Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick-or-Treating Rules

Not that they're ever followed. Still, I offer you, gentle readers, my ideas about how Halloween needs to work.

1. If you don't say "Trick or treat" I will stand there and stare at you. I do not give you candy simply for appearing on my porch. At least speak.

2. If you're not wearing a costume, I will ask you what happened to your costume. Or maybe, "Who are you supposed to be." If you don't have an answer, you might not get candy. (Unless you're really cute and it's quite obvious that nobody in your house could be bothered to help you.)

3. If you're old enough to drive or have a job, you don't need my candy. If you go through all the motions of saying "Trick or treat" and wearing some semblance of a costume, but you're old enough for even a conservative parent to think you're old enough to date, you get a breath mint. I've got a bag of Starlight mints ready for the occasion.

4. One piece of candy per kid. I might give you two if you're really cute and follow the rules. Three if I know your parents.

5. Don't come to my house a second time. I will recognize you. See rule #4.

6. Infants don't get candy. See rule #1. If you can't say "Trick or Treat" and don't have a disability, you probably aren't going to eat the candy.

7. When the porch light is turned off, there's no more candy to distribute. Or it's past my kids' bedtime and I don't feel like dealing with trick-or-treaters anymore. Don't ring the doorbell. Don't knock. We're done.

8. 10:00 is too late for trick-or-treating. You should be home in bed. You have school tomorrow. Unless you go to Catholic school, you lucky kids!

9. Don't touch the decorations. Don't ask to take them with you. Don't ask me if the skeleton or the fake blood or the spiders or whatever else is real.

10. Say "Thank you" after I give you the candy. Don't glare at me (unless you're really "in character"). Don't act like I owe you more than what I gave you.

Being better, part two

A few weeks ago, I started off with a post called Being better, part one. Any of us is clever enough to think that it would, at some point, be followed with a part two, and maybe even a part three. Heck, I've done multi-part posts before. Multiple times.

Somehow tackling part two was difficult. Probably because I wasn't "being better". My name is Kaleigh and I didn't go to the gym for two weeks.

I have a good excuse for the first week: I was sick! Probably with the flu! And it made my joints hurt so bad that I thought I maybe had Lyme Disease! (Turns out that sneezing is most definitely NOT a symptom of Lyme Disease, at least not according to the Internet, and I make most of my medical decisions based on the Internet, don't you?)

But last week, well, that whole excuse runs out of steam. I could have gone to the gym Thursday night but my calendar said I had book club but then nobody showed up so I could have gone RIGHT THEN but I already had a glass of wine poured and might have even taken a sip from it and ER was about to be on television and blah blah blah.

But Saturday I walked a 5K in just under an hour (with two children), and last night I went back to the gym (and the guy at the front desk still recognized me) and did another 5K on the treadmill, this time in 45 minutes. Did I run? No. But it's still an improvement. My eventual goal (and I don't see it coming to fruition this year, but maybe next year) is to do a 5K in under 30 minutes. Once I accomplish that one, I'll start looking at 10K races. And if I can do one of those in under an hour, I'll entertain the notion of a half-marathon. I've wanted to do a half-marathon for years but never set a date and began training.

Here's the thing. I'm 36. I'll be 37 in May. The Memphis Marathon takes place in December. Along with the marathon, there is also a half-marathon and a 5K.

I'd like to run the marathon when I'm 40. It seems like a good thing to do when one is 40.

I'm going to do the 5K, in some manner, this year. Might not be pretty, might not be running, but I'm going to cross the finish line less than an hour after crossing the start. And next year I'll run that 5K in under 30 minutes. Easily. The following year I'll run the half marathon.

And then, holy cow, I'll turn 40 and run the full marathon. In just 3 years.

Want to join me? Locally? Or virtually? No? Well, at least keep me honest. Hold me to my word. Don't let me slack off.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Movie meme

This is one of those posts that is meaningless to my mom. Sorry, Mom! I'll come up with something better for you later.

'Tis the season, and there's a fun meme going around, so play along if you want.Upon re-reading my answers, I have a feeling my husband is going to be very proud of me. Ya'll know he's a film professor, right?

Scary Movie Meme

Bold those you’ve seen.
Italicize movies you have started but couldn’t finish.
Add an asterisk* to those you have watched more than once.
Underline those on your To Watch list.

The Shining* - Saw it on tv (edited, of course) in junior high and it scared the crap out of me. Watched it recently with hubby and thought it was hilarious.

The Exorcist* - Love this one. Can quote long passages.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Not my favorite. I don't like torture movies.

The Silence of the Lambs* - Why don't I think of this as a horror movie? It's like a cop movie to me, like watching CSI or Law and Order.

JAWS* - We're gonna need a bigger boat. One of my favorites.

Halloween - To be honest, I'm not sure I've ever watched this all the way through. Pretty sure I've seen all the important parts, but not necessarily in order.

Psycho - Good one. I think I liked the remake, too. Does that count as multiple viewings?

Seven - The reason I don't like Brad Pitt. At the end of the movie he makes this ugly face that is so simian that I still call him "Monkey Man". Creepy movie, but creepier face. Ewwwwwwww.

Rosemary’s Baby****** - What does it say about me that I got my hair cut just like Mia Farrow when I was 8 months pregnant with my son? Is that bad? I love this movie. Mia is awesome. And gorgeous. I wish I could have pulled off her pregnant look.

Poltergeist* - Rated PG? Seriously? First movie that scared the mess out of me, but I watched it over and over and over and over.

A Nightmare on Elm Street* - Loved it. Doesn't age well. I like #3 best of the series. That one honestly scared me.

Friday the 13th - Like Halloween, I'm not sure I've ever watched it start-to-finish.

The Thing - I don't think I've seen this one.

The Evil Dead - Evil Dead 2 is much better.

Carrie* - Love this one. Scary? Not to me.

Night of the Living Dead****** - My dad is not a fan of horror films, but I was watching this back in college (the original, of course) and he came in the room for the last half-hour or so. And was transfixed. (This happened more than once with my dad...I had to rewind "The Abyss" from the last ten minutes because he came in and wanted to watch the whole thing.) This movie is so rich in social commentary. One of the best movies of its time.

The Omen - Watched this recently. Fun.

An American Werewolf in London - Nope. And I've always wanted to see this one. Not sure how I've missed it.

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer - This movie is one that disturbed everyone else in the room except me. I thought it was kinda entertaining, and my friends all looked at me really funny. Is that bad?

The Hitcher****** - This one can paralyze me on the couch if I see it's on TV. Of course, the kids are too young for it so my moments for paralysis are rare.

Lost Highway - I love David Lynch, but this isn't my favorite. I didn't get it.

The Blair Witch Project* - Seeing it at the drive-in was a disappointment. It's much scarier at home. Totally worth they hype. Scary.

Pet Cemetery - Surprisingly scary. But doesn't hold up well years later. The effects look very cheesy.

Saw - I made it five minutes, I think. Even knowing it was on in the other room was upsetting. I don't like the torture thing. It's a really disturbing trend.

The Ring - Who thought this was scary? Because it wasn't. These Japanese movies must lose something in translation. Or not. Because the original Japanese of the Grudge is also not scary.
Scream* - Saw this one when I was pregnant with #1, and the opening sequence was so scary that I was afraid I was going to miscarry. That garage door bit was my favorite part.

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Monday, October 29, 2007


In lieu of a real post, here's a recap of recent happenings.

Susie and I dyed our hair pink on Friday night in preparation for Race for the Cure. Hers looks the same as when we did it before, and mine doesn't look pink. Just brighter red than usual. Nobody even seemed to notice it, which means (a) it's extremely subtle or (b) everyone thinks it looks horrible and they're too nice (or stunned) to say anything.

My extremely impromptu costume for our church's auction fundraiser/Halloween party wound up winning in the "Best Monster" category. And I even got a trophy! Which is an awesome turnaround from the past few years. I was a zombie roller derby girl (but I substituted Doc Martins for rollerskates, because I didn't want to die for real).

But alas, the trophy I truly coveted remains out of my grasp. In the second annual chili smackdown, the chili I worked so hard to perfect (and yes, it was amazing) didn't even place. And the winner? Was the same woman who won last year. My kids, however, won their age division for the pumpkin they decorated. I'll try to get some pictures up later.

There's probably a life lesson in there somewhere about trying too hard and being spontaneous and "in the moment" but I'm mostly slightly bummed that I forgot to take pictures of important stuff this weekend: Race for the Cure, which had tons of great photo moments, the auction, and the prep of the chili, because it would have been great on my other blog. Maybe next year.

And possibly the most (or least) noteworthy event of the weekend: I found my first gray hair yesterday. And the kids laughed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

If you see me tomorrow

I'll look a little more like my daughter than usual.

It's October, which means it's Breast Cancer Awareness month. I've worn pink every day this month, and tomorrow is our local Race for the Cure. It's my daughter's second race (she was an infant in arms for the first one), and my son has also decided to join us. We'll be getting up at o'dark-thirty to drive across town to join other folks in raising money and awareness to fight this disease that impacts one in nine women. Some of those women are related to my daughter, which means this disease hits awfully close to home.

Despite the awesomeness demonstrated by my sweet boy in wanting to participate, he won't be joining us in the bathroom tonight when we dye our hair pink.

Please donate to the cause. Every little bit helps!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Feeling chilly?

Come on over to my cooking blog and make some soup!

Routines revisited

A few weeks before I got pregnant with Susie, Craig started teaching college classes. I was taking classes at the time (as well as teaching fourth grade), so we were accustomed to not being together in the evenings. I took my last class a month before she was born, and for the first year or so of her life, Craig's classes were scheduled during the day.

But around the time Alex was born, Craig started teaching evening classes, almost entirely. He even worked another job overnight, one night a week, distributing a weekly newspaper. His schedule was intentional, mostly to accommodate my work schedule (half-days, ending at 2 p.m., eventually shifting later). And the kids and I, we had an evening routine that mostly worked.

With one child, neither of us felt a need to create a schedule for the baby. Susie slept when she slept, ate when she ate, and played when she played. I had a flexible job and Craig was writing his thesis and teaching a couple of classes. We were lucky to have a very, very easy baby (many people accused her of being a robot, not a human), so this approach didn't hurt anything. She was, by nature, a pretty "regular" kid and created her own schedule for napping, sleeping, and eating that worked just fine.

The addition of Alex, however, forced me to be a different kind of mother. The kind of mother who makes a schedule. The kind of mother who uses the word "bedtime" and means it. Since Craig was working most evenings, dinner, bath, and bedtime were my domain. And I was good at it, once I learned how to manage my time well enough to get dinner made and the kids fed before it was dark. And "fall back" was absolutely my favorite time of the year, since the kids couldn't tell time yet. Once it was dark, it was bedtime! And getting them to sleep? Susie has always loved to sleep, and I had the secret weapon that got Alex to sleep every time.

Bedtime is still my domain. Not every night, because sometimes I'm not home when it's bedtime, but most nights. The kids get ready for bed and read for half an hour before lights-out, these days. Even though they aren't looking at the clock, they somehow "know" when it's time. And they start calling down to me, "Come tuck us in!"

This week, I'm back to the part-time single parenting gig, two nights per week for the rest of this semester. Monday didn't go all that well. I was obviously out of practice. Yes, dinner happened, but it was late. The dogs got walked later than they like. Bedtime happened. But there was some chaos mixed in. Last night, however, I was back in my groove. One of the kids joined me when I walked the dogs. I had help in the kitchen getting dinner together. Moods were good, attitudes were good, plates were cleaned. I even managed to convince the children to make their lunches for school and to clean upstairs and bring down the dirty clothes. Two loads of laundry seemed to do themselves as the children worked on their book reports (due next week). We stopped working on those projects to snuggle together and watch Kid Nation. Then teeth, books, tucked in. Very nice.

I love how bedtime works at our house. The routine is great, when we follow it. I give the routine the credit because on the nights we're not in our routine, things don't work nearly as well. What I've learned is that my kids deal with bedtime beautifully when they're tired but not exhausted. If they're exhausted, they become very emotionally fragile, which leads to tears when I tell them "lights out" and they're still doing something (watching a show or a movie or playing on the computer, typical weekend-night activities). If they're just tired, though, they embrace sleep.

Now if I could just convince them to sleep past seven on Saturday mornings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I'm back! (Could you tell that was the laptop talking?) Because it's back! Which means I've got a new post up at my other blog. So come by and bake bread with me! If I have time, you do too.

Not really better

But not any worse. I gave up and did consult Dr. Google, and he assures me that I have the flu. Until I told him I was sneezing, though, I was on thin ice, with a possible granuloma, leukemia, or Lyme Disease diagnosis. The sneezing, though, pushed me over into flu territory. So that's a relief. Because I really didn't like the thought of a tick having bitten me and not being found, ever.

Laptop Watch 2007 update: The Big Box has proven its incompetence. We got a call last night from the Nerd Herd at the Big Box retailer. When they shipped out our laptop to the Uber-Nerds in another state, they failed to enclose the power cord. Since the problem with said laptop is that the power cord and the laptop aren't speaking to each other, one would imagine that such an omission would be problematic. One would be correct. (And points to my husband who even questioned the local nerd's decision to not ship the cord with the laptop.) So I did what I should have done before. I called around to the I.T. people at the Corporation, and three of them recommended the same place. And our laptop will be fixed there. Please pray for a speedy recovery. Again. This time let's all try Vishnu AND Shiva. Just to cover our bases, okay?

I'm tired of school projects that involve timelines. My kids' teachers? You're on notice. No more timelines. And no more projects that require me to take apart our painstakingly-organized photo albums. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

Living with a beginning cello student is not easy or fun, especially when you have the flu and are putting together a photo timeline of your son's life so far. You've been warned.

I really don't have anything else to tell you except that it's less than a week until our neighborhood's annual chili smackdown, which means my family is eating chili every day. Because I've got to find the winning recipe. Yesterday's French cassoulet-inspired chicken chili may be a winner, but tonight I'm going to try a Cincinnati-inspired batch. (And no, I'm not sharing recipes until I know which one is a winner. Because it's a secret.)

At least the weather is cooperating with my culinary plans.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I know! Dozens of people depend on my words to get them through the day. And I'm failing them.

But I have a good excuse. Honest! I'm sick as a dog (well, sicker than my dogs...they're not sick at all) and still don't feel like myself. I'm leaving Dr. Google alone because he'll tell me that I have Lyme Disease or M.S. and really I think it's just a virus. But if I'm not better by tomorrow I'll go to the doctor, just to hear her tell me that it's just a virus and all I can do is wait it out and rest.

This has thrown me off my 5K training. And blogging. And reading email. And a lot of other things. But I've watched a lot of "How Clean Is Your House?" and "The Dog Whisperer" and this other show, which might be my new favorite show ever, "You Are What You Eat." TLC - you're on notice. I'm going back to school to become a dietitian. When I'm done, I'm expecting a fat contract to do the American version of this show. Because I'm perfect for the job.

I promise that I'll post more this week. But I cannot guarantee the quality of said posts. And still, no laptop. Ten days and counting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I was tagged by the my IRL friend, Noodle, for this meme. Here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post rules.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random and some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of post and list their names.
4. Let them know they were tagged by a comment on their blog.

1. I've worn pink every day this month in support of breast cancer awareness. And later this month, when I participate in Race for the Cure, I'll have a pink streak in my hair. I'm fortunate to have supportive people in my life who bring pink clothes for me to borrow (since my own clothes are starting to get boring).

2. I don't have a favorite, or least favorite food. Whenever I see questions about that in surveys, quizzes, or memes, I'm completely baffled. I like carrot cake a lot, but I also like bacon and cheeseburgers and Caprese salads and bagels and sushi. There are plenty of foods I don't prefer, but I can't think of any foods that I truly hate.

3. My hair has never been longer than a bit past my shoulders. Even as a kid, I couldn't stand how long it took to grow my hair. I'm growing it now and it's almost to my shoulders. I don't know how much longer it will get before I give up, but I'm being strong right now.

4. I enjoy pulling weeds out of my lawn but not out of my vegetable garden. I used my parental authority to make the kids weed the vegetable garden. The kids have younger backs.

5. I love to bake bread. And very likely will do so this evening. We have leftover vegetables which would be lovely in soup, and nothing goes with soup like homemade bread. I used to have a bread machine, but there was this time after Susie was born that I made a loaf of bread in it and completely forgot for, um, a month? Maybe more? I threw that joker away and really don't miss it. It was so much more difficult to clean and the bread always stuck to the pan.

6. Many commercial perfumes make me ill. Unfortunately I have a co-worker who doesn't seem to remember this, even though I've emailed her about it and even talked to her supervisor about it. I've actually had to leave work because of an allergic reaction to perfume twice in my life: once from this person's perfume and once from a customer at the bank. I didn't have any allergies when I was a kid. If I want to wear a fragrance now, I choose food-based essential oils like bergamot or vanilla. This filters down to my cleaning product choices, too. I alternate between making my own general cleaning spray (mostly water, with a little vinegar, a little dish soap, and a few drops of tea tree oil and geranium oil) or using "natural" products for cleaning, with the exception of plain old bleach. Nothing smells cleaner to me than freshly bleached sheets. Not a lot of bleach, but a little. (Which is probably why I like hotel sheets. The bleach makes them smell so clean!)

7. I do my best cleaning when I'm on the telephone or angry. If my kitchen stove is gleaming, you can bet that I was recently (a) arguing with my spouse, or (b) talking on the phone with my best friend or my mom. If I'm on the phone in the house for any length of time, I'll wind up spot-cleaning in the kitchen. I can't help it.

So, there you have it. Seven random facts.

And now for the tagging:
1. Kalisah at I am not my hair
2. Stacey at Fertile Ground
3. Hot Librarian
4. Kristabella
5. Kelly O at O for Obsessive
6. Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah
7. My brother-in-law

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Being better, part one

Everybody goes through spurts of self-improvement, right? Because I've figured out that I'm in the middle of one.

This summer, I committed to a couple of things that would improve my life.

1. Joined a gym (and really go and work out regularly)
2. Organize my non-primary-job-related paperwork, correspondence, and calendar

The paperwork and calendar organization encompasses several different roles in my life. Obviously, I'm a wife and mom and homeowner and partner in running our household, so there are plenty of papers and events that fall under those roles. Insurance documents, mortgage information, tax papers, medical documents. And they do pile up. But I set up a system to deal with these papers regularly, and the stack on the dining room table? Is gone.

I also serve on the board of my church and have a part-time, work-at-home job. Both of those roles are also accompanied by reams of paper and monthly (or more) meetings. And, just like those household papers, they can pile up. But once I found my three-hole punch and emptied a couple of binders, my paper problems were behind me.

But the calendar was more difficult. I'm a big believer in the Seven Habits method, and for years I had used a Franklin Covey classic (5 x 8.5") planner. I'd used the two-pages-per-day style and the two-pages-per-week style, but neither was really suiting my needs. After hearing a speaker in May touting the joys of the spiral-bound monthly planner, I gave that a try. And made it three months. I needed more space for writing, and that flimsy cover was not working for me. It was time to reconsider my options. My planner was too big and bulky to fit in my purse, and my on-foot commute doesn't make carrying multiple bags a good option.

A couple of years ago, I had purchased a compact size planner because I liked the meal-planning and grocery list pages that came with it. I never added calendar pages to it, and it quickly became a dust-catcher, then a part of my closet landscape. But my recent planner quandary prompted me to dig it out of the closet and put it in my purse, then buy new calendar pages for it. And now I'm rocking the small planner, two pages per day, and it's working for me. It fits in my purse so I'm never without it. It has plenty of room for me to write notes and reminders, and I get to use that powerful Covey tool, the weekly compass.

One spillover that I've noticed is that Susie is becoming more interested in organization. She has taken my planner more than once and studied the system. She really likes the project planning pages and thinks they could help her with school projects. (I don't think they'd be all that useful for that purpose, but I definitely think that internalizing an organization system before one's teen years can be nothing but useful.)

Another is that I don't forget things and meetings and events don't take me by surprise. I have a few standing commitments that always take place on the same day. By writing them in advance, and by using the calendar daily, I see them coming beforehand and can alert the family as to when I'll be out.

So the calendar is working great. What about the other changes? Stay tuned. This might take a while. Especially with the laptop still in the laptop hospital. Keep praying.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Busy weekend + dead laptop = no posting

The laptop is sick. Hopefully the nerd herd at the big box retailer in the suburbs can fix it. The power supply is not talking nicely to the computer, and the battery is dead. So no pictures. No posts on my cooking blog, even though I have tons of great pictures ready to narrate. Everyone please take a moment of silence, praying for the speedy and inexpensive healing of the laptop.

Even if the laptop had been well all weekend, I very well may not have posted. We stayed busy, with adventure after adventure.

I spent Saturday morning doing research for NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month). I don't know if I'll really be able to write the required 50,000 words to "win", but I'm going to give it a good try. (The laptop, of course, is a necessary ingredient. Can't lug the desktop when we go out of town, and writing longhand sounds like torture.) I'm planning to write a historical novel inspired by a large collection of family correspondence that was transcribed by a distant cousin. Most of the letters are from the Civil War era, and I found myself chuckling and laughing out loud at some of them. I think the snarkyness? Comes from my mom's side of the family. There was some serious snark going on.

After reading hundreds of pages of Civil War letters, it was time to get dressed and do something outdoors, given the perfect weather. So we all suited up in comfortable clothes and hit the three-mile hiking trail at Shelby Forest. It's a challenging trail with lots of ups and downs (surprising, yes, since we're in the Mississippi Delta). I can tell that working out is doing good, because I wasn't a bit sore the next day.

But the day wasn't finished yet! The next planned event was a fancy night out with a girlfriend (drinks! the opera! fancy!), so I showered and started getting ready. Thank goodness I put on some clothes, because somehow (seriously, I don't know how) the front door was open and the dogs escaped and there was a ten-minute dog-chasing frenzy (which has, strangely, been followed by a period of uncharacteristic mellowness on the part of our big, hyper dog...not sure what happened but she's better for it), all of which would have been a nightmare in a towel or bathrobe. I got dressed in the nick of time, and my buddy and I hit the town in grand style. Drinks were great, the opera was great, all's well.

And then? As if the weekend hadn't been busy enough?

Sunday gets bullet points.

  • Blah blah church blah blah potluck blah blah recruited to sing in the choir that day since there were no altos and I already knew the music blah blah.
  • Shopping with local blogger turned IRL gal pal! She was extremely helpful in finding a dress for me to wear to the much-anticipated wedding of my brother and his hot blonde girlfriend. It's a good sign that I'm picking out my own dress because every time I've worn a bridesmaid's dress the couple has gotten divorced within five years. Yes, I'm the nuptial kiss of death. Hopefully my daughter does not carry the curse, as she's a junior bridesmaid.
  • Daughter's girl scout re-dedication (and investiture, for the new girls), which is always jarring, especially since some of these girls are well into puberty. And I've known them since they were three. I promise I didn't sing "Sunrise, Sunset" out loud, but it was really hard not to.
  • And we drove home and I made dinner (Swedish meatballs! My mom's recipe! I've never done that before! Alex loved them!)
  • Read, watched TV, and went to bed.
I guess you probably didn't need that last bullet, but I didn't want you to think we all just vanished into the mist after dinner. Maybe I should add that I did a load of laundry and washed dishes. No? Too bad I can't post a picture.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Farther from my grasp

When I was a teenager, I went to a lot of protests...protesting the U.S. funding of the Contras in Nicaragua....apartheid....whatever other issue was out there. My parents were not in love with my hippie-inspired lifestyle and attire, but my mom had moments in which I could see that she was supportive of a lot of those causes. One time, in the car, I promised, half-joking, that if I ever won the Nobel Peace Prize, I'd split the prize money with her, 50/50.

Twenty years later, I doubt I'll ever see that prize. Sorry, Mom. But someone who deserved it much more than I ever will got it today.

Another example of a man who did so much for the good of the world after his political career ended.

Hat tip to Kalisah for the link. I'm glad I can count on the local blogging community to keep me abreast of current events. And to take me shopping for something to wear to my brother's wedding.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Can I get an Amen?

I realized that the interview questions made blogging much easier over the past week. Because I didn't have to think about what to write about, just what to write. And that was pretty great. And I had some great ideas over the past week about other things to write about, but most of them have escaped my increasing sieve-like brain. So? A random story from the weekend.

Friday night, when my parents were visiting, we were coming back from dinner and heard a loud noise, like a voice amplified on a loudspeaker. At first we thought it was a car radio about a block east, but the more we listened, the more we didn't know what it was. We went inside the house and still heard it, and Craig, who hadn't gone to dinner, said it had been going on for about an hour. My dad and I looked at each other and hit the door, with the intention of finding the source of this noise. Craig and Susie joined us, leaving my mom home with Alex.

So we start driving east and north, still thinking what we're hearing is only a block or two away. Still not there, but getting louder. We continue east, and the noise gets louder and louder, especially near one of about 40 Baptist churches in the surrounding area. We hear "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!" coming through the loudspeaker, so we begin to think there's a revival going on in the back of the church. We also notice there are two voices, one male and one female. Dad steers the car around the corner, thinking we're going to see a tent or something in the back of this church. Nope. But it's getting louder as we head north.

And then we see it. A house. A front yard. A lectern. Folding chairs set up in rows in the yard. About thirty chairs, but only three or four are occupied. A man at the podium and a woman sitting next to him, both with microphones. Preaching the word at 9 p.m. on a Friday night.

Keep in mind that where we live is pretty much an island of middle-class inside an economically-depressed part of town. It doesn't take long for the neighborhood to change. And we had quickly left the middle-class oasis and were fully in the 'hood. So there's tons of foot traffic and people sitting on porches and loitering and so on. And as people walk by the loud, poorly-attended impromptu revival, they don't even slow down or look or anything.


But maybe even more awesome is that Susie and I looked at each other and said, in unison, "I'm so blogging this!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Five of Five

The final question (which was really the first) from Slouching Mom.

1. You belong to a UU church. One criticism often levelled at Unitarianism is that it is so inclusive (a good thing, IMO) that it loses what defines one religion versus another. In other words, if you believe in everything, isn't that really the same thing as believing in nothing? How would you respond to this criticism? Unabridged (v 1.1)
creed /krid/
1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.
4. the creed. Apostles' Creed.
[Origin: bef. 1000; ME crede, OE créda, crédō I believe; see credo] —Related forms
creedal, credal, adjective
creeded, adjective
creedless, adjective
creed·less·ness, noun
—Synonyms 1, 2. faith, conviction, credo, dogma. Unabridged (v 1.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

A topic near and dear to my heart, this one. Just last night I was at a church board meeting where we viewed a video that is part of the new marketing campaign launched by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA).

I think there's a misconception about UU that sometimes even exists within our churches. That idea that you can believe in anything you want and be a UU.

I'd like to shoot that one down right now.

When asked about our faith, many UUs frequently point out that our denomination does not have a creed. To quote the Rev. Marta Flanagan, "We uphold the free search for truth. We will not be bound by a statement of belief. We do not ask anyone to subscribe to a creed. We say ours is a non-creedal religion. Ours is a free faith." Now, according to the third and fourth definitions above, that is true. But according to the first two definitions, I'm not convinced that we're explaining ourselves very well when we wave the non-creedal flag.

Although our faith is inclusive, it is not all-inclusive. Some denominations (here I'm really thinking mostly of evangelical Christianity, but I could also include fundamentalist or orthodox sects within Judaism and Islam, and perhaps even Hindu) draw a very small circle around their beliefs. The small circle represents what they do believe, and everything outside the circle represents what they reject. Each denomination's circle is a little different; some are so similar that the differences can only be detected by those within the group. Liberal Christian (and Jewish, and Muslim, and Hindu, and Buddhist, etc.) denominations have larger circles of belief.

Unitarian Universalism, however, is perceived as having a circle so large that, in fact, there is no circle at all. There is nothing rejected. All is accepted.

That's simply not true.

In establishing our seven principles, our denomination has drawn a circle.

Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Our circle, in its affirmation of the inherent worth and dignity of every person, rejects beliefs that create artificial hierarchies. We reject beliefs that tell wives to "graciously submit" to their husbands. We reject beliefs that form social castes. We reject beliefs that tell believers that killing others is justified and right. We reject ritual abuse and sacrifice. We reject a lot. But, even in that rejection, we must have compassion, or we're not respecting the worth and dignity of the believers in those fundamentalist, unjust religions. (Love the sinner, hate the sin, as my Baptist friends would say.)

And the other six principles uphold that first principle, which is the Unitarian Universalist "Golden Rule," the standard by which all actions and attitudes can be judged. Do my actions affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of this other person, this group of people?

Our faith's emphasis on inclusiveness is demonstrated well in our children's religious education programs, which incorporates study of world religions as well as Unitarian and Universalist history, the Bible, and social justice curricula. By teaching our children about these other faith traditions, we show them that the core beliefs of each of the major world religions are basically the same. But when we're teaching children about Buddhism, that doesn't mean we're teaching our children how to be Buddhists. We're not suggesting that they should. They already have a religion. When we visit other churches to learn about Neighboring Faiths, we never suggest to the children that they should start attending those churches regularly. Instead, we emphasize how similar many churches really are, in liturgy, in beliefs. That curriculum gives our children a more sophisticated understanding of our church's place in the surrounding faith community. They learn that, while our church is small and our denomination is really smaller, our heritage is deeply intertwined with most Protestant denominations.

We teach our children to respect other people's beliefs, even if they are different from their own. Those seven principles? Are at the core of the children's religious education program. And they form a system, a doctrine. Dare I say it? It looks like a creed to me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Four of five

First, a little housekeeping. Sorry to have been an absentee blogger for the last several days. My wonderful parents came to visit and we were having too much fun assembling Ikea furniture for me to post anything.

Back to the questions:

Which of the Democratic candidates running for President is inspiring you lately?

Yikes. Here's the thing (and this actually refers to a conversation I had with my parents this weekend). I'm not very up on current events.

With my non-commute and MP3 player and inappropriate love for listening to politically-incorrect podcasts that contain lots of bad words, I've slipped in my understanding of global and national news.

When I worked across town and commuted to work, I was a much-better-informed voter, at least in national elections. I've never been a fan of local news (sorry!), but my commute gave me an hour or so of uninterrupted NPR listening time. When we were going to war after September 11, I had a pretty decent understanding of what was going on, so when I was critical of the administration and its actions, I was able to back up my words. These days, I'm lucky to get an hour of NPR news a week. Mostly I learn about current events from The Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Maher. Not bad sources, but I won't say they're objective. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I know more about Britney Spears and Keven Federline's custody battle than the state of the presidential race.

That being said, I do have a favorite candidate so far. Two favorites, really. One that I'll vote for and one that I wish had a fighting chance.

Dennis Kucinich and Hillary Clinton. I think you can figure out which is which, right?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Three of five

Slouching Mom's third question, in a series of five.

Susie is on the cusp of adolescence. Are you ready? Is she ready?

Slouching Mom's got adolescence on her mind, I think. Her son, who is right between my children, is just starting to seem a little less like a little boy and more like a little man. I've been dealing with this situation a little longer (maybe a lot longer, because girls truly do start growing up before boys) and no longer find it shocking.

To be honest, I'm loving the beginning of adolescence, from my vantage point, anyway. Susie is a very sensible, down-to-earth girl who doesn't generate much drama. The physical changes of puberty have been explained to her (in our church's sexuality education program, but also by me, and in a fantastic book that every girl should get when she turns nine, The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls) and she seems to embrace those changes. When she noticed that her body was changing, she asked me if it was possible for us to go bra shopping. In the same tone she would use if she needed new shoes.

We've also talked about the emotional changes. We started that conversation when she was just a tiny little girl, when she caught me crying as I read Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. She asked me why I was crying and I told her that it made me sad to think that one day she would be so grouchy and mean and wouldn't like me very much, but that those things are pretty normal when girls get to be that age. She sweetly hugged me and looked into my eyes and told me, "I'll try not to be like that." And I knew that she, in her four-going-on-forty wisdom, indeed would try.

That being said, she has definitely become more sensitive as she's approached puberty. It's easier to rub her the wrong way. It's easier to make her cry. It's easier to get on her nerves. Fortunately for me, it's easy for me to bring her back to the sun.

She's always been my golden child. As a tot, her skin would develop a beautiful golden tan in the summer, while her hair was highlighted from playing outside. She looked like she was made of gold to me. Her disposition was sunny, her laughter infectious.

As she's grown, she's retained that sunny disposition and delightful laugh. Her skin still tans, but it no longer stretches over chubby baby skin. Long, strong limbs have grown from those chubby arms and legs I remember so well, only ten years before. Her hair no longer bleaches blonde from the summer sun, probably because of the purple, blue, or pink streaks we've applied. A few little bumps have scattered on her face, reminding me of my own face, years ago, but also of that newborn acne she had only a few weeks after her birth. (I remember reading in one of the many baby books I read that newborn acne is a protective rash because it keeps parents from taking their baby all around and showing them off. I wonder if adolescent acne isn't protective in a similar way...keeping those fragile tweens from being too perfect too soon.)

Her brain is different, too. Keener in ways. Understanding jokes better. Making jokes better. Making connections. Even understanding the difference in how I explain a math problem and how her teacher explains a math problem (and knowing that if she has a problem with math, that she should ask me for help because she understands my explanations). She understands social obligations better, and has taken it upon herself (she and another girl at school) to help the two boys in the class who have learning problems.

She's also started noticing cars and has some strong feelings about BMW convertibles. Don't even ask me where this comes from. A strange recessive gene is the best I can imagine.

It's interesting territory. I wouldn't trade these years for anything.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


The Great Mofo Delurk 2007 In case you hadn't noticed, today has been declared a delurking day. Which means you need to leave a comment. Stat.

The background on how this new holiday came to be is simple. Several bloggers were dismayed to notice that their entries were getting fewer and fewer comments. Where was the love?

My theory (because it's true in my case) is that feed readers are to blame. It's easy to go to Google Reader and read all your blogs. I have to really have something to say to click to the actual site and leave a comment. Because all that clicking? Is work.

But today? Today is a crosstraining day on my 5K training schedule. And all that clicking definitely counts, right?

So get your exercise and click the "leave a comment" link and then type words. Because that will burn calories.

And, just because I love you, I'll be teaching you a couple of wonderful recipes on my other blog this week. Making bread and my family's favorite soup. Just because it's almost 90 degrees outside doesn't mean I can't pretend it's really fall.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Two of five

Second in a series of five, I'm answering another of Slouching Mom's questions.

Did you ever consider having a third child? Why or why not?

Yes and no.

During my second pregnancy, I was working through a lot of self-created angst about my prior c-section. The plan for the second birth was a VBAC homebirth, but I knew that things may not work the way I wanted. Add to the equation that I was fully convinced that I was pregnant with a girl. I had imagined a family in which I was the mom of four girls for quite some time.

I had drawn a line in the sand, however, with c-sections. I was unwilling to have more than two. Which meant that if the second birth wound up being a c-section, I'd be done, because that almost decreed that my subsequent births would also be surgical.

Long story short, the ultrasound told us, in no uncertain terms, that this baby was definitely a boy. And I had a c-section. So at that point, there were no plans to have another child. When a friend's child was diagnosed with a truly frightening heart defect just a year later, we were even more certain that our family was complete. Craig was truly afraid to tempt fate, knowing that we had two healthy and wonderful children. What if the third child had problems?

A year after that, we had a pregnancy scare. My period was two weeks late (which had only happened when I was pregnant, and has never happened since) and I'm pretty sure that EPT stock went through the roof that week. Each test said no, but I was sure that I was pregnant and that the tests were wrong or defective. And I didn't think it was a bad thing at all. I had good health insurance and had earned enough time off that maternity leave would be okay. I wouldn't go so far as to say I was delighted at the thought of being pregnant, but I wasn't horrified. But then I finally got my period and was stunned by how happy I was. All thoughts of another child were immediately replaced by the thrill my heart felt when I said the word vasectomy.

The best part of this story is that neither of us have had any regrets. We are all very happy with the size of our family. I have two fantastic children, each very different from the other yet so very related. We all fit easily in our house. I look at family and friends with babies or little kids, and I don't envy them. Because it's so much more fun to ride the big roller coasters with the big kids.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Five Questions

Slouching Mom kindly offered to interview me, and she gave me some great questions to answer. So great, actually, that I'm going to answer them all week instead of just today. Here are the questions.

1. You belong to a UU church. One criticism often levelled at Unitarianism is that it is so inclusive (a good thing, IMO) that it loses what defines one religion versus another. In other words, if you believe in everything, isn't that really the same thing as believing in nothing? How would you respond to this criticism?

2. Which of the Democratic candidates running for President is inspiring you lately?

3. Susie is on the cusp of adolescence. Are you ready? Is she ready?

4. Did you ever consider having a third child? Why or why not?

5. You've made no secret of your fondness for Memphis. If you couldn't live in Memphis, what city or town would appeal to you, and why?

I'm going to start with #5 and work forward. Because it's my blog and I get to do whatever I want.

I do love Memphis. Yes, I do. (If, by the way, you ever want to read something that will explain almost perfectly why I love Memphis so much, read the Memphis chapter in the book Big Muddy : Life on the Mississippi Revisited. It captures my love for this city better than anything else I've ever read.)

But there are other cities I love. Or like. Or find intriguing.

The number one city that I'd move to is Kansas City, Missouri.

That's almost cheating, though. Kansas City is the city I know best (besides Memphis). My parents were both born there, and until 2002, my grandmother lived there, in the same house that my mom grew up in. Kansas City was never my hometown (which makes me different from my mom, dad, brother, and all my grandparents), but it's my family's home. Holidays were spent there. The first shopping mall I remember is in Kansas City. I have memories of the Plaza that are stronger than memories of places I lived for years. I haven't been back since my grandmother moved to Michigan in 2002, but I'd love an excuse to go.

Probably because I spent so much time there as a child, Kansas City always felt like home to me. The city itself is well-designed and very pretty. The older houses are truly gorgeous (one of my Irish ancestors was a stonemason there and I've seen some of the buildings he built, which gives me a very distinct feeling of ownership and blood-ties to the city). Artistic districts seem to thrive there and there's lots of good food to be had.

But there's something else. Something about Kansas City that makes it feel like I could move there and not face a major culture shift. Let's consider how similar Kansas City and Memphis really are. They're both border cities, on the very edge of their states, and both have rivers in their city. Each has a sister city (or two, or three) in the bordering state(s) (West Memphis, AR/Olive Branch and Southaven, MS, to Overland Park/Kansas City, KS). They are both, arguably, the #2 cities in their state (Nashville to St. Louis). They're both famous for their barbeque. Each city hosts the headquarters of a religious denomination (COGIC in Memphis, Unity in Kansas City). Both cities also boast some affiliation with professional sports (KC has the Royals and the Chiefs, while Memphis has the Grizzlies).

In size, Kansas City and Memphis are nearly identical, with Memphis encompassing 314 square miles and Kansas City occupying 318. Populations are similar as well. While Memphis proper has a larger population (670,000 vs. 450,000), Kansas City's metro is a little bigger (1,361,000 to 1,260,000). Both are plagued by crime, particularly in the inner core of the city, both have excellent and safe drinking water, and both are experiencing downtown renaissances, with New Urbanism's utopian style deeply influencing both areas.

Both cities also share similar political histories in the first half of the twentieth century. Political machines ran both cities for years, with Kansas City's Pendergast mirroring Memphis's Boss Crump.

See what I mean? Moving from Memphis to Kansas City would be a move to the Midwest, true, so I wouldn't get to hear the lilt of Southern accents, nor would I see the Mississippi Delta topography. I'd still, however, be in a river city of about the same size, with a similar history and similar problems. I'd probably have an easy time finding the neighborhood I'd want to call "home," and I'd learn my way around the city with more ease than a totally strange city, since I've spent, in aggregate, many months there, visiting family. The weather would be similar to what I'm used to (maybe a little colder in the winter, with four distinct seasons), and the ethnic mix is similar.

So if a new Boss Crump ever runs me out of Memphis, I guess you know where to look for me.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's answer regarding my reproductive decisions.