Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Thirteen #16

Sarah at Pink Cereal and Raspberries asked me a question about why I didn't post more about My Love. You can read my answers in her interview of me, but it got me to thinking about what parts of my relationship I might like to share with you all. Since it's Thursday, and I haven't done one of these for a while, I decided to present you with an Ode to My Love. It's kind of like my own version of "How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways..."

Thirteen Things I Love About My Love

1. He's loved me through thick and thin (literally). I can rest assured that whether I'm carrying an extra 20 pounds of post-baby weight, or I reach my ultimate goal weight, he'll always think I'm beautiful.

2. He isn't scared off by my crazies. I can be a bit of an obsessive nut-case, and for some reason this doesn't seem to phase him.

3. I fit perfectly in his arms.

4. He trusts me, and I'm learning to trust him despite some serious long-held trust issues.

5. When he smiles and his dimples appear, my heart melts.

6. He helps me relax when all my compulsive tendencies tell me to go go go and do do do.

7. He believes in me, especially in those moments when I'm finding it hard to believe in myself.

8. When I look in his eyes, I can see how beautiful he thinks I am. And that helps me see it, too.

9. He's a good dad.

10. He takes care of his mother, even when it's inconvenient.

11. He takes care of me, too.

12. He pays attention to what I like.

13. He's helping me be all that I'm meant to be.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taking on the Challenge, Or "Aren't You So Proud?"

First, let's start with a few facts:

  1. I hate public speaking.
  2. I particularly hate public speaking when it involves groups larger than two people.
  3. I really, REALLY hate public speaking when the group is made up of more than two people, all of whom are complete strangers.
  4. I often underestimate my abilities.
  5. I am not a trained teacher.
  6. I have a knack for volunteering myself for things when I don't really want to do them.
Now, let's talk about the new project that I've taken on, despite numbers 1 through 6 above. Three weeks ago, I was asked how I'd feel about being the trainer for a course my company was going to provide for some customers. I did a lot of "well, I don't know" and "I suppose if this and this" before I accidentally said I'd be willing to do it. Without meaning to, I volunteered myself to act as the main trainer for a group of 8 customers.

Commence the freaking out.

For several days I worried about my inability, my lack of desire, my inexperience, my lack of skills and knowledge. Then, something shifted. I had signed myself up for the task and I wasn't going to be able to back out of it no matter how hard I tried. So I changed my perspective. I started looking at the task as a challenge, as an opportunity for growth. I studied the training presentations, I asked questions of the subject matter experts, I wrote notes for each slide, and then I studied some more. And just for good measure, I sprinkled in a little bit of positive affirmation ("I am a wonderful, clear, and articulate public speaker") and visualization (I'm standing in front of the group speaking clearly and confidently and everyone is enraptured by the material).

Today was Day 1, and I'm happy to say I slept like a baby last night. I wasn't the least bit nervous this morning. And I presented the material like a well-seasoned public speaker and trainer. I was so impressed with myself that I actually think I might have been glowing with confidence and pleasure. My boss was just as impressed, and he didn't hesitate to tell all the managers in the office how he thought I'd "found my new niche." Now, I wouldn't go that far, but I certainly think I proved something to myself, and maybe to those I work with as well.

If I'm willing to take on a challenge and give it my all, I can do anything.

My Mama would be proud.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's My Turn

After completing two interviews for the Great Interview Experiment (with one more on its way), Sarah over at Pink Cereal and Raspberries did the interviewing this time. Go check it out and see if you can learn something new about your favorite Smtwngrl!

And don't be surprised if you get an email asking you to be my next interviewee. The True Blogosphere Story series is just getting started. Mwah-ha-ha-ha!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Downer and an Upper

The Downer

A few months ago, I submitted an article on lightening up your favorite comfort foods for Radiant Magazine. It was accepted and I waited with anticipation to see the new issue with my byline. Unfortunately, the print magazine decided to take a hiatus and my byline (along with the paycheck) disappeared in a puff of smoke.

The Upper

The editor I work with at Radiant was more than happy to offer to use the article for their online version instead. While I won't get paid for it, at least it's been published and you can read it if you so choose.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Meet a Woman With No Regrets

For my next Great Interview I met NoRegrets, a woman who takes chances, risks life and limb, and roars until her heart's content. She's "embracing the inner pink and living with intention and absurdity." Come along with me and learn more about her.

Q: Why did you start blogging when you did? What prompted you to take up residence in the blogosphere?

A: I actually had started a blog a year and half or so before this one, but stopped because I didn't know what I was doing with it. I started the old one and this new one because I felt I had so much in my head/heart that wanted to come out, and had no outlet. My best friends had moved away, I had yet to make close new ones, and I felt lonely around my husband. I always had kept diaries, and at first considered it partly an online diary, in part because no one was reading it. But then I met a real live actual blogger who shared a blog with me, and I realized I could also have fun with it. The biggest step was reaching out to others so people knew I was out there. That was HUGE. Luckily so far I've found a community that's as quirky (to put it mildly) as I am.

Q: Naming your blog Woman with No Regrets is a powerful statement. What in your life made you decide to commit to living your life after 40 as a woman with no regrets? How do you manage to live that way?

A: Growing up and into my 20's and 30's even, I had the tendency to analyze the hell out of everything I was going to do or did. I beat myself up for the smallest mistake because it meant I hadn't thought ahead well enough and anticipated that particular outcome. It was only relatively recently that I realized how exhausting it was to analyze every situation and try to determine responses.

To commit to living with no regrets is not an easy thing. It means listening to myself and taking myself seriously, and forgiving myself when I make mistakes. Very very difficult, but it really does help me to be known as NoRegrets, because it reminds me every day to try and live that way. Therapy helps too. As well as good friends who listen and accept you for who you are and what you do, even when you make mistakes.

Q: I know you have plans to blog more about your experience in Zimbabwe, but I'd love to know how you ended up there and what your favorite part of the experience was.

A: I had lived overseas during college (in Germany) and I knew when I graduated I wanted to spend more time overseas, this time with another person, my boyfriend at the time, instead of alone. We almost went to Japan, but at the last minute we found out about the opportunity in Zimbabwe (by meeting someone at a fair), applied, and got in. What radically different experiences they would have been. I'm so glad I went to Zimbabwe.

My favorite part of the experience, as with any time overseas, is being immersed in the culture and getting to know it and having pieces of it become part of me and keeping that forever.

Q: You ski, rock climb, and bike. Since the enjoyment of exercise is something I've only recently experienced, I'm wondering: has physical activity always been a part of your life? Are there other activities or sports that you enjoy?

A: Physical activity was only part of my life in very general terms up until I moved to the place I currently live. We had a field out back growing up so played in that a lot. I played basketball in grammar school and softball in high school – but only on intramural teams and only for one season. Really nothing in college.

I decided when I moved where I am now that I would try ultimate Frisbee, and talk about a sport that gets you in shape! Also a friend from my first job convinced me that it really was possible to bike to work, so I started doing that. Exercise really made me feel so good, I had to continue.

I love love love badminton. Do you consider that a sport? Also skiing. Volleyball is fun too. Almost anything actually.

Q: You once saved a turtle from traffic disaster. Are you an animal lover? Have you ever saved any other creatures from near-death?

A: I'm an animal lover but not a PETA-level animal lover. I've occasionally put a spider out the door instead of smashing it with my shoe, but that's about as close as I've come to saving other creatures from near death. I do adopt cats.

Q: What's the biggest risk you've ever taken? What did you learn from the experience?

A: Oh my. Perhaps the biggest risk to me is expressing my emotions knowing that I'm not sure what the response is going to be. The first time I did that was the biggest risk, but with practice it's getting easier and easier, because the world does not come to an end.

Q: How did you get started with quilting? What's the best quilt you ever made and who was it for?

A: I got started when a friend had a baby, and I decided to make a quilt for the baby. My sister was quilting, and she helped me buy the fabric, gave me a pattern, and was always a phone call away when I had issues, which was quite frequently in the beginning. That really helped, as did having this perfectionist sister tell me that there's always mistakes, and it's ok.

As for the best quilt, I wrote about it here.

Q: You've been hang gliding and skydiving, and you're an avid rock climber. Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Have you always been so adventurous?

A: I am a calculated risk taker. With each and every new and/or dangerous experience, I make sure I have researched it to the best of my ability and/or I trust the person I am with to help me get through the experience.

Of course, after writing that, I must admit that sometimes I just throw myself into situations and see what happens. I have trust enough in myself to throw myself into something new because I am able to persevere. I usually know when I should get myself out of a situation. I have a bit of luck too.

With respect to the word 'adventurous' everything is relative. I was the only person in my family to speak my mind bluntly when I was younger. I was the first and only person in my family to live overseas. I think these things in my younger years all added up to being called adventurous now. Kind of like how swimming in a freezing cold ocean is possible (for me at least) if I go in a little bit at a time, and a little bit more each time, until BOOM I'm in, swimming.

Q: I recently read an article about how women are hesitant to identify with the term "feminist." What does "feminist" mean to you and do you consider yourself one?

A: I equate the word 'feminist' with 'activist'. And I am not an activist in the broader sense of the word. But I am a feminist/activist in my own world, for sure. I like being strong and opinionated. Defying expectations for my gender. Making people get rid of their assumptions. Shoving it in their face even.

My type of feminist is expressed in the following story: Pat Schroeder recently talked about her experiences at Harvard Law School. The dean had all the admitted women (15 of them) over for dinner to tell them great things such as he didn't think any one of them would use the law degree since they were women. From the article:

"Well, he went around and asked each of us why we came [to Harvard]. Of course, everyone is shaking in their chair because this is the dean -- except for this wonderful young woman from California. She looks him straight in the eye and says, 'Well, I am only here because I could not get in at Yale.'"

Q: You've fought depression for a while now. How do you feel that it has shaped who you've become and how you choose to live your life?

A: I have had periods of depression since high school. For a long time depression made me feel helpless. I was ruled by the feelings, and struggled so much when I had them. But I made it through every time, and what didn't kill me made me stronger.

But then depression almost did kill me, and I realized how weak I could be. This forced me to adjust my attitude towards depression and towards life. I wrote about this in my blog, but really every day I am choosing life, and it makes it that much more special. And I can choose to be happy rather than depressed (for me, with the aid of medication, though that's not for everyone). And being happy means living with no regrets.

Now that you've discovered NoRegrets, get over there and find out more. You won't regret it!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why Doing It Together Is Better Than Doing It Alone

No, not THAT!

I've been practicing yoga for a couple years now, off and on. It all started when I joined a weekly morning class at the gym I was going to. I really enjoyed the flexibility and strength I gained during that time, and I also liked the way it seemed to influence my day. I was more focused and positive throughout the morning and well into the afternoon.

When I bought my house, I canceled my gym membership because I wanted to save more money. I still practiced yoga fairly regularly, some weeks more than others, using videos and books I'd purchased. I didn't really ever get into a routine of practice, though. Sometimes weeks would go by without a single down dog or child's pose. I missed the class setting, but I thought that I was at least keeping up my strength and flexibility with the occasional 30 minute routine of twists, inversions and sun salutations. I was sorely mistaken.

I rejoined the gym in November, thanks to a new benefit that my company is providing: free membership! I've mostly been sticking to afternoon workouts, but the last couple of weeks I've been trying to get my workouts in the morning. Yesterday, I decided I'd give that morning yoga class a try. How hard could it be? I'd been practicing, right?


What I was doing was not practice. In fact it was so much less than practice that today I can barely move without wincing with soreness. It turns out that when there are others around, including a live instructor encouraging me to "reach a little further" or "hold this pose for just a few more breaths" I actually push harder and challenge myself more. Thus the sore body. The thing is I'm actually more motivated by the challenge of the class than I was by the seeming simplicity of my videos and illustrated sequences of poses.

That class encouraged me to try harder during my home practice, but it also reminded me that sometimes a group atmosphere is more motivating. Watching others push themselves makes me want to push myself, too. Seeing older women move with more agility motivates me to keep practicing. Having a teacher tell me it's OK to use props and adjust poses to my own level of flexibility reminds me that I need to listen to my body. Sometimes, being part of a group makes you want to do better, even when you're alone.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Somebody You Should Know

The Great Interview Experiment introduced me to Jacob of Jacob's Land of Bliss and Blisters. Now I'd like to introduce him to you.

Jacob is a dreamer, a cynic, and an idealist all rolled into one thoughtful blogger. It took him a while to get the blog going, but once he did, there was no stopping him. His posts run the gamut from sports to politics to history to family to random and back again. When Neil said "Everyone is somebody," he knew there were "somebodies" like this out there blogging. Let's find out what's really running around in that brain of his.

Let's start with beer. You also blog at 5 Seasons Brewing and seem to really enjoy the brewing process. What draws you to beer brewing?

I think I'm drawn to it for the simple fact that it's another creative outlet for me and I'm also drawn to novelty. It's kind of cool to be able to say that you make your own beer, but I'm not sure what made me so obsessed with beer to start with. I think it may have been an issue of timing. I didn't start drinking beer until after I graduated from college and I think I turned beer into an academic subject to take the place the learning I had become used to. Plus, I tend to be obsessive with any interest. I'm either apathetic to something or I research and learn everything possible about it. I also write for Southern Brew News, a bi-monthly magazine about beer and brewing in the Southeastern United States.

Do you always drink what you brew or do you share with others?

I share, but where I live now, the only people to share with are at least 90 miles away. My tastes tend toward the bold, and that's how I brew. Most people just don't have the ability to appreciate that kind of beer. Since the locals stores don't even sell Sam Adam's beers, I drink a lot more of my own stuff than I used to.

What's your favorite beer and where can you get it?

My favorite local beer is Sweetwater IPA. There are actually several really good brewers in the Atlanta area now, but most of them are brewpubs and you can't get their stuff anywhere but the restaurant. One of my favorite beers when I want something a little more is Schneider Aventinus, a weizenbock (basically a very strong, dark, German wheat beer) and Oskar Blues Ten FIDY, an imperial stout from a brewery in Colorado is really nice. Both of those are available in the beer geek bars and better liquor stores in Atlanta now.

What are your favorite beers made from?

With the exception of Aventinus, those are all made exclusively from barley, water, hops, and yeast. All of the flavor differences come from the roast of the malt, the type and amount of hops, and yeast variety, and that goes for most beers. Aventinus and beers like hefeweizens and white beers (or witbiers) are usually made with at least half wheat and the rest barley, and there's always common additives like honey, coffee, chocolate, fruit, and spices. I've even had a beer that was made with chocolate-covered doughnuts once. Turned out to be my wife's favorite beer.

You seem like quite the dreamer. What's your favorite day dream? Do you have the same day dreams over and over again? Do they follow a similar theme, or are your day dreams a veritable smorgasbord?

My daydreams are quite varied. On the way back from a tennis match today I listened to a snippet from a Joanna Newsom song, watched my infant son making faces at me, pondered that brewpub in Augusta that I keep thinking about opening but will never find enough guts to go and get started, and turned over a few interesting phrases that I forgot before I ever got a chance to write them down. A few of the larger ones that repeat is what I'd do if I ever won the lottery (an interesting exercise), how I'd engineer my three wishes to get what I wanted and not get screwed over by an unscrupulous genie, and what I'd do if I were able to magically enable people to reach their potential just through speaking to them. There's a lot of half-formed ideas and music for the most part.

You’re really attached to your night dreams and equate them with the creativity you don't get to express. In fact, you say that you "fear not dreaming at all." Do you think that if you had more time to express your creativity in the "real world" you would lose your dreams?

I don't think so. I think they might lose some of their importance, but my mind is too active for me to lose the vividness of my dreams just because I'm expressing more creativity in real life. I've actually become less attached to my dreams since I started blogging on a regular basis, but they're still something I look forward to. I really liked this question, by the way.

I get the impression that you had a bad church experience based on some comments you’ve made regarding church and religion. What happened that caused you to distance yourself from church?

I've never had a bad experience with the church. I grew up in a denomination where evangelism wasn't a part of the church culture. They don't focus on the outside world and what needs to be fixed with it, but focusing on the self. There's no proselytizing, typically no bashing of others or preaching politics from the pulpit, and I still have a lot of respect for the church I grew up in. However, I have a very logical mind and those daydreams we discussed earlier aren't always so flippant. I spend a lot of time mulling over politics, religion, and philosophy in my head as well. I never understood why we have to assume that science and religion are conflicting approaches. I was raised to see the last book (Revelations) as not being literal, so I saw no reason to assume that the first book was literal too. After all, the last book is set long after anyone was alive, and the first one is set before anyone was alive, so it seems to be an obvious bit of parallelism. I've been critical of the forced dichotomy of church and science since high school and I really am disgusted with much of the evangelical style of Christianity with its membership-driven message of “we're good, everyone else needs to be saved.” I've also gradually drifted from not needing the church, but still being Christian, to being pretty much agnostic in the last two years, but I'm a little embarrassed that it's come across as my having something against religion. I actually typically take the side of religion in debates on the topic despite not actually being a believer anymore. I also tend to think on issues of morals and ethics from a Christian perspective, but more from the perspective of charity and benevolence and less the legal aspects. I think a lot of people benefit from the hope it can bring even if the institution itself is morally neutral.

You started blogging in 2001, but didn't really get rolling until mid-2007. What was the catalyst that got you going?

An audience. I started this up while at my first job after college. I didn't have a whole lot to do and I spent a lot of time at my computer goofing off. I didn't even think of e-mailing the URL to my friends and it was a mostly anonymous affair. It wasn't until my friend Courtney started blogging and sent me the link to her blog that I was re-inspired. Within a month or two, she'd gotten a large number of our old mutual college and newspaper friends blogging, and that came with a built-in audience. Then, National Blog Posting Month came around, and several of us took part, and I haven't been able to stop since. I think the more I blog, the easier it gets.

After working for a newspaper, you decided to become a teacher. What prompted this career change?

I'd love to be a brewer, but the job doesn't exactly come with great pay, benefits, or job security unless you work with one of the big mega breweries, and that would kill the fun of it, I think. I chose teaching because I'd always thought about it. There's a lot of cynicism expressed in my posts, but I'm a very idealistic person at heart and thought that I'd like to have a job where at least I'd know that just by doing my job I'd be making the world a better place, although I admit, I'm pretty jaded on that aspect currently and I'm hoping to head back to school to get out of classroom and move into the counselor's office. I actually like working with the kid's one-on-one and advising them on how to handle life in a more positive way, but I hate managing a classroom of kids who don't want to be there. There's also an intensely practical aspect to it. I get two months a year in the summer, and several large breaks during the year off, which gives me ample time for other hobbies and road trips. There's also the guaranteed pension (unless everything really falls to crap in the next couple of decades) that will keep me from depending on gambling on the stock market for my retirement.

You’re married, and it sounds like you and Kim make a great team. How did you meet? When did you know you were going to spend the rest of your life with her?

We went to Berry College and most students there have a job on-campus. We both worked in the Information Technology department working on the network. We had to attend a training boot camp two weeks before classes started. It was my freshman year and her sophomore and I had no car, so she offered me a ride on Tuesday of the first week. We had our first kiss that Friday and we got married six months after I graduated in the main chapel on campus. As for when I knew, I actually sent an e-mail to my best friend Hank on the Wednesday or Thursday of that week saying that I'd met the girl I was going to marry, but I don't think I really knew until a month or so later. We knew we were right for each other really early on, but didn't see any need to rush it, so we dated for four years before getting married and have been together for almost 10 years total.

What was your first thought when you found out you were having a child?

Evan was sitting on my lap the first time I read this and just as I finished reading the question, he yelled out a wordless Argggghaaaah! That's basically how I felt. I was honestly terrified. I was never really sure I wanted kids and I wasn't looking forward to the economic and lifestyle constrictions they create. I wasn't really worried about the quality of parenting I would offer, but I was worried about carrying resentment toward the child because of what having children takes away from you.

How has being a parent changed you?

I don't really think it's changed me a whole lot. I even asked Kim to make sure, but I didn't have much of a life to start with, and we've found out that Evan doesn't really cramp our style too much anyway. He's a really laid-back, good-natured baby, and we live near family who are always willing to take care of him, so we've been able to do the things we want to do by either taking him along with us, or dumping him off on the grandparents or aunts. We actually didn't spend a night away from him for the first six months of his life and that included a road trip to Cleveland when he was a month old to see his dying great-grandfather, another when he was three months old, and primitive camping on John's Mountain in Northwest Georgia when he was around five months. Kim's a little more willing to leave him with our parents now, but she still doesn't like it too much. The way he's changed me the most is by the fact that I actually start missing him and he enters into my thoughts on a regular basis. I may be a little more responsible now, but I was always a little more nurturing than normal for a man. My sense of humor may have degraded as well, as all he needs are a few weird sounds and funny faces and he's happy. He doesn't always get my jokes about foreign policy, though.

What do you like most about living in Georgia?

The winters are the best thing. It's quite pleasant to go through most of the winter when the weather's in the 60s and the cold snaps are more refreshing than painful. I like living in a rural area for a lot of the freedoms that come with it like not having to worry about if the blinds are open when you get out of the shower and realize the only towels are in the other bathroom down the hall or whether or not your dog is annoying the neighbors when it barks. It's also nice to be able to have a little garden, room for a few chickens, and lots of wildlife in the woods around my house.

How do you feel growing up in rural Georgia has influenced your life?

I think I have a better understanding of poverty and a lot of the influences. I grew up in a town where teachers are considered pretty wealthy. I make more by myself as a teacher than the average household earns in a year in this area. I think a lot of my interest in where my food comes from and how the animals are handled before they make it to my table come from a lot of the rural farming values that lingered in my family. My grandfather took better care of his cattle than he did his kids and my dad preached that a person is responsible for the animals he keeps.

On a more humorous aspect, it's also why my first obsession was chickens, and why I still keep a flock. Although, my own need for novelty and geeky tendencies ends up with me raising chickens who lay blue eggs and have no tail bone (Araucanas).

If you could live anywhere else in the world (other than Alaska, which would obviously be your answer), where would it be?

I'd love to live near Portland, OR. Maybe by a little plot of land about 45 miles from the city limits. It seems like a wonderful city. It's got a respected foodie movement and one that really has taken to sustainability, and local foodstuffs. Plus, there's a ton of beer brewed in the area, and it's a much cheaper cost of living than Seattle. Anywhere in the Pacific Northwest would be fine, though. Outside of the US, I'd love to move to New Zealand. It's the second most beautiful place I've ever been and there are a lot of little things I like about the place like some of their political policies and the fact that nowhere else on earth is it as easy to farm organically as it is there because they've done so well keeping out foreign pests and diseases.

Wanderlust is a trait that defines you. Where have you traveled?

I've been to nearly every state on the East Coast, many multiple times, and I'll be filling in the gaps this summer with Kim and Evan. I've also been to almost every state east of the Mississippi]. West of that, it's just Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, Alaska (twice) and Hawaii. Outside of the US, I've been to the Bahamas, Montreal, New Zealand, and Australia.

Where have you never been that you'd like to visit?

I haven't made it to Europe yet, but my goal before I die is to hit every US state and every continent. Specifically, I want to go to the Maya and Olmec ruins of Mexico and Central American, the Inca and Moche ruins of Peru and Bolivia, the Amazonian rainforest, several parts of subsaharan Africa, China, Angkor Wat, Mount Everest (to see, not to climb), as much of Scotland as possible (descended from a Scottish immigrant who came over to the US in the 1600s.), Belgium (for the beer), southern Italy (for the food), Prague, and parts of Scandinavia. Actually, there's more, but that's the short list.

You've been on a lot of road trips, too. Which one was your favorite and why?

One is a trip I'm planning on recreating for my wife this summer. When I was in high school, my family and I camped up the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Maine, although my urban-phobic parents avoided New York City. We spent two weeks in a van and pop-up camper on the trip and even dipped over to Montreal for a day and night. It was just an amazing trip. When I take Kim this summer we're going to hit up New York City (I've never been, although I enjoyed Upstate New York).

You consider yourself an environmentalist and prefer natural foods/drinks. Are there any other causes you feel particularly strong about?

Honestly, I'm an armchair activist. I have a lot of strongly-held convictions that I do nothing to achieve. I try to be responsible environmentally and with my food choices, but that's about it. I admire activists who are willing to put their time, money, and pride on the line for their cause, but I can't even bring myself to do much volunteer work. I do tend to be quite liberal in social areas and more moderate economically, but I also refuse to trust corporations to act ethically or even think for their own long terms. Just take a look at the subprime mortgage catastrophe as an example…it was obvious it was going to fall apart eventually and now they want the tax payers to bail them out for being stupid while their executives take home millions of dollars in bonuses for being so rich. It makes me furious just thinking about it.

But I'll never do anything other than complain about it either.

There you have it, folks. Thoughtful and insightful answers from a new-to-you blogger. Now go visit Jacob and say hello!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Let the Interviews Begin

Back in January, I vaguely mentioned that I had some ideas floating around in my head for this blog. One of those ideas was to start interviewing some of my favorite bloggers and to post those interviews here so that you can all get to know them better. Apparently, I wasn't the only one thinking about this.

Neil, over at Citizen of the Month, had a similar idea. Tired of seeing the "big bloggers" get all the attention, he decided to try something new. Why not do a little experiment where everyone gets to be someone? Thus, The Great Interview Experiment was born.

I'm currently in the process of finishing up my first interview for the big Experiment. I also volunteered to interview at least one other person whose interviewer is MIA. And you may get to see an interview of me at some point, although my own interviewer also seems to have disappeared. Then there are my own interview plans. I'm hoping to start interviewing those lovely bloggers that have inspired me, made me laugh, taught me lessons and shared their recipes with me. Each month I'd like to feature someone new, so that I can get to know my favorite people better and other people out there in the blogosphere can meet you, too.

So, if you get an email from me asking you to answer some questions, please don't start avoiding me. I won't go away and I won't give up. As Neil says, you deserve to be someone, too! In the meantime, you can still join in on The Great Interview Experiment to get your own interview on. (I don't think Neil ever expected it to get this big, and is probably wishing we'd all stop sending people his way, but you should join in anyway.) Or you can read the completed interviews and just wait for me to send those questions your way.

Stay tuned for my first True Blogosphere Story.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

There's Still Time to Tell Your Story

Back in September, I told you about the Inspired by Diabetes Campaign and Creative Expressions contest. Well, it looks like they've extended their deadline. So, if you have a story about diabetes and how it's affected your life or the lives of loved ones, you still have time to tell it. Visit the Inspired by Diabetes website, download your submission form, and tell your story through your own creative expression. You can write an essay, create a piece of art, or come up with some other way to creatively express how diabetes has influenced your life.*

Submissions will be accepted through March 31, 2008. Sharing your story will help reach others with diabetes and will also support the Life for a Child program and U.S. youth diabetes initiatives.

What are you waiting for? Get creative!

*Make sure to check the submission guidelines for more information on acceptable entries.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Open Letter to the Universe

Dear Universe,

This morning, while merging onto the highway, you placed a car in front of me that didn't move when it was supposed to and I promptly rear-ended it with my brand new car. A car, if you remember, that I only got because my last car was totaled. Whatever it was that I did to upset you, however I've offended you, please forgive me. I didn't mean it, and I officially take it back. If you need me to make retribution, please let me know what it is I can do. I'll gladly plant a tree, care for a sick neighbor, or any other kind deed you require. Now if you would kindly stop sending negativity (and other vehicles) my way that would be greatly appreciated.

With thanks and positive thoughts,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Labeled with an F

Last week, The Caffeinated Librarian hosted a lively discussion about the label "feminist" and all that it encompasses and implies. She was prompted by an article by Leonard Pitts, and ultimately, both CL and Pitts pose the question, "why are women (and men for that matter) so afraid to be labeled as feminists?"

I think there are a number of reasons why the "f" word has become a derogatory term that many women and men shy away from, but I won't get into that. If you're interested in some of the suggestions others have come up with, read the full Pitts article and check out the comments on CL's posts. What I really want to do here, is state, in no uncertain terms, that I'm proud to be a feminist.

There. I've said it. I AM a FEMINIST. No, that does not make me a militant man-hater, if that's what you're picturing right now (because that's apparently what some people think when they hear the "f" word). I am a professional, single woman who is thankful to all those women who came before me, militant or not, who were not ashamed to wear the letter F boldly upon their chests, so that I could make my own choices in life. I'm grateful for every woman (and man) who fought for the female vote, who stood up against discrimination in the work place, who rallied against rape and violence toward women around the world. And I'm proud to consider myself one and the same with each and every one of them. If it weren't for these strong, courageous FEMINISTS, I would likely be the exact opposite of who I am today. I would not have had the option to:

  • Speak my mind
  • Vote my beliefs
  • Work as a professional in a male-dominated field
  • Wear pants to the office
  • Chose my own path
  • Buy my own house
  • Pursue each and every one of my dreams
Feminists have made so much possible for today's women. But there's still plenty of work to be done, and I am not ashamed to be counted among those who will continue to fight the fight until women can make their own choices in all situations and be treated equally no matter what they choose. Because that's truly what I think feminism is about: fighting for the opportunity to be whatever and whomever we choose to be and to receive all the same benefits (and consequences) of those choices that men do. So I hope that more women and men out there will challenge the misconception of feminism. If you're a feminist say so. Say it loud and say it proud!

As one of my favorite childhood songs goes:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

From I am Woman, lyrics by Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

Friday, February 08, 2008

Yes, We Can

I may be the last person on earth to have seen the Yes I Can video, but if you haven't seen it, you might want to check it out. While I've clearly stated my favoritism of Obama in past posts, my interest in this video goes well beyond Obama-love. It goes to the heart of the message, which is that if enough people speak up, if enough people take a stand, if enough people refuse to be silenced, change can and WILL happen.

I believe that Obama's message goes beyond politics. It goes to the heart of our desire for a future that's better than the present circumstance, whatever that may be for each of us. Whether you fall to the left or the right, or fall somewhere in between, this desire is the same. The good news is, change can happen. It happened yesterday and it can happen today. And Obama reminds us of this, just as Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and so many others have.

It's this kind of inspired hope that has been missing in our 21st Century world filled with poverty and violence and hunger and sickness. But, as Obama says, "nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change," whatever that change may be. That is where we have the freedom. We can stand up and speak out for whatever issue it is that weighs heavy on our hearts. And we can gather together with others who feel the same. And as we come together, with hope and a message, we will see things move, we will experience change.

Yes, we can.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Polenta Goodness

After reading about Belinda's surprising polenta experience, I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. I've tried polenta before and didn't really enjoy it, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to give it another chance. Belinda was so convincing, though. And after a few minutes of searching the Food Network, I found an interesting recipe for Caponata and Herb Polenta, so I went to the grocery store and got to work.

The chopping took a little longer than I would have expected, but from start to finish, I'd say it took about an hour to make. If I'd have been a bit more organized, and had a little more prep room in my kitchen, I probably could have finished it in 45 minutes. I decreased the oil used, and instead of butter I added Promise Light spread, but other than that I stuck to the recipe. I should have taken a picture, because when it was finished it looked exactly like the picture on the Food Network website. And mmm mmm mmm, was it good. The herb polenta was delicious--the rosemary and thyme gave it great flavor, and the flavor of the parmeasan cheese came through just enough without being too overpowering. The caponata was chunky and savory, providing perfect contrast to the smooth texture and light flavor of the polenta.

I'm a big fan of vegetarian meals, but even if I weren't this recipe still would have made my top 20 tasty meals list. I do wish I had noticed this was one of Rachael Ray's Double Up recipes, though, since I was only cooking for one. I now have enough caponata to feed an army. I'm glad I liked this meal, because I'll be eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week. Either that, or I'll be making the Caponata Pasta Bake over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

On the Weather, Politics, and Britney Spears

I was going to write about the weather today; how it's at least 70 degrees out on February 6th in a place where the average high temperature for this time of year is 45 degrees. And how tomorrow's high will be 45 degrees, causing me to wonder if that Inconvenient Truth isn't knocking on my front door.

Then it occurred to me that weather is my fall-back topic, like in conversations that aren't going anywhere with people I barely know. When all else fails, try "How about this weather?" I'd hate to think that I'm so bored with blogging, and my life for that matter, that talking about the weather is what I've resorted to.

So I thought maybe I'd weigh in on the political arena. We all know I love Barack, so I don't need to say that again. I will though, because I really love Barack. Don't get me wrong, Hillary's OK. She just doesn't MOVE me like Barack does, and I think that's what this country really needs right now--someone who can get the populace motivated, who can bring out voters in droves, who can give the people a voice and will listen to what they have to say.

But I decided against the politics talk because this isn't really a political blog, and I tend to shy away from political topics. They're too controversial.

The only other topic that seemed to be on my mind this morning was Britney Spears. And all I have to say about that is, "Please, Paparazzi, please leave her alone." I hope that she's getting the help that she needs, and the people that are in her life, either by genetic relation, by drunken mistake, or by (bad or good) business decisions, don't take advantage of the fact that she is fragile and hurting. I was never a big Britney fan, but now I just want her to be OK. It's a sad day when young stars (and young people in general) fall into a pattern of drug abuse and impulsive or self-destructive behavior in order to cope with the pressures and attention that they're bombarded with. Unfortunately, as long as we who read the magazines and watch the TV shows hoping for that next tidbit of juicy Hollywood gossip or that next picture of a starlet grabbing coffee at the local Starbucks exist, there will always be Paparazzi willing to give us what we're waiting for. And Britneys being stalked so we can have it.

Thing is, I'm really not much of an entertainment writer either. I'm not very good at staying on top of the "now" topics. So I decided I wouldn't write a post today after all.

Maybe next time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Weekend of Reading

I did something this weekend that I haven't done in a really long time.

I devoured a book.

It all started Thursday night, when I ran a hot bath with cranberry bubble bath, lit a candle, and went searching my TBR Shelves for a book to read while I soaked. I slid a hardcover volume from its position between The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd and Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson and then I slid into the tub. From the moment I opened the cover and read that first page of Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, until I read the last word on page 440 this afternoon at 12:35, I didn't want to (couldn't) put it down.

I don't know if it was the story or the writing style or the characters or just the moment in time that I decided to pick up this book, but it had me consumed. I barely wanted to sleep, and I couldn't bring myself to work nearly as many hours as I had planned, because all I could think about was what might happen next. I haven't felt that drawn into a story in a while.

Maybe it was my recent state of being overwhelmed, or maybe it was the dreary, rainy Friday that started off the weekend, but I fell into this book and didn't come out until I'd finished it. I hope I learned a trick or two about telling a story, because Picoult had me begging for more information at each page turn. I hope I absorbed some of her ability to build and reveal characters and their flaws. I hope I can one day write a story that sucks someone in so completely as this story did me. A whole weekend passed me by while I lived the lives of characters in a book.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Yummy Discoveries

In my attempts to get back on the healthy track and stick to my New Year's Goals, I've recently discovered a couple of foods that I've become instantly addicted to. The good news is they're actually "good for me," despite the numbers of calories and fat grams in them that might normally have me running to the hills.

LÄRABARs make a great snack after a workout, or a quick breakfast, and they're even sweet enough to be a night-time treat. From their website:

"LÄRABAR is a delicious blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices - energy in its purest form. Made from 100% whole food, each flavor contains no more than six ingredients. Pure and simple, just as nature intended."
For me, a LÄRABAR is satisfying enough that, I don't have more cravings when they're gone, unlike when I have a bowl of ice cream, a candy bar, or even a granola bar, that tends to leave me wanting more as soon as I'm finished. I'm wondering if it's the fact that there are no added sugars, only the sweetness that Mother Nature added to the fruit herself. I'm sure the healthy fat content (from 8 to 14 grams depending on the flavor) also adds to the satisfying nature of these bars.

They range from 180 to 220 calories, in a spectrum of flavors (check out their colorful wrappers) like Chocolate Coconut, Banana Cookie, Cinnamon Roll and Lemon Bar. I haven't tried one I don't like yet: Apple Pie, Ginger Snap, Banana Cookie, Pecan Pie, not a bad one in the bunch. I even found a selection of chocolate choices at Whole Foods, for when I really need that chocolate fix, but they don't seem to be on the website yet. The drawback is that they're expensive (I've found them for between $1.39 and $1.99 each). As an occasional treat, I suppose that's fine, but you won't find me eating these everyday, although I'd like to.

Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Bread has been another of my food pleasures over the last two weeks. You wouldn't think so, though, considering that it's flourless, organic, high in protein, and made from sprouted whole grains.
"Ezekiel 4:9® Bread, made from freshly sprouted organically grown grains, is naturally flavorful and bursting with nutrients. Rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and natural fiber with no added fat."
Unless you're a committed natural-foods eater, it doesn't exactly sound like something you'd grab off the shelf and hurry home to eat, now does it? I wasn't sure how I was going to like it, considering that I'm used to eating reduced-calorie whole wheat bread, which is soft and squishy, and well, low in calories. One slice of Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin Bread has 80 calories, for which I could have two slices of my usual low-cal wheat bread. Plus, E4:9 isn't exactly soft, and because it's made from sprouted grain, you have to keep it in the refrigerator if you want it to stay fresh for more than a couple of days. Cold, hard bread is not my idea of tasty. But I figured I'd give it a try, since several people had recommended it to me and I'd heard it was better for me than regular whole wheat bread.

So with a bit of hesitation, but strong resolve, I came home from Trader Joe's with my hard loaf of E4:9 and proceeded to stick one slice in the toaster for a minute, until it was warm and slightly crisp on the edges, but not completely crunchy. The smell of cinnamon and raisins, with a hint of nuttiness, had me wondering if I might have been too hard on this bread. I spread a dab of peanut butter on its surface and bit in. That was all it took. A little heat and some peanut butter and I've officially become an Ezekiel 4:9 convert. The best thing about this bread, like the LÄRABARs, is that one slice is just enough. With the reduced calorie breads, despite the high-fiber content of the variety I generally brought home, I would find myself eating two and three slices and still wanting more. Not so with E4:9. I can eat and enjoy one wonderful slice and that's the end of it. It's become my favorite after-dinner snack.

Have you tried any new foods lately? How did they rate? I'm always interested in broadening my eating horizons, so leave a comment and let me know.

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