Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Start of Winter and Happy New Year!


Winterizing

This Christmas season snow in has given me time to reflect on personalities of people and I have decided that there are two that I will focus on in this blog entry. The first one is the person who really does enjoy being indoors quite a stretch of time watching movies, reading books, and hanging out with family. The other personality type is the one who keeps busy, usually staying out of the house, and is always wishing for time to sit and read, watch movies, and hang out for hours on end. This person thinks that if they had the time, they would really enjoy this break from busy living.

I fall into the second type. Mostly I am very busy running hither and yon and always wishing that I could slow down and just be lazy. During this snow season, I have had plenty of time to do just that. It was great for about a half of a day and then I was done. I couldn't believe it, all of this time to relax and all that I wanted to do was be out and about and busy doing whatever it is that I usually do. I even relished going into work for an extra day ( I am short on vacation hours at this point so that was a good thing).

Now the snow is melting. We are getting back to our regular routine, sans school for the kids and work for my husband. I am busy getting things ready so we can vacation out of town for a few days. Ironically I don't really feel like I need a vacation because I haven't been all that busy, I don't feel like I am vacationing from anything. The thing that I will miss most about the snow is the way that it covered everything and made it beautiful. As I look out my window, the birds are industriously scratching and foraging for seed, they are very hungry and seem to be glad to get back to their regular routine as well. The snow is rapidly melting in the downpour of Pacific Northwest rain. The other thing that I will miss most about the snow is the option to be lazy even if I don't act upon it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ode to the Beagle By, Myself

Ode to the Beagle who lived next door,
brown spots, white body, look at him soar.

Pleading brown eyes, on the floor sittin',
can I please have some of what your gittin'.

Waiting patiently at the back door, let me in,
I promise I won't go on the floor!

Oh the beagle, so full of vigor in youth,
he helped his owners cut parenting tooth.

Living for walks, socks, and on the floor dining,
always able to get his way with some soft whining.

Wandering the neighborhood, looking for more,
sitting on my porch, wanting to come in the door.

Little beagle always good for some lovin,'
holdin' and fast belly rubbin'.

Lately he had been a bit slow,
Walking with his head hung low.

The leash tugging energy was not as strong,
he used to walk the leash holder to the next scent along.

The special brown towel-covered lounger,
always inviting a deep snooze for the scrounger.

Yesterday the beagle took his last energetic stroll,
and came home tired from his romp in the snow.

This well-loved canine will be missed by all,
big brown eyes, subtle grin, and howling call.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Winter Weather and Christmas Songs

Whoever wrote such lyrics as:


let, it snow, let it snow, let it snow

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

on the lane snow is glistening,

a beautiful sight, we are happy tonight

walkn' in a winter wonderland,

and other such lyrics about being cozy and warm inside

and spending time with family

while the delightful snow rains down outside


did not live in the 21st century. I am amazed at how ill equipped we are to deal with bad weather in our modern life. Where I live, we are gripped in the fist of the worst snow weather that this region has seen in probably over 60 years. Another point for global warming! Because we don't live in a snow-friendly environment, really hilly with snow turning to ice every night, nobody is prepared. While I like the notion of the "cozy indoor family nest," our family "nest" tends to drive each other crazy after a few days. Forget the friends and family, no one can get to each others houses and our out-of-state relatives have chosen to stay out-of-state for the holiday, leaving only the "cozy nest of just us five". This will also be the year that my kids will have to suspend belief in Santa, all of those carefully chosen and early ordered gifts have been stuck in transit. We haven't seen mail or a delivery in five days. I am trying to embrace what these song writers must have felt at the time that their music was written. It was maybe a simpler time in many ways, people lived closer together and didn't rely on cars, planes, and trains to reunite. As my children enjoy a less present laden holiday without grandparents, for the first time since their birth, and I enjoy cooking and cleaning the kitchen and sharing yet another day indoors with my "cozy" brood, I will try and remember, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful and, whether I want it to or not, it will snow, it will snow, it will snow.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Storm Warnings

As I write this, the weather forecast is warning of more snow (we already have tons!) and possible power outages. The power outage part really makes me nervous. A couple of years ago there was a major wind storm in Seattle. We live in the heart of a fairly urban area, close to downtown, and we were without power right before Christmas for seven days. Our house was a chilly 45 degrees, we were eating all of our meals out, in fact we were staying out all day everyday in order to be warm. My husband was out of town for business when it first happened and had a hard time getting home. Soon, after about three to four days, all of the houses around us had power. Ours was the only grid in the neighborhood without power for a full week. This is because of a huge fir tree that fell on the power lines a couple of blocks from our house. It took the power company FOREVER to get out and remove it. I know other areas were harder hit then us, these were mostly rural. It was depressing when our friends who lived 45 minutes to an hour out of town had their power back before us. It was also frustrating and depressing to see lights on in all of the houses around our area while we remained chilly and dark at Christmas.

I remember last year, when I got out the Christmas decorations, I had a bit of post traumatic stress disorder when I saw them. It took me right back to that hard time. People in this area have changed because of that storm. Generators are now sold out as are batteries and fire wood. This happens now every time we have a possible loss of power warning. People now assume that they will be out of power for days and days. I am included in this group and have drug out most of our camping equipment in case we have to "camp out" in our house for days on end. So here I sit in the Pacific Northwest, hoping for the best and wanting more than anything to get through the next two nights in light rather than dark cold.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Favorite Holiday Movie

Yeah, I know that it is corny, but I love this one. I did take a few years off of it though, even favorites can have a shelf life. I renewed my interest, several years ago and now I watch it every year. My kids don't even like it as much as I do. I will watch it again this year, probably by myself as everyone else is burned out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

Yesterday school was cancelled in our district. A huge snowstorm was predicted, come nightfall the streets remained clear and dry as a bone. The kids were disappointed, no snow to play in. We did fill the day, however, with such events as the Madagascar 2 movie, library, and swimming. Everyone went to bed (after decorating a few Christmas cookies), tired, but disappointed in the lack of white.

Today is an excellent day. We had a huge snowfall in the night and the snow is still falling! It is a true rarity for us to get this much good snow (i.e., not melted or turned to ice by the afternoon) at this low of an elevation in the Pacific Northwest. The kids have had a great time sledding, building snowpeople, and making snow angels. The kids and I even went on a cross country ski excursion right from our front door. I don't remember ever being able to do that. As I write one of my young ones is still out playing, adding the finishing touches to a snowperson masterpiece. The other two are sacked out, taking a much needed rest. I am really glad that I got those Christmas themed marsh mellows when I last went to the store, they have been a real hit with the hot chocolate. Another thing that is really great is talking to my neighbors. It seems like once the weather turns in the Fall we all rush inside. Today is a day for being out and it feels perfect!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gun Control Nonsense

I had time to read the paper this morning and the headlines were full of a possible ordinance for the City of Seattle, making guns illegal in the city in all buildings not just government ones. Now I think having sound gun control policies in place is a good thing. However, this proposed one is just another band aid on the whole gun problem in this country. While I support gun control, I am also keenly aware that the right to bear arms is written in our constitution and while city, state, and federal governments throw band aids at the gun "problem" the real issues, that are more difficult to solve, continually get ignored.

This proposed ordinance came about because of an incident at the Folklife Festival in Seattle where a gunman shot some people. This gunman was 22 years old, had a history of drug abuse and mental illness and had a concealed weapons permit. He was in an outdoor area so even with this proposed ordinance, the gun that he carried that day would be legal (the ordinance would only apply inside buildings). Was it the fact that this young gentleman had a gun in hand the reason that he shot people? Perhaps, others with a history of mental illness in our fair city have used other weapons at hand when they are out to harm others. The sabre wielding maniac in the University District comes to mind. I don't know what the laws are against owning sabres, but I have a feeling that it wouldn't have stopped this guy.

The city government now wants to band aid this problem with a puppet ordinance, one that wouldn't have even stopped the crime that it is meant to address if it had been in place at the time. I read headlines about gun control, I don't read headlines about what the government is planning to do to help with mental illness and the subsequent homelessness and substance abuse problems that often occur in these situations. Those are real problems. If they were addressed successfully, we may see lower statistics in gun crime.

I am humored when people in this country look to Europe as an example that we should follow in terms of lower gun crime statistics. Thankfully, the article today did not mention lower gun crime rates in Europe. This could be because the rates are going up, especially in France. The gun crime rates are going up in France because of immigration and more diverse peoples living together in poverty (does this sound familiar)? These are four reasons why I think gun crimes have been lower in Europe since statistics started being tracked several decades ago.

1) Traditionally European countries have been more homogeneous. Unequal groups of people living together in poverty have lived together in poverty for a long time and have learned how to get along with one another. As noted above, this is changing. If different groups of people did not get on well when living in their own country, it is unlikely that they will get along when living in close quarters in a new country.

2) Europe has better health care all the way around. If you want to get help for your mentally ill or drug addicted loved one, you can do so without getting a second mortgage on your home.

3) In Europe people are not as bound by political correctness as we are here. We avoid saying the obvious "your loved one is mentally ill, needs help, and is scaring me and my family" for fear of offending someone. That isn't so much the case overseas.

4) I think that there is underreporting in terms of gun crime in Europe. I know there is for automobile accidents. I saw this first hand, two cars slammed into each other in a village that I was visiting in Italy. The drivers got out, shook their fists at one another, and yelled. Then each returned to their beat up cars and drove off. I suspect that a similar protocol is observed in lesser gun crimes, when homicide or serious injury are not involved. Rather than observing the American way of "how much can I get by going to court over this," people may tend to work things out between themselves.

I think that Bill Murray, a screenwriter, quoted in the Seattle paper today said it best in regards to this goofy proposed ordinance, "The ordinance will marginally increase safety for residents but make the city much safer for criminals."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Naughty or Nice???

I think that Herr Drosselmeier is being very naughty!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Santa Lucia, 2008








This morning my eldest child got up all on her own to an alarm that she set for really, really early. She prepared Lucia buns, got her crown set up and on, and poured juice and milk, then she walked through the house and woke us all up by singing the Santa Lucia song.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Santa Lucia!


My eldest daughter and I will be up at O dark thirty tomorrow morning to celebrate this family tradition. The Lucia buns are rising in the kitchen!








Thursday, December 11, 2008

Life is how you see it

The church nearest to my house has the following posted on their reader board:

"Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful"

I have been thinking that it could also be stated as:

"Life does not have to be wonderful to be perfect"

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Gift Giving Fiasco

My husband, children, and I recently went to see some friends who just had a baby. They are Chinese and are returning to China in a few weeks. Like every good American we brought a baby gift albeit a small one as they are moving overseas in a few weeks. They didn't open it while we were there. As we were getting ready to leave, the husband went out to the garage and came back with gifts for my husband and I and gifts for each of our children. We eagerly opened them then and there and thanked them profusely, of course.

Later I googled Chinese gift giving etiquette and found that we had really messed up. There are several different relationships defined by the Chinese. The one between friends is called Guanxi: Throughout much of Chinese history, the fundamental glue that has held society together is the concept of guanxi, relationships between people.

This is the definition of Chinese gift giving between friends:

Gifts are an important way of creating and building guanxi in China.
Chinese etiquette requires that a person decline a gift, invitation, and other offerings two or three times before accepting. It is expected that the giver will persist, gently, until the gift is accepted. Be sensitive to genuine refusals.

Chinese and Westerners differ in the approach to gifts. In the West, a sincere thank you or a thank you note is an acceptable way to extend appreciation. In China, a more tangible form, or gift, is preferred.

Never give a gift that would make it impossible for the Chinese to reciprocate-this would cause a loss of face and place them in a very difficult position.

The Chinese usually do not open gifts at the time they receive them.
When receiving gifts from the Chinese, do not open them unless they insist.

Based on these rules, we must have seemed really rude. Somewhere, in the deep recesses of my mind, I knew we were screwing up. I just couldn't remember on the spot what to do correctly. It is one of those difficulties we face, living in a melting pot society, there are so many more customs to try and remember.

Monday, December 8, 2008

White Christmas - Choreography

This is my favorite dance in this movie.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Cards

I like to send Christmas cards. As I was addressing our cards the other day I was thinking about how much work I could save myself if I just switched to an e-card and let everyone know electronically how our family was doing. My Christmas cards don't offer a whole lot of detail, usually a greeting and updated photo of the kids. But there is a reason that I don't want to do this electronically, it is because I like to get cards and I like to send them. I am old enough to remember when e-mail and text messaging were not the primary modes of communication between people who were long distance from one another. I remember actually receiving letters in the mail, letters that sometimes I even got around to answering. Nowadays all that I receive in the mail are a few bills (those that aren't electronic) and junk mail. It seems as though there is never anything nice. Even event invitations are typically sent through evite and not paper invitation. I get excited when I actually see something in the mailbox that looks personal, someone took the time to send it via snail mail. I think that it means something. Even though my cards may not say a lot, they are a way to say "hello, " in a way that people may not be using at all fifty years from now. It is personal and means something for me to send it. I only hope that getting those cards in the mail every year means something for the receivers of those greetings as well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pill Boxes and Hat Bottles By, Myself

Maggie sputtered and coughed as she slowly awoke from her drowsy nap. Her eyes took in the blur of the small room. In the corner, a television quietly droned. The peach colored curtains were parted slightly, letting in the filtered sunlight of late afternoon. Maggie’s head was positioned at an angle, one of the pillow supports had fallen away during her nap. Maggie felt like she was falling. She tried to will her left hand into moving, to reach for the small red call button. Why do they make these damn call buttons so small? Maggie thought. Maggie scanned the horizon of her crème colored bedding. Trying to look left, Maggie saw the black partition that emerged every time she tried to use her peripheral vision on her left side, the black blank that let her see only nothingness when her artist’s vision used to be so full of color. Moving her eyes to the right, Maggie spied the elusive call button, the small red orb protruding from the long white cord, snaking around her bed rail. Flailing as she reached, Maggie put all of her effort into nabbing the call button with her right hand. This wasn’t easy to do. Dense hemiplegia caused her left side to be heavy and useless. Where there was once lineless beauty that captured every boys attention at the dance hall on Saturday nights, there were now deep wrinkles with sagging mouth and eye. Maggie knew that she drooled. The nurses were constantly using fresh towels to wipe at her mouth. They seemed to know how much it bothered her even though she couldn’t really feel it. With a huge effort, Maggie attempted to lunge for the call button without supporting herself. This effort caused her to land with a crash against the metal bed rail. Maggie felt the cold against her cheek and tasted metal in her mouth. The right side of her face felt wet. She was crying again, over nothing, the tears just came, they always came. Maggie tried to tell people, but knew that they didn’t understand. In her mind she was saying, “I have just had a massive stroke, it makes me emotional.” It came out as “Daaaaaat, daaa, daaat doo doo” or some other ridiculous combination, never real words, causing Maggie to sigh frequently in exasperation over her inability to communicate. Maggie felt something hard and small in her right hand, as she peered downward through the bed rail, she realized that she had captured the call button. This new, small joy made the tears come even harder.

“Oh, Mrs. Smith, let me get you fixed up.” Jerusha, the most attentive nurses aide by far, was always quick to answer Maggie’s calls. She was different from the other nurses aides who let call buttons ring like chimes up and down the halls while they sat at the nurses station drinking soda and gossiping. No, Jerusha was always prompt. She took pride in her work and made sure that all of the residents in her care were toileted, cleaned, and cared for. “Now Mrs. Smith,” Jerusha continued, “You can’t use your left hand. That’s why I put the call button on your right, next to your hand. Quit trying to reach over with your left hand and you won’t have these nasty falls.” Jerusha patted and smoothed and adjusted the sheets. She had the bed pan in and out from under Maggie before Maggie even realized that she had used it. “The occupational therapist will be in this afternoon to help you learn how to transfer to a bedside commode. Then we can be done with these silly bed pans.” Jerusha winked at Maggie like this would be a good thing. Maggie was horrified by the thought of sitting by her bed on a toilet where any old passerby would be able to watch her go about her private business. Jerusha seemed to read her thoughts. She put her large, dark chocolate hand over Maggie’s and gave her a squeeze. “I can tell that you are a real lady. Don’t worry, they won’t leave you out here. They’ll pull the curtain.” Jerusha gave the curtain that went around Maggie’s bed a little shake. “See just like in the hospital, you will have your privacy.” Maggie noticed the hat when she looked up at Jerusha to communicate a wordless “thank you.” There it was, a little red pillbox hat, with a small piece of netting that just covered Jerusha’ forehead. Jerusha had stuck a small peacock feather in the ribbon that was wrapped around the hat for added flair. “I see that you like my hat.” Jerusha reached up and patted the hat, perched lightly atop her tight afro curls. “That was my grandmammy’s church hat. I like to wear it now and then because it seems to make everyone happy.” Jerusha flashed a brilliant white grin. She stooped closer to Maggie and whispered, “My grandmammy was like that, always bringing cheer everywhere she went. You remind me of her.” Maggie started to respond, “Doooo, daaat, daaa dooo,” Jerusha gave her a quick hug and was off to spread her loving care and cheer to the lucky residents assigned to her this shift.

The hat, the hat, the hat, something about that hat, Maggie inwardly cursed her ageing memory addled more by this recent stroke. After another nurses aide, a rushed and solemn young African (at least he looked African to Maggie) fed her dinner in bed, Maggie remembered the hat, her hat, hidden somewhere in the recesses of her attic at home, the brilliant blue pillbox hat. It looked just like a Tiffany’s box with netting. Maggie kept meaning to clean out the attic. After Joe died, she dealt with cleaning out the house, his office, and study room. That had been an overwhelming task. Joe had been a collector, never throwing anything out in their fifty years of marriage. Joe’s death had been quick, a massive coronary infaraction, he was dead 24 hours later after all of the heroic acts of medical science had failed to save him. Maggie was alone in the big Cape Cod house. Her children tried to make her move out. Once the strokes started, she had no choice. Assisted living was cramped. It took her back to her days of living in a college dormitory only without the freedoms and with the added discomfort of being set in her ways and routines, but not being able to live them.

Maggie wished that she knew what had become of her house and the stuff in it. Her son, Jack, had come around with some papers for her to sign when she first moved into the assisted living facility. She had been too tired and wasn’t up for a long conversation of legalese. Jack had gone away, disappointed in her and mumbling something about getting rid of assets and the high cost of medical care. Maggie didn’t know much about those things. Joe had handled all of the finances. Jack tried to help her sort things out in the years following Joe’s death, but she never really understood it. She had to remember to ask Jack or her daughter, Ruby, about the house the next time they came to visit.

Over the course of the next several days, memories of the bright blue hat played at the corners of Maggie’s mind. “Paintbox, paintbox,” she had shouted emphatically when learning to use the commode with the occupational therapist. “Pink-it, pink-it,” she said rhythmically while learning to use a walker with an arm support during physical therapy. Speech therapy was the best because the therapist always made an effort to try and understand what Maggie was really trying to say. She got close, “Pill bottle, pill bottle,” she had chanted in speech therapy. She had really meant to say, “Pillbox, where is my beautiful blue pillbox hat?” She couldn’t form the words even as she thought them in her mind.

Maggie awoke in the middle of the night. It had come back as if in a dream, the story of the hat and its importance. This was how her memory worked these days, sometimes empty and, at odd times, full. That hat was a gift from John, her first and maybe her only true love. They had met in high school, promised to each other when they left for college. Maggie knew why she had tried to forget this story so often throughout her life, buried it deeply all of these years along with her grief. The hat was the last thing given to her by John before he left forever, dropped out of college, joined the service and was sent to the South Pacific. At first there were letters, love letters that made Maggie blush to remember them. Because both of their names started with “J,” Maggie had lived in fear of accidently calling Joe, “John.” She had put John away in the dark corners of her mind. Over the years she remembered gifts as she had run across them, a scarf, a bracelet, a handbag. John had been sentimental and eager to please her and win her heart. Maggie’s family was poor and the nice things drew her in, but she did love him. The grief that she felt when he didn’t return nearly ate her alive. Joe returned though and Maggie thought that his love would be enough to see her through. The damp spots on her lap robe grew and spread like raindrops in a puddle, Maggie couldn’t stop crying.

The next day, Jerusha was back caring for Maggie. “You seem so sad today Mrs. Smith,” Jerusha commented as she combed Maggie’s hair and helped to put her dentures in. When Jerusha bent down, Maggie brought her right hand up to touch Jerusha’s tight black curls. “You miss my hat? I’ll wear it again soon just for you my dear Mrs. Smith.” Jerusha looked warmly at Maggie. Maggie’s dark mood persisted, even a visit from Ruby, bearing fresh tulips, Maggie’s favorite, was not enough to cheer her. Talk of Ruby’s daughter’s up coming wedding made Maggie feel worse. She knew that Ruby and her granddaughter, Rosa, both wanted her there. Maggie was dreading it, the drooling octogenarian wheeled around and cajoled by everyone. They would quickly lose interest in her gibberish and she would spend the evening alone in a corner unable to eat or go to the bathroom. No, it would be better to stay here at the care center and skip the wedding all together.

Jerusha was on Maggie’s wing a few days later. The sight of grandmammy’s red feathered hat was enough to make Maggie smile a bit, however brief. Jerusha caught her eye, “You really like this hat” Maggie nodded, she hoped that her head was making a “yes” movement, these days she could never be sure what her body was doing. “Do you want to try it on” Jerusha removed the hat from her own head and placed it atop Maggie’s gray hair. “Now don’t you just look smart. I wish that I had my camera. We will have to get you a hat of your own.” Maggie’s ears perked up when she heard this, “Blue box, blue box, “she stammered, trying to get the right words to come out. At least she was using words even if they weren’t always the right ones. Jerusha said, “I’ll see what I can do about getting you a hat of your own Mrs. Smith.” She gave Maggie’s arm a quick squeeze and was gone. Maggie knew that Jerusah did her job well, but she had never seen her move that quickly before.

That night Maggie’s dreams were a blur of hats, all kinds of hats making their way through the centuries with bows, feather, flowers, netting, and ribbon, always ending in a bright blue pillbox hat, a beacon from a long dead lover. Maggie had a sense that John was calling her, asking her to not be afraid and assuring her that he would be on the other side, waiting. She was ready now she told him. John appeared to her, young and strong, dashing in his military uniform with an enigmatic smile and dark, laughing brown eyes. He placed the hat firmly on her shiny long blonde curls, took her hand, and together they flew out of the night.
“What’s in here?” Rosa blew the dust off of yet another of grandma’s boxes. Grandma had died one week before Rosa’s wedding. They had carried on with a gay celebration in her honor. Grandma had always loved parties and pretty things. Rosa tried to imbue as much of her grandma’s spirit as possible into the wedding. Since she had returned from her honeymoon, she and her mother had been working non-stop, taking apart a home that had taken grandma a lifetime to build. A young couple had just bought the house they were ready to begin re-modeling, settling in, and making a home here for themselves. Ruby stood next to Rosa as Rosa pried the lid off of the small white box. Inside, wrapped in tissue paper turned yellow by time, was a perfect bright blue pillbox hat. “What a unique color,” Rosa commented as she gently lifted the hat from the box. “Strange, I never saw mom wear that. In fact I never saw her wear a nice hat.” “What’s this?” Rosa reached down into the ageing crackled tissue and pulled out a faded note card: On leave Nov. 20. Stop. Wear hat. Stop. See you in crowd. Stop. Have surprise. Stop. Love, John

@2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ten of my Favorite Reads for 2008

1. Keeping the World Away, Margaret Forster
2. The Matisse Stories, A.S. Byatt
3. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
4. Caspian Rain, Gina B. Nahai
5. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
6. One Train Late, Andy Summers
7. Diary of a Grumpy Old Woman (A Year in Big Knickers), Judith Holder
8. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
9. The Knitting Circle, Ann Hood
10. Last Child in the Woods-Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, Richard Louv

Friday, November 28, 2008

Comment on American "Actresses"

I recently re-read "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by, Milan Kundera. While Angelina Jolie was not grown up or known to the public at the time of this writing, I just had to quote this passage from the book. It is so applicable to the uselessness represented by Ms. Jolie and her ilk.

"...Something was in the air. People were slowing down and looking back.

The American actress, who had ended up in the rear, could no longer stand the disgrace of it and, determined to take the offensive, was sprinting to the head of the parade. It was as if a runner in a five-kilometer race, who had been saving his strength by hanging back with the pack, had suddenly sprung forward and started overtaking his opponents one by one

The men stepped back with embarrassed smiles, not wishing to spoil the famous runner's bid for victory, but the women yelled, "Get back in line! This is no star parade!"

Undaunted, the actress pushed on, a suite of five photographers and two camermen in tow.

Suddenly a Frenchwoman, a professor of linguistics, grabbed the actress by the wrist and said (in terrible-sounding English), "This is a parade for doctors who have come to care for the mortally ill Cambodians, not a publicity stunt for movie stars!"

The actress's wrist was locked in the linguistics professor's grip; she could do nothing to pry it loose. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she said (in perfect English), "I've been in a hundred parades like this! You won't get anywhere without stars! It's our job! Our moral obligation!"

"Merde!" said the linguistics professor (in perfect French).

The American actress understood and burst into tears.

"Hold it, please," a cameraman called out, and knelt at her feet. The actress gave a long look into his lens, the tears streaming down her cheeks.

When at last the linguistics professor let go of the American actress's wrist, the German pop singer with the black beard and white flag called out her name.

The American actress had never heard of him, but after being humiliated she was more receptive to sympathy than usual and ran over to him. The singer switched the pole to his left hand and put his right around her shoulders.

They were immediately surrounded by new photographers and cameramen. A well-known American photographer, having trouble squeezing both their faces and the flag into his viewfinder because the pole was so long, moved back a few steps into the ricefield. And so it happened that he stepped on a mine. An explosion rang out, and his body, ripped to pieces, went flying through the air, raining a shower of blood on the European intellectuals.

The singer and the actress were horrified and could not budge. They lifted their eyes to the flag. It was spattered with blood. Once more they were horrified. Then the timidly ventured a few more looks upward and began to smile slightly. They were filled with a strange pride, a pride they had never known before: the flag they were carrying had been consecrated by blood. Once more they joined the march..."

(From: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1984), pp. 285-287).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, June 20, 1676

Governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts

The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgements he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions: The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Falling Holiday Economy



The economy is seriously bleak. I don't know why this is affecting me the way that it is. My job is fairly secure at this time and so is my husband's. I think that it must be the "air." I just got an e-mail listing stores who are either closing or filing chapter 11. The e-mail was a warning to not buy gift cards for these stores as they may not be redeemable after the holidays. I also visited a blog site and the blogger had posted a photo of a sign on a restaurant letting people know that they were trying not to raise their prices during these difficult economic times.

This time that we are in is hard on some families. It is also hard on organizations that rely on charitable giving in order to provide services. The Internet is full of ideas on how to save over the holidays and how to make gift giving more economical. This certainly won't help the retail industry although it will help the consumer. This season is traditionally one of warmth and giving, it is tainted by hardness this year. Although I do know families who are having a difficult go of it, I also know families that are completely unaffected, dining out, shopping, and planning expensive vacations throughout the year. I guess that they are the lucky ones.

My family is in the middle. Things aren't bad, but they could be better, and they may definitely get worse before the year is out. I know that this country has great hopes in our new leader and I hope that he is up for the task. Big jobs await, getting the economy back on track, getting our troops out of Iraq.


Today is a glorious Fall day. A perfect day to be outside enjoying what may be the last of the nice weather. The bad economy forces us to take note of the little things, free joys and simple pleasures and in this season of Thanksgiving, being thankful for all that we have.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prejudice, Who has the Time?

I have been thinking lately about prejudice and how time consuming and exhausting it must be to put one's energy into hating another ethnic/religious/political group. A friend of mine shared a story with me the other day that really struck at the heart of this. She was recently on an airplane chatting happily with the young man seated next to her. They seemed to have a lot to talk about, laughing, asking each other questions, it looked to her like he would turn out to be a pleasant seat mate for the flight. Then he commented on her accent and asked where she was from. The reply, "I'm from Iran," caused the young man to mutter something, pull out his headphones, and sit with his backside toward her. What had started as a great human interaction was shut down by prejudice.

It is easy to blame others for problems in life. This has been played out globally in the South in our own country, Rwanda, WW II Germany, Sierra Leone, Israel, Afghanistan... there are countless examples of blame and prejudice fueled by hate, if we just get rid of or suppress this one group of people through fear and violence our own lives will be O.K. The same can be said for gay persons throughout America. Time and time again I have heard people proselytize about being anti-gay marriage. When asked if they actually know anyone who is gay, the response is often "no." It seems to be easier to hate or be against a group of people if you don't know them or interact with them personally.

Scarily enough I have sometimes found myself to be a victim of prejudicial thoughts. This was really true for me soon after 9/11. Since then I have met, interacted with, and known many Muslim people who do not endorse the 9/11 actions. As a person of christian descent, I know that my religion has been hated and persecuted in the past. As a group, the Christians have committed atrocities throughout history, although it is ancient, the crusades comes to mind.

I think sometimes that our society is learning and growing as a whole and than I hear stories like the one that my friend experienced and it makes me sad. Even given a strong, positive connection with an individual, that young man was not able to set aside his prejudice. This only serves to divide people and keep hate strong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holidays, Holidays, Holidays

It is that time of year again, I can feel it. The air becomes subtly more chilly, the leaves are all but gone off of the trees, thoughts of skiing and other winter activities begin to fill my mind and then there are the HOLIDAYS. Help! I do like Christmas, really I do, I tell myself over and over again. Actually there are many things about Christmas that I love. I love getting a Christmas tree, baking new things, smelling Christmasy smells, going to parties, taking the kids to see Santa, you know, all of the fun stuff. I don't really relish having to find the perfect gift, shop in a mall, address Christmas cards, spend too much time with family...I don't like the things about the holidays that cause stress. One thing that I really don't enjoy is having to travel somewhere for Christmas day or for Thanksgiving day.

Once, not so long ago, we were travelling to Boise, Idaho every Thanksgiving. I enjoyed seeing my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and the kids loved seeing their cousins, but every year after a very long drive, I came home already behind on getting ready for Christmas. Now we go to Boise other times during the year and bypass the Thanksgiving crunch. Then there is Christmas. I love to travel after Christmas, vacationing between Christmas and New Years is my idea of a very good time. Travelling to spend Christmas day with relatives is not a vacation and there is no pressure like the pressure that my family puts on us at Christmas.

Overall, my in-laws are pretty good about spending Christmas wherever they may land. We did drive to my parents house last year because my in-laws were unable to come to us. This might be a good time to add that my mother-in-law is a great cook. I couldn't do Christmas at my house without her. My mom is really good at making reservations and being a guest at Christmas. The thought of doing Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, and Christmas day dinners all by myself was enough to send me scurrying to my parents house last holiday.

This year I am not sure what will happen. I would like to just have Christmas here with our family and have the family get togethers before and after the big holiday. My mom still envisions Norman Rockwell every year. Despite the obvious dysfunction of my immediate family, she has persisted in this fantasy. I might add that the fantasy can only be carried out at her house and there is palatable disappointment if the holiday is spent at our house instead. Not spending it together at all may border on mortal sin with enough quiet resentment to brew and stew me through until next year.

It is with mixed excitement that I embrace the holiday season. Until I absolutely have to make a decision about where to spend it, I am not going to. My husband doesn't like to travel either, maybe I will be able to use him as an excuse. I am very thankful that we have somewhere to go between Christmas and New Years. My Christmas wish for Christmas day is to hopefully spend a lovely holiday at home as a family.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Women in Hats


My creative writing group at our hat story event last night. All of the stories were sad, but interesting with some surprise endings. Great work everyone, I look forward to our next meeting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Reflections

I am not prone to using my blog as a journal of my inner thoughts and feelings. But today is the exception to my unstated rule. This Fall has got me feeling very reflective. My life has grown quite still. Not still in the terms of lacking in the hustle and bustle of raising children, but still in terms of my own growth. In my twenties I was working towards finishing a long school journey and establishing myself in my current career. In my thirties I started having a family and began a new journey with babies and toddlers. Now, as I enter this new decade, "the forties" I have to wonder what I am travelling toward. There doesn't seem to be any life defining action going on these days.

Currently, I am employed part-time. Until recently this was a comfortable and workable arrangement. Given the current state of the economy, I have felt the crunch of downsizing. I am still employed part-time, but now I have more free time than I really want at this stage in my life. This leaves me with a number of options, the most obvious being to try and find a new part-time job. That's just it, though, I don't want to spin my wheels in one part-time position after another, I think that it is time that I try something different in my current profession. I am just not sure what. Something else is missing as well, I lack the confidence that I had when I was younger and looking for work. Yeah, I know that I have all of this great experience. That just gives some employers cold feet because they figure that I will probably be asking for more money and they are probably right. In my current profession, there are positions that I can take where the part-time money is great, but they are not really positions that I want. The money is good because the positions are hard to fill.

So stillness fills my life. The kids continue to grow and change, I stay the same (except for a few more wrinkles and fat deposits). I am stuck in a rut. Right now I would just like to pack up and move the family out of the country for a while. I am not going to dwell on politics here, but the atmosphere in this country is downright depressing. Believe me when I say that I know people personally who are feeling this economic crisis up close and personal and it ain't easy. My coping mechanism of comfort is to just leave the bad situation, that is always my first reaction.

I was talking to my eldest daughter this morning about setting goals for your day. She had a goal today of "maybe doing some stuff." Right now that sounds like a pretty good one. Maybe today I can "do some stuff" and see where that gets me. Maybe if I do said stuff a little at a time I will work my way into the next phase of life whatever that may be.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lesbos, By Sylvia Plath

Lesbos

Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss.
It is all Hollywood, windowless,
The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine,
Coy paper strips for doors
Stage curtains, a widow's frizz.
And I, love, am a pathological liar,
And my child look at her, face down on the floor,
Little unstrung puppet, kicking to disappear
Why she is schizophrenic,
Her face is red and white, a panic,
You have stuck her kittens outside your window
In a sort of cement well
Where they crap and puke and cry and she can't hear.
You say you can't stand her,
The bastard's a girl.
You who have blown your tubes like a bad radio
Clear of voices and history, the staticky
Noise of the new.
You say I should drown the kittens.
Their smell!
You say I should drown my girl.
She'll cut her throat at ten if she's mad at two.
The baby smiles, fat snail,
From the polished lozenges of orange linoleum.
You could eat him.
He's a boy.
You say your husband is just no good to you.
His Jew-Mama guards his sweet sex like a pearl.
You have one baby, I have two.
I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.

Meanwhile there's a stink of fat and baby crap.
I'm doped and thick from my last sleeping pill.
The smog of cooking, the smog of hell
Floats our heads, two venemous opposites,
Our bones, our hair.
I call you Orphan, orphan. You are ill.
The sun gives you ulcers, the wind gives you T.B.
Once you were beautiful.
In New York, in Hollywood, the men said: "Through?Gee baby, you are rare."
You acted, acted for the thrill.
The impotent husband slumps out for a coffee.
I try to keep him in,
An old pole for the lightning,
The acid baths, the skyfuls off of you.
He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill,
Flogged trolley.
The sparks are blue.
The blue sparks spill,
Splitting like quartz into a million bits.
O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick animal
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband.
He went on.
Now I am silent, hate
Up to my neck,
Thick, thick.
I do not speak.
I am packing the hard potatoes like good clothes,
I am packing the babies,
I am packing the sick cats.
O vase of acid,It is love you are full of.
You know who you hate.
He is hugging his ball and chain down by the gate
That opens to the sea
Where it drives in, white and black,
Then spews it back.
Every day you fill him with soul-stuff, like a pitcher.
You are so exhausted.
Your voice my ear-ring,
Flapping and sucking, blood-loving bat.
That is that. That is that.
You peer from the door,
Sad hag.
"Every woman's a whore.I can't communicate."
I see your cute decor
Close on you like the fist of a baby
Or an anemone, that sea
Sweetheart, that kleptomaniac.
I am still raw.
I say I may be back.
You know what lies are for.
Even in your Zen heaven we shan't meet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Eisley - Memories

I really love this group. Beautiful music.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Favorite Pictures

Sometimes I like to wake up and relax out on the terrace, enjoying the view. You know, spread my wings a little and soak in the newness of the day. I am just glad that I have the option to stretch now and then.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Live Uncut Solo Electric Cello through Live Looping

I saw this guy perform at "An American Symphony" benefit concert for Seattle Children's Hospital last night. Absolutely incredible, especially when backed by the Northwest Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about live looping at http://www.SoloElectricCello.com

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Memories, 2008

Naughty Gnomes and Nurses


Plundering Pirates


Princess Fiona

Dead Baby Juice Punch




Tick-or-Treaters Galore




Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Favorite Pictures


Pumpkins, Pumpkins, Pumpkins


The Many Uses of Pumpkin

By Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,Nutrition and Health Education SpecialistBarton County University of Missouri Extension


The most popular use of pumpkins may be for jack-o-lanterns and fall decorations, but there are many healthful ways pumpkin can be used. When eaten, pumpkin provides vitamin A, potassium, protein, and vitamin C. Pumpkin is also low in calories.

When choosing a pumpkin for cooking, choose a small pumpkin that weighs between two and six pounds. Look for one that has one or two inches of stem left. Pumpkins with shorter stems decay more quickly. Choose a pumpkin that has a rich orange color with skin that cannot be easily broken or scratched by your fingernail.

If you want your pumpkin to have multiple uses, you can first paint a funny face on it for a decoration using non-toxic paints. After the holiday, you can wash and cook it.

When selecting a pumpkin for cooking, “pie pumpkin” or “sweet pumpkin” is a good choice, but the jack-o-lantern variety can also be used for eating. For every pound of whole pumpkin, you can expect to get one cup of pumpkin puree.

To maximize the use of your pumpkin, start by removing the stem with a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and scrape the stringy part away. Wash the seeds in warm water and spread them out to dry. To roast, spray a pan with oil and spread the seeds thinly on the pan. Salt, or any seasoning that appeals to you, such as cheesy popcorn or cajun seasoning, can be sprinkled on the seeds. Bake in a 250 degree oven 15-20 minutes.
There are three ways to prepare a pumpkin so you can get pumpkin puree.

To bake it, cut the pumpkin in half. Place the pumpkin, cut side down on a cookie sheet, and bake at 350°F degrees until fork tender, or about an hour.

To microwave it, place the cut side of half of the pumpkin on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for fifteen minutes or until fork tender.

For boiling, cut the pumpkin into large chunks and rinse in cold water. Place the chunks in a large pot in about an inch of water. Cover the pot and boil for 20-30 minutes until tender.

In order to make pumpkin puree, cool and peel the pumpkin. Then place the pumpkin in a food processor, blender, ricer or a potato masher to puree it.

Pumpkin puree can be used in any recipe in which you use purchased canned pumpkin. Pumpkin puree can be frozen at 0°F degrees for up to one year. If you run out of time and energy before you start the puree process remember, pumpkins can be stored for several months if kept at 50-55 degrees°F in a dry airy place.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why I Hate Technology

I don't mean to sound like an old cardmugen, O.K., well maybe I kind of do. But I really can't say that I am that fond of technology. Yesterday, for example, I wanted to write something. To add a bit to something that I had already started. I sat down and wrote with a pen and paper for one hour and wrote about six pages. Today I attempted to post a 1/2 page journal entry on one of my web pages. Internet Explporer was having difficulty posting the page. I had to re-write it three times (the computer was also having trouble saving the information). It took me almost two hours to write less than half of what I had written by hand using the computer.

Our printer cartridge is empty. The printer is old. This needs to be ordered, first found, then ordered on-line. I felt elation today when I found a cartridge that was the correct size and had been stored properly so it wouldn't dry out. Well, it wasn't dry. The ink spilled all over my hands during the 5-6 times I attempted to install it and then print. The only place where there was no ink was on the paper that I was trying to print (the one place where ink would have been helpful). Now my fingers are a beautiful shade of greenish-black, quite lovely.

This was the morning that I also decided to upload some photos. I had been given specific instruction by my significant other as to where to store these photos once uploaded. I hooked up the camera, prepared to make my choices, and some program started running automtically. Grabbing photos and storing them where? I am not sure because I could not find them. I know that they were not in the appropriate place. When I finally did locate them, I tried to save everything on a CD. I said "select all." The program would not save any pictures on the CD because I had not selected any. After trying to reason through how to make "select all" more clear to the computer, I gave up the ghost. There is only so much time during the day.

While I do work part-time, I am for the most part a stay-at-home mom. If you are ever wondering what a stay-at-home mom does all day, here is your answer: Tries to make technology work for her.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Working Part-Time...

There seems to be an influx of new employees at my current job. This is quite noticeable to me for the following reasons, I work for a small business, I don't seem to know any one's name anymore, and these new people are so damn young, I mean just out of college young. The other day I was checking my personal e-mail in our shared computer area (I work in health care, we don't have our own computers unless you bring your own from home) and I found myself reflexively commenting out loud about some commitment I had made and than promptly forgot about for one of my children. My very young co-worker, seated at the computer next to me, asked me to elaborate and I found myself trying to explain my life as if she could really even understand. I found this to be impossible, so I just gave up and mumbled something about "kid responsibilities."

I didn't used to be one of the oldest people at my place of employment. I also used to work more hours than I currently do and be more involved in office politics, socializing, and drama. The socializing is pretty impossible. Most people want to meet after work for drinks and appetizers. That time frame doesn't work for me, that is the time when I am meeting my children for homework and macaroni and cheese. Drinks after 9:00pm, preferably on a weekend evening fit into my schedule just fine. Therefore I do not have any outside of work opportunities to get to know any of these new people.

Recently I have noticed longing stares from these newbies when I exit the office to end my day at 2:00 or 3:00pm. Now these glances are punctuated with comments, "It must be nice to get off so early" or "Go and enjoy the beautiful day!" Now I don't want to seem negative in regards to my children, but picking them up from school, playing soccer, ballet, Girl Scout, playdate, play rehearsal, school meeting, bell ringers shuttle services, trying to prepare some manner of healthy dinner, doing two or three loads of laundry, helping with homework, getting baths/showers done, breaking up arguments, taking phone calls, and answering e-mail (which is about all I do between the hours of 3:00pm-9:00pm everyday) is not exactly my version of relaxing and enjoying my "time off." Not to mention the fact that the only reason I don't work more hours is that there is no such thing as quality childcare and anything that comes close costs more than what I make per hour.

This is perhaps one of the single most difficult things for people without children to understand. Childcare is challenging to find. My oldest child has ADD. She cannot do homework in a group childcare environment after school. She can barely get homework done working in a quiet bedroom by herself. This was the single biggest reason that I cut my hours in the first place. It would help if she weren't a smart child. Most childminders that I have been able to find are not as smart as my daughter is in the 4th grade and homework quickly becomes a battle between them that they lose, so it doesn't get done. I did look for two years for a child minder who could do all of the things that I do, for less money than I make per hour, and came up empty-handed. I have decided that my job must just be impossible to fill.

I am not sure that it would do much good to try and explain myself to this younger crowd. I remember being the same way all those years ago when I was childless and single and didn't have to plan time for myself. Then again maybe I should try and explain it. It is the only time in your life (unless you remain childless and single) that your free time is not dictated by the schedule of others, when you can really just spontaneously go out and enjoy the beautiful day without having to worry about school pick-up times or paying the babysitter. I realize that I wish someone had tried to tell me those things, maybe I would have appreciated that freedom more when I had it. As for now, my ten minutes at the computer are up. I am going to go finish folding the laundry and think about what we are going to have for dinner.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Favorite Pictures

This is my favorite Fall place

One Art by, Elizabeth Bishop (1927-1979)

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent,
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)
I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma by, Michael Pollen

I have to say that I was initially skeptical about this book. I really wanted to read it, actually I felt obligated to read it. So many people had said so many good things about it. I am naturally the type of person that veers away from something that comes too highly recommended. It seems that if it has to be that buoyed by everyone it is too slick and commercial for me to enjoy. Also, I was afraid that this book would condemn meat eaters and I am just not ready, probably never will be, to become a vegetarian. My favorite part was when he talked about how easy it is to be a vegetarian when you live in an urban area and are more removed from the laws and activities of nature.

In actuality, this author gave many good reasons for not becoming vegetarian. These are discussed in "The Ethics of Eating Animals" chapter. This author set out to follow four different meals to the end of their food chain. They were as follows, the industrial food chain which culminated in a meal from McDonals that was eaten in the car. The Big Organic food chain ended in a meal made from products purchased almost entirely from Whole Foods. The family farm food chain was next on the list. The author spent a week working with quite a wondrous and interesting "old school" family farmer. The meal culminated in foods grown on this farm, most notably a chicken from the stock that the author became brave enough to help butcher. The last food chain, the natural food chain was the most impressive. The author cooked and served a meal to friends that he foraged, hunted, and gathered himself. He did have some help with things like homemade wine and wild hog pate, but overall the meal was mostly his creation and cost nothing.

This book gives interesting thoughts on how we eat and what eating means in our culture and what it used to mean in cultures past when people lived and died closer to the earth. This book also clarified some things that I have long suspected regarding how our diet contributes to the look and feel of our bodies in this culture. What the meat that you eat eats makes a huge difference, same goes for the plants, and dairy products. Contrary to popular belief, dairy products on the mass level are not necessarily produced without causing harm to the animals.
This is an acting book, I don't think that one can help but not make some changes to what they eat or how after reading it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe

The New York Mirror, January 1845
The Raven by, Edgar Allan Poe
This poem was first published in The New York Mirror, January 1845.
Rev. George Gilfillan, a contemporary litterateur of Rev. Rufus Griswald, Poe's literary executor, declared Poe hastened his wife's death to write the poem.
The Reverands and Poe waged bitter war with politeness, justice, and truth on the side of Poe.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door."'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door— Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;— vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow— sorrow for the lost Lenore—For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtainThrilled me— filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;— This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,That I scarce was sure I heard you"— here I opened wide the door;— Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore!"

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"- Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before."Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;— 'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayedhe;But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door— Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore."Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,Though its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore;For we cannot help agreeing that no living human beingEver yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door—Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke onlyThat one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.Nothing further then he uttered— not a feather then he fluttered—Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before-On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before." Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful DisasterFollowed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of 'Never— nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linkingFancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressingTo the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease recliningOn the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censerSwung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor."Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee— by these angels he hath sent theeRespite— respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore!Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil!— prophet still, if bird or devil!—Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—On this home by horror haunted— tell me truly, I implore—Is there— is there balm in Gilead?— tell me— tell me, I implore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil— prophet still, if bird or devil!By that Heaven that bends above us— by that God we both adore—Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore." Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting—"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!Leave my loneliness unbroken!— quit the bust above my door!Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sittingOn the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted— nevermore!

-The End-

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

In Search of a Midnight Kiss

I saw this great IFC film last night, "In Search of Midnight Kiss." It is a about a young man, recently split from a longtime girlfriend and lonely in L.A. He is rooming with a buddy and the buddy's girlfriend (uncomfortable even in the best of circumstances). This guy, Wilson, is all caught up in trying to find a date for New Year's Eve. Dateless and destitute (he lost most of his belongings and a script that he had completed while moving to L.A.), he goes on Craig's List as a misanthrope who needs a date.

He finds a very unique gal on his first try. When he goes to meet her, she announces that she has several "meet and greets" set up and that she should know whether she wants to spend more time with him or not in the first five minutes (a great strategy that I would have used had on-line dating not been in it's early infancy stages when I was last single). There is only one guy after him. She ushers him off to another seat and has like a two minute introduction with this new old, divorced dude and decides he's no good. She dismisses old dude and calls Wilson back.

They proceed to have an adventure filled evening. Full of surprise and unexpected behavior. What I loved most about this movie is that so much of it was dialogue with only two people and it kept my interest for the whole 97 minutes. That's it, dialogue, two people, wandering L.A. on New Year's eve. The young woman, although jaded at first, does warm up and show a life that is heartbreaking and intricate. The young man ends in longing for what he will probably not have and life goes on. If I have the time, I will see this one again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Favorite Season

It is October, my favorite month. It is Fall, my favorite season. I love it when the air changes and the leaves change. Everything starts again, though we are half-way or more through the year, things still seem "new" during this season. I looked on-line for quotes and poetry to depict my feelings about this month, but came up empty handed. For the most part quotes and poems seem to be limited to the century before last and quite sappy at that. So I have decided to make a list of what I like best about this season:

1) Brightly colored leaves in different hues of the same color pattern
2) Orange pumpkins, collected early and later carved into jack-o-lanterns
3) Witches, ghosts, black cats, haunted houses, and everything Halloween
4) Trying to cook using fresh pumpkin (some things are actually quite good)
5) Darkness gathering early
6) Mist on the spider webs in the morning
7) Fog and dew and dew and fog
8) Making soup
9) Watching movies (the Fall releases are superior to summer)
10) Re-discovering how to wear warm clothes

So maybe this list makes me sound sappy like 19th century poetry. What isn't on the list and can't really be captured in words, at least not for me this early in the morning, it the Fall "feeling." It's change. I used to think that I wouldn't embrace change, now I expect it. Fall gets me used to expecting more of it each year.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.

"And I for truth, -the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

WalMart and AC/DC

There are many reasons not to like WalMart, they take over small towns, they force suppliers to slash prices to a level lower than the cost of production, they help to fill the world's landfills with more junk...and so on and so forth.

The main reason I won't shop at WalMart is due to unfair labor practices. A large percentage of WalMart employees are given less than 30 hours a week of work. Typically an employee needs to work 32 hours a week or more to qualify for health insurance. This means that WalMart doesn't need to provide insurance to a fair number of employees. It means that employees are then insured by the state, so the taxpayers get to subsidize health insurance for the world's largest retailer. The other unfair practice is keeping employees working near 30 hours a week, making it more difficult to secure a second job to close the gap in hours.

People can tell me that WalMart is now doing all of these environmentally helpful things. This is, in my opinion, a last ditch effort in their losing efforts to compete with Target and is too little, too late.


Now what does this have to do with AC/DC? This is a band that is too "principled" to put their music on iTunes, yet they partner with WalMart making them the only retailer to sell their new album. I have tickets to an upcoming AC/DC concert in my area. I would love to hear the new album, I won't go to WalMart to get it. In fact, until I see some leading changes in the areas of environmental, social, and economic concern, I won't go to WalMart to get anything.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review

I just got done reading this book and really can't say enough good things about it. Upon first glance the title did make me laugh, the book is really not funny though. This book goes to the heart of the issue regarding the working poor in this country. The author is from a working poor family and this is his demographic. I believe what he says to be true, this is a class of people who believes in hard work (even though it gets them nowhere), guns and hunting (if your from the city you don't like guns because your a lily livered wimp), church (God will save you from your sins and deliver you to a better life, sure as hell better than the one that most folks are livin' here on earth), and right wing politics (going to Harvard or any other Ivy League school is suspect, elitist, and not to be trusted).

The best part of this book was the chapter on guns. It got me thinking about this issue. The author was pretty black and white in terms of statistics. In home robberies, homeowners accidentally shoot a non-criminal 2% of the time compared with the police, 11% of the time. He also talked about how statistically most gun related crimes are due to drugs and then guns and if drugs were gone the crime rates would drop. It is just easier for most politicians to focus on the gun issue because the drug issue is so much more challenging to address. Women who face a dangerous commute are less likely to be raped if they are carrying a gun. Also, showing an intruder a gun and yelling, "Get the fuck out of my house" works in most cases. He also talked about how easy it is to be against guns when you don't have to do things like commute by bus late at night to a bad part of town, protect your children in a drug infested neighborhood, or walk through crime ridden streets to go to and from the laundromat to wash your work uniform.

If you want to understand our political machine today, this is a great read. No, this guy doesn't have all of the answers. He is a self-proclaimed socialist and that has often been enough to alienate him from some of his home folk, including family. This book stated things that I had thought about in a way that I couldn't have stated them myself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Burn After Reading

After much hoopla and not much forethought, I saw the new Coen brothers movie, "Burn After Reading." Let me start by talking about what this movie was about...uh I don't really know. I could summarize, a bunch of people who don't go together at the beginning of the movie are all together in some shape or form at the end after a lot of blackmail, adultery, boozing, working out, fighting, internet dating, stealing, divorcing, and murdering. I guess that about sums it up. The Coen brothers were able to work their typical magic of having you laugh one minute, then having your laughter abruptly interrupted by interspersing scenes of raw violence. Thankfully it lacked sappy tears and emotion, predictable and boring romance, and unrealistic love and expectations in relationships. This movie had all of the elements that I look for when I want to be entertained by the big screen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Morning People

The world is dedicated to morning people. I am not a morning person. Over the years I have had to force myself to adopt to the routine of morning people. They are, after all, the ones that are in charge. If I don't adapt, I am called "lazy." Yes, I am lazy in the mornings. I am also cranky in the mornings. My hatred of mornings has fueled my caffeine addiction in order to make me more tolerable.

What would be wrong with a different sort of world? The world in two shifts. One for the early risers and one for the later risers. Both groups could enjoy success on their own time frames. I write this as I am recovering from one of the many colds I am sure that I will contract this season. I am not being a pessimist, but in my middle age it is a known fact that I get sick, sicker, and sickest when the school year starts and I am once again forced to adapt to the time frame of those PEOPLE.

The world would be a better place for me if I could work until nine or ten, come home and unwind, and start again the next day at the crack of nine or ten. It would be ideal if there were no social consequences for this. I would be happier and consistently healthier. I would be willing to bet that I would not be the only one. With the world working in shifts, most stores could afford to be open 24hours. The economy would probably do better, not worse if night owls were given there place in it.

Until utopia is deposited by magic on my doorstep, I will nurse my cold and sludge through my cranky AM demeanor with healthy doses of caffeine and blame those damn morning people through all of my scowling.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Poem, from Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong

The man under the bed
The man who has been there for years waiting
The man who waits for my floating bare foot
The man who is silent as dustballs riding the
darkness
The man whose breath is the breathing of small
white butterflies
The man whose breathing I hear when I pick up
the phone
The man in the mirror whose breath blackens
silver
The boneman in closets who rattles the mothballs
The man at the end of the line
I met him tonight I always meet him
He stands in the amber air of a bar
When the shrimp curl like beckoning fingers
& ride through the air on their toothpick skewers
When the ice cracks & I am about to fall through
he arranges his face around its hollows
he opens his pupilless eyes at me
For years he has waited to drag me down
& now he tells me
he has only waited to take me home
We waltz through the street like death & the
maiden
We float through the wall of the wall of my room

If he's my dream he will fold back into my body
His breath writes letters of mist on the glass of
my cheeks
I wrap myself around him like darkness
I breathe into his mouth
& make him real

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Walla Walla Wine Tour

This weekend I was fortunate enough to go with a great group of women to Walla Walla and do a little wine and food tasting in order to celebrate a friend's birthday. We had a great time, stayed in a cute little house and put about ten wineries under our belts. We developed a new term "the hang on" to describe a daytime hangover. This is fairly easy to get after doing some heavy duty tasting. The carved doors above are at Basel Winery a truly spectacular place. One could rent the entire house (eight bedrooms and a full sized pool). Beautiful view of the rolling, barren hills that characterize this barren climate (a great climate for grape growing) in Eastern Washington. These are the wineries that we visited: Basel Cellars, Gifford Hirlinger, Dusted Valley, Tertulia, Trust, Rulo, Three Rivers, Pepper Bridge, Fidelitas, and L'Ecole.