November 30, 2009

and right into advent

We appear to have slid ride down the Thanksgiving Day slide only to land in the ball pit of Advent. There's no reprieve this year from all the festive food slinging -no week to spend stretching your belts and digging out your loose fitting pants. It's a turkey sandwich in one hand and gingerbread men in the other. Merciful heavens I don't know how exactly this is going to work. I spend so much time getting ready for Thanksgiving, and now I'm already behind on Christmas. It feels that way anyway. So instead of spending a leisurely day tomorrow running the laundry and in general recovering from the Thanksgiving rush I'm going to be rearranging my living room so that we can go get a tree to put up Tuesday. Since I also wanted to have my new bookcase put together by Christmas I'm going to be clearing out room in the living room tomorrow so that when we come home tomorrow with our Christmas tree we can start on that. SO! This week I'm going to put together a bookcase, decorate my Christmas tree, clean up the apartment, finish shopping for Christmas presents, and try to do at least one Christmas-y thing for myself. Oof. I need a nap.

November 25, 2009

More thoughts before the Feast

This is the part where things start to get sad. Looking on Facebook I see my old pastor "incandescently happy" to have his daughter home to Thanksgiving; I see my younger sister updating her profile as she leaves college herself and then arrives at home, and it hurts. It hurts because I don't know what it means for my dad to love me that much. It hurts because no one is at home waiting for their daughter to come and complete the circle -at least if they are they haven't said anything about it to me. There's a lot of heartache there. And when I mention my old pastor I don't mean to say that I think he's a perfect dad or that my life would have been materially better if I'd been born into a different family. For all their flaws I love my parents a lot. I just know that there's a dad out there on Facebook with the biggest grin I've ever seen on his face just because his daughter came home, and I wish that was me and my dad. This is the part of Thanksgiving that hurts. This is where are the old war wounds start aching and twinging in the sweeping east wind of love seen from afar.

thoughts before the feast

In many ways this upcoming Thanksgiving feels so momentous. It's my first turkey and my first major holiday away from family. It's the first Thanksgiving I've planned and honestly one of the first camping trips I've planned without some major emotional hijinks. I'm starting to enjoy being Natalie -to lose some of the guilt and get back in touch with my desires. It's the night before we leave, and I'm not running around worrying about the unswept floor or the laundry yet to be stowed away. Most of my meal prep is done. I didn't leave a huge pile of dishes in my wake. Allen's pleased, and it looks like the turkey will just fit inside my dutch oven. The vegetables might get the ultra-traditional cooked in an aluminum foil pouch treatment, but but I think it's all going to come together. And no one is crying, yelling, or forcibly losing hair. It's a nice feeling. Tomorrow I'm going to pull together our clothes and personal sundries, prep the turkey, pack the ice chests and freezer bags, and head out to pick up Allen from work before wandering off into the hills. This is probably the least stressed I've been about any trip I've taken this year. Of course this is still the night before. We'll see when I wake up tomorrow morning. Still, I can remember feeling absolutely sick to my stomach the night before a trip from massive amounts of guilt and worry. Yes, and I still wanted to go camping. "The mountains are calling" is a pretty powerful motivator. By God's grace though I've been able to see through much of that guilt and frustration to the larger issues beyond, which has allowed me to reconnect with what's really important. Planning for this Thanksgiving has been so much fun (after the initial bout of homesickness and frustration) because I'm seeing just how far I've come in the past few months. When I look back on the first year Allen and I were married I can't believe just how much of me was buried in a swirling pool of pain, hurt, and denied longing. Sometimes I feel as though I'm only just now waking up after a long hibernation. So like any old bear crawling out of her cave I'm going to wander around in the woods and each a bunch of food.

November 22, 2009

10 reasons I love smoothies

Here are my top reasons why smoothies are great.

1. Strawberries
2. Blueberries
3. Pineapple
4. Blackberries
5. Bananas
6. Cherries
7. Raspberries
8. Mango
9. Honeydew melon
10. Papaya

Of the fruits on that list there isn't one of them that I ate regularly before I started drinking smoothies once a day. The odd apple was pretty much all the fruit I ate on even a semi-regular basis. Now on any given day I'm getting in multiple servings of fruit, and during any given week I'm eating eight to eleven different fruits along with kefir, orange juice, carrot juice, and powdered greens. It's a meal that's never boring, always surprising, and endlessly fulfilling. It's like your best relationships in a glass :D

creating beauty - resting in beauty

Homemaking is finally, slowly starting to make sense to me. It's not just about getting things done. The list is as important as you make it. No one will die if you don't make the bed or dust the china cabinet. I've heard people say that we should think of housework as a blessing we bestow on others, but I think there's more to it than that. I think housework makes room for blessings. Even more so I think it creates opportunities for rest. Making the bed or scrubbing the sink is work. It can be redeemed work, but it's really work. Walking into your clean kitchen to make bread or pies or breakfast pancakes can be rest, recreation, and hospitality all in one. The clean counters make way for restful occupation.

I think this explains something that has puzzled me about my childhood home. Growing up in that home was at times a confusing and traumatic experience, and yet I experienced moments of great peace and rest while there. I think of the sun shining through my bedroom window, the smell of pancakes and coffee in the morning, the sooty metallic scent of the wood burning stove, and the gleam of hardwood floors in the sun's slanting rays. All those memories involved work -often my work at that. Cleaning and polishing the wood floors, washing dishes, carting armloads of wood up the deck stairs. We went to effort and we basked in the results -shining floors, good smells, and warming fires. This puzzled me though because I very rarely saw my mom content and resting from her work, or perhaps I should say that I very rarely saw her resting to enjoy her work. For that reason I think I saw the good results of work and exulted in them without understand why or how they came about and how I should be enjoying them. Now, it's starting to make more sense to me. I hang curtains in the living room (well actually Allen did), and then I sit back to enjoy the soft, frosty colored light filtering through their white lengths. I clean the kitchen so that I can enjoy the rest and joy of mixing up pies for Thanksgiving. It's not work before you play because work is intrinsically more valuable, it's work before you play because rest is more important and therefore requires more preparation.

I think that's the secret.

November 20, 2009

satisfactory resolution

Yesterday I had the curtains of doom, and today I had the phone call of despair. Fortunately both situations resolved themselves, but I had a good little time of it until they did. First, the curtains of doom. A while back I bought some lovely cream colored gauzy material to make sheers for the bedroom. Since we live on the ground floor with people walking by during the day it's can feel a bit exposed with the blinds open. It's also dark if you leave the blinds closed. Hence the sheers. Well I finally decided I was going to go ahead and get my bedroom curtains up. So first I sat down and very carefully trimmed the fuzzy edges off the selvage. Then I ran a line of fray check down the side just to make sure. Then I thought about how on earth I was going to get that gauzy stuff to lay flat and square for me to measure it out. Then I thought about trying to roll any sort of hem before the edges unraveled under my fingers. Fortunately I wanted my curtains to pool on the floor just a bit. You serious seamstresses may cringe here, but I plopped my fabric on the ironing board and eyeballed a strip of fusing right across it, trimmed the excess, turned the edge under, and ironed. I measured my length from the hem, ran another strip across to fasten the bottom of the sleeve, then measured again and ran another length across the top to turn the raw edge under. I trimmed and turned the top raw edge, ironed it down, then brought the turned edge down the fusing to make a sleeve. I ran off four panels this way before adjourning to my sewing machine to run a straight stitch down each of my "seams" to hold them in place. Normally I think the fusing would hold the fabric, but the weave on this stuff was so loose it wouldn't hold the fusing very well. Fairly straightforward to tell, but it took me at good 30min per curtain just to get all the ironing and trimming done. However, now I have nice, soft, full, draping sheers in my bedroom. They filter the light beautifully and are a soft, almost delicate counterbalance to all the sturdy wood furniture in there. I'm glad I went to the trouble, but I'm not so sure I would do it again in a hurry.

To my next bit of perplexity - I wrote a while back that Allen and I had made reservations up in redwood country for Thanksgiving weekend. Well today I got a phone call saying that California had decided to close that park for the season or something like that. I can't say I understand myself why they don't just raise their prices and/or run their parks more efficiently. I really don't believe that California's budget problems are due to someone leaving the faucet on at their local campground. Anyway, I got that call this morning. Hours of searching for a suitable campground for naught -and the week before Thanksgiving too when all the parks are either closed for the winter or bang full up with reservations. I was perturbed. To put it mildly. With a tent I'm a little less ambivalent about trying to get a site on busy weekends than I would be with an RV. At least with an RV you can always have pretty good odds of boondocking for the night if you can't get a site. It's harder to do that with a tent. Thank the Lord though when I was searching I came across a private campground in that same area that wasn't full, took reservations, and was close to all the areas we wanted to see. I had a bad hour or two of it wondering if we'd be scrapping our Thanksgiving plans, but it looks like we won't have to now. Thank the Lord.

November 16, 2009

language: a means of miscommunication

Did a bit of link hopping early today and came upon a list of Groucho Marx quotes translated for the environmentally inclined which I very much hope were intended as a joke for the more humorous members of that community. Alas, I'm afraid they were serious. When you study homo-eroticism in Victorian literature every fop is a queer. When you're convinced the sky is falling every comedian is a planet prophet. I guess. Anyway I thought I'd have some fun with their quotes.

1. "A four-year-old child could understand this report. (pause) Run out and find me a four-year-old child, I can't make head or tail of it."

Decoded: The cause and effect of our current eco-crisis is simple but all the bureaucracy and subterfuge swirling around it makes it confusing and disempowering. Maintain a beginner's mind.

Grouch couldn't possibly have been creating humor by taking an idiomatic statement seriously. Nope, he's asserting that discovering apparent subtlety in an issue is "disempowering" and we should endeavor to bring the same child-like self-absorption and indifference we see in classrooms world-wide to bear on our environmental challenges. Side note: if weather and ecology were so simple I think we'd have much fewer consternation about hunting and endangered species. We could just establish safe minimum numbers for all species and have at it. Also, your picnic would never ever be rained out unexpectedly. You know, because this is all so "simple."

2. "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."

Decoded: Firstly of course, he wasn't talking about Planet Green's TV shows. But his point is well-taken. The average American spends 145 hours a month watching television and the net result is a nation mostly unwilling to do the hard work to create social change.

I suppose that to Groucho's apparently intelligent mind television would have little appeal. I would, however, submit that reading a book is rather different from guerrilla gardening or writing indignant letters to Archer Daniels Midland - particularly if it's book written by some right wing nut job intent on drilling oil wells in Alaska. But Groucho didn't mean those kinds of book. Just like he thoughtfully excluded your improving tv shows.

3. "Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms."

Decoded: A not-so-subtle reminder that the U.S. Department of Defense is the planet's worst polluter and biggest gas guzzler.

Yes, because some guy perched on a roof with binoculars and a walkie talkie has a HUGE carbon footprint. Must be the pork rinds he's eating. They'll give him away some day if he doesn't watch out. You can get dna evidence off anything these days.

4. "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

Decoded: Smells like greenwashing to me.

Ok, so it's sort of hard to really misapply that quote.

5. "A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running."

Decoded: The time is long overdue for America to adopt a single payer-style of health care and for each of us to take responsibility for our own health by making greener choices.

A government run taxi paid for by government employees with government issued money is much less expensive because when you run out of money you can just print more. Never mind that children are getting blocks of money for Christmas to use as building blocks because it's cheaper than an apple in the toe of your stocking. Please also note the irony of getting something you're not paying for (my taxes only go to support orphaned whales) as a means of inducing responsibility. We all know that children showered with toys take better care of them than children who carefully hoard pennies and do extra errands to get that new Spider-man action figure.

6. "I could dance till the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows till you come home."

Decoded: The only human with whom a cow would tango is a vegan.

Actually, you're just ugly and step on my feet a lot.

7. "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies."

Decoded: Two words: Clean coal.

They've got a point here, but they could also make the same argument about the Federal Reserve, the War on Terror, and No Child Left Behind. Actually, most any bill or committee you threw this at would stick. Not a fan of coal myself.

8. "Florida, land of perpetual sunshine. Let's get the auction started before we have a tornado."

Decoded: An eerie preview of today's climate change-created monster storms.

Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the Disney World brochures that fail to tell you about the afternoon thundershowers that sweep through nearly every summer afternoon. Groucho, making fun of marketing schemes? Never. (Ok, so you could convince me that this is eerily apt.)

Disclaimer: this is not to say that I am unsympathetic to conservationists and those who seek to use resources wisely and with due consideration for those who will come after us. I love clean water, clean air, fertile soil, and good food. I also enjoy people who use really bad logic to assure us that we don't have to laugh at humor -far better to use those valuable carbon emissions in deconstruction.

November 14, 2009

Pie in a jar

Oh my stars and garters have you seen pie in a jar? Trina linked to the post at Our Best Bites that explains (in mouthwatering color) just how to make these darlings. I was wondering what would be the best way to make and freeze individual pies to take camping with us at Thanksgiving, and this is a perfect solution. Now I just have to find some jars. I'm thinking pecan and apple for sure -maybe some pumpkin pie too? Oh boy oh boy oh boy. This is going to be great.

November 13, 2009

No turning back -I've already ordered the turkey

Looks like we really are going to go camping for Thanksgiving. We had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with the "remnant" hosted by some folks from our church, but we decided that we wanted to head out. I suppose that (for me at least) despite the griping about being uprooted and away from family I'm curious to see what happens when it's just Allen and I on Thanksgiving making our own traditions and finding our own meaning in the celebration. So we're heading for the hills again, although our plans actually took a left turn. We were thinking about driving out to King's Canyon/Sequoia National Park, but that's just way too much park for us to have a relaxing trip. Perhaps I should say it would be too much park if it was open. I'm not sure about making our first trip out there when A. a significant park of the park is closed, and B. they're saying to pack your sleeping bags and extra food in your car in case it snows and you're snowed in for a while! That would be just a little too much fun for us. Instead, I discovered a campground close to redwood country that even has HOT SHOWERS! That is going to be nice after a few days living in our smartwool socks and polypro base layer. The place itself looks nice enough to stroll through while ruminating over turkey and dressing, and it's also close enough that we can take side trips to Humboldt and Sinkyone if we like. The drive back will also give a chance to explore a section of CA-1 we haven't yet encountered. All in all I think it's a great way for us to visit a corner of Northern Cali without feeling rushed off our feet.

Thanksgiving itself is another matter :D I've decided to be just a tad ambitious for our little sojourn among the big trees. Here's the menu thus far:

Roast Turkey ala Byron's Dutch Oven Recipes with root vegetables
Baked Sweet Potatoes
Green Salad
Cornbread Dressing
Turkey Gravy
and Miniature Pecan Pies
Wine or Spiced Cider to drink

I might add bread if I get around to it.

Sounds like a lot for cooking outdoors, but I already have a 12in dutch oven I can use to cook the turkey and root vegetables. Whole Foods lets you order petite turkeys ahead of time which means I'll be able to get one small enough to fit in my oven. I can prep the veggies before we go and have them ready to add. Ditto for the basting. Sweet potatoes I'll wrap in foil and cook alongside my oven. The cornbread dressing I'll make ahead of time and freeze in muffin tins, so I can bring (and heat) only what we'll actually eat at one time. Since I only have one oven I plan on improvising a smaller oven with some cheap aluminum pie pans. It's easier to do than to explain. Basically you put your food in one pan and turn the other one over on top of it like a lid. To the top pan you've attached a third pan (bottom to bottom) so that you now have a bowl on top in which to put your hot coals. All you need in a drill, screw, nut, and washer. Anyway, I'll warm the dressing up in that (and maybe the bread if I decide to add it), and once the dressing comes out I'll put my mini pies in there to bake and/or warm. I plan to do the pies like the dressing and freeze them in muffin tins and then heat them by putting the muffin tin (probably have to cut part of it out) in my improv dutch oven to warm while we eat. As for the gravy, I'll probably just put the turkey and vegetables on a cutting board covered with foil and mix up the gravy in the bottom of my dutch oven. Sounds about doable I think. The rest of the trip I'm mostly planning on us reusing the leftover turkey either with rice and veggies or over bakes potatoes with salad -maybe I'll throw in some baked apples or such. Now if only it won't rain.

Well, those are our plans.

November 9, 2009

arguments against wedding do overs

Yeah, I'm realizing it's a very good thing I didn't get to fully exercise my fancy at my wedding. You think it was bad that the ac blew out at the reception, but at least you didn't have to deal with 500 Scotsmen...err make that Scotsmen singing "500 Miles" because yes I would have. And that's not all I would have either.

"Havering" is apparently an old Scots word for talking piffle; piffle is an English word for blarney, and blarney is an Irish word for nonsense. Nonsense is a American word that describes my thought processes while constructing the above sentence.

tiny bits of longing

There aren't many good ways to say it. I desperately want a home. I'm getting tired of lodging places. Last year it just about worked. I remember calling Allen up and telling him that little nonsensical me had decided that our little apartment appropriate artificial Christmas tree just wasn't enough. I wanted a proper tree - a real live Christmas tree to stand in the corner of the living room and scratch up my arms while I wound the lights around it and greet me again and again with its festive breath. And Allen said why not. So I heaped up evergreen branches on the mantle and strung all my lights and for a time was blissfully happy in the beauty I had called forth. Even then I wanted a proper house, but it's no hard job being content with that beautiful tree in the corner. Thanksgiving too went well. There was family gathered around, and even if the traditions weren't my traditions they were family traditions nonetheless and enjoyable for their own sake. This year...we aren't flying home for Thanksgiving because it'd be rather spendthrift of us to fly out for Thanksgiving and then fly out again three weeks later. So we're going to be here. Since there's not really anyone here we'd feel comfortable sharing Thanksgiving with it looks like we're on our own. Probably going to pack up our gear and head for the hills again. Thanksgiving dinner will be produced from my dutch oven and not Grandmom's kitchen, but I don't know that there's any help for it. As I indicated though, we are flying home for Christmas. Even though we'll be at home for Christmas there are other problems. If we're going to be gone for roughly two weeks I can't very well put up a live tree in my living room that needs to be watered every few days. If I'm only going to be there two-ish weeks (and over Christmas and New Years to boot) I'm going to be hard pressed to reconnect with all the people I miss. And this doesn't even account for the cheese balls, gingerbread, cider, and hot buttered rum that have become part of our (Allen and I) own traditions. Leave them here? Take them with us? If so how? I see a lot of difficult questions ahead without a lot of really satisfactory answers. There's no other way to say it. I want a home with large windows to let the sunlight in and a corner to put my great big Christmas tree in and plenty of rooms to house those children we don't have yet. I want it close enough to family that I can drive over and see them for Thanksgiving. I want to be back among my own people who know me and love me. This is my third move in as many years of marriage and my forth move in four years -five if count our month of temp housing. I'm ready to have roots again. I suppose a lot of people are. I wonder if I will be one of the lucky ones.

November 5, 2009

taking the lazy river of indecision

Yesterday the counselor said I need to start basically being more conscious about how I live my day ie not letting facebook happen all day but deciding what I want to be doing at any particular moment. Result? It's a quarter after one, and I've only had a small piece of cheese to eat. And yes I'm hungry. MAKING DECISIONS IS CRAZY SCARY CRAP! Even though he told me I could decide to do whatever I wanted to do I had to actually decide. If I was on FB I needed to decide to be on FB for half and hour or something and then make a new decision after that time was up (even if I decided to stay on FB). Somehow that added up to me not even being able to decide to get something to eat. Yeah. Paralyzed of making wrong decisions? Even when there aren't supposes to be any wrong decisions? YES!!! My problem is that I don't want to decide to do dumb stuff like read on-line comics for hours at a time. I want to decide to do good stuff -like scrub the entire apartment :D But I don't want to scrub the apartment. I want to make a (very belated) smoothie and work on my bedroom. And yet because that means deciding not to worry about the dishes that need doing and the laundry that needs folding and the bathroom that needs scrubbing I find myself unable to decide to do anything. And since I'm not doing anything I might as well read internet comics while I'm just sitting here. Yeah, come live inside this head for a while. You'd be a bit kooky too ;)

Ok, enough ranting. I'm going to give this at least one shot today. The counselor said this was going to be pretty emotionally exhausting, and I think I believe him. I already warned Allen that emotional exhaustion was probably going to translate into frozen food from Trader Joe's.

Ok, for real, going to get up and do something. I think. Damn, this is scary. And it looks so easy when other people do it.

things that no longer send me into hysterics

I admit that I'm finding it increasingly difficult to get all excited about gay marriage and all the various arguments Christians put up against it. I've become convinced that one man one woman no longer cuts any ice as an argument since it pretty completely misses the point. To a certain extent marriage conventions are arbitrary -there is no "obviously" right way to do marriage (or sex or romantic love for that matter). To my limited knowledge we've had polygamy, hetero plus homoerotic relationships on the side, convenient marriages with mistresses on the side, polyandry, and now a huge battle over whether or not homosexuals should be allowed to make the same spectacular failure of marriage as all us clean cut, church going heteros. At this point I should probably clarify that when I say "arbitrary" I mean something that's not readily apparent to fallen man. It's not like saying that walking off cliffs is unmistakable bad for humans. So long as enough men and women are getting together to produce enough children to keep medicare from going under what do we care what all the other folks are doing?

I've come to the conclusion that I am against gay marriage for the very same reason that many other people are for it. To the secular mind (secularists correct me if I am wrong) marriage is a commitment made between two people who love each other and wish to solemnize their love in front of witnesses. It is the ultimate form of exclusivity and a proclamation to each other and to the world that this person is hereafter dearest above all to one's self -to be considered, cherished, and enjoyed above all other relationships. Women also like wearing pretty dresses and having a big to do :D I highly advocate all the above, but a Christian marriage adds something more. Beyond any other consideration a Christian marriage depicts Christ's relationship with His bride the Church. Christ (masculine) is betrothed to the Church (feminine). Christ is not betrothed to Himself, and the Church is not betrothed to herself. The secular mind sees nothing in the definition of marriage that cannot be extended to same sex couples, while I see everything. It's not about one man and one woman or two hens and and guinea pig. It's about Christ and His Bride, and because it's about Christ and His Bride it's also about masculine and feminine. And that's why I can't get too excited when people start blathering on about gay marriage. If Christians start showing the world what marriage is (and painting with God's brushes and not just whatever they had on sale at SaveMart) then I believe gay marriage will fade away in light of God's covenant awesomeness. If, on the other hand, we refuse to live together in light of Christ and His Church, then all the referendums, sign waving, and illogical babbling won't stop it.

I'm still going to vote, argue, believe that homosexual relationships aren't God's plan for the world, but I'm going to be a little less hysterical and a little more compassionate when I encounter my unsaved counterparts. I'm going to try and wave signs less and live a little harder in the Gospel. I don't plan on being ignored, but I admit I'd rather be known for my love of God than my propensity to stand about on street corners.