Friday, February 28, 2014

February Poem

Awhile back, I posted about feeling the need to write poetry. That need hasn't let up, and I frankly don't know where it's coming from as I'm definitely not a poet. I am first and foremost a short fiction writer. Maybe what I'm feeling is just the need to write and it doesn't matter what form that writing takes. Whatever the case may be, this is the poem I've been working on.

Night Ride

Hushed voices drift on the dark,
like the bobbing blink of a firefly
first close to the grass
then out of arm’s reach
then back again.
The heavy thunk of water bottles
against their cages,
the click of headlights switching on,
illuminating the pebbled asphalt six feet ahead,
signals go time. Under cover of darkness,
the crunch of tires mingle
with muted yawns
and complaints of lingering sleepiness.
Moving through quiet streets, I follow
the red taillights of those in front, 
the ones unafraid of that which 
the darkness hides.
We roll through flashing yellow traffic lights
slowing the infrequent motorist who is out
while most still slumber, their windows curtained,
their doors closed, inside
their own heads
where possibilities and impossibilities
share the same space.
We pedal away from the town and its lambent glow
of street lamps, to become embraced
by blackness. I slow, unfamiliar
with this new dance partner who leads,
whose grasp obscures the road
beyond the circle of light.
Shapes materialize then disappear;
an imagined whisper breathes against my ear,
coaxing from deep within
my childhood fear of the night,
of the dark,
of the shadows,
of the loneliness
filling me as I tip-toed
room to room, listening to soft sleep breaths.
Longing for my own soft sleep breaths.
Longing for the first hint
of day to reveal that which
the darkness hides,
and I can laugh at the follies inside my head.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Poem Sharing

A friend sent me the link to this poem after reading the "My Body Rocks" post. I love it so much, I wanted to share. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Body Rocks

While I don't watch much TV these days, mostly just watching the Purdue men's basketball team consistently lose, there is one commercial that I really like. The Jessica Simpson Weight Watcher's commercial. The two lines that strike me most in this commercial are when Ms. Simpson says she loves "this body that made two amazing little human beings," and "I love this body and what it's capable of." I know exactly what she's saying though I don't always keep this in mind like I should.

There are probably far too many of my days that I am unhappy with my body. And frankly, I really have no reason to be unhappy with it at all. My body produced three wonderful, funny, inspiring individuals, two of the three without an epidural, with one of those three weighing in at 9.4 pounds, the last of those three weighing in at 10.9 pounds. After each birth, my body rebounded within a few months, and I was pretty much back to pre-birth me with no health issues resulting from having big babies. My body got me from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean on a bicycle. While some cyclists in the group experienced aches and pains most days along the way, I only had one day of a sore muscle, and even that resolved itself quickly. My body has never failed me when I've asked it to accomplish something physical (well, I take that back; I've never been able to do a pull up due to astonishingly awful upper body strength). Generally speaking, my body is an amazing machine that is healthy and strong. I can't even remember the last time I had a cold, the flu, or other kind of illness. I am truly blessed.

I know many others who cannot say this. My mom was one of them. A family member is another. And a close friend is yet another. Every semester, I meet students who have to manage their lives around their health issues. Seeing others' struggles should make me sit back and say every single day, "Thank you, body, for being what you are. You rock."

From now on, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Every single day.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ridin' the Green A

With the last few days warming up, and all the rainy thunderstorms that moved through on Thursday, most of the snow has melted. On one hand this is good in that the streets are clear of the packed down, slick as ice snow covering and I can now ride my bike again. On the other hand, this is bad because the ground is frozen and the run off has flooded some streets as well as basements. Thankfully our basement, as nasty as it is, hasn't flooded, but a friend of mine is working hard to stay ahead of the water trickling into his.

The sun shining, along with the warmer temps, spurred me to take the bus home yesterday after work. Hubby had texted, saying just let him know when I needed to be picked up, but I liked the idea of the bus followed by the short, just-shy-of-a-mile walk from Uptown Circle. Since I can ride the bus for free, it just makes sense to use the service. And the walk was definitely needed after several hours of meetings. I could take a second bus that would drop me off a mere three blocks from home, but the walk helps me work off tension. I enjoy the alone time to just think, or not.

I've ridden the bus a couple of times since getting my new "ride the bus for free ID," and each time I've thought how nice it is to be able to sit and not have to worry about being in the driver's seat. The last time I rode, a former student of mine boarded the bus right behind me. His first comment was, "Why are you riding the bus?" My response was why not? It's free. I don't have to worry about traffic. I can read if I want. I can text if I want. I can write if I want. I can sleep if I want (though I've been warned that someone might steal my lunch if I fall asleep). My favorite thing to do, though, is daydream. Sure, it takes a half hour to get home between the bus and walk combined, instead of the twenty minutes it takes when I ride my bike, or the ten minutes when Hubby picks me up, but the half hour of down time is priceless to me.

Another aspect of riding the bus that I truly enjoy is watching the people getting on and off. The best vantage point for people watching is definitely from the back of the bus, so I try to get a seat there. I'm sure some individuals have wondered why the woman in the back is staring at them as they get on, so it wouldn't surprise me if I become known as the Creepy Staring Woman on the Green A. It's research!

Hopefully all this "research" will turn into characters in a short story, or maybe they'll end up in one of the three novels I have going (novels that aren't making much progress these days). In the meantime, I'll continue riding the bus to gather more information, or to read, or text, or write, or sleep. Or daydream.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hair Care Daze

I'm going to make a confession. I no longer "wash" my hair. I stopped using shampoo and conditioner nearly two months ago, opting instead to go the baking soda/vinegar route. The first three weeks, I kept wavering, almost returning to the shampoo because I didn't like the waxy feel to my hair. Many of the testimonies I was reading that specifically targeted moving away from shampoo indicated this might happen and suggested staying with the new routine a bit longer. These testimonies declared the waxiness will eventually go away once the hair adjusts to not being stripped of its oils every single day. I was skeptical but thought what the heck, I'm three weeks in, so what's another week or two? If my friends noticed how awful my waxy my hair was, they never said anything, which could be because they were (maybe still are) just being extremely nice. Whatever the case, I stuck with it. Now, nearly two months in, my hair has lost the waxy feeling (now I have "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" going through my head--my hair's lost that waxy feelin', oh oh oh, waxy feelin') and is instead soft and easy to manage. I spend way less time on my hair these days, and way less time even thinking about how it looks throughout the day.

Along with not shampooing, I've decided to let the gray have its way. For several years now, I've been coloring my hair, like a lot of women do. The last color treatment, complete with highlights, cost me close to $135. Over the course of a year, I was shelling out more than $1000 just to keep my hair colored. That $1000+ can definitely help out in other places, so gray it is. And to be honest, I'm not hating it. I'm actually kind of diggin' the gray. Others can't see a lot of it when I keep my hair down, but when I pull it up and away from my face, the gray pops. I'm wondering just how long it's going to take for the gray to fully take over. I'm thinking a year's time.

Making these changes hasn't been easy. I've wavered here and there, thinking I should just go back to shampoo like most everyone else. But I don't want to be like everyone else. I don't want to simply buy into and follow the herd mentality. That's the easy way. And it's no wonder it's easy. We're constantly bombarded with messages throughout our days that tell us we have to look a certain way, which includes what hair products to use to have long, shining, full, beautiful hair. Phhhhst. Whatever. Not continuing down that road anymore. My hair is just fine the way it is, and I truly feel like I'm no longer in a daze every day when it comes to dealing with my hair.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Blooming Where I'm Planted

For the last, oh, I don't know, seven or eight years, I've been saying I want to move out to the country. I want a couple acres to have chickens and some sheep. I want to grow my own foods. I want to be able to see the sunrise and the sunset. I want. I want. I want. Because of my wants, I troll an online realty site, searching for properties that might match up with what I envision for my desired self-sustaining lifestyle. Not long ago, I came across what appeared to be "The One."

"The One" is a small farmhouse on 3.35 acres. One picture shows a red barn. Another picture shows a garage/workshop "complete with concrete floor." The property has apple trees, cherry trees, and peach trees. The garden space is right behind the house, close to the little red barn. My entire being feels a pull towards "The One," and I regularly check in to see if it's still available. Today when I checked in, I saw the price had been lowered by $12,000. It's an understatement to say my mind went into warp speed thinking about finally moving out to my own piece of paradise.

So why don't I go for it, you ask? Well, the answer is complicated. While I think about buying a place in the country all the time, I don't exactly live alone and can just up and do what I want to do. I have to consider my family. The boys are so entrenched in their high school that uprooting them seems incredibly insensitive. I moved several times as a kid and hated it every single time. I vowed when I became a mom that I wouldn't do the same thing to my kids. For the most part, I've kept my promise. Only Lovely Beautiful Daughter changed schools more than I and she liked. That being said, she turned out wonderfully. The boys? While they haven't said absolutely no to making a high school change, they didn't exactly jump for joy over the idea of leaving their friends and having to make new ones. They're kind of on the fence. They like the idea of country living, being near a lake where they can very easily put in their kayaks, and setting up targets to practice shooting a bow, but there's still the issue of leaving friends and girlfriends.

Then there's Hubby. He's city boy through and through. All he's ever known is the convenience of living in the city. From past experience with him and looking at country properties, I know he'll come up with all kinds of reasons not to buy "The One." He likes to give the impression that he's supportive, but it only goes to the point of looking at a place. No further. No talking to a lender. No taking stock of what we need to do to get our place ready to sell. No "Yes! Let's go for it." When we first met and he was just finishing up refurbishing the house, he told me often how all the choices he made in the house, such as layout, wall colors, and bathroom designs were for re-sale purposes. Over the course of 12 years, I've come to believe otherwise. All of his choices were for him. He never had any real intention of selling the house, and he still has no intention of ever selling.

That leaves me sitting here wallowing in self pity over not being able to go for "The One." At least for a couple of minutes. Then I'll pick myself up, start thinking about seeds for my garden, hoping the chicken wire I just put around the trunks of my fruit trees will do the trick of keeping the rabbits from gnawing them to the point of killing them, and getting to work on the new stained glass piece I was thinking about as I drove to the beekeeping class yesterday. There's also the chicken co-op some friends and I are thinking through, and the rabbits I'm considering raising. While I might not be out where I can see the sunrise and sunset, I do have some of my wants right here where I am.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Amazing Honey Bee

Today I cashed in my Christmas present from Hubby and spent nearly eight hours learning about bees. I am now of the opinion that bees are the coolest insect ever. From their five eyes to their pollen basket, they are honey-making machines and hive engineers. The bee truly is an amazing creature. Come May, I will have my first hive in place, my first colony hopefully settling in and building their combs.

I set off early, right at daylight, because of the unexpected snowfall yesterday that left nearly 4 inches of mess. I wanted to be sure to give myself enough time just in case the roads were still iffy. The highway had some icy spots starting off, but the farther I got away from home, the more the roads improved, so I finally relaxed, turned on the radio, and made my way towards Long Lane Honey Bee Farms just outside of Fairmount. The only rough spot I encountered was the road Google Maps told me to take just outside Oakwood. This road hadn't been plowed. This road called for 4-wheel drive. I love my 4-wheel drive. If I'd not had it, I wouldn't have made it to my class.

But I made it, and I along with 11 others learned the in's and out's of beginning beekeeping. I met individuals from Missouri, Indiana, and Arkansas. I handled honeycomb on a frame. I put a hive together. I learned about mites and small hive beetles. The longer the day went on, the more I knew I wanted to bring bees to my very small, urban farm. I want to nurture a colony and watch the magic happen.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Doing a Bit of Reflection

I got to thinking today about some of the changes I've made with what I eat, well, more like don't eat any longer, and that led to thinking about the amount of calories in a cola. Which led to how many calories I had been drinking when I was consuming a 16 ounce cola each day.

Every. Single. Day.

I pulled out my handy, dandy calculator, punched in the numbers--240 x 365--and my jaw dropped.

87,600 calories.

I then divided 87,600 by the amount of calories in a pound.


That's 25 pounds worth of calories I was consuming each year while I was drinking colas. Talk about sabotaging myself and my desire to improve my eating habits. Part of me kept saying, "Oh, it's okay. I exercise every day, so one cola a day isn't going to hurt." Yeah. I was duping myself for a very long time.

Now, into my third month of being soda free, I feel like I've taken a huge step forward with my journey to better health. While giving up sodas may not seem like a big deal, when all the related issues are brought into the equation, just how big a deal it is becomes clearer. The sugar. The empty calories. The caffeine. The carbonation/cola combination. As I see it, these are four very solid reasons for giving up the soda. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Delicieux French Toast

So that French toast I said I was going to make for breakfast? Effing spectacular! Much like my search for the best pancake recipe, I've been on a quest for years to acquire the best French toast recipe. I finally found the Holy Grail of French toast recipes, and when I made a serving for Funny Delightful Son, assuring him this French toast was going to blow his mind, the end result was him saying, "You keep cooking like this and I'm going to become obese." Yeah, it was that good.

What I've found in my very short cooking life of a month and one week is that the really tasty, delicious, make your face contort in pleasure foods are those that throw out the idea of don't eat this or that because "it's bad for you." For years now, I've allowed myself to not eat, to beat myself up over eating, and to try one way of eating then another way of eating because whatever way of eating was "better" for me. When I made my resolution to make this year the year I learn how to really cook, I decided I was only going to cook if I didn't go into it thinking I can only eat this and not that. While I did give up caffeine, sodas, and refined sugar, I won't "give up" anything else. What's the pleasure in cooking and eating if there's all kinds of rules that only serve to make me feel guilty and result in me flogging myself?

Now, I have no rules. Hence the decadent, cooked in an inch of oil French toast. The hot but not smoking hot oil created a very crispy texture to the outside of the bread while making the inside a lovely, smooth custard. With a pat of real butter and real maple syrup drizzled on top, my morning breakfast brought me to the kingdom of pure pleasure.

I know I can't eat rich foods like this every day, but I can eat with the idea of moderation. And I can be sure to throw in salads, veggies, and fruits to go along with the rich foods. Tonight's menu is already in place, featuring a nutrient dense meat dish, a veggie, and probably a potato side of some kind, which just thinking about is making my mouth water. But yeah, moderation and balance should do the trick.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Thinking of a Summer Picnic

I broke one of the rules I set for myself this year: not to begin a new book until I'm finished with the one I'm already reading. I just couldn't help myself, though. The title reached out and wrapped its warm homeyness around me. I couldn't wrestle free from its hold. I cried, "Uncle!" and hit the buy button just so I could catch my breath.

As if that wasn't bad enough, then, when I was about to go back to the book I was already reading, the darn new book worked its way outside the touch screen of my tablet and forced my finger to tap on the cover of the book. It even skipped all the introductory pages and went straight to the first page of chapter 1. I was under some kind of spell because no matter how much I wanted to not read that page, the following page, and right through to chapter 2, I couldn't stop. I could only stop when I reached the end of chapter 2, with the last line, "Preferably on a picnic blanket, with your mother." A melancholy filled me as I thought I won't ever be able to eat blueberry butter cake on a picnic blanket, with my mom.

I can have a picnic complete with blueberry butter cake, however, with Lovely Beautiful Daughter. This summer. In the middle of June.

P.S. So far, after only two chapters, I'm loving this book. It's A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg, and it's only $1.99 to download on Kindle.

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table Cover

P.P.S. I've now read through chapter 8. It's been a good day. And I'm making French toast for breakfast in the morning.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Breaking News! More Snow!

Another 7 inches of snow. Another day of canceled classes. Tomorrow is supposed to bring another dip in the wind chill, the kind of dip that can bring on frostbite within ten minutes to exposed skin, so most likely, we're looking at either another day of canceled classes or a late start. Sigh.

I'm really okay with not having to get up this morning. For years and years I've been getting up at 5:30 am, but the last year or so, I've found it more and more difficult to rouse myself when the alarm wakes me up. I set my clock 15 minutes fast just so I can snuggle under the covers for a bit and prepare myself mentally for starting my day. Even after 15 minutes, I don't feel ready to face the world.

It's not like I don't get enough sleep. Since going caffeine free, since going soda free, since reducing my refined sugar intake (an area of my life I'm quite pleased with--it's been tough, slow going, but I'm making progress), and since getting back to the trainer on a more regular basis, I sleep around 8 hours a night, and I sleep soundly. I have friends around my age that are going through the hormonal insomnia struggles. Thankfully, I haven't had to deal with being up at 1 am, twiddling my thumbs, wishing for sleep but not getting it. Rather, most mornings I wake up to the alarm, thinking, "Already? But I just went to bed." That "just went to bed" was 8 hours before.

This semester, I don't teach class on Tuesday/Thursday until 9:30. As such, while I do get up at 5:30 these two days, I go back to bed for about an hour once the boys are off to school. Having that extra hour does wonders for my overall functioning. I just feel more at peace with the day. I feel more grounded. Maybe a later starting hour is what I need on a daily basis at this point in my life.

But why? What is creating this change in me?