Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As the holidays arrive I am calm. We are not traveling. We do not have big plans with family or friends. I’ll be working nights and trying to talk my husband through cooking his first turkey during the day. I only have eight hours between shifts on Thanksgiving day. Just enough time to catch a wink and eat a bite. We are going simple. A turkey, stuffing and green bean casserole. Just the five of us with little fanfare.
I am grateful we won’t be doing a last minute scrub down of the house. (Now certainly if my kids felt like cleaning their rooms I would not complain). But I am also grateful for many other things. For my family - that sweet babe who insisted on showering with me yesterday, her perfect rubenesque body, soft soft skin and tiny person voice. For that young man who is still sleeping at nearly 11:00 am. Yesterday he wanted to fish so he hopped on his bike with a fishing pole and took off for the pond - a Norman Rockwell moment if I’ve ever seen one. For middle daughter who in the midst of a sleep over decided to come home. She wanted to be in the arms of her family. And for my husband who got up a 5:00 am to go to work. The same man who will hold down the Thanksgiving fort while I work. I’m grateful we are bringing in the bacon, so to speak, even if it means odd work schedules and irregular hours.
I am grateful for a roof over our heads and a family that would take us in should this roof disappear. I’m grateful for yarn and knitting and the calm it brings. I’m grateful for home cooked food that fills this house with love. I am grateful for our health. I’m grateful for wine and beer and spirits to share with friends. I’m grateful for the labrador who sleeps on my bed. I’m grateful for my down comforter and flannel sheets. I’m grateful for my neighbor who brings over fresh roasted coffee.
We have so many things. And the one thing no economy can take away? Love. If we were huddled in a tent, cold and hungry and not knowing what was to come, we would have love. About that I am certain.
Every year we make a holiday DVD for our friends and family. It is a slide show of photos set to music. This year the theme is gratefulness. I have been struggling to come up with music. I want is an upbeat indy folk song that talks about being grateful - is that too much to ask?
Here are a few contenders:
The Littlest Birds by They Might be Tanyas
Born to Hum by Erin McKeown
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
1. link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2. share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
3. tag 7 people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4. let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
All right - on to the facts ...
1) Yesterday I vacuumed my kitchen table and stove. It seemed like the most practical way to get the gunk out of the crevices.
2) I can only drink coffee if it is two degrees below scalding. Therefore I run around the house incessantly re-heating my coffee. If I could I would replace the glove box in my car with a microwave -- solely for the purpose of reheating coffee.
3) I fantasize about living in the Northeast (Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire) but have never visited these places (I didn't even know how to spell Connecticut properly until today).
4) I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of my first tachycardic episode (seemingly cured by surgery and exercise -- my fingers are still crossed).
5) I grew up on a Navy Base in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Consequently I love fighter planes - especially the Blue Angels.
6) My husband and I met at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Newport Beach, Ca. We both worked there. He was a bartender and I was a hostess. I used to think that was a stressful job!
7) While in college I volunteered at the Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach. After a shift I would smell horrific. But I didn't have time to shower before class so I went as is. People actually got up and moved after I sat down. Rule # 105 in How NOT to Make Friends and Influence People - smell like fish. I miss the seals and sea lions.
And now for the tagging. Let's see ... I pick Donna, Jaimie, Amy, Liss, Elk, Amy and Karen.
Whew! I'll have you know I had to reheat my coffee twice while creating this post. Such hard work! I can't wait to see what you all have to say. Now back to our regularly scheduled programing.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Meet Harold. Shhhh! Don't tell my nephews. This elephant is slated for gifting. He turned out decent though I suspect the next one will be even better now that I'm an experienced toy knitter. He took me the entire weekend to complete. Miraculously, instead of being annoyed by my incessant knitting, the family became inspired. They are joining the homemade gift revolution.
Middle daughter started making sachets from scrap material. She's learning to sew, recycle and reuse. The sachet is filled with tea too old to drink but not too old to smell wonderful.
The hubbie is going to have a go at limoncello (we are now on the lookout for 750 ml flip top clear glass bottles if anyone has a source). Of course the brewer must create some sort of alcoholic beverage.
Though I've been knitting like crazy I did not do so today. Today my free beeswax arrived -- fresh from harvest; spectacular local raw wax mixed with honey. In the kitchen turned chemistry lab I attempted to perfect a hand cream recipe. Let's just say I'm still solidly in the experimental stage.
In the meantime I made some of these handmade lotion bars (only I substituted almond oil for the vegetable oil and added a touch of grapefruit seed extract for additional aroma). These bars will also be gifted to friends and family.
The economy continues to be tight. We continue to cinch our belts. Our retirement savings have been halved (halved!). And yet we are rich. Rich with effort. Rich with love. Rich with family. I can't think of a better way to be.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Well in the midst of this internal dilemma I made a cup of tea. Yogi Tea. This tea comes with lovely heartwarming quotes and I have to admit I look forward to reading them (great marketing Yogi guys!)
I have a ritual when making tea. I tear open the tea bag pull it close and inhale deeply. This causes instant relaxation. Next I steep the bag but do not read the quote. It's an exercise in delayed gratification. Finally, when the tea is done steeping, I read the message. And the quote of the day was "What you are doing right now is the most beautiful thing." Vindication. If the tea says it's okay to knit then it is okay to knit. So I went back to my knitting.
Here is a sneak peak of what I've been working on. I'm inspired by this lady. Of course she hasn't yet published her patterns so I'm making it up as I go. Soon I'll have my own set of patterns -- if I can just remember what I've done.
We're off on a little trip to visit my parents; a pre-thanksgiving celebration since I'll be working on the actual day. I'm hoping to finish this guy on the way. Have a great weekend all!
Monday, November 17, 2008
With shaky hands and an affronted heart the knitter seeks solace in her needles. They could be weapons; armaments with which to point, to accuse, to stab. But instead she begins to knit. To slide needle under yarn, to wrap, to release. Breathe in, breathe out. Slide, wrap, release. Knit one purl one. Knit one purl one. Slide, wrap, release.
And her focus slides. Her anger withers away. She sees only yarn, soft glorious yarn, transforming from a mere ball to a resplendent object of purpose. The yarn grows unto itself, finds its place in this world. She becomes one with the yarn. She gains purpose. Slide, wrap, release.++++++++++
Baby hats, baby booties, Fuzzy Feet, socks and Lucy Bags. These things have been keeping me sane, keeping my mind quiet. Two more baby showers - check. Christmas gifts - check. Not strangling my screaming children - check. I am strangely content in this filthy noisy house. Tonight I'm not cooking. No football, no piano, no ballet. Just knitting and chinese food and an overdue homework assignment.
Ah - the food is here. I'm off to fill my tummy. Happy Monday all!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The thing I love about photography is that it’s all about perspective. You slow down, put on blinders and focus through the viewfinder. Life is filtered. Your perspective depends on the lens. Sometimes you see the whole picture, sometimes only a small part. More often than not you see something you didn’t notice before. Old becomes new. New becomes old. And, in my neck of the woods, dirt and dust garner beauty.
One of my favorite types of photography is Through the Viewfinder. There is an entire Flickr group dedicated to the art. Essentially you use a new camera to take a picture through an old camera. I have a wonderful collection of these geriatric cameras; all found at garage sales for under ten dollars. The photo above was shot through the viewfinder of 'ol argie.
And though I love my antiquated viewfinders I'm always on the lookout for something new. I adore fish eye photography and have coveted many a wide-angle lens. These lenses, however, come with a steep price tag. Not something I'm quite able to squeeze into the budget. But yesterday while poking around Flickr I found a fish eye lens I could afford - door peepholes! I can't wait to give it a try.
So if your having a bad day, if your tired or crabby or feeling just plain blah, I have a suggestion: Pull out your camera. Try on a different lens. It may just change your perspective.
No, I didn’t forget ... today is giveaway day! The lucky winner via random number generator is ... Jamie!
Jamie also happens to be a fantastic photographer - check out her photos here.
Happy Love Thursday Everyone! Don't forget Love Thursday has moved ... but that just means double the fun and double the bliss...
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
My husband and I have not always been responsible with money. In our early twenties, despite an obvious lack of money, we’d determined it grew on trees. Booted from our respective nests we lived as if mom and pop were still footing the bills. Essentially we ate our way out of an early retirement by putting each and every mediocre meal on credit. Then we had a baby and I simultaneously started veterinary school. We couldn’t pay our bills - not even the minimum payments. And there were diapers and childcare and that pesky government who insisted we pay 1099 taxes. We were not okay.
We contacted Consumer Credit Counseling Services and made drastic changes to our lifestyle. We became a one car family; which I used to commute to school leaving the boys high and dry. My husband biked our son to daycare and anywhere else he needed to go. We did not have cell phones. We canceled our cable service. We bought pre-paid calling cards. We did not eat out. We did not go on vacation and we generally did not spend money on anything but the bills. Bit-by-bit we climbed out of that deep dark cavern of debt and vowed to never go spelunking again.
Now the economy is slowing. And regular readers know we are once again taking steps to cut back our lifestyle; not because we are financially down trodden but because we don’t want to be. And truth-be-told we could stand to have a larger emergency cushion--just in case I go and say switch careers or do something equally risky.
Christmas will be financed by selling stuff on Ebay. We are eating solely at home (last night I had a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans - yum!). Most household items are garage sale or thrift store finds. I rely on the Goodwill to outfit my children (read not trendy).
And other than my obvious lack of fashion acumen what does this have to do with the children? Everything. We have been using this economic slowdown as a springboard to teach our kids fiscal responsibility. When we go shopping we compare prices. We discuss which items are a better deal (the large container for x price or two smaller containers for y price). At garage sales we give the kids a budget (typically a dollar or two). The kids are free to spend this money at their will so long as they do the math themselves (though we do offer the four-year-old some mathematical assistance). We talk about budgeting, saving, investing and financial responsibility. And we thought things were going well ...
Then my daughter came home from school with a brilliant plan. It seems her friend, who is essentially homeless and whose family bounces from hotel to hotel, has a Family Access Network Advocate. This is a cool thing. Advocates bring clothes and notebooks and colored pencils - for free! Middle Sis got to experience this spirit of getting first hand because the advocate allowed to her tag along to her friend's session. Middle sis even got a free notebook. And she formulated a plan ...
You see, if she had an advocate of her very own then I wouldn't have to complain about her growing out of her clothes and we’d have access to all the pens we could ever write with. Clearly this is an excellent deal.
Aaaack! We sat Sis down. We attempted to explain “... We are thrilled there are advocates. Your friend, by no fault of her own, does not have an ideal family life. They are struggling. And she benefits greatly from these free items. Hopefully, with this assistance, she can make a better life for herself. But you, Sister, do not live the kind of life requiring an advocate. You don’t want the kind of life that would make an advocate necessary. Yes, free is good. The right kind of free. The if you aren’t going to use that and were just going to throw it out kind of free is excellent. It’s fiscally and environmentally responsible. However a family advocate not the kind of free you want. That kind of free is reserved for people who really truly need it.”
She looked thoughtful. We thought she understood. I WANT AN ADVOCATE!
Her father tried a different approach, “I can beat the living daylights out of you and then you could call the police. I’ll bet they’ll give you an advocate then!”
Sis looked at her father with a smirk, “No,” she said in a silly Daddy Trix are for kids tone, “that’s not how you get an advocate. I’ll just tell them you only buy me clothes from the Goodwill.”
Clearly there is still much work to do, “...and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Middle daughter is incredibly affronted because she owns only one (ONE!) Webkinz. She is also very angry as her evil mother will not drop $15.00 on a whim so that she can add to her collection. Because her friends own, like, seven or eight Webkinz - duh! Little sis is also upset that she has not contributed to the Webkinz phenomenon. These girls wholeheartedly agree that they would prefer Webkinz to say a roof over their heads or food on the table. Tears have been shed.
As such I am writing to suggest that if anyone is need of a Christmas idea I believe I have one.
The worst most evil horrendous mother on the planet
Monday, November 10, 2008
Grey grifty November. The clouds push closer and closer--determined to crush our minds and spirits, determined to garner our souls. The house is dark, lights off for energy savings and to slow financial hemorrhage. The sink is full of dishes. Powdered sugar covers the counter like a winter snow, melted, then refrozen with litter from the streets. The cupcakes have disappeared. All that remains is the mess. It feels hopeless, desolate. I stand at the kitchen window and watch a single leaf dangling from a skeletal branch, holding, holding then snap--with a gust of wind it’s gone. I too am ready to snap, to disappear in a tempest as if I’d never been. There’s nothing left to do but clean.
The kitchen lights sputter, shocked at being called into action, then spark to life. I push up my sleeves and turn on the sink. Bright pink gloves protect my eczematous hands. The warmth creeps in; it ignores the latex barrier and begins to thaw my marrow. I smell last night’s dinner--grilled onions glazed in a balsamic reduction--love burnt into the pan. One by one the dishes disappear. The counter shimmers. The kitchen is transformed.
It’s the cycle of seasons, the cycle of housecleaning, the cycle of life. And I realize it’s time for my life to cycle. I ache for the upswing. Gloves off I stand ready.
This weekend I had a epiphany. I was kneeling in the living room picking up toys and thinking about how I had to work over Thanksgiving. Thinking about how I had to work Tuesday night (and Wednesday night and Saturday day and Sunday day). And I realized that I really really don't want to do it anymore. I need to make a change before I end up in the loony bin.
At the same time I wrote the above post for a writing prompt. That solidified it. I'm now taking baby steps to change my life by the time I turn forty (this gives me 2 1/2 years to formulate and execute my plan). I don't yet have a solid plan but this weekend I started poking around the freelance writing market - we'll see what pans out.
My current fantasy--to find enough freelance writing and veterinary relief work to pay the bills. I'm not looking for fame or fortune. I'm looking for a reasonable income with reasonable flexible working hours.
Truth-be-told I'm scared, scared even to write this. It seems silly. A pipe dream. I may be an abysmal failure. And these are baby baby steps. I'm not quitting my job--yet. I'm simply wondering if I could quit my day (well actually night) job sooner than later. But I'm putting these thoughts out there for you to read, to know, so I don't chicken out.
And today a friend sent this quote from The Artist's Way ..."leap and the net will appear." I hope hope hope it's true. I'm not quite there yet. I'm on the precipice, peering over the edge into the canyon below, contemplating the consequences. I could fly. I could fall. I could hit the bottom and bounce; find myself bruised but in the air. I'll keep you posted.
Friday, November 7, 2008
This morning I’ve been on the phone planning carpools to and from middle school, to and from elementary school. Turns out this is the weekend of single parenthood. My husband is
The beauty of it? These are the same people who pick up the slack for me. They take my preschooler for a play date when I’m too exhausted to function. They drive my children to school when my work schedule doesn’t permit. Without these neighbors, without this community we’d be paying for taxi services and childcare; something none of us can afford at the moment.
And a developed sense of community naturally leads to frugality; you can trade not only childcare but tools, skill sets, DVDs, books, etc. We don’t own a ladder but my neighbors do. When it comes time to hang those holiday lights I know a ladder is readily available. In exchange I’ll bake homemade cinnamon rolls. My neighbors don’t own a truck but we do. All they have to do is ask. When I ripped out my water-hogging lawn my neighbors came over to help without being asked. You can’t beat free friendly labor!
But in order to benefit from a sense of community it must first be created. How can you create community? One of the best things my neighborhood did was have a block party. All it took was a free permit from the city and a few flyers. We took over the streets potluck style. Every one chipped in. We got to know our neighbors and formed a neighborhood directory.
Now when people walk down the street they wave to each other. Everyone looks out for everyone else’s children. We all lend a helping hand in whatever way we’re able. It really does take a village; not only to raise a child but also to live an abundant frugal life.
Here are some links for your reading pleasure:
The Sunny Way
The Tool Trader
How to Start a Neighborhood Cooking Club
How to Start a Community Garden
Have a lovely weekend!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Leave a comment below to win this lovely homemade tote bag:
I'll pick a random winner next Thursday.
Have a lovely day!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Today I'm in love with my country and today I'm in love with my kids. Last night my husband and I went to a birthday dinner with friends. Big brother, at twelve, babysat. Before we left, however, the labradork decided to sample a bag of halloween candy.
Since chocolate is toxic to dogs we detoured to the clinic for an excavation of the dork's interior. At one point we were all standing around the dog watching him return his stolen goods (i.e. puke, vomit, up-chuck; the verbiage choice is yours). He had eaten Milky Ways, Butterfingers, and an entire Hershey's bar - wrappers and all. The kids each had a cookie in hand and were watching the show as if they were at the movies. Clearly they all have strong constitutions and are no doubt my children.
We left the dork for observation, took the kids home and headed out for dinner. After dinner we went back to the clinic to retrieve the dog. It was exactly eight o'clock as we pulled into the parking lot. The western polls had just closed. My phone rang. Obama won! Obama won! It was the kids.
Home alone the twelve-year-old, eight-year-old and four-year-old were watching politics. They were watching the election. The excitement in their little voices was palpable. We came home to find these sticky notes all over the house. Clearly they are also their father's children.
Today I have hope. Today I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a part of and a witness to history. And today I pledge to work "...brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand..." not only for a better America but for a better world.