Five Question Friday: 9/28/2012

It has been a while since I posted a 5QF! I think the last one was back in January. I thought it might be nice to pick it up again, at least for a while. If you enjoy this sort of thing, feel free to add this feature to your blog. Click on the icon above to be whisked through cyber space to the home page of this weekly post, the place where the weekly questions are posted (usually on Thursday evening to give the blogger time to adequately answer the questions.) If a question is insulting or too banal for your liking (yes, it happens occasionally), just substitute a question of your own. :-)

Now, on to this week’s questions!
1. Do you prefer to drive to your vacation spot or fly?

Definitely drive. Both of us enjoy road trips, and we travel well together. There is so much to see and do along the way that we seldom get bored. The camera usually sits in my lap should a photo op suddenly appear. R has been known to drive off the beaten path, park the car along the side of the road, then sit and wait the 15 or 20 minutes needed for me to get the shot that can’t be missed. He never complains. Sometimes we pull over at scenic spots just to take a walk, breathe in the woody smell of nature, or just relax a bit. Then we pile back in the car and are off again! We can’t do any of this from an airplane. There are times when flying is the practical choice, but when given our druthers, we both prefer driving. :-)


2. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

This is a frequently discussed question in our household. R is a world traveler and there are many places he would like to introduce to me. He has told me about Bariloche in the Patagonia, Argentina, places in Denmark, Venice, Italy, and all over eastern Europe, etc. He has many wonderful tales to tell and someday I will travel to those places with him. On the other hand I have been all over this country and would love to take R to places that have meaning for me: Rocky Mountains, Smokey Mountains, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and more. But THE place that tops our priority list is the land of Israel, home for all Jewish people. R has visited the country several times, and actually lived there for a couple of years back in the 1980s. I have never been. To pray at the Wester Wall/Kottel is my dream, and someday soon we hope to go there.

3. Should grown women wear leggings?

Sure! Why not? They are cute as well as keep the legs warm. It never occurred to me that these might be a young girl’s garment. In fact, I think I’ll go out and pick up a pair or two today! ;-)


4. If you could change your name to any other name, would you? And what would it be?

At this stage in life I’ll keep what I have. When I was younger there were certainly times I wanted to change my name. Now that I am approaching the late middle-age time of my life ( ;-) ) I am happy with my name. In fact, after divorcing my first husband I returned to my maiden name. When I married R (and love of my life) I kept my maiden name. I don’t want to keep changing names as I am perfectly happy with this one.

5. What magazines do you subscribe to?

I don’t subscribe to many magazines but there are a few: National Geographic; Smithsonian; The Intelligent Optimist (formerly known as “Ode”); and several professional journals (mental health counseling.)

That’s it for this week! Hope you like it. Feel free to join in and I’ll see you next week (B”H)

Eight Lights

Tonight we kindle the eight lights of Chanukah. During the time of the Macabees, Chanukah signified the miracle of the few over the many, darkness illuminated by a light that increased each day. Take a few minutes to contemplate the power of darkness and the power of light. In darkness we are lonely, fearful, ashamed, oppressed. In a dark room we cannot see where we are going or what we are doing. If darkness fills every inch of space in a room, we are blind. But light one match, one candle; the amount of space taken up by the flame is minuscule compared to the space occupied by darkness, yet that tiny flame can illuminate the entire room. And if each day you add even a little more light, the darkness becomes less daunting, until the eighth night when all the flames are lit and darkness is no more! This is the miracle of Chanukah. In that regard, the miracle of Chanukah continues to occur each day. We learn from an historical event, but the miracle continues and is real today. Every kind word or good deed is a flame that illuminates the darkness of someone’s spirit. Every joyful expression, act of compassion, or sympathy extended, we contribute to the miracle of someone’s life. Each time we shed a little light for someone else to see their way forward, and with every prayer we utter to benefit the spirit of some soul and thus the spirit of this world, we are kindling the Chanukah light! A miracle occurs!

If you are able on this last night of Chanukah, draw up a seat near the Menorah, gaze at the flames as they flicker, and begin to reflect on the miracles you have experienced in life. After a while, one begins to realize that life itself is a miracle of magnificent proportion. Reflect on times when you felt G-d’s hand guiding you, times when you were saved from danger, times when the odds were stacked against you yet a miracle occurred and you prevailed. As you reflect on the miracles of your life, and the miracles of Chanukah, open to the wonder of your life and the events that have brought you to this place in this time.

Just like the menorah whose light grows with each day, others will begin to reflect back the light, too, much like a window reflects back the light of each Chanukah flame and the miracle it represents.

Finally, as you recognize the Chanukah miracle that lives within you, and with the acceptance of your life’s current reality, be open to receive greater!

I humbly thank you for taking a Chanukah journey with me this year. It has been a blessing for me to review and reflect on the meaning of Chanukah, the customs we observe, games we play, food we eat, and to share this special holiday with you. As we head into the new year, may you be blessed with prosperity of body, mind and soul; may you celebrate life’s joys, grieve its losses, and carry the miracle of Chanukah where ever you travel.

Chag Chanukah Sameach!

Shalom!

Chana/Cecelia Futch

6th Day of the Chanukah Miracle!

Chanukah, day six.

How about some LATKES!

Latkes, or potato pancakes, are a time honored Chanukah tradition. Many people wonder why latkes? These wonderful potato pancakes became associated with Chanukah because they are fried in oil! It is the miracle of the one-day’s-vial of oil that burned for eight days that we celebrate every Chanukah, so we eat oily food. Yuk! In this health-conscious age, we are reluctant to eat an eight day oily diet, but latkes! that’s a different story. Even the healthiest among us find it hard to resist a latke or two with a side dish of apple sauce. Yum! In recent years I have come across a number of different latke recipes ~ jalapeno, spinach, bell pepper, etc. ~ all with a potato base, but the simple potato latke is still the recipe of choice in most homes. Here is a recipe from the Labavitch Chanukah Guide. ENJOY!

English: Latkes (potato pancakes) frying in ol...

Image via Wikipedia

5 large potatoes, peeled                                     1 tsp. salt

1 large onion                                                        1/4 tsp. pepper

4 eggs                                                                  1/3 cup of oil for frying

1/3 cup of matzo meal

Grate potatoes and onion on the fine side of a grater, or in food processor or blender with a little water added. Add eggs and mix well. Add matzo meal and seasoning and mix well. Heat oil in frying pan, then add mixture 1 tablespoon at a time into frying pan. When golden brown, turn and brown other side. Serve hot. Add applesauce if desired.

I hope you enjoy your latkes! And be sure to check out the links below for other Chanukah traditions and recipes. :-)

Day Four of the Miracle!

Four days, and the flame still flickers!

In Judaism it is important that the stories, the traditions, the beliefs and teachings of the sages be passed from generation to generation so that the Jewish people never forget that Hashem is our G-d. But how do you do that, pass on our stories, if the authorities forbid you to learn those stories, or to study the sacred writings and teachings? Well, one way was to design games of learning that to the outsider appeared to be simple games of chance, something the common folks would play. Children and youth would learn in secret, but when they heard the guards coming they would quickly hide their scrolls and bring out a game. And that brings us to the delightful dreidel game that has been played by Jewish children at Chanukah for centuries!

The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top. On each of its four sides is a Hebrew letter, forming the acronym for “Ness Gadol Haya Sham,” or “A Great Miracle Happened There,” thus insuring that as the children played, they would be reminded of the great miracle in the temple when the oil burned for eight days and nights. To play the game, everyone puts “gelt,” (money or tokens) in the pot. Each player takes a turn spinning the dreidel. If it lands on Nun, pass to the next player. If the dreidel lands on Gimmel, take the whole kitty. Land on the Hay, the player gets half the kitty, and if it lands on Shin, the player contributes to the kitty. When the kitty empties out, each player contributes equally back to the kitty once again. There is usually singing and laughter during the game, and every child knows the dreidel song by heart!

I have a little dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

CHORUS

Oh dreidel dreidel dreidel

I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready

Then dreidel I shall play

It has a lovely body

With legs so short and thin

And when it is so tired

It drops and then I win!

CHORUS

My dreidel’s always playful

It loves to dance and spin

A happy game of dreidel

Come play now, let’s begin!

CHORUS

For some reason, this won’t embed properly. This is the best I could get it. Hopefully you will be able to enjoy it.

Blessed holidays to you all!

Five Question Friday (Sort of): December 23, 2011

 

Not surprisingly, no questions were listed for today. Therefore I’m doing things a little different than usual. Instead of answering five questions, I thought it would be nice for each one to share five holiday traditions that you celebrate in your home. You can elaborate if you choose, or not. You decide. Since I’m writing each day about our observances during Chanukah, I will just list five of our customs and let you read more detailed descriptions in the holiday posts that have already begun to appear here.

My best wishes to all of you during these days and holiday observances, however you choose to celebrate . . . or not! Have a great weekend and I hope to see you back here next Friday. :-)

Five of our Chanukah traditions ~

1. Lighting the Menorah each night for eight nights.

2. Eating latkes and applesauce (explanation coming soon)

3. Reading an inspirational Chanukah story after lighting the chanukiah each night.

4. Playing dreidle (explanation coming soon).

5. Learning Torah lessons for Chanukah.

 

Happy holidays everyone!

The Lights Continue to Burn

The second light is kindled.

A few thousand years ago, back when Alexander of Macedonia of the ancient Greek Empire ruled (including Israel), the Jews and the Greeks were getting along pretty good. This was during the Hellenistic period. At that time many Jews studied the Greek philosophers, and King Ptolemy commissioned writers to translate the Torah into Greek. But relationships between the Greeks and the Jews began to sour. When Antiochus became King, he implemented a series of decrees in an effort to Hellenize all Jews. Core beliefs and practices were forbidden under his rule: ritual circumcision, study of Torah, observance of Shabbat, celebrating Jewish holidays. Antiochus’ edicts eventually culminated with the requirement that all citizens, including the Jews, worship Greek idols.

The Jews struggled with the strangle-hold on their religious practices, but when it came to idol worship, the Greeks had gone to far. War ensued. The problem was that the Greek army was huge, strong, a well organized fighting machine. Jews were poor, small in number, a rag-tag band of malcontents as far as the Greeks were concerned. How could the Jews resist such an army? Many Jews were slaughtered for resisting the many edicts against their religious practices. On the other hand, Jews feared they would be wiped out altogether if they engaged in battle with the Greeks.

Jews fled Jerusalem and other parts of Israel to hide in the hills. Life was bad. Food was scarce. The Jewish High Priest was assassinated. Fear gripped the Jewish people. The Greek army desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, mocking the Jews. Ritual vessels were stolen or destroyed. Sacrifices were made to various Greek idols. The Temple became a place for Greek prostitutes (temple prostitutes) to conduct their business. The Jewish people wept and prayed, crying out for a miracle.

A handful of brothers, now known as the Maccabees, a renegade group of “lawless” priestly Jews, were a thorn in the side of the mighty Greeks. The Maccabees were the fleas on the dog, so to speak. The Maccabees strongest weapon however, was their belief in God’s desire for the Jews to return to their homeland to restore Jerusalem the sanctity of their Temple. Much like David and Goliath, or Samson’s destruction of the Philistines, through a series of miraculous victories and events, the Greeks were driven out of the Temple, and out of Jerusalem. But, that was not the miracle of Chanukah!

Once they had regained their holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people set about cleaning it up and restoring it to a place of holiness and prayer. A menorah always burned in the Temple but its light had gone out during the Greek occupation. Now the Jews longed to see the light burn once again from this holy place. A menorah was found, but what about the oil to fuel the flame? Only oil that was pressed, bottled and sealed with the High Priest’s stamp could be used in the Temple. People searched and found one vial of oil, enough for one day only. It would take eight days to press enough olives to render new oil pure enough to use in the temple.

The menorah was lit anyway. Even if only for a day. The second day however, the priests returned to the Temple to see that the light still burned bright. A miracle had occurred! The light continue to burn all day and night, and when the priests returned the third day, the light still burned. This continued for eight days at which time fresh oil war was ready for the menorah. Eight nights of light from one day’s worth of oil is the miracle of Chanukah.

The year after these events occurred, the High Priest issued a decree that from that day forward, every year on the 25th of Kislev (the day the miracles occurred), the people would observe the festival of Chanukah to commemorate this momentous event. Since then, rabbeim have studied and expounded on the many miracles of Chanukah, and this minor holiday has become a beloved observance in Jewish families everywhere. Chanukah is the one holiday where we are required to show the Chanukah light to the world as we acknowledge God’s hand in creating miracles and saving the Jewish people from annihilation.

Chag Chanukah Sameach! Happy Chanukah!

It’s Chanukah, Come Light the Menorah. . .

Last night was the first night of Chanukah. Good friends joined us last night to help celebrate this holiday (a minor holiday for Jews, nothing like Christmas for Christians.) Neither Lori nor Heather had ever celebrated Chanukah so I had the privilege of teaching them a little about this special celebration. Richard worked late, but when he got home, we lit the candles and Richard even sang a few bars of a time-honored Chanukah song.

The menorahs depicted in this photo were purchased a few days ago. Our silver menorahs are in storage and I was a bit sad that we couldn’t use them. But the sadness did not last very long, because we celebrate miracles and light on this holiday, not the trappings or elaborate Chanukiah. So, when we lit the candles last night, the light was a beautiful reminder of that time long ago when the Jewish people weren’t sure there would be light in the Temple, but through a miracle, the flame was lit and that flame lasted not one day, not two days, but eight days it shed its light for the people to see.

Here is what the Talmud has to say about Chanukah:

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Kislev begins the days of Chanukah, which are eight, on which lamentation for the dead and fasting are prohibited. For when the Greeks (Assyrians) entered the Temple, they defiled all the oils therein, and when the Chashmonayim (Hasmonean dynasty) prevailed against them and defeated them, they searched and found only one cruse of oil which had the seal of the High Priest, which contained oil sufficient for one day’s lighting only; yet a miracle occurred and they lit the Menorah (the Temple candelabrum) for eight days. The following years, these days were appointed as a holiday to sing praise and offer thanks. [Shabbes 21b]

Last night the festival began. On the first night we kindle one light. Each of us lights our own menorah. What you see in the photo above is that there are two kindled lights in each menorah; the light that is higher than the other, set apart from all other lights is called the shamash. The shamash is the “guard” light, and it is used to light the Chanukah lights. If one needs light to see by, we see by the shamash, not the Chanukah lights that are strictly for remembering the miracle that happened there (Temple in Jerusalem).

One other rule is that the Chanukiah should be lit by the doorway (or in our case, by the window) for all passersby to see. This is the one holiday that is “advertised” for the public. We do that to draw attention to the miracle that God performed on the first Chanukah, so that people will ask questions and give us the opportunity to share how God performed a miracle in the Temple.

So, come back each day of Chanukah and I hope to share more of our celebration with you. Thank you Lori and Heather for joining us last night, eating latkes with us, and in general enjoying the laughter and chatter of friendship.

Five Question Friday: Decembr 16, 2011

The wind is ferociously howling outside our windows tonight as I work on this. Winter is just days away and we’ve already had two light snows. I’ve been working on “My Etsy” shop (see link in the menu across the top of this page), choosing which cards to sell, and that means looking through pictures of summer flowers and butterflies, and thinking of warmer climes. Even so, I must admit that snuggling under the warm blankets, peering out the window at wind-whipped trees while tapping away on another 5QF, a cup of hot chocolate within arm’s reach, is rather comforting tonight.

This has been a slow week for me. Once I handed in my final final, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. That will change I’m sure, but I have enjoyed the slow pace of the last few days. Sometimes taking time to stare out windows as my body recovers from too many late night study sessions is just the thing to rejuvenate my spirit.

So, while in this mellow mood, let’s go to the questions! Enjoy!

1. What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

The best present I ever received in my life was a gift from my three children. This was years ago when they were quite young; I think Mary, the youngest, was in kindergarten or first grade. The had no money to buy us an anniversary gift but they wanted to do something. Being artists every one, they made paper book marks and went house to house throughout our neighborhood selling them for a nickel apiece, all without my knowing. They were able to earn about $2.00 this way, which they took to a dollar store (I don’t know how they managed that, but someone drove them) and bought four glasses–“real crystal,” according to Tim, the oldest at 8- or 9-years-old. The glasses had flowers painted on them along with stripes. Unique glasses, but those glasses were the best gift I ever received. Sadly, the glasses broke rather easily and within days we were down to just one glass, which I wrapped and put out of harm’s way, to no avail. I never forgot those glasses, nor how much they meant to me. For a five-year-old, a six-year-old, and an eight- year-old to come up with the idea and then to pull if off amazes me. It was a sweet gesture I shall never forget.

2. Worst/Funniest White Elephant gift ever received?

I don’t know. I’m scanning my brain to remember but can’t think of anything. I have not attended many office parties or participated in gift giving that involved gag gifts. If anyone reading this who has known me for many years, call or facebook me if you remember something. I WILL include it if you refresh my memory, but I’m not recalling anything at the moment.

3. Is your Christmas tree plain and simple (white lights and matching ornaments) or is it wild and crazy (colored lights with lots of ornaments collected over the years)?  Is your Chanukiah plain and simple, or is it elaborate?

Well, our Chanukiah (Menorah) is still packed away this year and in storage quite far from where we are presently living. We have two that we use; the large, ornate silver one is Richard’s to light, and my smaller, pewter Chanukiah sits next to his in front of the window. This year we will go the simple route, though. I will pick up a couple of inexpensive menorahs at the Jewish bookstore near our home. We will light them, after all Chanukah is to celebrate the miracle of lights, eat some latkes and maybe share a story or two. We will do this for eight nights.

4. “How” do you iron your clothes? The old-fashioned iron/ironing board way, the shower, back in the dryer, etc.

Iron clothes??? Are you serious? I didn’t know that people still ironed! I take clothes straight out of the dryer when the cycle finishes. If I’m not there at the exact time, I spritz the clothes with water and throw them back in the dryer. I do not iron.

5. How much baking do you do for Christmas and what are your “must make” items? (I’m looking for recipes here, peeps…)

I don’t bake much anymore. For one, most of my kitchen tools and utensils are out in storage. Our kitchen is teeeeny tiny making it difficult to work in. But the real reason I don’t bake, I don’t rally enjoy cooking or baking. Now that the kids are grown and out of the house, I will fess up and tell every one that the kitchen is not where I want to be spending my time!

That’s it for this week. I look forward to reading what y’all have to say. Enjoy your weekend. :-)

Time for the Holidays!

No photography today. I’m too busy. Wow, never thought I’d say that about photography, but this evening Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins at sundown. I am busy cleaning, cooking and preparing for this and the other holidays to follow. We will feast on apples and honey and honey cakes for the next three weeks as we wish each other a sweet and prosperous new year. I will go missing for a few days each week as we celebrate and observe the holy days, and I will get behind in visiting your blogs. It can’t be helped. I will be back in a few days and I’m sure there will be lots to tell. Until then, L’Shana Tovah!

EEEEEEEK!!! Not Again!

In January of this year, we moved from Maryland to Virginia, from a four-bedroom house to a three-bedroom apartment.  It was not the easiest move in the world, far from it.  Rather, it was one of the worst moves I have ever experienced, and I have moved a lot!  But, as horrendous as the experience was, we survived it and are now living in a delightful, sunny, cheerful apartment.  This is one of those places that fit like a glove. We have made friends quite easily, and even our beloved cat Pele took to this place like a fish to water.  In other words, we love it here even though we’ve been here just one month!

If you are wondering why we made the move, it was to be closer to Richard’s work.  For three and a half years his daily commute was three to four hours (round trip).  If you ever lived in Washington, DC, and braved the beltway, you know what I mean when I say that it was a grueling trek from Silver Spring, MD, to Lorton, VA.  The toll on him physically, mentally and emotionally was something we both worried about.  So, when in November he signed a contract for another year, we decided that living in this rat race was no longer an acceptable way to live out our middle age and senior years.  Life is simply too short, and there is too much to see and do to waste it battling traffic on a freeway.  So, we found an apartment much closer to his work and here we are in the wonderful state of Virginia.  Richard’s round trip commute is now less than one hour.  This month, despite the headaches of moving, has been great.

But as life would have it, things got a little bumpy this week.  Thanks to the Office of the Secretary of State (or was it Secretary of Defense???) the entire research and development team was eliminated (LOTS of jobs).  Deep cuts throughout the District, are wreaking havoc with people’s lives.  The obliteration was brutal and totally unexpected by everyone, from the top position to the lowest.  People in high management, loyal folks who had been with the company since the 1970’s, people with mortgages and children in college, and my husband, too, all got the axe.  (Yes, the imagery is savage, so was the sacking!) There was no time to prepare, no time to consider options or to seek other employment.  No one saw this coming, yet despite that fact, the company has gone to extreme lengths to help as many of their employees get back on their feet as possible. (Kudos to TASC!) Many will be forced to take early retirement.  Others will be relocated to open positions elsewhere within TASC.  Plans to provide job placement services have been set up and go into effect by the end of the month.  Everyone is hurting, and they are pulling together to get through this crisis.  If you are a praying person, now would be a good time!

As to our situation, it’s the “relocate” that causes me some dread.  Talks have already been initiated in an effort to keep Richard with the company, but that will mean moving far away from this wonderful community and lovely apartment. . . and we just moved in.  Packed boxes are still neatly stacked in corners as we continue fitting in to our space.  Those boxes will now remain packed until we find out where Richard will be working.  Along with many others, our lives were just turned “topsy turvy.”

Reflecting on the unfolding events of this past week, I thought of the parsha (Torah reading) of the week of our marriage, Lech Lecha/Genesis 12-17.   Actually, every time we move, I think of our marriage parsha.   It is the portion where  Hashem speaks to Avram (this is before his name change) and tells him “Go forth from your native land, and from your parent’s house to the land that I will show you” (12.1).  Don’t misunderstand me; I am NOT comparing myself to Avram.  It’s the “go” part that gets to me.  Go from your land, go from your family, go to another land.  I never ever in my most far-fetched dreams wanted to be a nomad.  But here I am.  I quit counting “moves” when I reached number 36. A few of the moves were different locations within the same city or town, but a move is a move, and anyone who has moved knows what I mean.  I am very tired of “relocating.”  Enough is enough!

On the other hand, I have lived in some very interesting places, places I would never have known about had we not relocated.   I have friends all over this country, and the world due to our many “homes” and various communities.  Every place we have lived has its blessings, and those blessings have always outweighed the curses in life (eventually).  So, we go out to those places that Hashem shows us.

I may be getting ahead of myself though.  There are people actively searching to find Richard a position in this area so that we will not have to move again.  I am able to continue my coursework, and can do so no matter where we live—one of the advantages of an online graduate program.  The job on the other side of this country is not a sure bet just yet, but TASC is working on it.  Richard has an office to work from for another week and a half.  The coming days will be filled with uncertainty.  Lech Lechah, Go, rings in my ears as it has become the theme of our lives.  But lech lecha is always followed by “I will show you.”  Assurance amidst the confusion of leaving.    Gamzu l’tovah/This, too, is for the best.

We got married during Lech Lecha, and we’ve been “going” ever since.  And Hashem has guided our footsteps, showing us the way every time.