Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Writing for Marriage

Today there's a blog carnival going on about gay marriage, to raise awareness about the fight to defeat proposition 8 in California. I'm a married lesbian. How can I not write? So I'm writing.

But I'm not really sure what it is I want to say. I chose to marry because I am a lesbian. I wanted to build a home with A. and raise children with her and marriage was the way to get, oh, legitimacy, yeah, but that's not even the word I want. I wanted the mojo of all our family and friends in one place making it so that our relationship became a structure strong enough to raise kids in. It's a ritual magic I believe in. I wanted to stand up with A. and turn us into a family. I wanted the pictures to show the kids we hadn't conceived yet. I wanted my cousins to get the same invitations in the mail that they'd sent me. Well, for their first weddings, anyway.

I have my doubts about civil marriage, but that doesn't matter at all. It is entirely irrelevant to this post. What matters is that in California there are some really virulent people spending a hell of a lot of money to prevent the rabbis who married me and A. from, well, marrying me and A. This is a church-and-state issue, folks. If you're not in California, you can help by giving money. Our side needs $3 million by Friday night to match the homophobes.

Please, give. Whatever you can. Everything counts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The home stretch

The potty fairy came to our house last night. You know the one. She collects the potties from the bathrooms and the living room, and in their various places she leaves presents from the stash of little bitty toys that your parents have left over from the days when it was all about filling out sticker charts every time you even sat on the potty.

No more bowls to empty. I can't quite believe it.

She's a long way from dry at night (but with hopeful signs). She's a long way from wiping herself (but with hopeful--oh, wait, she's still apt to run away with her pants around her ankles...never mind).


The potty fairy came to our house last night.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Store miscellania

Recently, I've been doing some long-overdue publisher orders, and the books that wind up on those orders are the ones that we have been living without for awhile, so I'm looking over the sales numbers, wondering. The rule of thumb is that you want to turn your stock three times in a year, so if a book has sold less than three times in twelve months, I'm getting more ruthless about letting it go out of stock.

I'm closing in on three years of doing this, which is as long as I taught high school full time* and I think I'm better at this part of my job than when I started, right there at the core of my work: judging what my customers will buy.

One thing they pretty much won't buy is cd's, so we're selling off all our adult cd's at more or less cost. What I finally realized is that this is the perfect chance to refresh the store's collection of cd's. If they make a detour to my laptop's hard drive before they make it into the cd rack, well, ya know. These things happen.

*I taught in high schools in one way or another for more like eight years, so I have awhile yet before I'm caught up.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Skyline and homecoming

Twice this past week, I've been in Center City with people who don't get there too often. Me, I used to live there, six blocks over from City Hall, and varying distances south.

I grew up in a city without skyscrapers, and I used to get absolutely tickled that I could look up and see those immense glass sculptures, vistas changing as I moved around town. It changed my sense of scale, and of homecoming. The moment when I rounded the curve of the highway and saw the glittering spires and felt myself settle back into my skin became the payoff moment of the drive home from my parents' house. Now that I'm often coming home from points north, and home is in the northwestern reaches of the city, I miss that moment.

(For the record, the best way to approach Philadelphia is from the south, on I95 or I76, or, as Jane Dark reminded me, the R1 from the airport. I have opinions on other cities, too: DC is best approached from the south on I295, and Boston from Route 2, coming in from Concord, preferably after a long day spent at Walden Pond.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Z.: For prwetend, we'yeuh not vegetawians.

S.: (Filling dishwasher.) Oh, we're not? What are we then?

Z.: Well we'yeuh Jewish, but we'yeuh not vegetawians.

S.: (Still filling dishwasher.) How very meat-eating of us.

Z.: We'yeuh not vegetawians, for prwetend, so I have dis dog on a stick for us.

S.: (Turns and sees realistic-looking Folkmanis black lab puppy hoist on cardboard-tube "sword." Dissolves into fits of giggles. Heads to the computer to record every word.)

Z.: We can eat it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm ready to go back to work now

The past week has included:

  1. Firing an employee, by far the thing I most hate about my job. The employee spent the week avoiding calls, then quit right before the shift when we were prepared to turn her back at the door.
  2. A weekend of grandparents (and my cousin Nick!): fun, but tiring, and especially fun-but-tiring for Z.
  3. A full-staff meeting. Also fun, but tiring.
  4. A court date for an incident involving the store. The incident was in May. The trial was Monday. Dude got 3-12 months.
  5. Therapy.
  6. A day when Z.'s daycare was closed.
  7. One giant zit. Giant.
  8. More therapy.
  9. Another day when Z.'s daycare was closed.
  10. Not enough time to swim.
  11. Not enough time to walk.
  12. Not enough time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Does this happen in your house?

Okay, this is one for the two- (or more-) parent families out there:

Z. has serious trouble coping with the transition between spending a lot of time with just one parent and then adjusting to the arrival of the other parent. She ignores, she's flat-out rude, she pushes, she tantrums. We hold a fairly hard line on it, and she's gotten a lot better than she used to be, but the problem hasn't gone away. It's worse when she's spent a lot of time with A. and I enter the scene (A. thinks this is because Z.'s relationship with me is deeper and more intense so her reactions to me are deeper and more intense), but it can go in both directions.

Does this happen in your house? Are there tricks that work for you? Advice would be appreciated.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


A few days ago it was poverty awareness day in blogland, and I've been kicking it around, wealth and poverty. Well, the financial upheavals and my own risk-happy way of earning a living mean that I've been kicking this one around for a very long time.

One of the things I clicked on the other day was a poverty ranking tool, one that took your annual income and told you where you ranked in the overall poverty standing in the world. I'm not linking to it. It was cute, it was useful to have a jolt of perspective, but it was also beside the point. It embarrassed me, some, that I feel pinched when other people have so much less, but it didn't make me feel like I had more cash floating around.

Unless you are super-duper enlightened, whether you're feeling comfortable or deprived about money doesn't have anything to do with how much money everyone in the world has. It has to do with how much money the people have who are living next door to you have, or sitting down to dinner with you.

Last night, I was talking with a friend who told me how growing up where she did, she thought her family was poor because she didn't get a Porsche for her sixteenth birthday, making a point about how that setting warped her: we tend to judge our wealth relative to others', and we tend to think we should have the things that the folks around us have. Juliet Shor talks about this as the question of the reference group, the way we aren't necessarily looking at people with similar incomes when we judge whether our spending habits are reasonable.

This is something I struggle with, because I tend to judge my spending against my family's, but I am downwardly mobile. There is no way that in my line of work I will make even a little bit of the kind of money I was raised having access to, and even though A. is in a pretty darn secure, middle-class, professional kind of job, urban public school teachers ain't pulling it in hand over fist, you know?

So the way for me to feel wealthy instead of poor is to spend less, to want less. To feel that what I have is enough. To simplify. Shor calls this downshifting. It's really hard to pull off in a culture of abundance, which is, still, what we're living in here. Clothes are turning out to be the hardest thing for me to manage, I think because I've been losing weight and therefore my old clothes actually don't fit me. I do need to buy new clothing, and it's hard not to notice that the pants I think I can only afford on sale are often the least expensive ones in the catalog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Special features

This evening, Z. and I varied our ritual watching of the Wizard of Oz by starting with the Angela-Lansbury-narrated animated storybook, which is far too abridged, but otherwise a really wonderful use of the original illustrations.

Then we moved on to the (also Lansbury-narrated) actor bios, and can I just say that I completely understand why Ray Bolger is my father-in-law's hero? What an amazing dancer. I can't say Wow! loudly enough.

Strangely, Judy Garland was omitted from the bio line-up. Do you suppose there was nothing they could find for a family-friendly DVD?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


For all the time I spend online (and oh boy, I spend plenty), my inner Luddite holds sway in much of the rest of my life. We have a television, but it's about 12 years old and has no reception, which is extremely deliberate: we restrict our cable service to phone and internet. This means I've been following the debates via friends' tweets, having recently been inspired to start using the Twitter account I set up last Spring.

I gotta say, I think I got everything that was important to get. Anything I missed, I'll pick up on SNL videos tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Patio camping

At kids' services on Saturday, I'm told the kids' service leader read the under-5's this Sukkot story and Z. has been in an ecstasy of living out the details of the book since then.

Last night, we slept in the sukkah. It was Z.'s suggestion but I was the one who made it happen--there aren't many years when it comes together: a warm enough, dry enough night, no guests, and no school for anyone the next day.

Sleeping isn't one of my strengths, and last night reproduced the conditions of both of the two longest consistently bad stretches of sleep I've ever had: the nights I spent in shelters on the Appalachian Trail, and the months in Z.'s second year when I slept close enough to her to touch her and her every twitch had an analog in my dreams.

So it was more of an aesthetic experience than a night of rest. Crickets, airplanes, traffic, a kind of nighttime hum from all the houses around us. The full moon, corona'd with a slight haze. The shadows of the garden on the green walls of the sukkah. The rough surface of the sleeping pad beneath me, the contrast between the warm covers and the cold, moist air. Sleeping with a hat on.

The sukkah is where I use up my tree-trimming energy, so we have a couple of boxes of harvest-y ornaments I've searched out in the after-Christmas sales, and they ringed us in two tiers. Usually I hang them all on the strings of lights that light the sukkah at night, but this year I contented myself with putting up the glass ones and strung up a line of purple cotton yarn at Z.'s level for the wood and metal and dried-gourd ornaments.

She was so serious and careful, making sure there was a green wire on each ornament's loop, hanging them equidistant from each other in each section of the wall. There's so much more her fingers can do now, and so many more things she's considering at the same time.

She needed me to soothe her through her buzzing excitement when we first lay down, and she woke a couple of times in the night. Once she saw I was putting my hat on, and wanted to put hers on. Once she thought she wanted to put the extra t-shirt on I'd brought out just in case she needed another layer, but she changed her mind and decided she just needed to rearrange her covers. Both times she went right back to sleep with no coaxing from me.

Me, I drifted into dreams and back out of them. Our street is eerily quiet at 4:15. A car starting up at that hour echoes strangely. Our three-storey house looms, when seen from the ground twelve feet away.

We woke and pulled on fleeces and sweaters to eat our breakfast in the sukkah: oatmeal, cocoa. A. davenned outside, with lulav and etrog (alas, once again, the etrog smells like wax to me). And then slowly our indoor lives took over again--showers, DVD's. Dishes.

We're sleeping inside tonight, but there is something comforting to me about having touched base again with that kind of halfway-sleeplessness, where my sleep weaves in and out of the night itself.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Withs Bees

There was a bee named Beauty who lived with her, Doodle, bees don't really have fathers...well, they don't exactly have mothers either, but closer...okay, so, she lived with her mother in a village of beehives, where her mother ran a bookstore-hive and Beauty helped her. She put the books on the shelves of the hive, and sold them to customers. And took their money, yes. I think they paid in nectar, or something.

One day, Beauty's mother was coming home from a bookfair, and she was so tired from buzzing along hauling those heavy books all that long way, and it was getting dark and cold, and she was looking everywhere for a friendly hive where she could spend the night. She was getting tireder and tireder and then it started to snow and it was so cold! Bees don't like the cold at all. It's very hard for them to fly when it's cold. They just want to huddle up with the other bees in the hive to keep warm, and Beauty's mom was all alone outside and she was so unhappy.

Just then she saw a castle-hive all lit up, and she thought she would just park her bookcart in a dry corner and fly over and see if someone there could help find somewhere warm to stay for the night. She buzzed right up to the door, and guess what? It was open! Just a crack, but enough for a cold, tired bee to fly in.

She called out--okay, she buzzed out--"Hello, is anyone home?" And she looked in every room, but do you know something? No one answered her. So she flew a little farther into the castle, and she found the kitchen, a big, old-fashioned kitchen with a big table in the middle and a beautiful fire keeping it warm. There were dishes of everything a hungry bee could want laid , honey and pollen and nectar all laid out, and a little note saying "You are welcome here! Please have some dinner and there is a couch in the corner where you can sleep tonight." And Beauty's mother looked into the corner, and sure enough, there was a couch with pillows and lovely warm, fluffy blankets, so she ate as much of the lovely bee food as she could and she curled up under the blanket and slept so, so well. But she didn't see anyone at all.

In the morning, she wrote a note thanking her mysterious host, and when she went outside there was a beautiful rose in the garden even though snow and roses are seasonally incompatible, and it made Beauty's mother think of Beauty so she picked that rose to take home to her daughter.

All of a sudden, a huge, big, ugly, scary HORNET-BEAST appeared and GRABBED Beauty's mother by the wrist. Er. Leg.

"I gave you food and a place to stay and you repay me by stealing!" he shouted and shouted, he was so angry. "I'm going to kill you!"

Beauty's mother was so scared, but she was most scared because if the Beast killed her, Beauty would never know what happened.

"I have a daughter who's expecting me to come home today. Will you let me see her first, to say goodbye, so she doesn't always worry about what happened to me?"

The Beast thought that was okay, so they went to Beauty's house, and Beauty was so happy to see her mother and so worried about the scary-looking hornet-beast. Her mother told her what had happened. Beauty got very sad and scared, but also very angry, and she said to the Beast, "Don't kill my mother! All she did was pick a flower! I think you're a very mean beast."

The Beast was very lonely, and he thought Beauty was very nice to look at, so he said "I won't kill her if you come live with me so I can have company and see you every day."

Beauty said okay, even though her mother tried to talk her out of it. So the Beast let go of Beauty's mother and Beauty moved in with him. At first she missed her so much, and she didn't like that scary Beast at all, but then she got to know him more, and she taught him some things, and he learned how to be nice and not to be mean, and they were friends, and her mother sent her lots of letters and visited sometimes, so it was okay.

One day, Beauty got a letter from her mother, saying that her mother was very very sick. Beauty showed the letter to the Beast, and the Beast said "You need to go home to take care of your mother, Beauty. I know that it would be mean to keep you here when your mom is sick," and he pretended that he wasn't sad when he said it, but really he thought that if she went home she would never come back to see him again.

So Beauty went home to her mom, and helped her get better, and when she went back to the castle, the Beast was so happy to see her that he cried. Beauty asked him why he was crying, and he told her that he thought that after she saw her mom she wouldn't want to live with him anymore.

"It's true that I didn't want to live with you when I first came here, but you're my friend and I love you, and I do want to live with you now."

When Beauty said that, the Beast turned from a Hornet-Beast into a regular old bee. A witch that he had been mean to for picking a flower had put a spell on him that could only be broken when someone loved him. That witch didn't think anyone would ever love him, and maybe no one ever would have if he hadn't learned how to love someone himself.

After that, Beauty and the Beast and Beauty's mother lived together in the castle, and they had lots of friends and parties and sold lots of books, and lived happily ever after. The End.

Storyteller's note: I can't tell you how much I hate the story of Beauty and the Beast, with or without bees.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The benefits of a religious education: an occasional series

Last night, A. and I listened from the living room as Z.'s voice drifted down to us in the energetic tones of a storyteller. She was telling Puppy Pie stories. For three hours.

Z. still shares our bedroom so, even if we're tired, we usually wait for her to fall asleep before we go up so that our going-to-bed business won't keep her going, but last night we gave up. We were never going to wait her out, not if we stayed up a million years.

I finished my toothbrushing at midnight and when I turned out the bathroom light and crossed the darkened hall to the darker bedroom, Z. cheerfully informed me that Mommy had fallen asleep. Z. was still zooping along, chattering the way she does at 1pm when it's clear there's not one shred of nap in her that day.

I sat down on her bed and rubbed her back. The tone in her muscles was like a gymnast's about to start a routine.

"Little boo, sometimes when we have a lot of thoughts we're thinking, it's hard to fall asleep, and the thing to do is to fold those thoughts up and put them away."

"I don't want to put dem away!"

"Well, you maybe you could think them one last time, and then say 'Thoughts, I will think you again in the morning,' and then just fold them up and put them away."

"I want to keep thzinking dem! I don't want to fold dem up!"

"Hmmm. Are you having a good time thinking your thoughts?"


"Well, you could dream about your thoughts when you go to sleep, and that would be like your thoughts coming to life while you're sleeping."

"Yeah, yeah! Dat's wright, Mama! Dat's a good idea! I could have a dwream about some pirwates who build a sukkah! I could have a dwream about some BEES who build a sukkah!"

It's like the night before Christmas, when my brother and sister and I couldn't sleep for the excitement of thinking about Santa. Only, it's Sukkot, and wiss bees.

Our sukkah is up now, and lovely. If I can find our camera, I'll take pictures.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

How we arrived at the Apocalypse

Arwen, Els, and Rachel explain why those four horsemen are gaining on your retirement account.

For the original post by Arwen, animatrice extraodinaire, click here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Things are getting worse but I feel a lot better

Five songs in a row by the Counting Crows this morning. I'm not complaining about the Crows; I'm the one who put so much of them on the iPod, it's just that there are times when you pull the thing out of your pocket to make sure it's still on shuffle, you know?

Last year, there was a month or two in there when every. single. time. I did my half-hour walk I could count on the shuffle giving me "Amy Hits the Atmosphere" before it was over. Right now I'm playing through all 485 songs in my nano before I restart it, and Amy came up a few days ago. I think this was the way the iPod elves were trying to remind me of it.

I know we all have these flickers in the random sequence. What are the things that make you suspect your shuffle is controlled by elves?

For Penelope (and everyone else): laughing! yes, I will write up Beauty and the Beast, wiss bees.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yom Kippur 5769

Hi, all--I wrote this yesterday and then thought better of putting it up, because it seemed like I could just WRITE already. But Susan put up a similar post, so I changed my mind.

About this time last year I checked out from this blog, and I've been coming back to it very fitfully. Yom Kippur to Yom Kippur, it was an intensely hard year on several fronts, one I know I'll still be trying to make sense of for years to come. Very little of it was bloggable, some because it was intensely private, and not only for me, and some of it because blogging it could realistically have put me and mine at risk of physical harm. That didn't leave me feeling very free to use this space, but I miss taking the scraps out of my head and spinning them into something to put up in front of the little bitty world. I'm not sure exactly where it's going to take me, but I'm starting November early this year. I may finish early, too--retail season and all that--but I'm hoping it'll be more like I get into a groove I can stick with.

And I hope everyone who fasted had an easy one.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The forest for the trees

The little patch of woods near my house extends about four and a half blocks into the neighborhood and is three blocks wide at its thickest point. On a map, it doesn't seem like much, just a thumb of the larger Big Creek Gorge stuck into my shtetl like the World's Largest Urban Park was looking for a lift to some other metropolis.

But when I'm walking inside it during the months that the leaves are on the trees, I can see nothing but green as I look around, and for forty or more feet above me, just a canopy of foliage.

The past few weeks, they've been cutting down the Norway maples and it turns out a LOT of the trees providing that canopy are Norways. On balance, I'm in favor of removing invasive species, and they've only included about a half-block of the park in this project, so most of my walk is unchanged. It's jarring, though, to come up from the creek and find myself in a logged-out forest, all the leaves on the ground like a dozen blow-downs all in the same place.