Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real · mental health · Uncategorized · waxing philosophical · whine and cheese

Day 427: Fear

I broke my own rule, and now I’m sorry.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I noticed a post about Israel, by one of my FB friends. He said something about how nice it is to see the Jewish community starting to come around to the pro-Palestinian movement. A lot of other things were said, too, to which I responded with a few pointed questions about why the rest of the world is not engaged in this level of protest or demonization with regards to, say, China’s treatment of the Uyghurs, or the Syrian civil war. Could it be because Israel is the Jewish state? Could Antisemitism be a factor? I don’t even remember what was said in response; I do remember that one person’s comment ended with “shame on you!”

She also accused me of being too snarky and aggressive in my post. If I was Black and posting about racism, that would be called tone policing. If I was LGBTQ, I could say that any support for people whose goal is to kill all the Jews is a complete non-starter, because my right to exist is not up for discussion. If I was a university student I could claim that this kind of talk makes me feel ‘unsafe’, and I would receive emotional support for it. But I’m Jewish, which means that none of those things applies to me.

There is a degree of cultural and generational trauma for the Jewish community that often informs our view of the current (and ongoing) conflict. There is a lot of fear of what would happen if Israel backed off (because, you know, Hamas wants to drive us all into the sea.) The recent rise in Antisemitic attacks in North America doesn’t help. If the supporters of the Palestinians insist that their position has nothing to do with Antisemitism, how do they square that with the fact that Jews outside of Israel are being attacked because they are Jews? Is there an explanation that doesn’t point to Antisemitism? If there is, I’d desperately like to hear it and be able to believe it.

The whole situation in Israel/Palestine confuses and disturbs me. The situation of the Palestinian people, living under the thumb of a terrorist organization, is deeply saddening. And I hate that my Israeli cousins and friends have to wake their children in the middle of the night to run down to the bomb shelter. Beyond that, I’m hesitant to make any analysis, partly because I feel like I can never do the situation justice and partly because it won’t help anyway. There’s precious little, if anything, I can do to influence the situation.

I should probably just snooze posts from this friend and anyone else who posts things that upset me. It’s probably naïve of me to believe that if we can speak openly with each other, maybe we can find common ground and move closer to peace for everyone. But if I shut out the voices that make me uncomfortable, isn’t that also part of the problem? I don’t want to live in an echo chamber. I do, however, want to live without the anxiety that these encounters cause me. I want to live without fear. And right now, I don’t think I can.

Early morning musings · Keepin' it real · love and marriage

Day 425: Curtain Call

Every marriage has its bone of contention. Ours is curtains: specifically those in our bedroom.

Mr. December needs complete darkness to sleep; if light filters in around the edges of our full-length blackout curtains in the morning, he’s up. And once he’s awake, he’s up for the day. Not everyone has been gifted the ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat (an ability that has earned me a nickname around here: “Sleep-a-pillar”.)

During the winter it doesn’t matter so much. The sun comes up late enough that if it wakes us up, it was probably time to get up anyway. But from May to August, the sun shines straight at our many windows (I stand by that design decision despite the apparent downsides) and brightens up the room at five or six in the morning. Way too early.

It’s that time of year again and Mr. December has been terribly tired for the last few days. It’s not like we’re going to sleep particularly late, it’s just that he’s waking up extremely early. So tonight we’ve declared an ETB (Early To Bed) just like they do at summer camp when it’s five days to visiting day and the kids all have dark circles under their eyes (what, didn’t they do that at every camp?). The kids are already in their beds. I’m waiting for Mr. December’s evening meeting to end, and then we’ll head on upstairs too.

Tomorrow morning you can expect me to be trying to figure out how to trap those last little rays of sunshine so that we don’t have to keep having this discussion every year for the next fifty or sixty years. I’d rather have a recurring argument that’s a little more interesting. So if you see me trying to fashion a mock-up of a cornice moulding or a valence out of the cardboard box from our new TV, you’ll understand that I’m doing it in the name of Shalom Bayit, peace in the home.

Because there’s nothing more peaceful than sleep. Right?

blogging · Keepin' it real · mental health · The COVID files · waxing philosophical

Day 424: Public Service Announcement

At times it feels to me like the world has gone just a bit insane. Everybody is outraged about something, it seems. And before you dismiss that as a “privileged” statement, remember: this is my blog, I do have some privilege (but not all, what with being Jewish, female, and not totally able-bodied and all,) and if you don’t want to hear about it nobody’s forcing you to read it in the first place.

Now, with that disclaimer in place, I’ll continue: everybody is outraged about something, everybody thinks the world is going to hell, and if you listen to them long enough, you might start to believe it, too.

So please, take a breath. It’s okay to not “do the work” all the time. There’s plenty of beauty in the world.

There are bunnies living in our garden who hop around in the evenings.

The weather is getting warmer and the days are longer. Flowers are blooming and the bees and butterflies are out.

There are children running around in the park, playing as children have always done.

There is music to be heard, played, and sung—and not just by professionals. Humans are hardwired to participate in music. Try it sometime, if you haven’t lately.

There are “leave a book, take a book” little libraries popping up all over the place. How nice is it that people take the time to build those, and others take the time to drop off books instead of just throwing them in the recycling bin?

People are resilient, and as tired as we all are of this COVID thing, we’ve seen lots of innovative ways to remain part of our extended family and our community. I can attend a Purim party without leaving my comfy chair. What a time to be alive.

It’s okay to stop reading the news, stop “doomscrolling” on social media, stop immersing yourself in other people’s outrage and pain. It really is. The news will still be there tomorrow (and there’s never really anything new) and you can pick it all up again anytime. I promise.

It’s okay to put it down and feel peaceful and happy. Your impotent rage probably won’t change the world (unless you’re actually taking some kind of action) but your happiness, kindness, peacefulness? Those are contagious, and they can change everything.

family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Keepin' it real

Day 422: I’m getting too old for this.

It’s Shavuot, most famously known around here as “the holiday where Eema lets us eat lots of ice cream and cheesecake and we don’t have to go to bed until late.” Officially, of course, it’s the holiday that commemorates our receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, as well as an agricultural holiday related to the first harvest of the season.

There’s a tradition of staying up all night on Shavuot to learn. In my younger days I actually went all night, and it was really fun. Now I’m old, and by 10:30 tonight my energy was flagging—but the kids were still going strong.

We read some folk stories (Isaac Bashevis Singer’s retelling of stories about Chelm are pretty funny.) We ate cheesecake and make-your-own ice cream sundaes. Then we trooped up to the attic and watched an hour or so of The Frisco Kid, which thought was mostly boring. Mr. December and I were enjoying it too much to care if anyone else was.

The kids were determined to stay up, so Mr. December read to them from a history textbook published in 1840’s United States of America. It’s kind of wild that this history book recounts biblical stories as absolute historical fact, a realization that led to my reading the corresponding stories from the Torah and discussing them with the kids.

That took us to midnight, and now it’s 12:26 and I’m exhausted. We’ve given everyone permission to sleep in tomorrow; the only schooling will be Shavuot- or Jewish-studies-related. And now I’ll go to sleep, because I am way too old to stay up all night learning things.

Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 411: Technical Difficulties

You know, all these cordless devices are a real pain in the butt. My mouse likes to tell me to charge it immediately, with no prior notice that its battery is getting low. Sometimes the keyboard is nonresponsive—although it uses removable batteries, so I can swap them out and keep on working. And then there’s what happened tonight when I tried to record myself singing for a video performance by a group from our synagogue.

I was ready. Really, I was. I even brushed my hair for the occasion. My computer and phone were propped up on the music stand; I had one earbud in so I could hear the song. I hit “record” on the phone and “play” on the computer.

For the first verse and a half, all was well. Then my phone stopped recording the video because the battery dropped below 25%. I accepted that I’d have to go plug in my phone and wait for it to charge up. But while I was waiting, why not listen to my part a few more times? Answer: because two lines into the track, my headphones beeped and switched themselves off. Great.

I guess the good news is that I didn’t start doing it after the kids’ bedtime—then there would have been no chance of getting it finished tonight. As of right now, my phone is at 71% power and still charging. My headphones are charging too, they just don’t want to tell me how much more time they need. I’m assuming that by 8:30 I’ll be ready to try recording again.

8:40 p.m. update: I wasn’t ready at 8:30 because I has having my butt handed to me by a 6-year-old in a vicious game of Azul. I finally scraped out a 2-point lead, but it was close. Now I’ll have to wait ’til after 9:00, because the kids are currently making and eating their bedtime snacks.

10:18 p.m. update: I’m done, but it wasn’t easy. Just as I started recording, someone ran through the upstairs hallway. ThumpThumpThumpThump. Then K dropped something in her room, which is directly above where I was recording. I started again. And again… at which point I realized that we were asked to wear something that was a different colour from our background. I was wearing a violet-blue shirt in my purple-blue library. Oops. I’m submitting it anyhow and hoping it’s acceptable.

crafty · DIY · Homeschool · Keepin' it real

Day 409: Success or Failure?

I’d like to thank you all for your input on yesterday’s rug dilemma. I’d like to thank you, but in reality Mr. December is thanking you… because the overwhelming majority chose the navy blue rug, which he likes. I prefer the bright colours of the other rug, and I feel like the busyness of the pattern would fade into the background after a while. The navy rug has a lot of this dusty rose colour and burnt orange, neither of which I’m fond of.

Oh, well. Back goes the pretty rug, and my green couch will remain completely unrelated to anything else in the room. I tried.

And for those of you who recognized the title of yesterday’s post, this nostalgic little video is for you. But it’s one heck of an earworm—don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Since the term began, we’ve been working on pottery in art class. My brilliant idea was for us to make replicas of Greek pottery including the meandros ornamentation and the images from Greek myths.

So far it’s been a flop. Literally. I’ve tried a few different things now, and every piece I’ve made has cracked or collapsed. So has N’s amphora, which for a while looked like a success.

But as N pointed out, maybe our pottery pieces are a success… as in, we’ve successfully recreated broken pieces of ancient pottery. Maybe we should just decorate them anyway, display them in a museum-style shadow box with numbered labels, and call it a win.

It used to be centred. Really. Then it flopped over, and now it’s just a flop.

blogging · family fun · Keepin' it real · whine and cheese

Day 401: Noise Pollution

This is my fourth draft for tonight. I’ve been trying to write a heartfelt post about how glad I am that Friday’s post made so many people feel seen and understood. But Mr. December and the kids are watching some foolishness on our the new TV, and it’s way too loud for me to think.

I was afraid of this. We’ve watched far more TV than we would have if we had to watch upstairs in the attic or on one of the computers. It’s too much. Maybe it’s time for me to hide the remote and push everyone outside—although that also has the potential to fail the way it did today.

It’s springtime, which I know not because of the calendar or the weather, but because my neighbour’s lawn care guy is back at it, spending thirty minutes using a leaf blower to make sure there are no grass clippings anywhere on the lawn. It’s the same leaf blower as in years past: gas-powered, smelly, and obnoxiously loud. And it’s the same time slot as last year, too: between 4:30 and 5:30 on Sunday afternoon, A.K.A. right when you want to be outside with your family.

So of course today when I declared that there would be no more screen time until everyone had spent at least an hour outside, we opened the back door to the sound (and smell) of the leaf blower. Grrr.

Short of petitioning City Hall to ban leaf blowers (or at least the gas-powered kind) there’s not much I can do about that; but the TV noise is a problem of my own making. Can anyone remind me why we bought the TV? I can’t remember anymore. Or maybe I just can’t think of it over the sound of YouTube on the big screen.

Keepin' it real · well *I* think it's funny...

Day 400: See…my…vest…

Mr. December is tired of hearing about this, so I’m telling you instead. I love my vest… and my dress… and the other dress… and my leggings…

Since I made my resolution to only buy clothes that fit me right now (no aspirational sizes,) have pockets, are comfortable, and (if possible) are produced ethically, I’ve bought six items of clothing. Four of them are among my favourites, and a fifth would be if my hands would cooperate long enough for me to take in the seams a bit. And when I say favourites, I mean that I can’t stop grinning when I wear them, because they’re just so awesome.

The kids are getting jealous. When we leave the house, I put on my new fleece vest—the one with fifteen pockets—and immediately offer to clean anyone’s glasses, because there’s a microfiber glasses cleaning cloth attached to one of the inner pockets. Then I offer to carry masks for everyone, because there’s lots of room for them in another pocket. And so on. I’m not trying to rub it in, but it’s just such a novelty for me to know where everything is (there’s a stretchy keychain attached inside one of the pockets for my car keys) and to have room for everything I want to bring with me (even a Kobo or an actual book)!

“Would you stop rubbing it in?!?” R demands every time.

“Can you get me one of those, too?” K begs.

“Maybe,” is my noncommittal reply to both.

They say the opposite of entitlement is gratitude. I guess it’s gratitude that I’m feeling when I think, Boy, am I glad I bought this dress, or It’s so easy to be happy when you’re wearing good socks! Whatever it is, I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. And while I could wax poetic about my new threads all day, I have to hold back so I don’t end up doing a song-and-dance routine à la Monty Burns.

But if I did, it would go something like this…
(to the tune of “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast)

See… my… vest, see my vest
Go on, tell me you’re impressed
It’s got fifteen different pockets
So with storage space I’m blessed
Sunglasses go right here
There’s a chamois for them, dear
This one here has got a channel
for my earbud wires to travel

See my dress! My black dress!
Made to measurements, no less
It is soft and very comfy
And the pocket isn’t lumpy
I can bike, I can dance
And I don’t need to wear pants
Yes, this purchasing decision was my best
Go on, hand me your mask
(Maybe your coffee flask)
I’ve got no stress with these pockets in my dress!

Life was disconcerting,
And my ego it was hurting
When I couldn’t find my wallet or my phone,
Most days I’d waste so many minutes searching
At least I didn’t often leave my home.
All these years I’ve been waiting,
All my tiny pockets hating,
I didn’t want to always carry ’round a purse
Most days I’d just give stuff to my husband
But when he wasn’t with me,
Oh, what angst my stuff would give me…

My… new… clothes… piece by piece
Give me comfort, give me ease
Having pockets for my phone is just the best
Go on, hand me your stuff, you see I’m totally chuffed
‘Cause of my vest… and my dress…
Oh please, won’t you see… my… VEST!

Simpsons boss explains the real story behind one iconic Mr Burns moment
Image description: Montgomery Burns (from the Simpsons) wearing a gorilla-chest vest. His vast dressing room is in the background.
Fibro Flares · Independence · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 387: Unneeded

I folded laundry this morning. It only came out of the dryer six days ago; I’m pretty proud that I did it in under a week.

Then I took a nap.

It’s the small victories, right?

I also managed to put in an online grocery order. Unfortunately my brain is still pretty foggy, so we might end up with a completely random assortment of foods that don’t combine into anything this family eats. Oh, the excitement! The anticipation! It’s like opening the front door in the middle of the day to find a box there: I’m ordering so many things constantly that I never know what I’m going to get when I open a package.

I've ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, don't even know what's  coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is. -  America's best pics and
Image description: Yellow background with red text that reads “I’ve ordered so much stuff online during quarantine, I don’t even know what’s coming anymore. If UPS shows up with a llama tomorrow, it is what it is.”

Finishing the grocery order just about did me in, cognitively speaking, and an online choir rehearsal took me the rest of the way to “time to lie down now.”

Good think I’ve raised the kids to be fairly independent: they came to me this afternoon and said, “We’re going to the park. ‘Bye!” And off they went, all four of them. They stayed out for a couple of hours, and I rested.

There’s a common sentiment that it feels good to be needed. That’s generally true. But after thirteen years and three months of being needed almost non-stop (there was that one cruise Mr. December and I took) it’s a bit of a relief when they don’t need me for a change. Especially during a flare.

Darn Tootin' · family fun · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Resorting to Violins · whine and cheese

Day 383: Doin’ it with flare

How does one homeschool their kids in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare-up? It turns out that the answer is: as little as possible, as honestly as possible, in as much comfort as possible.

It was a gorgeous day today, so I pushed all of us out the door and to the nearest park. We did our workout on the playground equipment. At one point N got lazy and started lolling around on the climber instead of doing the exercise. I set him straight: “Listen, mister. If I can do it today, then you sure as heck can do it too. Get moving.”

I find one of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is gauging how hard I can push myself. Exercising during a flare-up doesn’t do any damage to my body; it just hurts. So I guess the question is how much pain I feel like tolerating, given the expected payoff. Going to the park with the family improved my mood substantially, but it didn’t help my pain level at all.

Mr. December worked on chemistry and math with the older kids while I helped E with her writing, reading, and flute (which is going really well, by the way.) The rest of my morning was spent ordering groceries on Instacart and sitting in a hammock alternately reading and spacing out.

The kids joined me in the living room to discuss their next writing assignment. I stayed cocooned in my hammock with my furry blue blanket and patiently answered all their questions. Then I went upstairs to lie down for an hour. I have no idea what the kids ate for lunch, but I think it’s safe to assume that if they were hungry they would have eaten something.

We reconvened in the living room after my nap and I read aloud about Ancient Greek democracy. Then, for art, I asked them to bring over all the sketchbooks and markers and introduced them to meandros, those Greek key designs that you can draw without lifting your pen (did you know the word meander comes from the name of a river in Asia Minor? I was today years old when I learned that.)

By 2:30 I was done. I went to the back porch and cocooned myself in the outdoor hammock for a bit of a change. Groceries arrived around 4:00 and I dispatched my child labour force to bring everything in and put the perishables away. Dinner—rotisserie chicken and potato wedges from the supermarket—was at 5:00 and by 5:30 the kids were clamoring for more screen time.

“Not until you’ve practiced your instruments,” I stared levelly at R and K, “You haven’t done that for a week or so.”

I’m proud (and a bit surprised) to say that both R and K went off and practiced on their own. After a while K invited me to join her on the back porch for her practice; shockingly, she was very receptive to my suggestions and did some really good work.

And now here we are, after an hour of British reality TV about kids of varying backgrounds having playdates at each other’s homes (E loves this show,) and I’m about to tuck in three of the four kids.

Everything still hurts, possibly more than this morning. But I did it—I managed to preside over some learning, music practice, and dinner, which feels like a massive accomplishment right now. I think a warm bath and a cup of tea is what’s needed now, and then maybe if I get lucky somebody will tuck me in.