...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Retrospective

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before? 

So many things related to converting to Judaism: immersing in the mikveh, being counted in a minyan, wearing a tallit as a Jew, lighting Shabbat and Chanukah candles, making Havdalah, etc. I hosted my first Passover seder this year. I lived by myself in my own apartment for the first time; I also lived with a romantic partner for the first time. This was the first year I worked full-time for the whole year (as opposed to being in school for part of the year). I assumed more responsibility at work and attended a few professional conferences, which I'd never done before. In January 2008 I got pretty sick and it was the first time I've managed all of my medical care without someone else's help.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? 

I don't think I made any resolutions last year; in any case, I didn't keep them. I've been trying to cut processed and industrial foods out of my diet for the past several months, and I'd like to continue that in 2009. I'd also like to progress in my observance of kashrut by making more of a separation between dairy and meat products, and continue learning Hebrew. This isn't a resolution per se but I want to continue to make time to read academic-type books in sociology, gender studies, and religious studies.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? 

Several parents I know through the preschool gave birth. I'm friendly with a couple of them, but not especially close.

4. Did anyone close to you die? 


5. What countries did you visit? 

I didn't visit any other countries. Actually, I don't think I made it out of Oregon in 2008. (Can that be right? The only other state we visit on a regular basis is Washington, and I don't think I went up there this past year. Huh.)

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? 

Hmmm...this was a pretty good year, actually. Not perfect, but I can't think of anything that I really lacked.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory? 

November 2: my conversion. November 4: Obama's election.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? 

Converting to Judaism, natch.

9. What was your biggest failure? 

Losing contact with old friends.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? 

Yes. Towards the end of 2007 I developed a very painful, deep cough. I coughed so hard that I was certain I had fractured a rib; the pain was so severe that it hurt to breathe. I also had a 104 degree fever. On December 31, 2007 (what a way to spend New Year's Eve) I checked into Urgent Care at Kaiser Permanente and had my chest X-rayed. Diagnosis: I had walking pneumonia that I had exacerbated by walking around with it for a month instead of getting it treated. My rib wasn't broken--the doctor said that a bit of the lining of my lung had become inflamed and was pressing against my rib, which is why it hurt so bad. I was prescribed an inhaler, some narcotic cough syrup, and a round of antibiotics, but the antibiotics didn't kill everything and I ended up visiting Kaiser several more times over the next couple months. Each time I got a different diagnosis, which was pretty frustrating. Finally everything seemed to go away on its own. I also had a few bladder infections (fun!) and a minor bike accident a few weeks ago.

11. What was the best thing you bought? 

It's funny, because when I answered this question two years ago I was all talking about plane and train and bus tickets for my travels. In 2008 the best things I bought were much more mundane: a safety can-opener that makes opening cans a delight; and big black rain galoshes. Laugh it up (Daniel) but I'm thankful for those boots every time in rains.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? 

My spiritual community's; friends; Daniel's. Those who supported me in my spiritual search.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? 

Various work-related people.

14. Where did most of your money go? 

Groceries and rent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? 

My bet din and mikvah for conversion; having days off work; going to the Jewish Renewal retreat in Eastern Oregon, the election and Obama's victory.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? 

"Who Gives a Fuck About An Oxford Comma?" by Vampire Weekend. Daniel introduced me to them; I remember lying on the bed in his room at his old house, listening to the album. That song was also playing on the radio when we bought our computer, except that they bleeped out "fuck."

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: 

a) happier or sadder? Happier.

b) thinner or fatter? Thinner. 

c) richer or poorer? Richer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? 

Staying in touch with old friends and meeting new people, venturing out of the apartment, riding my bike, working on spiritual disciplines like praying and studying scriptures, reading thought-provoking books and educating myself.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? 

Hoo boy. After Easter last year I bought several pounds of marked-down Easter candy at Walgreen's, thinking that it would last Daniel and me for the rest of the year. Surprise: we ate all that candy within three weeks. I mean, I'm talking like 17 Cadbury eggs alone, not to mention all the jelly beans. So I wish I'd eaten less cheap crappy Easter candy. I also wish I hadn't been so content to let inertia take over. Sometimes after Shabbat service or something I'd decide that I didn't really want to talk to anyone, so I'd leave really quickly; I wish I had forced myself to push past my discomfort and shyness and work on making real human connections.

20. How did you spend Christmas? 

Daniel and I spent the holiday, as well as the last five or so days of Chanukah, with my parents and brother down in Eugene.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008? 

Yes, or rather, I fell in love in 2007 and was in love all of 2008 (aw!). Mush alert: We exchanged "I love you"s for the first time on New Year's Eve 2007.

22. How many one-night stands? 


23. What was your favorite TV program? 

LOST and Project Runway.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? 

No, I've been trying to let go of grudges from my college years.

25. What was the best book you read? 

It's hard to choose, but the first two books that come to mind are "The Cutting Edge: Art Horror and the Horrific Avante-Garde" and "The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950." Two very different but equally captivating books. I also loved "Geek Love" by Katharine Dunn; it was probably the best fiction book I read this year. I'm hoping to put up a post sometime soon about some of the great books I read this year.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? 

Daniel introduced me to lots of great music, of which Joanna Newsom and Antony and the Johnsons might be my favorites. We went to see Antony at the Schnitzer as part of the Portland Time-Based Art festival, and it was gorgeous.

27. What did you want and get? 

I wanted to confirm and strengthen my relationship and commitment to Judaism, and I did.

28. What did you want and not get? 

I guess I had this idea that when things in my life settled down and became generally okay--you know, having my own place, a good job, a satisfying spiritual life, living with a man I love--that I wouldn't get sad anymore, or that little things wouldn't bug me, or that I would always be happy and content. And I realized this year that that's not true. Things are good in my life, but I'm not happy all the time. Maybe no one is.

29. What was your favorite film of this year? 

Hmmm...I'm drawing a blank. I saw movies that I liked, but none stands out as a favorite.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 

I turned 23 on February 18. Daniel and I went out to the Doug Fir for dinner--we had been there ten days earlier, too, for his 25th birthday on February 8th. He gave me a copy of AJ Jacob's "The Year of Living Biblically," which I had been wanting to read ever since we heard AJ Jacobs speak at Powell's. Later that month Carla and I had a joint birthday/apartment-warming party at my place.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? 

Winning the lottery? I don't know. It as a pretty good year, overall.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? 

I wear skirts a lot more than I used to--probably more often than I wear pants. Most of the skirts I wear are from a little longer than knee length to calf length. I just find them more comfortable, especially since I constantly have to bend over, stoop, squat, etc at work and it's a hassle to keep tugging my pants back up. It's not really a religious thing, although I think some people think that it is. I also stopped shaving my legs this year because I realized that I just did not give a shit about leg hair. It's been seven or eight months since I last shaved them.

33. What kept you sane? 

Involvement with P'nai Or, reading in a coffee shop on the weekend, vigorous discussion with Daniel, sweet hugs from sweet children at work.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? 

Sully from "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" (Daniel insists that I delete that answer, but I'm not going to, because Sully was HOT!) Also, Jemaine from "Flight of the Conchords."

35. What political issue stirred you the most? 

The election, of course. Various feminist issues.

36. Who did you miss? 

Friends who have moved away.

37. Who was the best new person you met? 

Different people at work and friends from P'nai Or, and people I met at the Jewish retreat over the summer.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. 

You have to be your own advocate, because if you don't stand up for yourself, no one else is going to. That sounds a little pessimistic, but I think it's true. As women in a misogynist society, we're taught not to advocate for ourselves; that it makes us pushy, or selfish, or whiny; women tend not to want to be the squeaky wheels. It's been a struggle for me to work past these gendered assumptions, as well as my own natural shyness, to advocate for my own needs at work. I'm slowly getting better at it.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. 

"First thing you do, drive right through that Holland Tunnel, 

Pay your toll to the soul on the other side.

Pick up your ticket, everything will be all right.

Drive, baby, drive."

--"Holland Tunnel" by John Phillips.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow day?

No...no snow day. After an unusual week at the preschool (we had a delayed start on Monday and an early release on Wednesday due to snowy and icy conditions; on Monday and Tuesday especially, it felt like the Arctic Tundra outside), I was really hoping that today would be a snow day. I had already planned how I would spend the day: curling up with Sarna's American Judaism: A History and a cup of tea, watching some daytime TV, going downtown to Powell's to finish my holiday shopping. Alas, although it was snowing lightly this morning, the powers that be decided we would just have a delayed start. Oh well; we only have half of our normal amount of students, and the composition of children is such that it's been a really fun, peaceful, collaborative day (in other words, the screamers and biters are absent). It's been the kind of day that reminds me what attracted me to early childhood ed. in the first place: collaborative projects, funny stories, working together creatively, learning how to communicate with each other, those kinds of things. Everyone in the class spontaneously began playing this game that they were on the Polar Express to the North Pole, and Cara and I got some fantastic documentation done (part of the Reggio approach is documenting children's play and conversations).

Thanks to those who expressed concern and well-wishes after my bike accident at the beginning of last week. My right arm got progressively more sore over the course of the day, and by Monday night I could hardly move it. I knew it wasn't broken but I guess I just strained the muscle or something, since I landed on my right side and my arm and shoulder absorbed most of the shock. It's nearly back to normal by now. My nose is not broken, although it does still sort of hurt when I blow it--when I fell, I think my nose must have hit against my right arm, and maybe I bruised the cartilge or something.

I made a resolution a couple months ago that I would read the Torah portion each week on Friday night, so that I could be an informed participant in the Saturday morning Shabbat service. Of course, in the couple months since I made the resolution, it's been realized exactly twice. Last Friday I read the portion V'yishlach, from Genesis (it's the portion immediately preceding the Joseph cycle); V'yishlach contains, amongst other things, the story of Jacob wrestling with the angel and the reconciliation between Jacob and Esau. There's this part when Esau comes up to Jacob and everyone's like biting their fingernails because they think Esau's going to kill Jacob, but then he "falls on Jacob's neck" and kisses him. I was reading the portion in the Jewish study Bible that Daniel's parents gave me, and it has this little explanatory notes from the midrash (interpretation) on the side. At this part it notes that in the Torah scroll there's a series of six dots over the word "kiss;" they're not related to the pronunciation of the word, so it's kind of a mystery about why they're there. Some rabbis say that the dots denote rabbinic suspicion over the inclusion of the word "kiss" in the story, pointing out that "kiss" and "bite" are nearly the same word in Hebrew. And, according to the explanatory note, a traditional midrash is that Esau did indeed intend to bite Jacob, but God--just in the nick of time--hardened Jacob's skin so that Esau could only kiss him. And that's why the Jews are called a stiff-necked people. (Rimshot!)

There's another explanatory note about why Jacob crossed back over the river to the place where he ended up wrestling with the angels. Rabbinic commentators wondered why he would return to the place he'd come from all alone--so they decided that he must have gone back to retrieve some "little jars he'd forgotten." I absolutely love that kind of minutely detailed midrash (and there are midrash like that for seriously everything). Like, God forbid there be any minute question or inconsistency in the text. It's like rabbinic fan fiction.

Monday, December 08, 2008


I was on my way to school this morning on my bike. I had two bags full of egg cartons that I was bringing in for an art project dangling off my handlebars. I don't know what happened exactly but I think my knee bumped one of the bags and it threw off my balance and I fell ass over ankles off my bike and onto the street. I stood up and shook myself off, disoriented. My right shoulder and nose both really hurt but nothing seemed broken and I didn't feel or see any blood. I was still in sight of the apartment and I wanted nothing so much as to hobble home and crawl back into bed with Daniel.

A couple people stopped to see if I was okay and one kind, compassionate young woman put my bike in her car and drove me the rest of the way to work. My boss said I should take as much time as I needed before going into the classroom and one of my co-workers said I was in shock, so I laid down and drank water and held an ice pack to my shoulder and cried a little. I called Daniel to tell him what had happened but instead of starting with, "Daniel, I'm okay" I started with "Daniel, I was in an accident on the way to work" so he got scared and I felt bad for scaring him.

I don't think my nose is broken, but it definitely hurts. I think it's swollen--it feels swollen--but it's hard to tell because my nose was already pretty big. My shoulder's hurting more and more as the day goes on. I was planning on going to the gym after work, but I think instead I'm just going to go home and drink some tea and watch DVDs with Daniel.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fun with Photobooth

The other night Daniel and I spent some time playing around with Photobooth on our Mac.

Look at us. We're so mumblecore.

I call these next two "Geek Love."

And lo, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon me in the form of hands. Giant freak hands.

Contrary to popular belief, the sun is not the center of the universe. The center of the universe is Daniel's glasses.