Dixie Peach: January 2007

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Just Pretend It's Tuesday

I was good and even though I finished the first Hippy Dippy Tie Dye sock for Poppy on Sunday night I wanted to keep true to my word and waited to post a picture of it because of my promise to y'all that Tuesdays would be about knitting.

And then Tuesday rolled around and once again my incredibly inept and achingly annoying Internet service provider was not supplying me with service. If it keeps up the gloves are coming off and I'm uncrossing those words. I will, however, say in their defense that I wasn't out of service the entire night. It did come back up for 4 minutes around 1am. I timed it. Anyway, I got rooked out of yarn talk time so dammit, I'm taking it today.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Isn't it pretty? It's Fortissima Cotton Colori (75% cotton, 25% nylon) knit with US size 0 (2mm) needles in my standard basic sock pattern (1 1/2 inch 2x2 ribbed cuff with stockinette leg and foot) but this time with a wrapped short row heel - my very first! Knitting with such weency needles takes a bit longer I reckon but it makes for a tighter fabric that should wear better, especially with this cotton yarn. That's the theory anyway. And until I say differently (read: after my first major screw up), short row heels are my heels of choice when appropriate. I loved getting finished with the heel and zooming right on into the foot.

I had originally planned to finish the braided cable socks I'm thisclose to finishing anyway but when I got finished with Poppy's first sock I went ahead and started the second. I think I'm still on that short row heel high.

Okay, you can go back to your Wednesday now. And Thursday will definitely stay Thursday. May even be a Haiku Thursday.

Monday, January 29, 2007

So You Want To Learn To Make Goulash

Not the ground beef/macaroni/stewed tomatoes thing that some folks call goulash. This is the sort of goulash you find in Germany.

First you need some meat. Use what you like - pork, beef or a mixture of both. The important thing is that it's tender meat.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm using all pork today, about 800 grams - roughly 1 1/2 pounds or so. Meat from the neck and shoulders is best. Cut your meat up into bite-sized chunks.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Season your meat with some salt, black pepper, dried marjoram and paprika. Lots of paprika. I like my goulash very spicy so I go heavy on the hot, Hungarian paprika...about a tablespoon or more if I'm going wild. Sometimes I'll practically coat the meat in paprika.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

You'll need a chopped medium sized onion as well. Don't worry about finely chopping it - before it's over the onion will have cooked away to virtually nothing. And don't skip the onion either - it's important for tenderizing the meat. Goulash is all about the tender meat. And the paprika.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Heat some oil in a large, steep sided skillet or a large pot and brown the meat. When it's about halfway brown, add the onion and stir it around to get the meat all browned.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

After a while you'll notice that the meat/onion mixture will get very juicy as it's cooking. Knock off so much stirring right now and continue to cook the meat and onion until that juice is nearly gone.

Now here's the part where you can choose how you wish to continue. For the old-fashioned, time honored way, pour water over the meat to cover it about halfway and let it cook nearly away. Pour in the same amount of water again and let it cook down. Do it one more time. Then on the fourth time, add water to completely cover the meat. Now make your sauce. Add about three tablespoons of tomato paste - you choose how much you want to add. Add some more pepper and salt. Add more paprika. Throw in some whole allspice. Add a teaspoon of beef bullion granules. Toss in a bay leaf. Have some leftover roast in the fridge? Chunk it up and throw it in as well. Put some mushrooms in it if you wish. Taste your sauce and adjust it as you please.

Or if you're in a hurry or don't trust your spicing abilities and you're in Germany (or know someone in Germany who can be your dealer), get some of this:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Use two envelopes with 3/4 liter of water, stir well and add to the meat and onions. None of that cooking down, making the sauce part.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once you've got your sauce made (or you've added the cheater's sauce that Mr. Knorr has supplied), bring to boil, cover and turn the heat down to low. Allow it all to simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring on occasion. After it's cooked, you'll probably want to thicken the sauce. Use your favorite thickening method like cornstarch or flour stirred in with water or Mondamin sauce thickener, add to the goulash sauce and let it cook another five minutes until the sauce is thickened to how you like it.

Goulash can be served in a variety of ways. Some like it with boiled potatoes. Some like it with Spätzle. I prefer mine with macaroni.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

There. Add a salad and supper's ready. And have plenty on hand to drink because all that pepper and paprika is hot.

Guten appetit!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Shuffle - Dotty Edition

I haven't tortured treated y'all to a bulleted list in a while. Connecting the dots is completely optional.
  • While taking a nap this afternoon I dreamed that I was driving down a beat up road in a Chevy from the early 70s and I passed Darryl Hannah on the road. She was driving a Volkswagen Beetle. An old beige one. It makes me wonder if Darryl Hannah has ever dreamed about me while taking a nap.
  • Thinking further on the dream topic, one of my quirks is that when I dream, about 85% of the time the people in the dream are strangers to me. I perhaps know them in the dream as though we're all characters in a movie or something but they aren't people I know in the real awake world. After the thoughts on Darryl Hannah, I wonder if the people in my dreams are people from the real world and we're all just invading one another's dreams.
  • Now you know why I love my afternoon naps.
  • At the risk of being accused of breaking my recent "No knitting talk on Fridays" rule, I have to mention that I have completed my first short row sock heel. I love it. Short row heels, where have you been all my life? Actually you were always out there but I had no hope of understanding how to do one until I read the directions for it for the 284th time.
  • Dear MDCC, If I paid my bill to you with the same efficiency as you've been providing me Internet service this week you'd sue me. Keep that in mind when I call you next week to tell you to shove your service up your collective asses.
  • I have the feeling that as much as my husband loves me now, if he'd met me, say, thirty years ago, he wouldn't have given me a second look. He says otherwise but he's never seen my teeth before I had them capped.
  • I had a good ass though. Maybe that would have made up for it.
Enough with the dotted ramblings. Let's shuffle.
  1. He Stopped Loving Her Today - George Jones
  2. Three Black Crows - Blackmore's Night
  3. I Should Have Known Better - The Beatles
  4. Natural High - Vanessa Paradis
  5. Radio Free Europe - REM
  6. Ever Fallen In Love? - Buzzcocks
  7. She Bangs The Drums - Stone Roses
  8. Higher Than The Sun - Primal Scream
  9. I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me - Rosanne Cash
  10. Show Me The Way - Peter Frampton
Enjoy your weekend. I'll be back Monday with a finished sock and maybe a new Internet service.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

For Paula

Today was one of those really perfect January days. Cold, but the skies were clear and dry and the sun was bright and hanging low in the horizon. As I went for a walk this morning and enjoyed the crisp air I thought of my friend, Paula. She's been on my mind almost constantly these days.

I thought about what Paula and I would do on a day like today if she were here in Germany to visit me. I'd take her down by the river to walk along its banks, the sun shining off the water. Maybe we'd feed the ducks that gather by the shoreline looking for stale bread handouts. We'd walk along with our arms linked, helping each other stay warm. After a while we'd duck into a cafe to warm our fingers and faces over steaming cups and we'd laugh and talk without a break. Maybe we'd take the streetcar down to Hasselbach Platz to see the restored Baroque buildings. We'd have to go back to the market square and have lunch at my favorite restaurant and we wouldn't be able to wait until our currywurst and fries are served.

I'd like to take Paula down to the cathedral. In January it's always cold inside but it's quiet and being there gives a sense of strength and serenity. I'd tell Paula the story of how Magdeburg was sacked in 1631 and how only a small amount of its citizens remained to rebuild the city. It's a story about hope and faith and survival.

I wish that someday Paula really could visit me here. I'd do anything she wished, take her anyplace she'd want to go. Paula's also a story about hope and faith and survival. She's working hard at survival and her commitment to it never fails to amaze me. Paula's quite possibly the bravest person I know. Her sense of dignity and her straightforward approach to things encourage me. Whenever I get lazy, I think of Paula and how hard she works to get better. When I get intimidated, I think of Paula and how she faces her challenges head on. Whenever I feel like quitting and thinking that the effort isn't worth it, I think of how Paula keeps going even when the road ahead is difficult. I love her no-nonsense approach to people and how she doesn't want pity but wants lots of positive thoughts coming her way because she knows the power they hold.

I believe in that power too. I believe in it so much that I wish that every person who took the time to read here about Paula would take a moment to send some good thoughts her way. Prayers, positive thoughts, light and brightness, strength - every good thing that has the power to overcome fear and darkness and pain. I want for Paula every good thing in the world so that the world gets to keep a good person like her. A devoted wife. A loving mother. A loyal friend.

And on the day when Paula really does visit me whether it's on a perfect January day or a summery day in July or a twinkling night at the Christmas market, we'll share it with y'all too.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

When Eggs, Lemons and Butter Break Bad

I have a rather annoying habit in the kitchen. Doesn't annoy me but it irks the daylights out of others. I have the habit of leaving cabinets and drawers open while I'm cooking. Most of the time it's not a problem since I'm the only one who would ever just stroll into the kitchen but when I have people here - my sister, for example - I'm forever being told to shut the doors and drawers.

I don't know why I do this. I've done it for years and I believe I got into the habit when I had large kitchens and would have to flit to and fro while cooking. Leaving the cabinets and drawers open just made things a little more efficient, at least in my eyes. And with the exception of once nearly gashing my scalp open on the corner of a cabinet door it's presented me no problems.

Until tonight.

The menu for tonight's supper was classic. Schnitzel, boiled potatoes, steamed green beans and hollandaise sauce for the schnitzel and potatoes. I was juggling everything like a champ and everything was finished at the same time. True to form, cabinet doors were open and the silverware drawer was wide open.

While everything else was self-made the hollandaise sauce wasn't because as long as Mr. Thomy is happy to make it for me I'll let him. I was in the process of getting everything served on our plates while the hollandaise heated and as the microwave dinged to tell it was done, I reached into the silverware drawer to get a ladle.

I don't know what happened after that. No, that's not right - I do know what happened. It was an unfortunate chain of events. One moment things were fine, the next moment I was unable to stop the tragic event to follow. The microwave dinged, I reached to open its door and at the same time swung my head around one open cabinet door as I held the ladle with my other hand. I swung my head back and used my elbow - the one attached to the arm that holds the hand that was holding the bowl of hollandaise - to nudge the cabinet door closed and I found myself unable to stop what came next.

Somehow I bobbled the microwave bowl of hollandaise sauce and upended it into the open drawer. The entire contents of my silverware drawer was coated in 250 milliliters of hollandaise sauce.

Until that moment I had no idea how fast I could say the word "shit" in sixty seconds. I even amazed myself.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's Tuesday, It's Knitting

How 'bout I strike a deal with y'all? I'll limit myself to writing about knitting to just Tuesdays. If it's Tuesday, it must be yarn talk. Deal?

Okay, maybe the occasional Sunday too. And Thursdays if I've got something irresistable to show you. But definitely no Mondays or Fridays. You're home free there.

I'd like to say I've finished my second braided cable sock but I'm stalled halfway down the foot. It's not that I don't like these socks - they're lovely - or the pattern - it's very fun to knit - but honestly I needed a break from all those cables. It's an awful lot of cables to knit. I can't imagine how people knit giant, complex Aran sweaters without going mad. Anyway, I was getting to the point where I was about to get sloppy with them so I decided that what I needed was to cast on for another pair of socks - something completely different. This time instead of solid color yarn I needed something with lots of different colors and a simple, basic pattern. Just a good, plain sock.

My dear friend, Poppy, claiming that she didn't feel cut out to be a sock knitter, sent me some sock yarn that she had sitting around. The deal we arranged was that since I love to knit socks she'd send me her unused sock yarn and I'd eventually send it back to her rearranged into socks. I get the fun of knitting and giving socks to someone without having to buy the yarn. She'd sent me some yarn that was just what I needed - cotton/poly blend yarn that's literally a rainbow of colors. I swatched the yarn, figured based upon Poppy's leg measurements how many stitches to cast on and I'm off to the races with them. I decided that since the yarn is cotton and cotton can wear badly and can be sort of limp after a wearing that I'd knit them a little tighter using 2mm needles and they're turning out very pretty. The fabric is smooth and lovely and they remind me of a tie-dye shirt that B has and therefore have been dubbed Poppy's Hippy Dippy Tie-Dye Socks.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm only 3 1/2 inches into the leg - all those bitty stitches take more time - but I hope to have the first one done by the end of the weekend. Then I'll go back and finish my braided cable sock and then do the second tie-dye sock. Hopefully by the time winter completely wears her out, Poppy will have some bright cotton socks to help her feel spring really is just around the corner.

Monday, January 22, 2007

It Probably Can't Get Worse

I have hit bottom. This time it's really, really bad. It's worse than things being so ordinary around here that I have nothing to write about. I haven't even told you yet and still I can feel your disappointment in me already. And yet I feel as though I should make this public confession. Penance of a sort.

I stayed in my pajamas all day yesterday. All. day. long. I didn't even do the cheating thing where I shower and then put on a clean pair of jammies. No, it was face washed, teeth brushed, same pajamas. Went to bed wearing the same thing I woke up wearing.

And I don't even have the excuse that I was sick. Not that it would be an excuse. When I'm sick I still at least put on clean pajamas if I don't outright get dressed.

It's okay. You can admit it. You think less of me now. You've read this and the words "lazy", "slothful" and perhaps even "trifling" went through your mind. You've imagined me in my limp, rumpled jammies, my hair in a messy braid, my feet clad in my Cheeky Monkey slippers and your lip has curled in disgust. You didn't know I had it in me to sink so low.

But today was a different day. I was up bright and early to shower and wash and deep condition my hair. I donned clean, pressed clothes and makeup and did more today than loll on the sofa and knit and watch movies. I did actual housework and ran errands and even bothered to clean the sale papers out of my mailbox. I was myself again. And yet the urge to disappoint you and confess to it once again raged within me and so I have one more confession to make. I hope you can forgive me but but will understand if you, in good conscience, cannot.

I just ate a Hot Pocket.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Shuffle - Birthday Girl Edition

I turned forty-five years old today. Saying that doesn't make me feel old as much as it makes me feel as if I should finally stop watching Bugs Bunny and The Flintstones.

But I won't.

It's been a nice birthday. The phone has rung all day with friends and family calling to wish me a happy birthday. I received red tulips from my husband and yellow daffodils from my MIL. A beautiful orchid plant from friends, which I give a 30% chance of survival. I got as gifts lots of CDs and DVDs and books and I may have to knock off knitting a little to be able to enjoy them more. My MIL baked both an apple cake and a chocolate cream torte and friends came over to enjoy cake and coffee and tea with us. A whole bottle of champagne was consumed. I probably shouldn't admit that it was consumed by me but at least it was done over the span of a couple hours.

I have no complaints over my day. I've been fairly lucky that over my lifetime most of my birthdays were good ones. I liked my birthday when I was in high school. It was fun to come in and find my locker decorated with streamers and balloons and to have everyone wish me a happy birthday. When I turned fifteen years old my friends gave me an unforgettable surprise birthday party. When I turned eighteen my friends took me out to dinner and paid for my first legal drunk. When I turned thirty-two all my friends at work spoiled me with an amazing birthday and I was allowed to goof off all day.

I have had a few crummy birthdays. A few have been spoiled by bad weather. My father's funeral was on my thirtieth birthday. And one year my ex-husband completely forgot my birthday and became annoyed and asked me exactly how long I was going to pout over it. It wasn't too long after that that I decided that life was too short to be married to someone who couldn't be bothered to look at a freaking calendar on the refrigerator and see what day my birthday is.

Two others are having birthdays today. The first is Bixente the iPod. I received him for my birthday last year and he's been faithfully shuffling for me each Friday since. The second is the subject of today's shuffle, a woman I admire and feel very privileged to share a birthday with, Dolly Parton. I've always adored Dolly. I remember seeing her on TV each week on the Porter Wagoner Show when I was wee bitty little and thinking she was gorgeous and wanted to look like her. I always felt a sort of bond with her and when I found out that she and I shared a birthday it didn't surprise me in the least. My ultimate birthday wish would be to meet her in person.

Bixente, shuffle up ten from my vast Dolly collection.
  1. Shine
  2. To Daddy
  3. My Tennessee Mountain Home
  4. Dumb Blonde
  5. Wild Flowers
  6. Coat Of Many Colors
  7. The Grass Is Blue
  8. Joshua
  9. It's All Wrong, But It's All Right
  10. Love Is Like A Butterfly
Now I need to find some dance music. Work off all the birthday cake I've eaten.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If You've Learned It, Share It

When I moved to Germany nine years ago I wished and wished that there was a place where I could go to get some answers and support. It was scary and weird moving to a place where I didn't know the language or the customs and wasn't used to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences between Americans and Germans. I wanted someone to assure me that yes, one day I would really be able to speak German and no, it wasn't unusual to be horribly homesick and yes, these people laugh at stuff that's not funny to you and you'll laugh at things they don't find funny. I wanted someone to tell me where I could find baking soda and what detergents were really the same thing as what I used in America but with a different name and if it was possible to find cranberry juice without it being a trauma. I wanted someone to warn me that I'd have to pay for extra ketchup at McDonald's.

Sure, I learned a lot from my German husband but I also wanted to run things by Americans who'd been here longer than me and who knew the ropes a little better. I wanted to talk to people who could see things from my point of view and who understood my points of reference. I live in what was formerly East Germany and there was simply not many Americans around for me to interact with or even randomly run across. After living here for a couple years I did meet one American lady who taught English at a language school and it was so refreshing to talk with someone who'd learned the German life and who could give me some tips.

Nine years ago blogs were virtually unheard of and what expat bulletin boards I saw felt cold and a bit unwelcoming. I had newbie questions and felt intimidated by these folks who had been living the expat life for years and years. I ended up having to learn a lot of things the hard way and I'm still learning.

But if there's a need, trust that eventually a clever person or two will come up with a solution. Now there's a website dedicated not just to expatriates but to expatriate women and what better name to give it than Expat Women? The creators, Andrea and Jill, seasons expats themselves, have created a site that's friendly and helpful and enlists the help of expat women from around the world. It brings together women from all across the globe - students and professionals and moms and retirees and singles and married women - and allows them to help each other and to get real answers to real questions - answers from women who have learned first hand how the expat life works.

I wonder how many women over the years hated their years living abroad because they felt isolated and lonely and felt as if no one understood them? I wonder how many could have had a completely different experience if a resource like Expat Women had been available to them? I think so highly of the concept of women helping women live the expat life that I've volunteered to be a mentor to other women who may be moving to the eastern part of Germany or even Germany in general so that I can help them get through the transition and so they can bloom where they're planted.

And so that they'll not be taken aback when they're charged for extra ketchup packets.

If you're new to living abroad, go check them out. And if you've been living the expat life for a while, consider making your valuable knowledge available to women who will find it priceless.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ten Minutes

My father died at home. He'd been stricken by an aneurysm in his brain that left him in a persistent vegetative state. While we didn't know how long he'd live we knew as a family that we didn't want to put him in a nursing home so he was brought home for us to care for with the assistance of a local hospice group.

As it turns out he survived for nine months after his initial aneurysm. In the week before his death his body began to shut down and we knew the end was near.

On the day he passed he was surrounded by his family. He simply took a last breath and it was over. His eyes were closed and it seemed as if he were only sleeping except that the sound of his breathing had stopped.

The moments after that - they seem jumbled to me now. I know we talked among ourselves for a while, cried...I remember calling my now ex-husband to tell him to come to my parents' house. I remember my brother telling my two oldest nephews that Granddad had passed and the five year old slapping the back of his hand of his forehead and staggering a little as if he were going to faint. He was always a bit of a ham. That would have cracked up my dad.

The one really strong memory I have was being alone with my father for about ten minutes. All of us had come in and out of the bedroom in the time after his passing and before the funeral home was called and at one point I was alone with him. The late afternoon light was fading and I switched on a lamp beside his bed and sat in the rocking chair next to him.

I'd seen dead people before at viewings and was never comfortable with it. I wasn't scared of them but those I had seen laying in their caskets didn't seem to be real to me. Instead they seemed to be more like creepy wax figures.

Sitting with my father was different. He seemed to simply be asleep. I didn't say anything to him - I don't even remember thinking about anything special at that moment - but I remember a peaceful feeling. I was so content just to sit there with Daddy. After the years of distance between us, it just felt right to sit there in silence with him.

After a while I reached over and put my hand on his cheek and could feel that the warmth had begun to ebb away. That's the moment when his death became real to me. Before then it was simply academic - I knew he was dead and felt relief that his suffering was over but feeling his cooling cheek made it...I don't actually know what it made. Final. Maybe that's what I felt. The finality of it all. It was sad and still I had that feeling of contentment sitting there next to my father. It was as if then I could begin to let go of the need to avoid him and I didn't need to feel distanced from him anymore.

My father passed fifteen years ago today and while I have memories of that time - memories that sometime don't make much sense on their own but somehow fit together to make a whole picture - the one memory I have that is as strong today as it was then is the memory of sitting with Daddy and touching his face for the last time. I still remember how grateful I was for that feeling of contentment.

Even now when I'm back in my hometown I go visit my father's grave and really prefer to do it by myself. He's headstone is one of those big double headstones and I like to sit on it and just be quiet because I can always get back that feeling of contentment I had when I had him to myself for ten precious minutes and had no fear.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Fascists Make Me Cranky

I'm like a four-year-old in the fact that if I've slept poorly the night before I'm going to get cranky come mid-afternoon if I don't get a nap. I get extremely cranky if I don't get a nap and the reason why is because assholes (read: neo-word starting with an N, ending with an I and having an A Z in the middle) caused me to miss it.

I got up very late this morning because of said poor sleeping during the night and had to hustle my butt to the grocery store because we were down to having only baking powder, Riesling wine and canned tomatoes as breakfast options. When I got downstairs and out the door I saw police vans parked along the street and at the ends of the block and that only means one thing in my neighborhood - a scheduled demonstration of some sort is due along at any time. I live on the main drag in town so if you're going to have a demonstration, this is the place to do it.

Once in my car I headed north to the big grocery store I frequent, passing more police vans parked along the route, and once I was closer to my destination I noticed more police on the street. This was rather unusual because most demonstrations start at the cathedral or train station south of my apartment and go north to the university circle. By the time I got a block from the grocery store I saw a huge group of police walking down the street and behind them the demonstrators - the afore mentioned N-with-an-AZIs.

I want credit right now for not throwing at them the empty bottles I was returning for deposit that I had in the car.

It hit me then what it was about. Today's the 13th. The 16th is the anniversary of the 1945 bombing of this city. Evidently there are some sore losers that are still pissed about it and want to show everyone just how much.

I could see that the traffic behind the bald and brain damaged group demonstrators was backed up for blocks. The streetcars had stopped running in an effort to keep them away from the demonstrators. Turning onto the street where the entrance to the parking deck for the grocery store is located I could see traffic there backed up in a similar fashion. Even if I could get someone to let me through to park, by the time I finished my shopping and left to go home the demonstration would be down to where I live and I'd either be backed up behind them or if I took another route home I'd be prevented from crossing over to get back into my neighborhood.

Were these people just put on earth to screw up the lives of everyone else? They certainly don't make any other contribution except to be parasites to the social system.

I forgot about shopping and headed home via an alternate route. By the time I got back home the police presence in my neighborhood had increased and I still didn't have anything for breakfast. I ran up the street to a bakery and along the way I saw another group gathered on a corner by the memorial for the Jewish temple that had been destroyed in 1938. I couldn't see who they were at that point but after finishing at the bakery I walked home that way and could hear a woman speaking to the crowd and could hear her talking about demonstrating against neo-fascists, I suppose specifically those just up the street.

At that point I was grateful for having noticed that the all the police I had seen outnumbered both the fascists and their counter demonstrators because my home and my woefully worthless automobile was between the two groups who were getting closer and closer to one another.

I don't get a newspaper so I didn't know about these demonstrations being scheduled but my MIL does get the newspaper. When I got back home after passing even more police we called her to see if the newspaper had anything about the demonstrations.

"Oh yeah! It said in the paper yesterday that there were demonstrations scheduled. The neo-fascists were gathering up in Nord to march south, the anti-demonstrators were gathering at the cemetery south of you to march north and they believe they'll meet up around the train station. They recommend that people not drive around the area and perhaps even park their cars in another area in case a riot breaks out."

Thanks for the warning, Mutti! We're putting you in charge of tsunami evacuations next!

Actually if I'd known I'd have gone to the counter demonstration. I've been to them before when the jackbooted assholes show up. You come home hoarse from them.

I spent the next two hours with the windows on the west side of the apartment cracked open so I could hear if all hell was going to break loose. As I was making coffee and tea I could hear some police helicopters and saw even more police vans parked a block away on the street where the fascists were due to walk down but that was it. By the time I stuck my nose out at 2pm to try again to go grocery shopping it looked like any other normal Saturday afternoon. No riots, no clouds of teargas over the neighborhood, no burning cars.

And since I had to go grocery shopping, no nap for me. As if I didn't detest those skinheaded bastards enough.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Shuffle - Been Tagged Edition

Memes have a bad reputation in the blogging world for being lame and nothing but cheap, cheesy content but I'll admit that I dig them somewhat. Then again I'm the sort of person who really loves filling out forms and questionnaires. In 1990 I was disappointed that I didn't get the super long form of the national census and am really disappointed that I now don't get to fill out census forms of any sort anymore.

So when Sari tagged me, how could I resist - especially when I'm a little content deficient this week as it is?

1. If you had to choose one vice in exclusion of all others, what would it be?
Rationalizing too much. Consider that to be code for "eating sweets".

2. If you could change one specific thing about the world, what would it be?
Yikes. Did someone drop me into the middle of the Miss America pageant?

I'd like for those living in the industrialized world, especially younger people, to lose their sense of entitlement. That they are somehow entitled to have whatever they want, do whatever they want, treat others however they want and have no consequence nor have to do anything to earn it.

3. Name the cartoon character you identify with the most.
Wilma Flintstone. I think it's the buckskin, off the shoulder dress and stone "pearls" I wear every day.

4. If you could live one day of your life over again, which one would it be?
The day I married B. That was a wonderful day. And I would do my hair a bit better.

5. If you could go back into history and spend a day with one person, who would it be?
My great-grandmother, Litha Ann.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I know very, very little about her and I'd like to meet her before she married. I'd like to meet her as a young woman before she became a wife and mother to get to know just her.

6. What is one thing you lost, sold or threw away that you wish you had back?
I'll consider it to be one set of things. I'd like to have all of my high school yearbooks back. They got left behind with my ex-husband and are gone forever. I'd just like to be able to show them to B.

7. What is your one most important contribution to this world?
I'd like to think that it's any time I was able to comfort someone and lessen their despair and perhaps even encouraged them to hang on for one more day. That and mastering cables.

Oh look! Braided cables!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

World's spinning just a little bit better now because of them.

8. What is your one hidden talent that nearly no one knows about?
I'm good at speaking other languages without a really obvious American accent, except when I say the word hübsch. I always say that one a little funny.

9. What is your most cherished possession?
My diamond wedding ring. You want to steal it from me? You'll take an ass beating for your efforts, guaranteed.

10. What one person influenced your life the most when growing up?
My mother. Virtually every trait I have came from her and it's taken me years to separate the good ones from the bad ones.

What word describes you better than any other?

I'll skip doing tags but if you're feeling a little content deficient and dig questions like I do, feel free to gank it for yourself.

Bixente the iPod doesn't answer questions - just fulfills my musical needs. Time to shuffle.
  1. On Your Wings - Iron & Wine
  2. Gimme Three Steps - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  3. Always Our Children - Terry Gonda
  4. I'm Free - The Who
  5. Desire - U2
  6. Whiskey In The Jar - Metallica
  7. Beautiful Dream - Adam Ant (oh my goodness...that song is like four minutes of white hot smokin' sex)
  8. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away - The Beatles
  9. Open Your Eyes - Snow Patrol
  10. You Look So Good In Love - George Strait
Have a great weekend. Take your fun where you find it.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

And Come Summer I'll Be Saying The Same

I hate to rely on a cliche but I may have no choice. I can either blame this blah feeling on post-holiday blues or just call it extreme-laziness-that-has-chosen-to-manifest-itself-in-winter. One is definitely easier than the other to write.

Know what I fancy doing these days? Going out only long enough to get bread at the bakery, taking care of B, watching movies, knitting, napping. Know what I'm actually doing these days? Go back two sentences.

Oh sure - I wash dishes and cook meals and wash enough clothes to keep me in clean outfits without having to resort to turning panties and socks inside out before wearing them but it's bare minimum effort. I'm like that paltry $15 payment you make on your Sears credit card - you ain't got more so you do the minimum to keep them off your ass another month.

I don't feel burned out and I don't want a change of scenery. I think. No, really I think I'm fine on that score. I don't feel sad or upset - just sort of tired and...muffled. Like I'm wrapped in cotton. Comfortable but not much stimulus is getting through.

I should probably finish this post in some now-let's-sum-up-in-a-clever-way but right now I couldn't be arsed.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

In My Absence

I was catching up on my blog reading - been pitifully lazy with it lately - and began to read the latest from darling Belinda. This darling Belinda, not this darling Belinda.

I just like doing that. I'm just one step away from "Oprah, Uma. Uma, Oprah.".

Anyway, Belinda was telling the tale of what happens when you take a husband who has mixed Klonopin and Ambien and stir in an oven, waffles and forty chicken nuggets. Scary stuff told in a most amusing manner. Really, you should go read the story yourself.

As I read this scary yet funny tale Belinda took the opportunity to show a photo of something that scared me more than anything in the story. I mean I literally let out a shriek when I saw it.

I know I haven't lived in the US in over nine years and haven't been back for a visit in over two years but at what point did Dwight Yoakam start selling frozen foods? And not just any old frozen foods but things with names such as "Chicken Rings Afire". Did we enter another dimension and someone failed to tell me?

I thought it might be a joke but a quick search on Google proved me wrong. Oh yeah. Dwight's not just selling frozen foods, it's tacky frozen foods. And honest to goodness, it's not even inventive tacky frozen foods. Do we really need more chicken meat compressed into shapes nature never intended chicken to be in, dipped in breading and frozen so that we are able to enjoy unnaturally shaped chicken anytime? And don't forget that side of refried bean dip!

Look, I know Dwight's not the first singer to sell food or to hawk products. Hell, Jimmy Dean made way more off of selling sausage than he ever dreamed making from singing. I figure most folks don't even know Jimmy Dean was originally a singer. It's just that I never figured that Dwight Yoakam would be doing it. I love Dwight Yoakam. I've always loved him. I've seen him in concert a few times. Streets of Bakersfield, his duet with Buck Owens, is one of my favorite songs. I love it when he's in movies. I even loved him after his hair fell out.

I blame myself. You know this sort of thing never would have happened if hadn't left the country. I guess I'm just going to have to go back and have a little talk with him. Ask what drove him to a life of Chicken Fries and Lanky Links. And some free samples may get me to change my mind over the coolness of it all.

Monday, January 08, 2007

I'm Going To Graceland

Actually those are four words that I hope to never say again.

This being Elvis Presley's birthday reminded me of the first time I ever visited Graceland. I've been there - I forget how many times since. Three times more? Four times? The visits there tend to run together for me except for the first one and the last one.

My hometown in northeast Mississippi isn't terribly far from Memphis. I lived in Memphis as a small child. I have aunts and cousins that live in Memphis and the surrounding suburbs. I've seen Graceland all my life. I can't remember the time when I didn't know the stone wall and famous iron gates surrounding it and the big house up the driveway. When I was a child and Elvis was still living there Graceland seemed weirdly out of place in the neighborhood. There it was, the famous mansion where a very famous man lived and across the street were ordinary things like dry cleaners and gas stations. It's still that way except now Graceland has become a sort of Elvis oasis plunked in the middle of a busy street. If one drove down Elvis Presley Boulevard from one end to the other one would see on the trip things like this: strip malls, fast food places, mini-marts, ELVIS LAND, check cashing places, liquor stores. An island of Elvisness in a sea of boring concrete commerce.

I was living in Virginia in 1985 the first time I ever went to Graceland. I took a week from work and went to visit my sister in Mississippi. Since I was flying into Memphis we stayed there overnight at the Peabody Hotel (and how I loved it) and made the trip to see Elvis' home. Graceland had been open to the public for less than two years. The only things to see were the house itself and his airplane, the Lisa Marie. There were no restaurants or souvenir shops or any of the other Elvis related businesses on what I now think of as the grand Elvis Complex. At that time you bought a ticket, rode in a little van across the street and were taken on a tour of the house and grounds and walked through the Lisa Marie if you wanted to plunk down another $7. Now when you visit Graceland you get a recorded tour that you listen to through headphones but back in 1985 we had real live tour guide and were assured that all Graceland tour guides were specially trained to assist you should you become emotionally overwhelmed during the tour.

That was the wrong thing to say to my sister and me. All I'm going to say about that is they were right. Back then they did know how to take care of the emotionally overwhelmed. I guess now the emotionally overwhelmed are on their own because when I was at Graceland in 2004 there seemed to be fewer employees around and what ones I did see seemed more interested in protecting the lawn than aiding those who were a crying, hysterical mess.

Some other things about that first visit to Graceland stick out in my mind:
  • Touring the mansion is only half of the fun of visiting Graceland. The people there taking the tour is the other half and provide endless entertainment.
  • We smelled food the minute we got pass viewing the livingroom and walked more towards the back part of the first floor that was then off limits to the public. Elvis' aunt still lived at Graceland in that part and we could smell her lunch cooking.
  • Upon entering the TV room downstairs the guide informed us that the only Grammy awards Elvis ever received were for gospel music and upon hearing that a man behind us gave a resounding and thundering "AMEN!!". I had to pinch my sister very hard to get her to stop giggling at this man's enthusiastic approval.
  • As we entered what is known as the Jungle Room the guide told us that Elvis had picked out the furniture himself in one afternoon at a local Memphis furniture store. We looked around at the outlandish furnishings and having ourselves grown up with furniture purchased from local Memphis furniture stores my sister and I looked at one another and said at the same time "Oh no shit!".
  • Clothing from Elvis ranging from his and Priscilla's wedding clothes to the sparkling jumpsuits he made famous were on display in one room - one you reached by passing through a hallway lined with Elvis' gold records. The gold records were fascinating to my sister and me but the rest of our terrycloth jogging suit clad tour-mates were dying to see the Elvis fashions and practically ran us over to get to them. There was much oohing and aahing from the group and our favorite was one beehive hairdo sporting lady who, with honest to goodness tears in her eyes, said to her companion as they stared at one of the glittering jumpsuits "Oh I wish I could touch that!". Actually it came out more like "Oh aaah wish aaah cud tuuuch thay-it!". It was my turn then to be pinched to stifle my snickers.
  • The Meditation Garden where Elvis is buried actually is a peaceful place - until someone becomes emotionally overcome, that is. Those were some quick and efficient tour guides!
I visited Graceland a few more times over the years with friends and family but while the tour changed a little, it didn't have the same allure to me as the first visit did. Even my last visit there a couple years ago was only really memorable to me because I was with a group of dear, dear friends who were all seeing it for their first time. No, I believe my days of touring Graceland are over for good. That is until they get something else in there as good as the round, fake fur covered bed. I may never be able to scratch that sight from my mind's eye.

I do goof on Elvis an awful lot but regardless of how much I make fun of his image, I still recognize his musical greatness and am still in awe of it. Hell, I even love Elvis movies. Even nearly thirty years after his death the world still recognizes his name and he's still inspiring musicians. Elvis did what he was born to do - make music and entertain us all and for that I honor him.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

We're Not The Enemy

There's been a lot in the news lately about the family who has treated their profoundly disabled daughter with estrogen to stunt her growth and had her uterus and breasts removed in order to better manage her care. The treatment is referred to by them as the Ashley Treatment.

I'll admit that when I first heard of this treatment it struck me as being more than just unorthodox but downright drastic. Still I wanted to put aside my knee jerk reaction and think about what is really going on here.

I care for a fully grown adult quadriplegic. My husband is over 6'3" tall and he weighs somewhere between 150 and 160 pounds. If you don't think that caring for someone who's that tall and weighs that much is physically demanding then you come lift him for a while. I know first hand what it's like to heft passive weight all day, be on constant guard for pressure sores, be housebound because I cannot put my husband in his wheelchair on my own and a lift won't work with his particular chair. I know what it's like to have my back go out and my knees shredded because of the passive weight I have to lift and turn many times throughout the day. I also know what it's like to do this every single day, week in and week out, year in and year out.

I'm not going to go into the pros of the Ashley Treatment - you can go to their blog and read them yourself. And there are plenty of outraged people on their own blogs who are expressing their dismay at this treatment. I leave it up to each individual to form his or her own opinion but I still wanted to say a few things about this topic.

I found it troubling that Ashley's parents on their blog have had to repeatedly state that their reasoning behind the treatment wasn't to make their jobs as a caregiver easier and I thought "Well, what's wrong with a caregiver's life being made easier? Why is it somehow shameful for a caregiver wanting their job to be as easy and efficient as possible?". Ease and efficiency in caregiving isn't so we caregivers can be bothered as little as possible. It isn't so we have more time to shop and watch Oprah. Ease and efficiency means we're able to do what we do without punishing our own bodies. It means we can do what we do without burning out mentally and physically so quickly. It means we can worry a little less because when things go easier and more smoothly it tends to assist us in making sure the person we care for is happier and healthier. Getting a disabled person's environment changed makes them happier. Being able to more easily handle the body of a disabled person helps keep them healthier. Caregivers having it a little easier translates to us being able to give better care. It really is that simple. I absolutely believe that caring for Ashley will be made easier for her caregivers because Ashley will be a smaller, more manageable size. Lifting her will be less dangerous - immobile people have fragile bones and joints that can be easily damaged during lifts. Turning her, which is all-important for preventing life-threatening pressure sores, will be easier. Keeping her from menstruating lessens moisture against her skin, another major cause of pressure sores. Getting Ashley out into the world in a more convenient manner will be good for both Ashley and her caregivers because being housebound is a major component in caregiver burnout.

Some of the posts and comments on the blogs I read had feminists standing up for Ashley as a female but I read nothing about standing up for female caregivers. Most caregivers are female. Where's was their outrage at how female caregivers aren't respected and honored for what they do? Where is their effort to give caregivers the support they need?

There was mention in blogs that Ashley's parents have misdirected their focus and instead of coming up with a treatment that alters Ashley's body they should have been trying to get the system to change so that they could get the assistance they would need to care for Ashley in a fully-grown adult body. I view it as Ashley's parents understand the reality of what they're facing when they go against the system. They understand that the government doesn't want to spend any more money on helping the disabled and those that care for the disabled, insurance companies sure as hell don't want to spend money and the disabled and their families are pathetically weak against them. Instead of beating their heads against the system, they went around it and found a way to manage their child's care in a way that will keep her healthier and themselves able to personally care for her longer. A longtime caregiver will tell you that when you don't find a solution to your problem one way, you'll find it in another and sometimes you have to simply go with what works.

This blog contains a paragraph that made me immediately see that there are many who have opinions on this matter but a real lacking of understanding of the reality.

They did mention that it would be uncomfortable for the daughter to have large breasts, as she can’t be strapped in her chair that easily, and that it would be much less likely that she would have bed sores–but one would think (don’t know for *sure*) that after all these years, the wheel chair designers would have thought of something to help make it more comfortable for big breasted women to be strapped into their chairs. If they haven’t come up with something yet, I would be interested in *knowing* if there is any movement/petition/etc that I can hook up with to help make that happen.

I know the writer is making this statement with the best intentions but I honestly had to laugh when I read it. Yes, there may very well may be a way to strap in a large breasted woman in her wheelchair but can you guarantee that you could afford such a thing? Don't count on insurance paying for it. And don't get the idea that a strap couldn't possibly cost that much. Specialized equipment for the handicapped is a limited market and everything costs a lot. And I'll beg your pardon if I snicker at the idea of a movement or petition that will force a wheelchair manufacturer into making such a modification. If it's not going to make them money and there's a very small demand, don't count on it happening.

There's outrage out there about the treatment of this little girl and I respect differing opinions but I will also ask that it go beyond the expression of outrage. If you're outraged, ask yourself what you're doing to help prevent the need of such a treatment. Have you ever offered to help with a handicapped person so the caregiver can get a break or at least perform their duties in an easier manner? Have you ever asked your legislator to consider raising the funding for aid to the handicapped and the equipment they need for their care? Have you ever insisted that caregivers be screened so that known sex offenders aren't able to care for disabled people who can easily be raped or abused? Have you donated your money to assist a family with a disabled member in purchasing equipment they need but can't possibly afford? Have you committed yourself to taking over the care of someone if their normal caregiver were ever unable to continue their care?

Caregivers don't want pity or sympathy but they do need respect and the acknowledgment that they know far better than any outsider in regards what their disabled family member needs. We caregivers understand that those we care for are more than just bodies and have no need to be reminded of that fact. The people we care for are our spouses and children and siblings and we have dedicated our lives to them.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Shuffle - Family Reunion Edition

I got some email from my sister telling me about a family reunion she went to with my mother, oldest brother and my nephew. This was a big event since my mother has been in a conflict with two of her younger sisters since their mother passed nearly fifteen years ago. I was even rather surprised to hear that my sister told my mother about it and had her come along because my mother can turn events like that into a "Look at me!" situation. She always wants the focus on her and will manipulate things to be sure she gets it.

As it turns out my mom was on her best behavior and things went very well. No exact report on if she made up with the sisters she was on the outs with but if no conflict was reported to me there must have been none. I'm glad about this because my mom is heading into her final years and I never liked the idea of her never speaking to some of her sisters again.

The event was held at one of my aunts' home just south of Memphis. My mom has five sisters and all but one came to the party - there still seems to be some bad blood between her and some of the others (not my mom). Most of their kids and many of their grandkids came as well.

I have a lot of cousins on both sides of my family - fifteen on my mother's side alone - and I'm not close with the vast majority of them. All of the cousins I have regular contact with are from my father's side. When I was a kid I was close to a few of my cousins on Mom's side but it's been so long since I've seen most of them that I wouldn't know them if I passed them on the street. Many of them were still kids when I last saw them at our last big family reunion for my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary - that was over 25 years ago. The last cousin I saw was Julie - the cousin I was closest to - but that was 15 years ago at my father's funeral and even then I saw her only briefly.

So it was somehow a little strange to read this email and imagine them as adults. I can't imagine Fletcher with gray hair or Julie with grown kids and what really threw me was hearing that my cousin Jodie just became a grandmother. My younger cousin Jodie. Boy, did that make my you're-just-two-weeks-away-from-turning-45 alarm go off.

Bixente the iPod keeps me feeling like a kid. Let's shuffle.
  1. Eight Day Hell - And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
  2. The Crane Wife 3 - The Decemberists
  3. Cold As Ice - Foreigner
  4. Burning Love - Elvis Presley
  5. Chelsea Hotel No. 2 - Rufus Wainwright
  6. Solid Gold Brass - Sweet
  7. Rock 'n Roll Band - Boston
  8. In Dreams - Roy Orbison
  9. Famous Last Words - My Chemical Romance
  10. Out In The Street - Bruce Springsteen
Nothing like shuffling up Sweet and Boston and Foreigner to remind me just how old I really am.

Enjoy your weekend. Catch up with some family if you get the chance.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Here. Take It Because It's All I Got.

All I have to offer are the mental leftovers of my mind so take these crumbs and make your daily blogging meal out of them.
  • My sister called this evening as I was just sitting down to supper to tell me that my mother is settled into her final room at the assisted care center and is doing fine. So far her only complaint is that she's been a little bored by not having a telephone connection yet and that she doesn't get to choose her own food. That's the whole idea, Mama! They choose the food so that you don't make meals out of bell peppers and marshmallows!
  • Our friend, Kirsten, came over this afternoon for a visit. Kirsten was B's first girlfriend back when they were teenagers and they've remained friends over the many years. Few things are more entertaining to me than getting Kirsten to tell me old stories of the teenage B. He, however, doesn't find it quite as amusing as I do when the time Kirsten talked him into putting on mascara and lipstick is mentioned. She claims she was merely trying to see what he'd look like done up glam rock style.
  • I don't know what in the hell I've done but I don't have one pair of clean socks. Not a one. Clean underclothes, clean shirts, clean jeans, no clean socks. I think I'm on the verge of turning into one of those lazy bachelors who runs out of clean underwear and goes out to buy new instead of washing them.
  • And speaking of socks, here's the pair I'm currently knitting - the leg anyway:
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Maybe if I knit really, really fast I can finish them to wear tomorrow. Else I'm headed up the street sans socks to buy some.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Milestones and Accomplishments

Let it be known far and wide that it is the second day of January and my Christmas tree is down, back in its box and all its decorations completely put away. Well, except for the taking it down to the basement part. I know this doesn't sound like much to many of you but there are those of you out there who actually remember when my tree often didn't come down before my birthday in mid-January (as Darling Mollie once put it "It has to be up for Jesus' birthday, not yours!"), a few times not before Valentine's Day and one terrible year when I spent Palm Sunday taking down my Christmas tree.

The year I wheeled it on its rolling table into a spare room and threw a sheet over it and never took it apart doesn't count. Don't ask me just doesn't.

Today I was thinking that 2007 will be the anniversary of a few events. It'll mark thirty years since my sister graduated from college and my brother from high school and then I got to thinking about what anniversaries of my own will come up in 2007.

In 1967: I started Kindergarten. I learned to ride a bicycle.

In 1977: I French kissed for the first time. I learned to drive a car. I got really, really drunk for the first time. Two of those events are connected - I'll leave it up to you to guess which two.

In 1987: I bought my first house.

1997: I moved to Germany.

I'd like to think that I move up in events every ten years. I hope that mean that in ten years I won't be celebrating the anniversary of when I got my Christmas tree down in a timely fashion.