A place for random thoughts, ideas, and fun!
What really goes on in Amy's brain? I'll use this space to share more about myself and my interests, journal some of the more exciting goings-on in my life, and work through some of the writing ideas and dilemmas I'm wrestling with. Enjoy!|
Movie Review Mondays . . . if you watch a film after reading a review, please come back and let me know what you thought!
|I definitely do not understand the draw of Black Friday sales. I avoid retail establishments like the plague after Thanksgiving Day. Thankfully, 98% of my shopping is complete, since Hanukkah has already begun. I may order a few more things online for Bob, but my plan is to not set foot in anything other than a grocery store between now and the end of December.
Yes, I understand that people are looking for the best deals; they want to make their money stretch as far as possibly over the holidays. But yet again I’ve heard stories of people being trampled or beaten for a cheap item, or even a parking spot in a shopping center.
Have we forgotten already the purpose of yesterday’s celebration? Yesterday was about giving thanks for all that we have. Today is about beating others out for a chance to own a dozen things one does not already have?
Honestly, I would not WANT a gift that was acquired at such great personal expense. I don’t care to have the latest and greatest electronic goodies.
My email was flooded this morning with BLACK FRIDAY DEALS!!!! Delete, delete, delete, delete. No thank you.
I do not celebrate Christmas, but it seems to me that the huge hype of Black Friday sales takes away from the meaning of that holiday, as well. Toys! More! Santa! Candy! Gimme gimme! That’s not what the holiday is about.
For my family, there was a time when the kids were all about the Hanukkah presents. The gimme gimme attitude upset me greatly. Our tradition is that the children get a gift every day after we light the candles. But between our gifts, and the gifts that grandparents sent to be doled out every day, it was piles of gifts for eight days in a row. The first time I heard “is that all?” my blood boiled. No, no more. We’re not doing it that way. The next child who says “is that all?” does not get a gift the following night. Harsh, perhaps . . . but we’ve lost the spirit of celebrating, and focused on the material. I understand the excitement of opening a gift. More than that, I love the excitement of choosing the perfect gift, and watching it being opened.
But it’s time for us to move away from the mad chaos of the “gimme” culture, and remember that whatever we celebrate, there’s an idea behind that holiday or celebration that should not be forgotten. For those who celebrate the holidays in a purely secular manner, the meaning is no less clear – it’s a time for tradition and family. For those who lack family with whom to celebrate, and I know there are many of you out there, create your own traditions, find family of the heart. Give your time and efforts to a shelter, or invite a friend to share a meal.
When you grow older, what will you want to remember – the bitter cold mornings when you stood in line at 3 AM waiting for shops to open, or the time spent with family and friends? I hope it’s the latter.
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|It is far often too easy to get caught up in what is going wrong, than it is to sit back and look at all of the things to be thankful for.
I have much to be thankful for, this year.
My oldest child, at 19, has grown so much as a person since beginning college last year. Strength of character, determination, and a newfound ability to face challenges rather than hiding from them have all led Dr B to find pleasure and success in school. Another remarkable change that has taken place since Dr B began college is that our relationship has become so much stronger. There was a time when we talked past one another, and struggled to find a meeting place. Now, Dr B calls on me for support, asks questions, listens to the answers, and is grateful for the replies. Dr B tells me I’m the best mom ever, and wishes everyone had a mom like me. Somewhere along the way, I did something right. Somewhere along the way, I went from being the woman who just didn’t understand, to the mom who understands when no one else does. I don’t know how much shifting was Dr B’s and how much was mine . . . but I am eternally thankful that we’ve found that comfortable place in the middle.
Goldilocks has matured a great deal since starting high school in the fall. I am thankful for the wonderful class that all freshmen take their first semester at the high school, called FIT (Freshmen In Transition). It truly made a world of difference in helping Goldilocks learn how to navigate the waters of high school, how to keep up with the school work, how to remain focused, and how to organize time and information. There is no question that Goldilocks will always be full of drama – we’ve discovered that this is where she shines, in fact. I am grateful for the passion she has developed for acting and theater, and thankful for the fact that she can take theater courses at her school. She needs to shine, and this has given her the confidence to do so. Right at this very moment, I am thankful that Goldilocks has cleaned her room, and is offering to help out with the rest of the house, in the morning.
Monkey continues to amaze me on a regular basis. I am thankful for his wonderful sense of humor and wit, and for his bright and bubbly outlook on life. I am extremely thankful that he has the same amazing teacher that he had last year, who knows him, and knows what makes him tick. He continues to push Monkey to strive for more, and Monkey thrives on it. I am thankful that we live in a world where food allergies are understood, and where there is medication that Monkey can keep with him at all times to ensure his safety. Every time Monkey discovers a new food that he can eat and enjoys, I rejoice! Yes, the little things are important, as well. I am thankful for the terrific friends he has made, and through him, the friends our family has made, as well.
Without a doubt I am thankful for my husband, who is a remarkable support for me, and for our family. When things get rough, he is my rock. He is my cheerleader when I am writing, and he is my shelter when I am struggling. Without his support, I would never have finished writing an entire trilogy. He has faith in me when I simply cannot have faith in myself. Because of my husband’s generosity, Dr B and I were able to travel to Greece this past September. Words cannot express how thankful I am that we are in a position where I can travel on occasion, and that my husband is willing and happy to remain home with the children so that I can scratch the travel itch. It was my fourth trip to Greece, but my first with one of our children. Sharing the experience with Dr B was remarkable, incredible, unforgettable!
I cannot write a post about thankfulness without mentioning the incredible friends without whom I would be lost. Moving across the country three years ago was tremendously difficult. As I struggled, my online friends helped keep me going. And the wonderful friends I have met since moving have made this once strange place a home. I am thankful that we live in a town where we can feel connected. Going into our favorite little wine bar on a Thursday evening and knowing we will be greeted by name, warmly, and see friends – this is something we never experienced before moving out here.
And lastly . . . I am very, very, VERY thankful that we live in a place where it does not snow.
|With Hanukkah beginning tomorrow at sundown, and Thanksgiving the following day, my thoughts are rapidly turning to holiday foods.
The convergence of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving this year means that some of my favorite foods will share the same plate. But such a dilemma – with our small gathering of four people, how can I justify the many side dishes that make the holidays special for each of us?
I’ve decided to swap one Thanksgiving dish for a related Hanukkah dish, and call it a day. It works, really it does. Instead of fluffy mashed potatoes (which I seem to be the only one who eats . . . and eats . . . and eats ) I’m going to serve potato latkes with our Thanksgiving meal. The latkes, together with the homemade applesauce that goes with them and is always a part of our Thanksgiving meal regardless, will turn the occasion into a Thanksgivukkah feast!
Another staple of our family’s Thanksgiving is carrot pudding, which sounds bizarre but tastes divine. Try it instead of (or in addition to) candied sweet potatoes.
I considered the idea of making fried pies for dessert, but decided against it. I think there will be enough food that a simple apple or peach pie will do just fine.
Aunt Sandy’s potato latkes
This is my aunt’s recipe. When I make this, I use the grater on the food processor, and then stick it back in with the chopping blade to more finely puree only part of the mixture. This allows the outside to get that crispy texture, but the inside to cook nicely and have the right potato taste. I also use canola oil. Oh . . . and I use cheesecloth to squeeze out extra moisture from the potato/onion mixture before adding the other ingredients.
6 medium size potatoes
1 small onion
2 eggs slightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Olive oil and vegetable oil mixture
Peel potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in cold water. Grate potatoes and onion in blender. Strain and place in mixing bowl. Add eggs, salt, pepper and baking powder.
Place oil in pan and heat. Place potato mixture into strainer and allow the balance of the fluids to drain off. Place potato mixture onto tablespoon and drop into hot oil. Fry. Place on paper towel to drain.
Can be made in advance and frozen. Heat on racks in oven.
Mumsy’s dirty applesauce
When Goldilocks was little, she used to call it “dirty applesauce” because of the color. I promise you, it’s not really dirty. It’s gorgeous.
This recipe could not be simpler. Wash and quarter the apples – do NOT substitute another type of apple. I promise you it will be worth it. There’s no need to core the apples, though you can release any seeds that are easily accessible.
Place apples in large pot. Add ¼ cup of water. Cover pot and turn to medium heat. Move the apples around occasionally with a long wooden spoon, checking to make sure the bottom is not burning. You may need to add a small amount of water at some point, but if there is liquid at the bottom, don’t do it.
Cook until apples are mushy. Remove pot from heat, and using a ladle, scoop apple mixture into food mill or ricer. Run apples through food mill, scraping through the peel and seeds occasionally ensure there is no apple goodness hiding within. Process all of the apples and any remaining liquid through the food mill.
Now taste the applesauce. Depending on your apples, you may need a little sugar, you may need a little more sugar . . . or you may not need any at all! Add sugar and vanilla to taste.
Look at the beautiful color of your applesauce. Mmmmm!
Serve warm, or cool. Can be frozen.
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 beaten egg yolks
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup brown sugar
1 ¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cold water
2 egg whites
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 small jars baby food carrots
Blend in bowl: butter, sugar, water, vanilla, flour, salt, lemon juice, egg yolks, and carrots. Add baking powder and soda.
In another bowl: beat egg whites until they form peaks. Fold into mixture.
Bake in 1 ½ quart greased baking dish at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
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|This past week, someone I care about was deeply wounded by the words of another. My friend reached out for support in an hour of need, and was instead told his path was hellbound.
In my effort to maintain peace, I kept my mouth closed. I kept my mouth closed, despite the fact that the topic was one that I have vowed never to let slide. I have spent a good part of the past three years actively working to be a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. No, more than that . . . for my entire adult life, I have made it clear that the scourge of prejudice and inequality is not something I will stand for.
And yet, I stayed silent. I did not confront the perpetrator of prejudicial remarks. Why? Why?
I tell myself it is because I also feel very strongly that everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and their faith. But the systemic use of one's beliefs to uphold the prejudice, hatred, and oppression of another burns a place inside of me. So much so that the book I just finished is really . . . the entire series is, in truth . . . a message that one should not use faith to oppress others.
The use of faith to justify hatred has been done for centuries, for millenia. But in truth, should it not be precisely the opposite? This person professes to love others, and yet when called upon for spiritual uplifting, chose to use their faith to condemn another, instead.
That . . . that is the crux of the issue I have with organized religion. Have your faith; allow others their faith. Allow yet others to decide whether faith is the right path for them. But do not, DO NOT, presume to condemn someone for something that your own particular faith finds morally wrong. Make those choices for yourself, if you must . . . but everyone, EVERYONE, deserves the right to make those choices for themselves.
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|*sigh* I wish I knew how to make life easier for Goldilocks. She was invited to a birthday slumber party, and this afternoon told me that she did not want to sleep over. She has a difficult time sleeping away from home, and has anxiety. Okay, no problem. We told them that we would pick her up whenever they were finished with the activities for the evening. She was super excited, because they were going to see Catching Fire. Oh boy!
I got a text . . . the only seats are in the front. She isn't sitting in the front. I told her to stand elsewhere, but DO NOT ruin the birthday girl's party.
A short while later the doorbell rang . . . Goldilocks.
Apparently that plan wasn't good enough. She was not having a good time. So the dad left the rest of the girls there and drove her home.
I don't know what to do for her . . . I don't know. She cannot meet in the middle. She does not know how to compromise. Therapy has done nothing to help her learn how to be a good friend, a good sibling, a good person around others. All is well until something goes awry. And then it goes very awry. Friendships have been lost over her inability to go with the flow. Trying to talk about it is like pulling teeth.
So we've gone from her being super excited to see the movie, to just now deciding she hates movie theaters. HUGE giant leap. Don't know how we got from point A to point B. Don't know how to make it okay.
Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. For those of you who do not know what this means, I will explain.
Every year on this date, people around the world gather to memorialize those lost to the hatred perpetuated against members of the transgender community. These losses may be due to acts of violence, and they may be losses due to the extreme agony and grief of being bullied, mistreated, misunderstood, and disowned, which leads an excruciatingly high percentage of transgender people to consider, attempt, or - worst of all - succeed at committing suicide.
Today, around the world, people will grieve, they will mourn the loss of loved ones, and they will mourn the loss of those whom they never knew, but for whom they wish they could have somehow made a difference.
For the past three years, I have been writing a trilogy of young adult stories, set in a cluster of fictional countries, and featuring among other characters two who are transgender. For me, the goal of writing a novel has always been a strong draw. I have attempted many stories over the years, without success. About three and a half years ago, I began conceiving of the idea for a story called Prince Alexandra. My husband suggested I tweak the name slightly, and so Prince(ss) Alexandra was born. I wrote Alex’s story during November of 2011. The following November, I continued the series, with Nell’s Journey. Today, on November 20, 2013, Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013, I have finished the first draft of the final book in the series, Sir Georgie and the Dragon.
It is my profound hope that the publication of these stories will in some way make a difference, leading to one or two or a thousand less new candles that must be lit in remembrance of a brilliant life cut far too short.
Because chances are, that you who read this are very close to someone that may be silently suffering. And that by making trans identity a more normal part of your knowledge and vocabulary, you are effectively making this world a safer place for people to be who they are.
Your wisdom and acceptance can mean saving someone's life. So what will you do to make the world safer, today, for everyone?
**A big thank you to Solivagus for his feedback and suggestions on making this blog post more impactful.
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|My brain is busy cataloguing all of the things I need to accomplish in the next few weeks. As I sat down a little while ago to work on a grocery list for our upcoming holiday party, I flashed back to another list I made for the same party, many years ago.
I was determined to be ultra-organized that year. I looked at EVERY recipe I intended to make, and made a list, down to the cup, of how much of each ingredient I needed to purchase. I must say, it was quite simple to accomplish the prep when I didn't run out of butter or flour along the way, but really . . . WHAT was I thinking!?
Ah, well, probably I wasn't thinking about NaNowriMo, or running a dreidel game, or any of the other items that capture my attention this holiday season. I can't help but think now that there could be such a thing as too much organization!
This year I am extremely excited that my dad and stepmom will be visiting during our holiday party. One of the toughest things about moving across the country has been not having those people whom we left behind close by during the holidays.
I've been working diligently to finish NaNo well before Thanksgiving this year. It looks like I should be finished by the end of this week - wooohooo! It will definitely be a relief to not have to try and hide in the bedroom to write while the kids are home from school.
I'm thinking (for a change) that I should get in the habit of adding to my blog on a daily basis. There are so many things that run through my brain, which could really use an outlet.
I will have to consider the best way to go about getting myself in the habit of blogging regularly. If for no other reason than to keep my brain from atrophying.
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|I struggled mightily to finish this month's selection for the local book group I belong to. It is a self-published work entitled There Is Always a Choice, a semi-autobiographical novel about a philosophy professor who essentially bounces from person to person to small group, sharing philosophical ideas as a way to counsel others. The woman is local, and was invited to join our discussion last night.
Some of my friends on WDC are likely BEYOND tired of hearing me rant about the book, and were probably dancing for joy last night, knowing that it was behind me. I know that I was ready to be dancing for joy at the thought!
The discussion turned out to be quite different from what I was expecting . . . although in retrospect I probably should have expected it to unfold PRECISELY as it did. As a local, she had many connections with others in the group, making the thought-provoking yet somewhat critical question I had prepared sit uncomfortably, unspoken. I found the irony later, as I was driving home, thinking about one of the quotes we had discussed . . . something about a woman who lacked the courage to speak the truth.
In any case, the majority of the evening was the author telling her life story, using snippets of philosophy just as she did in her story. Near the end of the evening came the biggest surprise. I had sat, several times pondering whether to jump in with a comment or question but usually keeping my thoughts to myself (lacking the courage to speak the truth at times, and at other times . . . just uncertain, as I can often be, with how to insert myself into a conversation that large). She started speaking about her son, describing him as "thick" with Aspergers and OCD tendencies. She told a story of how he had been given a personality test in high school, receiving quite an array of positive attributes, which his teacher then proceeded to tell him were all feminine attributes (in reality, they were neither feminine nor masculine - things such as "kind" and "honest.") She went on to talk about how he'd very much taken that to heart, and while she did not go into nearly enough detail for me to get a sense of whether he considers himself transgender or lives in any way as a female, he legally changed his name to Jennifer about a decade ago. And through the story, she continued to call him Eric. Or Alex . . . ummmm I honestly can't remember. But what struck me as she was telling the story was how she continued to see him as flawed. He had come back to live at home after many years of living in the Pacific Northwest, and his therapist said he held a LOT of anxiety surrounding his name. As I said, she continued to call him Eric (maybe). As she seemed to be wrapping up her story, I decided it was time for me to speak up.
I told her about Dhoc-li Llama , who on the eve of turning 18, came to us and asked that we use a new, gender neutral name. I did not go into a great amount of detail except to say that Jennifer's story resonated for me because of that, and because self-identity is SO vital to mental health and self-esteem. I was very clear . . . I used the name Jennifer without hesitation, and I think my comment had a tremendous impact on her. I believe I taught the philosopher something important, in the end.
|Backstory comes first . . .
I can't remember whether I've mentioned in this blog (and I'm too lazy at the moment to go back and look to see whether I have) that I was volunteering for the Singing Winemaker, pouring in his tasting room. Well, yes . . . I've been doing that for about 6 months or so, and then about 3 months ago I went in one day when I wasn't volunteering to taste some of the wines I didn't know as well, so that I could learn more about them. I ended up staying for most of the afternoon, and wasn't able to drive so I helped Steve do some rearranging of the merchandise in the tasting room. Before I left . . . he offered me a job! As it turned out, having volunteers who work for bottles of wine (which is really nifty, by the way) has been great but not always reliable and he wanted someone who could work in the tasting room on a regular basis. Working in the tasting room of a winery is an interesting way to spend an afternoon. You can meet some pretty amusing people during the course of a day. But when you work for the Singing Winemaker (I did mention that part, right?) it can be a BLAST!!! People come in, they drink wine, they're happy, Steve pulls out his guitar, we sing, it's all good!
So I've been working approximately every other Sunday in the tasting room. Also, after Steve asked if I wanted to start working for him but before I stopped working for wine and started working for money, he asked me if I would help him work on a book project he's been thinking about for several years. It's his project, so I won't go into much detail here except to say that it's non-fiction, it should be interesting and it's nothing that I ever would have considered writing about but I concur with everything he has to say so I'm excited to work with him on it.
And now for today's excitement . . . toward the end of the day three men came in who had obviously already been to a few other wineries. One guy was pretty toasted, but amusingly so. His flip flop was broken and we were having a big chuckle over that, Steve pulled out his guitar and started singing Margaritaville. Anyway, I was just about to ring up a bottle of wine for another customer when this guy starts hitting on me . . . seriously hitting on me. He stopped me in my tracks, I was so flustered. I guess the blonde highlights were a good idea after all? *shrug* He continued to hit on me the entire time they were there . . . it was amusing but it lost its sense of unreality after a bit. Heh. I got hit on at work. He ruined it then by asking me to make some homophobic comment to his brother-in-law. I told him (kindly but firmly, I was after all, at work) that I would never say such a thing. The brother-in-law (who had heard the interchange) then told me to say something non-ASR to flip-flop guy. I told him I had no problem saying that, but not while I was at work. It was a lighthearted exchange . . . I think it was time for flip flop guy to cruise on back home.
|Not in a good place right now to be measuring . . . but at least I'm writing, so that's a good thing, right?
I measure it in "thank you, Mom" and hugs, and affection, and time spent. Right now . . . I'm at approximately zero. Found Sophie's lunchbox sitting on the living room floor a little while ago. I just don't know why I bother. I set my alarm and wake everyone up . . . I try to do it as nicely as possible. Let them know the weather, etc. Go out, make lunches, throw on my own clothes and brush my teeth. Battle battle wrestle everyone out the door, attitude, anger, irritation.
I come home and spend the day . . . alone. Alone. There's another person in the house. Really. But I never see her. Occasionally if she's feeling like crap she'll text me to ask for something. Or she'll come out just as the kiddos are getting home from school to cook herself something. Otherwise, I'm alone.
Picking the kids up . . . crap dumped everywhere. Does this help my mood? Not so much? So do I say something, and be the mom who only mentions the negative stuff, or do I let the crap sit there where it doesn't belong? Or do I play slave mom? None sound appealing, yet after so many years of trying to ask for stuff to be put where it belongs when it comes home, it's still not happening. So, yes . . . I AM the mom who notices that the backpack and jacket are dumped on the ground EVERY day and asks for them to be picked up. I AM the mom who reminds them EVERY DAY to wash their hands BEFORE heading into the kitchen to look for a snack.
But apparently this makes me a negative mom, in my husband's eyes. And when . . . when do I get some time with him? I come last with him every single time.
There's no thank yous. There's little affection. There's little time spent. Yes, I do it to myself by hiding away from the noise that comes from the chaos. Yes, it's a problem. Yes, I'm trying to deal with it. No, the medications I've tried have not helped in the slightest But . . . what's my NUMBER ONE problem? My measuring stick is non-functional from disuse.