Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wish You Didn't Have to Go

December 2012 Reverb Broads
Prompt 2 - What is your strongest memory tied to music?  
Suggested by Sarah

The first time I realized that music could speak lyrics was while learning "Octopus's Garden" in elementary school.  Standing in the music room, staring into the back of the upright piano, I heard the words coming forth from chords Mrs. S. was playing. I was relieved, I had forgotten some of the lyrics, but the piano knew what they were and was able to tell me.

Do you remember the first time you realized you were (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) attracted to someone?  When you realized what thinking someone was "hot" really meant? For me, I can't tell you what he looked like, but I can tell you that I still get a little warm under the collar every time I hear the Red Hot Chili Peppers "Under the Bridge" because that was the song that was playing when I was hit with that realization.

But the strongest memories I have of music involve my dad.  Growing up I spent a lot of time with him in the barn and he shared with me some of his favorite songs.  To this day, I can't hear a Roy Orbison song without hearing his shout of, "It's Roy." I'm not sure why that was one of his quirks, but it was.  This past summer, to help him recuperate from his open-heart surgery, I put together a play list of some of his favorites and a couple of mine.  The lead off song was "A Summer Song" by Chad and Jeremy.

Perhaps it wasn't every time the song came on the radio, but certainly when it was the least bit convenient, the barn radio would be turned up so we could listen to the sentimental song. When I hear the song now my nose fills with the smell of whitewash, dried hay, and a barn floor freshly spread with lime. And my heart hears my dad telling me to listen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 2012 Reverb Broads
Prompt 1 - What is your favorite place in the world? What makes it so special?  
Suggested by Kate 

Right now, my favorite place in the world is the second-hand futon we bought from a yarn store classmate over the summer.  It's a great place to sit, read, drink coffee, knit, and hang out with the dog.

I'm a homebody.  I love the fact that the futon is in our living room, a room with two walls of two-story windows. It's sunny, bright, and with the right turn of the head looks out over a house-less wetland surrounded by trees. It's simple and comfortable. It's one of those places that makes my body relax as soon as I get a chance to enjoy it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Let's not let fiction become reality

December 2012  Reverb Broads
Prompt 5
What is your all-time favorite work of art/film/musician/book and why? 
Suggested by Dana

For me, without a doubt, it is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

It is beautifully written and frightens me in so many ways. There are certain books I read and read and then read again because they evoke specific emotional responses and this is one of them. I read it when I want to be frightened and when I need to remind myself what a tenuous hold we have, not only on women's rights, but on human rights as a whole.

The book was originally published in 1985, before the daily use of debit cards to buy everyday items, few jobs included hours spent in front of computers, and where the idea that CFCs could destroy the atmosphere seemed just as unlikely as the society Atwood describes in her book. Twenty-seven years later, when I find myself destitute when I don't have my credit card, and find it hard to function (shop, get directions, find any sort of information) without some sort of computing device readily available, and weather extremes caused by global warming are becoming common place, it seems that Atwood's Gilead, a world where a damaged environment and religious zeal in combination with a declining birth rate to legitimizes a totalitarian society.

We Americans are taught to fear Sharia law, but Atwood's Biblically-derived dystopia is more frightening to me. Using the Genesis example of Jacob and Rachel using the slave Bilhah as a carrier of their child, the government of Gilead has created a gender- and social-stratified society where "immoral," but fertile women are trained (brainwashed, drugged, and/or threatened?) and then dispensed to powerful men for the purpose of gestating and delivering their offspring. The government took from these women their bodies, their bodies that they thought of as ". . . as an instrument, of pleasure, or of a means of transportation, or an implement for the accomplishment of my (their) will." It is not only the immoral women who have been forced into a limited role, but also the wives of powerful men, "orphaned" offspring, and members of the working poor.

The truly frightening thing is how complicit I fear I would be in the development of Gilead. "We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it." If, like the book's narrator, I was fired from my job and prevented from using my own money, would I chose to ignore what was happening around me? Maybe willing to jump on someone else's wagon, but not brave enough to hitch up the horses and take the reins myself? Would I allow my husband, my father, or my brother to now be my guardian, my patron, my only connection to society? Would I be strong enough to fight against this? Would the men in my life? Or would they sit back, perhaps even slightly delighted that once again, they get to be the ones who make the choices, fulfill the decisions? Would I give my consent to the activities around me? Would "I've leaned forward to touch the rope in front of me, in time with the others, both hands on it, the rope hairy, sticky with tar in the hot sun, then placed my hand on my heart to show my unity with the Salvagers and my consent, and my complicity in the death of this woman." Would I yield to the new world order?

The fact is, I'm usual. I ignore. Oh, I'm outraged at being called a slut because I feel my health insurance should cover the costs of my reproductive stability. Or that I should have to prove I need birth control pills, not to prevent pregnancy, but to prevent the chronic pain that comes with my endometriosis*.  Rape is rape, it is not legitimate, or forcible, and no benevolent god would wish it on any person. Yet, there are men and women in our current world who believe that a woman's place is in the home, barefoot and pregnant as many times as possible. It makes me scream to hear the beliefs spouted by so-called moral zealots.

But what do I do about it? Write some words for my handful of readers to ponder? I may be protesting, but my audience is small. "Dear You, I'll say. Just you, without a name. Attaching a name attaches you to the world of fact, which is riskier, more hazardous: who knows what the chances are out there, of survival, yours? I will say you, you, like an old love song. You can mean more than one." And in writing my words I'll allow you to remain anonymous. Other than the tick mark on my blog counter, I'll never know you were here. Will these words, these questions be enough to disturb the forces around me? "There is something powerful in the whispering of obscenities, about those in power. There's something delightful about it, something naughty, secretive, forbidden, thrilling. It's like a spell, of sorts. It deflates them, reduces them to the common denominator where they can be dealt with."

I'm scared that I wouldn't be able to do anything. I'm scared the words I write here will disappear. I fear that religious bigots, those who feel they are in the right, will take the rights and freedoms of some, and continue to take and take until Gilead is a reality.

So, The Handmaid's Tale is my favorite book because it forces me to evaluate my own role in society.

All text in quotes is from the book.

*Or even, now that I've checked the spelling of "endometriosis" that Google's dictionary doesn't recognize it as a word.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yes, I know, I lead a rough life

Here's the thing.  I hate doing laundry.  And let me tell you, it's not like I have it rough.  We don't have kids dirtying outfit after outfit or declaring a piece of clothing dirty because it hit the ground. My husband does his own laundry. We live in a house with a washer and dryer on the main floor.  It's a nice set and even includes a second rinse cycle for those things that just require that sort of TLC.  But I hate it.  I love having a closet full of clean and color-sorted clothing.  I even sort of like laundry.  But the act of sorting, switching, folding, hanging, and tromping up and down the stairs.  I just really despise it.  I just thought you should know.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June 21 - Reverb Broads
List 5 reasons you shouldn't bathe for a week. 
Suggested by Katrina 

  1. Taking showers, instead (assuming this means in a tub)
  2. Guaranteed some sort of prize commensurate with feeling grimy for the week
  3. Camping and swimming daily
  4. Ill or incapacitated some way so as to make bathing impossible
  5. Traveling in space

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


June 16 - Reverb Broads
List all the idiotic things you have done for love. 
From the book List Yourself 

I suppose this is said with great hubris, but this is as close to idiotic for love as I've gotten. 
  1. Spent most of college pining for someone who wasn't interested.
  2. I was dating a guy. We exchanged Christmas presents. His parents gave me some gorgeous crystal candle holders from their recent trip to Europe. We broke up between Christmas and New Years (major WTF there, but anyway). I returned all the gifts to him, despite the fact that he did not return any of gifts I gave me. Damn, I really wish I still had those candle holders.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's in Your Garden

June 18 - Reverb Broads
What's in your garden? 
Suggested by Me

As when I suggested this prompt and every time I see it, in my head I hear a barbarian asking "What's in your garden?!" a la Capital One credit cards. To me it is quite amusing. I have to admit it, I'm a little sad that our lovely moderators didn't hype that aspect of it.  Oh well, such is life.

Although we have a large lot, most of it is "wild" and marshy.  Our decision to put in the library and office this year meant that we had to put off any exterior remodeling.  As a result, our garden is mostly in containers arranged to get the most sun while killing the least amount of grass.

So, my garden...

There's  a frog

Some cilantro gone to seed and that's fine since I'm out of coriander

Some peas in pods

A couple of blueberries

Basil, Thyme, Rosemary, and Sage

And the potential for peppers (four varieties), tomatoes (four varieties), eggplant (at least two varieties), tomatillos, kale, peppermint, catnip, parsley, and broccoli.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17- Reverb Broads
What three things do you want more of in your life? What three things do you want less of? 
Suggested by Krissy


Time to read, write, and pursue other hobbies.
Determination when it comes to certain lifestyle changes I'm trying to make.
Hours of sunlight in the winter.

Of me. On the scale.
Time at work
(Fewer) Chores - laundry, dusting, bill-shredding
June 15 - Reverb Broads
Who was your first best friend? 
Suggested by Kristen

I had my first best friend in Kindergarten.  I think we rode the same bus. We were in Dave's class. Then, one day she wasn't there.  Dave took me aside and told me she went to another school.  I cried.  

It was pretty intense and of course I don't remember her name or anything about her.  Just the sense of loss. Amazing what we learn as five-year-olds.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

With This Ring. . .

June 10 - Reverb Broads
What was your hardest parenting or partner moment? 
Suggested by Dana 

For better or worse, Jon and I have had fairly smooth sailing. We have our communication issues and we're really horrible about giving each other directions.  If you want to ensure we're both cranky, just put us in a car together and send us to someplace we've never been before.  At the very least we recognize this, but I'm not sure we're getting any better at it.

Still, the worst moment had to have been shortly after we were engaged and just as we were starting to look for rings.  It was a Saturday morning, each of us curled up in our couch corners discussing ring options. Jon says, "Oh, I already know what kind of ring I want."

I was so touched.  He'd been thinking about it.  He had images of what our life would be like together.  We could bond over this moment of shared sentimentality.  Yes, our engagement arose from a road trip talk, but this, this was romance.

"I don't want one."

In that moment, I went from the height of heights to the depth of depths.  I felt kicked in the gut and so hurt that even now I can't find the words to express myself.  I just stared at him, not able to speak. That big run up to romance up there? Shattered.  It was nil, nothing, dirt.

Fortunately Jon was able to read the hurt on my face.  Fortunately I was able to talk about it.

Since then I have learned that I need to tell Jon my expectations, up front.  If I'm hurt that he doesn't fulfill my expectations, it ought to be only if he knew what they were to begin with. The great thing, usually once I make my needs known, he does his very best to make it right.  Good Husband.

June 14 - Reverb Broads
In a world filled with more technological distractions than ever before, social networks, smart phones, etc, what strategies do you enforce in your life in order to stay focused on your goals and living life in real-time to the fullest? 
Suggested by Neha 

I really hope I'm not the only one to answer this way.  I'm hoping you all are better at experiencing life real time than I am.

I tend to spend too much time in front of screens. And then, even that time is not well spent.  I smash pigs, match gems, and blast balls with abandon. I should be writing for this blog or working on my novel or researching stuff or reading an actual book or crocheting or knitting or gardening or biking or something, but instead I'm sitting there trying to find the golden egg.

I find the following Heinlein quote applies to me - enslaved by the trivial.

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” 

How do you free yourself?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Don't. It's My Own Fault

June 13 - Reverb Broads
What was your favorite childhood stuffed animal or toy? Do you still have it? Okay, admit it, do you still sleep with it sometimes? 
Suggested by Kassie 

This is not a pony.
I had to go to the parental sources on this one.  I don't remember any favorite toys. 

My dad said "Didn't you get a large pony from the grocery store in town? Cried because you didn't win the contest, so [Mr. C] got another stuffed pony and gave it to you."

Um, well, The Dad was partly right. According to The Mommy Person, "The cat was a promotional prize at the grocery store by some distributor. Slips of paper were put in a box and a winner was drawn. I explained to you that we would put your name in but many people were putting in their names. One day we went to the store and the cat was gone. I explained that someone else had won the cat. You were indeed very distraught. [Mr. C] contacted the distributor and got another cat, which he brought out to the house."

I remember the cat.  It was kind of irritating because it wouldn't stand up right, but it was big enough to curl up against it's belly as a neck and shoulder pillow.  I do remember that.

One of these is a cookie monster.
It's not the fuzzy green one.
So, I asked my mom if she remembered any favorite toys and she said, "The Cookie Monster stuffed toy. I think I have a picture." Turns out she meant this picture.

Big Giant Sigh.

I don't remember Oscar.

I really don't remember many of my childhood toys.  I remember getting a Lite-Brite.  I remember playing with Play-Doh. I remember my dad putting up a tire swing for me.  I had a swing set and a sand box.

I can't go back and look through those long forgotten toys to see what I'm missing.  When I was a high school freshman (freshwoman?), I developed a fascination with candles and melted wax.  In an attempt to get a bunch of melted wax I left a large pillar candle burning.  In my closet. When I wasn't there. And subsequently set my parents' house on fire.

Fortunately no one was hurt.  My room was completely destroyed and there was plenty of smoke and water damage throughout the rest of the house.  My kid stuff gone in an instant. It provided a clean break between child and teen. I remember very little of my room "before" and I don't play with candles.

My Left Turn

June 12 - Reverb Broads
What was the best decision you ever made? 
Suggested by Niki 

Turn Left*

I don't spend a lot of time muddling over my decisions once I make them. Anyone in my family (and especially my brother) is likely to tell you, I tend to think too much before making a decision. More than once I have been afflicted with analysis paralysis.

But once the decision is made, I don't spend too much time evaluated the decision. What’s done is done. But there is one decision that has directly led to where I am today; one that represents two paths that would have led to very different outcomes. I’m not going to say it’s a “Donna Noble, Turn Left” sort of decision, but for me, it was world changing and I ended up temping more than once as a result. Since I'm content with the current state of my life, I'm content with that decision. Admittedly, though, there have been times I wondered if I should have chosen the other path.
Once upon a long time ago I worked for a college bookstore chain. I started working for the bookstore part-time when I was an under-grad. Following graduation I found myself working there full-time and rapidly became the textbook manager. I was able to spend time in the back room solving problems regarding getting books on the shelf. I like to think I was pretty good at it, too. Along the way I settled into a nice, if small Chicago life.  I had friends, I had favorite restaurants, I was settled.

In 1999, with two years of department management experience, I was given the opportunity to move to Minnesota to manage a college bookstore of my own. I took that opportunity, excited for the possibility of a new place to make my own way. Feeling successful from my department experience, I felt assured of success in my new venture.
I was a spectacular failure.
  • Among other things, I am not a people person. I am an introvert who gets satisfaction and energy from solving problems with words and spreadsheets. I don’t like being disturbed; I don’t want to meet tons of new people every day. A textbook manager can have that sort of existence. A store manager cannot. A store manager must be able to solve people-problems, not thing-problems.  
  • Furthermore, I had plenty of experience with textbooks, but really had no idea how to manage the rest of the store. I could manage books, but not staff, customers, or non-book merchandise.  
  • Not to mention that I had no awareness or acceptance of how different the two stores were. I foolishly believed that the way things worked in one store would work in another.  
  • I was 24. Too close in age to the part-time college student employees and so didn’t know how to earn their respect and too far in age from my peers at the college to feel comfortable with them.  
  • I had no idea how to ask for help or how to accept what help came my way. . I felt like I was on a little island of solid ground and all around me was darkness. I told my manager that I knew there are things that I’m supposed to be doing, these things in the darkness that needed light, but I didn’t know what they are. The tasks, duties, and responsibilities that were self-evident to him were beyond me. Because I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, I didn’t even know what I was doing wrong. 
In my paltry defense, the company I worked for was not all that good at supporting their new managers. They seemed to let us sink or swim. They made the mistake (and not just with me) that a department manager would make a good store manager. I suspect that the assistant manager at that store, upset that she wasn’t promoted, may have (with or without intent) made things more difficult for me.
Approximately six months after my arrival, my manager gave me a choice: Move back to Chicago and run the textbook department at a different store or leave the company.

It was a hard decision. I missed Chicago. I missed the friends and the world I had there. But I was already aware that retail was a poisonous environment for me. I chose to leave the company and that meant staying in Minnesota.

Thirteen years later, I’m still here. Since that time I’ve had supportive managers and some great jobs. I’ve learned how to ask questions and evaluate my environment. I still have the tendency to assume that what worked before with work again, but know I know I need to allow for tweaks and variations. I’ve learned to ask for help before I get so lost that I can’t be found. I earned a Master’s degree. I’ve learned to make choices that support me and my mental health. I met and married my husband and we’re building a home together. Now I get to buy books and don't have to worry about selling them.

 Seems like it was a pretty good decision to me.
*Also, my mother is way more supportive than Donna's.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yarn Arts FTW!

June 9 - Reverb Broads
What skill have you learned in the past year that you are proud of? 
Suggested by Bethany 
I've learned to knit! 

I've known how to crochet since high school, but until just recently had never put the effort into truly learning to knit.  And for the record, I had a pretty awesome teacher, Jenni from The Twisted Loop Yarn Shop, the yarn shop at our local public library. Yep, that's right, there's a yarn store at the library. So, come visit.  I'll take you to the yarn store to meet Jenni.

Project 1 - The hat from the noobie knitting class

In progress

Project 2 - The hat from the Faire Isle Class

So now I have another fun and engaging hobby. And another way to make homemade gifts for people. And a new friend woo hoo

Friday, June 8, 2012

Lookouts and Libraries

June 8- Reverb Broads
What are your favorite decorative items/pieces of furniture/household features? 
Suggested by Kristen 

370 days ago we met with our mortgage banker to get pre-approved for mortgage.  We had started looking for a new house and thus far had been quite disappointed with our findings.  We had an idea of what we wanted, but nothing was clicking. 369 days ago we went to an open house and fell in love with

This is not our stuff.  This is what we saw at the open house.

Absolutely the best feature of our new home is the two story living room with the west-northwest facing floor-to-ceiling picture windows. The place is open and airy.  The previous owners had chosen great paint colors as well. And we love it.

But still, sometimes changes are necessary to really make it your own.

We converted the dining room. . .

Woo Hoo? Builder beige carpeting, but we love the red.

. . . into an office.

Maple flooring, cherry desktop and file drawers

And what was used as an office, but technically a first floor bedroom . . .

Great blue.  Nasty, nasty, nasty gray Berber carpeting

 . . .Into a library (with books grouped by subject and then in alpha-by-author-editor order)

Maple flooring, cherry woodwork, and a storage window seat

The dream house is more of a reality every day.  And that's my favorite part.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

I Prefer My Pants Not Burn

June 7 - Reverb Broads
List 8 reasons it's okay to lie. 
Suggested by Katrina 

When I first saw this prompt it scared me.  It still scares me.  Eight reasons to lie? Really? There are that many reasons? I'm not a Kantian, per se, but I do believe in performing universalizable actions, so in general, one should not ever lie because what if everyone lied.  After reading some of the other Reverb Broads' responses, I feel a little better about my own and other's lies, but...

As a child I lied.  To my recollection it was usually about illicit cookie consumption and was quite an issue in our home.  Eventually, and I don't know why it was successful, but it was, my mother said it was important to be honest and for people to trust me and if I ever had to be in court and people couldn't trust then that would be bad. Yes, that memory is a horrible run-on sentence.  Likely it was not, in actuality, said as such.

Since then, I've tried not to lie.  Skirt the truth, yes, but out and out lie, not so much. Then I read some of the other Reverb Broads posts.  Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy - yes, keep that story going as long as possible.  Rain on someone else's parade when I could just let it pass me by - well, you've got a point there.  Having something else to do when so-and-so calls, yes.  Well bleepity, bleep. I'm lying all the time.

After further thought, it seems there are two conditions when lying is permissible.  And right now, I'm changing my mind.* So, it's possible there are two conditions when lying is permissible.

Yes, some days do require 5 liters
The first, and without a doubt are the social niceties.  I will let you like your amazing accessory, fantastic footwear, and colorful coat.  If they make you happy and feel good about yourself, then good, I'm glad you like them (just as long as you don't feel compelled to get one for me, in which case, it looks great on you, but it just doesn't seem like the thing for me).  There are few things more powerful than wearing clothes that make you feel good about yourself.  Along that line there are the standard sorts of lies that work as social WD-40 that help get us out of those daily sticky situations. So, in all fairness, this is the number one and likely mostly indisputable reason to lie.

As I started that paragraph up there, I was going to say that it's acceptable to lie to children to help them maintain the magic and innocence of their young lives.  I was amused by a fellow Broad's story of the neighborhood "Music" truck. But then I remembered. I remembered the complete and utter devastation I felt when told that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy might not be quite as real as the chair I'm sitting on.  I believe children are capable of handling far more than adults are willing to tell them. Children, who may not be able to grasp the enormity of certain concepts can certainly grasp how it affects their daily life.  Please, do not tell your child that grandpa has just gone to sleep.  Explain death and the funeral.  Help them learn to grieve.

Learning the truth can be so very painful for children. The absolute trust they had placed in the authority figure is destroyed.  I think my distress at learning that the invisible gift-givers of my youth were not real was the loss of faith in what was told to me.  If Santa isn't real, what else isn't real?  Did anyone else read Cronin's The Passage?** In the new society, children are raised in a protected environment and the truth of their society kept from them until they reach a specific age.  Say 10 or 12.  I don't remember and I'm not finding the answer after 30 seconds of an internet search.  The kids are devastated. D.E.V.A.S.TA.T.E.D. Most of them will never again talk to the person who told them the truth. Now, granted, that was an author's exaggeration, but the point is when the child learns the truth, they also learn a little bit more about distrust and pain.

By all means, inspire mystery in the kids.  But tell them the basics.  Tell them more than you think they're able to handle, they'll surprise you. And tell them about Santa, but maybe in a way (and I get to say this because I have no kids and so get to write all this in ignorant bliss) that tells more about the spirit than about a person.

Six more reasons to lie? I can't find them, but I'm sure that if I'm caught with my pants on fire, I'll find a way to explain it away.

*Just prior to writing that sentence, I had image after image of my life scrolling through my head. The flip-flopping going on in my head was remarkable.  Honestly, I'm amazed I don't have a headache for all the thoughts rattling around within my skull.

**Please don't.  There are what could be a couple of good short stories in there, but pretty much it's a whole lotta nothing.  I really wish I could see what the 5-star reviewers saw in it. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hot Days, Cold Salad

**Recipe updated...see blue in text below**
June 6 - Reverb Broads
Share a recipe or meal that is a summertime favorite. (Bonus: Pick someone else's recipe or meal and make it, then blog about your results later on this month). 
Suggested by Me 

Summertime. Early hazy mornings and long dusky evenings. Even in MN and WI those days can be so hot and so humid that a person can't even muster the energy to contemplate cooking much less actually making a meal. Especially one like me who thrives on those eyelash-frosting, booger-freezing -40 days of a deep winter high pressure system.

On those hot humid days it's best just to eat cold things. For me, that's tuna salad and watermelon. Not tuna salad like on a sandwich, but a macaroni and tuna salad.

Tuna (Macaroni) Salad - serves 4ish as an entree

1 C. elbow macaroni
4 eggs (hardboiled...there is one set of instructions in the text below, but you're welcome to hard-boil them any way you like)
1 onion, finely diced (in thinking about it, that seems like a lot of onion, depending on the size of should have (in my opinion, because I like onion) about as much onion as the drained tuna)
2 or 3 ribs celery, finely sliced
1 5 oz can tuna fish (and, to make it taste just right Starkist Chunk Light in water - but go with what you like.  Also, you can use more if you like)

And approximately:
1/3 C. Miracle Whip (again, for a taste just right experience),
2 Tbl milk
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbl white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook macaroni per package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl.

Place eggs in a medium-sized sauce pan and cover with cold water. Cook, uncovered to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat, remove pan from burner, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse eggs with cold/ice water. Peel and and slice. Add to macaroni

Add onion, celery, and tuna to the macaroni bowl.

Stir to mix.

Now, here comes the tricky part, mix the remaining ingredients together to make the dressing. It should be smooth and runny enough to coat everything. It's okay if it's a little too runny, the macaroni will soak up some of the moisture, but it it's too runny it will pool at the bottom of the bowl and drag all the flavor down with it. It should be more tangy (from the vinegar) than sweet (from the sugar) and you'll have to play around until it's right. Sadly, I've ended up with way more dressing than I need, attempting to get it just right.

Pour the dressing over the macaroni mixture. Stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to allow the flavors to meld.

The wonderful thing with this is that it can be made first thing in the morning before things get hot and then is ready to serve for lunch or supper (or both).

Serve with potato chips (Lay's, again if you're going for that just right flavor) and icy cold watermelon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We the People, not We the Dollars

June 5 - Reverb Broads
Come up with a new Constitutional Amendment. 
From the book Art and Soul

We The People - all the people - not just the men, not just those with pale skin, not just those of a particular religion, or particular socio-economic position - ALL THE PEOPLE.

The United States of America is a remarkable place.  Over two hundred years ago a group of men were able to sit down and create the framework for governing that is still followed today.  In the subsequent years, the document has been amended to clarify and further the rights of the citizens. In general, the amendments do not restrict the rights of persons. Instead amendments to the Constitution of the United States provide more emphasis to those rights that should be innate, but that power and societal norms had previously suppressed.

With this in mind it seems that amendments, like that on Minnesota's November  ballot* should be defeated.  Amendments that limit the rights and responsibilities of people should not be. Period. Amendments should exist to further protect ALL people.
It seems that both the federal and state governments have moved away from one that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people." It seems that it has become one that is "of the money, by the money, for the money." Money is the power and influence in politics.  Political decisions are made not in the best interests of the constituents, but in the best interests of those who have the the most money.

Perhaps the remedy is somewhere in campaign and political finance reform. 

For example:
A candidate running for office may only solicit and accept funds from those citizens who are eligible to vote for the candidate.
Any person eligible to vote for the president of the United States may contribute to any presidential candidates's campaign fund. Any state registered voter  may contribute to that state's senate or gubernatorial candidates.  Any city resident and registered may contribute to that city's mayoral candidates. However, a citizen in California may not contribute to a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia.

And only human citizens.  Not corporate ones.  In the spirit of secret balloting and to limit the power of influence, contributions MUST be anonymous.

Further to this:
Any entity (person, religious group, corporation, non-profit, small-business, etc.) may make contributions towards educating the populous regarding an issue before the government.

Any person or thing can fund the issues, however it must be in the form of educational advertisement and subject to a bare minimum of journalistic integrity.  No contributor may be anonymous. With regard to the issues, one must be able to put their "face" with their money.

Are these likely to be successful? No. One could quite easily make the argument that this limits freedom of speech. 

If successful, would they make a difference? Who knows.  Still the idea of returning money to commerce and away from political influence seems like a good idea.

Another possibility is declaring that corporations do not have the same rights to as individuals.  Ideally politics should be separate from the influence of money.  I know that's a pipe dream.  In a world where buying some pizzas for the manufacturing staff also buys "loyalty" to a freight company, it is foolish to think that money can only be commercial and power only be political.  But it is wonderful to dream that we and our politicians would make decisions based on the best interests of all and only those involved.

*The question on the ballot is "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"

For the record, this amendment must be defeated. Regardless of one's opinion of gay marriage, this is an amendment that interferes with the daily lives of good, hard-working, society-benefitting citizens of the state of Minnesota and the United States of America. This is an amendment that restricts the rights of all people. If you are a  Minnesota voter - Pledge to Vote "No"!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Admirable Attributes

June 3 - Reverb Broads
Who are your role models? 
Suggested by Dana

Here's the thing.  I don't really have any role models.  There aren't any people out there whose personality and achievements scream out to me "I am your ideal, Amy." When talking with my mom this morning, she agreed.  She doesn't have any role models either.

Of course, that is really just another tally mark in the "Amy is her mother's daughter" box.  What we didn't talk about is that there are certain characteristics that people have that are admirable. But as a whole, I think any one person is far to flawed for me to want to follow in their footsteps.

Both of my parents are certainly role models.  I have the painful blend of my dad's get-it-done and my mom's-get-it-done-right mentalities. But on the whole I think I am far more willing to give up than they are.

My cousin, Gretchen, has an unabashed enthusiasm for life that if combined with that of Ms. Ronning would likely power the world for eons. There are times when I could use a little more self-motivation

My little brother is quick-witted, loyal, and helpful. Not that I'm not, but he is well-entrenched in his community; I am not.

Mrs. J and Mrs. K were two of the best math teachers any student could have and the problem-solving skills they embedded in me have served me well through the years. There are few people in the world who are good at explaining things, and explaining things, and then explaining them another way, and yet another way until the student grasps the concept.  Me, if I've explained something once, maybe I'll be able to explain it to another person again, but at that point, I just really wish that everyone would know everything.  In other words, I aspire to have more patience with the inevitable omniscient-lessness that fills the world.

My current boss has a great way letting the team solve problems and helping clear roadblocks without forcing any one agenda on us. He believes in the team and believes we will find answers and move forward, even when we do not. His quiet optimism helps lead us through the darkness when the team's congenital cynicism leaves us at a loss.

There are more characteristics out there I aspire too, but those listed above are those that seem the most universal.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Those Damn Cows

June 2 - Reverb Broads
What gives you nightmares? 
Suggested by Kassie

This is where I grew up. This where my dad grew up.  This where his dad started working in the 1930s. It's mostly white-trimmed red buildings and a red-trimmed white farm house; it's a dairy farm in southern Wisconsin.    

I was a farm kid.  I fed calves, milked cows, scrubbed the bulk tank, swept the feed alleys, and all sorts of other chores.  It was my identity. It was who I was.  Who my parents and my brother were. Who my aunt, uncles, and grandparents were. Just so you know, that's not the nightmare part

It pretty much stayed that way until I was 20 or so. Now, realize, by this point I was a junior in at a college in Chicago.  I had no intention of going back to the farm.  That was not who I was or wanted to be.  But it was part of my identity.  A HUGE part of my identity.  In fact, really it was the only way I knew how to identify myself.  

Then, one afternoon I got a phone call from my parents.  They were going to sell the cows in June and the machinery the following January.  They weren't moving, they were just going to stop being dairy farmers.  No more cows. No more working the fields themselves; they would rent out the land to other farmers.  My mom had already started working off the farm.  My dad was going to get a job. I was devastated.  My friends still laugh at how I came into their dorm room with tears streaming down my face. They thought someone had died. What I couldn't explain to them is that someone had. Part of me had. This is still not the nightmare part.

It's been over 16 years since that fateful day. Since that phone call, I have never been home again when my parents were farming.  They've made a wonderful life for themselves. They have become something in addition to what they were. And nope, still not the nightmare part.

This is the thing dreams are made of.
In my case, bad dreams.
I have these dreams where I have to go back home.  My parents have decided that getting back into the dairy business is a good idea. I have to help.  In the dream from just a couple of nights ago my mom and I milking.  The cows keep popping their heads out of the stanchions and are attempting to walk out the east doors of the barn into some bright morning sunlight.  The cows are between me and the open door.  I attempt to sneak ahead of them to close the door, but only succeed in scaring more cows out of their stanchions and chasing them cows out the door.  There is yelling and anger. There are cows all over the yard and it is impossible to corral them.  There is the part of me that can't understand why in the bleepity bleep bleep BLEEP! we are milking cows again.  Even if it's just for a month or two to get some extra cash. And of course, nothing is going right.  

That's the nightmare part; something that I thought was gone comes back and haunts me. I have absolutely no control over the situation.  The life I have built for myself irrelevant is in the face of milking the damn cows again. It is so painful and so stressful. Unlike the dreams where I've skipped class all term and it's time for the final or I show up someplace naked or partially dressed I can't find resolution in the farm dreams. That's the nightmare.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Laura Elaine Warshawski?

June 1 - Reverb Broads

With what fictional character (book, movie, TV, etc.) do you most identify? Why? 

Suggested by Kristen

As a kid I loved The Little House books.  Having recently read A Little House in the Big Woods, I was glad to see my love vindicated. The books are simple and true of spirit, and are filled with the foibles of being alive.

I won't say I necessarily fantasized about being Laura. But growing up on a dairy farm on the prairie in southern Wisconsin certainly did lend itself to easy day dreaming. I, too had to round up cattle at the end of the day, milk cows, and feed calves.

Laura must keep it from spilling the milk, if she could, and she had to teach it how to drink, because it didn't know.  She dipped her fingers into the milk and let the calf's rough tongue suck them, and gently she led its nose down to the milk in the pail. The calf suddenly snorted milk into its nose, sneezed it out with a whoosh that splashed milk out of the pail, and then with all its might butted into the milk.  It butted so hard that Laura almost lost hold of the pail.  A wave of milk went over the calf's head and a splash wet the front of Laura's dress (Little Town on the Prairie).

Oh, how I knew Laura's plight.  Teaching calves to drink from a pail is a pain.  Literally, their milk teeth have sharp edges and it's not unusual to get one's fingers pinned between the butting nose and pail bottom. Even though I grew up with other farm kids, it was comforting to know someone else, someone I didn't know had to deal with the same issues. Laura helped make chores a little easier to get through.  She had to deal with the same things.. And let's not forget I am a brown-haired blue-eyed daddy's girl.  Like Laura, I take pride being someone my "Pa" can depend on to help.

However, I am not, completely like Laura.  The money I earned from baby sitting was my money;  I didn't share it with my parents to help pay for my brother's schooling. I have never had any desire to be teacher.  Having gotten married at the ripe ol' age of 35, I can't imagine being married at 18 to a farmer. Actually I can't imagine, at any age being married to a farmer, but that's another post for another time.

Where Laura represented my confident rural youth, Cat's Eye's Elaine Risley spoke to my pained and alienated self.  Like Elaine, I had friendships troubled by mercurial loyalties and pre-teen and teen insecurities. I often wished there was a way to simplify my feelings towards my friends. “Hatred would have been easier. With hatred, I would have known what to do. Hatred is clear, metallic, one-handed, unwavering; unlike love.” Like many women I find myself in a place where I can neither like nor dislike a peer, but by virtue of our proximity feel we must be friends.  How I wish I could have learned to let the negative forces in my life float away with no regrets. And like Elaine, when I perform an act of kindness, I know the the truth. I'm a fool, to confuse this with goodness. I am not good. I know too much to be good. I know myself. I know myself to be vengeful, greedy, secretive and sly. I know that I am looking to see in what way my act of kindness will benefit me. What debts have I paid. What credits I have earned.

The wonderful thing about fiction is how one can finish a book and go on to the next and become an entirely different person.  Where Laura and Elaine represent the two sides of my childhood coin, V.I. Warshawski represents, at least partially, who I have become.  We both came from nowhere-near-upper-middle-class childhoods to attend Chicago universities.  We're take no prisoners tough (well, she is, I'm still working on it). We are willing to research issues to find the answers and proud to be pinko-commie-liberals, Chicago-style.

I'm proud to be Laura Elaine Warshawski.  Who are your fictional doppelgangers?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I Don't Watch TV

 I do not watch the daily offerings of the media giants, their broadcast minions, or their wannabes. I don’t watch the news. I don’t watch game shows. I don’t watch soap operas, reality shows, sitcoms, or teledramas. I don’t wait with bated breath for the next episode of Mad Men to air. I don’t know who can dance, or who I should idolize, or who's got talent (well, that's not necessarily true--Facebook friends tend to post the best of the best and include links to pertinent performances).

How cool is it that Matt Smith carried the Olympic torch?
Now, admittedly, through the glory of iTunes and a high-speed internet connection I can watch Mad Men, Justified, and Doctor Who almost as soon as the episodes air, but on my schedule and without commercials. The last time I watched TV on their schedule? The most recent season of Downton Abbey and even then several of the episodes I watched days later through the miracle of digital recording. I suspect the next time I watch TV on their schedule will be the 2012 Summer Olympics (and not just because I want to see if a stadium full of people just disappears).

This is not to say I don't spend time in front of a screen or two. My husband and I spend our evenings in front of at least one screen, and usually, between the two of us, there could be as many as five screens in use—two smart phones, two laptops, and the television. But we make a conscious choice on our media consumption. The biggest thing that separates us from the average television consumer is that we are not exposed to 15-20 minutes of advertising for every hour we spend in front of the television.

Calvin spent a lot of time applying
his television-fueled imagination
 to the great outdoors.
Television is not necessarily the source of all evil and will not necessarily rot your brain out. I do think that excessive time spent watching poor quality television sprinkled with commercials is the media equivalent of eating Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs to the exclusion of a healthy diet. It's fine to have a bit of over-frosted sugar-laden teeth-rotting media now and again, especially if the rest of time is spent consuming the media equivalent of large numbers of fruits and veggies in combination with healthily prepared protein. However, I'm pretty sure every commercial is like covering that healthy meal with a thick coat of high-fructose corn syrup-based candied crapola.

If you don't think of this every time you're
 moving furniture or hear the word "pivot"
 well, I just don't know that I know who
you are.
I also think that bonding over the shared experience of an episode provides a dose of vital nutrients to social relationships.  And that's just it, I'm no longer able to join into "water-cooler" chat about last night's episode of whatever the newest must-view show is. Nor do I know what the latest must-have item is. By consuming most of my television media months and years after it originally airs I am several steps behind in some conversations. And that my friends is how I know I don't watch television.

What do you think?