The Holidays Are Here!

I know that I am probably supposed to be the curmudgeonly Jew who reluctantly put up with the season of American excess and bacchanalia and is breathlessly grateful when New Years signals it’s completion and a return to normal American consumerism.

Yeah, that’s what I guiltily expect of myself as well.

But I have a confession to make and I might as well make it here and now while I still have your attention.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

There, I’ve said it.

I get onto the bandwagon the first of November and ride the Turkey bus through Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! I like to make pilgrim hat place cards, search endlessly for recipes I’d like to try (even though I always make the same thing the same way year after year), watch the Macy’s parade with Evan and, of course, our traditional viewing of the quintessential Thanksgiving movie – Home for the Holidays!

I just love it.

Maybe because I don’t celebrate Christmas I just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds and fun of the season. I love the tv cooking shows – I am especially addicted to all the Unwrapped shows where Marc Sommers goes and tells us how candy canes and turduckens are made. I like the kitschy Christmas movies like The Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to watching White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut a few times every year.

I certainly have my Hanukah but I also am well aware of the nature of the celebration. It’s a small holiday in comparison to our High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippor or even the fun and very festive holiday of Purim that most American Jews just ignore sadly.

I decorate a little and we light our own chanukiot and exchange small gifts. I make latkes and other special food items because for me, its a great time to try out all kinds of new recipes (even though I always go back to the old standbys like a good brisket!) I buy donuts and we play dreidel.

Christmas comes and finds me like it does countless other American Jews with a plate of Chinese food and a movie in front of me. I can’t say I am not bound by tradition now can I?

The holidays wrap up on New Years Eve when we have another big party for our little family with cocktail food and punch as we watch more tv and then race to see who can be the first to bed before the New Year.

It’s a great season for me. I am too poor to really be able to spend money on gifts like I was once able to so I sit now and knit presents that I think are cool and definitely made with love. I plan how to make Hanukah sparkle with homemade and dollar store decorations that Evan and I can make together. I stick cloves into oranges and I bake cookies while the snow flies outside.

It’s a nice time and a time I really enjoy.

So there…you have it. My confession.

No, I am not all of a sudden pulling a big, Griswald-sized Christmas tree into the living room. And no, I am not planning a trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap to whisper what I’d like under my menorah while perched on his lap.

What I AM doing is just enjoying each day as it comes and enjoying a time of year that is going to happen whether I welcome it or not. I have great memories of Christmases from when I was young. I can’t deny that now that I am a Jew. I don’t think it would be healthy TO deny that.

So I am embracing everything I am. The little girl who still has that look of wonder at the shiny lights and sparkly tinsel all around and the grown up girl who knows her boundaries and can still enjoy it all for what it is.

Three Cheers for Acarbose!

I went to see the endocrinologist about a month ago.  I had been to see him in 2010 when I started having issues with my low blood sugar.  It was a bad situation.  I’d be out and about and without warning, down it would go to where I couldn’t even see.  I had no idea how low it really was until 2011 when I had a seizure the first night of Hanukkah in Jerusalem on the 4A bus.

In Israel I was tested and finally given the drug acarbose.  I really felt it changed my life.  No more of those wild lows where I felt like I was on some weird psychadelic trip with my vision cutting out on me.  No more seizures.  No more worries of being alone out in public.

But then I came back to the US.  And I had to get new doctors and scripts for my meds and this proved to be a huge problem.

I ran into a nurse practioner who refused to give me the meds I needed even though I had all of my prescription boxes with the labels attached.  Instead she turned me into the Department of Transportation for 1) having seizures, 2) having hypoglycaemia and 3) taking medication that could impair my ability to drive  (that also doubles for someone who is addicted to drugs).  If she had just listened to me, maybe I’d still be driving.  In the meantime I was back to the wild psychadelic trips and became very agoraphobic because I am always afraid I’ll have a low and a subsequent seizure when I am away from the safety of home.

Well, anyway, nearly a year and a half later, I am on anti seizure medication (number 1 taken care of) and on Friday afternoon my endocrinologist called and told me all my tests indicated that yes, I had hypoglycaemia (you don’t say…)

I had two choices.  I could go to a more specialized endo and get more specialized tests done which probably would result in some extensive surgery (read: remove part or all of my pancreas) OR I could try prescription medication to see if that would bring the condition under control.

I chose the medication option since I already have a Frankentummy and I don’t really want to Frankenize anything further at this point.  My endo said that would be his choice as well and then called in a script for the acarbose I had been taking in Israel, had asked for a year and a half ago from the nurse practitioner (until I could get an endocrinologist appointment) and had even asked the endocrinologist for at my first appointment.

I started taking it right away.

He told me to check my blood sugar 4 times a day and then bring my meter in and if it remains steady, they’ll sign the form for the DOT so I can get that much closer to driving again.  YAY!

In the meantime, I am happy.  I take the acarbose tablet when I start to eat.  I eat normally.  I don’t feel like I am going to die.  I don’t feel ravenously hungry in between meals.  I don’t have the fear anymore…I feel calm like I know that this is what I know will work…after all it Has worked so why wouldn’t it work now?

This is definitely a good thing!

Thoughts on a Four Poster Bed

ikea_midsommar_600I took a nap in my bed…oh how well I slept. I am so happy to have my furniture here. I feel so…complete.

I have the most wonderful man in my life. I thought yesterday how he is absolutely the best man I have ever known in my entire life. He is so even and steady. Nothing upsets him.

Whereas I was ready for blowups on moving day reminiscent of past moving days…and I was nervous and edgy all day in anticipation, no matter what didn’t go the way we expected, nothing ruffled Scott’s feathers. Everything was okay and he made sure I was okay throughout it all, knowing how upset and nervous I was.

The main thing was how much care and love he showed just for me. I knew how much he loved me and I told him how special it was to me that he cared enough to bring all of the little things that were so important to me to our home.

I don’t own much and most of what I own isn’t really worth anything. But it means a lot to me for whatever reason. A dining room table where I spent happy holidays. A buffet and armoire I used to polish lovingly. A bookcase where I stored my beloved books. A bed I bought to get myself off the floor.

As pieces not worth much at all but as a whole…worth everything to me.  And the very simple fact that this wonderful man, who loves me so very, very much felt I was worth enough to take the time and the trouble to bring it all to me so that I could have these small, worthless things…means all that much more.

I am so very lucky and even that much more blessed to have him love me.

Six Words That Define Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I subscribe to writing prompts and yesterday’s was to describe your current life situation in six words so here’s my stab at that.

Content in my four poster bed.

My first purchase when I came back from Israel and one that meant the very most for me was my bed. Prior to that I was homeless and a vagabond sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Having a bed frame and getting off that floor was a step up…literally and figuratively.

I had already met Scott because when I found the bed on Craigslist for cheap, he borrowed his daughter’s van and went with me to parts unknown to get it and the box spring that came with it.

We brought it back to my house….yes, the one without running water or sanitation…that I was basically homesteading off the grid in… and I remember the fun night we had figuring how to set it up with no instructions. It was an Ikea four poster white metal bed and I loved it. Sleeping in it that first night was heaven. To be off that floor and in a real bed was empowering a move that I can hardly describe in making me feel human again.

Not long after Scott decided that the conditions that I was living in were just too deplorable and offered me space at his house and I moved, leaving my bed behind.

And it was this past Thursday that finally, we were able to move not only all of my other furniture – an antique buffet, my dining room table and chairs, an antique armoire, a bookcase (can you have too many?) and a dresser for Evan – but also my cherished bed to my new home, finally leaving all of the horrible past that happened to me when I first returned from Israel behind.

So yes, those six words sum up how I felt yesterday very eloquently – content – very content – in my four poster bed.

Wintertime

Right on schedule, wintertime started in western Pennsylvania, and here in the Mon Valley on Halloween, and with it came heavy, bilowy, grey clouds that threatened rain and snow, colder temperatures and a biting wind.  More so than even the Christmas baccanalia that fills the stores this time of year, the weather really signals winter has come.

A week ago we thought temperatures that kissed the 40sF were cold.  Today, that has all changed and we wait for the 20sF because those will surely come and the gloves and hats and winter coats have come out and repairs have been made, what needs washed has been tossed into the dryer and we are pronounced ready for the inevitable.

Sure, it could get warm again and most likely will.  But this coldness which caused us to turn on the heat, and hence the rule that the heat won’t be turned on until November 1, has come right on time.

It’s funny how we often wait a long time for winter to finally give way to spring which is cpaxed to give way to summer.  Fall is standing at the ready with leaves that start to turn in early August regrettably.  But winter, winter seems to come right on time.  And even though summer can peek through occasionally causing oddly warm Thanksgivings or Hanukkah nights when warm strolls in the neighborhood seem more appropriate than the winter evenings I remember when we stood in knee deep snow to screw the lightbulbs into the chanukia in front of the synagogue on Main Street.

Yes, winter is here and won’t be letting us forget here until sometime in March or maybe even April if she decides to overstay her welcome. For me it’s a good time, a warm time and I know a lot of folks don’t feel the same way.  It’s a time to bake cookies and think about warm, nights filled with family and knitting and soup-filled tummies inside a warm home looking from the inside out at the cold, frosty night.

Wintertime has come.

 

 

Recapturing Shabbat

I’ve talked before about how all of my issues over the last two years caused me to fall horrendously down the ladder of observance.  I particularly miss my Shabbats.

Shabbats in Israel were particularly special to me.  I spent them usually alone with my Boy, and we’d often take some smoke on our nargila (hookah) which I know is BAD but which we found to be SO Israeli and so relaxing, to start our Shabbat.  We’d listen for the Shabbat siren to sound signaling when we’d watch the Jerusalem sun begin to set and we’d light candles together.  Then we’d bless the wine and challah I’d bought that day and have the wonderful meal I’d cobbled together.

I loved it.  WE loved it.

Then we came back and were separated and even though eventually we were brought back together, baruch Hashem, I’d seemed to have lost everything.  I was pretty much homeless and couldn’t drive.  I was living in a home that I wasn’t yet comfortable in and I wasn’t comfortable with being me.  I was deeply troubled and depressed.  That year I couldn’t even bring myself to acknowledge the High Holy Days, much less celebrate them.

I HAVE started to feel better and I feel much more at home both in my skin and in my surroundings.  I made it to Rosh Hashanah services this year and celebrated the holiday as best I could with festive meals at home but Shabbat, Shabbat has eluded me for some reason.

Oddly since Scott and I became engaged, I have stressed that it’s very important for me that he convert before we marry.  So…since he was interested anyway, he has chosen to take the step now.  And…given that, we are attending conversion classes together.

The topic this week was Shabbat and on the way home Scott said it was curious why sometimes I lit candles and sometimes I didn’t.

Right then and there I knew that as important as I knew it had been for Evan when  was growing up (and even now – he will light sometimes when I don’t but not every week) it is now just as important for Scott’s fledgling neshama…maybe more so since he is so new to ALL of this and religion in general.

So this week I got over it.  I made challah (which I HAVE been doing pretty much every week since the beginning of this year) and I baked a sour cream bundt cake for everyone to enjoy.  I made chicken in the crock pot and a cholent in the other crock pot for today.  We lit candles, blessed the children, blessed the wine and challah and ate together.  Havdallah candles were found and grape juice placed at the ready.

I made Shabbat come and I am really glad I did.  I watched the Shabbat candles glow and then fade out and I felt happy that I had tried and succeeded.

We attended services on Saturday morning and as I prayed the long lost but familiar prayers I knew they were and always would be a part of me, just like Shabbat.  I just had to make them come out and just like Shabbat…they were there all the time.

I really just had to light the candles to see that and watch it glow in everyone’s faces.

Memories – Tic Tacs, Velveeta and Baseball

I spent every summer with my grandmother to the point that a lot of my childhood memories revolve around the things that we did together and the memories I have of her.

I remember the blankets on the beds – blue flowery bankets edged in teal satin.  Her perfume – that dark brown, “grandmother” perfum from Estee Lauder called (interestingly) Youth Dew.  Her Adorn hairspray.  The aluminum gliders on the porch.  Fireflies in the twilight.  The tree in the back yard.  The peonies in the front yard.  How she would sneak a cigarette on the back porch while my grandfather was working in his study.  Laundry day and the laundry chute.  Sewing with her in the basement.  The way the books in the basement smelled and being scared of what really was behind THAT wooden door down there!

She, my grandfather and I would sit on their bed and watch the Pittsburgh Pirates play baseball on KDKA every night they were on.  If they weren’t on we would listen to them on the radio and if it was a really special night, we would go INTO Pittsburgh to see the game at Three Rivers Stadium!  I loved each of those nights and love the Buccos to this day!  I can still hear her kvell about her favourite players.  When I was an exchange student in New Zealand the Pirates made it to the World Series and not only did my grandmother send me Heinz ketchup that year but she also send me all kinds of Pirate memorabilia that was in all of the stores so I wouldn’t miss out.

She was a home ec teacher and taught school for 30 years before she retired.  My dad decided to take bartending school in Pittsburgh so while he would be in school, my grandmother would teach me to sew.  I made a really geeky polyester outfit but the time we spent together making it remains priceless. I wish I had a sewing machine even now because I love sewing that much.  When I was little and lived with her before my mom married my dad, my grandmother not only dyed her own shoes…she also made all of her own clothes.  That’s some serious respect you’re seeing from over here!

I still have her teaching cookbook which I use a lot.  Her favorite recipes are marked in it.

One thing though she couldn’t stand were vegetables and the way she choked them down was copious quantities of Velveeta melted on them.  I was basically starved at home since my parents were never there and school lunch was our only meal most of the time so this delicacy of Velveeta and broccoli or french cut green beans was like nectar!

And as far as I was concerned, her only really bad habit was her smoking.  I think because of it I can jokingly say she became addicted to Tic Tacs.  I know now that when I pop one in my mouth, that sweet vanilla mint outer coating makes me think immediately of her.  The smell of Youth Dew wafts around me and my grandmother is right there again.

I hope she knows how many memories she gave me and how very much I miss her.  She is so much a part of who I am and tehe person I have become…more so I think than even my mother.

Tic tacs, velveeta, baseball and everything.