Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lots to be Thankful For ...

I'm not a huge fan of Thanksgiving.  I know, I know, downright un-American, right?  The thing is, it bugs me that our society feels compelled to focus on being grateful one day of the year and foster sort of a dog-eat-dog mentality the rest of the time.

Oh, and I hate turkey, stuffing, gravy, and so on.

But the world doesn't center around my culinary tastes, and I'm as bad about only taking the time to fully, deeply count my blessings on one day in November as anyone.

I challenge you to contemplate your own good fortune (and we all have lots, if you think about it), and also to write about it ... and I encourage you to either leave a link to your own "thankful" post or to leave a comment about what you're grateful for.  I'd love to read the many and varied directions thankfulness can go in ...

Also, I've done something like this on my blog before, and it's kind of funny to read it now ...

As for me, I am especially thankful for ...

1.  My daughters.
I know this is a contrived answer for a mother to give, but I can't help it.  My children are the funniest, kindest, most extraordinary people I know.

It's been a big week for both of them, too.

Addie made All-State Orchestra (you can hear her play on this post), raised her SAT score to a 1750, and had an idea--a random act of kindness--that turned out amazingly well.

Belle has apparently acquired representation in the world of child acting and modeling.  I'm still not sure that I'm ready to embrace this with open arms, but it seems to be what she wants, and I've raised my children to reach always for their dreams, so ....

2.  My mother.
While we still don't get along much of the time and much of what she does confuses the hell out of me, I really appreciate everything she has given up to let the girls and I live with her.

The girls and I spent the afternoon baking with my mother's best friend from high school, then we went back later (with my mom) to eat dinner with her.  We got, as usual, a bit loud ... my girls have gotten the message that our family values laughter to a tremendous degree.

My mother was joking with her friend (who lives alone) about how nice it is to have us visit, but she can have her quiet, peaceful life back when we leave.  Of course, my mother does not have this luxury, since she's kind of ... stuck with us, at least for a little bit longer.

She has given my girls so much love and support, and I will always be grateful to her.

3.  Henry.
Nobody wants to hear how amazing your boyfriend is and how happy you are.  It's boring and drama-less and just not fun to read about.  I am very happy.  Very, very happy.  Very, very lucky.  And very, very thankful.

4.  Dunkin' Donuts coffee.
That should really speak for itself.  If you don't live near a Dunkin' Donuts and love coffee, you're missing out.

5.  Recent life developments.
Details at some point, I'm sure, will be forthcoming.  For right now, I'm just thankful for the winding roads that life sometimes drops you down on ... even if you have no idea how things are going to end up, living the proverb "May you live in interesting times" is exhilarating.  I suppose ...

So that's what I am focusing on tonight in terms of gratefulness.

Where are y'all at?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Post: 10 Historical Facts About Thanksgiving

The following guest post was submitted by Lori Hutchison, an Art History Professor and owner of Masters in History Schools.  I think history is fascinating, and I look forward to perusing Lori's work myself.  Enjoy!  I'll be back tomorrow to Frag It for Friday :-) If you're interested in doing a guest post, drop me an e-mail.  <3 KL

Thanksgiving is a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s unique culture and heritage. But the way we celebrate Thanksgiving has a long history that has changed significantly since the Pilgrims first arrived. Here are ten historical facts about the holiday we’ve come to call Thanksgiving.

1. The first recorded “thanksgiving” feast was celebrated in 1541 by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado of Spain and his troops, along with the native peoples of the Texas panhandle region, while they were on a New World exploration.

2. French and English colonists held several thanksgiving feasts in the late 1500s and early 1600s, but the one that went down in the history books took place in 1621 in Plymouth, MA.

3. Everything we know about the 1621 Thanksgiving came from a letter written by Edward Winslow, who was the leader of the Plymouth Colony at the time. This letter was lost for over 200 years. When it was rediscovered, an embellished account of the “First Thanksgiving” was printed in a newspaper in 1841.

4. The first Thanksgiving feast was attended by 50 Pilgrims and 90 Wampanoag Native American men. The Wampanoag killed five deer for the feast and brought fish, vegetables, and grains. The Pilgrims provided wild fowl, which may have been geese, ducks, or turkey. The feast lasted three days.

5. In the 17th and 18th centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies, then later by early presidents. However, these days were marked with prayer and fasting rather than feasts.

6. President Lincoln declared the first national holiday for Thanksgiving Day in 1863, after the suggestion was made by an editor of a popular magazine. It was to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November.

7. Following Lincoln’s tradition, later presidents continued to declare Thanksgiving each year on the final Thursday in November. However, from 1939 to 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving on the next-to-last Thursday in order to extend the shopping season and help merchants coming out of the Depression.

8. In December of 1941, a federal law was passed declaring Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. However, several states continued to celebrate on the last Thursday as late as 1956.

9. The National Turkey Federation has presented the U.S. President with two cooked turkeys and one live turkey since 1947. Ronald Reagan started the tradition of “pardoning” the live turkey in 1987, in which it lives the rest of its life peacefully on a farm.

10. Americans will eat an estimated 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving Day, according to the National Turkey Federation.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Stealing: The Madness Meme (Part I)

Sunday Stealing is good fun :-)  If you don't participate, give it a try!

1.Have you ever licked the back of a CD to try to get it to work?
No.  Yes.  Kind of.  Well, to be completely honest, I’ve spit on a Kleenex and tried to clean it up that way.  The crazy thing is, it often works ...

2. What’s the largest age difference between yourself and someone you’ve dated?
Officially “dated”, six years (and, yes, that would be Henry … he’s very wise J).  In terms of more casual kind of things, twenty-five years … in the older direction, of course.

3. Ever been in a car wreck?
Once … I fell asleep while driving to Andy’s condo at three in the morning, took out a “sharp curve ahead” sign, and drove into a ditch.

4. Were you popular in high school?
Popularity is a relative thing.

5. Have you ever been on a blind date?
Yup … And that’s all I have to say about that.

6. Are looks important?
Nah, hygiene is important.  I’ve been through the “you have to be hot to have a chance with me” phase, and it’s stupid.

I've learned that, if a person has a beautiful heart (and did I mention good hygiene ;-)?), they are beautiful on the outside, too.

7. Do you have any friends that you’ve known for 10 years or more?
Of course.  Bless their hearts … J

8. By what age would you like to be married?
I’d like to be married by the time I’m 40.  No pressure or anything, Henry ;-)

9. Does the number of people a person’s slept with affect your view of them?
Funny story, I was having this very conversation this morning. 

My bottom line is no because, once you get to the right place with the right person, you can look back and be glad for the experience and for learning what exactly it is that floats your boat.

If it gets to the point where you can’t keep track of the number, that might be a different story ….

10. Have you ever made a mistake?
I make mistakes at least once every hour.  It’s how we learn and grow J

11. Are you a good tipper?
I’m an excellent tipper.  If you’re aware of the horrible wages given to waitstaff because of the assumption that the real money is in tips, you would be, too.

That being said, I’m also very good at making my point on the rare occasions I encounter a truly sub-par waiter or waitress …  I’m convinced that pennies were created for the sole purpose of tipping badly …

12. What’s the most you have spent for a haircut?
I spent just under $200 for a haircut once … it had been eons since I’d had one, I don’t do change well, so the poor stylist had to put up with my angst.  I don’t begrudge it.

13. Have you ever had a crush on a teacher?
Ew, no!

14. Have you ever peed in public?
Haha, I was ALSO telling this story recently.

I was at the parking lot of Six Flags in Montreal.  I really had to pee.  REALLY had to pee.  The park wasn’t open yet, the line was already ridiculously long, and … well, I really had to pee.

I told Pythagorus I was going to pee in the parking lot if we didn’t go find a gas station or something.  I don’t think he believed me.

He should have.

15. What song do you want played at your funeral?
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”

16. Would you tell your parents if you were gay?
“Mom, Dad, I’m gay.”

17. What would your last meal be before getting executed?
A cheeseburger.

18. Beatles or Stones?

19. If you had to pick one person on earth to die, who would it be?
God judges, not me.  I'm pretty sure I know some people on the "karma's coming for you" list, though ...

20. Beer, wine or hard liquor?
Anything but wine…sounds clichéd, but the alcoholics in my life are winos, so the very smell of wine makes me nauseous.

21. Do you have any phobias?
I cannot get on an airplane. 

22. What are your plans for the future?
Happiness, good health, and … well, getting the novelpublished and embarking on a great writing career.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oh, Headache, From Whence Did You Come? (And When Will You Be Going Back There?)

There is nothing quite so debilitating as a really bad headache.  

It's also an obvious target for ridicule, almost.  I mean, who hasn't heard jokes with the "Not tonight, dear, I have a headache" punchline ... or rolled your eyes at someone always complaining about having a headache?

I've long had a migraine issue; in fact, I'm in a unique category of those suffering from migraine headaches (and insomnia) for most of my life.  Yup, I got regularly dropped by headaches and spent countless sleepless nights when I was a toddler.  No wonder I'm not my mother's favorite person ;-)

The idea of having a headache isn't particularly interesting, though, and I'm not self-obsessed enough to imagine that my migraines are worse than anyone else's.

What's of interest to me at this moment is why you can go through life and all of a sudden *bam* get slammed by an unbearable pounding, the inability to tolerate bright lights or any sort of noise, and pain intense enough to induce vomiting.

I'm chatting with Henry at the moment, and I mentioned to him that I've been having trouble coming up with blogging ideas at times.  He had an interesting theory as to why ...

KL: Addie's on her way home from Winter Guard ... one time-intensive activity ends, and the next one begins lol

HENRY: lol
KL: I'm writing a blog piece on headaches   I've been having a hard time coming up with stuff for my personal blog lately ... it's weird lol
HENRY: At least she isn't boring or bored
HENRY: Lol, you don't do the "happy artist" thing well?
KL: Or doing drugs, having sex with multiples, getting into petty crime, or beating up small children lol
HENRY: lol
KL: Evidently not   Actually, I think I will eventually ... I've had some really great writing ideas of late, believe it or not.  Like, better than usual.  The thing is ... well, it's kind of like reading graphic novels ... it's new and different and takes some getting used to

This ties back to the topic at hand, I promise.

See, even though my migraines are idiopathic (in other words, nobody knows where the heck they come from), there is no doubt that stress plays some sort of role.  The whole root cause of migraines is the constriction of blood vessels, and you probably don't need me to tell you how stress figures in there.

And I guess that's the big mystery at the moment since, as Henry alluded to in our chat, I am happier than I've been in a very long time.  I'm sort of abuzz with inner peace, lame as that sounds.

So I got thinking about what would cause my head to explode when life is so very beautiful, and it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.

Pythagorus has apparently decided that paying child support is optional, which has led to some pretty serious financial strains.  I have to register and inspect both my car and Addie's, for example, and the worst thing--having to tell Belle that things like basketball and Girl Scouts and Happy Meals for dinner (which sounds really bad, but the kitchen is under construction, so we are currently stoveless) are not givens.

He is also doing the disappearing thing again, not answering the phone when Belle calls at the allotted time for six days at a time, answering it on the seventh day, then going back to not answering it the next night.  It's confusing and frustrating for me, so I can only imagine how horrible it must be for a second grader. 

And because I don't want to be that annoying woman that sits around trashing the ex-husband, I keep it inside as much as I can, but the blood vessels in my head are unfortunately an area I have no conscious control of ...

I need to take up long distance running or something ... perhaps yoga.

Anyway, my doctor gave me quite a cornucopia of drugs, so I'm feeling much better now and hopefully the level of this migraine won't be duplicated any time soon.

The stress of worrying about Pythagorus, primarily in terms of Belle but also the kind of distant concern you have when you hear that an old high school classmate has fallen on hard times or something ... I have to just let it go, get a second job to make up the financial difference (since it's obviously too much trouble for him to get a first job), and keep on enjoying the beauty and light that are surrounding my life.

If someone can figure out how to get that message to my cranial blood vessels, though, I'd really appreciate it ...

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...