I'm buried in work right now and keep trying to find time to catch up on everyone's blogs.
Read two great books by Janisse Ray. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Wild Card Quilt. She grew up on a rural southern Georgia junkyard and writes about community and place. Definitely recommend!
Beast walked in his graduation ceremony this month, although he has a few summer classes before he's really finished. Bean is almost walking. As for myself? I'm crawling through piles of work and housework and it would be really nice if I could find my way out sometime soon.
My dad used to joke around and holler "Hold her back!" every time we'd pass a bookstore. Life hasn't changed much.
I just finished The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued by Ann Crittenden, so yesterday it was off to the library.
Awaiting my eyes are: The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer by Juliet B. Schor Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig--I have literally had this on my to-read list for more than a decade. Sooo excited to finally get started on it. Collected Poems by Lynda Hull Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert--Everyone and their mother, and even their mother's mother has read this on the bus in the last year. It's written in an accessible (read: toilet-reading), magazine style, which I usually avoid, but the subject intrigues me and ADD isn't rare for me these days. Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses by Stacy Mitchell A Year Without "Made in China" by Sara Bongiorni
Care to share any book recommendations? If you're looking for one, check out the Blogging Bookworm, which was my source for several on this list.
Beast did not get accepted into his grad school of choice in California.
He's pretty bummed, but we're trying to keep the positives in mind: no sky-high rent requirements! I still have a job! He'll be done with school soon! Still, it was disappointing for him. He's looking into grad schools for next year and, in the meantime, we are narrowing down our search for awesome cities and jobs within those cities (or telecommuting, which would be even better).
We took Bean to the Institute of Contemporary Art last weekend for the Shepard Fairey exhibit. She was more impressed with the glass-walled walkway overlooking the ocean.
This weekend, we went to Davis Square and got some $5.49 pants for Beast at Goodwill (his old ones were ripped and falling apart at the seams), only they were $3.49 because he found $2 tucked into the pockets of a pair he tried on but didn't buy. The gods were smiling: money grows in pants.
We ate lunch and debated our values in a new city. Here is what we're looking for, and we're definitely open to relocation suggestions:
*A city or town with culture and nature: we either want to be in the city but close enough to bike to nature or in the country but close enough to bike to culture. No suburbs; I've lived in enough of them, thanks! *Affordable *Progressive-minded folks: I went back and forth on this. On one hand, it's great to have a mix of folks, but on the other, I'm really seeking community and I haven't found that in the cities I have lived in (which were all mixes) yet. Maybe I should change the wording to "a real community atmosphere" or something to that effect. *Great public transit or bike-friendly/a year-round climate for biking: it has been almost two year since we have driven a car and we intend to keep it that way. *Bonus points for year-round farmers markets/climate to grow our own
I have a feeling that this list is like many folks' lists, but I am determined to find this town and live in it! Here is our list of possible cities that seem to match some or most of our value criteria:
Asheville, NC Portland, OR (or really anywhere in the Pacific Northwest) Boulder, CO Madison, WI upstate NY (?) Chicago (?) Montreal (?)
It was, by the way, highly amusing to read where you guys thought I'd belong, especially from my blogger friends that I have never met in person. Thank you. And, to answer BB's question, I most certainly am NOT from Massachusetts. I'm from many places, more than a dozen cities in the Midwest and also New Orleans, Clearwater FL, and here. So, I'm not afraid of moving!
I'm sipping some organic, fair trade, caffeine-free chai tea that my wonderful friend Momma Val sent in a care package. She (and the tea) is delightful. Now, I return to my quest for some chocolate. Mhmmm, tea and chocolates ...
Sigh. I'm not a patient waiter. Who is, really? I'm--we're--waiting to hear back about Beast's graduate school application. His top pick is a school in California. California. As in, sunny and warm and more laidback. California, as in, the complete oppposite side of the country, one of the few states I have never visited and one of the states I'm constantly told I "belong" in (although Momma Val disagrees and thinks I'm more of a Washington or Idaho girl). Perhaps most importantly, California is where I do not have a job.
My feelings are mixed. On one hand, I'm not a huge Boston fan. I don't know, it could be something about the lack of community and abundance of selfish, cold, self-involved people combined with sky-high rental rates and bone-chilling, wet winters. I don't want Bean growing up to invest so little in others, which is the example set by the majority of folks around here. California has year-round farmers markets, great weather, an ocean you can actually swim in, a more progressive community. California is an unknown that I can discover and relish in. Beast would love grad school.
On the other hand, I have a job at a nonprofit with great benefits here that I can work from home for half the week. This isn't exactly the best time to go job hunting. I'm tired of Beast being in school. We have been together for nearly a decade, and for nearly a decade minus one year, one or the other of us has been in school. It would be nice to actually see each other instead of do homework a few nights a week. California is expensive, just as much if not moreso than Boston. Having been here two years now, I feel like we're just getting settled. I'm tired of moving. I've moved more than a dozen times in the last decade. Moving means I'd have to pack again. I hate packing. Don't they have earthquakes and mountain lions in California?
So, I wait.
"They say fate, it takes time. I walk a thin line."
The New York Timeshas polled authors on whether the recent trend of thrift will last beyond this recession. I have read dozens of blog posts on this matter--and many of them say, yes, let's hope so!--but I'm left scratching my head with the large environmental groups. Where are you? Now is the time when people are realizing how important a dollar is. They are finally stopping to think about their money and realize the power of their dollar. You vote with your money, so where are the large eco-groups crying out for a renewed interest in thrift and where your money goes, what practices it supports, what national policies, what pollution is created, etc etc etc? Now is our moment, our chance. If we can harness enough support now for wise green spending and thrift, it will last beyond this recession and carry us into a new line of thinking, a new way of being. All I'm seeing from the large eco-groups is a sort of "oh, good, they're finally being thrifty" observation when it should be instead the largest PR push they have ever mounted. I suppose it's up to individual actions once again ...
Oh, and The Boston Globeexplained how greenhouse-gas emissions have lowered since the recession began--yay!--but how this negatively impacts the cap-and-trade industry.
On the floor of the Colorado State Senate on February 23, Senator Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley) actually referred to gay and lesbian people as an "abomination" and an "offense to God."
It gets worse: Renfroe equated gay and lesbian people with murderers and quoted the Book of Leviticus suggesting that gay people should be put to death. He also said that women were created to be "helpers" for men, quoting the Book of Genesis. You can watch his rant on YouTube.
Renfroe was referring to Senate Bill 88, a bill that would extend healthcare coverage to the same-sex partners of CO state employees. SB 88 is about healthcare. It's about gaining some measure of equality for gay and lesbian state employees. And regardless of how people like James Dobson and Scott Renfroe feel about gay people, their shameless hate-mongering has no place in public debate and we should reject them completely.
Respond to Scott Renfroe via ProgressNowColorado, from which some of this message above was obtained. Or, write your own letter to:
Scott Renfroe Colorado State Senator, District 13 200 E. Colfax Denver, CO 80203 303-866-4451 firstname.lastname@example.org
This letter clarifies the LGBT community's position and Renfroe's misguided speech well--feel free to use parts of it as a sample in your own letter. Let him know hate speech--especially within our government's own walls--will not be tolerated.
Dear Mr. Renfroe,
Recently on the Senate floor, it was your statement that our country was founded on certain beliefs which you hold. The implication was that our country was founded on one version of Christianity. If we go back and look at the situation of our founders, one of the strong reasons we founded our own union was to be free from the violent and murderous religious persecution of England. It is partly because of this experience of persecution our founders believed in a strong sense of religious freedom and that no one religious interpretation should be upheld in our laws if we are to have true religious freedom. (As a side note, some of our founders were actually atheists and deists, not all of them were Christians though one common belief held them together and that is their belief in the implementation of religious freedom.) History has shown the bloody, violent and discriminating effects of instituted religion and your readings on the floor of the senate point to verses commonly perceived as and used to support death as punishment for homosexuality. This is a good example of the value of religious freedom. In the past, religion has been a convenient advocate for everything from slavery and segregation to the oppression of women's equal rights. Our country is a melting pot of many different types of people, religions, races and sexualities and you must consider the diversity within your constituents in order to represent the group fairly. To single one group out and deny them equal access to life-saving healthcare by citing one specific set of religious beliefs is against the nature of our union and also the belief in equality held by our President who holds very high approval ratings. I urge you to do some research into the positions of the following groups on the issue of homosexual equality as they all cite research and fact as support of their positions: The American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The Academy of Pediatrics, The National Association of Social Workers and more. I urge you to apologize and retract your statements on the Senate floor, as they speak for religious intolerance and cold discrimination, two things that history has shown to be an embarrassing mistake.
Harvard has released its recommendations for changes to the U.S. energy policy. Most of the recommendations center around the idea of approaching this enormous task in an integrated, interdisciplinary way. Seeing as how reactive Americans prefer to be (or just are, whether they prefer it or not), I wonder if stuffing budgets for the right things--carbon capture and storage, increasing building efficiency, renewable energy sources, etc.--will be enough. The report calls for an integrated approach, which would mean a turnaround in how we tackle problems, from reactive to proactive. Might this be just where the debate over the effectiveness of individual versus collective action fall? If we can convince other individuals through personal action to become more proactive, that proactive, integrated way of living can guide our collective action. A pebble that moves a mountain ...
"A baby is God's opinion that life should go on. Never will a time come when the most marvelous recent invention is as marvelous as a newborn baby. The finest of our precision watches, the most supercolossal of our supercargo planes don't compare with a newborn baby in the number and ingenuity of coils and springs, in the flow and change of chemical solutions, in timing devices and interrelated parts that are irreplaceable." -Carl Sandburg
Eating local can be easy for people with year-round access to farmers markets. But what's a New England girl to do in the snowy, mushy winter? Eat a solid diet of carrots and pray for spring? This article from today's Boston Globe highlights a few local farms that offer winter CSA shares (as well as restaurants featuring locavore dishes/menus). It might be too late for this winter, but learning how to preserve local foods this summer and joining a winter CSA works for next year. This year, you can at least get local meat and local dairy products at places like the Dairy Bar in Somerville if you're interested in eating more local foods.
After spending my weekend pouring over thousands of old photographs in an effort to launch my first-ever website (yay!), I have taken stock of my goals. I've wanted to get my portfolio online for years--almost a decade, actually--and now that I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for this massive project, I'm pondering what other goals I should aim to accomplish this year. Not in a New Year's resolution sort of way, more in a mid-life crisis way. Minus the mid-life and the crisis. A constant self-evolution makes for constant evaluation, and so this weekend it was evaluating my goals.
I want to learn how to knit. I started it up pre-Bean, but stopped when I became violently sick in my first trimester. Now, I want to begin anew, and this time I will recognize my inability to learn how to knit via books or manuals. I'm searching for a cheap, local class for this spring or summer. Ditto for sewing, although I'd like to get my hands on a machine. Freecycle, perhaps. There is so much crafty stuff I want to learn!
Etsy browsing has renewed my goal of getting an Etsy shop up like my friend Jessica. Just today, on a break from work, I saw this amazingly inspiring moss pendant based on the moss and rocks jutting the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Amazing! Adorn Jewelry is the one-woman company behind the moss, and I had to check out her neat website too. If I could buy every necessity in life on Etsy, I would be happy ...
Now I just need to start knitting toys, sewing skirts, and scanning my portfolio in for my new website! Bean might have other plans, though. ;) Speaking of Bean, guess what she said last night while eating some rutabaga and zucchini? "Mama." Not sure if she knew what she was saying, but she said it a dozen times or so very clearly. Does that count as a first word?!
A very happy birthday week to Momma Val! My dear, dear friend ... one of my first memories of her generosity (something I have gratefully experienced many times since, as well) was when she came into work with a glass jar filled to the brim with vegetable soup for me. Just because. The first and only time someone has brought me soup, and for no reason but kindness at that! I love you, Momma Val! May your kindness be reflected back upon you a million times over.
There are some incidences where my government acts on a minority's agenda and it all just leaves me shaking my head in astonishment. Building a wall between Mexico and the U.S.? Have we really thought this through, guys? People immediately point to "national security," as if that ends any and all questioning. How is that national security more important than, say, the hundreds of miles of unguarded coastline in the Pacific Northwest? Or the thousands of borders we share with the Canadians? Sure, they have a guard stop you along the way and ask how long you'll be gone. You may even have to flash a passport. Guess what, people? Terrorists have passports, too. And a 12-foot fence isn't going to stop one, either. We have to look beyond the superficial reasoning of "national security" and delve deeper. What is this really about? The economy.
But even if we understand the reasoning behind such a fence--which most of us don't--we aren't taking a hard enough look at the consequences. What happens when a town straddles both countries? How would you feel if suddenly a fence was erected across the middle of your town? Or even next to your neighboring town? You couldn't exactly go around it, at least not for a hundred-plus miles. What else could we be spending hundreds of millions of dollars on? Does a fence make a good neighbor? Does it build communities? Why shouldn't we, as a nation, be building communities with our neighbors? Isn't that the best deterrent from crime? A neighborhood watch, so to speak?
In terms of infrastructure, immigrants are still getting through, only now we have to repair the walls they cut and plow through. As President Obama's new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano put it during her time as Arizona governor, "building a 50-foot fence will simply spur the invention of a 51-foot ladder."
What about the animals that trek through the land? We are creating superficial isolation, cutting across gene pools and selection through artificial walls. How will this affect the hundreds of birds, reptiles, and mammals--including the rare ocelot--that roam that border? Did you know that the EPA wasn't even allowed to look into and approve this first, because it came to fruition under the Homeland Security Act?
Not to even mention the symbolism of such a wall. Is it any wonder that Mexicans are angry? Hundreds die each year trying to get in, and this fence just increases the number that will die. It does not deter those attempting to cross the border. Like most American solutions, it is the pill after the disease. It might make your runny nose dry up for a few hours, but it's not going to stop the flu from happening again and again. You have to treat the cause! Why can't we get this through our heads? Is this the gift our generation will give to the next?
I am dreaming of spring. This slushy, mushy ice-snow thing has got to go. Bean is cooped up in the house. I'd like to take a walk for longer than 10 minutes. The dogs are restless. In an effort to convince the gods (a spring dance?), I'm recalling memories from past warmer weather months, and the band Boston Typewriter Orchestra comes to mind. We saw this group live at Somerville Arts Festival and they rock. They all play--you guessed it--typewriters. And sing. Hilarious! Here's a link to an NPR article on them and then their website. You can download some of their songs in both places, if you're interested.
I don't have much in the way of dispensable income. I don't want to give plasticrap gifts that will be thrown away in 6 months. I had a list of more than 25 people to give to. I couldn't sell out on Christmas altogether, primarily because I love giving. This year, my solution was to make the gifts. All of them.
My husband and I took turns making fudge and cookies and breads. I put together some tunes from our CDs or borrowed ones from the library, and he made a personalized CD insert, which we then distributed to the adorable young kids on our list ... including my niece and nephew, children of my sister-in-law, the one who doesn't send a thank-you card unless the item she received was on her list (she didn't send one this year, obviously).
In the end, it was a lot of work. We spent hours baking. I worried family and friends would think our gesture lame, not enough, cheap. Or maybe they'd be allergic to nuts. We might not have even saved that much money, since the ingredients were plenty and organic and mostly local. But it was a labor of love, and the warmth from the oven filled the house, my daughter saw us give our time to those we loved, I learned how to make fudge for the first time in my life. Despite the work and time it took, it was probably the least stressful holiday season I have had.
OK, this is how many years I spent living in suburbia: I never realized you could eat a pumpkin. I guess I never really thought about it. Pumpkins were for carving on Halloween, and you bought them in a can for Thanksgiving pies. That's about it.
In comes my favorite gal at the farmers market this autumn. "Are those," I asked slowly, quietly, "for eating?" I pointed to the pile of organic sugar pie pumpkins and ducked my head, slightly embarrassed by my own question but curiously enough to ask.
"Yes," she grinned back, and looped one hand over a large one. "And they're delicious."
I lugged one on the bus ride home, among my other tasty finds from that day. I think it was the same day I stocked up on winter squashes, for the farmers market in these parts closes around the end of October and winter squash lasts a good couple months.
We displayed our pumpkin proudly on our kitchen table for a few weeks before I decided it was time to taste fresh pumpkin for the first time in my life. Apparently I'm not the only one who didn't realize you should eat these decorative gems, because nearly every Google search yielded recipes for canned pumpkin, not fresh. It took some searching, but I finally found a simple recipe to taste this simple veggie.
Roasted Bourbon Brown Sugar Pumpkin, minus the bourbon, is what we made that day. The smell of it baking in the oven was worth the effort itself. We saved the seeds and roasted them later, rinsing them and then adding a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and cinnamon before throwing them back in the already warm oven.
Yum! Fresh pumpkin has a simple taste, slightly earthy but more squash than anything. Which makes sense, considering pumpkin is pretty much a winter squash and a proud member of the Cucurbita genus. And yes, I had to look that one up after I ate it. :)
I hope this post demonstrates to you how woefully behind I am in blogging. Halloween in near-February? Right.
I've often complained about my office on this blog, but yet I keep going back for more. Just one reason why: tomorrow, on Inauguration Day, we are celebrating by watching Obama's speech on the drop-down projector screen while consuming copious amounts of free beer and pizza--all this in lieu of a staff meeting. Eek! Count me in! We're all bringing in treats, too. I thought about baking cookies and frosting them up in purple with the words "I Believe." Beast thinks I'm corny.
Would you believe my folks live right by DC and they left town for the week? I told my mom that even if you're a Republican, which she is, it's still a historic moment to witness. "Yeah, but they don't even allow umbrellas or coolers," was her response. ??! There's a limit to how far practicality will get you.
Snow, snow, snow. About a foot, maybe a little more, on the ground today. New England winters, sigh. From afar, they sounded so pristine and beautiful. Maybe we just live too close to the city, but they are awful, muddy and ugly, and constantly wet/icy! If Beast gets into grad school, we'd be headed for California--now that would be a welcomed change of pace. All my life, people have told me I "seem like a California girl." They didn't always mean it as a compliment, but I always took it as one. I can't imagine driving a U-Haul with two dogs, a cat, a baby, a husband and all our stuff cross-country. Oh joy. I moved from Chicago to New Orleans once, but that was me and my cat!
For the holidays, I gave Beast* and Bean a joint gift: a daddy/mommy-and-me class for parents and babies 6-8 months. I figured it was a product-less gift that would be fun times/memories and Bean is at the stage where other babies are starting to be very interesting to her, so she could benefit from more social interactions through the cold, wet, mostly indoors winter we're having.
At their first class last week, the ten or so babies were placed in a circle, each with a toy in front of them. Bean played with her toy for a bit while most of the other babies stared at the teacher, who was sitting in the center of the circle. Bored of her toy, she decided to (show off and) crawl over to the boy next to her and take his toy. (Do I have a bully on my hands? :) Beast apologized to the boy's mother, who assured him it was fine. Apparently, this was a pretty coy move on Bean's part, because the boy then grabbed her hand and locked eyes with her. They held hands and their gazes for about two minutes before resuming their play.
Oooooooh! Bean has a boyfriend! His name's Eli and they see each other next week. Looks like I'll have to talk to her about the birds and bees before then ... Oh well, at least if I do it now she won't have a clue what I'm talking about.
P.S. BB--your comment that Bean will have a happy childhood resonated with me and really touched an emotional core. Thank you for believing that--if I can give her that, it would be the best gift a parent could give their child.
*Formerly known as Hubby. As I discussed with BerryBird a long time ago, I hate the words "husband" and "hubby," so why am I using it in my blog? I call him Beast anyway, so it'll be natural to write Beast here.
The first time I came across Lake Loop and In Blue Ink, they had posted a list of the books they had read that year (like they did this year, here and here). I've always been the type of person to visit someone's house for the first time and immediately check out their bookshelves. Since I found their books to often be my books, I started "following" their blogs and I figured this year, I should return the bookshelf voyeurism. The following list is based on memory and hence very partial--it also doesn't include any of the pregnancy and parenting books I read.
Courage for the Earth/various The Best American Short Stories 2005 The 100-Mile Diet (aka Plenty)/Alisa Smith and I can't remember her partner's name Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America/Barbara Ehrenreich Animal, Vegetable, Miracle/Barbara Kingsolver Rant/Chuck Palahniuk Building Suburbia/Dolores Hayden The Namesake/Jhumpa Lahiri Affluenza/John de Graaf In Defense of Food/Michael Pollan The Botany of Desire/Michael Pollan The Omnivore's Dilemma/Michael Pollan Last Child in the Woods/Richard Louv Freakonomics/Steven Levitt Depletion and Abundance/Sharon Astyk (a Blogging Bookworm giveaway--thank you!) Unaccustomed Earth/Jhumpa Lahiri The Hour I First Believed/Wally Lamb (just started reading)