Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Unexpected Lesson Learned from the North Texas Icemaggedon 2013

I spent a good deal of the great North Texas Icemaggedon of 2013 reading, writing, cooking, and hanging out on Facebook. I was comfortable in my tiny home with my fire going and heater keeping the indoors at a balmy 64 degrees. There was just too much ice and an inability to remove it in a reasonable time. The new word we all learned: cobblestone ice. I actually had to get in it Monday for jury duty...not fun at all and I fully understand anyone who didn't want to leave their house and get out in it (my mom did have to go to work, and I finally understood her terror at driving in that ice!).

The chatter on Facebook was hilarious. Cabin fever after spending two days with their children, which then extended into three, then four. Videos of ice falling off of buildings and onto cars was tragic. Lots of people decorated for Christmas (my decorations are in my very cold garage, so I'm STILL not decorated!). Everyone was cooking and taking pictures of their food. I did it. I was lucky to have a very well stocked pantry.

Then there were the pictures of the grocery stores. Empty shelves everywhere, especially the bread isles. Now, I've always joked that storms mean a French Toast panic because all the milk, eggs, and bread get bought up. That's usually all I ever say when people post these pictures. Many people had quite a bit more to say, though, usually making fun of all the people panicking about not having food and how stupid they were to do that...and why bread?

It didn't really hit me until I finally got back to school after my jury duty stint how important that bread could be to people. As I was talking to my students before school started this morning, several of them mentioned just how glad they were for the ice to be gone because they were able to eat more than sandwiches. One young lady in particular spent the entire ice storm taking care of her little brothers and sisters because her mother stayed at the nursing home where she works as a nurse aid to care for the residents. Before the storm hit, her mother only had time to grab a few items at the store, including three loaves of bread. This 17 year old young lady was responsible for making sure her four siblings had something to eat from Friday until Monday, when her mother finally was able to come home. They went through all the bread during that time. This family is poor and heavily relies on other sources for meals, including school breakfasts and lunches, and meals prepared at the church on Sundays. That’s six extra meals missing for five people they were not anticipating. 

Who really anticipated that, on Thursday night, most North Texans wouldn't really be able to leave their homes until sometime late Monday? While I was finding item after item to cook and having a grand ol' time of it, with many leftovers for the rest of the week, there were people who only had those loaves of bread, cartons of eggs, or milk. Not everyone has the money to have more than just a weeks' worth of food, especially families who have to make food go just a little bit further during the month of December, in anticipation of their children being out for the two week Winter Break and will no longer have access to breakfast and lunch at school. If you looked at the closure lists, one always sticks out for me: Meals on Wheels. What do those people who benefit from meals being delivered to them do when it gets icy? Do they have something "a little extra" in their pantry to tide them over? Do their neighbors watch out for them? Or, do they just not eat? The human body can go several days without eating, but your system needs nourishment to keep the organs running properly. There's a reason for the saying "fuel your body, feed your mind."

This takes me back to those photos of the bread isles that were all over Facebook and other news sites. Some of the comments were extremely snarky and judgmental. Not thinking about others and their situations is the ultimate in self-righteousness, demeans the human spirit, and takes away basic humanity. I'm not trying to turn around and judge those people, but the situation does beg to question: what right do you have to make assessments on other people when it comes to food? For my young lady, those three loaves of bread were what kept her family fed for four days. I'm sure that there are thousands of other similar stories like this all across North Texas. Should that be criticized?

Take this time to look over those full pantries of yours, if you have one, and see what you might be able to donate to the food banks. They are going to be hit extra hard this year and the need will be even greater due to the storm. For more information, visit the Tarrant Area Food Bank, or North Texas Area Food Bank for donation information. Also, check out Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County. They can always use volunteers.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

There is Gratitude in Letting Go…

Having this week off for Thanksgiving Break, I’ve been ruminating over the whole idea of gratitude. What am I really grateful for? I can honestly say that not being able to let go has been a big part of my life for the past few months, and I’m finally getting to the acceptance part of letting go. I really am truly grateful for that.

You see, I have a huge problem with being able to let go. Once an idea gets into my mind, or a person makes their way into my heart, it is extremely difficult for me to get it out, even when it is obvious that the ideas or feelings are not going to work out or in my best interest. The worse part of my not being able to let go is that it blocks me from so much. I can’t focus on what needs to be done because my mind is fixated so much on what I want to happen. I can’t get things done around my house because my mind is passing time thinking about what I don’t have in my life. Even more destructive for me, I can’t concentrate enough to even write, or, when I do finally sit down to write, it’s all about those things I can’t let go of.

So, my mantra this week has been “Let Go.” It’s painful sometimes to chant it. It makes me cry. It makes me long for what I need to release. It also reminds me that there is more to life than those things my mind can’t seem to get away from. When I feel my mind wandering to those ideas, I say out loud, “Let Go.” I said it in the middle of the grocery store, during Thanksgiving dinner, while getting a pedicure, and always just before I slip into sleep. It helps. Really, it does. Just say it until you believe it. I was able to write this very post because I kept telling myself, “Let Go.”

I’m setting myself free from my thoughts. I am unblocked. I’ve Let Go.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why I separate my recycling, and other Type-A Hippie stuff…

Yes, I separate my recycling. Doesn’t it look pretty? When it’s time to take it out to the bin, though, it all gets dumped in together. Why do I waste my time separating it, then? I’ve already said…because it looks pretty and organized in my kitchen. I recycle everything I possibly can, by the way. If it looks like it could possibly go in the recycling, I put it in there. I can’t toss those batteries, but collect them until they can be taken to the hazardous waste drop off, along with the empty paint cans. Those CFL bulbs? They go with me to IKEA. Did you know that you could recycle Brita filters as most Whole Foods? Yep, I do that, too. I think I am an OCD recycler.

This is just one of the strange, secretly hippie things that I do. My last foray into blogging was centered around my discovering new green-ish, crunchy, hippie things (um…go check it out-

I’ve made a habit of using more reusable items and less throw-away stuff. I try not to be one of those “I’m better than you because I use or do this” kind of people who brags about what they do and then challenges your morals because you don't. I just try to do my part and hope there are others out there doing the same. 

Here are a few examples of permanent changes I’ve made in my life:

Hankies- I have several vintage hankies that I use when going out to nice places, but my everyday hankies are very soft fleece cutouts. Rarely will you find a box of tissues at my house, except when I know company will be coming. These fleece hankies are so soft on my nose when I have a cold and easy on that sensitive area under my eyes when I’ve been crying. Plus, I know I won’t blow a hole in them when I blow my nose! I love them and couldn’t imagine not having them in my house, purse, car, desk at school, yoga bag…you get the idea!

Real cloth napkins- I have literally 100 cloth napkins. I use them for every meal, even at school. There is just something special about using a cloth napkin which forces you to slow down, relax, and enjoy your meal. I use 1 roll of paper towels every month or so. I also keep that usage down by using cloth kitchen towels. It just makes sense to me.

Reusable kitchen items- I use lidded Pyrex instead of plastic ware. It’s better for re-warming things, and you don’t have to worry about any plastic leaching into your food! The downside…it hurts when someone misplaces my Pyrex and can be expensive to replace! I do not drink plastic bottled water, but instead use aluminum bottles and refill them. Also, I have several reusable baggies I use in place of plastic baggies. It just makes more sense and you can clean them out!

Clothes drying racks- I’ve gotten bad about not drying my clothes on the racks every time, but I do pull them out quite a bit. I went almost two years exclusively using drying racks. My mom and I bought a new washer and dryer together, though, and my drying rack habit has gone by the wayside. It is awesome to put clothes outside in the middle of summer and they’re dry before you even get the chance to get the others washed! Just put the darker items in the shade so they don’t bleach out.

Composting- I compost everything that can be composted. I have a barrel composter and use the “soil” it makes to do anything from filling in holes in my yard, enriching the soil that is already there, and, sometimes, supplementing the organic soil for my garden. 

And this is the point in the blog where it gets a little TMI…read at your own risk!

Reusable toilet cloths- First reaction…gross! Yeah, I thought so, too, but I don’t use them for everything! Well, not all of everything…not #2. I use toilet paper for that! The big thing about using reusable toilet cloths is that you need to wash them every week. Drink lots of water so you don’t have a bad smell. In reality, it’s not any worse than washing your panties, so don’t get them all in a twist over this! I made my own (actually, my mom made them for me) out of thinner fleece than the ones used for my hankies. There are certain times of the month you wouldn’t want to use these. Ladies, we know when that is, and this is when I use the TP!

Reusable menstrual pads- yeah, if you thought the toilet cloths were gross, these can be downright disgusting. I quit using disposables about 6 years ago and haven’t really looked back. I don’t like the bleach used in most pads, or the diaper-like feeling in wearing them. I do use bleach-free cotton tampons when necessary. I’m tempted to try a Diva Cup (, since they do sell them at Central Market, but I just haven’t needed it yet. There are many patterns where you can make your own, but I get mine from So, just how do I keep these from totally getting the gag-reflex going? Well, I have to be on top of washing them right away. I have a lidded bucket I keep in my bathroom, where I place my reusable toilet cloths that the pads go into. My period is generally only 3-4 days, so there aren’t many in there and they don’t sit long. As soon as I’m done, the bucket gets filled with water, a scoop of oxy clean gets dumped in, they soak a bit in the oxy clean, then dump, rinse, wring out, and wash with the towels. That’s it. The best part…I always know I have them and there are no emergency store runs!

So, there you have it. These are the few things that I’ve continued to do over the years. You wouldn’t think of it to look at me, but, yeah, I have the soul of a Green Peace-lovin, tree-huggin hippie and I try to do my part in saving just a bit of the planet that I can. I’m sure that there are many subconscious things we all do to help Mother Earth, but it is so ingrained in us, that we don’t even pay it attention anymore. I’m always on the lookout for something else to add to my repertoire, so if you find something you think sounds cool, let me know, okay?

Oh, and I have one thing that I tried to change, but just couldn’t get used to- reusable coffee filters. I have six of these just sitting in my cabinet. No matter how clean I thought I got them, they just weren’t right and made the coffee taste a little (actually, a lot) funky. I’ll use them in a pinch, but for now, unbleached disposable or my French press is the way to go for me! Um… don’t try them unless you can find a better way of getting them clean than using boiling water and baking soda.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When you have to explain your Halloween costume…

Today is Halloween, one of my favorite holidays of the year! I love dressing in costume. As a matter of fact, I have more than one costume to wear today. It does bother me that, as a Texan (from Fort Worth, no less!), a woman, and an educator, I’ve actually had to explain my work costume…to other educated people. The pink shoes should have been a major give away to anyone who has paid attention to anything going on in this state for the last 5 months.

I feel like I need to wear a nametag that says, “Hello, My name is Wendy Davis, and I’m running for Governor.” Wendy, who is the most passionate cheerleader of public education the state has seen in a very long time, is not recognizable to educators. If “all politics is local,” then we need to make sure everyone can recognize their local politicians and know what they stand for (which is to say, more than just “Oh, she’s a Democrat,” or “Yep, he’s a Republican”). These are the people who make the decisions that most affect our lives, so to not know someone as influential as a state senator and gubernatorial candidate…well, it’s just sad to me.

She’s more than just a pair of pink shoes speaking for 11 hours about abortion and women’s health. She’s not a one-issue candidate. Take a look. Also, check out her competition. Know the issues…all of them…then decide. The fact that so many educated people are so uninformed leads me to believe that the rest of the state is either just as badly informed or…not at all!

We have a year, Texas. A long, long year.

If you don’t know Wendy, here’s her campaign video explaining who she is in less than 5 minutes.

Here’s what the Texas Observer has to say about her chances of winning in red state Texas:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Finding the Writing Time…

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” ~E. L. Doctorow

I used to believe that I had no time to write. As a high school librarian, my day is busier than one might expect. It should be, really, if you’re doing a good job. I do have brief moments of downtime, though, and I finally learned to take advantage of this. I used to fill this time by reading random articles online. Unless they are about librarianship, though, that is definitely not a productive use of my time (although I do learn quite a bit of general information, so…I’ll still keep doing this every once in a while). Now, if I have time on my hands, I spare a few minutes here, a few minutes there and, eventually, I have sentences and paragraphs strung together into something that someone might want to read.

The point is, you can’t “plan” to write. You just have to do it. I’ve been telling myself this for years. I have so many synopsis and outlines for screenplays and stories (which, if more thought is put into it, could be novels!), but nothing has really, actually been finished. I have a screenplay that I’m working on right now, editing it to perfection, so that I can have a completed 1st draft. It’s not finished yet, though. It won’t be until I say it is. This novel that I plan…oops…that I’m going to write in November, may very well turn into a screenplay when I get down to it, but I have to get down to it!

In saying this, if you’re going to be a writer, you ultimately have to hold yourself accountable for your writing. If you have a busy life full of work, exercise (I personally practice yoga and Nia), take care of a home, and also try to have a fulfilling social life, you really have to make time to write. I used to say that I only had time to write when I had school breaks, but that simply isn’t true. I don’t even have the excuse of kids to distract me from my passion. I have time to write whenever possible, but I simply have to make myself do it. Sometimes it can be a chore. Sometimes I have to stop myself from just plain goofing off and direct that energy to putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. It’s a daily reminder, like taking vitamins or doing that exercise. You have to put it into your daily routine to make it a habit.

So, with that being said, if you are going to be a writer, like E.L. Doctorow says, you must write. Stop planning on someday and make it happen today. Yes, if you’ve made it this far in the post, you have found that I am really speaking to myself as much as anyone else out there. What are you waiting for? Get to it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To be a writer…

The Fearless Butterfly,
Spreading its wings,
Flits ever so close
To the flame
Dreaming of warmth,
But cautious of the burn.

I’ve always wanted to earn my living as a writer. I just assumed that I’d either have to live a life of poverty, or have a full-time “regular” job to actually take care of my day to day living. Stuff like food, shelter, transportation, and clothing don’t just pay for themselves!

As I approach 40 a few years from now, I’m still working towards that dream. I write short stories, social issue essays, poetry, screenplays, and…starting in November for NaNoWriMo…a novel! I’ve spent the past 15 years either working in publishing, teaching others how to write as an English teacher, and sharing the joy of reading as a librarian. The time as a writer for me is now.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings as well as the creative endeavors I hope to share here. I plan on posting frequently and look forward to your comments, questions, and praise!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ikea, or, Where Your Credit Card Goes to Die!

Today my mom and I took a journey east to Ikea so that I could pretend that I was Swedish for a few hours. I had a list. I knew I'd be spending some money. I always try to make sure that whatever I'm getting there, it's something I really need to function better. Well, $245 later, I got everything I went there for, including a small area rug for the living room ($14!).

I hate overconsumerism and I especially hate it when I do it, but sometimes it is necessary to spend for organization. Case in point: I bought 5 picture frames (for about $75) for prints that I've needed to frame for almost 7 years for some of them. It needed to be done! I bought new recycle bins that fit under my bakers rack so that I don't have the two trashcans sitting in the way in the kitchen. I'll still use them when I remodel. My impulse buys equaled about $25, so everything else was planned.

I must work at paring down my stuff. This is one of my goals for the year. Actually, my resolution is to be happy, but I think organizing and getting rid of stuff I don't need will help me be happier. So far, it does give me that endorphine that most people get when they shop. Kind of weird, but that's me!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bringing a blog back from the dead...possible?

I've decided that, even though I haven't posted here in well over a year, I will be bringing this blog back from the dead. I miss writing here, so it's going to happen!

I'm still pretty "Green", but my newest challenge will be just writing about whatever I find interesting at the moment. Right now, I have developed an interest in vegetarian cooking, mostly due to my "manfriend" whom I've been entertaining with dinners. He's vegetarian, almost vegan...I am not. I eat meat, but not all the time. The challenge is, however, that I am not used to cooking vegetarian for other people. I'll eat random things that have no meat in them, but I'd never dream of serving them to other people. So...that is my new challenge: finding interesting foods that meet the eating habits of my manfriend.

So...I'll be around more. If you've followed this blog, then stopped and are now getting alerts: thank you!