Friday, December 11, 2009

Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

So, it's been a while since I've written anything and there are two reasons for that: 1. I've been busy as hell. 2. Everything I've wanted to write about has been the sort of thing that requires sit-down-and-really-think time, which I haven't had much of. Why is it that December is always crazy? It irks me. It's like even though you've finished all your gift-getting early so that you can relax and enjoy your christmas tree that has only lights and no ornaments, when you have to go to the store for toilet paper while everyone there is in panic mode and buying soo much shit, the toxic poison of our obsession with all things bright and shiny seeps into your body and puts you in a foul mood. I'm just sayin.

Anywho, on to the post. I've been reading a new book that my dear friend Mallory sent me called Fools Rush In by Bill Carter. It's a sort of memoir about his journey into war-torn Bosnia during the 1990s. He struggles with the idea that he might in fact be a "war tourist," the term locals give to foreigners who come into the heart of a war that isn't theirs to "find themselves" or whatever. Mostly, Bill Carter (an American) talks about how peoples' everyday lives become so full when they know they may not see another sunrise. These people are dodging bullets on their way to retrieve water or check on a friend. Their night skies are full of explosions and fire. And yet, what he sees in their faces, much more prominently than fear, are laughter, love, joy. They play music and have secret art shows while buildings and streets crumble around them. They are living in the present, enjoying every moment because they know it could all end any second. Bill mentions several times that he gets completely overwhelmed by the constant wonderful feeling of living in the present moment. Here is a conversation he has with one of the locals in Sarajevo...starting with the local:

"You are in the center of the cosmos. Outside, in London and New York, they believe their lives are real. Feed the dog, say nice things to the neighbor, act like they understand everything. That is not real. They think they are real, but nothing is more real than what is happening here."
"So they are surreal?"
"No. They are unreal, the non-real," he said...."Non-real people are people who watch other people die on television and then turn it off to go eat dinner."

And another:

"Yeah, but what can I or Graeme or anybody really do?" He leaned in and for the first time looked directly into my eyes.
"...Tell me. Everyone in your home city is sleeping in their large beds with the alarm set to wake them in time to go to a job they hate. But you are here, yes? They are the ones that are truly dead."

Bill Carter never seems to be under the impression that we should all run off to the war-torn places of the world and save everyone. He does, however, make it clear that he believes we should do all in our power to make our lives meaningful. That we should seek love, live simply, and find joy with friends. We should live in such a way that when the shit hits the fan, we are not lost and we are not wondering who we are or what we ever stood for.

Here's one last passage from the book when Bill is reflecting on what in the hell he's really doing in Bosnia, after all:

"As much as I would like to say I began this journey with an agenda in mind, a fixed purpose I was working toward, I cannot. The truth is, up until this point, I had never thought very far ahead. It was in my training as a traveler: live in short spurts until the next portal opens up.
Yet there would be no turning back. Not now. Not after meeting the people I had met and seeing what I had seen. It would be like hearing a woman scream rape and going for a drink just to get out of earshot. No. It was too late for people like Graeme and me, suckers who believe that if we give a little more it will all turn round for the better. It wasn't that I thought I could save the world. At this point I would have settled for erasing my memory. Once memory gets hardwired into your brain it gets more difficult to erase your sense of responsibility. Why else do we have that cancer called television? Why are we inundated wit sound-bite news, and infantile politicians making promises they never intend to keep? Low ball, baby. Keep it simple and stupid. Keep the masses doped up on false expectations of lower taxes, second mortgages and entry into the country club and you've got yourself a happy society ready, willing and able to ignore those cries of rape. No one can hear them--the TV is too loud."

I've been making a mental note of things I've learned since I discovered I have control over my life and my happiness. I was going to put them in another post, but I feel compelled to put them here. Feel free to add to it. These are in no particular order.

1. Eat dinner with your family or spouse or whoever. At the table. With the TV off.
2. Turn off the TV.
3. Be careful not to find yourself "living for the weekend"
4. Actually cook your food.
5. Food made in a factory is bad for you.
6. Know your kids. Talk to your kids. Play with your kids.
7. Never hold on to any set of beliefs so tightly that you become blind.
8. If your job makes you miserable, leave.
9. Don't let other people's ideas about plans and the "future" keep you from doing what you need to do to be happy.
10. Thinking too much about the future is bad for you.
11. Love people without condition or agenda.
12. Don't buy too much shit. It will clutter your soul and your mind.
13. Try new things and go to new places.
14. Engage in meaningful conversation on a daily basis. Even if only on your blog.
15. Read.

Okay, I'm out of coffee and out of brain juice. Til next time, people.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Best Lunch Ever.

This is my favorite thing to make for lunch on days when I'm at home. It's just an everything bagel (the kind with dried onions and such inside), with cream cheese (1/3 less fat, of course), Classico Pesto sauce and fresh tomatoes. Put it in the oven for a few minutes and yay! Yummy lunch. It's not local, except for the tomatoes. But, it sure beats the hell out of Lean Cuisine. Right?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food, Part 2: The Vegetannual

Here's a little guide from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It will help you become more aware of what's in season in your area.

Also, Doug and I made this yummy dinner from farmers' market foods:

Jasmine rice grown in Fairhope, AL
Hickory Smoked Pork Sausage from Chickasaw, AL
Baldwin Co. bell peppers and onion

And Dessert:
Homemade pecan squares from Heavenly Creations in Fairhope, AL

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We went to see Food, Inc. this weekend. It was gross. Food, Inc. is a documentary about the American food our food is grown, processed, and distributed. This is a topic I've been reading and learning about since I first read Fast Food Nation about six years ago. Most of the startling info in the movie was not news to me, but seeing all the footage from inside factories and "farms" was really disturbing: moo cows standing knee deep in their own waste, chickens bred to grow so fat they can't stand up, ground beef soaked in ammonia. Ew. Even our produce is genetically altered to withstand traveling hundreds of miles and to resist common pests. And beyond these obvious issues of health and sanitation, you get into major issues of giant multi-national corporations controlling the food supply. Animals are mistreated (to say the least), workers are mistreated and underpaid, consumers are kept in the dark about what's in their food, and profit is the number one priority.....make more money, whatever the cost. Anywho, I could on for days here. Just wanted to tell everyone they should either watch Food, Inc. or read some books...or both, of course.
Some food books:

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
This one will gross you out, but is very informative and interesting. It will change the way you eat for sure. They made a movie from this book, but I haven't seen it.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
This one is a very pleasant, easy read. She's a novelist, so it reads much like a novel, which is nice. She and her family left their home in Arizona and moved to a New England farm where they vowed to eat only food that they had grown themselves (or that close neighbors had grown) for an entire year. Lots of good info in this one.

What to Eat by Marion Nestle
Marion Nestle is a nutrition professor at NYU (I think) and she realized people who learn all this information about the food industry and where food comes from and then don't know what they should actually be eating. This is her guide for buying food. I'm reading it now. Good so far.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
These are both on my need to read list. They're both well-recognized as very important reads for anything food/food industry related.

Let me know if you decide to read one or see the movie. In the meantime, shop at your local farmer's market. If you don't have a farmer's market close by, buy organic.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home's better homemade.

This time of year, I always get into Martha Stewart mode. The weather is getting cooler, Halloween is coming soon (my favorite), and I start sprucing up the house and searching for pretty decor. This year, since we're in our first ever fall season in our new house, I wanted to get a nice wreath for the door. I used to think wreaths were only for grannies, but I have seen some pretty ones around, so I began looking for a nice natural-looking wreath for the front door. Well, I was in for a rude awakening about the price of wreaths. The cheapest ones I found were around $35 at Target. And they didn't look very nice...nor did they look like they would last more than one season. The nice looking ones that I came across in craft stores and home decorating stores were anywhere from $65 to $100. That's ridiculous!! I know... if you buy a good one that will last and last....blah, blah. What if next year you're tired of that wreath and want a new one? Doug and I could eat for at least a week on what it would cost us to buy a stupid-ass wreath. So, of course, I decided to make my own. Hobby Lobby had their fake flowers on sale 50% off, and grape-vine wreath forms are only $3.99 (regular price). Had there not been a sale, I would have bought some cheap berry garland for about $8 and wrapped it around the wreath form. But I got some nice things and made myself a wreath for $19, including tax. Hooray! And, I didn't use any glue...only wire. So, next year, if I've decided it's ugly, I can reuse the form. Ta-da!

Friday, October 2, 2009


I've been making things lately, since I have some extra time on my hands. I recorded myself singing a song after listening to entirely too much Judy Garland: Myself singing a song

And, I drew a guy with a hat on!

It's so nice (and good for my health and sanity levels) to have playtime. More people should have it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Where is Bob Dylan?

So, we've been listening to lots of Bob Dylan lately. As I listen, a couple of things enter my mind: 1. I really like this music. 2. Why don't people make music like this anymore? People have told me before that I have the musical taste of a fifty year old man. What I listen to most while I'm alone is music that was made quite a long time ago: Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, etc. And the new music that I do listen to sounds like old music: Norah Jones, Nickel Creek, Mason Jennings, The Black Keys, Ryan Adams. What's going on here? People do tell me that I'm an old soul, so maybe that's it. Maybe it's because my parents grew up during the fifties and sixties, and that's the music I grew up listening to. But it's kind of strange, right? Anywho, while I was listening to Bob Dylan I was thinking about how musicians nowadays rarely write lyrics that broadcast their deeply held opinions about what's going on in the world. I mean, Bob Dylan just comes right out and tells us he thinks war is stupid and that all the people up in Washington are responsible and should rot in hell. Gee, Bob, tell us what you really think. And he wasn't talking about war in general, either. Everyone knew he was talking about Vietnam, and he was so popular and well known, and if any bureaucrat every tried to tell him he had to keep his mouth shut, there would have been some kind of uprising. Nowadays, people just keep their mouths shut, even without being told to do so. Why? Do we just not care? Do we think no one else feels the same way we do? Are we afraid of being shut up by some far off Man in charge? When even our musicians and artists and writers aren't speaking up, you know it's bad. Obviously, there are people here and there who are talking about tough issues and raising questions. But it seems like even those people are doing so in a very general, "big-picture" sort of way. Do you know what I mean? People don't just say what they think anymore. Part of it is that people aren't thinking. Our education system and our technology-driven, money hungry culture have trained us very well in how to follow orders blindly and keep our freethinking to a minimum. But there are those who have survived the education system with their thinking parts in tact. What about them? Many have been convinced that they can do nothing, change nothing, that speaking up is pointless and a waste of time. The issues are too big, too complicated, too abstract. There's so much going on that we don't know about. This is how they want us to we're too small to do anything about it. And they're doing a very good job. So, I guess what I'm saying is....where is Bob Dylan? We need to speak up, speak out.....even if at first no one listens but a handful of friends and family. We need to share our thoughts and opinions, even when it means offending a neighbor or making a coworker feel very uncomfortable. We could all use a little more discomfort, if you ask me. Because when it comes down to it, what's the point of life if you're just a cog in the wheel. Don't you want to do something that matters? that means something, if only to you? Don't you want to look back and know that you lived a full life and that you swam upstream because you stood for something? Don't you want to raise children who care about ideals, values, principles? instead of money and power? I do. Let's talk more. And play more music.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Church & Monies

Doug and I received a letter and pledge card in the mail from our local church. We hardly ever go to church anymore, but my parents were still going to church there. The church recently built a brand new Life Center, which is humongous and fancy, full of classrooms, meeting space, and a lovely basketball court with pecan floors (the kind you're not supposed to wear street shoes on). I realize that building these types of shiny new places is not uncommon in churches, so let me give you some back story on this particular congregation. My parents (in their late fifties) are among the youngest people in the congregation. There is a handful of 40-somethings, but most of the people in this church are well into their retirement. The congregation obviously needs to work on their outreach to young people, including their children's programs (Sunday school, preschool, etc.). So, this new building project was initiated out of that "Build it and they will Come" mentality. The capital campaigning began, and lots of money was raised. The original project plans included three buildings, to be constructed over the course of several years. Of course, it would make sense to start with the smallest, least expensive building, but that's not what happened. The finance committee decided to build the largest, most expensive building first. This building would cost four times the amount that had been raised during the campaign. Four times! My dad, an accountant, was on the finance committee and warned the other committee members that the housing market bubble was on the brink of bursting, and that this project would put the church in way over its head financially. No one listened, and dad was actually made to feel like he didn't have enough faith in God....that he needed to trust that God would lead them all through this project. Well, they went ahead with the 4.5 million dollar building. And then the economy took a harsh nosedive, as we all know. Parishioners were and still are losing their jobs left and right, and are struggling to pay their bills, and of course, their pledge amounts. Then we all get the letter stating that we need to do what we can to give more money, because the monthly note is $28,ooo (interest only). $28,000. A MONTH! That's more than I've been making in a year, people. And this is a really small Joel Osteen mega-church. And not only are they begging for money, they're telling us that we need to give up our Starbucks and our eating out so that we can give more. No, thank you. You were irresponsible with the money we gave you, we're not giving up our earned indulgences so that you can have more money. There's a story in the letter about how, were it not for the people who continued to tithe during the Great Depression, the orphans at Wilmer Hall would have been cold and hungry. WTF? We're not talking about people's lives here. We're not talking about giving more money so that children can have food and clothing. Hello? We're talking about unnecessary basketball courts with pecan floors and classrooms that are hardly being used, and building a Life Center that we don't need. Don't pull the orphan card on me, sir. So now, all the other annual church fundraisers have to give the money they raise (that should go to missions) to the building fund. Way to set an example. I am so disappointed and downright disgusted that this has happened. The church should be teaching people about managing their money responsibly, and now that the economy has gone to shit, we should be offering free spaghetti dinners once a week or something to help families who've lost part of their income. But no. We're asking people to give what little they have left so that we don't drown in this ridiculous debt. I'm sick over it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So, since I'm unemployed, maybe I'll pursue the idea of teaching private art lessons. I made these business cards today. Thoughts?


Hooray for comments, everybody! So, yesterday I was talking to my dear friend Julia about vacation time and such, mostly because I want to know when the hell I'm going to see her again. She lives in D.C., and plane tickets are frick-ass expensive. She was telling me about all she has to go through to take a few days off at Christmas and fly home to her family. It's absurd. Now, Julia works for a non-profit organization on which many people in the city depend for help and shelter, particularly during the winter. So, it's not like she can just close up her office and leave. She has to make arrangements for someone else to fill her shoes, or lots of people will be up shit creek. But, for most people who have a hard time taking time off from work to see their families, it's because the companies they work for are solely interested in turning a profit, regardless of how strung out their employees are from not ever having a significant break. When I worked in the stupid world of "Retail Banking," I went to ask off for one weekend, because I was to be a bridesmaid in a good friend's wedding. Obviously, I knew months ahead of time that I needed off, and so I put in my request early. It was denied. Hello? Maybe you misunderstood me, Mr. Computerized time off giver. I'm in the wedding. Not to mention, that had I stayed at said bank, I would have been given one day off for Christmas (if Christmas Day was on a weekday that year), or zero days off it fell on the weekend. And, of course, if we're not letting our employees have time off over the holidays, then we're certainly not giving them a break during any other time of year. What has happened to us? No wonder we're all strung out and depressed and so stressed we can't even enjoy the minimal time we do spend with family and friends. Let me just point out one thing that I've come to learn: Taking good care of your employees is good business. It's not rocket science, people. If employers would give ample vacation time, and be understanding when you need to leave early to pick up your sick child, etc., they'd find that their employees were willing to work harder, stay longer hours when necessary, and will remain loyal to their companies, often spending 20-30 years working for them. Not to mention, if people have at least some vacation time (one week in twelve months doesn't count), they're less likely to burn out and are more likely to produce better work. We give students huge breaks throughout the school year, even through graduate school. But, oh, you're working now? You don't get any vacation until you've worked a solid year. And after that, you get one week. WTF? We cannot function like this. We're not functioning like this. Other countries require that people have several weeks vacation throughout the year. Norway requires four weeks for everyone, regardless of where they're employed, and once you're over 50, it's five weeks. Most people get more than that, and everyone's allowed to take three of those weeks in one chunk. The only people in America who get three weeks at once are super rich, or they own their own business. So, I'm owning my own business, people. And I'm taking a week off at Christmas. And, when my sister has babies, I'm going to see her. And, when my family comes to visit, I'm going to spend time with them. When Doug and I get rich, you can come work for us and do it too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Buying the War

Doug and I watched a PBS special last night called Buying the War. It's been a couple of years since it originally aired, but Doug read about it, so we looked it up and watched the whole thing on YouTube. The show was done through the PBS program called Bill Moyers Journal. Mr. Moyers takes an in-depth look at how the war on Iraq was marketed to us Americans, and how American journalists played a key role in convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, was responsible for 9/11, and was aiding al-Qaida. The Bush Administration hoodwinked the American people by passing off unreliable and illegitimate sources as credible and authoritative, and our top journalists fed the bullshit to their audiences diligently and obediently. Anyone who questioned sending troops into Iraq was quickly hushed, moved to page 18, and ignored by the press, and, in turn, the public. People who demanded more evidence against Saddam Hussein were shunned for being disloyal, unpatriotic, and disgustingly liberal. We now know that the inner circles of U.S. Intelligence were well aware that there was no evidence for WMDs, and that little, if any, evidence existed to connect Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden. Few American journalists became aware of this until after the war had begun, though all they needed to do was make a phone call or two. But those who did realize just how thin the justification for this war had become were ignored. Even Ted Kennedy, revered as one of the greatest senators of our time, was largely ignored when he gave a televised speech denouncing our hastiness in marching to Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people protested the war, marching through streets in numbers scarcely seen in decades. But they didn't make the news, either. President Bush gave speech after speech about the growing threat of Iraq and the need to take immediate action. Top White House officials openly disregarded the fact that few of our U.N. allies supported our decision. And, before we Americans realized what had happened, we were off to war in Iraq. Six years later, we're still there, and we still don't know why. Now, I could go on forever about Iraq and how it has been, as they say, a tragic, historic blunder. It even seemed wrong to me as a high school senior as I asked my parents why all of a sudden everyone was talking about Saddam Hussein and Iraq when we had just determined that we should be looking for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. No one could satisfactorily answer this question. But, what I really want to think and talk about is, what the hell happened to the American journalists? Hello? These are smart people. They're supposed to report the news and find at least pieces of truth, however unsettling. That's why they went in to journalism in the first place, I'm sure: to investigate and report back findings. But now they just roll over and play dead and let the corporate and bureaucratic powers above them control their every move. Now, I've known for a long time that watching the news is bad for your health. I quit watching the news my freshman year of college after following the Bush/Kerry debate for an unhealthy amount of time. I don't trust news people, especially the big guys: FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc. But, what's really on my mind is the idea that the government will continue to directly control what our news people are feeding us....especially when I consider how many Americans are glued to news channels all day long. They've created a state of fear and panic among Americans, and in doing so have ensured that we'll all do whatever they ask, so long as they say it's for our own safety. And that, my friends, is scary. These are not new thoughts for me, but I haven't talked about it in some time. Writing helps, because the paper will let me get all my ideas out without shouting arguments at me. And this is some crazy shit, is all I'm sayin. Thoughts?

P.S. Your best sources of news are NPR, PBS, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. Seriously.


I've made some pillows recently, and have taken twenty years to share them with you. Finally, I photographed them today, so here they are. I made some shams and a throw pillow for our bedroom. I also made some accent pillows for the sofa. All of the fabrics are from Amy Butler's Midwest Modern collection, except the floral fabric on the sofa pillows. That fabric is from the Arcadia collection by Sanae. Anywho, here are the images:

Monday, September 7, 2009

Random Things

I've been thinking a lot lately about life, and the world, and how I had stopped thinking about life and the world for kind of a long time. I used to read book after book about the state of our culture, the meaning of life, and how we should live. I wanted to talk about it at parties and at dinner and in class. But no one else wanted to talk about it. And I found myself totally strung out and feeling like I was going to have to single-handedly save the world. I grew exhausted and so full of anxiety I would sometimes wake up vomiting in the night. Craziness, I know. So, I stopped reading book after book and started trying to relax and enjoy my daily life. And I learned how to do that, and am much happier for it. But now all of a sudden all of my friends want to talk about it. They're talking politics, philosophy, religion, etc. They want to talk about how the world's gone to shit and what we should do about it. And I'm finding myself nervous about joining in again. I think it's because I know that once you start in on the conversation...once you allow yourself to jump in and become aware of what's really going on around you (and decide to talk about it), everything changes. And this is good, but it's a little scary. That's why so many people don't participate in the conversation. Most people don't even recognize that the conversation exists. People don't want to consider that everything that they hold true could merely be an illusion. They don't want to think about the possibility that we could be wrong about everything. People don't want to think at all. But I do want to think, so I've decided I have to jump in the conversation exhausting as it can sometimes be. I'm going to start by writing more. I used to love writing, and I'm good at articulating my perception of the world. So, consider this post the first of many more. I went through some of my old papers from college, and I'm going to leave you with an excerpt from one of my favorites:
Perhaps there is nothing worse than uncertainty, for with uncertainty comes chaos. The first time we discover that something we always held true is not true at all, we must stop and reevaluate who we are and what we believe about everything else. Because, as C.S. Lewis said, we accept everything we know on the authority of someone else, we can sometimes feel as though we don't really know anything at all. And there lies an almost subconscious choice between living an orderly life in ignorance, or a chaotic life in truth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doug made me a craft table for our anniversary.  He made it totally out of scraps, and used no power tools to build it (so he had lots of nasty blisters afterward).  It's a lovely place to put my sewing machine, stamps, fabric, and other crafty things.  Since getting my sewing machine all set up on my new pretty table, I've made one pillow, and ordered lots of fabric to make more pillows. I also would like to try and make some pot holders and coasters soon, too.  Here is the pillow I made, and a nice look at my table. =)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


For Easter Sunday, our entire family came over for a yummy brunch. It was the first time we've actually used the crystal we got for our wedding last year. Doug took this pretty picture of the dining room table in all its glory. Hopefully we'll have lots more family dinners with that funky pear tablecloth.

Hooray for Amy's blog!

So I'm starting my own blog.  Here it is.  Maybe I'll write about something exciting soon.