December 25, 2010

What makes a Christmas?

As I was driving out to my aunt's this afternoon and listening to a song called "The Secret of Christmas" (gotta listen to the Christmas music before tomorrow right?),  I was considering the lyrics and wondering what actually does make a Christmas for me. I'm sure it's a little different for everyone, but here are some things that are essential parts of Christmas for me.

#1 - The album "Brand New Year" by SHeDAISY. (Yes, they capitalize all but the E like that. Don't know why.) But this is my favorite Christmas album of all time, and usually my Christmas season starts sometime after the Chamaco's birthday on the 9th when I pop in this CD and sing along while putting up the Christmas tree.  Disturbingly, the Chamaco's favorite song on the album is "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag". He probably doesn't realize it, but the premise of the song is that Santa has basically had an extreme makeover and now the girl singing has the hots for him.

#2 - The shopping trip with my sister. At some point not too long after the first event, my sister and I will go out on a big shopping expedition. I always think I'm going to get all my shopping done that day, and it never happens. But generally we sing in at least 3 stores. And the car. And generally we find stuff that we would like for ourselves that the other agrees to buy and wrap on the condition that the other acts surprised on Christmas morning.

#3 - The Ladies' Ornament Party/Cookie Exchange. This is where the season really starts hopping... nothing says Christmas quite like laughter, theivery, and multiple exclamations of "Oooh, shiny!!!" And most of the time I bring home an ornament that isn't even hideous! My Christmas tree does not have a nice set of themed ornaments, oh no... it is a random mish-mash of stuff my kid made, stuff my mom gave me over the years (she's been giving me an ornament every year for years, on the premise that when I grew up and moved out I would have some... she's still giving them to me), and mostly ornaments garnered from Ornament Parties over the years. Also the all women singing of Christmas carols is pretty awesome.

#4 - Smashing candy canes to bits with a hammer. No, seriously. I do this every year. There's a reason. A few years back one of my co-workers at MES made this stuff she called "Christmas Bark" and we all demanded the recipe. It's easy enough that even I can do it, so I made some that year, and have done so for the family Christmas gathering every year since then. One of the requirements is smashed up candy canes, and I have found the most effective method of smashing is to put them inside a couple of plastic bags and then have at them with a hammer. Fun and festive. : )

#5 - Wrapping. I almost don't know why we bother, because by the time we've helped Mom wrap everything, we've seen pretty much everyone else's gifts and maybe one or two of our own, but I guess it takes me back to the days when I was the only one old enough to wrap presents so I'd help Mom wrap everything for my younger siblings and my dad. This year I did it while wearing reindeer antlers, which was a new twist.

#6 - The annual "me singing 'Police Stop My Car' and someone else looking at me like I'm nuts. Many years ago when I was in Community Chorus and we sang at Zoolights, one of my choirmates taught me this song (to the tune of "Feliz Navidad") and we ran about through the zoo in the dark singing it. Instant holiday classic. Lyrics follow, so that you may all be educated. (This should be sung in a fake Mexican accent, ideally.)

Police stop my car
Police stop my car
Police make me stop
Walk a straight line and blow a balloon up

He wants to wish me a sober Christmas
That's why he always pull me over, Christmas
He just wants to make sure
There's no open bottles in my car

Police, road they block
Police, road they block
Police, road they block
And I can smell the donuts as they smell my breath


Police lock me up
Police lock me up
Police lock me up
'Cause when I blew, I blew a 2.1 


Item #6 leads us to...

#7 - Unconventional Christmas songs. To me, Christmas isn't Christmas without at least one listening of each of the following: "Merry Christmas From the Family" (Montgomery Gentry), "Merry Christmas from the Whole Fam-Damily" (Cledus T. Judd), "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer" (Joe Diffie), "'Twas the Day After Christmas" (Jeff Foxworthy), "Christmas at Ground Zero" (Weird Al Yankovic), "The Night Santa Went Crazy" (Weird Al Yankovic), "Spice Girls Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (no idea), "Grandpa Got Runned Over by a John Deere" (Cledus T. Judd)... Not to mention the aforementioned "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag" (SHeDAISY). There are probably more, but I have to hear all these plus three "normal" Christmas carols... "Angels We Have Heard on High", "Carol of the Bells", and "O Holy Night" (as sung by Martina McBride. Josh Groban or whatever his name is can just zip it.)

#8 - Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. 28 years now and I have not missed a Christmas morning with Mom and Dad. Sometime if I ever get married again and/or move far, far away (or even move near-ish but have in-laws), I might have to miss one, but I haven't done it yet.

#9 - Christmas afternoon get-together with extended family. Sometimes this happens up to a week after the actual Christmas, but when it does it's Christmas all over again. And it always leads to...

#10 - Hilarious family game. It just wouldn't be a family get-together at all if we didn't have at least 4 or 5 of us sit down to play what seems like a perfectly innocent game and then have some sort of hilarity ensue. This is often Apples to Apples, but can also be Mexican Train, Outburst, Taboo, Chicken Foot, or any of a host of others. Today it was a new game called simply, "What?" And I learned that my relatives are all so weird it's hard to tell which wacky idea came from who... I love that about us.

With the top ten list out of the way, I also wanted to share something... maybe it's a week early for this, but the title track of "Brand New Year" is a song that I always like to listen to a little bit after Christmas and as I head into January. I'm going to put up the lyrics for you, and I suggest you consider them...

Learning to turn the outside inside out
Having the courage to find what life is all about
Loving so purely can surely melt a frozen heart
Knowing sometimes all over's the perfect place to start

Welcome to my revolution
Lucky you, lucky me, the way we were meant to be
This is my one resolution
And I make it with no fear
To live, to love, today
'Cause it's a brand new year

Seeing the world through rose-colored eyes
Yeah, this is my one big chance, and I'm gonna take it twice
With the past down below I know love lifted me up here
So I'll take a breath, kiss the sky, toll the bell
'Cause it's a brand new year


Resiliently reclaiming me
Refining my recovery
Untwist my fate, unlock the gate
Let's make a little noise
'Cause it's a brand new year!

I mention this song because, as a career pessimist, it has always been my inclination to say something to the effect of "Hey, a whole new year.... just like the last one!" in a very sarcastic tone when January 1st rolls around. But maybe, just maybe mind you, it would be okay to look at New Year's with a little optimism... like the song says, "sometimes all over's the perfect place to start" and there's just something symbolic about taking last year's calendar down off the wall and tossing it in the trash... last year is over and done, and you get to start all over fresh in a brand new year. This is probably why people make new year's resolutions. I make new year's suggestions, but that's another blog... ;-)

Song o' the Day: "Bury Me Alive" by We Are The Fallen. It keeps being stuck in my head. (Bet you thought it was going to be "Brand New Year", didn't you? Ha!)

December 21, 2010

The changes TWO years can bring...

Last year I wrote this blog comparing Christmas season '08 and Christmas season '09. I figured I might as well keep the chain going and compare Christmas season '10. And since I'm a great fan of color coding, 2008 will be in red, 2009 will be in yellow, and 2010 will be in green. :)

2008: We lived in a falling-apart house with no heat.
2009: We live in a pretty nice apartment with gas heat.
2010: We live in the same apartment as last year. Have somehow managed to keep paying the rent. Praise God!

2008: I was unemployed. All year.
2009: I sometimes wish I worked less, but I am blessed to have a job surrounded by good, godly poeple who are passionate about what they do and make working with them so much fun.
2010: Same job situation except it has dawned on me that I really don't like teaching. Okay, so I knew that all along, but now I'm really starting to get the urge to move along... still like the people I work with, though!

2008: I did nearly all my Christmas shopping at the Dollar Tree, because it was what I could afford.
2009: I did most of my Christmas shopping at Wal-Mart... moving on up!
2010: Primarily Wal-Mart again. No huge change in this department.

2008: We got food boxes from a couple of different local organizations.
2009: An organization called to offer us a food box and I told them they could probably find someone who needed it worse than we do. After I hung up I realized what I'd just been able to say and I almost cried.
2010: Nobody even offered us a food box this year.

2008: I carried my son upstairs to his bed when he fell asleep on the couch.
2009: I can barely pick up my son, much less carry him upstairs. This only happened in the last month or two. I realized today that soon I won't be able to pick him up at all... my baby is gone. I almost cried.
2010: I can still pick up my nine-year-old boy for brief periods of time

2008: My son was the sort of co-dependent that being the only child of a single mom will get you.
2009: I have an increasingly independent eight-year-old who more and more often wants to do things by himself. I told him that I was going to get Nancy's recipe for play-doh because the stuff we make at work is better than the store-bought stuff. I said this because I thought it would be something fun we could do together. He asked if he could do it by himself.
2010: My son cooked dinner a few weeks ago. I supervised him, but the only thing I actually did for him was turn the knobs on the stove, because he can't reach them yet. He's older but still short... lol.

2008: I had a couple of friends, but mostly felt very lonely and isolated.
2009: I have some very good friends, some less-close-but-still-good friends, some casual acquaintances that always make me smile (hello CTG!), a pretty full social calendar, and sometimes wish desperately to just be home by myself for a few hours.
2010: All of the above, plus a couple of new friends... :-)

2008: I was single.
2009: Still single... no change there. : )
2010: Despite some rumors you may have heard, still single. But I guess there were at least rumors this year. Maybe next year there will be something to them! ;-)

I was remembering that when I started working where I work in September of 2009, my supervisor asked me what my goals for the future were. I told her I didn't feel I'd had enough stability in the last 7 years or so to have made any goals... I'd been in constant survival mode. My "goal" was to create as much stability in my life as possible. Looking back over 2010, it's been actually a pretty quiet year, devoid of any major upheavals. I worked a lot, I played a little... we were housed, clothed and fed. Money was tight but we were never completely without anything we actually needed. Things have been relatively stable. So I guess I got what I wanted. And maybe I'm imagining it, but I have this feeling that 2011 is not going to be anywhere near so quiet... I have the feeling that big things are about to happen. I just have no idea what. So everyone hold onto your hats, because 2011 is just around the corner!!

December 18, 2010


So, I have a confession to make. Last night, I bought a stuffed animal. And it wasn't for my kid... it was totally for me.

Sammich (not her real name) and I were digging around through the stuffed animals at Goodwill. She was looking for a Christmas gift for her child/dog Frank (not his real name, but close in a way!) and decided the ideal thing would be a stuffed animal he could play with/slowly rip to bits. Sammich found Frank an giant purple stuffed platypus... how awesome is that? Basically it was a big, round, fluffy disc (think fat, hairy frisbee) with little feet and a bill. We decided it was probably actually a platypus and not a duck. It makes me really happy to know that someone out there is making stuffed platypuses (platypi?).

That was when I saw something. A stuffed owl. It was white with black speckles, big yellow eyes (though really not big enough for an owl) and a black beak in its white face, little flipper-like wings and big white feet with black claws on them. I couldn't recall ever having seen such an adorable stuffed owl before. Or much of any stuffed owl for that matter... at least not of the variety that are clearly intended to be given to children as toys. He was also wearing a big blue satin ribbon around his neck that I thought most undignified. I picked him up to check the price tag and noticed the tag on him... he is from Build-a-Bear Workshop. Somebody went to Build-a-Bear and built an owl instead. How awesome is that? And he was only $2.99 (though unfortunately not a red tag, so I didn't get him for half price). So I just had to bring that little piece of awesome home with me... I now share my bed with a stuffed owl. Okay, and actually I'm holding it in my lap right now while I'm typing. Sometimes you just gotta snuggle something. (Oh, and also I took off the stupid blue ribbon. He looks much more dignified now.)

December 15, 2010

Somebody check my brain...

*commence guitar riff here*

No, just kidding. This blog post actually has nothing at all to do with the Alice in Chains song "Check My Brain" (which is a fabulously awesome song by the by... click that link and go check it out).

I thought it might be worth my time to somebody to check in with the state of my mind after last night's cookie experience (see previous entry if you have no idea what I'm talking about, and it might do you good to read the one before it first so you know how I got to that point). So here's how the day went.

I woke up today feeling unusually cheerful and pretty good aside from the slight lingering headache that usually follows me for a day or two after letting myself cry (still have it, actually). I was pretty determined that today was going to be a good day and there was pretty much nothing that could be done to dissuade me from that viewpoint. Indeed, not even a meeting with the manager of my apartment complex to fill out a zillion more forms and have it explained to me yet again that HUD calculates my income with funny math that results in them basing my rent on a yearly income figure that is in fact $6,000 more than I actually make in a year and thus makes my rent nearly half of my actual monthly income could dissuade me from feeling pretty darn good about things. I told her to tell corporate to call me and I'd tell them what I thought of their math, but I said it with a smile... quite often I leave that office fighting tears of injustice because I have the highest rent in the whole stupid complex because I actually work and I don't lie about my income or sit around on my butt collecting unemployment/child support. Heck, I don't even get child support. But you know what? Somehow I've managed to pay my rent for almost 2 years now and I've only been late once (and it was totally the Unemployment Department's fault... it took them 6 weeks to figure out that I'm not a 12-month employee of a school district, so they didn't want to give me any money until they had that settled), so today I said to myself, "No matter what these morons do to me, God has taken care of us in the past and I see no reason to believe that he will not continue to do so in the future... he even gave me cookies!" And I had a bit of a chuckle as I left the office.

Shortly after I was done with that, it was time to make my daily drive from Molalla to Estacada for work. Long about Colton, the midway point in the drive, I started getting these texts:

"There's a storm just south of Molalla that actually made a tornado in Aumsville, OR." (Barney)

"Tornado warnings for Clackamas and Marion counties!" (The Empress)

"Tornado in Molalla. Weird weather and sky today." (Micro Machine)

"Tornado coming to Molalla, took 3 houses near Silverton." (Tazzy) (BTW, the names of the senders are their names as they appear in my phone. The owners of the aliases know who they are... only Tazzy actually gets called that to her face. Well, and maybe "The Empress" as well...)

So for myself personally, I didn't care about this at all... I wasn't in Molalla and wouldn't be returning to Molalla for at least six hours. However, the Chamaco was still in his school. In Molalla. And part of my brain wanted to panic that my (9 year old) baby was 30 miles away and possibly in the path of an oncoming tornado (Seriously Oregon... make up your mind what sort of weather you want to have!). The rational part of my brain, however, said, "Come on... this is Oregon! If one tornado already touched down, two would be completely unheard of and what are the odds of a second freak tornado hitting the school?" And the new part of my brain that is just starting to find its voice and apparently likes to listen to a lot of Flyleaf said, "God's got him... whatever happens, God's got it. Just do what you need to do and don't worry." So I decided to listen to those two voices and went about my setting up of the classroom (for by this time I had reached Estacada) after sending off only a short text to my good-friend-who-needs-an-alias-desperately telling him about the tornado thing because I figured he'd be interested since he used to live in Texas and all. He expressed the opinion that it must be a lot warmer south of Silverton because where he was currently located (Tualatin) it was too cold for tornadoes.

When Nancy (who needs no alias because as far as I can tell she's got nothing to hide!) got to the school she told me the last she had heard was that the storm system was breaking up and while there was still a chance of some severe thunderstorms, the tornado warning was cancelled. So I put it out of my mind completely at that point... no stress, no worry for the Chamaco's safety. (I did call my mom later to make sure he'd been picked up as planned, but that's just because I'm his mom and I have to verify. Also my mom has been through chemotherapy and sometimes her memory has gaps.)

I went onward through my day mostly humming to myself the line from the song "Io Canto"  about "i rami che si intrecciano nel cielo" because the kids are talking about trees and there was a good bit of stuff about branches going on. (For you non-Italians, "rami" = "branches".) But as soon as I got back in the car, Flyleaf again. I'm pretty shocked that I'm not more tired of it than I am, though later in the drive between Estacada and Oregon City I did put in my old AVB cassette tape that I dug out. For those of you not in the know, AVB was the earlier incarnation of fairly well-known Christian vocal group Acappella... I got the AVB tape when I was probably about 7. It is truly an antique. Aside from the pure nostalgia of listening to those songs that I must have listened to a million zillion times as a child, however, it seems that the new bit of my brain that is still really amused about the cookies and keeps telling me that God is in control prefers to listen to Christian music.

I learned tonight that I only like Christmas carols (especially "Silent Night", which I quite despise in real life) when they're sung by my sisters at OC, many of whom are actually quite good singers and between them have a pretty good mix of altos and sopranos. "Angels We Have Heard On High" is my favorite, if I were forced to pick a favorite of the more common carols ("Carol of the Bells" is my all-time favorite, but wandering carolers rarely sing that one), and it sounded awesome with our ladies singing it. I really wanted to stop singing along and just listen.

I neglected to mention that our annual ladies' ornament exchange was tonight. I had the best seat in the house (right between Aracely and The Empress) and also drew the #1, which is one of the better numbers you can get, really. I got an ornament I quite like, I didn't have to steal from any little girls and make them cry, and generally I got to spend a good bit of time enjoying the fellowship with my sisters and eating more cookies than I even want to think about until next year's ornament exchange.

So yeah, I didn't get home until about 10:15 or so, I had a bit of translation to do and some other stuff I wanted to accomplish before I even got around to writing this blog, and now it's a bit after midnight. Nothing spectacular or particularly awe-inspiring happened today (no more cookies! lol) but maybe the most astounding thing about today is that I was pretty consistently happy and in good spirits all the way through it. For me, that's weird. But it's the good weird.

Song o' the Day: "Tiny Heart" by Flyleaf... there's not an official video for this one, sorry, but the link will give you audio, lyrics, and a few pretty pictures.

December 14, 2010


Other possible titles I considered for this entry:

"Seriously God? Cookies?! "

"Come to Christ... we have cookies!!!"

"I asked God for a sign... and I got cookies."

I had probably better start explaining pretty quickly here what I'm on about... sorry if this comes out a little discombobulated, but I'm just almost giddy right now... a stark contrast to last night (see previous entry).

So, tonight I was supposed to lead the discussion in my "depression class". I had already decided a week ago that my topic was going to be crying and not keeping things bottled up. After last night, I was really dreading it, because I'd already been crying all day long, and everything was making me cry, and I knew that I was going to cry if I tried to talk about crying. I thought about ditching at the last moment... it's not like I didn't have other things to do. I had translation work waiting, and somewhere I was supposed to find time to make some cookies for the ladies' ornament/cookie exchange party tomorrow night. And I don't even know how to make freaking cookies.

After much deliberation and wavering back and forth on the subject, I decided to plunge boldly ahead with the class and my intended topic, whether I cried or not, and screw the cookies... I would just go without cookies and not bring any cookies home. Simple, right? It's also important to note that after last night's deeply searching discussion with good-friend-who-needs-an-alias-desperately, I had resolved that I needed to experience God, just as he said. So starting last night and continuing on every time I got a chance all day today, I was praying to God to give me an experience... a sign... something that I would recognize as being indisputably a sign/experience from God, just so I would feel his presence and know I was heading in the right direction.

I did my class. And I cried almost the entire time. And I received more love and grace from that group of people than I knew was possible. But that wasn't the weird bit.

During the entire class there were two big platters of cookies sitting on the table. Apparently Kaye, who had not baked in years she said, had gotten the urge to bake cookies this afternoon and had brought some in the hopes that the class would eat them and get them out of her house. Nobody touched them. At the end of the class, she pretty much forced me to load up a plate with cookies and take them home with me.

It didn't hit me until I got halfway to my mom's (where I was headed to pick up the Chamaco).... not only did I do my class, I had cookies. I laughed out loud and said, "Seriously, God? Cookies?! "  And I won't say I heard a voice because I didn't exactly, but I more felt him say, "See? I even care about the trivial stuff like cookies... I can handle the details. You can trust me." And I was laughing at the absurdity of God giving me cookies, of all things, even as at the same time I burst into tears for the zillionth time today. I have never laughed so hard and cried so hard simultaneously. I almost had to pull over. It was a ridiculous, trivial little thing that probably has no significance to anyone else but me (though the good-friend-who-needs-an-alias-desperately said this was an 'awesome story') and totally appealed to my sense of absurdity, but there was no doubt in my mind... God gave me cookies.

And even though I am both emotionally and physically exhausted (all the crying plus lack of sleep, no doubt... I didn't get to bed until almost 4 last night), I inexplicably feel really good. I mentioned that to the good-friend-who-needs-an-alias-desperately, and his response was "Ahhh... the peace of God."

Yeah, that sounds about right.

So, fellow ladies attending the ornament/cookie exchange tomorrow night... I'm bringing cookies. They're homemade, but I didn't make them. God did. So if you think they're nasty, take it up with him... I'm going to bed and resting up for tomorrow, because I don't doubt that God will spend another day or two making me laugh and cry. Maybe longer, even. But I will leave you with this....

Songs o' the Day: "Fully Alive" by Flyleaf, plus "Again", also by Flyleaf. I've been doing a lot of Flyleaf today. In fact, I'll even throw in a third one just because I love the video (and the song is pretty darn good too)... "All Around Me"  (All 3 of these songs made me cry today.)

December 13, 2010

My thoughts on paper (screen. Whatever.)...

I don't even really know where to start right now... so many things are swirling around in my head. And probably most of what I'm gonna say here isn't anything I haven't said out loud in the last hour, but knowing me... who knows? I think by writing things down... taking it out of my head and putting it there where I can look at it and go "Oh, okay... so that's what that looks like, then." (Oddly enough, I didn't even realize I did that until I wrote that just now.)

This brings me to the topic du jour... introspection. Generally something I avoid like the plague. Whatever's going on in there, I don't wanna know about it. Keep the voices quiet and I'll do my thing and they can do theirs. This only works for so long, though, because voices multiply... try it for yourself. Enter a quiet space, like say an office where people are working, and if you start talking to one person, someone will chime in with their opinion and before you know it nobody's getting any work done because of all the chatter. (This is especially true where I work.)

But I may as well say it and get it out of the way... in many areas of my life I have stagnated. I don't know for how long now I've been sitting here waiting for something to change, and it doesn't. And I rave and rant and rail about how I want something - anything - to be different than it is now, but I never do anything because I haven't got the foggiest idea what to do or what I want to accomplish.

Profesionally speaking, I'm 28 years old and I still don't even know what I want to be when (if) I grow up. Here's what I know by process of elimination - teaching isn't it. Neither is fast food or residential care. I could go either way on funeral transport or living history interpreting... both of those things were still fun when I stopped doing them, but I don't know if they always would have been because I didn't do it long enough for it not to be fun, if that makes any sense. I'm still just "all grown up and still waiting to be a rockstar"... just like the button on my backpack says. (Seriously, in all my daydreams and many of my night dreams, I'm a rockstar... perhaps lame, but true.) (Side note: I just remembered the only time I've ever in my life had any sort of "ah-ha" moment... somehow we wound up at an Acappella concert - the band Acappella, not just people singing without music - and they were doing one of their talky bits between songs and the guy who was talking described them as "musicianaries" (musician + missionary in case anyone didn't get that). I was probably 15 at the time. I remember turning to Audra, who has been around for most of the dramatic moments in my life and saying, "That's what I want to do.")  (See, this thinking in parenthetical discursions thing really works for me!)

Spiritually... I've barely advanced from where I was almost 14 years ago when I was baptized. That's a horrible and painful thing to admit (even worse to note that most of that tiny bit of advancement has happened within the last two years). I know I'm not where I should be, and I have absolutely no idea how to get there, which is heartbreakingly sad considering I've been attending church quite literally my entire life with the exception of about two months in 2008. Intellectually I have a lot of knowledge... you don't sit through 28 years of Bible classes and sermons without picking up something. Emotionally, however, it has never clicked... I have a pretty long history of being emotionally retarded, so this doesn't surprise me. I can't cope with my own emotions (in fact, I like to ignore them or bottle them up) and I hate everyone else's. Someone recently told me (like about an hour ago) that I needed to "experience God". That's totally correct, and I've had a few close calls... the mission trip to Toluca was one of them. And this is where the spiritual crosses over into the emotional.

My biggest struggle, the issue that pervades every other aspect of my life, is loneliness, isolation, disconnect... whatever face it's wearing today, I'm talking about the overwhelming sense of being by myself. Even in a room packed with so many people that I can't breathe. I want desperately to not be alone... yet I'm far too scared to let anyone very close because every time I've tried I've gotten hurt. Badly. Part of my growth in the last two years has been letting a select few people get way closer than I've ever let anyone get... still not too close, but progress, I guess. In the last two years I have met four - count 'em, four! - people not related to me who I did not know prior to two years ago who have managed to scale my defenses and peek over. The first three are women, which seemed safe enough even though it was odd at the time because I didn't (and don't) actually like women in general. The fourth one is a man... a surprise latecomer who just hopped over the walls ("Walls? What walls?") and made himself at home. Come to find out, that's just how he operates. (Nobody read too much into that, okay? It's not that sort of a relationship.)

Getting back to my original point (introspection, if you'd forgotten while I was babbling) it is something I have historically avoided because it depresses me to no end. And when you are like me, someone who tends toward depression anyway and even more so during the nine months of Oregon winter, anything that is just going to depress you more is a good thing to avoid. The drawback, though, is that I have not introspected (I don't know if it was a verb before but it is now!) in YEARS and I no longer have the foggiest idea who I am because I haven't bothered to check in. So I am one of two things... I'm either the most authentic person you'll ever meet because I'm deliberately not affecting any change of any kind on myself, or I'm the most fake person you'll ever meet because even I don't know who I really am. It could even be both, because recent events have shown that I'm totally at home with that sort of dichotomy.

So I'll start with what I know: I don't like where I'm at. I don't know where I am, exactly, but I hate it here. I want to get out. I don't know what I'm in, what it is I want out of exactly, or where I would go if I got out, but I want OUT.

What I know from the last few hours, though, is that if I want to get out of the mire I'm currently mired in, there are some things I'm gonna have to let go of... things I've been holding onto tightly because they give me reasons and excuses for how I got this way. But I've also realized that if I don't let go, I'm gonna end up like my dad. (Not trying to be harsh, Dad, if you're reading this, but we both know it's true.) And I'm going to have to be introspective and it's probably going to depress me. A lot. But (there's a big but in every crowd, and it's usually mine!) I currently find myself in the previously unknown situation of having closeish friends. Closeish Christian friends, even. Aside from the one who just jumps walls, I'm going to have to let the walls down and let them in so when I fall (and I'm going to fall... hard) they can catch me. And I have to trust that they will catch me and not let me repeat 2002 (the year of somnambulent suicide attempts). There are a lot of things hindering me, and I have a lot of work to do, and I don't want to do any of it. So why blog about it, then? Well, here's why:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us..."  (Hebrews 12:1)

You, o blogosphere, are my cloud of witnesses... and it's very likely that some of those people I was talking about who scale walls are going to read this. And then you'll know I need a lot of help... more than I'll ever be able to express out loud in words... spoken word is not my thing. (Though I did probably one of the better jobs of it I've ever done a couple of hours ago, and it was still pitiful.) So witness this, people... I am hereby attempting to throw off everything that hinders (my past, certain people) and the sin that so easily entangles (4 of you know exactly what I'm talking about) and run the race marked out for me... as soon as I can figure out where the heck the racetrack is.

Song(s) o' the Day: This one started playing on my randomly shuffled iPod at an oddly significant moment earlier... "What I've Done" by Linkin Park. See it here (and I promise never ever to put up a Linkin Park song again... this is the only one I like). Follow that up with a chaser of "Broken Pieces" by Apocalyptica (yes, we've had this one before, but you can see it again here if you like). And for the grand finale, my parting shot to my ex-husband before I completely put him out of my mind except on Sundays when I have to take the Chamaco to him... "Anything But Love" by Apocalyptica... 99% of this song applies directly to my marriage, which was fabulous in its dysfunctionality and was truly based on anything but love. Never before have I heard a song that so completely said what I was thinking and feeling, and I'm kind of scared to ever have it happen again.

December 4, 2010

Explanation of my recent silence...

I've been busy. Do you need any more explanation than that?

Somehow I blinked and missed most of 2010, and the holidays are now upon us once more. For me, however, the precursor to the holiday season is "translating 50,000 report card comments" season, which usually happens the week prior to Thanksgiving and on into the beginning of Thanksgiving week. The staff of the MRSD certainly did not disappoint this year, and I was translating way more than I ever care to do ever again (and yet probably will do again in March).

Seemingly in celebration of the victory of surviving conference translation, the Sunday night before Thanksgiving I came down with the flu. I have not had the flu in almost ten years. I hadn't missed it really. Monday I called in to work both at my primary place of employment and the school at which I'd been scheduled to interpret for parent/teacher conferences that evening. I figured they might not like me puking on parents... call it a hunch. Tuesday morning I was feeling slightly better but I called in to work anyway because our policy is that you're supposed to be vomit-free for 24 hours before you come back to work. And then it snowed. Or technically it had already snowed... I hadn't gotten out of bed to look out the window and know it yet. By Tuesday night, the Chamaco was praying to the porcelain god as well, so I called in for Wednesday. Thursday was Thanksgiving and the Chamaco was still running a fever and feeling puny... sort of a bummer holiday. Fortunately I had both Thursday and Friday off as paid holidays, so I missed a whole week of work with no detrimental effect to my paycheck. Points for me. : )

So now we're in that final stretch before Christmas break... for my friends in the public school system that's exactly 10 more school days before they get two weeks off. For those of us in the non-profit sector it's also 10 school days, but with an extra couple of work days with no students thrown in on top of that. The Chamaco's last day before break is the 17th, mine is the 21st. (BTW, one of the teachers I translate for on a regular basis keeps putting things like "November 23st" in her class newsletters, and it cracks me up. No offense to my teacher friends, but on the whole you guys don't proofread at all and some of you are fairly illiterate. I don't care what degree you have.)

I find myself contemplating last year's posting about the differences between 2008 and 2009. I'll probably do some sort of addition to it contrasting those two years with 2010... really I can only think of one notable difference, and I'm not sure how to phrase it without getting myself into trouble. 2010 has been pretty uneventful, but maybe I needed that after the constant upheaval and negativity that constituted 2002-2008. I sense, however, that the break is over and that great things are afoot for 2011 (to be followed by the end of the world in 2012.... yay!) My Google homepage counts down to the end of the B'ak'tun (the Maya long count calendar)... 2 years and 17 days left, people! : ) According to the Aztecs, however (whom I also track on my Google page), today is a rather benign 11-Acatl and they don't forsee the world even potentially ending for another few years at least. (Every 52 years, according to the Aztecs, there has to be a ceremony to keep the sun moving. Seemingly, though, it's been chugging along just fine without the Aztecs for a while now... if only the Aztecs had realized that it was the Earth that was moving and the sun is actually relatively stationary.)

So anyway, it's off to beddy-bye for me. I regret not having anything particularly meaningful to say to my reading several, but this was really just a check-in post. I will, however, leave you with a steaming pile of...

Song o' the Day: "Show Me How to Live" by Audioslave. Been pondering that one a bit lately. Click on the link to see/hear it... I apologize profusely for linking you to Vevo, but I was left with no choice....

November 1, 2010

Some thoughts on prayer, and other random stuff...

Most of you are probably aware that depression is a thing I've struggled with off and on (mostly on) since high school. Most of you probably aren't aware, however, that I've been going to a Bible-based class on Monday nights at the church in Molalla. We also read from a book called "Happiness is a Choice", which was written by a couple of Christian psychologists whose names escape me at the moment. Don't worry, the prayer stuff I mentioned in the title will happen along in a minute here...

Tonight we were discussing how prayer can aid with alleviating depression. Well, we started out there, anyway... we do tend to wander a bit. A question was raised about praying wrongly, or praying for something you don't actually want... praying insincerely, I guess you might call it. This spiraled into another discussion... why are people so often dishonest in prayer? Do they really think that God doesn't know what's actually in their head and in their heart? Somebody mentioned certain things that they felt they shouldn't tell God about, and my reaction was, "What, you think He doesn't know about that already??"

I was remembering back to something that made a pretty big impression on me as a teenager. I went to a youth rally - I think it was actually in Gold Beach - and the speaker there (I forget who it was, but it may have been Kevin Woods) said something to the effect of, "God is supposed to be like your father, right? So how many of you go up to your dad and say, 'Oh Father who art in the garage, if it be your will please may I have ten dollars?' None of you do that! You walk up to him and say, 'Hey Dad, can I have ten bucks?'" That made a lasting impression on my view of prayer, and perhaps also contributed to my "suburban dad" theory of God (see a previous blog entry for more on this).

Those that know me know that I'm not big on formality. Okay, actually I despise formality. And I REALLY hate it when church people, while in the church, put on a façade of being even more churchy than they actually are. This also applies to prayer. If you're going to speak to God on my behalf in front of the congregation, you'd better be speaking to God, not reciting some prayer you memorized, not using your standard form prayer where the only thing that changes from week to week is the names of the people on the sick list in the bulletin. There are certain people whose prayers I can recite almost word for word along with them, and certain people who I know will use the word 'father' at least 7 times in a 45 second prayer... unnecessarily, at that. Who, in their normal course of speaking to their dad, begins and ends nearly every sentence with the word 'father'? Nobody, that's who. 

And don't misinterpret... I'm all for giving God the respect that is due to him, but I'm also all for continuing to speak regular English. And as a language nerd, it absolutely cracks me up that people who get up to do public prayers start inserting "thee" and "thy" and the like, as if it makes them sound all formal and holy. In actual fact, "thee", "thy", "thou", etc. are the informal pronouns (direct object, possessive and personal, respectively) from old English. Back in the 1500s, you would have used those pronouns with your children or your spouse. The pronoun "you" (which was the formal pronoun) was used only with adults who were not your family members or close friends, and other people who somehow merited a great deal of respect. Most Latin-based and even Germanic languages still have the formal/informal second-person pronouns (usted/tú in Spanish, Lei/tu in Italian, Sie/du in German, and many more no doubt). English, somewhere along the line, lost our informal pronoun (thou) and decided to just use the formal one (you) all the time for everyone. So in actuality, people who think they're sounding all formal and respectful when they say "thou" or "thee" to God are actually talking to him as though he is a child or close family member/friend. And if they go into it with that attitude in mind, I'm marginally okay with it (though not completely okay, since that has fallen out of use in modern English), but most of them are not thinking of it in that light I guarantee you.

And what's with people who think they can't be honest with God, anyway!?!? It's not like he doesn't already know what you're thinking. Me personally, I'm very honest with God in my prayers. "Hey God... I'm pretty ticked off right now, and I need you to help me refrain from saying something unfortunate to _______" is a fairly common opener for me. I can be open with God on a wide range of emotions, from ticked off to depressed to horny (particularly heavy on the horny lately too, I must admit) and everything in between, because I operate on the theory that I'm not telling him anything he doesn't already know. So why pray at all, you ask? Well, I don't know about you, but with most of my close friends I already know when they're upset or whatever without them telling me about it. But of course we talk it over anyway, because that's the sort of relationship we have, and this is how relationships grow and stay strong. See where I'm going with this?

And actually, I think complete honesty is healthy in any relationship, not just your relationship with God. Thinking it over in class earlier, I realized that all of my best friendships are with the people I feel I can say anything to... the ones who know the good and the bad of me and still like me. Just recently I met someone who seems to have a similar approach to communication, and we have gone in just under 3 weeks from complete strangers to what I would term very good friends, and I think it works because neither of us feels the need to hold back anything. I really do feel I could say anything I thought or felt to this person (and this individual will probably receive a cool blog alias sooner or later) and we could discuss it like rational adults and it'd be cool. I like that.

Anyway, we need a Song o' the Day.

Song o' the Day: "Fully Alive" by Flyleaf. See/hear it here. I've chosen this one because it sort of sums up how I feel lately.

October 31, 2010


By freak of chance, I just happened to notice that the first post on this blog was made exactly one year ago today. So happy birthday to the blog!

That thought led me to need to review mentally the last 12 months. Yes, I'm that sort of sentimental. Who knew? But I decided to compare my mental state right now (which, admittedly, is a bit altered from normal over the last two weeks... probably something to do with not sleeping) with my mental state of 12 months ago.

12 months ago I was still mad at the universe. Things had started to turn around at that point, but I hadn't really noticed it yet. I was tentatively beginning to let the walls down a bit and let a few people in closer than I'd let anyone in years and form some real friendships, but I still wasn't very sure about the idea. One of my earlier entries in this blog was about my discomfort with crying and excessively emotional people, probably because I didn't have very many emotions of my own yet... I was still mostly numb.

Now I'm alive again. I laugh, I cry, I gossip and giggle with my select few best girlfriends (though most women are still more than I can tolerate, and I think that's just a personality quirk rather than actual damage). I have at least three friends outside my family that I'm comfortable telling ANYTHING to. I'm no longer repulsed by emotional displays... I still hate concocted drama, but again, personality quirk. I still don't feel things maybe as deeply as most people do, but I feel things. Sometimes things don't go the way I would want them to, but now I have the faith that everything will eventually work out for good in the end. My broken pieces are coming together, and I'm excited to see what I look like when everything's done.

Also, 12 months ago my Italian wasn't nearly as good as it is now. I pretty much rock! LOL

Now, with that understanding of myself and my progress, I have a few new projects for myself:

#1) Get rid of the little voice in my head (which sounds a lot like my ex-husband) that always tells me how worthless and stupid I am. It (he) is wrong, and was always wrong. My fault for letting it (him) make me believe.
#2) Discover what I'm passionate about... or if I'm even capable of such. I'm not sure yet if I don't feel things deeply because I'm still healing, or if it's because I just don't. But I think somewhere out there, there might me something that makes me light up. I'm curious to know what it is.
#3) Figure out what I want to be if/when I grow up.
#4) (this is the corny-sounding one) "Dance like no one is watching, love like you've never been hurt." I want to do that... I want to not feel so self-conscious and defensive all the time. I just want to be me.

Last December I did a post about some new year's "suggestions". I did pretty well on most of those, actually. So it's a little early, but maybe these are my "suggestions" for 2011.

Song o' the Day: An Apocalyptica triple-header! Song #1 is "End of Me" by Apocalyptica featuring Gavin Rossdale. Hear/see it here.  Song #2 is "Broken Pieces" by Apocalyptica featuring Lacey Sturm of Flyleaf. Hear/see it here. And finally we get to song #3, "Not Strong Enough" by Apocalyptica featuring Brent Smith of Shinedown. You can hear it here, but all you'll get to see is some album art because there isn't an official video. Yet. I want there to be. ;)

October 28, 2010

Cuando menos piensas, sale el sol....

This is/isn't a review of Shakira's new album, Sale el Sol. I say "is", because I'm going to go ahead and give a quick opinion of the album. I say "isn't" because the meat of the blog post will be after that... skip down a bit, you'll find it. I'll even throw in my usual row of handy-dandy asterisks to help you. But now to the music...

I have to say that the album is much as I thought it would be... closer to old-school Shakira, but with some of the newer elements mixed in. The only track on the album I really don't like is "Lo que más", which is a little too whiny of a love ballad for my sensibilities. "Loca" and "Rabiosa", on the other hand, have been taking turns getting stuck in my head for the nearly a week that I've owned the album. Also the title track, "Sale el sol", but more on that later in the blog.

Overall, this is probably the best album Shakira has put out since Fijación Oral, Vol. 1., and is arguably better than Laundry Service, which had its dodgier moments. Really the last great album from Shakira was Dónde están los ladrones?, and I think we've finally gotten some of that groove back. : )

Semi-permanently lodged in my brain this week has been the title track of the album Sale el Sol. Or more accurately, the first line or two of the chorus. The bit that goes, "Un día después de la tormenta, cuando menos piensas, sale el sol."  Translated (and this is not a literal translation, but a translation that matches the spirit of the phrase, for anyone reading who might happen to be bilingual and say to themselves, "Hey! That's not what that middle bit means!"), this means "One day after the storm, when you least expect it, the sun comes out."

There's a lot of truth in that. We humans sometimes get so caught up in life's storms that we forget that no storm lasts forever (unless you live on Jupiter... the Great Red Spot is pretty close to being an eternal storm). And when the storm is over, the sun comes out. Some of us, though, after spending a lot period of time - years, even - in a storm become almost afraid of the sun. I am one of those people.

I am afraid of happiness. I am afraid to acknowledge that things are going well, because whenever things start going well, I wait anxiously for the other shoe to drop and for the storm to start again, because that's where I'm most comfortable... it's what I know. The sun starts shining on me and I'm continually scanning the horizon for the clouds because they've become like old friends.

Well my friends, the sun is shining on me and has been for a bit over a year now. And despite my searchings I'm having a hard time finding any clouds in the sky, and it seems the sun is determined to shine on even brighter, at least into the foreseeable future. So my proposition for myself from now until the end of the year is to enjoy the sun while it lasts... to accept the warmth without keeping one eye on the horizon. El sol ya salió, and I'm gonna soak it up. : )

Song o' the Day: "Sale el sol" by Shakira, naturally. Though to give everyone a break from Shakira and to do something completely different (llama!) I'll also throw in "Here Without You" by Three Doors Down, which is oddly appropriate right now for reasons I don't feel I'm at liberty to explain. : )

October 3, 2010

Gypsy/Gitana, Romani/Roma

Both of the first two above mentioned things are Shakira songs. They are, in fact, two different language versions of the same song... oddly, the Spanish version is much less irritating. This is probably why the English version is on the last album, but the Spanish version has to be purchased separately off of iTunes.

Speaking of Shakira, she might be about to come out with a decent album, finally! It's been a while... Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 was the last actually GOOD album I can recall - the English-language counterpart Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 was not nearly as good, and we'll try not to speak ill of She Wolf... though it's difficult. The good news is that the new album, Sale El Sol, is about to drop and judging by the first single, Shakira has finally realized that she is NOT Beyoncé, nor should she try to be. The first single, "Loca", is more old-school Shakira but with her current favorite trick of inviting a rapper to join her. It comes out very reggaetón influenced (kind of "La Tortura", but with a rapper instead of Alejandro Sanz), but I can handle that. The song has been WAY stuck in my head over the last few days.

But I have gotten sidetracked. My original point was to bring up gypsies... or the Roma (or Romani) as they prefer to  be called. Turns out, there actually is a thing called "antiziganism", which is to the Roman what anti-semitism is to the Jews. All over Europe (most notably in France, Italy, Serbia and Romania), the Roma are being actively persecuted and even locked in concentration camp type facilities, being denied jobs and housing, and occasionally having their settlements fire-bombed, and for whatever reason this human rights violation seems to be totally cool with the European Union. If you're interested at all in this, check out the website and watch the video "Lashi Vita", for starters. "Lashi Vita" focuses solely on the Roma living in Italy, most of whom are refugees from Yugoslavia. The next vid on that site I plan to watch when I get a chance (the videos seem to run about 30 minutes long, be warned) is "The Last Days of Sulukule", which is about a 1,000 year old Roma settlement in Istanbul that was recently destroyed by the local government of Istanbul. ("Yes, who cares that these people have lived here for a millenium or so? We need a new shopping mall!"... at least that's how I imagine the thinking must have gone.)

Every now and then I get lost in the perilous abyss that is Wikipedia, and end up reading about things like this. In this particular instance, I'm just annoyed with Europe in general for deciding that it's okay to single out one minority, label them criminals, and turn the collective back of the European Union on these people. There are also some pretty good videos about this subject on YouTube... search "I Am a Roma Woman" to see some PSA type things.

Song o' the Day: Today you get two for one! First song is "Loca" by Shakira (see vid here), because it's been in my head a positively wicked amount this week. Second song is "Gitana" by Shakira. The Spanish version wins major points for NOT including the lyric "I might steal your clothes and wear them if they fit me".... I think the Roma might take offense to that. You can see a video for "Gitana" here. I recommend watching "Gitana" first, actually, then watching "Loca". Because then it becomes painfully apparent that Shakira needs a few cheeseburgers. I've never before seen her quite as thin as she is in the "Loca" vid, and I don't think it's a good thing, necessarily.

July 11, 2010

Luke 6:38....

It's been an interesting week... I'll see if I can hit some of the highlights.

I've been stressing a good bit over money lately - and I probably shouldn't. God always gets me by in one way or another. But since I got laid off on May 28th and have had absolutely nada de income since then, I have begun restricting my trips to Oregon City and thus to church as well. The first thing I cut was my Saturday voyage to English classes... I offered to hold a class in Molalla for any of my students that wanted to come, only one took me up on it. The Wednesday night church service seemed like the next logical one to go, since I have to go to Oregon City twice on Sundays anyway to pick Damian up from his dad's. I hadn't been to a Wednesday night service since May. But this week I really wanted to go... but I was afraid if I did I wouldn't have enough gasoline to get back to OC on Saturday for skit rehearsal for ASBA and then back to church again twice on Sunday. Yikes! So I decided to practice that "giving it to God" thing. I told him that I was pretty sure if he wanted me to be there, he'd find a way to cover the gas money and I'd just trust him. Did God deliver? Um, yeah, I'd say he definitely made a statement. While I was at church Wednesday night, someone gave me $50 out of the blue.  That's TWO tanks of gas. For those who will argue that it was coincidence, let me ask you... how often does someone coincidentally give YOU $50? Yeah, that's what I thought. And God wasn't even done yet.

On Thursday, I found out that the Oregon Unemployment Department had finally pulled its collective head out of its collective backside on and decided that, yes, I am eligible for unemployment benefits... a mere six weeks after I got laid off. And when did this actually happen? Wednesday... the very day I was dithering around worrying about having enough money to drive to church. God had already been all over that one, and I was too busy fretting to pay attention. The money didn't actually get deposited into my account until Friday, but that still would have been in plenty of time to get to skit rehearsal on Saturday. It seems that God was merely reassuring me with the $50... something I'd notice, something I couldn't ignore or overlook. Not the first time God has pulled that particular stunt, actually, but last time it was $5, not $50.

Also one of my students (the one who lives in Molalla and was the only one who had shown up for the Molalla class) critcized me roundly when I told her I wasn't teaching any more for financial reasons. "Why didn't you say something?!" she demanded. "We could have all chipped in a dollar for gas money! Or I could just drive you myself, actually..."

Saturday morning I taught English class at Oregon City. Maria drove me there, and said she would gladly continue to do so for the rest of the term (we're all taking August off). So now not only is God pretty much throwing money at me this week, but he's also lowering my expenses.

And apparently he wasn't even done yet. This evening (Sunday) as I was getting ready to leave to go to evening service, it dawned on me that I had not checked the mail on Saturday. So I meandered over to the office where the mailboxes are and surprise! One thing in my mail box (I usually don't get mail) - a letter from my grandparents. Inside the letter was a check for $150 and a note explaining that they did not want to be paid back... they had just heard (probably via my mom) that money was tight and they "wanted to make sure I was all right".

So tonight after the Chamaco was in bed, I sat down to pay some bills that weren't even overdue yet (I still have 3 days, even), and a verse kept popping into my head. I'm fantastic at remembering general verse content, but I never know where the verses are actually found so I had to look it up...

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." - Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Yeah, that sounds about like my week.

July 4, 2010

Green alien goo...

AVOCADO: (noun, English) A food substance (fruit?) with a dark green, wrinkly exterior and a soft, squishy, paler green interior surrounding a large central seed that makes a rather satisfying *thunk* sound when dropped on the counter.


AVVOCATO: (noun, Italian) A person who practices the law profession, in altre parole, a lawyer. Also makes a rather satisfying *thunk* sound when dropped on the counter.

So, here's my current predicament. I find myself in my unemployed stretch of the year, this year scheduled to last until September 7th or so. I have dyed my hair back to a more subdued sort of color because I can't afford the upkeep on the red. The water no longer turns pink when I shower. However, my hair kinda damaged, and the only conditioners I can presently afford are the cheap 99 cent Suave things which do pretty much NOTHING for  my hair. Oddly, you can't buy conditioner/shampoo with food stamps. Here's a nice shot of my hair:
Looking a bit fried, no?

As it happens, you can buy avocados with food stamps. And olive oil. I did some digging around on the interwebs for homemade conditioning mixes, and found one involving avocados and olive oil, both of which I already had on hand. The result was this: ---->

Totally looks like something you'd want to cover your head in, right?

But, daring adventurer that I am, I decided to go for it, figuring that if that one didn't help, I'd try the olive oil/egg mix  next. Why did I go for avocado first? Well, because I had a surplus of avocados and I was afraid they were going to go bad before I used them all, that's why.

So I got my hair wet and wrung it out a bit, and started putting the goo in my hair with my head hanging over the bathtub. I soon discovered an unfortunate side effect was that it looked like someone had barfed avocados in my bathtub (Speaking of barf, you should have seen the hair clog I pulled out of my drain immediately before I started this process. Looked like the famed Coiled Crap Hound!). I found this vaguely nauseating, because I am actually not fond of avocados as a food product in and of themselves. I like them in their guacamole form, but as far as I'm concerned that's the only thing they're good for at all. I had them on hand to make guacamole out of. I remember when I was in Mexico I complained loudly many times about how I could not get a sandwich from the school cafeteria thing that didn't have avocado slices in it. I don't like the taste of straight avocado, and I'm not particularly fond of the smell either. But I got the stuff in my hair and settled in to wait.

Speaking of other things you can get with food stamps that aren't strictly food - baking soda and vinegar. To you is fun science experiment for kids/papier mache volcano fuel. To me is drain cleaner. I figured since my bathtub was already smelling kind of weird from the avocados (and post hair clog) I'd pour some baking soda down the drain and follow it up with a chaser of vinegar. My mom taught me this trick... poor man's Drano. (My apartment manager also told me that a bottle of bleach poured down the drain once every couple of weeks is a good preventative measure, but you can't get bleach with food stamps.) I just like the hissing noise the drain makes for a while until everything settles down again. It would be good for convincing a little kid that there's a monster living in the drain. :)

By the way, anyone besides me ever notice that there is no generic, cheap brand of baking soda? You can get Arm & Hammer or... you can not buy baking soda. Why does Arm & Hammer have the monopoly on baking soda?!

About 15 minutes in to my half an hour wait time, I discovered something interesting. Apparently after a while the olive oil starts to separate from the avocado and run out from the edges of the shower cap. I just assumed it was good for the skin and rubbed it in, since I was going to take a shower pretty soon anyway.  I also rubbed it into my scalp really good, because I could feel the olive oil trickling down there too, and my scalp/hair tends toward dry... can't hurt, right? The recipe I read said to wash the avocado out with "a mild shampoo". I was just hoping I could get the stuff out of my hair. I think that could be rather embarrassing at church in the morning.

SOMEONE: What's that green thing in your hair?
ME: Oh, that's avocado. I guess I missed some.
SOMEONE: (backs away slowly)

It was actually surprisingly easy to get out of my hair... I think I pulverized it well enough before I put it in there. Chunks are the enemy. So far, however, I'm not noticing any appreciable difference in the status of my hair while it's still wet. If something changes after it's dry, I'll let you know.

May 2, 2010

Crazy Goats, early 1900s Vacation Spots, and Frisbee Golf

(Resists temptation to write parodied song about "Crazy Goats" to the tune of the song that has been stuck in my head for over a week straight.)

So, Sister Sibling spent the night last night and we were up WAY too late and got up WAY too early, which probably led to this video here being WAY funnier than it should have been.

Phrase of the Day established early on: "This is a white man's crazy goat!"

Early in the day it was established that this should be the day in which we play Frisbee Golf. We've been discussing for many long times now about how we need to play frisbee golf one of these days, and today was it, darn it! Who cares if it's horribly windy? Not us! So we set boldly forth to find a second frisbee, since I only have one in my posession. That was easy enough, and we settled upon Clark Park as the place in which we ought to toss frisbees at objects. The wind was pretty crazy, and a few times we had throws that went negative distance... we'd throw a frisbee in the forward direction and it would actually catch in the wind and land several feet behind the position we'd thrown it from. Pars were set ridiculously high and we still managed to go over them more often than not. We did, however, decide that if one under par is a "birdie" and two under par is an "eagle", then 150 or more under par is a "flock of starlings".

Speaking of starlings, I managed to severely startle four of them with a frisbee. I also managed to land my frisbee across a fence and on top of a roof. (Bloody wind!) Fortunately there were some dudes standing around on the ground on that side of the fence, and one of them quite athletically jumped up onto the roof (after climbing on a propane tank) and got it for me and tossed it back.

No squirrels were harmed during our game of frisbee golf.

Having run out of new objects to hit with frisbees, we decided to go ranging about and try to find a new place to play. Ivor Davies Park was too devoid of anything to hit with frisbees except a pond (not an ideal target), Fox and Long parks are both too close to the road and too full of children (and people get mad when you label their child as a par five and then chuck frisbees at him/her), so we decided to go find Wilhoit Springs Park, which was a popular vacation destination in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Check it out here. We found it, and it was cool (pics on Facebook), but not a great place for frisbee golf either.

My left knee has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now... not sure what I did to offend it. But today I banged it into a picnic table at Clark Park in a way it seemed to find most offensive, and then after I made it hike all over Wilhoit Springs it decided to hate my guts. I've been trying to make amends with rest and ice most of the afternoon. So far, so good. And now, my favorite sign of the times...
Song o' the Day: "Anni Miei" by Laura Pausini. For no particular reason.

March 15, 2010


By now it's not news to anyone who knows us that the Chamaco occasionally has moments of startling maturity. The one that stands out most clearly in my mind happened when he was 4. We were in the car (as we usually are when these moments occur) and he was weighing out loud the pros and cons of living at my house versus living at his dad's house. His closing statement to his own argument was this: "I think I like living at your house better, because you have rules. Daddy doesn't have any rules, really, and that just doesn't seem safe to me."

It helps that he's the sort of kid you can talk to with explanations like, "When I make rules, I'm not just trying to spoil your fun. I make rules to keep you safe, to keep you healthy, and to help you grow up to be a good person." And he accepts this. We'll see if he still believes me when he's a teenager...

But as it stands now he's eight years old. Most of the time he's content to run around making machine gun noises, play video games, and spout trivia about things that I have no knowledge of or interest in either one. But every now and then we get in a car and drive a long way, and the Chamaco has inherited his father's non-comprehension of the term "comfortable silence" - any silence occurring when there is at least one other person present must immediately be filled. So Saturday night we were driving home from la casa de mis tíos in the dark and he started talking. I'm pretty sure he thinks out loud.

"I think it's time I had some chores," he announced.

We had touched on this topic before, but I could tell from his tone of voice that this time he meant business. "That's a good idea," I said. "What sort of chores would you like to have?"

"I'm not sure. What are some things I could do?"

He's been helping me fold laundry and receiving basic folding training for a while now, so I said, "You could fold laundry... you could sweep the floor... you could pick up in your room every day..."

"And I could take out the garbage! Probably. If it's not too heavy."

"Yes, you could do that. Anything else?"

"No, I think four is good to start. And you should pay me allowance for doing chores."

I was not at all shocked by this progression in his train of thought, because only the day previous he had spent the last of his birthday/Christmas money and was now down to only $4. Fortunately I was prepared. "How much do you think you should get for doing those chores?"

"A dollar a week. Or maybe two. I don't know. What do you think?"

Much as I love the concept of cheap labor, I am a member of the so-called "Justice Generation" (as Barney puts it) and my sense of fair play won out. Also, because I know the kid, I took a gamble on the notion that after an initial gung-ho period, he'll get tired of doing the chores and opt out or complain about having to do them. Which led me to suggest, "How about we make a chart, and every day when you do a chore you can check the box. At the end of the week we'll add it up, and you can get 25 cents for every check."

My little math whiz was all over this. "Wow, Mom! That's seven dollars a week!"

I'm still older and (hopefully) smarter, though not as fast at crunching the numbers. "Not really, because two of those chores won't need to be done every day. We usually only do laundry once a week, and the garbage only needs to be taken out two or three times a week. So it'll be less than seven dollars, but definitely more than two. You're probably looking at around $4 or $4.50 most weeks."

"Sounds good. Can we start tomorrow?"

So we got home and made the chart and the details were hammered out. Sweeping and picking up his room he can do every day if he chooses to, taking out trash and folding laundry are done when necessary or when I ask. I'm not going to sit on him to pick up his room and sweep every day... I'll give him the option. He can choose not to do it, and thus choose not to earn the money. (Non-Head Start employees have no idea how very Head Start this system sounds... six months ago it probably would not have occurred to me.) 

Today was Day One, and of course he very enthusiastically swept the floor. He got to the picking up his room part, worked for about five minutes, then came down and said, "I think I'm going to do that one a little bit at a time because it's a big job."

"Well yeah. It's a big job right now because your room is trashed. But if you get it picked up nice and then you make sure you pick up every day, it'll take you like two minutes."

"Yeah, I know. But I mostly cleared off the table. Does that count?"

I let him count it. Meanwhile, I was fixing dinner. He asked if he could take out the trash, which was almost full. I asked him to wait until after dinner, because I was going to be throwing some more things in there. Seeing he was a little disappointed, I told him he could go in my room and fold the laundry if he wanted. He ran upstairs, excited once more. It took him pretty much the entire time it took me to make dinner, but he folded the entire load of laundry completely without assistance, divvying things out into piles as I have shown him. He asked where he should put away my clothes and I said I'd put them away if he just left the piles in the floor, so he went and put away his own clothes in his dresser.

We ate dinner at the table together. This is a rarity... usually I sort of work through dinner. But I had tidied the kitchen up while cooking, and had finished my translating while he swept and picked up his room (though admittedly I didn't have much today), so we had dinner together. While we were eating, the lightbulb in the fixture at the bottom of the stairs exploded in a blaze of glory. So after we ate, he took out the trash and then we went to buy more lightbulbs, because I was out. And we still had half an hour before bedtime, which is completely unprecedented and largely attributable to the Chamaco doing some of the stuff I normally do so I dídn't have to. So we played Uno. And then Guess Who. Then it was time for him to go to bed.

Now this isn't a perfect system... he's not exactly a professional-level floor sweeper. The floor could probably still stand to be swept in some areas. Also he can't fold towels to my exacting standards. Enter Head Start...

One of the things they're sort of making me do is read a book called "Positive Discipline for Preschoolers". They're very pro-Positive Discipline, and the concept was totally foreign to me when I started working there. Admittedly the Chamaco is not a preschooler, but I have picked up some things from this book that do make sense regardless of his age. There's an example in the book from a child's perspective - a little girl's mother asks her to make her own bed to save Mommy some time in the morning. So the little girl tugs and smoothes and pats the sheets into place and thinks she has done a pretty good job and is well-pleased. Later Mommy comes in and fixes it. Little Girl comes away with the impression that her work was not good enough and is discouraged from even trying it again.

I had this firmly in mind as I watched the Chamaco sweep the floor. Action plan now in place.
Will I re-sweep the floor? No. He'll do it again tomorrow. Maybe he'll hit those places.
Will I criticize his work? No. This is a behavior I want to encourage, not discourage.
Will I praise him for a job well done even though it is somewhat lacking by my adult standards? Yes, definitely.
Will I ask next time as he's sweeping, "Hey, could you make sure you sweep right here? It looks like that place really needs it."? Yes, probably. And if it's still not up to my standards, hey, the kid tried. No one will die if there are a few stray crumbs on the floor for a day.

Same theory applies for folding clothes. Does it, in the long run, even matter if things are folded in a different manner than I would have folded them? No. Do I want him to continue in this behavior? Yes. Will I praise him and thank him for his help? Heck yes... I hate folding laundry. Strangely folded towels are a small price to pay for not having to fold the laundry myself, and he can fold his own clothes however he likes. No, what is more important in this situation is that the job is done and that he feels accomplished, like he contributed something.

So it's the end of Day One of the great chores/allowance experiment. He earned a full dollar today. And hopefully he's in the process of learning something about responsibility and about working for what he wants, and also feeling like a valuable, contributing member of our little broken family. I'll try to remember to update as this project progresses if anything happens that seems relevant.

Song o' the Day: "Better Sorry than Safe" - Halestorm

February 25, 2010

Surely we didn't get off THAT easily....

Those of you who know me well (all 5 of you) know that every winter I struggle with seasonal depression and the urge to crawl into a hole and not emerge from about November 1st through the beginning of July sometime.

This year hasn't been as bad as I've come to expect, and I'm not sure whether to credit living in a house with heat for the first winter of the last 8 or so years, or the fact that this winter has so far been extremely mild aside from a cold snap shortly before Christmas. Maybe it was a combination of the two. Either way, my recurring thought is, "Surely we didn't get off THAT easily..."

Because this is Oregon, and we've had deceptively mild winters before... you know, the ones where it is rainy and only moderately cold December through February, then it turns around and snows most of March and into early April. And if there's one thing I hate, it's snow. Take one thing I hate extremely (cold) and combine it with another thing I hate extremely (wet rainyness) and you get snow, a.k.a. "the ultimate evil".

And in other hellish events, we had an inservice today. Meetings are probably #1 on my list of things I hate, though snow is a very close #2. And the first speaker of the day was, I hate to say it, rather useless. He had some very good ideas, yes, provided that you're working with wealthy, upper-middle class children from stable, two-parent families (in the case of his center, most of the children were the children of university faculty). Unfortunately, catering to low-income, high-risk families is kind of what we do and a lot of what he was talking about just really isn't workable in our program, so why was this guy speaking anyway? Much less going on about it for 3 hours. On the plus side, he had some lovely books in Italian that I was reading during the 15 minute break in his 3 hours of drivel. I might look up some of the books later... or I might not. But really, a guy who got his master's degree in French Literature but speaks Italian better than French and still needs an interpreter for Italian is not to be trusted. With that admission when I asked him, he lost all credibility as far as I was concerned.

Also, who gets a master's degree in French Literature?! (Also, who gets a master's degree in French Literature, then goes on to get a doctorate in Early Childhood Ed.? Kind of a stretch, don't you think?) Also he was wearing four rings, none of which were wedding rings, and Wendy thought his shirt was tucked in weird. Nancy and I agreed.

No, I despise meetings (especially meetings disguised as "trainings" - call a spade a spade, people!) and I'm afraid I got up at 6:30 a.m. today only to be bored into a stupor for the better part of the day. TGI(my)F.

Song o' the Day: "Get Out Alive" by Three Days Grace. Because I thought I wasn't going to.

February 16, 2010

It's one of those days...

... in which I entertain wild fantasies about a job that does not in any way involve children.

I don't like children today.

Back in the days of the ELL department at MES, Vickie and I used to go out for a venting session in the parking lot after work. It was nice because we could talk about it and be done with it and for me at least it was a very effective method of leaving work at work, and then going home and thinking about other stuff. And we would always start these sessions with the question, "So, do you like children today?"

I most emphatically do not like children today, thanks for asking. Today was one of those days that makes me question why the heck I work in education. At least 14 of the children I adore on an individual basis, but put all 18 of them together and I don't like children. This is why I could never be a classroom teacher in a regular school. Being in a room with the same 30 children for a year trying to make them learn stuff that by and large they don't care about would make me homicidal, suicidal, or both.

And even on days like today, I still know why God put me where I'm at. Just since September, in the course of working with these kids and trying to help them vocalize their turbulent preschooler emotions (vocalize rather than haul off and smack someone) I myself have learned a lot about coping with my own emotions. I tend to be very reserved emotionally - someone very close to me told me shortly after my husband left me that I did not have the "luxury" of crying because it made me useless, and it left a lasting impression on me - and I tend to ignore my own emotions and shove them out of the way rather than processing them and dealing with them, and it isn't healthy. In the process of helping them recognize and label their feelings, I've learned to recognize and label my own. While teaching them that their emotions are okay and valid, I've learned that my own are okay and valid as well and I'm even beginning to recognize my breaking point before I reach it, which is a huge step for me. Just today (and Nancy probably didn't realize how significant this was), the kids were being awful, my stress levels were rapidly increasing, and it was getting harder and harder to not scream at the children, and finally I told Nancy, "I'm going to step outside for a few minutes before I snap." I went and sat on the front steps away from the kids in the sun for a few minutes, took some deep breaths, and I went back inside a few minutes later when I felt better. Like I said, Nancy probably didn't think a whole lot of it but for me that's a pretty big thing to recognize, vocalize and then deal with my own emotions.

I told Nancy when I met her that I'm pretty much just an overgrown four year old. But it seems maybe I'm progressing slightly.

So even though I know why I'm in the place I'm in now, there's still the question of "what next?" I don't see me working in my current capacity forever... especially not at only 22 hours a week. I was just telling Nancy today I thought it would be nice to at some point have one job that paid me enough that I didn't need to have three jobs. I don't know where I go from here, but it is abundantly clear to me that God has the plan and he knows what he's doing... I'm just along for the ride.

Song o' the Day: "Check My Brain" by Alice in Chains. Awesome song. Go look it up.

February 14, 2010

Y'know what's depressing?

Valentine's Day is depressing.

Reading Craigslist personal ads is depressing. A whole, polluted sea teeming with retarded sealife. Some of them seem like decent enough guys, aside from the fact that they're dumber than a box of radishes (this is, for me, a deal-breaker). The majority, however, are arrogant jerks going on about what a "hot commodity" they are and how they're a "limited time offer". If that's really the case, why do you need to post on CL? Surely if you're that fantastic of a catch, you could just stand out on a busy street corner and the girls would be all over you. (Though I suppose that's only legal in certain parts of Nevada.) Normally I wouldn't bother depressing myself by reading ads on Craigslist, but I figure on Valentine's Day I'm depressed enough already and it can't very well get much worse.

I think next year maybe I'll just try drinking. I've never been properly drunk before, and Valentine's Day seems like the perfect time...

Next year I may have to swear off social networking entirely for the month of February. So it's the 4 zillionth V-Day you've spent with *insert name here*... fabulous. Why don't you go spend time with that person rather than posting about it on Facebook? Because let me tell you, if I could only get Wong over on this continent, I wouldn't be sitting around posting on Facebook about it.

Come to think of it, if I could get Wong over on this continent, I wouldn't have to get depressed enough to browse Craigslist.

Why is the rum gone?

Song o' the Day: "Dear Agony" by Breaking Benjamin. (lyrics below)

I have nothing left to give
I have found the perfect end
You remain to make it hurt
Disappear into the dirt
Carry me to heaven's arms
Light the way and let me go
Take the time to take my breath
I will end where I began
And I'll find the enemy within
' Cause I can feel it crawl beneath my skin

Dear agony, just let go of me
Suffer slowly, is this the way it's gotta be?
Dear agony...

Suddenly the lights go out
Let forever drag me down
I will fight for one last breath
I will fight until the end
And I'll find the enemy within
'Cause I can feel it crawl beneath my skin

Dear agony, just let go of me
Suffer slowly, is this the way it's gotta be?
Don't bury me, faceless enemy
I'm so sorry... is this the way it's gotta be?
Dear agony

Leave me alone
God let me go
I'm blue and cold
Black sky will burn
Love tore me down
Hate lift me up
Just turn around
There's nothing left

Somewhere far beyond this world...
I feel nothing anymore

Dear agony, just let go of me
Suffer slowly, is this the way it's gotta be?
Don't bury me, faceless enemy
I'm so sorry... is this the way it's gotta be?
Dear agony

I feel nothing anymore

February 12, 2010

Be my anti-Valentine...

If you're in a happy, functional romantic relationship or you just happen to like the upcoming-offensive-holiday-which-shall-not-be-named, you may want to skip reading this blog. You can just scroll down to the bit where there's a big long line of asterisks (*), because that part will be more interesting to you and might not burst your happy bubble.

I'll wait for you to leave.

Still waiting...

Some poetry while we wait....

I don't need your flowers
They'll just go to waste
I don't want your candy
'Cause I don't like the taste

Okay, now that the undesirables have cleared out, the rest of us are going to have a little talk about this holiday, here. First, the history of it is pretty shaky. There were not one, but in fact two "saint Valentines", both of whom according to Catholic tradition were martyred and coincidentally are buried on the same street in Italy. One of them happens to have been buried on February 14th... how romantic. Anything you may have heard about one of them tossing love letters out of his cell window or anything like that is at best unsubstantiated legend and at worst complete fiction. There's nothing to back that up. And there was, in fact, a third Valentine who also got killed, but he died in Africa and nothing else is known about him really. It must have been a popular name back in the day.

So the history of it is pretty iffy anyway, and then you see what we've done with it... it's gone the way of Christmas - pure commercialization. It was a nice idea to start with, I suppose, but I know many people - men in particular - who dread the day because they know if they don't find just the right gift for their wife/girlfriend, it's gonna be hell. I was more impressed last year by one of my few female friends who on V-day posted on her longtime boyfriend's MySpace page, "F*** Valentine's Day... I love you all year!" That was really the best thing I've ever seen, and I'm about to explain to you why.

I'm stealing a bit from a Foamy rant here, but what V-day boils down to in these times is basically legalized prostitution. (Among non-married couples, naturally.) A guy who is pretty much a jerk the other 364 days of the year will buy girlfriend a gift on this one day and be nice, with the expectation that she will put out on that day. "Here's some chocolate... sleep with me." "Here's some flowers... sleep with me." And even presuming that the guy isn't a jerk the other 364 days of the year, why do we need one day in particular in which we are to express our love? Shouldn't we be doing it all year? If we reserve it for just one day, basically we're doing what we did to Christmas. (Celebrating Jesus only on December 25th rather than all year as was intended, and by "we" I mean society collectively.)

And yes, I am single and slightly bitter about that. But even when I have been in relationships on said holiday in the past, I have been pretty content to let the day slide under my radar (in so much as you can when all the world is red and pink and swarming with winged naked babies and all your friends have changed their Facebook statuses to pictures of them and their significant other - usually a wedding pic, but sometimes just a cutesy couple pic - proudly proclaiming "This is the ___th Valentine's day that ______ and I have celebrated together!"). If I love someone, I'm going to do it every day. I don't need a special holiday for it.

And if you needed further proof that this is a purely commercial holiday, Kmart already has moved the V-day crap aside so they can stock the shelves with Easter stuff.

On to other topics now, I have recently become enamored of a new band - Halestorm. Some of you may have heard of them but been put off by their current single which is getting way too much airplay on KUFO and is sort of obnoxious  and repetitive.... a little ditty called "I Get Off", which may in fact just plain be too racy for some.

If you go digging back in their archives a little (and there's not very far to dig, since their album just came out in late 2009) you can find a much better song that I've had stuck in my head for several days now called "It's Not You." Other fabulous tracks from them are "Better Sorry than Safe" and "Innocence".

Song o' the Day will obviously be "It's Not You" by Halestorm, but just for something different I'm going to put the lyrics down here so you can read how fantastically catty it is, and then go listen to it because it sounds even better.

I'm in love with somebody
Found someone who completes me
I'm in love with somebody, oh yeah
And it's not you

Read my finger, whatcha gonna do?
See these lips? They're all done talkin' to you
I don't mean to bruise your ego
But I've had you nailed down for so long
And I don't see your name on my tattoo

Hope you understand
It's been a long time coming
It's for the best
No offense

I'm in love with somebody
Found someone who completes me
I'm in love with somebody, oh yeah
And it's not you!

I know who you think you are
Sorry I've turned you on but I'm kissing you off
Your lines and whiskey and cigarettes
They're not enough to make me forget
I've got someone who has raised the bar

I've heard it all before
Stop spinning your wheels
I'll show you the door
No hard feelings

I'm in love with somebody
Found someone who completes me
I'm in love with somebody, oh yeah
And it's not you!

You've probably never been shot down before
I'll try and make it easier...

I'm in love with somebody
Found someone who completes me
I'm in love with somebody, oh yeah
And it's not you!
It's not you!

And as if that wasn't cool enough, here's a little poem I committed to memory years ago. I forget where I heard it, so my apologies to whoever I may have stolen it from.

I hold your hand in mine, dear
I press it to my lips
I take a healthy bite from
Your dainty fingertips
My joy would be complete, dear
If only you were here
But I still keep your hand
As a precious souvenir
The night you died, I cut it off
I really don't know why
For now each time I kiss it
I get bloodstains on my tie
I'm sorry now I killed you
I really don't know why
And 'til they come to get me
I shall hold your hand in mine