Sunday, December 27, 2009


I hope everyone had a great weekend celebrating whatever and however you like, because we sure did. Weekend with the mother-in-law and sister-in-law went well, and even was able to tolerate the father-in-law reasonably enough. We left Kent after Dwight worked on the 24th and hit Cincinnati around 6 PM. Had a spectacular dinner at May's of China. Fabulous food, great atmosphere, local and a decent portion of organic to boot, with the bonus of perfect service and good prices. Denny gave Ken the gifts we bought, we gave Denny his gift and a certificate for when he goes out with Dwight's sister Monday.

Ken's birthday was spent at Newport Aquarium, alongside the other heathens that don't have much to do on Christmas. I really got some good pictures, thankfully. It was so cute- there were about three turtles and a crocodile all piled together in one display. True peace on Earth, right? Ken's cake was about as nerdly as you can get. He wanted Star Trek, he got Star Trek. I burned through my digital camera batteries, so you'll have to wait for those pictures, but I promise to show off exactly what a bunch of geeks our family is.

Saturday we discovered another new to us- Relish Modern Tapas in Mason. Again, I can't rave enough. Awesome food, fantastic experience. Can you tell I like food- pretty much our entire visit revolved around it. Oh, well, have to stay fed somehow, right? Enough gushing from me. Hope you enjoyed the weekend, and are getting as much done this week as I am.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

That Time of Year Again

Yep, birthday time for Ken. And that means it's time for the annual problem of how to handle the December 25th birth date of a child to two non-Christians, one of whom is a preacher's kid- times two. Oh what fun it is to fight the religious holidays, hey! I'd love to hear comments or ideas from the peanut gallery, because I'm all out of mine own and four years in, have yet to have the birthday for our son that Dwight and I had planned.

Admittedly, thanks to an amazing midwife, his birth went the way we planned, but that was it. First year doing birthdays, we had Christmas on his birthday the twenty-fifth, and then a few days later his big first birthday party. To which no one came. Second year we did Christmas in the morning and planned birthday in the evening, all on the same day. So everyone got here three hours late, and his birthday party got cut to, well, after he fell asleep. Third year we gave up and said have Christmas on the twenty-fifth, we'll do a half birthday party for him in the summer, and the family thought that was a great idea. Much easier to skip a half birthday party, apparently, because again- no one showed.

In 48 hours and 50 minutes, Ken will have his fourth birthday. We'll be visiting his paternal grandmother and aunt, and fitting in a dinner with Dwight's dad at some point as well. The whole trip across state will be about three days. Maybe we can make one of those days just for him? I don't know. I'll be writing and working, in between making an Enterprise V meets the Tardis cake, and imbibing my fair share of wine.

Any suggestions how to pull off his birthday and actually have a Happy Ken Day? Is that too much for a mama to want for her kiddo? I guess the take home lesson is if you're not Christian and don't care about Christmas and your in-laws are extremely religious, do everything shy of self immolation to avoid delivering on December twenty fifth. Oh, and please no comments about someone trying to tell me something. It was stupidly lifting a giant subwoofer that put me in labor when I did, not divine intervention, but thanks for thinking of me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bugs and Germs

Germs really bug me. I have to say it. Not themselves, mind you, but more people's reactions to germs. Like this year, with the H1N1 scare on top of the usual seasonal bug issues. Germophobia is running rampant, and it's getting out of control.

According to the CDC, as of November 14th 2009 there were between 7,070 and 13,930 deaths from H1N1 in the 7 months since it started showing up. Nothing to sneeze at, granted, but in a similar time frame over 70,000 deaths due to a stroke occur (from the CDC also). My point is, there are bigger issues to be worried about than novel H1N1.

And yet, it's become a perfectly good reason to act rude and treat humans as walking germs. This week especially, I've had the wonderful experience of having some customer service person see me waiting, look me in the eye, stop, incessantly slather their hands in Purell, and then finally address me. Because, yes, I am obviously a walking, talking, culture of H1N1 or some other bug du jour. Thanks. There's cleanliness and hygiene, but for freaking sake there's also courtesy. I am not sneezing. I am not coughing. I do not have oozing pustules. My eyes are not watering, red, puffy, blood-shot or anything out of the ordinary. I even bathed today. So can everyone please stop acting like they're going to die if they touch anything I've had in contact with me.

I think we have to fear this current fanaticism of physical seclusion far more than any influenza.

Oh, and a belated blessed Solstice! May the new solar year bring many great things!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Past Few Weeks' Absence

The last few weeks have kept me busy and away from blogs, both as a writer and a reader. I've said my apologies for that. Now I owe you an explanation, and I owe myself a moment to reflect.

Professionally, I've been busy with school- grading papers, readying for exams, counseling students and helping them study, not to mention trying to ready my own research for the winter. That means animal care and use proposals, grant proposals, collecting the last of the samples for the year, setting up a behavior room, ordering supplies and finishing my prospectus. I had thought I was done with my prospectus. PROSPECTUS! not dissertation. Just saying what I want to do. Don't get excited, I've still got a year or two before I graduate. Then my advisor decided that I need to rearrange the whole thing. Fun.

In my outreach, I've been busy with some new endeavors, and truly those are what have kept me going, although they have been a source of stress as well. I birthed my first creative publications in a long time- Ken's school newsletter and my departmental calendar. They turned out OK, but not great. I also began serving on the Portage County Solid Waste District Advisory Board. That was a large source of stress. We're looking at possibilities for the future of the SWD, and no one's happy about it. The public meeting was essentially a lynching by the neighbors, with their questions for which we have no answers. It's too early in the process to have the answers they want, and they don't get it. I understand people are afraid of change, but wait until we have some clue of what the possible change is before damning those involved, will you? Yeesh.

Personally, it's been a trying time as well. A friend lost her young child, another became a very young grandmother, another lost her husband, my aunt lost her partner of many years, another friend's grandparents suffered a horrible tragedy, and a one-time lover long-time friend lost his life. Much sorrow is in the air, yet I'm not sure if I'm in the eye of the storm or watching from afar. And Dan, our room mate, adds his share of stress as well. I know I can't solve everything. I know I can't save the world. But I want to try, daggummit. I'm scared by all the death in part because it causes pain to those I love, but in part because it scares me. I'm scared because my father in law will eventually put me in a similar situation. He won't take care of himself, despite multiple chronic health conditions ranging from obesity to diabetes to long term depression. He won't live within his means, so that he frequently goes on and off medication because he's out of money for a month. He won't admit he needs help, and he's technically mentally competent- just makes terrible decisions. His house keeping is atrocious, his apartment manager had to put a Febreeze-sprayer-thingy right beside his door because of the smell. I might need one of those heading upstairs, if I weren't sensitive to perfumes. I love my father in law, really I do, but I'm not looking forward to the time when I have to deal with his death and funeral arrangements, or his long term care situation. But I know that day is coming, sooner or later, and I know it'll be Dwight and I to sort that mess out when it comes.

So how have you been?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Yes, I still exist

I know, I've been AWOL. I'm sorry. I'm going to try and be back now. I hope you'll forgive me, it's been a few weeks of utter insanity, and a really bad funk. I've missed you terribly, but life was getting in the way of me communicating. There have been deaths, births, diseases, crises, creativity, progress, frustration, hope, and growth. I gave final exams today, so I should be looking at a little more free time shortly. Should. Ken's pre-school is on the same schedule as me, so once I'm officially "on break" he will be too. Enforced slow-down ensues then, although I will be trying to get as much done as possible over break with him "helping". I have to.

The biggest news is that we've expanded our family. Yes it's human, no it's not ours. Dan is a friend of Dwight's going through a rough patch right now, and will be staying with us until he can get his feet back on solid ground and headed in the right direction.

For the moment, that's all I'll get into, but know that I will be back shortly to my more frequent posting, and trying to catch up with everything I missed. Love you all, and I'll talk to you again soon, I promise.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Since I finally finished stuff I had to do for my students, I have a little time to say a quick welcome to those of you visiting from ICLW! I love this time of month, even if it does fall when I'm already busy. Not much to update here. You can see things that I've already said over in the archives. I'm a mama, doctoral candidate, wife, daughter, sister, friend, writer, teacher, researcher, herpetologist, ecologist, activist, feminist, gardener, hiker, biker, tattooed, cooking, picture-taking, music loving, pacifist, communist, pagan that is involved with the Jewish and UU community. And when I have time, surrogate and egg donor. Yeah, so, a simple life I lead, right? That's all I'm going to say for now, because really, the better way to get to know a person is through their own eyes, I think. So here are a few photos.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Religion and Respect

There was an article that I found really interesting on National Public Radio yesterday that opened a deep can of worms with a very dear friend of mine. The short of the piece was a discussion of the schism among old and new atheists. The old guard believes that atheism is one option for individuals, and religion is another, but both deserve respect. The new guard blatantly calls for the end of religion, and denigrates believers. Not just Christians, but all believers. If you've visited this blog before, you probably can bet where I stand on this issue. Got that right- I stand on the side of respect, thus the title. Respect on both sides, those of any faith and those of no faith.

Imagine my dear heart breaking when the discussion I was having with a loved one ended up being a litany of "I respect your view, but...", and "If you don't mind, I'd like to pray for you" and "Just give God a chance, and He will answer all your questions." I was torn. I know this sentiment comes from a place of love, but the utter disrespect and disregard for my opinion was shocking. This person finds solace and comfort in her faith, and that's good. I'm happy for her. I was raised fairly religiously, went through Confirmation, went to Bible school, even taught Sunday school for a while. I even read the Bible. (Gasp! Shock!) For me, there was no comfort there, only more questions and a deep pit of angst. I tried, I gave God chances aplenty. It wasn't for me.

Now, I'm not going to say that I'm definitely an atheist. I participate in the campus Jewish community. I have helped out at the local Universal Unitarian church. I celebrate the pagan holidays. Heck, I celebrate other religious holidays just so our family can be exposed to other cultures and traditions. I see some form of divinity in many places, not the least of which are my husband, son, family and friends. And of course my wetlands and amphibians. I still think religion has it's benefits. It has inspired great good. And great evil. The same as science and reason. Neither deserves to be mocked and made fun of. Both options work for people.

I think, for me, the worst were those interminable "I'll pray for you" comments. Once again, I understand that this is her way of showing she cares. Prayer is a big part of our society. Even non-religious people I know in times of need will ask for kind thoughts or say something along the lines of "you're in our prayers". Prayer, thoughts, sentiments, whatever you want to call them- are not inherently bad. They have meaning and show compassion. But to pray for someone to be other than who they are- that's hurtful. Respect, and love, don't have but's associated with them. It's not "I love you, but..." To tell a minority "I pray for you" when discussing their race is not acceptable. For my cat to tell the neighbor's dog "I pray for you" when discussing the catbox- well, that's just wrong on many levels. To tell a homosexual "I pray for you" when discussing their sexual orientation is not acceptable.

To tell a person of another faith, or no faith, "I pray for you" when discussing belief systems is not acceptable. I would never tell her "I wish you reason" or "I wish you logic". Her belief works for her, and mine works for me. And that's the important thing. We are both good people (for the most part- my pagan side does have its moments to shine). We both love each other. No buts. No prayers necessary. Only respect. I wish she could understand that, and respect my beliefs.

Is that asking too much? Have I gone too far? Any thoughts- from those of any faith or no faith- are greatly appreciated on this topic.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Canning and the Phoenix

I think I'm finally done with canning for this season. Lots of veggies put up, including tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchee among others, and fruits consisting of jams/jellies, apples, and peaches. I love canning, and cooking in general. It's a divine act of creation. Especially when it's taking food which you have grown from the soil, and feeding it later to the child which you have nurtured into being. I like that feeling, that I am responsible for creative energy. It's one of the things I like about research- you start with nothing and later have some new idea that hadn't previously existed. Creativity is really the vein in which all of my passions reside- research, pregnancy, nursing, families, art, gardening and cooking. I love creative energy. I love creating.

But I am humbled by the friends I have found in the infertility community. I'm on the periphery of that group, I know. I haven't resided in that place. My only experiences with it are second hand and in assistance. I've never known the heartbreak of it in my own life. This makes me feel extremely fortunate, and forever grateful. It also fills me with admiration.

Those of you who have walked through the valley of the shadow of infertility, you are my heroines. You make me realize all that the human spirit can do, and all that it takes to break the human soul. You endure what I know I could not. You go on where I would give up. You toil and sweat where I would give in and walk away. You do me one better.

For me, my fertility is like secondary succession. The field is ready, everything is there that needs to be and the processes have begun. Things are simple for me, and I realize that.

For you, my sisters, you are primary succession. Only the rawest of materials are there. Life has not existed in this place before. There's a reason the word "barren" has been applied to both people and places. But you struggle on. You begin with a dream, and create a child of your own. You do me one step better. You are the ultimate act of creation- bringing to fruition that which was once no more than energy and wishes. You move universes to bring your child into the world. You prove that life springs from the ashes. You show the strength of the human mind. You prove with all your pain that the Phoenix does rise from the ash. I hurt for all you go through, but awe at the beautiful people that this pain can create. Beautiful adults and children, and beautiful relationships as well. Please don't be upset, I hate the pain that any of my sisters have suffered, but can't imagine my life without your friendships. We are all the summation of our experiences, and you give me comfort that joy can come from pain.

I hope that none of these words hurt any of you, for that is not my intention. These words come from a place of love for all of you, and I hope they come across as such.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Autumn Bog Colors

I'm feeling like a silent Sunday. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Nobody knows what we're really here for
Let's take it out hard till they show us the door
It's us against them tonight
- Bruce Hornsby, The Changes

This is one song that has been bouncing around in my head lately. Bruce Hornsby has been comforting music for me since I was young. Dad listened to his music, and after Dad died, his music really spoke to me, as did Bruce Hornsby. It's not many a celebrity that will correspond with high school girls in hand written form, and even fewer that will carry on full conversations with them, over multiple letters. Yes, this was before the prominence of the internet and email, and part of me longs for those days. There was more dialogue, and less one side discussion. I understand the irony of that statement on a blog, which next to commenting on news articles and the like may be one of the most common one-sided discussion formats currently available.

Autumn is here, and it's a season of changes. I feel those changes creeping in. The days are colder, the nights are longer, life in general is winding down and battening hatched for the winter ahead. I have my seasonal need to stock up and prepare; I think it's the prominence of the Black Squirrel in our town that highlights this need for me. Change is in the air.

At the same time, life aims at homeostasis. Homeostasis is the ability to maintain an internal equilibrium. Our bodies hold a consistent temperature, as adults we tend to maintain a certain amount of mass, our fluid levels try to stay near one point. All of this maintenance does not rule out change, in fact it requires change, it's a dynamic equilibrium. There is constant change that helps maintain homeostasis in the face of a changing environment. While it is equilibrium that is the driving force, it is the dynamic that keep us alive. And I feel that acutely right now.

The end result may be what keeps us trying, but it's the journey that really helps us to move ahead. An end is really just the carrot in front of our nose, right out of reach, that makes our run continue. When we meet one endpoint, we find a new one. When one goal is met, we move on to a bigger or different goal.

As a society, we try to maintain equilibrium as well, sometimes too much. If an equilibrium is too static, stagnation and disorder occur, because we're ignoring our changing environment or not adjusting to the new conditions. Whether it's a systemic infection because our body doesn't recognize an invader, or archaic laws and traditions that lead to internal strife and revolution, stagnation is detrimental. So there are those of us that fight for the changes that need to be made, even if inertia is against us. It's the fight that keeps us going, and when this fight is done, we'll find the next one. That fight might change drastically from the first, or be the next step, but it's a fight for equality none the less. Repeat the refrain.

Autumn isn't so much a season of endings, as a change in gears. A refocusing on the internal instead of the external. And so I now look forward to focusing inward, in preparation for some rest while the world continues outside, to emerge in the spring renewed and more able to focus outward. Can we as a society do the same?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Welcome September ICLW!

Holy crap, how is it September 21st already?! I can't wait to read some of the great blogs on ICLW again this month, and hopefully find some new ones as well. I'm not going to do an extensive intro (like the ABC's) this month, just the short version.

My name is Lisa, Mama of Ken, Wife to Dwight, owner of Baby by Nature, and lots of other labels. I am a post-candidacy doctoral student in Ecology at Kent State University (yep, *that* Kent State if you remember May 4th 1970), working on my prospectus. My dissertation is looking at two invasive plant species and their effects on two native amphibians. If you want more detail, I can bore you later. I entered the world of IF through the back door- I was a surrogate in 2008, and egg donor earlier this year. Been hooked ever since, and have met some wonderful people thanks to that experience.

My passions include my research, the environment, human rights, sustainability, families, and sunshine of all sorts. I also enjoy art- making and enjoying; music- especially folk but really just about anything; words- spoken/sang/heard/written/read; religion- all kinds although personally I'm pagan; food- from growing to eating; science fiction and the outdoors. Yeah, I like variety. I have to get back to work now, my students probably want their grades back tomorrow, so I'll write more later. Enjoy a couple photos until then.

Ambition defined.

My kind of baby.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It Rains on the Just and the Unjust Alike

I had to take this quote, even though I don't know from where it originally comes. Maybe the Bible? I don't know. But I love the sentiment. That and "There but for fortune, go you or go I." That's a Joan Baez song. I know that one. Very similar lines of thought, and a string that I really appreciate. One very much at odds with the Protestant work ethic that the founders of the US valued so highly, and so it's often at odds with our current societal norms.

In the US, we like to believe in the American Dream. One works hard, gets an education, does what one is supposed to do- then one will be rewarded with a good job, nice house, retirement, et cetera. This is a noble belief, and to some extent it can be true. Unfortunately, this belief leads to the idea that those who have not achieved the American Dream are "wrong" in some respect- uneducated, lazy, something along those lines. We make adjustments to some degree for those with physical and occasionally mental disabilities, those who have noticeable restraints on what they can achieve through no fault of their own. But for the emotionally disabled, or the psychologically scarred, or the economically crippled- problems that may not be as obvious or may be more easily dismissed as quirky or quixotic- we often make no adjustment. We blame them for their misfortune, just as we credit ourselves for our fortune.

We ignore the physical origin of many mental and psychological health problems, even to the point of denying the importance of mental health parity in our health care and insurance industries. We discount past circumstances, and the inordinately non-level playing field between the lower, middle and upper economic classes. We cite a few extraordinary examples of rags-to-riches stories and act as though they are the norm. While physical and mental disabilities are treated as protected class, the psychologically disabled are stigmatized and ridiculed at the best, and tossed aside, beaten and imprisoned, possibly to the death, at the worst.

There's a balance between personal responsibility and social responsibility that we do not have in our sights, let alone have achieved. Even the President holds up the trait of hard work and self reliance as the major driver behind individual's fortunes, to the detriment of the large majority for whom this has not been the case, and without much qualm from society at large. We need to remember the lines that I began with more often. The next time you see a transient or pan handler, please try to withhold the reflexive "get a job" mentality, and remember- there but for fortune, go you or go I, and say a little prayer to who/whatever you want that when the rain comes, you can weather the storm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Doctoral Disturbances

This is a very pregnant post, I'm afraid, with lots of meaning to these two little words. First, I got the go ahead to start showing my prospectus outside of my committee. If you suffer insomnia, let me know, I can help. With 35 pages of schlock. Thereabouts.

Second, I am pursuing my doctoral degree. I will be addressed as Dr. Regula Meyer at the end of this. Or at least it'll read that on my gravestone, if only in recognition of the pursuit that killed me. Physicians are those in the medical field who oversee the care of patients, diagnose, and prescribe medication. Doctor is Latin for "I teach" not "I cure" so the next person that calls an individual with their PhD uppity for asking to be addressed as Doctor, is asking for a stoving. The primary job of a doctor is as teacher, not medicine man. Get over it. We had the title first.

Thirdly, after reading the introduction notes from my class, I have to ask- why aspire to medical school if you have no interest in biology? Is there something I'm missing? How do you expect to save lives if you don't value the study of life? Yes, chemistry is critical to life, but is that not secondary to the big picture of biology when talking about the treatment and cure of individuals? Or is the plan just to prescribe lots of drugs? At least I have a functional list of doctors not to consult. Physicians. Gah! Even I'm doing it.

Finally, the title of doctor is significantly lower than that of God. Stop acting like you're best buds. Ask Graduate Coordinator at Kent State University, and he will give you a wonderful discussion of positions and authorities of various members of the department. Even department chair (yes, you, idiot) is not the same as God. Or Goddess, as your religion prefers. So freaking pay for benefits that are due to graduate students, as is required of you, and find other places to save in the budget. I, for one, use the REC and will fight this issue. You just pissed off the wrong chica, buddy.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


So the Duggars announced they're having child number nineteen. I am less than thrilled with this, although the general consensus appears to be elation among those who watch the family's show. Disclaimer- I don't watch their show, what I know of them comes from their website and other outside sources, but not their show. We don't have cable, I refuse to pay for TV.

This news and the reaction to it has really gotten me thinking. As an ecologist, nineteen children is anathema to my understanding. That's not ecologically responsible. We are close to or are already past the number of humans that can sustainably live on this planet. Don't believe me? Read How Many People Can the Earth Support? by Joel Cohen. Check out the Population Reference Bureau. Plenty of other sources, let me know if you're interested and I can provide you some starting material.

But the Duggars make their own soap, grow vegetables, buy used when possible, so the popular thought is that the live a more eco-concious life than most people, and thus have a smaller ecological footprint, right? I heartily disagree, personally. Plus the argument is that having children is a right, and no one should stand in the way of that right.

Contrast this thinking with Nadya Suleman, of octuplet fame earlier this year. She gave birth to eight children in one stay in labor and delivery, and is hated by many of the same people that love the Duggars. What are the differences? Well, for one, Nadya is single. And poor. And used IVF to have her children. I've heard plenty of times that Nadya had no right to have those children, which added to her six already made a total of fourteen kids.

So are children a right or aren't they? Rights are not earned by one's wealth, so the critical difference shouldn't be economic status- rights are rights. The right to parent also shouldn't depend on marital status. Few people say unwed teens have no right to be parents, and the LGBT groups are gaining the right to parent in lots of states. So that's not the critical difference. Both the Duggars and Nadya claim that all of their children are wanted and loved, and both are making money off of their children through marketing books, interviews and television, so those things are the same. Nadya has been criticised as being an unfit parent, but the Duggars pair children up to have the older ones raise the younger, and I don't see that proving to be "parentally fit", besides "fitness" as a parent is very much a subjective term, so that shouldn't decide who gets to have children and who doesn't. Nadya's children are all via IVF, and I have heard more than enough comments about "if you can't reproduce, you shouldn't" to last a lifetime. A large number of US citizens need help to conceive, so I would hope we were past this idea of ability equaling right. It could be a combination of all of these things, but I don't like any of them. Either procreation is a right or it isn't- you don't get to assign qualifiers to rights.

Which brings me to something else that has been wandering around in my head. Baby College is a program in Harlem for low income children. The program aims to give these children the best start that it can, and includes parenting classes, preschool, kindergarten, and charter schools to the children who's parent's stick with it. It's to level the playing field between low income children and middle/upper income children academically, so they have a chance to compete in the college and career world. One key point- the program is designed to get the *children* out of poverty, not the parents. It asks that the parents accept that they have to put their children first, ahead of their own wants. Save for college instead of buying a big TV. Pay for a tutor, not a bigger car. Really things that all parents should be expected to do, because isn't that our job as parents? To put our children first? Doesn't that include leaving an environmental legacy of conscientious resource use, and not abuse? Doesn't that include trying to ensure that our children have a sound environment to enjoy, and to provide them with clean air, water, and food? Why is the message of putting your children first OK for the poor, but not the rich? Children have a right to a sustainable future, and rights do not come with qualifiers.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Crazy-busy Day.

And I loved it. Canning. Cleaning. Rearranging. Gardening. Hiking. Cooking. De-cluttering. Listening to Ken yammering. OK, that last part- not my favorite part of the day. Gotta say it- the kid's driving me slightly bat-shit. But all in all, good times. He's getting a hang of picking up after himself, a major feat considering how much of a issue it is to try and get Dwight to pick up after himself. Ken even has been helping fold his own clothes and put them away! We still need to work on the folding, but he is only three and a half, right? Plenty of time.

A few things that I've bumped into the past few days and wanted to share (and finally have the time to post). If you'd like a little help wading through the misinformation on health care reform, Consumer Reports Health has put out a concise fact sheet/FAQ's page to start you out.

Feeding America is sponsoring a foodbank competition for Hunger Action Month, so you can go on, find your local (or favorite) food bank and do a little to help them out in their work feeding those in need.

Hobbit-ish Thoughts and Ramblings has a great little "contest" going, which I thought I'd spread around (thank you, Mrs. Gamgee for suggesting this!). I really had to- I love hobbits, and I have been meaning to spend more time on my creative side lately, so here goes.

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me, especially for you. I'll even give you a voice- just list a preferred craft in the comment (not too specific- something like knit-work, scrapbook stuff, etc.). You get something you (might) like, and I get a creative outlet, win-win!

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make but I hope you will.

2- What I create will be just for you.

3-They say I have a year to get it to you. But I promise it will NOT take that long.

4- You have no clue what it's going to be. It’s a surprise to both of us at this point.The catch? You must re-post this on your blog and offer the same to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog.

So the first five people who post, and are willing to pass it along,will get a handmade gift in the mail from me.

When you get it, make sure you post a pic on your blog! Let's have some fun! If you want to comment, but don't want to participate, just end your comment with "Thanks but no thanks."

And, to the Kentites, the Plum Creek issue has now been scheduled in front of a council committee on Wedsnesday, Sept. 2 at 7 pm. Bodies there would be helpful and because it is a committee, the public will be allowed to speak (probably 3 min limit), so come out and voice your support for Alternative Three!

To finish up, one of today's projects. Ken's bento lunch box (our first attempt) for his first day at the Kent State Child Development Center.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ecological Philosophizing

Purpose - the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. or an intended or desired result;end;aim;goal

Role - proper or customary function: the teacher's role in society.

Worth -
usefulness or importance, as to the world, to a person, or for a purpose: Your worth to the world is inestimable or value, as in money.

Humans have this need to assign these values to things, and we often do so unthinkingly. Far too often, these three words are used interchangeably, when in fact they all have subtly different meanings and implications. Whether we talk about an organism, another person, a job, or an item, we make decisions about them based on their purpose, role, and worth.

Take, for example, a person. In most cases, we allow a person's purpose to be self-ascribed because their purpose is their reason for existence. Only an individual knows or has a feeling about why they exist, although we may joke that a certain person's purpose is to annoy or something similar. There's a certain thought process and evaluation behind a purpose. A person's role (or roles) are defined by themselves and society. A person can be a parent, child, sibling, worker, boss, volunteer, whatever. It's what they *do* in their life, and sometimes gives insight to their purpose. A cleric has the purpose of living for their deity, and expresses that by joining the clergy. Another might have the purpose of helping others, and so becomes a doctor or social worker. A person's worth is a tricky matter, possibly the trickiest of all. There is their inherent worth as a human, for which many philosophers have tried to ascribe a dollar value, since (especially in the US) we measure worth with monetary units. There is the added value they bring to society, in the form of earnings, consumption, savings, and investment. All of those are pretty straight forward. And then there is one's worth in relationships- as a friend, mentor, parent, partner, etc. Again, difficult to quantify.

Inanimate objects are easy to evaluate using these criteria. We humans ascribe the purpose for which they were designed, the role they will play, and their worth. There is a creator, or re-creator in the case of re-purposed goods, that assigns the values of these various traits.

But what about ecosystems and non-human organisms? An ecosystem can't think as it's not a single organism, so it can't self-ascribe a purpose, leaving the other option to let a creator ascribe the ecosystem's purpose. But who or what is the creator of an ecosystem? Ecologically speaking, the "creator" of an ecosystem is a function of the environment and the communities within that ecosystem. Here I feel I should point out that I am speaking from a scientific-philosophical approach, not a theological-philosophical approach because proof of an ultimate Creator is scientifically impossible- there is no test to prove or disprove one's existence- and thus it's a matter of faith, which varies from person to person and is not objective. The role of an ecosystem can be ascribed be humans, as roles can be defined by not just the item to which the role refers, but others whom share a relationship with said thing, and humans most definitely share many deep relationships with ecosystems. Worth is still difficult to ascribe, as it is partly subjective, and difficult to quantify the many areas in which an ecosystem has worth (ecological services, recreation, aesthetics, etc.).

On to other non-human organisms. They are living, and may have the sentience to ascribe their own purpose, but would have no way with which to communicate said purpose to us. Not to mention the fact that we, as not-their-creators (except in the case of GMO's) and as not the organism, don't have the right to ascribe a purpose to another organism. The argument that an organism's "purpose" is their place in the food web is a fallacy of logic, as an organism evolves in the direction of maximum fitness. This means that organisms evolve away from predation in most cases, and would be evolving away from their "purpose" if food chain position were a true purpose. An organism's place in the food chain, can however be considered a role, as roles are not just self-ascribing but also circumscribed by others, and those roles may or may not be something that we desire (consider the worker in a fast food service trying to pay their way through college to become a nurse, e.g.). An organism's worth, as with all worth, is difficult to quantify and hard to assess.

Thus, when we consider endangered species protections, to which organisms are they granted, the protection of ecosystems and the environment, and other ecological quandaries, "purpose" should rarely, if ever, enter the equation, although role and worth are definitely things to consider.

So what's the purpose to this post? I, as the creator of said post, have ascribed it the purpose of "productive waste of time." Cheerio!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

And Another one!

Same site, but with wooden toy give away.

On a Lighter Note!

Check out the drawing over at Things Moms Like! For all the newly pregnant, and soon to be pregnant chicas, this is a great chance to try Belly Bar products for free.

Friday, August 21, 2009

On Sovereignty

I feel compelled to put down a few thoughts on the compassionate release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison. There has been quite an uproar against the release of this man, the only convicted perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988. Al-Megrahi was released because Scotland has a clause which allows the release of an inmate when they are shown to be in the last months of their lives, so that they can spend their dying time with family in their home. This release of a terrorist has sparked great debate, some people even going so far as to claim al-Megrahi may become a suicide bomber once he is back in Lybia. The few pictures I have seen of al-Megrahi do not appear to be someone who would be capable of any terrorist act in his current condition. He is suffering late stages of prostate cancer, and is estimated to have three months to live. The issue was even important enough for President Obama to speak out against this action by the Scottish legal system.

The upset is not at all the issue of where one should spend their last months of life. The latest number that I have heard is around 70% of Americans want to die at home with family (what this compassionate release allows for), although only about 25% actually do. In theory, we don't have a problem with dieing at home, although functionally it seems we don't know how to make this wish a reality. But let's save that conundrum for another occasion, shall we?

The inconsistency I want to talk about today, as the title suggests, is that of sovereignty. In the last few years especially, the US has exercised our right to sovereignty many times. Wiretapping of questionable legality? It's our sovereign right. "Secret" interrogation sites in various countries? Our sovereign right. Holding individuals without charge and possibly outside Geneva conventions? Our sovereign right. Aggressive interrogation methods, the same as those for which we have charged other countries with war crimes in the past? Our sovereign right. Preemptive strike? Our sovereign right. See a pattern here?

However, when we look at the US's interactions with other countries just in the past few weeks, the picture is very different. The ability to exercise one's own laws without interference from another country? Not a sovereign right. The current administration has "expressed repeatedly...that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland" and Secretary of State Clinton and the White House have both been putting pressure on Scotland not to abide by Scotland's own laws on this matter. There's also the recent Swiss banking to-do which basically gets UBS to disregard Swiss laws in favor of helping the US collect names of Americans who have funds at the Swiss bank UBS. Of course, we can't forget the incursion on Iraq's sovereignty in 2003 as well. Apparently, only the US has sovereign rights that deserve protection from outside influence. I had hoped that our method of relating to out nations would change after the election of Obama, but that hope is starting to wear thin.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bandwagon jumping

Normally, I don't understand sports and avoid them at all costs, but I make exceptions for Frank Deford, as I did today. He's a sports columnist, so what on earth would he have to say that would interest me? Well, he was talking about a theme that seems to be in the ethos lately- the disappearance of August. Don't worry, you don't have to go check your calendar, August is still scheduled for the 31 days between July 31st and September 1st. But it's changed. Drastically. I remember August fondly. It was a fond time. Time for bike-riding, swimming, climbing trees, reading, stomping in puddles made by the frenzied flash thunder storms that whipped up in August. All the things that wouldn't be able to be done in September, once school started. But those days are gone. Now I work in August. Everyone works in August. It's time to frantically prepare, wrap up, finish last minute tasks, and review the plan for the fall term. The pace has changed. The feel has changed. Even the taste of August has changed with the odd timing of vegetable crops this year. The sound has changed with the odd weather and its repurcussions for frog and insect calling. And the storms aren't the same either. They're not as passionate, violent, quick, rejuvenating, and so apologetic afterwards. Frank Deford's words were spot on. And I'm adding my voice to those who miss August.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Missing- One Blogger

I have to first off apologize for being MIA for a while. It's been crazy busy here on Rancho Insano. Mostly family demanding time that I don't have and my desire to meld both artistic and academic endeavors. Oh, and the Invasive Species Conference at UConn. Oi. Vey. Add in an exciting new friendship that is blossoming, gardens that need tending, house that needs cleaning, and projects that need completing, mix well, bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and voila! One frazzled me. Cool, slice, and enjoy. Best with Pinot Gris and French Vanilla frozen custard.

Kidding. Please don't eat me.

I just need to figure out how to clone myself and I'll have plenty of time. Or learn to say no. Either one. Really, it's OK, don't send out the men in white coats just yet. I've also been suffering some horrible insomnia, so that adds considerable time to the day in which to get s*&% done. School is still a while off, so I have time to keep cranking stuff out before the term starts. I love the pressure. Thrive off of it.

And (spoiler alert)- how in the h&#@ is Captain Jack a Dad?! And a Granddad?! He's easily the hottest bisexual grandpa ever. Love BBC.

I'll be back to more regular blogging shortly, and I promise to be in full swing for ICLW in a few days. How is it that time already? Any ideas for a new intro this month? What are other people doing?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Battle of Plum Creek Park

The Kent Parks and Recreation Department, along with the City Engineer's office held a community meeting last week about what to do with the stretch of Plum Creek that runs through the parks by the same name. The Record Courier (inaccurately) covered it in this story. Basically, the culvert through which the creek passes under Mogadore Road is in poor condition, and in need of repair. There are four alternatives, ranging from doing nothing to repairing the culvert, removing the dam, and restoring the stream (Alternative 3). Alternative 3 would include minimal cost to the city both short and long term, thanks in part to stimulus money and money for the water improvement that this project would bring about. Also of note is that this dam is one of the few remaining impediments on tributaries of the Cuyahoga River, so removing the dam at this point would help to improve water quality of the Crooked River. You can see the plans in the pictures below, just click on them to see the full size.

"If this project is such a no-brainer, where's the battle?" you might ask. Well, on the other side of the creek from the park. There are a number of houses which lie across the stream from the park right now, and the homeowners have expressed concern about flooding (which will decrease with the improved stream function, but they don't see that), and trespassing on their property. One homeowner apparently has already found a pistol in his back yard, and this is before the improvements (mind you, he admitted it was never reported to the police- me thinks me smells a fish). These same residents would most likely see an increase in their home value thanks to the improved park, but I haven't heard any of them mentioning that. Restoration of the stream should also limit the number of Canada's Geese and mosquitoes there, by restoring some normalcy to the functioning of the stream- both of which are good things for aesthetics- but alas, not being mentioned by the home owners.

My son and I frequent Plum Creek Park, and you can bet we'll be there even more the next couple of weeks (gathering signatures to present to city council in support of Plum Creek Park Alternative 3 while we play, in case you're wondering). There's a great diversity of people that come to the park- all income levels, lots of different cultures, babies up to senior citizens. Not to mention the ball fields as well. If you want to see a great park made even better, and the greater city of Kent benefiting in numerous ways, might I suggest you come check us out at the park? And if you feel like doing something good, feel free to write to your city council member and let them know you support Alternative 3, or let me know and I can provide you with a pre-written letter.

Also, stop by Kitchen Stewardship and see a couple of fun prizes she's giving away.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My first award!

So, I got my first blog award. Still sorting out my feelings on the matter. Honored, of course. But who to pick? To what blogs do I pass this distinction? Hmmm- newly discovered. How new is new?

Well, here goes! First, a big thanks to Kelli, this really made my day.
The rules of the "One Lovely Blog Award" are:
Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.
Here are a few new blogs I discovered. Check them out, they're lovely!

1. Garfman
2. Meg
3. Robyn
4. Emily
5. Dave
6. Rachel
7. Pamela Jeanne
8. Irish Girl
9. Old Mill (Just admire the pictures)
10. Sprout
11. Farmer Jake
12. Chadwick
13. Kelly
14. Epicurean Athlete
15. Judy

To the observant sleuth, there's an Easter egg in that bunch. Can you find it?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Without Further Ado!

Chocolate Beet Cake!

Some of you are now laughing your asses off, while others are looking quizzically at what you've just read, or perhaps gagging. But trust me on this one. It's the best dam cake ever! And it has veggies. Nutritious *and* delicious, what more could you want? The recipe is from my grandmother, although I have to admit grabbing the frosting and ganache recipe from another cook book this morning. I've never felt the need to frost this cake, it's amazingly soft and moist already, but they were near where I had tucked the cake recipe, and it just sounds too freaking cool to pass up. :P If you don't feel like cooking it, drop me a line- I'm always up for company over a slice of cake and spot of coffee.

2 cups beet puree (about 3 large beets)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

To make the beet puree, you can boil the beets for about an hour. Once the beets are soft and cooled, mash them with a potato masher or a food processor.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Or don't- uses less energy that way.

Prepare a round cake pan (8-9 inch) by greasing then dusting with cocoa. Flour leaves weird white marks.

Combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs and water, and mix until smooth.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder together into a bowl, and then stir in the salt. Then, slowly add the dry ingredients into the butter/egg mixture. When it is smooth, fold in the beet puree.

Scoop the batter into a prepared baking pan. Bake for about 35 minutes (but a lot depends on how juicy your beets were, your oven, etc. so be prepared to check often and just go with the flow).

Cool the cake on a wire rack before icing.

For the Icing

2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup beet puree
1/2 lb confectioners’ sugar (or to taste)

Melt one stick of butter in a sauce pan with the beet puree. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then run the mixture through a fine sieve.

Cream the other stick of butter, and then add the butter/beet mix. Beat until it is fully combined. Then, gradually add the icing sugar until it thickens and is smooth.

To make the ganache
1/8 cup heavy cream
2 T Beet Puree
1 oz dark chocolate (~70% cacao)

In a heavy bottom pan, heat the cream and beet puree on medium heat, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat just before it boils. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Strain into a small cup to remove any beet pulp. Set aside.

Heat water to about 150F and place in a metal bowl, about 1/2 way up. Place another, smaller, metal bowl on top to act as a double boiler. Check the temperature… you should be able to touch the bottom of the top metal bowl. If it’s too hot to touch, add some cold water to the bottom bowl. You want the top bowl to be about 120F when you add the chocolate.

Coursely chop the chocolate and add to the top metal bowl. Set the other chocolate aside for the coating. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it’s completely melted. Remove it from the heat, and slowly pour in the cream mixture, and whisk until it’s smooth and you can see the whisk lines in the chocolate. Don’t over stir! Spoon into a small cup, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Once cooled, the ganache can be spread over or piped on like icing, or used to fill cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back from Portland and JMIH!

Well, the trip went great! I had a terrific time seeing old friends/colleagues/collaborators, meeting new peeps, hearing what everyone is up to research-wise, and exploring a new town.

On the research front, my talk was very well-received. I have a pile of email addresses to whom I have to send various updates, resources, and tips/tricks. I have another pile of email addresses from which I need to request various updates, resources, and tips/tricks. A request (possibly a demand?) to come down to Cincinnati for Oktoberfest this fall. An invite to do a lab and site visit at UConn in August (I'll be there anyway with my lab), and a beer. There's always beer for ecology get-togethers. And a position as calendar committee chair for the graduate student arm of Herpetologist's League.

On the family front, D-train's birthday was fun! We went to the Oregon Zoo and had a great time. Dinner at the Rogue Brew Pub with Eric, Pat and Dave, and found an amazing chocolaterie. With drinkable chocolate. Not hot cocoa- drinkable chocolate. The shop is called Cacao- if you're in Portland, go there. Also, Leonidas is fantastic. Got a couple books from Powell's, met Tie-Dye Eric (and currently deciding what I want to buy from him), and found some fun local eateries the rest of the time. Ken was thrilled with the trip- planes, trains, swimming, the zoo, chocolate, and mama/daddy-time. It was little boy heaven. We bribed good behavior out of him with the promise of a skull (yes, a skull, the Skulls Unlimited guy was at the meeting, and Ken loved him) although by the time Sunday rolled around, he decided he would rather have Deionychus claws. He also got some little hand-carved wooden cars, and the goodie bag from the meeting.

Looking forward to next year at Providence already! Now off to catch up on ICLW, writing, email, sleep, etc.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Happy Birthday.

It's been a year. Today, at 9:52. I think? A couple of friends reminded me that it was today. A year ago today I gave birth to a little girl. I was a surrogate for two men. They might have been called friends once I think.

I'm not sure what to think, really. I'm not sad. I'm not overly happy. It's a fact that just is. That family is a year old now. I hope they're happy and healthy, and that she's starting to do one year old things. Maybe standing, or walking. Maybe making word-sounds.

It all seems so strange and distant. Another life. Perhaps something I read in a book somewhere. Oh, well. C'est la vie, yes?

Happy Birthday JAM.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July IComLeavWe Introduction: ABC's

I saw this done by a few people last month, and thought I'd give it a try as my intro this month. If you want to find out more about me, read my previous posts or email me. I'm excited to be doing my second IComLeavWe- it was fabulous last month! Such supportive and caring people, and so many great thoughts and stories. So, come, play, share and learn. That's what I'll be doing!

A- Ambitious.
B- Busy.
C- Communist leaning.
D- Damnable.
E- Environmentalist-ish.
F- Feminist-ish.
G- Global-thinking.
H- Helpful.
I- Imaginative.
J- Jovial- not at all.
K- Ken-mama
L- Linguistically challenged.
M- Married, and growing more happily.
N- Nutty.
O- Organic.
P- Pacifist.
Q- Quiet.
R- Restless.
S- Social activist.
T- Teacher. Or try to be.
U- Unsociable.
V- Variable.
W- Willful.
X- Xenophyte fighter.
Y- Yeast lover.
Z- Zoologist. Herpetologist, more accurately.

Happy IComLeavWe!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Society in Motion

Can I just say that I hate motion sensor activated devices and their over-prevalence? There is a place for motion sensors, I'll be the first to admit. Security lights, for example. But motion sensor toilets?! When did flushing become too much work? Back from our less than 24 hour trip, I am happy to be outside the grip of motion activated faucets, toilets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, doors and lights. Argh!

When I go to the bathroom, I don't want to have to do a freaking dance just to avoid being stuck in the dark. Or spend a half an hour trying to find the spot that makes the faucet turn on, only for it to run five times longer than I actually need water. Or to end up with ten feet of towel because Ken decides that he wants to stand under the towel thing. How is this at all good for conservation?

And then there's the not motion activated, but still astoundingly lazy things that eat up resources and energy unnecessarily. Escalators that go constantly. Elevators used by everyone and their brother to go to the second floor. Revolving doors that never stop. Conveyor belts that just steal my groceries before I can get them all on the counter.

Why? Why does everything have to move constantly? Can't we just move things (with our own power) when they need moved? How many kilowatt hours could we save by not having everything running away from us like this? More importantly, how many pounds of CO2 could this spare, if we just got off our butts and did things for ourselves, or didn't have machines running 24/7? Not to mention the step away from the obesity epidemic this would make. Not huge in and of itself, but breaking the paradigm of laziness above all else would be a step forward.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thoughts on shrinkage

More on health care reform, so if you don't want to hear it- this is your warning.

Right now, there's a lot of talk about rationing of health care. Not in any positive way, more as a threat. "If the government gets involved with health care, they'll ration it!" And I have to wonder about this. What does it mean to ration health care? The talk I hear from so many of the proclaimers that the government will ration seems to revolve around long waits, and some procedures being denied to people. They cite Canadians coming to the US for cosmetic surgery as a result of rationing in Canada.

But what about the insurance company that denies a claim to an insured person? Isn't that rationing, just after the fact? Only now, the person has had the medical procedure, and owes the bills, that they had been expecting to be paid. What about insurance companies refusing to cover individuals due to pre-existing conditions? Isn't that rationing of insurance? And doctors that won't take Medicare or Medicaid patients?

Wake up, people, we already have rationing of health care. I highly doubt a public option or single payer plan could ration medical procedures much more. As for long wait times for cosmetic surgery or elective procedures- why not? Shouldn't resources first be put into necessary treatments, before electives? Should any procedure be available to any person just because they want it and have the money for it?

Gah. This world is up side down some times.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A little bit of frustration

There's a lot of talk concerning health care reform going on in the world right now. I'm happy about that. I like the discussion that is happening. I like that people are thinking in new ways. I think the cooperative effort that we're seeing is what is needed in this world.

I don't like the push back from the status quo.

Currently, the health care industry is spending around one and a half million dollars *per day* just in extra lobbying efforts against real health care reform. That's not counting the regular lobbying they do, or the direct to consumer marketing, or all the perks and schmoozing that they keep with in their little group (like a drug company sponsoring resort conferences for doctors, e.g). And then there's the huge waste in other areas of medicine, like the 25-30 cents on the dollar that insurance companies spend on administrative costs. I know there's plenty to complain about in government waste, but when the government medical plans spend 12-15% in administrative costs, I think we need to applaud them and try to get business to follow the government's model a bit closer. And for the sake of my blood pressure, I won't even start talking about executive pay and what utter BS that expenditure has become.

Why is it that some people feel their right to profits exceeds the US citizens' right to affordable, accessible health care? Why do we feel that free market capitalism is the be-all, end-all of quality and wonderfulness? Especially when of late, we have seen exactly how horribly it can fail.

There are just some areas that should not be left to self-indulgent, profiteering entrepreneurs. Some aspects of our economy are too important to let greed ruin them. Every once in a while, we realize that people have rights too. Not just the right to make a profit, but the right to a basic education, health care, safe housing, adequate food, and a clean environment. Those things aren't luxuries, although there are plenty in the US that appear to think they are. Unfortunately, in our current system, there are far too many people for whom those things are luxuries; ones they can't afford.

For those people, I'll do some kicking and screaming. I'll make my voice heard in support of them, help them make a louder noise, or any noise at all. I'm OK with being a thorn in someone's side for them. Because I have been one of them. I come from them. I know them, love them, and see them every day. Not just in the abstract, but as family and friends. I am them. Admit it, you know them too. We all do. So let's fight with them, and when they can't fight, let's fight for them. "There but for fortune, go you or go I" is a song lyric that I love. It's true. We can make all the noise we want about self-made people, or hard work, or any of the other euphemisms for "you get what you deserve." But none of that is true, and I think deep down we know it. The US is full of luck- good and ill. Some people get good luck that don't deserve it, and others that deserve better get crappy luck. But we all deserve these basics.

Remember two other phrases, if you could. "It rains on the deserving and the undeserving equally" and "A society is judged by how it treats the least among it." Let's start showing the world that US should be judged positively, eh?

Oh, and vote for Haymaker!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Roles We Play

I've always been very proud of being OK bending gender roles. I wear men's clothing. Dwight and I have each done the stay at home parent thing. I know that I don't have a lot of feminine traits, and I'm perfectly fine with men who do.

So why do I get upset when Dwight is so 180 degrees from what my dad was like?

Dad was very mechanically inclined. A problem solver. Could fix anything. I have some of this, but not nearly as much as he had, and not nearly enough to do everything that needs done, it seems. But my mechanical abilities and problem solving skills are still far and away more than Dwight's. I don't say that as a put down, it's just a fact. He's way more tactful than I am. He's tons more socially adept. A far better parent. More calm. More able to function with people. More able to relax. There are plenty of things that he does better.

I know it's irrational. I know it's stupid. In general, we do a good job of complementing each other. Where I lack, he fills in. On some days it feels like the relationship is split 80-20%, with me doing eighty percent, and usually that doesn't bother me. Because I know that on other days it's 80-20, with him carrying me. Then days like today happen, when it infuriates me that he can't do the things I expect of him. That he can't do the things the I can't do; that I need done. That he can't do the things that dad was able to do.

Like assembling Ken's new-to-him trail-a-bike. By his account, he was simply taking his time assessing the situation before tackling the project. I jumped in head first and started doing. That's how I am. Frustration quickly set in. The back bike rack had to go. The seat needed taken off. The bushing wasn't the right size. This needed tightened. Something else needed loosened. None of the tools were where I put them. UGH!

During all this, what was Dwight doing? I'm still not sure. Nothing helpful at the moment, and that's what I noticed most. It was putting together a bike. And I had all together too much difficulty doing so. I'm not sure whether I'm more embarrassed that I couldn't do it, or that a part of me really hoped Dwight would do it. He's the one more into bikes anyway.

But the fact that I fell into stereotypical gender roles tears me apart. I can only hope he accepts my apology for this infraction.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Doing good can taste great!

OK, time for a picture post. All the foods seen in here- I grew! Well, except the pierogies. I don't have a pierogie bush, unfortunately. Or pie-tree. Or ice cream plant. I think that's probably a good thing. But all of the veggies in here are from our garden. All other ingredients are from within 30 miles. And all organic. And all delicious. It was a home-made day, entirely!

Ken enjoying pierogies and veggies.

Pierogies, zucchini, collards, turnip greens, garlic scapes, and peas. Crazy early zucchini, but small (plant and fruit). Volunteer from the compost heap.

Home made granola! Proving that I'm a hippie.

Lasagna leftovers from the other night.


And the finishing touch- PIE A'LA MODE!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Getting back to challenges

My May challenge went well enough, but then I fell behind in June. I had challenges enough without trying to force myself to artificial challenges like only patronizing local stores. Not that I don't like challenges; the only way to grow is to push yourself. And try not to break. Or to push back against the challenge. Human being are amazingly malleable creatures, but if we try to stretch ourselves too thin, or past our limits, we can loose all the momentum we had created and the shape for which we are trying is lost. We have to push slowly, consistently, making small but incremental progress. Granted there are times when a mold has to be broken in quick, forceful effort, but those are the exception not the rule.

Becoming a mama and entering grad school have both necessitated some strenuous pushing of limits. I don't think I've ever broken, but I'd be surprised if none of the elastin has not suffered permanent damage. I guess that's just a part of aging, isn't it?

Please don't get me wrong; I love the challenges I've faced. They've made me who I am. An intelligent, strong, persistent, compassionate and driven womyn, wife, mother, daughter, researcher, friend and teacher. I wear the marks and scars of those challenges with pride. And I have chosen to add some parts of my story myself, in the form of tattoos marking the big pieces of the puzzle that is me.

And without further ado, the challenge for July is to write- a minimum of an hour a day. Any topic, any form, any method- just write. Maybe this way I'll finish that dang manuscript I need to do.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sneak Peak at the Heritage Festival

Hopefully by now, we all know that the planet is our responsibility and it is our job as humans to do what we can to keep this planet clean- we only have one, remember.
So to that end, this little brochure was created. In case you weren’t aware, some of the food you buy in the grocer has traveled farther in its life than you will in yours. Globalization brings not only cheap toys and cheap labor, but also cheap food. For climates like Ohio, where our growing season is limited, fresh produce is now available from all over the western hemisphere. Strawberries in December. Tomatoes in February. Whatever you want, whenever you want it.
But what’s the real cost? We know that travel takes gasoline and creates carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. We’re learning about alternative transportation and driving less. But what about your food? Can you limit how far your food travels? YES!
Eating locally and in season not only lessens how far your food has to travel, but ensures fresher food, less carbon dioxide, often healthier food (fewer nutrients lost in over-ripe food), less food waste, fewer chemicals to preserve your food for shipping, and more money kept in the local economy. For items bought at a chain store like Target or Walmart, 43 cents of every dollar stays in our community. For items bought at a locally owned store, 67 cents of every dollar stays here. For food bought direct from a local company, that number is ever higher.
Take a moment to think about what impact your diet has on the planet

A note about this information

The purpose of this is to look at and compare a diet consisting of local food, and one consisting of standard fare on the basis of food miles and ecological footprint. It does not consider cost, organic or conventional, nutrition, or any other aspect- just the carbon produced transporting your food.
What I’ve done is create a fairly basic menu for one day, using all ingredients that can be obtained easily as either local or standard variations. The menu is approximately 2200 calories, so there is room to cut calories (and carbon), or indulge in a longer after-dinner walk. I took a larger daily calorie limit so I could make sure to compare the upper limits, not a low figure.
There are plenty of concerns with food, its production, distribution, and the practices of the producers- figuring food miles is just one part of the puzzle, but it is a place to start thinking about our food and discussing some of these other paradigms as well.
All food miles were calculated using simple food miles (from the point of origin of end product to point of consumption), although the weighted average ingredient method proposed by the Leopold Center for Sustainability gives a more accurate number.
All information on how these numbers were calculated, sources for statistics, or other information you might want, as well as answers to questions, can be gotten by emailing me at

The Menu
Breakfast- Granola, yogurt, tea, dried fruit, milk.

Lunch- Sandwich (meat, bread, lettuce, cheese), fruit snack, water, carrot sticks.

Dinner- Noodles with mushroom sauce, salad, asparagus, strawberry rhubarb pie, wine.

The Grocery Lists
Saxonburg, PA (MN)
Wooster (WI)
Columbus Grove (China)
Akron (MN)
Dried fruit
Hiram (Westley, CA)
Hopedale (NC)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A quick one for the Kentites (Kentians? Kenters?)

Go over and vote for Haymaker Farmers' Market, and help the market win $5,000 if you haven't already! Or if you have. What's that line from Boss Koss- vote early, vote often?

Joking, just vote once, but do make sure and vote for Haymaker! Check out their blog- linked over on my blogroll. We all know Kent has the best farmers' market around...

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Lately, for some reason, I've been thinking a lot about sharing. It may be because I have a three and a half year old, it might be because of the economy, it might just be my brain stuck on one song. Whatever.

Our society has possibly the oddest relationship with sharing that I've ever seen. It's a trait we teach our children (or at least try) from a very young age. It's something that we stress over- kids sharing toys, playing nice, being fair, not leaving others out.

And then we hit adulthood. And it's totally OK to be anti-sharing. It's normal to be opposed to many forms of redistribution of wealth. We don't expect everyone to have a slice of the pie. We praise those who can get (or take, depending on your perspective) a huge portion of the wealth. We see no moral qualm with the disfranchisement of millions from our health care system, safe housing, adequate nutrition, and decent schooling.

What happened to sharing? When did the emphasis become "me" not "us"? Or the definition of "us" become so contracted? Does no one now believe that a society is judged by how it treats the least among them? Do we teach by example only when it serves us?

Maybe we all need to step back, take our hand out of the cookie jar, and make sure everyone has at least one treat before going back for seconds. We've created a mess with our greed, self-indulgence, and desire to get something for nothing. Why don't we make sure that every one has a few basic "somethings" before adding to our growing mass of stuff? Can we do that? Can we share?

Oh, yeah, if you hadn't noticed- socialist is a fair label for me, and possibly a bit generous.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sleepy time

I can't sleep. The last four or five days. It's really starting to suck. But I did get an (hopefully) awesome wool topper for the mattress in from our favorite organic home store up in Rocky River. D-train said it was pretty nice (because he has no problem sleeping, any time, any where). Now I just have to wait for the darn sheets to dry so I can put the bed back together. Also did some extensive sampling- I really need to get the key to the shed at the wetland. I want to at least be able to use the radio in there, daggumit.

For some reason, I planned a half birthday party for Ken tomorrow. Oh, yeah, because he was born on the 25th of December and getting anyone to come to his birthday parties then has been, well, impossible. And tomorrow looks to be no different. I have such a complex from sucking at birthday parties when I was a kid, I have to wonder about this whole thing. Would it be better to keep trying and risk him having this same complex? Or should I just stop trying? Stopping would be a h3ll of a lot easier and less expensive. Grrrr...

He and I went to the park a couple of days ago, and had a bunch of fun. I brought my camera, and was snapping shots of him playing with the other kids, when the other kids at the playground got interested in the camera. So I have about 100 photos taken at the eye level of three to six year olds, all of the most random stuff (even random for me!). It was cute, I just hope the moms weren't too upset. They kept telling their kids to give me back the camera, but I was really fine with what they were doing. They always had neck strap on, and I was always nearby. Oh well.

Hoping to maybe write something a little more coherent and thoughtful tomorrow (or Sunday? see how busy I am tomorrow). There have been a lot of things running around in my head, trying to put the right words to them. Thoughts needing a release, or a way out. I would much rather write them than drill a hole and shake them out. Ta for now!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I promised pictures

So here they are. It was an I love my job kind of day. These were out at the research wetland the university made as mitigation for a little Woopsy-daisy when they built a new rec center.

Fishing spider

Sparganium sp.

Yep, dragonflies. Doing it.


Bumblebee. Helping a flower do it.

Yes, my mind is in the gutter. But how can it not be with all the life going on out at the wetland. And one last pic, just because. My favorite bug.