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Text: Keith Baker        Tech: Ellen "Honeycakes" Baker     Art: Lee Moyer


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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 wear 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 one bit.

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.   :-)

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September 3, 2005

New Orleans, Vacation, Gencon, Proofreading, Blog Maintenance, etc.

Hi Everyone!

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 get depressed. 

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.

New Orleans: 
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 curious).

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 at--The 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, Ed! 

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 girlfriend Margie. 

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! 

Hi Guys!
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!

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Hey!  Visit the blogs of some of this page's readers:

The Carl Miller Blogariffic Bonanza of Fun

The Renewed Chronicles of Borghal


Previous Honeycakes Diary Entries:

May-July 2005

April 2005

December 2004-March 2005

October-November 2004

September 2004