10 List

This week, the 10 list may turn into the twenty list. Despite a head cold, that can make things seem a bit glum at 3 a.m., I have a lot to be grateful for this week:

*Going to Manzanita and Short Sands last weekend where the weather was sunny and spring-like.
*Putting on the wet-suit and body surfing, catching a few great rides into shore.
*Getting to stay in this house in Manzanita and savor this amazing view.
*Seeing whales feed about half a mile off-shore while we ate chowder at Mo's in Cannon Beach.
*Brian ordering parts to build a Langstroth beehive for me.
*Brian building a trench and adding drainage and a nice pebbled walkway around the sides of our house to protect our foundation.
*Brian taking me to pick out a wedding ring.
*Brian making me laugh until my sides hurt.
*Fresh spring eggs with marigold-colored yolks.
*Perfectly roasted beets with vinegar, salt, and olive oil.
*Starting spring break last week by working with students and teachers to make browned-bag lunches for the homeless.
*Spending five days sleeping in and then lounging around the house, working on craft and wedding projects or reading or cooking delicious savory meals.
*Tulip magnolia season.


Tend: how to keep those eggs clean

So, I've been thinking about eggs and how to keep them clean. Especially since my fiance and I got knocked down from a slightly undercooked frittata last August. Paranoia over eating our chickens' eggs, as well as an aversion to eggs in general, followed. I am over that now--although, still a bit shy of frittatas--, but I've done some thinking about whether tis better to clean eggs or not.

Some people bleach their eggs. Some people wash them in warm water. Some in cold. But the sources that I saw on keeping chickens and collecting eggs usually suggest that you do not wash the eggs. The shell has natural properties that help keep bacteria from seeping in and getting to the egg. If you wash the shell, you risk destroying that natural barrier and risk weakening the egg's defenses to stay fresh and bacteria-free. If you find an especially shitty egg that really needs a bath, wash it and eat it right away. Otherwise, here's what I suggest:

Keep the nest clean! My chickens roost above where they nest, so they make it messy rather quickly. While they like to keep the actual egg-laying area fairly clean, they are still rather dirty birdies. As often as possible (at least twice a week), rake the old straw or hay out of the nesting area and replace it entirely. Then, throughout the rest of the week, put a layer of clean straw on top of the older straw. This will help keep those eggs clean. You will be able to give the eggs a swipe with a dry paper towel or with your thumb nail, but otherwise, for the most part, they should be okay.

Also, and this might sound overly obvious, but if you can collect the eggs daily, you can keep them cleaner. Sometimes we miss a day. We go to work and then to class, get home late in the rain and dark, or we leave town for a night or two. Those eggs get dirty. So collecting eggs when they are fresh helps with cleanliness.

And remember, they won't be perfect. You should always make sure that they are cooked thoroughly. If you are really worried about it, you could wash them before you cook them, but I would advise that you do not wash them before you store them.


10 List

I am in the processing of finishing my first embroidery portrait. Not bad for my first attempt, although I feel that it falls far short of my grandmother's adorable charm in the photograph. The more I look at this photo at her, the more I am struck by how uniquely beautiful she was. The final step is to applique the piece to fabric and frame it, and I have a few prints in contention for the job. A lovely butterfly print left over from an apron that I made for my sister; a simple turquoise polka-dotted print; and a flower print with greens, browns, and turquoise. I think I really bit off a large challenge for this first attempt because of her smile. It's so unique and toothy, and I probably would have had an easier time if I'd chosen a photo with a closed-mouth smile.

Here's what I am grateful for this week.
1. Both of my grandmothers, Rita and Eva. Aren't those both beautiful names as well?
2. Spring break begins today!
3. Green, blue and purple signs of spring.
4. The amazing massage that my friend Dan gave me yesterday, during which I was able to enter a deep state of relaxation.
5. Creative projects!
6. Dreading going on a run and then having a wonderful run during which I can process stress and develop ideas.
7. Watching students grow.
8. The fact that my class is over!
9. Celebrating the end of my class at Dove ViVi! Yum! Deep dish cornbread pizza with amazing local sausage!
10. My chickens and their wonderful eggs. And if I'm not wrong, I think the creatures are becoming more affectionate. I swear they love getting petted and nuzzled when I go outside to visit them.

In addition to finishing my grandmother's portrait, my next project is this Luck Jackson pattern that I purchased from her shop. I've read that great writers will sometimes, in moments of writer's block or frustration, copy the writing of those who inspire them. They will type out poems or entire chapters, and doing so will help them learn the rhythm and cadence of other writers. Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life:

On break, I usually read Conrad Aiken's poetry aloud. It was pure sound unencumbered by sense. If I ever caught a poem's sense by accident, I could never use that poem again. I often read the Senlin poems, and "Sea Holly." Some days I read part of any poetry anthology's index of first lines. The parallels sounded strong and suggestive. They could set me off, perhaps.

This is one of the reasons I bought Lucky Jackson's pattern. Not only do I like it, but I feel that I can learn some techniques by copying and sewing from another's design. That's the hope. The pattern is smaller and more detailed than the portrait outline of my grandmother, so that alone will be a good challenge.


an ounce of action and a bundle of spring

Running is becoming less painful as more and more shades of pink and green appear and spring begins. Despite the cold rain and rainy cold and slush and snow and rain and clouds and wee bits of sun and clouds. Fractious weather, fractious season. But I surpassed my running goal this week, reaching 11 miles. So this week's goal is 12, if the weather is kind and willing.

Other goals for this wonderful week:
Finish my grandmother's embroidered portrait.
Complete my lame-ass PSU class! Hooray!
Build planter boxes for kitchen windows.
Choose a theme and create invites for baby shower for J.

I found this lovely blog by a Portland writer and artist. Her name is Alicia Paulson, and she said this about starting and maintaining her blog in an interview over at Feeling Stitchy. It really resonated with me:

I had been a writer all my life and had worked as a book editor -- but before I started blogging I hadn't written a word just for myself in over eight years. So blogging was, in a lot of ways, a return to a version of myself that I had lost along the way. In the moment, it was sort of a direct reaction to these feelings of barely controlled professional chaos I was experiencing: staying organized on the blog helped me re-organize my real life and work in real time, somehow. But in a much larger way it also allowed me to reconnect to an essential part of myself that I had kind of put behind me. I think my reasons for blogging are still exactly the same as they were in 2005. I'm still very selfish about it. I still maintain that it's just a place for me to do and say and show what I want. I still see it as a personal blog and a way of telling my own story to myself.

In many ways, I feel this way about my own blog, "telling my own story to myself" and helping me organize my life around the aspects that are meaningful: nurturing health, staying goal oriented, and being creative. And I used to write. I filled journals and comp books with stories, poems, character sketches, and diary entries, and blogging is a way to keep writing--personal, creative, expressive writing--in my life. This is why I value this space and am becoming more confident and more insistent that it is my true voice.
Can't wait to finish my class! I ordered a few books using my free month trial of Amazon prime, so they should be all on my porch by Thursday! They include a book on urban farming by Novella Carpenter and a guide on over 400 embroidery stitches.


Food for Thought

As I look at the canvas of my new yard and future garden, as I personally feel the reverberations of the global economic crisis, and as spring beckons, I am opening my eyes to those whose ideas inspire me to act, even if those actions are in my own backyard: converting my shed to a home for seedlings, chickens, and rabbits; creating a eco-friendly duck pond; using rain barrels and other irrigation methods to conserve water; making my way along the learning curve of beekeeping; and trying to make food that is colorful, healthy, local, and organic.

Here are some of the aids, inspirations, and politics behind these decisions.

The first and last are important TED speeches, and the middle one is a really beautiful 6-minute film.
Helena Norberg-Hodge speaks about localizing the economy on TED.
A beekeeper collects honey from an amazing rooftop garden in NYC.
Chimamanda Adichie speaks of the danger of the single story on TED.

Gaia's Garden: a guide to home-scale permaculture by Toby Hemenway
The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
Farm City by Novella Carpenter
An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

What is inspiring you of late?


10 List

When your honey gets his pink slip for next year and when your job is also at risk, gratitude becomes more important than ever and more difficult to find, but then, in the details that are often overlooked, there is beauty.

1. a run through the late-winter rain
2. the smell of chocolate wafting from Moonstruck Chocolate Company
3. sunshine streaming through the blinds for just a moment
4. fried chicken-macaroni and cheese-collard green pizza
5. a cute new haircut
6. the smell of cherry blossoms
7. freshly sanded and stained hard-wood (old wood!) stairs
8. friends who say calming and kind words
9. being able to return those calming and kind words to a student or friend
10. the soothing power of creativity

When we are grateful for our own potential, our own talents, and our own gifts, it's possible to find peace and hope. Here's a meditation that focuses on gratitude and its power in our lives. Give it a try, especially if you're feeling particularly stressed.


"I'm a s-l-u-t"

Ok, I am rarely overtly political here, but I had to share this video. Unless you live under a rock, you've heard about Rush Limbaugh's Sandra Fluke comments--about how she's a slut and a prostitute who should put her sex tapes on the internet so that we can watch them since she wants us to pay her to have sex, etc. Of course this was a general attack on women, and as such, women are responding.

Here's one awesome response:

 And here's a rather interesting read about legislation that is being proposed around the country that reduces women's rights in terms of contraception and sexual health. It even mentions the possibility of a sex strike.

Liberals have also caught some heat for their choice of language. Bill Mahr defends himself and his use of the c-word on his show; he uses freedom of speech as one defense, and his second defense is the fact that he used the c-word against Sarah Palin, not against all women. It was not, he argues, a general criticism but a very pointed one. What are your thoughts? Is it sexist for a man to call any woman the c-word? Wouldn't he be crucified if he called a black man--even one that no one liked--the n-word? Are the two comparable? I think that because women and blacks have both been historically oppressed, they are somewhat comparable (although the history of the n-word is far more significant than the history of the c-word), and perhaps our pointed criticisms of people do not have to reference their race or gender. Name calling just seems like a rather crass way to make a point anyway.

Another interesting comment that he makes: Arizona legislatures want to make it legal for doctors to lie to women in order to prevent an abortion. WTF?! Does anyone know anything about this?


"an ounce of action...

...is worth a ton of theory." So said Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Here are some of the actions I've taken of late. First, the weekend:

-to fix my bike (or have someone fix it for me).---Not quite done yet.
-to clean my car--at least throw some of the shit away and clean my dashboard. --Yep. Not thoroughly, but I'd eat off the dashboard, which is saying a lot.
-run 5 miles--Yes!
-do one other workout (hike? bike? yoga? another run?)--Does ten minutes of pilates and stretching count?
-finish curtains,damnit! I just have to hem them, but ugh, hemming is such a drag. --Yes, done and hung!
-harvest bees' honey, but only if the weather cooperates (and it looks like it's supposed to rain, rain, rain.)--Rain, rain, rain, but I started getting prepped. Just have to pick up some supplies at the Home Depot.
-finish grading IB film reflections--Yes, done!
-catch up on sleep--Yes, except for last night...Daylight savings is a rough one.
-have friends over for potluck/movie/craft night tomorrow--Yes!
-read in bed--Not for long, but a wee bit.
-craft something--Yes!
-cook something--Made an amazing sweet potato curry with cinnamon and cardamom, shallots, green onions, cauliflower, rice, lemon juice, soy sauce, coconut milk, avacado, cilantro, and bean sprouts. Mmmm.
-pick up house (dust a bit, sweep a bit, straighten a bit)--Yes!

Not bad, not bad.

Here are this week's goals:

--Mail some cards out to some loved ones (hand made)
--run 8 miles.
--do stomach crunches every day.
--grade 5 lit. essays every day until they're done.
--help out a friend.
--continue crafting
--finish reading 2 books.
--Harvest honey (if possible. It looks to be cold and wet all week long)
--get bike fixed.

What are your goals for this week and beyond?


the 10 list and other goodies

A few moments of gratitude, reflection, inspiration, and goal setting are needed right now after an exhausting day. I helped facilitate two staff meetings today, which I find to be emotionally challenging. While I am comfortable standing up in front of students, I find it much more disconcerting to stand in front of colleagues. But it's over and the weekend has, as they say, landed.

Big things on the G-list this week! Here's what I am grateful for:

1. For starters, I think I can confirm that the tree in the back yard is indeed a tulip magnolia! I can see some of the upper buds turning pink and starting to bloom. This is one of my favorite trees in the spring time, which means that I now have a redbud, an apple, and a tulip magnolia! Hooray! Hoorah! Stay tuned for many photos, I am sure.
2. One of the miniature iris bulbs that I planted in January bloomed today! It seems crazy early for an iris to bloom, but there it was, beckoning me, as I walked from my car back inside this afternoon.
3. I have an entire weekend with very little planned (except for about 100 goals which I will write about momentarily).
4. That despite feeling like I was coming down with a cold, I did not get sick! Go garlic, cilantro, ginger, and elderberry extract!
5. Sun! Lots of wonderful sun this week!
6. That Brian spent an entire day working so hard on sanding our stairs, and he even started to stain them. So soon our stairs will be fixed up and looking new-old!
7. That we booked our caterer, and she's sweet and excited and really loves food and her job and our ideas about our wedding.
8. That spring break is only 2 weeks away.
9. That I got to go snow shoeing with my dear friend last weekend on Mt. Hood, and we got great exercise and had a blast together.
10. And I am grateful that there is so much love in my life.

What are you grateful for? I share this list, because by forcing myself to write it, I reflect on the positive aspects of my life, and I feel more at peace. I feel ten times more relaxed after having created that list than I did before I started it. It's almost a form of meditation.

And since I didn't write about my goals for this week, I want to share some projects and set some weekend goals for myself (some dull, some fun, some challenging):
-to fix my bike (or have someone fix it for me). "Can you do me a huge favor?"
-to clean my car--at least throw some of the shit away and clean my dashboard.
-run 5 miles
-do one other workout (hike? bike? yoga? another run?)
-finish curtains,damnit! I just have to hem them, but ugh, hemming is such a drag.
-harvest bees' honey, but only if the weather cooperates (and it looks like it's supposed to rain, rain, rain.)
-finish grading IB film reflections
-catch up on sleep
-have friends over for potluck/movie/craft night tomorrow
-read in bed
-craft something
-cook something
-pick up house (dust a bit, sweep a bit, straighten a bit)

Happy weekend!


the funniest thing I've seen all week

For those of you who are fans of Arrested Development and/or David Cross, I had to share this awesome homage to his character joining the "Blue Man Group." This reminds of my awesome, witty, crazy smart friend Judi telling us all about how hilarious this show is, particularly this character and this line, while breathlessly laughing so hard we could hardly follow what she was saying and just had to watch the whole series for ourselves!

This is from Lucky Jackson's awesome and inspiring blog 365 Lucky Days. Last week was themed Arrested Development and several characters have one of their funniest lines stitched along with their portriats, such as "Has anyone in this family even seen a chicken?" I love it!


F for Fail: an anecdote on how advanced education often fails students

I'm taking another class at PSU, my second in as many quarters. The first class was a great experience in many ways: our professor worked as a trusting guide and facilitator. This was a graduate level class and she presented us with a goal, with as much time and space as she could make room for, and as much guidance as she could to achieve that goal. This class frustrated many of my classmates: they felt that they did not understand what it was that she wanted and therefore were paralyzed to act; they wanted prescribed methods and outcomes. She wanted us to think for ourselves and to explore.

I thought that she was fantastic. She was asking us to think for ourselves. She wanted us to write introductions, glossaries, author biographies, and reviews of contemporary reviews for novels that had gone out of print or were virtually unknown. She didn't define what she meant by a glossary, but really, how hard is it to look at a few and then ask her some questions: should it be like this or should it be more like this? It was interesting how much these graduate-level students squirmed because they weren't being given a roadmap.

My second class is the converse. Tuesdays have become endless; I teach all day and then have class from 5:30 until 9 p.m. I come home tired and usually uninspired. This class takes away the opportunity and space for any form of creative processing or critical thought. It's a 400 and 500 level course on Hood Films of the 1990s: thus far, we've watched "Boyz n the Hood," "Menace II Society," "Fresh," and other films. I thought this class was going to be a fantastic opportunity to discuss issues with a diverse group of people (different races, ages, backgrounds) in a rather safe, open environment. Wrong.

There is no discussion. Instead, we show up to class and get our stamp--yes, a stamp--to prove that we are present. If we lost our "exposure sheet" that gets stamped, we have to meekly ask for a new one. If we are late to class for any reason, we do not get a stamp. We then watch the movie. We then get another stamp. We then have a break. At this point, after the second stamp, we can leave. After the break, we "discuss" the film. Really, what this means is we are asked questions and then the professor gives us his answer--apparently the only right answer--and berates us if we cannot refer to even the most minor character by his/her name, because WE NEED TO KNOW THEIR NAMES! We are spoon fed the characterization, the meaning of all symbols, the deeper meaning of the director's cinematic choices, and the themes. This is our reward for staying in class; answers to the test. We take notes. We go home. End of class.

Oh, and should we talk (ask your neighbor for a pencil or perhaps quietly point out that the person in front of us is on Facebook AGAIN!) at any point during which he requires a semblance of control of the room, even if it's when he's turning off the lights before the movie starts, he takes our exposure sheet and subtracts 5 points. Let me remind you, kind reader, that this is a 400 and 500 level class.

Let's talk about the grading. He literally said to us, on the first day, that grading and learning are disconnected. You can learn a lot and not get a good grade. Conversely, you can get a good grade and not learn shit, I assume. The class is worth 100 points. The exposure sheet is 40% or 40 points. The midterm is 30; the final is 30. The essays are ten points each. Here's how he grades the essays (this is awesome):

He assumes  you've earned 6 points on the essay. Yes, he automatically feels that the essay is worth a D. Isn't that kind? Then as he reads, he adds points or subtracts points. This is his wonderful, clear grading scale (that he told us about after he graded the midterm).

The other 20 points on the midterm and final (I assume) are based around mindless facts and trick questions checking to see if the ONE reading assignment per test was read and lecture notes were taken. Seriously, it's a fucking joke. Two points per the kinds of questions I ask my freshmen ONCE or TWICE a year when I give them pop quizzes to see if they actually read the assignment (and only give that often because they're worthless and meaningless and totally do not inspire anyone to read or care or think or learn). These stupid questions are worth 40% of our grade for the class. Our essays are only worth 20%.

Approximate value that this class is bringing to PSU: $90,000. $3000 of which is coming from my school district to pay for my coworker and me to be there. It's a seminar with 60 students.

As Seth and Amy from SNL used to say, "Really?! Really?!"

So what's the lesson here? Well, hmmm, maybe there isn't one. Except how NOT to treat my students and how NOT to run my classes. I challenge my juniors in the film class that I teach more than this guy challenges us. I know which professor I am going to model my own teaching after by providing my students opportunities for reactions, analysis, interpretation, exploration with scaffolding, clear expectations, and guidance. And I'm going to allow myself a moment of feeling validated by the fact that this offends me and that I am not the kind of teacher who values ultimate control, utilizes humiliation, and disallows actual thought as part of my practice.



Underneath the St. John's Bridge: Cathedral Park
Spring is on its way. The cherry blossoms have been in bloom now for a couple of weeks, we've received several dozen eggs from our chickens, and the bees have been busy collecting pollen. I am hoping to harvest honey next weekend. Today it was sunny, warm and spring-like after one of our colder weeks of the winter, including some snow.
Our baby trees in the snow
Friends of Trees gifted us with two new baby trees on our street-side lawn. We chose a red-bud tree, one of my favorites from living in Ithaca, NY, and a semi-dwarf janigold apple! We plan to return the favor by volunteering as tree inspectors this summer, strolling our neighborhood and checking on the health of the trees that they planted.

Speaking of trees, I am getting more and more excited by the little tree in our backyard. It has waxy green leaves and is not much to look at in the summer, but the buds on the tree are filling me with the hope that it's a tulip magnolia! If so, I will plan my yard around it, including moving our chicken coop so that it can grow and thrive. I'm not doing much with our yard this year, although I am prepping one of our first gardens and hope to plant some beets, beans, and maybe a few other rather simple veggies there.

Lucky Beans
Leno, our white cat, has been a challenge for us this winter. His teeth have been plaguing him, so in order to make sure that he eats, we need to make him smoothies: water and dry food, sometimes with a touch of canned food. He also needs to spend the majority of time outside as he's taken a shining to spraying in very inconvenient places (but really, is cat spray ever convenient?). He seems to prefer living outside when the weather's nice, but this week, with the cold weather, we had to make a nest in the downstairs bathroom for him. He seems to be okay with a warm place to curl up, a wee bit of affection, and a reliable soft meal. We've jokingly changed his name, thinking that maybe we cursed him by naming him after a song that goes, "Poor Leno," so now we call him Lucky Beans.
Elijah in a sunny spot on the stairs