Archive for December, 2012

31
Dec
12

on not looking back. . .

To start with, two stories:

As a self-employed person, I used to collect all my receipts in a folder (which ended up being a small shopping bag), and recording them into their appropriate categories in Quicken around February of the next year for my tax returns. I always started each year with good intentions to record them as they were generated, but you all know how that goes, even without knowing me personally. One year I had decided that I was going to bring them with me during the Christmas holidays so that I could work on them during any driving, and during down time while staying at my mom’s or wherever we were staying. Not even a mile down the road, I realized I had left them on the floor next to the door. We did not turn around.

At the grocery store this past week, on the way to spend time with my extended family, Second Son and his girlfriend realized they had left a game at home that First Son wanted them to bring with them. We did not go back for it.

I don’t turn around, and I try really hard not to look back. (Like Golly in Harriet the Spy.)

nouturn

 

Except when it is part of looking forward.

So what am I looking forward to this year?

I would like to focus more on the joy. My career isn’t what I had dreamed it would be, but it’s a good one, and I’m doing work I’m good at, and I’m appreciated, and I make enough money to pay my bills and live comfortably and eat well and drink good (reasonably priced, but good) wine every night. I have a closetful of nice clothes I’d like to fit into better (a first world problem if ever there was one) and healthy happy smart talented children and a husband I love more than I ever imagined possible. So much joy, so easily forgotten while wallowing in memories of thwarted dreams and personal and/or professional betrayals. What do they matter really? Why do they matter at all?

I’m not lost. I’m right here. (I’m quoting someone, but I can’t remember who. Does anyone recognize it?)

right-here-right-now1

I’d like to eat more healthfully, and do the kind of exercise I need to do more consistently so I have less back pain and more energy. I know how to do this, I don’t know why I forget that this is the body I need to live from not just in. I know this. I would like to know it meaning I do it, not like I merely “know” it.

Know what I mean?

I would like to spend less time ranting and more time doing. Doing something. I have an idea, and now even a perfect potential location, for a community music school. I’d like to stop dreaming it and do something about it.

I’m tired of people doing what they want, taking what they want, without regard to who they hurt; I’m sure it’s not just me. I’d like to do something to change that, and see/encourage more people do the same. I’d like to see everyone behave ethically because it was the right thing to do, not because they thought they would go to jail, or hell, if they didn’t.

Is it enough to wake up every morning grateful?

I didn’t think so.

I don’t have to sell the beautiful leather coat Husband bought me for Christmas and donate the proceeds to charity, do I?

We followed a woman, slowly, today down three miles of 45 mph road, topping 32 mph at the bottom of a decline. (She braked.) She pulled in to the grocery store parking lot ahead of us, a grocery store parking lot renowned for its congestion, both pedestrian and vehicular. We parked, and walked to the doors, and she was still idling in the corner of the lot, trying to figure out where to go and what to do. After we had gone into the store Husband considered going out and offering to park her car for her. I thought she might panic, think he was trying to steal her car (or worse), and scream for help. How does this fit in with my desire to do more good in the world?

What parts selfishness, what parts laziness, what parts fear?

I hate “new years resolutions” because they are so cliché and so easily broken, but these are actually “resolutions” I make on a regular basis. Does that make it better? Or just more pathetic?

Anyway: More joy, more good, more gratitude. Less selfishness, less laziness, less fear.

But I’m definitely keeping the coat.

Happy New Year!

midnighthappynewyear

 

 

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31
Dec
12

Pretension, 2013

20121231-200422.jpg

As opposed to from where every other winery procures its “winegrapes.”

(Autocorrect just tried to change “winegrapes” to “winger apes.” Yet another clue to the word’s ridiculousness.)

Happy New Year!!!

20
Dec
12

time to change the thinking

I’m tired of fiscal cliffs and mental health issues and gun control laws and emergency managers.

There are days that finding the joy is just too hard to do, even though I know I am one of the luckiest people in the world and do, in fact, have just about everything I need.

Tell me a happy story, you commenters out there.

I need some Christmas cheer.

17
Dec
12

regarding Liza Long, and missing the point

Liza Long wrote an article called “I am Adam Lanza’s mother.” You can read it, if you want to, here.

I was trying to scroll down and comment, and apparently there are 100s and 100s of comments, and I just couldn’t get to the bottom of the page, so I gave up. (Just realized I could comment at the top. Duh.)

The gist of it is she has a son with psychosocial disorder, or attachment disorder, or personality disorder, or autism, or aspergers, or . . . .  which causes him to react to frustrations and difficulties in an unpredictable, and often violent way.

She drives him past his school to the hospital because he is so upset at having to wear blue pants instead of black pants (the school has a uniform program) that he becomes physically agitated and uncontrollable.

Commenters range from sympathy to accusing her of looking for a chance in the spotlight to questioning whether “excusing” something by pointing fingers at any of the problems — gun control, mental health support, society — avoids taking responsibility.

My comment to Ms. Long was going to be: Yes. Your child is violent and unpredictable and often downright scary. I’m sorry for this, and for you, and that you apparently have not been able to find, or perhaps to afford, the kind of care he apparently needs. But I’m betting you don’t have a number of semi-automatic weapons within this child’s reach. If you do, please do something about it now. If you don’t, your story might be troubling and thought-provoking, but doesn’t really address the problem. Adam Lanza could be as nutty as a fruitcake, and however society may have failed him, if he couldn’t have gotten his hands on the weaponry, (weaponry his mother made readily available to him), no children, nobody, would have been killed on Friday.

It really is that simple.

15
Dec
12

brokenhearted

I can barely stand to imagine what the parents and families of those precious children, and the teachers and administrators who died defending them, must be feeling right now.

This young woman hid her students in a closet, and then faced the gunman and told him the children were in the gym. He shot her, killing her, and left. All of her students survived.

victoria

I look into the eyes of this beautiful, obviously kind, happy young woman, a woman with a life before her — perhaps a husband, the family who mourns her, the friends who have lost her, the children she’ll never have, the life she won’t get to live, and I almost can’t bear it.

People want to find meaning, and pray for God’s light to shine and heal the world, and look forward to paradise, where these blessed children have gone and where everything is made whole, and I almost can’t bear it.

If God could have stopped this, and didn’t, I cannot forgive him.

If I’m supposed to find beauty and truth and meaning in faith in some kind of yet-to-be-revealed divine plan, I just can’t.

We don’t need faith, or platitudes, or to spend hours poring over photos of those who are suffering.

We need to change our policies, and we need to change them now.

As Gail Collins puts it so eloquently in today’s NYTimes article: “America needs to tackle gun violence because we need to redefine who we are. We have come to regard ourselves — and the world has come to regard us — as a country that’s so gun happy that the right to traffic freely in the most obscene quantities of weapons is regarded as far more precious than an American’s right to health care or a good education.”

People make many arguments: the community failed him (maybe it did), a lack of mental health services failed him (maybe it did), his parents failed him (maybe they did), guns don’t kill people, people do . . .but a deranged man, neglected by his community, mental health services, and parents, who cannot get his hands on a weapon can do, well, what? stand on a street corner and rant? throw things? even if he’s carrying a knife he’s going to harm a lot fewer people than if he’s carrying a semi-automatic weapon. People make arguments that allowing us to carry weapons freely (now, in Michigan, in day care centers, churches, and schools) allows us greater protection against vicious attacks. Does anyone have any statistics on how many times a person has been able to thwart a violent attack because he or she happened to be carrying a weapon? It’s not a story we hear. I’m thinking the likelihood doesn’t outweigh the risk.

And what do we supposedly need a semi-automatic weapon for, anyway?

No matter how many times I read the second amendment, I just can’t see support for the argument that our founding fathers intended for any and all of us to buy as many weapons as we think we need or want. The right to a well-armed militia is by no means equal to a well-armed, mentally unbalanced 20-year old loner.

How many mass shootings in public places have we endured this year? How many deaths? I was going to research and list them all, but I’ve been thinking about this all day, and I just can’t anymore. But can we invite these people into our living rooms and tell them that we’re sorry, but the rights of the lunatics to have ready access to weapons exceeds their rights to a long and healthy life?

As Charles Blow says: “Even if you believe, as most Americans do, that the Second Amendment grants Americans the right to bear arms, one must also acknowledge the right of other Americans not to bear arms and be safe.”

Please click here and sign the petition. And post it on your facebook page, and send it to everyone you know. We have to stop mourning and crying and praying and do something.

Before it happens again, at which point we have only ourselves to blame.

 

 

 

13
Dec
12

Michigan “Right to Work” Measure Passes, Thousands Protest

Michigan “Right to Work” Measure Passes, Thousands Protest.

I used to believe, in my younger, more naive days, that politicians believed that they were actually working FOR us (the people), as they had, in fact, been “hired” by us, for a two- or four-year term, to represent our interests.

I realize now that politicians work for whoever is going to write the next, biggest, campaign check, and if they represent anyone’s interests at all, it’s their own.

All I know for sure is that I am immediately, deeply, and profoundly suspicious of decisions such as these that are made quickly, without discussion, and despite the protests of tens of thousands of people.

And apparently, it’s not just me.

protesters

It’s a little like the vacuum salesman short on direct answers but eager with the “Andyouonlygetthisdealifyousignonthedottedlineinthenextthreeandahalfminutes.”

Interesting how the fireman and police are exempt from this legislation. Guess we don’t want to piss off the people with the guns.

Maybe this has something to do with it:

righttowork

So much for serving the people.

Is there a petition somewhere we can sign that disallows Congress from passing laws that include clauses prohibiting repeal? (One would think this was automatic, but apparently not.)

05
Dec
12

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Am having a bit of a stressful ride lately, and the next 10 days see the culmination of it all. I try to focus on living in the moment, but I’m finding it particularly difficult not to just wish it were December 15.

In a nutshell, two big concerts to perform in, and one to sponsor/produce. Meanwhile, lots of people either not doing their jobs, or trying to do mine — both situations which cause a lot of extra work and/or stress for me right when I have a gazillion other things I really need to be focusing on; or should maybe just be sitting on a cushion with my palms on my thighs chanting Om, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti. . .

om

I did manage to clear my day today up until around 5 p.m. to stay home and regroup, so I am heading to practice soon (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.). I did start the day making my famous (infamous?) drunken Christmas cake. Actually, I started it last night, as I macerated the dried fruit in a good dose of brandy overnight. I did a fair bit of sampling of the batter as I prepared it, which means I was actually possibly maybe a tiny wee bit hammered before breakfast. I’m sure the coffee will counteract it and there should be no adverse effects.

It is a great recipe, adapted* from my very battered “Joy of Cooking” cookbook, so here it is:

Sheri’s Drunken Christmas Cake

The night before (the fruit can macerate up to 24 hours):

In a large (8-cup) mixing bowl or measuring cup mix 2 c. golden raisins, 2 c. dried currants, and 2 c. chopped dried figs. Pour 3/4 c. of brandy over and stir well. Cover. (Stir occasionally if you can — once before bed, once when you get up in the morning)

When you’re ready to make the cake:

Bring 1 c. of butter out to put on the counter while you make your coffee, assemble ingredients, etc.

Butter 8 small ! bread pans, bottom and sides.

Preheat oven to 300˚ (275˚ if it’s convection)

Put the butter into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, and beat until smooth and creamy.
Add 2 c. packed dark brown sugar, and beat on a fairly high speed until lightened in color and texture, 3-5 minutes.

While this is beating, I mix the dry ingredients:
3 c. unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I heap this one)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Whisk together well with an egg whisk to thoroughly blend and “sift” the flour.

To the butter/brown sugar mixture, add:
1/2 c. dark molasses
grated zest and juice of one orange
grated zest and juice of one lemon
Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.

When this has been fully incorporated, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with 3/4 c. of brandy in 2 parts, mixing well (on low speed) after each addition. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so all of the flour stuff gets fully incorporated.
So: 1 c. flour mixture, mixmixmixmixmixmix, 1/2 of the brandy, mixmixmixmixmix, 1 c. of flour mixture, etc.

Now mix in the macerated fruits, and 2 c. of coarsely chopped almonds and/or hazelnuts. (I suppose, if you really felt it was necessary, you could use walnuts.*)

Divide the batter between the 8 pans (you can make this into one giant cake in a tube pan, but I like to give them as gifts, and they really serve better if you can cut up one loaf and leave the rest wrapped up until you want/need it).

Bake for 2 1/2 hours. At 1 1/4 hours rotate the pans so the ones on an upper rack get traded for the ones on a lower rack. (The JoC recipe says to bake for 3.5 hours, and to disregard the fact that the cakes look quite thoroughly done an hour earlier, but I have found these to come out a bit dry and crumbly, so I have shortened the baking time.)

Leave cakes in the pans to cool on a rack for at least an hour. At this point, if you like your Christmas cake REALLY hammered (who doesn’t?) you can drizzle (slowly) another tablespoon or two of brandy over each one.

To store: Soak a piece of cheesecloth in brandy, squeeze out the excess. Wrap the cake in cheesecloth, and then put into a sturdy freezer plastic bag. If you wrap the cake in brandy-soaked cheesecloth, you can actually age the cake up to a month. If I do this, about once a week I remove the cheesecloth and soak in a little more brandy just to keep the cake moist and discourage any molding. I’ve done this year after year, and the cake has NEVER gone bad.

Here’s how it all looked before I put them in the oven:

You know you're a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

You know you’re a good cook if your counter is really messy. And my apologies for the beat-up looking cantaloup in the background. And not sure why I got the eggs out. There are no eggs in the recipe.

I wish you could smell how good my house smells right now. Yum.

Yesterday I made candied citrus peel:

candiedcitruspeel

(If you click on the picture it should link to where I got the recipe.)

Okay. Enough procrastinating. Must go practice now. (I will not knit. I will not knit. I will not knit.)

p.s. Is anybody else having trouble with the updated WordPress platform? I have never had so much trouble inserting pictures and having them go into the post where I want them and not having my links disappear. Grrr. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, y’know?

*Adapted meaning brandy has been added beyond that which has been called for, and that I have omitted things I cannot abide: dates (taste like boogers), walnuts (taste like dirt), candied fruits of any sort (taste like candle wax). Don’t ask me how I know these things, I just do.




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