Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Leafy Fantasy

As I drive between piles of leaves that line either side of the residential streets around me, I imagine veering my car into the deepest pile. I imagine leaves flying in every direction, arcing up, twice the height of my car, in a spectacular, leafy imitation of the parting of the Red Sea.

But I remain safely in the center of the road, maneuvering between the tempting towers of leaves. I practice self-restraint, because I know that the leaves will just squish unsatisfyingly under the wheels of my car, ruining my fantasy. It's more fun in my imagination.

(Cross-posted to my 100 words blog, which I practically never update, but have written about leaf piles on twice this month.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Story for Mike

Have you ever noticed how people tend to read the words on your t-shirt out loud to you? I'm not sure why they do it. Perhaps to confirm that they have read the slogan correctly, or perhaps to demonstrate their stellar reading abilities, or perhaps to verify that you are, indeed, aware that there is a message on your clothing, visible for all the world to see.

When I was in high school, I found a way to exploit this strange phenomenon. I made a t-shirt that said, "Will you marry me?" on the back of it. That way, when people would walk by and read my shirt out loud to me, I could turn around with an excited smile on my face and jubilantly accept their proposal. It really freaked people out, which was, of course, the intent. What can I say, psychological manipulation has long been a hobby of mine.

I don't have the t-shirt anymore. My sister borrowed it when she was in college, where it could serve the dual purpose of freaking people out while at the same time underscoring the occasionally unhealthy obsession that some students there had with finding the perfect mate. With such a higher calling awaiting it at Houghton, I bid my t-shirt goodbye. I hope it brought two lonely people together and that their marriage has been filled with sunshine. (Aw, who am I kidding. I hope it caused a lot of trouble and messed with a lot of people's heads.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Wow. And wow again.

I've been walking on a cloud all day, and it's all because of you.

Days like this, I know I am an extrovert. Not in the "talks to strangers" sense, but in the Myers-Briggs, "draws energy from others" sense. Today, I've been feeling that familiar December tingle of Christmas excitement, rather than that dull December dread that seemed to characterize my weekend. It's been nice to be optimistic again.

So thank you for commenting. Thank you for encouraging me. It really means a lot to me when people tell me they like my writing, or that they think I've done something well. Special thank yous to two friends who want to help out with the blog hosting situation. To M, who linked me. To JD who reminded me that my family is about as unmaterialistic as they come, and that I don't need to worry about money for presents when I get free coffee from Starbucks every week. To Susie, who has been a consistent cheerleader all along. To those who delurked just to make me feel loved, and to those who reassured me that I'm not crazy to be entertained by Google's choice of ads to accompany my musings. Thank you all.

Okay, I'm degenerating into gushing, now, so perhaps I should move along to the next topic. Except that my next topic is somewhat gushy, too. Until two days ago, my Google Ads account was hovering at just about $50, which was only halfway to them cutting me a check, in a little over nine months. Today, it stands at almost $70. That's $20 in less than two days. Which may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but it's really exciting for me. Making money for my writing, even if it's just a few dollars from ads, is an enormous and concrete affirmation. It's what I imagine it must feel like for an artist to sell a piece for the first time. Okay, so maybe it's just a paperweight, but it means a lot to me. So THANK YOU SO MUCH for visiting my advertisers!

I love to write, and this website has become one of my favorite past-times. I love my friends, both the physical and the digital. It's so easy sometimes to get wrapped up in the big picture and stress out about it, but really, today is pretty darned good. Maybe I should just enjoy the sunset and stop thinking so much about the night.

Matthew 6:34

Monday, November 27, 2006

Christmas Shopping Blahs

I've got a beef with people. Or, more specifically, people with cars and shopping lists on the long weekend.

I've done a fair amount of driving in mall-laden suburbia over the past few days. And you know how I was all happy about the humanization of the food service experience on Thanksgiving Day? Well, that happy holiday mood went out the window on Black Friday, and it has been stomped to pieces since then. Oh, the honking and swearing and cutting off and rush rush rushing! It makes me want to cry. And occasionally, makes me want to step on the accelerator and slam into the side of that woman who is busily screaming and swearing at me for something that is half her fault and half the fault of the woman in front of me, and the murderous anger upsets me even more than the sadness.

I handed out free samples at the mall on Friday. I'll just let you just imagine what that was like. And I've been working every day since then, and the magical tingle of that holiday Thursday is completely, utterly gone. Everyone is in a hurry, now. And grumpy.

I'll let you in on a secret: I hate Christmas shopping. There is such a negative, "must buy", rushed, demanding, and forced spirit to the whole holiday shopping experience. I feel like we've turned Christmas into the absolute antithesis of the person whose birthday we are meant to be celebrating. I hate being forced to buy so many things at one time. I hate trying to force inspiration to strike again and again as I seek out those perfect gifts. Every once in a while, in the middle of the summer, I'll be in a store and something will just jump off a shelf at me screaming someone's name. So I buy it for them, but I am completely incapable of keeping it in a closet until Christmas, which leaves me both giftless and inspirationless when the holiday arrives. And that's just the gifts. The gifts, on their own, would just be an inconvenience. But coupled with the stressed-out shoppers and drivers, the whole gift-buying part of the holiday season just gets me down.

It doesn't help that I'm completely broke this Christmas. Jeremy has been out of work for months, and as much as I love my job, it's not exactly what my law school loans anticipated when they dug me the huge debt-hole that I am currently living near the bottom of. I don't buy myself things. I do spend my tips on things like spending time with friends, and I try not to feel guilty about that, because I need that for my sanity, and they are tips, which implies a certain permission for frivolity. Every penny of my paychecks goes straight to my student loans, and even then it's not enough, so our savings has been shrinking every month to make up the difference. This month, it will reach zero.

So honestly, I don't want Christmas to come this year. Every gift that I receive will just be an additional helping of guilt, to add to living under someone else's charitable roof and eating someone else's food for going on a year, now. You eventually get dulled to that, because there is nothing you can do about it, but Christmas present opening time is so much more in your face. I want to skip out of the whole thing. Both of our families keep asking me for wish lists. I finally succumbed to Jeremy's parents and gave them a list of clothes I need for work. I don't know what else I need. I told my mom she could get me a new memory card for my digital camera, which I think of as sort of a "need" because without it, the camera is just a paperweight. What I really want for Christmas is the removal of obligation. Tell me that you'll be happy with a hand-made card and a plate of Christmas cookies. Buy yourself something that you want, and put my name on the card.

But I know what will happen instead. People will buy me gift cards, ostensibly so I can pick out what I want for myself, but really, because they don't know what to get. (Which is fair, since I don't know what to get for me, either.) But I'll let you in on another secret: I hate gift cards even more than I hate Christmas shopping, and almost as much as I hate holiday shoppers with cars. Every gift card in my wallet is like another item on my to-do list, another burden to be borne. I need to find exactly the thing that I want, at exactly that store, that costs exactly that much money. Gift cards stress me out, because I have to keep track of which stores I need to get to, and how much I have to spend there, how much extra I need to spend to squeeze the last few pennies out of the card so I can finally throw it away. And I can't use them to pay for rent or buy an evening out with friends, or even to get the thing that I found that I wanted more that costs less at the store next door. As impersonal as money is, at least it doesn't tell me how to spend it. And I can use it at a thrift store, which is a huge bonus for me. I can never seem to bring myself to spend $30 on a pair of pants when I know I can get pants for $6 at a thrift store. If only thrift stores had gift cards.

Wow, this entry sure has been a bundle of positivity, hasn't it? Alright, let's try and see if we can turn it around a bit. I've been toying around with the idea of making a blogging wish list here, which started as a meme that has been making the rounds of my blog roll. Basically, it's a list of things that I would like that my readers may possibly be able to do something about at little to no cost to themselves. And, since I'm on the topic of not wanting to make wish lists, I think I'll go ahead and do that now. I thrive on irony.
  1. I wish my blog would make me money. It's not the primary reason I write, of course, but it sure would be a nice side effect. I have ads on my website, and in case you were wondering, I don't make any money off of those ads just being there. I only make money if you actually click on those ads and go visit my sponsors. And, in the nine months that I have had those ads up there, I have yet to make enough money for Google to cut me even my first check. I'm about halfway there, though, and if people started clicking on just one ad every time they came to visit, I might just get a check sometime before 2009. If you can't see my ads, consider disabling ad-block just for my page every once in a while. Really, my ads aren't so bad. They're kindof amusing actually, because Google tries to match the content of the ads to the content of my entries. It's fun to see what Google thinks I might be interested in sometimes.

  2. I wish I had my own domain and a self-hosted blog. It might not seem like much to most of you, but I know that some of you understand the desire for full artistic control and access to the database of your blog. If nothing else, I would like to not have to trust a free service, who owe me nothing from a legal standpoint, with all of my archives. (And the answer to the question you are about to ask is, no, I don't have them all backed up on my hard drive. I'm a stupid, lazy person.) If my website ever starts making me any money, I will be able to afford to do this, but right now I can't. In the meantime, though, I bet someone else will snatch up the domain I want, which was actually still available the last time I checked. Does anyone have a hosting service that lets them register multiple domains, not all of which have been used? 'Cause that would be a pretty sweet gift.

  3. I wish I was famous. Okay, maybe not exactly famous, but I do like being read. It makes writing so much more meaningful. Do you know someone who you think might like my blog? Referrals are lovely gifts.

  4. I wish for feedback. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Comments are like gold stars on a blogger's chart of life. Commenting occasionally would be a lovely, lovely gift. Even if your comments are just things like, "I feel the same way about red lights!" or, "Ew, you like egg nog?" or, "Oh man, my brother did the same thing!" Comments fill my inbox and make me feel loved.

Now that I've posted my blogging wish list, feel free to post your own, either on your own blog or in the comments here. The internet is a lovely place, and there are so many cost-free ways for us to show our love. And it sure is nice to be able to give a gift you know you can afford!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I seem to have mostly beaten the cold that I contracted on my days off into submission. Rest and fluids and vitamins and liquid cold remedies seem to have done their job. Or maybe it's just the two days back to working eight hours that did it. Either way, it was nice to not have to take a second dose of DayQuil all day today.

Yes, I had to work on Thanksgiving. Actually, I volunteered for it, and not just because it's time and a half. I like working on the holidays. People are generally friendlier and less rushed and there is a tingle in the air of "not quite routine". Okay, so maybe I'm weird, but when you work in the service industry, you crave those days when people take you slightly less for granted because it dawns on them that someone else has to be at work in order for them to get their favorite drinks. It's very humanizing. And it actually gets me more in the holiday spirit than a lot of other things. Tomorrow, however, I will be spending the Festival of American Consumerism at the Mall, where I expect the spirit to be much more self-absorbed and demanding. So, I'll cherish the memory of a busy but rewarding Thanksgiving Day at my store and hope that no crazy shoppers stomp on my spirits. Or my toes. Or my face.

I missed dinner tonight, although they saved a plate for me, and I still got to see everyone before they started trickling out to Second Thanksgivings (what are we, hobbits?). So I'm not sure if they did that thing where you go around the table and everyone says something they are thankful for, and if they did, I guess I got out of it. But, I've still been thinking about what I would say. What am I thankful for today? Or, more importantly, why did I bring the topic up when I don't actually know what I'm going to say? (This is where I admit that this paragraph is not a witty segue into a thoughtful, "what I'm thankful for" post. Or maybe it is... I don't actually know what I'm going to type next myself.)

It's so easy to dwell on the negative. And frankly, I've got plenty to complain about if I feel like it. Which, as some of my friends have been subject to at times, I occasionally feel like doing. But I don't want to be a complainer. I want to dwell on the positive. And not just on the booby prize positives like, "Well, Jer may be sick, but I'm thankful that he's not dead." Real positives, with no sinces or buts. Generics don't count, either. I don't want to say that I'm thankful for life or salvation or creation or food or shelter, although I am thankful for those things. I feel like my thankful-for has to be specific and concrete and immediately tangible and preferably personal. So, I'm that much closer to what type of thing I want to say, but I'm still not sure what exactly it will be.

And after all that build-up, I've got nothing. I don't have the perfect words. Rough notes below...

-I'm thankful that Jeremy not only read "The Five Love Languages" with me when we first got married, but he actually took it to heart. The fact that he made the bed before company came over today meant more to me than a dozen dozen roses.
-I'm thankful for my job, for feeling like I fit, for starting to feel capable and valuable again.
-I'm thankful that my pumpkin pies tasted good.
-I'm thankful for friends who are either as social as I am, or at least understand my yearning for company and accept my invitations and proposals.
-I'm thankful for a wood-burning fireplace.
-I'm a little hesitant to write this one out, because I'm afraid it will jinx it, but I'm thankful that Jeremy's health seems to be improving just a little bit.
-I'm thankful for all the people who are praying for Jeremy and for me, some of them who don't even know us, when I've felt like I just don't have any more words to pray of my own.
-I'm thankful for something else, too, I'm sure. But every thing I think of to end this list sounds corny.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back from a bit of a blogging break

Boy, it's a good thing I didn't try and do NaBloPoMo. It's been over a week without a proper post, and it's not like I was even away or anything. Although I did work a fair amount last week, which explains part of my absence, because of that whole "don't blog about work" thing. But that's only a partial excuse, because I somehow managed to score four days off in a row, of which today is the fourth, and I haven't said anything of note in any of those four days off. So much for that excuse.

Let's see what we've missed in those four days:

Saturday morning, I had worship team practice at the church. I'm feeling a little more confident, which I think is key to keeping good rhythm, although I always seem to sound better at practice than in church. I like being a part of the worship team, however, and hope that Dan was only joking when he said that practice doesn't make perfect with drums. I would like to get better, and I don't think going back in time and making sure I'm born with it is a possibility.

I stopped by the store on Saturday afternoon on a whim, and ran into Doug, who used to work with me, but moved to Boston at the end of the summer. He was back in town for a couple of days, and playing a gig that night at The Fig Café in Jenkintown, along with another band that included some guys I knew through work, With Eyes Like Ours. So, that solved my "what to do with my Saturday evening off" dilemma. I went home, made chili, enjoyed a meal with some friends, then enjoyed a concert with those same friends. It was a great night, and the music was fantastic. I had heard Doug perform at the store many times before, but this was the first time I heard With Eyes Like Ours play with their full set-up, and I was really impressed. We're getting old, though, because we left partway through the third band, who were good and all, but we had church in the morning.

Oh yeah, church Sunday morning. See? I knew I would come up with things to say once I started writing. I officially became a member of my church on Sunday. And I sang in the choir, the alto part, which I am mentioning for my mother's sake, because she always sings alto. Jeremy even came for the service, because he knew how important the occasion was to me, and everyone hugged him sore after all the praying they have been doing for him, they were so happy to see him out and about. After church, we had the annual church meeting, at which I (and the other four new members) voted for the first time. So yeah, an exciting morning. Then, we had "pastor's soup" for lunch, which was surprisingly good considering that it was a potluck soup of all the various cans that people brought in to add to it. I only had a small bowl, though, because I was meeting some friends in the city for Indian food at Karma at two o'clock. Food and company were both fantastic.

So, I spent Sunday night unwinding and watching TV with my husband, and really haven't done much since then. There are plenty of things I should be doing, like laundry or baking pies for Thanksgiving, but I'm finding myself nursing a bit of a "too many days off in a row" cold, and don't seem to have much motivation for those things. Ah well, the urgent will get done, and perspective will take care of the rest.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Starbucks Drink Hacks

Are you sick of getting the same-old same-old thing at Starbucks every time? Do you want to be creative, but just aren't sure what options you might have? There's practically an infinite number of drink combinations possible, and here is your guide to the ones I like. (Including the Starbucks lingo way to order them!)

Basic health mods:

1. Order your drinks non-fat. It makes them way healthier and honestly, the non-fat milk foams up just as nice as the whole milk. (eg. grande non-fat latte.)

2. Reduce the number of syrup pumps in your drink to cut back on calories. Here is the normal number of pumps in the various sizes: short = 2, tall = 3, grande = 4, venti = 5. (eg. tall two-pump vanilla non-fat latte.)

3. Don't get whip cream on hot drinks! It just melts anyhow, unless you eat it right away, and it adds like 9 grams of fat. (eg. grande non-fat no-whip mocha.)

Tasty drinks that aren't on the menu:

1. Blended strawberry lemonade. This used to be a menu item, I believe, but we still have the ingredients to make it on hand at every store. (Ask the barista to make a strawberries and cream frappuccino with lemonade instead of cream base.)

2. Black and white mocha. Basically, some of us find the white mocha syrup too sweet and the mocha syrup too bitter, so we settled on a compromise drink that has half the syrup pumps of one, and half of the other. It's the perfect sweetness that way. (grande two-pump mocha, two-pump white mocha latte.)

3. Winter. This is a name that a friend and I came up for the combination of white mocha and peppermint. It really does taste like you're drinking winter. (Or like those little chocolate-chip-shaped, pastel-colored candies with the sprinkles on them.)

a) Blended Winter. (venti one-pump white mocha, one-pump peppermint frappuccino blended creme.)

b) Winter Latte. (grande two-pump white mocha, one-pump peppermint latte)

c) Winter Double-shot. (double short one-pump white mocha, one-pump peppermint espresso, filled 3/4 of the way with cold milk and topped up with ice. Okay, I'm diverging from the drink calling rules a bit on this one, but that should get it made for you right, anyhow. You could call it "iced double short one-pump white mocha, one-pump peppermint latte" but the barista might argue with you that they don't have any iced short cups, and it just gets more complicated that way.)

4. Chai-der. I find the caramel apple cider a little bit on the sweet side, so I played around with it and our much spicier chai until it tasted right to me. It's basically a caramel apple cider with chai instead of half the pumps of cinnamon. I usually don't ask for it by that name, though, because I don't want the whip cream and caramel drizzle that come with the caramel apple cider, so I ask for it as a steamed cider. (grande two-pump cinnamon, two-pump chai steamed cider.)

I seem to have a new favorite drink every couple of weeks, so I may come back and update this post again later. Right now, my favorite drink is the Winter Double-shot, but that's a pretty intense drink, and I'm sure I'll be on to something else before too long. Please feel free to contribute drink hacks of your own, and if I like them, I just might add them!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fun Things

Wednesday, I baked three butternut squashes so that I could make my torte for a church potluck. Unfortunately, my timing was a little off, and there was no way the squashes would bake in time to be tortified before the potluck, so I whipped up some Kraft dinner instead and went to the potluck squashless. When I came home, Jeremy had scooped and refrigerated the squash for me, which totally made my day, since I really didn't feel like doing it.

Friday, I came home from work, wondering if I would ever get around to doing something with that squash, only to find that Jeremy had dug out my squash soup recipe and made squash soup. All by himself. And, since he still had leftover squash, he had also invented a recipe for squash potato casserole that was baking when I came home, and smelled delicious. And, the final blow which knocked me almost unconscious upon discovery, he had washed every dish that he had dirtied in the cooking process. What a nice boy.

I rented some movies, and was planning on spending a quiet evening at home, since everyone else had plans, but Erin and Brian were sortof in the area, and so I invited them to join us. We never got around to watching any of the movies, but we did play a great game of Settlers (great not only because I won, although that helped). After Settlers, we got to talking about how we hadn't had our annual Hallowe'en candy poker game yet, so we headed to the new 24-hour-super-awesome Wegmans and bought candy. And beef, because it was cheap.

Poker was fun, and it's probably just as well that I lost, because we didn't need all that candy anyhow. I did manage to hang on to my Hello Kitty Pez dispenser, which was the deed to my house. Everyone has to have something huge to bet on that royal flush.

Today, I made four meatloafs with all that beef. Yummy. I guess we will be having meatloaf sandwiches for lunch tomorrow. We ate meatloaf for dinner, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This morning, I went to the church for worship team practice. I was playing with the bongos on Wednesday night, and Preston caught me, and started playing the piano with me, and I started playing along with him, and one thing led to another, and I ended up invited to the worship team practice today. I guess, if I don't feel like a total doofus tomorrow in church, I will now be playing percussion with the worship band. Which actually makes me quite happy, even if it is kindof scary and very much out of my comfort zone.

After worship team practice, or rather, before it was quite over, but when I had to leave, I went to the store for storytime. Which actually had kids at it this time, so I didn't have to just read to myself! And I got to explain to small children why sending their beautifully colored pictures of dragons to orphans in Africa was a good thing to do. And where Africa was. And what orphans were. And what AIDS is. In the end, the kids were really excited to send their pictures to kids on the other side of the world whose mommies and daddies died of a really bad disease.

Tonight, a couple friends came over for dinner, and then another came and joined us after dinner to go see a play. An amateur production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, to be precise. It was fun, if not a stellar performance. There were some really brilliant moments, and several very, well, amateurish ones. But the script shone through, and I really liked the guy who played Rosencrantz Guildenstern Rosencrantz. The play was in Bryn Athyn, which would mean something to local people, but to others, I would have to give a lengthy essay on the New Church and Swedenborgianism and all kinds of other such things. If you're curious, here is a link to the church's home page, and here is a link to the wikipedia page about them. If you're not curious, suffice it to say that there were some sweet little old ladies in the row in front of us who expressed audible distress at the use of the word "virgin" and the four of us were the only people in the whole place laughing at the dirtiest jokes. Hmm, a bit like seeing a play at Houghton, in that regard.

I love my friends.

Quote of the weekend:

"I've never tried the Take 5 candy bar"
"You should try it. It's like the perfect P.M.S. food."
(tastes bar) "Wow, it tastes like I hate everyone and I don't know what I want!"
"See? I told you it was perfect!"

Saturday, November 11, 2006

R.A.Q. Volume Two

It would seem that answering questions only generates more questions, so in the interests of befuddling clarity, so here are some more answers to recently asked questions:

1. How do you pronounce your name? Is it French?

Every time I try to type out another way of spelling my name phonetically, it looks wrong, so I hesitate to tell you that it's pronounced "jewel-anne" or "joulanne", although it's something like one of those. "Jule" is one syllable, and it sounds like you're saying "Julie" without the "ie" on the end. "Ann" is pronounced like every other Anne in the world, and usually gets the harder emphasis of the two syllables. When I was in Croatia, everyone said my name perfectly once I told them that it was spelled "Djulan", so if you're Croatian, that might help you.

My dad was the son of missionaries, and he had a childhood friend who was the daughter of missionaries. She was named Jule Ann, and I am named after her. Unfortunately, the exotic history of my name ends there, because that Jule Ann was named after a character in a pulp romance magazine. Ah well, I can still pretend my name's roots are dignified. This book came out about a year after I was born, and I was not named after it, nor it after me, although the Jule Ann of the book is probably only a few years older than me and hails from my home province. (And I have no idea why the website spells her name wrong; the book, the original Jule Ann, and I all spell our names without an "e" at the end.)

When I was in high school, I found one half of my name in a binder at one of those mall kiosks that will put your name and its meaning in a picture frame for you. The binder told me that it was Old English for "one who likes to cause trouble". I liked that meaning immensely, especially when paired with "Ann" which means "graceful". And even though I never have found any corroboration elsewhere to the binder meaning, I still tell people that my name means "graceful troublemaker". It fits me better than Latin for "downy-bearded" anyhow.

So no, it's probably not French, although some websites have dubiously tried to convince me that it is French for "jewel". However, after being educated in French for many years of my life, I will confess that I like my name better when people say it with that soft, French "J".

2. I'm sneaky and found your blog and I know you in real life, but I don't want to tell you who I am, so I'm going to leave anonymous clue-laden comments. Can you guess who I am?

No, and I'm too lazy to figure it out.

3. Where on earth did you get the idea that your grandmother was born in Cairns? She was born in South Hurstville, NSW, Australia, a suburb of Sydney.

I'm sorry. Australia is a big place, and I've never been there. So yeah, I guess I was wrong about my grandmother's place of birth. The reason I thought it was Cairns was a conversation/almost-argument I had with my grandmother once about how to pronounce that word. I thought it was pronounced "Cayurns", and my grandmother corrected me, telling me that it should be pronounced like "Canns". So I repeated it back to her, "Canns?" I asked, "No, Canns!" she answered. I still don't know how I was saying it wrong.

4. Do you enjoy an oven-baked butternut squash?

Yes, I do, although I usually use it as a base for something else, rather than a meal unto itself. I make a tasty cream of squash soup, and a harvest torte with squash, noodles and craisins. Very tasty stuff.

5. How do you incorporate Jewish traditions into your Christian life?

That's a big question, and I promise to deal with it more in the future. For now, here is a link to a short blurb I wrote the first year Jer and I celebrated Passover, which also includes a link to our first Passover Seder Haggadah. I've polished and reworked the script every year since then, so if you would like a copy of the updated Haggadah, just ask, and I would be glad to email it to you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Sometimes, in the flurry of telling you what I had for lunch yesterday (nothing), I forget about the more permanent, long-standing bits of my life. Recently, some people have asked me questions that initially seemed obvious to me, but then I realized that they won't be obvious to you if I don't mention them. So, without further ado, here are my answers to some recently asked questions. (And, if there seems to be another hole in my life story for you, please feel free to add more questions in the comments!)

1. I thought you were a lawyer, why does your profile say you work at Starbucks?

I have a law degree, and I was called to the bar of Ontario, Canada in September of 2005. I could still be a lawyer there, if I wanted to. But, my husband and I realized that in the 3 1/2 years we had lived together in Canada, the only people from his side of the family that had ever visited us were his parents, twice. Which meant that whenever we visited the Philadelphia area, we had to squeeze in visits with 30 extended family members at 5 different households, in addition to trying to see the half dozen or so good friends we had in the Philadelphia area. These vacations were exhausting as they were, but the idea of trying to do it all with kids in tow was terrifying. So, we decided that, before we started a family, we wanted to move closer to where the largest concentration of family members were (mine being scattered all over four countries).

When we moved here, I was aware that the bar of Pennsylvania wouldn't let me practice. I was not aware that no one in the legal field would want to hire me for any purpose at all. I figured some lawyer might be happy to hire a research assistant who actually knew something about the law, but instead, they all looked at my resume, deemed me overqualified, and rarely even bothered to call me and tell me they didn't want me. So, I did what I always did in the past when I didn't know what to do, and fell back on the familiar, in this case, education. I enrolled in a Master's program, and started applying for part-time retail and food service jobs. Starbucks offered me decent pay, great benefits, flexible hours, and opportunity for growth within the company. And they treated me with respect and daily affirmation, which my ego sorely needed. I'm a shift supervisor at Starbucks now, and, I never thought I would say this before, but I'm starting to maybe even think about a career there. They're good people. And they like that I'm a geek.

2. Wait, back up, you're enrolled in a Master's program? How come you never mention it?

I was working on my Master of Divinity at a small, conservative seminary, but I dropped out halfway through my first semester. I loved a lot of things about it, but I think the timing just wasn't right for me to be in school, working on another degree to add to my collection of wall-ornaments that are doing nothing for me career-wise. In retrospect, I do believe that my brief stint at seminary was all a part of bigger plan, in part because it made employers look at my resume, and, rather than seeing someone overqualified who would quit in two months, they saw a perpetual student who would need a good part-time job for a long time to come. (And perhaps for other reasons, too.)

3. How come you always tell stories in the first person singular? Aren't you married? Where is your husband in all this?

My husband has been sick, with constant discomfort and annoyingly minor symptoms that have left him unable to sit for more than a few minutes at a time, for seven months, now. Yes, the doctors are working on it. They think they're on the right track, but it's not something that can be fixed instantaneously. Yes, it gets me down, and I miss having my husband along on all of my adventures. No, he is not working, and our attempts to save up a downpayment on a house and get out of his parents' basement have been, at least for the moment, abandoned. I love my husband very much, and as hard as it is having him out of commission, I am still very happy that I have him as my husband.

4. It must be hard having your husband be sick for so long. Do you want to talk about it?

No, I probably don't. As a reader recently commented, this blog is like therapy to me. I talk about what I need/want to talk about, which more often than not involves me focusing on the positive. Whining is only fun for a while, and it really just gets me more down in the end. I still do it sometimes, and if you are a new reader looking to see my darker side, you can read some of my whinier archived posts here or here, or you can read a long, quandaried, "should I be social or be at home with my sick husband?" post here.

5. Why do you like X or Y? They suck!

I shouldn't have to defend my entertainment preferences. Yes, I occasionally enjoy Guns and Roses, the Spice Girls, or that new Justin Timberlake song. I do find Rick Mercer intelligent and humorous, and I don't care that he works for the CBC. In fact, I'm proud that the country of my birth supports local artists with things like Canadian content minimums on radio stations, because it gives bands like the Tragically Hip a fighting chance in the face of the enormously flooded industry to the South. And yes, before you ask it, I do like the Tragically Hip.

6. Are you pregnant?

Stop asking me this question! Everyone! I mean it! Believe me, if I was pregnant, and I wanted you to know, I wouldn't wait for you to ask. I'm a blogger; the Internet is the first person I would tell! (Okay, the second person. My mom has dibs on first.)

7. I'm confused about your religion. Sometimes you talk about normal, evangelical things, sometimes you talk about Jewish holidays, and sometimes you sound like you don't believe anything at all. What religion are you?

There is not an easy answer to this question. I grew up Wesleyan, and I still mostly subscribe to Wesleyan theology. But I'm a thinker and an explorer, and somewhere in college, I was introduced to some Jewish holidays that I thought dovetailed extremely well with my modern Christianity. So, I started researching and learning all about Messianic Judaism, and started the long, hard process of tacking 4,000 years of tradition onto the back of my allegedly 2,000 year old religion. And I think they fit very well, actually, although I am no expert. Passover has given me a fuller understanding of Easter and the Eucharist than I ever had before, and I hope that my kids can grow up with an understanding of the faith of our fathers as well as the faith of our fathers' fathers that our fathers decided to cut off once upon a time. But no, the church that I attend is not Messianic Jewish, although they are open to creative ideas and allowed me to do a messianic seder at the church this year, which was extremely well received. This is the church I attend right now, and I believe my picture is even on the front page at the moment from a recent tree-planting event.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why Being Multicultural Rules

Okay, before you read about my awesome Sunday, go read a little something by the most intelligent and entertaining man in Canadian journalism. When you get back, this post will still be here. I promise.

My dad was born in Colombia, and his dad was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. My mom's mom was born in Cairns, Australia, so I've got four entire continents in my DNA. I like being a mutt, even if I am a boringly white mutt.

Yesterday, I decided that my father's commemorative birthday dinner simply had to happen, even if I had to go alone. My sister, my brother, their spouses and my mother were all going out for dinner in Ottawa at the same time, and the timing just seemed right. So, I made some last minute phone calls to some of my more impulsive friends, printed out some driving directions to a sketchy neighborhood in North Philly, and eventually found myself at Tierra Colombiana with six good friends. The food was absolutely perfect; I even liked the chicharron this time! And my bandeja tipica was enough food to fill me to bursting and bring home enough leftovers for Jeremy to eat twice. Happy, happy times.

And, in case that wasn't enough fun for one day, my new friend Dan, who spent a semester in London living in the exact same building that I spent a semester living in, reminded me that yesterday was the Fifth of November. So, while I was gorging myself on steak and eggs and rice and beans and avocado and sweet plantain, Dan was busily constructing an effigy of Guy Fawkes out of the most flammable components he could muster. (Sadly, we were not able to acquire fireworks, since there are no American fireworks holidays in the near future, and the local shops don't seem to think it's worth stocking fireworks in November for the few freakish ex-pats and wannabes who want to blow things up in honor of a dead guy who wanted to blow things up.)

I got lost three times on the way to Dan's house, but in my defense, Dan's driveway is about as hidden as a driveway can possibly be. In fact, if you look up "hidden driveway" in a dictionary, there actually is a picture of Dan's driveway there, except that you can't see it, because it's that hidden. So the bonfire had burned down a fair bit by the time we got there, but Dan kindly waited for us before throwing Guy on the fire. It was beautiful and fun and cozy to huddle around a fire in November, roasting marshmallows over a burning traitor, and discussing theology and relationships and living in London. I think the only thing I love more than honoring strange traditions is finding people who are willing to share them with you, even on a moment's notice, when the rest of the world might think you're crazy. Oh well, maybe I am. But I have fun.

Twisted Baby Names Winners!

It's time to announce the winners for the Twisted Baby Names (With Normal Nicknames) Competition! Thanks to everyone who submitted entries; I had a lot of fun reading them all. And really, isn't the internet there purely for my entertainment?

Winners were selected based on three criteria: One, how normal the nicknames were, two, how dark and twisted the baby names were, and three, how much I laughed when I read them. You'll note that these criteria are entirely subjective. It's like Apples to Apples, but I always have the green cards!

Grand Prize Winner:
Diane... Die in a Fire
(Submitted by: Brian)
Your prize is a badge that you can print out and wear proudly on your jacket.

(In submission order; I'm too lazy for rankings.)
  1. Barb... Barbarian (jd)

  2. Helen... Hellspawn (twilighttreader)

  3. Cate... Fornication (twilighttreader)

  4. Vivian... Vivisection (twilighttreader)

  5. Phil...Necrophiliac (Your Mom Prints Zines)

  6. Mort... Mortician (Phil)

  7. Hal... Halitosis (submitted twice, but first by Phil)

  8. Ginny...Genitalia (Your Mom Prints Zines)

  9. Di...Diarrhea (Your Mom Prints Zines)

  10. Titus...Hepatitis (Your Mom Prints Zines)

Your prize is also a badge that you can print out and wear on your jacket. (None of you non-winners better be printing this badge out and wearing it! I'll know! I installed a special tracking program on the image and it will tell me if any non-winners try to print it out and wear it!)

Unique Prize:
Judges are used to attempts at bribery. It comes with the territory. But when someone attempts to bribe you in spite of the fact that they never even submitted an entry in the first place, well, that's just ridiculous.
This badge is for Jon:

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Confession Time

On my way to church this morning, "Sympathy for the Devil" came on the radio. I chuckled at the irony, and turned the volume up, because I really do like that song. After it was over, the next song that came on was a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil." Apparently it's a double cover weekend or something like that. It was a really good cover, though, so I left the volume up. When I got to church, the song was almost, but not quite finished, and they hadn't yet announced who the cover band was, and I was really curious, and I sat there with my car running outside the church, and waited for the song to finish so that I could find out who was doing the cover.

(It was Guns and Roses.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Other People's Writing

I read a lot of blogs. I only watch three TV shows, which Jeremy dutifully records for me when I have to work, but sometimes it's a week or more before I get around to watching them, because I am too distracted by my blogs. I tell myself that it's better than television, since it's at least marginally interactive, theoretically social, and if it's not educational, it's at least stretching my reading muscles instead of just absorbing sounds and images. That's what I tell myself, anyhow, and I'm choosing to believe it.

As some of you may know, November is National Novel Writing Month, in which participants attempt to write an entire 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I have at least two blogger friends who are participating in NaNoWriMo, and several others who I know have participated in the past and may or may not be participating again this year. So, if you feel like swinging by and giving TwilightTreader or slm76 some encouragement on their novel writing efforts (or anyone else you find doing NaNo), I'm sure they would appreciate it.

In a NaNoWriMo spin-off, some bloggers have re-dubbed November NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), in which participants attempt to update their blogs at least once a day for the entire month. Notes to Self is a relatively new blog to my blogrolls, but K. is a fantastic writer, a Canadian in America like myself, and she could use your support as she attempts to write a post every day this month.

And, finally, in a creative, adrenaline-pumped twist on NaNoWriMo, Phil Hassey will be attempting to write an entire 50,000 word novel in just one weekend! Are you half done, yet, Phil?

Me? I'm just doing what I always do, writing too much for a few days and then disappearing for a few more. Maybe one day I'll write a novel, but no NaNo for me this year. I am, however, making an effort to comment on the blogs of people who are doing NaBlo, since if it were me, I would need all the encouragement I could get! For as we all ought to know by now, comments are the gold star stickers in the classroom chart of blogging.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Things I've been meaning to blog about...

  1. I'm in the process of joining my church. This might not seem like a big deal to most of you, but this will be the first church I have officially been a member of since my childhood church. Every few years, they have sent me a letter asking me if I want to remain a member, and I have always said yes, because I didn't feel like I ever "belonged" anywhere else as much. I could probably say a lot more on the subject, but I've been realizing lately how important it is to be committed to my church, even if I might not have any idea what the future might bring. So I gave my testimony to the board on Wednesday, and will soon be an official member of my new, little, beloved church.

  2. I'm playing board games tonight at my Starbucks. There is also live music tonight at my Starbucks. If anyone happens to be in the area, please feel free to swing by around 8 p.m. (it's the Starbucks at the corner of Fitzwatertown and Easton roads in Willow Grove, about a mile from the Turnpike exit).

  3. I had to work on Hallowe'en this year, so I didn't really bother coming up with a costume. Then, when I got to work, my manager told me that I was allowed to dress up, as long as I didn't cover my face and followed the safety codes. So I went home on my dinner break, put on a long, black, velvet dress, painted my face white and my eyes black, donned a cross, and went back to work. Such a waste, though, because I think maybe three more customers came in all night, and even after calling everyone I could think of, I couldn't seem to convince anyone that they should go to Dracula's Ball with me after I got off work at 10:30. And I never even took a picture, so you'll just have to imagine me goth.

  4. Last night, I stood up under a overhanging counter and nearly knocked myself out. Really. I hit my head so hard that I fell down. There's a huge goose egg there, now, and it hurts hurts hurts! I am such a dumb.

  5. Okay, so I haven't really been talking about Lost, which some of you may be missing (and some of you may be grateful for). I am a little sad about Eko, but everytime someone dies, I must admit, a part of me just heaves a sigh of relief that it wasn't Charlie or Hurley. I'm still very curious about the evil black magic cloud thingy. Do you think it's part of the Others? I'm starting to think it's a completely separate, distinct weirdness on the island. Or, perhaps something that the Dharma initiative was playing with and lost control of, like the polar bear experiments. And what about Juliet's little secret message? Do you think it's all for real? I'm torn. It would fit the brainwashing/con model really well if it was a trick... Ben just came clean about their plans, which buys them some trust from Jack, and now Juliet is forging a secret bond with Jack, which he won't suspect is part of the plan, because it seems too foolish for Ben to continue with that plan after confessing it. So it could all still be part of the same ruse. And, I know I'm a few weeks behind on this one, but I, for one, am glad Sun shot that chick. Score one for the good guys, and not getting walked all over just because they happen to be good. They were trying to steal her boat. Protection of property and all that. More power to her, I say. Oh, and one final thing, in all caps, 'cause it just has to be. I CAN'T BELIEVE THERE IS ONLY ONE MORE EPISODE AND THEN NOTHING UNTIL FEBRUARY!!!! PURE EVIL, I TELL YOU! Hmmm... Maybe the whole television series is an elaborate Dharma initiative experiment on the entire television-watching population of the world. That explains the EVILNESS in any case.

  6. I find it ironically ridiculous that the Blogger spell checker does not recognize the words blog, blogging, or blogger.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Don't complain! I'm allowed to blog extra to make up for all those bloggers who are doing NaNoWriMo! That's the rules!

I love the Series of Unfortunate Events books. I think they are brilliant, both story-wise and writing-wise. Lemony Snicket is the best fake writer since Mark Twain.

Last I knew, there were 12 books. There were going to be 13 books, and I was eagerly awaiting news of the publication of the last book in the series. I figured, I read enough blogs and news feeds to read about Dodo Greene's passing from three different sources the day after the Anchor Bar jazz singer died, so someone is bound to mention the publication of such an important book!

But no one did. At least no one I read did. It came out on October 13th, a Friday, if you're interested, and I had no idea.

Until Thursday night, when I was at a church cell group gathering in someone's home. And I saw the Series of Unfortunate Events books on a prominent shelf in their living room. And I noticed a title I didn't recognize all the way on the right of the shelf. Book 13! The End! I bit my tongue for the rest of the discussion, and managed to enjoy a fantastic discussion about God and calling and the role of the church, but as soon as it was snack time, I made a grab for the book and ran away with it under my arm, fleeing for the border asked the hostess about the book and was kindly allowed to borrow it.

I finished it on Sunday night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It didn't offer the most closure, hinting at more mysteries and questions at the end, unlike most children's books, but it also offered more of a sense of catharsis than I was expecting from a series of books that left three orphans in worse shape at the end of each book than they had been at the end of the last one.

You'll like it. Go read it.

And, if you happen to be a fan of both these books and ABC's Lost, like me, you might be surprised at all of the similarities you start to see. Might there be a schism on the island? Are the others, like VFD, partly good and partly bad? And how come all the cool characters keep dying?

Twisted Baby Names

Don't forget to submit your entries for the Twisted Baby Names (With Normal Nicknames) Competition! The deadline for submissions is Sunday night at midnight. Winners and prize will be announced on Monday!

I'm adding another of my own for good measure, and so you know what kinds of names I will choose: Mack (Macabre).

Finally getting around to updating about my weekend in New Hampshire...

I went to New Hampshire this weekend with three of my friends. We went to visit Dan, who owns a games store, and his lovely wife Sara. We also managed to drag Tim into the mix, who lives about an hour away from them, and Glen, who came for the tournament and then slept until work, but with whom we still managed to squeeze in a few conversations. It was a wonderfully social weekend.

Naturally, our trip included many games. Jon dropped Phil and Rachel and I off at Dan's store at about 3 pm, and headed off to visit his brother a little further north. Actually, it was his trip to start with, the rest of us just invited ourselves along because it was a free trip to the area, and with gas prices the way they are today, that is nothing to scoff at. We actually didn't see Jon again until he picked us up on Sunday, despite several attempts to get together. I'm sure he had a fantastic time with his brother and his family, but he missed out on, among other things:

  • Hanging out at Dan's store for several hours on Friday, waiting for Sara to get off of work, and playing every game we could find that was not sealed in shrink wrap.

  • Several hours of Mario DDR.

  • A game of twister in which I managed to draw blood with my toenail. (I'm sorry Tim! I cut them as soon as I got home!)

  • Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit. (Phil and I won by a hair.)

  • A D&D miniatures tournament at the store that Rachel and I decided not to compete in due to our absolute ignorance of the game, thinking that the small triumph we might win for our gender by representing them in the tournament (which ended up having a 0:23 ratio of females to males), would entirely be trumped by our losing dramatically in every single round of competition. Instead, we watched a few rounds, then went shopping during the last couple of rounds, in order to further entrench the stereotype that we had chosen not to upend.

  • A viewing of The Gamers, which was hilarious even for someone like me who has not yet roleplayed (campaign with Rachel et al still forthcoming). It's basically a group of guys playing through a campaign and acting out what's happening - with elf-ears and costumes and everything!

  • A late night board game mash-up combining children's building blocks and pictionary. Hours of entertainment!

  • Loads of tasty food. Ginger/Wasabi Wings!

All in all, a great trip. And so great to have friends like Dan and Sara who don't even flinch when three friends spring a spontaneous weekend visit on them. Hooray!

(Pictures, as usual, are still preserved in a celluloid state until I get to a proper film-developing-place. Fixing our digital camera is still somewhere on my to-do list. Apparently not at the top.)