Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White January...

About now, my plan was to be arriving at the airport to fly up to northern Cali for my Ph.D. seminar (a week, twice a year. Exhausting, but necessary. I won't complain about a week on a secluded mountain either...)

However, Wednesday night, this beauty of a sky greeted me:

They say a ring around the moon means snow or (chilly) rain is coming soon. I discovered, in researching the myth later online, that the effect is caused by thin clouds made of ice crystals twenty thousand feet up. They refract the moonlight, causing rings around the moon.

So? Was it true? Did a ring around the moon mean snow was coming soon?

Well, Thursday, all day Thursday, this was going on outside:


It started out with rain awakening me before dawn, slashing against the window with a force that exceeded normal rain drops. That was because each drop had a little heart of ice in it. An hour later, only straight ice. And, after that, snow.

So, now, the roads are covered with ice, then up to a foot of snow.
Hmm.
I don't think I'll be making it to the airport, 50 miles away.

Last night I got a phone call from Southwest saying that my flight was canceled. They also said to, if possible, call back at another time to rebook because everyone on all the canceled flights (there were a few, I'm assuming) was currently calling to rebook.

No biggie. I put on my heavy socks and waited it out. Besides, what's the point of rescheduling a flight if I won't be able to make it to the airport?

This morning I discovered that the roads should be fully clear by Sunday, and that no flights are available til Monday.

So, Monday it is!

Of course, that's assuming that there's still a spot open on the flights (I haven't called yet.)

We'll see!

This morning's view out the front window:


Check out those ice cycles!
I won't discuss how during the day Wednesday the temperature was up to 60 degrees. Living inland is weird.

Today's quote:
I spent a long time trying to find my center until I looked closely at it one night & found it had wheels and moved easily in the slightest breeze. So now I spend less time sitting and more time sailing.
Brian Andreas (Story People)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Rememberance of Howard Zinn

1922-2010
What a tragedy.

When T told me the news a few moments ago, I had to sit down. Certainly his voice of sanity and reason will be missed in our topsy turvy world. I have no words other than to quote him: "War itself is the enemy of the human race."

Zinn's site

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Is a Life Coach?

I'm aware that I've been neglecting this blog and I apologize.

In my defense, I've been busier than I can say in one sentence, and I've been thinking hard about blogging! I've got two in my noggin right now, just waiting to zing down to my fingertips, dance on my keyboard, and wiggle their way onto the world wide web...
But that doesn't count, does it?

Anyway, in lieu of the actual blog I was going to post today, I'll put an amazing video that my cousin (and journalist extraordinaire) Ispy gifted me with this morning as a surprise. When she came over for dinner and pictures a few nights before T and I drove out of Cali, she asked me what a life coach was (and other similar questions) and I blabbered on, ignoring the camera she happened to have out...

...and the below is what resulted. Yay! And who knew? Beautiful job, Ispy! Thank you!!! Made my day :)


Please ignore the dorky face at the end. Thanksssss.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

...and another one...

This is what T and I will be doing tomorrow:


View Larger Map

Wish us luck!

Today's quote:
If you hold on to the handle, she said, it's easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it's more fun if you just let the wind carry you.
~Brian Andreas

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mirrors

Is it true that all our actions, large and small, represent who we are as people?
image found here
That's quite a burden, if you ask me. I'm sure most of us, if we really dive into that question, would laugh nervously and reassure ourselves that, of course not, every little thing shouldn't define us! We're not always on display, right?

right?


Well, I think that's a question we all have to answer for ourselves.

I learned in undergrad about a certain psychological fallacy (I forget the name, but remember the point - does that mean I was a good student or a bad one? Let's not take a vote)...
Anyway, this belief, that ALL of us hold to some degree, says that, essentially, if we do something mean, it's because we're having a bad day. If someone else does, it's because they're a mean person. Of course, this mostly occurs with people we don't know.

For instance, if your checkout person at the grocery store is rude to you, you'll probably give her a dirty look and walk away thinking what a bitch she was.

BUT, if you're eating at a restaurant and rude to your server because the kitchen messed up your order (which, remember, may have nothing to do with that server at all), and if you realize that you're being rude, you won't admit in your mind to being a jerk, the way you thought your check out person was. Rather, you'll blame it on your day, your mood, low blood sugar, fight you just had with your mother, whatever.

(However, your server will probably chalk it up to you being a jackass. Just sayin. All honesty on this blog!)

So, think for a moment about whether everything you do and say represents who you REALLY are.

I mean, other than being embarrassing, we can't argue that it's not true, right?

I know that, for my part, it's not easy to admit that when I don't rush through my morning showers, it indicates that I'm selfish. Not that, at that moment when I could be pulling the razor up my leg more quickly, I'm consciously thinking about how the next person may run out of hot water, but the answer is, yes, I do know that's a possibility. I'm not thinking about it, but the knowledge is is my noggin somewhere. So, if I admit that I take showers that are more lengthy than they need to be, which I do, I must also admit that I'm selfish. (that gives me room to grow, and a piece of humble pie to eat. Both good things in the end)

Of course, this goes both ways, and it means that you can be extra proud of the kind and selfless things you do on a daily basis, large and small. Some people occasionally pay the road toll or pay for the fast food order of the person behind them in line, who they've never met. I LOVE that idea. Some give to people on the street asking for money (a sticky subject, to be sure, but the way I think about it is, if I can spare a dollar, why not? Sure, they may just be going to buy booze, but to be completely honest, if I were where they are I may want to get obliterated too...just trying to be fair. Also, don't forget that a huge percentage of the homeless that you see in those situations aren't mentally sound by current standards. Makes things more complicated, no?)

Anyway, just some thoughts for you. So, today, as you go about your routine, do it as if someone were watching every decision you make, trying to decipher what kind of person you are. I guarantee that, if you do, you'll sleep more soundly tonight :)

Today's quote:
My grandma used to plant tomato seedlings in tin cans from tomato sauce & puree & crushed tomatoes she got from the Italian restaurant by her house, but she always soaked the labels off first. I don't want them to be anxious about the future, she said. It's not healthy.
Brian Andreas

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quaking

I just heard about the earthquake in Haiti.

Yes, I'm terribly out of the loop and off the grid right now, obviously. But I'm horrified, admittedly belatedly, at what I'm seeing.

the above two are from Mail Online

from ft.com

How big WAS it, really? This is what the Guardian says:

The Haiti earthquake was magnitude 7, which releases the energy equivalent of several nuclear bombs. The United States Geological Survey estimates magnitude 7 as equivalent to about half a million tons of high explosive. Each increase of 1 in the magnitude scale is equivalent to 30 times more energy, so this one was only one thousandth of the energy of the magnitude 9.3 earthquake that struck Banda Aceh, in Indonesia, in 2004 and triggered a devastating tsunami.

Apparently, they haven't had an earthquake this big in 250 years.

What can you do to help?
I know that it's easy for some of us to say "oh yeah, that sucks" and feel a little sorry but not really do anything.

Well, I'm sure that if you stop by Starbucks a few times a week, you can afford to send $5 to help. That could do more than you realize - think food for children, bandages, etc. Your $5 can go a long way. Be crazy and send $20, even. Here are some sites:

You can text "YELE" to 501501 to donate that $5 (it will show up on your cell phone bill for this month), or go to Yele's site instead.

You can donate $10 by texting "Haiti" to 90999 via the American Red cross, or of course go to their site.

Lastly, here's a site that tells you lots of other options: http://www1.networkforgood.org/help-haiti-quake-relief?source=YAHOO&cmpgn=NEWS

Why not help? No matter the struggles in your life, I guarantee you that if you're reading my blog, you have it better than some of the people down here, right now, in this moment. You can help them. Why in the world wouldn't you?

today's quote:
12:27
Twitter
fredodupoux:
edge seems to be working on some digicel handsets downtown port au prince is lost dust and rumbles
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:27 fredodupoux
12:29
Twitter
RAMhaiti:
we're back on line..went to St Gerard Church..people are trapped in the school..others are dead in the rubble
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:29 RAMhaiti
12:29
Twitter
fredodupoux:
every other house is on the ground. people are terrified and have no hope.#haiti #eq
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:29 fredodupoux
12:30
Twitter
RAMhaiti:
the Carrefour Feuilles area is destroyed..government buildings:Palace Justice, Palace, DGI are destroyed
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:30 RAMhaiti
12:30
Twitter
RAMhaiti:
there is no police presence..there is no UN presence in the Carrefour Feuilles area..people are trying to take care of themselves
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:30 RAMhaiti
12:33
Twitter
RAMhaiti:
rows of buildings have collapsed..there is no sign of official help anywhere in this area
Wednesday January 13, 2010 12:33 RAMhaiti
12:33
Twitter
fredodupoux:
natural haulocost #haiti #eq

~yesterday's live blogging from Haiti



Today's Tea


I think Thursdays may be the best days of the week.
Unless, of course, you have a presentation, or paper, or date you don't want to go on that falls on the Friday afterward.
But, barring those things, I like Thursdays. What can I say? I'm an anticipation person.

Next week we go on another giant road trip. Fun times ahead! I'll keep you posted ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Things that go Bang in the night...

A crash sounded and the house shivered in the dark.

T stirred.

Did you hear that?

Yeah.

What time is it?


I fumbled for my cell phone and hit the button to light it up. 2:59am.

It's three o'clock.

I'm going to go see what happened.

T shuffled upstairs. I sat in bed, staring at the nearly pitch black room. The basement doesn't get much light, especially at night, but a faint blue glow came from the high line of windows and I lay quietly, waiting to hear that someone had dropped a glass of water in the kitchen or something. I could hear murmuring voices coming through my ceiling and the floor of the living room.

The basement door opened again.

Could you turn on the light?

I stretched and found the switch for a big bedside lamp. A wave of anxiety passed through me. What was going on?

It had come from outside. The neighbors just moved out last weekend, and someone had tried to break into their shed a year ago. T headed up the stairs with a wooden baseball bat.

I followed him, groggy and worried. We all gathered into the living room, staying away from the windows. No one could really tell where the crash was from, since it had woken us all. What if it had been someone trying to break in here?

Trying not to disturb any curtains, we peeked through the window blinds at the snowy yard below. Shadowy figures stood in the middle of the street, their dark silhouettes harsh and alien against the white snow.

How many of them was it?
Five?
Six?

I could see three, no four.

One had been walking on the side of the house.

T's father called the police. As we looked more, emboldened by their talking on cell phones almost loud enough for us to hear, we could see that they'd come too quickly out of the school parking lot across the street and hit a tree that stands between the neighbor's property and this one.

We stayed quiet, listening. They were all men, and Hazleton has become increasingly dangerous in the past decade.

I've heard some blame it on the growing immigrant population, which is a ridiculous thing to say if I've ever heard one. People from other countries don't make crimes. The fact that Hazleton is a dying city, haunted by closed churches and quiet cemeteries, dotted with empty warehouses that used to give hundreds of jobs and now just give ugly shadows on the horizon - now that causes crime. Lots of people without lots of resources. Desperation.

And the scary thing is that you never know, unless you know the people personally, or their parents (and that only works sometimes), whether you have to worry or not.

God forbid that these guys would have been troublemakers and going out to check to see if they were okay would have meant danger. It's a shame that it could have, just as much as it may not have.

So no one went out to see. But two people called the police.

And the police came, and the kids (who they ended up being, mostly underage) were polite and deferential, and explained how the driver, a soldier recently home from Iraq, hasn't been in snow in awhile and wasn't used to the lack of traction.

And, after things had quieted down, I looked out of the front window and saw a line of tracks in the snow, coming from the crashed car toward the front door but stopping three feet from the steps and heading back the way they came, and I wanted to cry.

I want to live in a world where, if someone crashes a car in my front yard, or in the neighbor's front yard, or down the block, my first reaction is to pull on a sweatshirt and go outside and invite them in for coffee until the tow truck comes. Not, however, to talk in whispers and automatically be afraid of kids who's worst crime was celebrating their buddy's safe return home too enthusiastically (no, I don't know if he'd been drinking, I don't think so judging by what the police officer said afterward). The parking lot across the street is to a high school - they may have been visiting old stomping grounds.

This morning, I'm saddened, but encouraged. No one was hurt. I don't think anyone is in trouble, from what I gather. The worst thing is a busted up car - because I seriously doubt that vehicle will be running any time soon.

And, now I have another thing to think about and strive for in creating a world for my one-day children and grandchildren to live in...

Today's quote:
"That was the day the ancient songs of blood and war spilled from a hole in the sky

And there was a long moment as we listened and fell silent in our grief
and then one by one,
we stood tall
and came together
and began to sing of life and love and all that is good and true
And I will never forget that day when the ancient songs died because there was no one in the world to sing them."

Brian Andreas (Traveling Light: Stories & Drawings for a Quiet Mind)

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Understanding and Compassion

I'm having issues today.

To spare you the poor-me details, let's suffice it to say that there are health things going on that aren't the most pleasant to deal with -
- okay I know that if I don't give you the details all types of wrong assumptions could be made, so I just will.

I know I've talked about this before, but my teeth break. No one can explain it, apparently I just genetically have very brittle enamel, and I've had chunks of molar fall off when I was eating cookies and cream ice cream (no, no chocolate chips in that, just softened cookies and delicious ice cream, yet one of the strongest teeth in my mouth decided to crumble).

So, I got braces (invisalign, to be exact), because I was told that, with them, the pressure would be relieved and my teeth wouldn't break anymore.

Can you feel a yeah, right coming on?

Hmmm yeah well last week I wasn't even chewing anything and another tooth cracked. Apparently Invisalign isn't all it's cracked up to be on the non-tooth-breakage.

So, now, there isn't an actual break, just a visible (but smooth) crack, which may never turn into a break, but which also may.

Great.
Unpredictable.
Unpreventable.

So there's nothing I can do except for live in fear of becoming a snaggletooth in a moment. Awesome. Yes, it's mostly my ego, but still! I floss 3 times a day, I at least deserve to have whole teeth, no?

But, believing as I do that our mental state greatly influences our physical one, I can trace this emotion back to being a little girl, terrified of Armageddon and fire raining down from the sky and dying a horrible and excruciatingly painful death (yeah, at 5 years old I though this. Every kid commits little sins, but I took mine WAY too seriously - be careful what you tell the toddlers out there, y'all). So, growing up, this continued under the guise of other dangers after I shed the belief in fiery destruction from above, and picked up the strain of poverty. Then health issues. So now, there you go. Afraid of a tooth Armageddon.

I make light of it, but to be honest, I'm terrified!

But, I'm also kicking myself for holding beliefs that I can see caused my condition.

Now, back to the tea bag fortune (the pic above).

I had that cup of tea last night, when I was down and worried and really hard on myself for getting me here. When I'm consulting with others about this stuff, I remind them to be gentle and compassionate with themselves. Because we're all always doing the best we can with what we've got, right? So blaming and criticising don't have a place in self-talk. If you made a bad decision, okay, recognize it, then use your energy to work to change and improve yourself so you don't make it again, rather than using that energy to kick yourself and be harsh. That doesn't help anything.

So, today, I'll be starting the lovely all is right with the world and my future is happy affirmations.

(may sound goofy but I swear that stuff works. The stories I could tell you! But that's for another blog post)

Happy Monday y'all! Be nice to yourselves! If we're nicer to ourselves, we're nicer to each other, and before we know it, we've got a better world.

Today's quote:
"This is a giant block of whatever is most difficult for you to carry & trust me on this, you'll carry it more times than you can count until you decide that's exactly what you want to do most & then it won't weigh a thing anymore
"
~Brian Andreas

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carrots in the Kitchen: Peppermint Bark

Since it's been about five zillion years since I've done a recipe post, I figured that now was as good a time as any.

Besides, after the holidays there's always the potential to feel a little aimless. All the hustle and bustle and visits and presents and craziness (not to mention the WINE...let's not go there), just lead into a cold January, that's full of things to catch up on (usually work and/or school related), weight to lose (can I get an amen on THAT one), and planning and implementing to do (hello resolutions! I, by the way, have not done a full out formal meditation ONCE since the new year).

For that reason, today's recipe will be quick, cheap, and delicious.

Since I'll be going raw (foodist) in less than a month, someone may as well be able to enjoy a melted chocolate recipe once I can't any more.

But anywhoo, on to the Peppermint Bark. (by the way, this recipe is just from a conglomeration of ones I found by googling "peppermint bark recipe" - I didn't make it up, but it's not exactly copied either. FYI!)
You'll need:
1 bag of chocolate chips (milk or dark, whichever you'd prefer)
1 bag of white chocolate chips
1 bottle of peppermint extract (do the natural one, it's oh so much better - kind of like vanilla, where imitation extract tastes totally different, not that it's bad. I recall dabbing it on my wrists and neck as a little girl when I wanted "perfume" - it was awesome. I still love the smell - when using it for perfume at 5 years old, go imitation! When using it for cooking, do real vanilla. Same for peppermint. Anyway)
---also, a little bottle may be more than you'd expect to pay - mine was $7 or so, but it will last you forEVER.
a few candy canes, or round peppermints, either one works just as well. a large handful will do.

What to do:
- Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.

- line a cookie sheet with foil.

- spread out the chocolate chips (not the white ones, just the milk/dark) on the cookie sheet in a layer. Don't have them go all the way to the edges, and make sure the layer is definitely touching. I'd keep it about 2 chips deep.

- bake for 5 minutes (only 5!)

- when you remove the cookie sheet, the chocolate chips will still have their forms and won't look melty. However, once you grab a spatula or big spoon and gently smooth them into a layer, you'll see that they're actually just about softened into a liquid. By the way, that's the next step - to smooth them into a layer (as even as you can, doesn't have to be perfect)

- pop the cookie sheet into the fridge to chill for 20 minutes.

- while you're waiting, take your peppermints or candy canes and smash them up into small pieces. My particular method was to bribe a certain fiance to take them into the basement with a hammer and go to work. This would work. So would lots of other methods. Be creative! Take out some aggression!

- once the 20 minutes have passed, rig a double boiler by placing a metal bowl on the top of a saucepan. Make sure the bowl is large enough that at least half of it is out of the pan. Also, you don't want it to touch the bottom of the pan - you need at least two inches. Put about an inch to an inch and a half of water into the saucepan, and bring it to a soft boil (which means just small bubbles and a good amount of steam). Depending on your stove, this could be at anywhere from medium-low to medium-high heat.

- pour your white chocolate chips into the bowl atop the saucepan, and stir them until melted. It won't take too long if you start once the water is already gently boiling. note: if you have the water too hot, the white chocolate will clump rather than melting nicely. That's bad. If it happens, turn the heat down. Also, if it happens, it isn't the end of the world and your chocolate will still taste yummy, it'll just be harder to deal with.

- once the white chocolate chips are melting, take the cookie sheet out of the fridge. You want to not have that layer so cold that it forms a layer of condensation (it'll make the layers not stick well enough). So just sit it on the counter to wait until you're ready for the next thing.

- after the white chocolate is all melted, pour in 3 or 4 drops of peppermint extract. Really, that's ALL you need! Any more and you'll be waaaaaaaaay too pepperminty! A little goes a long way, trust me.

- stir until the peppermint is distributed throughout. You won't really be able to tell, so just stir the chocolate well and you're good.

By about now, it should be smelling delicious. If you like peppermint, that is. If not, I wouldn't recommend this recipe. Anyway.

- gently pour the melted white chocolate over the refrigerated milk/dark chocolate layer, spreading it out to cover as evenly as possible. Again, doesn't have to be perfect. Also, work fairly quickly here, because if you dilly dally like I did, the chocolate on the bottom will start to melt and mix, which still tastes fine, but isn't as pretty.

- once the white chocolate is spread out, sprinkle the smashed peppermint bits over the top until they've covered the white chocolate. If you want, you can press them down with your hand (if the layer is good you won't come away with white chocolate fingers) - even if you don't do this they'll probably stick just fine, so it's optional. I'm just a tad OCD so I did it. Anyway,

- refrigerate for at least an hour. After that long, use a knife to cut into small pieces (remember, you're eating straight chocolate so think how big a Hershey's bar pieces, once broken along their lines, are. Do them about 1.5 to 2 times as big as those pieces)

- Eat! Take small bites and savor! Also, peppermint settles your stomach so these are great for an after dinner snack!

I'd love to hear how this recipe goes if you try it out! Lemme know!

Today's quote:
The clock is a conspiracy and a crime against humanity and I would not own one except I miss appointments without it. ~Brian Andreas

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!

Or, I guess, happy half-a-week-into-the-new-year. Same difference, it's still a new year and new decade.

Makes me feel old that I can say "my, that decade went by quickly!" I've certainly never been able to say that before.

My new years celebration was amazing - we went over to Jim Thorpe to ring it in with some new friends out there, and then we spent a quiet weekend of food and drinks -
- it's as I say, Hazleton isn't a place, it's a state of mind.
(for me that state of mind includes lots of dessert and red wine...)

On January 1, this is what was attached to my tea bag, Chinese fortune cookie style:
(I think this is true for everyone, no?)
Because after all, a civilization is just a group of people and a world is just a group of civilizations, so our choices CAN certainly change it.
So get to work!
I think this year a great duty for us all will be to lead more mindful lives - don't waste your time, because who knows how much more of it any of us have?

Just a thought.

And tomorrow, there'll be a long overdue Carrots in the Kitchen post.

Today's quote:
Most people don't know there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don't get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss your life.
~Brian Andreas

(btw, he's one of my new heroes and my quotes will mostly be from him. Here's his site.)