Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beginning of the end for Happy Meals?

Today in Santa Clara California, county supervisors voted 3-2 to ban prizes from meals containing more than 485 calories.  From May 11, restaurants will have only 90 days to get rid of the toys in kid's meals or more famoulsy, McDonald's happy meals.

"McDonald's is built on the Happy Meal," said one store manager at a local McDonald's that I spoke with today.  Oddly, none of the employees in that franchise (here in GA) had even heard the news.  They were concerned though.  The manager added, "we sell about 100 Happy Meals a day here." What's more is that of all the Happy Meals for kids that are sold, lots of shuttling parents also buy a thing or two to eat.  Happy Meals are a big draw for kids, and hungry parents can hardly stand the smell of those salty, fatty number one french fries either.  I know from experience.  Usually I have to have at least one of Sarah's fries.  She's 5 and a half, so for at least 2 years we've been purchasing Happy Meals left and right.  Do we do this every night?  Absolutely not.  Do we do it every week? Probably.  It's an indulgence for her and us.  She loves the food and actually eats the meal, and we don't have to worry so much about begging her to simply eat.  No messy kitchen either.

I have mixed feelings about Happy Meal toys.  The plus side is that they make Sarah happy, and she usually thinks I'm a very cool mother for taking her there. There's an article on the McDonald's website that is aimed at dispelling the "happy meal rumor" and asserts the claim that the food is actually quite healthy.  The article quotes a professor from The University of Georgia, my alma mater!  That article is here:

The down side is, what happens to all those plastic toys?  According to the McDonald's website, there are about 13,000 restaurants in the U.S.  If the store I was in happened to be a typical store, that's an estimate of 1.3 million plastic toys per day just in the U.S.  I know that my child will grow up and abandon those toys - she usually loses interest in them within a couple of weeks or until the next set of toys comes out.  Eventually they'll go in the trash because they can't be recycled.  Are there enough holes in the Earth to hold all this trash?  If McDonald's would make the move to having their toys produced with sustainable materials, that would be better, but until the toys go away, we've got major garbage added every day to our already growing heap on the planet.

One other issue is this one: I'm a mother.  I should be able to decide what my child can or cannot eat on any given day, or at any given mealtime.  In the end, I think a better option for Santa Clara, CA would be to lead a health education campaign aimed how parents should moderate high-fat food consumption for their children.  For the parents who wish to feed their kids McDonalds food from time to time, such as myself, I doubt I'll let that stop me.  I'm quite sure there are more McDonald's right across the county line that will be happy to serve children a toy with their Happy Meals.  But as a parent, I cannot imagine driving thru at my local McDonalds and Sarah not getting a toy with her Happy Meal.

I know you have an opinion.  Let the bickering commence!

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm a changed woman.

I've been working hard at trying to finish The Story of Stuff book, and I'm almost there.  I can probably read the rest of it tonight.  Having said that, I must say that shopping is a totally different experience with this new knowledge.  Today I found myself at the Mall of Georgia.  I held an Apple iPad and thought, oh cool I can see the whole web page - but what's the point?  I ducked into Old Navy and even tried on a pair of khakis.  My thought used to be that I could never have too many khaki pants.  Now, I'm thinking mine don't yet have holes in them and I no longer feel the need to have one in every color.  We went into the Disney Store.  Now, I love all things Disney, but did you know that Haitian workers in Port au Prince who sew Disney garments only make $3.75 an hour?  I was able to buy two shirts for Sarah for $7.50 each.  Where's all that profit going?  The CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner made 8.3 million in 2005.  So those poor Haitian working mothers who don't even get home in time to see their kids go to bed are paying the price.  It's not fair.  With almost all of our goods in the U.S. being made very cheaply overseas, things break down faster and easier than they used to.  And why don't we repair them rather than buy a new one?  I'll tell you why - because many times it is actually cheaper to buy a new one than to have your broken one fixed!  That's planned obsolescence.  We should be making things here, making them durable and right, and then having them fixed when they break instead of throwing them in our landfills, or worse...shipping them overseas to pollute someone else's country.  Repairing things here has another bonus: more jobs!

Here's another interesting fact: in the U.S. 12.9% of all municipal garbage (that means the garbage that you and I throw away) is FOOD SCRAPS!  Yet poverty is rampant all over the world.  We have the smart brains to figure out how to put a man on the Moon, how to design an iPhone, how to perform life saving heart surgeries and brain surgeries - yet we can't solve our poverty problem?  Did you know that 30.9% of our municipal garbage is containers and packaging for all those things we buy?  I'm as guilty as anyone else.  I like stuff.  I've been trained to like stuff all of my life.  By the time we are 20 years old, the average American has viewed nearly a million ads.  In 2006, $276 billion was spent on advertising.  One year we buy khakis with a straight cut, the next year, a skinny cut, the next year a super flare - ads tell us what we should want, and then we do want it, and then we buy it and then next year, we're on to something else.  Again, planned obsolescence.  At age 35, I've already seen fashions from the 80's make a comeback (god help us).  What will it be this decade?  We think all these new things will make us happy.  But research says they don't.  They make us feel better for a couple of weeks, and then poof, we get that credit card bill and start feeling bad about our debt.

How do we find a way out of this work-shop-spend cycle?  How do we buy less and therefore, decrease the demands on our planet?  I don't yet have the answers to those questions.  But what I do now have is a different feeling when I shop.  If I need it, I'll buy it - but only if I can justify a need or a super-duper want.  A super-duper want for me consists of thinking about something for at least two weeks before finally giving in and making the purchase.  And having been raised with the old adage, women are born to shop, this might be difficult and painful at first.   With Hal not working these past two years, I've already had to tell myself no many times...but this will be telling myself no every time and then reconsidering on a case by case basis.  I'll help myself in the end.  We don't have as much money as we used to anyway, so to stay out of debt, we need to learn to consume less.  This is a good thing.

Even the car I drove around in today was an unnecessary purchase.  I didn't have to have a brand spanking new hybrid Honda Insight a year ago.  My 2005 Volkswagen Jetta worked just fine.  It got 29 miles per gallon.  There's no doubt that my Insight gets better gas mileage, at 46.1 mpg average.  And yes, I have saved money on gas and have used less gas.  I feel good about that.  But how much energy and natural resources did it take to produce my new car?  Had I traded in a 20 year old gas guzzler, I'd have made a better deal - but the car I had was only 5 years old.  I probably shouldn't have bought the new one, even if it was a hybrid.  The only thing I can do at this point is drive it 300,000 miles or until it falls apart, so that I know I've used it up.  Then it should be scraped and recycled into new parts for a new car.  We need to produce things in a closed loop and stop draining the Earth of all it's natural resources and filling it back up with garbage and toxic chemicals.

It's a lot to take in.  You all owe it to yourselves to read this book.  You don't have to buy it.  I'll loan you mine!  :)  But if you're too far away and you want a copy, here's the link: The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

To celebrate Earth Day, I've got a few things going.  For one, we planted our garden on Tuesday because that was the day my father decided was the day that it must be done.  Since his garden is pretty much great every year (unless we're in a drought), I believe him.  Here he is showing Hal how to drive his tractor to make the rows exactly right.  We planted cucumber, squash, corn, cantaloupe, and zucchini seeds.  I'm re-launching my dill pickle business this summer and we're stoked.  Hal still doesn't have a job so this will definitely keep him busy.  When I did this several years ago, it went really well - this time I think we're much more ready, especially since we're growing our own cucumbers.  The other thing that I'm doing this week in honor of Earth Day is giving up meat.  Growing animals for food uses tons of water and chemicals so for a week I'm going veggie!  Good for me, good for the planet.  Did you know that you should only eat 4 ounces of meat per day anyway (that is, if you eat meat at all)?  Hopefully I'll find some time to finish reading The Story of Stuff before the week is out! 

Bumps in the night.

I'm sitting here in the dark, and both of my sweeties are asleep.  The kitties are roaming around outside somewhere being cats.  P.P. returned home yesterday morning with a whole dead mouse.  She'd rather eat her cat food I suppose, yet there's still an instinct to wipe out the mouse population, one by one.  Tonight she's back on the hunt, happy as a cat can be I guess, roaming the dark deafening woods.  The only thing to hear around here at night inside the house is the low roar of my box fan - a  household staple since my duty in the freshman dorm at Georgia.  It really does help me sleep because when I'm asleep it drowns out all the other noise in the house.  However, when I'm up like this, and wide awake, I sometimes hear footsteps in this house. For the first few months that we were here I heard absolutely nothing...and I was listening too.  Boy, let me tell you.  I was a little more than completely freaked out when we first started living in this house.  Two people died in this house and it's also the place that my grandmother always wanted to come back to in her last years when she was staying with my aunt and uncle instead of being able to live in her own home.  This little house was all she ever really had, and she worked hard for it, so she valued it more than anything else.

It was just when I'd stopped freaking out about it all and had pretty much forgotten about the spirits that could linger when I started hearing the footsteps.  At first, I ignored them and chalked it up to some other thing, like maybe the front screen door was banging, or maybe the cat was on the porch jumping down off the rail.  But last week it was so obvious that I literally felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  I'd always heard other people say that and thought oh what an odd thing to feel, but now I know.  It's kind of spine tingling.  Seriously.  Here's how it went.

I'm lying in bed trying to fall asleep.  I've already gone through my normal routine of twittering, emailing, blogging, and surfing the Internet to wind down from a long twelve hour shift in the ER.  Sarah was on the couch asleep (because she refuses to sleep in the back room of the house where all of her stuff is).  Hal was in our bed sound asleep too.  I was curled up on my side when I heard the footsteps.  My first instinct was that perhaps Sarah had awoke and was coming to get in the bed with us.  I opened my eyes and watched for her, but didn't see or hear her.  I laid back down and waited a minute and then heard more footsteps.  This time I raise up on one elbow and really look hard for her silhouette in the dim light.  Nothing.  So I get up and go check on her and lo and behold there she is on the couch still very much asleep and in the exact same position as I left her earlier.  That's when I felt the shiver up and down my spine.  Seriously.  For a moment I was afraid.  But then I realized that if any of my family members who have gone on to the other side were here for a visit, they'd mean no harm to me.  Or maybe it was just a "place memory." I don't know.  I heard them again tonight, but didn't bother getting up to check on anyone.  I guess now that they know we're back in the house, they're coming around to make sure we're okay.  My grandmother is probably trying to send me hints to clean up the place.  Or Keith would just try to freak us out and have himself a good laugh.  My grandfather, who collapsed right in the bedroom that I sleep in a full four years before I was born...well, I don't know about him.  Hopefully he's moved on by now into another life.

I asked Hal if he'd heard anything and he slowly let out a "yes." I think he's probably a little freaked out like I am.  He thinks something is also messing with the cabinet doors in the kitchen.  I don't know about that.  But I do hear the steps.  Loud and clear and absolutely out of this world.  Maybe when we move back to our own house, my grandmother's spirit will follow us there.  I think I'd like that.  :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do you know a child in danger?

My Thursday-Friday back to back 12-hour shifts in the ER are like a one-two punch in the noggin for me.  It knocks me out for a while but when I wake up I feel alright.  I just returned home from a couple of whirlwind days that began right as I awoke from my post-shift slumber Saturday afternoon.  It all began with a kiddo birthday party that my child was invited to, then straight to the Great Southern Stampede Rodeo, and then straight into a late-night drive to Warner Robins where my mother-in-law lives.  Once there I can commence my vegetative state that I often slink into upon arrival because it's very quiet, the focus is absolutely not on me, and I can sleep uninterrupted.  So tonight I'm rather fresh and while not necessarily inspired, I do have something on my mind.

In the last few days, several headlines on have bothered me. 

'Pediatrician faces more sex charges'
'Sex-offender admits killing teens'
'Haleigh's dad told to make funeral plans'
'Man admits to killing [his] family'
'Toddler beaten so badly that intestines had to be removed'

Believe me, this is just a sampling.  As you all know, I'm a mother of a perfectly happy, healthy 5 year old little girl.  From the moment she was born I've been taking care of her.  I've dealt with stinky diapers, colicky crying spells, repeated ear infections, a totally messy house due to toy take-overs, constant talking slash singing, and now, bouts of arguing for independence and games of 100 questions.  There have been days when I come home in the middle of the night after working 12 hours and she pops out of bed and wants to play.  There have been days when she wouldn't take a nap or wouldn't go to bed before midnight.  I've lost amazing amounts of alone time with my husband, and I've stayed up at night worried about how I can possibly mother this child for the rest of my life.  I worry about the boys she'll date, about the clothes she'll have to have, about the grades she'll get, and about whether her preset mode of happy will change during those moody teenage years.  I worry that she won't want to talk to me or that she'll cry under her covers at night when someone breaks her heart.  I have worried about how to make her life the best it can be from the moment I saw those two pink lines on the stick.  I'd barely pulled my pants up and flushed the toilet when they shined like a beacon at me, professing my upcoming motherhood.  This child I have has completely changed my life.  In a good way, despite the bad days.  I have never not-wanted her.  Oh sure, I joke with her about how I'm going to inflict bodily harm if she doesn't do what I'm telling her to do.  I have also popped her a few times.  I've lost my temper and yelled at her - but I have also always come back to apologize to her and tell her I shouldn't have shouted like that.  I'm human, and I make mistakes.  But I cannot, for the life of me, understand how any human being can really *harm* or kill a child.  I also cannot understand how anyone could turn a blind eye to a child who is suffering through abuse.

Every parent out there understands how easy it is to lose your temper.  You've worked all day, they won't do what you're telling them to do.  They refuse to potty-train, eat their vegetables (or anything at all for that matter), they won't pick up their toys, they've colored on the freshly-painted wall (again), they won't stop picking on little brother or sister, they've gotten bad grades at school.  Kids have a zillion ways to get into trouble.  And parents have a zillion things to worry about besides the misbehaving kid.  This sometimes, obviously, fuels disaster.

There is absolutely no reason to hurt a child in any way, whatsoever.  I'm not saying that discipline is bad - I'm saying that children shouldn't be neglected, beaten, raped, sold, martyred, starved, or killed - ever.   And I know that you all agree.  Most of the time all it takes for a parent who is struggling is simply someone to listen, a few basic parenting tips, or maybe an anger management class.  Sometimes people who have children simply cannot take good care of them and despite intervention the children need to be placed with another family member or a foster family.

If you know of anyone who is struggling, please refer them to the Georgia Parents Helpline at 1-800-CHILDREN (244-5373) or  If you think you know of a child in an abusive situation, please call your local DFCS office or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD ( 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lose the stuff, material girl.

That's my little girl, beaming unsolicited, because a caterpillar was crawling on her hand.  Have you ever noticed that it doesn't take much to make a kid happy?  I was actually kind of surprised by this when Sarah was a little bitty thing, crawling around getting into things and being constantly amazed by all that she came into contact with.  I remember her first real Christmas, when she was a little over one year, that she cared much more about the wrapping paper and the bows than the toy inside the boxes.  She had no qualms about wearing anything I decided to put on her.  To this day, at almost 6, she's not picky about what she wears though she loves dresses.  She plays with anything.  Bubble wrap, crayons, figurines, un-sharpened pencils, pots and pans.  She likes her toys, but she's largely not a materialistic girl.  This begs the question: at what point in our lives do we begin to long for things most of us cannot afford? Why do I want an Airstream camper and a cool SUV to pull it?  I could settle for a cheaper one, or just use the tent I already have...but for some reason I'd like to have the nicest camper made.  And why do I have to have an iPhone with it's expensive data plan?  Why do I look at the Tiffany & Co. website late at night to see what's new?  Why do I, and most of us, feel the need to keep up with the uber-rich fictional Jones' that my grandmother used to talk about?  The thing is, I'm actually *not* that material, because when I grew up, we had virtually nothing.  I didn't have nice clothes to wear, a nice car to ride in, a horse in a pasture or lavish birthday parties.  My father did the best he could as a single parent (at times working three jobs) and my grandmother kept us fed with the basics and the huge vegetable crop we worked on every year...ruining last year's shoes in the Georgia red mud.  In 1985, when I was 10 years old and Madonna was crooning about being a Material Girl, I was helping my father pick up dead chickens on our chicken farm.  And the more I was around the "haves" at school, I realized quite certainly that I was a "have-not." So my expectation for Sarah as she grows up and goes to school is that she'll learn to want more and more when she sees other kids with other things that she doesn't have.  Already, the television commercials she watches tell her that she needs the coolest new toys or the hottest action figures, the doll with the dress that changes colors, or the waxy stringy Bendaroos.  She's begun to want to be like the rest of her classmates - and she's only in pre-school.  But that's not how she came out.  She came out simply happy to be alive.  Happy to look at the blinky lights on our first Christmas tree, or happy to hold a simple burp cloth and fling it around in her hands.

Look around.  Look at all the Stuff you have.  And even though we've shed a lot of our own stuff as we've moved around the country, Hal and I still have BOXES of Stuff that is sitting in an extra bedroom not being used at all.

Americans work more hours than people in any other industrialized nation and the two main things we do in our off time is watch television and shop.  We go to work, come home, watch television and hear about all the things we need via the never-ending barrage of commercials and then we drag our butts off the sofa and go out to buy them, creating more debt, which we then have to work more hours to pay for.  It's a cycle.   I think if I stood on any street corner and asked people if they'd like to be out of debt, most would shout a resounding "YES!" but there we are in the stores, buying another sweater, another pair of shoes, a new television, more toys for our kids who have too many toys already - you get the point.

Even though I've been fully indoctrinated in this American consumer, materialistic-must-have-society, I'm going to focus on trying to not have so much again.  If I buy something new, I'm going to try to get rid of the thing I have replaced responsibly.  I'm going to donate clothes I can't wear anymore to people in other nations who are lucky if they have shoes on their feet to walk the three miles to get clean water every day.  I'm going to try to buy only things that have been made with some inkling of responsibility for our planet in mind.  I'm going to see if I can teach my daughter as she grows that it's okay not to always have the latest, greatest thing that advertisers are telling her she needs.

This is just a tiny start.  But it's something.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

RIP to Hal's sleek black friend.

On Monday, my dear husband dropped his iPhone 3G in the toilet.  Of course, he was all in a panic so he woke me up from my day slumber to tell me this.  This is the third time he's jarred me awake to give me terrible news - once before it was when he didn't get "the" job - and the time before that I thankfully can't remember.  The water was clean he said - but he was still frantically drying it off, pushing buttons on the white flickering screen.  Nothing happened.  I took one look at the phone and gave it its last rites.  It's dead I tell him, and follow the call to the toilet that I get after waking up so suddenly.  After I flush, I walk out and Hal is pacing around the house trying to figure out how to save his beloved friend - his pocket companion since last year.  This little dead iPhone is actually his second.  The first he dropped on the ceramic floor of our bathroom in Maryland and busted the screen but fortunately the great guys at the Apple store there just gave him a new one, no questions asked.  But everyone knows they're not going to give you a new one when you drop yours in the toilet.  He called Apple, relayed every detail of his sad tale of woe, and they very affectionately said "we're so sorry." Then he called AT&T who offered to upgrade him right away to the 3GS for a nice price of $199, which we don't have.  The whole time, he's trying to figure out how to save it.  I keep reminding him, "honey, I'm pretty sure it's dead."  "I was trying to catch it - I saw it falling," he said to me as his voice almost cracked.  Poor guy.  Part of me wanted to call him a dumb ass and part of me wanted to hug him and cry with him, offer to have a ceremony for his sleek electronic friend.  Just when he'd started using Facebook too.

We make the trek to the AT&T store, and I'm silently cursing under my breath - this is not how I wanted to spend my afternoon.  We get him the cheapest little Go Phone made by Nokia and now I'm going to save $30 per month because I no longer have to pay for his iPhone data plan.

When we arrive home, Hal is still devoted to the idea of saving the phone.  We research this problem on the internet, typing in the Google search bar "iphone dropped in toilet" and get all sorts of tutorials on how to revive the little guy.  So we bury him in a Tupperware bowl full of dry white rice and proceed to just wait it out.  A few days later, when I'm up at night all alone, I realize that the phone is still in the rice.  I get it out, put my SIM card in it and try to power it up.  I tell myself that if the thing comes on, I'm waking his ass up - even if it's four in the morning.  But alas, it doesn't do anything despite me pushing the power button.  In an instant I move on, and being the money-grubbing entrepreneur I am, I decide that perhaps I can make back the $30 I spent for his Go Phone by selling the water-logged iPhone on Ebay for parts.  The screen is perfect right?  Somebody out there has a cracked screen and a hair of ingenuity so I figure he'll want to fix his own iPhone.  I turn on the lights, take a picture of the phone (sans all the rice) and list it on Ebay with a starting price of 99 cents.  A few hours later a guy offers me ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS for the thing!  I change the list price, he bids, and I end the auction early.  Unbelievable!  I feel kind of slithery inside because Hal's sorrowful misfortune has now saved me thirty bucks a month and made me a hundred extra dollars and I can't help but smile and laugh out loud.  A hundred bucks I squeal!

I've got a nice piece of woods and a dumpy little house connected to a swamp.  You interested?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lessons from the emergency room.

I have so much on my mind tonight - after sleeping for most of the day, I'm having a hard time connecting the dots in my mind.  Last night's shift in the ER was slow, steady, smooth, except for a couple of blips on the radar.  I'm recalling a lot of blips from my time there so far - and I have a few things to share.  When you see the sorts of things I and my coworkers see on a daily basis, you either get a real sick sense of humor, or you learn things about people and life that you never thought you would - you gain insights that you never knew you could see.  Many of us do both.  This is a short list of some of the things I've learned or as Oprah would say, things I know for sure.
  • Whatever divide there is in your family, close it up.  There's nothing quite so final as death, and death can come at any given moment for any one of us - seriously - so if you've done or said something along the way or even if someone you love did or said something horrible to you, now's the time to forgive and try to move forward.  You cannot do that indefinitely.  Do it while you can.  I've seen several people cry and wail and scream because things didn't end right with them and the person lying on the gurney.  That's a horrible scenario that can be avoided if you can get past the small stuff.  Decide what's more important -  your love for that person and what they once meant to you, or the thing that's wedged between you. 
  • Drugs are bad.  Very, very bad.  Drugs destroy individuals, families, societies.  They cost a lot of money and you'll wind up losing everything that's important to you, if anything is.  There are folks out there that literally have nothing left in their life - no one who will have anything to do with them anymore - no house, no money, no car, no job, no nothing - not even their own teeth, and their free fall started with drugs.  I realize this is simplistic, but seriously - stay away from drugs of any kind.  
  • Suicide is never an answer.  Even if your life sucks, having your body autopsied and shoved in a casket will suck worse.  Most importantly please realize that life can usually get a lot better for you if you only realize that you're in control.  If you can control things enough to pull the trigger or to take a handful of pills, then you can control it enough to dial the U.S. National Suicide prevention help line, 1-800-273-8255.  But should you decide to take your own life anyway, please do not call your family first to tell them what you are about to do.  That is THE most selfish thing you could ever do, even more so than killing yourself.  Think about the people you will leave behind and what they have to live with. 
  • If you feel funny, off, sick, or just not "yourself" lately, please make an appointment with your doctor and get yourself checked out.  Do not ignore the warning signs of an impending heart attack or stroke, like left sided chest pain that radiates down the arm or into your jaw or super high blood pressure.  If you have a lump in your breast or a funny looking mole, please call your doctor.  So many people wait until the last minute, until it's way too late to do anything other than give you a couple of radiation treatments and some morphine - or until you've had a heart attack and die or you've had a stroke and your quality of life is now forever changed.  Don't wait.  That feeling in your gut that's telling you that something isn't quite right - listen to it, that's your survival instinct talking to you.  Don't put that burden of "making" you go to the doctor on your family.  Be a grown up and do it yourself.  
  • Stop smoking now.  I don't care if you've smoked for 20 years, stop now.  Have you ever seen the fear in a person's eyes when they can't breathe?  Can you imagine having a pillow over your face and smothering to death?  Seriously, there are lots of ways out there to quit.  And, think of all the money you'll save.  Smoking causes cancer and people DIE from smoking every single day - close to 1,200 every day in the U.S.  
  • Get an education.  The more you know, the better your life has the chance to be.  You're much less likely to die in a knife-fight, or go to prison, and you'll be able to depend on yourself for facts and information that can make or break you.  Stupidity does not pay.  Find a meaningful way to spend your time on the planet.  Finish high school and go to college if you can.  
My rant for the night.  Leave comments if you agree, disagree, or have sumthin' to say!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Answering the happiness questions of Ariel Gore.
Bluebird is the second of Ariel Gore's books I've read.  She was the one who convinced me that I wanted to be a famous writer via How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead.  Bluebird takes a totally different route by exploring what happiness to a woman really means.  In the book, she poses seven questions which I've decided to try to answer.  I'm not sure why.  Just an exercise in futility or self-exploration?  I guess so, but I haven't thought about what truly makes me happy in a while now - here are my answers.  What would your answers be?

1. How heavily do you weigh your own happiness when making life decisions?
  • Before I had Sarah I guess I did things to make me happy, but that was something that had to happen gradually - my family used a lot of guilt to manipulate each other into doing things the others wanted, and as much as I love my grandmother, she was very good at guilting me.  After therapy, when I moved beyond some of that, I still find that I have to give myself an ego boost from time to time to remind myself that what I want does matter - that it's okay for me to smile, be not-so-serious all the time, find value in playing.  Sarah has taught me that.  For now, I find that I put her first, but with the knowledge that if I get too miserable, she'll be unhappy too - so I have to find time to take care of myself.
2. What could make you happier?
  •   More money in my bank account, not living way out here in the country, but rather, being back in my little house that I picked out 5 years ago.  This will happen in a few months, but it would certainly be great now.  Also, I'd be happier if my husband had a job.  His seemingly endless unemployment is making all of us stressed out and irritable.  It's hard to have hope sometimes.  One other thing that would really pump me up is if this blog totally took off!  Or if I achieved my dream of publishing a book.
3. What is your fondest memory?
  • I shouldn't have to think so hard about this one.  Maybe it was helping my grandmother shell peas when I was very little and mostly in her way - maybe it was the first time I saw Sarah open her eyes, maybe it was my grandmother making ice cream out of freshly fallen snow? Maybe it was the moment I realized that my college education would be completely paid for?  Maybe it was getting married to the man I love in Jamaica? Maybe it was getting my Master's degree or moving into my new home?  Or maybe it was riding back from Six Flags one summer with all my cousins in the back of my daddy's truck exhausted, happy, and singing at the tops of our voices, "Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog" - hard question!
4. Do you think you're happier or less happy than your mother was at your age?
  • I didn't know my mother when she was my age, but considering the life path she chose, I'd say I'm happier, despite all the things that contribute to my daily angst.  Today, even though we are attempting to have some semblance of a relationship, she admits she's miserable.  I'm much more in control of my life path than she ever was.
5. What's the best thing that happened yesterday?
  • Yesterday was Easter.  Even though I'd rather have jumped in the car for a day-trip to the beach, I sucked it up and went to church with my family partly because of, you guessed it, guilt - and partly because Sarah wanted to participate in the big Easter Egg Hunt.  But afterward, the best moment of the day came when she was running around the yard with her pretty dress and shoes on blowing bubbles in the wind.  She was so happy - and her sheer innocent happiness has always been able to project itself right into my heart.
6. When was the last time you felt inspired?
  • I'm not sure.  I was definitely inspired three years ago when I hammered out a manuscript in a little over a month, but that inspiration was borne out of utter despair, so I'm not sure that counts.  Lately I've been inspired while reading books and articles on life, how to write, issues our country is facing, and even while writing my blog.  Sometimes my co-workers in the ER inspire me - the way they hunker down and push through the sometimes impossible situations that can happen where we work.
7. Are you happier than you were this time last year?
  • Absolutely.  I listened to my heart when I chose to quit Student Affairs and do what I'd learned to love in the ER.  It was a big deal to move to Maryland just to survive, prove something to myself.  It was an even bigger deal to figure out a way to honor the way my life's passion had changed by being true to what I needed to do rather than what seemed logical at the time.  You can make a career out of anything, almost anywhere, but happiness isn't sold on every doorstep.  Most people didn't understand me moving back to Georgia - but I'm definitely better off for having done just that. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eggs, eggs, everywhere!

First there was the Easter Egg Hunt at her school. Since she had a basket full of eggs, we then had multiple "egg hunts" around the house. There were eggs between the couch cushions, eggs on my desk, eggs in the bed, on the bookshelf, under the table. She would hide them, then find most of them, then hide them again and make us find them. Today was no different. The church had an Easter Egg Hunt and Sarah brought home all sorts of eggs: multi-colored, pastel, clear, glitter, even eggs with fluffy hair were sent to her from Aunt Kim in Florida.  So we had to hide eggs, find them, and hide them again.  Sarah wanted to hide some, and when she did she jumped around like the Easter Bunny.  One of the hazards of hiding eggs around outside is that there may be one or two that never get found!  At least back when I was young, we had good old hard-boiled eggs that we'd carefully decorated by dipping them in dye.  Granny never let me down on the Easter egg decorating - we had plenty of eggs and decorating supplies every year, and right here in this yard is where most of my eggs hunts were as a child.  Leaving one of those real eggs out in the wilderness wasn't so bad - it could biodegrade on its own.  Or maybe a possum would find it and thank her lucky stars.  But now that plastic has taken over the world, I wonder how many plastic eggs will be left out there today having never been found?  I know of at least one!