juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Back around around Hanukkah time—I'm so late to write any sort of journal post—my parents and I went through my paternal grandmother's collection of jewelry. My grandparents used to make regular visits to New Mexico, so she wore a lot of turquoise; she liked big bulky statement pieces, chunky rings and earrings, dyed coral, brass and gold. But she didn't have a signature piece, something worth keeping for pure nostalgia. She just had ... a collection.

I've never been in the habit wearing of jewelry, but whatever my personal tastes are, they're nothing like that. But I managed to find two pieces which were smaller, less chunky, in neutral metals. One of them is a copper chain-link bracelet that doesn't particularly fit her statement-piece style, but came to me missing links and with some small dents, so it had obviously been worn.

So I started wearing it too. Every day, literally all day. It was weird to adjust to the feel of it, especially in the dead of winter—my wrist always felt cold. But now I wear it all the time except when I shower; I even sleep with it on. There's redundancy in the dash-shaped links, which is why it was still wearable when I got it, and a good thing too, because I've lost another link. At some point, I know it'll stop being wearable, it will literally break, but I'm okay with that. These aren't treasures, really; they're personal relics, and this one's serving its purpose.

I wanted something to connect me to my Jewish family, and ancestry, and dead grandmother; to ground me in and validate that while the world outside endangered it. And this has done that. (I'm still not being the Jew I want to be—in many ways, fuck knows—and there are still no outside answers to cling to. But there is this one physical thing to literally be attached to, to use as talisman and a private sort of proof and comfort; and that in itself is valuable, and it's a step forward just to disentangle from some of the anxiety.) I'm not sure what I'll do when it breaks—my wrist will feel so bare—but on some level it will feel like an external sign that I achieved that goal of engagement and remembrance, and can shift my focus elsewhere.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
There have been a number of interim posts since my last post that have not been written outside my head, because I am a perpetual bundle of busy and tired, consistently overstretching my limited capabilities to do politics and be scared about the state of the world.

One post: I did skip Thanksgiving, and my parents didn't come up after because inertia is a thing. But Dee went up to Washington for the holiday and Devon did drive up to see me for the day, just for a few hours. We made in-no-ways-traditional vegetarian hot dogs and mac & cheese (with hot dogs in it); it wasn't enough, but it was significantly better than nothing and I'm grateful.

Another post: practicing by doing the easy political phone calls on answering machines does (barely) make it easier to call real alive people. Somehow, that doesn't make it any less terrifying to forget about time zones and call places which are still open and unexpectedly staffed by alive people.

Another post: I have managed to leave the house, once or thrice. Snow helped (as sidenote: cats staring at snowland), because I missed the end of autumn and refuse to miss winter, too. We had snow + freezing rain, but then snow that stuck around, approximately pristine, for a few days. The latter was lovely.

* * *

Today my parents came through Portland and had lunch with me; they're headed northbound to spend the holidays traveling, including a trip to see my sister in Seattle. It was exhausting but in productive ways, almost entirely my fault—because over coffee I nonchalantly asked why I had which aspects of Jewish upbringing and how my extended family/various cultural aspects affected it, as one does.

I have, for obvious reasons, but especially as Hanukkah approaches, been thinking a lot about what it means to be Jewish and particularly to be Jewish in the face of forced assimilation and, you know, facism (how are these are sentences I'm writing and why is this the real world and can it stop), and also of the narrative of "Hanukkah isn't our most important holiday, and its cultural importance is actually a symptom of forced assimilation, but this year it certainly has extra thematic relevance"—because I was raised with Hanukkah and Passover and not much else, although my parents say there was an occasional Rosh Hashanah, which I think I remember; for me, there was no "more important holiday." It seems like some of that was because of how things lined up with Christmas/Easter and thus with school schedules, but it's also because that's what my father grew up with; his experience was inconsistent (Sabbat sometimes, but not always; Hebrew school and a bar mitzvah for him but not his brother; Hanukkah/Passover/Rosh Hashanah was all he celebrated, too) which has passed through the generations (Allie and I never had any formal religious education; our cousin did).

I grew up on the opposite side of the country from my Jewish grandparents, who always wished they could see us more often, who tried to cram a lot of Jewish Things into the whatever contact they had; they sent me Jewish novels and celebrated holidays with us less, I think, because those specific things were important—they weren't religious, their own practice was inconsistent—but because the identity was important.

White-passing half-Jewish cultural Jew is approximately as distant from the thing as one can be, and I understand the factors, the time, the literal distance, the way that assimilation works and why I have the background that I do. But I also have that identity, and its ... cultural expectation, I suppose, of persecution and persistence. My ancestors came from Russia, and immigrated before the Holocaust; that was not their personal story but it was their cultural story, and they taught me that, too.

I suppose I wanted an easy answer, an, "ah yes, your grandparents always wanted to practice these aspects of the faith with you, and you can now cling to them at least for their cultural significance even if you don't believe." But I didn't get that, I didn't get a "more important holiday" that can enable to me a real Jew. And I don't know where that leaves me, except that this diaspora experience is as real for me as it has been for my father and for his parents, and they are real Jews, so, maybe, I am too.

We also talked about how, for me, politics et al. isn't something to be countered by optimism or hope; that I live within communities where everyone will not (and has not) survived difficult times, and that but for the grace of Devon and August and my parent's financial support that could include me; and I think it's the first time I've ever mentioned suicidal ideation to my parents. My sister's cancer changed things for my family; we've learned to proactively accept and value of each other as we are, and the way that's effected how my parents view me—that they take me at my word when I talk about my experiences and health—as been huge. These are not things I would have felt comfortable sharing, years ago. I'm glad I can now, and the conversation wasn't all politics and Judaism and fascism, I also told them about Dare's antics and Dad showed me this video of him falling off his bike on the way to work. It was a worthwhile afternoon. But I am now very tired, and nothing really feels better.

I'm headed down to Corvallis soon, but we put it off a day and Devon is coming to get me, at some crazy early/late hour when we can skip holiday traffic, so that I can still see him and get my gifts without trying to navigate Amtrak/exhaustion/crazy.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Missy and Devon and I have spent the last few days reading ballots to one another and being stressed by politics, because alongside the terror that is the presidential race it feels like both Oregon and California are a mess—Oregon in particular is saturated with measures with good intentions and poor execution and candidates that have good credentials but circumspect conservative leanings. But we are all three of us now done voting, after much angst and exhaustion; today Dee and I took Odi walking in the rain, and I dropped my ballot at the library and then had celebratory coffee, and all was good.

There were two candidate votes I ultimately skipped and should't've, but only two; I figure that makes me about 80% Contributing Citizen, which is approximately 79.5% higher than my usual; and voting with a panic disorder is hard, and I am grateful that Oregon's voting process is so accessible, and that I don't live in a state with polling stations; and I am so glad to be done.

I love the height of autumn, as a riot of color and crisp new-season apples and the onset of sweater weather, but this may actually be my favorite time of year, sodden leaf-litter and nearly-bare trees, the rain constant but not yet punishing, Odi's fur clumping into wet feathers along the top of his head.

(And the only talk of Christmas that I've heard on social media so far has actually been reminders that the expectation that everyone celebrates Christmas/that Christmas is a universal two-month event is a form of prejudice—and I am grateful for that, and surprised.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I had a dream last night that I made a deal with a witch so that she would spare my family, the price for which was unrelenting pain in my lower back, like the witch's thumbs digging into the muscles at the base of my spine, a localized, piercing, unremitting pain. (Last night was also the onset of my period; cramping means the first 24 hours of my period is reliably my worst back pain of the month.)

1) This is beautiful imagery; it's not actually how my pain presents but my internal mythology still wants to internalize it as a metaphor for my back pain, to live alongside the black dog as a metaphor for my crazy. 2) But if that's the case, what bargain did I make and why have I not got shit from it? 3) I suppose this is the thing about chronic conditions: to assign them meaning seems to give them purpose or justification, but the valid truth is that they have none—and pointlessness is a big part of the experience. 4) Apparently Hexenschuss (literally: witch shot) is a German word for lower back pain.

I had a quiet Halloween: I took Odi for a walk while listening to Tanis, and on the way home we passed a lovingly-decorated yard, including a cluster of human-tall handmade carnivorous plants; someone was out finishing the decorations and I was able to compliment them on it. We only had four groups of trick or treaters, and Dee answered the door. One day I'd like to be energetic enough for Halloween as an event, I suppose, but I've grown content with Halloween as a season, September through the start of December, and then the long dead spread of winter after that.

My only regret, then, will be watching social media make an immediate left turn to Christmas Town. I think stretching out festivals of light (especially in modern times) deadens their effect, and would much rather embrace the dark seasons so that they have something to contrast. There's still so many haunted stories for this time of year! Sleepy Hollow's bare branches and leaf litter is best in November; there's so many books about the punishing, barren wilderness of winter (the second of Cherryh's Finisterre books is waiting on my shelf for then).
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
After my melancholy Hanukkah, I wasn't looking forward to Christmas and really didn't want to make the exhausting journey home for it. So instead, while Dee was way seeing her family in Seattle, Devon came up, Christmas Eve through Boxing Day. He brought me socks and a Moleskine from his parents, stable but beloved gifts, and a Shield Tablet from him, which means that I can play Android games now, which is effectively a whole new platform and super exciting. We made ever so traditional Christmas hot dogs and nachos, watched Red vs. Blue, and he played a lot of Fallout 4 streamed onto the big TV downstairs so we could sit stretched out on the couch-turned-bed.

In other words: the inverse of traveling and family, local and cuddly and content. He's not able to come up much, and it's easy to forget how stressful trips down can be—I love to see him, but his living situation is less than ideal and causes a lot of background anxiety. But this was perfect, just us, in a safe clean quiet home. It put to rest much of my seasonal angst (although I do eventually need to make a journey home sometime to deliver gifts that I haven't yet even picked.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
What is it about the holidays that inspires an intense heartsickness? Hanukkah is arguably more important to me than Christmas—it feels more intimate and profound—and yet I take some issue with how my family's come to handle it, growing lazier, we don't even make our own latka anymore; and whenever I go home, I realize how distant from my family I've become. My sister's been living there since her diagnosis, and she's always been more comfortable in that social setting. They're noisy and casual and gossip about people I don't know or care to; I go home to feel like an outsider, and to half-ass something important to me.

It makes me want to reclaim the holiday, to learn to make my own latka, to replace what's gone missing—but the very nature of the holiday season means I'm spoon-bereft. I put the average introvert to shame: I rarely socialize, but I rarely feel like I lack anything for it. Except now. This is the only time when I feel like I am actually missing something, that I'm denied something by my sheer inability to ~people~.

On Thanksgiving, Dee's immediate family came into town; they made stuffing and gravy the day before, then left on Thanksgiving itself to visit relatives. I was alone overnight, watching two dogs and four cats; I pulled out the couch and made a big nest of animals, and we watched TV and I ate stuffing and gravy. (Pics or it didn't happen.) It was perfect—enough socialization on either side, but the day itself was stress-devoid and I could actually enjoy my comfort foods.

And between the two, the quiet frustration of Hanukkah and the perfect day that was Thanksgiving, I'm tempted to spend Christmas at the house alone, watching the cats in quiet while Dee goes up to Seattle; but I worry that that tends to far towards not celebrating the holiday at all, and because I can't reclaim it and engaging with it as-is seems unpleasant I'll just ... let it pass me by, which is almost worse.

There are other, personal frustrations which are piggybacking on to this sense of heartsickness, homesickness, longing. I don't have a resolution for any of it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Late but existant holiday gift list, for my future reference:

Mother: A red-toned glass snail by Alcyon Lord; my mother has a few of this artist's pieces, some from me, but this is one of my favorites—and she liked it.
Father: Two Hanayama cast metal puzzles, also well received; because these are solid metal, they can't be bent or cheated—they look nice and are impressively difficult.
Sister: Bananagrams—in Italian! which she studied for a number of years and has a job translating from.
Devon: A Cougar 700m gaming mouse to replace his gaming mouse that died earlier this year and the pathetic wimpy one he'd been using in the interim.
Dee: Resident Evil Revoluations (Playstation port), since she's been (re)playing the series after getting RE6, and Dev played/I watched Revelations and rather liked it.

Parents: A pair of socks, a bunch of chocolate*, a selection of hot sauces and olives, a Moleskine, and money for eventual clothes shopping.
Father/Grandfather, paternal: my great grandfather's Siddur (Jewish prayer book)
Grandmother, maternal: Money for the eventual clothing fund.
Sister: Two knit sweaters, one black and one white, and one black waist-length peacoat, all of which fit and look fantastic.
Devon, Hanukkah: a Windows cell phone to use as a PDA/mp3 player; I'm not putting my SIM card in it (phone calls, including spam, trigger panic attacks) but it's been fantastic as a calendar/mobile browser/music device; I'm surprised how much I love it.
Devon, Christmas: We're still figuring this out.
Devon's family: 3 pairs of socks, one of which I'll certainly wear to death; jellybeans again, sigh.
Dee: Chocolate, and a delicate copper necklace with a small heart and a teeny little spoon. This is the second time someone has given me a spoon as a gift (the other one wasn't wearable, though) and it is actually the most perfect thing.

* Chocolate haul: chocolate orange, Trader Joe's single origin palette, Vosages Black Salt Caramel Bar, Pasca 85% Dark Chocolate, the last of which is certainly the best. This list is not redundant nor overkill; right now I'm at a point where the only way I can remember and force myself to eat is because after the meal there will be chocolate—it's one of the only things I can still enjoy, and having a lot of it is lifesaving.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went down to Corvallis over Christmas (Dee decided to go up to see her family immediately after Christmas, so it was lovely no-stress scheduling), and it was okay, I guess. Every few Christmases, the holiday comes during a depressive episode and I just want to wish the whole thing away because I lack the spirit to begin with and all the holiday responsibilities and events serve to exacerbate my mental state; at least once I've effectively defaulted on Christmas, even failing to buy gifts. This would have been one of those years, there but for the grace of Devon—he saw it coming, and so he researched wishlists and gifts and made it stupidly easy for me to pick presents for others. And everyone loved them! and that surprised me. Buying for my family is hard; my parents have a lot of art in the house and I've had good luck getting new pieces for their collection, but that grows predictable year after year; my sister and I have radically different tastes, and I never know what on her wishlist reads as "something you actually really want but may still have sentimental value." Considering where I started, with a deep unwillingness to do anything and an utter dearth of Christmas spirit, coming out the other side having given successful gifts feels awesome.

Christmas gifts given. )

Christmas gifts received. )

As always, I record this stuff because my memory is horrible and they're things I don't want to forget.

My father's birthday was December 21st, so we did a family dinner in and a family dinner out, and I went to the house to decorate the family tree, and then decorated Devon's grandparents's tree; Christmas Eve was blessedly quiet, but I went to both Devon's grandparents's family Christmas (a dozen people were there) and had traditional Christmas homemade pizza dinner with my family; Devon and I drove up to Portland on boxing day so that he could transport and set up the new monitor and Dee could leave to see her family the next day. In other words: exhausted, utterly exhausted, and while there were highlights and the homemade pizza continues to be the best pizza, I am mostly just exhausted. And exhausted.

But the days have been silver gray and heavily fogged; skeleton trees against cashmere skies; cold weather, scarf and overcoat weather, hot coffee weather; distinctly winter.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Devon came up a few days before Christmas. Dee and Odi were out of town, with her family up in Washington (honestly an awesome mini-gift to an incredible introvert like me); Devon brought with him a van full of things: 1) A TV to replace the living room TV; it's bigger and has a better screen, and Halo 4 thanks me. Devon just replaced his TV with one that's better suited to function as a monitor, so his castoff is my gain. 2) A new harddrive for the PS3, which had a near-unusable 40 gig drive; it's now 120, so there's breathing room for games. This one is explicitly a gift for Dee, because the PS3 is her primary console; now every install won't require an equal and opposite uninstall. 3) One of the big black bookshelves which was in his room, so the books that were in the corner of my room piled to near my height (the last of my books in storage in Devon's parents's garage) are now instead crowding a bookshelf. I also sorted more of my boxes-that-needed-sorting while he was here, and my room—while not perfect—now feels remarkably less crowded and much more me, bless.

Awaiting Devon when he got here was 4) My new computer case, a SilverStone Fortress in titanium. I've had my old case for about a decade, and while the guts are up to date the case was old and dented and ugly and had small and exceedingly noisy fans; this one is tall and clean and quiet. Also 5) A new keyboard to (finally) replace the one that August broke.

August used to love to sit on my old computer tower; the new one has vertical ventilation, so the entire top is a vent and can't have a cat butt upon it. Because she is my cat, August has shown zero interest in sitting on the new tower; I have, instead, found her on the new bookcase at two in the morning, walking on top of a row of mass-market paperbacks and occasionally, intentionally, knocking one of them to the ground.

These were a lot of big things, not surprises (I need some of my gifts to be surprises in order for me to get into a holiday spirit, but my Hanukkah gift was so that was sorted), but sorely needed. Everything they replace met a bare minimum of functionality, but the bare minimum was not horribly satisfying.

Also awaiting Devon was his Christmas gift, Beats Pro in black. Not a surprise (his gifts rarely are, as it's his money that buys them p.s. wouldn't you love to have me as a partner), but he likes them. They sound awesome.

Dee came back early on the 26th; my family came up for an early dinner and more gifts that evening; Devon left that night. My sister gave me a beautiful burnt orange knit throw which I am pleased to claim as For Personal Use Only (No Cats Allowed), which is nice because August has coopted every other soft thing in the entire house); my parents gave me a number of indulgent consumables and some baking supplies and significant monies. My mother's parents sent me The Dark Wife and Moonwise, both of which I'm happy to have but never expected to get—normally people read the blurbs of my wishlist books and go nope, too weird, not buying; one of these is a lesbian Greek myth retelling so guesses are Grandpa didn't read any blurbs at all but you know, I will take it. And from Dee, alongside the fingerless gloves for Hannukah: my favorite socks in three new colors yaaaay, a copy of The Night Circus which I shall immediately lend to her, and a number of new cat toys, immediately coopted by Gillian.

A good holiday all in all—busier than I like, but a quiet New Year's will balance it out. I know all of this is about material goods, but that's partially for my records and also because I am deeply material in the sense that I love stuff, I love stuff I want and love, which makes my living space usable and comfortable; I rarely if ever buy stuff, so gifts are why I have socks I want to wear and a computer I want to use. Devon likes to give gifts, not receive them, and that's a totally valid approach; I had a fantastic run of gifts-given this year, but at my heart I am a recipient, and gifts to me mean love and holidays and family. And this year, I had all of that.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
I just returned from Corvallis today; came back to Portland to a very excited dog and two! cats, which I don't yet take for granted. August was not her usual snuggleself on my return home; she was preoccupied by Gillian, by how his presence changed our interactions. (She is still, always, my favorite; she knows that.) But five minutes before I sat down to type all this, they were playing with the same piece of ribbon.

I went down to Corvallis for the start of Hanukkah. My sister was working late on the first night, so I just lit candles for the family. She was home all day on the second, so we did latkas and a family candle lighting and half of the holiday gifts and then I decorated the Christmas tree while listening to Christmas music, as one is wont to do during Hanukkah. They bought new lights this year, LEDs in a crystalline white, so I went out of my comfort zone for a light, white-toned tree (I tend towards red and brass, with a preference towards a wooden cranberry garland and wooden amanita decorations). I don't have pictures—my sister took some, but hell if I know where they got posted—but consensus is it turned out well.

Devon rearranged his work schedule during my visit so that he was home by sundown, bless. I also had some simple, precious downtime with him. For Hanukkah he gave me a Kobo Mini, which is my first e-reader—I still prefer traditional books, but this opens up giveaways and more library lending and lots of free classic literature, on a display I like and without any icky Amazon ties. My parents gave me a remote for my camera, which lets me add myself to the pictures of my cats if for some reason I'd want to do so.

(Devon is also giving me a Christmas gift—the way he's distinguishing and celebrating each holiday this year means a lot to me. I'll probably see my parents around the week of Christmas, when they make a day-trip up to Portland.)

(I gave my sister Beats earbuds, which turned out to be quite timely as her earbuds had just been damaged. I gave my mother The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I've wanted to give her since its release; I gave my parents a pair of ceramic bird garden sculptures by a local artist. Devon's gift is his when he comes for Christmas; Dee's will be here when she gets back from visiting her family at the same time. I'm rarely a good giftgiver, because I am chronically low on spoons and have no money to my name; sometimes it just doesn't happen. This year it's all working out beautifully, everyone is getting the perfect things, and I'm so glad.)

It was bitterly cold last night, and after some back-unrelated (the worst canker sore I've ever had—my pain tolerance is exceptional but this was one of the worst things I've lived through) reliance on pain medication I'm back to being med-free and I spent last night with the sort of stabbing back pain that can only be brought on by insomnia and shivering, and I still don't mind. It's cold and crisp followed by bouts of slate-blue rain; it's coffee-drinking weather, and in the dark nights we raise shining lights. I took the train at 6a, which is my favorite time to ride it (until 7a, when the loud gentlemen got on and seriously, dudes, shut up), I took a nap with my cats, I lit candles and Dee gave me a fantastic and immensely useful pair of fingerless gloves. Winter has always been a strange time for me—through my childhood my extended family wintered in Texas and Florida, which are decidedly non-wintery places; as a young adult I've spent years bouncing between locations and living arrangements and multi-family gatherings of mixed success; always as a cultural Jew who celebrates Christmas it just becomes a bit ... strange. I hate Christmas as a multi-month institution, and would never want to do something extravagant for any of the winter holidays. But while autumn is my season, there is something so powerful to me about the symbol of a light in the dark, of lit trees and menorahs. I don't begrudge winter and I don't fight the night; I like the contrast, and what it means to flock to the comfort of that light.

So, yeah. It's a good time of year.

(Many thanks for all of the Kuzco-related condolences. I've had some good time to reflect, if not overtly grieve, and am gaining some distance from it; I'm really doing fine.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Last Sunday Devon made a daytrip up to Portland so we could all carve pumpkins, as we did last year. We went to the local Kruger farm stand about five blocks away and picked out locally-grown pumpkins, then ordered food from the Che Cafe food cart; we waited for our food in a covered dining area while rain fell and the blue breeze blew in woodfire smoke from the firepit. It was a distinctly Portland weekend before Halloween, wet but mild, rich with the scent of rain and smoke and leaves.

We ate our food at home—mac 'n cheese and sandwich and fries and a thick quasadilla—and carved pumpkins while I blasted The Nightmare Before Christmas from another room (I don't listen to the soundtrack, I just put the film on and ignore the visuals).

From left to right: Devon's, mine, Dee's.

Pumpkins, 2012: On the porch

Daylight closeup. )

Pumpkins, 2012: Nighttime

Mine this year was inspired by the scarecrow in Sleepy Hollow—I made the face too small, but when lit up it really didn't matter.

Today I pulled on a long black skirt in satin and velvet and a purple half-sweater with flowy sleeves, and was something witchy or at least dressed up. I played Animal Crossing and answered the door to a dozen or so trick or treaters while Dee baked pumpkin cookies. Odi barked at every single visitor, but did just fine. I will love you and shower candy upon you if you are wearing a costume—I don't care if it's super fancy, I don't care if you're "too old," if you embrace the spirit of the holiday then my candy is yours. If you are seventeen and wearing the clothes you wore to school that day, I judge you. If you fourteen and smoking a cigar while trick or fucking treating I will not give a shit about candy but I will feel deeply unclean. (The polite adorably-costumed group of six that came near the end of the night erased lingering ick, but really? I mean really?)

Quiet little day. I never do as much with Halloween as I wish, yet did enjoy this one—and in a way, this day only begins the haunting season, for me. November all is death and decay—it's the beginning of the year, but the year begins with death, quietude, the rotting and waiting that lasts through winter. This is only the start.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Christmas tree (family)

Every year it goes like this: We procure a tree (sometimes my parents have it when Allie and I come home for the holidays, sometimes Allie and I go with to get it—this year it was the former). Papa drags boxes down from the attic, wraps the tree in lights, and then wraps the tree in wooden cranberry garlands because they're my favorite Christmas decoration. I sort out ornaments and decorate the entire tree. When it's 95% finished, Allie puts her birth ornament in a special spot, Mum decides where her birth ornament should go and either Papa or I hang it, and then I put on finishing touches and fill in gaps. The end.

This year, Mum managed to sort all the Christmas stuff while I decorated, and we got rid of a few big boxes worth of the sort of kitschy stuff we don't like but have managed to collect—I hope it made someone at the local Goodwill happy. Last year I leaned red and gold with the decorations; this year, motley red, relying less on the sets of ornaments I love (the piles of wooden mushrooms and brass bells) to mix in more of the unique ornaments in our collection. It's a little more folksy than my usual taste, but I like the chance of pace. The tree this year is a Nordmann Fir, which was a joy to decorate.

So nothing special I guess but: hey look, a Christmas tree. (Fun game: count the Starbucks ornaments. There are more than a dozen.)

Jamie we are trying to take a picture of the tree. )

A close-up shot. )

Driving into town on Saturday—after my parents found the house, and met my cat, and briefly met Dee; after we picked up my sister and went out to Thai and got coffee; after we made the drive home—as we were reaching that point where you feel like you could almost walk home from here if you weren't so tired, we passed a side street and Papa and I glanced out the window and both did a "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT WE ARE MAKING A LOOP TO SEE IT AGAIN."

A decorated house in Corvallis
That was this.

This is the sort of light display that makes the house across the street light up, too. And it animated. And it was set to music. Multiple songs worth of music. It was somewhere between awesome and horrifying, so one night when Devon and I were driving back from errands and dinner we went down the same road and I had him look down the same side street, and we did the same loop and then he got a video. Unfortunately we didn't get really audio, and it's blurry, and you should still watch it. )

Meanwhile, this is for Dee: Wizards in Winter. )

There's a newer, clearer version out there now, and I honestly do not care. The Wizards in Winter Christmas light display is my favorite YouTube video perhaps of all time, I watch it every year, and now so can you.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Going back to Portland tomorrow morning and thank goodness for that—this has been a good trip but it's also the trip that would not end: picked up by family, picked up sister, went out to sub-par Thai (but par is pretty high these days) and good coffee, went home; blueberry pancake breakfast with family, followed by tree decorating, stayed through dinner; one down day and then the first night of Hanukkah, Hanukkah gifts and latkes, opened Christmas gifts from my family as well since I'll be away on the 25th; a day for running errands as we bought a train ticket and then exchanged a Christmas gift for one which better suits me, and now I'm skipping out on my father's birthday dessert because I'm just so tired. I've been sleeping more and better here than I had been for a few weeks, and Devon has been remarkable, supportive and calming and helpful, but I'm tired, I'm just tired. Portland will be calmer—Dee and I have about a day of overlap, and then she journeys north to spend Christmas with her family. A few days home alone, just me and the creatures, will be a blessing. But there's still unfinished insurance stuff which didn't get taken care of here, and gifts for my family, and I know that yes, most of these are ultimately good things and yes, the holidays are stressful almost by definition; I have so many complaints, but they're nothing remarkable. Still. I'm tired.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
It's that time of year again. Tree the first:

Last year, Devon and I set up a mini black tree with brightly colored ornaments in our room. Dee has a mini purple foil tree (blessedly pre-lit, too, because mini trees in crazy colors can be a nightmare to light) which she's never had the chance to decorate properly, so I had Devon bring up our ornaments (knowing that the color scheme I picked to glow against black would probably look awesome against purple) and we had at, and behold: it is beautiful and bright. Purple tree, pink lights, a silver garland, normal ornaments in green, small in purple, silver, and bronze, tiny in two finishes of teal, and it shines like you would not believe and looks fantastic in the living room.

christmas 001

+3: at night, close up, and an August cameo. )

Heading to Corvallis tomorrow, and decorating tree the second soon after, and then Hanukkah begins. Hopefully I'll be able to get pictures of it all. But if this is the only one I document with photos, well, it's one well worth it.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
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Since I'd been meaning to do this...

Books. Every book on my wishlist is one that I can't easily get via a library, or have already read, and either way know I want to own—my book wants are rarely frivolous these days. Moonwise by Greer Gilman and The Annotated Alice by Lewis Carroll, ed. Martin Gardner are probably at the top of my list, but I want all out of print Caitlín R. Kiernan.

Video games. I want new copies of Pokémon HeartGold and Dance Central, to make sure I get the Pokéwalker and can import songs to DC2 respectively. I also want Sims 3: Generations and Sims 3: Pets, eventually. But I have plenty more games on my to-play list which I wouldn't mind the least bit used, most of them for the DS: The World Ends With You, the Ace Attorney series starting at the start, Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, Super Scribblenauts, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, as well as any obscure JRPGs that come recommended. ETA: Gimme—I mean, now that there's an English language version, Inazuma Eleven is also high on my list.

Socks, but in particular these socks. I have Rust and love them, and would love Paprika and Moss and Lichen and Carbon and even Blueberry, too (but Paprika most of all). At or over the knee, absorbent (cotton or rayon), solid-patterned natural-colored (but I could make an exception) socks are where I'm at.

Long-sleeved, long-torso'd shirts (probably size medium) with thumbholes. Pullover hoodies in fairly thin fabrics, thumbholes bonus. Armwarmers with thumbholes. Thumbholes everywhere.

Cellphone-style charms to decorate my portable gaming devices. Storebought or handmade, anything as long as it's awesome and durable. Plastic stars are awesome; Pokémon, too—here are some of my favorites, but all I really want for Christmas is.... Cute and 3D and probably plastic preferred.

A menorah. I'm finally getting to the point in my life where I want one for my own home. This is my family's, to which I am greatly attached; I think I want smooth organic shapes and copper or brass tones for my own.

BPAL. My wishlist remains out of date but not useless; I'm also in need of bottles of Dana O'Shee and Plunder. Handmade jewelry in copper or brass, peridot or amber; even better, jewelry designers to eye and lust over, asmy past favorites are going in new directions which are less my style. Serious chocolate: single origin, 75-95% cocoa content, artisan. I love cocoa nibs, too. Ruled hardback Moleskines. Pennies—I collect them. Letters, not gift cards. Good wishes.

As always, my contact info is here (can't see it? want to? just ask).
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
Devon went Black Friday shopping (don't ask me why), so I took the train down to Corvallis on Saturday. Or at least I tried—after flirting with disaster, I finally got there right after they'd closed the train doors. An employee automatically rescheduled my ticket for that evening, and I called Dee and she came back into town to hang with me for a few hours before my departure. We wandered out from the train station, and then I began to recognize China Town, and then we were on Burnside and I could see the hotel where Express and I stayed last month. We were going to find a Starbucks, but I mentioned that Moonstruck, a Portland chocolater located in St. Johns (that bridge in their logo? that's our bridge), had a café in the building Express worked in, and that they served single-origin drinking chocolate—so we went there. We both tried the Venezuelan—74%, dark and thick even for drinking chocolate, pungent and bold; not the best single origin I've had, but easily the best drinking chocolate, and the employees were fantastic. From there I found us a Starbucks so we could sit and enjoy it, and then get water and lighter fare to finish. I felt so Portland to know where things were. We walked back to the train station and had an hour just to talk before the train got there, and it was easily the best thing to make of a bad situation.

On Sunday I had breakfast with my family—in theory a belated Thanksgiving, but in reality toned down and only made seasonal by homemade applesauce, but it was still lovely. As we were leaving, my sister—who is studying abroad in Italy—got back from a few days spent in Ireland, and we all got the chance to see one another via skippy, delayed webcam. My envy of Ireland is balanced against my admiration of what she's been doing with these last few months. Monday my period hit me hard—and I'm trying to deal with some insurance application stuff that's cast a long black cloud of anxiety over everything I do. But I played ilomilo on Devon's new phone, and I sorted BPAL, and it was good to see the boy. I was there until Wednesday morning—a little longer than usual. I came home to a cat (she seems to know when I'm due back, and turns into attention-hounding terror that morning) who immediately crawled on me to share my nap.

But I'm tired. Hanukkah starts fairly late this year, overlapping Christmas, but I'll probably go home when my sister comes back from Italy—see her, see my family, light the first candle and exchange presents, and then come back to Portland. Devon will probably visit before then, and maybe over Christmas; with me here to give medication to her disgruntled cat, Dee has the freedom to go visit her family for the holidays. I want to stay in one place and do as little as possible. I've met people, done things, gone places, and it's been fantastic, but it's getting to the point that I'm tired just to see days fill up on my calendar. I want to under-schedule this month, hibernate a little, be bare-branches dead and quiet, and recharge.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Thanksgiving was:

Mashed potatoes, turkey and vegetarian (Quorn-brand) turkey, gravy and vegetarian gravy, and stuffing
Cranberry relish and jelly
Stuffed mushrooms
Sweet potatoes with ginger
Green bean casserole
Crunchy salad with fruits and nuts
Cheddar and roast garlic biscuits and cheddar and jalapeno bisuits
One cream-based pumpkin pie and one tofu-based pumpkin pie, with whipped cream

and miracle of miracles, there was minimal battling for kitchen space and it all finished at the same time—and it was fantastic. The fake turkey was pretty tasty and I actually liked the stuffing (usually I find stuffing's texture too varied; this was dense and uniform) but the delight for me was gravy—I've never had the chance to have it because it's never been vegetarian, and Mike's was fantastic, savory and rich, salty enough to be the only flavoring the mashed potatoes needed but not so salty as to be overpowering. Savory sweet potatoes are a breath of fresh air and I actually liked them (sweet potato is usually to sweet for me); I'd never had parsnips before, and they were lovely. At Thanksgiving I usually eat to be polite, except for dessert. This time, I had seconds of almost everything.

But the delight of the evening was the biscuits—not because they were better than everything else, but because I decided to make them on a whim, had never made biscuits before, and they still turned out fantastic. I did a double batch, which is a mixed blessing because now all I want to eat is biscuits—and I can. The biscuit base came from here, with adjustments as always because I can never leave well enough alone.

For a dozen buttermilk drop buscuits:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup cheese of choice, shredded or crumbled
1/2 cup secondary flavoring (roast garlic, jalapenos, etc) chopped or crumbled or smushed
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Cut in cold butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add inclusions and mix until combined. Add buttermilk and stir with a spatula until just combined.

Drop round spoonfuls of dough, about three tablespoons, onto prepared baking sheet at least one inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm.

I used extra sharp cheddar in both, with chopped fresh jalapenos (mostly deseeded) and mostly-smushed roasted garlic cloves. They biscuits have lift without losing density and pull apart in beautiful, flaky chunks. They carry their flavors beautifully and the dough itself is savory and golden. Some recipes add melted butter on top before or after baking, but they really don't need it. I imagine it'd be a lot of fun to play with fillings—and I will, in a billion months when I can justify making them again. I like them too much to have them around all the time. I just can't stop eating them.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I don't do this every year, but I should—even if it sounds like an acceptance speech. I don't care about Thanksgiving food other than pumpkin pie, but I hold giving thanks quite dear. The last year in particular has been good to me, and so I have too much gratitude to give and the need to give it all.

To Portland, and for Dee making it possible to live here. This city sets me free.

To friends, in particular to those that I now also know offline—Dee, Lyz, Express, Sarah, even Rachel and Danielle and Tiffany—not because real-world friendships are necessarily more meaningful, but because this has been a year of making them and that's meaningful to me.

To family. My sister is off studying in Italy, and she amazes me. My parents have shown me incredible understanding in the last year, and to be seen, known, and loved by them is something I don't quite have the words to describe.

To Devon, who has made Portland and a semi-mostly-long distance relationship possible again, and is my favorite person in the entire world, and loves me.

To stupid fuzzy animals—but mostly to August. She is my dream come true, and I still haven't gotten past the shock of that. I love her enough to break my heart.

And to books and perfumes that smell like carnation and drinks that taste like pumpkin, and relative health and wellness, and relative financial stability. I am a diehard malcontent and will go back to feeling miserable at the drop of a hat, but the truth is that every one of the last few years has been better than the last, I am healthier and more sane, I am surrounded by love and I usually have a cat on my lap, and I am so, so thankful.


juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)

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