Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Kindred Spirit

Pesach just ended, leaving me with a cold and the satisfaction of having read a wonderful book.  Kindred, written by Octavia Butler, is set in the modern era (1976) and the antebellum South, a time-travel saga that was hard to put down.

Written in 1979, somehow I missed this novel, which pits Dana, a 20th century black woman, against unknown forces that transport her to 19th century Maryland, to a plantation just in time to save the white master's son.  Over and over again.

Through Dana, and Butler's cast of characters, we get a taste, frightening no less, of slavery in America.  As a Jew whose family was safe on America's shores by 1924, I missed dual Holocausts - one against black slaves in this country, and the other, more well known, to Jews in Europe.  As Dana mentioned between trips through time, it appears the Germans learned a lot from 19th century slave owners.

Perfect reading for a holiday dealing with slavery and redemption.  While I played no part in America's horrific past, I cannot help but feel guilty that it happened at all.  And more than a bit ashamed.

I did not seek out this book.  I found it on the "New Book" shelf, and liked the time travel aspect.  In the end, I found the eye opener about slavery, and all its evils, the most redeeming quality of all.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some Random Thoughts

I've spent the last few days cleaning my house for Pesach, which always gives me time to reflect about things.  Like, about the earthquake we had last week.

In Southern California, I've been living through earthquakes all my life.  I know the drill. Get away from windows.  Stand in a door frame. Stay away form objects that can fall on you.  Yet, wouldn't you know it, every time there's a earthquake, all I can do is stop, stand still, and ride it out.

Unfortunately, when it's all over, then it occurs to me that I was too close to the shelf with all the nick knacks, or under a tall floor lamp or, what the heck, near the window.  Then I look up, thank the Holy One for saving me AGAIN, and spend the next 10 minutes trying to guess the magnitude.

A few weeks ago I was one of many women who prepared and participated in a Sheva Brocha, or party, for a bride and groom.  There were so many of us because the more people you bring in to prepare food, the less everyone has to do.

I was wearing a pair of hanging earrings that didn't have a backing to them. I also wore a long scarf, and sat draped it in nearly the whole night.  Afterwards, stuffed to the gills, I walked home, all 8 blocks, with my kids (it was Erev Shabbos).  Barely able to keep my eyes open, I quickly prepared for bed.

When I looked into the mirror with a mouthful of mouthwash, I noticed it - I had only one earring.  There was no use looking for it.  That earring could have been lost in the host's house, on the long walk home, or maybe, just maybe, this menopause brain forgot to put both on.

I decided not to think about it because then I would get upset about something I could not change.  Until one week later, when I decided to wear the same scarf for Shabbos - and guess what was hanging in it!  The earring, of course.

As the saying goes, let go, let G-d.  All it takes is practice.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Know Your Limitations

I have been burning the candle at both ends lately.  By day, I'm a mild mannered dietitian serving the nutritional needs of my psychiatric patients.  I'm also a professor of nutrition at my Alma mater - CSULA - two days a week.  By night, I'm making power points on nutrition until I literally can't see what's in front of me.

So I have to be realistic.  It was time to order my textbook for next quarter, and I bravely climbed the stairs to the campus bookstore, rolling back pack in one hand, purse draped over the shoulder, 40 extra pounds strapped to my body.  It never occurred to me until I reached the top, unable to breath, that people in wheel chairs can't do this and they buy textbooks.

Barely able to talk, I somehow convinced the bookstore manager to reorder the book I need, even though faculty are supposed to do their ordering online.  Everyone told me ordering online is complicated, and frankly, right now, I don't have a head for complicated  Then I saw it.

The sign to the elevator.  Going down the stairs was surely easier, but not for me.  I was riding down like I should have ridden up.  Only one little problem.  The elevator required a key to operate.

Here's where the pitiful looking old lady gets what she needs.  I walked over to the store room, where the students were working, and asked for help.  One young man immediately rushed to my aid, unlocked the elevator, and waited for it to arrive.

I asked the young man if he needed to key the elevator once the door opened, and he said no.  I smiled politely, knowing that he wouldn't leave because he thought I needed help getting into what turned out to be a barn-sized service elevator. When I said "oh, okay", he smiled back at me and left.

The elevator must not be used often, and the last time it was used it must have been carrying wet wool because I thought I was going to gag in there.  The ground floor didn't come fast enough.

Nothing like coming face-to-face with my limitations.  Elevators, even stinky ones, totally rock.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

In Need of a New Lap

I got it into my head that I wanted a new lap top computer.  You now, something that works and has a big screen. Something completely unlike my old laptop, which is the size of a postage stamp and barely runs at all.

I did what any unknowledgeable person does who knows squat about computers - I asked my brother and my brother-in-law.  They both agreed I should get a Lenovo.  So I did.  Now I just want to cry.

First, it keeps jumping between screens, even if I didn't open them.  I keep getting messages that I have viruses and to purchases the virus protection, which is, no doubt, a virus itself.  I will be typing away and all of a sudden, I'm in another row, typing over something else.  I mean, what am I touching on the keyboard that all of a sudden I'm retyping the beginning of this paragraph?

I keep telling myself to calm down.  There are people dying in Syria.  My Obamacare insurance doesn't kick in for another month. My 89-year old mother-in-law isn't feeling so well.  Snap out of it.  This freaky computer isn't the real problem.

I am grateful for all the wonderful people in my life.  I'm grateful to have a computer that works.  I'm grateful that I can see the big picture, every once and a while.  I guess I should be grateful for these fleeing moments of clarity.  I guess you could say I'm having a fleeting moment right now.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Getting Even

I used to think that even years were the best ever.  I was born in an even year, graduated college in an even year, married in an even year.  But then nearly all my kids were born in odd years, so bye-bye the even year prejudice.

But I can't help but feel that even years truly rock, and am really looking forward to 2014.  So I decided to tie up some loose ends today, in anticipation of tomorrow.

Got the oil changed in my car (even year 2012); drank coffee and shared ideas with a dear friend, ate lunch with my son, and then paid a visit to the doctor (there's Obamacare in my future - which means my medical coverage, as we speak, is literally an unknown).  Ate dinner with the family, did carpool, and now I'm ready to kick back, relax, and wake up to a new beginning.

Here's hoping it's a great one.  Love and kisses to everyone.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

If Van Gogh Painted With His Eyes Closed

Last night I attended a company holiday party out in the middle of nowhere - okay, this nowhere has a name.  Rancho Cucamonga.  I literally thought I was falling off the end of the earth.  But it was worth it.

The party consisted of food, of course, but also a chance to become an artist for an evening.  That's right.  The place is called Purple Easel and my company rented out the place for the evening.  Each one of us was set up with an easel, paints, brushes, and an artist leading up through the evening's design.  Wouldn't you know it - a winter landscape.

Oh please.  All I wanted was a cup of coffee (it took over an hour to get there!) and a choice place on the couch in the hall.  But the painter's assistant insisted I participate (I'm not proud of the fact that I offered her money to finish the canvas for me).  I'm just not an artist.

Truth is, it was a lot of fun, and I really feel that if I did this maybe 100 times, I could actually be an artist.  And just one more truth: I made so many mistakes and had such a pitiful look on my face that the painter's assistant really did finish the canvas for me.  Not that I told my family.  They think I'm a genius!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Where The Wild Things Are

My son asked me to stop by the library the other day on my way home from work to pick up a book.  I'm usually tired after a long day, but what the heck.  It was a quick in-and-out trip and I was on my way to putting my feet up.

Found the book fast enough, but waiting on line to check it out seemed to drag on.  In front of me stood a young woman with her two sons.  Assumed they were her sons, all three of them blond.  The boys were aged maybe 6 and 4 years respectively, the younger one still in diapers and sucking on a pacifier.

The problem wasn't just the wait.  The boys were wild, screaming, running around, tearing up the flooring and just acting awful.  As if that wasn't enough, their mother did absolutely nothing, outside of the occasional "hey guys, stand by me."  There was quite a bit of rumbling in line behind me, and I tried hard not to say something.

Because as I was standing there watching this spectacle, I remembered a letter to the editor I read some time back from a mother of an autistic child who asked people not to be judgmental if they saw her child acting out.  Why that popped into my mind I'll never know but I heeded her plea.  When the elder of the two boys asked what the printer payment box was for, I very calming, slowly and precisely explained how it worked.

The child stared at me wide-eyed.  It seemed to me that no one, not even his mother, had ever explained something so clearly to him before. He actually stopped moving for a good three minutes, and then went right back to pushing buttons.

Why the mother didn't intercede and try to explain library etiquette still confuses me.  This particular library is popular with children and is always crowded with them.  Yet I don't recall any of these children behaving this way.

G-d put thoughts in our minds when the need arises.  That's the only way I can explain remembering the letter, and the only reason I didn't take this young mother to task.