Friday, August 27, 2004

I just discovered a fascinating online toy -- at least, it is fascinating if you've got arthritis that appears to be sensitive to the weather. Check out the Aches and Pains weather map! No wonder I like California.

I've got osteoarthritis, an inheritance from my beautiful grandmother, and I've tried being mad about it, sorry for myself, depressed, angry, and a lot of other stuff. I've taken all sorts of odd nutritional supplements: my favorite is cod-liver-oil; the useless ones are a long list. Some people swear by glucosamine and condroitin, but they did bupkes for me. I also do drugs, as needed: Motrin, Naprosyn, Cox-2 inhibitors, aspirin, Tylenol, you name it.

What works? The Egoscue Method exercises have been helpful for me. Motrin is wonderful stuff, if I go easy with it. Meditation is a blessing. Laughter is indeed good medicine. Prayer works. Sometimes cussing has its points.

Being mad about it seems to be a more constructive state of mind that being sorry for myself. Depression is just another illness -- no thanks.

I got to a point last year, before I found the Egoscue exercises, when I wondered if I was going to be able to continue my program at HUC. I hurt too much, too much of the time, to concentrate properly. I stumbled on the book at exactly the moment I needed it, and all I can figure is that both the book and my willingness to try it were gifts of heaven. I was able to get back to the serious business of learning.

During the time that I feared I would have to quit, I remember feeling trapped, because on the one hand, I can't go to rabbinical school if I can't think -- but on the other hand, the thought of quitting school was unspeakable. My life is opening up in wonderful ways: the learning itself, the work it allows me to do, the people with whom I study and the people whom I am learning to serve, all combine to make life wonderful and purposeful. It would break my heart to quit.

So arthritis is a footnote; it gets in the way, but it isn't going to get more dignity than that from me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I've intended, for a while, to mention that I've set this blog up to accept comments. If you have any, just click on " x comments" at the end of the blog, and post what you have to say.

The last blog was cut short when I was startled by the phone and pressed the buttons I use to save work in my wordprocessing program. Turns out those same buttons will post a blog. It seemed sort of an abrupt ending, but I sort of liked it, so there it stands.

My classmates and I are in the midst of our week-long Aramaic Intensive. At the end of this week, we'll be equipped to stumble blindly through the Talmud, recognizing words here and there. Genuine reading will take a bit longer, but this is a good beginning. Long days, though: we start at 8:30 and go to 2:30, and I think most of us (including the teacher) are putting away massive amounts of caffeine in order to stay alert. The stories are good, though -- have you ever heard the one about the Zoroastrian magus, the dead rabbi, and the live rabbi? Seems that there was a Zoroastrian magus who was trying to dig up a rabbi who had been buried. This may have been for nefarious purposes (the text doesn't say why he was digging) but may also have been an attempt at a Zoroastrian mitzvah [good deed] -- long story. Anyway, when he started to dig, a hand reached up from the grave and grabbed him by the beard. He was trapped until another rabbi came along and cut his beard. The moral of the story appears to be, "don't mess with rabbis, even dead ones."

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Just back from my first trip of the year to my pulpit. It's in a little town 300 miles up Hwy 99, which makes for a very long Friday (driving up before services) and a long Sunday (driving back, after religious school.)

I've been making that drive for a year now, and while initially I dreaded it, it's become part of my routine. I hate the first bit -- getting out of LA -- because I have two choices for that: do it early, during rush hour, or a bit later, when I will have to hustle for the rest of the day, but I won't have to fight rush hour on the 405. There's no good way, I've decided, just grit my teeth and drive.

As I climb the mountains and the LA radio stations begin to choke and hiss static at me , though, the scenery turns wild and beautiful and the traffic isn't bad. There's a gorgeous wilderness up there, miles and miles of it, hills that tumble on both sides of the freeway, and surprising vistas. It's not green, this time of year -- burnt browns and oranges and grays -- and you can see the scars from old wildfires, but it is beautiful as only a California wilderness is beautiful. The road passes Pyramid Lake, which has a pyramid-like island in the middle of it, and somewhere out of sight of the road there is also Castaic Lake. Those miles shake the smog out of my brain; generally I turn off the radio and drive in glorious silence.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I don't often feel the urge to go back and "fix" these entries, but my last entry had a dreadful clinker:

"I started the day by showing up for the regular minyan at a local Conservative synagogue. I decided that it was stupid, this one time in my life when I can for sure daven with a minyan every day, and I'm not doing it. So when I can be there, I will be there. "

I should clarify: *I* was being stupid. The regular minyan at Beth Am is a pleasure, and it is by no means stupid. Muddying that up was indeed a stupid writing mistake.

And now, whew, it's fixed.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Back in L.A...

Today is a stretching day, one of several I've scheduled this week. I started the day by showing up for the regular minyan at a local Conservative synagogue. I decided that it was stupid, this one time in my life when I can for sure daven with a minyan every day, and I'm not doing it. So when I can be there, I will be there. And "can" means "do not have a committment elsewhere" not "goofing off at home". (It also can't mean "I'm too embarrassed." As the rabbis point out to us, the shy do not learn.) Once school starts, I'll pray there.

Other stretches lie ahead, some I'll mention here and some I won't. One way I know that I'm really living on Jewish time these days is that the New Year really starts for me on Rosh HaShanah, and the preceding month (Elul) is the month of admitting to stuff and fixing what I can. It's Honesty Month, for mending relationships, with others and with God. I am extrapolating a bit, and including "myself" in the people with whom I need to mend things. And that is all I am going to say about that.

A month of friends and family in the Bay Area -- which I stretched to five weeks because I couldn't bring myself to go quite so soon -- was just the ticket: I feel ready to go back to school, which is truly a miracle. The hardest thing for me about L.A. is the people who aren't here; it gets lonesome. And sometimes it just has to be -- I'd be lousy company, with my nose in the books -- but another of my resolutions for the coming year is that I'm going home regularly. And phoning friends more often.

I got the dreaded exegesis paper back from Dr. Eskenazi-- the paper I agonized over most of June! -- and she liked it, she really liked it. I don't know when I've been so thrilled with a good grade on a paper; it's a lovely feeling, to put all I've got into a project and think that "that was pretty good, I think" and then hear from the teacher, "yeah, it was a good job." And what I learned, I get to keep.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Grrr. Abu Ghraib prison is back in the news.

Our tax dollars at work, folks. We paid the cretins who followed those orders, or who didn't follow orders. We paid the people who gave them the orders -- or who were supervising them so poorly that they didn't realize that the night shift was freelancing as torturers. We are paying the dog-ate-my-homework crowd in the Bush administration who could not be bothered to read a report, or to pay attention to it if they read it.

We are paying for this, every one of us, with every paycheck, with the checks we sent on April 15. Our children will be paying for it, too. I do not understand why the entire country is not up in arms to call the Bush administration to account for this.