Monday, December 29, 2008

Aren't You Glad You Asked

Book Meme:
The Rules: Grab the nearest book. Open the book to page 56. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your journal/blog along with these instructions. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST. Tag five other people to do the same.

The diagnosis of abruption may be confirmed by inspection of the placenta at delivery. The presence of a retroplacental clot with overlying placental destruction confirms the diagnosis.

- from Blueprints - Obstetrics & Gynecology, Callahan, Caughey & Heffner

What can I say - my husband keeps his review books on the desk next to the computer.

Seven Facts About Me:
The Rules:
1. Link to your blogger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people (if possible) at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

1. While in college, I belonged to the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society. We collected mushrooms; there were also, I believe, slide shows.

2. Sometimes, I still put on clothing that I wore in high school.

3. I like cats very much, but am highly allergic to them.

4. I read Jane Eyre when I was 9. I loved Jane, especially in the beginning when she mouthed off to her relatives; but my favorite character was the mad wife in the attic. I even wrote some fanfic about her. More recently, I read Wide Sargasso Sea (by Jean Rhys - Jane Eyre from the point of view of the mad wife) and was disappointed.

5. My favorite color is red.

6. I had to wear bifocals for a year when I was 8.

7. Once, an old man threatened to beat me with his prosthetic leg. He actually took it off and waved it around - it was rather a surreal sight. (Long story here.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Translation: Not Literal, But Rhymes and Mostly Scans

Wings by Nautilus Pompilius

translated from Russian

You slip off your evening gown standing with your face to the wall

I see the fresh scars on your back, and I want to fall

Asleep and forget, cry in pain, and forget it, forget it all.

Where, where are your wings, your wings that I loved so much?

We used to have time, but all we have now is things to do:

Like proving the strong eat the weak, soot is white, and lies true.

There are things that we all have lost in this insane war – now, you:

Where, where are your wings, your wings that I loved so much?

I don’t ask about your men or your money; I never ask why.

I see you fear open windows and staircases rising too high.

But if tomorrow the building goes up in flames, we’ll all die

Without these wings, oh these wings that I loved so much.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Meeting and a Literary Effort

Son's parent-teacher conference last night. Arrive to be confronted with sign-up list; upon signing, sit down and observe that all women present appear to have better sheitlach than I. Resolve not to let this observation lead to inferiority complex, as fall down resulting slippery slope likely to end in bankruptcy and/or psychiatric condition. Instead focus on completing translation of Nautilus Pompilius song begun earlier that day while waiting for court case to be called. Other parents talk about sheitlach and upcoming sheva brochos of couple unknown to me.

Finally, my turn arrives and I enter classroom. Rebbe looks up at me and smiles weakly; I take this as cue to introduce myself, whereupon he nods and remains silent. I sit down and look at him expectantly, as do not quite like to ask What Trouble has Son been Getting Into? Rebbe appears to pull self together and tells me that Reading is very Good, but can be Wild at Playtime, neither of which surprises me. Inquire as to What he thinks should be Done, more to appear Caring Parent than because I think anything can be done to significantly modify Son's Behavior. He tells me it has gotten Better (Why?) and inquires whether we are related to a Rav who used to be on the Lower East Side about fifty years ago, because our last name is not common, and Son looks a little like him.

Lack of content to this meeting should have been wholly anticipated by self, as particularly Egregious acts by child always precepitate phone calls from concerned educators - such as last year, when Son tried to practice karate moves on the other children. (Query: why, nevertheless, do I feel compelled to attend these Events? Answer: deep-seated and possible irrational conviction that it is necessary in order to be a Good Mother.)

Return on foot, with coat open due to broken zipper, and begin to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. After the first fifteen minutes give up in exasperation, as have recalled ending as well as annoying behavior of female lead, who insists on wearing skimpy white dresses in all kinds of inappropriate locations such as snake-infested pyramids and pirate ships, and screams Too Much.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Go to a Wedding

Attend wedding on Tuesday night, where run into Mrs. K, whom I see every morning at my son's bus stop. She says (in rather startled tone) that I look Very Nice; considering my usual morning appearance at bus stop, this is not saying Much.

At table, am witness to debate concerning desirability or otherwise of a broad education. Mrs. X thinks that Our Children should be sheltered from all Harmful Influences; Mrs. Y, on the other hand, while agreeing that we do not want any Harmful Influences (as, indeed, who does?), considers best way to avoid H.I. is to teach a child to Think for itself. Tear myself away from contemplation of salmon on my plate in order to interject that My parents let me read Anything - in fact, very much liked to read Balzac when I was ten - and I turned out All Right.

Mrs. X stares dubiously and says, This may not be for Everyone. Mrs. Y says, There, you see! and we proceed to agree that actual learning in school far preferable to speeches about tznius and future motherhood. Indeed, should have been very depressed to listen to such stuff at age sixteen, as did not particularly like small children and detested conversations about clothing.

Suspect that tznius craze is excuse to talk about sex and clothing, and feel quite righteous about doing so.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Day in Court

This morning, had to take Infant to Court with me, due to babysitter's last-minute Cancellation. Infant screamed upon attempt to enter courtroom, and was forced to beat hasty Retreat and produce bag of Pretzels (Infant is almost Two, and thanks to Siblings, perfectly adept at the consumption of pretzels and other, even less desirable Food-Like Substances).

Upon re-entry find that all seats are Taken; Court Officer loudly says, Everybody, Please Find a Seat! Sympathetic female clerk produces office chair from behind filing cabinet and we are Seated. Infant promptly drops pretzels on the Floor and slides down to recover them. Calendar call begins - my case is number 44. Infant picks crushed pretzels off floor and throws them in the Clerk's garbage can, then climbs back on my lap and joyfully says, Mama! Sssh, I say. Court Officer interrupts calendar call to say, Anyone whose Phone rings will Leave the Courtroom and Not Come Back.

Clerk calls number 12. Infant indignantly points out dropped pretzels and goes to pick them up; the attorneys on number 12 forced to mince around him to get to judge. Infant gathered back into lap and proceeds to behave quite well, by his standards.

Clerk calls number 30. Infant has dropped remaining pretzels, deposited a layer of crumbs on my black suit jacket, and tries to flip a switch on the wall, whereupon Court Officer approaches and sternly says, She Can't Be Touching That.

Clerk asks, Which Number Are You? and calls number 44, out of order. Deposit Infant on Chair and approach judge; Motion ends up Postponed for Other Reasons. Scoop up Infant and other sundry accoutrements and Flee courtroom. Proceed upstairs to file various papers; Infant tries to close the double doors, then runs around barking and growling.

On the way home, Infant screams on the subway train, prompting dirty looks and a few inaudible (to me) but clearly unappreciative comments. Eventually, convince Infant to spend rest of trip admiring his reflection in the window, which induces a Meditative state.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes, I Am Quite Happy, Thank You Very Much

This past Shabbos, finally got myself to Shul (Infant was with my parents) and every single person who ever had a black person be rude to them, came up to tell me about it, with the rider that It Is People Like Me That Ruin This Fine Country, and They Hope I Am Happy; to which my reply was, Quite.

To add insult to injury, Daughter said today that she had wanted "the Pretty Lady" to win, which devolved into exhausting discussion of What Makes A Good President. Qualities proposed included Smart, Does Chesed, and Tznius - Does Not Wear Shorts. This last was proposed by Son, while clad exclusively in pair of pajama pants, which he had stopped halfway through pulling up so as to participate in discussion (is going through very Irritating stage of being completely unable to to anything else while Talking).

Am reading Barbarossa by Alan Clarke, concerning the war on the Eastern Front during WWII. Am inexorably reminded of military descriptions in War and Peace, complete with poor communication, competing interests, lack of competence, and entirely misapplied competence. Detailed accounts and explanations of strategy turn out oddly mesmerizing, to the point where I felt actual suspense, though know quite well what happens next and how it all Ends.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Small Matter of Education

Was amazed to discover today that Daughter is being taught by Nevi'im. Daughter reassures me that Even if Obama wins, Something Bad will happen to him and Moshiach will come. Rejoin, somewhat starchily, that should quite like Obama to win, and that Moshiach will come Anyway; to which Daughter replies that Morah knows better, because she is Older. Am confident that the Latter, at least, is not the case. Daughter further alleges that McCain Loves the Jews, and Obama Hates them; is naturally unable to cite any Facts adduced by Morah to support these propositions. Am further dubious concerning the Wisdom of attempting to discuss Politics with seven-year-olds. Upstairs Neighbor, whose daughters attend the same School, says that her eleven-year-old's class was told the exact Opposite (which bodes well for Pluralism, but makes no Sense otherwise) and that Political Discussions with eleven-year-olds are similarly Unedifying. Recall own reading, at age eleven, mostly consisting of The Gulag Archipelago and The Cancer Ward, but surmise, and, indeed, Hope, that this is Atypical. Cannot help feeling School may have done better to stick to simple explanation of electoral process and Issues involved.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is All This Water Symbolic Somehow?

Son: Yonah was a big tzadik, he washed negelwasser all day long.
Am positive Son's rebbe is sane person and would not tell children that Yonah had OCD or that OCD required for tzidkus. (Although quite see how 3-day sojourn in Fish stomach could induce compulsive Washing, not to mention Claustrophobia. Recall no medrash to this effect.)

Daughter came home today with wild tale of school bathrooms Flooding progressively from first floor to fourth, with subsequent spillover into elevator shaft and classrooms, resulting in Girls standing on their Desks and Screaming. Daughter further alleged that the stairs Broke and when you went Outside, you could see the Water spouting out of the Roof. Am sure I have seen a Movie like this. (Query: Day After Tomorrow? Or, perhaps, one of the Die Hards?) In any event, have not received phone call from School; thus, must conclude that that Building not entirely demolished and tomorrow's Sessions shall proceed as usual.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Get Old, and Other Gloomy Observations

Upon awaking on Erev Rosh Hashana, found myself afflicted by most unpleasant virus. Shall refrain from providing details, as must keep in mind that not many people find descriptions of Diseases and their symptoms either Interesting or Tasteful. Food preparation conducted in muzzy haze, with heartfelt prayer for getting things Right and avoiding solecisms such as leaving Flour out of Cake (this happened to me when I was Sixteen, which only served to confirm my opinion that there were Better things for me do do).

Managed to stay upright and Awake until arrival of Guests; retained a semblance of Coherency through the Simanim, though had to invoke Husband's aid in determining exact composition thereof. Subsequently, retired to couch and slept, regaining consciousness only to tell Husband that There are Potatoes in the Pot and Just Dump the Veal on a Plate. Felt deeply that the less I heard about Food, the better for all present.

Spent rest of holiday avoiding food. Ironically, recover in time for today's Fast, which also coincides with my secular birthday. Cannot help seeing this, together with sundry other Occurrences as unauspicious beginning for new year. Forlorn hope is that G-d is getting the nasty stuff out of the way so we can enjoy the rest of year in peace; am, however, not disposed to Count on any such thing, especially as am aware that everything could always be Much Worse. For Instance, already feel Cold coming on.

Am now Twenty-Nine. For reasons unfathomable to self, reflection that, were I still single, I would by now be an Old Maid, induces Feeling of Gloom. Am constrained to ask, Does it make me a Better Person that contemplation of others' Woes fails to Cheer me in the slightest, or Does it just make me an Incurable Pessimist? Answer: very much fear, the latter.

But, you know, do have a good year, everyone.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Too Tired for This, Really

Have been up all night working on assorted projects; as result, head is full of medico-legal jargon and keep thinking things like "collateral estoppel generally ineffective in cases of chorioamniotis" when really need to say, "NO, you may not have chocolate frosting for breakfast." Shall spend rest of day cooking, which usually has soothing effect. Macbeth has murdered sleep; not Macbeth, obviously, but cannot seem to otherwise fix blame on anyone but myself for Leaving things Too Late.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Finally, a Good Reason

Am informed by various males that I should vote for Palin "because she is Hot and shoots Moose." Discount the second as am not aware of urgent national Need for elimination of rampant Moose Infestation. As to first, cannot think why I should be influenced, given what I should think must be my obvious inclinations. However, am happy to finally produce comprehensible reason for voting Democrat, as Obama undeniably Hotter than McCain. Shall now cut short incisive political commentary and hide under bed, for fear of being mistaken for Moose by unkind Republicans.

Husband reports that his hospital is currently harboring Amy Fisher, and that the nurses Do Not Like her. Experience flashback to beginning of 9th grade, when AF 's then-recent exploits provided bulk of conversation fodder. Why? Answer: comes there none.

Am due in Immigration Court again this week, with client constitutionally unable to locate own ass with both hands; but the judge is nice. Am also reading biography of Jonathan Swift, interspersed with Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus, which has mental effect of eating fried potatoes dipped in red currant jelly - an intense craving I had during my second pregnancy.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Make Sort-of-French-Bread

Seized by fit of domesticity, have achieved French bread ("not-exactly-baguettes") and something called Irish Car Bomb Cake, which deserves to be made for the name alone. Obviously, domesticity requiring copious use of Guinness as cake ingredient much preferable to the kind requiring moving all the furniture and scrubbing the corners.

Have been made aware of music ban; occurs to me that appropriate response would be re-working of "Rock the Casbah" with adjustment for correct religion. Am too lazy to attempt.

Husband just called from hospital (where - a reminder - he is a doctor, not a patient, and, B"H, doing fine). On being reminded that It is My Mother's Birthday, silence ensues, followed by cautious question: How Old is She? I reply, Sixty-Two; am sharply corrected by Mother that it is Sixty-One. Whereupon Husband proceeds to relate hair-raising tale of 59-year-old patient, whose last period was sometime in 1991, and who is now Pregnant following expensive and tortuous procedures involving hormone injections and other people's eggs, and now must be on Bedrest. As if above were not enough, Husband supplies that she had three pregnancy terminations previously; hanging on to last shred of hope, ask, On Purpose? Answer: yes. Husband concludes by saying He Feels like Hitting her every Time he Walks Past. Regret to find myself in sympathy with this highly unprofessional Attitude.

Reassure Husband that nothing of the sort will be forthcoming from Mother and hang up. Ensuing attempt to imagine arrival of young sibling boggles mind into incoherency. Restore shattered equanimity by resorting to remains of Irish Car Bomb Cake and new-ish Akunin novel brought by Father-in-Law.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

More on Immigration Court

Am back from Immigration Court. Arrived for 9:00 a.m. hearing only to be confronted with news that the judge won't be in until 10:00. Annoying young blighter in blue pinstripe goes around the waiting room trying to establish Who was here First, and Who is Last in Line; everyone humors him, but endeavor proves predictably futile, as upon opening of courtroom, everyone scrambles to it in order of relative proximity to door. I win; thus, am first to listen to judge tell me to do complete opposite of what she told me to do last time, with some gratuitous Advice to a Young Lawyer, which makes me thankful my client speaks little English, winding up with the conclusion that Nothing Can Be Done Today, as DHS attorney Has Not Reviewed the File (why judge appears to think this is my fault, eludes me). Suppress violent urge to tell her, I Know, but I do Not Approve, and I am Not Resigned. (1)

In other news, the Infant is singing a tune which I recognize to be the bandits' song from Bremenskiye Muzykanty. Wonder if 20 months too early to begin musical training? Or, perhaps, too late? Own musical training limited to dim recollection of, at the age of 5, being hauled from under the bed to practice scales on the piano; my parents must have found this activity less than edifying, since piano lessons promptly discontinued.

(1) from some poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

And Now For Something Somewhat Different

Had client's relative petition approved today, after long and annoying process, including Stokes interview consisting mostly of the interviewer asking them (separately) what they had for dinner the night before, for breakfast this morning, for dinner on their first date, which was not very edifying to me on an empty stomach. Apparently, there are people who have roast chicken with a side of cottage cheese for breakfast. You live, you learn.
Am glad of this ego boost, since tomorrow am scheduled for further adventure in the Immigration Court, before a judge who, frankly, scares me a little. Last time, she yelled at some guy for being dressed too nicely, and trying to take advantage of the American system. She tried to pull the same crap on my client, asking Did she work or Just Sit Around trying different ways to get a green card. My client, though, had proof of employment for the past 14 years, so that kind of took the wind out of her sails. And this judge doesn't do this to harass people. She does it For Their Own Good.
Just thinking about it all makes me tired. Have also been reading entries here, which, sadly, only served to confirm my opinions on Russian media and general public. Not, of course, that there has ever been a time in history when the country was not going to hell in a handbasket... like watching a thousand-year-long train wreck, really.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of Very Little Importance in the Grand Scheme of Things

Son (age 5): Next Purim, I'm going to be Voldemort and I'm going to kill Harry Potter's family, chas v'shalom.

Ensuing train of thought: Am I really such a failure as a parent? I didn't think it would show up so soon. At least he said chas v'shalom; on the other hand, highly doubt he knows what it means. To the good, this shows ability to follow narrative and retain details. Last Chanukah he said he was going to be King Antiochos. Is this normal? Is the term "normal" ever applicable in the context of 5-year-old children? Recall, myself, at this age, ardently yearning to be a detective, in a village, with many cows.

Train of thought abruptly derailed by Daughter's (age 6.5) announcement that She is going to be a Lawyer because they Write and Argue lots.

In the grocery store, am confronted by kids' day camp director in grey robe and tichel, who stares at my business suit and says I Look Nice and Am I going to a Wedding? I say, No, I am returning from Court, whereupon she screams and says, Oh no, what Happened?! I give my usual reply of: Nothing - to me. Am thus reminded of morbidly buzzard-like quality of my profits deriving from the misfortunes of others, but console myself with the mostly accurately thought that, without me, those misfortunes would probably be Much Worse.

Upon my return home, pick up ringing telephone, only to hear one of Our Community Members ask for Husband, in rather lowered voice suggesting a wish for Discreet Medical Consultation. Inform him that Husband is in Hospital. He gasps and says, Oh no, what Happened. Wearily reply that Nothing - to him. Wonder why doctors, though similarly situated in respect to morbidness of profession, always come off as so much more noble and altruistic than lawyers.

Several eons later, all children firmly ensconced in their beds (so I thought - it was subsequently revealed that one child, in fact, had been firmly ensconced on the floor, lying, naturally, on my pillow - but I digress), derived wholly irrational enjoyment from viewing the third Die Hard. As I told Husband later, I do like a movie featuring a) NYC b) subways c) floods - even really minor ones.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The 9 Days

Have spent significant portion of evening complaining to M. that lack of music was making my life Hell. Realize this is, indeed, the point, and, in that spirit, experience surge of hope that Moshiach will really arrive tomorrow. Spend rest of evening pondering whether the music I like will still be allowed. (Have concealed from enthusiastic guests of circa 2 Shabbosim ago that home-made challa was produced to the accompaniment of Black Sabbath, as they seem the sort to think I should have been thinking mystical and uplifting thoughts instead.)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Was apprised, a few weeks ago, by Upstanding Shul Member, that my ability to consume (and hold) hard liquor is apparently regarded as my most noteworthy achievement by (male) shul acquaintances. Was shocked into a few seconds of speechlessness by this, as had hitherto cherished long-held, but no doubt delusional, conviction of having accomplishments of rather more intrinsic worth; conviction fortunately upheld by husband who muttered into my ear that This isn't much of a compliment. Upon further reflection, realization set in that achievements I had in mind (law degree, inordinate consumption of literary and philosophical works, some ability in quoting the Mishna Berura) are not considered impressive by most, with possible exception of achieving Perfect Jelly Roll. Am still baffled as to why consumption of alcohol should so impress.

Had several thoroughly depressing conversations on the topic of Feminism. Apparently, it is quite the thing, in certain circles, to preface any remark on gender relations with a deprecatory "I'm not a feminist, or anything..." (but I do think all men are insensitive morons who ought to be taken out and be shot at dawn). Would like to state for the record that I am a feminist, and as such, am not prepared to make stereotypical, biased statements about people based on their gender. Am very tired of explaining to people that, No, this does not mean I am voting for Hillary Clinton.

On the other hand, am heartened to discover that certain members of Our Shul do believe that it is possible to have too much racism, sexism, homophobia, and generally illiberal attitudes typical of homo sovieticus. (You can say what you like about Stalin, but he Did Keep
Them In Line).

And, on completely different note: Found out at 10 am today that Immigration Court asylum hearing scheduled for today at 1pm adjourned, date TBA. Can only speculate that Immigration Judge realized folly of scheduling 3-hour hearing on July 3, decided to make early departure for beach. Client far from ecstatic, as herself, husband, and witness already made complicated arrangements to be absent from work. Am similarly lacking in ecstasy, as had asked mother to watch kids, necessitating mother's absence from work and 2-hour train-ride to Brooklyn, which was already underway by the time hearing was canceled. Client understandably very nervous and will have to be prepped again, whenever they decide to schedule the next hearing. Kids, however, quite happy to have Baba spend the afternoon.