Sunday, January 30, 2011

He's Got Skills, All Right

There's ugly stuff going on at our tiny little synagogue. Political, maddening, saddening stuff. Where it will end, no one knows. I'm not sure there's a way back, but I'm not calling the game over quite yet. Where there's faith, there's hope. Or something like that.

But all that's too much for me right now. Too hard, and too long, and too complex, and not really all that much my story to tell. I'm pretty much peripheral to it, though it's been at the center of my thoughts for weeks now.

Which is why, instead, I want to tell you a light little shul story. One that focuses on our temple family, and not on its dysfunction. One that involved laughter to the point of tears, instead of just tears.

This weekend was the bat mitzvah of one of Em's closest friends, the daughter of one of my closest friends there. That meant that all of the key players in my part of our temple's little world were at services on Friday night. And as we are wont to do when we're all together, there was a lot of musical pews going on. Em was in the front row with her posse, all of them cheering on their friend as she led parts of the service. Baroy settled himself a few rows back. I flitted a bit--first next to Baroy, then to quickly whisper to the mother of the bat mitzvah, then to another friend who'd recently arrived. N has never sat in one place for more than 30 seconds during any service. Never. So he was doing his thing, too.

At one point, two of my mom-friends, C and F, were sitting near the back, and N plopped himself down between the two of them. C started idly rubbing his back. After a moment or two, N looked over at F and said, "This feels sooooo good. But you know what would feel better? Two hands!" And then just smiled brightly at F.

C was telling me this story later that evening, and I stopped her at this point. "So how long did it take F to start rubbing his back too?" I asked.

"Twelve milliseconds," she replied. And then started laughing, the kind of laughter that turns into painful gulps of air, tears streaming down your face.

"The thing is," she said, "at that moment, I just sort of flash forwarded about ten years..." And that was all she could get out, until she'd gained enough control to choke out, "I think it's possible that he doesn't really need those social skills therapies, you know? I think it's possible that he's going to be more than just fine."

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Big Bear Miracle

We've been coming up to Big Bear every year for the past nine years.
Each year, N has been terrified of sledding down the hill across from the house we stay in.
Most years, he has refused to even get on a sled once the entire weekend.
Every now and again, he's agreed to go on with Baroy. Once. Only.
Last year, just days before we came up here, he had surgery for an undescended testicle. Obviously, he wasn't allowed to sled. In classic contrary kid fashion, he spent the entire time complaining about the restriction. We just rolled our eyes.
This year, freed from the threat of popped stitches and uncontrolled bleeding, he insisted he was planning to spend the entire weekend making up for what he missed last year. Again, we rolled our eyes. We knew better.
We were so very, very wrong.

Neither crash, nor 62nd crash, nor sled washed out to sea (OK, lake...sticklers) could stop this child.
(Yes, that is specifically why we couldn't let him sled last year. Can you imagine?)

Somehow or other, they managed to get that sled back. I'm not sure i want to know.
He was the first over the father-built moguls, the first up the hill after each run, and the last in the house after each excursion out. 

His sister had a blast, too. But that's par for her course.

But for him? For us? It was a Big Bear Miracle.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Books I Listened to in 2010

I'm starting this with optimism: that I will finish it before December of 2011, that I will get all the books into this one post, that anyone will bother to read it (or skim it) to the end. I am nothing if not optimistic. (Several of TC's friends snort derisively.)

This was a big year for audiobooks. It was, for one thing, the Year of Harry Potter. Jim Dale...I've listened now to probably close to 150 or more audiobooks, and he is hands and feet and all other appendages down the best narrator out there. I tried reading these books, mind you...several times. Never got past the first few chapters of Sorcerer's Stone. But I absolutely ATE these up. Was entranced, from beginning to end. And I don't DO genre. Especially not popular genre. I'm just too snobbish. It's a fault. Jim and Harry are the overwhelming exception to my rule.

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen: I think this was the first time I'd read this; I thought I'd done a full Austen tour back in the day, but upon listening to the story, I realized I must have missed this one. Imagine my delight in getting to read a "new" Austen! Love. Her.
2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling: My journey begins.
3. Bonk by Mary Roach: Subtitled "The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex," this is, as many people have said, the kind of book you just want to stab yourself in the eye for not having thought of writing. The only problem with that would have been that the Mary Roach wouldn't have written it, and it wouldn't have been quite so pitch perfect.
4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: This is actually my least favorite Austen, by which I mean I'll only reread it incessantly *after* I've reread all her other books.
5. The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld: Sorry. I didn't love Prep, and I really didn't love this.
6. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher: Two disappointments in a row. This wasn't a book; it was never supposed to be a book. Sorry, Carrie.
7. Fool by Christopher Moore: I really do love Christopher Moore. This had some off moments, but overall, it got me.
My first night of Hanukkah present.
8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling: LOVE Dobby. Need I say more?
9. Thirteen Moons by Charles Frazier: Here's the problem with leaving a lot of these descriptions until the end: I can't remember if I actually finished this book. I seem to recall giving up on it somewhere in the middle. If I didn't, then I can't remember the ending. So I hope I did.
10. Wild Child by TC Boyle: Boyle's a master, no doubt, but this was no my favorite of his colletions of stories. And I can't quite put my finger on why.
11. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling: Not sure who I love more, Sirius or Lupin. Of course, I know enough about this series to know that I shouldn't bother to become overly attached to either of them…
12. No One Belongs Here More than You by Miranda July: Quite possibly the most depressing stories I've ever read. Incredible writing; can't point out exactly why, but take my word for it. Incredible.
13. The Women by TC Boyle: I'm not sure I agree with a lot of his choices in this book. (Why go backwards? Why so much focus on Miriam in all the 'parts'? Why not tell Kitty's story?) And it took me a while to warm up to the story overall. And yet, I found a lot of it fascinating and gripping nonetheless.
14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling: Ah, Mad-Eye. I'm so conflicted about my love for me.
15. You Better Not Cry by Augusten Burroughs: These just didn't do it for me; they have their moments, but overall...just not quite there.
16. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: I generally hate books in which there is a lot of secrecy and lying and the potential for it to all explode. But I didn't hate this one at all. The ending flummoxed me, if only because it felt more like cliffhanger than anything else. (Is there a sequel coming?) And it didn't transport me the same way Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, in particular, did. But it entertained.
17. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: I wasn't expecting much. Surprise! I got a really fun twisty 'ghost story.' I enjoy almost any book whose plot manages to surprise me, and especially those whose endings manage to satisfy me. This did both. Yay! A definite not-really-expected big ol' recommend.
18. My Man Jeeves by PG Wodehouse: Oh, Bertie. Oh, Jeeves.
19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling: No, seriously. Did Harry give one real, genuine smile in this entire book? Have a single lighthearted moment? I think not. This was my least favorite, though it had some truly great lines. (Also...SOB. Oh, you who I won't name so I won't spoil it for the .23 people who have yet to read the series. I'll miss you!)
20. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger: I already wrote about this. But, to sum up, WTF, Audrey, with that ending? You had me--again, against my expectations, with yet another ghostish story--up until about the last quarter of the novel. But the end? Pissed. Me. Off.
21. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling: Now, see? This was a fun book, death and destruction and heartbreak aside, of course.
22. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling: I always hate endings, but this one, after seven books and all those hours of listening, could have REALLLLY pissed me off. It didn't. It needed a big bang, a true conclusion, and a (relatively) happy ending. And it delivered.
23. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: I write about science for a living; I've even written about HeLa (the cells, though, not the woman). Reading science books, to me, often feels like the proverbial busman's holiday. Not this time, though. Powerful story, emphasis on STORY. Bravo. If you read one nonfiction book this year or ANY year, this is the one to go for.
24. Here If You Need Me by Kate Braestrup: My new boss K recommended this to me; I was worried that a book about a minister--in no matter HOW cool a ministry, and a forest-ranger ministry is WAY cool--would just not quite do it for me. I was wrong. I like Kate. I want to be her friend and hang out with her. But not in a helicopter over dense forests. Just in case she was thinking of calling to ask me...
25. Angle of Repose by Wallce Stegner: I mentioned in a previous book post this week that I can never decide between this and Crossing to Safety when naming my favorite Stegner. Since this is what I listened to most recently, it's definitely this one. Masterful. And much more sweeping. Though Safety's pretty kickass too!
26. I Know I Am, But What Are You by Samantha Bee: Nope. Sorry, Sam. More shtick than substance. And I didn't really think of it as a memoir, because half the stuff didn't ring even slightly true; there were so many internal inconsistencies due to what must have been significant instances of exaggeration that...I just didn't laugh that much. And it was supposed, if not else, to be funny.
27. Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby: I will say this; I didn't expect to love this book, though I do love Nick Hornby in general. It's about music, and I'm not a music fan. But, oh, I loved it. It felt so true and insightful. Really, really good.
28. The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver: This blew me away. The last quarter depressed me; I didn't want what I saw about to happen to happen. And then it did. And THAT depressed me, too. But still. Beautiful. Real characters and fictional character meshed perfectly, and minor characters came completely to life. I was really impressed.

Woot! I did it!!!! In one go. In early January. Now I can sleep.

Thanks for reading. Or pretending to. I'll never know the difference.