Friday, December 31, 2004

I love living on the Jewish calendar. This is only ONE of my New Years.

2004 could have been a lot worse -- at least, for me -- but it certainly had its bumps. And it was an awful year for some folks.

Here's hoping for a New Year of blessing and peace, of growth and friendship, of challenges met and wisdom gained. My own life feels so rich and blessed I hardly know where to begin giving thanks.

For all of you who are my friends, who have encouraged me on my way, thank you so much for being there. Life is good: Keep coming back.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

If any of you are curious about my student pulpit, there was a very nice article in the Merced Sun-Star which is still available online.

Finished the history paper last night, praise be. The lesson plan in the second part is not the best thing to emerge from my word processor, but I never could imagine why any group of laypeople would even be interested in the historiographical debate around the relationship between Sabateanism and Lurianic kabbalah. (See, I knew you'd be interested.) Although it did give me an idea for a learning series that might be fun: a series of six meetings or so on "great debates" in Jewish tradition, with a focus on how our sages and rabbis go about a "dispute for the sake of heaven." It could be a very interesting way to look at the tradition, especially since we all still love to argue.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

After a brief break to celebrate Jamie's 21st birthday, I'm back at work. Everything must be done by Jan. 3.

Someone asked me today what I'm planning to do on New Year's Eve. "Type," I replied.

I've been a mom for 23 years; it's 21 years since that last trip to the labor room. I looked at the pictures from the party and realized, yeah, I'm definitely getting older. That isn't a bad thing, but it is certainly an odd thing. The gray hairs don't bug me, but the lines and the effects of gravity sure do!

Anything I might be cranky about, though, pales before the news from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and other places affected by the tsunami. I am upset with the response -- or lack thereof -- by our government; not sure yet what I want to do about that.

Incidentally, if you are looking for news about the affected areas, or for ways to help, check out The South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I'm disgusted, what about you?:

The families of American servicepeople are being forced to go to food banks and to seek other kinds of financial help because the breadwinner's military service is bankrupting the family:

'People may work with the bank to pay a little less on their mortgage each month,' Cerf says. 'But all the rest of their bills are the same — utilities, car bills, clothes for the kids. Food is generally the last thing on their budget.'" (USA Today, Dec 24, 2004)

Think about it: imagine those spouses and families. Your spouse, or your dad, used to live at home and make decent money. Now, though, he or she is thousands of miles away, in a very dangerous place doing dangerous work. On top of that, there's much less money, and you are forced to go to the bank to "work things out" so you can stay in your house, forced to go to the food bank so the kids won't go hungry, forced to accept charity for things like Christmas presents.

One of my sons (the Navy reservist) asked all his family and friends to give money to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, instead of giving him birthday presents when he turns 23 on January 9.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Here is another reason I love to live in California -- a photo of the northeastern United States taken from space this week:

It's my favorite temp here right now: coolish but not cold, sunny days, nippy evenings. Southern California in the wintertime is very, very nice.

The papers soldier on: I've almost finished the one for Jewish Thought, after which Midrash, Prophets, and History lie in wait for me. It's hard not to pause over some new and wonderful idea, and JT has been full of those. I never thought that Kabbalah would be either interesting or useful -- everything I'd read about it, and the current pop-culture popularity-- had turned me off. It seemed to me that it was a body of text that allowed for cherry-picking for colorful texts, and a bunch of mystical-sounding stuff useful to charlatans, and not much else, whatever it might have been in the past.

Well, I was wrong. I am seeing possibilities in the theological model of the sefirot (I'm not even going to try to give you a link to explain that phrase) for dealing with everything from the problem of evil to more mundane issues, like why it is that the road to hell is so often paved with good intentions.

Back to work.

Friday, December 17, 2004

OK, that last post was a big pity party. Here's something better:

I just found out that for $25, a person can sponsor a USO care package for a U.S. serviceman or woman serving overseas. I am personally very grateful that neither of my young men are far off in a scary place right now, but lots of other mothers' children are far from home and in need of gratitude and TLC.

Whatever your feelings about the war, take a look at USO Cares.

Shabbat shalom.

I am drowning in assignments. Our break, such as it is, runs from Dec 24 until Jan 10 and I am pretty clear now that the real break will run for the three days I celebrate the boys' birthdays with them. This year Jamie will be 21, and Aaron 23.

Right now, looking at the pile on my table and spilling out of my briefcase, I feel 102. Worst of all, I am aware that my biggest problem is my attitude: I'm tired, I'm cranky, and I don't wanna.

Mount St. Helen's is still there, majestic on my laptop screen. Yes, Virginia, there is a place called "outdoors."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I've handed in my Pastoral Counseling paper, and Homiletics is over. Tonight I plan to get as much done as possible (maybe finish?) the Jewish Thought take-home exam. Then all I have left are papers and projects for Midrash, Prophets, History, and ... hmm... I'm forgetting something. Something.

Yup, I'm a little ragged around the edges. I had a sobering weekend, with the blowout of a tire on my car at 70 mph on the freeway. I'm OK, the car is OK, the tire is, of course, toast, but it could have been so much worse that I am giggly and grateful whenever I think about it. Delano, CA, is a pretty nice place.

In case there isn't enough strangeness in your life this week, take a look at the Humm section of the Llama Question and Answer website. (It was chosen by Llama Life II Magazine for their first ever Notable Llama Website Award.)

I like llamas. Sometimes I think it would be fun to have a llama to tote my books and follow me around; a briefcase llama, like the ones I saw in Peru, trotting after their people, carrying panniers of files. I don't think my landlord would buy the argument that it isn't a pet, it's an assistant, though.

Also on my list of fantasies: the laundromat/beit midrash [house of study]. Where else are there big tables and time to pass?

Yes, it's the end of the term. Be well, and may all your tires roll safe and sound.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Chanukah sameach! [Happy Chanukah!]

I'm on my way north in a few minutes to spend the weekend with my congregation up in the Central Valley. I'm toting a briefcase full of things I should study, papers in progress, etc., but I know it is unlikely I'll get to any of it. These weekends are full all by themselves. I'm looking forward to a baby-naming tonight, along with the usual Chanukah excitement: dreidels, singing, making sufganiot [Israeli jelly doughnuts], and latkes [potato pancakes], and of course, rivers of candle wax!

Glad to see that my baby brother is reading this blog, although I am truly sorry about the Moon Pie in the keyboard! I know it is a long way from Leiper's Fork to Merced (geographically anyway -- in other ways, they are closer than you might think) but if you want to have my share of sufganiot, it's yours!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I think I've mentioned it before, but I've grown inexplicably fond of the Mt. St. Helens VolcanoCam. If you haven't seen it, take a look -- although today it is completely fogged in, with some rain drops on the camera lens, for good measure.

I never know what I'm going to get when I click on that link. Sometimes it is a magnificent view of a still-magnificent mountain, with a curl of steam from the crater. Sometimes it is fogged in, partially or completely. Sometimes, at night, when the crater is glowing, all I can see are a few lit-up pixels. Occasionally it is bizarre, as it is when a bug takes a siesta on the camera lens.

Once in a while I catch a magnificent sunset.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

This Shabbat was darn near perfect. Aaron rode down for a visit this weekend, and arrived just after dark on Friday. This afternoon we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which I hadn't yet visited. (Last year my mobility problems were just too bad for art museums, and this year I' ve been too busy.) Anyway, Aaron's my favorite bud for museum wandering.

We moseyed around an exhibit of Mexican and Peruvian pre-Columbian art -- some of it wonderful, some of it quite terrible (as in terrifying) but all very interesting. I'd never heard of the civilization in the far west part of Mexico; I've forgotten the name now, but their art was spare and elegant. The Aztecs, Incas, and other more familiar folks were also well represented.

Then we rode an elevator up to the Islamic art collection, which was small but powerful. I love looking at Islamic calligraphy, and there were some very lovely examples. It set off some interesting thoughts concerning the Jewish Thought quad on Kabbalah - - surely there is a connection between the reverence that the Moslems had (and have) for words and for the power that the Kabbalists perceived in words and even letters. I'll have to ask my teacher about that one.

We had a great time, wandering around, looking at things, and talking about them. When the museum closed, I took him by my favorite used bookstore, and we poked around in the stacks there. Didn't bring anything home with us, but it was a lovely day.

Now I'm tired, and off to bed. More study tomorrow -- time with Aaron, too. It's so nice to have him here!

Friday, December 03, 2004

In amongst all the sturm und drang over school (and yes, it's definitely that time in the term) -- I made a lovely discovery. I learned how to cook turnip greens.

Now, you might say, what Southerner gets past the age of 12 without knowing how to do this? For me, though, the trick was that I could not figure out how to get it to "taste raht" if there were no pork in it. Not only is this a "no pig" rendition of greens, it is actually a vegan (no animal products at all) dish. (My brother, a BBQ-eating good ole boy probably choked on his RC Cola at that idea!)

First, get a pound of turnip greens. Not collards, not mustard, TURNIP greens.

Wash them, and if any part of a leaf seems to be more like baling twine than a food item, pick that part off. (Note: do not put the strings down the dispose-all, unless it is an industrial strength appliance!) Drain the edible leaves, and rip them into reasonable sized bits.

Chop an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Put a tablespoon of mild olive oil in a BIG saucepan, heat it, and when it is hot, add the onions and garlic. Saute those until they are translucent. Add the washed, drained, shredded greens. Add just enough water to make it look swampish.

This is where it gets a little hinky. Add 2 teaspoons of "Liquid Smoke," 2 packets of Splenda (if you are a sugar avoider like myself. Otherwise, 2 teaspoons of some sort of sweetener, brown sugar or molasses.) Add about 2 tsp of salt and a couple of shakes of Tobasco. Allow this to simmer on the stove for about an hour.

To serve, grab a slotted spoon and fish out some greens. Drizzle with apple cider vinegar. Particularly yummy with Hopping John (another concoction for another time.) Bliss.

Shabbat shalom, y'all.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I love studying Midrash. Here's a passage from Leviticus Rabbah, a fifth century collection of sermons and commentary:


Petichta verse (opening verse): Proverbs 29:24 -- The one who divides with a thief hates his soul -- he will hear an oath and will not tell. [In Leviticus 5:1, it says that if someone knows of wrongdoing, and hears a proclamation of an oath but does not testify, he bears the iniquity of the deed.]

Once there was one governor of Caesarea who used to beat the thieves and execute the receivers [fences of stolen goods.] The citizen were ridiculing the governor [for this policy] and said to him, "Do as is fit!" [meaning, execute the thieves!]

On the next day he sent out a hearld and he said, "All people to the open area."

He brought weasels and gave morsels to them, and closed up their dens. They seized the morsels and carried them to the dens. Finding the dens closed, they returned them [the morsels] to their place [to the original place in which they found the food.]

[He did this] to teach that all [the crime] was from [due to] the receivers. [The thieves would not be a problem, if there was no where they could take stolen goods.]


This was surely not the first case in history of a head of state with a bunch of weasels on his staff!