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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Update!

If you haven't already checked out my new site, I'd love for you to do so. The first chapter of my short story collection is now available, and I added a page for Bike the US for MS. I've had a lot of fun along with some frustrations building the website, but I think most of it is in order. I hope you like it, bookmark it, and check in on a regular basis. I also hope you contact me and let me know what your thoughts are about the short stories, the blog posts, and anything else.

Cheers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Making Some Changes

During the summer I made a decision: I'm going to take the plunge and try self publishing. To start me on my way, I created a personal website. This website will not only host my short fiction and essays, but also my blog. The idea of having everything under one roof is very appealing, especially after two months of being almost completely offline. So I'm going to say farewell to Blogger, but I hope I'm not saying farewell to those of you who have been readers of my blog. I hope you will join me at my new site which can be found here.

Oh, and so you know, there is a bit of controversy over the photo of me I chose for the site. While I didn't quite know what I thought about it the first time I saw it, the more I looked at it the more I came to really like it. Someone else (take a guess as to who that person is), however, doesn't like it at all because I'm not smiling in the photo. I'm kind of smiling, and that's good enough.

I do have a few glitches happening with the website, mostly the blog page, and I'm trying to figure out why the glitches are happening. So far I'm not having any luck getting them taken care of. Hopefully I'll have it figured out in the next few days.

So, there you have it. I'm excited about this new adventure as I truly think the possibilities are endless.

Monday, June 1, 2015

See You In August

After much thought, I have decided to take a break from all things internet for the summer. Time to do other things. I hope you all have a most excellent summer.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sadness, Happiness, Sadness

Lovely Beautiful Daughter visited for the holiday weekend, arriving last Thursday and leaving out on Monday. The day she had to leave to return east was a sad day for all of us. That particular good-bye was very difficult. She is such a spark of life, such a kind, thoughtful young woman, and everyone who is in her presence feels that spark, is buoyed by it. I know I wasn't the only one feeling the hole created by her departure. Funny Delightful Son seemed down when we all traipsed back into the house after getting her settled in for the ride to Chicago where she was to catch the train heading to Massachusetts. We'd been in the middle of playing Munchkin, but he just looked at the cards on the table and said, "I don't want to keep playing." I really didn't either.  For two days, as if the four people who'd been playing the game were going to return to finish it, the cards stayed on the table where they'd been left. On Wednesday, I finally boxed up the game and put it away.

Two bees enjoying a drink
My usual way of getting past a sadness, such as Lovely Beautiful Daughter leaving, is to immerse myself in some kind of project. This time I made a water source for the bees. I've been reading about what kinds of water sources work best for bees, and I found out the kind with plants seem to attract them more than just a bowl with water. One of my water barrels has a small space for planting flowers, but I'd never had any luck with any of the flowers I'd planted in it as every time it rained the flowers would basically drown. It finally dawned on me to make a small water feature out of it. I filled it with water and put two water plants in it. Wha-la! Every day now, I can stand nearby and watch the bees come to drink.

To give the bees another source for gathering water, I looked at different birdbaths online, found one I liked, and used it as the inspiration for my own creation. I found a trio of nesting terracotta planters at one of my favorite farming stores and liked the idea of having the different sized pots for the project. I then found a six foot piece of rebar, some clamps, the flowers I wanted to put in the pots, and the top piece to hold the water and water plants. I brought it all home, and within a matter of an hour or so, the new water feature/potted plants were in place. For less than $50 the garden now has a functional, pretty addition (this cost doesn't include the 3 water plants which ended up being the second most expensive part of the whole project; the 3 terracotta pots were the main cost at $30 for all 3). Little by little this particular garden is starting to come together. The next step is sowing some lettuce and grass seeds to give the hens some greens to go after. The hope is they leave the flowers alone. They've done a number on the little lilies near Buddha turtle, so I definitely have to do something to deter further destruction.

Buddha turtle bringing calm to the garden.
Buddha turtle marks the resting place of Angel Baby's pet turtle, Jake. Unfortunately, Jake didn't make it out of hibernation this year. I thought all was good in late March, as the turtle had awakened and moved about. I fed it, watered it, and thought it was ready to fully awaken to another spring. When Jake didn't eat or drink, and seemed to go back to sleep, I didn't worry all that much. I figured he would fully awaken when he was truly ready. He never did.

Angel Baby was deeply saddened by this. He found a shoe box and put an old kitchen towel inside it. He then placed Jake on the towel and closed the lid. We took him into the garden and laid him to rest in a nice, shady spot between the cedar trees. That evening, I went to work to find a grave marker and ran across the Buddha turtle. I knew without a doubt Buddha turtle was meant to be a part of the garden. I love the peaceful expression and think it fits perfectly.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Taming the Snaggletooth

I finally took the plunge. I finally let my dentist have his way with my mouth and had brackets put on yesterday. Today, I'm finding out just how crooked my teeth are. My mouth isn't a very happy camper right now. I see nothing but very soft foods for me the next few days. My dentist keeps telling me, though, that in just a month I'll see a significant difference and I'll be so happy I went through with this. I have the one-month marker on my calendar, so we'll see.

I didn't tell anyone I was going to get the braces put on. I didn't even know until I was sitting in the dentist chair Monday morning for my 6 month cleaning. As usual, the doc asked when I was going to get the brackets put on. He really dislikes my snaggletooth and makes comments about it nearly every time I'm in. My response was I'd decided it was time, so whenever he could fit me in, I'd do it. He fit me in yesterday, not giving me a chance to back out yet again.

When Hubby saw me, I gave him a big smile. His reaction? "What the f**k is that?" I think he said this three or four times. It's not like I'd never talked about getting the braces before. I had. Lots of times. I even remember saying just a couple of months ago that I was going to do it right after the semester ended. I usually follow through on what I say I'm going to do. You'd think he'd not be so surprised by me doing what I said I was going to do.

Yesterday was just the first step in my doc's plans for my mouth. Apparently, I have a pretty bad cross bite, which accounts for my popping jaw, so in addition to the brackets, he's also going to put in spacers and bands. For now, he wants to give me a few weeks to get used to the brackets. I'm pretty sure the spacers are going to be a bit unpleasant, which makes me glad he's not rushing to get everything in place all at once.

So another journey begins. It might be a long, sometimes painful one, but I am way past ready to find out what it's like to have straight teeth.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Growing the Urban Farm

Enjoying the morning sun
For a long time now, I've been wanting chickens. I grew up out in the country, and my parents always had chickens. Before moving to the city, I owned chickens and a turkey. Having fresh eggs every day was pretty much a given. Being able to simply enjoy watching the hens roam around the yard was something I didn't know I would miss so much. But I did. I really wanted chickens again.

Unfortunately, living in the city doesn't make having chickens easy. First there was the hubby who needed to be convinced. Then there was the city ordinances to take into consideration. As if those two obstacles weren't enough, I had to think about my neighbors.

So I went to work on Hubby. I talked about chickens all the time. I'm quite sure he finally just reached the point of thinking all right already. Give the chicken talk a rest. Please. I kept suggesting I was going to buy a coop and create a space for the chickens behind the house. They'd be completely fenced in, I told him. No one will even know they're there, well, at least until one lays an egg. Then people might start looking around, wondering where in the world the chicken squawking was coming from. But chicken squawking only lasts a short time, I assured him. It'll be fine. He would just nod his head, so I took that as the signal to go ahead, get the coop. In March, after researching for months, I found the coop I liked and brought it home.

As I was working on Hubby, I knew I had to check with the City. I knew the last time having backyard chickens went in front of the City Council it was voted down, but I also knew some people were harboring chickens right under our noses. I wondered how they could do so. I emailed each City Council member, inquiring into the status of owning chickens within the city limits, and waited for a response. A week went by and nothing. Finally, one City Council member emailed me back. His response was information I already knew about the previous vote, but at the end of his email he wrote, "Please call me." So I did. During our conversation, the City Council member said, "Basically, it's a complaint-based ordinance. You can have chickens until someone complains." At the end of the conversation, he said, "I suggest you go ahead and get the chickens. The worst that can happen is you have to get rid of them if someone complains about you having them." Well then . . ..

That left my neighbors. One sunny March Saturday, as I was preparing the hive for the new package of bees I had purchased, my neighbor who lives directly behind us, who would be most affected by the chickens, was outside. I called over the fence to him, asking if he minded if I had a couple of chickens. He sort of cocked his head to one side, saying, "No. I want to have some myself, but it's not allowed here." I relayed the information I had learned to him, and he very enthusiastically said go ahead. I promised him fresh eggs and honey for being so accommodating.

In early April, the ladies arrived to their new home. They were maybe a week old when I bought them. Still soft with down. Now, their feathers have grown in, and each is getting bigger by the day. Hubby visited them last evening for the first time in awhile, and he exclaimed over how big they had gotten. For me, like the enjoyment I receive just by standing and watching the bees come and go, doing what they know to do, watching the chicks grow, listening to them peep and squabble, witnessing their funny antics is far more entertaining than any TV show. Hubby and the boys know that if I'm not in the house these days, I can be found out in the garden that is now home to chickens and bees.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dear Friend

The other day, Mother's Day, I received a text expressing a very happy Mother's Day to those of us who are moms. Because I am notoriously bad about putting numbers into my phone, I had no idea who the text was from. As such, I wasn't quite sure how to respond. I thought about just saying thanks and leaving it at that, but that seemed kind of dismissive. So I typed in, "Yes, Happy Mother's Day!" Yeah, I know. That's about as bad as "Thanks!" The next text I received started off with a nickname only one other person calls me. I knew instantly who it was. And she's not a mom. So, yes, my response was ridiculous to say the least.

But this person found it funny. This person is a friend who goes all the way back to fifth grade. She is truly my first best friend. Though we don't see each other often, she let's me know she's thinking about me, and I let her know I'm thinking about her. In one of her text, she said she misses the days when she and I wrote letters to each other. We used to do this often. Now, though, we rely on emails and the occasional text. I responded by telling her I was going to write her a letter. And I did. This morning. The letter is now in the mail.

As I was writing, filling her in on Lovely Beautiful Daughter living so far away now, and how much I miss her but am looking so forward to her coming "home" next week for Funny Delightful Son's high school graduation ceremony, I thought yes, we really should be writing letters instead of emailing and texting. The act of holding a pen and watching the letters form on the page provides a much different experience than tapping away at keys. While typing is much faster, and I could have been done with an email in a quarter of the time it took me to write the letter, I found I truly enjoyed sitting at the kitchen bar, right where the early morning sun hits and warms the space, my hand moving slowly back and forth across the page. I stopped every now and then to sip at my tea, to reach over and smooth the soft fur between Ado's ears, to just think about what I wanted to say. I felt more connected to my friend this way.

I ended my letter like she and I always did with our letters: Write soon! Then I addressed the envelope, attached a flower stamp, and walked it out to the mailbox. I hope she smiles when she sees the letter in her mailbox. It's such a small thing to do--writing a letter--and I hope it makes whatever kind of day she might be having all that much better. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Quiet Life

Every now and then (okay, if I'm going to be honest it's way more than just every now and then) I go through a period of just not having much to say. Like recently, as Hubby and I were making a run to the big home improvement store for more top soil to dump into the two new veggie boxes, and Hubby says something like, "You really got to stop talking so much." I've been teased by others through the years over my tendency to just sit and listen. I truly don't feel the need to say anything, adding yet more noise to the cacophony that already exists. I am completely happy as well as comfortable with silence. Which is why I've not written anything during the last month. I've been enjoying my quiet life.

Along with the quiet, I've been enjoying watching my apple trees leaf out, the blooms opening little by little each day. The winter of 2014 was bitterly cold and snowy, leaving nothing for the rabbits to eat, so they ate the bark off my fruit trees. Two of the apple trees didn't make it, so I replaced them, and this past winter I anticipated the rabbits, being sure to wrap the trunks to keep the rabbits from nibbling away.  I'm hoping, given all the beautiful blooms, that I'm able to pick some apples this year.

This past winter wasn't as cold or snowy as that of 2014, and spring seemed to arrive exactly when needed to make sure all the flowering trees could show off just how beautiful they are. Not only did the apple trees burst with blooms, but so did our sour cherry tree. I've never seen it covered with flowers the way it was this spring.
I picked so many cherries last summer, but if the blossoms are any indication, I'll have even more this summer. Just thinking about the cherry jam I made last summer makes my mouth water. Of all the jams I made, the cherry jam was the biggest hit. Funny Delightful Son and Angel Baby ate it straight out of the jar. Both were quite sad over what we thought was the last of the cherry jam. When I found a jar hidden at the back of the cupboard and pulled it out, both boys descended upon me like vultures, both trying to get the jar before the other. I'm definitely going to have to make double the amount this summer.

Each day I go out to check on the trees, to watch the process of the blossoms. I watch the bees drift from one bloom to the next, which makes me hopeful that not only will the trees produce fruit but that the bees are getting the much needed pollen for their stores. Being able to help the bees even just this tiny bit makes me happy. I've read so much about bees, the work some are doing to make sure bees thrive, and while I wasn't successful with my first colony, I've learned a lot and hope to have better luck with my new colony. The day I brought them home, put them in the hive, then sat and watched the few that didn't make it inside the closed-up hive, I felt such joy over having bees once again flying about. The sadness I'd experienced over losing my first colony had sunk in pretty deep, more than I'd realized. I still feel vestiges of that sadness every now and then, when I think about opening the hive to find every bee dead, but seeing the new colony at work now helps assuage that sadness.


Each day, evidence of spring becomes clearer. Lawns along our street are vivid green. The lilacs are blooming, filling the air with the perfume from my childhood. And the dandelions! I hope every single moment that my neighbors see the bright yellow flowers and love them as much as I do, leaving them not only to brighten our days but to also help the bees add to their stores. So much life happening right now. So much to watch. Listen to. No need for noise.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Learning to Not Feed the Emotions

Several days have passed since my group meditation experience, but I keep returning to the two hours I spent sitting cross-legged in a yoga studio. A couple of ideas Bhante Sujatha offered continue to resonate with me, specifically that the sitting and looking inward, breathing in and breathing out, is practice, while the moment I walk out the door of the yoga studio is when meditation truly begins. This makes complete sense to me, for it's all well and good to sit, relax, repeat a mantra, and listen to my breathing, but if I only practice in the confines of a building, with the mindset that when I leave I'm done, then what's the point? Sure, I could find calm and quiet for an hour every day, and there definitely is something to be said for this given the chaotic world we live in, but to go out, face people and situations I might not necessarily want to face, and do so feeling calm and quiet despite the people and situations, is, I think, the real fruit being cultivated through the practice.

And it was a second idea Bhante Sujatha suggested that makes the calm and quiet possible despite the people and situations: recognizing the people and situations as my teacher. What can I embrace and use as a learning opportunity? To illustrate his point, when a student at the session asked how to answer a person who might not be supportive of meditation, Bhante Sujatha said, "Say thank you." Most of us laughed at this as saying thank you to a negative response isn't the usual recourse. The usual for many, and I will definitely admit I am like this more often than not, is to go on the defensive, perhaps flip up the middle finger. When the laughter subsided, the monk continued, saying that in offering a thank you, we are allowing ourselves the opportunity in a calm and quiet way to acknowledge the reaction/emotion we are feeling, observe it, then move on. The more we acknowledge and observe, the less we feed the emotion, thus allowing the emotion less control over us. The person or situation that instigated the reaction/emotion, in this sense, is the teacher helping me grow.

This week, I had the opportunity to grow. Though I didn't tell the individual responsible for my growth thank you during our discussion, I did so the next day, after I had processed the exchange. We were at odds over an issue, and while we didn't reach the point of raising our voices or making each other mad, the other person was visibly upset. I thought through what had happened, came to the conclusion that I still harbor frustration and even a bit of resentment over the issue, and because I do, I responded the way I did. I thought through the issue further, coming to the conclusion that in the end, I needed to let go of the frustration and resentment. Both were doing nothing positive for me, and thanks to the other individual, I was able to recognize this and make a change. So the next morning, I went to the individual and said, "Thank you for helping me recognize I was harboring frustration and resentment." We talked a bit further, both of us able to move on to trying to find possible answers to the issue.

Just thinking back over this week makes me smile; so much good happened. So much.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Meditation in Blue Jeans

 Spring

I cycle the trail,
into the breeze raising up
the red-winged blackbird.

***

Recently, I participated in my first guided meditation session. I've been wanting to go beyond my own space and take part in a group meditation session for some time, so when the opportunity arose last week, I signed up. What I found at the end of the two hours was 1) I truly enjoyed being guided, listening to the soothing monk voice; 2) I'm pretty sure I nearly fell asleep as I vividly remember dreaming of a low-flying helicopter (so perhaps I was asleep); and 3) sitting in a crossed-legged position for an extended time makes the ankle against the floor hurt.

When I arrived at Main Street Yoga, I was directed to the front of the room, towards Sassy Sister-in-Law who was already there, sitting on a pillow, her yoga mat stretched out in front of her. I made my way to the pillow next to her and settled in. Immediately, I thought I should have worn yoga pants as I was, after all, in a yoga studio, but more so to just be a bit more comfortable for the next two hours. With a little shifting of one jean-clad leg, then the other, I was able to get myself situated nicely on the pillow (many thanks to the person who decided spandex should be a part of jeans!). Sassy Sister-in-Law and I whispered back and forth, but then I thought perhaps our whispering was rude. The two monks just a few feet in front of us were sitting quietly. They weren't whispering. They weren't talking. They were just sitting. So that's what I did.

At precisely 1:00 pm, Bhante Sujatha, a monk and the creator of the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple,  began the session. He explained his journey, telling us he knew at 11 years old that he wanted to be a monk. I truly admire people like Bhante Sujatha. While I'm happy with what I do as a career, to some degree I still don't know what I truly want to do or be in this life. I know I'm happiest when I'm creating, be it a short story or a photograph or a wind chime from bicycle parts or a garden with veggies and flowers, but I can only do these things as long as I have that job that pays to support them. I'd love to be able to do all of these things and make a living doing them. I wished I'd known this a long time ago. Maybe things would be different if I'd realized then what I've come to understand now.

After Bhante Sujatha finished telling us about his journey, he led us into the meditation exercise. We were instructed to think, "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful." Repeat. As we repeated this, Bhante Sujatha talked soothingly, easing us along. I could feel myself becoming deeply relaxed. We were then instructed to pay attention to our breathing. In. Out. In. What does it feel like? Out. What does it feel like? Then I was standing on a rural road I cycle often during the summer. It wasn't summer, though, as there were no crops growing in the fields on either side of the road. The sky was clear and blue. A white helicopter came from the left, flying across my field of vision and I watched it until it passed in front of a house. The next second, I found myself back in the yoga studio, wondering what in the world had just happened. Why was I standing in the middle of nowhere, watching a helicopter of all things?

I brought myself back to repeating "I am well. I am happy. I am peaceful" and listened as the second monk began a chant. During the chant, Bhante Sujatha circulated throughout the studio, laying his hands on each participant's head in blessing. When he reached me, I was wondering how I could shift my right leg to ease the pressure on my ankle without my movement being noticeable. I decided to not move, but rather sit through the pain long enough for the monk to offer his blessing. When he placed his hands on my head, my first thought was "I'm glad I washed my hair this morning." My second thought was "I want this man's kindness to be the kindness I show others." After another 15 or 20 seconds, Bhante Sujatha moved on. I felt such appreciation for his blessing. Then I felt the ankle pain again and slowly removed my right foot from beneath my left calf. The relief I felt in my ankle was heavenly, but I was also kind of pleased that the blessing overshadowed the pain.

For the rest of the meditation, I focused on the manta and my breathing, and by the end of the session, I did feel well, happy, and peaceful. These feelings stayed with me for a long time afterwards, right through the evening. Even several days later, I'm still thinking back to the session, mulling over the words of Bhante Sujatha, the tranquil tone of the chant, and the idea of loving kindness that was the underpinning of the session. What kind of world would we have if every single one of us went through our days with the intention of loving kindness? Hmmmmmmm. Imagine.

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Praise of a Vanilla, Cream-Filled Cupcake with Lovely, Vanilla Frosting

Here it is Friday, and I'm thinking three days ahead, when I'll have to return to work. Sigh. I truly love being home. Being able to do whatever I want. Whenever I want. With no one else here, asking for something. Knowing my days are numbered has sent me into mourning.

So I figured the best way to deal with mourning was to eat a vanilla cupcake with cream filling and lovely, swirled vanilla frosting for breakfast.

I have never eaten a vanilla cupcake with cream filling and lovely, swirled vanilla frosting (or any other kind of cupcake or cake for that matter) for breakfast. Not ever. Rather, breakfast has always been oatmeal, eggs (more recently egg whites only), bacon (more recently turkey bacon, though I just can't get past the limpy nature of it and decided to eat pork bacon as long as it comes from pastured pigs), and yogurt. Along with what I eat, I make sure to drink water, lemon water, or more recently, kombucha. The most daring I get on occasion is to have half an asiago bagel with cream cheese. Breakfast has always been sensible.

This morning, when the idea of eating a cupcake occurred to me, I backed away, thinking no, it's forbidden fruit. But the temptation only grew. Then I thought why the hell do I always do what's sensible? Surely one cupcake was not going to add on 5 pounds. Surely one cupcake was not going to raise my cholesterol levels. Surely one cupcake was not going to send my blood sugar spiking past the point of no return. 

So I embraced being impractical. I embraced eating that vanilla cupcake with cream filling and lovely, swirled frosting to ease my mourning. Not only did that cupcake ease my mourning, but it also immeasurably improved my morning.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Loss

My bees are dead. What I have feared since last fall happened.

I don't even know where to start. And, really, I can barely see the monitor because of the tears that keep blurring my eyes. I know they're "just" bees to a lot of people, but to me, they are creatures that play a very important role in the cycle of life.

I was supposed to help them. I was a "beekeeper," but I feel like I totally failed them.

My heart is broken right now.
One group of the mass of bees I found dead in the hive. 









Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Lion Yawns






Winter Slumber
 
Snow floats down,blankets
the ground with its magic and
asks us all to dream.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Finding Comfort Through Writing

One way I cope with stress/distress/anger/frustration/sadness is to write. Feeling crushed by every single one of these emotions the last few days, I found myself going full tilt into a short piece that is part of the longer collection, a piece I've not been fully satisfied with from the get-go. While I'm happy with one very basic idea offered in the story, I'm not at all happy with most of the other aspects of it. So I made some changes.

The first major change was to make the main character a woman rather than a man. While several of the stories within the collection are told from a man's point of view, I just wasn't feeling confident that this particular story's male pov was working. Once I had finished going through the entire story to change every he to she, every his to her, and every male character's name to the new female character's name, the fingers started flying on the keyboard. I kept a few minor details along the way, but for the most part, the story reshaped itself without me having to think too much.

The second major change was to add in another character, a son. Where the previous male main character didn't have any children, the new female main character does, just this one. Once I made this addition to the story, the details about this guy seemed to shoot from my fingers as if he actually is a real somebody. Who knows, maybe there is a young man out there who does resemble this guy. All I know at this point about him, though, is he made a decision that has caused great sadness for his mother.

I've reached the point in the story where I'm not quite sure where it's going to go. I have some ideas, but I want to mull each over before making a decision. I'll most likely write each possibility out to get a feel for how each could take shape, but for now, I'm feeling much more confident in the story. It has a much truer ring rising to the surface, I think.

After spending the last two days working on this story along with responding to student work, I feel much less stress/distress/anger/frustration/sadness. In a way, I guess I've transferred what I was feeling to the characters in the story, which is what makes writing probably the best medicine a person can take for some ills.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sending the Demons on Their Way

One thing I've learned about myself in the last nearly 48 hours, after the whole FB message opening the door to memories I'd buried a very long time ago, is I truly haven't dealt with what happened. My way of dealing with it was to bury it, pretend it didn't happen. I never told anyone about the situation. Not one single person. If I didn't acknowledge it and no one else knew what had gone down, then it didn't really happen, right?

Wrong. It happened. And it still has the power to make me feel like crap.

Yesterday, all day, piece after piece of the then revealed itself. When I was walking down the hall to spend time in the Writing Center, one particular moment surfaced. Along with the moment came the feeling I'd experienced then: fear. Before I reached the Writing Center I was doing all I could to keep myself together. And so went most of the day, me trying to keep myself together.

Since seeing the FB message, I've thought about what I should have done then. I should have reported this co-worker after the first time I heard a knock on my door at 10 pm, this co-worker suggesting we hang out. I should have reported this co-worker after attending a conference together, this co-worker showing up at my soon-to-be sister-in-law's apartment where I was staying (the co-worker was staying at the hotel) just after my soon-to-be sister-in-law left for work and I was there alone, just getting out of the shower. I heard very loud knocking on the door, so loud I was afraid to open the door. When I saw who it was, I did open the door to avoid creating a scene. I should have reported this co-worker after the comment made about a certain part of my anatomy. But I didn't.

I was 23. I was fresh out of college. I was working a job I really wanted. I was living alone in my first apartment. I thought if I ignored all of these warning signs the problem would just go away. I thought if I just did my job, went back to my apartment, did all the things I liked to do to keep myself busy, the problem would get the message and leave me alone. I was so completely naive. The problem didn't go away. The problem wouldn't leave me alone. Rather, the more I tried to dodge the problem, the more intense it became. Then, the problem tried another tactic. The problem took action to ensure my boss went after me. I became the bad guy.

Which was easy for my co-worker to do. My boss and the co-worker were married. My boss pulled me into the office and let me know in no uncertain terms I was the one on trial. I remember sitting there thinking, "This really isn't happening." I remember leaving that office in a daze. I remember the next few weeks of just going through the motions, doing what needed to be done, then returning to my apartment and finding things to keep me busy. I still had my Thoroughbred mare and had her stabled not far from my apartment, so I was at the stable every evening, riding, cleaning stalls, and feeding all the horses. The horses gave me some peace.

Work did not give me any peace. Every day was a struggle. I couldn't fight. Who was going to believe me? So I wrote up my resignation letter and turned it in. When I handed it to my boss, the smirk I received in return made me feel two inches tall. I was completely humiliated. I still feel that humiliation.

Now, after thinking back over this time in my life, I'm still finding myself shouldering the blame for what happened. I know I'm not to blame. I know this. I know it's way past time to pull the demons out and send them on their way. They've had way too much power over me for far too long, power they don't deserve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Letting Loose the Nasty

There are moments when something will trigger my inner nasty. Today, that moment happened just after I finished eating my tuna salad sandwich and was thinking, "Hmmmmm, it's been awhile since I've had tuna. That was kind of tasty." I still had about 15 minutes before having to return to work, so I opened my laptop to see what was going on in FB world. I know, I know. Mistake number 1. I should have just enjoyed sitting with Ado, getting cream colored dog hair all over my black dress. But no. I went ahead.

I noticed I had a message waiting for me, so I clicked on the message icon. Just above the name of the person who'd sent me the message I noticed Other (2). While I check in to see what friends and family are up to, I don't normally pay much attention to the other aspects of FB, so out of curiosity, I clicked on Other (2) to see why two messages had not gone to my Inbox. Yes, you got it. Mistake number 2. I should have just let it be and ignored it like is the usual for me. But no. I went ahead.

The first message dated early February came from a person who is a friend of my parents. This person is just a hoot, but I'm not inclined to accept the friend request as I really don't want to be subjected to the, well, let's just say, questionable material that might show up. The second dated early January came from someone who over 25 years ago made my life miserable, so much so, that I quit my job (this person was a co-worker) to not have continue being miserable. Just seeing this person's name brought back all those memories and let loose my inner nasty, which was, "What the -f!? Why the -f do you think it's okay to message me after what you did, *&^%#$@!()#$?" After several more -f bombs exploding in my head, I finally read the message: "Looks like you are doing well. You have a beautiful family."

A few more minutes of nastiness swirled inside my head as I stared at the message. I just couldn't fathom why this person would message me. What exactly am I supposed to do with it? Am I supposed to respond, saying, "Gee, thanks!"? Am I supposed to take the message as an olive branch? After all, it has been 25+ years. I have done well since submitting my resignation letter and leaving my first job out of college behind. It's not like I let that *&^%#$@!()#$ follow me and determine the decisions I made from that point on. If anything, I guess it could be argued the whole situation sent me on the path I was really supposed to be on.

For now, I'm just going to delete the message and go forward with life. I see no point in responding, and hopefully my not responding will be all that's needed to get my message across.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dissonance

This morning the urge to ride my bike to work consumed me. Even though the temperature was 19 degrees with a real feel of single digits and even though the wind would be hitting me directly in the face as I made my way to work, the craving to ride far outweighed the comfort I would be provided through driving. It was almost like I had no control over the decision making, like someone or something had determined the choice for me before I even woke up. I was merely a puppet whose strings were being pulled by some unknown puppeteer.

So I rode. The cold numbed my thighs. The wind bit at my cheeks. My right ear hurt even though I had my hat pulled down over it.

I didn't care.

Sometimes I wonder if I don't care enough about the things I should.

Lately, my mind keeps finding its way back to a thought that occurred to me some time ago. A question, really. About love. The question surprised me as it seemed to just pop up out of nowhere. Now it won't leave me alone.

It wriggles into my thoughts in the middle of grading papers. It pokes at me when I'm reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. It interrupts a conversation I'm having with a friend. It makes me uncomfortable.

I want it to leave me alone. I just want to be left alone.

Sometimes I wonder if I don't care enough about the things I should.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Do-Nothing Kind of Day

I played hookey from work today. Well, technically, I didn't. I let all the proper people know I wasn't going to be in. I followed all the procedures for being sure my students knew not to show up since I wasn't going to be there. And I didn't feel one ounce of guilt for taking the day off.

Years ago, if I had to cancel class because I was sick or one of the kids was sick, I felt guilty. I'd grown up with the work ethic of you go to work. Period. No excuses. I watched my dad go to work even when he would get one of his terrible headaches that made him sick to his stomach and barely able to keep his eyes open. The only relief he got was by sitting on the floor next to his bed and laying his head against the quilt. I saw my dad get into the car during a blizzard, determined to drive to work 30 miles away, only to get stuck a half mile down the road from the house and have to hike back, upset he wasn't going to be able to make it in that day. I don't have one memory of my dad taking a day off just to take the day off.

I used to be like my dad. I used to go to work no matter what. A couple of years ago, though, after going yet another school year without using the personal days I'm allowed, and those personal days being moved over into the sick days category (which now sports enough time to take nearly an entire school year off), I decided I'm going to use the personal days whenever I feel I need a day to just sit and do nothing. Every now and then I find myself just not in the mindset I know I need to be in to really do my job well, so I use a personal day to take a breather. Yesterday, I could feel the need for a breather coming on, so I decided to cash in one of the personal days, take today off, and do nothing.

Nothing started out by having breakfast with Hubby, then taking Ado for a nice walk. Nothing then forced me to fulfill the old "Stupid Movie Monday" tradition Lovely Beautiful Daughter and I started years ago by making me watch a LMN flick. After that, nothing suggested I sit and talk with Funny Delightful Son for awhile. Not finished with me, nothing had me meet up with Funny Delightful Son for the 1 pm showing of Kingsmen (thoroughly enjoyed it). Not long after returning home from the movie, nothing shoved me back out the door to go work out with Hubby over at the university. Satisfied with my time spent on the spin cycle, the treadmill, and the stair stepper, nothing agreed I could sit and watch an episode of "Tiny House Living" (or something like that) followed by "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" (she does cry at times throughout the show, so I'm not convinced she really thinks her life is fabulous). Now, nothing is better than hanging out on the bed with Max and Ado.

I have two more personal days for the rest of the semester, and I'm definitely going to take them. I might use one for the Monday after spring break, just to stretch break one more day. I might use the other the Thursday before the endurance ride in May, just to give me one last day to prepare for my first venture into cycling nonstop for 12 hours. But who knows. I'm just thankful I have the personal days and can use them when I feel the need for a day to just sit and do nothing

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Avoidance

This weekend was supposed to be grade papers weekend. I was going to get started early yesterday as I have quite a few papers that need attention. So what have I been doing? Avoiding anything related to work by
  • brewing up another batch of kombucha (the first batch was okay--a little too vinegary for me--so I'm hoping this batch works out better).
  • making yogurt (love knowing the only ingredients are whole milk from grass-fed cows and cultures).
  • simmering beef bone broth on the stove (and burning the palm of my hand by grabbing hold of the cast iron skillet used to brown the bones in the oven before transferring them to the stock pot. My little, "I'm so stupid! I'm so stupid!" dance around the kitchen as I'm holding my hand brought Hubby running and turning on the cold water at the sink for me).
  • making homemade granola (which smells so good as it is heating in the oven).
  • sweeping and mopping and dusting and laundry and dishes (yes, even cleaning house is more enticing than grading papers).
  • removing all the dog bombs in the yard (at least they're all frozen).
  •  writing this post!
For reasons I can't quite figure out, there are times I just do not want to read and respond to student work.

By golly, it's lunchtime . . ..

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Yeah, I'm a Valentine's Day Fun-Sucker

When the kids were younger, toddlers and preteen, I would make sure to get each of them a Valentine's Day gift of some sort, usually chocolate and some other small gift, and usually very last minute, like an hour before school let out if Valentine's happened to fall during the week. Then one year, as I was standing in front of the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, trying to decide what to get the kids, I said (and I'm pretty sure I said it out loud as I stood there), "Enough, I'm not buying into the idea any longer that I have to spend money on something to show those I love that I love them." Affection and love shouldn't be reserved for just one day of the year. Affection and love are an everyday thing, which is what I've tried to teach the kids their entire lives. Is this one day filled with red hearts, red roses, red ribbons, red everywhere you turn really something we need? The answer for me is an emphatic, "No!"

It's not uncommon to find all of us huddled together on the couch, poking at each other, laying our heads on each others' shoulders, being playful with one another. From the moment Lovely Beautiful Daughter entered the world, I vowed to help her know without a doubt that I love her. When Funny Delightful Son graced us with his presence five years later, I renewed that vow, but this time, I added one more declaration: he and his sister were going to have a close, loving relationship, one in which if she ever needed him, he would be there for her, and if he ever needed her, she would be there for him. When Angel Baby followed two years later, I renewed both of those vows to include him, but I went another step: all three of my kids were going to enjoy one another, support one another, be comfortable talking about anything with one another. My vision for my kids was that they would be friends as well as siblings.

I know my emphasis for developing strong relationships between my three kids stems directly from my own experiences. I have five siblings and I barely talk to any of them, and they barely talk to me. I don't have any rivalries or bad blood towards any of them. But I also don't have close bonds with any of them. I didn't while growing up, and I don't now as a middle-aged adult. Sure, we get together during the usual holidays--Thanksgiving and Christmas (and while we are together we enjoy each others company)--but beyond these holidays, the rest of the year is filled with silence. I'm not sure why my siblings and I aren't closer, talk more often, spend more time together. I am sure, though, that I don't want my own kids to follow that same path.

The lack of friendship I have with the rest of my family has bothered me for a long time. I used to send cards and little gifts throughout the year to my Florida sister, but I never heard back from her. After several years of wondering if she received what I sent, I stopped. When Mom was alive, we traveled to Indiana to visit on a regular basis. Many times, since my oldest sister and oldest brother live in the same area as my parents, we would see them during our visits. In the 15 years we've lived here in central Illinois, I can count on one hand how many times my sister and brother traveled here to visit us. Since Mom's death, our visits to Indiana  have dwindled significantly, so I see my sister and brother even less than before. About two years ago, during one of our visits to see Dad, we were preparing to leave and make our way home. My sister said something along the lines of us not taking so long to return to visit next time. I remember turning to her and saying, "When you figure out the road actually does make it to our house and you come visit us, we'll think about coming back over this way." She has yet to make it over our way.

My hope is my kids don't become me and my siblings. My hope is they cherish each other and the friendships they have with each other. Now that Lovely Beautiful Daughter lives 16 hours away, I fear for what this might mean for her relationship with her brothers, but every now and then, one of the boys will tell me about a texting conversation they had with their sister, or an email exchange they've had with her. When she and I skype, I make sure the boys are there to see her and fill her in on what's going on with their lives. My hope is these little moments of interaction will help the kids continue to build their relationships into adulthood.

I know lots of people embrace Valentine's Day, and if that's what they enjoy, so be it. Hubby asks me every year what I'd like for Valentine's Day, and every year I say the same thing. Nothing. I implore him not to spend money on a card, flowers, or chocolate. I don't need these as Hubby shows me every day, in ways that last much longer than a dozen roses would, that he loves me. Things can be nice, but the without-a-doubt emotional contentment is priceless.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Jumping In

Training Day 1: Spin bike ride. My goals were to hit 20 miles and maintain a cadence of 95.

Achieved.

(Do not try to enter that bright light . . .. It's just the flash on my phone.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Tapping Into My Inner Crazy

It's on the calendar.

A new challenge.

Calvin's Challenge.

200 miles in 12 hours.

And just three months to develop a fitness level that might get me to my goal.

Might.

The knot in the belly is already growing.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Small Fish Steals My Heart

Death-defying Alpha
Meet Alpha. Who, two years after the very tragic deaths of Frank and Andy the goldfish, now resides in the bowl that was their home. Who last Friday was, for all intents and purposes, knocking on Death's door himself (after only a week of being in his new home!). Lying sideways on the bottom of the bowl. Very obviously gasping his last breaths. My colleagues saying, "Ummm, yeah. He's not long for this world." But I wasn't about to give up on him. No. Not this time. Not Alpha. So I put warm water in a smaller container and transferred Alpha to it. I put food in the container. You know, just in case he made it and was hungry. I set him on the heater in a colleague's office. And we left campus for the weekend, all of us thinking we would return on Monday to face a sad scene.

Monday morning, my colleague came to me when I arrived to work, and said, "Alpha lives!"

Stunned, I followed her to her office. I peered into the container. Seeing Alpha swimming around made my heart swell.

I have since put a heater in Alpha's bowl, and each day now, I enjoy his graceful and elegant presence.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Taking Advantage of Warmer Days

The weather improved enough during the last week, with temps reaching the upper 30's during the day, the sun shining on and off, melting most of the snow and ice, that the possibility of getting out for a ride became reality Friday and yesterday. I get all giddy thinking about riding, and once I'm on the bike, I revel in the wind against my cheeks, the warmth of the scarf around my neck, and the strength of my legs as I pedal. Even this morning, as I stood looking out over the back deck, watching the rain come down, my thoughts went to riding later today, in the rain. I want to feel the rain, listen to it splatter up, spit high into the air as the tires of my bike roll along the road.

I was rolling along all happy Friday morning. I'd not ridden my commuter to work since reporting back three weeks ago, first because the temperatures were in the single digits and the real feel was in the negative double digits, then because we had a good snow that covered the roads, turned to slush, froze, and stayed that way. I'm not a fan of cycling on snow that has been packed down until it is a thick sheet of slickness, so grumpily and grudgingly, I drove to work.

Friday, though, the temps were in the upper 30's, the wind was light, and the roads were completely clear. No meetings on the calendar meant I didn't have to leave out early. I took my sweet time, finally heading to work around 8:30. I passed by the elementary school and waved at the crossing guard who always tells me I'm in danger of speeding in a school zone. I came to a stop at the four-way and waited my turn to go. I made my way carefully past some parked cars, hoping no one was going to open a door and nail me as I cycled by. While passing the university soccer field, I heard a car coming from behind. It slowed, so I looked over. The passenger side window was down. Then I heard, "Sidewalk!" and the car drove on. I smiled and nodded, figuring the driver was most likely watching my reaction in the rearview mirror, but more because the moment the driver yelled at me, we were passing a Share the Road sign. Ummm, yeah, that's a bright one for ya. I rode on, going to the coffee shop for a cup of Irish Creme coffee and a lemon poppy seed muffin before actually making my way to work.

Yesterday's ride was lovely. I left out mid-afternoon, the sun shining bright from a blue sky. My goal was 20 miles and no hurry. With so few warm, sunny days, I wasn't about to rush through the ride.  Even if I wanted to, I'm not sure I could rush at this point; I've not ridden any mileage to speak of since October, so my endurance is at a low point right now. With this in mind, I moseyed along, enjoying the warmth of the sun, not having to wear my neoprene booties over my shoes, and the ease of the new gears on my bike. I enjoyed the piebald faced horse lying down to enjoy the sun, the two hawks sitting together on a utility pole, the three beagles looking out at me from their cage in the back of a pickup truck, and the four shaggy-coated Shetland ponies munching on what little grass there is available in late January.

While I truly wanted to ride today, almost as soon as I sat down and began writing this, the rain turned to snow and the wind came up, blowing out of the east. Sure, I could still ride, but the elements call for my neoprene booties and my balaclava. Unfortunately, I have no idea where my balaclava is. I think it became one of those items I loaned to a certain someone and that certain someone didn't put it back with the rest of my cycling gear. So, I am inside for the day. Maybe this calls for making oatmeal-raisin cookies. And hot chocolate. With marshmallows.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grocery Buying Blues

Whenever Hubby and go grocery shopping, I feel like I'm living Groundhog Day as soon as we walk through the automatic doors. I pick up organic onions and Hubby says, "Those are a dollar more a pound than the regular onions. Why can't you just get the cheaper ones?" I pick up organic potatoes, and hear Hubby say, "Geez, those are expensive." And so it goes for the entire shopping trip. By the time we reach the check out, I'm exhausted from trying to explain why I buy organic when I can. After paying the bill, I get to hear about how we're paying too much for groceries because I insist on buying organic. Yesterday, before even reaching the check out lane, I had arrived at the point of just being tired of hearing it. Hubby and I definitely part ways when it comes to food. I'm deeply concerned about how our fruits and veggies are grown. I'm just as concerned with how animals are treated before their lives end so that we can eat.

Yesterday, my breaking point with the conversation came when Hubby complained about how much we spent on groceries last week--$165. What he doesn't realize is when that number is broken down, our daily food expense was around $23. He further doesn't realize that when the $23 is broken down, the cost per person came in under $6. If I take it one more step, I could break that $6 down by three meals per day, which has each member of the family consuming $2 worth of food per meal. Maybe I'm figuring this all wrong, and if I am, please show me where I'm messing up the equation, but in the event that I'm not, I'm thinking $2 per person per meal each day is cheap.

Granted, our grocery bill yesterday was about $55 more than last week's. This happened because I bought several bottles of wine to use when cooking, and I bought grass-fed ground lamb, bacon that came from pastured pigs, and a frozen free-range chicken. The wine will last nearly a month, maybe longer, so we won't have that cost for several weeks now. With the chicken, yeah it was twice the cost of the conventional chicken available, but I have peace of mind knowing the chicken I bought wasn't trapped in a cage where it wasn't able to move, and it wasn't pumped full of growth hormones so it grew faster than is normal. When Hubby saw the price of the chicken, he went on about how much more expensive it was than the conventional chicken. What Hubby doesn't get is from that chicken I was able to make nearly 20 cups of stock that I'll use when cooking. Those twenty cups equal about $30 if bought at the grocery store. Also from that chicken was our meal for this evening, and there was plenty left over to make chicken noodle soup later in the week. So the $18 I paid for that chicken? Nominal when it's all said and done.

Because Hubby was complaining so loudly yesterday, I did some investigating. What we are paying per week on groceries most often falls between what is considered a thrifty plan ($146) and a low-cost plan ($191) (info taken from "Latest Statistics," USAToday, May 1, 2013). We definitely would be paying less if I didn't buy the organic produce and the grass-fed meats. We could buy more processed foods, bringing our grocery bills down even further. But I can't and won't live that way.

Another issue Hubby wasn't addressing yesterday was how often we were eating take-out through November and December. Just about every evening. I was thankful at the time to not have to worry about cooking as that was when I was going through a bit of a rough spot. After work, I wasn't feeling up to cooking, so coming home to dinner already taken care of helped. The problem that occurred, however, was the increase to our weekly grocery bill. Then, we were typically spending around $130 a week for groceries. Add in all that take-out we were consuming, and the weekly cost was easily anywhere from $280-$300. Funny, I didn't hear any complaining then. Hmmmmm.

In the end yesterday, my solution to our disagreement over the kinds of groceries we buy is I will buy for myself and the boys, and Hubby can buy for himself. I will fix meals for myself and the boys, and Hubby can fix his own meals. Not a great solution by any means, but really, I don't want to be caught up in Groundhog Day any longer. It's not fun.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Eating Well

Since January 1, I've cooked each evening except one, and that night was a "everyone is on his/her own night." Each evening, I worked to include herbs and spices, and each meal save one was given the thumbs up. The save one meal didn't get a thumbs down; it received a sideways thumb, and I think that was because I didn't get the black beans pureed the way they needed to be for the black bean soup to be creamy. I tried to puree the beans while they were too hot, and well, putting hot food into a blender then turning it on just isn't a good idea. Even though I was pressing down on the lid to prevent it launching to the ceiling, it still popped off. Black beans spewed everywhere. As if the first try wasn't enough, I made a second attempt. Yeah, not a smart move. The lid took off like a rocket, allowing black beans to splatter across cabinet doors, my sweatshirt, this computer, and my exposed wrist, which burned and now sports a nice red welt. It was carnage. So, the soup leaned more to the chunky side; however, the flavor made up for the lack of creaminess. It really was good. Angel Baby found dipping tortilla chips in it made for another way to enjoy it. I found adding some avocado gave it further dimension. I'm thinking now the sideways thumb was a bit harsh, especially given the damage incurred while making it.

This evening, I roasted jicama. I've never eaten jicama before and had no idea how to prepare it. I have since learned jicama is a taproot and can be eaten raw or cooked. I decided to cut the jicama into cubes and roast it in the oven with olive oil, onions, garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Part of me was a little afraid the boys wouldn't like it, but when dinner was over, no one had any jicama remaining. Its crispy texture and slightly sweet flavor blended nicely with the onions and herbs, and the dish went well with the pork chops.

I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's How to Eat since I've enjoyed his The Heart of Buddha's Teachings so much. The one idea from How to Eat that has stayed with me and has become a part of the meal preparation routine is considering where the different parts of the meal came from. Really thinking about what went into creating the green beans, the strawberries, the venison roast. When I think about the role the sun played, along with the soil and water, as I'm cutting the tops off the carrots, or how the cow meandered through pastures, munching on grass then maybe drinking from a stream flowing through the pastures, I find a whole new appreciation for what the family is about to eat. I never used to think about my food beyond making a list before going to the grocery store then trying to find a foolproof recipe so everyone would like the meal. Now, as I walk through the fruits and vegetables section, I touch the different produce to feel their textures, pick them up to inhale their scent. At the meats, I look over the different offerings, knowing most of the animals didn't have a great life, and I try to choose only those meats that come from free-ranging, grass fed animals. Giving more thought to the foods I'm purchasing and then consuming has made eating a much more enjoyable activity.

Tomorrow I'll be making chicken stock to put in the freezer. I bought a free-range whole chicken and will boil it. The chicken will become chicken salad for dinner, and the stock will be used for whatever needs stock in the upcoming week. Preparing my own stock has become one of my favorite things to do, and I'd like to branch out to make beef stock soon, but I haven't figured out where to get bones from a healthy source. Once I do, I'm definitely going to add beef broth to my freezer, which in turn will add another element to the way I cook. I'm looking forward to this moment. Very much.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Care of all Creatures

As I was standing in the kitchen this morning, putting together the ingredients for a dark rum, dark chocolate chip banana bread, I heard Hubby begin talking to me from the living room. He was telling me about California passing a law concerning how chickens are caged. Chicken farmers there now have to make sure the cage in which a chicken is kept be big enough for the chicken to stretch its wings. I could tell by the tone of Hubby's voice that he thought this new law ridiculous, and as he continued, bringing up how the farmers are going to have to spend a lot of money to make the required changes, how the price of eggs is going to go up, and how there will be an egg shortage because of this new law, I could feel myself becoming annoyed. Right in front of me were the lovely brown shells of two eggs I had just used in the banana bread batter. Those eggs came from hens that run free, that greet us when we step from our car, that I've watched chase bugs across the yard. Happy hens. Thinking about hens that cannot even stretch their wings makes me incredibly sad.

Then Hubby asked me what I thought of this new law. By this point, my annoyance and sadness had combined to become anger. I could hear the terseness in my response, that I thought the law was necessary to ensure a better, more comfortable life to those creatures that give to us. We are the caretakers, I said, and we should show some compassion. Hubby then says something like (I know this isn't word for word, but it does capture the essence of what he said), "Just as Temple Grandin said, animals wouldn't have been put here unless it was for us to eat them." I'm a huge Temple Grandin fan, and I know this isn't what she said. Not even close. My response to Hubby indicated he was mistaken, that while Temple Grandin doesn't see an ethical issue with eating meat, she does believe animals deserve respect. This respect includes the way they are housed, the way they are treated, and especially how they meet their death. Not to allow hens to stretch their wings is disrespectful of a basic physical function. I can't imagine the discomfort they must feel.

The conversation pretty much ended there, but I've been thinking about it since. I've been entertaining the idea of building a small coop behind the house, near the beehive, and now I want to do so even more. I want to create a space in which two or three hens can live a happy, comfortable life. I want to be a steward, living mindfully and purposefully, my actions creating a peaceful and happy environment. I don't want to be the kind of person who accepts without further thought the idea that eggs just appear in the grocery store for my consumption, without acknowledging the lives of the creatures that produced those eggs. Those creatures are more then "just" chickens. They are a part of the whole. They provide something another part of the whole takes, uses, enjoys. As such, they should receive something in return, even if it's simply a larger cage in which they can spread their wings.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hello 2015

I'm starting off the New Year with a very, very, very rough draft of my short story collection finally completed. The last story of the collection took me three years to write. I started over writing it four times as the first three attempts just didn't capture what I was hoping for. Months between starts and stops passed by. Then, recently, just before the end of the semester, as I was calculating grades for one of my classes, the way to write the story presented itself to me. I started writing it the first day of break. 
                                                                            
Today, putting the last period in place on that story was one of the most satisfying feelings I've ever experienced. I still have a lot of rewriting to do to get everything right, I still need to find someone who will read the entire manuscript and give honest, no-holding-back advice, and I definitely have a lot of leg work to do to find a publisher who is willing to give it a chance. But, the skeleton is in place.
For now, just for a little bit, I'm going to enjoy simply sitting here and looking at my first book-length manuscript.