Monthly Archives: December 2006

I love you, you make me crazy

Last night, as I hugged my sister goodbye at the airport, she leaned back, looked into my eyes and said, “I love you, you make me crazy.”  I hugged her back into me and said, “Right back at ya.”

I’m back in Philly again, after a night flight that I mostly slept through.  My apartment looked totally familiar and slightly foreign when I walked in, and smelled just right.  It’s good to be home.

Five Things You Don't Know About Me

It’s the day after Christmas and I’m snuggled down in bed, enjoying my parents’ wifi signal, the blustery weather and the fact that there isn’t a thing I have to do today. Nearly a week ago Scott tagged me to participate in a meme but I’ve been running all over Portland getting ready for our “low-key Christmas” (every year we say it’s going to be small and low-key, and somehow it never is) and so I’m just getting to it now. Since I’m in my parents’ house, I have a feeling that most of these are going to be embarrassing facts about my younger self.

1. While I was growing up, there was a small pink quilt that hung on the wall next to my bed. At night I would often pick my nose and wipe it on the wall, under the quilt where no one could see it. A year or two into this habit, my mom took the quilt down in order to wash it and discovered my collection. I became known as the child who wiped her boogers on the wall. It’s a reputation that I still haven’t totally shaken, even though I now make a point of getting a Kleenex any time my hand even starts to think of wandering near my face.

2. I like to reread books. There are certain books that I have read as many as ten or fifteen times (however that’s only the average. I read “The Boxcar Children” nearly 100 times over the years). I often find myself craving particular stories or characters, and the only way to discharge the desire is to dip back into the book.

3. In college, the primary decorating theme in my bedroom was wooden crate. I built bookshelves and toiletry racks out of them, and thought myself very cool. I still have a fondness for the wooden crate, but have come to realize that it should never be the primary type of furniture in a room.

4. In my junior and senior years of high school, I was the Assembly Commissioner. It was an elected position that meant that I was responsible for planning and executing all school assemblies. One of my primary roles was setting up the sound equipment for all events that required it (although no one ever gave me a training session so I was completely stupid when it came to setting levels for the microphones and instruments). They gave me my own key to the sound equipment closet, and I would often abuse that honor by napping in there during my free period.

5. I eat ice cream out of the carton with an iced tea spoon. Putting it in a dish always feels wrong to me. When I was growing up, my dad would often pull the container of ice cream out of the freezer, wrap a dish towel around it and sit on the couch with a long-handled spoon. Raina and I would sit on either side of him and beg for bites until he told us to go get our own spoons. Those memories are so infused with pleasure that it seems unthinkable to eat ice cream any other way. Although, if I am going to be sharing with people who aren’t related to me, I will use a bowl.

I don’t like to tag people, it feels too much like inviting people to go to a kid’s fifth grade band concert, so I’m not going to do it. But if you feel like participating, please feel free.

A Happy Holiday

Candlelight service

Last night we went to the Christmas Eve service at the Portland Unitarian Church. With a couple of exceptions, I’ve been at this service every Christmas Eve for the last 18 years. In recent years it has gotten more crowded and full of faces that aren’t familiar, but it affirms the coming of Christmas Day in my heart more deeply than any last-minute shopping trip or the stuffing of stockings.

It is a candlelight service, although we only get to light our candles in the last five minutes, as we sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” from our seats (in the hopes that keeping the congregants seated will minimize the inherent hazzard of 400 people with lit candles). The minister never fails to remind us all to take care once our candles are aflame and to remember to keep them away from hair, scarves and orders of service. My mom and I hold hands as we sing, hissing once in a while, as an errant drip of hot wax escapes through the bottom of the paper protector.

After the service is one of my favorite parts of the experience, because there are frequently people there who were integral parts of my growing up years. It’s always a joy to see Ameena (who I’ve known since the age of 9) or Helen (who has helped organize the bell choirs since the late 1970’s). People come with new partners, new babies and wonderful careers (Tegan is a professional softball player in Holland).

I hope everyone has had a wonderful day. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Wishing

Christmas Wishing

We have a Christmas Eve tradition. It started some time after we stopped spending Christmas Eve at my grandma Bunny’s house in Woodland Hills, CA, and needed to create some holiday rituals that we unique to our family of two parents and two kids. Each person is given three candles and is told to think of three wishes. One is for yourself, one is for your family and one is to include the whole world. We have always gone oldest to youngest, and start with the personal wish. You are invited to share your wish if you’d like, but you are welcome to keep it to yourself as well.

We turn out the lamps, light a single taper candle and sit in the glow of the Christmas tree to cast our wishes out into the universe. This practice has made me come to believe that the act of declaring your hopes and dreams in the presence of people you love and who love you back is a powerful one.

This year we had six sets of candles to light, as a couple members of the extended family were at our house for the holidays. It was the first time they joined us in wishing. Initially I was a little worried that they would mock our practice, but they took to it with sincerity and hope. My sister half-complained that all the good world wishes are always taken when the taper comes to her, as she is always the youngest in the room. My dad said that there is absolutely no harm in lighting a second candle for peace and the practice of joy, and so she did.

A Circle is Round

I’ve been in Portland for seven days.  The time is feeling both long and leisurely  and wickedly fast.  So far, the trip has been wonderful.

I had dinner a couple of nights ago with a friend I’ve known since the sixth grade.  She and her family moved into a house four down from ours in the Southwest Portland neighborhood we lived in from 1990-1994.  I was so excited to have someone my age living down the street that I overwhelmed her slightly with my friendliness and enthusiasm.  Thankfully, she didn’t hold it against me.  She moved to Germany after college, and so I’ve probably seen her three times in the last six years.  We reconnected last February, when I had a vivid dream about her, and called her house, thinking I would ask her mom for her email address.  Only she answered the phone, home because her dad had recently died.  We’ve been in email since then and lucky for me, she relocated to Portland about a month ago.

Seeing her was a delight and so easy.  There’s something about old, old friends that makes them feel like family, and it is possible to relax in their presence down to the insides of your being.  I feel lucky to have people like that in my life.

Last night I went to see my sister perform at the Alberta Pub.  She’s been playing the Free Hot Cocoa Happy Hours there all December, and loves the notion of free hot cocoa almost as much as having the gig.  We walked into the pub, shedding the tension of a minor family disagreement as we moved into the light and warmth of the room.  Waiting inside, sipping a glass of hot apple cider, was Raina’s middle-school best friend, Kelen.  Raina hadn’t seen her in nearly eight years, and it had been more like ten for me.  She is living a happy life, doing something she loves on the first try out of grad school.  I tried to emphasize, without being too much of the obnoxious older sister, how fortunate she is to be earning a living doing something that brings her joy, and that she shouldn’t think that just because something else down the line might be different that it will be better.

Seeing my sister perform is always a transcendental experience for me.  She is so talented and full of light that I am left blinking, wondering if that’s really my little sister up on stage, and if so, how she manages such a transformation.  When I listen to her play, there’s really no place I would rather be.

Fork You: The Holiday Cookie Edition

We had originally intended to get this episode up last week, but the demands of daily life got in the way, and so that just didn’t happen.  But late is better than never at all, so for your enjoyment, Makin’ Cookie.

We made so many cookies that night that they covered every surface, and I still had so much cookie dough leftover that for days after it fell out of my fridge every time you opened the door.  I made cookies for days, but there’s still some in there.  It will just have to wait and become New Year’s cookies as I decided not to bring it to Oregon with me.

A Tree Saga

Laying under an unadorned Christmas tree last night trying to wrestle the stand supports into place, I found myself smelling not the heady, green smell of noble fir, but instead an aroma that seemed very close to cat pee.  I mentioned the scent to my mom, who was holding up the tree.  We discussed how Febreze would effect the tree before leaving it alone and hoping it would be fine.  Sitting on the couch admiring it, we watched as Raina’s cat Woody wandered up, sniffed carefully and backed up to start spraying it as his own.  We both jumped up and started screaming at him, stopping him only a few droplets into the spray.

It was deeply apparent to us that the tree wasn’t going to be safe from turf-conscious cats in the house overnight, so we set it on the porch until we could figure out how to remove the cat pee.  This morning my mom decided that there was no way to de-cat pee the tree and that she had to return it.  Only, we hadn’t poured the water out of the stand, and it’s awfully cold here in Portland right now, so the tree had frozen to the stand.  It had to be chipped out of the stand in order to be returned.

The lot, which is only blocks from our house, and from whom we have gotten free trees from for the last two years (because we tend to be lazy and wait until December 23rd to get a tree, a date by which most lots are closed and left their extra trees out to be taken to a good home) happily exchanged the tree for one that was not urine scented.

I have to admit a certain sadness in returning the tree, because that had been the first tree we had picked out as a family in at least a decade.  But the new one is very nice, and smells like nothing but evergreen.  Just as it should.

Notes from Portland

Last night, my sister and I were getting ready to go to Mississippi Pizza to see some friends of her’s perform, when our mom said, “Wait a second, you’ve got a hair on you.”

I assumed she was talking to me, Raina thought the comment was directed at her. In absolute sync, we both raised our arms out at our sides, as if we were going to go into a 1980’s aerobic routine. We all burst out laughing. Turns out the errant hair was on me, but it was a nice moment that showed that we did indeed grow up together.

This morning my mom and I went to hear my dad sing in the choir at the annual winter music service at the Portland Unitarian Church. We sat down on the main floor and watched as the singers filed in. When my dad was in his place at the top of the choir loft, we watched as he scanned the audience, trying to find us in the pews. It took him some time, but when his eyes landed on us, he grinned big and waved just a little, kind of like a kid in a school play.

After church we went out to lunch at Violet’s, a nice little brunchy place not far from my parents’ house. We gave still-at-home Raina a call, she stopped eating the yogurt and muesli she had just stirred together, put her shoes on and walked down to meet us. There was a wait for tables, so we stood outside on the sidewalk for a bit. We’d been there about ten minutes when two girls came out and said to my sister, “Excuse me, are you Raina Rose?” It turns out that they were some of her former campers who have turned into fans. Later on, our waitress also recognized her from a gig she had played last summer. To quote the dad, “May it only become tiresome to be recognized.”

Tonight Raina pulled that yogurt and muesli concoction out of the fridge and grabbed a spoonful. The radio in the kitchen was tuned to a classical station that was playing an operatic holiday medley. Raina started to air-conduct the music with the full spoon. In a particularly grand swoop of the arm, the spoon lost half it’s payload onto the kitchen floor. There was much giggling and then she asked, “What should I use to clean it up?”

Without even thinking about it I said, “Use the dog.”

Poor Bonnie (who is recovering from her stroke quite nicely) was fast asleep when Raina bellowed her name. She’s going a little deaf and so ran in a circle around the dining room table, trying to figure out where the food reward was. She was happy to discover the bite of soggy muesli and yogurt. The floor ended up perfectly cleaned.

Home and talk of faith

I got into Portland last night, just a few minutes before midnight.  It was a long, turbulent flight, and my rowmate was a Christian pastor who believes that the Bible is the infallible word of God.  That’s not the perspective I espouse and so we spent more than two hours telling each other what we believed.  He did more of the talking, but I give him much credit for listening to me and not dismissing me.

Heading into the conversation, my heart pounded and I felt a rush of fear and adrenaline, fueled by worry that I wouldn’t be able to hold my own and would be flattened by the power of his righteous conviction.  It’s not that I doubt my own belief system, but I don’t have a text of ‘evidence’ backing me up like he has with the Bible.  But as we talked, I tried to keep my thoughts buoyed by love, which made a significant difference in the peacefulness and grace of our words.  It was the most interesting and successful exchange I’ve ever had with someone about faith and theology when our positions were so drastically divergent.