Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where I'm From, or, How I'm Hell Bound Bent and Determined to Finish This Freaking Thing

I am not much of a creative writer, nor do I like stretching for old memories, but yet I felt compelled to participate in the this writing exercise shared by Mama Kat on her blog http://www.mamakatslosinit.com/  way back in September. I stopped and started many times and have finally gotten it to where I can live with it, so here it is.

The reason I have perserved instead of throwing it aside is because I also am (kind of) participating in Blogher's NaBloPoMo, where bloggers are challenged to push themselves to write more frequently and about subjects that they normally wouldn't, in order to improve their writing. Hopefully. Check out http://www.blogher.com/ to read more. There are literally thousands and thousands of blog posts about all manner of things. My tomato sandwich post http://connellyconfusion.blogspot.com/2011/11/nablopomo-post-2-if-you-knew-that.html originated there and it has had about 500 reads so far, which is amazing to me - that people might be interested in what I think about tomatoes!

Anyway, here is my version of "Where I'm From".  Be sure to check the end of the post for the prompt template, and please feel free to do one and share it. It really is an interesting exercise, once you get going. I'd love to read anyone elses, should you want to share.

I am from bicycles made by Schwinn, from Mary Kay and Mom's lipstick.
I am from the brick house on a corner lot in a neighborhood where kids ran free, one that often smelled of coffee, bacon and toast.

I am from the pink azalea, the sticky pine tree that splinters apart during a named storm, from the black soil of Tennessee and the sandy dirt of South Carolina.

I am from tables loaded with casseroles and telling tall tales, from Lillian and Martha and Aubrey and Earl, from Williams, Cross, Mitchener and Moseley.
I am from the brown bottle and bad tempers. From apologies offered the next day. From silly adults and sneaky teenagers.

From say ma'am and sir, and because I said so.

I am from many churches, whichever one was the one at the time. From the red book of prayer to the praise dancers in white.

I’m from the Amen Corner and Anglo stiff upper lip and pan fried corn bread and mile high biscuits.
From the grandmother who taught a little girl to "fish" in a ditch with a stick, some twine and a paper clip. From the eighth child in a family of eleven people.
I am from the staircase walls, the nursing home end tables, the collective memories sequentially forgotten and lost, from boxes stored under the bed and from yellowed paper pedigrees that indicate nothing and many things all at once. From their place on list of things to save in case of disaster. Where I'm from is with me wherever I go.

Thanks for reading...and if you need to laugh at me, that's fine. But be sure to say, "Bless her heart" first. ;-)

Prompt begins here:
I am from _______ (specific ordinary item), from _______ (product name) and _______.

I am from the _______ (home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

I am from the _______ (plant, flower, natural item), the _______ (plant, flower, natural detail)

I am from _______ (family tradition) and _______ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) and _______ (another family name) and _______ (family name).

I am from the _______ (description of family tendency) and _______ (another one).

From _______ (something you were told as a child) and _______ (another).

I am from (representation of religion, or lack of it). Further description.

I’m from _______ (place of birth and family ancestry), _______ (two food items representing your family).

From the _______ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _______ (another detail, and the _______ (another detail about another family member).

I am from _______ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Apparently Pizza is a Vegetable. And According to the Comments on MSNBC, We Should All Just Shut Up and Deal.

Yesterday, the United States Congress voted to accept pizza as a vegetable. How is this you ask? Because of the two tablespoons of pizza sauce on them. Pizza sauce is a vegetable? Yes, tomatoes are good for you, and there certainly are way worse things than pizza sauce, but you have got to be kidding me. Loaded with sugar, salt and who knows what preservatives, pizza sauce in no way resembles a real veggie. Not to mention that botanically, tomatoes are fruit, but I guess that is beside the point. 

Here is the best part - the USDA has been a big proponent of helping to improve the quality of school nutrition, but guess who was also quoted in the article on MSNBC.com defending this position? The American Frozen Food Institute. That doesn't reek of special interest groups swaying Congressional vote at ALL, does it? (written in sarcasm font for those of you who weren't picking up on that.) Here are some other little tidbits from this provision:

•Block the Agriculture Department from limiting starchy vegetables, including corn and peas, to two servings a week. The rule was intended to cut down on french fries, which some schools serve daily.

•Allow USDA to count two tablespoons of tomato paste as a vegetable, as it does now. The department had attempted to require that only a half-cup of tomato paste could be considered a vegetable — too much to put on a pizza. Federally subsidized lunches must have a certain number of vegetables to be served.

•Require further study on long-term sodium reduction requirements set forth by the USDA guidelines.

•Require USDA to define "whole grains" before they regulate them. The rules would require schools to use more whole grains.

These are all things that I agree with. My children eat lunch from home because school lunch is disgusting. I witnessed this first hand when my daughter was in first grade and I attended the "Thanksgiving Feast" at her school. It was awful. Once I saw this with my own eyes, I immediately kiboshed the school lunch eating. And guess what? Miraculously all the stomachaches she had been having vanished into thin air.

The school lunch as we know it today began as a response to pressure from the military. During WWII, so many soldiers drafted failed to be eligible for service because of malnutrition. Much of this was residual from the Great Depression with it's high levels of poverty and subsistence living and some was just from lack of education about nutrition. The end result is that the standardized school lunch became the primary way to ensure that potential soldiers had some basic nutrition every day.

Now, here is where I got mad.  Really mad.  I began reading all the comments on this article.  There were many that I would expect - people being unhappy about Congress' obvious catering to special interest groups, lack of concern about the childhood obesity epidemic etc, locavores, environmentalists, etc.  The ones I didn't expect were those filled with venom, hate and obvious bias. Those consisted of gems like, "well, then get up off your lazy butt and make your kids lunch" and "government has no business telling our kids what to eat".

Um. I do make my kids lunch for the very reasons stated above. HOWEVER, I would like to be able to have them buy lunch sometime without knowing that they are eating garbage. Oh, and since school lunch is run by the government, yes, they do get to decide what our kids eat for lunch. My kids are fortunate enough that they have a parent who can and will do that for them but many kids are not so lucky. For many children, the meals they get at school, very often on the free and reduced program, are the only "decent" meal they get.

Now, before everyone jumps on the publicassistanceisabusedthesepeopleneedtogetajob bandwagon, know that I agree with you - I do think that unwarranted reliance on public assistance is at a crisis level and something has got to change. But tell that to the hungry six year old. You know, the one who wears dirty, torn clothes to school and lets themselves in at home alone after riding the school bus. The one who lives in conditions that inspire made for TV movies. 

Those kids are real. Those kids are the sole reason I would never support drug testing as a method of weeding out people who abuse the welfare system - the children who unfortunately have to rely on those adults would be the collateral damage and I'm not willing to make that sacrifice. Those kids are lucky that there are people who care enough to pack backpacks of food for them to take home every Friday because when they don't, Monday morning doesn't come soon enough. Those kids live in shelters. Those kids go to our school and I look at their faces every day. Maybe we should tell them to get a job. Or just go hungry. Or just move to Bangladesh, where both of those options are perfectly fine.

So how about a helping of green beans instead of a pizzagetable? Is that really too much to ask?  Where we live, we are surrounded by farmers growing fantastic fruits, vegetables and raising various animals for butchering and I'm sure they would LOVE to have a built in client like a large school district. Why can't these groups work together? Because of people in Washington making decisions based on campaign donations. Because of people saying "let them eat cake". Because our government is the same old same old regardless of who is at the helm. Because because because because...

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

An Easy Way to Reach Out to Military Families

As you all know, yesterday was Veteran's Day. I suspect that pretty much everyone knows a military family, or is related to a veteran, or a current service member or is personally connected somehow, even tangentially, to our armed forces.There are so many ways we as civilians can be supportive of our troops and their families, and flags, cards, applause and everything else are great. But I'm a more action based mom and I wanted to look into something tangible.

I never read the paper during the week but for whatever reason I did Wednesday night and was thrilled to run across an article about couponing for our military families. Maybe I'm late to the party and you guys already know about this, but apparently you can use expired coupons on bases around the world! I had no idea about this until just the other day, but you can mail your coupons that you don't want or that have expired to military families to use. I mean, think about it - the basic issue coupon clipper simply gets coupons from the Sunday paper. But on our bases around the world, the families don't have that luxury and could use the coupons that you and I are throwing in the trash.

At http://www.supportourtroops.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1435, you can find out more information about "Troopons" (love it). The options are so simple - all you do is mail the expired ones to one address and the current ones to another.

 This website has formed a partnership with major coupon househttp://www.couponcabin.com/ who has very generously agreed to handle the shipping and processing for your unwanted coupons! Think about how excited we get about a great deal, and how clipping coupons has made such an impact on the way we shop for everything, but especially on groceries and toiletries, and how easy it would be to do this for our military families. Some of these folks live on very lean paychecks, especially when having both parents working is not an option, so dropping coupons into their mailboxes could make a very real difference to their bottom lines.

Personally, I think this is such an easy way to make a difference in someones life. And Coupons for Troops is certainly not the only way to do this. There are a host of sites, including http://www.ocpnet.org/, http://thehappyhousewife.com/real-life/coupons-for-troops-2/ and also at my personal favorite coupon site, http://www.southernsavers.com/2011/05/expired-coupons-send-coupons-to-the-troops/.

If you clip coupon already, then it shouldn't take a minute to put some of yours into an envelope and send them on. And if you don't, then maybe you could make this a personal project for the holidays. I'm excited about this and have started sorting mine already! Let me know if you have any other ideas or insight about this awesome idea - I'm always interested in other people's perspective.  Happy clipping!

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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turning Points

Can you look back at your life and identify points in time that created permanent changes? I think that most of us would answer to the affirmative. Now,parents, can you look back and take your children out of that equation? To me, that is a little less obvious. Barring disasters (health, accidents, tragedy) the turning points are little harder to put my finger on, in my opinion. Some are positive and some definitely are not, but they all have changed the course of my life in a lasting way. Here are some of my turning points:

  1. Leaving the University of South Carolina. I moved back to Charleston, ended the long term relationship I was in, met someone else who turned out to be my husband. Loved the College of Charleston. Positive. 
  2. Opted not to accept a position on a US Senator's staff in DC in order not to leave said husband, then boyfriend (amongst other reasons). Positive and negative. Love the husband very much but always wonder what direction career may have gone from there. 
  3. Chose to take baby downstairs to show her beginning smiles to my husband instead of waiting for him to come back up. Fell down stairs, permanently injuring my ankle. Negative. Baby unscathed. Positive.
  4. Decided to accept a very painful rejection from a group of "friends". Negative. Realized that I'm pretty damn cool and it was their loss. Positive.
  5. Moved from Summerville to West Ashley. The jury is still out on that one. Some of the effects have been very positive, some, not so much. 
The point of defining these moments is helpful to me because it allows me to make objective observations. And since I have a tendency of going off the cliff emotionally during hard times, it also helps me to look back at things that were so incredibly painful or difficult at the time and draw strength from having survived those times. I'm wiser now from most of it too.

We are not promised anything in this life, other than the opportunity to live it and that is something I've had a very difficult time with personally.  As a younger person, I genuinely felt destined for something great, something special, and that has yet to materialize.  Separating the "me" from the life I have is a huge challenge and I struggle with not defining myself by my success (or in my case, the lack thereof). The fact is that I am not wealthy, do not have an amazing career and an impatient/imperfect parent does not make me "less than" but let me tell you, it sure feels that way sometimes. Being thankful and counting my blessings does help give me some focus, but to be honest, I'm ready to shine. I'm ready to accomplish something huge, to take on the world, to make a difference. I'm ready for me.

What are the turning points in your life? How have you handled them? I'm nosy curious. :-)

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