Sunday, December 31, 2006

Refining My List - IDEALS for 2007

So a while ago, earlier this month, I wrote a post about ideals worth sacrificing for. I have talked with close friends and family about this to a certain degree, and am further refining my list to those things which are most on my list to work on, plus things I didn't list previously. So some adds, some outs, and now we have a list, on this beautiful last day of 2006. And I like to review the substance of the year, just because it is cathartic to me. I have had a good year, and feel very lucky in that regard. We did a fair bit of traveling - to Washington (east and west, multiple times) as well as San Francisco, Florida, and Colorado. Plus within the state, to Houston and Dallas and Wichita Falls to visit family and friends. All trips were terrific. I gained a new nephew, Samuel, took up a life-changing endeavor in yoga, we remodeled our kitchen primarily ourselves. I managed a little guesthouse across the road, began helping a friend get up to speed on new technology for her office to go wireless and paperless, and got my daughter's bed switched to a big girl bed. I painted some watercolor paintings, crocheted some blankets, did some sewing, made some jewelry, and did some gardening. I got a tattoo, finally, after thinking and planning and talking about it for a zillion years. We lost some very good neighbor friends as they moved to Portland, and grew closer to some other friends. I don't know that I necessarily made any *new* friends this year, but I definitely feel like I've developed some of my friendships more than I had in the past (especially Melissa, HI MISSY!). I've been working hard on being more calm, reducing my level of frustration and irritation, and responding a lot more peacefully to things that previously would elicit a haughty irritated response, as though I should not have to deal with irritation. It isn't that I don't still feel the irritation, or that I try to squash it. But I'm learning to let it exist, yet not act on it or respond to it.
This year hasn't been the best for some of the folks close to me. My heart goes out to each of them, with prayers for a better year in 2007. I, for one, am thankful this one was good to me, and hope the next is as well. And here's what I'm working on.

1. Recycling - much more than in the past
2. Organic foods - where it makes sense
3. Buying local/American/fair-trade foreign goods
4. Continuing my yoga practice 2-3 times weekly
5. Allowing myself to be imperfect, realizing that within me is my perfect self, but I can only remove the clutter to find that if I am patient and loving of myself in the process.
6. Being in the present. Being mindful and experience each moment for what it has to offer. Not goody-goody "stop and smell the flowers" or "enjoy each moment" - because a lot of it isn't very fun. But wisdom comes from mindfully enduring difficulty and frustration and pain as much as appreciating the beauty in life. I haven't been very mindful, always living in my head, rehashing or reexperiencing the past, or looking forward to something in the future. I need to do much more of this, just being in the moment itself, for whatever it brings. Especially with Hootie.
7. Living simply. This means everything from continuing my efforts to reduce the amount of clutter in my home to uncomplicating my relationships, to letting people have their own emotions without taking them personally, to how I entertain my child. The most difficult part of that is that I have been given a lot of lovely things, which I would feel bad parting with because of the loved ones who have given them to me.
8. PAINT MORE. I need to do a lot more art.
9. Spend money on travel and experiences rather than things. I think I might allow myself a few indulgences though. Photographs, beautiful food, and I think I'm going to have to go with shoes. Not overboard, just indulging my weakness now and again.
10. LOVE MORE. We all could stand a little more of that, eh? "All we need is love, da ta da da da..."

Now I am going to go put on a sexy black dress and heels, and accompany my husband and friends out to a nice New Year's Eve dinner sans child. Happy New Year to everyone who is reading, and much health and happiness to all.

Friday, December 29, 2006

So Yeah, About Christmas.

We've returned from Houston, where we spent Christmas with the husband's delightful family. Let me just say, I know there are a lot of poor, sad women out there who hate their in-laws, especially their mothers-in-law. I would not be one of those people. And she wouldn't be a daughter-in-law hater either. We really had a terrific time with them. The only complaints I can make are that I got extra fattened up by all of the delicious food (for which I have to take some responsibility, making two Dutch apple pies and a shitload of cookies AND the turkey gravy), and our sleeping situation sent the child into another, YES ANOTHER, tailspin. We were in a room with two single beds, and the child was on the floor. Had we ALL wanted to hear her howling in the night, we could have forced her to sleep in what was once her little crib, now turned "toddler bed" in the little room next to the husband's parents' bedroom, but I felt I couldn't really subject everyone to that. So we put her on a palette in our bedroom, on the floor next to my twin bed. Sleeping on a floor never hurt me as a child, so there's no "pity poor Hootie" going on with that situation. The problem was that Hootie was allowed the much-desired sleeping proximity to her mother. Which resulted the last three days in me ending up SHARING my SKINNY LITTLE TWIN BED with her land-grabbing, horizontal-laying butt. MUCH TO HER TOTAL GLEE. So, as is the case when we return home, it was back to the routine. Last night was straight from hell, with the whining and cajoling and the "MOMMY!" (repeat for TWO HOURS, interspersed with other dialogue and requests, some of which were legitimate, some of which were pure 3.5 year old bullshit). We like to say in our household that the child's inner monologue is being broadcast because someone left the mike on in her head. Read on. I don't make this shit up. Our room is adjacent to hers and we're lying there, me reading Buddhism for Mothers and my husband with his laptop on his belly, reading either (yes, this gags me out) or maybe some news site or something. She's bellowing "Mommy" ad nauseum, which we are ignoring, since we've already addressed bathroom needs, drink of water needs, please can you adjust my pink blanket so that it is silky side down needs, and I dropped my Glowy Stick needs, I'm NOT KIDDING. Then, a slight pause. Is she giving up? No, there's a mumble (or what SHOULD be inaudible mumbling, but comes out as FULL FLEDGED TALKING), "I don't think Mommy can hear me. Maybe if I say it really LOUD, she'll wake up and come in here to me. Okay. Here I go. 1....2....3..... MOMMY!!!!"

Are you fucking kidding me?

Yep, that is what my child said. Followed up with stuff like, "She's not COMING. Maybe I wasn't loud enough. I'll try it again. 1....2....3....MMMOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYY!!!" (and other wonderment that this strategy is not, in fact, working). This did go on for two hours. I went to the front bedroom to sleep. I COULD STILL HEAR HER WITH ALL THREE DOORS BETWEEN US CLOSED. AND the computer was on, humming its obnoxious hum.

So, the sleep thing, it begins again, anew, afresh. For the 734th time. Delightful.

But the Christmas and festivities and games and conversation were all terrific. And, much to my own chagrin for having thought otherwise in advance, my daughter enjoyed going to see the Nutcracker Ballet. I personally thought there'd be no way a 3 1/2 year old would even GET the Nutcracker, much less sit for three hours on my lap ENRAPT as I narrated the story for her. But she did. It wasn't even so much as saying that she was well behaved, or that she "did well" or anything, as though her presence was an unfortunate side-deterrent to enjoying the ballet, or as though we had no option but to bring her with, and could we just get through it without a tantrum? She ENJOYED it, was actively watching it, probably moreso than many others in the audience. Of course she won't remember that when she grows up, but for the time being, for being 3 1/2 years old, she got as much out of a visit to the Nutcracker Ballet as anyone at that stage of life could. And I'm glad that we went, treated by the husband's sister and brother-in-law. It was remarkable.

We also went out to see our friends play in a band. Not a "current" band, mind you. A band that was actually a real band when we were in college in the early 90s. A band which sings songs primarily about food, about strange and wistful relationships, and about broken down cars. All original music. A band whose music is incredibly catchy and Texas Rock. They are called Banana Blender Surprise and their music is fantastic, and they only get together and play a few gigs a year, usually around Christmas, when people gather in Houston to see their family over the holidays. We danced like we were 23 again, and had a terrific time. All these 30-somethings, acting like we know what's up, taking our kids to the family show from 4-6 before tucking them into their beds with their grandparents and going out to rock the house again at 10. We stayed out until 2, drank lots of beer, sweated through our smoke-infested clothes and remembered the good ol days when we'd go every Tuesday night to the Black Cat Lounge and watch them play. FANTASTIC, it was. But, that said, I'm glad I'm going to bed tonight at 10. Wait. That's one minute from now. G'Nite.

Happy Birthday To Me.

I'm 37 today. The weather is rainy and dreary outside, though not "cold". It's going to have to be a "curly hair day" (any day where it's humid or raining is a curly hair day). I am not really satisfied with my weight, my shoulder is bothering me. I spent too much money over Christmas, though nothing that can't be overcome and corrected within a month. But that's about all the complaint I can muster! I'm happy with who I am, and with the directions I am taking in my life. I'm blessed with a wonderful husband, a daughter who amazes and awes me, a Mom who loves me dearly, a terrific sister, and a long list of special and interesting friends. I live in a fantastic neighborhood, in a cute little house, which is cozy and intimate. I have projects to work on, art supplies beckoning me, books to read, yoga to center me, and beauty to enjoy every day. All in all, I'm exactly where I want to be at age 37. Ten years ago I was embarking on a high tech career, drunk on the amount of money I was earning, WAY more than I had ever even fathomed. I was buying a brand new car for the first time in my life, and had very little introspection. Ten years later, just about NONE of that is true anymore. No career to speak of, living dependent upon a man, raising a child, still with that same car I bought 10 years ago (though the husband drives it now), and I'm extremely introspective. Do I feel 37? I don't know what it should feel like. I don't feel 18 anymore, and I don't feel "old" per se, so I guess I do feel 37. Do I look 37? Heck, I don't know. You tell me. Do I?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Thank You Gramma Tretsven

In my family, my great grandmother Anna Bank Tretsven is a legend. She died when I was six or seven, while I was living in rural Iowa. I moved to Iowa at age 2, visited California one time, where she (and the rest of my extended family) lived, I think when I was four. I really don't have any memories of Gramma T herself but BOY do I know stories about her and her husband, Grampa T. But he's another story for another post.
Gramma T was the quintessential Grandma. A bit chubby, especially through the bosom, white short curly hair and glasses, a wide smile. Someone you buried yourself in when you scraped your knee or broke your heart. She had a breakfast nook with a built-in seat, and in the storage compartment below the seat were always brown paper sacks from the grocery, and an assortment of craftsy stuff (popsicle sticks, string, pom poms, pop bottle lids, markers, crayons, decals, and so on) to use to make masks on a dreary Saturday afternoon. Her four daughters and their families lived within this same block of property, onto which my great grandfather built little houses for each of them, and the connecting back yard was a playground for my mother, Mama, and their other 8 cousins. They would all run in and out of each others homes, with basically four mothers and a grandmother to keep them all in line. And, best of all, the most amazing stuff came out of her kitchen. I think her heritage was Danish, and Grampa T's was Norwegian. So many of the things the cooked had that flair - Ebelskiver (ball-shaped pancakes cooked in a special pan), pebber nooder (spice cookies at Christmas), rosettes (dainty fragile fried cookies dusted in powdered sugar), and so on. In any case, most all of us still know how to say the Norwegian grace before meals, and a few silly little ditties and songs associated with children. And Christmas. What we call "New Harvey Yuligan" (not spelled even REMOTELY correctly, I don't speak Norwegian or Danish) is a family tradition as well. If you can't sing New Harvey, you have to learn it and sing it BY YOURSELF in front of the entire family. A common family greeting at Christmas time is just "New Harvey", rather than "Merry Christmas!"
Gramma T was the one who could cook anything, and it was all traditional home-style cooking. Old fashioned everything. My Mama (not my birth mother) inherited her recipe box, which I raided with a new stack of recipe cards, painstakingly copying down recipes a few visits ago when I was up to visit Mama in Washington. I kinda wish I had the box itself though, with Gramma T's cards in it, as they have splots and smears of grease, spices, butter, and so on, from being on the counter when these dishes were prepared, hundreds of times over the years. I'm sure my Mama looks at them, with her handwriting, and gets a little frog in her throat thinking of her grandma making these things for her, from these very cards.
When I grew up, my mother did speak of some of the family traditions, and I knew a little about Gramma and Grampa T, but I learned the bulk of it from my Mama, once she came into my life. I certainly didn't learn anything about cooking Gramma T style from my mother, but have learned as much as I can since. My first great lesson was The Pie Shell. Evidently this isn't exactly the easiest thing to do and do well. My sister has gone through her share of attempts, cursing all the while, and I have had to do the same. The first time I tried making one, the air was BLUE with cursing, it cracked in about 5 places, wouldn't hold together and looked like crap. When I did finally piece it together in the pie dish, it was too thick, like a brick. The second time I tried to make it, I added too much water and it was hard as a rock, and not flaky at all, and tasted like I imagine homemade play doh to taste. The third time, I worked on getting it the right consistency, but subsequently have either gotten it too thick or too thin, and it just hasn't been easy or flaked just right. Most of the time, I feel Gramma T's little angel spirit staring over my shoulder, trying to calm me down and give me tips on what to do. "Don't TOUCH the dough, honey." "The water needs to be ICE cold, sweetheart." Or "Roll it from the center out, get the center nice and thin, not so much on the outsides!" Sometimes my own frustration gets the better of me and I haven't been able to listen to her.
At Thanksgiving, my Mama was here. She and I have been working to use a lot more whole wheat flour in our cooking, as it is healthier. But of course, that means I can't bake a bloody THING like my Gramma T, so I will make exceptions. As we learned, after trying the pie crust with whole wheat flour, it comes out like CRAP. I could even hear her saying, "Oh honey, you can't USE that for your pie shell. It won't stick together, and it won't taste good! You mark my words!" And she was right. It was a rock, tasted like cardboard, and I had to chunk out the entire first attempt while trying to roll it out in total vain. You aren't supposed to touch it with your hands, and if you do, it gets overly hard and won't roll out anyway, which is what happened. It fell apart, wasn't wet enough, required more water than the recipe calls for, and probably more shortening as well. So I just had to chunk it and start over. I finally made one that "worked" but it didn't really work. It was a dog.
So this Christmas, I was asked to make the Dutch apple pies for Christmas dinner tomorrow. I went back to the regular flour, I cut in the shortening first, then added the water slowly. It came together like a CHAMP. I just knew she was sitting on my shoulder, helping me put just the right amounts in, telling me when to stop with the pastry blender. And my Mama was on the other shoulder, going, "yep, that's right, Matilda, a little more rolling on the middle...". They look AWESOME. I am excited to taste them tomorrow.
I want Hootie to grow up remembering how GOOD her Mama's this and that always tasted, and I want her to be at her boyfriend's parents' house eating dinner one day, and she'll say to that mother, "My Mama makes THE BEST PIE, Ma'am!" and I'll just know it. I will feel that sentiment from wherever I am, and wherever she is, I'll know she's talking about me. I want to be that person like Gramma T, where she'll remember my hugs, and my songs at bedtime, the way I cook her favorite things for her when she feels tiny, and always iron her pillowcases and spray them with lavender spray every Monday morning when I change the bed linens, how I put out new little dishtowels every other day with embroidered or vintage patterns on them, how I do up her hair in pretty little styles, and play with her dollies and toys with her. I want her to always feel cozy about me, and when she's sick, she'll come home to me to get well. When she feels all sad and blue, she'll want to come be with me to cheer her up and help her feel better. She'll go away to college and long to come home for my pot roast or my pasta dishes, or my lasagna, or apple crisp. Or better yet, she'll want Gramma T's apple cookies, or nut bread, or her Moosie's dishes that I have learned to make. So every time I do something that Gramma T would have done, whether it be something taught to me by my Mama or something I know I have inherited from my family, I say a little thank you to Gramma T, though I didn't know her, for having been such a great pillar for our family to learn from.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Zodiac, which I'm not into.

I'm not one of those people who's into the zodiac at all. But once in a while I come upon a blurb about Capricorns, into which zodiac sign I fall, and I'm usually quite blown away by how FRIGGING RIGHT it seems to be. Are all people born in late Dec/most of January like me? Really? Can that actually be how it is?

Here's something I found online about Capricorns. I'm going to (just for GP here) highlight everything that is right about me in green, and everything that isn't right in red. Things which are partially right, they will be in yellow. I think even undertaking this exercise proves my point, as you will see.

Capricorn is one of the most stable and (mostly) serious of the zodiacal types. These independent, rocklike characters have many sterling qualities. They are normally confident, strong willed and calm.(not when I'm frustrated) These hardworking, unemotional (sometimes I am emotional or sensitive) shrewd, practical, responsible, persevering, and cautious to the extreme persons, are capable of persisting for as long as is necessary to accomplish a goal they have set for themselves. They are reliable workers in almost any profession they undertake. They are the major finishers of most projects started by the 'pioneering' signs; with firm stick-to-it-ness they quickly become the backbone of any company they work for.
Capricornians make of themselves, resourceful, determined managers; setting high standards for themselves and others. They strive always for honesty in their criticism of self, they respect discipline from above and demand it from those beneath them. In their methodical, tough, stubborn, unyielding way, they persist against personal hardship, putting their families and/or their work before their own needs and welfare to reach their objectives long after others have given up and fallen by the wayside. In fact when practical ability allied with the drive of ambition are required in employees to make a project succeed, Capricornians are the people to hire. They plan carefully to fulfill their ambitions
(which often include becoming wealthy), they are economical without meanness (I don't think I'm particularly economical, look at my SHOPPING HABITS!), and able to achieve great results with minimum effort and expense. Because of their organizing ability they are able to work on several projects simultaneously.
They have a great respect for authority but may not, if they reach high rank, be willing to listen to other opinions on things they are directly responsible for. As the ranking authority figure in a given situation they expect their underlings to be as self disciplined as they themselves are, and to perform every task undertaken to the highest standard.
They are, nevertheless, fair as well as demanding. Among their equals they are not always the most pleasant of work fellows for they are reserved and too conservative, valuing tradition more than innovation, however valuable the latter, and they are often humorless. There is also a tendency to pessimism, melancholy and even unhappiness which many Capricornians are unable to keep to themselves, especially if they fail personally. In the extreme this trait can make them a very depressed individual; ecstatic happiness alternating with the most wretched kind of misery which is so subconsciously buried that he or she should seek help if such emotions become frequent. For the above reason, capable Capricorn should spend many hours in meditation, gathering the strength to control such inner emotions.
Their intellects are sometimes very subtle. They think profoundly and deeply, throughly exploring all possibilities before deciding on a 'safe' alternative. They have good memories and an insatiable yet methodical desire for knowledge. They are rational, logical and clearheaded, have good concentration, delight in debate in which they can show off their cleverness by luring their adversaries into traps and confounding them with logic.

So mostly, there's a lot going on in there which is how I am. I'm not particularly frugal, at least not relative to my husband. He's tighter than bark on a tree. We have no debt and are on our way to a decent retirement, but I don't exactly save all of our surplus in the budget each month. Between getting things for the house, garden, child, and clothing/shoes for me, it seems to dissolve rather rapidly. :-(
I would never consider myself pessimistic, unless you again compare me to my husband. I see myself as a realist. It it what it is. The glass has 4.2 oz in it. For him, it's always more than half full, and my doesn't it taste wonderful? but perhaps the water is just in the wrong sized glass.
The last little bit talks about this ecstatic happiness alternating with wretched misery - that sounds like bipolar disorder, and I know I don't have that. I am much more even keeled in the big picture. I have moments of frustration that I tie to lack of patience, which stems from lack of consistent, uninterrupted sleep and frequent sinus infections. But if you took that root cause out of the picture, or looked at me prior to having a child, you would see a very level-headed, stable, unemotional individual. I've been working on myself to become more emotional, or let more of the emotional side of me out. But especially in the business world, I'm NOT emotional at all.
But it is uncanny about many facets of this description, how it actually does suit me. I'm a do-er, I'm confident and productive and reliable and dependable and driven and ambitious. I get shit done, and I expect everyone else to do it with the same standards that I uphold. And though I know that isn't always right and I'm working on that too (add it to the frigging LIST), it's my nature to NOT understand how or why other people do a crappy job at things, half-assed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


My child is 100% unable to SMILE LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. I know that having a snap-happy, camera-laden parent isn't really appealing for a child. I know that I feel like a "stage mom" every time I try to get the child to smile normally. And I can certainly blame my CRAPPY EQUIPMENT because we have an OLD digital camera, one with about a 10 second delay between pictures while it decides if it's "ready" to take another one, one with 3.2 megapixel hoo-ha. It's old, I know it. We need a new one. I can't get a lot of candids, because the MOMENT IS GONE before my camera can actually rev up to take the shot. But HONESTLY, the child cannot just smile normal. Here were my attempts at a Christmas picture today at her preschool party. FAILED MISERABLY.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Working Out Stuff About God

The situation in my household is that my husband was raised Catholic, I was raised really "nothing." Our daughter will hopefully be exposed to a wide range of thoughts, but technically, she's Catholic. However, I'm the one, the "lost" one, who spends the most time thinking about this subject, and working out my thoughts and feelings on it.

My faith is of my own development. Possibly if you asked my parents, they would tell you they are Presbyterian because they were once members there; or Methodist, because my father's family claimed that denomination when he was raised; or even just generic Christian, since they have never attended church or practiced their spiritual side as long as I have been aware. Or my mother might not even tell you that she's Christian. I don't know that she even knows what she believes on that subject. My father believes he's Christian, has a set of values he upholds, and it's more the values I was taught, rather than any sense of "faith". But when I got into my 20's, I did some faith exploration of my own, starting from the premise of deciding whether or not I believed Christianity, rather than a blank sheet of paper with a list of the world's various religions on it. I went under the assumption that I wanted to practice Christianity, and then sort of tore at my questions about it with the help of some very, very good friends. That went on for a number of years. I don't know that I really got "answers" to my questions as much as I got a nice understanding of where I falter and what I am unclear about. I did a lot of learning though, which is a good place to start any exploration of a new subject matter. And that makes me feel better, though I know I'm no scholar.
My husband went to church with his family, was confirmed as a teenager, and will attend periodically throughout the year, though not regularly. His mother is Catholic, his father attends church but doesn't claim denomination or really make much comment about any of it. He recites the blessing at the table for mealtime, and he will attend church with his wife, I think mostly upon request or at holidays. The husband's sisters are mixed. I think one is agnostic (at least doesn't attend church of her own volition and wasn't married in a church), and the other has a very strong faith which is now practiced within a Protestant church setting. Point of all this is that the family is of mixed religious belief. My husband has a "quiet relationship" with God. He doesn't see a need to think about it, to explore it, to discuss it, or "work" on it. But he will only really attend a Catholic church, as I have discovered over the years, in an effort to maybe find something between Catholicism and whatever I am to suit us as a family. Our daughter was baptized Catholic, because I agreed upon marrying him (in the Catholic church) that I would not stand in the way of her learning about Catholicism. I don't have to teach it to her myself, and there is nothing to say I cannot expose her to other faiths as well. I just cannot prevent my husband from teaching her or indoctrinating her into the Catholic Church. Not that I want to either.
But, I cannot become Catholic. I have studied it, I have thought about it for YEARS. My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law have invited me with open arms into the Catholic faith. I appreciate their invitations and have taken it extremely seriously. About 98% of it is fine, and in agreement with my views. But I honestly have some problems with it that keep me from being able to stand up in front of a congregation and affirm that I believe the same things they do. My MIL tells me that all Catholics have a few things here and there they disagree with, and that's okay. But I cannot do that, in good faith, disagree but say that I agree.
I have issues with the whole role the Pope has within the church, and what they believe to be true about the Pope. I have issues with his "infallibility" and we've seen throughout the course of history that many Popes have been very, very fallible. I have issues with the priest putting himself as a necessary participant in my communication with God. As though I cannot be forgiven directly, I cannot be in Communion with God unless I become Catholic, as though the human beings within the church know my heart, or could possibly know it well enough to decide if I can be in Communion with God, if I am forgiven when I ask for forgiveness.
However, I have a good friend who is Orthodox Christian. This faith is older than Catholicism - it was the schism between those two as a result of the political situation at the time in Europe/Eastern Europe which resulted in the position of the Pope being established, and after which the Nicene Creed was "altered" by the Pope at the time, changing a fundamental Orthodox tenet of doctrine. I learned a lot through my friend Brent about Orthodoxy, and did a good bit of reading about it. While its doctrine and rituals are very firm and inflexible, somehow I am able to stomach that more than I can Catholicism. I think if any denomination has a right to claim it is the original Christianity, it is Orthodoxy. If it is in any way critical that we follow what was originally Christian, I think Orthodoxy is the way to go. But that is one big fat question - is it critical we follow and practice our faith and worship the way it was done back then? The Orthodox believe it is, because they don't trust themselves to read the bible, interpret it, and know what to do. They cite the fact that everyone else who has done that on their own has come up with different interpretations and approaches and beliefs and doctrines. So therefore, it's not possible to "do it right" or consistently, anyway. So if we, as fallible human beings 2000 years after the fact, actually cannot read these multiply translated versions of the Bible, and understand what was really meant by those words, what are we to do? Can we get the translations right, and understand the context in which it was written, with such a drastically different culture and political situation from so long ago? Should we be taking everything that literally anyway? Those are my major open issues. If we really cannot do that, then I think Orthodoxy makes a lot of sense. The religious clergy never decide anything alone - everything is done in the context of a large group of scholarly, learned clergypeople, praying that if they can collectively agree on something, it must be due to divine wisdom being imparted on them. And the clergy are there to help their followers understand the Bible and know what God expects of them.
And, on the other hand, there's Buddhism. Having done a lot of thinking and participating in my yoga classes, I find this philosophy enlightening, and inspiring. I think it doesn't conflict with Christianity, but can go hand in hand. Buddha isn't "God". Buddha is the being inside each of us which joins with the higher power. That within us which is divine, our true selves. I see this marrying nicely with the idea that God created each of us exactly as we should be, and that we ought to seek union between our divine nature and God Himself.
So, on Sunday, I was in church with my husband, daughter, and his grandmother. A priest came to talk about how he came upon the priesthood as his true vocation, and how he feels about Catholicism specifically. It was very judgmental, very self-centered, in my opinion. I was so turned off. I do not know how I can be so turned off by a facet of Christianity, when one even stronger in their exclusivity (Orthodoxy) does not turn me off at all. Food for thought.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cheers, Kristin!

"What is it?" calls August.
"Did Clive feed the cats?"
His face appears in the crack of the flap. "Ah. Yes. Well, that presented a bit of difficulty, but I've worked something out."

The book is "Water for Elephants" by Sara Gruen.
A bit of an anti-climax, being exactly where it is that Kristin tells me to document. Here's what I did, upon request.

1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence
3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog
4. Name of the book and the author
5. Tag three people

That tagging part? Well, since so few people I know that read my blog actually have a blog to post on, that makes it kinda difficult. I will just have to say, HEY YOU THREE NEXT PEOPLE WHO READ MY BLOG AND HAVE A BLOG, comment in my comment section that you read it and are going to proceed with said request, eh? Thanks a bunch.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I haven't much shared the crafty stuff that I have done over the last few months, though that's what takes up a majority of my free time when I'm not engaged somehow with the preschooler. So I thought I would post a few pics of some of the things I have recently done.

Just yesterday, I decided that I would make Hootie a poncho out of fleece. Because I had seen these darling ones at but I cannot afford $50 for one. Not that they aren't worth that, just that I don't have that kind of money at this point. I am tapped out after Christmas, car maintenance, plane tickets for January, more Christmas gifts, blah blah blah. So, I went and got some fleece on sale, and bought a tassel and pom pom fringe and had some extra buttons lying around, and I still have this darling rose ribbon trim to add to the bottom of the poncho about 2" up from the pom pom fringe. But here is what it looks like:

So that's one thing. Other recent things include the following, which is a nap mat for Hootie to use at preschool. The back has an even crazier sort of paisley fabric on it, and the letters of her initials are felt. The fleece blanket, which is sewn in, is double the size of the mat itself, to wrap over and around her while she doesn't actually ever TAKE A NAP ANYMORE, DAMMIT:

In other craftiness, there's this, which is a mini-painting of a tree, in "Small Format", 2.5"x3.5" that I painted for my sister in law for her birthday:

I have done several others in this same style also.

Then, there's this little shirt that I "embellished". I didn't MAKE the shirt, I bought that. But then sewed felt circles onto the shirt, and then sewed a coordinating button inside each one. Hootie calls it her "fall shirt". Last year I did the red one below it...

I do a lot of crocheting also, but am not finished with those projects yet to include them. But that's a good selection of the random stuff I do. And, design my own tattoo. But you already knew that one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Work In Progress

Today I had lunch with my friend Kristi. Like it or not, Kristi and I have a lot of things in common. I say that bit about "like it or not" because what we mostly have in common are the parts of us which we don't so much care for. Easily irritated or frustrated (in her case, angry), self-critical, and we both struggle with what to do with ourselves as stay-at-home mothers. It's easy when you're the person listening to someone else ranting about something, to think yourself above (or at least distanced from) whatever they struggle with. But that's not the case with Kristi and myself, because a lot of the time, I can definitely relate. We both have lives that are wonderful - loving spouses, beautiful daughters, nice homes and extracurricular activities. What is there to be frustrated and irritated with? Fundamentally, the answer is really... nothing. What we both seem to have going on is an internal mechanism whereby we respond in automatic ways to the things which bother us, and those ways are unhealthy and counterproductive to effective communication with others in our family. So why do we respond this way? As Kristi was explaining earlier to me today, it's almost like a chemical process going on behind the scenes. The quick burst of irritation, frustration or anger releases some chemical that the body is accustomed to feeling, like the adrenaline that comes from fear or excitement. And so it seems we're both slowly trying to pick that response apart and reprogram ourselves to respond differently. So far the mechanisms that have been helping me have been yoga and getting more consistent sleep, and Kristi has been seeing an acupuncturist, chiropractor, and she rides her horse. And recently, has started reading a long list of recommended books to help her become a nicer, more patient and calm wife, mother, and person. In the interests of continual self improvement, I am going to be reading a number of the books she's had recommended to her as well, and am trying my darndest to improve my overall health. The frequent and recurring sinus infections I seem to struggle with (particularly at this time of year) have taken a huge toll on my ability to manage my own frustration level, as well as the ability to let things go which need no comment. To approach life with a sense of curiosity rather than expectation and disappointment. I spent a lot of years as an accomplishment junkie, getting my strokes from the work environment where I found ways to excel and accomplish tangible things. What I do now isn't terribly tangible, but it's the most important thing I could be doing right now, raising Hootie at home. I know that many mothers cannot stay home but would love to. I know many others who couldn't stand being at home, and choose to work so that the time they spend with their children is positive. You don't need a complicated advanced degree to be a stay-at-home-mother, but it's definitely not an easy job, if you put your heart into doing it well. And I, for one, am looking for a way to find all the satisfaction I need within the moment and what I am experiencing right now, without all that expectation hanging around my shoulders.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

10 Ideals Worth Sacrificing For

Every year like most of America (and probably people in other countries too, though I'm not so "in touch" with other cultures that I feel confident arguing on their behalf), I come up with a bullshit list of "resolutions" for the next year. I think about it for a few months leading up to New Year's Day, and once 1 January hits, I try real hard for about a month. Then, slowly, I slip back into my everyday habits. About the end of February, my conscience reminds me and I come screaming back to attention like you do when you're in a boring class and start to get the nap-jerks, and you wake back up only to draw ridiculous attention to yourself as you fling your pen across the room. But by late April, only a slight nagging thought wafts through the brain when faced with a thing I had intended to change and didn't follow through with. Months go by. But by October or November, my mind starts building up a new list of "resolutions." Well, this year I think I'm going to do something different. Instead of coming up with crap like that which only serves to make me feel like a loser when I fail at them, like diets and flossing every day and the like, I am creating a list of Ideals Worth Sacrificing For. These are all things which I believe in and know I achieve to one degree or another already. Things which ideally I would or could follow because the goal and purpose of these ideals are noble, worthwhile, and things I *want* to do, if only I weren't so lazy or cheap on occasion. Some of them I follow religiously, without issue. Others are a struggle; that which builds my character, so to speak. So I'm going to first explain what it is, why it's important (if explanation is needed), rate it with a star system as to how difficult it is to uphold (5 stars is WAY THE HELL HARD and 1 star is CAN DO IT WITH BOTH ARMS TIED BEHIND MY BACK AND A SPOON HANGING FROM MY NOSE), and explain WHY it's difficult to uphold, when it is. Concepts such as these, and one's ability to self-sacrifice and self-motivate in these areas, constitute what makes up a person, in my view (and what else is this but my little views anyway?! That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. Amen.) Let me know if I missed anything YOU think is important. Because after all, that's what the "COMMENTS" section is for - YOUR little views, your retaliations, additions, subtractions, yadda yadda.

1. Fidelity. (*)
Okay, everyone knows that this is important and why, in the context of a married relationship. But explanation is worthwhile here, because people define fidelity to one's partner in MANY different ways. I define it as a) you don't have any contact with another person which is in any way construed as "not platonic". You don't kiss someone else, and you certainly don't engage in any other sexually oriented acts with someone else. No paying for lap dances, no oral sex, no nothing like that. You may hug a friend of the opposite sex in a strictly friendly way, and you can flirt as long as it's clear to the other person you're not hitting on them and you're not INTERESTED in pursuing anything. You can look at other people naked without it being "cheating" (i.e. magazines, porn, or if you're dragged (as many people are) to a strip club for a bachelor/ette party) but not excessively, and not in lieu of whatever you should be getting from your spouse. Of course there are a zillion shades of gray on that, and too much of any of that is another kind of problem not meant for this post. And, (and this might be controversial to some), you cannot have a deep best-friend-level relationship that surpasses that with your spouse with another person of the opposite sex. It's emotional cheating, and I think it's also wrong. And I have zero problem with this one. But it amazes me how MANY people DO have trouble with it. In SO many ways.

2. Recycling (***)
By recycling I'm not talking about putting out a wad of stuff in your blue bin every week. Any fool can do that. I'm talking about being extremely dedicated to it. Actually rinsing out each tin can, each juice container, each plastic Danimals container, all junk mail, EVERYTHING which could be recycled, and making sure it gets to the right bins. Getting more bins, if needed. Recycling clothing by making something new out of them, or giving them away to thrift stores or Salvation Army or DAV or whatever charity you want. But keeping their usefulness in circulation and passing them on. SERIOUSLY recycling. It's hard, it is VERY hard sometimes, to do all of that. But I do continue to try.

3. Buying Local/American (****)
In general, I FULLY support buying local or American and even moreso, buying from my local community of craftspeople and Mom/Pop shops when I can do that. It costs more, but it supports local and national economy, it lets people make their OWN living instead of the profits being absorbed into a big corporation, and you are also not furthering the abuse of children and cheap adult labor in third world countries, making them work for NOTHING in factories just to survive. We've furthered this agenda in other countries because of the fact that we are always looking for a good deal, and I'm JUST AS MUCH TO BLAME for this, every time I purchase a $3 white t-shirt from WalMart. Probably every time I purchase ANYTHING from WalMart, actually. I do make a few exceptions, however. First: buying imports (food and goods) from companies which import craft goods from around the world and generally offer a fair price to the producers for them (I think Pier 1 and World Market both do this, as well as many local mom-and-pop import goods merchants, like Zanzibar here in Austin). Second issue is Costco, because they do use a lot of local products as well as some not, and I have read a lot that Costco is very good to their employees and conscientious as well. The other exception would be cars - we tend to only purchase cars which were actually manufactured in Japan. They don't pay their people total peanuts to make cars, and their exacting quality standards make their vehicles more reliable and well-built than American counterparts. That is an area I think America still needs to work on, and I have a lot of feelings about labor unions and what-not in association with that, but that's for another post.

4. Eating organic foods (**)
This is one that I'm not 100% bleeding-heart on, in terms of thinking I SHOULD try to eat everything under the sun organic. Let's face it - some of the most wonderful things in the world just don't COME in organic. That cheese in the packet of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is probably RADIOACTIVE, but damn, it's tasty. I can buy organic Mac and Cheese, but it just doesn't taste the same. There are many other examples. But, generally speaking, organics and free-range items taste better to me (especially categories like produce and meats/fish), and make me feel better about what I'm putting into my body as well as my family's body. But I also think one can go overboard on that. There are likely whole categories where there's not much difference between organic and not. But in some areas, it's huge. If you dig too deeply into how non-organic meats come into existence, you'll get a HUMONGOUS case of the heeby jeebies, and you'll probably never eat meat again. Like chickens. OHMYGOD how horrible their little lives are before they are slaughtered. Not like they face a fate any better than an organic free-range chicken, but their lives are so much more pitiful and conditions so much more disgusting than organic animal farmers provide their animals while they're waiting for the slaughter. I try not to think about these things at all because HAVE YOU EVER HAD REALLY GOOD BARBEQUE? Like the SALT LICK? No? Well, you'd have a damn hard time being a vegetarian if you had. And I really doubt they are "organic." So I don't put vegetarianism on my list, but Lordy, I can see why people do. So this is why I call this something to work toward, rather than an absolute.

5. Avoiding television for little children (****)
While this isn't IMPOSSIBLE, some days it is SO FRIGGING HARD! I WANT so much to just have my child sit around with homemade toys and lots of books, entertaining herself or letting me teach her things, a la Little House on the Prairie. That would be awesome. And would also significantly reduce the quantity of "Mommy I need [fill in the blank plastic character toy]" at the store. And many days we watch little to no television. But some days I just don't have it in me to interact all day long or handle the incessant "Mommy play with me" requests I get, because she hasn't yet learned to entertain herself, and when she's sick or over-tired, she's not exactly pleasant to be around. I think the goal is terrific, and one I strive for repeatedly. I'm just not terribly good at it yet. As a mitigating factor, I try to limit it to educational programs and a little bit of Dora here and there. But only because my daughter SO LOVES DORA that I know she'd implode if I took her away. AND, I think Dora's little vignettes are somewhat educational. MORESO THAN FRIGGING SPONGEBOB anyway. I don't care for him.

6. Simple is Better (***)
Living a simple life, having a simple home, uncluttered and uncomplicated, preparing simple food, enjoying simple pleasures. I strive in this direction all the time. Hard to know if a person has actually achieved it since it's a total continuum. But I go through once per season and purge all of the clothing that hasn't been worn in a full year, and donate them to charity. I go through my knicknacks and kitchen things and stuff cluttering my house and pare it all down, putting out less and less each time I redo everything. Keeping things which have sentimental value over aesthetic value, if there's a choice. If I have something to say, I try and say it kindly but plainly, without a bunch of sugar coating around it (I could use major improvement here but I am trying). And I try to cook fairly simply and healthily. My mother might argue about the simple part - she's the queen of simple home cooking. I can always learn a lot from her.

7. Don't Judge Others, and Keep My Opinion to Myself (****)
I SO think this is a valuable trait to have. So many times people just want to tell their story, without someone criticizing their choices, especially if they haven't asked for advice or input. Just having someone to listen. But even moreso, I think it is admirable when people realize that there are multiple "right" answers and ways to go about living, without judging others for not doing things as they would do them. I find myself critiquing others in my head more than I think is really right or necessary, and continually remind myself that even if I wouldn't do as they are doing, it doesn't concern me, and I need not even have an opinion, much less attach myself to the outcome.

8. Travel via means other than personal vehicle where feasible (***)
This isn't horribly difficult in my neighborhood, because I live right in the middle of town, with access to restaurants, a little neighborhood grocery, Walgreens, a big gourmet market, parks, and public transport. BUT, having a child makes things more complicated in that regard, to where I often will drive instead of walking because it's a colossal undertaking with Hootie in tow, and she clammors to be held or carried a lot. But the other day our second vehicle was in the shop, my husband took my Forester, and I was carless. I walked to Central Market. I walked Hootie to school and back, and retrieved her on foot also. It was a bright, sunny, cool day and I felt very envigorated. But on the other hand, MOST of our friends live so far away one must drive to get there, so we use the car a lot. And clearly one cannot do weekly grocery shopping without a vehicle, and Costco? Well, that's just way out of the question. But this is a terrific ideal to work toward.

9. Take responsibility for your own actions (**)
This is one of the things I find SO important to do, and something I intend over the course of my child's upbringing to continue to impress upon her. We all have choices to make in our lives, and we have the freedom to make them. We ought to always own up to the choices we have made, and take whatever consequences come from them, good or bad. It's hard when you know you done MESSED UP on something, to own up to it and admit it, especially if it incurs wrath or disappointment or even worse, the loss of a relationship. But in the end it is such a sign of good character to just do it and feel like you were honest and responsible. In areas of relationship interaction, I find this is a really insidious one. People will tend to blame their upbringing on why they do things a certain way, even if they agree there's a better way to do it or not do it at all. "That was how I was raised" is the catch phrase. "I can't help it." No, a person can't help it if they have poor eyesight or hearing loss or multiple sclerosis or are short. But there are a lot of things that a person CAN help, if only they cared to pay attention and try to break the habit, and set a new pattern for themselves.

10. Healthy Exercise (**)
For so many reasons, getting a healthy dose of exercise into one's weekly routine is such a good thing. For the mind, the body, the spirit. It has such good effects all the way around, I can't see why it is so hard to always work it in. I think the key (which has been true for me) is finding something you can do that you love. For me, it used to be running. Easy to do just about anywhere, cheap, doesn't require special equipment or anything. But I got out of the habit of it when I got pregnant. However, since then, I have found yoga, and it is just as rewarding and easy for me to squeeze into my week, because I love it so.

So there are my 10 things. There are, I am sure, so many more. Fill me in.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Things I Can't Stand

Maybe on a different day, I might be posting a nice fluffy blog about things I adore. That list is also very, very long, and probably quite boring. But I'm feeling a bit critical today, and thought maybe I could purge myself of all this critical snarkyness by just creating a list of stuff that either bugs the crap out of me or is extremely distasteful to me, and I'd be done with it. So here's to mental health. CHING CHING!

1. Eggs in their wiggly, fluffy form. I am fine if one is concealed in a cake, in creme brulee, and so on. But fried, scrambled, boiled, deviled, poached, migas, chile relleno casserole, quiche... no thank you. It's so bad that whereas normally when visiting someone's house and they serve something I might not care for, I'll eat it, I cannot do it with eggs. I feel it is probably more polite in the grand scheme of things to just not eat it than vomit on their new tablecloth they just got at Dillards.

2. Stickers on the bottom of things that I buy which do not easily come off by peeling or lightly picking with the fingernail. You know the ones, which come off in TINY, ITTY BITTY PIECES, leaving this nasty goo and white paper backing garbage on the bottom of the item, having already shredded both of my thumbnails.

3. Michaels, how they don't really show you the price of ANYTHING IN THEIR STORE. You go there, because they lure you with a sale of some sort. You try to determine in the aisle what the price is of said item, and you cannot. You have to go through the line at the register, which is obnoxiously long, in order to deal with inept people at the register. They quote you a price which doesn't match the sale you know you read this morning in their flyer. You inquire. They give you the "they don't pay me enough to care, lady" look.

4. The little shelves in my bathroom to the left of my sink. They are narrow, they are deep, and invariably, when I try to get anything but the one item which is sitting in the very front, everything falls off the shelf and into the trash. I need a better system.

5. My next door neighbor, who has a late 70's (?) model brown diesel truck, which is parked in his driveway, which is right next to both my bedroom window and that of my guestroom. He gets up early (pre-7am) and gets into this vehicle. RRRRRUNNNNNN-run-run-run-pftht. RRRUUUUUNNNNN-run-run-run-KAPOW-chuga-chuga-chuga... and finally gets it started after a few failed attempts. This ALWAYS WAKES ME UP, if I am actually sleeping. And of course wakes up anyone who comes to stay with me. DRIVES ME NUTS.

6. People who litter.

7. People who zip in and out of traffic, no signals, speeding, weaving in and out, on the shoulder sometimes. Not only does it piss me off that this is so dangerous to everyone around whom they drive, but it makes me angry that the person has such a holier-than-thou attitude about driving, that they shouldn't have to wait in traffic like everyone else. I also do not care for people who will not let you in when you are driving and need to merge. OH, and speaking of merging, this is another pet peeve. When you're going to have to merge from two lanes down to one, it drives me nuts that people do not take up the entire second lane from which you are having to leave. It's as though as soon as you see a sign that says you need to merge, everyone immediately gets into the new lane. AND, get p.o.'ed at people who continue to stay in the other lane until it's actually TIME to merge, and refuse to let them in to "punish" them for "trying to get ahead" or "not wait their turn". As though they should have gotten in line way beforehand. As I see it, you should use as much of that other lane as is available, and be in single file as short a distance as is necessary, and that will make traffic go a bit faster.

8. Underwear that crawls up my butt. Enough said there.

9. People who let their dog defecate in my yard and walk on without picking it up as if that is actually okay. Ew.

10. Itchy sweaters. Actually, any sort of itchiness in clothing at all. Just wrap me in a big cotton ball and be done, already.

11. Other foods that gross me out: lima beans. GAG me. beets. Not a fan. brussel sprouts - they taste to me like what I imagine raw petroleum to taste like. Bitter. Papaya and guava. I can do all other tropical fruits, including the lychee. Not those two. Bleah. Okra. That's pretty much slimy and gross too. Although I did once eat okra that my Aunt Ginny prepared in Lubbock, TX when I was a child, and I liked it. I was SO DISAPPOINTED the next 3 times I ate it, and how nasty it was, and how I didn't remember it being nasty. Ew. SUSHI - that is just VILE. It's a texture issue also. I cannot stand it, it makes my mouth salivate, and not in a good way.

12. The fact that I cannot look good in jeans. Any waistline which is at my waist (or God forbid above) looks like crap, and is horribly out of style. Any low-rise pants allow my baby pooch belly to flop over the top. That is just not attractive either. I see teen girls with that look all the time - the fat roll in the hips and belly, hanging over the band of their pants. But it looks STUPID. And I look stupid wearing it.

13. The reception I get on our PBS station. Something got jacked up with the rabbit ears we have perched in the attic to get reception. Yes, we're the only household in America which does not have cable. We have rabbit ears. In our attic. And PBS doesn't come in great.

14. CHEEZY songs. That Christmas song, about the little kid who wants to buy his Mama a pair of pretty shoes, because she loves shoes and she's dying of cancer, and those would make her feel better. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?! And I thought it couldn't get worse, but today on our local MIX radio station, they were laughing so hard about that song and people called in to remind them of some OTHER cheezy sappy songs. You know which ones I mean. There was one called Roses for Mama, in which a guy is breezing through some town on his mother's birthday and stops to have roses wired to her house, and a little boy wants to buy roses for his Mama, but cannot afford it. The dude helps the little fella out, only to see him kneeling at a gravesite on his way out of town, giving his roses to his dead Mama. WHAT?!? Oh, and the same dude has another song called Teddy Bear, in which this little "crippled" (his term) boy gets on the CB radio, wanting to talk to the truckers because he's crippled and cannot do anything else, and is lonely. AND HIS DADDY GOT IN A WRECK JUST LAST WEEK AND DIED, as if the crippled part wasn't bad enough! LORD. Then someone else called in about that song, "Where've You Been?" about the couple who had never spent a single night apart, love at first sight, inseparable yadda yadda, but got separated in the nursing home, different floors, one has Alzheimers or some crap, the other one comes to see him/her, and that one REMEMBERS THE SPOUSE after having remembered nothing else, and asks the same line of the chorus, "Where've You Been? I've looked for you forever and a day...." blah blah. CAN YOU PLUCK ANY HARDER AT THE HEARTSTRINGS, PEOPLE? And this stuff SELLS LIKE HOTCAKES.

15. Going to look for the last cookie that you saved, only to find it has been eaten by someone else in your house.

16. Taking your car in for preventative maintenance and coming back with a 4 figure bill.

17. Getting on the scale after Thanksgiving or Christmas. It's just not good.

18. Being woken up by a panting or yelping dog who wants out for 2.2 seconds, RIGHT AFTER I JUST FELL ASLEEP! It takes me forever to get to sleep as it is, and once I'm woken back up, I have to START ALL OVER AGAIN.

19. The way that IKEA sets up their "flow" through their store. And that there aren't quick and easy paths straight to the "Market Hall" area. AND their rigid customer service policies. Those kinda suck too.

20. The fact that it is IMPOSSIBLE to talk to anyone at eBay or PayPal when you have an issue. Grrrrrrr!

Okay. I feel better. I need to go do a few yoga meditations and drink some green tea or something.