So we came to February

Actually, it started in January. (Actually, it started in October, but we don't need to delve into ancient history.) I had a hole in my ear, and somewhere in the ringing and the buzzing and the silence the Best Boss Ever announced that he was leaving, and they fired The Mentor, and something was very off in the reports concerning The New Ringleader. Also, I needed new running shoes and a new phone. Then the toilet started leaking, and I burst into tears.

(Mind you, I knew why the toilet was leaking, and it was nothing a quart container couldn't deal with in the short-to-mid run. But there was a lot I couldn't deal with, and I needed to depend on my plumbing.)

I told ChemGal about these things, as I do, after returning from the frigid shopping trip for the phone and the shoes, and she replied back with love and support and her own stories (as she does), culminating in an inspiring yoga photo, on facebook, reminding me that I was in the right place. Of course, at the same moment, I was opening my work email, finding a quick note from the Best Boss Ever. "Hey Math, hope things are going well, but you'd mentioned you might be interested in talking about [new company, which we shall call The Hospital]. Now's a good time to discuss, if you'd still like to have that conversation." "You sure about that 'right place' business?" I asked ChemGal, who knows when the universe is enjoying a cosmic joke.

We had that conversation, and damned if BBE did not have the exact kind of job I wanted, in discipline that I love, in a type of company that made a great deal of sense for a ten-year-plan I was beginning to flesh out. Oh, and in a building that was an acceptable commute* away. I decided that we should talk some more. Meanwhile, The New Ringleader had joined us. At least in theory. He had not yet spoken to any of us, or looked anyone in the eye.

I called a plumber, and lo and behold the first appointment was the same day as I'd scheduled the phone interview. I took the day off to deal with the plumbing. The New Ringleader hadn't said anything yet, so I felt pretty secure that there would be no questions about this. Then The Mentor texted--the exiled gang was getting together for drinks that afternoon, and I should come out. I did. And while I tried to focus on being a friend and a sounding board for her, it also came to pass that she knew about BBE's plans**, and she and Former Awesome-Enough Boss encouraged me to actively re-imagine my future, to seek out whatever it was I wanted. And I walked away that night knowing that they all believed in me. And the next day, The New Ringleader tried to address The Band, and failed miserably, and I rage-shopped for new suits for the interview with BBE, and any other interview I could get. They are amazing suits. I was afraid to buy them, but I remembered that Mentor believed in me, and BBE believed in me, and FA-EB believed in me. And also that I looked fucking amazing.

That next morning, I had a talk with myself; under what circumstances would I take a pay cut, what did I truly make now, and what did I really need to keep going. And then I was right about the plumbing issue, which was easily resolved, and the phone interview went beautifully. Then it snowed 20 inches in a single day; it was February.

And right after my disastrous "introduction" to The New Ringleader, within minutes I mean, I left the office for an afternoon at The Hospital. Everyone was used to me wearing fancy suits for meetings, and for leaving the office to take those meetings. I suppose I could have gotten away without taking the time off, if I'd felt like being sneaky. But I wanted to remain the sort of person they all believed in. The sidewalks were clear enough for high-heeled boots. The interview was good, and I left in a freak snowstorm, on my way to a crazy-awesome volunteer event with a wacky crowd from College Green. (I changed clothes in the bathroom of a coffee shop.)

There were bits of drama along the way but it was always clear that BBE and I wanted the same outcome, and fast. One day, I had to approach First Boss and ask for a recommendation. He said all the right things, and as always was too honest, and so I remembered that First Boss believed in me, too, and always had, and that was why all this was possible. As things got more awful with The New Ringleader, I would chant that under my breath: the Mentor believed in me and First Boss believed in me and FA-EB believed in me and BBE did, too. I could do this. They all had my back. And The Band had each other's backs, as we always have, banding together to survive the insanity that has so nearly consumed us. Do not discount The Band in this story, though they never knew what I was doing and how I needed them every step of the way.

Eventually BBE and I got what we wanted (I got more than I wanted, as a matter of fact, and I'm more than a little surprised at that). The Band reacted to my news with universal delight, of the sort you expect from your friends but are warmed and sustained by nonetheless. And I have a strange little mantra of support, and that is how I lived through February.

*OK, in theory I hop on a bus three blocks away, and exit said bus in front of the building. In reality, I do not think I can trust rush hour traffic. But with a 4-6 block walk, I have a very nice commute, which will be pleasant in good weather.
**There are hints that this was Mentor's idea; certainly she encouraged the idea (she and BBE were "work spouses"). She will never tell, I will never know, but I do love the thought.

Dear self,

When you don't go around the house singing, it's a pretty good sign that you're not happy. I mean, maybe it was a little bit because of the ear infections and the deafness and the laryngitis that you got out of the habit. But mostly it wasn't, and you know that about yourself. Don't hide behind lies.

It's good to hear your voice again.
love, Me.

Things I want to do in 2015

Definitely not resolutions. Not really goals. Just stuff I don't want to get lost in the pursuit of other stuff.

1. Set up the guestroom, including buying a rolltop desk if I can find the right one.
2. Hang up the gallery wall
3. Read a little Megillat Esther again. Maybe the same portion, maybe different.
4. Crochet a rug for the sunroom.
5. Consider learning all of the Torah readings for Hanukkah (only applies if all 8 are as alike as the 4th, 5th, and 6th appear to be--I read the 4th this year and realized I could sightread the next two from the chumash).
6. Achieve some of the goals I have for my new leadership role (there's no way to do everything that needs to be done, which luckily everyone realizes)
7. PR in My Favorite Race
8. Re-learn how to turn while swimming laps, in pursuit of actually swimming laps
9. Take a solo trip, no matter how short (Detroit? Memphis? Nashville? Austin?)
10. Try new challah recipes
11. Experiment with lacework
12. Keep on picklin'

Year In Review, 2014

So what if I'm the only person in the blogosphere who still does this? This is a completely unbreakable tradition by now, damn it.

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?
Ran a half marathon. Bought real estate. Got re-orged. (or re-ogred. Take your pick.)

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
“Just say Yes” lead to untold adventures…and several moments of, “What the hell did I just agree to?”

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No. How ‘bout that?

4. Did anyone close to you die?
The year's not over, so, not yet.

5. What countries did you visit?
It’s a whole new world down here in College Green.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
This sounds selfish but…single friends.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Moving Day? The Perfect Visit with ChemGal? Life In The Territories?

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I have to pick just one?

9. What was your biggest failure?
I suppose I could have done more in the professional advancement category.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Who needs knees, anyway? (Also, who needs to hear? In 2015, I would like an intact eardrum, kthxbai.)

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A 21st century crockpot.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Life is one unending party around here.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
More than a few members of police forces (most of whom are upstanding citizens and everyday heroes. But the bad apples are such appalling poor excuses for human beings).

14. Where did most of your money go?
See “real estate,” item 1.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
You mean, besides everything exciting in College Green?

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
I am so lucky that I don’t actually know the words to “Let It Go.”

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier.
ii. thinner or fatter? fatter. Please let me be allowed to run, soon.
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, in so many ways.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?.
Applied Statistics?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Arguing with the lawyers at work

20. What was the best thing you ate?
Warm squash hummus.

21. What was the best thing you drank?
Blaum Brothers, particularly their gin. Though Pumking and Painted Lady are close behind....

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

23. How many one-night stands?
That would have been a good idea.

24. What was your favorite TV program?
Y'all should be watching Jane the Virgin. You're welcome.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

26. What was the best book you read?
Probably “The Fault In Our Stars” or something by Rainbow Rowell, because I am not really an adult.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The old-skool iPod connectors at my new gym

28. What did you want and get?.
Saw the Cubs play in Spring Training!!

29. What did you want and not get?.
A late Arts-and-Crafts or Mission-style table, scaled to fit my long, narrow dining room.

30. What was your favorite film of this year?
Hahahaha. As if I went to the movies, even once.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
What day is that, again?

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
I’m not sure that’s possible. Oh, right, a little #23.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
A hat makes everything better.

34. What kept you sane?
Three cheers for impossible goals!

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Possibly Ta-Nehsi Coates.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Ferguson, Missouri.

37. Who did you miss?
Whenever I meet up with the Ace Gang, I realize how much it sucks that we're all spread out.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Too many to count—CollegeGreen is getting a little too awesome, though the Partnership Minyanaires figure heavily into the total, too.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014:
Saying yes leads so many more adventures…and quite a few moments of, “What the f*ck am I doing?”

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year
“If you’re lucky you’ll find some [place] that reflects you/makes you feel your life protects you/cradles you and connects you to everything…” Dar Williams, The Hudson

In failure we succeed

In a moment of intense holiday-shopping fail (combined with December over-scheduling dilemmas), I announced, "FINE. Everyone who is impossible to shop for is getting a damn book."

It occurred to me that the DadNerd was probably totally cool with this, but neither of the GrandNerds so punished was known to really read much, or anyway read much that I was willing to buy. But let us recap:
1. I don't care. One set of GrandNerds does not buy gifts, the other GrandNerd does not seem to enjoy receiving them.
2. One set of GrandNerds is appreciative of grocery gift cards, and honestly does kind of need the help. But I am fully okay with helping outside of holiday gifts. The other GrandNerd does not need financial help and proudly showed me his two-year-old Applebee's giftcard (which, yes, could be interpreted as an asshole move).

In a stroke of genius, I did search cafepress and found a t-shirt "from" an important site in the DadNerd's favorite scifi series. No new books in that series, alas, but I made a trip to the Famous Museum and found a Nerd Hacks book that I thought might serve up an amusing project or two. I scoured Amazon for 1)A book about one GrandNerd's ancestral hometown and 2) a coffee-table type book about a certain type of car that the other GrandNerd had once amateur raced. (Yeah, I should have shopped locally, but would have struck out on book #1 for sure. Also, the only bookstores with such wares in CollegeGreen are secondhand, which would have disturbed both.) I couldn't quite find a picture-rich book about the specific cars I wanted (I've never seen said GrandNerd read more than glorified advertising copy), so settled for a more general tome about the heyday of hot rods. Whatever. Done. (and, in large part, shipped to the NerdRents' house).

In the past four days, the DadNerd has not shut up about dozens of the 200+ projects in his book. (He's getting quite serious about building a rock-climbing wall on the garage. Sorry, MomNerd, but I bet he'll make you those pill-bottle sparklers, too.) I actually feel a little guilty about this one, as Muse and the BoM got him an awesome toy that he has not opened (they did forget the batteries, but DadNerd could have grabbed some at work on Friday).

GrandNerd opened his hometown history right before an unexpected hiatus in gift-opening, and did not bitch during the 15 minute wait while he thumbed through the text and identified pictures (side bonus--the other half of these GrandNerds has always claimed she was hidden in the grease pit of a garage while gangsters raged through the town. No one believes this story...but the history book clearly chronicles an incident with appropriate dates and includes mention of a garage where GreatGrandNerd was known to work. Different gangsters than she claimed, but still notorious...this really may have happened). Win for the whole family!

We don't have a structured gift-giving time with the other GrandNerd, so I slipped over to give him his present while most of the others were distracted. As I handed it too him, he responded with a very grumpy-sounding, "It feels like a BOOK." I bit my tongue, because seriously? When he finally managed the paper, he remembered his manners: "Well, hey! The Art of the Hot Rod!" Blessedly, he opened the book and found of picture of a finely restored 30-something something-or-other "That's almost like the '36 something-else I had!" "When did you drive that?" That followed with a story about the time he was kicked out of a stock-car race for being underage...and we flipped through the whole book together, interspersed with some stories about the 1950's small town race circuit and a couple of slams on some great-uncles. I'm pretty sure we've never had a conversation that long, or that positive. When we'd finally exhausted the pictures (and he'd noted, with glee, several of the restorers named in essays accompanying the photos--"I guess I'll be able to turn off the teevee and read something for a change!"), he forced the BoM and several uncles to page through the highlights (yet another reason for uncle Judgypants to be annoyed with me, but whatevs).

I'm sure there's a powerful lesson in here about accepting good enough, and reaping the rewards. I'm happy just to remember this as the holiday I actually talked to all of the GrandNerds...and the one where I learned how to reduce my travel weight, by shipping the gifts!

Fantastic Pickles I Made This Summer

(A "remember to do next year" post)

Begin with this recipe. Recall that the vinegar will not cover the veg slices. Because any thinly sliced vegetable is fantastic in this recipe, and also green or yellow or purple beans.

-Do actually get the pickling cucumbers at the farmer's market
-you can totally make these in quart ziplocs, if you're taking them to someone's house, because no one else understands that glass jars are sacred.
-Add garlic to the above recipe. And also a little honey because it's kind of harsh. And use about half of the salt because other people thought it was overboard, too. Use big flowers of dill when you can get them, in addition to chopped, because pretty.
-Radishes would be fantastic. Try that next year.
-to one of the jars, add hot pepper flakes and cracked black pepper
-Green or Yellow or Purple beans with onion, red pepper, and garlic
-Yellow squash, green beans, red pepper, garlic
-zucchini with garlic and slices of hot pepper
-Beets with garlic chives and fresh oregano
-Beet with oregano and onion and thyme. And garlic. Use more honey.
-Kohlrabi with chives and sage and a lot of garlic and some thinly sliced white onion.
-At Pesach, beg someone who owes you favors to pick up bottles of as many kinds of kosher vinegar as possible. (There are several such people, at least inasmuch as grabbing a few things that you'll pay them back for or even front them cash for is concerned.) Although you can do a lot with Heinz and a little honey and some onion and garlic powder.
-If you come into a bounty of scapes again, make a jar of just scape pickles
-You also wanted to try jalapenos. Add garlic.

Also, call Mom for the red onion, garlic, olive oil, fancy vinegar and salt pickle that goes on the watermelon-avocado salad.

What's not working

I had groceries delivered yesterday. And it was beautiful, not waiting for a bus on perhaps not the safest corner all loaded down with too much stuff, not hauling the groceries the blocks to the bus and from the bus, being able to just buy stuff without that weird calculus of how many cans and how much bulk and oh, crap, eggs. I only ordered heavy things and bulky things and breaky things and leaky things (and a few indulgent things which were all out of stock or just too weird for the shopper, I suppose), and they were all carried to my door and now I have enough to last several weeks (all hail free delivery!), assuming I buy produce around the corner and make just one run for yogurt and almond milk and dried frust.

There's something that's not working out with my time, of late. My commutes are shorter, and fewer; the gym is not daily (which is another thing that's not working); and yet it seems like there's never enough time. A look at the calendar makes it all clear, of course; there's the board and the craft circle and the faraway minyan and the evenings with friends. But that still doesn't answer why I struggle to wake up at the pre-ass-crack of dawn, and why I'm not tired late into the night (okay, the latter is a lifelong condition, but the first one is a new and disturbing development).

I tried to make myself find a housecleaner, because that is supposedly the answer to all issues. But a housecleaner won't put my clothes in the hamper or put the books back on the shelf or wash my dishes (well, not all the time) and anyway I can do all of that in the wee hours of the night. It's the groceries, the big staples of which need to be bought in full daylight and can only be purchased in the quantities I can carry, that were complicating the schedule. (Also the cold. Housework, lord love my radiators, is very not cold.) And yet I feel odd about this decision in a way I don't feel strange about a housecleaner, in a way that I think is beyond giving up the agency of selecting my food. It seems to be the feel of having the wrong answer work better than the right one, and I'm not okay with that line of thought.

Thanks. I think.

So today I got outed as the freak with no plans for Thanksgiving.

And by no plans, I do mean no plans. I could have gone back to the 'Burg, of course, but none of the Cousins of Awesomeness will be around (and it's not clear that Muse and the BoM were ever planning to, either) and car troubles have stranded R in the Western Gateway (and, fine, I am that horrible person who's unwilling to travel on the craziest Amtrak day of the year to see a bunch of relatives that I don't really grok) (I am such a terrible person). At one point, I started counting my options...I could have proposed a Friendsgiving here (kosher vegetarian Thanksgiving? Even I think that sounds disastrous), and I stopped counting after five families I could have horned in on, and three sets of friends who would have taken me as their perky third wheel. (My personal favorite, "The Other Kind of Indian" with Muse and the BoM, is off the table since he has parents and all.) And I knew I was cool with my decision to abstain.

I briefly considered a pair of friends who are so not American, and thought of suggesting that we pack up to the Other Side and go out for Indian, as an in-joke. But I've promised to attend the College Green Interfaith Love-In and Protest Song Drum Circle with Optional Interpretative Dance (I exaggerate slightly), and I hate scheduling complications. And...well...I'm not quite ready for Thanksgiving.

I should like Thanksgiving. I do like Thanksgiving, in concept. Yaaay 'Murica and all of that, and of course it's the one holiday I can celebrate with anyone, without guilt. It's about making too much food, which is one of my favorite things ever, and socially acceptable to have as many desserts as guests (well, not unacceptable, anyway). But Thanksgiving was important a long time ago, in my old life, only it never turned out the way anyone wanted it to. And that got angry and that got blaming and that somehow seemed to become my fault because I'd grown up differently and trashily (or because I'd immersed others in it, as in this incident). And then there was a second family outing on Friday night, and an angry brunch on Sunday morning...and I hate that this still gets to me, but there you go*.

(I had what I hope will be my last migraine ever in the aftermath of one of those Thanksgivings. I am thankful every day that I'm not reliving that.)

I've starting going home at Christmastime, thanks to the cousin presence, and I can generally enjoy it. I've catapulted myself into the Best.Pesachs.Ever. But I still can't even at New Year's, and Thanksgiving still makes me nervous. Last year I did a three-way lie to cover my tracks (sorry, JQ. Or did I not lie to you and just tell my sister that I was going to be at your house?), but now I live where I know people and it's too likely I'd get caught. If I was invited somewhere, I decided to accept, but I wasn't going to seek an invitation.

So when the aforementioned friends asked me when I was leaving for my Thanksgiving cooking extravaganza (they'd mixed it up with my Passover Exodus), I corrected them and admitted to my lack of plans. "Oh no!" they replied, "we were going to ask you over but thought you would be in Philadelphia!" And in my absence they'd accepted plans with a second set of mutual friends, where I will also be welcomed. And if that's how it works out, that's fine with least four children will be overjoyed to have their chief piggyback-rider in residence, and I bet they'll let me make the MomNerd's pies, which I think can be done in pareve margarine. But a tiny bit of me wishes I'd been strong enough to say, "I'm going to College Green Interfaith Love-In and Protest Song Drum Circle with Optional Interpretative Dance, then heading home to wrap up in a blanket and drink moonshine while watching a marathon of Thanksgiving episodes of Roseanne."

*(Unrelated. I taught a friend's tween to play Scrabble a few weeks ago, in the process accidentally creating my perfect opponent--we both value a good joke over a good score, and will chatter obnoxiously about the [often quasi-dirty] words we could have created if only' we'd had this one letter. I put out the list of 2 letter words and words containing X, Q, and Z, because I didn't think it fair that a newbie had to compete with my memorization. When he asked, I didn't know how to tell a twelve-year-old that I forced myself to get competitive at Scrabble in a hurry because it was the only thing my ex-out-laws enjoyed and didn't fight about. Mostly because I'd never quite realized that motivation myself.)

The truth about this relationship

People ask me what I like so much about living in College Green (some curiously, some incredulously). I have stock answers that I pick from (community, simplicity, the similarity to the People's Republic, the pink Queen Anne duplex across the street) and they are true and they usually satisfy.

But it's more complicated than that. I get off the train in College Green and after a few steps I can feel myself begin to relax, no matter what has happened (and, believe me, it's been a month where much has transpired). I still smile when I remember that, oh yeah, I live here. And of course I can feel that way because College Green is magic, but I also know that, for now at least, College Green is the place where bad things haven't happened.*

That is not a thing we say, and that is not a thing that lasts forever. I try, in so many things that I do, to make College Green a place that will support me when the bad things come, and to support those in College Green who are facing the bad. But I will not know if that is enough until things are bad, and of course that requires that the going get tough.

*Of course, this is a defense of "is like the People's Republic."

Where I am/where I've been

There's a Torah portion, that happened a few weeks ago, that basically consists of the HOBBH telling the Jews, "these are all the ways I can screw you over. Don't f it up." And by all the ways, I mean columns and columns of really awful crap. You sorta begin to wonder why we'd put our trust in someone with such an evil imagination, and it's tedious to listen to even if your Hebrew is terrible. I'd like to pretend that this makes us empathetic to those who are beaten down and get smacked down again, every time they try to get up...but you've probably listened to five minutes of international news this summer and yeah, not really a Jewish emotion.

Anyway. So, every week, members of the community come forward, read blessings over the Torah, and then stand as the reader chants the portion or maybe sometimes chant it themselves (in some communities it is considered tacky to mix these responsibilities, which might embarrass those who do not have the skills to read. In some communities, there are not enough adults to separate the tasks. And, in some communities, people don't overanalyze every action). It's also traditional to end each portion with a positive statement. So, if there are two-and-a-half columns of unrelenting curses, someone stands there for two-and-a-half columns. Someone takes those curses on behalf of the community.

Yeah, that's right. Someone just stands there and takes vitriol (in this case being read by a tiny, steely, 70-something total badass). Traditionally, that person should be a leader in the community, publicly generally well-behaved, and not embroiled in any immediately obvious sadnesses (lest anyone interpret the curses as deserved for indiscretion, or causing further hurt, and of course said person needs to be able to weather any troubles acquired from said experience). In College Green, we also consider how that person needs to be able to stand unassisted for a length of time, to have the upper body strength to roll the Torah as the columns pass, and ideally understand Torah reading well enough to know when those column rolls should come. (Oh, and be able to remain on the bimah, without needing to attend to children, for several minutes.) It's not the biggest intersection in our little Venn diagram, but I was still surprised to find myself called up for (as said badass Torah reader noted, while I was reciting the blessings) "the Big Curse."

It's an honor, I was reminded afterward, and I understand it as such. It's not really so unpleasant when one is able-bodied and gets a kick out of rolling the scroll, especially when one it is a beginning Torah reader who can learn from the repetitive language of the curses. And of course you get to ruminate on what it feels like to be constantly cut down and mistrusted by authority, though probably I'm the only person who thinks about that during Torah readings.

But it really makes you think a lot of thought when that steely badass, whose life has put her through several circles of modern-female hell (and whose life, you recently have come to appreciate, might have closely approximated your life had you been born a generation earlier), when this woman you admire and frankly hope to become at least a faint shadow of says to you, alongside the reminder of the honor of taking the curses, "Oh, it's a good thing you're strong."

(Yeah, okay, she at least three-quarters meant, "Because I cannot roll the Torah scroll myself, since it weighs more than I do and oh yeah, I'm busy freaking READING all of those words." Still.)