Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Standing in the dark

The old saying goes something along the lines of 'When opportunity knocks, answer'. This is pretty sound advice. Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor, so you should take advantage of it when it shows up. Without opportunity sitting on your front stoop things can become very difficult, and really no one wants to take the difficult road if they don't have to.

I have been fortunate enough in my life to have had opportunity be a reliable sort of visitor. When my life has reached those points where a path must be chosen and action must be taken, I have more often than not been presented with great opportunities. I haven't had to search in the dark for the door, I just followed the sound of the knocking.

While this has been great in the past, it doesn't much prepare me for the future. I am used to standing in a dark room and waiting for the knocking to start. What the hell am I supposed to do when there is no knocking?

I have found myself in a place where I don't know what my next choice should be. I actually feel like I have a complete lack of options. Anything I come up with as a solution is really not a practical solution at all. I feel as though I am floundering and I don't much like it at all.

I suppose I have to just accept that I will either be sitting around waiting forever or I will have to figure something out. I am a smart rational person, I should be able to handle this. People make their own ways through life all the time without any of the answers being available, why can't I do the same?

I guess I have a lot of soul searching and pavement pounding in my future. I may not have any idea what I am doing, where I am headed, or really how to go about any of this, but that is not going to stop me from trying. The worst thing anyone can do is just sit idly by  hoping something happens. You will never get anywhere doing that.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lets all go to the movies!

I try very hard not to be a movie snob. You know the type. They are that person who looks down on anything they do not find to be 'quality' and belittle the film and the fanbase. They are intolerant and quite frankly obnoxious. They are a person I do not want to be.

I admit that there are movies I really don't like. Most of the time they fall into the 'not my flavor' category and not into the 'just poor quality'. I try and be accepting of the ones that fall into the former category. Not everyone can like everything, that does not mean that it is necessarily bad. It is simply not something I enjoy.

Pretty much you can throw most anything that is popular modern comedy into that category for me. Does it star Will Ferrel? Yea I can almost guarantee I will hate it. Not always mind you. I adored Stranger Than Fiction. He has played minor parts in other movies I loved and enjoyed, but for the most part I don't like his type of humor. I mean I am still trying to figure out what is supposed to be funny about Anchorman and why it deserved a sequel.

Still that is just my taste. I personally don't think it is funny, but that in no way means that it is not actually funny. I mean these sorts of movies keep getting made, someone has to like them. Sure I can say that it just shows that the audiences are getting dumber, but that isn't really true. Stupid humor has always been popular as is making money, so it is sort of a no brainer to make those kinds of movies.

If you enjoy it then more power to you. That is the point of movies after all. They are there to engage the audience and give them some pleasure and escape. They are a break from reality that most of us are in desperate need for.

Now there are some movies that are just bad. Take the Conan remake for example. That movie was just bad. I mean it wasn't even bad in the good cheesetastic campy way. It wasn't bad like Starship Troopers is bad. It is just bad. The fact that they went through multiple writers was painfully obvious. The plot was so incredibly transparent that it made it seem pointless to watch it. I couldn't even enjoy staring at Jason Momoa. I found myself making grocery lists instead of watching the movie. That is a bad movie.

If you liked that movie, I honestly don't understand. I mean if you liked it even though it was terrible I guess I can get that, but if you thought it was good? Well as long as you enjoyed it I suppose it is alright. I will just sit over here and not understand.

There is also a third category of movies I do not enjoy. They are movies that were not what I expected them to be. I can enjoy action movies, horror movies, rom coms, period dramas, and all the other types of movies out there as long as that is what I am expecting to see. If I go in expecting a light hearted witty comedy and end up with a serious depressing drama, I am not going to be happy. It is like taking a big drink of Dr Pepper when you are expecting a Sprite. You like both drinks but when you are prepared for one and get the other it is a major shock and then turn off.

I think the best example I have of this was the movie Drive. If you watched the trailers for this movie you would go in expecting an action thriller. It played off in the trailers as a Jason Statham style movie about get away drivers and crime syndicates. It looked to be all car chases and violence. I was prepared. I was ready. I was so disappointed.

I knew there was something horribly wrong when the opening credits involved neon pink retro 80's Jem and the Hologram style lettering and a bad indy chick rock soundtrack. This was stylistically screaming that I was about to be assaulted by an indy art house flick and not my gritty action movie.

I don't have anything against indy art house flicks. I have watched and loved a huge number of movies in this category. I just wasn't expecting that here. I wasn't expecting two hours of Ryan Gosling (whom I do not find to be attractive, his eyes are too close set for my taste) staring silently at his co-stars while bad music played in the background, and then four scenes of abrupt gratuitous violence. I don't even know what it was I just watched.

It might be a fantastic movie full of subtle intricacies that make it quietly brilliant. It might be cold and honest and thought provoking. It might be some sort of epiphany driving allegory to life. It may be one of the most underrated phenomenal movies ever. It may be all of those things, but it will never be any of those things to me.

I will never look at that movie without having that bad taste in my mouth. I feel betrayed by it. They used the bate and switch method on me, and I can't get over that. Be honest in your trailers. Don't dupe me into seeing your movie by promising me one thing and then not delivering on it. If you had been honest I probably would have still seen it, but I would have come with a different group of people and much different expectations.

Obviously I have opinions here. I obviously don't like things and am not afraid to tell you exactly why. I just try not to be obnoxious about it. I try very hard not to make you feel bad for enjoying something I dislike. Heaven knows that I love the hell out of movies that other people hate. I mean I love The Postman and have been taking flack for that for years.

I think what is important is that people like movies and understand that not everyone will agree on whether it is good or bad. Same thing with TV and books. They are there for entertainment and enjoyment, but nothing will be something everyone loves or even likes. Eventually you will run into someone that just hates what you love and that is alright.

The general fact of the matter is that these are just movies (or TV or books). Unless you wrote/produced/directed/acted in/or worked on said venture, it really isn't that important. I get being a fan is serious business to a lot of people, but this really isn't the battlefield you probably want to die on.

Enjoy these things for what they are and don't be the guy who ruins it for someone else. Good words to live by.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kitchen Win: Molasses Sugar Cookie Sandwiches with Ginger Cream Cheese Icing

When life gets too hectic and I feel like I am losing my grip on things I always find it most therapeutic to create something. There is just something about making something with your own hands, from start to finish, that brings me a sense of peace and control.

I also find it useful if I create something that can be appreciated by others. I am not afraid to admit that I am only human and I need a little ego stroking every once in a while. There is nothing wrong with a little instant gratification in our lives.

My favorite outlet is, and probably always will be, cooking. I find cooking to be very zen like to start with. There has always been something about the process of making food from scratch that brings me an instant sense of peace. Perhaps it is because I grew up cooking with my mom and grandmother as part of our daily routine. Routine can be comforting.

Feeding people is also one of my love languages so it is a very good choice for me. Knowing that that I am giving them a warm filling meal makes my heart happy. Also knowing that they are enjoying whatever it is I made makes me even happier. There is that whole instant gratification thing I was talking about.

I have been feeling the need do some therapeutic cooking a lot lately. I knew it was getting bad when I realized I wanted nothing more than to bake something. I normally only bake around the holidays or for special occasions. Neither the husbeast nor I really eat too many sweets so it is usually a waste unless we are planning to have people over.

Even though I have no gatherings coming up I decided I just had to bake something. After some thought I decided that I would bake a batch of molasses cookies, which is always an exciting prospect. These cookies are pure joy. They were my grandfathers favorite cookies, and are my mothers favorite, and are my favorite, and the husbeasts favorite, and I have seen people fight over these cookies before. I know for certain that they will be instantly loved.

The thing was I couldn't just leave it at that. I mean I make these cookies every year at the holidays. I make dozens upon dozens of them. Seriously a lot of these things move through my kitchen. I know the recipe pretty much by heart. I can make them without really thinking about it. While that is nice, I also like a bit of a challenge.

The problem is these cookies are so perfect I couldn't really imagine how to improve upon them or change them. They are so classic and simple that you don't want to screw them up by doing something crazy with them. That would just be a crime.

I did have an inkling though of what I wanted to do. I went and searched through my Pinterest board for something I had pinned years ago. There had been a recipe for a cookie sandwich using a ginger cream cheese icing that I had always thought might be really tasty when paired with my molasses cookies.

The molasses cookies already have ginger in them. When you bite into one you get this sweet buttery almost earthy flavor that rolls over your tongue with the slightest warm bite at the end from the ginger and cloves in the cookie. It is subtle and delightful. The icing, in theory, would just give it more of a bite.

It was a risk, but one I was willing to take. I mean I could always try it on one cookie and if it was awful I still had a whole batch of glorious molasses cookies to enjoy and share. I came home with all of the ingredients I would need and got straight to work.

The husbeast arrived home just as I was pulling the beaters out of the icing. The cookie dough was in the fridge chilling so he wasn't really sure what was going on. I handed off the beaters to him so he could lick them, and he was instantly excited. He had no idea what I was making but he knew that he was going to like it.

I shooed him out of the kitchen with a bowl of supper telling him that I was making him a surprise. He whined a little between bites of fresh green beans and sausage. He wanted to know what the treat was, but I was not giving in. I like surprising him.

I waited until he was entranced by an episode of Sherlock before I retreated to the kitchen to start baking the cookies. I am really amazed he couldn't guess what I was doing once the first tray was in the oven. These cookies have a distinctive smell that I could never mistake. Or perhaps that is just me and my super sensitive nose.

I stood impatiently over the cooling rack as I waited for the cookies to be a suitable temperature to spread the icing on. I didn't want it to melt once applied, but at the same time I really didn't want to wait long to continue this experiment. Patience is not always my best virtue.

There was some level of trial and error figuring out exactly how much icing should be spread between the cookies. I think I may have applied it too generously, but I am not sure that there really is ever such a thing as too much icing. I made three sandwiches and took a deep breath before walking out to the living room and handing one to the husbeast and to our friend who had stopped by to hang out.

The husbeasts eyes grew huge with excitement when he saw what I was holding. He immediately recognized the dark brown disks sparkling with crystals of sugar across the crackled surface of the cookies, but he also realized as I placed it in his hand that the two cookies were surrounding a generous portion of the spicy icing I had been working on when he came home. Our friend made an excited noise as he realized they were still warm from the oven.

Then there was silence in the house. The three of us sat in the living room savoring every sweet rich bite of cookie. I had been afraid that the icing would overpower the cookie or not compliment it very well, but those fears were unfounded. It was glorious.

The ginger icing had a bite to it while being sweet and tangy like you would expect from a cream cheese icing. It complimented the earthy butter molasses cookies perfectly. It was all incredibly rich and the only thing I could have asked for was a glass of milk to sip on between bites.

The icing squished out the sides of the cookie as I bit into it, but I am not sure if that is because the cookies being warm had made it too soft or if I over filled them. It probably was a little of both, but I don't think it really mattered. I enjoyed every bite of it no matter how messy it got, as did the boys.

In the end the husbeast was left pretty well speechless. He kept trying to tell me how much he liked them but he said that he couldn't find words that would do them justice. I took that as an excellent compliment. I was happy.

This is definitely going to be something I try again. They are too rich to eat more than one, but that is alright because I am not sure my waistline could handle me eating too many of these suckers. I will happily put a hold on my diet to enjoy them though.

My baking was a total success. I achieved the zen I was looking for as well as some super tasty treats.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Coming Out of the Broom Closet

I am not Christian.

If you have never had to utter that phrase you probably have no idea how incredibly uncomfortable it can be. I would go so far as to say that saying such a thing can be frightening depending on the situation in which I am having to admit it.

What is harder to say than that? That one is easy: I am Pagan.

While we, as Americans, live in a society that likes to boast being founded on freedom of religion, you only have to be anything but Christian to know how that is not an accurate reflection of modern American society. If you happen to practice a faith that is not a flavor of Christianity you will be incredibly aware of how unwelcome you can be made to feel for your faith.

I am not bashing Christianity or Christians. Please let us stop that line of thought right now. I was raised Christian, Methodist to be precise. My parents are Christian, a good deal of my friends are very devout Christians, and I have no real problem with Chistians or their faith in general.

I actually think that as far as religions go, the basic ideas behind Christianity are pretty good ones. It simply is not a faith that speaks to me. As much as I wanted it to, and trust me I really wanted it to, it never has spoken to me. I mean faith should fill you, give you hope, give you meaning, it should be something that you believe in, and I just never had that with Christianity.

I searched for quite a while for something that did fulfill all the things I felt religion, and more importantly faith, should accomplish. I studied up on different branches of the Christian religion from Catholicism to Mormonism. I looked into Judaism and Islam. I moved on to Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism. While I found good things in all of these faiths I never found my personal truth in any of them.

I found what I was looking for in college with a group of friends that identified themselves as simply being Pagan. Their individual faiths varied through different pantheons and practices, but in general it all had a feeling to it that was just right for me. I started looking into it and found suddenly that spark I had been searching for. I was filled with this feeling of peace and wholeness that had never been there before. I knew it was right.

Of course while it was right for me it was anything but easy. It is never easy to be something different from what is mainstream, but when it comes to religion, being different has historically been a bad idea. People fight wars that last hundreds and thousands of wars over faith. It is a very serious thing.

I have found generally that the only religion I could have picked that would get more of a negative response would be if I had chosen Islam as a religion. I mean at least I am not assumed to be a terrorist for my religion, which by the way I think is abhorrent behavior.

You can't judge an entire religion on a group of extremists. Well you can if you like, but I don't. If we all went around generalizing religions in such a fashion every single Christian would be no better than the members of Westboro Baptist church, and I know that not to be true.

Still, being Pagan is not an easy or comfortable thing. It was especially difficult to make this choice while attending a school deep in the piney woods of East Texas. Talk about a hostile environment. We were automatically assumed to be evil devil worshipers if we were given that much credibility. A lot of the time I got "That isn't a real religion.". I was never sure which one bothered me more.

No one wanted to take the time to even attempt to understand what it was I believed in or stood for. They simply picked an ignorant view and hatefully spewed it back at me. I do mean hatefully by the way. I have been spit on more than once and threatened on multiple occasions. 

In college I was part of the Pagan Student Alliance (PSA) and as a student organization we had to have informational tables set up in the UC for orientations and once a month. I can remember at orientation as the freshmen would flood past us no one would ever stop and take any of our pamphlets. Parents would actually grab their kids and pull them away from us as though just looking at us was going to taint them. Occasionally some kid would reach behind them and snag a pamphlet and wad it up in their pockets too afraid to show they were interested.

The monthly tables sometimes got some attention. Mostly though it was people stopping by to tell us we would burn in hell or make ignorant comments. I remember one day this girl came up and looked at the papers we had laid out and then at us. I was sitting in my pretty sundress knitting a scarf and was probably with John who was most likely reading a book. After staring for some time she looked at us blankly and asked if we ate babies.

I am not even making that up. She was not joking either. She was serious. That was sort of a normal thing for us. We just got used to it.

We did some chalk art advertising a public ritual that was coming up once that turned into a national fiasco. Every organization was allowed to do chalk advertising in front of the UC, we just happened to be the ones that were defaced when we would do it. This particular defacement was followed by one of the Christian fraternities placing a banner over the main drive and a full page add in the school paper stating 'This campus belongs to God'.

We were used to this sort of thing and were prepared to just fix our chalk art and move on. It was the rest of campus that took offense to it. After that came what became known as the 'Chalk Wars'. I would like to point out that the PSA never retaliated. Still nearly every inch of sidewalk around the UC and most of campus was suddenly covered in chalk messages pointing out how much that sort of behavior was unacceptable.

My favorites have always been 'This campus belongs to Kimmy Gibbler', 'This campus belongs to George Bush' (as it was a state school) and 'This burrito belongs to God' (which was actually a note left on a cafeteria table over a half eaten burrito).

There was news coverage over it. Members of the PSA were interviewed by national outlets. Our meetings were suddenly full of curious people who wanted to know what we were all about. It was really cool. They of course all stopped coming when they figured out we were actually just normal boring people.

College was not the end of it though. I actually think it was better. I mean I wasn't going to be thrown out of school for my faith. They had already accepted me to the school, they were stuck with me. My teachers were more concerned with what my work was not my faith. Unfortunately my real world work hasn't always been that way.

I have worked at more than one job where I was more than a little terrified that they would find out what my faith was. These were companies that touted being Christian companies. I would walk by peoples cubes where they would have bible verses posted on the walls next to pictures of Jesus and a bible sitting out on their desk. They had bible study in the break room. I was invited to join a book club where they would only read faith based books and actually said they couldn't read science fiction because it promoted devil worship.

I didn't point out how ignorant or insulting I thought any of that was because I like getting a pay check. Texas is a right to work state people. Yes they can fire me because they assume I am worshiping the devil and eating babies. They don't have to say that is why, but you know when things like that happen.

The husbeast actually was told at one of these companies that if he would cut his hair and join the CFO's church that he would be a VP within 6  months.  It was in a very unofficial unverifiable situation, but it was said. It was said in all seriousness.

This is pretty common though. I won't even wear my pentacle in public. I grow very weary of the negative comments it earns me. At the faire I work in the fall I work for a shop that sells, among other things, pagan jewelry. I had a police officer come in looking for a pentacle that was on a long enough chain and small enough that it would not be noticed and could be hidden under a flack jacket. It also had to be very sturdy and not have a raised jump ring so it wouldn't bruise his chest.

How sad is it that he had to go to such extreme lengths to hide his faith?  He told me he didn't like knowing he was going to be shot at without a pentacle on him. His fellow officers who were Christian could wear a cross that they could grab and pray over in a tense or bad situation, but he was left with no such comfort.

I hear all the time that there is a war on Christianity, and I just think if you stopped and looked at it from my point of view you would realize that it isn't really that. It isn't wanting to silence Christians, it is wanting equality for all the other religions out there.

When I say Happy  Holidays I am not disrespecting you as a Christian, it is me being respectful of the fact that you may not actually celebrate Christmas. I don't. I celebrate Yule. I don't expect you to know that, but I would like it if you were respectful of that. I mean come on, no one is ever going to give me any of my Sabbaths off from work for free. They are never going to commercialize anything I celebrate (because I celebrate Samhain which is similar to but not actually Halloween).

I was reading this article and it really did speak to me. A lot of those things, most of them, are completely true. It makes me a little sad. It makes me sad that I would never even consider asking off for a Sabbath, and if I did I would never tell my bosses why. I will have to raise my children and have no real positive public influence for our faith.

I just would like to be able to practice my faith without fear. I am not going to judge you on what you believe in. I am not going to try and force you to believe what I believe. I will be happy to explain it to you as best I can but I am not going to expect you to believe what I do. I will happily let you tell me about what you believe in as long as you don't expect me to change my views. I don't want to be told I am going to hell for being a devil worshiper (which I don't even believe in the devil).

I honestly believe no faith is wrong. I believe that whatever you believe, if it is what speaks to you, then it is right. I believe that as long as you don't try and force your beliefs on others and as long as you do not harm others, that you should be allowed to worship however and whatever you like. It is only when you start being hateful, violent, and ugly that I have a problem with it. If you think I am going to burn in your hell for not believing, well first off I think you might have missed some of the texts in your book of faith, but that is your prerogative. Believe it all you like, just keep it to yourself please. 

I love Christians and think they have a great faith that is not for me. I am saddened by the angry ugly members of any faith that give others bad names. I am angered by people of my own faith that make other Pagans look bad. Every faith has bad apples in it, but sadly it is the rotten ones that are the easiest to spot.

What is the point of all of this? Well if you have made it this far (which is really far and I am sorry I didn't mean to be this long winded and rambly) the point is that if I don't say it, who will? If I don't stop being afraid and say it, how can I ever expect this world to be a world where anyone can say it? How can I expect to someday raise children to believe what they want to and be proud of it if I can't?

So there you have it.

I am not Christian.

I am Pagan, and I am not ashamed of it, or afraid of what you think of it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sound bite

If you were to pick up a persons iPod you could probably get a good idea of what type of person they are simply by looking at the songs that they are listening to. I mean we assume certain things about a person who has playlists that are mostly country music vs someone who is listening to German death metal. You would not expect a person who has mostly opera and classical music to be much like someone who is listening primarily to hip hop or rap. These assumptions could very well be wrong, but they are assumptions we make none the less. People are by nature judgmental.

The summer between my 6th and 7th grade my mother remarried and relocated us to Austin with our new family. My older brother was cool. Actually I think he fell outside the realm of cool and lived in that strange land where he fit in with every group and no one really judged him for that. Still he was going to be the new guy in school and he was not about to be judged on his little sister.

We were close enough in age, only a year apart in school, that he knew well that having a sister in certain social groups could be troublesome to him. I can remember him sitting me down in his room and looking at me quite seriously and saying "I will not have a sister who is a kicker.*". Considering I listened primarily to country music it was a valid concern I suppose.

He started me off on Aerosmith. This was right about the time that songs like Living on the Edge, Crying, Crazy, and Amazing were becoming incredibly popular. He had me listening to their classic stuff along with their newer stuff. He felt it was a good beginning to my education. He also was feeding me a lot of Blind Mellon (first music video I ever saw was No Rain), Nirvana, Soul Asylum, and pretty much anything that was coming out of Seattle at the time.

He was determined to make me like what he thought of as acceptable music. In this he was successful. I liked all the music he was giving me, but it didn't change the fact that I loved country music still. He was simply expanding my musical world.

My best friend in high school was the person who turned me onto the Beatles, the Doors, Janice Joplin, and continued to foster my love for the music that was more popular like Green Day, Everclear and Marilyn Manson. In college I would start being introduced to bands like Cake, Dave Matthews Band and Ben Folds Five. Faire brought on a love of folk music, bagpipes, and drinking songs.

I just never stopped exploring music after that summer day so many years ago. My brother might have been trying to preemptively save his social life, but he did so much more for me than I think he knows. He saved me from blindly being loyal to one music and miss out on so much amazing art.

So if you were to pick up my iPod today and hit shuffle you would find that the only word to describe me would probably be eclectic. Right now just hitting shuffle I get George Straight, Cherry Poppping Daddies, Everclear, Jewel, The Corsairs, Kenny Loggins, Queen, The Four Seasons, Kate Nash, Violent Femmes, Dean Martin, Justin Timberlake, Puccini, Mumford and Sons, Beatles, Seal, Eminem, The Clash, Cake, the original cast of Rent, Pantera, Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, Jimmy Buffet, Steve Miller Band, Squirrel Nut Zipper, Prince, White Snake, En Vogue, Fall Out Boy, Imagine Dragons, Queen Annes Lace, Michael Buble, Chris Ledoux, Dixie Chicks, The Four Tops, Madonna, Billie Holiday, Elton John, Weezer, Lord of the Rings soundtrack, Norah Jones, the Knack, Katy Perry, Anna Kendrick, and the list goes on and on.

If you can make a generalization about me off of that list I would be surprised. What can I say, I like music. I may not love or even like everything I hear, but I am willing to give anything a chance. You never know where you will find a new love.

*Kicker, if you are unfamiliar with the term, would be used to describe someone who listens to country music and tends toward that general stereotype; tight jeans, boots, cowboy hats, pickup trucks, and rodeos. It is a thing.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Lists I make in the shower

I was surfing through Facebook or Pinterest or something like that the other day and I ran across one of those "You know you are from/is/like..." lists that always seem to be circulating. You know the ones. They talk nostalgically about a decade you may have been born in, a state you hail from, or a fandom you are part of. You know them because you can't help but read them and nod along when they point out some generality that you can agree with.

I really tend to enjoy such lists. I find them silly and sort of pointless, but it is always an entertaining bit of fluff to distract me for a few minutes. I for one know I can use a little distraction during my work days.

The only thing is you read enough of them and you find yourself composing those same sorts of lists in your head. Or at least I find myself composing those sorts of lists in my head. Normally when I am the shower. What? I have to think of something while I am shampooing my hair.

Yesterday as I was waiting for the water to hit an acceptable temperature for my shower I once again began to think up one of these lists. Considering I start this same list in my head every time I have to stand around waiting on the water to get to the right temp, I figured I might as well share it with something so maybe I can think about something else in the shower, like new tiles or something.

So here is my list all about Texas:

-You may be from Texas if during the summer you have to wait to get cold water out of the tap. I mean I like a nice hot shower as much as the next person, but when it is 110 outside and you just got done working in the yard, really the last thing you want is a hot shower. A nice cold shower would be lovely at this point but you will have to wait on that as all the water in your pipes is already hot.

-You may be from Texas if you get confused when someone tells you they never took a state history class when they were in school. It is easy to forget that Texas has so much personal history. Some states may only cover their state history briefly in one year of elementary school or not at all. Whereas I had Texas history every year in elementary school, as a class of its own one year in middle school, and had it offered as an elective history class in high school. I am also pretty sure if I had been a history major I could have chosen that as a focus for my degree. I know the college offered multiple courses on Texas history.

-You may be from Texas if you get more than a little annoyed when someone asks you if you ride a horse to work. Or ask where your cowboy hat and boots are. Or assume chili and bar-b-cue is a staple in your diet. I mean I know how to ride a horse, and how to two step, and other cliche things like that, but I know more people who are Texans and have never been on a horse before. Also I don't even like Bar-b-cue or chili (though I know Texas chili has no beans in it. Ever.)

-You may be from Texas if you have stood on the side of a highway in your Sunday best as a child so your parents could get pictures of you sitting in bluebonnets. You probably have also been attacked by ants during said photo shoot.

-You may be from Texas if you know that the needles off a mesquite tree may very well be the sharpest and hardest material on earth. Those things will puncture a tire and go straight through the sole of good sturdy thick work boots (and right through your foot too).

-You may be from Texas if clear nail polish is part of your standard first aid kit as chigger relief. Nail polish is my chigger relief of choice, but there are others. Whatever you like, if you live in an area prone to the evil little creatures, you keep that cure on hand.

-You may be from Texas if you think nothing of driving 5 or 6 hours to go to another city to do something and the fact that you never leave the state isn't weird at all. Hell you could drive close to 15 to 20 hours in one direction and never leave the state. Totally normal.

-You may be from Texas if between the months of May and September you consider 90 degrees to be a cold front. Anything below 95 is considered mild really when it comes to summer temperatures. I had a friend traveling over seas and she mentioned to her cab driver that it was around 115 back home. He was apparently shocked. When she asked if they had anyplace in the area that got that hot he replied that they did, but nobody lived there.

-You may be from Texas if you not only know that every single town has a festival devoted to a flower/fruit/tree, but you have been to multiple ones. I love me some small town fruit festivals. Potite strawberry festival, Nacogdoches blueberry festival, Luling watermelon festival, Woodville dogwood festival, and the list is as long as there are towns in the state.  They all have a queen, they all have fried food, the all have carnival games, and they all are a really good time.

-You may be from Texas if you know that there are Longhorns and there are Aggies and that the two will never get along. Growing up you just had to choose one or another. It didn't matter if you were going to choose one of those schools to attend, you had to have an opinion on the matter. I grew up in Austin which made that choice all too easy. Although living in the DFW metroplex I have seen Aggie fans actually cheer on UT during the Red River Roundup simply because it is un-Texan to cheer on Oklahoma.

-You may be from Texas if you don't notice the sound of cicadas in the evening. You also recognize their strange alien looking shells when you see them attached to the trunk of the trees in your yard. I know some people find the noise irritating, but I think it is awful peaceful.

-You may be from Texas if you know the words to The Stars at Night, and can't sing them without clapping at the appropriate time. I suppose this required you to go to elementary school here. I know that at nearly every PTA meeting at least one class performed this song for the parents. It is like an invasive TV advertisement jingle. It works its way into your brain and never leaves.

So that is my list. You now know a little more about what it is like to be a Texan (or at least what is like for me being a Texan). You also know a little more about the things that run through my mind in the shower. Now that I have shared with you maybe I can devote that time to thinking of something more productive like grocery lists or chores. Though if I am being honest with myself, probably not.

Friday, July 12, 2013

If it isn't one thing it's another

I have heard said many times that there are two great days in a boat owners life; the day they buy the boat and the day they sell the boat. The longer I own my own home I think that saying should apply to homeownership as well. At least owning a house is more useful than a boat.

It is probably apt to say that our house is a bit of a money pit. I mean the AC died the day after we signed for the house. We were literally not home owners for 12 hours before we were having to suffer through costly frustrating repairs on this house. That first day seemed to set the tone for the past seven years of owning the house.

Since we bought the house we have completely replaced the entire AC and heating system. We have had to have a good portion of our electric re run (which involved an electrician actually laughing at the wiring job done in our house before he said he didn't know any electrician who would wire things that way). We have had our foundation jack hammered so that they could replace pipes. We have had to deal with a carpenter ant infestation. We have replaced the floors in 80% of the house due to flooding from incredibly old pipes that broke. We have had to replace six ceiling fans due to various issues. We went 9 months without use of the kitchen sink due to costly plumbing issues. Those are just the things that I can think of off the top of my head that we have had to fix.

So in the great tradition of having to replace old broken things in our house, it is time for the roof to be replaced. Honestly it was time to replace the roof probably when we bought the house. As far as we can tell it was nearly 15 years old when we bought the place. We actually tried to get it replaced two years ago but then we had to deal with other pesky issues like the husbeast losing his job.

We finally are in a place where we can focus on fixing the roof though. Plus we have started to notice some water damage around the chimney so we figure we have to fix it now or else we will probably flood out come the next good rain. Hey we have insurance, so you know this shouldn't be too bad right?

Yea right.

I had a roofer out earlier in the week to get an estimate. When he called me back to tell me the cost I was more than a little surprised when he told me he couldn't work on my roof. He told me that he was very sorry but it looked like my foundation was shot. He said the roof was sloping in because the beams had all pulled away. I asked him if this was possibly leftover from when the previous owners had the foundation repaired, but he insisted it was too severe for that to be the case.

Now thankfully when we bought the house, the warranty on the foundation transferred to us. It was actually one of the bright spots in the purchase. I dug through about 10 pounds of paperwork to find the name of the foundation company and gave them a ring. Apparently it was none too soon, because the warranty runs out in a couple of years.

The next morning I had a very nice foundation man come take some measurements with the biggest level I have ever seen. He walked around the house making mummbling noises as he checked to see if my house was sinking or not. I was really pretty terrified he was going to say that it was going to either not be covered or be really horrible.

Happily he said neither of those things. He told me that in the 17 years since the foundation was fixed it had only sank 1/2 an inch. I am assured that this is a good thing. He said it would be easy enough for them to raise the back and side of the house back up and it was all going to be covered.

What a huge relief.

He also told me that there was no way that 1/2 an inch was going to cause the problems the roofer was talking about. He told me that most likely I was right in assuming that the beams had pulled away before the foundation was originally fixed and they simply did not realign perfectly. He said they pretty much never did. He also told me he had a good roofer he would be happy to recommend to me if I liked.

I don't know who is trying to play me, or if they all honestly think they are right. I mean I have no idea how much a roofer knows about foundation, or how much a foundation guy knows about roofing. For all I know there is some sort of professional rivalry between the two professions where they like to blame each other for things that have gone wrong. Sort of like waiters who like to always blame the cook for order mishaps even if it is their fault.

All I know is that my foundation is mostly fine and will be fixed quickly and for free. I also know that I have roofing options and someone will be fixing my roof by the end of the month, and the insurance will be paying for that headache.

I dare say this might be the cheapest major home repair for us thus far. It is though one of the more frustrating ones for certain. I suppose I shouldn't really complain though, it could be expensive as hell and frustrating. I just don't have the energy for that just now.

I would just really like to go a while without having to worry about things like this. I suppose it has all been a learning experience though. Next time we buy a house I know much better what to check for and hopefully will never be in a money pit again. Then again I am pretty sure that money pit and homeownership really do go hand in hand.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dreaming up the past

I've been having strange dreams of late. Of course I always have what people would consider strange dreams, but lately they have been striking me as strange. I wake up from my dreams feeling exhausted which is a less than pleasant side effect. Just because I ran a marathon in my dreams doesn't mean I should wake up feeling like I have.

Most of my dreams have been about people I have been close to in my life but aren't close to anymore. It is like going to some sort of life reunion every night when I sleep. People I haven't thought about in years are suddenly front and center in my dreamscape making themselves the center of attention.

Last night I dreamed about a guy I was friends with in high school. He was just a friend from theater, but we were very close. I sort of knew when I graduated I would probably never speak to him again. While I was very active online he was not. It was still before social media sites and still at a point where online communication was hit or miss.

I remember clinging to him and crying on his shoulder during our theater banquet. He was crying. I was crying. We both just held on and cried. We both knew that this was going to be the end of our friendship. We were both right. I think I might have seen him once or twice after school ended.

Sure I could try to reconnect with him now. The advent of social media sites has allowed people to reconnect with long lost friends left and right. Don't think I haven't tried. He is still not active online. He has a Facebook account but from what I can tell he never actually checks it.

I hadn't really thought about him in quite some time. Its been over a decade now. Why should I.

Then there he was in my dream. I was walking down a street in a college town I have never been to, and there he was. He was coming out of a restaurant and we bumped into one another. We both went to apologize and then stopped as recognition flooded us. He uttered my name, maiden name, in disbelief, and I almost squeed out his name before we had thrown our arms around one another in a hug so very tight.

We stood there talking as fast as we could about all the things we could think of. I told him I was married, he told me the same. We rambled about jobs and moves and life as people pushed past us on this busy sidewalk. Then as quickly as he had appeared he was gone. He gave me one last long hug before he had to leave for a class. He promised he would call.

I stood there in the dream watching him walk away and I could feel inside that it was the last time I would see him. This was just an anomaly. He was just a blip in my life, and much as I knew in high school that it was the end, I knew that this would not happen again.

I woke up feeling sad. I was tired and I was sad. I suddenly very much missed my friend.

I looked him up again and very little has changed. His Facebook page is still there, and my friends request still shows as sent, and it still seems like he almost never accesses it. He is still there but still out of contact.

I would prefer dreams of zombie apocalypses or flying squid over this sort of dream any day of the week. Visions of the bizarre don't disturb me. Reminders of people that are far gone that leave me sad and wanting are not welcome.

Friday, July 5, 2013


We all find ourselves at a point where life just is completely overwhelming. The feeling of being completely out of control and helpless in any aspect of your own life is a horrible feeling. I mean it is your life and you should be able to have a say in what is happening. Sometimes though that is not the case, and you are left on the sidelines being a spectator.

I have hit one of those points where one aspect of my life has taken off in a direction I absolutely hate and there is practically nothing I can do about it. I mean I have three very clear options; one which will save my sanity but leave us in a very bad situation causing undue stress, one that will keep things even but make me miserable, and one that will take a long time to resolve but leave us at least even and eventually hopefully restore sanity. I obviously am going with choice three because I am all too often rational and practical in my life.

In the meantime however I have to do something to keep from slipping into despair over an ugly situation. I can't let this ugliness define me. If I let it become too much a part of me then I am fairly sure it will cause some damage to more of my life than I am willing to have damaged. I will not let this drag me down.

So I am taking control of things that I know I can control. I will have order and positive completion in my life one way or another. In this case I am focusing on my house because it is the most tangible thing I have to work on. Being able to see positive changes in the real world is incredibly satisfying and rewarding.

The good thing is that my house can use a lot of work. I think every home owner thinks that about their house, but with mine it is true. The roof needs to be replaced, the fence is falling down, we have two weed trees that have to be taken down before they fall on someones house, there is a small jungle worth of weedy shrubs in the backyard that need to be killed off, and there are some maintenance projects that have to be done to the deck. That is just the outside of the house.

Inside we still have a two foot hole in the guest shower that needs to be repaired, and then of course the entire thing will have to be re-tiled. We have five new ceiling fans to install. We have wood paneling that has to be removed from one wall in the living room. There are two walls in the house that need to be pretty much completely needs new dry wall. There is wall paper on the ceiling in one room that needs to be pulled down. All the ceilings in the house need to be re-taped and painted. Both bathrooms need new vanities and paint. The office needs to be re-textured. Everything needs new paint.  The kitchen floors need to be redone.

See? That is a lot of work to be done. Some of it we can do on our own and some we will have to hire people to do. It will cost money, but that is what we have jobs for right? We make money so we can have nice things and live in nice places. At least that is the theory.

We spent our 4th of July prioritizing projects and making decisions on what we could do and what we would have to find someone to do the job for us. It is all hard work, but it feels so rewarding in the end that I don't mind at all. There is something nice about being sore and exhausted after a good day of hard work.

This weekend will see a deck project completed and ceiling fans hung. There will also be some conquering over the weeds in the back yard and some internal organizing and cleaning. Not to mention we should be getting some estimates on big jobs that we can't actually do (roofing, tree removal) so that we can get an idea on time frames.

All of this may actually just be distractions and busy work. None of this will actually solve the problems I have elsewhere in my life. I know all of this. I also know that this is the only thing keeping me sane.

Like I said a little hard work will do wonders for a person.

A busy beylit is a happy and sane beylit.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Good things

A list of good things...because sometimes we forget.

- The last bits of milk in the cereal bowl that is nice and sweet from the cereal.

- Eating tomatoes still warm from the garden.

- The smell of a new book.

- The way a really good pin writes.

- Finding you can fit into your too tight jeans.

- Finding money in your now not too tight jeans.

- Looking at old photos and only being filled with warm happy memories.

- Laughter of friends.

- Conversations with old friends where it seems like no time has passed at all.

- Cool breezes on a hot day.

- Daisies.

- Homemade fried chicken.

- Warm grass under bare feet.

- Holding hands.

- Kitty head butts.