Saturday, February 23, 2013

Learning Curves

I often joke about rough patches in life being steep learning curve moments. There is the assumption in our church that all trials are there to teach you something. For the most part I think that is true. Right now is an interesting point of learning in my life, because nothing horrible is happening, yet I feel myself stretching in all sorts of ways.

I am having a lot of self-motivated growth. This is something I haven't had time for in 14 years or so. My youngest will be out of diapers soon. He will even start preschool in the fall and leave me with time alone for the first time since I got pregnant 15 years ago. I have always been pregnant or nursing when the last toddler was at home.  This impending freedom from "mommy jail" (as my sister-in-law calls it) has sparked a lot of thought.

I feel a lot of responsibility. What is the best use of this time. I shouldn't just waste it, right.  But then my internal contrary voice kicks in with, "just enjoy it for a bit." Which sounds reasonable, but I know myself.  I am very good at doing nothing.  If I got in the habit of being on Pinterest for hours it would be very hard to break that habit.

A list of all the possibilities would run something like this:

learn piano
go back to school
volunteer at the kids schools
keep the house much cleaner
join a gym
volunteer as a reading tutor
go for walks
write more

blah blah blah.  I am great at goal-making. The follow through is lacking.

With all these thoughts of the future I have been trying to focus more on the now. I have things I want to change about myself right now. I have always felt too weak to even attempt some of them, like weight loss. It seems like such a huge challenge. So I have the check mark system.

I have four goals that are important to me. They are posted next to the calendar.  Every day I look and see how many of them I accomplished the day before. Each check is worth a dollar.  I am trying to get enough to get a new nice kitchen shelf for my cookbooks. It seems to be working for now.

We'll see how it goes, I guess that is all you can do.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Worst Hard Time

Do you ever read something that makes you feel like a complete wimp? Like all those stories of the pioneers crossing the plains with bloody feet and having babies in the snow and such.  Here is another opportunity to feel like your grandparents generation had the worst life ever.

Not only did this wonderful book make me feel amazingly spoiled, it also made me want to give every resident of the Oklahoma panhandle a big hug.

The book is written through stories.  There is a bit of narrative describing what was happening generally, but we follow a few families through the years. We see the hopes that brought people to the area. The desperate need to have a place for your family.

The government wanted people to make this area useful. No more "Great American Desert," now it was the "Great Plains" and anything could grow there.  They even told people that as more land was plowed up the dust would make it rain more. A few wet years had everyone convinced the climate had changed and crops could be grown without irrigation. Then nearly a decade of drought proved them wrong.

The pictures are amazing. Images of Black Sunday, when one of the worst of the storms went through are horrifying. These are scenes from a movie, not real life.  They ate tumbleweeds. That one fact summarizes the misery for me. If you have never been up close and personal with the Russian thistle, you are a very lucky person. I can not even imagine how hungry I would have to be to eat the stuff, despite this site.

Mr. Egan quotes people saying they thought it was the end of the world. Children died of dust pneumonia. There are instances of men caught outside in the dust storms suffocating to death. Twice storms brought twilight at noon to the east coast, to finally spur some action to help the  residents of these areas.

I have been in dust storms. I have been irritated because I couldn't keep the small amounts of red dust out of my house. It gathered in the window sills and corners. This is nothing compared to needing a shovel to get out of your dugout in the morning.

This is a moving, well-written account of a time we normally put in one paragraph between the crash of '29 and Roosevelt's New Deal. I am better for reading it.

The Worst Hard Time. Timothy Egan. Mariner Books. 2006

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Question Concerning Steampunk Etiquette

I enjoy steampunk. I have enjoyed it for years, even before the current resurgence. I even liked The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie) because of the steampunk elements.

I've read a couple of them recently and I just have one question, "What is the connection between brass fittings and zombies?" Because I don't get it.

I recently finished Dreadnought by Cherie Priest.  An excellent book. It made me happy in numerous ways. It had a realistic heroine, tense action sequences, ideas that stick in your head for days, and zombies. I knew this going in, because I have also read the previous book in the series, Boneshaker (also very good) which has a lot of zombies in it.

Before that I read The Affinity Bridge by George Mann. Very well written, good mystery involved and zombies. The zombies were actually integral to the mystery, so that was nice.  Often they are in there as another random obstacle and don't really have anything to do with the main plot.

Let's see, what other steam/zombie books are there? Lady of Devices by Shelley Adina, The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bagicalupi, The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook, The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher, Dearly Departed by Lia Habel.  That is what a five minute perusal of Goodreads brings up. I mostly blame the overwhelming popularity of zombies, which makes them turn up everywhere. Seth Grahame-Smith, I blame you.

Of course there are many more post-apocalyptic zombie books, but that it to be expected, it is the zombie's native home. Burnt out buildings, moaning hordes, shattered skylines, they all go together. It is the crinolines and coal dust that confuses me.

I really don't like zombies all that much. It is one reason I liked Dreadnought better than Boneshaker: less zombies.

Whatever the reason, I am glad that steampunk has become a "Thing" and I guess I can endure a few undead for the pleasure of fierce women in big machines becoming common on the bookshelves.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bountiful Baskets

In my long abandonment of this blog I have been thinking about what I want to do with it. I have lots of ideas, things I wish to explore more fully and I always end up chattering away at my husband long after he has rolled over and is pretending to be asleep.  He does make listening noises though.

Books often spark these ruminations, though not always. I have moved away from simply a book blog (obviously) and I think if I express that, officially, I might feel easier about posting all of the other things I don't think my 2 yr old wants to talk about.

One of my current things is Bountiful Baskets. It is a co-op that is slowly spreading nation-wide and I love it. I love it enough that when it became difficult to sign up here in San Antonio I decided to train and become the coordinator for a site myself.  I could explain it but it would be easier and more accurate to just send you to the website.

I do Bountiful Baskets because I feed eight people 2-3 meals plus snacks a day. I spend around a thousand dollars on food a month. (That's really everything you can buy at Walmart, I don't finely parse my budget). I have been looking for various ways to improve the quality of our food as well as reduce the cost. Those two things generally don't go together.

I hate the produce section of the grocery store. So often whatever you get is nasty, or goes bad or is just horribly expensive. My relatives in Utah mentioned BB but it has never been available where we have lived, until about 18 months ago.

The official BB site says you can get around $50 of food for $16.50. In my informal tallies it is usually more than that. And it is good quality too. The grapes are sweet and the broccoli doesn't turn brown a day after you get it home.

A lot of people don't like it because of the random nature of each basket. You never know what you are going to get and sometimes you get stuff you have never seen before. I  think it is part of the fun. When we get something weird I just look it up in the internet and get to try new recipes. It is an enhancer of the way I usually cook anyway, if I have the money.

My family now thinks that salad is an acceptable form of dinner, especially if we have enough different things in it.

But now that it is dinner time I have to stop. But I will post a lot more recipes and vegetable stuff, because that is what is going on in my brain now. I still read a lot, and I have a few book posts in the works, but right now I have to make something with the ten tomatoes still on my kitchen counters from last week's basket.