Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I've been pondering a rather solemn event that happened in my family recently and thought I would write about that, but I've had enough solemn for the last week, so for now I'm going to give myself a break from the morose. I can always go back to it later.

I read this article on Yahoo today and it made me giggle. It's called "Facebook's War on Nipples."

It's all about the propriety of public breastfeeding, and how Facebook has been removing photographs that show any fully exposed breast (which is defined as showing the nipple and/or areola). So breastfeeding fanatics are going nuts about this.

Okay, I know for a lot of people it's a serious subject. I just find the whole fuss amusing. Here's how I feel about breastfeeing, if anyone cares: I didn't breastfeed my kids, so I'm slightly irked by all the militant women who insist that breastfeeding will make their kids better, stronger, smarter and/or healthier than every other kid on the planet. My kids are of way above average intelligence, and healthier than most kids, so I think the whole breastfeeding-is-superior-to-everything-else myth is a load of crap.

That being said, I don't really care if women breastfeed in public. It would be nice if they'd have a little modesty and throw a towel or something over their shoulder, but it's certainly not pornographic. However, as a culture we tend to squirm in our seats when we see a naked breast unless it is pornographic. For some reason boobs are more acceptable in pornography or "artistic" black and white photography than they are feeding a baby.

Just like almost every other contentious issue in our culture, people seem to believe it must be one way or the other. Groups, organizations, associations, and factions line up on either side of the issue and start hurling accusations and threats as if only one side can win the argument and from that day forward there will be no other choice but to adhere to the views of the winning side. Did we all forget that there is a middle ground, if anyone is brave enough to wade out into it?

Because at heart I'm a peacemaker - mediator - conciliator, always looking for a happy medium, I wondered:

Women breastfeeding in public aren't hurting anyone, so those people who freak out about it should just lighten up - maybe turn the other way or don't stare at the naked boobs? And women who breastfeed in public might just take into consideration that they're not alone in the world and that when you're in a public place other people's sensitivities should be taken into consideration. How hard is it to put a towel over your shoulder?

Anyway, I found this article to be a welcome diversion from all the stories reviewing the woes of 2008 and speculating on the woes to come in 2009.

So where would you stand on this issue? Are you a mediator or agitator? Are you pro-public breastfeeding or are you squeamish about it? Or do you even care one way or another? Come on, it's the last big issue of 2008...weigh in!

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Reading Heaven

Even though I've been down in the dumps over the holidays because of the uncertainty about my job (see previous post), I was overjoyed at the amount of new reading material received by family members as gifts at Christmas.

My son and I read like crazy, so family members know that books are always an excellent gift for both of us. Of course they obliged, as always, by restocking us with books this year.

Between us we received:

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
Inkspell by Cornelia Funke
Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
Critical Mass by Steve Martini
The Testament by Eric Van Lustbader
The Prodigal Spy by Joseph Kanon
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

We also got a book full of IQ tests, and a book about herbs and their medicinal uses, as well as a book about "freaky science" facts (beware: I'm likely to be posting some of those in the future!)

So we got a pretty good haul for reading this year, but I don't think these books will last very long, though, since I've already finished Artemis Fowl and Inkspell and I'm well into Inkdeath. Both Artemis Fowl and Inkspell were awesome. I can't help myself...books are like chocolate. Once I get started I just can't stop until they're all done!

Having the Rug Pulled Out

Just when I think my life is sailing along smoothly, life pulls the rug out from under me.

I found out last week that the company I work for is being acquired by a much larger company. I have been offered a job with the new company and assurances that my job and my pay will remain the same at least thru Jan 31.

Wow, that long? Gosh, the security is so warm and fuzzy. A whole month.

After having looked at the teeny tiny bit of information they've provided to us after much begging and pestering, from what I can figure out so far is that my job will be significantly different as will my pay after Jan 31...and not for the better.

I've spent a lot of frantic hours lately looking for another job, but of course with the economy in the tank, the job market is not so great. Everyone's cutting back. Nobody's hiring. They're making due with the employees they've got.

So it seems I'm trapped. I either tolerate a significantly different job that I don't want, with less pay which will make it incredibly difficult to support my family, or else I don't have a job at all. What a choice.

I've been just sick with panic. This company, coupled with the company I currently work for, chose 5:00 p.m. the Friday before Christmas to inform everyone of this merger. All of us have been upset and there seem to be few, if any, answers to our questions. I hate to be a glass is half empty kind of person, but what does that say about the company we're going into?

So, I will be spending January desperately searching for a new job, and crossing my fingers that things won't turn out nearly as badly as it seems they will.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Meatless Mincemeat and Peppermint Pinwheels

These are two of my favorite Christmas recipes. My mom made them when I was a kid, so they are very deeply rooted in my memories of Christmas.

The first recipe is meatless mincemeat pie. I understand that way "back in the day" mixing meat and fruit was both a flavor preference and a way to help preserve the meat. Those folks were much more accustomed to the savory flavors of meat and fruit, and in some situations I like it too. But as a dessert, it just doesn't work for me to mix meat, suet, and fruit. So this meatless mincement works just fine for me:

1 large orange
1 small lemon
15 oz raisins (I mix both golden and regular)
1 cup dried apricots (add more to taste)
8-9 medium tart apples cored (peeling is a personal preference...I prefer them peeled, my mom always left the peels on)
1 1/2 cups apple cider
3 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tspns each of powdered cinnamon and nutmeg
3/4 tspn ground cloves (more or less to taste)
Remove seeds and skins from orange and lemon. Chop orange, lemon, and apricots in food processor. Peel (or not, as you prefer) and core apples, and either chop in small pieces or send them thru the food processor, too.
Put fruit and raisins in a pot with the apple cider. Bring to a boil then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add sugar and spices and simmer for 20 minutes longer or until thick. Makes enough for two 9-inch pies. Can either be frozen for future use, or baked immediately in a double crust pie.
The second recipe is for Peppermint Pinwheel cookies. The dough rolling sometimes gets a little unwieldy in this project, but the cookies are well worth it.
2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 egg yolk
1 c butter, soft
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn mint extract
1 tspn vanilla
red food coloring
Beat butter and sugar together in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. Mix in the flour and other dry ingredients a third at a time blending well after each. You may need to add a little extra flour to make dough stiffer and less sticky. Divide dough in half. To one half add red food coloring and mint extract. Mix until the dough is dark pink.
Between sheets of wax paper or parchment, roll out each half of the dough to approximately 16x10 inches. Peel top sheet of wax paper or parchment from each half of dough. Invert one half and place on top of the other half, then peel off the wax paper or parchment that is now on top. Tightly roll the dough, jelly roll fashion. Wrap in foil then chill or freeze dough. Take out of freezer 1/2 hour before baking. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday, no matter how, where, or with whom you celebrate!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Inaugural Brouhaha

I'll admit that I am, generally speaking, a political junkie. I've been detoxing since the campaign and election season.

I was interested to read today, however, that Obama chose Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. My first reaction was - ewwwww. Honestly, I'm not a fan of organized religion. I consider myself to be a moderately spiritual person, I just don't like religions - I find them limiting, negative, and intolerant, for the most part, and I think that rather than bringing people together they generally push people apart.

I try not to pay attention to religious stuff, other than to notice that there's usually way too much of it in every day public life. It gets pretty tiresome.

So after I thought about the whole Rick Warren issue I came to several conclusions:

1. First, why is there a religious invocation at the inauguration at all? Isn't the swearing in of a new president a government/state/secular event? What ever happened to separation of church and state?

2. If we must include religion in yet another public event, it seemed at first glance that Rick Warren was not a very wise choice for Obama. His selection has stirred up quite a bit of controvery in socially progressive quarters. I'm not a big admirer of people like Warren who use their power to exclude, subjugate, or pass judgement on other people, and by choosing Warren, Obama seems to be condoning Warren's views and actions. Coming from a man who ran on a fairly socially progressive platform, this doesn't appear very logical.

3. On the other hand, Obama has a seriously big partisan mess to deal with and he also promised during the campaign to try to bring people together. Reaching out to a man with whom he claims to disagree on many social issues is a step in the direction of inclusiveness and healing across parties. Choosing Warren for this ceremony doesn't mean Obama is going to adopt his views. It is only a symbolic ceremony, after all.

In trying to mend the broken and bitter feelings left after 8 years of one-sided overzealous cliquishness, it will be impossible for Obama to make everyone happy all the time. He has a very difficult job to do aside from being president: he has to find a way to help peevish and petty politicians and other leaders and organizations come together and compromise, accept each other, and agree to at least listen to each other, even if they disagree.

He needs to help all of us understand that it's not us against them, but rather we're all Americans and we have to tolerate the vast variety of people who make up our social fabric. No one ideology or lifestyle or geographic location is superior or more acceptable or more valuable than any other.

I, and the majority of the country, have really high hopes for Obama and people want to believe in him. He has enormous expectations to live up to. Let's give the man some room to prove that he can do the things we need him to do. By choosing Warren for the inaugural invocation Obama is not purposely snubbing the social groups and issues that Warren disapproves of, but rather he is trying to reach out and smooth the waters.

Anyway, that's my rant for today. I guess I haven't completely detoxed from politics can be a tough monkey to get off your back.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Out of the Blue

I didn't think I'd have anything to write about today - then the phone rang.

It was a theatre company in New York telling me they wanted to produce a short play I had submitted to them a while back as part of a short play festival in January. Boy, was I surprised! I happen to be quite fond of this play, so it was exciting that someone liked it enough to want to produce it!

I try to keep up and submit plays to a couple of places every month, but over the last few months I've been focusing strictly on fiction and haven't spent much time either writing or submitting plays.

All you writers out there will appreciate how much of a boost it is to your creative drive to have your work appreciated. Angie over at Gumbo Writer posted a piece at her blog today asking readers "what inspires you?" asking writers why they write.

I'm a fairly shy person so oddly I'm very self-conscious about actually watching any of my plays being performed, or having people read my writing. However, I write because I love to write. I love language and putting it together in new and different ways. I like painting pictures with words.

But I also like to know that what I've written has had an affect on someone. Maybe it's just a need for validation, I don't know, but who ever said artists make sense?

I'm sure most creative writers feel the same way. They may feel that their words are inadequate, flat, or faulty, and by making their writing public they're opening themselves up to potential humiliation. But there's always the chance that despite your trepidation, people will like what you've written! I think that's why a lot of writers write. Because it allows them to share that vulnerability with others. As a writer you put your humanity on the line and ask people to share it with you.

So, although I won't be able to actually attend the performance of my play in New York, I am very excited to have it produced, and I hope that whoever attends the performances enjoys watching it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

I guess Santa gave me an early holiday gift....I must have been a good girl this year! ; )

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gotta Love a Northern Plains Winter

Here in the frozen tundra of North Dakota we had a blizzard last night which left us with approximately 10 inches more snow, on top of the snow we already had.

It's currently about 8:00 p.m. and the air temp is somewhere around -17, with a wind child around -45. BRRRRRR.

Hubby and I went out earlier today to check things out, and I took these pix.

Gotta love winter in ND!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rejection Dejection

I am elated to announce that I will (finally) be graduating with my Bachelor's degree (in English) in May. This after having begun it 24 years ago.

However excited I am about this accomplishment, I'm realistic enough to know that it really gets me squat (other than a warm fuzzy feeling). So, I'm in the process of shopping for an MFA program in creative writing. Because our family is not in a financial position to be able to relocate so that I can attend a program full time, I'm looking for a low residency program.

I was excited to apply to the program at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. I have waited patiently and expectantly for several months now for an answer.

Today I got an e-mail with the news: I wasn't accepted to the program.

Like any artist, I took this rejection personally.

Despite this setback, I have several more programs on my list where I still need to apply. Hopefully one of them will see some promise in my writing.

If anyone has any recommendations for a good low residency MFA creative writing program, I'd love to hear about it.

Until I'm finally accepted somewhere (which is all each of us really wants, anyway, isn't it?!), I'll try not to feel too dejected over my first rejection.


Well, Brian at New Author was gracious enough to nominate me for the "Real Blogs, Real People" award. Thank you Brian, you are most kind.

The rules of this awardarama say that you're supposed to post the logo on your blog, place a link from the person from whom you received the award, nominate 7 other people, place links to their blogs on your blog, then leave them a comment to let them know.

Well, I've done the first two, but I think all of the blogs I follow deserve an award for being real so I'm going to respectfully decline to choose only 7 of them. I love them all. And since this award seems to quickly be making the rounds, most of them probably already have it anyway!

Thanks again Brian!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Giggle

Snowmen fall from Heaven unassembled.

Hope for the Holidays

Yesterday on Written Expressions: The Blog there was a post entitled "Ho Ho Hum" about having difficulty getting into the Christmas spirit.

As I read, I was nodding my head in agreement. I've had difficulty getting into the spirit of Christmas for several years now. Decorating and cleaning up after Christmas ends up being my responsibility and it just adds to my work load. No matter how much I nag everyone else in the family, when it comes down to crunch time, I'm the one who ends up doing it.

And I'm so tired of buying more stuff for people who don't need more stuff. It's pointless.

I struggle to get through the holidays because I find no joy in it. It's just a matter of going through the motions and then getting back to a normal routine. I realize it's sad, and I really crave the days when I enjoyed Christmas. I just can't figure out how to get back to that feeling.

But today I read an article at Yahoo News entitled "The Grinch as Hero" with some pretty interesting suggestions for alternative ways to celebrate that shun the now standard holiday commercialism.

As I read, I found myself thinking maybe I can break out of my holiday ambivilance. Maybe there's another way! I felt my heart growing two sizes today! (okay, maybe I don't need the Grinch references).

But the point is, I think in order for me to recapture the holiday spirit I need to start thinking outside the same old, tired, worn out box.

I think maybe I'll ask everyone in my family to make one gift for each other. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate. But handmade gifts are much more personal. It shows a lot more thought and consideration than just going to (insert giant super store or mall here) and buying more stuff.

For those of you who have tapped into the Christmas/Holiday spirit, what do you do differently that makes the holiday special? How do you renew your enthusiasm for the holiday each year?

I can't wait to read everyone's ideas. Maybe I can regain that spirit yet!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Silent Voices

My characters are not speaking to me.

I'm sure all of you who are writers have experienced this at some point or another. Knowing that is comforting, but somehow not quite helpful.

I've written the character studies. I know these people. The plot is all outlined and summarized. I've even written the first 2 chapters and one in the middle.

But now I'm drawing a blank. I've fallen victim to my own self-criticism. I'm crippled by doubt. It sucks. It's amateurish. It's too outlandish. The devil is in the details and even though I can come up with the summary and plot outline, I feel unable to write the nuts and bolts. I'm incapacitated by fear over the sheer magnitude of the project.

I have to write how many pages?!

I believe in the characters and the story. But I fall into the trap of comparing my writing with already-published writers and of course I pale by comparison.

I ask myself, is it even worth the effort? Can I ever hope to compare?

All of this inner hand-wringing is obviously stifling my creative process. Although I am tempted to give in and believe the inner critic, I am also determined not to give up.

So, what do all you other writers out there do to get your inner critic to shut the heck up and allow the words to flow?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tootsies vs Piddies

This is a discussion that ensued at our house this evening as we were making dinner.

My son started basketball practice yesterday and his feet are sore. So I told him he should ice his little tootsies (which is actually ironic because his feet are gigantic). He seemed confused.

I said, "Tootsies are feet." As if nobody knows that.

He said, "No, tooties are toes." I was incredulous.

I said, "No, piddies are toes. Tootsies are feet."

He said, "You're wrong." I am never wrong. At least I don't like to be, and I fight like crazy to prove that I'm right. I knew I was right in this instance.

However, being a democratic household, we took a poll. Everyone else in the family agreed that tootsies are toes and piddies are feet.

Of course I knew they were all insanely incorrect and because I absolutely hate to be wrong, especially when I am convinced beyond a doubt that I am, in fact, right, I set out to prove myself.

I immediately looked up "tootsies" on the online dictionary, where I was proven right. Tootsies are, indeed feet. Not being satisfied with one source of correctness, I had to corroborate my correctness with another source. I found another dictionary which also proved that tootsies are feet.

Proving piddies are toes was a little more difficult, but I was able to do that as well.

I then marched triumphantly into the room where the rest of my family had completely dismissed the conversation and moved on to something much more important, like playing retro games on the old Sega machine that my hubby dug out of the storage room.

I said, "I was right. Tootsies are feet and piddies are toes."

Everyone else said, "No they're not."

My family obviously has no respect for truth, and much more respect for the democratic process.

Reading List

I've had the same 2 books listed in the "what I'm reading" section on this blog for quite a while.

Well, I finally finished Brisingr. It didn't take me forever to finish because I wasn't interested in it, just that I'm a very busy girl.

However, it is a very, very long book and it tends to drag in many places. My 16-year-old son read it too and had the same complaint. We're both fans of the series (this is the 3rd of 4 books), but I think as a middle book in a series it suffers the sad fate of over-narration. Although Paolini's prose is often very lyrical and impressive, he could have easily condensed this book down to at least half its current length and had a book that was a much quicker read that moved the story along much more efficiently. It felt almost as if he had several pieces of action planned and then had to fill the gaps between with extra narration.

Don't get me wrong, I admire anyone who is capable of filling that much space...and then selling it. I have trouble writing longer pieces because I tend to want to get to the point. I'm not a very good rambler.

For anyone who is a fan of the Inheritance series (Eragon and Eldest), Brisingr is definitely worth reading, if for no other reason than it prepares you for the upcoming conclusion. There are some interesting battles, and some useful character development, and, of course, the story is moving along toward it's eventual completion. However, there's only one significant revelation in this book, and the rest is pretty much back story and busy work for the characters while we wait for the finale of the series in book 4.

(I'm still working on Palm Latitudes. It's an extremely dense book. I like it very much, but it's very time consuming to get through. It's like a book written in poetry rather than prose, so you have to pay very close attention to catch all the nuance. It's exhuasting!)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Birth Day Reflection #2

Okay, I've been absent for a few days, but I have good excuses.

1. Thanksgiving got in the way.
2. Birthday for son #2 got in the way.
3. I am a member of the local Chamber Chorale and we are preparing for our annual Renaissance Christmas Feast and Concert. We have had rehearsals from Sat thru today, then performances are Thurs, Fri, and Sat. So between working and rehearsing, I have literally no free time.

So, in all fairness, since I posted a birthday reflection for son #1 on his birthday last week, I would like to give equal time to my youngest child.

Again, birthdays at our house always seem to elicit a reflection on the actual birth event. Even though this was his 10th birthday, a momentous one, the reflection was no different.

At 3:30 a.m., on the day he was born, I woke up to use the bathroom and as I hauled my hugely pregnant body out of bed, my water broke all over the carpet. Yuck. We lived a good hour's travel from the hospital and since contractions started right away and began to build quickly in strength and intensity, we had to scramble to get moving.

By the time we got to the hospital I was going like gangbusters. The nurses told me that labor and delivery was packed to overflowing as they ran around busily keeping track of all the laboring mothers. I asked the nurses about an epidural, so they checked to see how dilated I was: 7 cm and over 50% effaced. I panicked that I may not get an epidural because I was already so far dilated.

A side note here: I had given birth to my second child, my daughter, a mere 16 months previous to this birth. Her birth had been a harrowing and nightmarish experience where she suffered from shoulder dystocia (after her head was delivered, her shoulder stuck on my pubic bone), and the doctor literally had to insert both of her hands inside me and wrestle the baby's shoulder into the correct position for delivery. This was all done without any anesthesia of any kind. As anyone who has given birth knows, that exit is not very big, and certainly not meant to accommodate both a baby's head and 2 adult arms. Needless to say, it hurt a lot.

So, when it came time for my youngest to be born, I was determined to have an epidural because I had already had 2 difficult and painful deliveries. I wanted to avoid a third. Thankfully, they approved an epidural and the anesthesiologist was able to accomplish it in short order. Ah, the blissful glory of epidurals. Hallelujah and amen.

The rest of the birth was easy for me. I didn't feel a thing. But after my son was born, the doctor told me that he had also suffered from shoulder dystocia, though apparently not as badly as my daughter had.

The whole event, from water breaking to birth, lasted less than 5 1/2 hours. I've told my husband before that I may have difficult births, but at least they don't last very long!

So that's the story of my youngest child's birth (and inadvertently the story of my middle child, too!).

Daily Giggle

If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.