Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Nest Poem

110.Our Nest

In our nest- it’s safe and warm and dry.

Outside, it’s cold and rainy grey.

Stay with me, my love.

Don’t walk out that door to face the world.

I’ll find a way to stay- if you will.

Here, there is no one who can hurt you. Or me.

Safe and dry and warm and sleepy- Let’s stay this way.

Don’t leave to fight those dragons.

They’ll wait- believe me.

They’ll still be there tomorrow.

But for today- let’s stay here.

Safe in our nest where no one can hurt us.

Photo Link

The picture at the top of the page is actually a really neat piece of installation art by artist Nils-Udo during the 1970's.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Life and Death

A glooming peace this morning with it brings.

The sun for sorrow will not show his head.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned, and some punished.

-The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare.

I do not think I will teach Romeo and Juliet to my students this year.

Last night we got word that one of the students at my school committed suicide. She was a senior. I'd never taught her, but I'd seen her around. She was very involved in ASB and part of a fun group of friends. Her boyfriend, a boy who'd graduated a few years ago, had been deployed and, for some reason, broke up with her recently.

She didn't come to school yesterday, and when her parents came home in the late afternoon, they found her.

My students are in deep shock and mourning.

I found out about it last night-after my husband and I had gone out to celebrate the new baby my brother and his wife are having.

It will be the first baby on our side of the family- My parents will be grandparents!

These two things so close together...new life...premature death...

We live in a strange, confusing world.

I sure hope Jesus can make sense of it all- because I sure can't.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

108. San Francisco

After a vast, lifeless desert

I find myself sitting in a green park in Washington Square

Listening to an Italian accordion

A friendly aging dog waddles past

With a stiff labored gait

I read some beat poetry

Glorious in its required tired anti-establishment vibe

Venerable Asians sit stretch Tai Chi

A tour bus drives by

I am desperately grateful to find an oasis in my pen

After passing through the wasteland

Friday, October 15, 2010

Proudly Accepted by the Kern Valley Sun

The Kern Valley Sun ran my article about Cheesy Bowls this week! I haven't gotten any feedback from readers yet, but I hope to soon. I promised I would post it after the Kern Valley Sun had used it, so here it is. Consider it a spoof on recipe blogs, such as my sister-in-law's excellent food blog, "Green Megs and Ham." Unlike the recipe below, you might actually want to try one of hers at home.

How to Make a Cheesy Bowl in the Trailer.

Approximate time: 15 minutes

Nutritional info: Figure it out yourself.

1. Come home from work at 6PM and notice that there is no food in your tiny pantry except for a half used jar of spaghetti sauce, some cheese, a can of beans, and a stack of corn tortillas.

2. Look in the sink full of dirty dishes for the two bowls you own. Evaluate whether they actually need to be washed. For example, if you ate something reddish last night, like spaghetti sauce, or watermelon, or sherbet, you might not actually need to wash the bowls. Give them a cursory rinse if you’re not sure. (The same rule applies when looking for spoons or other cutlery).

3. Heat the spaghetti sauce, and the beans, and throw in any spices you may have on hand. (I prefer cumin, but feel free to be creative! Cinnamon, perhaps?)

4. Layer a corn tortilla on the bottom of the bowl, and cover it with a hefty layer of cheese. Pour the beanie-spaghetti sauce into the bowl. Layer with more cheese, cover with another corn tortilla and complete the bowl with yet more cheese. (Most things can be substituted in this recipe; the cheese cannot. If you don’t have any cheese, it may be time to resort to the true last-ditch meal: peanut butter and honey on a corn tortilla. It’s a little chewy, but definitely edible).

5. Next, turn off all the lights, fans, and air conditioning or heating in the trailer so that you don’t overload the electrical system. If it’s winter, put on a jacket, because the trailer will soon turn into a walk-in-freezer. If it’s summer, take off as many clothes as you can (while still protecting yourself from the upcoming molten cheese) because the trailer will soon resemble a giant metal oven.

6. Put each bowl in the microwave and zap it for 2 minutes. More if the tortillas were still frozen when you put the bowl together and you were too lazy to defrost them.

7. When you remove the bowl, watch out for super-hot cheese! It can burn you, and this will create more work for you.

8. Repeat the micro-waving process with a second cheesy bowl. After it is done, you will need to scrape off the inside of the microwave because the beanie-spaghetti sauce may explode a little bit while cooking.

9. Turn the heater or cooler back on. Enjoy eating your cheesy bowl on the tiny table in your trailer.

10. If you have any beanie-spaghetti sauce left over, save it for the next time you’re desperate for food.

11. Lastly, try to get someone else to do the dishes. After all, you did just slave all day in front of the stove.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Things You May not Know about Me

You may not know this about me- but over the past few years, I have become a tightwad. Yes, I am a plastic-bag washing, thrift-store shopping, aluminum-foil-hoarding, toilet-paper-roll-crushing cheapskate.

I wasn’t always this way. Sure, I always had saving tendencies. I enjoyed saving money as a child, and was raised in a family where, though we always had plenty to eat, money was tight.

My father was a Southern Baptist minister and my mother stayed at home for most of my childhood. With three children, this put us at the poverty level for most of my childhood. But we didn’t need new clothes, lots of toys, or nice cars- we had a mom who stayed at home, and that mattered much more than anything money could buy.

Once we were old enough to go to high school, my mother started working full time and we almost forgot that there was time when we couldn’t buy new clothes or have a nice car. Through a combination of student loans, parent loans, scholarships, and working, I went to a private Christian college. Though most of the money I earned at my part-time job was spent on tuition or school-books, I received enough gifts at Christmas and birthdays to take care of my needs.

When I got married after college, I quickly got my teaching credential and began teaching high school. My husband had already been working as a Physical Therapist for a few years, so we found ourselves in the rare position of having two career-sized incomes and no children yet. Of course, we still had our massive student loan debt (he had also gone to a private Christian university, and I had spent some time studying abroad at Oxford), so some of our income went to paying off debt, but there was still plenty to play around with.

We went out to eat at least two or three times a month. I bought lots of pretty clothes and got a fancy new hairstyle. We spent a lot on expensive presents for other people, and took a few nice vacations, too. These were all out-of-pocket expenses, and we figured that as long as we weren’t charging it to a credit-card, we should pamper ourselves. After all, we told ourselves- we both worked full time. We deserved it.

Finally, after two and half years of marriage- everything changed. My husband and I had long talked about building our own home on his family’s property, “someday,” and that Christmas, he told me that the timing was right to get started. Granted, he and I had been talking about this for years…and nothing had ever happened about it before, so when he discussed it with me- I didn’t honestly think it would happen so soon. But, three months later, to my shock and chagrin, we had moved out of our comfortable rental home, sold or gave away most of our things in a yard sale and put the rest in storage. We moved into 1973 thirty-foot travel trailer in the front yard of my mother and father-in-law’s house…for an indefinite amount of time.

It would be an understatement to say that I was a little upset by this. I wanted to support my husband and his dreams. I wanted to own a nice home of our own and be able to stay home when we had children. But for heaven’s sakes- I was living in a trailer in my in-law’s yard! I felt like poor white trash. I believed that since I had been responsible and gone to college and worked full time at a challenging career, I shouldn’t have to do things like this. I was more than uncomfortable and inconvenienced…I was embarrassed, too.

After a few months of moping, I decided that it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself and deal with my current situation. We had a sizeable amount left on our student loans, and a 2400 square foot house to save for. Plus, we needed to do it all in less than five years so I could start having babies at a reasonable age. I started trying to figure out how we could accomplish all of this with our current incomes. Our budget was simple: we tithed 10%, lived on 30%, saved 40% towards the house, and spent 20% on debt.

Even with two paychecks, I knew that living on 30% of our income was going to be difficult, and I was still feeling a little sorry for myself, but I was willing to do what it would take to meet our goals. I bought a copy of an amazing book called, The Tightwad Gazette, by Amy Dacyczyn, and from the moment that I picked it up- I was sold on Tightwaddery.


Amy made it sound like Tightwaddery was a wonderful lifestyle choice- something that responsible, creative people such as myself could choose to do. Suddenly, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt proud. We were doing something that no one else I knew had ever attempted. I started thinking of my husband and me as brave frontier people, working hard and sacrificing for our future. Instead of feeling like I was stuck in a humiliating purgatory, Amy’s philosophy made me feel like I was playing some fun, challenging game…a game that I could win!

We began evaluating what we should and shouldn’t spend our money on. I stopped buying new clothes and got to know our local thrift stores. We started shopping at Winco and making all our food from scratch, which slashed our food bill in half. We had been using two cell phones, and we cut down to one that we share with a limited plan. Cable TV, drinking, or smoking have never been a part of our lives, so we didn’t have to give those things up. I discovered that line-drying our clothes saved a few dollars on electricity a month. I know it sounds extreme- what’s a few dollars- right? But according to Amy, “If you take care of the pence- the pounds will take care of themselves.”

Some expenses we have decided to keep are: Tithe and Charitable giving. We give more to charity now than we have ever before, and we hope to keep increasing the amount. We also decided to keep buying organic fruits and vegetables. Yes, it’s much more expensive to shop organic, but we decided that it’s worth it to support American farmers and to eat food that we know is good for us. I still can’t stomach the price of organic meat, so we’ve gone almost completely vegetarian.

We’ve been living in the trailer now for about two and a half years. In another six months, we will have all our student loan debt paid off. In two years, we’ll move into our completely new home, debt free.

Sometimes, I’ve wanted to scream and bang my head against the wall in frustration. Other times, I’ve been happy and excited about achieving our dreams and goals. I don’t want to downplay how hard it’s been to do this-it’s been extremely difficult

However, whenever I get discouraged, or hurt because a friend or family member treats us like we’re crazy, or upset that I can’t do what I want to do when I want to do it- it all comes back to one question for me.

“What is the most that you would sacrifice to earn the freedom to give generously to God, to stay home with your children, to allow your husband to retire at 55, and to be free from the slavery of debt?”

My answer: I would sacrifice almost anything for that.

So my question for you today is- what are your financial goals? Are you still in the "we deserve it" mentality? Are you doing what you could be to reach your family's financial goals- or is watching sports on Cable TV more important to you?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Have a Little Respect

106. Real Estate

God made us women with plenty of curb appeal

With windows and angles in all the right places.

So Adam would say, “Yowza! I want this one!”

But God didn’t stop there.

God gave us women more than just curb appeal,

Nice closet space and an amazing view.

He poured us a deep foundation with plenty of steel,

And extra insulation so we could keep our men and babies warm.

God gave us rooms within rooms of moods and questions and thoughts.

He gave us the power to nurture, to protect, to guard our families,

and even civilization as we know it against the cold.

The Master Architect created us in his image to have function, form, and much, much more.

Here is why I wrote this poem:

Respect is extremely important to me. I may be a cute young woman, but I don't want people to think that about me first and foremost.

I have been teaching high school for five years now, and during my college years, I travelled extensively. I may not be a mother yet, so I don't claim to know anything about children, but that doesn't make me completely ignorant. If you've never taught high school you might not know that 70% of teachers don't make it past the first five years. Getting to this point is difficult.

That's why I get a little rankled when people treat me like I'm dumb just because I'm young or female. Sometimes I think I have a sign on my head that says, "Please Tell Me What to Do," because older men I barely know love to boss me around. Sometimes older women, too.

I guess they just look at me, and think I'm like their kid, and don't know a thing. It bugs me.

But it's understandable- I mean, they're like 60 years old than I am, maybe they do know more than I do.

But what's NOT understandable is the media treating women like nothing more than bodies.

I guess I've been fairly sheltered these past few years in my little mountain community without billboards or television. My weekend in San Francisco was very cool, but I was continually shocked by how all the billboards and all the magazines and TV shows reduce women to nothing more than glorified sex toys. Now I'm not blaming the men here. I love the men, they're great. I think women are behind this as well. Why? Money.

An actual slogan plastered all over the city: "All Asses were Not Created Equal."

Billboards like this make me just want to wear a burka.

I mean, hey, we're women- we keep society going. Without the mothers and the wives and the girlfriends and the sisters- the world falls apart. Women are the glue that holds families together. The men NEED us. Adam wasn't complete in the garden of Eden without Eve. He lived in paradise and walked in a perfect relationship with GOD, but without Eve- he was still lonely.That's how important we are.

I am happy to say that my husband treats me with a great deal of respect, as do most of the men and women in my family and the people that know me well. It only takes my students about eight weeks to realize that I am force to be reckoned with, and though my bosses started out treating me like a dumb young thing, after five years, they have grown to respect me.

The above poem is actually the third revision about the same idea. The first two were just rants, and I liked this one because it's positive.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two Pieces of Good News!

1. The editor of the Kern Valley Sun, Cathy Perfect, emailed me yesterday to say that the humorous article, "How to Make a Cheesy Bowl in a 30 Foot Travel Trailer," I sent her will probably appear in the Oct.20th edition of the KVSUN. I wrote it on a whim last week as a parody on recipe articles.

I liked it so well that I sent it off to her before posting it on my blog.

My husband thought it wouldn't make a good newspaper article, and that almost stopped me- but I decided to go with my first instinct on this one. I respect his opinion, but sometimes I have to be strong enough to follow my own judgement, especially when it comes to writing and submissions.

I haven't submitted many articles to the Sun lately, and I was afraid the editor would be like, "we haven't heard from you in a year- why should we publish your stupid article?" But she didn't say that at all! I think she liked it.

I wish I could churn the funny articles out once a week or even once a month, but I can't seem to control when or if they come to me. Sometimes I'm in a funny mood- sometimes I'm not. I will often spend months at a time not being in a funny mood. If I try to be funny when I'm not in the mood...it comes across all wrong and usually bitter.

How on earth does Dave Barry do it? I know it must be a lot of hard work.

Anyway, I will post the article here after the Sun publishes it.

2. The second piece of good news (does anyone else have difficulty spelling the word, "piece?" I am never sure if it's right or not,) is that upon inspection of my hands and feet today in the shower, I noticed that they are less hideous than they used to be, in fact, they are quite nice little hands and feet.

Either my viewpoint has changed, or maybe I finally grew into them? Can being 27 mean that your feet look less like Hobbit feet and your hands look less like sausages attached to a slab of meat? Or does it just mean that I'm finally coming to peace with my own skin?

Perhaps my twin can shed some light on this subject- Therapista? Any input?

Monday, October 4, 2010

City Lights

On my recent trip to San Francisco, I got to visit the world famous home of Beat Poetry- the City Lights Bookstore. This bookstore is famous (or infamous)for being the place where Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and all those other beat poets first got their start.

I am a pretty conservative person, but I do have a special place in my heart for poetry that deals with pain, idealism, and disgust with greed and arrogance.

I bought a little book called City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology. One poem in particular spoke to me. I wish I had written it.

#25- by Larwrence Ferlinghetti

The world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind happiness
not always being

so very much fun

if you don't mind a touch of hell

now and then

just when everything is fine

because even in heaven

they don't sing

all the time

The world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind some people dying

all the time

or maybe only starving

some of the time

which isn't half so bad

if it isn't you

Oh the world is a beautiful place

to be born into

if you don't mind

a few dead minds

in the higher places

or a bomb or two

now and then

in your upturned faces

or other such improprieties

as our Name Brand society

is prey to

with its men of distinction

and its men of extinction

and its priests

and other patrolmen

and its various segregations

and congressional investigations

and other constipations

that our fool flesh is heir to

Yes the world is the best place of all

for a lot of such things as

making the fun scene

and making the love scene

and making the sad scene

and singing low songs and having inspirations

and walking around

looking at everything

and smelling flowers

and goosing statues

and even thinking

and kissing people and

making babies and wearing pants
and waving hats and
and going swimming in rivers
on picnics

in the middle of the summer

and just generally

'living it up'

but then right in the middle of it

comes the smiling