Tag Archives: resolutions

Hello February, my old friend

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Light Boxes

Light Boxes

On January 1st I wrote, February will be my Light Box month. It’s typically a hard month for me because it’s the month my mom died, and as of 2010, the month my old friend Connecticut died. Usually, I let it sneak up on me and end up getting physically ill. This year I’m determined to face it head on by reading, writing, and blogging about grief, illness, and mortality.

Here it is, February 5, and I’ve hardly given it a passing thought. But I need to tackle it now. During the last two Februaries, I suffered from a combination of pneumonia and bronchitis that hashed my lungs, put me on inhalers, sent me for chest x-rays, drove me to the acupuncturist, and dragged on for about 6 weeks each year. Grief turned depression was the catalyst last year when my sweet cat Connecticut died of a lingering illness that reduced her to a skeleton. Needless to say, I would like to avoid major illness this year. Part of it will be luck in avoiding any bugs in public places. But a larger part will be looking ahead, accepting that it will be a hard month—and embracing the opportunities for reflection that it brings. Feb 13 (the day Connecticut died) and Feb 16 (the day my mom died) will be the toughest days and preparing for those days is a good idea.

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones, is a dark little book, with a quirky and unexpected play on language and characters. It exploits tensions: heaven versus earth, dead versus alive, reality versus fantasy and dreams, flying versus being grounded. The illustrations are morosely atmospheric. It’s good to know I’m not the only one with a war against February.

Margaret Elizabeth Marsh Troyer 1942-1991
Margaret Elizabeth Marsh Troyer 1942-1991

It’s weird what you can find online. Here’s a link to a picture of my mom’s headstone that somebody took. The site allows you to create an account and add photos, basic information, etc., but advertises a paid upgrade to “sponsor” the memorial and remove advertisements. Seems a little tacky, but I’m pretty sure mom doesn’t care. And, how else would I have a picture of her gravestone handy to post here? I’ve never really been one to hang out at mom’s grave site. There’s no her, there, if you know what I mean.


Mindful creativity for the not so artistically inclined?

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A Year of Mindfulness: 52 Weeks of Focus – Week 5

This week’s topic is creativity.

I haven’t been very disciplined in my weekly mindfulness posts. Somehow I did better with daily prompts. As I’m nearing the end of my third month of posting daily, I’m also feeling a little burnt out. This could be due to the sheer amount of time I’m in front of the laptop, between work and my volunteer hours researching radio topics and creating and maintaining websites and social media. But it’s also because I can very rarely bring myself to blog early in the day, so I’m often writing this at the last minute when I should be in bed.

My main creative outlet at the moment is my advocacy work, and in particular, my radio show. However, like namaste*heather, I don’t feel naturally creative and one of my goals this year is to explore alternate forms of personal imaginative expression. In addition to improving my storytelling (through writing and out loud), I would really like to learn to draw and paint. I don’t have a natural talent in those areas, so I’m not sure where to begin. I like strong geometric designs and patterns, and in the past have enjoyed copying native american designs and celtic knots, but I don’t feel that those things help me to learn to create from scratch. Also, I feel like my design work has always been hindered by the fact that I have to crib from others; I can’t just draw what I want to see, so I have to find it elsewhere, then tweak it. When I imagine drawing and painting I imagine vibrant, evocative colors. I will be on the lookout for learning opportunities.

Juggling volunteer commitments

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First, goal progress: In bed by 11:30 p.m. ish Jan 27, Up at 8:30 a.m. ish Jan 28.
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It’s late, and I’m getting up way too early for a Saturday to attend a sustainability workshop and a radio training, both of which overlap each other, and neither of which I have to go to, but I said yes to because I’m interested in them. The workshop is by an author we just interviewed for the radio show and VegNet was asked to contribute a couple of salads, so oh, I have to put mine together in the morning as well because it would have gotten wilty overnight. I won’t get to eat the salad or other veggie lunch options, though, because I’ll be at the radio training during that time. So I should probably also pack myself a lunch.

The next couple of weeks are shaping up to have several non-profit related activities two or three evenings out of the week, plus my SharePoint user group is next Friday, although that takes the least amount of time to coordinate most months. How much volunteer time is too much, I’m asking myself right now? We’re doing important work with VegNet and the radio show, but I don’t want to burn out. All Things Vegan is taking a lot of extra time, but we plan to do it for at least a year, so I need to pace myself. And I need to figure out how to juggle these things that are important to me while still having fun and without feeling tired and crabby. One of the drivers behind reading all those time management books lately is to become more efficient with my volunteer hours so that it remains enjoyable. It’s sometimes hard to be efficient (and diplomatic) when other people with different styles and habits are involved, though. So I need to practice patience as well.

The best soup that I’ve made in a long time: Vegetable Lentil Stew [vegan]

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First, goal progress: In bed by 11:30 p.m. Jan 26, Up at 8:30 a.m. Jan 27. In bed by 1:00 a.m. ish Jan 26, Up at 8:55 a.m. Jan 26.
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I wasn’t really ready for another batch of lentil soup yet, but it was soup night last night at our VegNet potluck, and I had some French lentils left. I had every intention of making the French Lentil Chili again, but at the last-minute I decided to try a different recipe from Vegan on the Cheap. There were a lot of soups at the potluck, so I didn’t get much feedback on mine, but my husband had some of the batch that I left behind, and said it was the best soup I’d made in a long time. And he doesn’t even like lentils. I made a triple batch so that I’d have plenty for the potluck and some to keep. As a result, it turned out more like a soup than a stew. Any ingredient substitutions or omissions below were because I wanted to use what I had on hand. (Note: It’s a pain in the ass to take hot soup to a potluck. I don’t know what we were thinking. I ended up putting the soup in a crockpot, bungeeing a very thick towel around it, and putting it on the passenger side floor with a bunch of random stuff wedged on top. Luckily, no tragic accident occurred.)

Vegetable Lentil Stew

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil [I've been using Canola lately when cooking anything over medium heat or higher]
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried savory
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed [I tried to find the fennel seeds, but I think I ended up using caraway. I used my coffee grinder that is dedicated to flax seed and herbs, etc.]
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
8 ounces brown lentils, picked over, rinsed, and drained [I used French lentils and soaked them overnight, even though I know that it's not supposed to be necessary with lentils. I think I'm becoming a fan of French lentils now, even though they are more expensive.]

6 cups vegetable stock [I used Rapunzel vegan vegetable bouillon plus went heavy on the herbs since I didn't have any stock available. As I've experimented with cooking over the last few years, I've tended to play more with recipes, and not be so concerned about following them to a T. That makes it a little harder to duplicate it the next time, but also keeps it interesting. I think I pretty much used the herbs in the recipe plus a liberal dose of "herbes de provence" that I got at World Market (marjoram, savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage, lavender.) Because of the lavender, this mix just doesn't work for everything, but I think it went well with this recipe. I may also have added a little nutmeg. Hmm, should write these things down.]
¼ to ½ cup dry red wine (optional)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes [I like to use Trader Joe's diced & fire roasted organic tomatoes with organic green chiles. I often add a can of this to my soups]
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped [I used a large sweet potato]
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium parsnip, peeled and chopped [I omitted this because I didn't have one on hand]
1 celery rib, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups finely chopped cabbage [I omitted this because I didn't have any on hand]

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook until the onion is soft, 5 minutes. Stir in the savory, fennel, thyme, paprika, lentils, and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the wine, if using, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, and celery. Add salt and pepper. Increase the heat to bring back to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Simmer for about 20 minutes longer or until the vegetables and lentils are tender. Serve hot.

Short Shrift

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First, goal progress: In bed by 11:30 a.m. ish Jan 23, Up at 7:50 a.m. Jan 24.

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Because I created our All Things Vegan Radio blog today, this blog gets short shrift. From good old etymonline.com:

O.E. scrift “confession to priest, followed by penance and absolution,” verbal noun from scrifan “to impose penance” (see shrive). Short shrift originally was the brief time for a condemned criminal to confess before execution (1590s); figurative extension to “little or no consideration” is first attested 1814.

My short shift: I’m innocent, I swear!

And…always look on the bright side of life…
Always look on the light side of life…

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin – give the audience a grin
Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow.

So always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath.

Darling Starlings

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European Starling

European Starling (adult transitional) © Kevin Carver, December 2005

This month, many headlines have been made of mysterious mass animal die-offs around the world. There is now an explanation for one such case: the USDA killed them. According to MSNBC:

USDA wildlife biologist Ricky Woods explained that a large group of starlings was causing problems in a north Nebraska cattle feedlot, eating the feed and leaving waste on both the feed and equipment. So the USDA put out DRC 1339 poison for the birds, Woods said.

“Lethal means are always a last resort,” said Woods. “In this situation it’s what we had to do.”

The article goes on to say:

Authorities said that so far starlings were the only birds found dead in Yankton. They said the poisoned birds didn’t pose a threat to other animals or humans. Officials estimated nearly 2,000 birds ate the poison.

Why do I doubt that this, “the poisoned birds didn’t pose a threat to other animals or humans,” could possibly be true?

Arnie the Darling Starling

My views on starlings were forever changed by reading a book published in 1983 (and now seemingly out-of-print) called Arnie, the Darling Starling. I found it during the days when I haunted used bookstores, eagerly collecting and devouring every book on animal behavior, cognition, and biology—and of course—animal memoirs. Today, I get most of my books from the library, but I’ve kept my extensive collection from the old days. In this memoir, Margaret Sigl Corbo takes in an orphaned bird, who she then proceeds to raise. The bird turns out to be a very charismatic starling who learns to speak English.

At one point in my life, I had become an avid birder. Birding teaches observation, and the identification of all bird species, but it tends to scorn the “invasive” species. However, after reading Arnie the Darling Starling, I started to look at starlings differently. I mean, I really started to look at them and watch their behavior. I came to the conclusion that the starlings of the world cannot help that they’re starlings. They are unique and special birds whether or not they are supposed to be here. Yes, they’re noisy and bossy, and they spill the birdseed everywhere and consume large quantities of it, but they’re also very gregarious, social, and beautiful; the males having iridescent spotted plumage that shines and dances in the light and changes dramatically throughout the year.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes starlings as:

First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.

If only we would take the time to really see and learn about all the species that we share our world with, we would be less willing to put up with mass exterminations of any sort, whether through factory farming for food animals, or the culling of birds that are a “nuisance” to the same industry.

Weekly Goal Recap

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Weekly goal recap: Goal – Go to bed by 10:30 p.m., get up by 7:15 a.m. every weekday for a month. (This started out as 10:00 p.m. & 6:30 a.m., but I revised it to be a little bit more realistic for my current sleep cycle and commitments.)

  • In bed by 12:00 a.m. ish Jan 21, Up at 7:15 a.m. ish Jan 21.
  • In bed by 12:00 a.m. ish Jan 20, Up at 7:15 a.m. ish Jan 20.
  • In bed by 1:00 a.m. Jan 19, Up at 8:45 a.m. Jan 19.
  • In bed by 11:45 p.m.? Jan 17, Up at 8:15 a.m. Jan 18.
  • In bed by around midnight Jan 16, Up at 8 a.m. Jan 17.

Radio show prep made for some late nights this week.

Getting up a little early for appointments is not hard. Especially when it’s on a Thursday or Friday, and I know that the weekend’s coming. Problem is, I immediately slip into staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. I find that I get really sleepy around midnight, but if I don’t go to bed then, I get a second wind and stay up a few more hours. Then, of course, I get up at 11:30 a.m. and it starts all over again. Which makes Sundays way too short.

Weekly goal recap: Goal – Be 15 minutes early for everything for an entire month. This means leaving 1/2 hour early to anything around town.

I’ve improved my habits in this area quite a bit this month. I was a little early for most of my appointments this week.