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Maccabee

So, I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done a blog post about Judaism in a while.  And this seemed a bit of a shame to me.  I should have at least tried to cover Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot.  And Simchas Torah.  But I just didn’t get around to writing those articles up.  But now, it’s December!  And that means Hannukah!  And everybody at least knows about the existence of Hannukah, and a vague idea of the story.  But it’s always nice to share with those that don’t, nu?

 

So I started thinking about how to tell the Hannukah story on my blog.  How to write it up so that the idea and feeling of hannukah comes through the words and into my reader’s heart.  Which is a difficult thing to achieve, I know.  But in thinking about Hannukah and the Maccabees, A strange correlation came over me. Please, indulge me and hear me out, because I am sure that you will not believe me if I tell you what I think right out, and I’m sure that I will get dismissed almost completely by the end.  And so I give you a Hannukah Story: Occupy Jerusalem.

 

 

The Greeks were in power.  They ruled everything that the eye could see and far beyond.  They had come to Jerusalem years ago, but in peace.  Alexander himself had entered the city, so fascinated was he with the Jews.  We were allowed to worship our G-d and keep our Traditions and Law, so long as we also obeyed the Laws of Greece on top of it.  We were not forced under Alexander to pay heed to the Pantheon, we were not completely ostracized, although we were also not necessarily welcome.  But it was, for the most part, a peaceful life of coexistence.  But then, Alexander died.  Things remained roughly the same for us for a few years, but restrictions became tighter and our freedoms grew less.

 

Finally, one day, it seemed to all have happened at once, we were no longer allowed to teach our children the language of our Fathers and Mothers.  We were told that they needed to be taught Greek and only Greek.  We were no longer allowed free worship of our G-d, but had to hide our devotions to him.  These were not the same enlightened Greeks that had been in charge of our land before, these were brutish Greeks, and the world was their toy and all would bow to them.  They controlled everything that they saw, and they did so with an Iron Fist, and with money.  Local lawmakers bowed to them, did their bidding, obeyed their will for fear of what retribution was possible if they did not.  We were kept from our Temple, and eventually we were kept from our Homes.   We were evicted from the homes that we had lived in for centuries and moved into new areas, smaller, poorer, and unable to sustain us and our families. 

 

We looked around and saw that this was bad.  It was a bad place and a bad situation, but we were not warriors.  We were scholars, students, families, farmers.  We worked for our living and struggled daily to ensure that there was food on the tables.  We cared for our own, our children and our old, Our brothers and cousins.  Yes, life was harder now, but it was always hard for us, The Chosen People.  But we had made it through tougher times before, we can make it through this again.  We had made it out of Egypt, after all.  We just needed to bide our time and G-d would make things right. 

 

This did not sit well with the younger men.  They were anxious, angry, and caught.  The Temple was being defiled, used for unholy worship of Idols of Gold.  They were watching their parents waste away, and their younger siblings and for some their children as well forced into poverty.  They were watching everything that they had been told to work for in life, being taken away.  And they felt powerless.  They had done what the Greeks had wanted, they had obeyed the Laws, they had been good subjects, and now this is how they were repaid?  With their lives being wasted, and their families put into peril?  And while we tried to tell them to settle down, that this is obviously how the world was meant to be for us, the young men could not let this pass.

 

They began to slip away from our new smaller settlement, from the protections of home and family.  They were going to make a point, they said.  They were going to make their voices heard.  They were citizens of Greece, as well as Jews, and they had rights.  Sadly, we watched them go.  They were our children, our nephews, and we could not stop them.  We were trying to keep the rest of our family together, to feed and teach our children, we could not stop those who wanted to make a difference, we needed to focus on the youngest and the eldest.

 

And so the young men went out among the hills around Jerusalem.  They hid in caves and pitched their tents.  They were small in number but then grew, and grew, and grew as more found out about their ideas.  And they stopped being just young men.  Older men joined, and women too.  They were all of us together, the same as always.  They fought back against the Greeks.  Sadly, it was physical fighting, and not just words of war and protest.  But the Greeks had given us no choice.  We had tried to voice our grievances before, but to no avail.  We were told that this is just the way it was, and to be happy.  But who can be happy when you have no food to eat and no roof over your head, and you cannot be that which you have always been? 

 

So the young men and women of Israel fought.  And while we knew in our hearts that the war, the battles, the attacks were going to be for nothing, we watched on as our youth defended us, protected us.  They battles went on, here and there throughout the hills, throughout the land.  One clash here and another there, our youth recalling the days of old when we first came to this land, Jewish Warriors strong and bold.  But that was a time when G-d was on our side, and this is a time, this time, we are not quite so blessed.  Or so we thought. 

 

But slowly, slowly the times changed, the tides shifted, and the Youth, the Maccabees as they had called themselves, they began to win. They gained ground, little by little by little.  They moved forward, they pressed their rights, their agenda, their beliefs, and they fought for what they knew to be right.  And they won.  They won.  Through their determination, their drive, their loyalty to one another and to their ideals, they won us back our homes.  They won us back our cities, and our Temple.   By working together, towards one common goal, the Maccabees proved that even the smallest people can make a big change in the world.

 

Yes, yes, I know.  It’s not perfect.  And it’s not the complete story of Hannukah either.  The story of Hannukah, and why it is 8 days and nights comes later, after the Jews have returned to Jerusalem.  They clean out the Temple of the idols of the Greeks, they clean and purify the temple, and they go to light the Menorah, to welcome G-d back into His home.  But they did not have enough oil.  They only had enough oil for one night, and that was not enough.  They sent a runner to the nearest town, but that was days away, and they needed to rededicate the Temple.  So, with a heavy heart that this could not be done completely properly, the Priests of the Temple rededicated the Holy Ground and relit the Menorah on the 25th day of Kislev.  They knew that they would not have enough oil, and that they would need to redo the ceremony again, but it was Shabbat, and the Temple was theirs.  And then, the Miracle happened.  The oil, which should not have burned for even one full day, burned for eight days and nights, until the runner returned with a new supply of oil.

 

It’s a fanciful story, and one mostly told to children, to explain why Hannukah is eight days, and to show the Blessings of our G-d, and the miracles that He can perform.  But there is a deeper message, that I’ve only just started to work out for myself.  Once again, the Jewish people were in trouble, and being persecuted.  And once again, it is the Jewish People who got themselves out of the mess.  G-d brought down the plagues on Egypt, but only after Moses started the process of freedom.  Esther saved her entire people from the wicked man Haman in Babylon, and the name of G-d is not even mentioned in her story.  So while we are Children and the Chosen of G-d, most of our greatest stories, come from ourselves.

 

So what is another over-reaching moral?  A group of determined people, no matter how small and no matter the daunting size of the task before them, a group of determined people can do anything.  Now, some of you might be reading this and asking if I’m talking about Occupy Wall Street.  Yes, yes I am.  I am not advocating that they take up arms like the Maccabee, I do not feel that they need to.  They have already made a difference.  A change.  The physical Occupations might be coming to an end, but the movement, the sentiment is not over.

 

A small but determined group of people can do anything.  And even the smallest thing, the smallest changes in life, are Miracles.

 

Happy Hannukah.

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Insomnia

So here I am. 1am on tuesday morning.  And I’m still awake.

 

What could possibly be bothering me?

 

My Nanowrimo is done (unofficially and more about that later), my FBI paperwork came back clean and healthy (like there was really any doubt), I have a game plan for where and when and how to go through and finish up this visa application (ugh tediousness).  There really is nothing overly heavy weighing on my mind.

 

Except.

 

Well, I’m still unemployed. Which granted at this point is planned until after I get my new visa and then I can look for things that are not ‘temporary’ or ‘contract’ but I can actually get full time work.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am ok with being unemployed.    And I still have no idea what it is I would like to do.  Call centers, retail, go back to school?  Maybe a bit of this and a bit of that?  But all of that requires some soul searching.  And I just am not good at soul searching.  Especially if it involves any form of meditation.  My brain just refuses to slow down.

 

Also, I am thinking about the whole ‘what next’ part of my writing.  I have no done my 6th Nanowrimo. I have now hit my 6th mark of 50,000 words in so many years.  My world and my plot are coming together better now than they ever have before.  So what next?  Do I move on? do I try to finish up? Do I gather all of my previous writing and notes and details on this subject and scour them for details, information, bits and pieces and then put that all into notes on Scrivener (awesome program btw), and actually honestly attempt to write this book?  Or books?  Do I have the willpower to sit through, sift through, all of my writing over the years, trash what is crap and keep what is good, build on the rest and actually come out ahead with a story that maybe somebody somewhere will want to read?   Do I have this willpower?

 

Do I have the willpower to keep up with the weight loss?  I can tell that I’m losing weight because my pants are slowly starting to come off around my waist.  But my hips are still the same size they were, so no real loss there.  Also means no new pants.  Just have to keep fiddling with the old pants.  Can I really keep up with this? Can I lose enough weight so that when I head back to the States next year to visit, mom and I can go shopping for new clothes for me and I can actually maybe not wear the ‘fat girl clothes’?  How much willpower do I really have stored up?

 

And is it even willpower that I need? Perhaps what I really need is ambition.  I don’t really seem to have any of that.  Ambition.  It’s a funny word.  In some cases it is a strong, positive, encouraging term. In others it’s dirty, nasty, unkind.  And it seems to be difficult to balance the two levels perfectly.  What is a good level of ambition? And how do I get there?  Now that I think about it, Ambition seems to be the core of most of my problems.  Yeah, I know, First world problems and all that.

 

But really.  I never had many ambitions as a kid, or even as a young adult.  To be happy and to be loved for who I was were about the only things I was ever determined to secure for myself.  And, well, now I have those.  And I’m lost.  I have no real ambitions.  Dreams, sure I have those aplenty, but ambitions?  To be a writer who can tell her stories and have people want to read them.  That could be one.  That’s about as close to an ambition as I have.  But I am still very unsure of how to necessarily achieve that goal.

 

I’ll have to do some more thinking on this.  I’ll get back to you.

 

But for now, It’s almost 130.  My mint tea is just warm enough to drink while still being hot enough to be soothing to the rather unhappy stomach that I have now (i think it doesn’t like peanut butter anymore), and I’m hoping that a few minutes of window shopping for a new menorah is going to be enough to settle my brain and calm my whatever it is that’s keeping me awake.

 

So good night, good morning, and have a pleasant day.

The Long Way Around

It seems like my entire life I’ve taken the Long way around.

 

Well ok, let me fix that, my entire adult life I’ve taken the long way around.  I went to University like I was supposed to, but in the end, it took me 10 years almost to finish my degree.  I just had to take the long road that led me through hardship, pain, and misery in order to get to the place that I could finish that degree.  I had to try life out first, to see the world as I wanted it to be, and to find out that it really wasn’t, in order to appreciate just how much I wanted that degree, needed the degree.

 

Even in love, I’ve taken the long route.  I went out with just about every single guy that ever showed interest in me.  From one night flings before homecoming to seven years long.   All of that to just get me to this point in my life, and my mind, where I can accept the love of a man who has nearly everything I’d ever day dreamed about, but never believed I could have.  It took me years, so many many years, to accept not only the love of another person at face value, but also realize that lust is not love, and that I am deserving of love. It took me a long time to get to those lessons, and to accept and understand them, but I did, and I do.

 

And today, another example of me taking the long way around.  I had to head down to the store to pick up some medicine for the house, and to get some soap for our trip this weekend.  Now the walk to the store isn’t very long at all, in fact it’s only about .5km.  So just about a mile.  Up hills and stuff.  But today I decided that I wanted to do a bit more.  So, I took the long way around.  What could have been an easy 1km round trip turned into a 3.25km walk.  With hills and flats and everything in between.  All because I made the conscious decision to take the long way around.  And for once in my life, it was a positive thing!

 

Even my health has been the long way around.  I’m 30, and only just now starting to realize, and care, that there is so much more life ahead of me, I shouldn’t be throwing it away on being fat, having a bad diet, no physical activity, and smoking.  Granted, I quit smoking almost 2 years ago now, but the rest of that stuff, it took me finding love, and hitting 30 to realize that I have so much more to do.  Again, the long way around.

 

Even in my writing!  I have a fantasy world in my head and have had it there for going on six years now, and I start to work on it bit by bit by bit every November, chipping away at just a little bit more of the information, the facade, the details, and never actually getting to the story that I want to tell!  I have to figure out the background first, the characters, and all the details in between before I can even put the story down on paper. Another Long Way Around.

 

But, I am who I am.  And if Slow and Steady is how I need to work in my life in order to achieve the happiness that I’m at, then Slow and Steady is where I will be.  And who I will be.  Because after all this time of wandering the Long Way Around, I’ve found where I’m supposed to be.

Bouncing Thoughts

crap crap crap.

 

My sleep has been going back down the tubes again the last few nights.  Even last night, after an exhausting day of cleaning and then going to the gym, you would have thought that I could actually get some sleep.  Nope.

 

My brain just seems to be refusing to shut itself down.  But why? What could I possibly be thinking about that makes it so that I don’t sleep even when I should be exhausted?  Well there really has been a lot going on, some of which is quite daunting and will be the subject of a longer blog post as soon as I figure out how and what to write.

 

The one big thing though, has been Nanowrimo, and the fact that it’s two weeks away and I’m less prepared than ever before.  In fact, I am so much less prepared because I am now doubting what I want to write.  For the last 5 years I have basically used Nano and the month of November as a means to gather background information on my fantasy world, Ahlterra, together out of my brain.  Nano has been 5 years of 50,000 words of research documents for this world.  That’s 250,000 words of research for a world that is still not fully developed in order to tell a story that I haven’t even started to write yet.   So this year was going to be installment 6, a focus on another character, another background, another setting, and more information being pulled from the depths of my imagination in order to complete this bloody research so I can get on with actually crafting the real novel.

 

But then, the other day, in a fit of insanity that I was having about myself, my life, and my future as a worthwhile partner for the most awesome and fantastic man in the world, my handsome and loving partner made a suggestion that I start to write something of a life story.  Just as a thing.  I didn’t think anything of it then, i was too far deep into my period of self-hate and loathing.  But now, I can’t get this idea out of my head.

 

I even have a potentially working title! “Locating the Lightswitch: One Woman’s Journey Past Being Young and Stupid”.

 

that’s almost all that I have on it right now, but it would probably end up being a stylized look back on my life, and just when the ‘young and stupid’ phase started and when it started to end.  With little anecdotes and funny tales, and even trying to make tragedy a laughing matter.

 

I’m not sure how I would do it, what it would end up as, or if I could even get it to work at all.  But, but… it won’t go away!  My head is spinning with this idea.  I lay down last night, exhausted beyond belief and then suddenly, it’s there, bouncing in my head these thoughts and half-drunk ideas wandering in like stray cats and then chasing the cobwebs away.  And then suddenly, I’m awake again, the night is too hot, the blankets suffocating, and not even the relaxing harp music on the cd player, the oscillating fan, or the rain outside was enough to lull me back into a stupid state of slumber.  It’s only the knowing crush of being completely exhausted that finally pushes my head into the pillow and smothers me into sleep.

 

As you can tell, I’m already practicing my ‘creative’ use of the language.  I just don’t know what for yet.  Do I keep doing the research in my head?  Or do I turn out something completely different from anything I’ve ever written and try to turn it into something for real?  I think that until I get this question answered, my nights of sleep are going to be difficult and tenuous. Until I can no longer stay awake and my brain just collapses from exhaustion.

Something About Writing

I dunno, but I had this weird dream the other night. Well, same dream, sort of. There was a modern version (starring Bruce Willis and Sigourney Weaver) and then towards the end of the dream it started over again.

It involved a man and a woman, their children, and some sort of kidnapping something.

Then, last night, when I went to sleep, the beginning of the 2nd part of the dream started over again.

A man on his horse, a trail of people walking behind/beside him, the snow whipping around them fiercely as they moved onto somewhere not there. The man wore a mask, or a helm, or something in between the two, the head of a white stag, with a wide rack.

the ‘camera’ shifted to a woman on the ground beside a longhouse, strong and wooden. she wore clothing to fight the cold, but she didn’t move to join the others, who for some reason were evacuating the village.

The woman called out to the man, calling him Ivan, and she held out a basket to him, begging for him to take the basket with him. He refused, telling her that this was her duty and her charge. He then pulled a ‘child of the coal’ out from the line of people and pushed her towards the kneeling woman.

“the child is your duty, Evelyn. Moriah will help you tend to her needs. Do your duty, there is nothing more I can do to save you.”

and then man in mask turned his gaze forward, leaving Evelyn and Moriah huddled in the snow, protecting the basket which it was slowly revealed, held a baby girl.

****

that’s really all that I remember. I know that the baby’s name is samantha. I know that somehow she’s important, but I don’t know why or what about. But I know that I’m going to have to sit down and write this story out.

I love when my dreams talk to me.