Monthly Archives: April 2012

Crisis Management

I’ve begun to implement a technique to monitor my level of crisis. In other words, I often (many times a day) get to the point of feeling completely overwhelmed by all the things I’m juggling, by the challenges I encounter, by the people in my life who are emoting, whining, begging, or otherwise creating an atmosphere of desperate urgency.

I truly believe that paying attention, as the Buddha suggests, is the first step toward healing and strengthening. So I am trying to ask myself, when I’m on the verge of panic, How bad is this situation I find myself in? On a scale of 1 to 10. One being a situation in which one might enjoy total relaxation of body, mind and spirit, ten being some sort of life-or-death catastrophe inducing full-blown fight-or-flight stress.

I think it helps when I remember to do it. I think I get down in the trenches and forget to come up for a panoramic view of the situation, to reassess. I get too close to a small little piece of my life, and then when I don’t think it’s going exactly right, it looks like the whole world is falling apart. Because if that one little thing is your whole world, then it really is all falling apart.

If I pull back and try to judge based on everything as far as I can see, chances are there will be enough things that are calm, secure, at peace, that I can put my tiny crisis into perspective and not freak out about it.

Or, if the sky really is falling, I can problem solve for that instead. Either way, I’m looking to cultivate an appropriate response to my situation rather than an overblown conniption fit.

Do you have a way to keep from being overwhelmed by your day-to-day challenges?

Survival Lessons – Edible Plants

My husband recently bought me this book:

It makes me want to spend hours hiking around the wild spaces, looking for all these plants.

This is the perfect time of year too, with all the plants sprouting and blooming — so much to see and explore.

Reading through the book, it amazes me for some reason how much food surrounds us. Eating lots of different leaves for salad greens, making flour out of roots and seeds, making tea out of dried flowers. I’ve got quite a few edible plants in my yard (things I planted), but it’s reassuring to know that the boundary of edible wildness (what most people call “weeds” because there’s a grocery store up the street) extends infinitely.

One thing I want to commit to experimenting with this fall is acorns. We get a ton of them on the ground near our house and I’d like to read up on them, find some recipes for processing and making tasty stuff out of them.

In order to make a survival lesson out of edible plant identification for the kids, I might make a scavenger hunt of sorts. Maybe make copies of drawings to identify them and make up a little booklet for them to use as a handbook to find stuff. Whoever gets poison ivy automatically loses! 😀

One a Day

I need to get back to publishing one post a day.

When I let myself skip, it’s bad times.

I judge everything I want to say. Whereas when I’m doing one post a day, I just figure I have to write something, so there’s no point in censoring myself so heavily.

I come up with all kinds of excuses that don’t take away my feeling of failure. “I don’t have the time, don’t have the energy, don’t have the quiet to think straight.” Phooey.

I feel like there’s a huge hole in my life. I’d like to feel like there’s a huge whole in my life. A whole collection of thoughts, visions, ideas, prayers.

I don’t read anyone else’s blog. A part of me feels resentful that other people are writing and being read, so if I’m not writing, then I get bitter and refuse to participate. Gross. I much prefer to be in the thick of things, hanging out with my blogging cyberfriends and discovering new voices.

So I’ll give it a shot. Lately been feeling down due to my garden flailing pathetically – tomato plants frozen, half my basil lost to frost, had to replant zucchinis, and I’m pretty sure  my apple trees have cedar rust, which sounds like a bear to deal with. (One solution I read about was to buy rust-resistant varieties such as gala. Yeah. That’s what we bought. Now what? Depend on poisonous expensive sprays forever? 😛 ) My conversation class is over, don’t know when or if I’ll get to teach again. It’s taking me forever to finish the quilt. I’ve quit one of my moderator jobs, and the other two are kind of on the back burner. This Amendment One garbage is bumming me out in a big way. Our financial sitch looms large. Et cetera, et cetera.

It’s not my favorite thing to write when I’m feeling terribly whiny.

But it’s even suckier not to write at all.

The Best Class Ever

Okay, well “The Best” is always a relative term.

But wow. It was pretty cool.

I’m down to three students now in my Conversational Spanish class. Not a good number for doing various pairing or group activities. One of the students is fairly timid and just taking the class for her job (her employer is also paying for the class.)

She left at the break (midpoint of a two-hour class).

Nice lady, but not into it. The two students who were left have a smidgen of “word nerd” about them, they obviously like and want to learn Spanish and are very willing to stretch out of their comfort zone and venture into new language territory.

We worked on talking about “what time is it?” for a bit, because it is our second-to-last class and I feel like that is something really useful for them to know. We were able to go off on a tangent about three different ways to say “time” in Spanish (hora, vez, tiempo) and the specific meanings and scenarios in which one would use each (I LOVE to get into details like this!) It reminded me of teaching French and having my word nerd students ask me amazingly wonderful tangential questions about the roots of certain words, how they relate to English and Spanish and *BLISS*!!! I am in paradise.

So it was just the three of us, and I suggested (I’m sure there was a gleam in my eye) that we do an exercise that one of the ladies had done in class before, where  they choose one of the photos-cut-out-of-a-magazine-and-laminated-onto-a-card cards and make up a character based on the person(s) in the photo.

In class so far we have learned how to talk about what someone’s name is, their age, their family, what activities they like to do and adjectives to describe their personality. We’ve worked on asking people questions to find out this information.

So the last half hour of the class (and the details of the exercise were entirely their idea!) consisted of these two students randomly choosing a picture and then challenging themselves to come up with details about the person, presenting these details orally as they invented them. Conjugating verbs, remembering adjectives, recalling how to phrase things like “she has to” do a certain activity or “she likes to” do something or other.

My whole job was to occasionally correct them (which they were completely open to, it was fantastic!) as well as to provide the occasional word that they were struggling to remember. Also, I would ask questions about the characters they were inventing, to try to extend the game a bit further, when they seemed unable to generate more raw details on their own.

It occurs to me as I write this that most readers would think this was boring as sh*t. I apologize. I know I’m a total language geek, I freely admit it, embrace it, live it. But this was so damn cool you don’t even understand.

If we could have every class like this, and we could meet a couple times a week, they would be fluent so fast. They were just swimming in the words, splashing around in meaning, engaging their imaginations with their visual perception with their understanding.

It was truly magical.

Vote NO! on “One Man, One Woman”

I see the bumperstickers proclaiming “Marriage = One Man + One Woman” (I hope they aren’t math teachers), the lawn signs, the ELECTRONIC BILLBOARDS  for crying out loud. (How much money do these people have? And if they’re so big on promoting marriage, why don’t they donate some of that mountain of money to my marriage so we can have a relaxing second honeymoon? I promise, since we happen to be one man and one woman, that we will get down to some seriously heterosexual business on their dime.)

On May 8th, we in North Carolina are being asked, essentially, to amend our state constitution to dictate to our citizens who they can and cannot marry. To judge who is and who is not a legal domestic partnership.

Similar to this:

Same hateful, self-righteous, fascist bigotry. This particular bit of racist rubbish was in effect from 1875 until 1971.
It’s none of your business which consenting adults choose to marry each other. Are they consenting? Are they adults? I would definitely agree to use that criteria. Beyond that, none of my business, none of your business. You may think that your God disapproves, but does their God?
I saw a pro-hate bumpersticker on a woman’s car when I was leaving the post office yesterday. She looked like a decent human. Maybe it wasn’t her car. But I wanted to go up to her and say, polite as pie, big smile on my face, “You know that’s offensively hateful, right?”
But I didn’t. The problem is, those of us who advocate people minding their own business tend to mind our own business. I guess we’ll have to break out of that mold for just such occasions.
But whatever you do, wherever you live, don’t let the haters win.

Too Tired to Multitask

I feel very low energy today. I know I could get a couple of projects done today, one at a time, throwing myself into each one in a singular motion, and in the act forgetting my fatigue.

But I have small children in the house. I cannot ever completely take my focus off of them. And the frustrating dance of trying to half-assedly get something done while being interrupted continuously, losing the thread, searching for it again only to drop it once more, and again, I just can’t take it today. I can only give everything I have to them, all day, while my own inspirations pace back and forth in the back of my mind, growling for attention.

Mendocino, California

I was born near Oakland and lived in that area until age 9. But then we moved to Mendocino, a little tourist town about four hours up the coast.

Recently, an aerial shot of Mendocino was shared on Facebook, which caused me to reminisce, which in turn resulted in me dragging you for a brief jaunt into my past.

Big River and Mendocino - Photo shared by Rick Hemmings and Charles Reinhart on Facebook

We’d visited the place since I was born, first in a mobile home on a piece of property my grandparents had bought in nearby Little River, then in a lovely house that was built to replace it. So it was already a home away from home. But living there made it a big part of me.

Me on Big River Beach, circa 1973

It’s hard to even describe what it was like there, the raw beauty, the isolation, the intense connection to the ocean. The bonds that form living in a small town under those conditions.

My Dad and I with Mendocino in the background, circa 1975

I haven’t been back there since 2006 when we drove through briefly, just stopped long enough to see if my senior picture is still hanging up on the high school wall with all the other graduates since the school began in the late 1800’s. I haven’t been back there and actually stayed to enjoy the place since 1994. While I was there I wrote the following poem, which I can’t figure out how to properly format here to save my life:

Return to Mendocino

You are in my veins again—

Ebb and flow of

steel cold blue,

Desert green on a

dark gray cliff,

Creeping hiss of

white lace foam.

Cliff face chills

my resting bones,

My pulse makes time

with pounding tide,

Pores absorbing

salty spray,

Familiar drug—


Not home anymore. Home is wherever I am, and Mendocino is always with me, so we will always be home together.

First Anniversary of Homeownership

It’s been a great year. I celebrated the day of (March 30) by cleaning and organizing as much of the house as I could and spending some time in the yard.

Highlights of our first year:

  • Having an excuse to get a couple of new pieces of furniture
  • Finally unpacking our lives out of the boxes that we’d been living out of for many, many years
  • Seeing my kids make friends among the neighborhood kids, watching them all play and run and just be crazy kids
  • Planning long term with a piece of property, which I’ve never done before – planting fruit trees, changing landscape features, listing and prioritizing various things we want to do
  • Getting to know neighbors and becoming involved in the Homeowner’s Group and various neighborhood gatherings

Here’s to many more years in our home.

Our Home - March 2011

Our Home - March 2012

It’s funny, but all the little changes aren’t even visible in a picture – all the plants added in the front (well, you can see the trees.) The sandbox and swings under the porch, the dirt (supposed to be grass) path beside the porch instead of rocks, the rock border on the front gardens. Looks pretty much the same from afar!

Our 1st Anniversary Present - Log Cabin furniture for the front porch

March 2011

March 2012

March 2012

Facebook plug

This is why I shouldn’t look at stats.

Yesterday I had 151 hits. WordPress says it links to a Facebook plug, but it won’t show me exactly where. So surely it must be someone I don’t even know, or else it would show up on my Facebook feed?

Anyway, my stats go from around 10 per day to 151. But resulting in only a couple of comments, and those are from 1. A dear fellow blogger who comments all the time and 2. A wonderful blogger on whose blog I just commented yesterday. Absurd.

I hate numbers sometimes. I like people, face to face, talking, sharing, laughing, mulling things over in a communal setting. Ideally over food.

I have come to like math though, don’t get me wrong. I have come to appreciate the poetry of it, the tidy organized reality of how numbers fit together like a puzzle.

But statistics? The thing that makes students cry when forced to study it? The thing that rules our lives, that we beat each other over the head with to prove that we are right and they are stupid?

Not much love there.

I want to be read. I want to be heard, but also to be commented on and challenged. Tell me where my logic fails, tell me how I made you feel, tell me if I have spoken the words you wanted to say or if I am just blowing hot air.

Go on. I can take it.

Eating on $20 per day?

Before you answer, I am feeding 7 people. It just seems like if I play my cards right, I should be able to average about $20 a day for food.


I’m going to start paying attention to where I shop and how much I spend. I also want to have a list of the meals I make and how much they cost.

After an initial attempt at keeping track of food spending, I think my biggest difficulties are figuring out how to calculate leftovers, calculating condiments and other things that we buy once a month or every other month and eat a tablespoon at a time, and also just finding the time and energy to keep track.

I’ve got a shopping list, and I’m going to keep the receipt with the list and also write all the prices on the list so I can use it to calculate how much a particular meal costs.

Does anyone have a good system for keeping track of the cost of meals?

Do you know about how much you spend on food for your family per day?

Do you have the stores dialed in where you can find the cheapest price on your staple items?