Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Feast of Lights: flashback

[I'm reposting one of my most popular blog articles, originally posted in December 2008, in celebration of Hanukkah. Thanks to my wonderful commenters, I have the composer's name, correct lyrics and a YouTube video now! Happy Holidays to all.] 

Back when my dad worked at the National Labs, many of his coworkers came from all over the globe. Highly educated engineers, physicists, and scientists from Germany, Poland, China, India, or Russia all found important work to do in their fields alongside Americans from across the country. No matter their religion, when December came around in the '70s, there was an office Christmas Party, complete with Santas everywhere, angels and reindeer, and songs about glorifying the savior's birth. Christianity was assumed, but if you were Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim you came to the party anyway, because you were expected to or just to celebrate the spirit of the season (and there was free food!). In the time before political correctness, expecting a nod toward any non-Christian religion at a mainstream office party was too much to hope for.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my sister M. and I featured regularly in the singing at the ANL Xmas parties. We dutifully learned our songs in elementary school chorus class to prepare for the annual Christmas choral program. We were pretty good! Our little eight- and six-year-old voices were sweet and earnest. One year at his office party, my dad asked us to sing our favorite Christmas carol. After a brief conference (in which I argued for my favorite, a beautiful song in a haunting minor key), we sang this lovely song, Feast of Lights, composed by Frederick Silver:

Video credit: The Primes Girl Choir of South Florida performs "A Feast of Lights" by Fredrick Silver live during the 2010 Winter Concert "Timbrel and Harp" on December 11, 2010, at Second Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Associate Director: Gretchen Fasulo.

I remember Mama lighting the Menorah,
Then covering her head she'd start to pray.
When Papa finished reading from the Torah,
Mama, smiling down on me, would say:

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
The eternal flame, may it glow in you,
And the Holy One
May He know in you
only love

May the light of peace
Shine and never cease
And the glow of wisdom illumine in you
May you never hate, though it's human to;
May you know love.

May you go through life
With your head up to the sky
May you never walk in shame
In sight of the light of the One
Who has no name
This I wish for you.

May your days and nights
Be a feast of lights
Have a warmth for all of humanity
For without it, life is but vanity
May you have love.

May you have faith, and
May you have strength, and
May the Lord grant
Your life will have length
May it be sweet yet strong

May your days and nights
be a feast of lights
Your whole life long. 

Of all the many unsuspecting, long-suffering Jewish coworkers at the Christmas party? There was not a dry eye.

Happy Belated Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate this season. May you know love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Dance Resume

I've got a new hobby in the works. It's one that I've already fit into my schedule for five hours a week and I look forward to every day, but I'm ready to take it to the next level. It's not knitting or jewelry or doll-making; although I love all those hobbies, I'm not making time for them and they aren't working naturally into my activities right now. They're all once-in-a-while hobbies. What am I loving and doing all the time, whenever I can outside of work? Dancing.

I was just laying out my dance experience for this new hobby, to justify my credentials (a resume I've never outlined before). So far, I have trained (at least once a week and up to four times/week for each time period):

  • 18 years step aerobics/group aerobic dance
  • 7 years jazz dance
  • 5 years modern dance
  • 5 years ballet
  • 5 years yoga
  • 4 years body pump 
  • 2 years Jazzercise
  • 2 years hip-hop dance
  • 2 years karate
  • 1 year Pilates
  • 1 year kick-boxing
  • 1/2 year Zumba
 My new adventure? Jazzercise Instructor. Over the next six months I will be auditioned, trained, and hopefully certified to teach my own classes by the end of the year. So what if I'm in my 40s? Most of the other instructors are as well. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I love the classes I'm taking and think it would be the perfect part-time adventure.

If it weren't for some of my Jazzercise classmates who've been telling me that I should be an instructor a few times a month for the past year (Jessie, Tom, Anne, Jennifer), I wouldn't have considered it. I have to put a few other hobbies on hold for a while, but they'll be there for me to pick up again. Hobbies are patient. I'm just really excited about this one right now and need to act on the thrill!

Friday, December 02, 2011

Stay clear of me today

Minor things going wrong are part of every morning, and I typically solve them and move on. I barely notice them. Once minor annoyances start piling on and I find myself keeping track of them, it looks like the beginning of a bad day. On a day like today, when this many little things go wrong, I might snap at any teeny issue, so I'm just going to quietly hunker down at work and hope nobody pokes me.

My list so far, all normal things by themselves:
  1. My back-up alarm (my watch) didn't wake me up (I left it in the bathroom last night).
  2. My shirt had a hole in it (I had to change).
  3. My nylons have a run in them (I covered them with pants).
  4. I left my lunch bag at work (I had to scrounge for a paper bag).
  5. Rosie needed nebulizer meds that take 20 minutes and I was already late, so I roused her out of bed too quickly, which sets her off (it's better for everyone to let her come out of her room in her own time).
  6. Dash made Rosie cry by threatening to watch a TV show that she dislikes (I intervened and relocated Dash to watch something on my laptop while she was on the nebulizer).
  7. I forgot that both kids have spelling tests today (I had to quiz them).
  8. I have a smashing headache (have I taken pills for it yet? no.).
  9. My car was covered with frost for the first time this season (I had to scrape it).
  10. While I was scraping the car, I noticed that somebody had hit it and the side-view mirror was dangling and couldn't be reattached (the mechanic in my neighborhood is ordering the part, but for now, I'm driving without a driver's side mirror).
Solving the first five issues would have been a normal day. To keep having them pile on, one after another, is a little too much even for me. On the way to the office, I caught myself about to yell at a guy who was walking two paces ahead of me for not holding a door for me — he let it go and almost hit me in the face. I'm feeling edgy.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Knitting "two-hour" fingerless gloves. Yeah, right.

I was home from work yesterday after succumbing to the dreaded strep throat that Rosie had caught almost two weeks ago. With all kinds of choices for how I should spend my day — cleaning the collapsing kitchen cabinets? washing the fetid floor? laundering the bed-linens? — I chose to knit. I was getting tired of the hat I've been working on for about two hours a week through November (I missed a stitch or two and the pattern is all screwed up), so, I looked up a project that Kelly had posted on Pinterest, the one-hour fingerless gloves. I did my own search, not thinking about Pinterest yesterday, and found a two-hour fingerless gloves pattern on It looked pretty and not too hard, with three inches of ribbing, then gradual increases while you worked in the thumb.

What happened, however, was not a two-hour result. I had a set of bamboo double-pointed needles, perfect for this pattern, but have never used them before—they're sticky. I used acrylic yarn that I have in abundance (free!) from my MIL. It might not be as easy to use as wool, I have no idea. I also knit pretty tightly, especially when I'm trying something new. About four hours into knitting one glove, I was about half-way finished. It's beautiful, but I really, really want to get faster at this stuff! I took my first knitting class exactly a year ago and I've made about five scarves, two and a half hats, and now this half a glove. I was getting faster when I was working on the scarves, but that was mostly because it was all knitting. This, knit one row, purl one row, count 18, knit in front and behind — it's all slowing me down even more.

It's primarily the tension thing, right, experienced knitters? If I can just loosen my stitches up, I can go faster? Arrggh! I'd love this to be the solution to Xmas gifts this year, but not if it's going to take me a day per glove. Rosie said she just liked the wristlet, without the finger-warming part, like a bracelet? I can totally do that. That might even take me two hours.
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