Thursday, March 29, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

1- Can you cook? If yes, do you like to cook?

I love to cook, I can cook, and yet, I don't do it as much as I'd like because of my child who likes to "help". And by help I mean drop and break things, pour half the ingredients onto the counter, you know, stuff which makes the food not taste so great.

2 - When does your whole family come together to eat?

Dinner only. Husband eats at work for lunch and breakfast. We sort of take stuff on the run. But dinner is sacred.

3 - What do you have for breakfast?

A Luna bar. Though I adore breakfast food, it makes me HUGE.

Sometimes though, I allow myself a breakfast taco minus eggs, and/or a pastry. Those are my favorites.

4 - When, where and how do you eat during the week?

Breakfast - Luna bar around 10 after having had 4 cups of coffee w/fat free creamer and splenda.

Lunch - a yogurt, piece of fruit, around noon, while my daughter eats a healthy balanced meal.

Snack - 3:30 pm - crackers and cheese, or a handful of raisins and a Diet Coke, while Hootie eats a snack of her choice.

Dinner - 6:30 pm when husband gets home. I usually cook something really healthy - something from a Weight Watchers recipe or else something hearty but good for you. A stew, a soup, something like this, with a veggie on the side and all of us at the table, set nicely, and with prayers first.

5 - How often do you eat out?

Maybe once or twice a week all-told, like including lunches with a friend and possibly once a weekend with the family.

6 - How often do you order-in or take-away?

Rarely. Maybe once a month or every other month?

7 - Re: 5 & 6 - If money was no question, would you like to do it more often?

Not really. It's not very healthy, it's usually loaded in fats, sugars, and MSG. I prefer to cook if I'm not terribly busy.

8 - Are there any standards that make regular appearances on your table?

Fish, Chicken-based Indian food. Stews, soups, navy beans and bacon, homemade spaghetti or other pasta/Italian foods I make from scratch. A big fat Greek salad. Roasted red pepper soup. Crusty wheat baguettes. Fajitas.

9 - Have you ever tried a recipe from another blog?

Not yet.

10 - Are there any quarrels because of food?

No. Other than w/the child, who will one day gobble down chicken, and the next day say, "EW! I don't LIKE chicken." Then we go through a time out for being rude to her mother and the cook, and then we eat.

11 - Are you vegetarian or can you imagine living vegetarian?

Not, but all but for BBQ every once in a while and the occasional steak, I think I could be. I don't like it OFTEN, but when you want a good steak, you want one, and that's just that.

12 - What would you like to try out that you haven’t dared yet?

I'm adventurous with food, and will/have tried most everything. Those things I haven't tried I have no interest in it.

13 - Do you rather cook or bake?

I love both, but I don't bake often because it's SO DANG FATTENING! And when you gain weight by looking at food, not even smelling or tasting it, you have to be very careful. So I'd say baking, because it's such a rarity in my life.

14 - What was the most terrible mess you made in the kitchen?

I clean as I go. I don't usually have a disaster. Though Thanksgiving for 12 was a big ass mess. That doesn't even FIT INTO THE DISHWASHER.

15 - What do your kids like to eat best? What would your kids never eat?
Hootie likes to eat tortillas, breakfast foods, yogurt, any vegetable save lettuce or leafy stuff, and fruit. She isn't fond of meat, and she'd NEVER EAT SUSHI ever. But neither do I. I have texture issues with sushi and eggs. She's only just shy of 4 though, so I'd have to say we have a lot of time to develop adamant taste issues. LOTS OF TIME. My nieces hate just about everything but chili their mother makes (not mine, mind you, just hers), spaghetti their mom makes, and bread. And if it's green, FORGET IT.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Time That Came To An End

So, on Friday afternoon, after my last post, we had to take the dog to be put down. All morning long, the dog followed me around, velcroed to my leg, and just looked sad. Lots of heavy panting and pacing going on, which I know meant pain. I had gone to pick Hootie up from preschool, and afterwards we went to get some grapefruit-sized river rocks from the quarry to surround the new lavender bed I am making in my front yard. The guys were out in the yard pulling up my ivy bed (where the lavender would go) and I went inside to get some water. The dog was lying in a spot entirely atypical for him to lie. He was on his side, legs straight out and floppy, which was also quite unusual since he's been only gingerly getting up and down over the last week. He wasn't panting, he was breathing slowly, and his lip was floppy on the floor. When I came in, he raised up his head a second, then put it back down on the floor. I thought maybe we'd just woken him up, since he's been exhausted, not sleeping well for the last week. I leaned down to give him a bite of my NutriGrain bar, and he didn't even sniff at it. This was the biggest tell-tale sign for me. This dog has ravenously eaten anything and everything I have given him in all 13 years of his life. He just isn't a dog who turns away a bite of food, especially HUMAN food, the Holy Grail and very rarely offered. It was about 3:45pm on a Friday and the thought of going through the weekend and risking the possibility that the dog could die in my house, while I'm alone with my 3 1/2 year old child... that wasn't even remotely okay with me. I can't lift him myself without a lot of effort and strain on my already bad shoulder, and what do you do with a deceased dog on a weekend anyway?! He couldn't even stand up. I knew it was time. So I called the vet, asked them to prepare a room, that I was bringing him up. I had been telling Hootie that Floyd was sick, and wouldn't be with us much longer, so it wasn't a total shock to her when I said she needed to lie down on the floor with him and say her goodbyes to him. She was very sad, crying on him and telling him how much she loved him, how he's been such a good dog and she will really miss him. Then she asked me why he had to die. I said that he is old, and has gotten very sick, and it's not something the doctors can fix anymore. But it is much better for us to help him die and go to heaven rather than let him suffer in pain here on earth until he dies on his own. She asked me about heaven, where it is and what it is. We've said prayers at night for a while now, and we say grace before meals, and she goes to a Christian preschool, so she's heard terms like God, Jesus, heaven, and so forth. But this was her first experience with it right up in her face. I told her that in heaven, Floyd will be able to run through the pasture chasing rabbits and chewing sticks and rawhide. He'll always have a big bowl of food to eat and fresh water to drink, and the energy to run and play all day. She said that would be good for Floyd, but she'll miss him. She wanted to see if she could go visit him, and I had to tell her no, we won't see Floyd until WE go to heaven, when we die. Of course she wanted to know when that's going to be, and I told her nobody ever really knows. But it'll be a long, long, long time from now.
I had to get one of the workers from outside to come lift him from the living room and into the back of my Subaru, and I'm sure he was a little wigged out by me crying the whole time. We drove up, and the staff let us into the room. They brought him in on a stretcher from the back of my car, and Hootie hugged him one last time. The staff of the clinic took her and kept her busy while I sat with him. They gave him an injection that would make him fall asleep first, so that he would not have any experience of the sensation of euthanasia. I held his head in my lap while the injection worked, and he fell asleep. I took off his collar and I said my goodbyes to him and told him he'd been a good dog. Then I left and took Hootie home while they completed the euthanasia. I couldn't sit and watch that part. I just couldn't do that, and Hootie was starting to look and call for me anyway out in the lobby. So I took her home, and went about the process of cleaning up the reminders of the dog. Leashes, dinner bowl, water dish, medicine, brushes, nail trimmers, dog bed.
I look around at night and see where his bed used to be, and I know that I miss him. I am sort of relishing in the fact that my house isn't filthy and full of dog hair. I don't know what to do with that extra 20 minutes a day that I used to spend stick-vacuuming the house of dog fur. :-) But I miss things like him putting his big heavy blonde head on my leg while I paint, or the little sounds he'd make while lying down. We aren't getting another, despite Hootie having asked me several times if we can get a new pet. And she doesn't mean a fish. I know she wants another dog. She'd take a cat, but we can't do cats since we're allergic (me and the husband). So we'll have to just make due with each other and no animal for a while.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Realities of Life

I was rereading my Happiness Is post, noting how... idealistic I sound. Sometimes I think I'm full of shit. Not that anything in there is wrong or something I don't think, broadly speaking, but it doesn't help with the realities of life, as I'm dealing with them.
It's been raining or pissing wetness for the whole week. I've had to wear my hair curly for days on end to avoid the bushy, fuzzy nightmare which is my "straightened" hair in humidity and rain. The back laundry area is a muddy STY, and I'm feeling pretty much DONE with the rain business for a while. And what's in the forecast all weekend while my darling husband is in Seattle? Yeah. Rain.
And the worst of it is that my loyal trusty hound Floyd is on his last legs. He had a seizure the other night, and had I not had dogs with seizures before, I would have been completely freaked out. He's never had one, and he had 3 of them over the course of the night and morning. He's now on 4 different medications and is stuck to me like glue. Poor guy isn't doing so well, and so we've decided when my husband gets back, we're going to have to have him put down. He's 13, he's a lab and has had a happy, long life. The worst of it though? Breaking the news to Hootie. She LOVES her dog, calls him "Boy" and I think will be devastated that he'll be gone from her little life. We've talked at great length and decided that we're not getting another dog right away. I love the dog, I've always had a dog. I'm sad that his time is coming to an end, and I'm saddest for Hootie who will really miss him. But I think I'm going to enjoy having some time where I don't have to care for a dog on top of everything else. My house will be and stay CLEAN for more than 2 hours at a time. I won't have a muddy laundry room. I won't have panting and pacing and barking in the night, waking me to go outside. I won't have chewing, I won't have shedding everywhere. I won't have to pay a kennel to keep him while we go out of town, or worse, take him with and deal with caring for him in someone else's home. I know at some point we'll likely get Hootie another dog. One that doesn't shed and I can pick up myself, and so on and so forth. But I need to take a breath first before I do that.
So now, it's off to get some things ready for the maid to come.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happiness Is....

A fluffy kitty sleeping on a porch swing on a warm spring day?

The sound of children laughing and playing?

Found at the bottom of a bottle of beer?

I've been trying to dissect this question lately, in an effort to grasp what it is, because I see it missing so often.

According to wikipedia, which appears to be the new middle school reference location of choice, "Happiness is an emotional or affective state that is characterized by feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction. As a state and a subject, it has been pursued and commented on extensively throughout world history. This reflects the universal importance that humans place on happiness.... States associated with happiness include well-being, delight, health, safety, contentment, and love. Contrasting states include suffering, depression, grief, anxiety, and pain. Happiness is often associated with the presence of favorable circumstances such as a supportive family life, a loving marriage, and economic stability. Unfavorable circumstances, such as abusive relationships, accidents, loss of employment, and conflicts, diminish the amount of happiness a person experiences. However, according to several ancient and modern thinkers, happiness is influenced by the attitude and perspective taken on such circumstances."

I was reading right along, kind of feeling like it was all so superficial, not agreeing much, all up until I got to the last sentence. "...influenced by the attitude and perspective taken on such circumstances." YES. That is the closest description of what I perceive as happiness as I have been able to find.

If Happiness were the thing which resulted from a state of economic stability, supportive family life, loving marriage, my brother in law and my birth mother would both be happy individuals. But they aren't. My mother evidently suffers a chemical imbalance which skews her perspective on her life. Even with chemical assistance, she's generally speaking unhappy. But not directly about anything in particular. My brother in law chose a very harmful addiction to drown out his apparent unhappiness and what I think is depression, despite being in a marriage with someone who loves him dearly, having beautiful children, working a good-paying job with reasonable work/life balance, and hobbies on the side which purportedly resulted in personal fulfillment. Yet, he claims he was not happy either. WHY? We all know of people that live in big houses, are drowning in money, and have from the outside looking in, fabulous lives. Lots of interesting experiences, beautiful children, lovely spouses. Of course we never know what is going on in those relationships, but a lot of people have a shell of prosperity and are hollow inside.

There was a time when my dear friends Ross and Shonna had very little money. They lived in a small rented house, went to school and/or had various low-paying jobs, shared one vehicle, and times were "tough" financially. But they have solid families, they have each other, and they were both happy people. I've met others who are also happy in the face of quite a bit of adversity in their lives, including horrendous early family life situations which resulted in a good deal of emotional scarring. Yet they have pulled themselves up and out of that pit and found happiness within themselves.

THAT is more what I think it is. Finding happiness within oneself. As in, NOT dependent upon what someone else does or doesn't do, not dependent upon anything outside of oneself. Not so terribly easy to do, and I'm sure with huge life obstacles, even harder. Especially if one has been conditioned to only find fleeting happiness within all of the things surrounding us in the world. Relationships, material goods, activities, homes. Not to say that these things cannot significantly augment our appreciation and enjoyment of our lives - definitely this is the case. But to lay the burden of one's personal fulfillment and happiness at the feet of any or all of these things is asking for disappointment and a rollercoaster. Especially relationships - these things are unpredictable, because they involve the heart and soul of other people. To expect another person bear the burden of making me happy is unfair. The person who needs to make me happy is me. I cannot look to my husband to make me happy, nor can I sit and blame him if I am unhappy. He can do things which displease me, but how I choose to respond to those things is my doing. I can find helpful and positive ways to respond, and/or I can find ways to alleviate things which are problems in my life or even our life together. But I certainly will not give another person the power to render me unhappy. If I don't like something, it's up to me to change it or accept it. From a Buddhist perspective, I think the term is equanimity. Being basically ok in the face of whatever life throws us. Being almost neutral to it. I don't want to suggest that being this emotionless zombie is a good idea, or that I have to find a way to accept abuse in my life. But the direction of decoupling one's happiness from things external to us is of key importance.

I know for some, and partially for me, happiness can be found in communion with God. Going to church? Well, I'm sure that can be part of it, but I don't know that it magically just happens by sitting in a church building with a bunch of other people, singing songs and listening to words of wisdom from the pulpit. I think the intention is critical. Why does one go to church? To seek God? To seek communion with others? I can seek God in all the miracles I see on Earth, without sitting in a church. I can seek communion with others without sitting in a church building. In fact, I find it better outside of church, as I don't actually end up interacting on any meaningful level with people in the church building. But that's been my experience - I don't condemn it for those who find what they need there. For me, the purpose of seeking God has been to understand something greater than myself, the creator of me and everything around me. To accept the way I was created as perfect and intentional. To understand the mystery of life, and I don't mean MY life. I mean the difference between a thing being alive and being the same set of elements and matter, but not being alive. I don't think God is up there orchestrating everything we do down here. Free will for everyone lies in direct conflict with Him making us do or not do things. Yet there are elements of life on earth which are not a direct effect of a person's free will, and I do think He finds ways to impact those things, and ways to guide a person to lessons we can learn. But in essence, I think actual happiness comes from accepting that I am an accumulation of what He started out giving me, and what I have done with myself. And it's a heavy responsibility, owning what I have DONE with myself from the time of my birth. But it's an important key to owning my own happiness. The more I can grasp that I am what I make of myself, and my life is what I make of it (and what I appreciate of it), the happier I can actually be.

So how does one go about doing that, BEING happy, if one doesn't have it already? I think if I really had a good formula for that, I'd be a wealthy woman. There's a lot I don't know about what causes depression in people, but I suspect there's a combination of chemicals, life circumstances, and learned behavior at play. So between medication for the chemical issues and deconstructing one's mental framework and rebuilding it in a healthy way, there has to be a solution in there somewhere.

But for me anyway, it has come from a lot of time spent learning and accepting who I am, finding pieces of me that don't fit who I want to be, and having the personal strength to walk alone through the process of changing those things. Changing behavior patterns which are destructive isn't easy, and requires a lot of focus and strength. But in the end, it has led me to be a person who can truly say she's happy with who she is, who has taken responsibility for who she is, and is happy with life. There are clearly moments which cause me frustration, events which cause sadness or anxiety, or areas which are unpleasant to deal with, but those don't affect my overall state of happiness. They come and go like the tide, get dealt with and I move on from them. I don't seek to avoid the troubles that come, I try and face them head-on, and get through them, fully experiencing the emotion of the moment, good or bad, and then learn something from it. I try to accept people in all their failings and humanity for the good that is in them, and encourage them to be the best people they can be too. Am I done with myself? Have I "achieved" the pinnacle of happiness? I'm sure not. I know there are still more things going on inside me that need to be addressed, and as they come up, I've no doubt that I will address them. My intention is not to sit in my ivory tower here, preaching to the masses. I'm more trying to find some way to bundle up the concept and share it with people who aren't happy, in an effort to help them see a way out of it. I don't even know if this is possible, sharing keys to happiness. I wonder sometimes if some people are just incapable of owning it and creating it within themselves. But if they aren't, that is just a sad statement. I don't think it takes nearly as much introspection and "making a mountain out of a molehill" as I have done at times in my life, but I think that's what's been necessary for me personally to get to where I am happy and know it. For people like my husband, I think it's a lot more natural.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Lack of Anything to Say

I have no idea who even reads this blog, but if anyone has been checking, only to note I haven't said shit in the last few weeks, it's because I'm madly painting. Pictures. That I'm selling on eBay. To earn the money to buy a few pieces of furniture for the house which aren't in our budget this year. Like a couch, and an antique farm table that I'll hopefully find at the Round Top Antique Fair in a month. And then, maybe, later in the year, a bedframe for our king sized bed.
So if you wanted to see what I'm selling on eBay, type "TRASI" into the search window and it'll bring up all of my pieces. I actually sold one for $43 last night. Very exciting.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


As is usually the case with me lately, I am inspired by something else I read and am going to post a discussion about it myself. Heather (who writes Dooce) posted regarding regrets. It's a topic I have mulled over a lot in my life. Over time, I have developed an aversion to the concept of regrets. Life gives us a lot of opportunities to make good or bad decisions, and at the time, most of us do our best to try and make good ones, based on the information we had at the time. These decisions cut a path for us through our own timeline, setting a course that carves our personalities and shapes our understanding of the world. Those decisions, good and bad, are all valuable in their own right, for the lessons we learn, the people we meet, and the experiences we gather. So there isn't much I regret, because it brought me where I am today. But then again, I haven't ever made any "turning point" types of decisions or mistakes which have had such a bad effect that I would want to undo it to spare someone pain or undo some grossly disastrous wrong.
Even so, there are a few regrets which stand out in my mind. Some end up unraveling, as I ponder the effect that could have had on my life, and some stand firm.
As a high schooler, I was offered the opportunity to study before and after school with my art teacher, in order to better prepare me to go to art school. Like Kansas, or Chicago. SERIOUS FUCKING ART SCHOOL. It was put to me as a decision - either I was willing to put in the effort and work my ass off to get in and succeed, or my art teacher wasn't going to put in the extra time with me. It was a HUGE compliment to my talent, and something I took my time thinking about before deciding. I talked to my parents about it at the time. I was SSSSOOOOO tempted, because art is in my soul and it feeds my soul a LOT. But, in the end, I decided not to go to art school. I thought then (which was true then, may still be true now) that the only time my art was really brilliant, rather than just capable, was when some wretched sort of emotion came out of me. Angst, anger, sadness, fear, frustration, loneliness. And the rest of the time, if I forced art to come out of me, I wasn't really satisfied with it. I was afraid of becoming a "starving artist", depending upon brief bits of misery to create something that would pay the rent. And usually the brilliant pieces that came out of me weren't part of an "assignment", the way most artists are given assignments for their jobs. The thought of just painting and selling my pieces never occurred to me; most artists I knew of never were famous until they were dead. Um.... NOT APPEALING! So I chose to study languages instead. That was something else that I was not only good at, but also didn't depend upon my mood. However, I can't say that I actually regret this decision. It all leads to the path of where I am now, and I like where I am now. I wouldn't be married to the man I'm married to, because I met him through a friend I made in Russian class. I wouldn't likely even be in Austin, now. And clearly, I wouldn't have my beautiful Hootie. So no, I don't regret it. But I can say that I could have done it, had I decided otherwise. That, or med school, another thought that occurred to me in hindsight. Not that I had any idea I would maybe have been good at that, but later in life I have discovered an affinity for that which never occurred to me back then. And, had I done that, I would have also missed out on a great many trips to Europe and other parts of the world that have so enriched my life. SO, no regrets.
I also could regret that I spend SO MUCH time wrapped up in trying to please other people, worrying about what they think. There's definitely a balance to be achieved, though. I don't know that I have it down yet, but it is in the hopper, so to speak. I don't want to be this hapless narcissist who is only out to please herself, but I know that a lot of my life I have spent making decisions and behaving in a way that I envision would be likeable and smart and savvy. I didn't really even consider really just marching to the beat of my own drummer, because heck, I didn't think my drummer was very cool, and didn't trust him anyway. These things are changing, especially in the last 7 years. But who is to say when a person ought to be learning this? Many people never learn it, and either go on in their self-absorbed way, or become a doormat/martyr for the people they want to impress or please.
But there are some little regrets I do have, which I know wouldn't have changed my life course at all. Like, for example, the decision to not stay in Austin on our wedding night, and go to the big ass party all our friends threw in our honor. We didn't have a lot of money, and my inlaws paid for the tickets to get us to Colorado for our honeymoon. The ones they chose, however, were red-eye flights the next morning, out of Dallas, and the only way we could get there on time for the flight was to fly out of Austin at 7pm the night of our wedding. So, we had a 2pm wedding, and what amounts to a "tea and buffet" mid-afternoon, and we flew to Dallas. To stay in a BORING hotel next to the airport. Which, for a wedding night, was less than fantastic. I would have loved to have stayed, sucked up paying for more expensive tickets, and had a great time with our friends, because isn't that what it's all about anyway? As I look back at the wedding itself, I still love a lot about it. Just not that part. AND, I would have served alcohol at the wedding. We didn't because there was a friend or two we thought would get rip-roaring drunk, and make an ass of himself at the wedding. Well what wedding is complete without a drunk friend, I ask?!? I was too uptight back then. Seriously!
I'll also borrow from Dooce, in that her only regret was not wearing more sunscreen. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will end up dealing with skin cancer at some point in my life, especially on my face, because of having gotten so much sunburn in my life. I have always liked to have a light tan in the summer, and many years had a nice dark tan. We always thought that was so attractive. It ain't gonna be so attractive when I have scars from having stuff cut off my face and arms and chest and back someday. I'm much more into sunscreen, ESPECIALLY for Hootie. I don't even want to instill in her that having a tan is something worth seeking. If you get some color from being outside, and it happens slowly and naturally with a LOT of sunscreen on, then that's just living your life. But I BATHED IN BABY OIL as a teenager, to get a darker tan. HOLY SHIT, HOW STUPID IS THAT?!? My uncle just died from melanoma, from a spot on his back that had been there forever, which likely turned to melanoma in part from sun exposure. This is the generation that needs to make a change in culture about the sun. And really, it's a woman thing, I think. I don't see men worrying about it nearly as much as women do.
But really, that is it. I don't think I've been purposefully mean to people in my life. And over time, I have learned a lot of good lessons from the various mistakes I've made. But I've also been very lucky, in that I haven't really made that many mistakes, and the ones I have made haven't had that many heinous consequences. Maybe if something I did had led to someone being severely hurt by me, then I'd regret it. But luckily, that's never happened to me. KNOCK ON WOOD it never does. The saddest part of reading Dooce's post was reading the comments of people who have some seriously bad regrets, like regretting giving up a child, or regretting not seeing their parents before they died, stuff they can't undo and will wish they had for the rest of their lives. I try my best to think through the decisions I make so that I don't have to wish things were different.