Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Type "Tutu" 20 Times. Bet your monogrammed bloomers you type "Tuto" at least 15 of those.

When Leigh Ann and I were little, we enjoyed creative, hands-on projects (now, don't get me wrong, we also wasted plenty of time playing Donkey Kong and Duck Hunt...probably right after watching Growing Pains and Alf marathons). Regardless if it was a puff paint shirt, a bedazzled jean jacket, a Lightbrite flower design, an American Bandstand dance contest, a Rocker Barbie outfit, or a self-designed teacher's desk when playing "school," it was always obvious that Leigh's sense of style was a little more honed than mine (thus explanation for why I would let her dress me up as 80s rock icons; I probably would not have looked just like Madonna if left to my own devices). While my stuff tended to suggest a wild zombie had thrown them together, Leigh's seemed, well, not just normal, but really, really good. Bitch.

And the seeds of Bella Baby were sown.

I am so incredibly proud of my sister. While many people talk about starting their own business (I included), Leigh Ann has actually followed through. Not only is she one of the most nurturing and devoted mothers that I have ever been around, but she is also finding time in her busy days and nights to run a small-scale children's boutique. She just set up a webpage (Literally. I'm sure she will be adding things to it in the coming days) where you can see some of her projects: http://www.bellababybows.blogspot.com/. You can also contact her via Facebook or by way of her sister...the one sporting a fake beauty mark and the stretched tank top, skinny belts, and plastic multi-colored bracelets that Leigh Ann told her to wear.

It all started with a tutu.




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Leigh Ann is undoubtedly a product of her raising. Our mom, Jackie Turner, is one of the most resourceful, most crafty, most "put-together" people you could imagine. For the Bella Baby open house last Sunday, Mom just "threw together" 5 or 6 beautiful flower arrangements. Last night when she came to my house for dinner, she brought Lucy and Willie a handmade chew toy she created from an old placemat that she had unwoven and then braided. I am surely adopted.


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Zucchini Salsa (from the Taste of Home website)
Because I don't have a food processor, the prep time for this recipe was longer than expected. However, I still think this is a keeper. It has a kick to it, so if you prefer mild salsas, you might want to delete the jalapeno or the red pepper flakes. In place of ground mustard, I used a pickling spice mix. I also split the recipe in half (making approximately two pint jars).

Serves: 28 (Yields: 7 cups)
Cook Time: 45 minutes + chilling

Ingredients
5 cups shredded zucchini (about 5 medium)
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium green peppers, chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup white vinegar
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons ground mustard
2-1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin, nutmeg and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions
In a Dutch oven, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.
Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Serve with your favorite snack chips or grilled meats.

This just makes me laugh. Although my car looks like an entire circus has been traveling in it, I am typically super anal about my house, particularly my kitchen. I was both impressed with, and horrified by, the mess I made.

This post is getting too long so I will save my pickle recipe for Friday. Here's a look at the finished product though:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sometimes I Look Like Slash When I Wake Up

When I was nine years old, Guns N’ Roses released “Patience.” That same year, Lindsey (Lee) Devore, Kristi (Melton) Carter, and I spent many a summer afternoon piddling outside in creeks, on hay rolls, in the back of pickup trucks (usually after a Brewers loss that in no way meant we should forgo ice cream) and among a whole host of other Cumberland County 2nd-4th grade girls who also had crushes on Parker Perdue and Brad Rowan. We may have shed tears ‘cause we were missing them, but we were still alright to smile. …

One of my most memorable days from the summer of 1989 involved wading in Marrowbone Creek with the previously mentioned partners in foolishness (filmed by Carolyn Lee; if melancholy strikes, ask to borrow the VHS), followed logically by a little Axl Rose-inspired dancing on a twin bed in a tiny trailer bedroom. Why this particular day and this utterly random memory remains so vivid is beyond me. I can remember what we were wearing (I had on jean shorts [of course I did] and a pale pink sleeveless blouse), our spots on the dance floor (Lindsey in the bedroom floor, Kristi and I on the bed), and most importantly, the arrogance that consumed both my mind during and my conversation with Lindsey after the talent showcase. Where was Kristi’s soul? Why weren’t her eyes closed and the corners of her bottom lip slightly tucked behind her teeth (the universal sign of “this song really gets to me”)? Why were her hands hearkening a Bangles video rather than the soulful, low at the side rhythmic motion that Axl perfected? I’m fairly certain that “bless her heart” ran through my mind for the entire 5 minutes of this quintessential late-80s song.

No joke, Lindsey and I actually thought we looked really cool.

Some twenty years later, Kristi sits in my kitchen talking about jobs and love and children and I still feel the need to apologize for my 9-year-old artistic condescension (I don’t, but it is on my mind at least:)). Despite this nagging guilt, however, Kristi and I had such a wonderful visit yesterday. We did absolutely nothing unique or remotely interesting; we had coffee (mine surely more coffeemated than hers), we baked, we sat around in mismatched pajamas and talked. I forget how much I miss my girlfriends (especially those who know my history, the ones for whom I don’t have to continually provide disclaimers) until I get the chance to be completely boring with them.

I’m not sure exactly how we made it to this point, but toward the end of the conversation, she and I concluded that we are all probably “the people we are going to be” by the time we are 8 or 9. Sure, we all go through things in the years that follow that may encourage or force us to change our interests or styles or responsibilities. Nonetheless, I think (although a writer should probably avoid “think” [if I write it, I obviously think it so], but I haven’t worked this out in my mind in great detail, thus the malleable indefinite) our mannerisms, our sense of humor, our treatment of others, and the things that break our hearts are all largely intact by the time “we” are feigning ankle injuries to get P. Perdue’s attention on the playground.

So, I suppose the overarching point is to never imitate Axl Rose in front of me. The more subtle goal, however, is to encourage feedback...When do we begin to see the best versions of ourselves?


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I hope to have two recipes for you on Wednesday: one for the zucchini salsa that I plan to try and one for the bread and butter pickles I will likely destroy this afternoon. For the time being, however, I leave you with one of my favorite "not really unhealthy, but really in no way good for me either" treats: tapioca pudding cups that have been in the freezer for about an hour. Sometimes I eat them while listening to White Snake and Poison.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Giant Pickles At Sporting Events Kinda Gross Me Out


I post this because:
1) it fits with the "it's the small stuff" Pillowbook mantra.
2) I think behaviorial economics can be pretty fascinating.
3) the small, hand-painted "35 mph!" yard sign in Beaumont makes me, for whatever reason, slow down more so than any formal speed limit sign or digital tracker.
4) I love the thought of picking "funk" when riding in an elevator.
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Updated picture of my raised bed and compost area:
Plan to spend a couple of hours this morning staking my tomato plants... and continuing to revel in the excitement of finding my first cucumbers. I don't even like this prickly, pale green vegetable that much, but I do love homemade pickles. If any of you have a sure fire recipe (or really any knowledge that extends beyond "pickles are made from cucumbers"), please let me know.
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TIME Magazine recently published its lists of "Top Quirky Local Festivals" and "Top Authentic American Experiences":
http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1989200,00.html
http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1909343,00.html
The World's Largest Catsup-Bottle Festival (Collingsville, IL)

ASSIGNMENT:
*What is your own quientessential "American/Kentucky/Cumberland County experience"?
*Patroning a farmers market and a local quirky festival is basically an ideal summer day for me. If you have any suggestions, please pass along!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wendell Berry Should Now House His Papers Alongside Lindsey Devore's Collection

Just food for thought...
"Wendell Berry pulling his personal papers from UK: writer protesting coal's influence"; Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

Wendell Berry, perhaps Kentucky's best-known writer, is pulling many of his personal papers from the University of Kentucky's archives to protest the naming of Wildcat Coal Lodge.

Berry excoriated his alma matter in a Dec. 20, 2009, letter, saying the decision to name a new dorm for UK basketball players the Wildcat Coal Lodge "puts an end" to his association with the university.

"The University's president and board have solemnized an alliance with the coal industry, in return for a large monetary 'gift,' granting to the benefactors, in effect, a co-sponsorship of the University's basketball team," Berry wrote in the typewritten letter. "That — added to the 'Top 20' project and the president's exclusive 'focus' on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — puts an end to my willingness to be associated in any way officially with the University."

The Herald-Leader obtained the correspondence last week in response to a request under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Berry, among the most revered of Kentucky writers and a former recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, told the university "it is now obviously wrong, unjust and unfair, for your space and work to be encumbered by a collection of papers that I no longer can consider donating to the University."

The papers, which measure 60 cubic feet in volume and would fill about 100 boxes, remain at UK while Berry negotiates their transfer to the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort. He said the papers include letters he has received over the years, drafts of various books and corrected proofs.

Berry, 75, said UK's push to become a "Top 20" research university has caused it to stray from its land-grant university obligation to address Kentucky's problems.

"The coal business came up, and that for me was just the last straw," Berry said Tuesday. "I don't think the University of Kentucky can be so ostentatiously friendly to the coal industry ... and still be a friend to me and the interests for which I have stood for the last 45 years. ... If they love the coal industry that much, I have to cancel my friendship."

In a statement, UK spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the university was disappointed by Berry's decision to pull his personal papers, particularly because UK has purchased a significant portion of his works, which are in the UK libraries archives' permanent collection.

"We do regret that our students and researchers who wish to study his life and works will now be unable to access all of his previously donated works in one archive that contains the papers of many of Kentucky's greatest writers," Stanton said.

UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. was made aware of Berry's letter, but UK archives director Deirdre Scaggs responded to Berry on behalf of the university in late January.

"Our commitment to you was demonstrated by our purchase of a significant portion of your collection," Scaggs wrote on Jan. 20. "... By your recent decision, UK Libraries suffers an irreplaceable loss, but it is the students and researchers who will now pay the price."

Owensboro businessman Billy Joe Miles, the interim chairman of UK's Board of Trustees, said he thinks the UK board did the right thing in its renaming of the lodge and that coal "can be used so we aren't held hostage by other countries in the world."

"I respect Mr. Berry, and if that's what he wants to do, he needs to give it (his collection of papers) to someone who shares his beliefs," Miles said.

A new $7 million Wildcat Coal Lodge was approved in October trustees in a 16-3 vote. The proposal for the lodge came from Joe Craft, head of Alliance Coal, who put together 20 other people called the Difference Makers to assemble the money.

The lodge will replace the Joe B. Hall Wildcat Lodge, which houses the men's basketball team and other students.

Ernie Yanarella, an outgoing faculty trustee who vigorously opposed the naming of Wildcat Coal Lodge, said that while Berry is correct in his objections to the lodge, the university has been working diligently to improve its general education courses, which include studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Yanarella said UK violated its own regulations in naming the building. Coal is not a purpose or function of the lodge, Yanarella said, and hence is included in the name for no reason "other than promotional considerations for the Kentucky coal industry."

In an essay published in 1987, The Loss of the University, Berry argued for a college education that would broaden a student's exposure to a number of disciplines rather than produce the narrow skills of career-minded transients with no sense of a homeland.

At a 2007 commencement address at Bellarmine University, Berry railed against "the great and the would-be-great 'research universities.' These gigantic institutions, increasingly formed upon the 'industrial model,' no longer make even the pretense of preparing their students for responsible membership in a family, a community, or a polity. ... The American civilization so ardently promoted by these institutions is to be a civilization entirely determined by technology, and not encumbered by any thought of what is good or worthy or neighborly or humane."

Berry received bachelor's and master's degrees at UK and later returned to the university for two separate stints of teaching. He and his wife now live on their farm, Lanes Landing, in Port Royal in northeastern Henry County.

Berry's writings, which include novels, essays and poems, resound with the themes of agrarian dignity, the importance of community and a connection to the nurturing nature of the rural landscape.

Berry said Tuesday that breaking with UK saddens him: "I have an enormous obligation to that university. I was a student there, a teacher there, they've honored me ... but it seems to me it's going in a direction I don't agree with."
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The subject line of Lindsey's email attachment was "The End of An Era." If there is a more appropriate conclusion to any bit affectionately referred to as Lindsey And Her Avocado, it escapes me at the moment...
Argentina truly weeps tonight.


Don't cry for me Avocado
The truth is I never left you
Through all my Huevos Ranchero Wraps and Guacamole
My wild Kitchen Sink Pasta
I kept my promise
Don't keep your distance

And as for my Tomatoes, and as for the Peppers to pick
They are only summer wanderers
Though it seems to the world they are all I now desire

They are illusions
They are not the lasting solutions I want them to be
The answer was here all the time
I love your yellow-green, buttery fruit
I hope you love me for eating you

Don't cry for me Avocado

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Yes, It's Me Again; And I'm Back"... Chuck Norris will present $5 to those who catch the double meaning

It seems an apology needs to preface this post (well, probably all that follow as well). After having the pleasure of reading entries from Andy, Kristi, and Melissa last week, my random musings of interest will surely be a letdown. And, this is in no way said while wearing a self-deprecating girlfriend, friend, or former student head adornment. I have, instead, merely been rocking my reader’s hat the past few days. As I have indulged in, reread, and stewed over their respective posts, I have been continually impressed with their insights, their wit, and their ability to make something personal matter (and be relatable) to an audience that may seemingly otherwise have little in common with either the author him/herself or with other readers. Beyond the obvious trademarks of correct grammar, logical transitions, and quirky titles, all three are writers, therefore, because they have an ability to inspire imagination among readers, an imagination that allows readers to see themselves as characters in the play that the author has created.

Apologies aside, however, this is exactly what fascinates me about writing. I love that I get a glimpse of a personality, a mindset, a relationship, or a desired persona that may not be accessible, as a result of circumstance or character, in face-to-face contact. I love that I am somewhat forced to “hear” an explanation that might otherwise be interrupted by questions, comments, or “that reminds ME of” tangents that I might be so narcissistically inclined to add to an actual conversation. The written word gives a depth to my perception of others just as it allows my ideas to dance around in a community head of whimsy and intrigue. Readers’ hats are really, really big.

I feel it imperative to point out, however, that by “writing” I do not solely refer to well thought-out blog posts, poems, or books. In fact, as Linda Brown and I were discussing this weekend, these “new glimpses” can be seen even in seemingly innocent or unimportant status updates, photo captions, and wall comments. Yes, I know that Facebook is the mecca of foolishness, inaneness, and the occasional venting of personal matters that no one should ever have to hear about. But, I love that at the same time, Facebook is also a tool that allows me to see just how funny some people really are.

Below I have listed some of my favorite things to follow. Since most of you who read Pillowbook are probably Facebook friends as well, I hope that you have noticed and get a kick out of these too. And by the way, we all “creep” so I refuse to feel bad about knowing the stuff that follows…
*Becky Ballard's status updates – Mom and Leigh have always said that she is one of the most quick-witted people they know; I “see this” in her comments
*Tammy Hall and Becky Ballard’s comments to each other and on others’ pages – one word: hilarious
*Jessica Cossel and Morgan Staley’s photos and comments – I love that I see some of my relationship with my sisters in Jessica and Morgan’s funny remarks to one another
*Lori Sells’ posts – Her lifejacketed kids at the top of the Alpine Hill entertained me for days
*Linda Brown’s pictures – Always interesting and beautifully shot; I also enjoy Linda’s status updates as well as the comments she, Melissa, and Courtney share
*Misty Dubre’s entire page – If you need to know anything about Cumberland County, Misty is your girl
*Stephen Pickering’s profile pictures – Stephen is my dear friend from graduate school; I love seeing his new profile pictures (ranging from Charlie Brown montages to a photo of Larry from Perfect Strangers) and the fact that he can post some renowned history professor-related post right after commenting about his dog, Linus, sitting on his stomach
*Anything related to Isabella – I especially love Leigh Ann’s picture captions:)
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Rather than leaving you with a recipe today, I choose a poem for two reasons: 1) I watched Bright Star last week and became interested in John Keats (if you get a chance, watch this movie…I thought it was fantastic); and 2) I’m already done with summer…it’s too damn hot. Written in 1819, "Ode to Autumn" glorifies fall, characterizing as a goddess reflective of simplicity and contentment, even as it closes with a somewhat melancholy foreshadowing of inevitable decline.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Aphorisms Aplenty: CLT, J-Lo, and "Throwing Elbows Like a Wild Zombie"

My father is truly one of the funniest people I have ever met. I love that I have inherited his proclivity to combine three cliches into one analogy, that he calls Wal-Mart, "Wal-Mark," and that he can, with a straight face, sit aloofly in his chair and dryly say some of the funniest one-liners imaginable. I hate it when zombies throw elbows too, Dad.

I invite (and genuinely encourage) you to use the comment section to share some of your favorite memories of the fathers in your own lives.
***
CLT, you’ve always been, and will remain, the best man I know.
The weedeater starts because of you, just as the garden annually grows.
Emblematic of roots even as you steadfastly support directionally-challenged wings,
One half of the goodness and humor represented in those unfailing gold wedding rings.

As frustrated as I can make you, I am forevermore my father’s child.
Money holds little value, though projects of whimsy and intrigue will continue to pile.
It is because of you that Buster and Harvey have a home on my back deck,
And primarily why I so enjoy Rachel Maddow’s verbal trumping of the ridiculous Glenn Beck.

Yet, beyond liberal tendencies and the welcoming of the occasional stray pet,
You represent, in ways both obvious and tangential, ultimate personal goals I have set.
To be a loyal spouse, an amazing parent, and a loving child each day I wake,
Inexplicably strong, yet humbly and without agenda, giving more than I take.

So, on this Father’s Day, I honor and celebrate the man to which all others will inevitably be compared.
Impossibly high standards, you plethora of suitors, not sure I would even dare.:)
***





Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If I Ever Get to Name a Horse, It's Going to Be "Whoa, Nellie!"

Names intrigue me. Listening to my maternal grandmother talk about my departed ancestors, I am fascinated by the way she proudly articulates each person’s name. Besides how impressive it is that she, at 85 years, can remember these names in full-- first, middle, and last—I am intrigued by the names themselves: Birtie Neal Thomas. Buford Rosenfield Breeding. Flora Hovious Rice. My grandma Margie is not a genealogist, but she has carefully studied the neat print on the documents and photos in the boxes under her bed. She knows that even though these people are gone, their names are important.

(Those are my fine looking great-grandparents, Buford Rosenfield Breeding and Birtie Neal Thomas Breeding, left.)

Our names are an integral part of who we are. They are the sound to which we respond, the greeting from a friend or lover, the stern reprimand from a parent or teacher. Hopefully, if we are lucky, our names “suit” us, fit us naturally, like a well-worn pair of jeans. But how does this “fit” come to be? Do we grow into names or do they grow on us? What happens if names don’t fit? Are these people forever doomed to feel like they’ve left the party in someone else’s coat? A name is important, critical to our identity.

I’ve always been comfortable with my own name, Melissa. It’s not burdensome or too flashy, and it’s fairly sensible and average on the popularity scale. My mother chose it when she was a girl because it was my great-great-grandmother’s name. By the time I was born, however, Melissa was a trendy name, so there were always several Melissa’s in my class at school. I looked up my name’s origin once and found that Melissa is Greek for “honeybee” and Carol means “full-grown.” I never knew quite what to make of what my name implied for me—was I destined to metaphorically make honey or sting? In any case, I’ve always been appreciative that my parents gave me a moniker that was at least manageable.

The act of naming someone (or something, say, a pet or a new business) is a weighty task. Because a name bestowed on someone or something brings about certain expectations, the name colors how that person or thing will be perceived. Expectant parents, of course, feel the significance of this undertaking. I’ve had two children, so I’ve twice been through the fun and arduous process of having to name a human being. Although it’s a little less consequential to name a pet (you typically don’t have to worry if Mr. Jingles will want to be an attorney someday), the effort is still important—the name must reflect the personality, the essence, the spirit and soul of the pooch, feline, horse, or spider. The name is a gift, a package of anticipation, hope and endearment.

My husband and I failed miserably in naming the best dog we ever had, a Dalmatian. In a lapse of creativity I still cannot comprehend, we called the dog a painfully obvious “Dottie.” Our cats were a little more cleverly named for their coats, Miss Penny for a copper spot on her head, and Stella for a beautiful spray of golden “stars” on her black fur. In our family, we have generally preferred giving pets “people names” for we recognize them as kindred souls, and I am not fond (to put it tactfully) of naming dogs fluffy names like, well, Fluffy or Baby or Sparkle or Mr. Jingles. I almost passed out when my mother named a cat Puff. I could never establish any respect for that animal, and it wasn’t even his fault.

There is undeniably an emotional aspect of nomenclature, and people get excited and serious about naming something. Authors symbolically load their characters with revealing names—who can forget The Scarlet Letter’s Pearl, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth or Romeo’s benevolent friend Benvolio? NASA spent months polling space enthusiasts to name their new Mars rover (“Curiosity” won). Schools elicit both fanatical pride and fervent protest when naming mascots. My in-laws named their gleaming, silver Airstream camper “Lucy”—after a Lucille Ball camping episode they both fondly remembered. We name ships, natural disasters, musical instruments, our broken-down cars. I still haven’t started a blog because I cannot, even after days of deliberation, come up with a suitable name for it. This business of naming is fundamental stuff.

Another emotionally-charged aspect of names is when we wish to establish a namesake. Passing on a name is the act of weaving a thread from the past into the fabric of the future. We create bonds, familial ties, and legacy through the bestowing of names, regardless if the namesake’s gift comes right from dad, grandma, a beloved friend, or from a distant branch on the family tree. Our hearts hope for the continuity of spirit.

Friends of ours, a wonderful couple who have loads of great ideas, came up with the custom of naming their daughters’ dolls after departed great-aunts, great-grandmothers, etc. What a clever way to keep the legacy of these ladies alive! Although the young girls will never meet these female relatives, their names will be familiar, cherished, loved for at least another generation. Another friend is opening a cafĂ© and naming it “Annie Ruby’s” after her beloved grandmother. I love this concept—cultivating tradition and familiarity through the naming of things.

My brother, John, said to me on the phone last week, “I’ve always loved Papa’s name, Oscar. In case I never have a son, do you think I could name my next pet Oscar? Would that be a tribute or totally disrespectful?” My brother confessed that he thinks naming an animal after a deceased person would, in some form of reincarnation, give the animal some of the person’s spirit, or at least qualities characteristic of the honored person. Considering his love for Papa, having “Oscar” around him as a companion, he said, would be much more comforting than having “Spot” or “Kitty.” We pondered this for a few minutes. We imagined looking deeply into a pet’s eyes and feeling something flutter in our chests, some spark of recognition, some “connection” to the soul beyond—or perhaps inside--this furry namesake. We decided, definitely, naming pets after loved ones would be an acceptable thing to do. John immediately decided to request of his closest friends and family that, if he died before them, they name their next pet after him. His only concern was that he hoped future pet Johns would reflect cute, endearing qualities reminiscent of him (“Boy, John sleeps a lot!”) and not bad habits (“Darn it! John messed up the carpet again!”).

I did manage to give my children a bit of “family” in their names—both from my side of the tree. My husband seemed okay with this. After all, they get to have his family’s surname. Caroline is from my middle name, Carol, which is also my mom’s middle name. Thomas has my maiden name, Wells, as his middle name. After my conversation with my brother, I’m a little sad that I have no intention of having another child, because I’ve been twirling my grandmother Nellie’s name around in my mind, thinking it would be a good name for a daughter. Those of you who know my Mema Nellie would probably agree that her namesake would turn out to be quite a firecracker. Oh, well. Perhaps there will be other opportunities in our family—a granddaughter, a beloved doll, our first racehorse-- for another “Nellie” to be officially christened.


*************************************************************************************
. . . and a recipe, in Pillowbook tradition:

Buford Rosenfield Salad
(named for my great-grandfather Buford Rosenfield Breeding, who died around 1940.
I’m quite sure he would never have eaten a salad of this sort)

10 oz. cavatappi pasta (spiraled tubes)
assorted greens/lettuces (I used an herb mix and torn romaine)
2 pears
1 tbsp. lemon juice
crumbled blue cheese or feta (I used feta)
½ cup chopped walnuts
2 tomatoes, diced or quartered
sliced red onion
grated carrot
fresh basil leaves
½ cup white corn (I used frozen corn, thawed in running water)
salt & pepper

dressing:
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Boil pasta according to package directions, tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, and rinse in cold water. Dice pears and toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Build salads (I used individual bowls): lettuces, pasta, pears, feta/blue cheese, walnuts, tomatoes, onion slices, and grated carrot. Top with chopped basil and corn.

For the dressing, mix the olive oil and lemon juice in a measuring cup, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salads, toss, and serve.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tale of Two People

First and foremost, I must thank Liza for two things: (1) doing her Pillowbook blog, which has me thinking about things that I haven’t thought about in years (2) giving me a chance to be daring and put my writing “out there”. I totally agree that to write is to be daring and to share it with others is not only daring, but scary. I find that after I read each post, I ponder about things that I have stored away in a distant corner of my mind. These are not good or bad things, more like self reflection things. It is almost like coming out of a fog and becoming a thinker again. Believe me, when the mystery in your world is “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”, then you can really appreciate Liza’s blogs! (Oh, for those who don’t have kids and are not “privileged” to being forced to watch today’s cartoons: I am referring to SpongeBob Square Pants).

When I decided to write something for Liza’s blog, I thought of many things that would be fun or interesting. I reviewed some of her previous blogs and thought about a response or variant view, but decided instead to write about something I think we can all relate to: “Who are we really, and what makes us that person”?

I will go ahead and admit that this issue has been weighing on my mind as I recently turned the dreaded age of 30. Now, do not make the mistake of mentioning that to anyone over 30! I did and believe me all I got was the typical “oh, wait until your 40”, or “you are still young”, or worse yet, “wait until you are 80 and nothing works like it used to”. Really? Not the response that I was looking for. Instead I wanted all the sympathy that I deserved and I know all my 29 year old friends will agree that this age is probably not that big of a deal, but it sure sucks to not be able to say “I’m in my twenties”!

As the gloomy day of May 23 approached, I found that I was being overly emotional and to be honest “bitchy”. When my husband, Tommy, asked the inevitable “What is your problem?” I had no idea. That is the worst answer to a man’s question! So, I told him the typical female response of “just leave me alone”. For a change, he did and I started to wonder “what is my problem?”

I started thinking back over my life of almost 30 years and the person I have become. With a shock, I realized I have become two very different people. Even more astonishing are the reasons why: where I live and the effect of my husband. Now, for those that don’t know me I will try to very quickly explain the difference.

I was raised in Burkesville, KY with Liza, Lindsey, Melissa, Leslie, Mandy, Kristen, and others as my best friends. We all could tell stories on each other that would send the others into fits! As all good things must, we all went our own ways after high school. Sure, we would see each other on occasion, email, or call but we all changed and grew as individuals. Many of us moved to different places, while some stayed in good old “BurkesVegas”. I was one of the nomads who traveled from Bowling Green, KY to Albany, GA, to Lexington, KY, and now Nashville, TN. I married another “good ole boy” from Burkesville, Tommy, at the age of 22. Little did I know that my journey as a person would be influenced so dramatically by leaving Burkesville and spending all these years with Tommy (11 and counting).
First, let me explain the “Tommy Factor”. Tommy Carter is a very outgoing, opinionated, loving, courageous, and difficult man. He is a six-foot , red-head that I swore I would not like, and would only go out with for a free dinner and movie. Watch it ladies, that always bites you in the ass! My point is that over our 11 years together he has not only had a great affect on me as a person, but also on my personality. I am now an extrovert, outgoing, and courageous. Some would say this is a bad thing. I think it has helped me overcome many issues that have bothered me for years.

It is true that your friends know you best. My group of friends from Burkesville would see me as funny, outgoing, and friendly. Well, of course…they are my friends! Those who were not close to me saw me as stuck-up, a “prep”, or thinking I am better than others. SO far from the truth! Instead, I was always unsure of talking to people I did not know well, or feared rejection. I was a typical follower, not leader. That is how I have been in Burkesville my whole life. Only recently did I realize that I am not that person in Nashville. Instead, the friends I have made over the years, and the people that I teach with have described me as a dominant personality, not caring what anyone things, highly opinionated, and a leader. So, does where you live determine who you are? For me, it seems so.

I have tried to figure this out and have very few answers. The main issue I believe is that I feel that while in Burkesville I am judged by who I was in school, who my parents are, etc. Basically, other people’s opinions that I have no control over. In Nashville, I am just another face in the crowd. There are no preconceived notions of who I am, my family, my childhood, etc.. In Nashville I feel that people get to know the real “me”. I will give you a perfect example: going to the grocery store. When I go home to visit my parents I dread having to go to one of the two grocery stores. I always wonder who I am going to run into, will it be friend, foe, or undecided, and how bad do I look. I go in the store with my tunnel vision, get my items, stand in line and fidget nervously, and finally get the heck outta dodge as soon as I have paid the cashier. In Nashville, I go to Kroger or Wal-Mart wearing a pair of worn out sweat pants, old t-shirt, and my hair in a messy ponytail. I don’t care who I meet or what I look like. I am not going to run into anyone I know, and if by some chance I do, they have already seen me look this bad on multiple occasions. Thus, a tale of two people.

Now, the tricky part: How do I merge the two Kristi’s? I would like to think it would work like Liza and Lindsey’s great recipes that I drool over, but never have time to make (which totally pisses me off by the way). All the wonderful ingredients come together to make a healthy and wonderfully tasteful meal. However, my fear is that I will become the bipolar/schizophrenic type who needs meds!!! (This is the comic relief, please laugh).

When I presented this to Tommy he was totally confused, but could see small differences. His question was how can I love a place as much as I do Burkesville, want to retire there, have great friends that live there, yet have these negative feelings? Good question (dang it I hate it when he does that)!! In all honesty, I am not sure how to resolve the issue. I believe that I am a blend of the two and need to find the balance. My goal is to do exactly that: find the best of the Burkesville Kristi and Nashville Kristi and be the person I want to be. Via Liza, I will keep you posted (if you care:)).

Friday, June 11, 2010

And Now...Introducing...The Smooth!!!

I have been an avid reader and active commenter on this wonderful blog. I now have the distinct honor of being its second ever guest blogger. Thank you Liza.


During my time spent here on Pillow Book, I, as a teacher, have noticed something interesting…the vast majority of people reading this blog are also teachers (and, in fact, the blogger herself gravitates toward this very vocation when not moonlighting as a dog rescuer, shelf stocker, blogger and test grader). Those readers who are not teachers seem to have some sort of special relationship with education or educators. Many times the topic of education has been breached here and there has been no want for insightful comment. Given that this is the case, I thought that for my first bout of guest blogging I would address some issues with teaching and education that might generate some interesting conversation. Here is my open letter to the American people.

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Dear America,

You think you know teachers. You do not. We have been pigeonholed and typecasted for years as lame, dorky, lazy, the people responsible for raising your children, omniscient and morally flawless. The Pillow Book nation and I are here to set some things straight. We want to address these myths which have been perpetrated about educators. Once and for all we want to be exonerated from the unattainable expectations and assumptions of lameness which ominously hang over our heads. In others words, we are human dangit.

Myth # 1: Teachers know everything about everything

I can recall my freshman year of high school asking my Social Studies teacher what he thought happened to the people stranded on the island of Roanoke and what their final message of “Croatan” meant. Maybe you have no idea what any of that even means. Well, neither did he. And guess what; there is no reason you or he should have. I was so disappointed. How could someone so obviously incompetent ever become a social studies teacher? Why didn’t he know about this relatively obscure mostly uninteresting event in history that I had randomly happened upon and grown intrigued by? Teachers are supposed to know everything. Right? Nope. Not at all. This is an expectation that students harbor much more than parents or average people. And, though we should expect teachers to be intelligent and well read, the idea that teachers are all-knowing is just plain silly.

Myth # 2: Teachers are not cool people

What? Have you met Jackie Turner? Teachers, like most anyone with a career, are professionals. Part of the teaching profession is to be serious about your job. For teachers this often means being the killjoy in the room. We have this uncanny ability to take a fun atmosphere (fun as defined by 8th grade boys mind you) and with the simple wave of a worksheet turn it into a big ole bunch of lame. Alchemy I tell you. Well, as all teachers know, this does not mean that we cannot cut loose when we are not at work. Teachers have a love of the same music and film other people do. Our interests are broad. Sometimes teachers go out and dance (gasp) or even have a glass of wine (heavy sigh) from time to time. Teachers are people. They are as cool as people. Some people are cool, some are not. Hopefully, America, you are following my logic here.

Myth # 3: “Those who cannot do, teach”

Newsflash: Teaching is a doing. A big doing. Doesn’t this old adage just get under your skin? It does mine. The quickest way to convert someone from this school of thought is to have them teach. Now, I don’t want to turn this into some big woe-is-me, my job is soooo hard sob fest. Teaching is a very difficult profession that requires a lot of skill, knowledge and responsibility (note: that is not to indicate that I harbor any of those traits in abundance though I respect many teachers who do). Yes, teachers teach about a particular skill or area of knowledge rather than “do” or implement said knowledge in some kind of career involving mathematics, history, science, etc… Teachers’ doing is different than the doing being referenced in the infamous phrase above. Teachers’ doing is the doing of teaching itself. Our craft is not only science and mathematics but classroom management, parental communication, managing a schedule filled with many very, very important meetings, community involvement, lesson planning, professional development, grading, parenting 20-120 kids for 7 hours a day 9 months a year and the list goes on. If that is not a doing I will eat my hat (note: someone please make me a cookie hat just in case).

Myth # 4: Teaching is easy i.e. “you get the summers off”

All you have to do is go stand in a room for 9 months out of the year and you get great retirement, every holiday off, snow days and a two month plus summer vacation. Here is my response to this most basic misconception. See myth # 3. Teachers deserve that time off and a starting salary of $60,000, minimum. Maybe there should be a few free trips to the spa thrown in there. A company car? Discounts on everything? The possibilities are limitless.

I think there is no shortage as to the number of myths being circulated concerning teachers. My hope is that my fellow readers will help me in uncovering those myths here in the comment section. I am interested to read what myths about teaching (or any profession) you want to see corrected.

Disclaimer: I actually love teaching. I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am some unhappy naysayer. For all of its pitfalls, it is a very rewarding and enjoyable vocation. My experience tells me that most teachers feel the same way. Their willingness to accept this status further indicates their unfathomable awesomeness. Thank you to all the teachers who read this and devote their time to education.

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Now for my list of awesome/not awesome

Awesome

1.) Omelets- Take four or five of the coolest foods you can imagine and cook them in a blanket of eggs. The possibilities are endless. Brilliant combinations of cheesy goodness. They make me very happy.

2.) Bicycles- Seriously, go ride one. They are just so much fun. I wrote a haiku about it…

The wind in my hair

Pedaling under the sun

This is exercise?

3.) The smooth- The surface of the peanut butter when you first separate the foil seal from the plastic jar is perfect. The unsullied tabletop flatness of a fresh carton of ice cream is heaven. They beg for my spoon. I love the smooth.

4.) Being surprised by good smells- Maybe you’re just driving around and you get the smell of donuts, fresh cut grass or barbecue. Or, you walk into someone’s house and they are cooking or just cleaned with lemon oil. There is nothing like a good smell that finds you.

5.) Gardening- Eating your work is priceless. Watching it grow is even better. Sharing it is the best.

6.) Having a significant other with a blog- What a wonderful window into their mind. Some may find things they do not want there. I find only pure, unadulterated coolness ;-)

Not Awesome

1.) Ticks- Worst bugs ever. No one has ever discovered a tick on them and been excited or happy about it. One of the best things about having chickens is knowing that they eat ticks. Get em’ chickens.

2.) That moment the next morning when you realize the politician you really did not want to get elected did- I’m not naming any names here but this is a crappy feeling.

3.) Allergies- Seriously? Why are so many enjoyable things intolerable? Grass, dogs, flowers, cats, gluten, etc… are all really good things that make some people very miserable.

4.) Calories- Why ice cream and broccoli are not equally good for you I will never know. Sometimes I get to thinking that there is justice and balance in this world and then I remember this.

5.) Someone has killed the smooth- One bite out of the peanut butter, one spoon dipped into my pristine ice cream and my heart drops.

6.) How much your butt hurts after riding a bike for the first time in a long time- Do not let this discourage you from number 2 in my awesome column. It gets better.

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In the spirit of continuity and keeping up with the blogging Joneses (Lindsey, Caroline and Liza) I have decided to include a special little recipe of my own...

Recipe: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich

1.) Get two slices of bread

2.) Spread peanut butter on one slice and jelly on the other

3.) Put the slices of bread together so that the peanut butter touches the jelly

This dish is best served on a paper plate with cold milk. Preserves and jam can be substituted for jelly.