22 January 2023

Passing on the Goodness.

Last Sunday was a community Mitzvah Day, or Day of Service.  My congregation has done it for many years as part of a MLK weekend observance that includes joint worship with a local Baptist congregation whose minister is a longtime friend of our rabbis and other leaders in our congregation.  I love his sermons.  This year it was moved a week because of when the dates fell; second Friday our service is often led by one of the Sunday school classes, but Mitzvah Day remained on the third Sunday.

Five congregations participated, with services and then a speaker from Hands on Hartford who told how she had gone from homelessness and drug use to clean and college almost-graduate.  It was her first time as one of their speakers, she did wonderfully and I think she appreciated the warm reception.


We had several projects:  making sandwiches for a shelter to hand out (peanut butter and jelly or sunbutter and jelly, made on opposite sides of the hall to avoid contamination); six no-sew fleece blankets; over a hundred toiletries bags containing soap, shampoo (only the first fifty, because we thought we'd have only time or supplies for fifty, but there were generous donations and enthusiastic participants), toothbrush and toothpaste, and new heavyweight socks; and uncounted cards and letters for shut-ins.  I helped to organize and stuff the toiletries bags:

Leftover toiletries and socks went to the shelter, along with the remaining oranges and orange juice from the breakfast buffet.  The remaining bagels went into the congregational freezer for future use.

I took the remaining art supplies to the Free Center, which a friend manages.  I don't need them and they have regular community activities and after school programs, so the paper and markers and stickers and such will go to good use.  Note cards I kept out and am donating them to a caring community project that gives appreciation bags to visitors to a local USO facility.  So the good things just keep flowing through the community.

A friend posted on her blog about her congregation's program reminding people to help each other.  Seems to be a theme - and hopefully not just for this weekend.


In other news, I finished another book, More than Petticoats: Remarkable Connecticut Womencontaining brief biographies of many Connecticut women.  I've now donated it to the local Friends of the Library for them to integrate to the collection if wanted, or sell in their fundraisers.

14 January 2023

What Names Can Mean

Last night was the monthly lay-led service, and once again I was asked to give the d'var Torah.  I also baked a loaf of bread for us to share at the end:

Yeasted pumpkin bread made with roasted butternut squash and a milk glaze.

Trying to come up with something to say, my focus was captured by the title of this week's passage, which is also the way Jews refer to the book of Exodus - by its Hebrew name "Sh'mot", not the Greek word which attached to it much later, as Christians and others translated and adapted the Pentateuch.  This is what I said, with a few changes on the fly that may not be captured here:

We know that parashot are called by their (usually) first word.  This week’s parasha is Sh’mot – the word means “Names”.  It starts by listing the names of Joseph’s brothers who traveled to Egypt.  It gives other names as well, including – as Rabbi Fuchs is fond of listing – those of the many women without whom Moses would not have survived, from Shiprah and Puah, the midwives, to his sister Miriam, his wife Zipporah, and so on.  You can read and hear many d’var Torahs about “The Amazing Women of Exodus” including on the Reform Judaism website and Rabbi Fuchs’ blog.

We know that in the Torah, if somebody has a name, it is because they are important.  There is something significant about that person.  Persons without names are not important for who they are, but for what they do, as when Pharaoh’s daughter saves Moses from the river, or when Pharaoh himself responds to Moses and Aaron by making life harder for the Israelite slaves.

G-d asked Adam to give the animals names, and in other places it is G-d who gives people new names at key points in their lives: Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob becomes Israel.  Sometimes we hear that a name has an especial meaning, as when in this parasha Moses names his son Gershom, “for, he said, ‘I have been a stranger in a foreign land.’” (Exodus 1:22)   And G-d also takes a name in this week’s parasha; at 3:15 we read:

And G-d said further to Moses, “This shall you speak to the Israelites: The Eternal, the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you:

This shall be My name forever,

This My appellation for all eternity.

The writers of the Torah are not the only persons who focus on names.  William Shakespeare’s famous lines include “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” from Romeo and Juliet in addition to her lament “wherefor are thou Romeo?”, which modern people think means “where are you?” because she cannot see him under balcony.  However, in the language of Shakespeare’s time Juliet is complaining because his name makes him unsuitable as a lover – if he were not Romeo, and a Montague, her family would approve.

Royalty often take a regnant name, different from the one by which they were previously known.  The House of Windsor had been the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha until the first World War made a German name unpopular.  Performers often change their names, either by choice or by requirement; in the registry of actors, if somebody already uses a name the next person has to use something else, which is why there are initials and people known by their middle name.  Truck drivers have handles, and so do people on social media.  Westley became the Dread Pirate Roberts, and later offers the name to Inigo Montoya, whose well-known introduction has become a classic example used and meme’d by thousands.

Names can tell something about you: where you are from, who your parents are, your religion, your culture, what or who was in the news when you were born.  You may have a familynickname, a social nickname, a work name.  Some cultures believe your one true name has so much power that nobody can know what it is, and people use different names in different situations which conceal it.  Some people change their name as a way of marking a passage: marriage, divorce, professional achievement.  Children going to college often choose a new nickname or other appellation, to memorialize their stepping out of childhood and the family into their adult being.

Some names are evocative; say them and an image, a personality, instantly spring to mind.  Maybe you have an impression of the person and what she or he did in their lives.  Think of Hartford’s Katherine Hepburn and you get an impression of a tall, thin, independent woman, with a certain vocal tone and mannerisms.  Mark Twain – a pseudonym used by Hartford’s Samuel Clemens – may bring up a man in a white suit, or a mischievous boy talking others into painting a fence.

Think also of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we celebrate on Monday, and in whose name a national Day of Service was instituted.  What do you think of when you hear Dr. King’s name?  Many white people in the places he walked thought and referred to him negatively (I won’t use the words they called him and others in the civil rights movement).  Black people – who were called “Negro” at the time, another example of a name and how it changes over time – thought him a leader, savior, a beacon for persons who sought and fought to overcome discrimination based upon prejudice, much as many of us in this room likely do.  Maybe you think of a loving husband to his wife Coretta – this is the image that inspired a new sculpture on the Boston Common, which shows their hands and arms in an embrace, “a representation of vulnerability and security” according to the executive director of the group that oversaw its creation and installation this week.

When you hear the name of Dr. King, or of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose birthday was earlier this week and who walked beside Dr.King and other Civil Rights leaders in many marches, what do you think?  Do you want to step up to their example and try to change the world?  Do you want to help people in your community?

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel presenting the Judaism and World Peace Award
to Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dec. 7, 1965 (Wikimedia Commons)

Think of the future, when you will be but a name in people’s memories, and remember Iago’s remonstration in Shakespeare’s Othello that “Who steals my purse steals trash / 'tis something, nothing / 'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands / But he that filches from me my good name / Robs me of that which not enriches him / And makes me poor indeed”.  How will you want them to remember you?  Do you want to be but a type, somebody who took action, nameless otherwise?  Or do you hope that somebody will hear your name, and like the others, a face, a voice, an example spring to mind for others to follow?

Your name can be your legacy.  How will you be remembered?


{NB:  I deleted the information about our community Day of Service on the following Sunday, as that is irrelevant to most of my readers and will be out of date soon after this posts.}

08 January 2023

One week in.

It was a beautiful day for a ride, so I met a longtime friend at a halfway point, the Book Barn in Niantic.

Miraculously, we each managed to go away without anything new other than items we exchanged.  One of my gifts was a jar of bit congee, because I'd gotten a packet of it at a local farmstand and the recent cold and rainy weather seemed a good time to simmer things.

 

I used a quart of vegetable broth, a can of cocoanut milk, and a quart of water.  The end result looks unimpressive but tastes quite good - and made over a half gallon.  Hence the jar given to my friend.  I forgot to take a picture of the result; it's not very photogenic.  However, it is quite delicious.

Last night I made a recipe from To the Queen's Taste as a way to use up the last portion of a pound of ground lamb from the local farm.  I usually just do lamburgers but felt like eating something else.

Given that I had about a third of a pound of meat, I reduced quantities accordingly.

Broth with turnips and carrots added, because.
 
Meat with chopped dates and spices, before mixing.
  
Meatballs simmering in the broth.

Ready to eat!  A pretty Larsware bowl seemed appropriate.

I let the meatballs simmer a bit too long, but they were tasty.  I may try this again and watch the time more carefully.


Resolutions Report

I finished the second sock!

They are definitely not this pink in real life!

I also finished a blanket block for Warm Up America! and one of the UFO baby blankets that was in a bin in my stash:

The block for Warm Up, America!



I read The Game of Life and How to Play It, and while it is a bit "woo" for me, it has a lot about how to do more positive thinking.  I mentioned it in a discussion group at work, and a couple people said they read it every year, so at least one other is going to look for a copy.

01 January 2023

Full of things that have never been.

The full quote, by Rainer Maria Rilke, is And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.”   It wasn't in one of his poems, but a letter to his wife, the sculptor Clara Westhoff, written on 1 January 1907.

What are my plans for 2023?  Many of them are the same as they have been, and which I listed last year:

  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Knitting and Crocheting
  • Eating Ice Cream
What shall I do that is new, that "has never been"?  I have some ideas, but as always, there are lists available for those who need help.  Both Parade Magazine and NPR provide sample lists of resolutions.  Another site gives a list of "101 Things to Get Rid of on January 1st", and I am pleased at how many of the items I don't have.  I do have old toothbrushes and socks with holes, but I use these for cleaning - socks make great dusting mitts.

Thanks to a dyer/designer's blog I found the artist who created this list:

While cleaning out some things I found an old list from my congregation.  Surprisingly it contains only seventeen items; usually Jewish lists of this type include eighteen, because the word for "eighteen" in Hebrew is the same as the word for "life": חי (chai)

Again, many are things that I do.  Some are complicated; some are harder.  At the bottom is "Learn Something New".  While earlier they suggest the Hebrew language, there are other new things I can try.  I still haven't figured out what it might be.

So for the moment, these are my

Resolutions for 2023

Reading:  Of course!  I told Goodreads I would read 12 books, and on my  "Resolve to Read Giveaway" entry for Half Price Books I said 16, since they don't have you track.  I'd rather set the bar a bit lower when I am held accountable.  Personally, I am going to try for 18 again.  And yes, as with last year it will include the in-progress books, although first I want to read this one:

Just the title suggests it's a good starting place for a new year.

Completing UFOs:  I still have the second sock of the Magical Miniskeins set, but I am closing on completion as I'm in the leg portion:
Paused because I have to wind the next mini-skein.

While doing some organizing and sorting of things during the year, I've found some others.  Many others.  So quickest to hand as I write this post are a shawl, for which I think I know the pattern, and if not will start something else:

And the other baby blankets in the bin I pulled out when looking for yarn for Warm Up, America! items.

I may add to the list as the year progresses and I decide to work on other items, or just keep track of them as an unearthed UFO when I record their completion.  I know there's a blanket, and at least one other shawl, and at least one mini quilt top, plus one that is pieced but needs to be completed with backing, filling, and edging.

Cooking:  Yes, I'll be doing that.  Today I made hoppin' john (but with merguez instead of andouille sausage), and a blueberry pancake, both of which are traditional in my family.  I will keep making cheese soufflés when I visit my parents.  So what will be my new cooking challenge this year?  I think I'll try to cook once per month from one of the historical cooking YouTube channels I follow:  Tasting History, Townsends, English Heritage's "The Victorian Way" series.  And if I find others, I may try those too.  Franklin Habit has some cookery on his channel, and has blogged a few things, so I may try one of those as well.

Something New:  Still pondering.  I'll let you know what I decide.


The one on the right is from The Reader's Digest, in case you don't recognize the logo.

31 December 2022

Looking Back

As many people do this time of year, I am looking back to see what I have accomplished.  Starting with my original set of resolutions, most of which I have accomplished.  As of the last day of 2022, I am still working on the second sock that was one of my carry-over UFOs:


That's just shy of the heel on the in-progress sock, with two or three rounds of the gusset to go before I could turn the heel.

According to the chart I kept, I finished fifty-two knitted or crocheted items this year, which works out to one per week.  Not a huge output compared to some, but satisfactory.  Three were for my grandmother and six for me, which should please my mother who thinks I make too many things to donate to charities or give to others and not enough for myself.

In terms of reading, I set the bar low, because the previous year I didn't find a good focus.  So I ended up exceeding my intentions, completely reading eighteen books:

I did read parts of others, two of which are pending to be finished in January (one at my bedside, one in my parents' guest room), and a couple which I gave up on without finishing.  Life is too short to read bad books.  Maybe they will be to somebody else's taste.

Am acquaintance posted that she read 73 books this year, so eighteen isn't much, but I am pleased with the number, especially since three had over 500 pages each.  Plus I do a lot of other reading, mostly periodicals.  I've been piling up the unread magazines and am working through them quite steadily.

Goodreads did an analysis of the books I read, which is a very eclectic assortment:

 

Back to the sock while I watch TCM's annual "Thin Man" marathon.  Part of the reason the sock is not further along is a very exciting Fiesta Bowl.  Sadly, U Michigan managed to keep their bowl games losing streak alive.

28 December 2022

So this happened...........

One of the groups that sprang up online as a result of the pandemic is Plague Mask Players, which started as a group of actors frustrated when theatres shut down, and stayed shut.  They began performing the entire Shakespeare canon, and branched out into other less-known works, preferably by female authors, as time passed.  As the world began to open up they shifted to less frequent performances.

I knew a couple people who were part of the founders, and watched some early shows, and on a whim jumped into the 'casting' process - which consisted of the first ## persons to "Claim!" a role when the casting post opened.  While I've been part of theatre most of my life, most of that has been spend backstage (a bad role gave me serious stage fright early in high school, from which I've never really recovered) and I found that I thrive backstage, especially roles such as props and stage manager.  Of course there is very little need for these in a virtual theatre (except such props as each performer brings) so I've had to overcome my fears and learn to perform.  The upside of how PMP works is that it's just a reading, you don't have to learn blocking and memorize lines and all the things I find difficult.

So it's been fun, and while I couldn't be in every show, I've done a number of this season's performances.

At the end of the season they hold an awards ceremony, the Billy Awards:

I didn't attend last year's ceremony for some reason, and although I was nominated as part of a troupe, we didn't win.

This season, I was nominated for Best Stage Directions for the production of Antigone.  (I also jumped in last-minute to play a small role when the scheduled performer had a medical emergency, so was Creon's son in an "Almost Famous" sweatshirt - the sort of costume choice one makes on ten minutes' notice.)  I was a presenter for Best Props at the awards ceremony.  And I was surprised enough that I won for Stage Directions:

Then, towards the end of the ceremony, shortly before Best Production (for Alice in Wonderland, I think to nobody's surprise), this happened:

I think I am going to be in shock for some time to come.  One of the founders, producers, etc. said when posting about it after the ceremony:  "Special shout out to Margo Lynn who is our MVP! She is an invaluable member who embodies everything we are passionate about. She is all-in, always performs to the fullest, jumps in to help, and is a joy to watch."  For somebody who has been happiest behind the stage, to be recognized for performances is truly an utter shock.

Especially when I am part of this group of winners, several of whom won in multiple categories:

25 December 2022

Christmakah

Today, Christmas and Channukah overlap.  I love these images:



My rabbi sent out this set of wishes, and I posted each one with a photo of my candles each night:

1.   May the candles brighten our hearts and souls and remind us of all the GOOD in our world.

2.   May they give us COURAGE to be ourselves and resist the latest trends around us.

3.  May the Shamos - the helper candle -remind us that we can HELP spread light in our darkened world, we must help others.

4.  May we TRUST that there will be enough. That what we have is enough. That what we are is enough. For that cruse of oil that shouldn't have sufficed, sufficed.

5.  May the give us HOPE - All too often we are told, there is no more oil left to burn when there is - “The proper response that Chanukah teaches is not to curse the darkness, but to light a candle.”

6.  May we have FAITH - as we light these candles. Remember we light the candles when it is darkest.

7.   May we SHARE our light with others. We are taught that we should place our menorah on our windowsills, so that the light invades the darkened streets and alleys.

8.  May we remember that our future has not been written yet. If our observance of this holiday strengthened our bonds to our past and to those around us, if we can focus on the light over the dark, if we can share the light with others and brighten our world, and if we can REDEDICATE ourselves to that which is holy, then our observance of Chanukah was meaningful and worthy. 


I hope that whichever holiday you celebrate, you have warmth and peace and light.