Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I'm just what's-her-name in the back row

I used to be a teacher.  When we first moved here, I taught spreadsheets and business software at the local community college (the same one where I hope to be teaching freshman writing in a year or two).  Usually my classes had 12-15 students, but occasionally, for reasons known only to the registration gods, a class would be full to overflowing.  The computer labs had 24 computers in them if they were all working--which was rare--so when you had 25-26 students, it was a problem.

Not just because of the lack of computer space.  Lab time turned into a circus of me trying to be everywhere at once.  In some classes, a spontaneous spirit of camaraderie would develop, and the students would help each other.  But one time I had the class from hell, and there were 25 of them, and they were divided up into snipey little pockets of disgruntled, critical students.

After the first test, one of the students who always sat at the back and never said anything came up to gripe about his grade (which, if I remember right, was a C or so, not failing).  I was friendly, but firm.  The test was fair; most students had done well on it.  At some point in the conversation, he said to me, "You've had it in for me since the first day of class," at which my eyebrows must have raised practically to my hairline in surprise, because he immediately started backpedaling.

I could barely keep track of what was going on in the classroom, let alone plan to systematically undermine a particular student.  I didn't dislike the kid, and I knew for sure that I wanted him to do well, in the generalized way I wanted all my students to do well. To be entirely honest, I wasn't even exactly sure what his last name was, he was just one of that group of 3-4 students at the back who rarely participated.

Which says terrible things about me as a teacher, I know.  But it was a college-level class, dang it.

Anyway.  It's something I've thought of often when I've had a paranoid tendency to think that someone I don't know well doesn't like me or has deliberately snubbed or ignored me.  Chances are slim.  It's almost never about me.  It was a great object lesson.

The rest of this was a long, whiny complaint about a situation I've been in where I felt like that kid in the back row of the class.  But I'm deleting the rest of it and ending here, because it's not worth putting the energy into that particular kind of negative thinking.  Ha, which reminds me of a post I've been meaning to write about negative thinking.  Maybe I will completely switch gears and go for that, because it's not long enough to make into its own post.

So here's the deal. We all know that negative thinking is bad, that we don't like to be around people who are negative, who are always looking for the dark cloud around the silver lining.  Got that.  But then there's also the completely true fact that if you ignore negative stuff, you'll end up neurotic with an ulcer.  I'm starting to think that maybe there's two kinds of negativity-- one that's just honesty, acknowledging the darker side of our experience, and another that's a twisted form of that, where you're always raining on other people's parade, always criticizing and carping and looking for other people's faults.  That first kind of negative thinking isn't bad; it's necessary.  The second kind is the kind I want to avoid (and that's why I deleted the whiny part of this post).

Huh.  and that makes me wonder if there's two kinds of positive thinking, too.  One that's based on a genuine love of life--all of it, good, bad, positive, negative-- and warm acceptance of other people exactly as they are; and another that's based on ignoring anything you don't want to see.  The first kind is something I aspire to (to which I aspire), the second kind gives me the complete and utter creeps because it was such an unhealthy thing for me in my early life.

Do with this disjointed mess what you will. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

back to the land of the living

So I finally had about an hour to write something interesting, and what did I do instead?  spent considerably more than an hour messing with a new template.  I'm not sure about this one, but it was fun to play with.  I may change it in a few days.  Minimalist, for winter.

We have one functional bathroom spread across the house:  the toilet works in our bathroom, but no sink or shower; the shower works in the kids' bathroom, but no sink or toilet; there is a sink in the vanity in our bedroom, or the sink in the kitchen, and that's it.  The tile guy is supposed to come do our shower later this week, then the plumber will come and hook everything up.  Our fingers are crossed that we will have two complete bathrooms by the middle of next week.  Please.

Instead of many of the fancy things we were going to do, we have several new joists holding up the floor and a solid wood beam holding up the roof.  We decided it was more important that the house stay standing than any of the other stuff.  Go figure.

Dishwasher will be installed tomorrow (the one that was here before didn't work at all and was cracked across the control panel).  Drywalling downstairs should be done in a day or two, then primed and painted by the end of the week.  Then the carpenter, the amazing, miraculous Mark, who has been here for the whole thing, will do one set of built-in bookshelves under the stairs (all we can afford after the aforementioned joists and beams), and ..drumroll please... we'll be done with Phase One.  Phase Two will involve exterior paint and a new roof this summer.

We have no money.  But our internet connection is working, and as of tonight we are out of the old place, and this place-- even unfinished -- is terrific.  Pictures coming soon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

AB3 will reopen soon in its new location

I have several brilliant posts in my head, but the carpet is half-done, after which we can actually start putting stuff in the new house; the garage sale is Saturday; our phone is getting switched over to the new house on Monday; the internet and dish will be moved on Tuesday.  And if all of that goes as planned, I might be back online on Wednesday.  The movers don't come until next Friday, though, so we're stretching this out over a full week.  Who knows when I'll be back.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Clarence would give his wings back

(for my new readers:  I was raised Evangelical, left it behind in my twenties, and am now... eclectic?  Mostly agnostic and Christian with Buddhist, pagan and a whole bunch of skepticism thrown in for good measure.  My family-of-origin is still very evangelical.  I apologize in advance if I offend anyone here.)

After a couple of weeks and a chance to catch up on my sleep, things are back to normal with my mom and me.  We will never agree on many things, but really she is the best. We were both just stressed and exhausted for the holidays.  

But I'm still thinking through some of the things that happened while she was here in December.  One is the movie she brought for us to watch.  My mom and I have a long history of disagreeing over movies.  We both love the old Rogers and Hammerstein movies (Oklahoma, South Pacific, The King and I, Sound of Music), but I can't think of any others we agree on.  She loves sappy sweet tearjerkers, most rom coms, most Christian movies, and Kate and Leopold.  I could barely sit through Kate and Leopold; it is my mom's favorite movie. 

So when she was here, every time she mentioned the DVD that she brought that she wanted us to watch, I put her off.  I've done this before, it has worked many times.  But this time she was determined.  So Nell, a friend, mom and I sat down the day to watch this movie before mom left.  I brought down the basket of nail polish so we could do our toenails while we watched; at least the time spent wouldn't be a complete loss that way.

When I sat down to write this, I couldn't remember the name of the movie, but I remembered John Ratzenberger from Cheers was in it, so it was quick work on IMDB to find it.  It's called What If.  The backstory:  a man who leaves behind his Evangelical girlfriend and his plans to be a pastor and goes into investment banking instead.  Years later, when the story opens, he is in a high-powered career, but he is miserable.  An angel (played by John Ratzenberger) gives him the opportunity to see what his life would have been like if he'd married his original girlfriend and become a pastor instead.  It is an Evangelical version of It's a Wonderful Life, except the point is to see how great his life would be if he'd followed the straight and narrow, instead of the mess it has become.

I found it to be enormously disturbing, but I haven't been able to figure out exactly why.  It's easy to pinpoint the things that are wrong with it:  its overly-rosy view of middle class American evangelicalism (if you were one of us, you'd be happy!); the way it sets up straw men and then knocks them down (yup, if you set up the terms of the argument the way you want them so that all your assumptions are reinforced, then sure enough! you can win the argument!); and the way that at the end, after his (smirk) come-to-Jesus moment, the guy completely blows off his previous friends and his fiancĂ© in the business world so can track down the sweet Christian girl he left behind.  I mean, given that he is an evangelical, shouldn't he care for, love and want to witness to his former colleagues?  But he leaves them behind faster than a middle school mean girl leaving behind her grade school friends who turned out geeky.

Anyway.  That stuff isn't what disturbed me--that's just par for the course for a Christian  movie.  What disturbed me was the part of it that was true, and that I've left behind myself.  There were a couple of moments in it that really moved me, and that gave me pause--things that aren't specific to evangelicalism, but to spiritual health in general.  I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly what those moments were, and I'm not about to watch the movie again.  The thought makes my stomach turn.

But it did make me think that maybe it's time for me to start thinking about Christianity again. Not that I've ever entirely stopped; it's always knocking around in my head somewhere.  I'm just giving you fair warning that there's more to come.  (Or maybe not, since we're in the middle of moving and I lose my roll of strapping tape and my Sharpie marker at least 5 times a day, which does not bode well for my ability to think coherently enough to write blog posts.)(not that any of these are exactly stellar examples of clear thinking.)  I know I lose some of you when I start on religion, so feel free to skip right over when you see one of these, I'll try to come up with some kind of title so you can recognize them.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Riffday: I'm bored, so I'm boring you

January goals update:  The weekly menu planning thing is a bust.  Completely.  I haven't even done it once.  But I have tried to do the thing I described in this post where I write down my ideas of what we could have for dinner after going to the grocery store, and that is actually helping out.  After my trip to SuperOne yesterday, I have the ingredients for two meals ready and waiting, which makes me feel smug and secure.  Sort of like when I know I have four or five books by good authors waiting to be read.  *sighs with happiness*

The Diet Dr. Pepper thing was easy for the first couple of weeks.  I barely even thought about it.  But Thursday and today I've been jonesing for a DDP so bad that I'm having a hard time not hopping into the car and going out specifically to get one.  (I drank my last one New Year's Eve.)  It makes it harder that I'm not planning on eliminating them entirely, I just want to cut back.  So my bad-influence-self keeps saying: it doesn't really matter, you haven't had one in two weeks, just go get one.  But my virtuous self says: I said I wasn't going to have one for a month.  I gave my word.  It is a matter of honor.

Which then throws the whole thing off, because I don't especially care to be the virtuous, holier-than-thou person that does things because of rules rather than because of some real reason.  But still, there are other things I can drink-- I've drunk so much sparkling water the past couple of weeks I probably have bubbly pee for god's sake-- and I'm going to stick with it, purely so I can pat myself on the back at the end of the month and feel like I followed through on at least one of my goals.

Fitocracy is interesting.  Part of me loves it, and it has definitely given me a renewed interest in my exercise routine.  It's such a great affirmation to come in here after I finish a workout and record my points and watch my numbers climb.  (tomorrow I get to level up!)

But on the other hand, so far I have found exactly three people who are 50 or older.  Pretty much everyone is in their 20s and lifts weights.  Now that I've been watching for awhile, I realize that the point system is stacked toward lifting.  My 45 minutes of treadmill at about 3.4 mph and with an incline of 4% is 93 points; if you lifted for 45 minutes, you'd easily have several hundred points.

So I just have to ignore what everyone else is doing and use it for what works for me.  Because silly as it seems, there have been at least two times when I wasn't all that excited about doing my workout, and my sole motivation for doing it was so I could come in afterwards, record my points, and see that little blue bar on my profile jump up another notch.  Whatever works.

I've let myself have a mini-vacation this week.  I've been out of school since 12/18, but that first week was all the Christmas prep, and then everybody was home and had to be fed and mommed the next week, and the week after that there were many house things to do and all the appointments I'd been putting off for months.  So this past week I slacked off.  Not that I haven't done anything constructive--I've packed up ten or twelve boxes, mailed books that I've sold on Amazon, cleaned out a couple of cabinets, gotten up and gotten MadMax to school every day, picked out tile and paint colors, etc etc-- but I haven't done nearly as much as I could have.  I think I read at least half a dozen books, including three Georgette Heyers.  It was lovely.  But it also worked-- I can feel myself getting a little bit bored, and being ready for a bit more structure and a bit more of a challenge.  I wasn't quite sure that would happen-- I was so exhausted at the end of last semester, it didn't seem like I'd ever recover.  yay for vacations.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lift the Eyes, See Farther

Here is the garage at our current house:

Boring, right?  It is what I see every day, sometimes many times a day, when I drive in and out of our driveway.  But if I were to look up, I would see this:

Funny how rarely I do that.  I forget all about the amazing trees we've had in our yard all these years because, you know, they just fade into the background.  There is one in particular that you can't see very well in that picture because it is blocked by the one in front of the garage, so here is another picture:

It's one of the biggest trees I've ever seen.  And it's not even as tall as it used to be-- at some point, probably 25-30 years ago, the top was blown off by lightning.  You can't own a tree, so I won't say it's "our" tree, but we've had the privilege of having it behind our house for the past 12 years.  It has a bee hive.  On hot summer days you can stand below it and listen to the hum of the bees. 

I'll miss this tree.  Even though I didn't notice it most times I drove in the driveway, I've been back to visit it many times.  We actually had one of those tree doctor guys stop one time and knock on the door.  He said, "Don't let anyone tell you to cut that tree down.  It looks like it's dying, but it will be years before it's dead."  Ponderosa pines have very long tap roots, he told us, and even after they're dead, they will continue to stand for years, providing habitat for birds (and bees).

This is zoomed way in at the tippy top. I think an owl lives here, but I've never actually seen it fly in or out.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

further thoughts

You know, I've been catching up on all the other blogs I read and posting various comments and giving advice, and then I come back here to AB3 and I have double my usual number of readers for that last post, the one in which I recommended being more type A.

And I feel like such a fake.  You should not be taking advice from me.  I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.  The "feel bad post" was written as much to myself as it was to anyone else; I am the laziest person I know.  It's like a pendulum swing, like someone who has been as lazy as they possibly can be coming back toward the center of average activity and spouting wisdom about the wonders of working hard.  Do not take me seriously.  Seriously. 

Julie made an interesting point in her blog the other day (completely unrelated to my post) about how sometimes you know things are right by how easy they are, how smoothly they work. (And I'm re-wording what she said here, so this may not be what she meant, if it makes no sense, blame me, not her.)  Like you've been pushing and pushing and pushing on a brick wall, and all the sudden you notice there's a door you could walk through.  You pour your heart into method A and get no results, but you keep working your heart out because it seems like the right thing to do, but you're not getting where you want to go.  So then you try method B and suddenly you're getting results.  Obviously method B works better.

I've had that experience, so I know what she means.  It's an excellent point.  I think you have to find what works at any given time.  Sometimes you need to really work your butt off and get things done.   Sometimes you need to stop working so hard and find a different way that gets better results for less effort.  Sometimes you need to pamper yourself, give yourself a break, be kind to yourself. Sometimes life shouldn't be as hard as you're making it; sometimes you're not expecting enough from yourself.

All of those things are true.  Balance.  It keeps coming back to balance.  Now if we could just figure out how to find it.

Monday, January 09, 2012

the feel bad post

OK, just kidding on the title.  Apparently I'm still in rant mode, and the current topic is feel-good-ism, which is a term I think I just made up, but that is starting to drive me crazy.  I would like to say up front that I'm not advocating that we all turn into hairshirt-wearing ascetics who regularly starve themselves while exercising non-stop and feeling superior at our incredible self-control.  That isn't what I mean at all.

But I'm getting really tired of the constant murmur in certain areas of the internet that we should be able to feel good all the time-- that we should always pamper and indulge ourselves and never do anything hard.  I think it's one of those ground-wave things that gets started and then takes on a momentum of its own.  I've been involved in many internet communities over the past 25 years where I've seen this happen (and been part of it).  Sometimes the people in a group seem to play off each other and work themselves into extreme opinions that just don't make sense. 

Like my moms group.  I've been involved off and on with a group of moms since I found out I was pregnant with MadMax about 15 years ago.  Over the years, we've occasionally moved into these somewhat extreme positions, where --for example-- one mom might be a little more concerned about safety than some of the rest of us, so she'll post about how horrified she is about some "neglect" that occurred while she was at the playground, and then the rest of us, feeling a little guilty that we wouldn't have been upset about that, one-up her by noticing some other thing, and pretty soon we'd all become complete safety freaks.  It's not necessarily bad, it's just that it becomes a bit extreme, and then that extreme becomes the norm, and you forget that you're being a little extreme.

Recently, I've noticed in several of the places where I hang out on the Internet that the new thing seems to be feel-goodism.  These people want you to believe that it is more important that you never deny yourself anything than it is to be healthy.  Or that you should always treat yourself with indulgence and lenience rather than trying to push yourself to do something difficult.  And while I see their point-- it would be just as bad to go too far the other direction-- it's also a bunch of baloney.

Sometimes you have to do things that are hard.  Or things that are boring, or that you just plain old don't want to do.  If I'm going to bring my cholesterol down without going on drugs, sometimes I have to not eat what I want to eat.  At the end of last semester, if I was going to get that last paper done, I had to force myself to sit down and just do it, even though it felt like forcing myself to drink poison.  If we're going to move into the (smaller) house that we all want to move into, we have to spend hours and hours going through 27 years of crap and getting rid of stuff, which is boring beyond belief.  It's not always bad to push yourself.

That's not to say you need to have any of those priorities, but I do, and I'm not going to achieve them by always pampering and indulging myself.  Sometimes you have to work damn hard to get where you want to go.  And the odd thing, the unexpected thing, is that when you do that, somehow magic still happens.  It wasn't until the last 90 minutes of editing that final paper that I figured out what I was trying to say and was able to whip it into shape.  After all that whining and moaning about how much I didn't want to do it and how I wasn't sure I could do it because I'm so old now and yadda yadda yadda, I ended up with a paper that I was really proud of. Surprised the hell out of me. And there is an unexpected feeling of pride and happiness that comes up when I've spent several hours clearing out a closet or a drawer and it looks great.  I haven't found that magic yet in the process of figuring out how to re-think my food choices, but I'm convinced it's in there somewhere. 

And then sometimes after you work really hard, you need to give yourself a break.  It's a balance.  How many times has this come up recently?  It's hard to find that delicate balance between pushing yourself and letting yourself be.  But I'm convinced it's worth finding.

p.s.  I scheduled this to post just after midnight, and then went out and read some other blog posts, like Lani's post on ReFab, and Julie's post for last night (went to bed early last night).  On the surface, they seem to be saying the opposite, but on further reflection, I don't think they're entirely opposed.  We're just working on different things.  It's not that I'm right and they're wrong, it's all of us trying to figure out how to do what we want to do right now.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

another brief rant about kindle and ebook pricing

This will be quick.  I keep meaning to fit it into another post, but it never fits.  And I was just surfing on Amazon, so want to get it out of my system.  I think publishers are making a big mistake by charging full price for e-book editions of older books.  There are dozens of books that I own that I would be willing to buy a second e-book edition of so that I would have my Kindle/e-reader stocked with books I want to re-read.  But only if it wasn't too expensive-- say $2.  There are even a couple of dozen that I would buy a second copy of at 2.99 or 3.99.

But I am not going to pay 7.99 for a second copy of a book I already own.  I'm not even going to pay 7.99 for a book I don't own if I can get it used for a couple of bucks.  Example.  Jenny Crusie recommended Carl Hiaasen's Skinny Dip on her blog this week.  I looked it up on Amazon.  It was published in May of 2006, so it's more than five years old.  I could get the paperback brand new for 7.99; the Kindle edition is also 7.99.  Or I could order a used copy from Amazon for a penny, plus 3.99 shipping; or since I am a Prime member, I could get a used copy for $3.00 and it would be here in two days with free shipping.  Or they might have it at my local used book store for a couple of dollars.

The only way the publisher makes money is if I buy either the new book or the e-book, but I won't, because why should I?  Ha!  And I just looked on our library's website and for the first time EVER, they have the e-book of a book I want to read.  So forget it.  I'm skipping the purchase altogether.  But they lose out, because if they'd priced it at $2-3, I would have just bought it without looking around so I could read it this week.

[edited to add:  based on London Mabel's comment, I'd like to just emphasize that I'm not talking about recently published books.  I'm talking about books that have been out for awhile-- which I would define as ones that have been out for more than five years, but I'd settle for even ten years.  I read one (that I bought used) published in 1997 a couple of weeks ago that I loved and I know I will re-read.  I would have bought an e-edition of if it had been reasonably priced, but it was $7.99.  ]

And another thing-- and this is less a rant than just an idea.  With new release Blu-Rays, you can opt to pay a few dollars more and get a digital copy of the movie-- i.e., a copy that MadMax can load onto his iPod.  This is often worth it to me, because it saves me a ton of money when I'm loading up his iPod for a plane flight or a long car ride.

I wish they had this for books, too.  I wouldn't want it for every book, but I would be willing to pay a few dollars more for certain books, if I could get both the physical copy and an e-version.  For example, I bought The Missing Manual for my new iPhone last week because I can't figure out my fancy new phone.  I wanted a physical copy, because then I could look at the figures and screen shots and refer to my phone more easily.  But if they'd had an option where I could get the physical book (which was $15 and change) and the e-book for $20, I would have done it in a heartbeat, because in the future, it would be great to have it on my phone for reference.  Just sayin.

and as always, when I say "this will be quick," it ended up being longer than I expected.  But I feel better.  Rant over.

Friday, January 06, 2012

the unplanned menu

My favorite thing about the new year is all the inspirational quotes that everybody posts, tweets, and tacks up on their wall.  There are some great ones out there.  Terri and Delia both have posts this week about not letting other people define what your goals should be, or how success should look for you.  So, I'm taking that and running with it, because by most counts, I have a 50% success rate on my January goals so far, which is a fail.  The Diet Dr. Pepper one has been fine, but the 'planning our menus' thing has been a complete non-starter.  More about that later.  But I don't really feel like a failure, because ... well, I'm not sure why.  I just don't.

That's a new one for me.  Those of us who are on the spectrum, even if only minimally, have a hard time with flexibility, with making allowances for human foibles.  If your goal was this particular thing, then you are a failure if you didn't do this particular thing.  But I know what my week was like this week, and the things that came up that I wasn't exactly expecting, and I understand why the menu planning didn't happen.  And I also have some renewed insight into why it might not work for us, and why I haven't done it in the past.  And, plus, my cousin Heidi said in the comments on my last post that it didn't work for her, so I can always claim that it's genetic, right?

Anyway.  Here is what the menu-planning post was going to say back before I already goofed it up.

I don't think I've ever posted about my obsession with cookbooks.  Compared to people who actually collect cookbooks, I don't have that many.  But I probably have 25.  OK, maybe 30.  I look at my book buying budget as part of our entertainment spending.  A new cookbook will keep me entertained for at least 8-10 hours, sometimes longer (and then if it's a good one, I'll use it for years).  That's the equivalent of 3-5 movies. Theater tickets are $8.50 around here ($11, that's ELEVEN DOLLARS for 3-D, is that the same nation wide? it seems insane to me).  I almost never go see films in the theater, so I figure buying a cookbook every 3-4 months is OK.

But the thing that makes this habit weird is that I don't cook all that often.  We've had this conversation before, here for example.  I read cookbooks all the time, but I cook maybe 2-3 times per week.  And I'm a decent cook, not a great cook.  I don't hate cooking, but I don't particularly enjoy it either.

Also, Dean does not cook.  He doesn't mind fending for himself if I don't feel like cooking, but he doesn't then step up to the stove and whip up some scrambled eggs or boil water for pasta.  He will just sit down happily to a bowl of cereal.  There's nothing wrong with that, and I have no problem with cereal for dinner every once in awhile.  But I don't like for it to be more than once every couple of weeks. 

I lost my train of thought.  This was going somewhere that had to do with menu planning, wasn't it?

so anyway, I read these great new recipes I want to try, and often I'm even motivated enough to go out to the grocery store and get the ingredients.  But then we'll have 3-4 nights in a row where the kids have school activities or Dean is working overnight, or we've been invited over to someone's house, or whatever, and by the time I get back to the cooking mindset, I've forgotten about whatever it was I planned to cook.  So the ingredients pile up in the pantry, and I can't remember exactly why I bought Patak's Hot Mango Chutney (2 jars).  I'm sure there was a reason.

So I thought menu planning might help. If I wrote down three recipes that I wanted to try in a given week, then got the stuff for them at the market, I would have something to refer to if I forgot what my plan was.  (Lists, I'm telling you, it's all about lists when you're absent-minded)(and 50). 

But I forgot that I hate planning.  It felt like I was setting myself up to fail.  I couldn't quite make myself do it Sunday night, and then Monday MadMax was still at home (they didn't go back to school till tuesday), and then I had those moles removed Tuesday morning, and Wednesday I felt wonky, before I knew it, it was Thursday and I had never planned a menu.  Dang it.

But what I remembered is something that has worked in the past.  While I am in the grocery store, I see beautiful broccoli, and I think, oh, I could make that broccoli recipe that MadMax likes.  And then I see that they have tilapia on sale, so I buy some of that because I have a good recipe for that, too.  And etc.  Then when I get home from the grocery store, I grab an index card (keep those in the organizer box by the phone)(which only does a marginal job of keeping me organized, but it does keep index cards, a pair of scissors, and two sizes of envelopes to hand).  And I jot down on the index card the ideas I had while I was shopping, so I know what I was planning and I don't forget that I bought cauliflower until it has turned into a yellow and black furry mass at the back of the crisper drawer.  The index card gets stuck to the side of the fridge with a magnet and voilĂ .

So maybe I will do that instead of menu planning.  It's sort of reverse menu planning.  Or maybe I will just try again next week with *Real Menu Planning* and see how it goes.

Work in Progress.  It's always a work in progress.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Riffday: back to... um... normal. I think.

Nell took the early flight back to Seattle Sunday morning, Dean went back to work yesterday, and MadMax went back to school today.  So we are as normal as we ever get around here.

1.  I went to the doctor to get three moles removed today-- two on my face, one on my scalp.  She froze the one on my scalp, but the two on my face she ... um.... removed.  I don't want to get too graphic in case any of you are eating lunch.  It didn't hurt while she was doing it because of lidocaine, but now?  Ouch.  It's not horrible, just pretty sting-y.  And while I'm whining, with all the advances in medical technology, etc, why the hell hasn't anyone come up with bandages you can put on your face?  You should be able to buy them in rounded shapes in fair, medium, and dark skin tones.  3M? Johnson and Johnson?  are you listening?  There is nothing

Turns out I am surprisingly (to me) sensitive about this.  I am embarrassed to death to go out with these two band-aids on my face.  Which is odd, because I don't think of myself as being particularly vain.  I almost never wear makeup, I spend less than five minutes a day on my hair.  But it must be pretty bad-- I figured MadMax would make fun of me for being sensitive about it, but when I picked him up from school and told him I was embarrassed to go to the post office, he said, "Yeah, you probably shouldn't."  Ouch.  (Again.  but different ouch.)

2.  I've read so many New Year's posts over the last few days that I can't remember what I learned where.  But thank you to whoever turned me on to Fitocracy.  I've only been using it for three days, so I'm not sure how it will be long term, but so far it is fun.  You enter your workout every time you do one and get a point value for it.  Then you can work toward point goals, etc.  It's a very social network, but I'm not interested in the social part of it as much as I am the points thing.  That appeals to my OCD self-- I can totally get into working toward 2500 points by the end of the month (or whatever).  Oddly, my usual 45 min on the treadmill was 72 points, while the 45 minute walk we took on Sunday afternoon was 92-- seems backward to me since the walk was mostly on level ground, and the treadmill was done at 4-6% incline.  And then 15 min of yoga today was 58 points.  Really?  for yoga?  cool, because yoga makes me feel great but i don't do it all that often because I'm just not that motivated.  But for 58 points in 15 minutes, I might get a lot more interested. ha.

3.  Soft drinks.  At least three or four different posts I read were about giving up soft drinks, so apparently I am not alone.  So far I'm doing OK-- I had already cut back to not having one everyday, and that is probably the hardest part.  But I do get a craving for one with certain foods.  Since I'm already off caffeine, I think it is the fizziness I miss the most, so I bought some sparkling cider.  That works pretty well, but it may not be all that much better than a soft drink.

4.  Movie report:  I saw three over the holidays, and the Muppet Movie was hands down the best.  Unless you have muppet-phobia, you should really find a kid and go.  I borrowed one of the neighbors' daughters because MadMax refused to go.  Cute movie and surprisingly thought-provoking about what it means to grow up.  Sherlock Holmes 2 and Mission Impossible 8 (or whatever the number is) were typical thriller blockbusters, not a thought-provoking moment in sight.  Not worth it unless you enjoy the genre, which obviously MadMax does.  I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes more than MI8 because I like Robert Downey Jr; don't particularly care for Tom Cruise, and that's what MI8 is all about--the glory of Tom Cruise.

and that's it for me today.  I think we are finally done boxing up all the books.  It only took a week. :-)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

nothing but good times ahead

The past three weeks have been such a blur that I hadn't really thought about a year-end wrap-up post or a new year's resolutions post until I started reading everybody else's.  And can I just say here that I have some damn fine blog friends?  (some of whom did not do new year's posts, you know, because it's not everybody's thing.)  So as I've been packing up all the detritus of my office/library, I've been thinking about new year's stuff.

2011 wasn't necessarily a good or bad year for me.  There was lots of both.  Good:  I've climbed out of the depression that plagued me in the 2006-2009 era-- it was never full-blown depression, just a sort of generalized numbing gray-ness, but still I am so glad it's gone.  Bad:  I hurt some people I love, and learned some things about myself that I'm tempted to say I'd rather not know.  But if I didn't know, I'd keep doing stuff that hurts and/or alienates people that I don't want to hurt or alienate, so I'm glad I know now.  I'm learning, and changing, too, I hope.

So 2011 wasn't good or bad, it was just hard.  My father's death, the pressures of my master's program, and now remodeling a house while we pack up the house where we've lived 12 years.  And hard can be good, so I'm not necessarily hoping that 2012 will be any easier. I'm hoping for a continued softening of heart, and continued lessons that teach me to be more thoughtful and compassionate.

As I've said every year I've kept this blog (I think, I didn't really go back and check to make sure it has been Every Year), I don't do New Year's resolutions.  Too much chance to feel bad over something that's not worth feeling bad about.  But the last couple of years, I've had a sort of general idea of something I wanted to work on.  Two years ago, it was lightening up.  This past year it was being willing to start over.  and over.  and over.  I've used the hell out of that one.  Every time I screw up, instead of feeling bad and guilty and ashamed, I've tried to just start over. Try again. Pick myself up and keep going. I didn't always manage it--there has still been a fair amount of self-recrimination; but I've given it a pretty good effort.

For 2012, my idea is similar to last year's.  Buddhists have a concept called Beginner's Mind.  It's been too long since I've read any Buddhist stuff to be able to explain what a Buddhist means by that, but what I mean is that I want to be able to see my same old same old situation through new eyes.  Rather than being jaded and cynical, I want to be open to joy and life and fresh ways of thinking.  The energy of new beginnings, without actually beginning anything new.  That's it.  Remind me.

I do have a couple of January goals, though.  They're things that I don't want to commit to for a full year, but I want to try.  And those are:  1) no Diet Dr. Pepper, not even the caffeine free kind (which has been my usual).  Just for a month, just to see how I do.  I've already cut way back-- I used to drink one every single day, now I probably have 3-4 a week.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  For a month, I'm going to do without, and then see what I think.  I didn't want to cut them out for a full year, because honestly I don't think they're that bad.  The occasional soft drink isn't going to kill anybody.

2)  For the month of January, on Sunday or Monday, I'm going to try planning out our food for the week.  Doesn't that sound like Little Suzy Homemaker?  I don't think it will be, because y'all know me well enough to know I'm not particularly domestic, but there's a bit of reasoning behind it.  There is a post coming on this, so that's all I'll say about it for now.

That's it for me.  We are still packing and packing, and will be for the foreseeable future.  It's going OK, I guess. We did decide to have a yard sale, because there are just mountains of things to get rid of.  Probably in a couple of weeks.