Monday, December 25, 2006

Quotable Family Members Vols. 4, 5, 6

It can be her chest that we videotape.

Can someone please take this out of my armpit?

Do you want it lightly burned, or not burned at all?

Quotable Family Members Vol. 3

"That sounds like an awful lot of effort."

"You're a lazy person and you don't deserve icicles."

Quotable Family Members Vol. 2

"Now that's a Christmas memory I never hoped to have."

(Context omitted to protect the not-so-innocent.)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Quotable Family Members

"I don't tell all my secrets to the Internet. I haven't blogged about constipation yet, which means I'm not a real blogger."

"That's just because you couldn't get it out."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Greetings

Starting today, I have eight days off of work, seven of which I will be spending in a suburb of Rochester, NY, with my mother, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and sundry uncles, aunts, and cousins. I'm really looking forward to a big, Davis family Christmas, although I am a little sad that my husband doesn't feel like he can make the trip with me. I should be in bed right now, or packing, or wrapping presents, but instead, I am checking in with my loyal blog readers, who love me and might wonder where I am. I should have internet access at my uncle's house, but I may never get a minute to myself, so I might not be posting too frequently. And I most certainly will end up behind on my blog reading, so if something extremely exciting happens in your life, please email me at my address (juleannwakeman at).

Basically, I just wanted to give another quick update on Jeremy. They found a polyp, removed it, and prescribed some new drugs. Hopefully, this will be the end of it. Please pray that it is.

Also, I wanted to share with you the bestest Christmas greeting I received so far this year. Sarah sent me this picture in an email with the caption "Ya, we are being *really* productive here at work this week...." It made me smile; perhaps it will do the same for you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Christmas Story

One Christmas, when we were small children, my siblings and I received three little plastic stocking hangers, in festive shapes. There was a Santa, a Mouse, and a Little Drummer Boy. We each either were assigned, or chose, one of the stocking hangers. And the rest of that Christmas faded into oblivion.

The next year, when we unpacked the Christmas ornaments, the stocking hangers resurfaced. I tried to give the Mouse to Alana, because she was the bookish, reader child in the family. Of course, the Mouse was hers. It made perfect sense. The Little Drummer Boy was mine.

But my sister disagreed. She was a tomboy before I was (it's unfair, being older, of course she got to do things first), so obviously the boy ornament was meant for her. And so, the Annual Battle for the Little Drummer Boy began.

Every year, we fought over him. And every year, we came to some kind of resolution, although I couldn't tell you what. I know our stockings ended up hanging on something, so somehow we must have managed to stop our fighting and hang them up on one or the other. And every year, we hoped that, next year, our sister would finally admit that she had been lying all along and trying to steal our Little Drummer Boy because she thought her Mouse was ugly.

After college, my sister went to Japan to teach English for two years. The first year she was away, my mom called me up in November to ask me which stocking hanger was Alana's. I almost fell off my chair. How could my mother not remember 20 years of Christmas fights over that stupid stocking hanger? I laughed, and told my mother that the Mouse was Alana's.

Yeah, I know I could have been magnanimous and sent her the Little Drummer Boy. After all, she was spending Christmas in a foreign country without her family around. Maybe the Little Drummer Boy would have helped to make her Christmas more special, and less lonely. But fighting over that stupid ornament had become such a huge part of our annual holiday tradition; I simply couldn't deprive her of that! I think she understood, and she yelled at me lovingly when we talked on the phone that Christmas.

I think that was also the year when my little brother finally admitted that he thought the Little Drummer Boy was actually his. Which, of course, made more sense than either my sister or I, who were notably not boys. He had never wanted that stupid Santa, but his overbearing older sisters were so busy fighting over the Little Drummer Boy, he just quietly took what we had cast aside and made it his own. No one ever tried to steal his Santa.

Ah, the memories. What are some of your favorite unintentional holiday traditions?

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Quick Update on Jeremy

The procedure this weekend didn't happen. He had the date wrong, and had missed it. So, it's rescheduled for Thursday. And frustration abounds.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Chanukah Chappenings

(Okay, fine, I'll stop with the bad alliteration subject lines. But it's just so much fun!)

So, it turns out that finding a menorah on the day before Chanukah begins is actually just as difficult as I had feared. I tried six different stores, with responses ranging from, "Yeah, I'm sorry, it sounds like everyone is sold out," to, "I dunno, the Christmas stuff is over there." I have a lot of empathy, now, for Jewish people at this time of year, because there was usually one tiny little section hidden away in the middle of eight rows of red and green stuff, completely picked over. I managed to get candles, and chocolate coins, and dreidels, but no menorah. Tired out from shopping, I gave up and headed home to fashion a menorah out of whatever materials I could scrounge around the house. And Chanukah-blue modeling clay.

It wasn't until my guests showed up and pointed it out to me that I noticed the similarity between my menorah and a yule log. Oh well, I guess if I'm mixing traditions, I might as well go all the way.

My father-in-law had clipped three latke recipes out of the paper for me, and as I looked them over, I realized that all three were basically variants on the same shredded vegetables + egg/flour mixture + fried in oil theme. This, coupled with the fact that I still had no idea how many people, if any, were coming to my Chanukah party, led to the brilliant invention of the make-your-own-latke bar, which I foolishly forgot to take any pictures of. Having my digital camera semi-working again might take some getting used to. I shredded somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 pounds of vegetables, giving my food processor the best workout it's had since that time my neighbor told me to please use up the tomatoes in her garden while she was in Germany. I shredded potatoes, sweet potatoes, green zucchini, yellow squash, green peppers (which, FYI, do not shred well), carrots, fresh parsley, and onions. I also put out chopped garlic, salt, pepper, and a gluey mixture of eggs and flour (1 egg to a 1/4 cup flour), and a whole bunch of little bowls for mixing. Then I heated up three pans of oil, and let people fry their own latkes, using whatever combination of traditional and not-so-traditional vegetables they desired. I also made a tasty mint-garlic yogurt that went fantastic with every latke variant I tried (1 cup plain yogurt + 1 tsp. dried mint + 1 Tbsp. minced garlic + 1 tsp. each salt & pepper).

Forty-five minutes after my party was supposed to start, my first guest arrived. I should have known that 6:00 was too early for people to get home from work and over to my house. So, the menorah remained unlit until many hours after dusk, but I think God will understand. Several friends from church ended up coming, too, which was nice, because I've been meaning to have them over for a while. After dinner, we played with dreidels, which I proved to be not very good at. I had made a cheater dreidel with the English rules written on the sides in Sharpie, but when that dreidel proved slightly imbalanced, we switched to a regular dreidel, and were surprised at how quickly we learned the Hebrew characters. "It's the one that looks like a hand, so you have to put one in!"

We played around with the rules quite a bit, but we had a good time. I'm pretty sure "All in" is not an official dreidel term, but what can you do, we're all gentiles. And the winner kindly shared his gelt with the rest of us so no one went home empty handed.

At around 10:00, I remembered that the secondary reason I had scheduled the party so early was that I had to work the next morning at 5:00 am. But, in true, "thinking I am ten years younger than I am" fashion, I ignored the time and put on an Eddie Izzard video. Somewhere in there, I washed 36,000 dishes, too. (Dirty dishes was the main downfall of my fry-your-own-latkes idea. Tasty latkes was the main upshot.) At about 11:30, I bade Eddie and the last few guests goodnight, leaving them in Jeremy's capable hands while I laid down for a few hours of hard-earned sleep. I really enjoyed my first foray into Chanukah, and am excited to have adopted a new family tradition!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chappy Chanukah!

So, I'm having a Chanukah party on Friday night. You're all invited. If you don't know where I live, and would like to come, email me at my address, juleannwakeman, and I will send you directions. Unless I have no idea who you are, in which case I will send you a polite reply indicating that I am not exactly comfortable sharing my address with complete strangers. Although it's probably on the internet somewhere, along with my social security number, so crafty crashers could probably track me down, and convince me that they are me.

I wanted to celebrate Chanukah last year, but I didn't start my research until it was too late to really do much about my complete ignorance of the holiday. This year, I started sooner, and have managed to pull together at least a partial understanding of what Chanukah is all about.

First of all, a bit of background about me, and why the heck I want to celebrate Jewish holidays. I was raised in a Christian tradition, and to be honest, don't have any major problems with the Christian tradition in which I was raised. In college, however, I met a girl whose family was Jewish, but had converted to Christianity. She introduced me to Passover, and I fell in love with the Jewish roots of my Christian faith.

I have a few gripes, now, with the historical institution of Christianity. Like, the Crusades, for example. And with those church fathers whose anti-semitism got in the way of their better judgment and who decided that the Jews killed Jesus so we should sever all ties to their faith. I have some more modern gripes, too, like with those "Christians" who kill doctors in the name of life, but that's another post for another day.

But the fact of the matter is, Jesus was a Jew. He was a really good Jew, too. He was in Jerusalem for all of the major Jewish festivals, he knew his Torah inside out when he was only 12 years old, and he was even a rabbi. He was revolutionary, yes, because he rejected the legalism of the judaism of the current day. But everything he said was grounded in the Jewish scriptures or his own authority as the son of God. Nothing he said was inconsistent with the Law, although many things he said were diametrically opposed to the current pharisaical interpretations of the Law. And the Bible describes converts to Christianity as being grafted into the Jewish tree (see Romans 11), not as some brand new plant. So if you're a Christian, you're really an adopted Jew. How's that for a paradigm shift?

When Jeremy and I started on the long process of reattaching four thousand years of tradition onto the front of our faith, we started with the "holiest" holidays. We've been celebrating Passover for five years, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for about three. As far as holidays go, those are the Christmas and Easter of the Jewish religion. Chanukah is one of the best known Jewish holidays, but the prominence that Chanukah has gained in Jewish tradition has more to do with its proximity to Christmas and Jewish parents not wanting their children to feel left out of the flurry of Christmas excitement than with any major significance in the religious calendar. As festivals go, Chanukah is definitely more of a Feast of St. Billy Bob than a Christmas.

But, it is in the Bible. And, in the Jule Ann Theory of Valid Excuses to Party, I am entitled to celebrate any holiday that Jesus celebrated. And he celebrated Chanukah, the Feast of Dedication, in John 10:22. And perhaps it's not a coincidence that everything Jesus says in this Chanukah section of John 10 seems to be about miracles. Because Chanukah is all about miracles.

So, I'm having a Chanukah party on Friday. It starts at 6:00, which is arguably a little bit late for our latitude, because it means it will already be dark when we light the candles, but people have to work and I need to give them time to get here from work. And I don't have a 20-page script for it, like I do for Passover, because really, it's more of a family fun holiday than a heavy ceremony. There are three blessings to be sung over the candles, which I managed to find beautiful, free mp3 versions of on the IKAR website. (Full text of the blessings can be found here, in transliterated Hebrew and English.) We might sing some Chanukah songs, or we might not. There are some really nice recordings on the IKAR site as well, but I don't know if I'll have time to learn them well enough to share. Maybe I'll just play the recordings. I am a really big fan of the Ocho Kandelikas song, and the second version of Maoz Tzur (sheet music here). For some reason, I have not been able to track down an mp3 version of "Hanukkah Oh Hanukkah", which is somewhat odd to me, since it's one of the best known songs, but perhaps it is of the "Jingle Bells" variety of Christmas songs, and therefore not on the religious sites.

We will be eating at least two kinds of latkes, and possibly jelly doughnuts if I can track down a Jewish bakery. We will be playing with dreidels, which fits into my exception to gambling games which goes something like, "gambling is allowed when the money is edible." I usually only gamble once a year, for candy at Hallowe'en, but I guess I will now be adding a second annual gambling event to my repertoire. The rules for the dreidel game can be found all over the internet, but here is one such link, which also has a link about the origins of the dreidel, which are pretty interesting if you care about such things.

And that's it. I expect I'll end up telling the story of the Maccabees and the rededication of the temple, because people always ask about it, but mostly, it's just a party. With candles. To celebrate a miracle, which is a pretty good reason to celebrate, if you ask me. And now, I'm off to see if I can find a menorah anywhere the day before Chanukah begins...

(If anyone is interested in the more logistical side of Chanukah, like the order in which to light the candles, here is a really good, basic introduction to Chanukah.)

Levity Break

Now that the deep stuff is at least partially out of my head, the random, silly stuff I often blog about has been bubbling to the surface again. Two thoughts before bed...

I noticed the other day that the Christmas cookies at Starbucks are certified kosher. The irony made me giggle.

This comic sums up so many evenings of my life. If you don't get it, you're probably not married to a geek.

Monday, December 11, 2006

On Baptism

I did it again. You know that thing I do where I disappear from blogging for a while because I'm off thinking about too many things to say and doing too many things I want to talk about. Yeah, it's been one of those weeks. And I'm really not sure where to start, or what to focus on, or where to end up. Because everything is tumbling over everything else, and everything is connected to everything else, and everything I want to say seems to necessitate starting somewhere else.

I honestly feel like I might have to start in 1982. I was four years old. I was a little kid in Sunday School, and I decided that I wanted to be a Christian. So, I prayed a cute little four-year-old prayer, asked Jesus into my heart, and promptly quit sucking my thumb.

But I didn't get baptized at four years old. Probably for the most practical reason that my church didn't have a baptistery, and for the slightly more theological reason that I was only four years old and the deeper significance of baptism was lost on me. My church district, however, had a camp, and that camp had a lake, and every summer, the whole church district would have a big ol' baptism in the lake. Each candidate would give a short testimony about why they wanted to make this public declaration of their faith, and then they would get dunked in the lake and everyone would cheer when they came back out, dripping and smiling. The deeper significance of baptism started to take form for me.

Baptism is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And I'm sure I'm stepping on someone's toes by talking about baptism the way I am, but there's a good reason for it, I promise. I just feel like a lot of background is necessary for some stories, because some of you only know me through what I write here, and if I don't give you background, you miss out on a big part of the story. But essentially, there are two kinds of baptism practiced in Christian churches. There is infant baptism, which I like to think of as the baptism of adoption. It's the kind of baptism practiced by the Catholic church, but by many, generally more liturgical, protestant churches, as well. And, since my church doesn't practice infant baptism, I'm sure I will butcher the symbolism, but basically, it's a consecration of a child to God, a commitment on the parents' part to raise the child in the way of the church, and a physical/spiritual/symbolic/metaphysical act of adoption into the family of God, much like circumcision.

Without getting into an argument about it, my church doesn't practice infant baptism. Both Jeremy and I were dedicated to the church as infants, which covers the consecration/membership side of baptism. But our churches leave the actual, symbolic, water-dunking part of baptism for later. This kind of baptism is called believer's baptism, and it basically is a personal testimony and physical demonstration of a decision to dedicate one's life entirely to God.

I was baptized when I was about 10 or 11 years old, at my church camp. My grandfather, who was a missionary in Central America, was visiting for the summer, and my grandfather was my spiritual hero. If I got baptized that summer, it meant that my grandfather could be the one to baptize me, and that opportunity might never arise again. The timing was perfect.

Jeremy, like me, accepted Christ when he was about four or five years old. Like me, he didn't fully understand the significance of baptism at the age of four. His church, however, had a baptistery, so baptisms happened more than once a year. And his grandfather wasn't a missionary who visited his church camp once or twice in a lifetime. So, although somewhere along the line, Jeremy probably reached a point in his spiritual journey where he should have been baptized, there were no major milestones to commemorate and no dramatically impeccable timing to pinpoint now as the moment in his life when he should be baptized.

Until we decided to join our church, when Jeremy's non-baptized-ness became a very prominent point. It meant that I was able to become a member of the church, but he was not. And suddenly, Jeremy became acutely aware that he couldn't just keep pushing baptism off until some indefinite future point. Somewhere along the line, his now had come. So he talked to our pastor, and the two of them hammered out a plan.

Now, our current church has a baptistery. But it leaks. And, even if it didn't leak, it resides in the sanctuary, which we can only use during the summer months because there is currently no heat to the sanctuary. Besides, my romantic associations with baptism in a natural setting had rubbed off on Jeremy somewhere along the line, and he wanted to get baptized outside. In December. In the northeastern United States.

We had a bit of a cold snap last week. Nothing like the snow my mother encountered on her trip to Halifax, but the puddles were frozen on my way to work at least one morning. Katie told us that they would break ice to do baptisms at her home church, though, so we pressed on with our plans, undaunted.

Sunday morning dawned bright and cold. I know it's a cheesy line, but it's true. The thermometer on the bank's digital sign read 33 degrees at 9 am, but the sun was shining, and all of the men who would be braving the water that day had come prepared. Jer had a wetsuit to wear under his clothes, the pastor had hip-waders, and Jer's dad, his sponsor, was armed with nothing more than a couple layers of clothing and nerves of steel.

After the service at the church, we caravanned down to the Wissahickon and gathered at the water's edge. Okay, so it's technically a creek, but Katie and I sang, "Down to the River to Pray," and our brave men waded out into the frigid waters, and one of them had the privilege of being shoved under by the other two, and pulled back out, dripping and smiling. We all cheered, including the group of curious onlookers on the opposite bank who had gathered to see what the crazy church people were doing.

I have so many thoughts tumbling over one another right now, and I fear that I have only managed to nail down the bare bones of the whole thing. I'm extremely proud of my husband, for taking the initiative to do something that he felt needed to be done, and without putting it off any longer. Logically, he could have waited for next summer, or for our heat and our baptistery to be fixed. But sometimes the answer for too much waiting simply can't be more waiting. Jeremy is still sick. He has a routine but fairly invasive procedure scheduled for this weekend, and we're hoping that it might bring some answers about his condition. But it may not. And we can't keep putting off living our lives based on the possibility that maybe, just maybe, answers might be around the corner. So we took a leap of faith. Not that being baptized would miraculously heal him (although we wouldn't mind such a thing, hint hint, God, if you happen to be reading), but that his life, our life, is more than this stupid illness.

We had big plans when we decided to move south. Almost exactly a year ago, we packed up a truck, braved a couple of blizzards, ran out of gas on highway 81, and squeezed our lives into a bedroom in Jeremy's parents' basement. But here we are, a year later, still waiting for our lives to start. And waiting really sucks. So, I'm excited about Jeremy's decision to get baptized on a spiritual level, but also on a personal level. I feel like he's taking ownership of his life, in its current state. I feel like, maybe, it's a step towards living again, rather than constantly waiting for everything to work out so that we can live a certain way. I'm optimistic again, and for once, my optimism doesn't hinge on the results of the next battery of tests or on something in our situation changing. It hinges on believing that God is faithful in all circumstances. Not that he's going to make everything better, which many well-meaning people seem to like to tell me is the case. But simply that this life that I've been given, as it stands right now, is livable. Not much of a revelation, I know, but it's refreshing to have a kind of non-situational optimism for a change.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Non-Drinker's Charter of Rights and Responsibilities

As a non-drinker, I...
  1. Have the right to order an appetizer or dessert. Don't look at me like that; I know how many calories are in your beer.

  2. Will factor imaginary drinks into my bill when calculating my tip. It's not the waitress' fault I didn't order expensive drinks.

  3. Will have just as much fun as everyone else is having. (I'll just remember more and regret slightly less of it.)

  4. Have the right to excuse at least one stupid stunt per evening out, blaming it on the fact that I was like, so totally sober, man.

  5. Will sing karaoke just as badly as everyone else.

  6. Have the right to point out, at least once, how much cheaper my cranberry juice is without the vodka in it.

  7. Will drive you home, or let you sleep on my couch if necessary. I may even steal your keys and call you a cab; I'm sure you'll forgive me eventually.

  8. Will volunteer to work the opening shift on New Year's Day.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Oops, that was the "publish" button, not "delete"

Some days, I don't really know what I want to write about, so I just open up a new file and see if anything comes to me. Sometimes, it does, and the next thing I know, I've written half a novel on my blog. Sometimes, I type drivel, then delete it all to spare myself the shame. Sometimes, I type drivel, then click "publish" anyhow. Because in the end, it is just a blog.

I swear I have important things to talk about sometimes. But I guess I'm not in a very deep frame of mind right now. So, I'm going to talk about what I did yesterday. Yup, it's one of those posts. You've been warned.

Yesterday, Rachel and I both had the day off work, so we drove up to Walnutport to visit my cousin. It took us just about an hour to get there, and this time, I was smart enough to call my cousin ahead of time and make sure she was going to be there. (She wasn't there the last time we made the trip.) We had a really nice visit, and got to see her little boy who just turned two (I think he was two months old the last time I saw him, delinquent cousin that I am!) I was never all that close to my cousins growing up, since I only saw them once or twice a year, and they were all older than me. But time has a knack for leveling the playing field, and it still amazes me when I think about how big of a deal ten years of age difference was when I was seven, but how little of a deal it is now. Or maybe I'm just still amazed that I'm an adult now, and can enjoy proper, adult conversation. It's weird to think of one's self as an adult. (Although I did spend a good chunk of the visit on the floor playing with wooden trains, so maybe adulthood isn't all that bad after all.)

Rachel and I had mapped out a route home that would take us to three thrift stores, but as we were driving, we made the mistake of talking about food, which got our tummies rumbling. So, we decided to save the thrift stores for another day, and came straight home to eat some leftover pulled pork. Yum.

We had sortof kindof tentative plans with a few friends to get together and do something of some sort on Friday night, but no one seemed to want to take the lead and concretize those plans. And yet, somehow, through the work of mysterious forces, things came together and eight of us ended up at Jon's house playing Guitar Hero on PS2 and various games on the new Wii. Good times were had by all. There was even pie. Tasty, tasty, free pie.

In other news, my Google Ads account is now over $100! That means I will be getting a check, possibly even in time for Christmas! I'm just waiting for them to send me something in the mail to confirm my address, and then I will be in business. So thank you so so so much to everyone who is visiting my sponsors, you're the awesomest. It's funny, because I can't click on my own ads (they call that "fraud"), but ever since people have started clicking on my ads, I have been finding myself clicking on other people's ads, to pass the love along. It's just like that movie that I never saw!

Speaking of ads, has anyone else noticed any strange/awesome/obscure ads on my site? Hamameliss said she noticed a women's swimwear ad on my last post, which is certainly random, considering the post was about leaves! (Unless the ad was on the 100 words blog, where I did write about swimsuits once...) M found a gift catalog that she had been looking for on my blog, which was not only cool, but also very appropriate, since it was a catalog where you can send a goat to someone in a third world country, and I am a huge fan of anything that has to do with goats. Hmmm... Maybe I should have a contest... Most incongruous ad wins!