Thursday, December 24, 2009

Danish Kleiner (Klejner)

It’s not Christmas without Kleiner in my family. My Mom learned how to make Kleiner from watching her mother, who learned it from watching her mother-in-law, known to Mom as Bestemar. Bestemar came to the US from Denmark in 1905 (in part to escape religious persecution, if you can believe it).  Anyway, at least one weekend in December was always devoted to Kleiner making. Mom would sometimes stay up into the wee hours of the morning frying cookies. I’ve found that you can break up the process into three nights – dough one night, shaping the next, frying the last day. Mom was a bit of a perfectionist (!) when it came to Kleiner – she usually made cookies so uniform and regular they seemed factory made. She was not adverse to throw our “poor” attempts to shape the cookies back into the dough bowl. I don’t think she even considered letting me help her until I was at least 10, maybe 12.

The recipe we inherited from Bestemar left much to the imagination - including referring to ingredients in the instructions that are not listed in the ingredient list! Apparently everyone knew how to cook then and such attention to detail was unnecessary. This is my much-fleshed-out recipe. Perhaps with this my cousins can make a tin or two for next Lille-Yule! Just kidding, I know Kleiner is a Degn-McPeck responsibility.

Bestemar’s Danish Kleiner

Takes 3 to 4 hours – or three nights
Makes about 4 dozen “Susan-sized” cookies, 3 dozen “Alma-sized)
Susan = My Mother
Alma = My Grandmother (mother’s mother)
Bestemar = My Great-grandmother (mother’s father’s mother)

Tools

2 mixing bowls
Measuring cups and spoons
Hand mixer
Sifter
Stout wooden spoon
Flat work surface
Rolling pin
Butter knife
Wax paper or parchment paper
Trays
Dinner fork or frying scoop
Pan deep enough for frying (at least 2 inches deep)
Brown wrapping paper or brown paper bags cut to lie flat
Small paper bag
Aluminum foil
Cookie tins

Ingredients

Dough
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or cardamom
½ cup butter, melted
4 tablespoon cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4-5 cups flour (depends on how finer the flour is – the finer the flour, the more you need)

Frying

1½ pounds shortening or oil (I like to use grapeseed oil because it has a buttery flavor. Sue and Alma always used Crisco vegetable, i.e. soy, oil)

Finishing

2 cups sugar for decorating
1 tsp vanilla or other flavoring, like cardamom (optional)

Instructions:

Making the dough

(1) Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla together until smooth with hand blender.




(2) Mix in cream and melted butter.

(3) In a separate bowl, sift together baking powder, salt and 3 cups of the flour.

(4) Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the dough, adding about ¼ to ½ a cup of flour at a time. You will only be able to use a hand mixer for first cup or so of flour, then move to a sturdy spoon. (I have broken wooden spoons mixing the dough before – beware!)




The last cup of flour usually needs to be worked in by hand a tiny bit at a time. You want the dough to be pulling off the sides of the bowl, but not as firm as pie dough. (I’ve never tried a free standing mixer for this, let me know if you try it and it works).

Too sticky:


Just right:


(5) Let dough chill in refrigerator or cool room before shaping. It should be firm and easy to roll out (this takes about half an hour). Susan generally made it a little softer - about like bread dough, then kneaded in more dough when she rolled out the cookies.

Shaping the cookies

(1) Roll out a softball-sized hunk of dough to about ¼ inch thick. You can try a bigger hunk as you get used to the process. Thinner dough is harder to work with and can fall apart when frying. Thicker dough takes longer to cook and can be a bit cakey. Sue tended to roll the cookies thicker than Alma.




(2) Using an upside down butter knife, draw parallel lines through the dough, about 1 inch (Susan size) to 1½ (Alma size) inches apart. You can make them even bigger if you like. According to Susan, Bestemar made them the size of donuts.




(2) Draw crossing, almost-perpendicular lines, across the first lines, in order to create diamond shapes. Cut a 1/2 to 1 inch slit in the center of each diamond shape (depending on how big you make the cookies). Remove edge pieces.





(3) Peel off one diamond shape from the edge by sliding butter knife under the dough. Use thumbs to widen the slit, then fold top corner into slit.



(4) Roll edges toward center, and pull the top corner up at the same time.




(5) Pinch corner, if desired. Susan always pinched the corner and rolled the sides in tightly. , Alma usually didn’t pinch the corner and left a hole in the middle. Susan’s are easier to fry, Alma’s are crispier.


(6) Place cookie on a tray lined with wax or parchment paper. Repeat for all diamonds. Continue rolling out, cutting and shaping until you run out of dough. We always eat the leftovers raw (it’s not Christmas without Kleiner dough). But you don’t have to be gross like us.




Cooking and finishing

(1) Pour about a cup of granulated sugar in a small paper bag. I like to add a few drops of vanilla or a few pinches of cardamom, then roll up top of bag tightly and turn over several times to mix, or mix into the sugar by hand. Susan and Alma usually used plain sugar. You want the sugar to be ready to go before you start frying cookies.

(2) Line some trays or your flat work surface with at least two layers of brown paper. The brown paper needs to be reasonably close to the fryer.

It’s best to have a fryer and a sugar-er. It takes a lot longer to fry and sugar by yourself, and you risk burning cookies. It’s always a good idea to have a least one person keep an eye on the hot oil.

(3) Fry cookies in at least an inch and a half of hot oil (about 350 degrees) until golden brown. If you don’t use enough oil you risk “sunburning” them on the bottoms.

You need to flip them at least once (with a dinner fork or frying scoop), about a minute or so after they float up to the top. It doesn’t hurt to check every minute or so until you get the hang of it.

I usually put about six in the oil at a time, then add six more when I flip the first six, or do 12 at once. The oil will get bubbly – sometimes so much so that it’s hard to see the cookies. Just skim the bubbles off and put them on the brown paper.




(4) Once cookies reach the desired color, place on brown paper to cool. Susan usually made them lighter, Alma darker.



(5) Sugar cookies by placing slightly warm cookies in sack of sugar. Gently toss to evenly coat. You can do this by folding up the top tightly and turning the bag over a few times, or just put your hands in and pour sugar over the cookies.

(6) Place sugared cookies in aluminum-foil-lined tins. Let cool before you put the lid on if you like them crispy. You could also cool them on a cooling rack before putting them in tins. Sue often sealed them up slightly warm, that’s why her Kleiner was usually so soft.




I keep finding little grammatical errors and fixing them. I'm fairly certain the instructions are correct though!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Foodie Day!

In which Amanda get a little link happy . . .

As all truly good days do, mine started by sleeping in later than usual. The boys and the dog crowded into the bed for a good cuddle then Shane (aka Dr. C) graciously consented to make us monster pancakes (aka German or puffy pancakes) for breakfast. They are so yummy when made with quality butter that they need no syrup. I also had fresh coffee flavored with cinnamon chocolate. So good. The boys watched several episodes of Redwall while I surfed the web and Shane read the newspaper.

Around 11-ish we went to Liberty Heights Fresh. As we were deciding between capon, duck and rabbit, the dear proprietor approached with a bottle of Brut and champagne glasses. Salud! Shane chose the capon. I chose duck bacon. Together we chose Rossini (wine soaked blue cheese, Valtaleggio, Italy), Stichelton (raw organic cow's milk Stilton, Nottinghamshire, England), Twig Farm soft wheel (Vermont), Tarentaise (alpine style raw cow's milk, Spring Brook Farm, Reading, Vermont), and Tooele Gold (brine aged goat milk, Shepard's Dairy, Erda, Utah). I also selected a wild boar Creminelli and pork Casalingo (Italian salami). E chose baby pears & multi-colored carrots and M chose broccoli & red grapes. We also grabbed real wild rice (from Minnesotta!), deep-dark chocolate bars, anchovies, Christmas beans, cremini mushrooms, cippolini onions, 3-seed crackers, torta de aceite and roman bread. Plus, a lovely bouquet.

We came home and while I cleaned up, Shane prepared a luscious cheese, salami, cracker and fruit plate from our Fresh jaunt, adding Smoked Promontory Beehive Cheese  (Uintah, Utah - just below where I grew up) and honey-crisp apples. Shane and I finished our Castle Creek Merlot (Moab, Utah).

I then perused several cookbooks and magazines for ideas for the wild rice pilaf I was dreaming up. After that Eli and I finally finished our fall wreath (pictures to follow once the batteries for the digital camera are charged). While I was putting the finishing touches on the wreath, Shane realized it was time for Fantastic Mr. Fox. We hurried to the Century 16. Fox was absolutely quirky and delightful. It's the kind of weird movie Dr. C and I adore. The kids also seemed to like most of it. We very much intend to buy the soundtrack.

When we arrived home, Shane & I tackled the dishes while listening to a CD of songs from Studio Ghibli films. When it was time to cook we listened to Peter Gabriel, Secret World Live. Dr. C spread lots and lots of butter on the capon and roasted it on a bed of carrots and green onions, and stuffed it with fresh herbs. I sauteed the multi-colored carrots with the cippolini onions and celery in bacon fat. I then added the crimini mushrooms and fresh herbs. I stirred cooked wild rice into the veggie mixture, then finished the pan with champagne vinegar. Once the bird was done, Dr. C reheated the carmelized chestnuts & brussels sprouts and carmelized turnips, rutabegas & shallots we had leftover from the McPeck family dinner at our house last weekend. Dr. C whipped up some mashed potatoes and buttered brocolli at the boy's request.  The feast was quite magnifique. Dr. C and I enjoyed our meal with Castle Creek Lily Rose White (Moab). After the meal we sipped regular brandy, pear brandy, raspberry liquor, Kijafa, & Gran Marnier (okay, I only chose two of the five). Dr. C also enjoyed an anchovy gin martini.

We intend to eat the duck bacon and potato & onion cakes in the morning. Then it is back to reality for me whilst I grade innumerable papers and wash equally innumerable articles of clothing. I intend to reward myself once I have graded & washed everything with a bit of "buy local day" shopping.

I feel blessed beyond measure today. I am so grateful for all the people who worked hard to bring the incredible food we ate to our table - farmers, ranchers, vintners, harvesters, truck-drivers, grocers, inventors of refrigeration and internal-combustion engines, etc). I am eternally indebted to the agronomists and agriculturalists who came before us, those clever souls who figured out that all these strange things were wonderful food if combined with fire, water, and salt. And of course, I realize that I truly lucked out in the "birth lottery." I cannot say that I "deserve" any of this bounty. My dear M drew a picture of turkey and wrote "feed the hungry" beside it. He showed it to everyone at Fresh. We give to the food bank every week/month (through Winder Farms and my employer's giving program), yet I wonder if we do enough. And then I remember that there is both "never enough" and "enough and to spare" for all of us, every day, not just on this day of thanks.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Lovelier Week

So, the work stress has been high lately. It took me awhile to realize that 85% of the stress was created in my own head. I attacked that source o' stress with a vengeance this week by bringing my journal to work and writing down all my stressful thoughts, then challenging them, a la Bryon Katie. It truly helped. I had so much more energy at the end of the week and was able to be much more present in my hearings. I've also noticed that the relaxation response has kicked in more frequently this week. Several mornings I've woken up in a completely relaxed state - this is truly rare for me.

I had another Byron Katie moment this morning. We desperately needed a new dining area rug and the perfect rug just happened to be on sale (50% OFF) at Kohl's, plus, I needed to pick up just a few more items for our pre-thanksgiving feast with the McPeck clan. I left for the store much later than I thought and I noticed I was stuck in the thought "I have to get everything done before everyone gets there," which was truly stressful. But what got my tearing up was the thought behind the thought - a pre-verbalish thought actually - that my family would not approve of nor love me unless I got everything (i.e. cleaning and cooking) done and that my family would not enjoy themselves at my home unless I got everything done. Questioning that thought was harder but so good to do. I realized that whether or not anyone enjoyed themselves at my home was utterly outside my control - they would enjoy it or not, approve of me or not. I remembered that how people perceive me or feel about me (or my home) is up to them, not me. No amount of cleaning or inspired cooking can make anyone like me, love me, or approve of me, not ever. It's a lovely realization.

I have also decided that the next time I have people over, I shall do the major cleaning the day before, so I won't be tired when my guests arrive. Sleepiness is very rarely conducive to hostessliness.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Time to End the Experiment, Obvs., And Other Stuff

So, one month of barely having weekly posts (Tuesday Ten and Thursday Thank You) was more than enough for me. Turns out I hate having a schedule/deadline for something I intended to do for funsies (who knew?!?!). Amazingly enough I have more than enough deadline pressure in my worklife to impose one on my online life. No more habitual posting for me. This blog will now return to absolute randomness.

In other news, I want to thank my sister for posting about the second anniversary of Mom's passing. I find that I don't want to write about it but I'm glad that Riss did. In some ways I have a better relationship with Mom now. Her spirit visits me fairly regularly and she is so very happy where she is now, I think happier than she was in her body, perhaps because in her last years she was in so much physical pain. As I am dealing with my own persistent pain and lack of energy, I find myself having far more sympathy for Mom than I did when she was here. And perhaps in her present state she is better able to know how I really feel. I deeply regret the fact that Mom was mostly unaware of how much I cared for her during her earthly life. I feel that she is aware now of how much she was loved, not just by me, but by others as well. And is so wonderful to know that Mom is happy. My joy in her healing outshines my grief in her passing.

More newsiness: I'm still working on the habitual anxiety thing. More noticing tension and breathing into it, because talking to my anxiety does not help. At all. My tension seems to be very body-based and I'm finding that only body-based responses have any lessening effect on it. So more breathing, stretching, being still.


I'm also testing out Martha Beck's idea  (well, it might not be her idea originally but she's the person I learned it from) that if you will do one small thing for the most neglected area of your physical space/home, you will find unexpected improvements in your mental/emotional life. I've made small efforts at addressing the mess we call "the library" hoping that in so doing I can work on the anxiety thing from another angle. Beck argues that your home is a reflection of your interior mind. I would agree if I was the only person living here. On the other hand, perhaps the messiness of my home reflects this cluttered mind of mine. Or perhaps its not so much cluttered as full of many ideas and interests. And given that my husband and children are as un-single-minded as I, it's no wonder we have a home full of stuff. Also, I've learned from Martha that I am polochronic, which is my excuse for why it's rarely time to clean up. Tee hee.

I've been re-reading books lately. I find it interesting that I don't react as strongly to the stories/characters as I did the first time I read these stories. Perhaps this change in reactions is due to changes in myself. I'm still parsing this out in my head - perhaps I will write more about this later.

Also, I find myself saying What Tami Said a lot. Her post Fat and happy: Why "The Biggest Loser" loses, which I somehow missed earlier this month, says exactly why I won't watch "weight loss TV" or participate in any kinds of weight loss talk. I know that weight loss is something very, very important to people that I deeply love, but it is not important anymore to me. Which is such a wonderful, wonderful thing, can I tell you? I can get on the scale now and truly not care what it says. No more anxiety, no more pain in my heart that I am unworthy of love because of what my body looks like. I can actually look in the mirror without shame, without feeling deep hatred for my belly, without thinking every part of me should be smaller, firmer, cuter. And I want to stay in this place. So please understand that this is why I will never talk diets or good vs. bad food or fitting into skinny clothes ever again. Because smaller is not better for me and I no longer believe that taking up less space makes me more worthy of living. And thank you, Tami, for this post and for your blog in general.

I think this is enough other stuff for now. In the meantime, thank you to all of my dear friends who read this blog, infrequent though it is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday Ten (belated) - Recurring Ideas

10 ideas that keep popping up for me . . .


(1) Respecting my capacity: This one comes from Havi Brooks. I'm feeling a need to acknowledge that there are limits to my energy, my ability to absorb information, my ability to focus. And when I reach those limits: Stop. Rest. Breathe. At least in theory. :)

(2) Noticing how tension saps my energy: Holding my muscles tightly or squinting my eyes in concentration in time makes me more tired. When I notice myself doing this, I remind myself to release. I am hoping this will give me more energy.

(3) Noticing how making housecleaning a "reward" for doing something I don't want to do even more, makes it fun and look forward-able. This is true for many tasks. This is a basic mind-training sort of technique. I'm just amazed that making something a reward that I don't intrinsically think is a "reward" makes it fun (this is not a novel concept, of course). I want to call it "treatifying."

(4) Noticing how much time I spend imagining how other people might attack my work or critique how I spend my time (particularly true at work). More wasted energy. Imagine what I could do if I could consistently approach these time-suckers with loving attention and redirection!

(5) Somehow, I always have "enough" time to get everything done at work, even when I am sure I will not have enough time to complete everything I've decided to do. So why worry about it, I ask myself? More energy-suckage.

(6) Reading as a meditation exercise: I find that reading is so easy for me now that I can read without thinking. My inner-voice is quieted as it listens to another voice. I don't have to "think" about what I read - I can just experience it. This is particularly true with fiction. It's kind of how you can lost in a movie. I'm not sure how such a verbal, cerebral activity can calm my monkey mind, but it does.

(7) I don't really believe in "non-self": I read a fair amount of Buddhist writing and I find myself fighting with this idea of "non-self." If there is no self, why worry about suffering? Why try to end it?

(8) When anxiety hits, talking to it doesn't work: I noticed this one morning as I was lying in bed, breathing, waiting for the alarm to go off. I thought for half a second "did I leave my keys attached to the cart at Harmon's?" and felt an instant tightness in my chest. And I walked through my memories and distinctly recalled opening the car for the children, then driving the car home, with my keys. My mind was calm, but my heart was still racing, my chest was still tight. All I could do to ease the anxiety/pain was to keep breathing. Equilibrium eventually returned. Then it happened again. I had some anxious thought, instant tightening and pain above my heart. Resolved the matter in my head but my body wasn't done yet. I'm trying to think of ways I can notice my body's reactions to anxiety/stress when I'm in the midst of daily life, instead of just when lying in bed, relatively still.

(9) How is that I can let my body rest while my mind flies? I have had this "problem" since childhood-my body is exhausted and needs to sleep, but my brain is wide awake. I learned as a child to let my body go dormant, essentially asleep, while my mind flew about where it would. Eventually my brain would drift off, but I got the benefit of more sleep than I "actually" got. My brain has slowed down as an adult but I still have those nights occasionally. I'm grateful that the "totally body rest while mind flies" technique still works for me.

(10) How stressful it is for me when things don't happen the way I think they will. When I'm expecting something to happen a particular way and it doesn't I get this pang of anxiety (as described in 8). I don't think I can stop the anxiety, it just hits. And I don't think I can stop expecting things. I am slowly releasing my attachment to my ideas of how "things" are "supposed" to be, but what to do with the anxiety in the meantime? Just keep breathing, I suppose.

What thoughts have you, my beloved readers, been tossing about in your heads?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thank You - Sugarhouse Instacare Edition - OS warning

OS=Over-share. Wev=Whatever.

So, I visited the Sugarhouse Instacare Monday evening, due to a week-long gastro-intestinal complaint. I also have some congestion due to a sinus infection and the irritation in my throat related to that makes me cough. Which means I have to wear a mask. Wev. Anyway, my thank you goes out to the Instacare doctors. Even though they can't seem to figure out that having a hysterectomy means your last period was long ago, they are kind and efficient. And they look at me, with my over 30 BMI body, and say, "So, you're generally pretty healthy, right?"  YAY!! Yes, as a matter of fact, I am generally healthy, thank you. Thank you for not assuming that fat=unhealthy. Thank you for listening to what I say about my own symptoms and believing me. Thank you for ordering a stool sample when I tell you I've had diarrhea for a week (I know, OS). Thank you for taking care of my beloved body.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday Ten: Some Favorite Spiritual Books

This is a beginning list, selected from my personal library in the past few weeks. Please understand that this is just the barest beginning of a list of favorite spiritual books. I am sure to add to the list in later posts.


(1) The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year
Caitlin Matthews, Harper San Francisco 1998
These daily meditations sustained me through some dark times - they were different enough from the spirituality of my childhood, yet resonant enough with my cultural heritage, to assist me in finding new connections with the divine.

(2) Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery
Starhawk, Harper San Francisco 1987
Starhawk is by far my favorite feminist pagan author. This book assisted me in seeing how our relationships with one another in community impacts our spirituality. It further clarified the meaning of unrighteous dominion and gave me powerful ideas of how to resist such uncalled for authority.

(3) Cries of the Spirit: A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality
ed. by Marilyn Sewell,Beacon Press 1991
This is a lovely book that can be dipped into over and over again at your leisure. Haunting wonderful poems, stirring quotations. Another book that sustained my heart during times of crisis.

(4) The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festivals
Marcia Falk, Beacon Press 1996
I never understood the power of multiple daily ritual prayers until I read this. The book is also beautifully designed.

(5) Buffalo Woman Comes Singing
The Last Ghost Dance: A Guide for Earth Mages
Brooke Medicine Eagle, Wellspring/Ballantine 1991 & 2000
A powerful, personal account and an amazing journey into semi-new-age Native American spirituality. The two books should be read together, in my never-to-be-confused-for-humble opinion.

 
(6) Why the Church is as True as the Gospel
Eugene England, Bookcraft 1986
This is the first book by Brother England that I read. The titular essay kept me from leaving the Church in high school and calls me to repentance still.


(7) Dialogues with Myself: Personal Essays on Mormon Experience
Eugene England, Orion Books 1984
This is the 2nd book by Brother England that I read. Brother England is the reason I went to BYU (seriously, THE reason). I miss his voice, his compassion, his wisdom. I have truly never met anyone else like him.


(8) To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Shocken Books 2005
This book was my introduction to Rabbi Sacks. This is an eloquent and impassioned call to service. Rabbi Sacks is gifted at bringing ancient texts to bear upon modern dilemmas and reminds me of the deepest meaning of personal accountability and integrity. 

(9) Bonds that Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves
C Terry Warner, Shadow Mountain 2001
This book challenges me every time I return to it. I first read the book online, then purchased the hardcover. Dr Warner challenges everyone to see beyond the box of self-delusions and self-justification, and see with eyes unclouded (to quote Princess Mononoke).  The most Buddhist Mormon text I know.


(10) Earthborn, volume 5 of the science fiction series Homecoming
Orson Scott Card, Tor, 1995
Technically not a "spiritual" book, but tackles spiritual issues nevertheless.  The series is a retelling of the core ideas and stories in the first few books of the Book of Mormon. Card describes the influence of the Spirit like no other author I know of. Perhaps the sense of "realness" I get from reading the book is the deep "Mormoness" of the book and I don't know how accessible it is to people who are unfamiliar with LDS culture. But I find myself returning to key passages every year or so, just to revisit the feeling that someone I've only met at book-signings somehow understands my deepest spiritual moments.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday Thank You, belated once again

My thank you is going out to Facebook, for helping me reconnect with dear friends and letting me grow to know and love my family more.  My sister wrote about something similar in January on her blog. I am glad that Facebook lets me stay in touch easily with the people that I love.

I'm trying to do these thank yous on Thursdays because Thursdays are sort of a "wrap up" day for me. It's the last day of my four ten work schedule and I tend to write many decisions from the week prior, then prepare for my class the next day. I'm usually tired and ornery, so thinking about what I am thankful for is a good exercise on such days. However, I don't always have enough energy when I get home to actually post my thank you. So, these will likely always be belated.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Ten: Things that made me smile recently

1) Watching Eli's feet wriggle as he sounds out words in his head. Both Eli and Michael read with their whole bodies and Eli clearly thinks with his feet.

2) Shane telling Michael he was going to open a restaurant and call his enchiladas "better than a barrette enchiladas" because Michael was chewing on a barrette rather than eating his dinner. You might have had to have been there.

3) Nellie McKay singing Mother of Pearl with the best hook ever:  Feminists Don't Have a Sense of Humor, also here

4) Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Goodbye, Mr Despair!): The Power of Negative Thinking, English manga version

5) Our new electric sweeper that actually cleans our rugs better than the vacuum.

6) Jennika and Vic's bridal/groomal pictures. Cuuuute!

7) Pink clouds in the morning, glowing autumn sunlight in the evening.

8) Eggnog coffee.

9) Baby elephant trays from Ikea.

10) Thick grey alpaca socks from the farmer's market - from local alpaca and local knitters! Local First!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blending

So, one of the coolest findings in my palm reading with MR was this star kinda halfway between the outside of my palm and my life line. MR pointed it out on my left hand but I can see one on my right hand, too. MR called it a "blending" star, because it was situated between spirit and body and she suggested it may be part of my life's work since stars symbolize a point of intense energy and light. I've been thinking about that idea quite a bit since the reading. Here are some of my thoughts:

Perhaps one manifestation of the blending star is my simultaneous fascination with the physical aspects of mind/body (like the actual physical workings of the brain and those pesky molecules of emotion) and with the transcendent/spiritual knowing that seems to come from both outside and within you at the same time. I love to learn how emotions have a physical root and also think emotions are clues to a wider reality (like intuition, precognition, etc). It's taken me a long time to realize that emotions are embodies - not just charged thoughts. Actually feeling emotion in my body has been a revelation to me.

Perhaps the star is an indication of how my intuitive knowing often manifests as a physical knowing. For example, I often feel pulled to a particular place, like there's a compass in my body pointing in a particular direction. If I am giving someone a massage, my hands feel pulled toward tender spots. I have often felt a pull to go down a particular aisle at the store, where I have found something I needed but had not put on the list (this happened just tonight actually). I have felt a pull to go down a particular road, then months later realized my familiarity with that particular road was crucial. My eyes are drawn to correct answers on tests and my hands feel a pull toward the right answer. My hands feel the tarot card I want to look at in readings. My innate sense of direction is very tied to this physical manifestation of intuition.

I'm not sure if anything is non-physical, that is, outside the realm of molecules and atoms. I believe that there is a knower, a choser, that is me, that is an actual thing and that thing has been me since there was anything. I am profoundly influenced by the LDS idea that each of us is, at base, an "intelligence," something that has always existed and will always exist. Orson Scott Card named the "intelligence" an "aiua" in the later Ender books. When I read this little bit from Xenocide, it connected to me in a deep way:
 I think that we are free, and I don't think it's just an illusion that we believe in because it has survival value. And I think we're free because we aren't just this body, acting out a genetic script. And we aren't some soul that God created out of nothing. We're free because we always existed. Right back from the beginning of time, only there was no beginning of time so we existed all along. Nothing ever caused us. Nothing ever made us. We simply are, and we always were. p. 386, 1991 paperback.
Yet, even if we have always existed, our aiuas/intelligences/spirits are powerfully influenced by our bodily experience. How we know things fundamentally changes depending on the particular chemical/hormonal balance in our bodies in any given moment as well as how our childhood experiences shaped the unique neural nets of our brains. Our experiences and worlds shift in meaning and experience with each subtle body change - for example, my skin color, gender, and size have all profoundly shaped my understanding of the world around me. And at a simpler, most basic level, I know that, for myself, my choices are profoundly influenced by things as simple as hunger, thirst, tiredness. I think better, act better, make better/kinder/more loving choices when I am well fed, well rested. I'm a nicer person when my body feels good.

So, I believe on a deep level that "I" am something different than the body "I" live in. Yet my body is also me and I feel on the same deep level that this is the body "I" chose. Blended and blending.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday Thank You (belated . . .)

So, still running with this idea of habitual posting. Again, we'll see if I actually write something like this again next week.




What I am most thankful for this week (and pretty much every week) is my beloved Shane. I must share just one example of how much my dear one takes care of me. I came home from work an hour early yesterday because I was feeling sick. The off-and-on headache and coughing had been popping up all week, but all of a sudden yesterday afternoon I felt very shaky and cold - which for me means fever. When I get a fever my core and head get hot and the rest of my body (basically my extremities) get very cold. Add that to normal fever chills and you get a trembly Amanda.

ANYWAY . . . I noticed when I went to get cash to pay the wonderful woman who watched our boys yesterday that we had less in our checking account than I expected, so instead of jumping straight in the bath when I got home, as I wanted to do, I came up to the computer nook and took a look at our online banking (sorry about the rhyming thing - I get it from my older son). Shane came up and offered me several possibilities for dinner, I chose chicken soup. He brought it up with buttered toast without asking because he just knew that I would want buttered toast with my soup (he was right).  Then he brought me more buttered toast. And also offered me the last of the orange juice.

After I was done with the banking stuff, I put myself in that bath. I was still shaking and trembling but baths are very good at normalizing my temperature and the water did its work. While I was in the bath, I heard the unmistakable sound of the heater turning on. Now, mind you, Shane is a frugal man. Last year our heating system did not turn on until late November and the thermostat rarely went above 67 degrees. But he was worried about me so he turned it on anyway without saying anything to me about it.

AND when I finally went to bed, I saw that he had also turned on my heating pad and tucked it under the covers, so the bed would not be cold when I got in. He had already fallen asleep, but he left the light on, in case I wanted to keep reading when I finally came to bed.

The thing that amazes me is that Shane thinks nothing of this kind of stuff. When we first started dating and he kept doing all these kinds of nice things for me, I asked him if he treated all his sweethearts this way. He said yes, but that I was the only one who always said thank you and never expected him to do anything for her or got angry when he did not have the energy to do the caretaker thing. I thought it was weird that his other loves had not thanked him. Actually, I still think it's weird, but after over 10 years of being taken care of like this, I admit to starting to get used to it.

I hope to never take The Amazing Shane for granted or stop appreciating all the ways that he makes my life better. And I also hope that he knows that it is not his caretaking of me that makes me love him so (though I obviously appreciate it). What I love about Shane is his bright & generous soul and his compassionate practicality. I have never met anyone who is more deep-down good, than my beloved. Here's to you, Dear!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesday Top Ten

Several bloggers I like have little ritual postings and I'd like to try it out. So here goes for this week (your guess is as good as mine if I will do this again next week):

Top Ten Reasons I Bike to Work

1) Biking focuses my energy going to work and clears the stress coming home.

2) In the fall and on into the spring, I get to say hello to the moon.

3) I notice changes in the neighborhood - like people putting in new gardens, remodeling their homes, etc.

4) My fellow bikers are often friendly and chat at stop lights.

5) Biking helps pull me out of my head and into my body.

6) I notice the seasons changing.

7) Despite number 5 I can "pre-draft" blog posts in my head - or slay invisible dragons.

8) I arrive to work smiling.

9) Biking feels more flexible than taking the bus and it's just silly to drive 10 blocks.

10) I can.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Margaret Ruth, The Side Door, Other Findings



Runnin' Rhino by Allan Faustino
find it at threadless dot com - along with all kinds of great images and t-shirts!!

Margaret Ruth

As you may know, tomorrow is my birthday, and part of my birthday gift to myself was to get an extended palm reading with Margaret Ruth. She is currently working on a book about palmistry and she is offering free 15-minute palm readings. I strongly encourage everyone within driving distance to take her up on the offer!1 The reading was a lot of fun and Margaret Ruth was, as always, very insightful and enlightening.

She noticed right away that some kind of divine intervention changed my life line from chaotic to clear in my late twenties/early thirties. I could think of two examples - the birth of my boyos which fixes, somehow, my IBS & chronic constipation (please forgive the overshare) and of the premonitions/promptings that made me keep going back for more tests/injections/scans until the doctors finally found the cancer that claimed my uterus. I know that I was following the Spirit/Committee/Higher Self when I knew I had to get pregnant when I did and go to Margy2 for help when I thought I was miscarrying.

The reading gave me insight into my family and my ancestors that I was not expecting. I was overjoyed to feel that I was connected to my ancestors in my gifts of healing touch (like with my hands), artistic/academic expression, and intuitive/psychic insight. It was wonderful to learn that my efforts to heal some of what I was "handed" have been successful and have brought comfort to those on the other side of the veil as well as to myself. I think part of the major change referred to above was also when I stopped trying to "lifestyle change" (never say diet, wink, wink) myself into another body, one that would be more loveable and acceptable and learned that my body is powerful and good, just as it is. I certainly hope that cleared some psychic pain for the large-bodied souls that came before me.

I was a bit surprised to learn that my hands show both a strong leadership/will and a tendency to "bend over backwards" for others. Perhaps it reflects my (non-original) ideas about servant leadership. I am still learning how to lose my false self in service/leadership/love so that my true self can emerge as a source of power & healing. I spend too much time doing what I think others want me to do for them instead of doing what I know I need to do for them. This makes sense in my head, really.

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I could clean up my head and heart lines, since they are far more chaotic than my life line.3 And I thought - why can't I use some of that same guardian angel energy on clearing up my (please forgive me for saying this) stinkin' thinkin' and the ever present sense of not being quite what other people want? So, I have been calling out to the ancestors/committee/city of G-d for assistance in this next journey. Anyway, I find that I esteem myself all well and good, but I presume that most other people in the world do not. In other words, I presume that I am not loveable. I have plenty of evidence to convince my head that this belief is not true - but telling my gut? That's a whole other business. I find that just contemplating ways of cleaning out the "gunk" in my heart and head helps. So does reading Byron Katie's, "I Need Your Love, Is That True?" She has great method for ungunking. Keeping up with Havi at fluent self dot com has been tremendously useful as well.

The Side Door

I would love to get some reactions to an interesting dream I had the other night. I was at some kind of old-English style castle/boarding school. All of the "kids" were dressed the same and everything was stonework and ivy. We went outside for a period of time and I wanted back into the castle. I went through a door I thought of as a "secret back way." Unfortunately, though dressed in boarding-school-girl clothing I was actual size (!) and as I walked up the stone stairway the ceiling and the stair got closer and closer together, until the only way through was a small, narrow opening. The opening was such that a non-claustrophobic young child could squeeze through, but tiny enough that, even were I skin and bones, I could not crawl through. I mind-flew back down to the entry to the passageway but of course it was locked. Plus, it was a thick, wooden door that I would not be able to break down. Somehow I knew that there was a side entrance somewhere along the stairway, I just had to find it. I knew it was hidden and that I would have to grope around quite a bit before finding it. I awoke before I found the side door, but with a conviction that it would be found. I think the dream is a wonderful metaphor for where I am right now.

Other Findings

I had a great "oracle" reading at gaian tarot dot com this morning. I asked about the current work upheaval I find myself facing. My opportunity was Lightning (the Tower), which reminds me that major change is an an opportunity for new growth and rebirth, and a chance to reconfigure the deadwood/stuckness/unworking-ness. My challenge was the High Priestess, which represents to me my efforts to access the deep intuitive knowing and wisdom that leads me to what I really need. My resolution was the World - best card ever! I know that whatever happens, if I listen to my deepest knowing I will be where I am needed and all will be well. I recall when we first moved to Utah and I despaired of finding work that meaningful. I was told quite strongly that what job I found did not matter - what mattered was that I bring my true self to whatever job I found.

Suggestions and comments dear friends? I would particularly love to hear your thoughts on telling the difference between listening to the Spirit/your Higher Self/the Guides/Committee and talking to yourself.


1 mr at margaretruth dot com
2 Margaret Batson, Certified Nurse Midwife, the best in town in my opinion.
3 I think you will be happy to know, MR, that my son and I went bowling last night and just had fun. Lots of emotional release. And today I've been cleaning my physical environment (1) to get ready for a birthday open house and (2) to get some mental focus and clarity. I'm organizing my house in hopes that will bring some clarity to my brain. I admit to going back to a book though - but I don't think Byron Katie counts! :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Which I Reveal Two Major Things About Me

I do not make many decisions from a rational place. Which I realize is a strange thing for a judge to say. I do make my legal decisions from a basically reasoned place. But most of my decisions - like what am I going to do in this little moment - are made from a more intuitive impulse. Mostly I "just know" stuff. Even when I take multiple choice tests - it's like the right answer stands out in a mentally bolder type than others. Sometimes I literally cannot see the other answers. Things I really want and need tend to stand out or look more vivid to me. Take books, for instance.

So, today I went to the library to do something I really needed high-speed Internet to do and I thought, "I should go get that book Havi1 raves about, that one about nonviolent communication" (intuitive impulse one) and of course it's checked out but then I decide to go browse over in that area anyway, even though the library closes in literally five minutes (intuitive impulse two), and I find two books to put by my bed that I've already started to read (intuitive impulse three). To wit:

life is a verb - 37 days to wake up, be mindful, and live intentionally by Patti Digh (in which I have already found several great quotes and one great poem for my humanities class as well as moments of laughter and relaxation into just being me)

and

Fitting in is Overrated - The survival guide for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider by Leonard Felder (which says so many things I've always thought only nicer and more PhD in psychology-er)

I don't know how to explain how I knew that I needed to check out these particular books, except that their covers just seemed to pop at me and I felt weird leaving without them. I knew from almost 37 years of experience that if I didn't get the books now I would be thinking about them for days and finally get them anyway.

Most of my very good decisions came to me in this way. I referred to some of those very good decisions in my last post. Others include going to BYU just so I could take a class from Gene England and then doing so my very first semester there, reading Gene's "Why the Church is as True as the Gospel" as a teenager in the first place (that was another book-shining-on-the-library-shelf moment), applying for a job with DWS, dropping by the house that is now ours when it was for sale and "just happening" upon the sellers who let us just tour the house at will, going to Milo Bishop's "how to buy your first house" class just a month previously, dropping by another house a month or so before that (which did not become our house) and meeting a realtor who was "just helping out a friend that day" who did become our realtor, saying "yes" to the question, "Would you like an appointment with Sarah Jane, she's really good," (see facebook).

I think we all get the picture.

My intuition is often smarter than my brain. My brain knows it, too, and is always arguing with me in this alternatively snotty then patiently pleading voice. I occasionally give it ice cream and let it watch Digimon (or take a bath), so I can hear myself not think for awhile.

The second thing about me that I've only recently realized is that I'm a helper (the intuitive thing I've been aware of since high school at least). I help people. All. The. Time. Like today, riding in the elevator at the library down to the parking area this woman with a very Castillian accent was asking her gentleman companion how to explain in English that her heart was going very fast. He said he did not know. I gently butted in asking if she meant beating rapidly or accelerating. And just right this moment I'm feeling slightly bad that I didn't think of the term "racing," she would have liked that. She seemed very glad I butted in. Her gentleman friend seemed embarrassed.

At work I help all the time - customers, coworkers, strangers. I don't mean to be rude, but if I know the answer or know where to look for it, I am VERY likely to share. It's just this thing about me that is so intrinsic that I haven't really been aware that not all people are like this until recently. I think I finally noticed this tendency because I've been working on not "fixing" stuff for people, especially when they haven't asked me to and maybe even more especially when they have. I also like fixing stuff. And putting together puzzles and unraveling things. Gives my pattern-crazy mind something to do. :-)

Also, I like cheese. There, that's several things about me.

You might ask why I am writing all this stuff about me. Well, book one that I referred to above, reminded me that were I to suddenly shuffle off this mortal coil, I would like there to be something for my beloved kids to know me by - to know me, not just Mom, but Amanda. And here's one way I am starting to keep a record for them. As the subtitle says - this blog is simply a measure of me.

1Havi Brooks of Fluent Self dot com

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Finding the Roots of Anxiety & Letting Go of Doing "It" Right

For much of my life I have experienced nagging anxiety, a sense that something about me or what I'm doing is "wrong," and that I need to fix it. This is not a pleasant way to live and so for the past couple of years I've been trying to get at the source of this omnipresent feeling of not being good enough. I've found an excellent therapist, a great women's group, and perused many wonderful books. Here's a summary of my thoughts for now:

One way I have confronted the anxiety in the past is by fixing "it" so I do everything right. That's right, I've spent some time as a perfectionist. The problem is that I suck at it.

I have had aspirations of making lists for most of my life. For coming up with and following a plan so that everything in my life can be organized! clean! easy! It's not just women's magazines that have manufactured in me this yearning for containerized living. I blame growing up in the "Covey culture," that special era of planning mania that gripped Utah Mormondom in the 1980s. My Laurel's leader1 was especially influential. She had a day planner that dominated her life. The idea of "plan your work then work your plan" is still predominant in this lovely Desert, whoops, I mean Deseret.2

I have purchased many day planners in my life. My current one doesn't even have a calendar, it's just a project planner. I figured without the burden of dates, I might use it. Nope. I still haven't accomplished some of the "projects" that I wrote down one year ago when we bought the house. I do have a list of things I MUST DO this weekend. I will probably only accomplish the things that I really must do or face consequences I don't want (like having to pay another $50 late fee to the State Bar).

I've learned that something about me at a deep, psychological level resists order. Strike that and make it "resists being told what to do, even by myself!"3 I have a fundamentally free form kind of self. I prefer to flow with the go. If I make myself a neat plan for how to accomplish a particular goal, I will sabotage it. It's like I am constitutionally required NOT to follow a plan. For example, the only students at my law school who did less studying than me where stoned. Seriously.

If I make a plan for my day or a project (like cleaning the house) or whatever, eventually I'll become convinced I can either a) find something better to do or b) find a better way/moment to do whatever it is that I've planned. It's not an attentional deficit, it's a conscious choice to abandon the plan. So I follow my gut and do whatever I want to do in that moment and all is good - until this little nagging sense creeps up that I must be doing "it" wrong because I either don't have a plan or I'm not following the plan that I have. (I think "it" is life.)

With some self reflection and help from a friendly turtle, I'm approaching that nagging sense with the reminder that letting go of the illusion of control/perfection/doing "it" right, is an essential part of letting life glide me over to where I need to be. Not everything that "goes wrong" is my fault. And not everything that "goes right" is due to my righteous efforts either. I wasn't following "the" plan when I fell in love with Shane, decided to have kids, moved back to Utah (without a job!?!), kept getting blood test after blood test until "they" figured out it was cancer (I already knew on that deep intuitive level that the prefrontal lobes can't argue with).

What I know to be right and good doesn't always fit into justifiable, rational goals. And I am beginning to accept that just showing up - just being present for the present - is a miracle in itself. Living here, in this moment, "loving what is" here before me, is better that living for some moment in the future that I've convinced myself can only come if I follow a letter-perfect plan.

A second source of this underlying anxiety is fueled by other people's dreams for my life that I somehow mistook for my own. These are the things people who loved me were sure I would do/could do/should do because they could imagine me doing it. "You're so smart/talented/whatever, you have to 'do something' with your life!"

I think of my beloved debate coach who told me he expected me to "be on the cover of Time someday." My choir teacher's insistence that if I did not become a professional performer I was "wasting my gift." A dear college mentor's anxious sureness that I needed to represent striving, confident career women in the Church and make the Church safe for feminists. Friends who were sure that I would be the general Relief Society President some day.4

None of the dreams were mine, though I accepted that they should be and tried to accomplish them for many years. And oh the guilt when I decided I should do what I liked and wanted and needed!

But my dream is here, sitting across from me in a downtown SLC park eating a Moochies sandwich, and at the playground taking pictures of new friends then convincing them to play Wonder Pets,5 is simply being okay with the fact that I am not working on my syllabus/predrafting my decisions for next week/trying to take over the world.

I don't want/have to be the next big thing, the smartest one in the room, the one who makes sure everything gets done right & on time (& right!!!!!).

And yet. And yet. My heart still tightens as I realize I'm doing "nothing," that there must be "something" so much more worthwhile I could be spending this moment on. I know these thoughts to be illusions, though the emotions are real enough. So I attempt to stay with the feeling and let the mind flow where it might, sans control. I experience the pain this sense of self-lack brings and do "nothing" with it. Just for a moment I feel what it's like to be "me" feeling pain over not being/doing enough and I don't try to argue with or appease the feeling. I just feel it. And eventually it dissolves and my focus returns to the beautiful dreams that surround me, the life I never thought I would have - with a partner who supports/loves/cooks for me, with children who sparkle with intelligence and love. And I remember now is not only "enough," it's all there really is.


1In the LDS religion, there is an organization for young women called, appropriately enough, "Young Women's." The Laurels are the 16-18 year old group. I think they are still called Laurels.
2It's a Mormon thing, please don't make me explain it. Wait, pretty much everyone who reads this blog has been immersed in LDS culture, whether they are members of "the Church" or not. So nevermind! ;)
3I am hoping somewhere my late Mother will take comfort in this thought.
4The top leader of the women's organization in the LDS church. Oh wait! I wasn't going to explain these things anymore. Doh!
5That's where my dreams were when I first wrote this. They are presently located at the zoo looking at baby tigers and sitting on the couch watching Loonitics Unleashed. My dreams move around a lot.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thoughts on Waking Up

So I've been exploring Buddhism for a little while now (and by exploring I mean reading three or four Buddhist authors that appeal to me) and I've decided that I regard the idea of enlightenment - or waking up to reality - much the way I regarded the idea of "being saved" when I primarily identified as Christian. I never thought of myself as being "saved" once-and-for-all - probably because I grew up in the LDS church, which talks about such things as eternal progression. So I tend to think of enlightenment as a process one goes through rather than an end that one achieves. One awakens to one thing, then another, then you fall asleep a bit on that other thing, then wake up a bit more, fall asleep again. I visualize what little progress I make as going up a huge spiral staircase - I keep returning to the same issues, but hopefully I'm a bit more awake each time I swing by.

I'm never all the way awake and I have my doubts that I will ever fully let go of this thing we call a "self," but every once and awhile I see things a bit more clearly, I catch the habit, I notice my feelings rather than putting words on them so I can argue them down, I refrain from biting the hook (as Pema Chodron calls it). And it's nice. I am finding myself less attached to my own thoughts and ideas, my expectations for how things "should be," and finding that I have less ego - less dogs in the fight, so to speak. Truly life is more pleasant this way.

I had more thoughts two days ago when I was drafting this post in my head. Oh well. :-)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Actual Relaxation


I have a very hard time actually relaxing. By that I mean that I am hardly ever deeply, unequivocally relaxed. The kind of relaxed where your muscles and your mind feel soft, warm (I have to admit though that just describing relaxation is making me feel better). One of my dear friends from college pointed out to me that everything was always a "crisis" and he was right. But I find that knowing is less-than-half the battle.

One of my new year aspirations was to "un-round" my shoulders. I am finding the focus on this aspiration helpful but the actual achievement of it almost impossible. My right shoulder is particularly "frozen." For example, while waiting for my lunch to cook at work, I will stand against the wall and place my hands behind my waist, in the "small" of the back. When I do this, I can feel the right shoulder blade "pop" out, pushing painfully into the wall. I then work on rolling my shoulder up and back, which gets the shoulder blade more in place, but boy is that a difficult stretch. Clearly I have used my right shoulder differently than my left one for years. But I also believe some of my stress, fear, alertness, is stored in that shoulder. (It also has something to do with using my mouse with that hand!) I think I've mentioned before that I believe that our memories are stored in our bodies as well as our brains - as well as out there in that medieval "ether" - I am hoping that my efforts to loosen and "normalize" my shoulders will help me release old pain and step out of my constant alertness and tension. I'm also working on my calves - which are unusually tight partially due to some arthritis in my feet plus poorly healed injuries and partially because I store stress there, too. I know it's a weird place to store stress - just trust me on this.

In addition to stretching, I've also tried just watching my reactions and my energy state for the last couple of months to see what feelings provoke shoulder hunching. I have noticed that most of the time part of my mind is on some kind of alert. Probably a good thing from an evolutionary perspective but hazardous to my long-term health. It is good to be on the alert for danger - especially when you have one child who has no fear of strangers and another with no fear of falling - but I am also aware that constant stress can damage your circulatory system as well as undermining your mental health. I want to be able to activate my parasympathetic system and reach deep relaxation - but sometimes I wonder if I even have a parasympathetic system!

Shane and I took the kids and the dog to the mountains in Nevada last weekend and somehow that was actually relaxing for me. At one point the boys, Shane, and the dog were splashing in a stream and I was taking pictures of them and the wildflowers (which filled the valley and were just awesome) and it hit me - I'm not worried about anything. I'm just here, looking at the lovely flowers, listening to the water and the children, delighting in their and Sophie's delight in the moment, feeling the sun and breeze, smelling the mountain air. It was lovely. I hoped to maintain the feeling for a little while when I returned to work on Monday, and I did, but by Friday it was gone. So part of this weekend I have tried to "just be here," to just feel the life around me instead of constantly attempting to direct and shape the energy. Going with the flow is just simply tough for a marathon life swimmer like me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The evil that is Rodale/Prevention

So, when we moved to this new house I stupidly ordered Prevention. I paid for my subscription. Somehow a new order was "received" on January 9, 2009, and they have been bugging me for $12 ever since then. I ignored it because I PAID FOR MY SUBSCRIPTION. But noooo, apparently what I paid for is an "expired, completed or cancelled subscription." Just today I got a notice that told me that if I didn't get them their $12 immediately they were going to turn the account over to the "North Shore Collection Agency." Wev. I went online and canceled. What do you want to bet they will try to charge me $7 for the issues I've already received, and, as far as I recall, do not recall ordering.

Please take this as a warning never, ever, ever subscribe to this worthless little magazine. The articles are recycled crap and they have a deep loathing for fat people. And they will take every opportunity to bill you. They will also send you books you don't want and did not order and then try to make you pay for them (true story, I did not fall for it and called customer service and sent it back). They remind me so much of People Magazine which kept sending my Mom subscriptions renewal forms, even though she had paid through, like 2020. Anyway, Rodale/Prevention truly, truly suck eggs, my little dumplings.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Card didn't just drink the kool-aid - he bathed himself in it well and good

Look at this little "aside" from OSC's most recent column at greensboro.rhinotimes.com:

(California is a desert, until you add irrigation water and illegal immigrant gardeners.)

Sure, Mr. Card, all farm workers in California are illegal immigrants. Nevermind the long early history of California farm workers who were white refugees of the dust bowl. Nevermind all the people who came here (some of whome were coerced) from Asia to build railroads then abandoned to figure out their own way. Nevermind all the people WHO WERE HERE FIRST and suddenly became "illegal immigrants" when California became part of the US instead of Mexico. Nevermind the fact that brown skin does not make one an illegal immigrant. We must appease our crazy-hat conservative readers and pretend that all the brown people in California don't really belong. Because California really belongs to white people, they just let the brown people stay because they have such a knack for growing things.

Okay, so I read more into that than is there. But still. I used to think Mr. Card was a compasionate person, someone who was really and truly Mormon. My doubts have been growing for awhile, but the casualness of this aside and all of the assumptions that are behind it just make me sick. Why do I punish myself by reading this crap?!

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I've been doing with my one precious life lately

Mostly I've been working. I agreed to work overtime on Fridays the past few weeks so our office can keep up with the record setting number of appeals we've gotten this year. Just to be clear, we number each appeal we receive sequentially, so the very first appeal we receive on January first is appeal number one, the second appeal is two, and so on and so forth. We recently received appeal number 8000. We did not have 8000 appeals in 2007 - we had 7302 to be exact (edit 6/22/09). We had just over 10,000 appeals in 2008 (which was a record number). We are not even halfway through 2009 yet! This, folks, is a true economic indicator.

Since I decided to teach last semester and the class was on Friday afternoons, this is the first Friday I've had fully off work for awhile. So what am I doing with my precious time? Surfing the nets. There is so much wonderful (and shapely) prose out there, I'm actually sitting inside when I could be enjoying the sunshine that finally decided to grace SLC. Oy. If you'd like to enjoy the bloggers I enjoy just look to the right of the screen and follow the links.

Oh, and I promise to soak up some sun today, I really, really do.

Little edit - I have recently removed all family & friend websites, except my sister's, from the blog roll to preserve everyone's privacy & all that. I still visit & like your blogs & if you want to remain on the blog roll, send me a line!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Words fail me

http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/06/05/200906050055.asp

Here's the headline:

"Firm sues dead actress for being beaten - and wins"

Here's a quote:

"Models who failed to maintain appropriate dignity as representatives of the products they represent should compensate for the damages caused to their advertiser, the top court ruled. "

I agree with the lower court:

"A lower court said in an earlier ruling that Choi could not be held responsible for depreciating the image of the apartment or the company as she had not been proven guilty of causing her former husband's violence. "

Thank you to Hoyden About Town for alerting me to this story.

(http://viv.id.au/blog/20090607.5262/model-choi-jin-sil-sued-for-being-beaten/)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Murdering in the name of preventing murder

I don't have words to respond to the murder of Dr. George Tiller this weekend in Kansas - in the foyer of his church as he handed out the church bulletin! I'm just simply stunned. I am going to ask that you read this blog, regardless of your views on abortion:

http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/feature/2009/06/01/late_term_abortion/index.html

I lost my ability to have children when I was 33 years old, three days after my birthday. I have watched loved ones struggle and pray for a child of their own. The loss of a child is heart-wrenching and I don't know that I would have chosen to abort any of my own pregnancies. I believe that every child is precious and should be greeted with rejoicing. And yet I still feel that abortion should be a choice determined by a woman and her medical care provider(s), not by the State, and definitely not by a murderer.

See below for an article regarding the suspect:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/us/02tiller.html?hp

Here's the quote I find chilling:

"Commenting on Dr. Tiller’s death, Mr. Leach [who runs the Prayer and Action News newsletter] said, “To call this a crime is too simplistic.” He added, “There is Christian scripture that would support this."

My anger is so high right now I'm afraid of saying something deeply hateful.

(this post was edited by ABM)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Grieving still . . .

I've been thinking about Mom a lot lately. Mother's Day and Memorial day certainly have brought her to my mind, as have all the happenings in our family. What they say about grief is right - it will come out of the blue and knock you down again when you thought you were done with being sad. We are planning to take roses from our garden up to the cemetery on Monday - which is particularly meaningful for me, since I have a sixth sense that Mom helped us get this house from the other side. I've been reading Mom's copies of the Harry Potter books, and wondering if she would have liked the last one - she was too tired from the chemo to finish it, I think. I tried to watch Xena the other night but it's just too hard. Shane inherited Mom's Xena video collection - he loves it. Yesterday, while at my sister's, I listened to a wonderful rendition of a love song from Brigadoon sung by an American Idol contestant - and thought how Mom would have actually been willing to come by the computer to listen to it.

The grief I felt/feel with Mom's illness and passing is unlike any other I've known. The pain has been so physical for me - a tightness in my heart that makes it feel as if my chest might collapse in on itself. I've focused on actually letting myself feel the pain - instead of clamping down on it or distracting myself the way I normally do - and it's hard! Feeling the pain has made me keenly aware of why I've often avoided feeling pain in the past.

There really isn't a way to end this post, other than saying that I miss Mom's wit and her endless curiosity. I miss the way she could be delighted by finding a new brand of something like cereal at the store. I miss the way she would get so excited about new shows on tv each season (she would really like Castle) and the way she would try to get me to watch that dang karaoke show she liked so much.

I imagine she would be so happy for Vic and Jennika right now - in fact, I imagine she would be vibrating with joy and that none of us would be able to get her to stop talking about how wonderful and smart and cute Jennika is, and how happy Vic is, and what will Minnie (the dog) do if Vic doesn't take her with him, and did you know that Vic got a scholarship from the history department because he's done so well, but it's a shame he can't use all of it, etc. etc. She would love playing with smiley baby Dane. I imagine she would love watching us transform our yard - from a distance. She would be proud of Eli and Cole going to kindergarten in the fall. She would be so proud of Reilley getting baptized next week. I imagine Michael telling her his plans for Elemeno the Clown and her getting confused (as I do when he talks to me about it!).

I know that Mom is happy for Dad and his new love & life with Neva. I know that she is watching and loving us from the other side. And I know she is happy where she is and for that I am glad.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Random Thoughts of Randomness

This has been an interesting week. M woke up Tuesday morning with bright red cheeks. We quickly learned that he has a relatively harmless virus that makes a spectacular rash. We thought it was an allergic reaction at first. Apparently several kids at E's school have had the same thing.

I have felt crappy all week, don't know if it's the same thing as M or just spring-time cold. I got sick just in time for finals. Grading my student's final projects is not difficult - their presentations are quit fun actually - but finding time to grade all the last-minute assignments when you are sick and have a full-time job to boot - that's hard. And the hardest part of my teaching job, bar done, is posting my failing students grades. It's almost as hard as denying people benefits. I don't know how students expect to pass a course when they don't do the assignments - or even show up to the final . . .

Shane is officially unemployed and using the services of my department. I'm actually really happy to have him home. There are strong advantages to having a parent available during the day. I've noticed that he seems much more relaxed now that he's finally been laid-off. It's nerve-racking looking for a job in this economy, but I hope that he is getting some satisfaction in the work he's done on the house and the garden. I reminded him that having established landscaping - instead of a quarter acre of weeds - will increase the value of our home tremendously, even in this market. Once again I am so deeply thankful that we have no credit card debt, we own our vehicle, we bought a modest home we can afford on my salary, and we have paid down my law-school loans to manageable levels. Sometimes I think we lived in Tennessee just so I could get hooked on Dave Ramsey's anti-debt campaign, and as soon as I got it, the universe brought us back here to Utah.

One last thing, as proof of how awesome Shane is: The other day we were at a bookstore with a large display of mother's day cards. I said, "I don't have a Mom anymore," and Shane replied, "Yes, you do. Why don't we take a card up to the graveside on Sunday." And then he gave me a hug. Our relationship is unequivocally the more precious part of my life. I love you, sweetie.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More About Native Plants . . .

Great article from the NYTimes:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/garden/30GARDEN.html

The book the writer speaks of, “Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Gardens” (Timber Press, 2007), by Douglas W. Tallamy, is the book that inspired our recent native plantings as well. And I am fired up to start planting more. I noticed lots of native bees buzzing around the dandelions in the early spring. But S is allergic to them, so we have to pull them out. And no, dandelions are not native but all kinds of bees like them.

We are also being sure to leave some uncovered ground to provide nesting area for native bees. Most bees native to North America burrow in the soil or in wood and do not live in hives. So leave some portion of your yard unplanted, to give those sweeties room to roost. If you can't tell, I love bees and bees love me. I'm one of those weirdos who's never been stung. (Now watch me go get stung right now).

Here's more of why you (yes, you) need to put some native, flowering plants in your garden, if you haven't already:

"My Korean spicebushes (Viburnum carlesii) are also in full bloom, their clusters of pinkish-white flowers filling the air with the heady scent of cinnamon and honey. But it’s striking how few bees are sipping nectar from these Asian shrubs compared with my native redbud and sassafras trees, which are literally vibrating with pollinators.

It bears out the research that Gordon Frankie, an entomologist at the University of California, Berkeley, has begun in gardens around that city, where he and his students have surveyed 1,000 different plants, both native and nonnative.

“Only 50 were native plants, but of that 50, 80 percent were attractive to pollinators,” Professor Frankie said. “In contrast, only 10 percent of the 950 nonnatives were attractive to pollinators.”"

Go native, y'all!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

More of What We Planted

So, we planted the native and drought-tolerant perennials by the walk to the front door.

We have:

"wild thing" sage (salvia greggii)
"coral canyon" twinspur (diascia integerrima - from S Africa)
desert beardtongue (penstemon pseudospectabilis - native)
sticky geranium (geranium viscosissimum - "utah's choice")
firecracker penstemon (penstemon eatonii - native)
mountain big sagebrush (artemisia tridentata vaseyana - native)
rubber rabbitbruch (chrysothamnus nauseosus - native)
heather queen/mosquito plant (agastache cana - ?)

All native plants were purchased at Western Gardens. Some even came with a cute "slow the flow" waterwise plant label with the "waterwiseplants.utah.gov" website listed.

Some of these are going to get too big for where we've put them. I'm hoping they will survive being dug up and repositioned later on - hopefully not till fall.

We also put in lavender by the steps to the front door, and lots and lots of alyssum. I think the walk will smell lovely, no? And be very bee friendly.

Garden Dreams

Shane & I have brought a whole lots of seeds and plants the past few weeks. It is so fun to have some land that we can grow in. We've bought two apple trees (a fuji and a jonathan red), an Italian prune (plum), blackberries, raspberries, currants, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, many herbs, spinach, etc. We have many seeds we are praying will sprout (a few radishes already have). We have also bought a bunch of native/drought tolerant perrenials for the front garden. Yes, we've gone a little plant crazy!

We've put the trees in the "back back yard," were the playhouse is. We are planning to put the popcorn back there this year as well, so it doesn't cross polinate with the flour corn we are putting in the regular garden. Eventually this area will be the mini-orchard, with the fruit trees and a beehive.

In the "back yard" we have the veggie garden and the compost. And the tire swing. And the clothes line. And, hopefully, the shade-loving wildflower patch.

In the side yard, were the massive roses are, we've put in all the berries. The herbs are in the kitchen window box.

We are planning to put the perrenials in the front yard, along with some lavendar by the front porch, to go with the smaller roses. We hope to have an almond and a walnut in the front yard, eventually. Shane's Dad has some great walnuts and he is going to start some saplings, and he's giving us one. I cannot even begin to thank him for all the help he's given us - including helping us prune like crazy when we moved here last fall.

Our dreams are probably bigger than our abilities--well, my abilities. But with Shane temporarily out of work and me working four 10's, we think we can keep up with it all. We think of it as an investment in our house and our family. We intend to stay here forever, but if we do need to sell, established fruit trees and vines, as well as the climate appropriate perrennials, should help the resell value. But mostly we are excited for the food and beauty! E is as excited as we are to grow our own food (M is mostly happy about strawberries). And that's a really good feeling.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Great post from Byron Katie

http://www.byronkatie.com/2009/04/business_inquiry_having_more_c.htm

In this post a salesperson confronts his belief that "having more customers means having more profits."

Katie's process is pretty simple. First, you find a thought that seems to bring you pain. Then you ask yourself "is it true." Then you ask, "is it really True? Can I know with 100% certainty that this thought is true?" (hint - most thoughts are not 100% true - those that are you sit with). Then you try to "turn it around," basically come up with the opposite thought. So in the above example you could say, "having less customers means having more profits" or "having more customers means having less profits." Then you ask yourself if the opposite statement is true, or at least as true as the original statement. You try to come up with at least three ways the opposite is true.

This process has been useful for me in confronting beliefs about myself, like "I'm too fat" or "I'm a bad mother" or "I have to do everything just right or I'll be in trouble/no one will like me/the world will collapse." :)

I learned about Katie's process from my friends Carol and Kathy. I like the simplicity of it and the way it helps free you from word traps in your head. Hope you like it too!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Radio Magic and Misheard Lyrics

I've noticed a strong musical, radio (radial?) magic connected with the women's group I attend once a month. Last month one group member talked about her efforts to find a new job. She radiated positive energy (she was seriously glowing!) and I had a strong feeling that she was going to suceed. I told her that she had this awesome magical energy popping all around her. And lo and behold, when I got in the car after group I flipped on the radio and I heard, "Oh-ho it's magic, you know-oh-oh." I started laughing uproariously and turned off the radio. I emailed my group to share with them. And, yes, she did get the job - earning twice what she was before and moving into a much healthier working environment.

This month we talked about surrendering to the realities of parenting - such as, you can't control children and they make their own mistakes and choices. One group member also talked about listening to her real self and trying to find out what her true self wants. So I get in the car and hear, "Listen to your heart - there's nothing else you can do - I don't know where you're going and I don't know why - but listen to your heart." Not all the lyrics worked but still - close enough, eh? And I don't know where my friend is going - she is in a deep transitional stage - but I trust that if she can hear what her inner voice says she will go the right direction.

So that songs ends and I suffer through some Rod Stewart song a bit, flip channels for awhile and land on a station playing Dido's White Flag. I totally misheard the lyrics at first as saying "I will not get down with this shit [yep, that's what I heard, sorry] - I will put my up hands and surrender - There will be a white flag above my door." Yes, those are not the lyrics (the lyrics are exactly opposite actually), but what I heard matched what we were talking about. So that probably says more about my crazy brain. But still . . . radio magic.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Status Update (Overshare Warning!)

We took M & E to "mighty mites" today, which is a little sports group at the community center for younger kids on Saturdays. M is just too dang silly to focus on playing well, but E is a natural. They were playing with basketballs this morning. Guess who made 80% of his shots? Of course, they had the hoops about four feet off the ground. :-) E was totally focused on the instructions and quickly picked up everything but dribbling, which is harder when you are only about 3 feet tall. M was just silly, as usual. The two male teachers were both named Paul - M immediately named them Thing One and Thing Two. So no surprise M's current career goal is "clown."

Just had my annual check-ups with my CNM and my endocrinologist, and I am happy to report that all's well! My endo is kind enough to order a HcG test with my thyroid labs (the tumor that I had produced HcG) and it was totally negative! I am so happy to celebrate another year cancer free.

My CNM said I had lost 8 pounds since my last visit and tried to encourage me to get below a certain weight. I told her that if I try to lose weight - if I even think about trying to lose weight actually - I will more likely than not gain weight. I told her that to lose weight I just have to focus on being happy. And I cannot be happy if I think I need to lose weight. She was kindly skeptical.

My endo also noticed that I lost weight (she thought it was more the 8 pounds but she doesn't weigh me - Gosh I love her). She asked me what I had being doing to cause the weight loss and I told her we bought a house and I got happier. I explained that I have noticed that the happier I am, the healthier and leaner I become. She thought that was totally sensible. Did I mention that I totally love her!? (Dr. Leanne Swenson, in case you want to go see her yourself). Dr. Swenson noted that I seem to, hormonally at least, be going through an early menopause, due to the hysterectomy. She said that the reason I feel little to no symptoms is because I am reasonably active. She said that active women experience few, if any, of the symptoms of menopause. Yet another reason to get moving!!!

Shane says he's noticed that the happier I am, the less fatty, sugary foods I eat, which makes sense. Fatty, sugary foods work like anti-depressants for me. When I am naturally happy, I don't need them.

In other news, Shane got the word that there is no more funding for him staring May 1. Financially, I feel mostly prepared for Shane to be laid-off but I still have moments of terror - and moments of elation. We Shane first told me I sort of jumped for joy - mainly because I think Shane will be so much happier in another job. We have a semi-decent savings cushion and once we get our interest-free loan from Uncle Sam (because we were new homeowners in 2008) we can pay off one more law school loan and be that much closer to debt-free living. I am grateful we started living the "Ramsey" plan all those years ago. We've not been able to scream "we're debt free!" yet but we are getting close. Given that we started $125,000+ down the hole, I'm feeling good (of course, if you count the house, we are still quite a ways down the hole, but I'm not counting the house right now).

Since I'm the whole "status update" mode, I thought I'd review how I'm doing on my New Year's intentions:

1. Breathe.
I am doing pretty well at this. I notice that the faster I catch myself holding my breath, the quicker I can release the tension by "aerating" it.

2. Un-round my shoulders.
Also doing well here. I've noticed that as I've released the tension in my shoulders, I've released some old emotional pain. Big surprise there, right?

3. Hug my kids etc.
Well, I'm good at hugging, not so much at the "etc." I find it very hard to listen to M because he has a hard time telling a story coherently and E is sometimes just plain ornery - and thus hard to listen to. But the more I focus on dropping my own storyline and being present, the easier this intention is to meet.

4. Never take the amazing Shane for granted.
This one is piece of cake!

5. Walk & bike whenever walking or biking is an option.
We had a mini-spring earlier in the year and I took full advantage of it. I love the late season snow, since it truly helps with the hydration come July, but I miss being able to bike to work. E and I took a nice walk this evening with Sophie - it was great for us to just be together enjoying the natural world. He is my nature boy.

6. Pay attention to my home's appearance etc.
So not going well. Need to pay attention to this more, definitely.

Well, that's a lot, but I haven't posted in awhile.