does not fill me with confidence for the future. Mainly because of some of the people I have met over the years.

Every time COVID restrictions have been relaxed, numbers have gone up. Because – for whatever reason they claim – people can’t follow guidelines. Granted, this was prior to the vaccine being widely available, but new variants are popping up all the time. There was a story on the radio just last week of a Malaysian variant that seems to be transmitted by dogs. There is a specific deletion in the genome that allows the virus to infect humans.

I am expending a great deal of effort not to think about this too much. I like petting cute doggies…

There are a few things I will be carrying with me in my new normal. Masks, for one. Now that I have found a great clippy thing that sits on my nose and keeps my glasses from fogging up, I will definitely be wearing a mask all winter. For the first time in years, I didn’t get a cold, cough, or sinus infection at all during SLUG season. And my face was warm when I walked the dog in the cold, dark evenings. It was actually almost nice being outside in those conditions, which surprised me as I am not a fan of cold and very much a fan of snuggling under a blanket. I also find color-coordinating my mask to my outfit of the day is kind of fun.

We take pleasure where we can; don’t judge.

There are definitely some good things about this return to ‘normal’. We are opening up the library more, and people are glad to see us! Gatherings with the family will be less fraught with more hugs. I can hang out more with my neighbors during my evening doggie excursions – he knows the words ‘walk’ and ‘outside’, but hasn’t yet equated ‘excursion’ with going for a walk outside, which makes it easier to talk about – rather than shouting at them from across the street.

All good things. Possibly coming at me a little faster than I was prepared for, but I am sure it will all be good. Mostly.

Maybe it’s not the old normal, but I can live with it. Change is what keeps us alive, right?

Right.

Indulgences

You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream, and that’s kind of the same thingunknown

I haven’t written much lately. There hasn’t been a whole lot going on in my life that is any different from anything else the past year or so, and talking about going to work and grocery shopping quite frankly isn’t that interesting. Work tends to be the same from day to day, and shopping is necessary, but still pissing me off somewhat. I know I could do online ordering and pickup, but the few times I have done so, the substitutions for things I actually needed were so far off base that I honestly find it is easier to don the mask and do my best to avoid the people who can’t read the “This Aisle is One Way” signs.

The one interesting thing I have been doing lately is volunteering at the local COVID clinic getting people registered for their second vaccinations. Volunteering might be too strong a word. While it is technically voluntary, City employees were asked to work at least three shifts doing various things at the clinic during work time in exchange for getting vaccinated.

Needless to say, many of us have taken them up on this.

After having been there for two weeks, I can say that while our clinic is efficient and well run, I am appalled at the overall roll out of vaccines across the Commonwealth. We are seeing people coming from the bottom of the Cape, a three to four hour drive, because there are limited vaccines and no appointments where they live. My son, an essential worker due to his employment at a grocery store was offered an appointment in Worcester on a day he was scheduled to be at work. He sat down and quickly figured out that between the three hour round trip drive and the actual time in the clinic, he would get to work about an hour late. In the end, he decided to see if he could find something a little closer to home.

Notwithstanding the quote attached to the top of this post, lately I have been indulging myself in pleasant hobbies. (Spoiler alert: ice cream has been involved in most of these pastimes.) I have been reading a number of Webtoons – I am subscribed to twenty, although not all have been updated recently – and have been borrowing a number of romance novels for my phone and Kindle. I read some in traditional book form as well, but the advantage to the digital copies are they are available immediately. Except for most of the Bridgerton novels, which now have enormously long wait times. I have put those on hold.

Yes, I read romance novels. Mostly historical ones, but there have been a few set in the present day that I have enjoyed. Mary Balogh and Lisa Kleypas are favorites of mine because of their witty, well-rounded female characters. Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock books are also delightful, although I haven’t read as many of her romance novels. They are escapism for me in the same way the time travel novels I devoured as a teenager were. (I actually still read those, too. One of my major papers for my Children’s Lit masters was on YA time travel books. I have never had so much fun writing a paper either before or since.)

Television has also been offering up some good distraction. Generally I don’t watch much TV, but over the pandemic, I have found it to be a great way to turn my brain off. Of course, I watched the Bridgerton series. The costumes, while not technically historically accurate, are so completely fabulous that I don’t care, and the changes they have made from the books (I have read a few of them) don’t bother me that much either. Frankly, I would probably watch all those beautiful people just walk across the screen wearing the costumes even if they weren’t reading lines. Except for all the scenes with Penelope and Eloise. Those need to be savored. I love the depiction of these two friends and look forward to seeing them again.

I have also started watching anime again. The offspring and I have gotten addicted to a sweet romance/slice of life series called Horimiya, which is about a pretty, popular high school girl (Hori) and her somewhat awkward classmate-turned-boyfriend Miyamura and the group of friends they gather around them. In school, Miyamura is mostly ignored as he is shy, has long hair that he uses to hide his face, and wears glasses. Out of school, he is what one commentator called ‘crouching dweeb, hidden himbo.’ It turns out that Miyamura wears his blazer all the time, even in the summer, to hide the tattoos on his arm and back. The long hair hides his many piercings, mostly self-done. When not in school, he removes the glasses and the blazer and pulls his hair up off his face and simply looks cool. Hori doesn’t recognize him when he brings home her younger brother who got scared by a dog, and he has to tell her who he is. Correspondingly, it turns out that her secret is that she is really a homebody who likes to cook. It is absolutely charming. I recommend it to anyone. Even people who say they don’t like anime. It is that good.

We have also been watching the reboot of the 2001 classic anime Fruits Basket that started in 2019 and is now just airing its third and last season. While the Japanese voice cast has been all new, the English dub has managed to get many of the original voice actors to return to their roles. It is touching and funny, and the animation is gorgeous. If you have only ever seen the truncated 2001 version, I would definitely recommend trying to see the reboot. I have also been enjoying Moriarty the Patriot, an interesting take on the Sherlock Holmes villain turned anti-hero, and Free, a series about a high school boys’ swim team, which manages not only to be sweet and funny, but also gets the swimming spot on, which is nice to see. And the water animation is amazing.

But my biggest indulgence has been a show I hadn’t expected to like – Julie and the Phantoms. Based on a Brazilian series, it tells the story of a girl who meets three ‘musician spirits’ – ghosts – of band members who died twenty-five years previously. She is the only one who can see them, until they play music with her, then becoming visible to everyone. It is cheesy? Yes. It also has a lot of heart and some absolutely amazing pop and light rock music. The actors were hired based on their musical abilities and auditioned in mixed groups until the producers put their band together. I haven’t finished all the episodes yet because I want to savor it, but to be completely honest, I bought the album and have been listening to it non-stop in my car… and blasting it in the house when I am home by myself. (The cats and the dog must think I am nuts… I don’t care. They have no thumbs and would starve without me. So there.)

In any case, I have been trying to be kind to myself in ways other than eating everything that isn’t nailed down. (Although I have been doing that as well, and need to reacquaint myself with my WW app when Passover is done.) I hope you have all been being kind to yourselves as well. It’s been a long year, but we are hopefully getting to the end of the slog.

Shut the #$#@ Up, and Put on Your Mask*

I am going to offend people here. I am not sorry.

My family had a COVID scare this week as my son’s father tested positive for the virus. After my son had spent two evenings with him as well as most of the day on Christmas. This necessitated an unexpected quarantine for my household as well as a scramble to find somewhere to get tested – not to mention major inconveniences for all of our workplaces as my son, my fiance, and I are all considered essential workers – and a whole lot of stress for us all.

My son has spent the last few days sitting in his room. By himself. Fortunately, with technology being what is it, he was neither without entertainment nor company, but it is really weird having a family member in the house with whom you can only interact through a closed door or via a computer screen.

Today we got the news that we all tested negative, and while I have to remain in quarantine for another few days – work-mandated – it is a huge weight off my shoulders.

Here is the part where I am going to offend people.

Up until our quarantine, I have been seeing people out and about – in stores, walking down crowded streets, waiting in lines to get in the bank – not wearing masks, or better yet, wearing them under their noses (because everyone knows you don’t breathe through your nose?), below their chins (because they believe in magic?), or dangling from one ear (because at least they’re wearing one?). It boggles my mind.

Even at the library it is an issue. We had to tell a patron to leave back a few weeks ago, when we were doing in-person visits, who had their mask on when they walked in and did the chin thing as soon as staff were out of sight. Three times. Because obviously when they came in and we said, “Face coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose,” we didn’t really mean it.

This is science. It’s not some kind of made up mumbo-jumbo that scientists decided to tell people to do to annoy them. The virus is transmitted through particles we breathe out. I know this is a very simplistic definition, but, as I have said many, many times, science is not my thing. I do words. But people I trust who do science as their thing have told me this is basically how it works. And I believe them.

Now, I get that some people have medical issues that preclude them wearing a mask. Most of these people also aren’t going out all that much as their medical issues also mean getting the virus is even more dangerous for them than for the average person. If you have an honest-to-G-d medical issue and can’t wear a mask, or can’t wear one for long periods, I can respect that. And I will stay out of your way so I don’t breathe on you.

That said, doctors and nurses wear them for hours on end when they are doing surgery. People in Asian countries wear them frequently as a courtesy when they have colds to keep their germs to themselves. Back in October, the journal Nature Medicine projected that simply by wearing masks 130,000 lives could be saved in the US alone.

And yet, people are protesting this fairly simple thing that could save lives.

Are masks annoying? Yes. As a glasses-wearing person, I have yet to find a mask that doesn’t make my lenses fog up no matter what they are made of, what type of nose piece they have, or what their marketing says. (On the plus side, my nose has been warm despite the spate of cold weather we have been seeing in the northeast.) And I can’t tell you how many times I have left the house only to remember I don’t have a mask on and have to go back inside to get one.

Honestly, though, when you compare this to being on a ventilator — or being dead — these are minor inconveniences. I can live with them, and I have a hard time understanding why others can’t. It’s not like people are being asked to carry around a 50 pound bag of bricks. Or walk around wearing shoes that are three sizes too big and have water sloshing around in them.

I can’t even begin to think how most mask protesters would have reacted to the challenges faced by people in our country during World War II – food rationing, collecting scrap metal, gasoline rationing, the draft, the forced imprisonment of US citizens. They probably would have complained their G-d-given right to eat as much sugar as humanly possible was being infringed upon, and they wanted to eat cake every single day, damn it. In all likelihood, we would have lost the war.

What it boils down to for me is that keeping people safe is more important than keeping my glasses fog-free. I just wish others felt that way, too.

*this is actually the title of a song on YouTube. I didn’t link to it as, while the song is timely, well done musically, and funny, it is also political, and I am trying to make a point about health with this post rather than about the election.

Hulk Smash!

Loki: I have an army. Tony Stark: We have a Hulk. – The Avengers

There has been an interesting conversation threading itself through the workroom at my office over the past few days about stress and how we are all coping.

Or not coping.

With the time change, the cold coming in, the uncertainty around the holiday season, and the reported cases of the ever-present virus growing again, several of my colleagues have confessed to being more than a bit on edge as of late. And they are. I can hear it in their voices, see it in the tightness of their eyes.

“Except you,” one of them said to me this morning. “You seem to be doing fine.”

“No,” I responded immediately. “I’m a bitch.”

Now, this is normally not a word I would use to describe myself. I might say I am cranky or irritated or just off. I don’t usually describe myself as a bitch.

But right now I am.

Near the end of the Avengers movie, there is a scene where Captain America tells Bruce Banner “Now might be a good time to get angry,” and the gentle, fairly unassuming scientist replies, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry” before transforming into the Hulk and punching everything in sight.

This is an excellent analogy for how I feel at this time.

It seems like everything sets me off: patrons demanding things I can’t give at work, not being able to get a slot to swim at the Y (yes, when I can get an appointment, I am going to the Y to swim; the level of chlorine they use in that pool will kill anything), computer problems (4 so far this week, and it’s only Wednesday), people refusing to follow the one-way signs at the grocery store while wearing their masks under their noses (you breathe through your nose as well as your mouth, people!), you name it.

It has gotten so bad that I have even started responding to political comments on Facebook, in a generally measured fashion and mostly on the NPR page, although, to be frank, I have a couple of long time friends who probably aren’t very happy with me right now due to comments I have made on things they have posted.

Overall, I have been doing my best to keep my comments civil, even if they are somewhat pointed. That same courtesy has not always been extended back to me by the strangers I am trying to educate or whose incorrect assertions I am attempting to refute. (No, strange girl in New York who can’t write coherent sentences, not all Jews are going to refuse the vaccine when it comes out because getting it is against our religion. Really?)

Given how much some of what these people say makes my blood boil, I am doing my best to read only articles and avoid the comments section. Or at least I will starting tonight. I am hoping it will reduce my blood pressure a little.

The anger living just under the surface of my skin is very much like my depression used to be while, at the same time, being exactly the opposite. The depression was a constant grey curtain weighing down my limbs, taking joy from my life, and fogging up my brain. The anger is more like a constant, low-charge electrical current making my nerve ends tingle, my language turn the air around me blue, and my anxiety ramp up at random times. It is, however, still fogging up my brain. Which is totally unfair. If I am going to be this jumpy, I should at least have faster verbal response times to show for it.

I am doing the best I can to keep the bitchiness under control. And, either I am doing a pretty good imitation of a calmer version of myself at work, or my co-workers are too traumatized themselves to notice how spectacularly I am failing in this regard. (I vote for the latter explanation. It seems to make more sense.)

In the meantime, I will keep angling for those swimming appointments when I can get them, as I always do feel better after a good hard swim, keep walking the doggie when I get home from work (even though it is getting dark and cold!), and keep trying not to let the world get to me.

I have it better than some people. I still have a job and don’t have to worry about paying my bills. I have company at home and get to see other people at work on a regular basis – which has both its good and bad points, but overall is a good thing. I get to swim some of my frustration away. I, and those I love, have so far been able to remain virus-free. I know many, many others have it much worse. A little anger isn’t the end of the world.

Just as I did with my depression, I need to cut myself some slack, which is not something I have ever been good at. I need to do more things that make me happy. If I can’t swim, I need to spend quality time on my elliptical trainer. I need to spend more time focusing on the things in my life that are good, rather than on those I can’t do a goddamned thing about (like the people in the supermarket… Gah.).

But every now and them, I think I will need to spend some time rampaging. Letting all that frustration build up inside can’t be good for anyone. I just need to find a constructive way to let it all out. Like deep cleaning my house or beating my two rugs.

I can put the rugs out on the clothesline and pretend the dust trapped in their fibers is an alien invasion sent to take over the city. Hulk smash, right?

Anyone know the weather forecast for this weekend?

The World Turned Upside Down

One of the earlier holiday gifts I bought for my now-fiancé when we were dating was one of those DNA/ancestry kits where you spit in a vial, and a few weeks later you get a report detailing your genetic makeup, what countries your family is from, and a whole bunch of health traits you carry. He was fascinated both by the information about the countries his ancestors were from and by the vast amount of genetic traits/health information the test revealed.

The following Mother’s Day, he presented me with my own test kit. I warned him mine was likely to be far less interesting than his in terms of my ancestry composition. His included different parts of Europe – mostly the British Isles, which he knew – as well as a small percentage from Sub-Saharan Africa and some Native American. Mine, as I well knew, was composed of 100% Ashkenazi Jews. He was sure something would pop up, and it did.

As it turns out, I was wrong. I am not 100% Ashkenazi Jew. I am 99.8% Ashkenazi Jew and .2% Eastern European.

Surprise! Or maybe not so much as my father’s family hailed from Odessa, and the site’s definition of Eastern Europe includes this tidbit of information: “Between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, Eastern Europe was heavily influenced by Imperial (and then Soviet) Russia.”

Yup. 100% Ashkenazi Jew, baby.

The interesting part for me was when the lists of DNA relatives started popping up. I was showing them to my parents one day when one of the names caught my mother’s attention. It was the married name of her father’s sister, Shirley attached to a profile that said this person was my third cousin.

I never met Aunt Shirley. My grandparents got divorced when my mother was young. (At least we are pretty sure they actually got divorced; my grandmother didn’t like to talk about my grandfather, or their marriage, other than to say she wished she had taken back the name Albert – her maiden name – because she liked it better than the one she got when she married.) I do remember my mother telling me often when I was little that when the sunshine brought out the red highlights in my hair, it reminded her of her aunt. After the divorce, my mother didn’t see anyone from her father’s family until his funeral when she was seventeen where she had to be introduced to the people who were there as she didn’t know them.

After asking her if it was all right, I sent a message to this third cousin asking if Shirley was his mother or grandmother as she was my mother’s aunt, and she wanted to know. Within a few days, I got a reply. He was a grandson, and his father’s name was David, a cousin my mother remembered. I sent along my mother’s email address and asked if he would pass it along to his father.

He did.

About a week later, I got a very excited phone call from my mother. She and David had spoken and were working on finding a time where he could come to my parents’ house so they could see each other, and he could meet us. He lived part of the time about 40 minutes away from my folks and would be back in the area in a few weeks. The one sort of sad thing she discovered was that for years he and his family had lived about 25 minutes away in a town we went to occasionally to visit an ice cream stand.

But they hadn’t known this.

When we finally all got together, David brought with him his family genealogy. It turns out he was the collector of family history and stories for his side of the family. He and my mother talked about things they remembered from their childhood, then he unrolled the papers he brought and filled her in on details of family members she remembered but hadn’t seen since she was very small.

As he went backwards through the generations, he pointed out one sister who was listed as having children but no further descendants. When one of the kids asked why her line ended, his answer was simple.

Her entire family had been wiped out in the Holocaust.

I blinked. Intellectually, I knew I probably had family members who perished in the camps. Although my great-grandparents came to America around the turn of the last century, it was only logical to assume they had family members who had stayed behind – in Russia for my father’s family, and in Poland for my mother’s.

This was the first time, however, I was coming face to face with those family members’ names, the first time they became real people to me.

It was sobering.

The main reason, this is in my mind right now is because of an incident that happened in my small town this weekend.

I opened my Facebook page on Sunday while running errands with my son to discover some – idiot is frankly the best word I can come up with – idiot decided to scratch a swastika in the pavement one street down from the post office. This is a street where I regularly walk the dog with one of my neighbors. It is very close to the street where I live.

As a Jew, the thought that someone not only did this in the small town where I live but thought it was an acceptable thing to do terrifies and angers me. (The fact that they did this in an area with a large number of people with Polish ancestry – between 1.8 and 1.9 million Poles were also killed by Nazi Germany during WWII – also boggles my mind.) Just like the rest of the country and the rest of the world, anti-Semitism has been growing in the peaceful valley where I live, and our current political climate allows it both to happen and to flourish.

I have said this before, and will unfortunately probably have to say it again, but things need to change. Our country’s leaders need to stand up and tell their followers that this kind of fear-mongering is not and never will be acceptable. If America is the land of the free, it needs to be that way for all its residents, not just those who are the right color or worship in the ‘correct’ way. Either we correct our course, or we become the thing we fought against in the last world war. It’s our choice.

Hopefully, we will choose the right path.

In the meantime, I am going to wait for the rain to stop, so the highway department can get out and pave over the abomination that idiot carved into the pavement. As much as we need the rain, I can only hope it happens soon.

Family Matters

“I realized my family was funny, because nobody ever wanted to leave our house.”– Anthony Anderson

For someone with as small an immediate family as I have – two parents, one sister, two aunts, no first cousins – my extended family is actually fairly large. It includes three additional sisters and a handful of siblings – an older sister and a few younger – for my only child son. (He is lucky enough to have first cousins, about twenty-one of them if my math is correct, but he doesn’t see them often.)

Now, I realize this probably doesn’t make sense to most of you reading this, so I will explain.

In addition to my biological family, I have a chosen family, a group of wonderfully wacky people who I have gathered together with over the years at holidays, family dinners, and important life events. They were at my son’s bar miztvah, my 50th birthday, and my surprise engagement party, which apparently was only a surprise to me; they all knew about it weeks before I did. They were there for me when I was informed my marriage was over, when my mother passed away, when I needed someone to listen or simply to give me a hug.

One auntie loved showing pictures of her nephew, my son, to unsuspecting colleagues at work who would look from her very definite Asian features to the boy’s very definitely not Asian features and not know whether or not to comment. We cracked up about this each time it happened. When he was a baby, she and my ex brought him to my library one night to visit me at work, and when he was done getting Mama cuddles – and I was needed at the circulation desk – I handed him back to her and said something to the effect of, “Be good for Auntie tonight.” The elderly woman who was patiently waiting for me to check out her books, patted my hand and told me how wonderful it was that my parents had adopted an “Oriental baby” and how sweet my son looked in her arms.

I was very good, took the compliment for what it was, and didn’t laugh. At least not until I got upstairs to the workroom and and my desk phone where I called my sister’s house and told her.

One of my other sisters accompanied me to the courthouse for my divorce hearing, making sure I stayed upright and didn’t let loose the strings of profanity that were inches from lips at all times. I am not sure I ever thanked her properly for both of those things.

One of the others hugged me and made me promise to call anytime I needed to talk to someone, even if it was in the middle of the night. I didn’t take her up on the offer, but it was appreciated.

There have been prom events for the oldest niece where we have gathered together to watch her get beautified (or more beautified as she is gorgeous to start with), get dressed up in fancy dresses, and harass the heck out of her date to see what type of person he is. If the dates can’t handle being with us in all our glory, they won’t last long in the family. (She’ll know she has a keeper when she finds one who can not only tolerate our shenanigans but participates. We are threatening to do all kinds of evil things when she someday gets married. Because that’s what we do.)

And it has been extremely gratifying to see her and the boy grow from the ‘he’s/she’s touching me!’ stage to a place where they actually give each other voluntary hugs and can carry on conversations.

It is during the pandemic where we can’t all see each other as much as we would like that I appreciate them the most. The sister who lives farthest out and I message on Facebook and have occasional video chats. (If you’re reading this, dear, we’re overdue for one…) When she moved recently, the boy and I helped her figure out where to put things in her new kitchen, which was fun, and we get to see her adorable kitties when we chat. I am waiting for the day when we can go visit and see the new home (and the kitties) in person. It has been far too long.

Those of us who are closer make an effort to get together for dinner at least every few months. It’s not like we don’t keep up on what we are all doing. Social media is good for that, but it’s not the same as seeing each other in person.

We had one of these periodic gatherings last week, and it was like coming home. We ate lots of good food, we talked and caught up on the things we don’t discuss on social media, and we laughed uproariously as we told the menfolk how much we appreciated their good qualities by telling horror stories of our dating adventures – online or otherwise – which turned into a round robin of bad date stories.

I haven’t laughed so much in months. And I think I needed it.

My patience has been wearing kind of thin as of late. I have been more irritable, less forgiving of foibles, short-tempered to an alarming degree when things go don’t go the way I plan.

Usually my method of dealing with this lack of amiability on my part is to exercise until my mood lifts. Generally, this takes a lot of exercise, but it has the extra added benefit of forcing me to go to sleep earlier as I am then barely coherent past nine in the evening.

Unfortunately, I am not really able to do that right now.

While my gym is open, and I don’t mind swimming – the amount of chlorine used in the pool is enough to kill any virus that comes near it – I don’t feel comfortable visiting the weight room where people tend to grunt, breathe hard, and sweat profusely. It’s not that I don’t trust people… No, wait, that’s exactly it; I don’t trust people. The problem is the swim times fill up quickly. If I am lucky, I get two appointments a week. Not at times I like to swim, but I am not going to be picky if I can get in the water.

I walk the dog every day when I get home from work, but, as a friend pointed out, that is less exercise and more guided meditation, although it does make him happy. It also is getting darker earlier, and once Daylight Savings Time ends, the walks will be shorter as I am not fond of walking in the dark.

So, when I have the opportunity to stand in the kitchen laughing with my family, I take it. Even if they don’t know it, they are helping me stay sane in this crazy world we are currently living in. (By the way, when the boy and I have made a million dollars marketing the board game idea we had after our dinner last weekend, we will be sure to share the profits. We all had a hand in the creation, after all.)

So, I guess what I am trying to say, is I love you all, even if I am not good at saying it. And thank you. You all make my life immeasurably richer, and I don’t know what I would do without you.

Let’s not find out, okay?

Sleeping with the Television On

And we’ll be sleeping with the television/sleeping with the television/sleeping with the television on…Billy Joel

I have been having trouble sleeping lately.

Not falling asleep, or staying asleep once I do fall asleep, just getting enough sleep.

Schedules in my house have been a little crazy the past few months, and that, combined with the regular (and not-so-regular) stresses of life have had a negative impact on my ability to get to bed at a reasonable time.

My son was picked up as a permanent employee at the cooperative grocery store where he has been working for a couple of years. On the one hand, yay! On the other, he now works until 9pm Monday and Friday nights which gets him home around 9:30. (Saturdays, he gets out at eight something, which is good for a late dinner.) On Tuesday and Wednesday, he has dinner with his father, which generally gets him home around the same time as when he goes to work. I usually like to watch the news at ten – although my preferred news channel has changed its newscast format to something that no longer exactly resembles a newscast, so that may be changing – then go to bed.

The problem with this is it gives us about forty minutes to connect as a family, catch up on the day’s happenings, and tell funny stories about things we have read or done. So, I end up staying up later so I can actually spend some time with him.

In addition, my bedtime routine has expanded to include letting the dog out for a few minutes and putting a hot compress on my eyes for ten to fifteen minutes to help clear up the apparently clogged eyelash pores I seem to have picked up, so my 10:30 bedtime has now gotten pushed out to 11:15 if I am lucky, 11:30 or :45 if I am not.

In addition to this, my fiancé’s schedule was changed a while back to second shift, so while this means we have weekends together for the first time in our relationship – and the occasional morning – he doesn’t get out of work until nearly midnight and home after one in the morning. While he doesn’t generally wake me up, I don’t sleep as well until he is beside me, so that gives me a couple (if I am lucky) of hours of restlessness.

Oh, and the dog barks when he gets home because he is so excited to see his daddy. And my eighteen-year-old cat likes to yowl in my ear when she wants to be petted or use my arm as a pillow at night, so these need to be added into the equation as well.

The upshot is that on those rare occasions I get to sit down and watch something I want to see on television – Antiques Roadshow is a favorite on Monday nights, the recent spate of Lucy Worsley specials, or the DVD of A Discovery of Witches I borrowed from the library – I fall asleep within twenty minutes.

It’s unhelpful.

Not only do I not get to see the appraisal/interesting historical tidbit/episode of the show I have been waiting for, it is messing up my sleep schedule more.

I realize part of this is exacerbated by the stress I feel over our continuing pandemic and the political situation currently going on in our country. I am honestly torn between wanting November 4 to come right now, so I don’t have to wait to find out what is going to happen and being terrified of what could happen either way. It doesn’t make for good relaxation.

Add into the mix that SLUG season is once again impending, it is getting darker earlier in the evening, and it is taking longer for it to become light in the morning, and I am afraid I have a recipe for disaster once the clocks fall back in November.

Anyway, tonight I have told the child I am going to bed early. Once I have steamed my eyes, I may try to read for a bit. I have two really good books I am working on right now and would love to see if I can get past the first hundred pages of either. Or, I may fall asleep with the compress on my face while listening to a third. In any case, I will see if I can get enough sleep so getting up to swim tomorrow isn’t a chore rather than something to look forward to.

‘Night.

Religious Intolerance

“Sorry you think it’s intolerant of me to not tolerate your intolerance.” – unknown

I am currently having a minor war with the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Okay, war might be overstating the matter. Let’s call it an unfriendly exchange of words. Via letter.

One of the things I have enjoyed about this pandemic – and there isn’t much I do enjoy about it; the stress surrounding our health and well-being is definitely not fun, the uncertainty around the economy is not invigorating at all, and the inability to go places and socialize is making me into a hermit – is the much lower number of people knocking on my door at inopportune times, especially people who want to sell me something or get me to sign a petition about an issue I don’t care about as much as they do.

Or people who want to convert me to their religion.

I have lost count over the years of the number of people who I have shown the mezuzah on the side of my door, or the menorah in my window in the winter, said, “This is a Jewish household. We are not interested. Have a nice day,” and then shut the door. How firmly the door was shut directly correlated to the ease and politeness with which they left. The ones who apologized for bothering me got a gentle closing. The one who talked over me or shouted I was going to hell for not listening got a loud slam. (I love living in an old house with a heavy wooden front door.)

Anyway, during the first day of the vacation I wrote about last time, I found a hand-addressed letter in the mail with a vaguely familiar return address on it. When I opened it, out popped a similarly hand-written letter on lined notebook paper explaining how I could learn about G-d’s plan around COVID-19 and a glossy pamphlet outlining this great online class I could take. But I needn’t worry; no one would be asking me for money. All they wanted to do was educate me.

How nice of them…

You know that expression ‘my blood boiled’? Well, mine did to the point that I forgot I was supposed to be heading out to the local library to pick up a book I needed for my book club or anything else I was supposed to be doing at that exact moment.

Instead, I grabbed a piece of notebook paper and wrote a curt – but polite; I am always polite the first time through – note explaining I am a practicing Jew and wanted them to remove my name from their mailing list as I find this type of proselytizing both offensive and, given my last name, borderline anti-Semitic. I told them I would be returning their pamphlet to them as I know they can be expensive to print and wished them the best. I mailed the letter on my way to the grocery store and didn’t think about it again.

Until the next week when I got a second letter and another copy of the pamphlet.

This time the letter I sent was less polite and included the phrases “stop harassing me” and “further communication from you or your church will result in a complaint to the Greenfield Police Department.” This time I threw out the pamphlet.

Was this a little over-the-top? Probably. Did I perhaps over-react just a smidgen? Possibly. (I was not in the best of moods either of the days I received the envelopes.) Have I gotten another letter? No. So it at least had the desired effect of getting them to leave me alone. So far.

Now, normally I would not respond this way. Normally, I would snarl about the letter, then chuck the whole thing into the recycling bin, all the while grumbling about the insensitivity of some people. But right now, life is anything BUT normal, and this attack – as I saw it – on my religious beliefs set me off. Because, as I have said before in this blog, I am scared.

I am scared of the intolerance I see in the world. I am not going to pretend either political side in this country is free from intolerance, but the way I see it is both sides are intolerant of people who view the world differently than they do. Where they differ is that one side wants to explore differences while the other wants everyone to believe and act exactly as they do, and in trying to set standards of beliefs, behaviors, and ideas, we clash.

I will never fit in to the ideal set by many of the people I know. For some I am too liberal (and the wrong religion). For others I am not outspoken enough.

For now, in this crazy time, all I can do is keep living my life and keep reminding myself what is important – people, science, kindness, love, and belief in something.

Hopefully, it will be enough.

Letting Go

“Choose the non-emotional response to any given situation and see how much easier your life becomes.” Naval Ravikant

I was on vacation last week. Normally, this would have been a time of rest and relaxation, but, being me, I decided I would use the week to clean and de-clutter my house. Which is currently much less than pristine – i.e. I can write my name in the dust on top of the microwave. And the coffee table. And my dresser. (We won’t get into the state of the bathrooms, but suffice to say I needed to get in there with a lot of heavy duty cleaning materials.)

Now, if you know me or have read earlier posts of this blog or the one that preceded it, you will know I am a list person. I like lists – preferably bulleted rather than numbered as I don’t always like to assign a level of importance to things on my list – and use them quite a bit. I derive much pleasure from making these lists as detailed as possible and even more pleasure from crossing each activity off once it has been completed.

So I am sure it will surprise exactly none of you that before my vacation actually started I had not one, but two lists going of things I would accomplish. The first was a generalized list of which rooms I wanted to clean each day, interspersed with various appointments I had scheduled – a massage one day, eye appointments for me and the boy, swimming twice during the week, helping a fellow librarian with her computer issues, you get the idea. The second one was a detailed listing of each task I wanted to accomplish each day.

For example (and, yes, this is one of my actual lists):

  • Monday
    • Call
      • insurance company (tree damage and windshield replacement)
      • Vet
      • furniture store to check on new sofa
    • Grocery shopping
    • Wash sheets and towels
      • Hang sheets on line
      • Fold sheets and towels
    • Clean
      • kitchen
      • bedroom
      • changing room
    • Wash kitchen floor

Yes, I am anal-retentive with the hyphen.

So, you know the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men? That’s what happened to my list. And my Monday. The phone calls got made, and food was retrieved, but that was all that got done.

I was not happy. Really, really not happy.

Fortunately for me and my family, my crankiness at the still messy house was mitigated a bit by my Tuesday morning swim.

My gym has opened back up, and while I am not quite ready to go back to the weight room where people breathe heavily and can be much closer to each other than I am currently comfortable with, I am back in the pool, which is lovely. The gym has half hour time slots you can sign up for at various times with fifteen minute intervals between for cleaning. You can sign up for more than one time slot, but you still have to get out for the cleaning period. A maximum of four people can be in the pool swimming laps at any one time – our pool is very small – so it it lovely and almost intimate. I have been swimming with two of the same ladies I swam with before the pandemic started, and it is nice to see them and get a little pre-pandemic normalcy into my life.

Once I got out of the pool and looked at my overall schedule of things I wanted to accomplish for the week, I took some time to reconsider. Yes, given the things that were on the list, my house would still be a mess when the week ended, but I had a choice. I could wallow in the annoyance, or I could let it go. Or at least some of it. I’m not sure I will ever be laid back enough to let go of everything that annoys me; it’s simply not in my nature. Having something that irritates me on a regular basis lets me more fully enjoy the things that don’t irritate me. It’s strange but it works.

So, I cut back on my list.

The bathrooms are cleaner than they were. The hallway got swept and clean carpet treads were laid down. Some of the clutter got picked up out of the dining and living rooms.

Is it what I wanted? No.

Is it better than it was? Yes.

Will I get to it eventually? Most likely. It’s not like the dust and clutter are going anywhere on their own.

Do I feel better for having decided not to go completely crazy over everything I didn’t get done? Definitely.

Now I just have to concentrate on learning that lesson with everything else in my life.

During a pandemic.

Hmmmm… I think I may need another swim. Good thing I have a reservation for tomorrow morning.