Election Connection – Speaker’s Edition

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House Clerk, Cheryl Johnson and CSPAN earned their accolades this week. They are both in thankless jobs until something like this happens and they become household names.

Finally, on the fifteenth round of voting, six thousand, five hundred ten names called over three days, Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House by Republicans. All Democrats (212), in every round, voted for NY’s Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. In my opinion, he would have made an excellent Speaker, and one day, he will.

I’d like you to watch a portion of his first speech as Minority Leader. He thanked Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi for her service and her job as the first woman Speaker of the House. She really is remarkable. She has stepped down from leadership for the next generation, but she remains in the House of Representatives as the Congresswoman from her California district.

This video of Rep. Jeffries is just superb, and I look forward to hearing from him more and more. This is only a small part (A-Z), but it’s also worth finding the full 15 minutes of his speech.

New Year Intentions, Part 1

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Every year, dozens of articles, posts, podcasts and the like tell us what we need to do to make this a successful year; the one year we will finally get things done, handled: lose weight, clean the house, raise healthy, well-adjusted children, start our own businesses, and whatever else that will make us content this year.

I have never figured out what it takes to make new year’s resolutions that will stick. I try. I’ve tried renaming them: goals, plans, focus, changes, intentions (my personal favorite and the one I will continue to stick with), and aspirations.

On Sunday, I scrolled through my emails and opened the Target ad, and in a few minutes of turning pages in this first advertisement of the new year, I saw what Target and their advertising consultants think we should be focused on in our resolutions for beginning and following through on in this year:

  1. Healthy food
  2. Vitamins
  3. Skin care
  4. Exercise equipment
  5. Exercise clothes
  6. Self-help books
  7. Tax Software and Office Supplies for Taxes
  8. Storage containers
  9. Cleaning supplies
  10. Laundry supplies
  11. Food Storage
  12. Small appliances – air fryers, roombas, vacuums

A thirty-page ad.

How long will many of the consumers stick with the new exercise regimen? No between meal snacks? Brushing teeth at lunch? Not ripping off a piece of tin foil and covering the dinner plate instead of using those expensive (and very clean) containers?

To be honest, I already have three doctor’s appointments scheduled plus my physical, so I guess I’m ahead of my own procrastination. I’m also planning on replacing all the glasses (eyewear) in our family this spring.

This year, though, my focus is on my writing, expanding my writing adjacent activities, and my faithfulness and becoming centered on my spiritual life. I’m not sure precisely what that means; I’m still defining what I’m looking for, what I need in my world, and what my specific intentions are. I plan to form them in the next week and share them. This is also one reason that I reevaluate my goals and intentions throughout the year. It works out not quite quarterly: Back to School/Jewish New Year, Lent/Easter, Secular New Year. While these times are somewhat etched in stone, I still leave room for reevaluation.

This year is beginning with a few points of stress. My therapist is retiring, and I am in the process of searching for a new one. I begin that tomorrow morning, after Mass. For the last couple of years I’ve wondered if I still needed to go regularly for therapy, but in contemplating stopping, I realized that just simply having it on my calendar gives me a conversation to look forward to, a time to see, and that alone seems to curb my anxiety. Nothing is cured; anxiety doesn’t work that way, but it is part of my recovery. Those little things add up and make a difference; they give me a focus, they offer a routine, a schedule that I can look forward to and as it did when I started (with both therapy, writing, and mass) it gave me a schedule to follow. Many of these techniques remind me of posts from neurodivergent folks and how they live their lives. I wouldn’t call myself neurodivergent, but who knows. There’s something to be said for trying something new. Letting chips fall where they may and seeing what works. Including reusing cliches.

Something I said to my husband about one of our children – if this child was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum we would make allowances, we would accommodate some of their needs and expectations. Just because they don’t wear the label doesn’t mean that we can’t still make the accommodations that they need, whether we call them quirks or personality or neurodiversity.

There is no reason that I can’t make those same allowances for myself or to expect those same allowances for myself if it makes me, helps me function better. Whatever that means for me.

I’m going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game on my kindle and work on getting dinner ready. Later in the week, I will share my New Year’s intentions. I hope to see many of you along on the journey, whether you’re here as a spectator or a participant. No change is too small. No intention too minor.

The Missing Week

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I keep reading on social media how the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a missing week. I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but I would offer that it feels like one, long continuous day. My husband has been working as have my kids, but the rest of the time it feels as though not a moment has passed, and now suddenly it is 2023, and we’re off to the races and making resolutions (not quite yet) and making our beds (ha, ha, I doubt it!), and trying to make this year better than the last.

Our year ended with my (hopefully continuing) recovery from falling down the stairs and being rear-ended and losing our (and finding another miraculously) car, so in some respects it will, well, I’m not going to jinx it. It will be what it is.

I heard a homily the other day about living in the present. I am not good at that. The homilist went on to say that looking back creates anxiety and looking forward to the future creates depression, something I’ve heard before, but being in the present moment will keep you grounded. It’s a nice idea, but like saying cheer up to the person with depression, it doesn’t quite work for everyone. Nothing does. We try what we will try, and hope for the best, and move forward. Just keep swimming as Dory says.

Although swimming’s not my forte.

Unfortunately, I did not complete my reading challenge. For the last several years I’ve chosen my age as the number of books that I commit to read for the year. I’ve surpassed that usually, but this year, I fell short: only 49 books. I have written more this year and I think that’s part of why my reading fell short. Any time I would have had for reading, I was working on NaNoWriMo and my book while also planning out next semester’s classes. I mentioned in another post that I’d like to plan a writer’s retreat, but that is in its infancy. I’m not sure that I could facilitate such a large undertaking, but who knows? I hadn’t thought about teaching classes (not seriously anyway), and while I’ve still been anxiety-riddled, I did get some good feedback, and that has helped my confidence and motivation.

For 2023, my reading challenge number is 56. I’ve already started with a couple of devotionals and a Michael Crichton book I started last month. My brother got me Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, one of the books on my wish list, so that’s next! Wish me luck.

We did have some astonishing things happen in the last few days of the year and since Christmas.

For one thing, we actually finished an entire bag of bagels without throwing any of them away wastefully. This might fall under miraculously because usually by the second bagel we forget we have them especially if it’s a workday.

We also completely finished our Christmas roast beef with no leftovers. We had our Christmas dinner, we brought a plate to our son who was working (complete with dessert), and I made two Shepherd’s Pies throughout the week.

We also discovered some new television, or should I say streaming? We had dropped all of our television and streaming services except cable (that’s going soon) and Disney Plus since we watch it all the time, but for vacation we re-signed for HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix. My son wanted HBO, so he subscribed, and Hulu was on a good deal, and we were waiting for the holidays to catch up on our Netflix shows. There are really quite a lot of things to watch.

We finished as much as we could of Stargirl, which has one more season before cancellation. I finally got to see Black Adam and Belfast, both highly recommended for differing reasons.

We also started Wednesday (wasn’t interested when I first heard about it, but I am obsessed – it is phenomenal!) and we finished Derry Girls. Today, my daughter and I are going to watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, after she gets home from work and after dinner.


Waiting in the wings are the Banshees of Inisherin and another re-watch of Spider-Man: No Way Home (I loved that movie!)

Writing Intentions are taking a bit more effort to form along with other New Year’s intentions. They will be in another post that I’m hoping to write this week. I’m also thinking of ways to earn money with my writing, but that is also for the more in-depth writing intentions post. I’ve seen writers I respect on Substack, but I’m not sure if that’s for me. I enjoy my time here on this site, and I don’t want to create several spaces that are just repetitions of one another. It deserves further study, and any suggestions and thoughts are welcome in the comments.

I’m hoping to keep up my optimism despite some sweeping changes, a few of which are/were unplanned and unwelcome, but moving forward is all that can be done this week and the next and reevaluate as things come up.

Today is today. Yes?

*waves to 2022* *Welcomes 2023*

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As I struggle to write this last post of the year, I think on the last few weeks. (Because honestly, I can’t remember much further back from then without looking at my calendar or camera roll.) My husband and I started watching Wednesday, the Netflix series. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it, but one episode later, and I’m hooked. We’re also finishing Derry Girls and tonight we’ll be watching Banshees of Innisherin for our New Year. This is the first year we are home alone with no kids, and I have a series of stress induced stomach flips thinking about where they are and if they’re safe. One is at a hockey game, and two are out with friends. They’re all responsible, but I still worry. That’s the nature of parenting I suppose.

So a few pictures:

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~ Christmas Eve ~

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The first Christmas Eve Mass I attended was memorable for several, distinct reasons. I had been attending the daily masses pretty regularly since March and the regular pastor had returned in May from his sabbatical and the very first mass I attended with him presiding was one that I had intentions said for my friend’s death one year prior. His homily resonated with me in so many ways that from that moment on, he was my pastor, whether he knew it or not. This Christmas Eve, I was continuing to attend mass and yet had no intention of conversion. My attendance was in complement to my Jewish traditions. It was important to me. I didn’t kneel or cross myself, but the readings and the homilies spoke to me in a way that I was needing at that time.

Not knowing how holiday masses worked, I didn’t realize the amount of people who would be attending, especially the early mass when the kids were in abundance. The kids weren’t any problem, but the seating was at a premium as was the parking. I arrived at what I thought was on time, but which was late if I wanted a parking space conducive to my wobbly knee and a seat. I arrived and Father Jerry greeted me. He was happy to see me, and I him. He looked around to see if there was a seat (there wasn’t) and I said that I was fine to stand. He knew that this was not true as we had spoken about my knee in previous months. He asked a family in the last row if they could squeeze me in, and the grandfather mind you, stood so I could sit with his family, and he stood behind the pew.

This was not my first experience of the hospitality of my parish to be.

This wasn’t the first time that I knew I belonged here, whether I converted or not. Again, I wasn’t in the market for a new church or religion, but we often will get what we need when we need it rather than what we want or are looking for. This season was definitely one of those times. My conversion came before my baptism by more than a year. In my mind, while receiving the sacraments are an important part of the faith journey, for me it was something of a formality. In my heart, I was already Catholic. However, on this Christmas Eve, I wasn’t there yet.

All families have holiday traditions, whether they be in their nuclear family, their extended, their chosen family, traveling for the holiday, or staying home. One of ours from my husband’s side was Christmas Eve Chinese take out for dinner as well as a newer tradition of the Doctor Who Christmas special. My family was delayed for both by my choice to attend Christmas Eve Mass. I had already decided not to attend the Christmas Day Mass, not knowing that attending the Vigil Mass was the same in regard to the “obligation” to attend the next day’s mass. Of course, I was not under any obligation, but it still made a difference to me in knowing the distinction.

Tonight’s Christmas Eve Mass will be different from previous years. I won’t know how until I get there. We belong to a family of three parishes, and so in my church there will be only one Eve mass. We have a new pastor who I like very much but he is different, and that’s okay. The anticipation is both exciting and anxiety inducing. Instead of the last row, I’ll sit in one of the first rows with my friend in her usual seat. My family will pick up the Chinese food and I’ll meet them at home after. We have Napoleons for dessert as well as some leftover cookies once we make them for Santa. Our youngest is sixteen, almost seventeen (two more weeks), but Santa still expects his cookies. There is eggnog chilling in the fridge. Tomorrow’s dinner is planned as is the next day’s lunch with my oldest son who is working today.

Christmas Eve is preparatory, getting the church ready, getting the tree ready, getting the food ready, but also reliving a child’s birth in a manger in a cave halfway around the world, which resonates around the world. It is also preparing for the birth of a new year, looking ahead while also glancing behind, bringing forward the good, leaving the not so good. While some churches have already decorated, the inside of ours won’t be ready until we arrive tonight with wreaths and trees, wound with white lights, dim lighting makes way for brighter tomorrow, tonight the skylights are dark with the night sky. Garland and plants and flowers and of course, the empty manger that will be filled before the end of the night.

Happy Christmas Eve. May your night be peaceful and your tomorrow glorious.

Friday Food. December.

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This has to be the worst week for deciding what to eat. Nothing goes as planned, not to mention that the age old question, “What’s for dinner?” is almost impossible to answer in a week of unpredictables. We know what’s for dinner for Christmas Eve; we know what for dinner Christmas Day, and we even know what’s for dinner the day after Christmas, but the rest of the week? *throws hands up* Who knows?!

The other day we put off ground beef to have fast food after shopping and work.

Yesterday we finally had the ground beef as tacos.

Tonight? Pasta and meatballs. Unless we opt for cold cuts which are already in the fridge, but after the hassle of finding the almost non-existent ricotta cheese (which I love on my pasta and sauce), I’m leaning towards the pasta, although to be honest, we’re all a little tired of pasta – it’s our go-to when there’s nothing else and it’s snowing out or the paycheck is next week.

I’m pretty sure it’s pasta tonight though.

Like 95% sure.

Our holiday food follows my husband’s family traditions, but this year I did manage to make latkes on Chanukah, which is a feat since it’s a drain to stand over the stove. And there are never any leftovers. These were probably the best ones I’ve ever made. They were crispy on the outside, hot and soft on the inside, and they were perfect with the applesauce and sour cream. Yes, both.

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and week that follows.

Latkes
(c)2022

Election Connection – Year End Wrap

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What a Year from Vote Save America

Let’s look at the list of the races we were following here for the 2022 Election, and see how we fared:

  • Senate Races
  • AZ – Mark Kelly
  • CO – Michael Bennet
  • CT – Richard Blumenthal
  • FL – Val Demmings
  • GA – Rev. Raphael Warnock
  • HI – Brian Schatz
  • NH – Maggie Hassan
  • NV – Catherine Cortez-Masto
  • NY – Chuck Schumer
  • OH – Tim Ryan
  • PA – John Fetterman
  • WA – Patty Murray
  • WI – Mandela Barnes
  • Also, keep an eye on Iowa and Kentucky
  • House of Representatives
  • AK – Mary Peltola
  • MI – Elissa Slotkin
  • NY – Matt Castelli
  • NY – Sean Maloney
  • VA – Abigail Spanberger
  • Governors
  • CA – Gavin Newsom
  • CO – Jared Polis
  • FL – Charlie Crist
  • GA – Stacey Abrams
  • MI – Gretchen Whitmer
  • NY – Kathy Hochul
  • PA – Josh Shapiro
  • TX – Beto O’Rourke
  • Mayor
  • Los Angeles – Karen Bass

Looks like the majority of them won their races. Beto and Tim Ryan were close. We need to keep pushing in Ohio and Texas. In that endeavor, follow Olivia Julianna on Twitter (while there’s still a twitter). She is a Gen Z political activist, doesn’t back down, and speaks her mind.

Have we learned anything from the last several years?

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O Chanukah, O Chanukah

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Light the Menorah….

Today is the first night of Chanukah. It is also the fourth Sunday of Advent and the eighteenth year since my Mother died. I always say that she died intentionally on this day – 25th of Kislev. On the Julian calendar she died on December 8th, which was the 25th of Kislev. Her yartzeit will always be on the first night of Chanukah. I know she did this on purpose; there is no excuse to forget her candle. I’ve seen others with anniversaries on other important days have mixed feelings on the sharing of a sad day with a happy one, and I do feel the sadness from eighteen years ago, but I also think fondly and lovingly on this day, remembering my mother and her ways. I see her in myself especially as I get older. I said something to my daughter tonight, and I had to pause because I sounded exactly like my mother. I think when I was younger this would have bothered me, but today, it made me feel not only closer to her, but closer to my daughter. We used my childhood menorah tonight, which will feel like putting my hand in a fiery piece of the sun by the end of the holiday; it radiates heat when all nine candles are blazing brightly.

My husband managed to find some gelt. It’s nearly impossible in this area, and I did order a small batch online, but it won’t be here until later in the week. I really like to give the kids their dreidls and gelt on the first night, and we were able to. I even found colored (blue and clear) plastic dreidls (at Target) that I could fill with the chocolate coins and one Maccabee chocolate soldier each. I’d never seen those before (from Bed, Bath, and Beyond).

I also made the best latkes I think I’ve ever made in my life. They truly were perfect and that never happens. I eat them with applesauce and sour cream, both. Why should I choose between them?! I also fried up some chicken cutlets, which were also excellent. The whole house smells of oil: olive for the chicken; vegetable for the latkes.

Here’s to the light of the season, no matter where it’s coming from or what holiday you’re celebrating this month.

(c)2022

Friday Food. December.

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December is full of different types of food to fill the days of the different types of holidays we celebrate throughout the month of December. Recently, I went to a Festival Of Learning and had Latkes with applesauce (personally I love applesauce AND sour cream with my latkes) for Chanukah and Mexican Hot Chocolate with Molasses cookies for La Posada, and tonight (if it doesn’t snow) it will be something wonderful to celebrate Kwanzaa.

Our family Christmas traditions revolve around food and my husband’s traditions. Christmas Eve is Chinese take-out for dinner and Christmas morning breakfast is Dunkin’ Donuts. For dinner, it’s his mother’s tradition of a proper British carve up: roast beef, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots & peas, plus a few of our own favorites. One year I made Yorkshire pudding which is both intimidating and easier than you think it is. She always made Trifle, which I have not even attempted.

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