Thursday, March 29, 2012

An Excerpt From My Journal

I came to Lakeside Park to read this book. To bask in the glory of the sunshine and get a little Vitamin D since I primarily only drink skim. So, I chose this concrete bench under this tree and got swallowed up in the narrative of two American teenagers losing their virginity wrapped in love in a hotel room in Amsterdam. And I got caught up. I looked over my shoulder when I heard the geese. I turned around and I was caught off guard. By absolutely nothing in particular except the spectacular nature of the day. The beauty and the brightness of today. This day. The grass is unfathomably green. The sky is so blue and so solid that it's difficult to imagine that it really is nothing at all.
And I feel lucky. We don't get to see so many beautiful days. And I don't mean that other days are warmer or colder or cloudier or windier--though they are. Even if all of my days were as beautiful as this day--we still don't get all that many.

The End.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So Many Sundry Items

A few sundry items:
Over at The McPherson Sentinel, this week, I blogged about thrift stores and then I blogged again about taking your thrift store finds and making them, decidedly, your very own. Complete with these before and after shots.

Secondly, on my Bucket List post, Laurie asked me a few questions:
Do I have a good beer bread recipe? Absolutely I do. I'll give it to you.
3 c. all purpose flour
3 T. sugar (I never end up using that much sugar--maybe half?)
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
1 bottle of beer (I use whatever happens to be in the fridge but I will let you know that I'm not a huge fan of the way that stouts come across. I made it with Guinness once--big mistake.)
1/4 c melted butter

Mix up all of the dry ingredients.
Mix in the beer.
Pour into a prepped loaf pan.
Drizzle the melted butter across the top.
Bake at 350 for... I'm so bad at time. Bake it until it is done? Here's how my mom taught me to tell when a loaf of bread is finished. When it's all golden brown and when you thump the top of it, it sounds hollow. It's an art to master but so far it's never failed me.

What kind of "real bread" will I make as per my Dale List? I'm not sure. Honestly, I just always shy away from yeast breads and anything that requires kneading. The reason for that is twofold. A. I am afraid of yeast (and baking in general--though I am coming around) because it seems so sciency and there's so much I could screw up and it will all be  a huge waste of time and money. B. I have super limited space in which to knead. But I will get over these issues and I will make a bread. Anything that requires paying close attention to the instructions. Mostly this is about facing fears.

Do I like to sew? Well, I have everything that it takes to sew. That is to say that I have fabric and a machine and thread and space. But as of yet, I haven't been able to put it all to good use. I like to make things. I like to make useful things. Sewing seems like a terribly useful skill. I would like to make that happen. But as of yet, I have not. When I was in home-ec, the sewing machine magically busted every time that I used it and my teacher focused on hand sewing for me. She gave up. But I want to learn! And I will. I have the internet and a machine from the 40's. What could go wrong? Also Determination is a friend of mine who shows up unexpectedly for the weekend sometimes, I'll try to get started when she's around.

And finally, I can't help but toss around in m mind--why is it so hard to be kind? Why is it so hard to do what's right? Why is it so easy to slip into gossip and whining and dissatisfaction and so hard to be good and happy and grateful? How as dissatisfaction become the default when we're surrounded by so many astounding things? Why is it that where two or more are gathered, shit talking generally ensues? I don't want to do that. I don't want dissatisfaction to be my default. I want kindness and gratitude to be my default. Now, if only I knew how.

What have you made for yourself, lately?
What silly thing are you afraid to do?
How do you stay so wonderful and positive all of the time?


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring/ Summer Bucket List: Dale

It's never too early to start your summer bucket list. And when you start your list early, you get going on it early and subsequently it gets renamed. Spring/ Summer Bucket List. There's got to be a contracty way to say that. Spummer Bucket List? Sumpket List? Maybe we'll just name it Dale. Who knows--the possibilities are limitless, really. Here's mine so far.

Go camping.
Make an herb garden.
Plant something gorgeous at the bottom of my stairs.
Organize my coffee area.
Have the friends over for tacos, sangria, and homemade horchata.
Finish Ryan's Christmas 2011 present. #worldsworstgf
Bake a loaf of bread (a real loaf of bread--not beer bread).
Read The Fault in Our Stars.
Sew a new pair of pajama pants.

What's on yours?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cocoa Bread + Strawberry Butter

Sunday was that kind of drizzly, sleepy, daylight savings kind of day. The kind of day where you don't totally change out of your pajamas but find a way to modify what you're wearing into something semi-public appropriate. Ryan and I went to lunch together and then retired to our own homes to do whatever terribly boring, solitary things we wanted. I chose to spend an entire afternoon getting two sink fulls of dishes done and browse the internet while sipping tea and espressos. It was a bake-something kind of day, too, so I put this bread in the oven and then sat on my couch and watched the wedding scene from Rachel Getting Married four times over.

Some friends were coming over whenever they wanted to. It's like time didn't exist, yesterday. That was so nice. When they got here, I whipped up Chicken Korma and rice and we sat around listening to Bon Iver and Master P.

It was an excellent way to the end of my very long weekend. And now, it is Monday.

Cocoa Bread:
2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/2 T. cinnamon
1 c. white sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 3/4 c. water
3 T. mayonnaise

1. Whisk all of the wet ingredients as well as the sugar in one bowl.
2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in another bowl.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ones until no lumps remain.
4. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Melt 2 T. of butter and pour it over the top and then bake for an hour at 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, I wondered how I could make it just a little bit more special with minimal effort and then rememberd this post that I saw on A Beautiful Mess.

Strawberry Butter:
Add a few spoonfuls of strawberry preserves (if you have it on hand, I recommend finally busting open that jar of strawberry preserves that your grandpa canned at Christmas time) to one stick of softened butter. You could whip it if you want it to be perfectly smooth but my desire to only clean a fork rather than plug in power tools won in this instance. Plus, Sunday was all about that handmade feeling.

And because I know no one will think to ask but everyone will want to know: yes--this does make delicious toast at breakfast time.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


I didn't only buy a potato because it was shaped like a laser gun. But I can't say that this potato in particular wasn't making an excellent case for himself. I will be sad to mash him. Also, Dillon's has purple potatoes in stock so I think everyone should go buy them and make darling colorful side dishes for all of the bbq that they'll be doing, tonight. God, it's beautiful. I feel happy.

I took myself and a crisp twenty to the grocery store this morning, looking for a little therapy. The Parker Girls, for whatever reason, have always taken to vegetables when faced with disappointment or frustration or even absolute happiness. I couldn't tell you what it is, exactly, but my sister and I are the same in this. Chopping vegetables. That's what I need when I need it.
It's a project. It comes to a productive end. It's crisp and delicious. It's light and airy. It's clean and purifying. It's chopping vegetables. That's all it is.
I don't usually keep salad items on hand. I'm picky about how my lettuce is prepared. I never have enough vegetables to go along with it. It's difficult to get lettuce dry enough that it won't spoil too quickly. But today I had all of the patience for exactly this activity. Chop a few cups of romaine. Rinse in the colander. Pour out onto the kitchen towels. Wring. Repeat. It is glorious.

What are your strange, reasonable compulsions?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Women, Men, and Contraception

I am not an easily impassioned person. I have very few strong opinions but today I've reached my breaking point and I have an opinion. I have an opinion and it's all I can do to keep my composure and even type this like a decent person. I am not a political person but even still, I feel qualified to have an opinion on this subject due to the fact that I am a human being and this is a humanity issue--not a political one.

I don't know if it should be a law or not that insurance companies cover birth control. I absolutely do not know what all goes into consideration when creating laws or insurance policies so I'm not going to pretend that I do. I do know that many, many insurance companies already cover birth control and no one's raised a fuss yet. A lot of insurance companies will cover the cost of an abortion as well. It's not because they're taking a political stance or are working to empower women or kill babies--it's because those things are cheaper than the cost of having a child. Insurance companies are businesses and they are looking to save money. Ergo--less people in the hospital = less money that they have to pay.  Due to that logic alone, it baffles me that this is a question at all. But I'm just a simpleton with a lady brain and I came up with that on my own so it could be way off.

So I'm already mildly annoyed that no one takes simple math into consideration. Add to that the fact that it's mostly privileged, white, testicle bearers (who can totally afford all that is involved in keeping an extramarital pregnancy completely hush hush) that are making the laws about my ovaries in the first place and I get a little bit more frustrated--but to a bearable degree because I know that this is just how the world works. But then you get absolute blowhards on the radio saying that women are sluts for requiring birth control in the first place and you have seriously lit a fire under me. No, no. If he'd just said it, I could probably be fine with it. A passing phrase and I'll let it slide. Like I said, I'm not easily impassioned. But he didn't just say it once. This was no accidental statement made in the heat of the moment. Rush Limbaugh raked her over the coals for three days! Clearly, he didn't even listen to her testimony because she never said, "I'm, like, horny all the times and I just like wanna do guys and stuff but I don't wanna have no babies so could you toss me a couple thou? K. Thx." I mean, that's Rush Limbaugh. He's an asshole and a blowhard and everyone knows it. But I'm hearing people around me agreeing with him?! I could not be more simultaneously unsurprised and baffled.

Sandra Fluke is not the only woman in America who requires and deserves birth control. She is not the only type of woman in America who requires birth control. There are women who are married or in committed relationships who know that a child is not the right thing for them at the present moment. There are women suffering from painful and even life-threatening reproductive conditions that can only be treated with The Pill. There are women who have suffered sexual abuse. I assure you--it's not a rare instance when a woman needs birth control for a reason other than the fact that she's working to emulate Carrie Bradshaw.

And here's what my real point is: who gives a damn if she's a "slut" or not. Does that make her less of a person? Because if she can't afford birth control, she sure as hell isn't going to be able to feed that kid and I would never wish to impose this world upon a child who is not sincerely wanted and accepted and loved.

I don't think there are sluts. I think there are women. And I think there are women and there are men and while it's a joint effort to make a baby, the contraceptive responsibility consistently falls on the woman. She has to take a pill every day or she has to get shots every three months or she has to have a device implanted into her uterus and she is the one where the implied and needless shame falls. Meanwhile, there's a panel of men asked to speak before congress because they are experts? Because they can relate to this at all? The woman who was able to speak was trashed on a personal level with out any consideration given to what it was that she actually said. She told stories of the women that she knew--she never mentioned her own sexual history or gave any indication that she has so much sex that "it's amazing that she can even walk."

Why don't we care about the sexual histories of any of the men that spoke? Is it because it's not relevant?

It's because it's not relevant.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We're Not Ruining Anything

If you could read my journals from the early 2000's, you'd read the story of a terribly stressed out girl. In 2002, I graduated from high school. But I was home schooled and completely unprepared for life in general. I was confused about what I needed to do next, and how to do it. Should I go to college? I thought about it for a very long time, weighing my options. Some said that if I didn't go right out of high school, then I'd never go and would end up stuck in a tiny, unsatisfying town for my whole life. Some said that I should take some time off and explore my options. Everyone else told me to pray about it. They said that God would reveal what he wanted me to do. So, since that was the only available option with a built-in solution, that's what I went with. I prayed and I waited and any time that I heard a bump or saw something particularly lovely or strange, I wondered, "was that my sign? If that was my sign, what did it mean? What if when I was wondering about that thing, my real sign was sent and I missed it? What if I've ruined everything by thinking about that for too long? I'm thinking about this for too long! I'm going to miss it!" And then all the registration dates passed and that was "God's sign" that I should just stay put, I guess.

A year later, I'd finally decided that God definitely wanted me to go to college. But then I learned that there are thousands and thousands of colleges from which to choose. So, really, we're back at square one but with thousands of options instead of only two. I was stressed to the max. What if I went to the wrong school? It could throw off my entire life. My whole world could be out of balance! I could end up in a totally different career, married to a totally different person having completely different babies and grand children than I was supposed to have and how do you come back from that? There are no do-overs! You can't screw this up! And also, if it's not what God wants from you, then you might as well crawl into a ball and die because it's all worthless. So on top of all of the options--keep your eyes and ears peeled for The Sign.

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and I decided on a college. I used the fact that I was accepted and that I got enough loans to cover my first two semesters as a sign enough (little did I know that they'll pretty much accept anyone who has enough loans to cover the first two semesters). But despite my sign, I spent the better part of the next three years wondering if I'd made the right choice and second guessing every thing I'd done up to that point. Because after college comes a choice in major and then where you will work for your whole life. And meanwhile, you'd better be looking for a husband because in all reality you are a woman and an English major--are you really going to use this degree?

So most every girl that I knew, and I fell into this as well, started treating every man on campus as though they were our future husbands--until we found out that they were not our future husbands. Every guy you bump in to--you imagine how you'll tell your grand kids that you met at the cafeteria waiting for them to refill the egg burgers. How romantical.

It was out of control is what it was. This is an example of a simplified version of a very typical late night conversation:
"Tom said 'hi' to me, today in class. But he didn't say 'hi' yesterday. Do you think he noticed something about me, today? Do you think he'll ask me out?"
"Totally, he'll ask you out."
"He's so cute. He has curly hair."
"Yeah, and pretty blue eyes."
"Yeah... he has blue eyes but I was really hoping for a guy with brown eyes."
"Honey, if God wants you to have a man with blue eyes..."
"You're right. Oh, this is so exciting! Know what else? Derrick asked if he could sit next to me, today, and then reminded me that it was Spicy Chicken Sandwich day in the cafeteria. How does he know that is relative to my interests? He has brown eyes... Maybe that's a sign that I should be talking to Derrick and not Tom. I'm going to call my mom!"

The next day:
"So, Tom asked to borrow a pencil and I was super excited but then at lunch I saw that he was sitting with Tiffany."
"Tiffany? Ugh."

Twenty minutes later on the phone:
*crying* "I don't know, Mom. He just... I thought he really liked me! How could he go out with her?!"

I feel terrible for these mothers who had absolutely no realistic idea of the romantic relationships that their daughters were in.

But eventually, I got so tired of it and I broke. There was my job(s), and school and on top of all of it, I was being expected to follow this additional life plan that was booby-trapped and filled with bunny trails? I couldn't take it anymore. I stopped going to class. I did all I could to not get put on academic probation--but little else. I couldn't even read. In The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood talks about how she would look at a page and the letters would all swim around like alphabet soup. This is what it was like for me for an entire semester. That's when I stopped going to church and started drinking and everything started to make a little more sense. I realize that's horrible advice, but it worked for me. Except the drinking part--I was very proud of the way that I keep promises and I'd signed a covenant saying that I wouldn't drink at school and it didn't make me feel good to be a liar. I didn't drink much by the way. I still don't drink much--relatively speaking. Just enough that when I came back to campus, I could sleep without a panic attack.

I cut my priorities down to class and work and just taking it one day at a time. It drastically improved my life and little by little I came to believe that maybe there's not a right way and a wrong way to get to the end of our life. After all, I'd quit thinking about it all together and I was still alive.
Over time (years--I'm still working on it) I went from viewing my life plan like this:
To something a little more like this:
I think our life is a series of choices. I can make a choice and if it was a good one--go with that. If it was terrible, you don't even have to turn around. Just exit left and keep going. And that's even a little too basic for me. If I had it my way, there would be no end. You're not really in charge of how or when it all stops, anyway. You know how they say, "it's not the destination, it's the journey?" Well I was ruining that road trip. Both hands on the steering wheel and my left foot on the break. Just go--just go. Just go wherever you want to go (even if that means just staying--it's a choice, you're covering ground). Just talk to whoever you want to talk to. The people you meet are not a means to an end--they are your traveling companions and this metaphor is getting carried away with itself.

I just want you to know that no matter what--nothing will be ruined. Just go. Just move. Or stay. Staying is going if staying is your choice. Just accept that you get to choose and nothing is irreparable.

"Go in excellence and safety."