Slogging

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Hello everyone! I hope your holidays were swell. Me, I am still slogging through the festivities. That’s right, we still have four birthdays to celebrate this week. There will be a combined celebration, but it is still shopping & planning to be done. Plus I somehow agreed to host this year. Ugh.

Frankly, I can’t stand this time of year. Especially Christmas.

My husband’s family places an unhealthy degree of emphasis on wishlists. The emails start around Thanksgiving. The harassment, I should say. I hate it. I myself can rarely think of anything I want. My clothes are functional; they have all the books I need at the library; my electronic gadgets all work fine. I am just not a material girl. What I really want is for people to do things for me. If someone could take my son down to the DMV and get his learner’s permit set up, that’d be great. We also need our passports renewed — I would be thrilled if someone else would make that happen. And hey, our kitchen knives need sharpening. They’ve never been professionally sharpened ever, not because of the cost but because of the boredom of the errand. If someone would do that for me, I’d be truly grateful. Much more truly grateful than I am for the gifts off my wishlist. The wishlist that I racked my brains to come up with, just so that others could feel good about spending money on me. Sorry but that is fucked up.

The wishlist thing isn’t good for the kids either. If you aren’t very careful they come away with the idea that toys = love, that the Christmas spirit is about asking for and receiving the biggest box of Legos, that not getting the coveted iPad is a reason to despair, that iPads are something to covet, that coveting is even a thing.

But you want to know the worst thing of all, about Christmas? No one in this family is even Christian! I was raised by atheist Jews; I call myself Jewish but I don’t even observe the High Holidays. My husband did grow up going to church but his mother later made a completely break from the church (not sure why). As a result our kids are a bunch of heathens and we are under no pressure to change that from either side of the family. Which puts a further layer of pointlessness on our celebration. I would much prefer this holiday if we celebrated it religiously. I would have no problem going to midnight mass or whatever. If we went through all this wishlist rigmarole because even one of us felt moved to celebrate the birth of Jesus, well that would be fine with me.

Because, here is a thing about me. I am fascinated by other people’s religion. Not just fascinated, but deeply moved. I have no interest in participating in organized religion myself, but I love it that other human beings do. And you know what? People talk to me about religion. I have had so many conversations with random people, e.g. moms on the playground, standing in line at the bank, etc etc, where within minutes the other person is telling me about their church. Sometimes (if I’m lucky) they will get into really nitty gritty doctrinal stuff. And then after a while they mention that they can’t believe they are telling me all this, they don’t usually talk about their religion with strangers. And meanwhile I am eating it up and hoping for more. I would be a very willing participant in a religious Christmas even though it is not my religion. This is true of Halloween too. I despise Halloween. But if it were still celebrated as a religious holiday, omg I would love it.

“Heritage” Festival

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Well it has been a couple of weeks since I checked in here. ‘Tis the season. In addition to Christmas and Hanukah (yes, both) we have a bunch of family birthdays. Plus I work for a nonprofit and it is annual appeal time. So I am coordinating mailings, processing gifts, etc etc etc and it is crazymaking. On top of that, my son’s 4th grade class has been working on a big social studies project: interviewing grandparents, researching & writing reports on their countries of origin, and culminating in a big party, at school, during work hours, to celebrate everyone’s ethnicity. Ok. Let’s set aside the fact that ancestry can be an emotionally-laden topic, for example for adoptees or kids with absent parents. Here is what I’m wrestling with:

First? My son wrote about the wrong country. He interviewed my dad who was born in Vienna — and then wrote his report on Germany. Believe me, we have talked about the difference between Austria & Germany. But somehow he forgot. I suppose if I was a better parent I would have discovered this before he researched and wrote the whole report. Luckily he does have some actual German ancestry on my husband’s side, but that isn’t who he interviewed. Hence the quotation marks around “Heritage.” (Please, no comments from the peanut gallery about the narcissism of small differences. I know, I know.)

And second? Not only do I not have two hours free in the middle of the day tomorrow, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to cook up some German Austrian German dish to bring for the class. My family food traditions do not include German cooking. My mom was a devotée of Julia Child and our best-loved family dinners revolved around parsley and garlic and shallots, not sausage & sauerkraut.

Ugh.

Booking through Thursday: Records

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Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday asks: Do you keep a list of the books you’ve read? How? In a journal? Through one of the online services? If so, WHY? To keep good records for future reference? To make sure you don’t accidentally reread? If not, why not? Too eager to move on to the next book? Too lazy? Never thought to bother?

I have tried to keep lists! I have tried pretty much every possible way. I have set up accounts on goodreads and library thing. I have bought pretty little notebooks with lined pages and “Booklover’s Journal” embossed in script on the cover. I have bought lovely plain moleskine notebooks too. But I’ve never been able to stay with the list for more than a few titles.

The thing is, I frequently don’t finish books. Life is too short to waste on bad books. I have no qualms about this whatsoever. But I never know what to do with Quit Lit. Should I list them? Or not? How far do I have to read before I can list it? If I list it and then quit, should I delete the listing? Ugh. Now this decision (to quit reading) that previously felt quite natural and organic has suddenly become fraught with difficulty.

And another thing, I love rereading. Probably half my reading is books I’ve already read at least twice before. Should I list those books too? Should I list them anew, every time I read them? Do I really want to reveal to the world what a fangirl I am? I don’t think so.

So… no. No lists here. What about you?

I got an award!

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Liebster Award!Thank you so much Bee for nominating me for this Liebster Award! Ain’t it pretty?

So — I am now supposed to reveal eleven random facts about myself and then answer the eleven questions that she posted. Here goes:

Eleven random* facts about me:

1. I am a non-practicing lawyer. So are quite a few of my friends. In fact some of the most interesting people I know are non-practicing lawyers. I actually did quite well in law school and enjoyed it a lot. I was even Managing Editor of the law review, tee hee. But I had my first child while I was still in school and then I decided to stay home with the baby. I did get my degree and pass the bar, but never actually practiced law.

2. My husband and I were friends in high school. Our sister-in-law was also in our class. Very cozy!

3. I am an extremely hands-off parent, at least compared to most of the other moms I know. I believe my role is to help my children cope with the obstacles that arise — not to jump in ahead and smooth the way for them. My kids have been in public school, collectively, for 23 years. In that time I have only once called out a teacher, and it was because of curriculum concerns, not her treatment of my individual child. I have never requested that my child be placed in a particular classroom, and I have never complained to the principal about anything, ever.

4. I have fainted many times in my life (mostly when I was in my teens) and once had an out of body experience. I also experience hypnagogic imagery and semi-lucid dreams quite often.

5. Speaking of dreams, my dreams are always in color and almost always involve houses or buildings that have interesting architecture.

6. Still speaking of dreams: my dad was a professor of clinical psychology and this was quite a burden to me. Some people get Catholic guilt? I got Freudian angst. I grew up believing that people have secret motivations of which they themselves are not aware; that people don’t say what they mean or mean what they say; that everyone is sick and twisted under the surface. I have mostly shed this mindset, but I don’t like to share my feelings and I never tell my dreams unless they are funny.

7. Genetically I am extremely mixed. My mother’s family literally goes back to the Mayflower, whereas my father didn’t come to the US until he was 15. Three cheers for hybrid vigor!

8. Speaking of genetics, my older son’s personality is practically a carbon copy of mine. It is a really weird thing to see your self, in a person of the opposite gender and almost 30 years younger. However we have a great relationship and I think part of the reason why is because we understand each other all too well.

9. Food. I will eat absolutely anything if it is cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients. But I am extremely squeamish about processed foods. I was way ahead of the curve on this. When I was a kid in the 1970s I was terrified of fast food. You could not have paid me to eat a Big Mac. Still feel that way.

10. Speaking of Big Macs, I’ve been using Mac computers since 1986. At first I was extremely offended by the GUI. Excuse me, but I don’t need a picture of a folder to understand the structure of my file directory. I thought it was so condescending, not to mention messy. LOL, now.

11. Love olives, especially the super salty oil-cured ones. Hate raisins, especially the yellow ones that look like boogers.

*Obviously these are not truly “random” facts. I don’t think any of us would want to know truly random facts about each other. :-)

Eleven questions answered:

1. Why did you start blogging? I blog because I cannot rest until I’ve said my thoughts out loud. As you might guess, I was a hand-raiser in school — not because I was gunning for grades but because I literally could not stop myself from saying what I was thinking. (My teenage son tells me this is because I am an INTJ with a very well developed Te (extraverted thinking) function.) I had a nice little blog 5–6 years ago where I blogged under my real name. Eventually for various reasons I had to quit. But the urge to return was always in the back of my mind. So, here I am again. Finding the blogosphere changed in a lot of ways, but having a lot of fun writing, exploring, and meeting new people. Just wish there was more hours in the day.

2. Which genre do you prefer reading: fiction, non-fiction/memoir, poetry, other (sci-fi/fantasy, young adult, mysteries,/thrillers, romance etc.)? I read fiction almost exclusively. Overall I care more about the quality of the writing than the particular genre, but I mostly stick with literary fiction, classics, historical fiction, sci fi, and the occasional mystery/thriller. The heroic quest is my least favorite type of plot so I don’t read too much fantasy. And I don’t read YA, romance, or chick lit at all. At. All.

3. What is your favorite recipe? Pot roast! It only has two ingredients, and tastes divine. The two ingredients are: a piece of beef (“chuck roast” or something similar) and a packet of Lipton’s Beefy Onion Soup Mix. Sprinkle the contents of one package of soup mix on top of the beef, wrap tightly in tin foil and place on a cookie sheet. Put it in the oven at 275° for 3 hours. Done!

chuck roast

the chuck roast

beefy onion

the soup mix

4. Beer, wine, cocktails/spirits, or none? Occasionally. I am a lightweight. One glass does it for me. Also I am not a sophisticated drinker. I can tell red from white but that’s about it. I do like a dirty martini though. And I like my beers hoppy.

5. If there was a potion you could take to live another 1,000 years without aging, would you drink it? Why or why not? Of course!! Who wouldn’t? Don’t you want to know what’s going to happen????? Why is this even a question?

6. Have you seen any of the Star Wars movies? If so, which was your favorite? If not, how come? I’ve seen them all. And *small voice* I didn’t really like any of them. I’ve never understood why people like it. I’m the same about Jane Austen. I just don’t get it.

7. Have you ever had annoying neighbors? What was annoying about them? Oh lordy, yes I have. We used to live right in the middle of a student neighborhood in a college town. The street we lived on was actually an alley with five houses on it, all owned by the same landlady. This landlady was a long-time resident of the town who loved these houses because of their historical significance, and she cherished the thought that she was preserving what had once been a cozy family neighborhood in an area now overrun by undergrads. So she kept the rents low and was choosy about her tenants. One  was a middle-aged single woman who had lived there for more than a decade. In many ways this woman — let’s call her Elphaba — was a model tenant. She kept her house and yard immaculate, did small repairs herself, always paid her rent on time, and clearly appreciated the neighborhood’s history. But Elphaba had a sharp tongue and a very short fuse. You did not want to get on her bad side, ever. If you let your grass get a half inch too long? If your guest parked in her spot? If your kid left their trike in the alley? She would curse. you. out. Viciously. And she would regularly wake us up in the middle of the night, yelling at the undergrads to turn down their music & take their party inside. O irony — it was not the students who woke us up, but her yelling at them to be quiet. I would have loved living there if it weren’t for Elphaba.

8. Do you play a musical instrument? If so, what do you play? Mainly I noodle on piano and clarinet, but we actually have quite a few different instruments in our house which I pick up from time to time — mainly violin, guitar, mandolin, and uke. All my kids take lessons and music making is a huge part of my daily life in many ways.

9. Do you, like me, think the term “Black Friday” sounds like an evil, Satanic, devil-worship feast day? Totally.

10. What was the last movie you saw? Did you like it? No spoilers, please! Life of Pi in 3D AND I ADORED IT!!!

11. What was the last book you read? Did you like it? No spoilers, please! The last book I finished was The Art of Racing in the Rain. I did not like it.

Heh, that was fun! Thank you Bee!!

Alas, I’m not sure I can pass this award along. I’m so new here that I really haven’t found much of a community yet. I think I will just hold this in reserve for now. Hopefully will get to know more bloggers that I can tag in the future.

Talking Animal Lit

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In the comments on my post about The Art of Racing in the Rain, Bee asked whether part of my problem with that book was because it was narrated by an animal. Very good question! I definitely do have issues with talking animals in books. I realize that an animal narrator is not the same as a talking animal, but this is a pet peeve of mine, so here you go.

Talking animals for the most part means children’s books, and that’s the first obstacle. I know there is a whole world of adult book bloggers who read tons of YA and kids’ books, and write serious reviews. Not I! I can barely bring myself to read along with my own bookworm daughter, even when she begs me to read her latest favorite so we can discuss it. So that automatically cuts out a whole bunch of talking animal books. But even when I was a kid myself, I did not like talking animals. And especially not talking stuffed animals. No Winnie the Pooh for me, thanks. Wind in the Willows, Paddington Bear, Watership Down, I’m running out of examples but you get the idea. Ugh.

However.

If there is a REASON why the animals can talk? If the author ACKNOWLEDGES the fact that animals don’t usually talk? If they interact with humans and it is a THING? Then we are in a completely different ball park. I can think of 3 awesome books that meet this requirement. Two are even kids’ books!

1. The Narnia books. Ok, the reason they talk is that Aslan, aka God, gave them the ability to talk. Not exactly a scientific reason, but that’s ok. It is still an acknowledged reason. The animals talk to humans, and it is unexpected, and it is a thing that they talk. So that is fine with me. Plus there are a million other reasons to love the Narnia books. It’s all good.

2. Mrs. Frisby & the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. One of my all time favorite kids’ books. Yes they talk. Yes it is a thing. Yes there is an actual scientific explanation. This book is awesome and I have reread it many times, despite what I said about not liking kids’ books.

3. The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll. The talking animals in this case are dogs — two “hilariously slanty-eyed” bull terriers, to be precise. This is the only adult fiction I can think of with talking animals, and they are not main characters. However they are brilliant. The book is brilliant. Weird, but brilliant. And oh man is it a thing that they talk. If anyone else has read this book please let me know. I want to discuss it!

bull terrier

bull terrier