(an Ellen Baker Blog)
December 17, 2005
Ok, This Whole "War on
Christmas" Thing is Officially Pissing Me Off
I don't know if I've ever
mentioned here that I was Jewish.
Let me start with the
punch line here: This time of the year is hard enough for us
Jewish folks without this idiotic "War on Christmas" stuff.
Jewish isn't something
you ever STOP being, even if you don't believe in God. You Jewish
readers out there know of what I speak.
I was born to parents who
varied in their Jewishness. My father had been raised in a
traditional middle of the road Jewish household (they went to synagogue
faithfully but were known to eat bacon on the weekends--just an aside,
most Jewish people are fascinated by bacon). My mother's family
was a bit more complicated--both of her biological parents were Jewish
but her stepmother was a Presbyterian minister's daughter (see my April
2005 blog for more on that side of my family). After trying almost
every religion in the book (including one for which she was required to
a cross 24 hours a day) she went back to Judaism when she met my dad.
When I was growing up, my
parents made a serious effort to give my sister and I a sense of our
spiritual heritage, but I could tell that they weren't truly into it.
We all trudged faithfully to services at the nearby temple during my
childhood. We fasted on Yom Kippur, had Seder dinners at Passover,
and I tried hard (REALLY hard) to learn Hebrew. After a
while we all faced the truth that we felt like we were going through the
motions, and I dropped out of Hebrew school, never to achieve that
elusive Bat Mitzvah. My dad was really much more of a scientist
than a man of faith, and my mom was still pretty spiritually confused.
So--I take after my dad
in terms of being more scientific than spiritual. I think the
communities formed around religious practices are INCREDIBLY valuable,
and I also believe in living life according to moral and ethical
standards. But I haven't found that organized religion really does
anything for me personally.
That being said, I would
never--EVER--identify myself as anything other than Jewish. When I
was 25, I did my social work internship at the Jewish Council for the
Aging in DC. Suddenly I was surrounded by honorary Jewish
grandparents--and you can bet they took one look at me and knew I was
one of them, even though I hadn't been to services in a decade.
"You're born a Jew, ya die a Jew!" one of them once told me.
And boy was she right! I don't know that Judaism is a
"race," exactly, but it is with you forever.
Now getting to
Christmas--there's no getting around it: Christmas sucks for most of us.
There's no way we're not to going to feel out of it. I don't care
if we ignore it, travel to the Himalayas, or buy a tree and pretend to
be Christians; it's just a stressful time of year. Case in
point--after my father died, my mother converted to Catholicism (Go Mom!
She's finally found her spiritual home after all these years!).
Did the uncomfortable feeling at Christmas go away for her? Not
I've watched Jewish
people do various things over the years to cope. Working at a
hospital is often helpful, because there is always work there to keep
you busy--one year a couple of the Jewish psychiatrists and I had a
whole "Jews on Call" joke. But even this isn't a cure for
the situation. You just have to tolerate it every year. It's
kind of like of having a neon sign flashing on your forehead saying "I
AM AN OUTSIDER."
So. . . I wouldn't
normally consider this whole situation worthy of whining about--Jewish
people are hardly an oppressed minority in the US right now when
compared to other ethnic groups. But the "War on Christmas"
thing--especially the passage of a bill in Congress to "protect"
Christmas--really feels like adding insult to injury. For one
thing, the emphasis on "Happy Holidays" has been around since the 1970's
(I remember big debates about the re-naming of the Christmas Program at
my elementary school. And being made to sing Christmas carols in
music class DID suck, frankly). For another thing, as I am
writing this a steady stream of Christmas sounds are emanating from the
TV as Keith watches "Saturday Night Live." I think Christmas
is alive and robust here in the US this year.
Separation of church and
state has always been one of the foundations of our country.
I hope it stays that way. And I will be happy next week when all
of this is over for another year.
A couple of random notes:
NPR had a great story on
lobotomies last month--check
it out here. I guarantee it will give you chills!
Also on NPR--Penn
Jillette had a fabulous piece recently about the
lack of belief in God. It comes really close to expressing
some of my own feelings on this topic.
That's it for now!
Thanks for listening, guys. :-)
send a comment or question
September 3, 2005
New Orleans, Vacation,
Gencon, Proofreading, Blog Maintenance, etc.
I believe it's customary
to start out this type of entry apologizing for the long period of
silence and bemoaning how busy I am. However, that seems like a
cliche and not entirely true. I DO feel bad about not making an
entry--but I can't really complain too much about being busy--I have
come to realize that I LIKE being busy and it's better for my
psychological health. When I don't have enough to do, I tend to
That being said, I have
thought a lot lately about the nature of blogs--you must keep them
updated if you want to build up a readership and keep some kind of
momentum going. I may have been too picky about what to write
about--I often don't want to make entries unless I feel really inspired
by a topic. So here's an effort to just roll with
what's on my mind right now.
When I was in junior high school, I played the saxophone in the
symphonic band. Eventually I gave it up--partly because
being a nerdy girl in a section of boys was pretty stressful, especially
at 13. But I made a lot of friends in that band, some of whom are
now playing music professionally. The closest friendships I made
were with Derek, who now plays with the
Iguanas in New Orleans, and Alan, who plays with the
Grandsons in DC.
These friendships led to many, many nights going to see live music, and
eventually to a trip to the Jazz Festival in New Orleans a year after I
graduated from college.
Up until that trip, I
hadn't traveled very much. My dad was a creature of habit when it
came to traveling--growing up we went to to see relatives in
Philadelphia and New York for the holidays, and in the summer we went to
EVERY CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELD IN EXISTENCE (I'm not bitter or anything,
but Civil War battlefields are miserable places in the summer, because
by their nature they offer NO SHADE). I learned a lot about the
Civil War, including the fact that every battlefield museum claims that
their particular battle was "The Worst Fighting of the War." (It
would be fun to get the tour guides all together for a debate some time)
We also went to the ocean every summer, usually the Delaware shore,
which I loved.
So up till I was 22, the
only time I'd been on an airplane was when I moved with my family from
Boston to DC at age 4. I flew by myself from DC to New Orleans and
met up with a group of friends there who drove down. Getting on
that airplane to all alone was actually pretty scary. I ended up
sitting next to a Louisiana congressman, Billy Tozan, on the flight.
It was nice that he traveled in coach with the common folk.
The trip to New Orleans
was magical--I think I walked around with my jaw open the entire time.
The city is unbelievably unique, exotic, and vibrant, full of things
that you don't see anywhere else (although given my limited travel, even
seeing palm trees for the first time in my life was pretty amazing, I
must say). I made several trips back over the years. I had
planned to take Keith there sometime soon--he'd never been and wanted to
see it (I think those Ann Rice novels we read in our twenties made him
Now it may not exist
anymore. That's a pretty sad and incomprehensible thought.
Keith and I spent
the last week of July at the beach in
Cape May, New Jersey. Yes--we actually flew from Colorado to New
Jersey for vacation. A lot of folks don't understand how beautiful
the Jersey shore is, especially Cape May, which is the oldest beach
resort in the country and very romantic. I discovered it when I
went there to play in the King's Musketeers live role playing game in
1992, at the Chalfonte Hotel.
Keith and I went back to Cape May for our honeymoon a couple of years
later, so it was very sentimental for us to make the pilgrimage once
again. Despite the
fact that both California and Mexico offer closer beaches, the Atlantic
shore is just so pleasantly nostalgic for me that it's worth the extra
time and money to get back there.
We had a great
vacation--we ate wonderful food, stayed at a beautiful hotel, and laid
on the beach. Keith found a really cool internet cafe to work
Magic Brain Cybercafe. The thing I like about beach vacations
is that you can JUST SIT. Many vacations involve getting up early
to exercise all day (like when you're in the mountains) or getting up
early to sightsee all day (like when you're in Europe). Since my
job involves both being in motion and thinking hard all day, I
love being able to go to the beach, be motionless, and let my thoughts
drift all day. It was very renewing, and I came back to work
feeling ready to roll.
We had a great
time again at Gencon this year. It was fun being a diva, although
Keith was a little sensitive to me bursting out with "Keith's famous,
too!" while we were in line to meet Tricia Helfer at the autograph area.
I have to say that being a celebrity's wife does go to one's head a bit.
Gotta work on being less grandiose. . .
I got to meet
Ed Greenwood and we took his picture with Bossy:
Ed gave me some unsolicited, excellent advice about becoming a fantasy
novelist: Apparently the trick is to co-author a book with Keith,
then use this as leverage to get a book deal of my own from WotC.
I don't think I'd do well as a fantasy fiction writer--I prefer
non-fiction such as a blog--but it's still shrewd advice. Thanks,
Other highlights included
seeing some old friends, playing with Keith as a team in an Eberron
game, and hanging out with Keith's arch-rival
Rich Burlew and his fabulous
I spent a lot of time earlier in the summer proofreading the first
draft of Keith's second novel,
The Shattered Land.
The novel is great (I'm not just saying that) and it was good to be able
to help. I'm keeping an eagle eye out for typos!
By the way, a big thanks my gang of regular readers: Christian,
Peter, Audrey, Bruce, Sean, Matthew, Carl, Walt, Karen, Sharon, Devan, and Matt.
It's very motivating to have people to write for!
That's the news for now!
Feel free to write me with your updates!
send a comment or question
Hey! Visit the blogs of some
of this page's readers:
Miller Blogariffic Bonanza of Fun
The Renewed Chronicles of Borghal
Previous Honeycakes Diary Entries:
December 2004-March 2005