Friday, October 10, 2008

24 hours of relaxation

Tomorrow morning, the three of us plus Shep will get up at the crack of dawn and head out to pick up Marisa and her dog Max, and we'll head to Marisa's Orcas cabin. It's been a busy week, and we are glad to have a little getaway with a dear friend and to spend some time in nature.

Today was a good day. Tessa was home (no school because of an in service day) and we puttered around the house in the morning, getting this and that and nothing in particular done. I drank my coffee, Tessa played, and then she painted my face with the Halloween face paints and a bunch of my old makeup (I'm worried when I think how old it is....I just don't wear the stuff more than once a month.). We took a bubble bath, we talked, we sang, and we just had great bonding time. In the afternoon we ran a bunch of errands together, but somehow, even that was fun.

Ryan got home for a simple dinner (simpler than I'd intended because the dish I'd planned on making centered around chard, and the chard took a turn for the worse today and I couldn't use it) and we had laughter at the dinner table.

Now, the dry food is packed, the suitcase (we can share one because it's such a short trip) is packed, the clothes are laid out, and we're almost ready to go.

Now, time to sleep - and in the morning the fun begins.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Small steps

We never used to pack our lunches.

Every day, Ryan bought lunch. This was just how it was. When I was teaching, I often bought lunches, as well.

No longer. We're realizing how we have nickel-and-dimed ourselves, and we're packing lunches every day. It's annoying (being green and frugal isn't always fun!) but still worth it.

Today we're having turkey sandwiches on home made bread. Mine has avocado, Tessa's has cheese, and Ryan's has mustard and cheese. Add some fruit for Tessa and I, throw in a string cheese for Tessa's snack, and additionally give Ryan some cheese and crackers, and we each have lunch prepared and sitting in our reusable lunch bags on the counter. (Mine is done, too, because I am volunteering in the classroom this morning and then going to a doctor's appointment, so I figured I'd better be prepared.)

Many people do this daily and always have. For me, it's a re-learning process. I'm learning, albeit slowly.

Now, off to wake up the girl....

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

"No impulse purchases!"

I have taught Tessa this expression, and we repeat it to one another when we're in stores and feeling tempted by the wealth of goods around us.

Today I went to Tully's without Tessa to meet Michele, and I bought two pink coffee mugs, thinking that they'd be a hit with Tessa, and that she could have cocoa or mint tea in them, sharing with a friend. Plus, part of the proceeds went to breast cancer research. How cool is that?

Well, I've decided, not cool at all.

Impulse shopping.

We have a zillion mugs, none of which are pink. Oh, except the zillion teacups that we have, half of which are pink in tone. Oh, and the china mugs picked up for a song at Marshall's a few years ago. They're nicer than these mugs, but cost half (a quarter?) as much, and the girls feel fancy when they use them. One is broken...but five remain. Despite my initial rationale, we have plenty of pink mugs.

And the money to breast cancer? Possibly pinkwashing. "A portion of the proceeds" could have meant a single penny per mug, and at $7.99 each it's not much of a contribution no matter how much they donated. And let's face it, I've donated a lot to breast cancer already. (Starting with donating my breasts to science....ugh.)

I went to put the mugs in the dishwasher for pre-use, and all this hit me. It's not very green to buy things you don't need, and I don't know what I was thinking.

Tomorrow when I drop Tessa off at school I'll swing by Tully's to return them and ask for a refund. That will feel much better than keeping them, in this case. Maybe I *can* be taught, but I swear, I am a very slow learner. It would have been better not to buy them in the first place, but this is better than naught.

History Lessons

I have heard more mentions than usual about The Great Depression lately. Our current economic woes are the worst since "the" Depression, according to every news report I see.

I realized today that I knew just about exactly when the Depression started, but couldn't remember when it ended. Here's what Wikipedia reminded me:

The Great Depression was a worldwide economic downturn starting in most places in 1929 and ending at different times in the 1930s or early 1940s for different countries. It was the largest and most important economic depression in modern history, and is used in the 21st century as a benchmark on how far the world's economy can fall. The Great Depression originated in the United States; historians most often use as a starting date the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. The end of the depression in the U.S. is associated with the onset of the war economy of World War II, beginning around 1939.[1]

A whole decade - ohhhhhhhhhh. And it ended through a war. (Oh, yah, that's right. I must have blocked that out due to not wanting to remember.)

What about Great Depressions that start in the middle of a war?

I think we're in some really, really deep trouble. Apparently it's time to relearn the history lesson.


Today's thoughts are enough to make me sink into Great Depression.

PollyAnna, honey? Can you come out? Please? I need you.....

The sun is shining. My house is filled with tomatoes in various stages of ripening. My daughter read me a book last night. "Come to the zany zoo! Come to see the...." and then she filled in with the picture clues. The best part? At the end, they listed all of the sight words in random order....and she correctly identified them all, even without context. Ahhhhh.

Many things to be happy about, even in hard times.

(Thanks, PollyAnna.)


Tessa attends elementary school with several Somali children (some of whom have become favorites of mine on the playground due to their bright smiles, incredible manners, and the compassion shown to Tessa when she had an inevitable playground injury that caused tears but not blood). One child in her class speaks Somali but not English.

I'm trying to speculate about this. I'm trying to wonder what it feels like to be in a room full of strangers speaking another language all the age of five. I'm trying to wonder what it feels like to have an alphabet placed before you when you can't figure out why or what it's for. I see how worn out Tessa is from her day at kindergarten, and I can't get my mind around what it's like for a non-English speaker in an English speaking classroom. I can't even imagine.

I'm trying to imagine what the Somali children have witnessed in their lives. I started doing internet research this morning, and I found myself weeping. I am not reading about distant people in a distant land....I'm reading about Tessa's classmates. I'm not reading about faceless people, I'm reading about little children and I can see their faces before me.

How can I not weep?

Americans are advised not to travel to Somalia because of the violence in the streets. The violence, I read, is unpredictable.

What are these children's stories? What did they see before I met them on the playground? What horrors have they coped with?

I know that I lose my temper with Tessa, being grouchy and loud with her, when I've had a hard day. I wonder what a hard day looks like to a Somali. I bet it makes my hard days look pretty easy.

It's all speculation, and I want to be careful to remember that these are individuals, just children, and not representatives of their nation. But I also want to be sensitive to what they may have witnessed in their lives.

Reading about Somalia, I wanted to run to school to grab these children and hold them in my arms and weep with them. Of course, I will do no such thing, and if I did I'm pretty certain that I'd terrify them rather than comforting them....I'm not crazy, and I know at least that much. I can't erase the memories that I imagine some of them have seen. And I can only speculate what those memories might be. And maybe they're lucky, maybe they don't have the kind of memories that I'm thinking of. But somewhere, some children do. It's hard to know what to do about that kind of information except to weep.

I am grateful that my daughter will learn friendship with these children. When she grows up, and she reads about Muslims in the news, she will not think of Islamic terrorists, she will think of her friends. I am so, so grateful for that.

Even as I weep.

Well, if not that...

...then this.

Today I came home for the first time in weeks not thinking about the book. As this idea swirled around in my head, I became increasingly unclear about what I was to do.

Our personal economics could certainly stand a financial boost from this kind of project, but if it is out of my hands, then what?

Today, I don't have any grand answers to that question, but I do know this: I'm going to work on the house. The CDs need organizing out of their big pile (which is threatening to careen off the cabinet and crash on the floor), I still haven't moved some summer clothes out of the drawers, and major decluttering is in order.

I may not be bringing in an income, but I'm certainly not out of things to do.

Fingers crossed

I attended a town council this week to present my book proposal. Initially, I had hoped that this was a rubber-stamp approval; the town had a surplus, and I know I can do great work on this project.

Then, the economy started failing even more than before, with all of those tangibles about the economic failure. And the tax revenue projections for this town changed, and it became clear that the town surplus might be a deficit.

The town is looking for alternate funding, but I no longer am holding my breath that this project is going to pan out. I'm told that it will happen "eventually" but given current economic conditions, that might be a long time from now.


It's not over 'til it's over, but it doesn't look good.

At least my presidential pick is ahead in the polls....!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Learning curve

Yesterday Ryan and I were discussing the fact that life is a huge learning curve, and there's no "no I've learned it so I can coast" periods. Right now that lesson is increasingly evident to me - I am aware that the learning must continue, and that despite the many lessons under my belt I have many more to learn.

I'm struggling to be a working mom, even when working is only 10 hours per week from home. Actually, the "from home" part is the hardest. When I'm sitting here, the laundry calls, the coffee calls, the telephone rings, the dog wants walking, and there are so many distractions. Writing is difficult to settle into; I find myself seeking distractions when I shouldn't. That word "shouldn't" is a tough one; I know what I should be doing and then feel the guilt of not doing it.

In my adult life I've learned to avoid procrastination because it's not rewarding to procrastinate and I love my rewards; in writing, somehow, I must learn this lesson again.

To that end, I'm structuring my week so that I remember what I should be doing and when. Monday is chore and errand day (groceries, housework, etc.); Tuesday and Wednesday are writing days (book); Thursday is volunteer day (and my regular morning in the Alki classroom); and Friday is everything-else day, including doctor's appointments, time for myself, and catching up on whatever got behind in the week. With this new schedule, hopefully I can keep myself on track.

Ryan and I are working really hard on our marriage right now, too: coasting did not do us any favors. The work is difficult, but I am certain that it is worthwhile.

I'm trying to be on track for cooking healthy meals for my family, and finding creative, inexpensive, earth-friendly food choices. To this end, I've started making my own granola. I made the first batch yesterday and it's delicious, and i'm already imagining lots of different varieties. My first batch has a lot of pumpkin seeds, which lend a delicious flavor; I think next time I'll work with pecans.

All of these things take time. More time than I know where to find! But bit by bit, I'm making progress. I think it's two steps forward, one step back; some days it's more like one and three-quarter steps back. But even small progress is enough, I hope.

I'm working on it.