7.31.2007

Replace "Saturday" with "Sunday" and you have a sneak peak into my life.



It's time for an update on all the stuff I mentioned here.

I have packed, with the help of several kind, generous, and lovely friends, and one mother who motivated me to get started way early, all of my:
  • books
  • CDs
  • DVDs
  • stereo
  • papers
  • office supplies
  • arts and crafts supplies (I used to be quite the crafty type, and often think wistfully that I will go back to it one day)
  • pots and pans and plates and glasses
  • assorted travel gear (luggage tags, neck pillows, eye masks, collapsible sun hats, luggage belts, tiny bottles of Purell for all those times you have to pee on buses without running water)
  • about half of my linens, used at padding in boxes
  • about 2/3 of my photos and photo albums
  • about half of my bags, purses, and backpacks
  • and almost all of my food
Along the way I threw out or donated a good 15-20 cubic feet of papers and books and clothing and other things I no longer want.

I still need to pack all of my:
  • clothing (in drawers and the closet, with everything I'll need for the next two weeks separated out)
  • shoes (with what I need for the next two weeks separated out)
  • coats
  • files boxes of papers from 2005-2007 (so I guess I was wrong about having packed up all of my papers)
  • one drawer of files from file cabinet (ditto)
  • tools
  • jewelry (with what I need for the next two weeks separated out)
  • medicine (with what I need for the next two weeks separated out)
  • toiletries (with what I need for the next two weeks separated out)
  • framed photos/pictures
  • dustpan
  • the rest of my food, including one bottle of champagne and three bottles of wine (suggestions? wrap well and pray for the best?)
  • cleaning supplies (only bottles that are more than half-full? everything? nothing? only a few essentials? silly to throw it out and buy it again in the new place)
  • assorted detritus from around my bedroom.
Am I forgetting anything?

So, um, I have what to do tonight. What am I not going to do right now? I am not going to go back to YouTube and watch this clearly talented cartoonist, Lev Yilmaz's other videos. I am not. Instead, I will go home and pack. Oh, and do one final load of laundry. And deliver my two much-beloved houseplants to their temporary caregiver.

7.24.2007

חרב מקדשנו and we lost many special people

חרב מקדשנו [our Temple was destroyed] and we, as a nation, lost many people around two thousand years ago. However, my family lost someone right before the national Jewish mourning period of the Three Weeks began and I can't observe Tisha B'Av this year without my own personal loss taking precedence. I couldn't focus during Eicha last night, didn't stay for kinot, and skipped communal prayer entirely this morning. I don't know if it was because I just couldn't deal with forced mourning this year, having done some personal mourning so recently, or if it was because I am exhausted from the chaos of recent (and coming) weeks.

My maternal grandmother passed away almost four weeks ago, on Thursday evening, June 28 (12 Tammuz). Her death was not unexpected, since it was preceded by a year of ovarian cancer, chemotherapy, and recurrence, but it was of course still very sad. Even before the cancer, she withstood years of slow deterioration in her motor skills from multiple sclerosis with what can only be called extraordinary good cheer and equanimity.

This is a what I said at the funeral. It was my first reaction, written almost entirely during the half hour preceding the funeral, with input from my older sister, younger brother, and mother. I read parts of it from what I had prepared beforehand and made some up on the spot. This is what I actually said, based on the the video my brother took.

I hope to blog more about my grandmother, her life, and our loss at some later point, but this should at least give you a little picture of who she was.

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I've been thinking about part of a mishna from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, since my grandmother got sick a little bit over a year ago. The excerpt I’ve been thinking about reads:
ד,א בן זומא אומר...איזה הוא עשיר--השמח בחלקו, שנאמר "יגיע כפיך, כי תאכל; אשריך, וטוב לך" (תהילים קכח,ב): "אשריך", בעולם הזה; "וטוב לך", לעולם הבא

4:1. Ben Zoma would say: Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot. As is stated in Psalms, "If you eat of the toil of your hands, fortunate are you, and good is to you"; "fortunate are you" in this world, "and good is to you" in the World to Come.

I never knew anyone as happy with their lot as Grandma was. What was most important to her was her family. Whenever we came to visit, she was overjoyed--so much so, that she made us happy! When I used to tell her of an upcoming visit—and I told her as soon as I bought the ticket, because I knew that anticipation was half the fun for her—she always worried that I would be bored—she didn't know what I would find to do in Palo Alto! She always said that she didn’t know why I kept coming. It was never a problem—being in the house with her was a joy for me, even if she couldn't promise good weather—that was always the caveat she gave.

From an early age, I associated my grandmother with her matriarchal role of sustainer and food provider. She made us French toast with extra eggs—more than our mother would allow—and brownies that were out of this world—and she let my sister and I lick the bowl and the beaters. She once let me in on a special secret: an excellent way of getting two things done at once is to watch a football game while chopping walnuts for brownies. Nobody else’s grandmother that I knew watched football while chopping walnuts for brownies. She was also the only grandmother I knew who was a good shot. Once I heard a story about my uncle challenging her to a match—and she beat him. I’m sorry [I said this to my uncle], but I had to share that.

I was particularly enamored of my grandmother's tuna salad with pickle relish, something that I was not accustomed to. Even after she was unable to cook for us herself, she directed kitchen activities from her couch and then her chair, answering questions about egg to tuna ratio in tuna salad, how long to cook the roast for, and where a particular pot was located in the kitchen, even though she might not have personally stooped to get it out of its location in many years.

My grandmother, in addition to her continual joy at the presence of her children and grandchildren, was quite…spunky. When my sister and I were interviewing my grandfather, Bapa, before he died, she interjected with a wonderful story that I’d never heard before. Once, when she was working at a five-and-dime, I think during my grandparents' first year of marriage in Chadron, Nebraska, one of her coworkers asked her to climb up a ladder to get something from a high shelf. She refused because she was wearing a skirt. She was fired from the job, but she didn't regret the decision. She taught me a lot about the proper way to be ladylike. She taught my sister and me how to put on nail polish when we were pretty young—six and eight, I think. Nail polish and lipstick were required, but you should never back down when the other person is wrong.

Once, her wise counsel helped me get out of a jamb. When I moved between apartments in New York, and my movers broke the couch because they disregarded my advice about the best way to move it, I didn't know what to do. I was exhausted and distraught and I couldn't reach my mother, so I called my grandmother as I fought back tears. I knew that she was always at home and would answer the phone. Grandma, in no uncertain terms, told me to stand up to them and under no circumstances should I just pay them their money and forget about it. She wisely suggested that I withhold the tip until they fixed the couch. She told me that I could do it. Knees quaking, I did, and although they never did fix the couch as promised, at least I wasn't out the extra tip money.

In thinking about my grandmother, there were certain things that she always said. One of them was always take a sweater when you go to San Francisco even if its eighty degrees outside. Another was that presentation matters in the kitchen and in your wardrobe. You should always tuck in your shirt and it's not nice to put the pot that you cooked the food in on the table. Transfer it to a nice plate or serving dish. Finally, something that she always used to tell my grandfather when he left the house, originally to go to work, and later when he left the house to do other things: “Keys? Billfold? Glasses?” Three things that you should never leave the house without.

I feel very fortunate that I’ve gotten to know my grandmother so well. To reach the age of 28 with a grandmother as such a constant presence in your life is a very special thing. I think I speak for all of us, the grandchildren, when I say that we will never forget all of the things that she taught us. Her life, and the way she was, was an inspiration to all of us.

Thank you.

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I am sorry that we didn't tape what I said at my grandfather, z"l's, funeral in February 2004. I spoke from a few words jotted down on a piece of paper and was unwilling and then unable to reconstruct it afterwards. I would have liked to know what I said, but speaking from such an emotional, difficult place made it hard to even look at the notes afterwards, never mind reconstruct my actual words.

I am both sad and honored to have now spoken at three funerals of three grandparents. Sad because my grandparents are no longer with us, and honored to have known all of them during their long and full lives. As devastated as I am to have lost them, and as much as I always wanted all of them to live long enough to see me marry and have children (and go to graduate school? maybe), I am so lucky to have grown up with all four grandparents playing an active presence in my life. My father's father passed away at the age of 78, when I was 20 years old. My mother's father passed away at the age of 78, when I was 23 years old. And now, my mother's father has passed away at the age of 79, a few days before I turned 28. May my father's mother live and be well for many years to come.

One of the many, many benefits to having close relationships with your grandparents is that you learn all kinds of things that your parents can't teach you. For example, if it had been up to my mother, I never would have been indoctrinated into the ways of nail polish at the age of six, nor would someone have told me (although I often ignore it) that serving food in the dishes in which they were cooked is uncouth.

I miss my grandmother so much, and I am sure that I will continue to miss her as life continues on its merry way and I realize how much left there was to learn from her.

7.19.2007

My whirlwind tour through the US, life, death, apartments, moving, and overdue projects for work

The following is why I have not blogged in a very long time.

Thursday, June 29: My grandmother passed away. (This is the grandmother who lived in California whom I was always flying to see. I've been spending Rosh Hashanah, the first days of Pesach, and other assorted holidays and vacations with her since my grandfather passed away in 2004. Even before that, I spent a lot of time there--every summer growing up, and winter breaks after my parents made aliya in 2000.)

Friday, June 30: I went to work to try to tie up loose ends, and I bought a three-legged airline ticket online in the last few hours before Shabbat in consultation with siblings flying in from Washington, DC and NYC, and with mother and aunt flying from California, to try to match all flights times and airports as closely as possible without going bankrupt.

Shabbat, June 30-July 1: I spent Shabbat in a daze. I got invited out for dinner. I don't remember what I did for lunch. I think I ate canned salmon and baby carrots at home alone.

Sunday, July 1: I flew from New York to Omaha via Chicago for my grandmother's funeral on less than three hours of sleep. I took a nap, changed into funerary clothing, wrote a eulogy in less than an hour (less than half an hour?) in consultation with my mother, brother, and sister, and delivered it. I helped bury my grandmother next to my grandfather and my cousin.

Monday, July 2: I flew from Omaha to California via Houston to be with my mother, aunt, and uncles as they sat shiva. I didn't do so much except for some dishes and some grocery shopping, but was happy to be there. I heard a few good stories about my grandmother. I came down with a cold that I had apparently caught on one of my four flights of the previous two days.

Tuesday, July 3: I did not celebrate my birthday. I did fast all day.

Wednesday, July 4: My sister and I found the stars and stripes that my grandfather used to fly from in front of the house each Fourth and we hung them proudly, probably for the last time, in memory of my grandfather the veteran.

Thursday, July 5-Friday, July 6: more shiva. I had brought work with me but I couldn't bring myself to do it, even though I knew that this would result in near-disaster upon my return to New York. (It did.)

Saturday, July 7: quasi-shiva followed by starting to go through books in the house to take home

Sunday, July 8: I helped my mom and aunt go through my grandmother's clothing, remaining jewelry, scarves, sewing drawer, letters, books, and some other things in the house. I took what I wanted. I tagged the furniture that I don't necessarily ever expect to have a place for.

Monday, July 9: I took a red-eye (I got a window seat! I slept for 3 or 4 hours!) back to New York, arriving delayed, went home, showered, and went to work.

Tuesday, July 10-Thursday, July 12: I worked full-time on a huge project at work and desperately sought a place to move into by August 1, calling 20+ landlords, pounding the pavement, calling brokers with outrageous fees, seeing apartments with and without peeling paint and major structural issues, the whole bit. I was exhausted. I wasn't sleeping too well at night from the stress. I started questioning my sanity. I started hoping I wasn't putting my job in jeopardy. I didn't make time to write in my journal or eat well. The internet and phones both stopped working at work on Wednesday evening and didn't come back until this past Monday afternoon, greatly hampering my work. My mother was in town, staying with my brother, and she came along to see some of the apartments with me. I pondered the advisability of taking one's mother along to view apartments, only because it might imply that one's mother is financing said apartment, which, in this case, is not at all true.

Friday, July 13: I had a meeting with my boss during which he expressed that I needed to show more "face time," worked at Starbucks for three hours on a work project that was due by Friday afternoon. I left Starbucks, saw four apartments, e-mailed the work project in at 7 pm from a neighborhood five miles from my home, jumped into the subway with my mother, and made it home before Shabbat with time to spare. Go, MTA!

Shabbat, July 13-14: I hosted my mother for Shabbat. I had gotten us invited out for both meals in advance, which is probably the smartest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I went to shul three times. I took a nap. My mother made me coffee. It was lovely. I tried not to talk about apartments at all. I was never so grateful to be away from phone and internet and talking/thinking about money. I also got one blister on the bottom of each foot, which makes walking about as painful as it sounds. The sandals were comfortable, but the insoles apparently had small seams on them that, heh, rubbed the soles of my feet the wrong way.

Saturday, July 14: I started packing my room as soon as Shabbat ended. My mother and I stayed up until 1:30 am packing and barely made a dent. Actually, we weren't packing so much as going through boxes and disposing of things that I don't need.

Sunday, July 15: My future roommate and I saw four apartments available on August1, only one of which was suitable, and a better (that is, cheaper) apartment that wasn't available until August 15. I went out to dinner with some relatives and had dessert with more relatives.

Monday, July 16: My future roommate and I signed the lease on the apartment not available until August 15.

Monday, July 16-Thursday, July 19: I worked hard at work all day on the project for which I had completed phase 1 on Friday and sort-of completed Phase 2 on Wednesday, called movers and storage companies from work and compared their prices, and sorted and packed with my mother almost every night. We went to have dinner with friends on Tuesday night, which meant no packing.

Thursday, July 19: I called my current landlord and obtained permission to remain in the apartment until August 2 without risking losing the security deposit (lease ends July 31). My mother left town to return home. I will miss her. It is 9:39 pm. I am at work working on another project (not of Phase 1 and Phase 2, above) that was due by 5 pm on Wednesday, July 18. After 5 pm on Wednesday, July 18, I realized that I had not even started it. I asked for an extension until the middle or end of next week and was granted one until the end of the day tomorrow (Friday). I agreed to work on Sunday, July 29, even though I am moving that week and Phase 3 of aforementioned project is due--really, really due--on August 2, the same day that I am now scheduled to move. My boss asked me why I wasn't getting anything done on time. I managed not to start crying. I question my ability to hold my current job. Maybe I should go into retail or something.

What the future holds:

Friday, July 20: I have a lunch meeting that I cannot cancel or reschedule with a former boss. I need to get more quotes from movers and storage people. I need to finish that damn project before Shabbat tomorrow.

Sunday, July 29: I have to work in the evening out on Long Island leave the house at 11:00 am to get an 11:51 am train to Bridgehampton (requiring changing trains in Jamaica) so I can get to Sag Harbor by 3 pm for a work obligation from 5 - 8 pm and then get the last train back from Bridgehampton at 8:45 pm, getting me back into Penn Station at 11:08 pm in theory, but 11:25 pm in practice, getting me home at 11:45 pm.

Thursday, August 2: I must be out of my current apartment. Phase III of project is due for work.

Thursday, August 2 - Tuesday, August 14: I'll be staying in my brother's studio and with three other friends who have a spare bedroom, over these 13 days. I had an option to sublet a place for two weeks for $700, but since I am already going to be paying professional movers twice (once to move my stuff into storage; one to move it out of storage), I decided to accept the generosity of brother and friends and not pay $50/night to stay in someone's empty apartment or un-rented bedroom. I could hire someone to clean bathroom and kitchen for me 14 times with that money! (Just kidding. I will be using that money to pay for professional movers to move my belongings twice in two weeks. Anyone have recommendations? I'm considering using Flatrate Moving, unless I can find someone else who thinks they can do both moves + storage for less than $1290 (+ tip) without breaking or losing anything.)

Wednesday, August 15: I will move into my new apartment.

Wednesday, August 22-Monday, September 17: My parents will be in town, staying with me part of the time and in a hotel part of the time.

I think that's about it.

I haven't posted since June 29 because I very much wanted the first thing I posted after my grandmother's passing to be the hesped [eulogy] I delivered at her funeral, and reminiscences about her life and legacy. Unfortunately, due to life continuing on its merry way despite my family's loss, I don't think that I will be able to do justice to my grandmother's memory for some time. When I do, I know that you will agree with me that the world has lost a very special person.

I hope you are all having peaceful, relaxing summers!