Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Approaching

December 29th.

New Year's Day is coming.

I don't want to be a Debbie-downer, but good riddance to you 2010. You were not very kind to me.

I acquired, and later lost, a job that I did not like in any way whatsoever. I also lost a very large portion of my piano studio and my classroom space too. I lost moments of time that I wish I had spent in better ways. We lost some friends. We left one spiritual home, and that felt like a deep loss as well. I lost so much sleep that it became comical to me as I roamed the house in the wee hours of the morning, seeking an audience with God in order to pass the time. My health deteriorated down to a dangerous place. We lost money too. Possibly a lot of it.

Loss seems to be the theme of the year.

We had some good points in the year as well. Alex has soared to new heights in his company, and I am on my way to getting healthy again. The garden was beautiful and productive, and the house (while rebelling against me in every possible way) is starting to become a comforting dream home for us. We found a new spiritual home and we are so happy there. Our marriage is strong and happy, with the occasional squabbles, and I was reunited with some old friends in the last days of this month and the reunion was wonderful.

And 2011 is coming and with it comes all the promise of a new year. I am looking forward to 2011. I have no resolutions yet, and I tend not to make very many anyway, but I'm sure I will focus more on the spiritual and service sides of life when I make them.

I hope to have more Grace and less Fear in the coming months.

I hope to let hurtful words from others roll off my back like water, and not give them a second thought.

I hope to create beauty for others to enjoy in every step that I take.

I hope to overcome the Fear of Failure that I've been carrying for most of my life.

I hope to love my husband and our life together more deeply than ever.

I hope this year brings promise and joy, instead of loss and disappointment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reviewer Mode

I have never once regretter purchasing 'The New Self-sufficient Gardener' by John Seymour. Of all the gardening books in a very large stack that I have, this one has the honor of being my favorite.

I wrote a review on Amazon.com a couple years ago, and I think it's pretty cool that my review is the highest rated for this book right now!

Soaring oil, food, utility and energy and general cost of living prices are enough to make you wonder if there is anything you can do to make yourself more self sufficient. As someone who has always loved to play in the dirt and see the flowers grow, I knew I was going to appreciate this book immediately.

Written from the point of view of a man who grew up in England in the 50's, John Seymour is practical, friendly and unpolitical. Completely unconcerned with things like global warming and inflation, he recognized that the human condition has simply lost it roots - pun intended. Back in his day, he reminisced,  every English country home had a kitchen garden and the produce of the family diet came from that garden. There was a pig in the sty (and one in the larder), and a henhouse in the yard. And what you couldn't grow, you went without, or possibly traded with a neighbor. Why can't people live like this today?

I could argue on and on about the laziness and the commercialism of the day, but it's pretty redundant. Instead, I decided to put a little elbow grease into my garden and see how long it will take us to be as self-reliant as possible.

I think I appreciate Seymour's book simply because it is unpolitical. No references to global climate change, or carbon footprints, or wars in the Middle East.  I was recently flipping through a book on urban homesteading, which was written by some folks in Los Angeles and has won numerous awards because it gives simple advice on how to become self-sufficient while living in the city. "Do your part to reduce your carbon footprint!"  My humble and honest opinion to those on the West Coast is this - stop 'playing house' with your high rise apartment balcony container gardens and your smug "we're saving the planet" attitudes and get your asses out to the Midwest sometime. We'd be happy to show you REAL homesteading, real farming, and real self-sufficiency. Anyway, that's a tangent saved for a better day. There are NO POLITICAL AMBITIONS in The New Self-Sufficient Gardener! Hooray!

I started my gardening adventures with a couple tomato plants and some herbs. That was in 2006. This year in 2010, I more than doubled my crops and harvest. I was even able to grow pumpkins this year, and it was a lot of fun. Bell and cayenne peppers, four varieties of tomato, 10 herbs, russet potatoes, leeks, broccoli, lettuce, beets, pumpkins and 2 types of winter squash. It was a great year with a really good harvest! And I owe it all to John Seymour's great book full of practical advice!

No urging to find a way to purchase a $13000 wind turbine, no pleadings to replace your furnace with a geo-thermal heating and cooling system, no blaming the American presidents for not doing enough to stop the inevitable changing of the climate, INSTEAD when and how to plant deep beds, proper propogation of seeds, watering techniques to improve efficiency, how to raise the most out of your soil and how to avoid certain diseases and pests.

Best of all, I have come to realize that self-sufficiency is a process realized over time. Every year something new - another step closer. We live in the city. Not the big city, but the city nonetheless. Our yard is small and we are stuck with city utilities. And I still managed to decrease our grocery costs by $10 per week. I'm trying to do even better this coming year. Today we're heading out to a real butcher shop (!) and stocking the freezer for the next 3 months worth of meals. I'm excited about it. We may not have to tread inside a big chain grocery store for weeks! That's the ultimate goal.

So if you LOVE the idea of self-sufficiency, put down the books written by hippies and activists in California, and reach for the New Self-Sufficient Gardener instead. Start practically and patiently instead of hoping to stop global climate change overnight. Self-sufficiency takes time, baby steps and research!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Dawn Treader

We finally got to go and see the newest installation in the Chronicles of Narnia last night. After a weekend of snowstorms that kept us in, followed by a week of work that left us too exhausted to go see any movies, we were finally able to get out and enjoy what will certainly be MY favorite movie of the year.

I read my Chronicles pretty religiously. They never get old to me. But Alex won't let me read them out loud to him, so we always have an issue. He asks me questions through the whole film that could have been avoided entirely if he had just let me read the book to him!

I am biased. I will sit and enjoy almost anything that has the Narnia stamp on it, simply because I love the series so much. I have very little to say that is bad, unlike film critics, whom I am fairly certain simply exist because the bitter, crabby, 'can't be pleased no matter what' people of the world have to have jobs too.

The first thing I saw that I loved was how perfect the actor playing Eustace was. Exactly how I had always pictured him - a conniving, sneaking little pig with a constant scowl on his face and an air of superiority.

The Dawn Treader itself was exactly how I had always pictured it. I was excited to learn that they had actually built a real Dawn Treader over another ship and sailed it around England with many children as passengers. What I would have given to be on THAT maiden voyage! I was extremely pleased with Her.

Now to the storyline. Unlike most people in the world, I am quite tolerant when it comes to changing the story a little bit in order to make a good film. You see, I understand that some books should be left as books, because they stand on their own as great stories. Other books are terrible books that would be wonderful movies. It's a fine balance. And so I am giving the changes to the storyline a solid B. The addition of the 'green mist' and the added details of the 7 swords gave the film an added depth that would have been lacking had they simply stuck with the book's passages. And I was not bothered by the rearrangement of the different islands.

One thing I will say about the things that were added to the story is that they were a HUGE foreshadowing to the next story - "The Silver Chair". The 'green mist' that seems to eat people alive is a spell that the Green Lady (the White Witch in a different form) uses to keep Caspain's future son, Prince Rilian, under her control. I smiled to myself and whispered to Alex "Do you see that the Witch's eyes are green?" when she appeared out of the clouds on the Dark Island. Because, again, the Green Lady is coming in "The Silver Chair" and she is the spirit of the White Witch in a changed form. Even the ending was suspiciously like to that of "Silver Chair" as the Witch transforms into a terrible serpent and here in the end of Dawn Treader, they must battle a terrible Sea Serpent to escape from the Dark Island.

At the end of the movie, I cried. Actually, I might have even bawled a little bit. Aslan always brings out some strange emotions for me. Yes, I am completely aware that it is a CGI animated lion with Liam Neeson's voice. Geez, I'm not THAT far over the edge yet. But Aslan represents something so much deeper, and always has for me. He represents that constant, standing anchor - the Hope at the end of life that cannot be expressed by other members of humankind. And at the end of this movie, he tells Lucy that in our world He goes by another name, and now that she has grown, she must learn to know him better by that Name. The Name above all Names.

So help me out here, die-hard fans! Don't let the series die! Each book in the Chronicles should be made into a film by Walden Media and 20th Century Fox! Let's hear it for an announcement of the "Silver Chair" coming soon!!

I give it an A. :)

The Rare Negative

It is a rare occurance that I give anything a bad review. I am certainly a glass-half-full person, and when I have bad experiences I tend to just go about my business. The world can do with a few less opinions is my stance.

However, I do feel like it is necessary to put this out into the ether. We will not be frequenting any movie theatres owned by AMC ever again. Not because of a particularly bad experience, but because our Showplace 16 theatre, formerly owned by Kerasotes, was recently bought out by AMC and their prices shot skyward. We simply cannot afford to see movies at that theatre anymore.

We first noticed it when we paid $16 for 2 regular tickets last night to see 'Voyage of the Dawn Treader'. It came as quite a shock because we normally pay $14.50. So the ticket prices had gone up. But that was nothing compared to the snack bar.

Alex and I have a system when it comes to our movies. We always go on Sunday night - fewer people. We always go early - never later than 8 pm. We are part of working America and we get up to go to our jobs in the morning. And we usually get 2 drinks and popcorn to share because we could get that particular combo for $11.50. Not anymore. AMC has their own 'combos' and they even gave them fun and exciting monikers so you're blinded to the absurd amount of money you're paying for them! (Please note there is a large amount of snark in that comment that can't be portrayed in font.) A large drink and bag of popcorn - the 'Producer's Pack' - is $12.75. For $15 you can get another large drink! A small soda is $5.50 and a small popcorn is $4.25. Candy is $5.

And there was a huge line at the snack bar.

Now, I know that this is where they make their money, but shouldn't there be a reasonable line? And they wonder why people sneak things in. I can buy 24 cans of soda for $5.50. I can pop two or three pounds of popcorn for $4.25. This is the Midwest - and Indiana to boot. Don't we have enough problems with our economy?

I'd really LOVE to know who looks at a failing theatre, in a city that is plagued by homelessness and unemployment, and says, "Let's RAISE the prices so that it will become profitable again! After all, everyone LOVES movies and loves to go see movies!"

I might feel better about it if they had bothered to clean up the theatre when it was bought out. Sorry AMC, a 20 foot tall sign on the side of the building does not qualify as 'cleaning up'. Showplace 16 is still the ghetto dump that it has always been, right down to the peeling paint and the broken doors in the ladies rooms. If you're going to charge me more money, at least put some effort into it.

We do love to see movies. We are on a pretty strict budget. We don't get to go to the movies all that often. But we left a theatre last night that was a mediocre experience at best. The movie was wonderful, but tainted by the fact that we had put out $40 (a week's worth of groceries for us) to buy 2 tickets, a bag of popcorn and a drink. I can only imagine what it must be like for my friends who have children.

We will no longer be frequenting any AMC theatres. Fortunately there is a Cinemark theatre on the north side of town that still offers more reasonable prices for now. We can still get our adult tickets for $14 and our popcorn and soda for less than $10. And when the prices go up? Well.....going to the movies is a luxury we'll probably go without. After all, isn't that why Movies on Demand and Netflix exist?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Applesaucy

Perhaps I should write an ode to the humblest of all fruit dishes. It has such wonderful meaning behind it!

Applesauce! Everyone likes it, from babies to old people! It's good with everything! Bologna sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, steaks and seafood, hot or cold. My grandpa Orlin ate applesauce at every meal. He also drank milk at every meal. He was a dairy farmer and he was extremely loyal to two things - my grandma and the way he had earned his living. And he did that by having oatmeal every morning, milk with every meal and applesauce poured over hot bread and butter.

Today seemed like a perfectly acceptably day to make some applesauce. I have had several pounds of macintosh apples for quite some time now. Oh, don't give me that face. Apples last for months. Months, I tell you. Just ask my grandmother.

I would do anything for two or three macintosh apple trees in our yard. I wouldn't mind a peach tree or two either, but one thing at a time. Somehow I have to convince the neighbors on both sides to move away, and then tear their houses down and annex their property lines into my own. Or I could ask Alex to move me to the country, but honestly, annexing the neighbors' yards might be easier.

Applesauce is amazingly simple to make if you have the right tools and even better to eat. And by right tools, I mean you need a strainer of some kind! Or, if you choose to stand at the counter and peel and core all those apples, you can use a food processor or food mill. :)

Try to buy your apples in the fall, and use two or three different kind of apples. Romas are good because they offer a pretty pink hue to your fruit mush. MacIntosh apples are a MUST - they are fragrant and just the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Add some crisp eating apples like Galas for their natural sweetness and a Granny Smith or two for a little acidity and you have a great mix. Gather about 6 pounds of apples total if this is your first time making applesauce so that you don't spend an entire day slicing and dicing and then don't get the result you wanted.

Cut the apples into 1 inch pieces and drop them into a 6-8 quart preserving pot. Add 2 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil on high heat. If you are using a food processor, you will need to peel and core the apples, but if not, drop everything in together!

Boil on high heat, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes, or until the apple mush is seperating from the peels and everything smells like an orchard in the kitchen. Remove the preserving pot from the heat and pour the apple mush into the strainer (or processor).

Straining takes patience. Don't get too hurried! Take the wooden mallet and push straight through the apple guts to the bottom and repeat. It take a while, so dance around the strainer, singing Christmas carols if necessary. Press as much apple mush through the strainer as possible and then return the freshly squeezed applesauce to the preserving pot. Boil it for 5 minutes, clean up the mesh you made with the strainer and throw all those mushed peels and guts away. Stir the sauce and take in the best fragrance in the world and then do as you wish with it! Put the applesauce into Ball jars and can them, freeze it in plastic ice cream tubs or freezer bags, or just put it in the fridge and pull it out for dinner later.

I personally am going to label all of my jars with "AppleSaucy". Cuz that's how I roll. :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Good News!

Heeeeeeeeey Kids!

I got an interview today! Yes!

At the Woodwind and Brasswind. :) Maybe the music degree will finally come in handy after all.

Wish me blessings.

The Etsy shop is doing well! Another sale on Monday! That's 6 this month.

Friday, December 10, 2010

L.Peek Designs

A few sweet things from the shop to get your gift-giving wheels turning!

www.lpeekdesigns.etsy.com

And so the searching continues...

Dearest Friends,

I am at a loss.

I have known for years that I am a flaky, lazy, virtually unemployable, anti-social, right-brained artist.

I don't interact well with many people. I might have issues with authority. And I don't care how much money I have as long as the bills are paid and there is food in the pantry. I have a difficult time looking people in the eye. I am fearful of failure and easily intimidated and overshadowed by stronger personalities. I have a million things wrong with my head - ADD, OCD and probably 10 other mental acronyms. I can't stand being responsible for other people's problems.

I'm creative. I love to sew and crochet. I am a good writer. I studied the piano in college and play at a virtuoso's level. I love to cook. I love to plant seeds and watch them grow. I love the sunshine and the rain and the falling leaves. I am a dreamer and a poet.

Who in America pays money for people like me to work for them?????

I need a job. I don't want one though.

I've been happily caring for my home, making Christmas presents and cooking all sorts of goodies. I teach a few piano lessons per day and it is JUST FINE.

My husband has been trying to nag me to death in order to light a fire under my butt and get me to go out and get a job. I applied for a few, it's true, but none that I'm really interested in. Well, I'd love to be a librarian, but none of those interviews wanted to hire me. But I am sick of being a cashier, a retail manager, a waitress, etc. I have a college degree for crying out loud!

I think I scare the potential employers away. Maybe I should start lying. But that's against my religion.

This week I applied at the Tribune, the St. Joe County public library, Memorial Home Care, Family Bookstore, 3 banks and 2 department stores. I don't actually want to work any of those jobs - except for the library.

I actually do want to work at the new Tractor Supply Co. when it opens. I'm weird like that.

And clearly, I am having an off-the-wall ADD day. ;)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The New American Dream

It's December!

My gardening books and journals are being opened and studied for the coming year. By February there will be cabbage and broccoli seedlings in the greenhouse to put out in the garden as soon as the ground thaws enough. I've been researching tomatoes and peppers, because 2011 is going to be my magic year!

2010's garden was good. I grew a lot of new things that I was really very pleased with. I grew some new herbs that made it all the way through November. I grew cayenne peppers and lots of squash - that I didn't get much fruit from, BUT I learned a lot about how to grow and care for different varieties of squash. And I had 4 large pumpkins! I am definitely making the list of things to try in the coming year.

I am researching a gardening method called Grow Biointensive, also known as "Mini-farming". Since I live in the city on a 40 foot lot that both of my next door neighbors have encroached on from both sides (making my lot more like 36 feet) I don't have a lot of room. And our house faces the west, so we really don't have a lot of sun, except on the side that faces the south. I am going to try to remedy that this year. I do, fortunately, have two long strips of dirt, about 3 feet wide and 25 feet long that are a good size for the intensive gardening method. One of those strips is full of white quartz landscaping rocks - which are hideous! - but I am planning on moving those rocks to the north side of the garage, when there is no sun.

I have been hearing the whispers of the "Old Way" for about a year. Every Autumn I feel this little voice inside of me begin to nudge "Provide....hold back.....preserve....provide! Winter is coming!" Sometimes I wonder if there are mutant squirrels sending ESP messages to my brain, but then again, there IS a little farmgirl deep down inside of me. Grandpa and Grandma taught me the importance of food preservation. Yes, on occasion, I do turn on the political talk shows, and I was shocked to hear 3 out of 5 political pundits talking about the costs of food rising and how we should be teaching ourselves food storage and preservation because a time may be coming that food in the grocery store isn't affordable. And that is just good advice in general! Everyone should keep at least an extra week's food in storage, but I have challenged myself to find a way to store 6 months worth of food for us.

Hooray for the Midwest!! Do you know how much I love living in the Midwest? I can ride my bike to a Farmer's Market. I can drive 15 minutes in any direction and find a berry farm. There are 4 apple orchards within a 45 minute drive from our house. And I have learned the locations of 3 small local butchers. Put that in your pipe and smoke it all you Big City Folks. When you can't afford your food, we 'yokels' in the farmlands will be just fine.

Okay, sorry, that might have been uncalled for. My best friend is visiting from Los Angeles, and when the two of us get on a rant about the spoiled lives of those on the West Coast, the feelings sometimes last for days afterwards. Either way, we still get a chuckle out of mocking the 'big city folks'. :)

Anyway, this week we're going to make and can pasta sauce and applesauce. Alex told me last week that he's tired of canned Italian. Particularly, one night I had boiled the spaghetti noodles and unceremoniously dumped half a jar of store brand marinara over them and stirred. His actual words were "That's not made with Love". This seems to be a new kick my husband is on. He can apparently tell when the food I make doesn't have my Love in it. And of course, being the picky little turd that he is, he doesn't like it, eats half of it and the pushes it back across the table at me. So I am on a quest to create my own recipe of pasta sauce that has the special, and obviously necessary, ingredient of Love in it, that Alex will eat. 

I gave our household an ultimatum this year - reduce the grocery costs to $50 per week. I am proud to say that we have done it! For my 2011 New Year's resolution, I would like to reduce it even more! I would really like to get it down to $35 per week and stop buying store bought canned goods altogether and try to stick to fresh produce and ingredients entirely.

To the kitchen! It's time to bake Christmas cookies!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Prayer In Time...

In the last two months, I have been rejected for three jobs that I was interviewed for, and then last Saturday, my insurance gig ended. I was basically told to take a 'leave' and my accounts were taken over by my supervisor. It was a mixed bag of feelings for me. Intense relief - I have never felt so relieved to leave a job. Slight fear - I have NOTHING to back it up with. For the first time since I was 16, I am unemployed. And I only teach 9 piano students per week now - I used to have a studio of 30. I have no income.

However, I am not afraid because I know that God will provide. He has always provided. My parents have gone through the worst financial troubles, including being sued over a mortgage on a house they no longer owned, but we never went hungry as children and we never went naked and we never had to move from our house. We were always provided for.

On Sunday morning, I received a blessing that brings tears to my eyes as I type this. Every time I talk about it, I cry a little, because it blessed me so much. We had a time of prayer during praise and worship, and it was all about 'needs'. If you had a need, big or small, come down and let your church brothers and sisters lay hands on you and pray for you. My sister Carrie dragged me down and Alex waved at me from the stage to get my hindquarters down there to be prayed for. And I did, and I was NOT the only person down there, believe me. This is a time of great need in our community - it's winter, and hardly anyone has a steady income anymore. Pretty soon, I felt some hands on my shoulders and someone grabbed my hand - not my sister Carrie, who had a death grip on my right arm and was praying for me right in my ear. I actually assumed that it was the assistant pastor's wife, who has known me since birth, or an older couple that have known my parents since they were married and watched all of my sisters and I grow up over the years. I really thought that the people praying for me were the folks that know and love me.

When the altar call was over, I turned around and saw 4 teenage boys behind me. We always sit in front of the youth group so that I can watch Alex play on the stage. The boys had followed me up during the altar call to pray for me - and I don't think one of them was more than 14 years old. I can't tell you how much that blessed my heart. They don't really know me - they know that I am Alex's wife, but they don't usually speak to me. It wasn't someone who knows and loves me who was praying for me - they were just church brothers, who listened to the Holy Spirit and prayed over someone who needed it. And boy did I need it!

Pray for those who need it. Don't just run to your friend's side when they are walking through a hard time. Go to those fellow Christians in the church that you've never spoken to before and stand in prayer with and for them. If the Spirit prompts you to pray, for goodness sake, do it! You never know who is going to need those prayers and what they might mean to someone.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Fingers, Tiny Toes

Due to the increasing insistance of my friends upon HAVING BABIES, I have been up to my eyeballs in booties!!

A dear friend gave birth one week ago today. Another is scheduled for about 3 weeks from now. And there seems to be an abundance of first birthdays coming 'round in the next 5 months!

So haul your eyeballs over to my etsy site - http://www.lpeekdesigns.etsy.com/ and have a look at the booties. Give 'em hearts and love and pass the information along to your girlfriends, mommies-to-be, grannies-to-be, etc. etc., and fill me up some orders!

I officially became unemployed as of Saturday. But I will have NO FEAR, because I happen to worship Jehovah Jireh (God my provider!) So the Etsy store is going to be in full swing for the holidays!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Boutique

Shhhh! Don't tell my mother in law, but she might have been right!

Long ago, before Alex and I were even a steady couple, my mother in law looked at my purse, my scarf, my shoes and my hat and declared me to be a fashion icon. And said someday I would own a boutique that would sell all sorts of fashionable pieces to fashionable ladies about town.

Currently for sale in my Etsy.com shop, are several handbags, a couple custom crochet baby designs and an incense burner that I still haven't decided if I want to part with yet. I've been searching the classifies for estate sales and small antique stores for whatever treasures may lie inside for years, and suddenly, I seem to have found a stride for myself. Perhaps she was right about a boutique? A vintage style boutique?

I'll stick with the online selling for now, but I am pleased to say that I have managed to generate a great deal of interest and even 3 sales this week, just from cleaning out my studio. Perhaps someday I will have enough drive to open up a small storefront over in Eddy Commons, where the fashionable college gals congregate?

Yikes, that's gonna be some high rent.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Economic Situation

The picture to the left has nothing to do with this posting except that it is a hand-knitted wrap in gray cashmere and it is probably overpriced at $99.99. But someone made it and wants to sell it, so go to Etsy.com and wade through the listings of garbage and try to find some of the really beautiful, quality pieces of knit-wear that are for sale.

Alex and I went shopping at the mall yesterday to get some Christmas present ideas out of the way. His mother sent us a text that said "Xmas Blacke gloaves. Isotnrs". So we ran it through the 'Crazy Mother Text to English' translator app and decided she must be telling us that she wants black Isotoner gloves for Christmas. That put us right in the middle of J C Penney's in December, which is generally something we try to avoid at all costs. But they sent us a coupon, and Alex needed another shirt for praise and worship team dress, so we took a deep breath and made the 45 minute drive to the mall. 45 minute drive. Did you know we actually only live 4.1 miles from the mall?

While shopping, we came across some rather hideous scarves and hats in the Junior accessories department. And I say hideous because I love handmade goods and we have lots of handmade scarves and hats and mittens, and when I see scarves and hats and mittens in a departments stores that look like they were handmade 10 years ago and then donated to the Hope Rescue Mission and then salvaged off of a homeless drunk, sent to a Chinese laundromat for dry cleaning and then wrapped around a hanger and marked with a $14.99 price tag. And I can't even upload A PICTURE of them for you to see because the pictures are protected by the Penney's website and I am computer illiterate. So go to the department store websites and type in 'mixed media scarves' and see what comes up and see if I'm lying! American Eagle and Aeropostale stores had similar pieces, and for about $29.99.  The scarves and hats are UGLY. They are like the worst kind of handmade, and I saw teenagers wearing them. What have Chinese manufacturing deals done to our sense of aethetics?

I love handmade. I support handmade completely and utterly with all of my being.

I refuse to purchase something in a mall department store that looks like it was handmade. If it looks like my niece made it as her first crochet or knit project, I will not spend money on it.

Buy handmade. Support crafters who offer great products at fair prices. The economy WILL recover.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No Regretsy

If you know me personally, you know that on and off, I have a little Etsy shop where I occasionally attempt to sell a few of my handmade odds and ends, and when Alex has had enough of my estate sale shopping and thrift store splurging, I also resell my vintage accessories and home decor.

http://www.lpeekdesigns.etsy.com/

Please visit. Mark me as a favorite. Recommend my stuff to others.

He's been on vacation this week and has thusly been forcing me to clean 'my room'. That's the spare room that functions as my sewing room, art studio and sometimes even my office. He has given strict instructions to me that I throw it away or give it away. That's how some friends got to go home with boxes full of scrapping supplies. That's also how I managed to sell 3 vintage purses on my Etsy shop in the last 24 hours. At $5 a piece, because they simply have to be out of the house. I believe I am getting the short end of the stick here.

So I have heard about 'Regretsy' before. Occasionally I also have moments when I am shopping on Etsy and I find a listing that makes me say WHAT THE F***? I say it just like that too - with the asterisks. Because I don't care for profanity. It makes my tender heart cry a little. Good Lord, I wish I had come up with this idea first! What a treasure trove of insanity! This stuff exists. And the people who make this stuff exist too and (gasp) might have reproduced already. God save us all.

Just go there.

I recommend the WTF Alchemy Request section. Mostly because the most devout of us will discover new people to pray for. Regretsy.com You won't regret it. You won't, I promise. I am a woman of her word.

And in other news:

I was rejected for two more jobs. But I put in two more applications. Where it will lead, I can only pray, but every morning I wake up thanking God that we're alive, healthy and our house payment was made for this month.

I've been more creative lately after going through a drastic and wicked dry spell. I'm pretty sure my insurance job had something to do with it.

I've been practicing my tattoo art. If there are any ladies out there who are uncomfortable with the gents stabbing them with needles and putting ink into their open wounds and would prefer the gentle touch of a 5 foot tall redhead, call me in about 3 months. By then I should be apprenticed with Ron, the Master.

Hey guess what? I'll be baking up the Christmas goodies all weekend! Can't wait to get started.

Hanukkah starts tomorrow! 8 craaaaazy nights!

I love the holidays.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

For The Vegetarian Conscious

Yay for Thanksgiving! Possibly my very favorite holiday! With the exception of having to juggle the families around and make time for everyone, I just love a day that's completely dedicated to eating food and being grateful for it! And this year is especially exciting, because for the first time in my married life, I am not working a second job in retail that demands I be working on Black Friday. Ahhhhh. I am so excited to simply get to sleep in, decorate the house for Christmas and cook. (Alex is going to brave the crowds for a quick trip to Guitar Center.)

Due to Alex's bizarre poultry allergy (I promise you I did not make that up! He really has a dangerous allergy to poultry!), we don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving day. We usually make do with a beef roast or a ham. I'm not really a big fan of the food that we consume from the in-laws (shh! Don't tell!) because Grandma usually shops at restaurant supply grocery stores which are laden with heavy preservatives and who knows what else, but I am looking forward to spending time with the family. My mom, who swore up and down that she was NOT cooking this year, had her plans changed and will be providing food for friends from church, as well as her three daughters and their significant others.

I came across this recipe in the October issue of Vegetarian Times, which I read for good ideas about ways to prepare veggie dishes that don't fall into the category of steamed, frozen vegetables overly seasoned with salt. (We come from a farmin' community. There has never been a lot of creativity when it comes to how to prepare vegetables and our family traditions.) I love winter squash and I love soup. What a perfect dish! The filling can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and then baked in acorn squash shells before serving.

South American Squash and Vegetable Ragout

6 dried pitted apricots
4 dried pitted prunes
6 small acorn or other winter squash that is round and can double as a bowl to hold the stew
1 tbsp. olive oil plus more to coat the squash
1 small Spanish onion (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 small red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
1 14.5-oz. can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
1 small Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced (1 cup)
1 small sweet potato, peel and diced (1 cup)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained


1. Place apricots and prunes in bowl, and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Soak 2 hours, drain and coarsely chop fruit, reserving liquid.

2. Preheat over to 350 degrees F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut circular opening in squash tops, and reserve tops. Cut small slices off bottoms of squash so they stand up straight. Scoop out and discard seeds and fiber from squash. (Or save them to throw out in the garden for MORE acorn squash next season!) Rub outside of squash shells and lids with oil, and place on prepared baking sheet.

3 Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and oregano; saute' 2 to 3 minutes. Add bell pepper and tomatoes and juice; cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add potato, sweet potato, and reserve apricot-prune soaking liquid, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are almost soft. Add corn and apricot-prune mixture, and simmer 2 to 3 more minutes. Add beans and season with salt and pepper if desired. Simmer 5 more minutes.

4. Ladle soup into each hollowed squash; place lid on top. Bake 60 to 90 minutes or until a fork can easily pierce through the squash. Serve immediately and enjoy! It will warm you through on the coldest of days!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Candy Making

Decided to try my hand at homemade caramels today.

I might be a little too impatient for candy making, but I think I could eventually learn patience.

They didn't turn out badly, but I am distressed by the huge amounts of butter that are seeping out of the top while it is firming up in the pan right now. The taste is pretty good. I did not scorch the caramel mixture.

I want to try again tomorrow with condensed milk instead of half and half.

But seriously, who doesn't have a day where they just feel like ingesting a cup of butter, three cups of brown sugar and a cup of corn syrup?


Caramels:

1 c. butter
1  16 oz. bag (2 1/4 cups) packed brown sugar
2 cups half and half
1 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla


1. Line an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan. Butter the foil. If desired, sprinkle walnuts over the bottom of the pan. (Yuck.)

2. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Be sure you use the BIG saucepan, not the little one. Add brown sugar, half and half and corn syrup and mix well. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, stead rate, stirring frequently until the thermometer registers 248 degrees Farenheit, firm-ball stage. (45-60 minutes - don't rush it.) Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil.

3. Remove sauce pan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Try not to crap yourself if is sizzles and makes odd noises while stirring in the vanilla. Quickly pour the mixture into the prepared pan. When firm, use foild to lift it out of the pan. Use a buttered knife to cut into 1 inch squares. Wrap each in plastic wrap, if you don't eat them all while removing them from the pan. Store up to 2 weeks. But let's be honest, are you really going to make them and then let them sit around for 2 weeks??

Living in Narnia


The other night USA Network had "Prince Caspian" on. I just adore the Chronicles of Narnia, I have been reading them since I was a little girl and they never get old. I know each story by heart, but it never ceases to amaze me how, as an adult, I can pick them up and find a new nugget of truth in them that speaks to my heart. That is what makes Clive Staples Lewis my favorite author of all time.

"Prince Caspian" is actually my least favorite book in the whole of the seven books in the Chronicles, but there is a chapter that always amazes me every time I read it. Lucy has found Aslan in the woods and she is frightened and has been brushed aside (again) by the others, so she feels weak and vulnerable. She tells Aslan she wishes she could be brave, to which he replies that if she were any braver she would be a lioness. But Lewis inserts 2 sentances in this scene that I always carry around in my heart. Lucy asks Aslan why he didn't sweep in and rescue them like he did last time and he replies

"Nothing ever happens the same way twice." And then she asks him if things would have turned out all right if she had left the others and followed Aslan when he appeared to her and not to them. And he replies, "Dear One, we are never told what WOULD have happened. Only what WILL happen."

I find this both comforting and frustrating because I NEED to know! I walk around, second guessing myself, doubting my decisions, worrying that I have made the wrong choice constantly. I ask God every day "Was that the right thing to do? Did I do the right thing? Why did I do that? What are the consequences of that choice?" And then these words from a fairy tale written 60 years ago come back to my memory as if Christ himself had spoken them to me. "You are never told what WOULD have happened IF...."



In some ways this is very comforting! I shouldn't be second-guessing myself. The future is going to come, and my decisions are going to affect them. All I can do is pray each day that I am tuned in enough to the Holy Spirit to hear Him guiding me - just like Lucy saw Aslan in the woods, beckoning for her to follow Him because He knew the path.

But it's frustrating because it takes away my justification of a wrong choice. "If I had known THIS would happen as a result of THAT choice, I never would have done it!"

Nothing ever happens the same way twice. This is a passage that has Grace written all over it. Our church is teaching the message of Grace right now, and for some reason, its a controversial topic in the Christian world. I'll never figure out why, but perhaps I've just been given a little more revelation than some. Christian churches tend to either teach "God loves you NO MATTER WHAT!" and leave it at that. Or they teach "HOLINESS - you'll have to work really hard at being holy because Jesus said to!" Both of those teachings are incomplete.

Sure, God loves you no matter what. Your sin did not keep God from sending the Messiah to die on a cross to save humanity. He does love you no matter how awful you are. But he loves you too much to let you stay the way you are. Which is why every day He continues to purify your heart and make you one step closer to being holy as Jesus is.

And nothing happens the same way twice. You could be trapped in sin, and God will guide you out. But the second time you are caught in that sin, He probably will not sweep in and rescue you like he did the last time. There are always consequences. We can't continue to live any way we like just because we found out that God loves us no matter what. But be assured that His Grace will cover that sin a hundred times over until you no longer struggle with it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Had Words With A Squirrel Before Breakfast

This delightful little piece of literature was composed by my cousin, Kelli Davis. Kelli and I are very nearly kindred spirits, as we both have a love for gourmet cooking, C.S. Lewis and the Beatles. I told her I simply had to share it with the 10 people that read my blog. :)  It's by far some of the best poetry I've picked up this year. Not kidding. I'm growing weary of the 'poor me and my inability to adjust to society' pieces and the sexual odes. A bit of comedy was just what I needed to restore my faith in the poetic arts. Enjoy!!


I HAD WORDS WITH A SQUIRREL BEFORE BREAKFAST


I had words with a squirrel before breakfast.

I fear they weren't so kind.

But what to do

When a squirrel looks at you

And seems to be out of his mind????



He clumsily climbed up the glass door.

I banged on the glass with a shout.

He flew through the air

Shedding furry, black hair

His little heart pounding, no doubt.


The air-conditioner next he did summit.

Skittering from side to side.

Stealing a glance,

I near wet my pants

When our eyes met and stopped him mid-stride!


Beady, glazed eyes all a twittering;

Tail swishing madly about.

He seemed to be thinking

Without one eye blinking

"Should I run or just sit here and pout?"



"If I sit here and look cute then maybe,"

I could see the thought in his mind,

"She'll then let me in

even though I'm not kin

And I'll warm my cute, furry behind!"


"Not so fast," I thought right back at him

"Your behind belongs NOT in MY house",

The glass I banged more

With a shout and a roar;

"You're cute but still kin to a mouse!!!!!"


But all of that mattered not to him.

He ignored me like a teenage brat.

He clawed and he dug

Prying through with his mug

The window below where he sat.


My thoughts went racing at this point!

What to do if he gets inside?

"Not here!" I did yell

And swiftly he fell

and ran off somewhere else to abide.


So now it's spiders AND tree rats

And a stray centipede or two

who try to get in

much to my chagrine

to warm themselves, skitter, and chew...



Well, a warning to all you dread creatures.

I'm not a nice woman, oh no!

You won't live long;

Your death knell will gong

and your carcass will help the grass grow!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lunch with Mom

I went shopping and had a nice brunch with my mother today. My mom can be a lot of things - she can scare the poop out of you with one little frown. She can be very dominant and sometimes you are positive that she is simply mean. But in the last few years, I have come to realize that my mom has had experiences, like everyone else, that have shaped her into who she is. She loves all of her children and her husband and her family and she loves God very much. But she doesn't lavish her love on anything else.

My mother is not sentimental in any way. Don't ever give her a gift that you hope she will enjoy for years to come because it will probably be in the next yardsale. She doesn't like stuff that sits around the house, and things that most people enjoy are NOT her cup of tea. For example, a friend gave her a certificate for a $100 massage treatment at the Spa at Colfax. She never used it. She doesn't like to be touched. She doesn't like Christmas or birthday presents, and she doesn't read fiction, or books that are not theological teaching.
She is passive-agressive and judgemental, although she says she is simply 'making observations since she doesn't judge others'. She doesn't have any hobbies. She views everything as 'work that must be done'. Her house is almost impeccably clean all of the time, and she never takes down time. Her days off do not consist of resting on the sofa and watching television. She mows grass, rakes leaves, cleans the garage, paints or vacuums, but she does not rest.

She is who she is. And I have grown to love her more for it. We never had a good relationship, but now that she no longer 'mothers' me, we are slowly growing a great friendship.

We went to Kohl's to get Christmas presents today for my sisters and their boyfriends. She bought me a pretty new sweater. We did great. Thanks to a 30% off coupon she got in the mail, everything we purchased was between 60 and 80% off. Mom's a great shopper. I can never find anything that I like. She finds great stuff all the time, and for good prices.

During lunch, we talked about God, which is hard to do with my mother because she is exceptionally spiritual. Almost to where you don't like to talk to her because she comes off as preachy. Very preachy. She also firmly believes that she knows better than almost every spiritual leader in the world - from the pastor of a little hometown church to the pastor of a million-member mega-church. She studies her Bible very hard. She has friends of every denomination and religion - Jewish, Catholic, Methodist, Charismatic, Baptist, etc. I don't know how she keeps them as friends sometimes if she talks to them about God in the same way she talks to me about Him.

My mom is seriously struggling with my sister having moved back home and into their house. I am struggling with finding my place in the world. We are both dealing with issues of friends and family members that are a pain. But in the end, we decided that no matter what, we simply must ask God how He feels about everything. We just can't walk through our respective storms alone. We must strive for holiness while allowing His grace to carry us. There were tears shed today from both of us, but we came out of the breakfast diner happy that we had talked about it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fuzzbutt

Tobey has been a cuddly fuzzbutt all day long. I love it. I've been lonely and worried today, so having her warm, fuzzy, kitten butt purring away in my lap has been comforting. Alex is playing a show tonight. I can't wait for that run to be over. It's been kinda stressful for him.

Today my mom was working on my hair and announced that I am going bald.

Okay, she didn't actually say that. But that's what it feels like. She said my hair is getting much thinner that it has ever been, and the color underneath is grayer than it was.

Friends, I'm not quite 30 years old. I shouldn't have gray hair AT ALL, much less be grayer than I used to be. And as for the thinning, its just another sign of stress.

But thinking positively, Alex and I will be the cutest little set of shiny domes you've ever seen.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smoke on the Water

I had to drive Alex to work this morning because his back break lines were acting up and he was uncomfortable with the idea of driving his car in an unsafe way. All the way to the company, we listened to Bob and Tom, but in the last few minutes of my drive back home, I changed the radio to the local news channel. They were discussing a new law that has been sweeping through Northern Indiana for a few years now - the smoking ban. Apparently this struck a nerve this morning, because I got irritable about it!

The guest was a local bar/restaurant owner from Elkhart County and he was explaining how the City of Elkhart has instituted a smoking ban, but the county has not. Consequently, all of the city bar and restaurant owners are suffering because they are losing all of the tobacco-using clientele to the county businesses that do not have to abide by that law. Seems to me that some self-important gasbag started that law thinking they were 'helping the general public'. Like most laws that ban some sort of commodity, all it's doing is killing business for small business owners.

Just so you know where I am coming from, I was a diner waitress from age 16 to age 22. Yes, I smoked cigarettes, mostly because everyone around me was doing it, and it afforded me break time when I otherwise was not allowed to take any. I am generally not offended by the smell of cigarette smoke, unless it is combined with body odor, cheap perfume or just plain STINK, like some people have. I don't have an allergy to smoke, although I will say that I have known a few people who ARE allergic to smoke and I understand why it bothers them. I also think that there are a lot of busybodies who SAY they are allergic to smoke who really aren't.

My husband grew up in a smoking household and had some health complications due to second hand smoke, including high blood pressure as a teen. His dad quit smoking, as did other family members, and when we were dating, he told me that it bothered him enough to break it off with me if I was smoking. I quit. I have not smoked in 4 years.

Now, this is simply my opinion, but there is a helluva lot of judgement that goes around on cigarette smokers. They smell, they're dirty, they're giving themselves cancer, etc. All of these things are valid points. But may I also point out that the folks passing this judgement also have some vices that make them candidates for the same kind of judgement. Personally, I think people who overeat themselves in morbid obesity so that they can't even get out of their beds are disgusting. Much more disgusting to me than a cigarette smoker. I think women who dress in provacative clothing and have sex with whoever comes along are pretty disgusting too. I'm bothered by young men who drink beer and play video games until 5 am and then sleep all day without working a job or contributing to society. But all of these things are personal priorities and choices. Cigarette smoking is also a personal decision and a priority.

Do you really think that smokers don't know that what they're doing can make them sick and eventually kill them? And is it really your business to worry about it?

And does the government really have to pass a law saying that business owners cannot make a decision on who to allow in their restaurants/bars? This seems like a pretty big intrusion of freedoms.

There really is a simple solution. First of all, leave business owners alone. They're smart - they'll catch on to what is making them money and what isn't. If they allow smoking in their restaurant and you don't like smoke, DON'T PATRONIZE THAT RESTAURANT. See how easy that is? Go patronize a non-smoking restaurant or bar and support that business owner's good decision with your money and time.

The more laws we make against people's personal decisions and priorities, the fewer freedoms we have. People have a RIGHT to choose to fill their bodies with chemicals and garbage and JUNK FOOD (equally bad for your health!) and anything else. Smart folks figure out that it's bad for them and don't do it.

I agree with education. Please inform me that something may be hazardous to my health.  But don't tax me, ban me or treat me badly because I make that choice.

Just leave people alone. I really think most of the problem's in the world would be solved if we could simply mind our own business and leave people alone.

I'm treading on eggshells and probably offending someone, I'm sure of it. There are always going to be variables. There are always going to be situations that are subject to something greater and larger, especially if there is a chance that someone innocent is being hurt. By and large however, my argument is not toward that, but simply I am arguing that businesses, especially bars and restaurants, should be permitted to choose who they offer services to, without the government and some nosy busybodies making laws that diminish their clientele.

Humanity would be smarter if we always had to reap the consequences of our mistakes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's The End of the World As We Know It.....and I Feel Fine

I decided while laying in bed this morning that I am not going to drive to New Carlisle to sit in a room for 4 hours and silently wish that someone would stop by and ask for insurance. Also, I am getting run down from my long days. I am grateful that the work week is almost over for me. I'll make a few phone calls today and try to set some appointments, but overall, I need rest.

I have been seeking new employment and hopefully as quickly as possible. I am thinking about taking something in office or clerical work, just for the time being, as once again, I have a new dream! I did not come up with this dream on my own - Dana and Alex came up with it for me.

Some months ago, Dana decided she wanted me to design her tattoo. Before we were even married, Alex and I used to hang out at a tattoo parlor out on Mayflower Rd. that is owned by a friend of my father in law's. He told me then that he thought I should be a tattoo artist, since I have steady hands and a good eye for art and color. Yesterday Alex got really excited and started researching tattooing kits and laws for being a tattoo artist, and then sent me a message that said he was going to buy me a handgun and we were going to go to firearms classes together. (Well, that would just be fun anyway!) So I am going to start sketching again like I used to all the time, and try to put together a small portfolio and then start practicing. I even had a few victims...I mean volunteers offer to let me practice on them.

I've been a little concerned that I haven't kept the pantry as stocked as it should be. By this time last year, I had enough stuff in the cupboards and freezer that I didn't need to go shopping more than three or four times through the whole winter. This year, things have been a bit sparse - especially income-wise. Alex and I managed to trim our food budget to around $40 per week or less and we have been preparing food in small portions so that nothing gets wasted. We've also been purchasing meat from a local small butcher's market instead of at the supermarkets. The quality has been like night and day! It also freezes better than the grocery store stuff. I love the Midwest. Food is easily accessible and still completely affordable. All the doom and gloom economic forecasting for the big cities is tragic, and I'm sure the cost of food is going to go through the roof, but thank God we live in the Midwest, where there are farms and farmer's markets just a short drive away.

No matter what kind of doomsday messages float around in the airwaves, I seldom feel any kind of worry at all. In 10,000 years of civilized human history there have been good times, bad times, times of war and times of peace, and somehow we just keep plugging away! Let the troubles come. We will never walk alone.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Time for Some Reflections

I am sadder today than I have been for a few weeks and as there is no hormonal connection to it right now, I can only assume that it is for no good reason at all.

This morning I sat in my chair with the fireplace on, cradling my Bible in my hands, aching with anxiety for the day. I prayed that God would show me words of comfort and wisdom to help me get through this week of discomfort and stress. I settled in to read through Proverbs 9, which brought to my attention these few points.

1) Wisdom is always portrayed as a woman. And not only a woman, but a woman who is prepared for anything. She builds up her house, stores food and offers a place of rest for the simple-minded and the foolish. She calls to these people from the rooftop and begs them to come in and partake of all that she has prepared so that they in turn will learn to be wise too.

2) This passage is amazingly descript in regards to how to deal with people who think they know everything! Specifically, the words are "Do not correct the scoffers, or give rebuke to the foolish, they will only hate you, give rebuke to a wise man [in his error] and he will become wiser." And I got to contemplating the political scene in our country right now. There are a heckuva lot of folks out there who hate each other with blind hatred, who scoff at one another for holding to the opposite side, etc. And I thought, how true this is! Don't bother correcting those scoffers, they'll just hate you more! Instead, simply be quiet and let them rage. It's to their own detriment.

3) I have been thinking about the end of this passage for a bit now, and specifically, where it says a foolish women lures the simple-minded into her home and tells them that stolen water is sweet and bread they have not made themselves is good. I am starting to think of it in the same terms as above. "Stolen" water, perhaps is knowledge that you have not learned yourself, but stolen from another? And more literally, this 'foolish woman' certainly  is the opposite of Wisdom. She is not preparing for what is to come! She is not teaching others to become prepared for the Day of the Lord, she is leading them into the way of death and Hell.


It was an interesting read. I am still kind of chewing on it.

Right now I am sitting in the "Rose Dining Room" in a retirement home in New Carlisle, hoping and praying that somehow I will get some new business written today. Thank goodness they have a wireless network! Usually the places I go do not. This one is weak though and keeps disconnecting. But it's enough for me to get this posting up!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cat Haiku

My Avery shared this one on my Facebook profile today. She knows what I like. :)


cat haiku


You never feed me.

Perhaps I'll sleep on your face.

That will sure show you.

You must scratch me there!

Yes, above my tail!

Behold, elevator butt.


The rule for today:

Touch my tail, I shred your hand.

New rule tomorrow.


In deep sleep hear sound

cat vomit hairball somewhere

will find in morning.


Grace personified.

I leap into the window.

I meant to do that.



Blur of motion, then --

silence, me, a paper bag.

What is so funny?



The mighty hunter

Returns with gifts of plump birds --

your foot just squashed one.



You're always typing.

Well, let's see you ignore my

sitting on your hands.



My small cardboard box.

You cannot see me if I

can just hide my head.



Terrible battle.

I fought for hours. Come and see!

What's a 'term paper?'



Small brave carnivores

Kill pine cones and mosquitoes,

Fear vacuum cleaner



I want to be close

to you. Can I fit my head

inside your armpit?



Wanna go outside.

Oh, poop! Help! I got outside!

Let me back inside!



Oh no! Big One

has been trapped by newspaper!

Cat to the rescue!



Humans are so strange.

Mine lies still in bed, then screams;

My claws are not that sharp.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Take Life By The Horns!

After much deliberation with my husband last night, we decided that I was NOT going to give up on the position in the community development department at city hall that I am not being considered for.

I have a guy on the inside - my friend who formerly held the position I applied for. He actually told his boss, the director of the CD office, that human resources was not considering me, and she told him to have me email her and state my case and ask for an interview. It's good to have someone on the inside.

I just was not ready to let this one go.

There are several reasons for this: stability, benefits and retirement, accomplishment....

But the biggest reason is perhaps silly and sentimental.

My Grandma Betty wrote 6 books and numerous essays on the history of this city. She curated the Hannah Lindahl Children's Museum from 1973 until 1989. She was a friend of our former Mayor Bob B., and there is an official 'Betty Hans Day' and she holds a key to the city.

Every single member of my dad's family is a graduate of MHS.

Alex's grandmother also holds a key to the city and there is an official day in her name as well.

I have a hundred years of family history in this city. Alex has lived here since he was 2 and his dad grew up in this city.

I would love to call our families and announce that I am going to be working for our community. I can't wait to hear the pride in their voices when I tell them.

But first, I have to FIGHT for that job!

Rejected

My whole week has been filled with rejection. Not just of me personally, but it has been all around me.

For starters, as of this moment I was rejected for an amazing job opportunity that I wanted more than anything. It was an opportunity to work at City Hall, and I had everything going for me, including the recommendation of the person who currently holds the position. But when I called them to see what the status was, the reply was "We already have our candidates chosen, but we'll call you if anything changes." That broke my heart into a million pieces. I haven't felt so unwanted in a long time. I actually cried, and my husband didn't tell me to buck up and keep looking for a change because he knew that it would have been perfect for me. Even now, my disappointment is so heavy that my heart feels like it is aching.

But that wasn't the only thing. I had to turn down several applicants for insurance this week and I felt like the worst person in existence for it. A young woman tried applying for short term disability and cancer coverage, and she was 4 months pregnant and has cervical cancer. My boss thought she was an idiot, but I think she's desperate. 3 children, single mom, pregnant and cervical cancer? If anyone needs insurance, it's THIS woman, and I had to reject her. And my work, in general, comes with huge amounts of rejection. People are very cautious with how they are spending their money these days, and the word 'insurance' seems to immediately turn their ears inside out.

Obviously, it was Election Day on Tuesday, and that's a huge rejection stamp, regardless of who you voted for. Someone was elected and someone was rejected. My dear friend Jackie did not win her Congressional run, and I was disappointed. Everyone is so conditioned to vote for a particular party that no one takes time to look at the candidate and their actual beliefs. I met Jackie 10 years ago when she was a guest missionary, speaking in my parents' Sunday school class. I have watched her ambitions in politics with a good amount of skepticism as I do with all politicians, but because I knew her personal beliefs and her family background, I knew she was someone I would willingly vote for. But she came with that 'Republican' party tag, and I think that's almost a dirty word in our little part of the state. I was still disappointed for her. I had hoped she would be given a chance. At least it was a very close race.

Fortunately there are some upsides. I did finally manage to write 3 new insurance policies yesterday and today and tomorrow I have open enrollments at two other retirement homes. My days this week have taken their toll on my body. I haven't slept well again, and I've had to get up before 5 every day to get to Goshen before 8 - a 45-50 minute drive on a good day. I have missed meals and haven't been getting the good nutrition that I need. I am grateful that it's Thursday. The weekend is approaching and even more - the holidays are approaching.

So if you are feeling rejected today my friends, hold your heads up high. Jesus himself was rejected and beaten, but ultimately conquered that rejection for our sakes. There is a window open somewhere for me, I just haven't found it yet.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Every New Day

When I was young, the smallest trick of light could catch my eye, and life
Was new and every new day I thought that I could fly.
I believed in what I hoped for,
And I hoped in things unseen.
My wings and dreams could soar,
I just don't feel like flying anymore.

Through destinies and skies,
beyond infinity
below the face of Heaven
You stooped to create me.

Dear Father,
I need you,
Your strength my heart to mend
I want to fly higher
Every new day again.



It is just after 4 in the morning, I might have slept a little bit between midnight and 3, but I have a lot of anxiety toward the day, not to mention I forgot to go back to my office and do some really important work. Now I have to sit in the parking lot at 6:30 to get my group number downloaded, and be in Goshen - a 45 minute drive - by 8 am. Also have to vote. And I will be a little concerned if I don't write any new business today as the mortgage was due yesterday. And I have a new student this evening. And I have to eat somewhere in there too. I'm totally depending on God's arm to carry me through today.

This song is by a group called Five Iron Frenzy that I used to listen to in high school. They had a good run - about ten years before calling it quits a few years ago. While by all accounts they were in the genre of ska/punk music, these words seem to show a side that resonates a little deeper and have echoed in my heart on especially hard days. I need to hold my head high - I AM a daughter of God. I AM blessed, cherished and loved by Him. I AM held in His hands every new day.

Monday, November 1, 2010

November

61 days left of 2010!

About 30 of those days will be work days. The others will be days to cook, sew, wrap presents, decorate and snuggle with my Love by the fireplace. I just love the end of the year!

I am not nostalgic about the year's end. In fact, I welcome it. Much has gone on this year that has left me unhappy and unfulfilled. I am ready to begin anew.

Alex and I are thinking about taking a four-day trip over Thanksgiving. I hope that we do! We are explorers. We never have a plan when it comes to vacationing. We jump in the car and drive and hope that wherever we end up at least has a few antique stores and an art museum of some kind. And gardens. (Although I doubt we will be visiting any gardens around Thanksgiving.) A short trip will do us very good. We cancelled almost all of our vacations this year due to starting a new job, or shortage of funds. But nothing has been decided yet.

I am still waiting on an important phone call. I believe it will come this week. It will be to set up an interview and I need that more than anything right now. I need stability. I need a change that will bring about stability.

Tomorrow is election day. You may know that I am against all politics and feel that government is corrupt and generally unnecessary, at least on the large federal scale. But there is one woman I am very happy to be casting my vote for. She was a missionary to Romania for many years and I supported she and her husband's ministry back then. I taught music and worked in music teams at church with her husband and knew them to be people that I could believe in long before she decided to become involved in politics. I can't wait to support her yet again with my vote, and I have been excited to see her rising up and trying to make a difference in our community. I also laugh at most of the ads that are being run against her. So untrue.

I started reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". It's not bad.

Alex starts playing in our praise and worship team at Southgate this Sunday.

It's going to be a very busy week with product fairs and employees to see. Good and bad - good because I'll make some income. Bad because I will hate every minute of it and be thinking about this other opportunity and hoping that I can begin the new one soon.

I think today will be a good day to make something comforting and homey for dinner? Suggestions, anyone? I'm leaning toward some kind of stew.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Expectations Are Dwindling

I have a single group with Aflac, an office that shall remain nameless, and I want to close their account and never speak to them again. These people are so messed up and unethical that it makes me sick. And they do it all while being good Christians and praying every day.

If they aren't trying to find ways to file false claims for themselves and their patients (a noble sounding gesture I am sure) they are refusing to pay the bills. I have had to go and quite literally demand a check every single month since July. Now I am worrying myself sick because one person wants to file a claim over something NOT covered by her policy. And she's upset because she doesn't know how to pay the bill. Well sister, me too. I'm upset because your boss promised to pay your premiums and then suddenly changed her mind in order to 'punish' you. I'm upset because I shouldn't receive 'secret' emails in the middle of the night requesting that I not speak to you anymore. And I'm really upset that you all committed to something and despite my best efforts to make sure you understood the procedures, you still feign ignorance and refuse to do things the right way. I lose sleep because of carrying someone else's burdens.

I am no longer able to be responsible for people in this way anymore. I think everything that is wrong with my health and mental state right now is because of this job. The consequences if I fail are too great and could result in someone getting hurt or losing financially. And I will carry that failure forever because that is a psychological defect that I have - I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, even when it isn't mine to carry. I'm like the guy in the Inferno who constantly rolls the rock up the hill only to have it fall back every day just as he nears the top.

I did get more news about the job opportunity that I have applied for and have been waiting on. It's going much slower than I anticipated, but according to my insider, they will begin calling people for interviews next week. I can hardly wait. I have one thing going for me - the fact that the person who previously held the position is recommending me for it. That's really promising.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I decided it would definitely be worth it to do a few household changes while Alex is in St. Louis. Nothing drastic, nothing expensive - just enough to make him take notice when he gets home. There are several projects that I really want to complete, and if I am anything like my mother, I will no sooner get done with the very last project in the house, and I will want to completely redo the kitchen - the first thing we redid when we moved here.

I didn't think far enough ahead to take any pictures of what I was dealing with to begin with, so I'll have to describe. Think to yourself if you will about the impracticality of have a large sunken living room floored with off-white plush carpeting - and having cats and people who spill on a regular basis. Yep. It was time to rent a carpet cleaner and deep clean that carpet! The cat vomit and spilled coffee stains were getting so bad that I could no longer cover them with an area rug. It took 6 fill-ups and 6 emptyings of black, filthy used water, but these floors feel SO nice right now! Even the cats are purring their approval and rolling around on the clean feeling.

There are many things I love about our living room and many things I dissaprove of. I love the size - 14' x 18'. I love that it is sunken from the rest of the house and there is a nice big landing area. I love that it has a fireplace and windows and a high ceiling and that it invites guests to relax and feel welcome.

I don't like that the fireplace is located at the bottom of the stairs, on the farth north wall. It's hard to arrange furniture around it. The windows and back door are in weird awkward places. I don't like that the room sits on the freezing cold ground in the winter time with absolutely nothing to protect it (as opposed to the slab that the rest of the house sits on). But worst of the worst - I absolutely DETEST the artificial, black walnut, wood paneling!

This house was owned by Alex's grandparents for 40 years - almost to the day. They have an old-fashioned sense of decorum. No wall colors. No floor colors. Black trim. White furniture. We do have a gorgeous handmade staircase and chandelier - made by Grandpa. But every room in the house was white. Except for the small bedroom - artificail oak wood paneling - and the living room, as I have already described.

I am too small, and don't have enough time, to undertake the removal of said wood paneling and honestly, I don't even know what is under it. But I am not afraid of paint, I am quite fond of stripes, and I have never been afraid to try an idea on a big scale. I began with the landing and a can of primer that I found hidden away in a cupboard. Pretty soon that dark, ugly, marred paneling began to lighten! It actually took the primer very well! The landing started to feel more open and appealing, dare I say, even larger?

I had an idea of what I planned to finish this undertaking with. The living room is our 'cottage' room. I approve very strongly of the 'lake/beach cottage' look of light neutrals, accented with watery blues and greens. We have a lot of art that follows this appeal. I literally marched into the paint store, stood at the sample wall for approximately 30 seconds and walked to the counter with my decision made. Two shades of sandy beige, one very pale and one slightly darker, in two different finishes (satin and semi-gloss), and 18 hours later, I almost have a striped room! I decided to alternate the colors on the pieces of wood paneling to create that sweet cottagey feeling when you walk into the room. The colors are so subtley different that it isn't a pop-up-in-your-face stripe, but its there and feels very calming. It's the most uncommitted decision I have ever made when it comes to paint.

The living room, due to its size, will have to wait for a few weeks. But at least there is an idea being brought about as to its eventual potential. And because I will have finished it before that husband of mine returns on Friday, he isn't around to tell me NO, and he won't complain because he won't have had to do any work. :) I shall have to put up a picture upon its completion.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Annabel Lee

This pretty little girl is our sweet Annabel Lee. I would love to tell you that she is named after the poem by Edgar Allen Poe, but Alex named her after a song by MxPx.

Annabel is mostly Siamese, with seal point markings, pale blue eyes and mostly white angora fur. She is the softest and has the longest fur of my three childrens. She also has no voice. She tries to mew at me, but no sound ever comes out! Weird!

Annabel is the only one of our cats that has a middle name.

Annabel is a 'one-person' cat. And I happen to be her one person. If I am sitting still, Annabel is in my lap. Her sleeping place is on my pillow, on the left side of my body, far away from Alex and both of her sisters.

She is afraid of most men. She merely tolerates Alex, as he usually is the one who fills the food dish. She runs and hides from any other man who may enter the house, and she has an especial fear of Alex's grandpa. There is a story to this - when we moved from our first apartment to a rental house, Grandpa Dave and Uncle Jim helped us move. Annabel hid under the bed, where she usually goes to get away from strange men in the house. They went into the bedroom and lifted the mattresses and it scared her so badly that she hid in the back of Alex's Marshall amp and it took us 2 hours to find her.
Annabel is a perfect little lady. She sits prim and proper and likes to be as high above the rest of the household inhabitants as possible.

The cutest thing she does is a tiny squeaky noise that she makes when she finds a little piece of fleece fabric to play with. She rarely plays. She spends more time searching for me.

She is constantly trying to get outside. Whenever I can't find her, all I have to do is unlock the back door and she will come running, trying to get outside. Last year Alex finally let her out - in the middle of a blizzard. She leapt from the back steps into a 2 foot snow drift and didn't think much of it. I wish I could say that it worked, but the next day she tried to get out again.

She has marked every surface in the house with a fine coating of white fur.

Don't expect to meet Annabel right away if you visit. She tends to hide out until she has determined whether it is safe or not to come out. But she IS beautiful. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Co-dependency

Well, it is the end day 2 of being without Alex for a week and last night was the worst night I have ever experienced in my life - even worse than the week I gave myself internal injuries by puking so hard and had to go to the hospital. Tonight I am taking serious precautions. And sleeping pills.

First of all, I received an email from a client, business-owner, that is absolute trouble. So bad in fact, that we are looking for ways to close her account from under her and provide her employees with alternate options. It was definitely a contributing factor to my insomnia. I kept having nightmares about this woman cannibalizing her employees.

It also thunderstormed for a short while. I usually find storms to be quite relaxing.

And we have a houseful of loud ghetto neighbors down the street that drove past my house at least 6 times last night with their loud, ghetto-bangin' cars. Inconsiderate jack@$$es.

Every creak, every cat fart, every thunderclap sent me into a panicked andrenaline rush  - and friends, I have an old house that is settling all the time and three cats. I was awake all night. In fact, at 4 a.m. I simply gave up and started getting ready for my 7 a.m. product fair in Goshen because I couldn't stand to lay in bed with my eyes open for another moment.

I txted Alex at 5 a.m. (which was 4 a.m. St. Louis time) and he apparently wasn't sleeping well either because he actually responded. We are never usually good Sunday night sleepers anyway. There have been lots of Sunday nights where we sit up in bed and talk because we just can't sleep. Right now, I am sipping a red tea blended with chamomile, lavender, and passionflower, and will take a sleeping pill before bed. My eyes are so red and bloodshot that a piano student asked me if I had been crying. I hadn't. I just hadn't slept at all.

Alex and I have a really amazing relationship I have come to recognize. Sometimes I feel like it is a little bit deeper than just a husband/wife relationship and it definitely treads into the 'best friendship' kind of marriage. I sometimes laugh and say we are totally co-dependent upon each other. Almost to a fault.

You should see the notes Alex has left me all over the house:
-Don't forget your keys
-Don't forget your cell phone
-Don't forget your purse
-Turn off all the lights
-Lock the doors when you're home alone
-Double check your curling iron so the house doesn't burn down.
- Do not shut the door until you have made sure your keys are in your hand
-Take your medicine
-Don't leave the stove on!
-Feed the cats!

It may seem absurd, but if he didn't write those notes to me, I would probably lock myself out of the house or the car, with my purse, phone and other necessities inside, and have to walk to my parents' house for help. While walking there, something on the stove would catch fire and burn the house down. And the cats would be taken away from me by a well-meaning but ill-informed social worker.

BUT it does go both ways. If he didn't have me, Alex would sleep on the same sheets until they disintegrate. He would dress himself by way of the "sniff-test" and laundry detergent wouldn't exist in the house as long as Febreeze is affordable. His zipper would be down 4 out of 5 mornings and he would probably die young due to a diet of hamburgers, Corn Pops and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. His socks would be full of holes, and he would stay out all night in every manner of place of ill-repute looking for his big break in the rock n roll industry. He might have joined the army and could have had every bone in his body broken on day 5 of basic. Worst of all though - he would still live with his mother.

I accept our co-dependency, even though it makes it very difficult for us to be away from each other for very long. I know our reunion later this week will be that much better because we are anxious to be together again. Honestly, I just want his body heat next to me again. I get cold quickly at night.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Children are not people....

ALL of my friends who have children do this! They describe their beautiful children and what they are like and what quirks and silly things they do. But alas, I do not have children. Well...not really. I have cats. And yes, I am doomed to be a crazy cat lady. My descent is slow for now because I am married, but if I should outlive Alex, watch out. So because I hate to be left out, I am going to tell my friends about my quirky lovable fuzzie-wuzzies.

This is Tobey. She is 4 years old and has green eyes and a soft white tummy. She is the Alpha female of our househole and we are not permitted to forget it. She dominates every part of our house, and occasionally bullies her sisters as well, but I prefer to think of her as 'bossy' instead of dominant. She just has ideas of how she wants her house run.

Tobey was the first of our three kittehs to appear on the scene. Back in the summer of 2006 I was sitting on the patio at our first apartment, writing in my journal, when this adorable kitten came running up to me. She immediately began to rub her little head on my legs and chatter to me in cute kitten noises. So friendly! I had never seen such a friendly kitten! She was about 18 inches long and skinny as a rail and walked with the most absurd limp I had ever seen. Her back legs were clearly not right. To this day she has that same absurd swagger. The vet told us that it's very likely that she was under someone's feet a little too often and they either stepped on her or kicked her, and her limp is the result of an improperly healed broken pelvis.

Tobey began to demand our attention by jumping from the ground to the top of our screen door. She talked to us constantly. We knew who she belonged to - the nasty people who lived next door. We had often seen three cats in the window of the apartment next door, since their little girl had broken all of the mini-blinds by grabbing them and pulling them down so she could look out. By the next weekend, we realized that these neighbors had skipped out on their lease. They had emptied their apartment over Labor Day weekend when the office was closed, and had tossed their 3 kittens out into the backyard. Who abandons kittens?!?! And those kittens managed to find their way over to MY backyard. That was the beginning of my family. :) I've always been a strong supporter of adoption.

The first night that I let Tobey in the house, she was covered with fleas, so I gave her a flea dip. Bad idea. Turns out my goofy baby is allergic to flea dip. She had a reaction that gave her seizures and tremors all night long. I spent the night in the animal hospital with this little runt cat that wasn't even mine. But she was such a good bath taker! She sat in the warm water and let me scrub her down and never flinched or freaked out once. She has joined me in a hot bath more than once - but only because she has fallen in.

From that first night, I knew she was going to be part of our family. She is our social butterfly. Anyone who comes to the house will be greeted by Tobey. She demands cuddle time every single day and when I'm gone all day, she will crawl in my lap for a snuggle as soon as I sit down for more than 2 minutes. She sleeps at my feet at night, and in the morning, while the rest of us are up and getting ready for a day's work, she stays there, yawning and watching us and thinking "Suckers. I get to stay here in bed all day."

 Tobey's favorite person on earth is our mailman. She waits for him to come every day and will chase him through the big picture window.

Tobey falls down our steps on a weekly basis - usually around 3 am - just in case we were daring to try to sleep while she is awake.

She plays fetch. Not kidding. Just see what happens when I throw a catnip mousie down the hallway.

Tobey will empty the entire basket of cat toys out just so I will pick them all up and put them back in the basket so that she can empty them all out again. It's her favorite game. She usually feels like playing this game when I am trying to clean the house for guests to come over.

Tobey also gives hugs. If you are sitting just right, she will wrap both front legs around your neck and squeeze.

If you come over for a visit, expect to be inspected by the Boss of the House - Tobey. :)

And just when I was getting into a routine!

I guess I haven't had any great things to get out of my head this week! Sometimes I am full of wisdom, sometimes I just sit on the couch and watch the History Channel International. (Not the regular History, all they play anymore is Pawn Stars and Gangland, neither of which I can stand to watch.)

I got an email from http://www.christmascentral.com/ yesterday. It was actually an ad for 50% off of Halloween costumes, but once I clicked on the site, I got sucked into the little Lemax Spookytown villages, which of course then led me to the Christmas Town villages, and then the Christmas decor itself.... and you know the rest of this story. You would have done the same! I do love the holidays. Even now I am sitting here looking at a suggested link from Amazon to a Christmas CD called 'O Holy Night' and I fully intend to find every piano solo arrangement of that carol that I own and play them all today. Early, yes. Too early, not a chance!

I dread the coming week because Alex will be on a business trip. I am a little co-dependent. I don't do well without him. So I plan to have friends over, and I am drawing up some plans of crafty things that I want to do all week. And I have to finish painting the laundry room. But I have been expressly forbidden to do anything to the upstairs bathroom while he is away. Boo.

The cool weather has kept me indoors quite a bit this week, but I am enjoying the changing of the seasons. One of my little students, Blake, asked me if he could rake my leaves this week. I asked him if it bothered him that I hadn't been keeping up with the raking and he said yes. I laughed. I see those leaves on the grass as a lovely oriental carpet - all reds and golds. And its covering the grass that hasn't been mowed since August. I'm a teeny bit lazy. But we did buy a new rake last night, so no more excuses! I'll at least get the leaves off of the sidewalk.

Final thought of the day: "But the Fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness and Self-control. Against these things there are no laws." Galatians 5:22-23

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Putting The Thoughts All Together

I haven't been able to put a complete thought together in about 2 days and this is frustrating to me because I am normally not at a loss when it comes to things going on in my head.

I supposed the one thing I can attribute my scatterred brains to is the future.

I was presented with two new employment opportunities - one at a private school and one...elsewhere. I can't really talk about it yet. The school did not even have the decency to return my call of enquiry, which was extremely frustrating because I went to that school and thought that they would at least answer a few questions for me. I was wrong.

The other opportunity came upon a chance meeting with an old high school chum at a concert. He mentioned that his job was about to open up as he was being promoted to another position and that I should apply for it. I did, as soon as the job was listed, and now have been waiting a full week for the application deadline to expire. I want to hear from them so badly. I want to be asked to interview. Not because this strikes me as the 'perfect' job for me, or because I want so desperately to be out of insurance, but because the position itself absolutely intrigues me. It's what they call an 'offer you can't refuse'. :)

My health has been on a continual decline lately and I'm not sure why. There is almost no time of the day now where I don't feel sick to my stomach or something hurts. I have had some fierce digestion problems that have been bothering me and I dread the thought of having to have something removed. I also have headaches pretty frequently and joint and muscular pain on and off. But I don't have any particular answers to any of it. I finally agreed with Alex that we will contact his old family doctor and make an appointment.

I have also lost the joy that I usually have when it comes to matters of my house. I am a freak - I love housework. I like to take care of my house. It's like the child I don't have. But lately, I've been letting things go because I'm simply too tired to take care of them or too lazy. I've gotten lazy. That's troubling.

On the other hand, we have fallen in love with our church again and we look forward to worshipping every Sunday. We had lost that desire to be with other believers for awhile, so it's a welcome sentimate to have again. It's the music, I'm sure. :) And perhaps we just needed some new perspective on things as well.

Maybe I'll go cook something. That might get me out of this little funk I'm it. And perhaps a short nap this afternoon will also improve my attitude.

I keep forgetting what day it is. I got up and prepared for all of tomorrow's appointments.