Saturday, September 29, 2007

food lovely food

It was a lovely day here - highs in the mid 70s and clear blue skies. I spent it with my sweet little Brownie out at a jamboree, touring colonial era houses, making tiny clay pots and tiny raffia dolls, and learning to make rope from marsh grass fibers. (Oh! The memories from girl scouts!! The egg carton fire starters and badges and cookie sales and s'mores and roasting camping food in tin foil over a fire! I'm enjoying this as much as she is).

Speaking of colonial eras, may I say here that I am so glad that my dear son was born in today's modern age and in a country full of glutton and easily-available food? After a nice baseball game, whereupon he admirably controlled his emotions and was just a perfect little example of good sportsmanship and maturity, he came home and FELL APART upon learning that none of his friends were available to come over and play with him tonight. I'm talking wailing and gnashing of teeth and sobs and sobs and sobs as he collapsed on his bed. I was in tears myself, imagining that this was the start of hormones. I was trying to think of a nice way of telling DH that the only way to save my sanity and our marriage was for me to live in another country until Q was 27. It was horrible. I'm not kidding about my tears, either.

Then it was dinner time.

After watching Q inhale half of his meatball panini before the rest of us had put fork to mouth the first time, I looked at DH and asked him "Did you feed my son today?" DH looked puzzled, then said, "Well, he had a little peanut butter sandwich before the game."


Talk about your miraculous turnarounds. The sunny, happy version of Q is back, now that he is well fed. Holy cats. He would have been a hermit if he'd been around in food-sparse colonial times. That, or he'd have been the much feared tyrant. How many wars do you suppose have been started under the influence of low blood sugar??

heavy dose of blahs

I've been "off" for several weeks and I'm not sure why. I've not felt much like socializing or doing much of anything, really. I just want to stay home and veg. I'm not sure if I'm depressed or just borderline sick and tired. I suspect I have a lingering virus that my body is lazily (slowly) fighting off. I did make it to bed last night at 8:30, and woke up 10 hours later so maybe that will help.

My weekend plans are blissfully limited to soccer this morning and a GS event this afternoon with my daughter. Maybe I can convince M and family to come over for dinner on Sunday, but that's the extent of my energy. Perhaps I'm just getting old(er)?

Here is what I'm dreaming of now:

We've got a contractor coming over this week to talk to us about it.

Here's what I'm also dreaming of:

I love Virginia/North Carolina in the autumn.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007 which the ramblings of a mommy watching her babies turn into preteens turns into a ideological religious essay

Note: I have been writing and editing this post for 3 days now. I'm losing my mind and have absolutely no focus. Send help!

Perspective is the absolutely fascinating ingredient of understanding that creates very different interpretations from one common set of facts. For instance, having returned from my middle schooler's Back to School night, I can tell you that the way preteens relate a particular story is not necessarily the way teachers relate them. Both parties can be reporting the facts quite accurately. It's the emphasis, the subtleties, the innuendos that transform an entire storyline. For example, Q's interpretation of his mild upset at losing his science binder was interpreted as a complete meltdown by his teacher. In both cases, there were the facts of 1) a lost binder and 2) some tears. But the two interpretations as related to me, were worlds apart.

What am I talking about, really?
Dunno really. Just some observations.

One parent in the gym Tuesday night was going on and on and on (she was furious) about a particular day when her kids were 2 hours late coming home on the bus. Apparently, there were a huge number of drivers out sick that day so they had to double up the runs and didn't do a particularly good job of organizing it. She was angry enough to write an email to the school superintendent, and was furious that he forwarded it on to the transportation department rather than answer it himself. (??? I thought that was a perfectly appropriate response, in light of my newfound love of delegating, says me the PTA prez). I sat there quietly for a while (I was eavesdropping) and thought about how I would have shrugged it off as a nasty end to my kids' days and gone to buy them a milkshake. I just can't get all worked up over random uncontrollables like that. On the other hand, I went ballistic when my son lost two checks I sent in to school via him, and made him pay for his gym clothes out of his own money as a result. When I met his gym teacher on Back to School night, she looked at me in poorly masked horror when I explained why he paid for his gym clothes with (in part) 7 or 8 dollars worth of change. All parties knew all the facts in those stories. We just interpreted them differently and reacted to them differently.

One of Q's assignments in science class involves writing out very precise instructions on how to tie a shoe. He was in hysterics describing to me how his teacher would read each student's instructions and follow them very very literally and would end up with her hands tangled up in the laces. We rarely, if ever, depend purely on facts to relate a process, or to relate a story. It's very difficult to do. We depend heavily on interpretation. And that's where it all gets tricky, because unlike facts, which are concrete, interpretation is a fluid thing.

This is why I claim I have no patience for religious extremists (which run the gammut from fundamentalist christians and orthodox jews to whacky pagans and angry atheists.) Anyone who is so sure they know the "whole truth" that they have decided to condemn the rest of the world's interpretation as wrong or evil fits my definition of extremist. This is a fundamental weakness in human thought - the need to believe that our interpretations are as solid as fact. We are so uncomfortable with admitting that "We don't know," and with leaving loose ends in our understanding of the universe, that we convert our interpretations into fact to prove to ourselves we are right and make ourselves feel more comfortable. We end up hemming ourselves in with our own perceptions of "truth". In our quest to claim understanding, we refuse to acknowledge that our beliefs are not based on fact, but on only our interpretation of fact. Why is it that humans tend to gravitate toward close-mindedness naturally, and it takes work to open yourself back up again?

I don't think we should abandon our interpretations. That's what gives our lives the meaning we crave. But the close-minded approach of converting them into absolute truth shuts out the validity of all other interpretations completely and is what sparks misunderstanding, s tops communication, and ultimately leads to conflict, war, and abuse.

We would surely all do well to listen more.
We would do well to step back from our goal of being right and move on to a goal of trying to understand.
We would do well to learn to compromise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

stripping myself bare

I went back and read some of my older posts this weekend from months and months ago and dammit, but I used to write about some interesting stuff. I really want to be there again.

I've written about global warming recently, and about my life as a scientist, and I always write about my kids. I have not, however, written about my spiritual life for a while. And that is mainly because it is currently fraught with feelings of bitterness and anger and feeling quite sorry for myself and feeling very, very disappointed with what was my chosen spiritual home. I feel comfortable as an individual, but I feel so lonely because what I thought was the right place for me ended up not being so, despite my really, really wanting it to be.

Until about 7 years ago, I had not realized there was a chance in hell for my ever feeling a connection to a spiritual home ever again, not since I realized (when I was in my mid 20s) that I could not feel honest with myself about believing in a supernatural being (i.e. "GOD"). While I felt supremely comfortable with myself in this belief, I felt very out of place in the larger societal sphere (i.e., my home within humanity). (And yes, that is important to me.) I felt uncomfortable, that is, until I found the Unitarian Universalist church. And I was very happy there for a while. In that place, you are theoretically accepted as having valid spiritual beliefs whether those beliefs encompass Jesus Christ dying on the cross to save the world, or whether you believe in the Buddhist philosophy or whether the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster serves your spiritual needs. In that place (UU), we are all theoretically accepted as valid spiritual beings and there is an environment of tolerance that I craved not only for myself but most especially for my children. I enrolled my kids there in the religious education program in order for them to learn about love and tolerance and differences and the universe. I dove into the culture there, wanting to give more than I took.

And guess what? I definitely got what I wanted. I gave more than I took. Big time.

I terminated my membership there last month. And as a result I feel very sad. But I can't see that there was another way.

For my last 1.5 years there, I sacrificed my own spiritual feeding in order to teach the high school youth there at UU. I loved those HS kids. But it took a lot out of my own life. A lot. I spent countless Saturday nights frantically trying to piece together a lesson for the next morning because I did not like the curriculum we were using, and I did so at the expense of spending time with my own two kids. Forget spontaneous camping trips to the mountains. Forget Sunday mornings sleeping until we woke up without an alarm. I gave those days away. I also spent countless Sunday mornings teaching the the YRUU's in place of attending services and being spiritually fed myself. And when I finished my term of teaching? A little more than 3 months ago? I heard nary a word, nary a thank you, nary a "we'll miss you." N.O.T.H.I.N.G. The silence from this "loving" congregation was deafening. I felt ... absolutely.nothing ... from the other members there. Nothing.

After three months of a self-imposed hiatus from church this summer, the only correspondence I actually received were two emails, both asking me to commit (again) to volunteering more of my time with the youth. (My answer was "no," to the emails but in my reality was "hell no.") No one asked me how I was or where I had been or more importantly, how my children have been. There.Was.Nothing. No one was curious as to why I was no longer attending. The only question I heard was whether I would commit to continue to "serve."

And that? That was the end of it for me. While UU is the closest "church" I've found to meshing with my personal understanding of life and the universe, I decided that it was ultimately more about creating a beautiful image of itself and was less about being interested in the real people that are looking for a community to belong to.

I did hear from the UU ministers after I terminated my financial pledge. But you know what? I (notably) still have NOT heard a thank you from anyone for the time I gave. ANY ONE. for the freakin' YEARS that I spent giving in that congregation. I am speechless. And I am mad. And I realize that the caring that is espoused there is less toward the people and more toward the philosophy. And I am so not about that. There's more, too, that has upset me but I'm not going to get into that here.

I love so many of the people that go to that church. But I don't know that this is something I can get over. I really miss the sense of belonging to a spiritual community. But I realize that in the sense that is important to me, I never belonged anyway.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's a Lazy Friday around here

This stoopid picture had better be worth it to you because I was having the BEST dream.

Gecko sprawl.

The master of laze.

Pardon? You want me to do WHAT?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

thanks mom!

My mom just pointed me to a website for recycling household compact fluorescent bulbs. I almost hyperventilated at the first few prices I saw ($100.00 or more) but wait! Have no fear! For ordinary compact fluorescent bulbs that we use at home, you can dispose of 12 bulbs for about $15.00, just over $1.00 per bulb. That's actually do-able. You buy a "kit" which includes packaging and all postage. When you receive it, you fill the box with used bulbs (I'm figuring that's going to take a LONG time), and ship it off to be recycled when it's full.

the website.

I just ordered mine.

My mom is such a treehugger. I'd post a picture of her hugging a tree in Idaho, but I'm not sure she'd want me to. :-)

when the lights go out

Search out any list of "ways to help the environment" and I guarantee you'll find the admonition to replace your incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones. They use something like a quarter of the electricity and as a bonus, last much longer than traditional bulbs, saving you some $$ on top of feeling good about being "green."
What's not to love?

We started that process a while ago. Long enough, actually, to have some of our fluorescent bulbs go out. And now all the helpful voices have become very quiet, and I am getting very little help in finding the right way to dispose of these things. Fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury - not enough that I'm worried about my home, but enough that if we all tossed used bulbs out with the garbage and let them break and release mercury into dumps, we'd end up contaminating our water supplies first and then watch as the mercury made its way on up the food chain. Not ideal.

So after quite a bit of googling I'm positive only that "recycle" is the proper method of disposal. The problem is that not many sites go into more detail than that.

I did, however, find this very nifty earth 911 site where you use your zip code and the type of item you would like to dispose of to find the nearest options for recycling. It looks like the nearest site for fluorescent bulbs recycling is 57 miles away from me, clear in another state. Dag-NABit Jim-Bob. I'm set for motor oil and computer recycling though, with places showing up as close as 0.0 miles from me.

Seriously, if we're going to encourage conservation, we've really got to do it intelligently. While I've found a very large number of announcements for programs giving away fluorescent bulbs and encouraging their use, I've not seen much movement afoot to take care of their disposal. Seems more than a bit shortsighted to me. We can't just jump on the bandwagon de jour and stop thinking. Life is complicated. Taking care of our planet is complicated. But both are worth the effort.

Edited to note that I was recently pointed to a website for reasonably-priced mail-in recycling for these bulbs.


So how many parenting blogs have you read where mom is grousing about the CRAZINESSS! The INSANITY!!! of her day? ...packing lunches and making breakfast and "Oh, honey? Have you put on your deodorant? Have you brushed your teeth? Clean underwear?", signing the homework logs and cleaning up the dog barf and writing a check for band fees while trying to remember why the cat is out of food... (and that all before 7 am). Have they written about the after school juggling? The overlapping activities full across town while trying to assure all homework is done BEFORE the night's ventures, equipment makes it to the activities, all permission slips are signed, and crabby children get a quick peanut butter sandwich between soccer and baseball so they don't explode in the middle of practice? And if said mommy just happens to be a PTA president or something, she might grouse about how in the middle of girl scouts she gets the "Hey aren't you the PTA president? Find out if I can have a voter registration booth during Back to School night?" or "How do I get an article in your newsletter and get a bulletin board in the school?" which is all fine and well except that I (I mean, fictional mom) didn't have time to switch hats between "Mommy" and "PTA president" so all these bits of scattered information are flying around in an over-exhausted mind, and oh sh*t I forgot the kids are out of bread and pretzels for lunches so we have to go to the grocery store before going home and I had a long tedious day at work in front of the computer and while I'm at it in the grocery I'm SO definitely buying myself another bottle of wine.

And this is why women are mommies and men are daddies. I give myself permission to generalize in this post because I am on the brink of crying from exhaustion so I give myself permission for just about anything. Mommies are multitaskers. Mommies must be able to remember to start the washer while cleaning the hamster cage while putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher and then remember to buy the jumbo sized book cover at office depot after dog obedience class. Mommies are the gatherers and men are the hunters. Gatherers must be able to scope out the terrain and memorize the locations of the blueberry bushes, the fig leaves and the potato patch (I'm making all this up). Men are the hunters, who focus in on ONE victim. They must block out all distractions and be able to track and follow that ONE prey.
One focus. Hunter. Daddy
Broad focus. Gatherer. Mommy

So while I try to catch my breath between gulps of wine and scarfing down my favorite comfort food of spaghetti with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spicy tomatoes, I can comfort myself by the fact that I am a damned fine example of the natural evolution of social conforms. I did a grand job of gathering today.

(And I LOVE the hunters as well. Gotta have 'em. But it'd be nice to switch for a few days. Maybe I'd better think about that before making the offer. Plus, I know some daddies who are more gatherers than hunters. There. I'm making my generalization all better now.)

P.S. - those of you with kids in school? Go hug your PTA president. It's like being a mommy of a whole organization. Tain't easy.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

grandparents' day

Thank you to my neighbor Mary for reminding me that today was grandparents' day. I called my 98 year old grandmother (she'll be 99 in December). She still lives by herself, and can't hear that well, but we were able to work out a good conversation somehow. We talked about her sister's 100th birthday party last month (did I mention I have a strong gene pool?). She talked to me about how her air conditioner went out while it was 100 degrees, and how she fell today but there was no harm done because her son and son in law just happened to be there replacing her air conditioner. Mostly, it was when I said "I love you" and she said, "I love you, Jennifer," that I felt the connection.

Mamaw and I, we are from different worlds. Mamaw was very concerned when I was in my late 20s and was still not married because in the world in which she grew up, that was a travesty and I would have been rendered an "old maid." She passed no personal judgement on me, I don't believe, but was worried for me because she loved me. In my world, it was typical, though I didn't necessarily know that at the time. She is very religious. Her church and her god have always been the center of her life. I shared that with her at one point, and that was a strong connection between the two of us, but I am now an atheist. She doesn't know that. There are some things that are much more important than sharing your "principles" and are much stronger than idealism. Love and respect are two of those things. My sharing my current feelings with her would serve absolutely no good purpose. Although we were created from lives in very different worlds, I feel her blood in my own. She is a musician, and so is my father, So are my aunt, my cousins, so am I and so are my children. Mamaw worries so much about what people think of her. So do I. She loves me unconditionally, as do I her. When my grandfather died several years ago, I flew to Texas for the funeral. I remember walking into the funeral parlor at the viewing and seeing her sitting in one of the pews, while people were milling all around and talking. I went to sit beside her and held her hand. I was trying to figure out what to say to someone who just lost her husband of 75 years. She looked at me and leaned in to tell me something, presumably profound and insightful. "I don't know who any of these people are!!" she confessed, resulting in us giggling for a while. That night, I spent the night at her house and she wanted me to sleep in bed with her. She labored to crawl up into bed and after a long while, finally made it and laid back into the pillows. She looked at me. "I'm pathetic," she confessed.
We don't get to talk often and see each other even less often. But she is my grandmother. I am here because of her. So much of my childhood contains her in my memories. I love you, Mamaw.

By the way mom and dad...your grandchildren were not able to call you on grandparent's day only because you are traipsing all over Idaho and are enjoying a (hopefully) wonderful vacation together. I would have it NO OTHER WAY!!! Your grandchildren love you dearly and will talk to you when you return.