Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Since I've been gone

I've opened up and discovered the friendship that comes back to you when you give it away.
It's warm sunshine.

I've pulled down huge gulps of the wonder in your eyes. It's the nectar of the gods.

I've submerged myself in details and found the larger picture. It's still unclear.

Since I've been gone I've been doing all the things I used to write about doing and been sad that I haven't found the time to write or to share. It's a New Year ... I'm starting fresh.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

have you seen this e-mail?

NO GAS...On May 15th 2007
Body: Don't pump gas
on may 15th
Body: ..in April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in
protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currentl
y on the internet network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take
$2,292,000,000.00 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companys pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree (which I cant see why you wouldnt) resend this to all your contact list.

With it saying, ''Don't pump gas on May 15th"

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: buy the day before or the day after but not on the 15th!

I want to believe. I really do. I want to believe American consumers understand "what's in your wallet."

Power. That's right. POWER. Consider every dollar you spend (or charge) to be a vote for each of the many, many people who divvy it up at the end of the day ... the local station owner, the refiner, the trucker, the big oil company. So, when I saw this I wanted to believe people might go for it, though I knew in my heart one day wouldn't dent the big companies' profits. So I decided to Google it. I found this:


And yet I wasn't disheartened. Why? Because of this paragraph right here:

"Not buying gas on a designated day might make people feel better about things by providing them a chance to vent their anger at higher gasoline prices, but the action won't have any real impact on retail prices. An effective protest would involve something like organizing people to forswear the use of their cars on specified days, an act that could effectively demonstrate the reality of the threat that if gasoline prices stayed high, American consumers were prepared to move to carpooling and public transportation for the long term. Simply changing the day one buys gas, however, imparts no such threat, because nothing is being done without."

Doing without. If you're about my age then your grandparents were likely a part of Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation." Doing without meant lots of things to them, but none of it seemed to be whining, if I remember the speeches correctly. More people lived together in smaller homes closer to work and stores and banks and schools and churches and everywhere you need to go. I saw a thing the other night on one of my geek TV channels (Discovery/National Geographic/History ... love 'em all!) that in the 1800s the average speed of traffic in Midtown Manhattan was 9 m.p.h. Today it is 6 m.p.h.! I promise you those horses' behinds were spewing something, but not the equivalent to what we spew in traffic now!

Lately, my reading has been telling me this ... many of the stressers in our lives we have created for ourselves. Now we must try to undo them ... . (sorry Time doesn't still have the story online, but it was very inspiring.) I've been trying to live simpler for awhile now. We have a van and a motorcycle. Each uses about 1 tank a week, so not buying gas on May 15 is no sacrifice for us. We only go once a week anyway. But what about the rest of it? What about the culture of consumption? And why can't anyone say what we are all asking inside ... are you worried people will think you just can't afford it? And why do we care if people think we can't afford it? Hey! We can all start covering this fear with the trendy new greenness.

Less is more. People get stressed out by their debt and by all their stuff. I'm going to continue to try reducing ... even if it drives my husband mad. I'm sick of all this crap all over the place! Don't worry, Handsome, I'm not gonna' go Compact on you ... just yet. Paring down is where it's at. Green is the new red, white and blue (Thanks, Tom Friedman) ... we've just got to get people to stop thinking choices are black and white.

That's my rant for now. Thanks for reading. Next week I will have loads of time to post pictures of all that has been keeping me from the keys. I miss checking in on my bloggitty buddies, especially Sunday Scribblings. Hope you enjoy the links ... and your weekend. ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Frill and Force

Tucking her in last night, searching for the right word, all I could tell her was: “You are so strong. So strong. It’s one thing to learn to go out and punch and kick. It’s another thing to go out, knowing you’re going to get punched and kicked, and take it and keep fighting. You are so strong. Here,” I kissed her forehead. “Here,” I squeezed her bicep. “Here,” I squeezed her leg. “And here,” I tapped a tickle zone. She flashed a weary but ever-sparkling smile and burrowed deeper into the covers.

Every day I marvel at her perfect blend of girly frills and tomboy force. Last night was a great example. To advance to orange belt at karate she had to fight for 30 minutes, prove she could defend herself even when worn out. Six four-minute bouts with a one minute break in between, all carefully monitored by parents and instructors. She stayed on her feet, blocked, punched, kicked her way to the next level. Took a few good blows (mind you, she wears loads of protective gear, limiting damage but she still feels the pain).

“Mommy, I couldn’t hold back the tears,” she said all red in the face, snot streaming from her nose after the crying, hair sticky with sweat. She was smashed between two 11-year-old boys, the friends who just fought her as she took the next step in her journey. She was embarrassed about the crying, but more about the boogers I think. Free from the congratulatory grasp of the final 11-year-old boy (No, her dad and I aren’t sure how we feel about this ;p) she took a hug from her hero, a 15-year-old girl balancing the same frills and force at a different stage in life, then pulled off gear and went to clean up her face.

The evening at the dojo wore on and her dad and I finished our tests. As I was cooling down I looked over to see my daughter with her back to her hero, who was carefully braiding the long shiny locks I’m not allowed to braid.

At 9 my daughter’s getting too old for some of the kinds of time we used to spend together. Maybe I just don’t want to admit how close she is to leaving her childhood, to entering adolescence, to discovering the kind of woman she is and the kind of woman she wants to be.

She was sitting across the table from me working on a scrapbook about her cats while I worked on my scrapbook about her. Suddenly I had a vivid memory. Seeing this amazing person before me, it was hard to realize it was the same body I had held in this full-color recollection.

She was about four days old … smaller than a bread box … wearing a green and white striped onesy with a little Noah’s Ark embroidered on it. Surrounded by pillows, none of which was in the right place to help us. My early ’90s jewel-tone paisley bedding was quite the clashy background to that gender-neutral onesy. Her hair was much darker then, what she had of it. But that’s not what I remember most in this moment. Its her beet-red body, tensed in a perfectly rigid protest … her shiny, toothless gums … her trembling tongue as she silently screamed holy, bloody murder. The only sounds she made came when she gasped for breath. All this I remember through the blurred vision of a sobbing mother.

“This is not what I expected,” I blurted to my husband when he came in. “She won’t eat! I can’t get her to eat!” What a man, calming us both down the way he did. Nothing’s more irrational than an engorged first-time mom with a baby who won’t eat. Looking at her scream all I could think was “We can’t go to the zoo together. I can’t read you stories or do projects with you. I can’t even FEED you right now! How am I going to this?”

But then an amazing thing happened. She figured it out. I figured it out. She grew. I grew. I’ve found so many new corners of myself in my daughter’s eyes. And we go to the zoo and we do lots of projects and she loves stories … all kinds … a good book … a good movie … an inspiring piece of art.

Of course sometimes she doesn’t mind the kinds of time we used to spend together. Over the weekend she wiggled her way next to me on the sofa and covered us both with a blanket. She watched Harry Potter, I drifted off to sleep, just like those late nights in the rocking chair after she finally figured out how to eat. That’s my girl … my young woman.

Frill and Force.

I can’t wait to see what else we figure out together.

Monday, April 09, 2007

You've got to go here

Making one of my regular blog stops I found this and just don't know enough about how to post it here. I found this video so moving. I can see where some might find it amusing, or share it as a joke, but Alexandra's words popped into my head.

I hope I find time to write more today ... This collision has brought light to the darkened creative corner of my brain. Happy Monday.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

In the News, a Sunday Scribble

This was fun for a former reporter. I gave myself 30 minutes, 600 words and a topic I'm passionate about. Consider it an editorial in news-feature form. Made the time limit, came in well under the space limit, which would be good in the ol' newsroom 'cause this story cries out for pictures. If you think the new blog would be a good idea, give me a shout ... I just might be up to the task! Until then, spend your power wisely and enjoy your weekend.

Retailers, designers in shock
Girls clothing, shoes sit on racks another week

As the spring season gives way to summer retailers and designers across the region have been thrown for a major loop by the lack of demand for girls clothing and shoes. One manager of a local Target reported no movement in his girls shoe department in the past three weeks.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “Moms and young girls have been walking out of here with tennis shoes and nothing else.”

At the local mall things were almost as bad. “I’ve never seen an entire season’s fashions sit on the racks,” a Macy’s rep said. “We have no idea what to expect with the back-to-school season. The winter orders are on my desk. I just don’t know what to send in.”

Mid-range retailers such as Marshall’s and Kohls reported some sales, having restocked certain brands twice in the past two weeks.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that the styles that are selling are all similar to each other,” a Kohls rep said. “They’re what I would call ‘girls’ clothes’ … you know … smocked sun dresses for Easter, sandals with ankle straps. The camouflage bubble minis and sparkly flip flops are going to be 60-80 percent off soon. I can’t believe we still haven’t sold any of that stuff.”

One mom was spotted with her 9-year-old daughter at Marshall’s on Friday in the shoe department. The little girl didn’t even turn her head to look at the wedge-heeled flip flops.

“She’s never been allowed to have that stuff,” the mother said. “And she knows better than to ask for it now. She’s 9 … not 19. And there’s no reason my 9-year-old should be forced to dress that way. If I search hard enough, there are options.”

Apparently more and more moms are feeling this way, some dad’s too.

“I wouldn’t let her wear that when she’s 15,” a dad said in Target on Saturday. “Why would I let her wear it when she’s 7?”

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere reporters are combing through a recent find encouraging consumers to exercise their full power. “Why buy it if you don’t really like it?” said Friday’s entry at She’s9NotBrittany.blogspot.com. “You work hard for that money! Spend it on something you find appropriate for your young daughter, not what retailers are sticking out there and saying they should wear.

“If enough of us put our money where our mouths are, designers and retailers will be forced to change to meet demands.”

Until then, the Marshall’s mom and her 9-year-old daughter will continue the pattern they’ve followed for years.

“First we try Target, then Kohl’s, then Old Navy and Marshall’s. I don’t know why I stick to that order because I have different luck every season,” the mom said. “But I can’t afford the places that really make clothing for young girls, such as Talbot’s or Children’s Place. So, we just find a day when we’ve got the energy to shop and get what we can. She knows our rules, and I think she just might be beginning to understand them. Just because everyone else does it doesn’t make it right for you. And I’m only spending our money on what I think is right for her.”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A scribble from the kitchen

Watching her cook with her grandmother, I couldn’t help but smile. At 4 she was ready to prepare a four-course meal, or so she thought. Whenever she can, my daughter loves to help in the kitchen: setting the table, pulling ingredients from the shelves, stirring, counting, clearing the dishes after dinner.
But when she’s with Grandma, that’s a special thing. Firstly, Grandma lets her do much more than I do. Secondly, that time in the kitchen is a gift that will last her entire life.

I still can see the curtains fluttering in the rural Illinois breeze. It’s 5:30 in the morning, and Grandpa is having his obligatory bowl of cereal. He sits at the two-ton table, which stands center in Grandma’s kitchen.
When I think of her, that’s where I see her. Standing over the stove, standing over the sink, on the phone with the cord stretched across the room. Usually it was unbearably hot in there, no air conditioning and we always visited in the heart of the Midwestern summers. Sometimes she chuckles, sometimes she talks back, but mostly she just listens to the Polish radio station out of Chicago.
My grandparents got out of the city, leaving the South Side during the White Flight of the 1960s. But getting the city out of my grandparents was impossible. First generation Americans, children of Polish immigrants, they were as Chicago as you can get.

“OK, Peanut, I’m ready for you,” my mother-in-law says one July afternoon. The two had gone with the rest of the family to pick peaches earlier that day in the oppressive heat and humidity that is St. Louis in the summer. Now that the peaches were peeled and sliced, the cooking was pre-schooler friendly.
“I need your big footstool, Grandma,” Peanut says, having done this before.
Once in place, she’s giddy with anticipation. Grandma explains what they’re going to do and Peanut listens intently. She follows instructions to the letter.
Grandma started baking with them when they were about 2 years old. She kept it simple, ready made dough she sliced and they helped her place on cookie sheets. Grandma doesn’t limit the cooking to the girls, either. Her grandsons are more than welcome when willing.

It’s Thanksgiving, and the tiny house in farm country is filled with South Suburban Chicagoans, each with that trademark accent, all of them Bears fans. Ditka’s in charge and hopes are high, but not as high as the expectations for dinner. It would just be a few hours before Grandma’s stuffing hit the table.
The kitchen is the heart of the home and it’s rare to find Grandma anywhere else. She sits at that formica table to do just about everything: read the paper, write letters or lists, clip coupons, play cards with family or friends, have a cup of coffee.
Like most homes built in the 1940s or 1960s, the kitchen is a self-contained room, not open to other areas like so many kitchens built today. And Grandma’s is big. With the right number of tables and chairs, she easily seated about 15 for Thanksgiving dinner.
The stuffing pan is all but picked clean. All that remains is a mountain of dishes … and no dishwasher. Grandma, my mom and my aunt start cleaning up. I grab a towel.

Peanut’s at the opposite end of the house when she hears the timer beep. She starts off at full speed, until she’s reminded to walk in the house. She watches as Grandma removes seven individual peach cobblers from the oven, and checks on them periodically as they cool.
“We’ll scoop out a hole and fill it with ice cream,” Grandma says. “How does that sound?”
A beaming smile is her only response.
Unfortunately for Peanut, Grandpa grilled steak and there was fresh corn and tomatoes for dinner. She’s too full to eat much cobbler.
Ah, late July in the Midwest.

Grandma usually found something for me to do, even if it was just to sit and watch. I remember helping her with a Polish pastry cookie. I had to keep my distance during the frying, but when it came time to sift the powdered sugar, the job was all mine.
I loved those cookies.
The kitchen was the heart of her home. From there all good things came: food, family, traditions, memories.

Family treasures come in all shapes and sizes. Many are those memories… sifting powdered sugar, my daughter’s cobbler.

When I was in Chicago for Grandma’s memorial service I took time to flip through her recipe boxes. I could see her hands … the wear and tear of a life in the kitchen, the solitary sparkle of her wedding diamond.

The hours those hands spent perusing the boxes were evident. Tabs are missing or nearly broken off the dividers. Some cards are stained, a few sport her fingerprints. By far the majority of the recipes are methodically typed onto the cards, but many are clippings glued with trusty Rubber Cement. Inside each lid is glued a series of tips and shortcuts.

She had two recipes for those Polish pastries and four for poppy seed roll, but there’s no trace of a recipe for her stuffing.

“Please don’t tell me you cook dinner for three kids every night,” a co-worker of my husband’s said to me shortly before Grandma died. Her statement made me a bit uncomfortable, but I answered truthfully.
“I do.”
I’m a stay-at-home mom on a budget. Less nutritious fast foods are more expensive than what I cook.

It’s rare when I let the kids do too much. Usually they get to put away ingredients or set the table. But they see me cooking … and they learn.

Cooking with your kids doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be planned. Let them pull stuff off the shelves. Let them set or clear the table. Let them get messy. Let them cleanup. Let them decide the menu. Let them watch … and they will remember.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Wanna Have you near me ... Wanna have you hear me say it ... No one needs you more than I need you"

Who do you think you are pulling me from my bed in the middle of the night? My eyes squint, my body coils up, resisting the beams that pour forth from the computer screen. Would that my hands could keep up with you! I’d answer your call with pen on paper by candle flicker.

But once uncaged you’re a bit vengeful … perhaps angry with me for ignoring you so long. So you spit forth your retaliation, sometimes in a venomous rage that leaves me sleepless for days. I suppose I deserve it.

I mean, who else in my life would I dare to shut out in such a fashion? If my child wakes me in the night I rise and give full attention. If my lover rolls over to me in the darkness I awaken and respond. If my employer rings my phone I immediately take action. If a friend in need knocks at my door I open my home. You are all of these things and yet I feel no guilt in turning my back on you. I would never think of putting any living thing in a box so stagnant, so soundproof, so tight that I could only hear it’s distant cries through the strange silence that is a suburban weeknight.

So I can forgive you for tormenting me these past days in your newfound freedom. All these weeks of my bemoaning your departure must have been extraordinarily exasperating for you, considering I had packed you up and put you away. Imagine my surprise when I found you there in such deplorable conditions!

a steel box

sealed shut

wrapped in numerous blankets

so as to stifle your cries

tucked in a dark corner.

My inspiration stuffed in storage because I was too busy living to make time for myself. But life was gray and robotic with such a colorful creature caged.

Starting out with this I thought of so many comparisons: a pesky mosquito; a seduction; an unrelenting master. But my inspiration is more of a dog on a leash. Sometimes it’s pulling me somewhere I’ve never been. Sometimes I’m pulling it back on course. Sometimes it runs off or I ignore it. And sometimes we just stroll while I sip a latte.

P.S.--click on the photo for the link. Click here for more on inspiration.

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