Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Time to Finish

The next few days will be busy ones, so I've decided to finish up this meme and be done with it. :) More on the busy stuff after the meme questions!


What would you do if you got pregnant (or got someone pregnant) right now?


Well... I'd start looking for Wise Men coming from the East, 'cause I was "fixed" about 11 years ago. LOL! Honestly, while pregnancy isn't exactly what I want to be doing at 40 years old, if it happened, I'd consider it a gift and go with the flow. I'm eating healthier now than I have in years, I'm losing weight, looking good, feeling good... I can't see why I wouldn't just enjoy it.

Something you hope to change about yourself



I want to gain some more self-discipline. I worship at random moments, often forgetting major events even when I've sent myself umpteen reminders. I want to be more reliable to myself!

A letter to yourself



Dear Me,
     I'm almost 40, and I really think we need to get a move-on with the fixing up of this ol' body. I know we're losing weight at a healthy, steady pace right now, but let's not get complacent. Nose to the grind-stone! Great call on working on the cabin, by the way. I know we hate exercising, but working on the cabin doesn't feel much like exercise, and is GREAT as both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Splitting wood works on the upper arms. Hauling stuff is good for the whole upper body, the core muscles, the abs. Shovelling is just good all over. Walking up and down the hill with tools and wood and such is perfect for getting the heart rate up. Just an over-all great idea. *back pat*
     We need to work on that eating thing though. M'kay? Eat when hungry is a good guide, but being hungry is still not an excuse for pouring a half cup of butter our popcorn. Yeah.
Love, Me.


Alright, what else is going on? Well, I've decided to build a little cabin. I had been thinking originally of doing a hobbit hole type of structure, but it's actually much more work than it's worth for me, and not large enough or comfy enough to live in. What I really want is a log cabin, and while a full log cabin is currently beyond my abilities and means, I can put together a shack. And that's just what I'm going to do!


I've been working on sketching out what I want, but I don't have it scanned or created online yet, so I have no pic for you. I'll try and describe it in words, though. I paint my best pictures with words, anyhow! I can't leave you with no visual at all, though, and so I've included a pic that is similar to what I'm creating.


This is a basic image similar to what I am creating. The building itself will be tiny, being only 8' x 8' for a total of 64 sq. ft. This doesn't give me much living space, so I'm creating a slanted roof like this, so that I can add a small loft (about 4' x 8', open to the room below) to sleep in, thereby leaving the main floor for living in. The slant will go from east (high end) to west (low end), with the western wall being about 8' tall. The door will be on the south side, and will be a full-sized wood door. 


The east wall will have two windows in it. One will be a medium sized window, about 3.5' wide and 2' tall. This window will be on the ground floor, and should allow me to pick up the morning sun. It will also let me look out and see the glorious woods all around me! The other window will be tiny, only about 2' by 1', and it will be up in the loft, so that there's some natural light available up there. Against the main floor window will be a fold-down table (this allows me to create space if I need it) and a couple of folding chairs. It will be an eating area, and a studying area. 


The north wall will have a small wall cabinet attached to it, to store a couple of plates, some cutlery, and perhaps some salt and pepper. What I want to get is a small wooden box which I can then attach to the wall with screws. There is a possibility that I will also have a set of metal lockers there, holding up one end of the loft, as there were some very cheap ones at a building recycling place we visit on occasion, which would allow me to store valuables and lock them up (the lockers take padlocks).


In the north-west corner of the room will be my tiny little woodstove. It will look rather like this one, although it's a bit smaller and not quite so shiny. This is one piece I already have, although Gray needs to weld a new leg onto it so it stands upright. I'll need to have both walls and the floor around the stove covered with firebrick or one of the special heat-reflecting back-boards. Since the cabin is so tiny, heating with this stove will probably mean that I spend winters with the windows open to let in some cool air. It's supposed to be good for about 300 sq. ft. of space, and my li'l cabin will only be 64 sq. ft.! But honestly, it's better to be too warm than too cold, after all. I'll have a straight chimney coming off the stove, straight up through the roof to avoid build-up of dangerous creosote.


I hope to put a window on the west wall similar to the one on the east wall, but it will depend what I find on freecycle and craigslist. This is not a cabin I'm buying things for. It's all being done by trade and recycling (or "upcycling" as some people call it). The south wall will have my door, a lovely thick wood one with tiny rectangular glass windows set into it. 


The loft will have a ladder that can be pulled up or pushed to one side to get it out of the way. We may have to cut a notch in the floor of the loft in order to have enough room for an adult to crawl up into it, due to the slant of the roof. That's okay, though. The loft itself will only be big enough for a small bed and perhaps a little storage space at one end of it. It's not meant for entertaining, after all.


My building will be started by having four poles placed at the corners. I already have the trees I need to provide the full height of all four corner poles, though it still needs to be cut to size and holes need to be drilled to accommodate the poles. They'll be sunk about 5 feet deep, with a gravel bottom and gravel poured in around the pole, then dirt filled in on top. Then I have to put in the floor...


The floor is my current obsession. I have had several ideas, but most include a bunch of lumber I don't have. Trees I have aplenty, but not cut lumber. I will need to level my house on the corner poles, as the ground under it isn't entirely even. On top of that leveled edge I will need to put beams and cross beams. Again, I don't have the 4x4s that most people use for creating these things. I have been wondering if I can rig four of the pallets we have as a sub-floor. If I bolt the four pallets together to make a sturdy 8' x 8' grid, I should be able to put the barn-board flooring in that I want, right on top of it. The question is just how I'm going to get it onto the leveling beams. I'm still working on the plan at this point. I might have to take the pallets apart and just use them as flooring or for beams. Regardless, after the grid is down, I have a bunch of barn floor boards that we pulled out of Gray's barn. These will get a quick run through the planer, then laid down and screwed or nailed into place up at my cabin.


It's a fairly complex building, when I sit down and figure it all out. It's changing day by day as I work on it in my head. I'm very excited about it! With four stout walls of cut logs, a locking door to keep human animals at bay, and a wood stove cranking out heat, I should be set to stay there any time of the year I want to. 


I even have an idea for how to pull water to the cabin so I don't have to haul it up from the stream: run a hose from the cabin to the stream and into a fairly deep pool that is close by. On the cabin end, I will install one of the inexpensive hand water pumps. When I want to draw water, all I need to do is hand pump for the few minutes it takes to pull it up from the stream. Since I've done similar with the tools we already have, I'm aware of how much work it is... and how it's a lot nicer than going out and digging a hole in snow to get at the running water beneath, using a bucket on a slippery stream bank. Gray thinks he could automate this with a solar pump later on, which would mean running water anytime.


I'm sure you're wondering what I'll be doing for a potty. While outdoors is fine in good weather (spring and fall, for instance), it's not so great in deep snow or in the middle of black fly season. I really have no interest in exposing my tender tuchus to frost bite OR mosquitoes. Therefore, I intend to make something akin to a Loveable Loo. I would make a hinged lid that was raised, meaning we could use it as a stool in the house when it wasn't being used in any other way. No sense giving up even a square foot of space to something that only gets used a few times a day. 


So... hopefully my verbal images are adequate to show you what I mean. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of my place-to-be! I'll probably put up a lot of images as I clean up and then build the cabin. The next rain-free day we have, I'll be up there again, raking and making it ready for corner poles and flooring!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Overstuffing the Turkey

There is a great debate over how to stuff a turkey. You may not have realized that, but it's true. People like Rachel Ray and Martha Stewart will tell you that it's naughty to over stuff your turkey. They say things like over stuffing is dangerous and can lead to bacteria, or that it will cause your turkey to explode as the stuffing expands. The bottom line is, it's a personal choice. Grandma used to stuff the turkey, sometimes even the night before, and none of us ever died of salmonella poisoning. While I would not suggest pre-stuffing on the night before, if you're putting your turkey in the oven and cooking it for an appropriate amount of time for the weight of it plus the stuffing, then stuff away. I will go so far as to say that I weigh in on the side of stuffing the heck out of the turkey, and I'll even tell you why.

First and foremost, there's never enough stuffing. I say that as a stuffing connoisseur. I have had many different kinds of stuffing, and my favorite is and always will be my Nagymama's recipe (see below). If you don't make enough stuffing, you're forced to do a "family hold-back" and that sucks! Always make much more stuffing than you think you can use. After all, it can be eaten the day after as leftovers, or even added to pot pies and soups to add flavor and texture! If you don't over stuff the turkey, you end up having to put stuffing in tin foil on the side, and it never tastes quite right. It's kind of dry, and often crispy in the wrong way. It just isn't correct.

Second, if you want to enjoy the moistest, most deliciously flavored turkey ever, over stuff. Not only do I stuff the cavity of the bird, I slide stuffing mix up into the breast. With careful handling, you can easily separate the skin from the breast meat. Spoon or shove that stuffing right up into it, and make sure the whole breast is covered. This keeps the meat moist, tender, and adds a wallop of flavor to it. Try it once, and you'll never go back! The only caveat to this is that you really need to check both the turkey temperature AND the stuffing temperature to make sure they reach 160F before serving, to make sure there is no bacteria.

Third, and most importantly in my opinion, that over stuffing will actually allow you to see when your turkey is done (note, this only applies to bread stuffing; rice won't expand and therefore doesn't cause the turkey to disjoint). What happens is that as the stuffing cooks, it slowly expands and causes the turkey to become disjointed. This means that the juices of the stuffing actually baste your turkey for you! When it's done, you'll know because your turkey's legs will be all akimbo and likely will begin to fall off. Remember to check with a meat thermometer to make certain, though (those little plastic pop up ones are of no use to you if you stuff your bird, by the way).

When your turkey is done, pull it out of the oven and set it on a cutting board (we have one just for cutting juicy things, and it sits over the sink and has a little divot where the juices run out into the drain rather than all over the counter). It needs to sit for 15 to 20 minutes before you cut it. I know, I know, it's tough to wait that long. Honestly, though, it really is important: the bird is still cooking. If you don't let it sit, you may still have parts that aren't as tender and juicy as others. Also, this is the perfect time to make your gravy. A good gravy takes about 15 to 20 minutes to make, and then you can dismember the bird! You might also want to take pictures of the bird, because as beautiful as it is, it's much easier to cut it up in the kitchen than at the table. Norman Rockwell be damned - when that bird hits the table, people want to eat it, not admire it.

To cut up your turkey, use a good, sharp knife. Try to avoid using electric knives, as they can shred the meat. The first thing to do is remove all the stuffing and set it into a bowl for serving later. You may want to put it in a warm (not hot) oven to keep it at the right temperature). Cut along the breast bone, down the middle. Using your hands, gently pull the breast meat off. If it doesn't come, feel free to get in there with a knife, but usually they will come off in one big piece. Once they're off, slice into acceptable sized pieces. Believe me when I say that turkey breast (and other fowl breast) is not meant to be cut up on the bone.

Make one plate of white meat, and another of dark, so people can make their choice. Add the legs to the dark meat platter, and the wings to the light meat platter. Decorate with a sprig of parsley and a couple of cranberries if you wish.

Okay, now what you've been waiting for: turkey stuffing recipe.

Ingredient:
cubed bread (you may use packaged stuffing bread)
one large onion
the turkey liver
3 large cloves of garlic (fresh)
savory, parsley, cilantro, salt, pepper to taste
8 to 12 eggs
half stick of butter
boiling water

While the water is boiling, chop your garlic and onions. I use a food processor to get them very fine. Put the bread cubes into a very large mixing bowl and dump the onion and garlic mix on top. Add your dry spices. Use the food processor to basically liquefy the liver (you can buy more liver for this if you like it, or use none at all, or even use beef liver) and add that on top of the onions. Add the eggs, about 8 eggs for a 15 lb turkey, and 12 for a 22 lb turkey. You may want to whisk the eggs before putting them in, though it isn't necessary. Add your butter.

Over this dryish mess, pour boiling water. Use a fork to  mix it all together. You'll want to use a bit of water at a time, no more than a half cup or so. Your end goal is to have the stuffing be moist, without any crunchy bits, and thoroughly mixed, but not so wet that there's water pooling at the bottom. Let it sit and absorb all the spices and egg and such for a few moments while you wash your turkey down and set it on a rack in the roasting pan. Then stuff the stuffing into the bird, filling it as full as you can. You can also stuff the neck cavity, and up under the breast skin as I mentioned before.

On the skin of the turkey, sprinkle the herbs of your choice. I like a mix of savory, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, granulated garlic, and good Hungarian paprika. Cover it with a lid or a tin foil tent (be sure to spray with non-stick spray if there is ANY chance the turkey will touch the lid/tin foil) and put it in the oven for the proscribed amount of time.

Enjoy!

Whew... Truth takes a lot of time!

Make a playlist to someone and explain why you chose those songs

Um... no. I don't listen to music via "playlists" really. I listen to a CD here or there, or I throw on the radio, but I don't have an iPod or anything of that sort. The closest thing I have to a playlist is the bunch of imported music I dropped onto my computer, which comprises very old music from the 80s and earlier. 


The reason you believe you're still alive today


Well... mostly because I haven't died...? LOL This is a silly question on first glance. More seriously, I am here because of Gray. If he hadn't come into my life, I fully believe that by now I would have either killed myself, or possibly done something horrible to my mother. He taught me enough self control and to have some real ego (of the good type) so that I could go to seminary and learn more. 



Have you ever thought about giving up on life?



Sure. There are times when life hits the fan and I just don't want to deal anymore. Having my "family" basically fracture beneath me, with people lying and sneaking around is tearing me apart. I went through some time, at the start of this mess, when all I wanted was to go to sleep forever. I know that doesn't work, though. I believe in reincarnation, very strongly, and I believe that if I try to shortcut this life by opting out, I will simply have to go through this crap all over again. I've done most of the hard work (dealt with mother issues, ex issues, etc) so why give up now?

What's the best thing you've got going for you right now?



Seminary, hands down. The fact that I have a place where my strengths are played to, and where I am seen as a strong, capable woman with a mind of my own is very important to me right now. Seminary is giving me career options, strength of personality, and many usable skills. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Catching up on the Meme

What is your opinion of religion?


I'm rather fond of religion as a whole. Sometimes I don't like specific people within a religion, but it's rare that I find an entire religion to be wrong or bad. I also like that we have so many religions available to us to learn from and grow within. I enjoy studying religion and have taken courses on Christianity (both modern and ancient), Judaism (moder and ancient mystic branch), Islam, Taoism, Confucianism, Wicca, and a few of the reconstructionist religions. I probably missed some... we studied a lot of different religions last year. Oh, Quakers! :) I find the similarities and differences to be fascinating and enlightening.

Your views on drugs and alcohol.



Well, first off, alcohol is a drug. I think that there are some drugs that are not harmful that have been regulated (pot, LSD, shrooms, etc) and some very harmful drugs that have not been regulated (alcohol, tobacco). I have a hard time with government regulation of drugs, I will admit. I adhere to those regulations because I've no wish to end up in jail or worse, but during my time in British Columbia (where pot was decriminalized and there were "pot bars" you could legally go to) I enjoyed a variety of types. I don't understand the idea of putting someone in jail for taking a drug. Certainly we need to deal with addictions as a society, but I'm pretty sure jail isn't helping it and criminalizing those who use drugs seems to me to be a pretty poor way of dealing with it. I do believe there are "bad drugs" that can mess with your body in nasty ways. Ecstasy, injectables, most snortables... But I don't necessarily think that jailing those who use them is sensible. I'm not sure what the answer is, but that ain't it.

(Scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you got into a fight a couple of hours before. what do you do?


I go and help out in whatever way I can. Fights happen; I'm passionate and so are most of my friends. Nothing would stop me from being at a friend's side during a time of trouble, though. 

Something you wish you hadn't done in your life


I wish I hadn't trusted my parents and left my daughter with them.

Something you wish you had done in your life


I wish I had finished high school and gone on to college. I had the potential but not the drive, and I really regret not having those experiences. I am working on fixing those things now, but it isn't the same... At 40 I just can't party the way I could have at 20. Then again, at 40 I can study MUCH more efficiently than I could at 20, so I guess it's a pay-off. LOL

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Christians and the Pagans

ARTIST: Dar Williams
TITLE: The Christians and the Pagans
Lyrics and Chords

Amber called her uncle, said "We're up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay"
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, "It's Christmas eve, I know our life is not your style"
She said, "Christmas is like Solstice, and we miss you and it's been 
    awhile"
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served, hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"
His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the 
     kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a 
     Christian"
"But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from, I think magic's in the learning
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said, "Really, no, don't bother"
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
He thought he'd call him up and say, "It's Christmas and your daughter's here"
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve saying
"Can I be a Pagan?"  Dad said, "We'll discuss it when they leave"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old, and
Making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

Thank you, Dar Williams.

Books and Marriage

A book you've read that changed your view on something


Every book I read has the opportunity to change my view, but Heinlein's Time Enough for Love changed everything. It is the history of Lazarus Long, from his own point of view, but not. It covers many stories of his life, hints at his involvement in several of Heinlein's non-Lazarus novels, and explains in detail a moral system of love and existence that has stayed with me since the day I read it. Lazarus isn't about being nice to everyone, and he is not a pacifist, but he is unfailingly polite. He will be polite right up until someone pushes into his personal space, at which point he will politely warn you (if you are unarmed or stupid) or he will kill you (if you are armed, threatening, or known to be intelligent enough to be a real threat). He's surrounded by women despite being a curmudgeon, and I understand it. It's just one of those books that I read and re-read. I have owned about 8 copies over the past 20 years, and all have worn out. I read it at least once a year, and every time I read it, I learn something new not only about Lazarus, but about myself.

Your views on gay marriage



I think marriage is between you, your partner (or partners!) and your gods. That's that. So long as everyone is old enough to consent, and is going into it with eyes wide open, who cares who marries who? Two women? Sure! There are lots of stats out there right now showing that lesbian households with children have a 0% abuse rate. Two men? Why not? I have gay friends who are married and have children and their kids are the most polite, well brought up children I've met in ages. A man and a woman? I think that'd be okay, too. How about two men and three women? Yep, even that. After all, what matters is if you love each other and if you actually want to be bound together in the eyes of Deity as you see Deity. 


Now... If you want to talk about contracts with the government, that's something else entirely. A contract is a contract. A "marriage contract" (or, as I call it for legal purposes, a wedding) is between a person or persons and the state or county in which that person lives. The state may or may not agree with a contract. That is the state's right, just as it is the right of the person or people involved to go to court to have their contract verified. 


I do not believe the gubberment should have their fingers in the marriage pie. It isn't their business who I love or sleep with. On the other hand, weddings are important for those who want the security of tax shelters, health benefits, etc. I see no reason for The Man to be involved in that, as it is in most contracts at some level. Legally binding contracts are backed by the government to which we belong, as well as the laws of the land in which we live. That's a separate fight entirely. I am all for the government allowing weddings between more than two people - if nothing else, the national debt would probably go down as all the held-off poly peeps run out to get licenses. That, though, is a purely legal fight that someone is going to have to take to court. Me, I am just interested in the marriage part, personally.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Something or someone you could definitely live without

You know what I could do without? Stress. I am tired of stress. I am frustrated that there's so much stress in my life. I'm in fact stressing over the fact that I am stressed. What's wrong with this picture? "Researchers define stress as a physical, mental, or emotional response to events that causes bodily or mental tension. Simply put, stress is any outside force or event that has an effect on our body or mind." -- TimeThoughts

Physically, I am not sleeping as well as I should be. I am getting 7.5+ hours of sleep a night and feeling exhausted in the morning. I recently caught a cold, and it has dragged on. My body is not dealing well with all the current stress in the house. Mentally, I have been struggling with homework, and my ability to prioritize things (never great) has tanked out completely. The day just seems to disappear and nothing gets done. Emotionally, I'm on a roller coaster ride that just doesn't seem to end.

Yes, I could definitely live without stress.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Two Today

A hero that has let you down


I don't have a lot of heroes. I think of Superman when I was younger, and maybe Wolverine as a teen, but really I've never had heroes of that kind. My greatest hero is my grandfather (maternal), Alexander (Sandy) Davidson. He fought in WWII for my freedom and yours, and is a real hero. Grandpa never let me down, though. This is a tough one for me. I suppose the only person who should have been a hero but wasn't, is my mother. Maybe my dad, but not so much.

Something or someone you couldn't live without


I've learned over the years that there is very little I can't do without. I need shelter, food and water, and a certain amount of love, but most everything else is a desire or a want, not a need. I will say that I would not want to imagine my life without Gray in it. He's a bright star even during the rough times. I can't say I would die without him though. I wouldn't. I would regret his not being here, and I would mourn and grieve, but I would go on. That's what I do. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough times

I love music. I listen to it a lot. I am not the type of person who really has a particular band, though. I love Gowan, and the Doors, ZZ Top and even Shania Twain. If I had to pick specific songs, though, I would say there are a couple. Bitch by Meredith Brooks most definitely, which helped me find myself in a very dark time when I left my ex-husband. Also, Savage Garden's Truly, Madly, Deeply, which was popular during the time leading up to meeting Gray. I Just Want You To Know Who I am by Goo Goo Dolls has a special meaning for me, too, but not something I can really talk about.

Mostly, though, the music I like is just... whatever is on. I like old music, stuff from the 50s, 60s, 70s... yes I like disco, I like 90s pop. I liked Madonna when she was still wearing her dad's shirts with oversized belts. The iconic music of the 80s and 90s spoke volumes to me. I just didn't have it out for any particular band.

Something you never get compliments on

This is a tough one. I'm sure there are lots of things I don't get compliments on. My trumpet playing (I don't play...). My feeling is that the meme wishes me to share something I think I do well at that I do not receive compliments about. The answer is, I really don't know. There are things I rarely get compliments on, but not never. Even my housekeeping elicits compliments occasionally.

Thinking about it, the thing I don't receive compliments on would be my child-raising skills. I believe I am an excellent parent. My daughter still listens to me and respects me despite being thousands of miles away. The twins respect and obey me, too. When I'm alone with kids, generally speaking they're well behaved, well fed, and have a lot of fun. I'm strict and have rules I expect to be followed, but if you do follow them, we're all fine.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remember...


Never forget. We say those words, but do we really mean them? It's 11:30pm here, and I find myself wondering how many people thought of this as more than just a day off school, or just another work day. How many people paused today, at 11:11am or at any other time, to REMEMBER? I don't mean passing around a FaceBook flag or forwarding an email about veterans. How many of you actually stopped and thought about the people who have fought and died for you?

I did.

A few minutes ago, I closed out the larger part of my day by listening to a bugler play Taps. As the haunting tones of it went over me, I closed my eyes, and I prayed. I spoke silent words of thanks to those who gave their lives so that I could be free today. I prayed for those who currently put their bodies between mine and death, whether they (or I) agree with their orders or not.

I prayed for the souls of those men who were the first to walk into Auschwitz and see the emaciated bodies of the Jews there, and who were forced to lock those same suffering Jews back into the camp to keep them from eating too much food and killing themselves. Can you imagine it? If you can't, maybe you should watch it (note: this is not for the unprepared, and do not show it to young children without supervision). It's uncomfortable. It's horrific. But you know what? If we don't REMEMBER it, we're doomed to repeat it.

My grandfathers both fought in WWII. My Scottish grandfather, Alexander Davidson, fought for the Scottish Army and for the Allies. He was captured very early in the war, and put into a prison camp. Luckily he was treated well, considering, and he survived the experience. Still, he would never talk about it. He simply could not. My Hungarian grandfather, John Szabo Sr., fought for the Hungarians and for the Communists. He was given no choice. One day, the arrived at his home and told him he was conscripted, and they handed him a rifle and put him in line with everyone else. He escaped after an Allied attack that left everyone in his company dead. He hid under the dead and decaying bodies for several days until the Allies left and he could crawl out. That is all he would tell me when I asked him, and even that was so painful that he cried when he spoke of it.

I don't want to remember these horrible things. I HAVE TO, though. If I forget, then who would teach my children? Who would show them that these horrors were wrought upon human beings? Who would explain to them that it started so small... just a little yellow star... just a setting aside of one particular type of human...

Please... if you missed Nov. 11th as a time of remembrance, it isn't too late. It's possible to remember any time, after all. Take the time now. Remember. Remember the horror, so that we never have to see it again. Because I'd much rather remember that this happened in the past, long LONG ago, than be terrified of it happening now, or watching it happen tomorrow.

REMEMBER.

Something people seem to compliment you the most on

The thing which I seem to get the most compliments about is my writing. Whether they're talking about my book, my poetry, or my sermons, my writing seems to really inspire people in some way. I'm glad, because writing is something I love to do. It's one of my passions. I find I can often communicate things on paper (or computer screen as the case may be) that I can't always do while talking.

This year I had intended to join NaNoWriMo again, despite last year's epic fail, but I just don't have the time. November on a farm is sort of like February on a maple farm - there's just no time. On top of that, I'm swamped with homework from seminary and doing stuff for church. The pressure of the contest just wasn't what I needed, so I shelved it yet again. Of course that doesn't mean I can't work on something. After all, I have several fiction books sitting on my harddrive, just waiting to be worked on.

I even have one about the love between Ariadne and Dionysos...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Someone you didn't want to let go, but who drifted

When I was a little girl, just barely in the first grade, my family moved from one town to another. We were far enough away from the old neighborhood that it was impractical to visit, and I certainly had to change schools. I arrived in the little town of Pickering at the tender age of 7, knowing no one and shy as anything. There, I met a young girl who was to become my very best friend for many years. Her name was Lisa.

Lisa was different from me. She had two parents who worked instead of one. Her father was a salesman, and her mother was a teacher. She lived in a house that was similar to mine, though a bit larger. Spending time at her house was always a treat, because her mother let us make forts out of chairs and blankets, and even let us sleep in the tents if we were good girls (which we always were). Lisa's mother was always nice to me, and I recall having several childhood fantasies that included discovering she was my REAL mother and would take me away from the evil woman who had stolen me away.

In any case, Lisa and I spent a happy few years as Bestest Friends. We played together, ate lunch together, watched tv together, swam together... It was a fairly typical best friend scenario, I suppose. The years slipped by and we moved from elementary school to middle school, and we were in different classes. We started to drift. I met other friends, but Lisa was always there. I missed her when I hadn't seen her for a while.

Then I discovered Boys. About that time, Lisa discovered Olympic swimming, and applied herself to that rather than the male of the species. We drifted far, far away. We never ceased to be friends, and I still talk to her from time to time on FaceBook, but the years have created a chasm that really isn't bridgeable. I miss the joy of our childhood friendship, while realizing that it ended a very long time ago.

I became a high school drop out, and she went to Barcelona to represent our country. I remember watching her, cheering her on, and being so disappointed when she didn't make a medal. Still, she had gone to the Olympics! It was an, "I knew her when..." moment. She has beautiful kids now, and a normal home, normal life, normal husband... so far removed from me. I wouldn't want that kind of normal, even if I could get it. It's not my thing. But every once in a while, there's that... pang.

Never Again

I've been watching Babylon 5 again. I decided to do it as a method of exploring my own spirituality, as I remembered how much it affected me the first couple of times I saw it through. I'm not being disappointed, of course. At the end of the five seasons, I will begin writing a paper on spirituality and modern mythology in science fiction media.

Today, what struck me most was the references to war throughout the episodes I watched. Considering I'm watching a television show that was written in the early to mid 1990s, I'm stunned by how relevant every episode has been. The politics playing out among the various races of aliens aboard Babylon 5 might as well be the Arabs and Americans and Orientals of modern day Earth. The escalation of fights and violence, the manipulation of the mainstream media, the subtle and then not-so-subtle infiltration of the public with negative stereotyping and fear-mongering... It's all there.

Time and again in my note-taking, I refer to the "slippery slope" that takes one from light to the Shadows (who are the show's Bad Guys, for those who haven't seen it). It takes only one small thing to tip one over the edge from good to bad, from light to darkness. The character of Mr. Morden is an excellent foil for the Shadows, as well as their Ambassador of sorts on Babylon 5. When we first meet him, he wanders around the station asking all of the other Ambassadors, "What do you want?" It seems like such a pointless, and yet innocent question.

The answers given by those Ambassadors highlight the characters of the races involved. The humans are too busy to really listen, and shoo Mr. Morden out. The Minbari are at least somewhat aware of what he represents, and they order him to leave them be. The Narn answer his question, but show through that answer that they are not a suitable race for the Shadows to infiltrate. Then there is the answer given by the Centauri, which is just sneaky enough, just corrupt enough, to serve the Shadows' purposes. It's just one little "yes" that tips the Centauri pile over.

This is just a parable for our lives. Every day there are little questions that dictate whether we speak for the light or the dark in our souls. Every day the battle wages on between the light and the Shadows. The mythology described is as old as we are, and runs through every human culture in some way. The question that Babylon 5 asks us, is whether we, personally, allow the Shadows to rule us, or whether we continue to fight against that darkness.

Perhaps it seems odd or silly to be giving such deep thought to a mere television show. This is the mythology of our time, though. We're not creating new myths to inspire our youth and to touch their souls. Often enough, we just give them vacuum, but when we do provide myths they're old ones, crafted decades or centuries or millennia ago. How can we expect them to learn moral lessons that apply to today's world, if we don't provide them with an environment that teaches it to them? Mythology is how we teach ethics and morals, and we've done a piss poor job of providing modern mythology for instruction of our young.

Babylon 5 touches on the mythology nerve. So does Star Wars, of course, designed with the help of Joseph Campbell. Star Trek also dealt in morals and ethics, although that was largely lost in the more modern series. Just because these myths are etched on film rather than stone or scroll doesn't invalidate them. They deserve a much closer look.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oops... I missed a few...

Well, I have days 4 through 8 to answer for, so here are my answers.

Day 5: Something you hope to do in your life

I hope one day to stand up and receive a university diploma. 'Nuff said. :)

Day 6: Something you hope you never have to do
This list is so long I can't even begin. My most fervent hope is that I never hope to bury my child. Though she's far away from me, she's my heartbeat. 

Day 7: Someone who has made your life worth living

There's my daughter again. She is truly the light of my life, and she burns bright for me even when I can't do it for myself. I don't know if she even realizes it, but her life gives me strength, hope, and reason to live. When she was born, I had never seen anything so amazing or beautiful. She's grown into an incredibly beautiful young lady, and she makes me proud of her every day. Knowing that she's out there, even if far off, makes my day.

Day 8: Someone who has made your life hell or treated you badly

That would be my mother. Although I've largely come to terms with my mother issues, it's still painful at times to look back and see the hurt I went through as a teen. I know I didn't go through what some children went through. I was never subjected to physical beatings or tied in a basement or abducted. Yet in a way, her abuse of me was much more insidious. I remember spending time as a child, wishing she would hit me just once, so I could SHOW someone the abuse. You can't show anger to a therapist. 

I realize now that she did the best she could. The fact that it wasn't good enough doesn't take away from the fact that she could do nothing else BUT do her best. She was a piss poor parent, but she was there. And there were times when she pulled it together and was truly a mom... and those are the times I try to focus on.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Something you have to forgive someone else for

Oh, so many quotes about forgiving people. There's, "To err is human; to forgive, divine." Or how about, ". . . forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us . . ." (The Lord's Prayer) Yet another: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Lewis B. Smedes) And of course the old standby, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” (Mahatma Gandhi )

So forgiveness is the right attitude. But what about forgiving someone who's done a very bad thing (let's take an extreme like physical abuse as an example)? Are you suddenly a bad person for not being able to say, "Hey, I forgive you for raping me,"? I don't think so, but sometimes it sure seems that way.

It took me years to forgive my mother for her "sins". She was a bad mom. There's just no getting around that; it's a fact. I can't change it, though... and apparently, neither can she. She remains the same bad person now that she was when I was growing up. I don't say that lightly, either. Not many people are BAD PEOPLE. Most of the time good people do one or two bad actions, and they then correct their errors and move on. My mother is not on that list.

Still, I have forgiven her. She did the best she could. The fact that her best wasn't good enough does not change the fact that she gave it her all. Isn't that what we all do? What I cannot do is forget. Because she is not capable of changing, I simply cannot forget. I need to be aware of what happened, so that I do not put myself in the same position again. Forgive, yes. Forget? No, abuse victims, victims of violence or disaster simply cannot, and should not, forget.

I have to forgive someone for being who they are. Much in the same vein as my comment yesterday about my being human, there is someone in my life that is quite fallibly human and has hurt me and continues to hurt me on an almost daily basis. I still love that person, but that isn't enough right now. I need to forgive that person, and I'm having difficulty with it. Again, it's a situation of forgiveness without forgetfulness, which makes it even more touchy. Still, that is what I need to do. If I am to be a strong person, if I am to speak as a minister at some point in the future, then I need to forgive the people who've wronged me.

But it's sure hard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Something you have to forgive yourself for

I need to forgive myself for being human.

I don't even know how to comment on that one. I make mistakes all the time. I try to catch up on one thing and five others fall out the other end. I've tried reducing the number of plates I have but it doesn't seem to work. There always seems to be one too many. Things are falling down around me, and my instinct is to "know" it's all my fault.

Thing is, I'm human. I can't do everything. I can't fix everything (heck, I can't even fix some things). Everything I'm around seems to break.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Something you love about yourself

It's harder to write about something I love about myself, than something I hate. After all, it's hardly egotistical to say I hate this or that about myself. On the other hand, I hate feeling like I'm tooting my own horn. There are a handful of things I don't mind saying that I'm good at: rollerskating, for instance, and writing. But they aren't things I LOVE about myself. They're just things I'm good at. Does that make sense?

I love the fact that I am able and willing to comfort the dying and the grieving. It's something not many people are comfortable with, and yet it doesn't bother me. Death doesn't frighten me as it does some people (though pain scares me a lot!), and so the hesitance many people feel around those who are suffering from terminal illnesses doesn't touch me. Perhaps it is because of my closeness with the cthonic gods like Hecate and Dionysos and Haidies and Persephone... and Nyx. Perhaps it's just my personality. Whatever it is, it just doesn't hit me as it hits others.

I do still grieve. When my friend Eric died, I was devastated. For almost a full year I was in a very deep emotional pool of hurting. Yet the idea of his death didn't pain me. It was losing him after finding him again. It was that he left me here and moved on. Now, five years later, I feel very close to him. He is with me a lot, in his silly panama hat and wearing the most ridiculous looking white outfit. It makes me laugh; perhaps that's why he does it.

In any case, it is that ability to be with the dying that I love about myself. I feel with them, empathize, but I also see them as just another human being who is suffering.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Something you hate about yourself

This is a tough one for me. There are lots of things I hate about myself, and most of them are pretty petty, as such things go. I hate being overweight, I hate being addicted to food, I hate that I can't seem to follow through on choices in regards to exercise. I hate that being in peri-menopause has caused my face to break out and my emotions to swing like I was a teen-ager, but without the excuse of lack of maturity. Even more, I hate the return to sanity a few moments later, when I look at my actions and wonder what the heck was going on in my mind.

If I had to pare it down to just one thing, though, it would be that I hate my fears. I'm much better now than I used to be, but fear of the unknown seems to freeze me. I worry about what other people will think, or about how my actions will cause people to see me. I make up for those fears by being a loud extrovert, wearing odd clothing and being a loud advocate for the middle path of balance. I suspect a lot of people think I'm nutty... including me.