Thursday, March 09, 2006

Queen For A Day

Purim is a strange holiday. We celebrate with noise, and rich food, and drinking. It’s a time of total joy. And in almost the same moment, we’re supposed to remember a time of great fear, and how close we can come to losing everything. It’s a day of contradictions.

It’s also a very feminine holiday. Every year at this time we read from the book of Esther, which is the only book of the Torah which is named for a woman. Unless you count Ruth. But Ruth was always the shy type, quietly threshing and sleeping at people’s feet. If she were around today, she’d be the one standing in the back row of class pictures in a hand-me-down grey cardigan, trying to disappear. The girl who ate paste. Her book was probably a pity-book.

In Esther we're presented with the stories of two queens, Esther, and before her, Vashti. Each has a very different story to tell. Esther was the “good” queen, the chosen queen, with yellow feathers in her hair and her dress cut down to there. Vashti, on the other hand, was rebellious to Ahashuerus, the king. She came and she gave without taking [her clothes off]. But he sent her away [to her death]. The Hebrew leaves more questions than answers. Is the story simply a good girl / bad girl thing? Or an exploration of what it means to be a wife?

Sometimes I feel like I’m living parallel lives. There’s the me who spends her day coding, then comes home to my husband, and my stepkids, and my dogs. The “good” me. And then there’s the other me, the one who shaves my head, puts on a leotard and paints myself in Pantone Blue #2746 as a member of Blue Man Group. It’s a dichotomy. Am I a better spouse when I come home to Ted after holding a mouse than I am after a long night beating a timpani with a mallet?

I think this year, after the last batch of blueberry hamantaschen come out of the oven, I’m going to try something new. Instead of sending them to all the people I know as gifts from myself and my family, I’ll write on the tags that they’ll be gifts from me. From both of me.

NotMirty’s Special Hamentaschen Recipe:

7 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup milk (use rice milk for pareve cookies)
3 eggs
1 small can of blueberry pie filling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F .

In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Mix in shortening. Once the shortening is well blended, stir almond
flavoring and milk into the dough at the same time, followed by eggs.

Roll out dough onto a floured surface, using a floured rolling pin. Roll the dough thick. Cut out circles and fill with pie fillings (or other fillings), then fold into triangles.
Arrange on cookie sheet to allow for 25% expansion

Bake at 375 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until bottom is golden.

Smash with a hammer against a white wall, to the sounds of Frank Zappa’s “Jazz From Hell”

Sunday, March 05, 2006


The other night, I curled up with a hot cup of cocoa, the dogs tucked under my feet, and found myself thinking about ducks.

Not the kind that you eat, although those can be really tasty, especially when you get the cooking time right (a feat I finally accomplished after much experimenting and struggling with temperatures in my new oven and cookware.

No, I mean the live kind of duck, with feathers, and webbed feet. When I was a girl growing up, there were three kinds of ducks. There were "our” mallard ducks, that came to visit us like clockwork every spring to the pond in the park, only to depart again every fall with the first sign of frost. There were the tall ones that lived across town, whom my parents called the Rosens, even though their names were really the Abramowitzes. And then there were my grandparents.

My grandmother in particular was a beautiful old bird, with soft downy wings and a preference for milled corn over aquatic plants that she must have brought with her from her native Poland.

My parents didn’t talk much about her, possibly because of the duck thing, though it could have been because she lived upstairs from us and the walls were thin, making it difficult to say anything without her hearing. When she died, the house seemed ten times emptier without the sounds of her flat-footed waddling emanating across the floors.

Now, later in life, I realize that perhaps her feet weren’t so broad. Perhaps instead, the road was narrow. The Chassidic storyteller Rav Nachman of Bratslav once said, the entire world is a narrow road. Although actually, he said it was a narrow bridge, not a road. Which is an even better analogy, since ducks can swim under bridges, something they can’t do with a road. So take your pick. It all reminds me of another great work from my childhood, Make Way for Ducklings.

I think I need to buy new shoes.

Yee Ha!

As you may know, I live in Texas. One thing that seems to set this part of the country apart is how many people seem to have pickup trucks and cowboy boots. As someone who still considers myself a recent transfer from the East no matter how long I’ve lived here, I don’t know much about trucks or boots; so I resisted their, to me, foreign charms.

Until recently. Now I’m thinking I might reconsider.

As far as I can tell, there are a few qualities to look for when choosing a pair of boots or a truck:

  • Heel height (for boots)
  • Wheel height (for trucks)
  • Coloring and detail of embroidery (boots)
  • Whether it comes in red (pretty much either, unless you are a man, in which case most people think the boots would look “girly.”)

My husband, Ted, who is more pragmatic, only looks for one thing in a pair of boots or a truck, which is where to put his gun rack. This makes him much more of a Texan than I am, I guess.

Life is Short

It’s so easy to get caught up in things that wear you down, or that you don’t particularly enjoy. This year, I’m trying to make more of an effort to get the most out of life, in all its aspects.

As part of my new outlook, I’ve decided, whenever possible, to combine the things I have to do with the things that I love to do, to perk up the experience. For example, my job and my children.

So, here is a picture of Meiko with a Photoshopped sombrero:

Full-contact Judaism

For years I’ve been struggling with issues of Jewish affiliation and how it lines up with my sense of faith. From the Orthodox Judaism of my youth, to the disassociation of my middle years, to my recent slow reconnection back to tradition, questions of what I feel and what I believe have grown and receded with the seasons. It’s a balancing act. Some days I don’t know where I stand, and others I know, but am unsure why.

And then today it hit me. Why have I spent so many years grappling with Judaism, when there’s a simple answer waiting right in front of me? Today instead of wrestling with Judaism, I will be wrestling directly with my rabbi. I have challenged Rabbi Horowitz to a no-holds-barred match, in the social hall of Beth Shalom. I’m thinking smackdown, rumble-style, maybe a few folding chairs to keep things interesting. He’s only 5'8" and 190 pounds or so, so I’m pretty sure I can take him, or at any rate it’ll be a fair fight. There will be light refreshments afterwards, sponsored by the sisterhood.

Costume-wise, I’ve studied WWE tapes and tights seem to be de rigueur, so I’ve dug up a pair from back when I worked on coding for Microsoft, and a harness I put together out of tefillin straps and empty mayonnaise jars to demonstrate my ambiguity between the Jewish and the secular worlds. Plus a mask made out of an old tichel (Orthodox married women’s head covering) to keep him guessing. I am still deciding on a name, though I am leaning toward the Shprintzinator, after my great-grandmother Bubbe Shprintze. Your alternate suggestions are welcome.

The winner will either embrace a life committed to Torah and mitzvot and regular shul attendance (me), or McDonalds and loose women (him). Best two out of three wins. The cantor has offered to referee. I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off work to work on pile drives.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner.

I Once Was Lost, But Now I'm Found

Time for another roundup of the searches people used to find my blog... as always, a few surprises on the list:

Hot Juicy Ladies
Babes Babes Babes
Adult Male Massage
Girl-On-Dog Love (not all that surprising, come to think of it)
Anonymous Groping
Catholic schoolgirls

Time Out For Some Prose

It was one of those perfect late afternoons, just before nightfall, the sunset leaving russet swirls that lingered hauntingly on the tops of lampposts and parked cars. I could feel the edges of a soft welcome breeze against my hair, a rarity in the dry Texas climate this time of year. I jingled my keys. The sound was somehow reassuring in the empty quiet of the ending day. It was time to head home.

Crossing the parking lot, I found myself humming a familiar melody, one I had known since my youth. It expressed a fond desire, of wishing I was a cooked luncheon meat, tubular in shape, with a man’s name. It was what I truly wished to be. Even without words, the lingering melody expressed a wish for love. Of love from - and though it was never stated, for - everyone, in all the world.

Shabbat Shalom.