Happy Holidays to all, whatever you celebrate, and may the new year bring you your heart's desire.
Happy Holidays to all, whatever you celebrate, and may the new year bring you your heart's desire.
I waited until now to do my learning post, because I didn't want to talk about my learning, but about supporting learning through my favorite charity, Donors Choose.
For the past three or four Octobers, Donors Choose has run a blogger's challenge to raise funds and their visibility. Sarah at Tomato Nation has pulled out the stops every year, raising truly awesome amounts of money through her blog and her readership. I'm not organized enough to put together my own blogger challenge, but I do have it together enough to come on here and plug her efforts. Plus, she has tons of cool swag that she's raffling off through the course of the month if you donate through her page.
Contest '09: Deal is your handy link to her page, which will let you get through to her challenge page. If you happen to have any spare cash laying around this month, please consider throwing some of it towards DC.
If you don't know anything about Donors Choose, I can sum up. It is a charity that allows teachers to get funding for projects in their classrooms that they do not have the budget to get otherwise. The teachers submit requests for funding for specific projects, ranging from small requests that might cost $150 to fund to grand ideas that might cost several thousand. Donors can search on the website to find a project that they would like to fund and then donate money specifically to that teacher and that project.
The beauty of this is that there are all kinds of projects, for all age groups and nearly every state in the country. You want to fund a project in your own backyard or in a rural are or in a big city? You can find one. You think that the lack of sports in elementary school needs to be addressed? You wish there was more music or art in preschool? You want to see teachers make history or physics or literature or astronomy come alive for their students? You can find a project from a teacher who wants to make the same thing happen. You can give a small amount or you can choose to fund the entire project. You get to choose exactly how your money is used, and you get to help kids have a learning experience that they might not otherwise get, and it feels awesome!
My favorite part is that if you close a project or are a major contributor to it, you get an actual in-the-mail thank you package with letters from and photos of the children in the classroom that you helped. Nothing feels better than that.
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"School" is a little red brick, one-room building, hard wooden benches, chalk, and the sound of chalk squeaking against a blackboard. Clapping out erasers is a coveted job – why was that so? I think we were all Tom-Sawyered.
Bells sound, telling you when to start and when to end your day, a long day of being told what to do. I could listen, I could obey, although sometimes the things I was told to do, like "eat your green peas," and (on Halloween) "take off your angel wings" made me want to cry. Who made up these rules, and why?
The best consolation for the years of tedium were friends—especially the chosen few, the Awesome Foursome, as we called ourselves, or "AF" in the language of passed-during-class notes. Dana, of the red hair, expressively – flare of the nostril, sneer of the lip, tilt of the eyebrow – able to express her otherwise ineffable disdain (not that she didn't try to put it into words). Michelle, dark-haired, loud, always quick with the comeback, especially for those smart-alecky, "aren't-we-so-great" boys. And Emily, poofy blond hair, vampire-pale skin, and wit so sharp you cut your knees on it, going down. We were filled with scorn, but also curiosity, fun, laughter, something burning bright, where you could warm your hands on a cool night, eating brownies up on the roof, under the stars, bitching about school.
It’s been a year of learning to let go. I’m getting better at it. With each moment or event that gives me the opportunity – wanted or not – to let go, I’m becoming ever slightly more graceful, just a teeny bit more gracious.
As I rapidly approach the half century mark, I liken letting go to the changing of the seasons: the bright, flashy, needy summer of my youth – when having more meant wanting more, when I constantly burned with desire to own and to possess – is slowly giving way to the softer, easier, relaxing comfort of a cool autumn, where letting go brings simplicity, where happiness lies in embracing less, where all I really need is a crackling fire, a steaming cup of tea, a good book, and possibly someone wonderful with whom to curl up.
Of course, that’s fantasy. Reality isn’t that simple, and neither is learning to let go. But I’m trying.
This is the year I learned to let go of my marriage. By all accounts, we had a decent marriage and much goodness sprang from it. But within the inner sanctum of our marriage, the foundation had crumbled years ago. By last year, the walls had begun to cave in. When the roof began falling this year, we knew it was time to get out. I’ve been fortunate. David and I managed to emerge from our marriage as friends, if no longer partners. We did this by recognizing that we needed to let go.
This is the year I learned to let go of the notion of immortality. Now that I’m almost 50, my contemporaries are getting sick or even dying. One friend, age 52, died from a punctured colon after getting his requisite colonoscopy. Another friend, 48, received a dire diagnosis of Stage 3 cancer. Another friend, 50, needs a biopsy because of cancer concerns. Still another one, age 56, died suddenly of a heart attack. All of this happened in the past two months. I’ve learned that I am becoming perilously close to touching my own mortality; I am becoming increasingly at risk of losing those whom I love.
This is the year I finally learned to let go of my idealism; I learned I had to play the game. I’ve always approached work believing that good work breeds good results; that hard work is eventually acknowledged. This year, under a new regime, I’ve learned that diligence and hard work don’t matter nearly as much as the illusion of diligence and hard work. So I’ve begun sending the big boss emails before and after hours, copying everyone on everything, fostering the impression that I’m working as hard as...well, as I’m actually working. Silly me, in the past, I’ve usually been too busy working to pretend I’m working. But I’ve learned, at least for now, to let go of that crazy idea.
This is the year I learned to let go of an attachment I wanted to continue. After David and I decided to part ways, I fell in love with someone else. I’m sure, when I look back years from now, I’ll recognize that I simply fell head-over-heels into a cliché. But at this moment, still smarting from rejection and loss, it feels real. But he lost his love for me, and I had to let him go. The letting go was not terribly graceful, but in the end, I managed to do it, walking away shakily.
The flip side to learning to let go, of course, is learning what to keep. And that’s a harder lesson, and one best saved for another time.
Hello! The topic for September will be school. Enjoy!
Does anyone, or eveyone, else have a shelf of "Keepers"?
These are the books in my house that will never be donated or sold. Or even traded or lent, lest they never come back. There are short stories (The Beggar Maid, Alice Munro), memoirs (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and the rest of the set by Maya Angleou,) and series (Harry, of course). Mostly fiction, some non (Ophelia Speaks, Sara Shandler), some poetry (The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran). There are lots of women (Toni Morrison, Laurie Colwin, Ann Patchett, Alice Walker), and a few men (Nick Hornsby, David Sedaris). Some of them are classics (my beloved Jane Austen collection) and some are new finds (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Schaffer and Barrows). Some are heartbreaking (Paula, Isabel Allende) while some are inspiring (Hannah's Gift, Maria Housden). Some are pure fun (Bridget Jone's Diary, complete with post-it note additions made when my single friends and I passed it amongst ourselves one year) and others are downright ridiculous (The Fascinating Girl, Helen Andelin).
Many of these books have been read and re-read several times over, while some of them haven't been opened in years. What they all have in common, though, is that just a look at the spine brings to mind a particular character or scene. A quote or a question. A feeling. The satisfying memory of a good read.
Summer, fall, winter, or spring, reading is reading. I love to read. I like books that entertain, that make me laugh or cry. I like to read character driven books, books about people I can admire. If all of the characters are rotters, or stupid, or boring, if I cannot care about them, then the book is not for me.
This summer I have read several wonderful books passed along to me by my sister. I just finished Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg....loved it. Then there was The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti by Annie Vanderbilt and The Four Corners of The Sky by Michael Malone. He wrote one of my favorite reads, Handling Sin, an epic adventure indeed. Read it. You will never again think about fortune cookies in the same way.
Any novel (or cookbook) by Laurie Colwin
Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard
Broken For You by Stephanie Kallos
A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Miss Bianca books by Margery Sharp
Bottom Line: Read Something before the summer is over. Reccomend a book you love. Enjoy.
Recently I was told by a physician that I need to find new ways to relieve stress. He is one of those doctors that has no idea how intimidating his office really is - people come in and he tells them whether or not their brains are functioning properly. So needless to say, when I went in there I was absolutely terrified. Most of my answers were half answers, or barely that. I generally couldn't bring myself to speak, so much so that the second time I forced my fiance to come with me, and wrote a list of all the things I meant to say the first time - but still didn't make it through.
My brain is fine, but this is one of many doctors visits I've been on recently where doctors tell me while I've always thought that I deal well with stress, in actuality my body absorbs it and recently it has reached its max. So in multiple ways my body is telling me that I need to shape up, deal with my ever increasing stress levels in better ways or else. Or else what, I ask...but I don't really want to know the answer.
When the doctor asked me what I do to handle stress on that nervous and intimidating first visit I told him I read, when in fact I read, do crafts (particularly knitting - but I am starting to enjoy scrap booking and paper work a lot too), go for walks, watch movies, cook and bake. I enjoy many activities is my point - so what type of stress relieving activity is he referring to? Do I need an aggressive, sporty activity? Because I don't really like sporty activities, I'm a lady of leisure.
It's been a while since I posted, but I find it very therapeutic. Perhaps I will add this to the list that I have created to prove to my doctor that I am not some laze-about person, and I that I in fact have hobbies that calm my nerves from time to time. Some times they excite them a little (my hobbies I mean), and perhaps cause more stress, but I think in a good way.
The books that I have been reading can certainly be called summer reading, and I also am concerned that maybe they don't lend to 'stress relief'. But I have found a new friend in crime fiction, particularly detective crime fiction. I'm new at it - so I've started very high brow and I intend to work my way down. I've always been a fan of crime drama on television, and in the movies. Film noir is one of my very favorite genres. I recall Encyclopedia Brown being the first book that I found enjoyment in while reading, well you know - with more words than pictures that is. I am currently finishing up Paul Auster's New York Trilogy and I'm loving every moment of it. It is very solitary and provoking. I find myself yelling at the 'detective' in my head as I read. Is it relieving my stress or creating more? I'm not sure, but I pity the man that tries to take away my detective books, because at least I've found a place that I can escape to - including from that wretched doctor's office.
It's been a while, huh? So long that I forgot how to logon on to bloody TypePad and had to click around the world to figure it out. But I did. Obviously. A friend of mine ( who says I am her only friend, but she's full of crap, she just needs treat people like friends and then they will be. Nobody wants be held in awe, nobody wants to be made too much over. They just want to be friends, and help each other other out and laugh with - and at - each other. If a friendship makes you feel guilty all the time, it needs examining.)
But, I digress. I have a post, swirling around in here, in my head, wanting out. It must be, because typing is one of the things that make the pain very bad at times. Just a fact. Been suffering from progressive pain in my back and neck and arms for about six months. Finally actually seem to have found a doctor who wants to figure it out instead of sending me willy-nilly to PT. Don't get me wrong. I know PT is a wonderful thing. One of my very best friends is a PT. But it seems to me that it would be best to figure out what the problem is before just prodding and pulling at it - attaching electrodes and submitting it to the
rack traction machine. I am learning to mouse with my left hand, with always slow and sometimes disatrous results. Also, there was an MRI today.
Women's Work is the topic here, though, and of that I have none. Well, not the kind the pays the bills. I haven't since April 3. I stayed up late, baking fantastic cookies for a company do, but I called into the boss' office early that morning and was laid off. The first one in the company. Not the last. It was quite a shock. I had done the job by myself for a year before they finally hired someone else. I trained him and when things went south, he was being paid probably half of what I was, so, bye, bye, Julie. It's really OK. I hated working there. The boss had a "management style" that I didn't respond to well. Yeah, that's what we're going to call it. So, no great loss.
Except, except. Four months later and and in this, the worst "financial turndown" since the Great Depression, I have no job and very few prospects for one.
My house is very clean. Well, there were large tracts of time between when this started and now when many relatives visited for weeks at a time, but as of next week, it will be completely clean and I will have to contemplate the yard.
I keep very busy in other ways. I got money from the government for "retraining," so I'm studying a heretofore mysterious branch of IT, SQL. I'ts fascinating. It's HARD. It's basically programming and I was never all that analytical (except when it came to why boyfriends left and I've given up on even that these days - who cares why they left, or why they turned out to be such assholes. They did/they were, get over it.) The ironic thing about studying to be SQL DBA is that no one will hire me for that just if I have a certification...they want 8-10 years experience. There must be a creche somewhere from which fully formed DBAS spring forth, wholly vested in 10 year experience blocks.
I am working on people's computers for trade, mostly. I'm also designing/maintaining web sites. An entirely new endeavor that also makes my brain hurt. I am not good at design. The bad thing is that I KNOW this, but still, my designs are there in certain cases and I have to visit them and add stuff., etc.
All that, combined with the unemployment check and letting the Visa and Discover cards catch the overflow, is getting me by, for now. I try to curb my spending greatly, but I can't completely stop doing things with my friends. It will spell the end for me.
I also spend WAY TOO MUCH time on a bid for a science fiction convention some buddies and I want to hold in Huntsville in 2012.
But I need a real job. And there are none. Or very few, with lots of competition. It is a very strange feeling. I haven't been out of work, involuntarily, for more than few weeks since I was 16. Nearly 30 years.
But I have been out now for over four months. I think I need to start having more fun with it. I will get a job, eventually, and I won't have all this freedom. So tonight, I was lying in my bed, reading. I had taken my Ambien. But the reading would not cease. I started thinking about a Barefoot Contessa recipe that I had planned to make the day before but because of time and ingredient restraints, it hadn't happened. I thought, "I have all those now." If I make the risotto cake filling now, it can chill ALL NIGHT. So I got up after midnight, under the influence of Ambien and made the risotto cake filling. It's chilling now. I drank some wine and ate Cheez-Its and bread and butter, too. I'm supposed to be in a weight loss contest, but I just couldn't bring myself to care. Everything tasted so good, perhaps better than it really did, because it's late and I should be going to sleep. But then again, why? It's Friday night anyway.
We're not that old. A favorite refrain of some friends and mine. And we're not. We're in our forties. The new thirties...ask anybody. Maybe not the 20-year-olds. But I feel like I am getting so old. Many, many bad things happen to people I love all the time. My friends are losing their parents. I am losing my mother to some sort of dementia that she refuses to admit she has and if you can bear to argue with her long enough to get her to admit that something might be wrong, it doesn't matter, she won't remember the next day. My own body is betraying me, just as I really try to take care of it finally.
But this night. I get up from the bed and because I finally do have the time and ingredients, whip up some of Ina Garten's Chive Risotto Cakes, which I will let sit over night and it makes me very happy. Maybe that's the wine and the Ambien. Who cares? I'll let you know how the cakes turn out tomorrow.
Although most people assume that summer reading is the light fluffy kind of reading you can easily do at the beach, because I'm a knitter, it is often when I dive into big meaty books that need a lot more attention.
See, I have little air conditioning in my house, and the room that DOES have AC has no television. I have little desire to knit in a room with no air conditioning, and without the television for background company, knitting just usually isn't enough to hold my attention. So, I take advantage of the summer months to read those books that I just can't get through when my only reading time is the fifteen minutes before I turn out my light at bedtime.
This summer, my thick book of choice is Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, and I'm quite enjoying it. It's been a little harder to get through it than I was hoping - mostly because I'm having trouble still keeping all the different rivals straight in my head.
I've also been taking advantage of the slightly easier pace of summer scheduling with my daughter, and using some of the downtime to read The Hobbit aloud to her in the evenings. She's loving it, and I'm enjoying re-visiting a favorite story of my own with her. Last night we left the Bilbo and the dwarves still deep in the forest, and we're hoping that it all ends up with everyone okay.
We head off for vacation at the end of the month, and that's when I'll be looking for the potato chip books. My taste runs to mysteries and historical fiction. Anyone have any suggestions?