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Archive for August, 2008

Box of Applause

Once upon a time, I was working nights in a factory sewing men’s pants.  I was going out with a 19 year old who was failing high school English for the second time despite having me to help out whenever he needed.  I had a pretty mundane routine those days–I would get up and do a Bodies by Gilad workout on the tv and then watch Designing Women.  It was a lifeline for me, and half of my being able to get out of the bed in the morning was because at least I could watch Designing Women.  It wasn’t a good time for me, although it was brief.

My favorite episode was one where a man designed a box that would play a track of applause and cheers when it was opened.  I can’t say I remember any mroe of the episode than that, probably because that little bit was the part that resonated with me the most.  I desperately needed a box of applause.

I don’t know if it was because I was thrust on stage early on for dance recitals and skating competitions, or if it’s my Leo craving of the spotlight, or maybe it’s just human nature to enjoy being appreciated.  Either way, I go through periods where I need desperately to be the center of attention.  Which is hard when you’re a mother, and hard when you’re shy, and hard when you want the people around you to shower you with compliments without having to ask for them.

For a long time, having a blog has satisfied my need for a way to showcase my writing and my ideas, and sometimes even my decisions in life.  Lately, however, I have been finding myself enjoying blogging far less than I used to.  The ideas come harder, sometimes it feels like a chore, and probably worst of all, I spend a lot of time wondering if anyone is reading (apologies to y’all who comment–I didn’t say it was rational wondering 😉 )  I find myself thinking things like, ‘If you care about me you should care about my writing’ which leads to the ever popular, ‘I must sound like a fool because I send out the address to people and they never come to read or they do a couple of times and then don’t come back’.  The truth is, it hurts me so much that people who are supposed to care about me don’t seem to read what I write.  And it makes me wonder if I am just pretending that I’m a writer.  And most of all, it makes me wonder if the need to have people read what I write means that I’m not finding the True Artistic What-The-Fuck-Ever-I’m-Supposed-to-Have.

Why do y’all do it?  Do you find enjoyment in blogging when you don’t get a lot of feedback?  Am I the only person who craves that box of applause?

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Food

Every August, for as long as I can remember, I have felt a sense of possibility as fall draws near.  Once it coincided with the beginning of school but that was long ago (although Mandarin starts on the Autumnal Equinox!)  Last year it was the excitement of my pregnancy drawing to a close.  This year, it is all about the food.  As the CSA box bulges with more and bigger harvests, I am getting more and more excited about making-and eating-every day.

So far this month we’re holding steady at 60% local.  I’m quite pleased!  We have one more CSA delivery and trip to the Greenmarket before the end of the month, and hopefully we can pull off a jaunt to the bulk store as well.  C made a whole bunch of tomato sauce yesterday (so long zukes, much of the eggplant, peppers, onions) and I’ve been squirreling aside some fruit and veg to make into baby food, which is my favorite part since it means I get to practice cooking!  I’ve been chicken about making anything more complicated than fruit and vegetables but I think I may be ready to give some beans and meat a try!

Yesterday we did get take-out from a falafel place and it was heavenly.  I realized that my texture issues with tomatoes and onions are lessened when they are cut up into teensy pieces and was able to motor through tabbouleh without having to pick little chunks out of each bite.  This is much easier and it opens up my culinary options by a mile!  I think it is in part because we keep getting these glorious veggies week in and week out and I feel stifled in what we can make with them.  Plus while on vacation I would get so damn hungry and with buffets it’s hard to tell what has dairy in it so I’d get whatever I was comfortable was dairy-free and wolf it down.  I discovered I liked dates this way.  Who knew?

Also while on vacation I rediscovered my love of tea.  I’ve not moved from tea bags to loose tea yet but I have cut out much of my soda-drinking.  I have a handful of bagged lactation tea to make my way through, but then it’s on to my loose black tea and chamomile flowers. 

As someone who is new to food preparation, I had underestimated how much I would enjoy washing and peeling and steaming and grinding, not to mention the sense of pride when someone you love enjoys a meal you have made.  Far from a chore, making baby food has become one of my favorite tasks (although I still dread finding all of the hidden caches of gunk when Chico has grabbed the spoon with glee and smeared himself with whatever delicacy I have prepared.  Especially cantaloupe.)

Meanwhile, we are already talking about signing up for Winter CSA even though the regular season isn’t over for 3 months. I like to think this planning ahead means we have come to terms with eating seasonally whenever we can.  It also represents a continued commitment to living sustainably, which eases my fears that we might backslide.

And it tastes better.

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First, I bought Lucy one of these the other day.  Toby, as a matter of fact.  And she loves it, which does mean it was money well spent, even though I threw up a little in my mouth as I forked over money for a ‘celebrity pet set.’  By the time we got home and got it out of the box, Toby was a rescue and very happy to finally have a home (we’re really into rescue these days–an average trip to the bus stop yields at least 3 mermaids without parents we rescue from bushes and/or cages.  Toby apparently came from a home where he wasn’t fed or loved, so our House of Cat Delight is quite a paradise, apparently.)

And Lucy loves Toby.  She takes him everywhere and does everything with Toby at her elbow.  It would be rather sweet if not for one thing:

Their third constant companion is a running commentary about what they are doing together.  Or what they have done together.  And I know I’m the Worst Mother Ever because while I should think it is incredibly caring of my daughter to be so attentive to this little animal very much in need, I have to say that every  time I hear the name Toby I have to choke back a scream.  Then again, I think that any word repeated with such frequency would produce the same effect so perhaps I’m not a Terrible Mother after all.

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To file under Things That Make Me Swoon:

C and I were in the kitchen the other evening when he said, ‘I wish we could clear all of this off,’ sweeping his arm in front of the kitchen cart loaded with baby food, tea and cereal, ‘and just have tons of kinds of dried beans.’  I can’t wait to get to the bulk store!  Rice and beans make me so terribly happy.

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And then the rest:

I found cloth napkins for 50 cents apiece the other day (we’ll call it ‘Before Toby’) and so we are ready to make the move for the house as well as for Lucy’s lunches (I got her cloth napkins the other week and they have already been successfully road-tested at camp.)  I am very happy about this.

Also, Lucy’s camp has been switched to T-Th so we can do a run to the Greenmarket on Wednesdays until school starts.  We (ok, I) overslept last week and so I hauled Lucy with me to procure tomatoes enough for C to make up a bunch of sauce and we had a really good time (aside from my poor back aching from carrying  glass-bottled milk and a melon and mutant carrots and close to 10 pounds of tomatoes and PIE.)  It is a nice supplement to the CSA and cheaper than Fresh Direct.  Win-win.  Almost everything in our fridge is local and I love it.

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Chico is getting teeth like a madman–he has 3 on top and the 2nd coming through on the bottom.  He’s crawling, pulling himself up and starting to cruise.  And, most adorably, he likes to sing little songs while he’s trucking around.

Lucy is reading voraciously and amazing me with things that pop out of her mouth (all Toby aside.)  She has such a fantastic little brain and appetite for learning.  I love spending time with her and hearing all of the things she comes up with (again, all Toby aside.)

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Sometimes I wish I could translate thoughts about blog comments and other posts straight into actual responses.  I don’t know what it is about the typing, but right now I just want to dash off another quick post both without ignoring comments (or the blog bling from Cori) and without actually responding.

I’m still not sure what to write about the trip.  There were parts that were so nice–the outdoor stuff, seeing family, not having to think about chores or meals.  There was some stuff with my SIL (and a decided lack of stuff as well) but I’ve beaten that dead horse already with C and while I desperately want to figure out why things get so miserable with her on these trips, I think I ought to leave it at ‘we do things very, very, very differently’ and not dwell.  Suffice to say, I think trying to do vacations with our two little families is not the best idea as somebody’s feelings always get hurt and somebody always resents how the trip is conducted.

It’s good to be back home, though.  It’s always good to get back home, even if I miss the outdoorsy stuff.  I’m starting to come to terms with being not so much a city person, despite my love of museums and public transit and the like.

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Drained

We went up the mountain.  We came back down again.  We ate lots and lots.  Pies included.  There was a paddle boat, a canoe, and a carriage ride.  More emotions than I can really give justice to.  Chico ‘hawked for almost everything and loved it, and other folks at the resort were quite amused by the whole get-up of large baby dangling on chest of small woman.  All of the things one usually finds at a reunion were present.  There was a gathering to remember C’s uncle.  It was tough but good.

Oh, and we met Hillary Clinton.  She and Bill shook Lucy’s hand.  It was almost as cool as hiking 😉

The mountains feel like home.

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Practice

I’ve started trying to look at my life differently lately. Knowing that my brain will look for things to get worked up over, and knowing that I spent close to 2 weeks unable to get myself back on track after the conference, I have been really focusing on treating my day-to-day life as practice.

Instead of freaking out because I scorched the baby’s eggplant last night, I reminded myself that it was my first time making eggplant. Hell, I only just started making baby food a few weeks ago (and cooking at all last year) and it was the first thing I’ve ever ruined. Instead of panicking because the electric bill spiked to double what we normally use last month after a weekend of running the a/c, I’m trying to keep a better handle on the stuff I normally let slide, the chargers I might sometimes forget to unplug, or the kitchen light that I often don’t feel like getting up to go turn off.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to sometimes drag, sometimes nudge my household into living more sustainably. I’ve gone through scores of checklists and books and blogs, and we’ve done everything from turning off heaters to cloth diapering, joining a CSA, making baby food and cooking more at home. We’ve changed cat litter, cleaning products, and cut out damn near everything disposable. Even Lucy is conscious of how the decisions we make can impact the earth and is the first to remind me that it is bad for the environment to waste food, often leading to miniscule amounts of food left in the fridge for ‘tomorrow.’ When I get down about the progress we make, C is there to buoy me up and remind me that I’ve made great progress whether I recognize it or not.

I’ve been kicking around the term ‘sustainable’ since I read about the APLS Blog Carnival, and wasn’t really sure I could classify our way of living as sustainable. After all, I still have that roll of paper towels hanging in the kitchen, and I still buy most of my clothes new, and a fair amount of our food is non-local and processed. I realized this morning, though, that the important part of trying to live sustainably is remembering that it is a practice, not a competition.

It is very easy to get discouraged on the path to sustainability. It is easy, especially in this movement, to set the bar quite high and to get discouraged when you don’t reach it. The danger in that is that the act of living sustainably becomes rather unsustainable as soon as it is causing you stress and grief.  By practicing to live sustainably, we remind ourselves that it is a skill we are learning and we give ourselves room to stumble.  As our confidence grows, we are better able to teach others the practice.  And in the times when our confidence is low, we are better able to be taught ourselves.

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A few months ago C’s uncle died.  I haven’t written about it because I wanted to keep my memories to myself, as well as the things I learned from him.  I still do.  The title of this post is from a letter he wrote to a student and it has been rolling through my mind, wrapping itself around fleeting thoughts, making me stop and remember to remember.

This weekend, I turn 35.  It isn’t an important number or age; just another year for my skirts to brush past on my way into the future.  I always see years in my mind as large reels of months, circling from January to December, or from noteworthy date to noteworthy date.  Now we are cycling to my birthday, then on to anniversary, the baby’s first, C’s 32nd, Lucy’s 6th, and so forth.  It makes it easier, without the abrupt stop-and-start, to gloss over the milestones as they are reached.  I like this, or I am used to it anyway.

This year will come and go like the rest.  It will be an ordinary day with the same small treats each day holds.  I will hug my son and play with my daughter and be thankful for my beautiful, imperfect home and all who live within its walls.  I will share the day with those I love best.  And this year I will remember that each day is its own story and each story exists to be told and retold so that we remember not to forget.

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