Tuesday, December 28, 2010

organizing my life

I am spending this week organizing my life. Not metaphorically, mind you, but in the real world. I am tackling a bunch of irritating clutter spots, and issues. I cleaned out the desk in our foyer yesterday, finding all kinds of odd things. We had a Christmas stocking we bought for the cats, 4 years ago. I found school pictures, pictures of Largo as a puppy, a newspaper article about Obama's inauguration. Pocket knives, old cough drops, keys to thinks we don't have. Coupons that expired in 2008.

With that cleaned out, I tackled the buffet that I use as storage in our living room. I threw out a lot of stuff, arranged things in ways that made more sense, but still ended up with too much crap. We have 10 or 15 bagged, magnetic hinges. A picture frame our son made when he was 5 or 6. Lots of playing cards. A huge box of matchbooks. I drew a line and threw out the snow globe. I pulled out a seahorse I found on the beach, a fossilized barnacle, couple of other things. I set these aside for display. Then I heard crunching behind me. Largo had the seahorse in his mouth and was trying to eat it. Apparently he thought it was a tasty treat. I managed to salvage it.

Tomorrow I tackle the radiator by the front door. This has long been a spot where things get tossed. I have no idea why anything is there. I am going to get rid of everything, and find some sort of storage for the dog's poop bags. Seriously.

After that, I am painting the inside of the front door, and the windows surrounding it. The dog chewed the paint off the bottom sidelight a couple of years ago, and I have been looking at, and being annoyed by, the bare wood spot for all of that time.

After that, I tackle the household paperwork and odds n ends that always end up in my sitting room. Probably why I have never really gotten to use that room. Well, that, and its really cold in there. Once I get it cleaned out, I can work on getting it to be useful space for me. I want to use it for meditation, and for quiet time.

So maybe all this cleaning isn't just literal. Maybe it is a metaphor. Now that school is over, I need to tame the chaos, and make space for the next adventure. I need order, so that I can be organized for our son and the planning and paperwork that will come with the college admission process. I need to gather my sources, so I can write my portfolio, so I can graduate. And with everything in its place, I can relax. I don't feel like there are chores hanging over me, left undone. I guess a little order will feel like an accomplishment as well, a sign that I did something with my time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

how the buddhist thing is going

So, I've spent the last couple of months trying to live by Buddhist principles. I've had some successes and some failures. I find meditating really really difficult. I enjoy the way I feel afterward, though. And for me the most difficult parts aren't what I thought they would be. I really thought that quieting my racing mind would be the big hurdle, but actually, it's been the pain of sitting. I have trouble with my knees. Lots of trouble. As in pain, in every position but one, which is stretched straight out. So I could meditate laying down, but then I fall asleep. Sitting in a chair has been the best I can manage so far.

I thought I would feel frustrated, irritated, with trying to have empathy for people I dislike, but instead, I found it freeing and enlarging. I don't know how/why that works but it does. I still get pissed. I still flip people off or curse in traffic. But there is a moment, immediately after, where I seek for and find understanding. Go figure. I feel I have made incremental progress, but see myself on a path that will expand my world, and improve my life. That's a good thing.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

what makes christmas

What makes Christmas? I was thinking about that the other day. We don't have a lot of serious strong traditions in our family. Some years we put up a tree, and decorate it. A few years, we just put up a little 2 ft pre-lit tree up, and left it at that. We usually put a wreath on the door. We go to my parent's house for Christmas Eve, where we have a large Italian seafood dinner, and open gifts with my family. Christmas morning, we wake up fairly early, make cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, and open our gifts to each other, and see whats in our stockings. Then we head to my mother in law's house for Christmas with my husband's family. We open gifts, take a walk if the weather allows, and then have a nice Christmas dinner.

We used to assemble a gingerbread house every Christmas, when our son was little, but he has outgrown the practice. He used to leave milk, cookies, and a note for Santa out on Christmas Eve. I would drink the milk, eat most of the cookies, always leaving one with a big bite out of it. This too has been outgrown.

We have some favorite activities. We go see the lights on 34th Street in Hampden. It always makes us smile. We try to go out to Largo, to see the Festival of Lights in the park. Joyous! We take our son Christmas shopping. Up until recently, this was a trip to the dollar store, armed with a long list and his allowance money, supplemented by a few dollars from me. This year he has a Visa debit card, and an itching to go to the mall.

I am not sure what part of this is the essential part. It changes as we grow older, but somehow stays the same. I think maybe it's just one of those things you have to enjoy as it happens, and not try to quantify.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

the impersonal universe

The universe is impersonal. Things happen in it, without regard for what you want, how you want it, or the power of your personal thoughts. The universe is impersonal. It doesn't give a rat's ass whether you are happy or sad, whether your plans are disrupted, whether what comes your way is fair or just. The universe is impersonal. There is an order to it, a balance, a completeness. But none of this is taken to an individual human level. Said another way, bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. This may piss you off. This may make you cry. This may make you rail against the heavens, gnash your teeth in despair. But it is what it is. The universe is a thing of beauty, a system of infinite possibility and potential. It is also horrible and powerful and terrible, depending on where you stand while it does its magic. You are every bit as important in the whole as a bird, or a gnat, or a grain of sand, or a tree. Humanity does not make you privileged. It doesn't make you favored. It just makes you self-aware. This doesn't mean what you do or say does not matter. It does matter -- to you. To the people around you. The universe is impersonal, but you are not. Because the meaning of life IS personal, and you decide what that meaning may be.

I find great comfort, when things are not going my way, to remember this -- the universe is not personal.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

last post of November

This is the last post for November. I mostly participated in NaBloPoMo (national blog posting month) missing only one day, and that due to a technical issue -- no internet access. I learned that it is really hard to write every day in a constrained format, like this blog. I found myself fishing for topics. In desperation, I almost broke some of my own ground rules -- I almost blogged about work, almost provided details about my personal life. I don't do that because this isn't a diary or a journal. While maybe only 3 or 4 people actually read this, it is still "public" as part of the internet. Will I participate again next year? I don't know yet. Maybe. It was a stretch, and stretching is good, sometimes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

the big office move

I am in the midst of the "big office move". I have been in the same office for 8 years. Before I came on board, it was a coat closet. They added a custom wooden desk, built to fit the space, and a guest chair. A couple of years later, they added heat/AC vents. The room is roughly 4.5 by 6 ft. Really small. At various points I have had as many as 5 PCs in there with me. Right now I have two PCs, a printer, a stereo tower, wall mounted shelves, two file drawers that fit under the desk.

Tomorrow I move down the hall to a larger office, roughly twice the size. I will have more than twice the filing space, and much larger wall mounted book shelves. It is still a small office by most people's reckoning, but it will be palatial to me.

To get ready for the move, I have had to wade through all my stuff, and pack. I can't believe how much dust had accumulated in that little space. And the stuff! I had $4.50 in nickels, dimes, pennies, thrown in a drawer. I had cough drops from five years ago. I had every phone list issued since 2002 (that's like 4 a year for 8 years), all thumbtacked on top of each other. I had a pager issued to me in 2002 and never used. I had floppy disks. I had cables for keyboards they don't even make any more. Menus for restaurants closed long ago. Layers and layers of stuff. I had warranties that expired in 1999. I had manuals for printers that had died ages ago. I cannot believe the things I thought I might need someday.

Hopefully I will be neater in my new space. More organized. Make better decisions about what to keep and what to pitch.

But somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

non profit idea

I have been discussing, off and on for a couple of years, the idea of founding a non-profit with a couple of friends. We have wanted to have a more active role in solving some of society's problems, something that goes beyond writing checks, donating old clothes, or volunteering an hour or two.

the current idea that I am kicking around is Community Kitchen. This would be a community kitchen, food pantry, a place to get free or low cost cooking equipment, a collective for buying cheap food/spices, and a place for teaching cooking and shopping strategies. The goal would be to reduce the food divide that exists between rich and poor. We would take donations, sell a cookbook, and help people stretch their own existing funds/food stamps.

I think this could work, and could really help.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I find it amazing that after 3 days off from work, I am still tired. I feel this unbelievable lethargy. I napped today. And could nap again. I haven't done a ton of stuff the last two days. We went for a long walk outdoors both days. I did some grocery shopping. I did my reading for class. Did a lot of dishes. Watched a bunch of movies.

that's about it. It's like I've been storing up piles and piles of tired, and was just waiting for an opportunity to crash. I am guessing I need the rest.

Friday, November 26, 2010

movie night

very occasionally, we rent a pile of movies and have movie night. Tonight we have Paprika, an anime that predates Inception by about 4 years, but is very similar. Draw your own conclusions on that one. And Oldboy, which we are viewing next. I also have The Girl who Played with Fire (the swedish version), and Percy Jackson (because it looked so very very bad) to see this weekend.

the boy is upstairs with his own pile o films - including Patton and Reservoir Dogs.

Gotta love it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

in gratitude

I am sitting in my nice clean living room, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. I have a cup of hot tea, a dog laying at my feet. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven fills the house. Soon family and friends will arrive to help celebrate the day. My wonderful husband walked the dog, set a beautiful table, and took out the trash. Our son woke up early, came bounding down the stairs, wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving as he did so.

I am grateful today for so many things. Food, shelter, occupation. Family, friends. Warmth, comfort, ease. My heart is full today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Technical difficulties (no internet) prevented me from posting yesterday. So much for my month of blogging daily. Today's post is simple.


That's it -- just thanks, to everyone, for everything. The whole ball of wax. I feel heartfelt gratitude every day, even if I don't express it to one and all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

the season of gathering

This is the start of the gathering season. I love it. All sorts of excuses to get together and socialize, to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. There will be neighborhood parties, school get togethers, work parties, old friends visiting. We'll get the cards from folks we hear from once a year.

I absolutely love it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the love of reading

there is a facebook list, from the BBC, of 99 books you should read. I have read 75 of them. Reading has in many ways, made my life what it is. Learning to read opened up the world to me. I could go beyond my family, beyond my street, beyond my neighborhood. It was a revelation to me.

I did not come from a family of readers. We had a small handful of books in the house before I started reading. Reading was not encouraged; it was viewed as anti-social and anti-family. I actually think that that was part of the original attraction for me. I could be alone when I read.

I had no discrimination and no taste. I read everything I got my hands on. I was probably the only 8 year old who had read both Dante's Inferno and Bob,Carol, Ted and Alice. I read a slew of classics, because my Dad found a set of books in the trash -- volumes by Poe, Conan Doyle, Ibsen, Stevenson. I still have them. I read pulp paperbacks, every sci-fi book at the Severna Park Library. I read a lot of smut. I read magazines, cookbooks, a ton of reader's digest condensed books.

Books became my peer group; my beliefs and opinions changed with every book I read. I went through an incredibly greedy, selfish phase after reading Atlas Shrugged. Heinlein had me thinking fascism wasn't such a bad thing. 1984 had me convinced government was a terrible idea. I read The Jungle and did not eat a hot dog for more than 10 years.

Eventually, I established my own sense of self, and my own opinions. Reading no longer pushes me into one thing or another, but it still mesmerizes and entrances. I still am carried away by other places, by living, however briefly, someone else's life. I have never read anything that couldn't teach me something, even if the only lesson was the writer didn't know how to write.

I owe my first grade teacher a huge debt, for teaching me to read.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

apparently I am a pig

Apparently, I am a pig. I cleaned the oven today. it was disgusting. I also cleaned out and washed down the fridge. We had jars of things that expired in 2008. We had things I did not even recognize. We had a drawer we have never used, and that I didn't even realize was there. I have no idea how we go from day to day, and don't even notice how bad it gets.

Does this happen to other people? do other people clean more than we do?

Friday, November 19, 2010

harry potter

I am going to see the next installment of Harry Potter tonight, and I am as excited as a little kid. seriously. I spent some of my week re-reading the last book in the series in preparation. I adore Harry Potter for the same reasons that I loved Lord of the Rings. A fully realized world. A serious struggle between good and evil. The temptations and pitfalls of power. Choices have consequence, for good or ill. Likable characters. People are often not all good or all bad, but the usual mix of the two.

There is a lot more to this than a simple story to entertain children. And I absolutely love it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

this old house

We live in an old house, built in 1920. It is charming and really comfortable. It is also plagued with all the problems that old houses have. We have years and years of accumulated bad repairs, odd design choices, deferred maintenance to deal with. We have wheezy radiators, leaky windows, uneven floors. Now we have mice -- because it is impossible to keep them out of older construction. They have taken up residence in between the 2nd and 3rd floors, in our bedroom ceiling. Today the exterminator came, and hopefully that will take care of the problem.

I adore our house. I feel like it's HOME. It is exactly what I always hoped I'd have. But on days like today, I dream of a high-rise condo in a thoroughly modern building. No charm. But no mice either!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

no great thoughts today

I have no great thoughts today, so I'm just going to post a wonderful recipe for chicken pot pie. In the long run, chicken pot pie is much more useful.

Chicken Pot Pie (serves 3-4)

2-3 cups of shredded, cooked chicken
large can mixed veggies with potato
8 0z sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 heaping teaspoons better than bouillon chicken flavor (you can use chicken stock instead of water in next step if you don't have this)
1 cup water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
tbsp butter
2 tbsp sherry
ready made pie crust

preheat oven to 350
in a large saute pan, melt butter
add mushrooms, saute 4-5 minutes
add sherry, cook 1 minute
add veggies, herbes de provence
add chicken

in a mixing cup or bowl, add water (or stock) to cornstarch and stir.

add cornstarch mixture to saute pan. cook until thickened (2 minutes or so).

ladle mixture into small ramekins or small bread pans (i used disposable mini loaf pans), or in 1 large deep dish baking dish

cover pans with ready-made pie crust (you may have to cut to fit, reroll, etc). Make vent in pie crust. put pans on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

sometimes the words don't work

I am writing a paper, and it just isn't working. Sometimes the words don't flow. Sometimes things just don't gel. Ideas don't rise to the surface. Leaden prose. Muddy thinking. Just a big fruitless struggle. Hopefully things will click before I have to turn it in on Thursday. I hate to turn in something that is just not what I wanted to do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

connecting the dots

One of the great benefits to going back to school has been something I think of as synchronicity. What it really is is a sense of connecting the dots. Things just seem to connect and relate more. I went to see Frankenstein, which connects to a course I took on Evil in Literature, and somehow relates to The Hastings Report and medical ethics, which somehow ties to conflict of interest and disclosure at the office, which somehow connects to the elections, which somehow connects to Anna Karenina and the elections in the book, and one of the paper topics for that book connects to The Scarlet Letter, which my son had to read this summer, and to a class I took on justice, and so on and so on.

It keeps me thinking, and it keeps me seeing things in new ways.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

science and ethics and frankenstein

We went to see my son's friend act in a high school production of Frankenstein today. The play stayed very close to Mary Shelley's book. It was an odd choice for a school play -- it's not a happy or upbeat story. It's got a lot of very long monologues. Much of the action occurs off-stage.

The best part, other than seeing our friends and their kids, was really the drive home. The play led to a really interesting discussion between me and the boy about science and ethics. It turns out that he has very definitive opinions about some recent advances, like cloning. We had a lot of real give and take, and real argument. It was a conversation between equals, and it made my day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friends Thanksgiving

We went to Friends' Thanksgiving today. This used to be an annual tradition among our friends, dating back to our college days, a last chance to get together before we all went home to our families for the holidays. Today reminded me why we used to do this. It is so good to spend the "holiday" with friends old and new. We didn't talk about anything, but we somehow talked about everything. We laughed our asses off. Ate too much, drank too much. But most of all, basked in each others company. I felt stress just fall away in layers. Uncomplicated, easy, fun. I am so glad our friends decided to do this again this year. And I am hoping we decide to do it again next year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

simple pleasures

Sometimes the universe just shines. Today I went for a walk outside at lunch. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. It's 60 degrees. In November. The purple and gold pansies in the flowerbeds are all still in bloom. A stray black eyed Susan managed to blossom in the carefully manicured beds.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

cooking is akin to magic

Cooking is akin to magic to me. I take a handful of this and that, apply heat, and transformation occurs. I love that. I can take almost nothing, and turn it into a meal that we all enjoy. It's also like magic in another way -- take good food, and a group of nice people, and alchemy occurs. There is conversation, warmth, love. I think that's why I like cooking for other people more than I like cooking for just myself. I still enjoy the cooking when it's just me, but the pleasure is just so much greater when there is a nurturing aspect to it. When I convey to others my love and care, through the medium of food, I feel fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a milestone of sorts

I just shared a milestone with our son, one I hadn't anticipated. We just wrote his resume. He's in 11th grade, so I really really didn't see this one coming. Who the hell has a resume in 11th grade? apparently everyone. I actually found several templates online to choose from, all for high school students.

When I was in high school, you filled out a form to apply for a job. Resumes were for professionals, not teenagers. What would we put on a resume? that we occasionally did baby-sitting or mowed a lawn?

this resume had sections for education, for experience, for honors, for volunteer work, extracurriculars, skills, etc. He is applying for an internship at the ACLU, to complement his other internship at Catholic Charities. That way he will have 5 afternoons a week in internship.

It will be a wonderful experience, and I really hope it comes through. But I felt like I had turned it one of "those" parents, the ones that over-schedule and lesson their kids to death. It feels wrong for a 16 year old kid to need a resume, or have one. Isn't he still a kid? Isn't he??

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I was thinking last night, as I cooked dinner for my family, that I am more traditional than I would suppose. I've never really thought of myself that way. I don't wear makeup (except on special occasions or as part of a costume). I would rather wear jeans and a flannel shirt than a dress any day. I don't get manicures. I loathe the mall. I hate to clean. I say what I want. I have a successful career, but not as successful as I might have had if I weren't a wife and mother. I am not saying that in a negative way -- since I value the wife and mother aspect of my life much much more than work. But, when I think of what sustains me, what brings me joy and pleasure, work is very low on the list. Really, in my mind, I define myself by my "traditional" roles. I love my relationship with my husband; it lifts me and sustains me and brings me abiding love and pleasure. Seriously. Being a mother is one of the best things I have done, or will ever do. I have learned so much about myself, and about others, in the raising of our son. It forces you to see the world in other terms, with other eyes, every single day. And I really think this is a gift, and a constant joy. It is also one of the hardest things I have ever done, and this challenge has been good for me as well. Being a friend enriches my life on a daily basis; I can't imagine what life must be like without all these wonderful people in it. They are my chosen family and without them I would be bereft.Work gives me satisfaction, it makes me feel useful and productive, it challenges and interests me, but it rarely gives me joy.

So really, when I look deep into my heart, I find that my husband, my son, my friends are really the core of my life. That's pretty damn traditional.

Monday, November 08, 2010


It seems that every day I am reading about "values". The tea party wants us to return to "American values", but seem to be arguing for a return to 1950s America. Teenagers are often deemed to have no values. Liberals are also often said to lack values. Atheists lack values. Muslims lack values. On the face of it, apparently much of the world is lacking in a basic something, as defined by the press, and large segments of the American population.

Maybe we should start over and start teaching values. Kindness. Charity. Honesty. Let's keep the list short for now. If we focus on just those three, surely we can accomplish something. How would this work? Many people learn by example. So modeling the behavior might teach a segment of the people lacking in values. Others learn by doing, so they should attempt to practice these values as well. Some people learn by rote, so we should talk about these things, over and over, until those folks also get it. We can teach the youngest children, in simple terms, what it means to be kind, to be charitable, to be honest.

What about when people ignore these values, or act in opposition to them? how would we deal with that? It seems to me that we would need to show societal and personal disapproval for the behavior, in a kind, charitable and honest way. I guess that means that we wouldn't prefer to do business with these folks, or hang out with them personally. We might want to not give them too much attention when they are being unkind, uncharitable or dishonest.

Let's give it a try.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

group identification, not

I am reading Anna Karenina for class. We had a discussion the other night in class that is still bugging me. I don't like Anna. I like the book very much, but not the title character. I find her selfish, clueless and occasionally manipulative and evil. I was taken to task by a classmate for not being more understanding and for judging another woman so harshly. In essence, I should have more slack for other women, since we are oppressed together.

my problem is that a) I don't identify as an oppressed woman (and yes, I realize many women are treated unfairly and unequally, I just don't define myself that way) and b) the attitude implies that I should have more sympathy for injustices done to members of groups I belong to. To me this is a scary place to be, ethically. I oppose injustice. Unilaterally. By the argument made in class, I should have less sympathy for gay men and women, because they aren't my oppressed minority, and more for women, because they are. Makes no sense to me.

And even if I give Anna my sympathy, my pity and my understanding, which I do, it doesn't mean I have to like her. And I don't have to respect her actions, no matter how human they are. Yes, it is human nature to tear down the spurned ex, to make yourself feel better about your new choice. Doesn't make it an attractive behavior, or an admirable one. Deception and manipulation in order to see your lover, for whom you have an uncontrollable passion, is still deception and manipulation.

The argument also supposes that all women are the same, as if we were interchangeable blocks. I prefer to treat each case individually. There are women I admire immensely. There are women I like immensely. I don't see how I can like them all.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

a larger world

My world is so much larger than it was a few years ago. Through school, I have met a number of wonderful people, and have made some lifelong friends. Through neighborhood events and get togethers, we have added so many terrific folks to our lives. Over time, friends have moved away, and in keeping in touch, we have expanded the daily geography of our lives. I know what's going on in Kent, Ohio, in New Hampshire, in San Francisco. I care more about what's happening outside our borders, with friends in Germany, in Saudi Arabia, in Slovakia, in England.

The larger my world gets, the closer it all feels. And that's a good thing.

Friday, November 05, 2010

parental oddities

The other day there was an slight hiccup at our son's school. A boy hit a girl in front of my son; our son hit him back to defend the girl. And I was proud of him. I don't understand that reaction in myself. I oppose violence except in self-defense. I really truly do. But when our kid told me that he "couldn't stand by and let the guy hit a woman", I felt...proud...really proud. I told him that I was proud of the sentiment, but that he could have handled it a different way. Maybe stand between the two, or pull the guy away. But really, at heart, I was glad he socked the kid. What values did I absorb over the years that makes this so?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

empathy for those you dislike

I am trying, trying to find it in my heart to have empathy, sympathy for those I dislike. I'm not getting very far. I can get as far as assuming they aren't acting out of malice, but ignorance or from some well of personal pain. But I just can't get any farther. In the days after the election, I struggle the most. I just do not like Boehner, or most of the leading Republicans. I feel that they are going to hurt a lot of people by their policies, and actions/inactions. Repealing healthcare reform would be catastrophic for many individuals and families and will really benefit no one but corporate interests. I worry that smaller government will translate to disenfranchising the old, the disabled, the poor.

I will continue to try. Maybe I can work up to feeling pity for their misguided lives.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

a message to the Tea Party

Dear newly elected Tea Party folks:

If you really believe in reducing the debt consider ending the wars and bringing the troops home. We really don't need to buy so many aircraft, bombs, bullets, ships, missiles, you name it. And we really don't need to be paying Congressmen so much -- consider returning your paychecks to help reduce the deficit.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


All my promises are coming home to roost. I promised our son that we would buy him half a car, if he bought the other half. It's now parked out front. I promised him that we would take him to europe before he left for college. He's a high school junior. The tickets have been purchased, and reservations are made. I promised the universe that if he didn't go blind, and if he didn't die from ALD (which it turns out he didn't have, luckily), I would make sure to show him the world. He is going to Costa Rica in June.

I promised him that we would find a way to pay for college. I work at JHU, so we have a tuition grant for his schooling. I promised myself that he would be fairly self-sufficient before he leaves home. I still have some things to teach him before he leaves, and I am running out of time. Can he sew on a button? iron? change a tire? write a check? mop a floor?

I promised myself that he would know we love him. I think he does.

Monday, November 01, 2010

things are about to amp up

Having just finished the busiest month I can remember in ages, both at work and at home, we begin the "holiday season". We have Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon. And it is clear, at least to me, that even lots of fun social activities are tiring. Work is extremely busy, so I find I am working more than usual. School will just get busier until it ends in mid December.

I am already tired. I need to find a way to re-charge, and re-energize. I'm going to start up with yoga again this weekend, and have added meditation to my routine. I have been walking at lunch whenever I can. Maybe that will do it. I suspect though, that what I need is a long break, and a lot of sleep.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

one good day

One good day can erase an entire week of stress and strain. I don't know how it works, but I do know that it does. Yesterday was perfect. Really. A beautiful day, with brilliant blue sky, perfect temperature. I had some morning time with my beloved husband, and then we went with friends to the American Visionary Museum for an exhibit "What makes us smile?". We laughed a lot, were amazed, impressed and amused. Can't ask for more from an art exhibit. We went upstairs and had a lovely brunch out on a terrace. Great food, even better company, and more talk and laughter. If we had gone home, and done nothing else all day, it would have been a great day.

Instead, we went to an MLA happy hour. Great conversation, good beer, good people. I could feel the stress just falling away. If we had just done this, and done nothing else all day, it would have been a great day.

We went home, I made dinner, and we watched a dumb movie together. And that was good too.

The whole day was full of laughter and love. A day like that goes a long way. It makes the hard days, the days full of work and struggle, all worth it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

taking another step on the path

I have been on a path for several years, a sort of personal journey, to try and be a better person. I have focused on being grateful for what comes my way, on being charitable, on being kinder. I have tried to stifle the judgmental part of me, and be understanding of the behavior of others. I feel like I have made incremental progress, inching toward where I want to be.

This weekend, I took another step on the path. I've decided to commit to being a practicing Buddhist. I just don't feel like I can go much farther without leaning on the wisdom of others, and without a framework outside my own head. I accept the Four Noble Truths, will attempt to follow the 5 precepts, and will work on the eightfold path.

There -- I said it. It seems odd declaring publicly something that I think I've been doing privately for several years. And it smacks slightly of "religion" -- that thing I have avoided for decades. I don't think it really is a religion, not in the way most folks mean the term. It is a spiritual practice, and a spiritual example, but it does not involve worship, or an omnipotent deity, which would be deal-breakers for me. It doesn't even involve "faith" -- which is another word I avoid. Understanding, acceptance, patience, virtue, persistence, reverence, I can handle.

It's a little weird for me, and maybe even a little frightening. I have to give up some of my stubborn trust in my own self and my own way. I have to give up a measure of control, and that is so not my best thing. I have to accept help and guidance, also not my best thing. We'll see where this takes me.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

freedom of speech

I've been thinking a lot about freedom of speech lately. I think we have strayed a great deal from the original intent of this right. The freedom to dissent, to speak out against the government, to freely express political ideas is an amazing gift, one that protects and strengthens our democracy. It does not seem to me that freedom of speech extends to saying anything you want to anyone at any time, without consequence.

The Westboro Baptist Church has a right to say whatever vile thing they want about the war and it's causes. They have a right to do this in public. This doesn't mean they have the right to disrupt a private funeral with their protest. They can picket a courthouse, or the state house, or Congress. They can picket in front of the White House. They can hold a march or a rally to get their point across. No one is stopping them. They can't attend your wedding, or your birthday party, or grandma and grandpa's retirement party. They can't picket a serviceman's funeral, just because he died in service. That is insufficient to make it public property or a public event.

Saying they cannot protest at a funeral does not impinge on their freedom of speech. They are free to protest 364 other days of the year, or to picket 365 days in a different public location. They can talk to the press, get on the tv news, whatever. THeir message will unfortunately be heard. No one is stopping them. Just telling them they don't get to harm anyone else while exercising their right to free speech.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

slowing it down

People who know me, know I love change. So what I am feeling now is new, and oddly unsettling. I am actually hoping, wishing, that things would slow down, and not change so fast. Our son is growing so rapidly, and maturing at a pace that scares me. I can see him getting ready to be on his own, and I am not ready yet. I am taking my last class for school, and I just finished my forms for graduation in May. I really don't want it to be over. I see us aging, and I'm not ready for that yet either.

The biggest thing is that I am happy, really and truly happy. And I don't want that to change. I'd like to gather up everything and hold it, just as it is, for a long long time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

back on the wagon

It's September, and that means it's time. I am back on the wagon again. Nope, not that wagon. The diet and exercise wagon. I am back to eating healthy and eating less. Low fat, low bad carbs. I am walking 45 minutes at lunch, with some of my co-workers, trying for 5 days a week. I am trying to walk on the weekends as well.

My typical meals:

breakfast -- steel cut oats made with fruit, six raw almonds on top
lunch - mini whole wheat bagel with smart balance peanut butter, an apple, a bonbel lite 1 oz cheese wheel, water
dinner - stir fry, brown rice
snack - slice of home made whole wheat/spelt apple zucchini bread (tastes better than it sounds)
I try to have another 16 oz of water during the day, 2 cups of black tea, 1 cup of green decaf tea, and a multivitamin

Trying to avoid regular white pasta, white rice, white bread, french fries, pizza, sugar

it's not awful, but I wake up starving every morning. I have lost 5 pounds so far. we'll see if I can keep it up long enough to make my goal, which would be to keep this up, both exercise and diet until thanksgiving. I also hope to lose another 12 pounds.

Of course, I say the same thing, and do the same thing every September.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Read the first amendment, please

...stepping on soapbox now...

The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1791. It guarantees freedom of religion. It GUARANTEES the freedom of religion. Got it? I hope so. This means we have NO NATIONAL RELIGION. We don't. We are not a CHRISTIAN NATION. We are a nation where everyone is free to worship in their own way, or in no way at all. This is part of our birthright as Americans. I can be a Muslim, and a true, patriotic American. I can be an Atheist, and be a true, patriotic American. I can be a Baptist, a Mormon, a Buddhist, and be a true, patriotic American.

My fellow Americans are supposed to respect that freedom. They are not supposed to cast aspersions on my patriotism because I worship in a different way. They are supposed to fight for my right to worship in my own way, and I am supposed to fight to see that their rights are equally respected.

This means that even if I disagree with your beliefs, even if I think you are a fucking moron, I acknowledge, respect, affirm your right to go to hell in a handbasket in your own unique way. I defend your right to believe what you want.

My rights end where my fist meets your nose, or where yours meets mine. I can believe whatever I want, I can worship how I want. You can believe what you want, you can worship how you want. You cannot do me harm through that worship, and I can't do you harm with mine. You can believe I am evil, you can pray for my eternal damnation, but you can't set fire to my church, you can't burn a cross on my lawn. You can't break the laws that protect us all, as part of worship. One freedom does not cancel out another.

I believe this extends to hateful acts. I think that burning religious texts of other faiths, when done publicly, is a hate crime. You want to burn a Quran in your fireplace. Go ahead, no one is watching you. If your faith demands it, go ahead. But make a big public bonfire, and toss the Quran into it, and you are committing a hate crime, punishable by law.

This is as it should be. Because the first amendment implies that we must embrace and accept religious diversity as part of our being American citizens.

---- stepping off soapbox now -----

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

what am I going to be when I grow up more?

I am way too old for "what am I going to be when I grow up". I am now starting to turn my thoughts to what am I going to be farther down the road. I am retiring from my current job in 7 years. I will be 55 and eligible for retirement. I definitely want to take it, but at 55, I will be far too young to stop working.

So what's phase II? I don't think I want to stay in IT beyond that point. I have found it interesting, frustrating, challenging and boring, depending on the task and the day. It has been a good living, and I am thankful that I lucked into the field. It has afforded us a pretty nice life. But I have been doing it for more than 20 years, and that's plenty.

I am thinking community college administration, or some sort of administration of distance education programs. Maybe. Or Consulting. Business process re-design, maybe. I have 7 years to get the necessary credentials/education to do something different. So I don't have to rush to decide, but I do need to start thinking it that direction.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

a walk in the woods

The weather cooperated this weekend, and I got to spend some time in the outdoors. It makes such an immense difference to my mood. It really and truly restores my spirit. I feel in harmony with the world when I walk in the woods. The scent of damp earth, the crackle of leaves below my feet, the crunch of stone paths, the incredible green green smell of growing things. It wells up and fills every rough edge, every disjointed spot in my soul.

Sometimes I think the basic thing wrong with the world is that we are too removed from this. Simple things like wind on your skin, sun on your back, bird song filling your ears. We need it at a basic level, to remind us of who and what we are, and of our place in things. Spend too much time removed from it, and I think we forget. We start to see ourselves as bigger, stronger, smarter than we are, and then we start thinking off-shore drilling is no big thing, another skyscraper is just what we need, and we can master wind, water, earth.

We need to see ourselves as part of the natural world, not opposed to it or over it. The best way to do that is to just get out in it. GO OUTSIDE and play. It's good for you.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

reunion thoughts

I went to my 30th high school reunion last night. It's the first one I have been to. I haven't stayed in touch with more than one or two people, so it was an interesting experience.

I went to a very large suburban high school in a fairly wealthy area. My graduation class was over 700 people. It was filled with cliques, and I didn't really fit in anywhere.

I didn't have a good time in high school. I felt very different, an outside trying desperately to be an insider. I had a job from the time I was 15, and that left very little time for typical high school activities like clubs, sports or socializing. I dated very little, and usually only a few dates with any one person.

Wanting to fit in, I tried to hide large parts of my self. I pretended I was dumb, as much as possible. I even shaved points off my own test scores, getting a few wrong on purpose, so I wouldn't get 100s. I don't think anyone knew I was addicted to reading, and read just about everything I could get my hands on. I definitely hid my love of sci-fi/fantasy/comic books.

I desperately wanted to be blond, wear the right clothes, have the right boyfriend, go to parties and be cool.

Last night was fun. I got to see what 30 years does to change some things. And how some things don't change at all. I watched the cool girls, who pretended I didn't exist back then, still look right through me. 30 years ago, I found that crushing. Now I was kind of amused. Some of these women seemed so sad, so pathetic. I saw how some people blossomed, and some withered. The surprise successes and the equally shocking failures. Some folks hadn't seemed to grow or develop at all. In 30 years.

There were people I couldn't recognize at all, even though I knew them. And the same was true in reverse. There were people who remembered me, that I could not recall; and people I knew, who didn't remember. Some folks really did not age well at all; others looked better than they had in high school. It was like some vast science experiment -- we applied 30 years to this group, and here is what happened. Fun to observe, at least in the abstract.

I had been dreading going, really regretting that I had decided I needed to go. But I really did enjoy it. I loved the feeling that I was free. High school really is over and done with. The yardstick I used then measured all the wrong things and I could finally toss it out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

politics and the prosaic

It really is beginning to bug me how the GOP is holding up all progress in Congress, and how spineless some of the Dems are in standing up to them. The idea that we can water down a bill, add concession after concession, and then it still doesn't pass. ARRRGGGHHHH. We need real change, and I am beginning to think it means a total overhaul of the rules. How do we get corporate money and the corporate agenda OUT of our politics? After 8 years of letting big money control our country, our economy is in the toilet, our world standing is in the gutter and we are barely speaking to each other. Clearly, the past attempts at letting corporations self-police, and doing whatever big business needs done, DID NOT WORK. How about we try something different?

When I can't control anything else, I retreat to my kitchen. So today's little recipe is for a very healthy tuna salad.

Tuna with White Bean Salad

3 cans of tuna packed in water, drained
1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 tbsp of italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp of red onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of newmans lemon/olive oil dressing
black pepper to taste

mix well, serve on lettuce, or make sandwiches.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Today, I turned 48. I thought it might depress me, but it didn't. It did make me think, though. what have I done, what haven't I done? I have very few regrets. And most of those center on times when I did things I knew were wrong, or when I didn't do things that were hard.

I still have lots of things on my bucket list: travel lots more, learn to ride a horse, get scuba certified, finish my master's degree, write a book, take voice lessons (not so I can sing well, but so I can sing AT ALL), drive across the country, visit all the national parks, hold a grandchild

and I have goals, mostly around shape: get in shape, get my finances in shape, get my house in shape

I know myself better now than I did even 5 years ago. I am comfortable with who I am, and how I am. I am more confident. I can ask for help occasionally. I can say NO and mean it. I can let people take care of themselves. I don't have to run everything.

To me, this is my best age -- the age of contentment.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Today our son is 16 years old. I find this remarkable for lots and lots of different reasons. It seems impossible that I am 16 years older. It seems impossible that the little baby boy I brought home from the hospital could possibly have morphed into this lanky young man. How could he have changed so much in such a little bit of time?

All I know is that I have gotten so much more out of the whole parent thing than I ever expected that I could. I am madly in love with my husband, so I thought I understood this "love" thing. I didn't know there was a very different kind of love, and that I could feel it so strongly. I didn't know that I had so much to learn. I didn't know there were so many experiences that I had missed.

I knew kids changed your life. I just didn't know how much. And I didn't know how wonderful the whole journey would be.

Today, I am grateful. And I thank our boy for 16 amazing, incredible years of joy.

Monday, July 05, 2010

so much more

This weekend was a much needed break for me. I did a lot of puttering, spent time with family, got together with friends, ate, drank, read a lot. I got some rest. And as a result, I got a nice attitude adjustment.

Life is so much more than I ever expected, so much richer, and fuller than I ever thought it would be. I have exceeded all but my wildest childhood dreams. How many people can say that?

Monday, June 28, 2010

obsessing about the new

I am going through another wave of obsessing about the new. For those who don't know me well, this is a period where I start wanting a new job, or a new house or a new car or a new career goal. Every few years I go through this. Sometimes it leads to a new house or a new job or a new car. I really can't do any of those things right now, and I know it.

I want to stay at my current job, so that we can pay for college for our son. I want to stay in the house I am in because really, I love it, and the neighborhood it's in. I would love a new car, but I really don't need a car payment.

At the same time, while I KNOW all this to be true, I am obsessively looking at ads for mountain cabins, visiting car websites and reading reviews, looking at want ads, and position vacancies. Because knowing I can't or more truthfully, shouldn't, doesn't mean that I want to shake things up any less. In fact, it makes it worse.

It really isn't about "new" and it isn't about dissatisfaction. It's about choices making other choices unavailable. It's about that innate thing I have that makes me push back when pushed. That makes me say NO, even when I want to say YES, just because I am being pushed to say YES. It's a universal "you're not the boss of me". You can't make me, even if it's "you can't make me" do what I want to do. Senseless, but there it is.

Just because you understand what makes you do what you do, just because you recognize your own patterns, or can see your own flaws, doesn't mean you can change them.

Saturday, June 19, 2010



just a really satisfying summer meal/sandwich.

thin sliced smoked ham (3 slices per sub)
roast pork loin (great way to use leftover roast pork, 3 thin slices per sub)
bread and butter sandwich slice pickles (2-3 per sub)
jarlsberg or other good swiss cheese, sliced (1.5 slices per sub)
dijon mustard
sub rolls (1 per serving)


split the sub rolls and spread open
butter one side and spread dijon mustard on the other
starting from the mustard side, place 3 slices of ham, then 1 1/2 slices of swiss, then bread and butter pickles, then 3 thin slices of roast pork. close up the sandwich. (and yes, the order really does matter, but I don't know why)

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat,

add 1-2 tsp of butter
place the subs in the pan
Place a very heavy pan on top of the subs (or a tinfoil wrapped brick or two -- poor man's panini press)
cook 2-3 minutes per side, or until crisp and brown and the cheese has melted

you can also use a pannini press instead (it's easier, but not nearly as interesting as coming up with your own weights)

serve with sweet potato fries, vinegar-based slaw or black beans and rice with sauteed greens

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I really try to accept myself as I am. I really do. I have resisted the stray urges to enhance, fix, fake, color, reduce. But I am struggling mightily in the last few weeks. I have... a potbelly. I have been fatter than I am now. I have been more out of shape. And through all of those phases, I have never, EVER, had a belly. And now I do. A noticeable, round, tummy bulge.

I suspect age and genetics rearing their ugly heads in this. Instead of gaining weight in my ass, or my thighs, the places I have always gracefully carried my extra poundage, I am watching this round little tummy thing happening. And I hate it. I find it embarrassing, disturbing, as if my body is publicly betraying me. And I am not sure how to counter it. I have relatives who have taken on this shape, at about my age. What if this is just what my body is programmed to do.

I think I am about to become addicted to situps and crunches. Maybe that will help. But what if it doesn't? What if I end up a barrel-shaped Italian peasant woman? what then?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

farmer's market breakfast

This time of year is wonderful, if you like to cook. There are just so many wonderful fruits and vegetables available. This morning's breakfast comes courtesy of the farmer's market.


fresh apricots

multigrain ciabatta
low fat whipped cream cheese
yellow squash
1 egg + 1 egg white
olive oil
pinch of rosemary

cut fresh apricots into quarters and set aside

split the ciabatta and spread one side with whipped cream cheese

heat tbsp of olive oil in pan
add thin sliced zucchini and yellow squash (less than 1/2 cup total)
add very thin sliced onion
saute until soft
add pinch of rosemary, salt and pepper
beat egg and egg white together, then add to pan
cook (scramble or omelet, makes no difference) just until egg sets
place on roll, serve with apricots on the side

Thursday, June 10, 2010

why I hate BP

I try not to waste time or effort in hating anything or anyone. But I feel an uncharacteristic emotion when I watch footage of the Gulf Oil Spill -- hate. Absolute venom for those responsible for what I can only view as a desecration. I don't use the word lightly. I am an unbeliever, an atheist, for lack of a better word. I don't believe in God. I don't believe in worship or prayer. But I do love the earth and all it's myriad living things, in a deeply profoundly spiritual way. The Earth is my religion.

And BP has done an unspeakable thing to my planet. It may be 40 years, 50 years, before the Gulf can recover, if it can recover. Rationally I know this is not just BP's fault. It is the fault of regulators, of employees, of management, of our own insatiable desire for cheap and plentiful gasoline. I know that. Really. But I don't FEEL it.

What I feel is rage. I actually understood the guy who urged everyone to go pee on BP gas stations. I think it's petty, but I understood. I want BP to pay, to suffer, like my beautiful and beloved Gulf is suffering. I want them bankrupt, the CEO fired, criminal charges filed. I really do.

This isn't the kind of person I want to be. And these are not the emotions I want to feel. I just can't seem to summon up kindness, or empathy or understanding right now. Maybe in a few months. But not now.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

a perfect meal

I have cooked a lot of meals. Once in a while, I feel like I have gotten it as good as it's going to get. Tonight was one of those.

The menu: vidalia onion tart, oven roasted asparagus, sliced tomatoes from the farmer's market.


1 pound fresh asparagus, bottom inch of spears removed
tbsp olive oil

4 large vidalia onions
tbsp olive oil
4-6 oz of gruyere cheese
1 pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
1/2 tsp of rosemary

2-3 fresh tomatoes, cut into wedges, sprinkled with salt and pepper

in an ovenproof pan, place asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast 30-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven (longer if you like more tender)

while the asparagus is roasting, saute 4 large vidalia onions in a tbsp of olive oil. Cook the onions until soft, but not browned. Add a pinch of rosemary, salt and pepper and cook another minute

grate 4-6oz of gruyere cheese
place a pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on a cookie sheet. sprinkle a third of the cheese on the crust, keeping about 1/2 inch of outer edge of crust cheese free.
top with the sauteed onions.
top with remaining cheese.
fold the outer edges of the crust up and over,pinching lightly to hold in place, to make a rustic tart
Bake for 30-45 minutes until crust is lightly browned.

serve with asparagus, sliced fresh tomatoes.

Monday, June 07, 2010

time slips into the future

This week has been a reminder of the steady passage of time. I have a reunion looming -- my 30th high school reunion is in July. Our son is finishing 10th grade, a school year that went by in the blink of an eye. I registered him for driver's ed classes. A dear friend's mom passed away. Co-workers left for other jobs. I registered myself for my last graduate class in the Fall.

Time slips by so quickly. I see flickers of my own mortality in that realization. Contrary to the avowals of my younger self, I really am going to go someday.While I hope that someday is very far in the future, I cannot deny that there is an end to all things. What will people say about my life? Will I look back with regret, or satisfaction? Will my being here have mattered in any real fashion?

I wonder.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

time for an old idea

It's time for an old idea to gain traction again. It's time we considered shunning, or social exile, as a way of expressing our extreme disapproval with a person's behavior. A person sells drugs on your corner? Shun him. His family, his friends, his neighbors, should all refuse to have anything to do with him until he mends his ways. We could clean up our neighborhoods pretty quickly. Everyone wants approval from someone -- from a friend, from a mom or grandmom, from a neighbor. What happens when they don't get it? What happens when you are excluded from everything? When people around you won't look at you, won't say hello, ignore you like you aren't even there?

I'm not expecting shame from the perpetrators. I think many are incapable of feeling it or acting on it. I do expect that even a hardened criminal can't live without social contact, without anyone at all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

hope in the singular

I love people. I really do. But individually, not groups. I have little faith in groups of people -- I distrust Congress, companies, crowds, the majority, the congregation. So many seem to abandon themselves to the collective will, and in so doing, lose their individual values. Groups seem capable of actions that a person would never contemplate. Lynchings, torture, genocide, war; all actions of the group.

But where I distrust the hordes, people, in the singular, are my hope for the future.

A single person can turn the tide of history. A single act of kindness can change someone's life. I hold onto these truths, and use them as my touchstone in difficult times. Always and everywhere, there are good people. Single voices raised against the darkness. Our future, our hope.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the oil spill as object lesson

The recent oil spill in the Gulf is an object lesson -- corporations exist in opposition to public welfare. The problem is that the corporation is like a virus; it's sole purpose is to grow and survive. Corporations cannot consider ethics, or public well-being, just CAN'T, unless this can be seen to be beneficial to growth and or profit. This is not because the corporation is blind, or callous, but because legally it exists to benefit its shareholders, and only its shareholders. Spending corporate profits to install protective devices to safeguard wetlands is a poor corporate decision, but a good decision from a human standpoint. The cost of the clean-up may change the corporate cost/benefit analysis, but probably not.

Private companies can make choices that benefit the community, or the planet, because the owners can decide to reduce profits, or slow growth, if they choose. They can operate ethically, be loyal to employees or customers, because they are controlled by the owners. This is not to say that all private companies are good, and all corporates are bad. There are corporations who feel their long term profits and growth are tied to being good citizens and stewards. And their are private companies that rival BP in their quest for profits above all else.

But companies can at least ask the right questions. The corporation can't even ask.

Monday, May 10, 2010

selective default?

I was watching TV the other night, and I saw a story on "selective defaulting". This is where you walk away from your mortgage because your house is worth less than you owe on it. This is different than foreclosure or defaulting, where you cannot make payments because your circumstances have changed. No, these people CAN pay, they just don't want to.

This bugs me. You borrowed the money. The bank agreed to lend it to you. You agreed to pay the loan back at so much money per month for the term of the loan. The bank does not promise you that you will make money on your investment. Some investments don't work out. You can look at my stock purchase of CISCO at the absolute peak of the internet bubble as an example. I bought stock for over $300 a share, because it was a "can't lose" proposition. Analysts rated it a "buy" when I bought it. It's worth about $40 a share now. That's how the universe works sometimes.

When you walk away from a debt that you have the means to pay, you are cheating the system, and to a lesser extent, you are cheating all of us. Because the money comes from somewhere. When you stick the bank with a worthless property, instead of paying your obligations, the bank has to charge more for services, or tighten up on foreclosures, or give fewer loans, or fail. When you signed those loan papers, you gave your word. You promised that you would pay off what you borrowed.

To be clear, I am not talking about people stuck in the nightmare of foreclosure or bankruptcy. If you can't pay, you can't pay. Shit happens. You aren't in control of all the circumstances of your life. People get sick. They lose jobs. They suffer runs of bad luck that eat at savings. The agreement with the bank says you will pay if you are able, and the bank will foreclose if you can't. In bankruptcy or foreclosure, both parties have held up their sides of the agreement.

This is different than the people who simply "walk away" from their responsibilities; the ones that have the means, have the ability to make payments but just don't want to. Be ethical, be responsible, and pay what you owe. Otherwise you are no better than the wall street thieves that helped cause the housing crisis, and almost destroyed our economy.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Largo's Airedale Spotlight

One of our facebook groups has picked Largo for it's spotlight airedale. Every dog owner gets the spotlight eventually, it was just our turn. I had to write his "story" for it, so I thought I'd post what I wrote here.

Largo is our first airedale. He is also our first dog. For years, we didn't get a dog because of my husband's allergies. And then we had a child, and thought he was too young for a dog. Then we moved to Baltimore City. Our nieghborhood has sidewalks, and trees, and big yards. And dogs. LOTs of dogs. Seems every neighbor had a dog. Before too long, my husband, who works at home, decided he "needed" a dog for company. Our son was older, and he too wanted a dog. And I had wanted one all along. So we started searching for a breed. We wanted something not too small, active, hypo-allergenic. We put all our searching into identifying the breed, not so much on a breeder.

We did absolutely everything wrong. I found an ad on-line, an airedale hobby breeder had puppies available. The price was right. So my husband and I drove out to West Virginia (way, way out) to a little farmette. And they had airedale pups. One little 'dale came running from the edge of the pond, and leapt on my husband. He was just so joyful. We named him Largo, after a character in a web comic called MegaTokyo, and fell in love. What we did not do was check into breeding records, get a health guarantee or a first check-up before buying our pup. We were too excited to drive him home.

Largo had lived in a barn with his brothers and sisters, but he had gotten house time, and family time.He had a pond to splash in, but hadn't learned to swim. He had also had some hunting "training" -- they shot shotguns over the pups heads so they would get used to the sound. This turned out to be perfect training for city life. Largo does not mind firecrackers, or gunshots.

We settled in right away. Largo was housebroken in two days. He hated going inside, he was so used to the "great outdoors" that he only likes going on grass. He tried to make friends with our cats, but they weren't overjoyed by his efforts. He was always trying to lick their faces. They were not amused.
We figured to have a long happy life together. He seemed a little low energy compared to what we had read, but that was okay. He was plenty energetic for us.

we took him for his first puppy checkup, and our bubble burst. Largo had a severe heart murmur. We got a referral to a cardiologist, and had a cardiac workup. Largo had a hole in his heart, a genetic defect called VSD. This means he wasn't getting enough oxygen in his blood. It wasn't fixable, but it wasn't fatal either. We would have to let Largo decide how much activity was enough. Oh yeah, and he shouldn't have anesthesia.

Which caused problem 2. Largo needed to be neutered. The vet decided the operation was so short, that Largo should be fine. His heart stopped almost immediately, and he needed an injection to jump start him. They were able to finish the neutering, but it would be his last operation. Period.

Since then,we have had a lot of vet visits. Largo is what happens when breeders don't really know what they are doing. He has hip dyplasia, first detected at six months. He has chronic eye infections, because his eyelids are too deep. He is night blind. He has had a wicked bout of pancreatitis. He has arthritis in his back and hips, despite being only 4 years old.

BUT. We would do it all again. All of it. Because whatever the breeder did wrong, she did something very right. Her dogs are bred for temperament, and it really really shows. Largo is charm personified. He is good with other dogs, with cats, with babies, toddlers, old folks. We take him to a lot of concerts, festivals, city events. He works the crowd like an old school politician. He poses for pictures, kisses the babies, shakes hands. He lets toddlers pull his ears, and stick their fingers in his nose. He doesn't mind the noise or the crowds. He loves it.

Despite his huge size (a 101 pounds as of this week), he is a perfect looking 'dale. He has literally stopped traffic. We have had cars stop on the street, roll down their windows, and ask what kind of dog he is. Or can they pull over and pet him. We still laugh about the woman who pulled her car over, parked, and asked if she could SMELL our dog. Seriously. She sniffed him, much to the embarassment of her teenaged son, who was sitting in the car. We had a group of Japanese tourists take their picture with him, each one posing with him individually. Somewhere in Japan, there are a lot of vacation albums with pictures of Largo.

He is joyful. He would rather play than anything. Even on days when he can barely walk, he will carry around a tennis ball, hoping he can con someone into throwing it for him. He is always up for a car ride, a walk, a splash in the river. He never did learn to swim. He does like to wade though. If his ball floats into deep water, he just tries to drink the whole lake to bring it back. He likes to chase rabbits and squirrels, even though he hasn't got a prayer of catching anything.

He can't jump, so has never been on the sofa, or on the bed. We have to pick him up to put him in the car. Our backyard only has a 3 ft fence, and that's plenty to keep Largo in bounds. He can get into the bathtub, but can't easily get out.

Largo hates to cuddle, won't sit on a lap, doesn't give kisses, but if he leans against you, or gives you a head-butt, you know you are loved. He will sometimes sleep with his head on our feet, and it makes you feel like you won something.

He is loyal, protective, stubborn, smart as can be. He is a perfect 'dale, and we wouldn't trade him for anything.

Monday, May 03, 2010

playing professional

I hate when how I feel, or what I think, runs contrary to how I am supposed to behave. This happens a lot at the office. I am a mid-level manager. I report to someone, and have two people who report to me. I attend a lot of meetings, where I have to be tactful, polite, look like I'm paying attention when I am not, I have to look like I respect everyone's opinion, even when I don't. This is part of being a "professional". From time to time, I have to wear clothes that make me uncomfortable. This is part of being a "professional". When something happens at work that I absolutely hate, I have to act like I don't mind, or that inside I am not really really pissed off. This is part of being "professional". I have to get along with everyone, even people I think are missing some brain cells, or who are truly horrible at their jobs. I am required to send polite, carefully worded emails instead of nice flaming balls of rancor. I don't get to say "no" -- I have to say, "I'm sorry, I really wish I could" or "I can't do that, but I can do this instead". Not "forget it", not "no way in hell". Of course I do realize that I could substitute the term "grown-up" for the term "professional".

Sunday, April 25, 2010

a creature of habit

I am a creature of habit. I go to bed at the same time, get up at the same time, read my newspaper every morning with breakfast. I have two cups of tea, no sugar, when I get to the office. I have a routine, and I am comfortable with it. This routine extends to my clothes.

Today I reluctantly parted with a sweatshirt. Nothing special, but I've had it for years. It was nearly worn through in places, with frayed cuffs, and a frayed neck. It turns out that it is irreplaceable. I know this because I just went online to buy the same sweatshirt. Same size, same manufacture, same color. And I couldn't. Because the company that made it, BVD, hasn't made sweatshirts in a decade. Let that sink in. That means I have been wearing that same ratty sweatshirt for 10 YEARS. I started thinking about it. I think I have pairs of shoes that I have had for even longer than that. I put on a pair of slacks for work the other day, and realized I bought them when my son was 4 years old. He's almost 16.

I am wearing my favorite jeans. I have tried for over a year to find the same pair online. And by same pair, I mean, the exact same pair. I comb ebay looking for them. I search other used clothing sites, because I don't want new jeans. I want THESE jeans. And they don't make them anymore.

In my adult life, I have had 7 jobs. I am in the 4th house we have owned in that time. And apparently I have made all those changes in the same socks. Go figure.

Monday, April 19, 2010

black bean soup


1 tbsp. olive oil
poblano pepper, fine diced
onion, fine diced
1 clove garlic, diced
2 slices bacon
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
vegetable broth
2 tsp chipotle hot sauce (can add more for extra spicy)

greek yogurt, diced green onion, lime wedges (optional toppings)

heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add diced pepper, onions and saute two minutes. Add garlic, saute another minute. Add bacon and cook another minute. Add cumin, chili powder, oregano and saute 1 minute. Add beans, enough broth to cover beans by 1 inch, and hot sauce to taste. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Remove bacon slices. Puree soup in pan with immersion blender. Simmer another 5 minutes to thicken.

serve topped with green onions, yogurt, squeeze of lime.

Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

what I learned on my spring vacation

Today is the last real day of spring vacation. Tomorrow we have to drive home (300 miles or so), pick up the dog, go grocery shopping and get ready for the week.

It's been a really great week. Very relaxed. We haven't done a whole lot of anything, by standard measures. We've had some great meals, watched some fun movies together, walked on the beach, napped, read, hung out, laughed a lot.

Even a week of very little activity can yield insights. A few from this week:

1) time spent with friends is precious -- we really need to carve out more time for this in our day to day lives

2) time spent with my sweetie is precious -- I really really need to find ways to make more time

3) time spent with my son is growing short. He really is on the brink of being a grown up. we've taken these group trips for granted in a way. Next year, we are skipping the beach so we can take a family trip to Rome. The year after that, I think we will be busy doing things for college. Time has flown, it really really has. It only occurred to me late in the week that this might really be his last trip with us this way.

4) never ever agree to check in with work every day. It wasn't worth it. My stress level rose every morning when I had to read and respond to my work email.

5) naps are a good thing. We all need more naps.

6) my problems are small. The ocean is big. [this will be the first chapter in my self-help book, should I write one]

7) I can't drink nearly as much beer as I used to

8) don't skip your vegetables

9) pay more attention to smells, and sounds. There is an infinite world for the senses.

10) good seafood sure makes you feel better

11) Laugh more

12) really good friends are people you can be loud with. And completely quiet with.

That's it for now. I'm going to have another cup of tea, and then walk on the beach.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

a little sunshine

A little sunshine can do a world of good. We've had epic snow, biblical rain, and now, SPRING. The daffodils have bloomed. The birds are singing. The sky is brilliant blue. We took the dog to Falls Rd and walked through the park. There were an amazing number of people there, but everyone was in a spectacular mood. The dogs were joyful. We walked in the woods, saw the new buds opening. Even the skunk cabbage was stunning, brilliant green against the mud. There is a smell -- a sort of damp earth warmed by the sun smell that is one of the greatest things on this planet. I got to feel the sun on my back, and I could almost feel the rays spread through my skin strengthening and healing my body from the winter.

It's a small thing, a walk in the sunshine, but it accomplishes so much.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

progress in fits and starts

I had a few New Year's goals. We're a few months into the year, so it's time to check in on how I'm doing.

I wanted to exercise more. I now power-walk for 20-30 minutes, 5 times a week. I do a yoga/balance/strength program on my WII at least 3 times a week, at least 20 minutes a session. Now, when I don't get walk, or my workout, I actually miss it. I feel a little more fit, a little stronger. On the down side, I haven't lost any weight. As a matter of fact, I have gained a few pounds. This is not unusual for me when I add exercise to my normal routine. Hopefully, I will start to see some weight loss in the next few weeks.

I wanted to spend less. I did great on this for a month or so. We got our income tax refund, and I "relaxed", which resulted in some extra spending. I am going to try to be really good for the next few weeks, up until our vacation, and then again when we get back.

I wanted to be more patient. This has been an epic fail. Work got busy, then stressful, then a little more stressful. We had a lot of bad weather, which limited my mobility. So I've been cranky, tired, stressed, and short-fused. I'm trying though. I really think the key for me is sleep. If I get a decent night's sleep, I have some reserves to draw on, and I'm easier to deal with. If I don't sleep, I just don't seem to have the energy to control my irritation.

So, progress, in fits and starts. And lots of year left to keep moving forward.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

a good time

Usually, I think of a good time as a transitory thing. Like, I went to the movies and had a good time. Or we went over to a friend's house and had a good time. But I mean it in a broader sense.

This is a good time in my life. I am comfortable with who I am, and how I am. I love where I live, have a good job, a happy marriage. Our son is a pleasure, and watching him grow is a joy. School has done what I hoped it would do for me, and I feel energized by my classes and classmates. I have good friends, and my circle is expanding. We have enough of everything.

This might sound like I am building up to a "but" -- I'm not. I'm just feeling reflective and full and content. And that's a good time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


You know how people say that they can't remember it ever snowing so much? Well, this time it's true. We have gotten 36 inches of snow since Friday. We have gotten more than 73 inches of snow this winter. This shatters the old record for a season's snowfall, by more than 10 inches.

By any yardstick, we have gotten a record snowfall. So what does it mean? For us, it means a change in schedules. Our son doesn't have to go to school. He has not had a full day of school since last Thursday. And he won't go back to school until next Tuesday. Monday is President's Day, so the schools were going to be closed for that anyway. I went to work briefly on Monday, but my office has actually been closed since Friday morning. My husband's schedule has been unchanged -- he telecommutes, so no snow days for him.

It means a change in mobility. I got stuck trying to get out of the neighborhood on Sunday, despite being in a large SUV with 4-wheel drive. Monday, I managed to get out, but the drive was so treacherous that it took 45 minutes to go 7 miles on local streets. I got the car back home and haven't moved it since. Right now, our street is again impassible. We haven't been plowed, and there is just too much snow to get out.

It means being more careful. I did get out and get groceries on Monday. But we do have to watch things like milk, because we don't know when we can get more. We can't run out for bread, or a missing ingredient for dinner. We have to eat from what we have on hand. We had to stock up on water, and batteries, in case of power outages.

It means being more thoughtful. Both in the sense of taking care of each other, and of neighbors, but also in the sense of thinking before doing. We can't forget gloves, or wear the wrong boots. We can't forget to wear a hat. We have to think carefully about where to walk, how far from home we can go. We have to think about where the dog can get to, and how to keep him from making a dent in his healing process.

It has its pluses. Time is different; less frenetic, less scheduled. We have spent more time with the neighbors than we usually can manage. There is a sense of us all being in it together. We can't spend tons of money, because there just aren't that many places open. We are getting plenty of exercise shoveling snow and walking through drifts. I'm caught up on my reading for class. I have some time to read for pleasure. I've tried a lot of new recipes. I sent in our taxes.

I still can't wait to get back to "normal". I like to be able to get out, even if I have no where I want to go. I just like knowing I have the choice.

Monday, February 08, 2010

community vs neighborhood

I have always lived in neighborhoods. Only when we moved to Baltimore, did I find a community. And only by living in one, have I begun to understand the difference.

This week, we got 26 inches of snow. Normally, a snowstorm of 5-6 inches completely paralyzes the city. We have yet to see a snowplow. But one neighbor used his snow blower to clear part of the road. And everyone pitched in to shovel enough of the road clear to make the street semi-passable. Our neighbor got stuck trying to get out, and we helped dig him out. I got stuck, and several neighbors pitched in to dig me out, to push my car; one even took over the wheel, since she had more experience getting unstuck than I did.

Another neighbor threw a pot luck dinner for the community. No one could get out and shop, or prepare, but we somehow all came together and came up with a buffet. We had a good time.

We shared tips on what local businesses had milk, or break or what restaurants were open.

We care about each other. We look out for each other. And that is what makes this a community, and not just a neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

repeating a cycle

I rarely blog about work, and this is only indirectly about work. Mostly it is about a recurring pattern in my life, and what that means.

When I took my current position, it was mostly to achieve a better work/life balance. I work at a university, and the standard work week in my grade is 37.5 hours a week. The job also came with stellar benefits, including tuition for me, and eventually, tuition for our son. This is invaluable, as I am not much of a saver, and I want college to be something that our son doesn't have to worry about.

So, I took a job that was not an upward move. It was actually a step or two backward. Something I could do during the day, get decently compensated for, and leave at the door when I went home.

But. Here's where the recurring pattern rears its ugly head. Whenever I take a job, it starts growing and growing and growing. I end up with major deadlines, big responsibilities, begin working more and more hours. I end up as a mission critical piece of the business. It gets harder to take time off, harder to juggle work and life. Every time.

I am no rocket scientist, but when a pattern recurs with regularity in your life, you have to start looking at yourself as the cause. Its like women who keep dating jerks. One jerk is an accident, two jerks is unfortunate, three jerks is YOU. So here I am, again in a bigger boat than I left shore with. Part of my pattern is to change jobs once I have turned my nice comfy job into a nightmare. I can't jump ship this time. I have that tuition grant coming up, and we need it for our kid. I like the other benefits. And the pattern will just repeat somewhere else, until I figure out why. Why do I do this every time? What need am I meeting? What is it about me that causes the pattern?

I sometimes feel like Boxer in Animal Farm. For every need, I just say "I will work harder" and add another task to my plate. And you know how he ended up, with a trip to the glue factory....

Friday, January 22, 2010

a welcome change

I went to a parent/teacher conference today at our son's school. Nothing wrong, just the normal annual conference. Each 10th grader got a half hour slot. I have been to many of these over the years, both the regularly scheduled kind, and the emergency "there's a problem" kind. For years, what I mostly heard was that our son was easily distracted, not focused, not motivated, inappropriate (current jargon for smartass), had huge disabilities/deficits.

So imagine how I felt today. The math teacher said our son is his best student. His social studies teacher raved about him, his passion for his subject, his intelligence. The science teacher likewise said he was doing a great job, was super bright, super gifted. His health teacher said he inspired discussion in the whole class, and was engaging and intelligent. He is doing A/A- work across the board. The head of the upper school thought he could fit in some college classes into his schedule for senior year, since he will have fulfilled his graduation requirements with room to spare.

They are talking about starting up an Amnesty International group, because of our son's interest. I mentioned his desire to be a lawyer, and they all nodded and thought it was a good fit. 5 years ago, no one would have thought it even within the realm of possibility for him. 5 years ago, his teachers were just hoping he'd graduate high school someday.

WOW. I have to say this is a welcome change.

Monday, January 18, 2010

tired of words

I am tired of words. Not language -- I will always love that, but words. I am tired of people who say what they think we want to hear, instead of what we should hear. I am tired of people who make their living saying hateful, evil things. I hate hearing language tortured and twisted so that people can avoid the responsibility for their own actions. Or so that they won't be sued.

Say what you mean, mean what you say. Is that so f*ng hard?? If you say you will do something, do it. If you say you won't, don't. A first grader knows this, how come our public figures do not? Words can hurt. A kindergartner knows this, so how come our pundits don't? Even tone can matter -- and my dog knows that.

Haiti did not deserve the earthquake, Obama did not "use" Haiti to give himself credibility with African Americans, the Ravens did not have a great season, voting for gay marriage is not one step away from legalizing sex with children, Pope Pius was not "misunderstood". Really.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

mankind is not the focus

In watching the pictures coming out of Haiti, I am more and more convinced of one central truth -- mankind is not the focus of the universe. The things that happen to us, around us, are not targeted at us. The people of Haiti did nothing to attract this disaster. No evil, no human act, could cause this level of devastation and suffering. This is not karma on a grand scale, and it is not the act of a vengeful god.

The universe does what it does. We can try to read meaning in it, try to see ourselves as the central figures in the drama, but it isn't about us. How we respond, how we live our lives in the face of a universe that is impersonal and complete, that is where we need to see our meaning, and our purpose.

We can matter to ourselves. We can matter to each other. And that's enough.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

for Ami

Last night, we chose to end Ami's suffering and ease her passing. We had a tear filled drive to the vet, during which Ami howled. Not because she knew what was coming, or because of her pain, but because she never could stand being in a moving car. Every time I stopped, so did she.

We took her to Falls Road vet. There, they put in a catheter so that the three needles could be administered with sticking her multiple times. They had me sign release forms, pay the bill in advance (so I wouldn't have to deal with it afterwards), and asked if I was sure, and if I wanted to stay for the procedure.

This is a hard thing, to be in the room, holding your pet while it dies. But I feel strongly that a pet should have someone they love with them, and not only strangers, no matter how caring. I told my son that he didn't have to stay, but he said he felt that since she was his cat, it was his responsibility. So he stayed.

They wrapped Ami in a blanket, and gave us a little time to say goodbye in private. We stroked her, talked with her, while I held her in my arms. We both cried, and we both laughed. Yes, laughed. We told each other Ami stories. The time she stole the muffin right out of my mouth, and I chased her around the table. The time our son put Ami in a pillow case, because the "cat's in the bag" and carried her around the house -- he was 4 so he wasn't being cruel, just little.

The vet came in, told us what would happen. And then very quietly and gently, Ami got 3 shots. And she died in our arms, slowly and gently, with lots of love around her.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

sometimes being the mom is hard

Sometimes, being the mom is hard. This is one of those times. I spent the morning at the vet, with our older cat Ami. About a month ago, her tail stopped functioning. At the time, the vet thought it was a tail pull. This morning, her back legs were all over the place, moving without control, unable to hold her up. It looks like whatever affected her tail has moved rapidly up her spine and is now affecting her legs. She is 11 years old. SO. We asked for a blood test, sort of like hail mary pass. Maybe it will turn up something unexpected and treatable, but it doesn't look good at this point.

Our son loves that cat. We got her when he was 4 years old, and he is now 15. She adores him as well. And this morning, he looked at me and said "well, she'll get better won't she?" and I had to say no, I didn't think so. I couldn't lie to him, and I couldn't build up his hopes. I feel terrible.

I feel bad for the cat, bad for the kid, and just sad in general. And I don't know if I did the right thing. Should I have just ducked the question and said we would have to wait and see? Should I have lied to make him feel better? I really don't know. I'm thinking that soon I will have to do something even harder, and put the cat to sleep. And somehow I will have to help our son say goodbye.

Monday, January 04, 2010

no resolutions, just aims

I have no resolutions this year. Instead, I have some aims in mind. To be more fit, more thrifty, more compassionate, more patient. Notice the form that takes -- I am not solving to get in shape, or to be thrifty, or compassionate, just that I will try to improve in those areas. Really, I think this is doable even in little bits, and even little bits of improvement will help me.

I walked a little bit today, first time since the accident. I walked very slowly, not my usual power walking pace. And I walked half the distance i usually do, but I did it. I will try 15 minutes of yoga tonight. No pressure. Just a little bit more than yesterday.

We started the painful process of reviewing and revising our budget. This is not, NOT, my strong suit. I like fun, and good food, and good times way way too much, and deferring pleasure way way too little. But we are making little changes that should help a bit.

And I am trying to be more patient with the family, to think about how the other person might be seeing things before I speak.

We'll see how it goes.