My conservative mom raised a liberal

Of all the things I thought I would write about contemporaneously, a fight about white supremacy was never on my radar. White supremacy is the stuff of college research papers, not presidential press conferences. This subject was also a frequent topic of conversation when I was growing up.

My mom was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She always told stories of seeing chain gangs — usually all black men — working around town. As an adult, she told her parents they were not welcome to visit us if they continued to use the n-word. When mom was a girl, her family was a poor, working class family, and my mom’s first store-bought doll was dark-skinned. She still has that doll, Paula May.

I have always believed that my parents were telling me to check myself for thoughts and attitudes about being better than anyone. I feel like they were raising me to know that some people are less blessed than us, some people have a different — sometime a lot tougher — road. In my mind, I should follow my mother’s example of how to treat people around me. Here’s one: I was having breakfast with my parents one day, and she spotted a guy leaving the restaurant who doesn’t get around much on his own because of some physical or mental deficiencies. I don’t know his story, just that she said, “Oh, Duder McGee is here!” and she hopped up to say hello, and as my eyes followed her I saw that he had help with him and that he was not a typical grown man. My shy, introverted mom jumped up during breakfast to run after someone to say, “Hey, good to see you!” because she was genuinely happy to see him.

While I’m not comparing apples to oranges when it comes to human beings, I’m trying to explain why I don’t get pissy that someone feels like they need to say “black lives matter!” Or why saying that only white, able-bodied men and their white, fertile wives wanting to “take back” America is just wrong. My mom had me reading the Bible since she knew I could read. (Believe me, I started reading very early. Very early. Earlier than any of you, believe me. Fake news is still trying to learn to read. Sad.) Of course my personal and religious beliefs have defined my view of the world. Likewise, I take the Declaration of Independence at face value when it lists the truths we hold to be self evident. I believe all these lessons are there to help me, and all of us, to be better.

It’s nice to be nice. It’s so much more pleasant than being a jackass. Since when did this simple, every day logic get lost on these hate-filled, un-American, un-Christian white supremacists and their emboldened supporters?! I’d much rather be the lone voice of liberalism in my family than associated in any way with a neo-Nazi or anyone on the alt-right. My mama raised me to be better than that.

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I never stop writing

I have not published much here in recent years. I never stopped writing, I just wouldn’t publish. I was mainly concerned about protecting my husband’s privacy, even when we were merely dating.

One thing my husband has consistently says to me when I ask, “What do you think I should do?” is “write!” Today, I want to write about and actually publish a couple of thoughts that have really improved my outlook lately.

First, in light of the sad passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington this year, I just felt so sad. So much talent wasted. Why would these two artists who I respect and treasure so much feel their only option was suicide?! My friend Lauren expressed how their passing reminds us to find our joy — not happiness in money, fame, or “unbelievable talent” — but the joy that comes from a still, small voice inside. Whatever your joy is, I want you to have it.

Second, my amazing friend Heather called me to tell me that God’s timing is at work in my life. I believe she said, “God’s timing started in this [difficult situation], and He will also finish it.” Whatever you believe should give you hope. I believe that the journey I am on will move next to a hopeful outcome.

My first job out of college was editing a magazine. I remember the issue when we switched production companies from a small time, one-man operation to a slightly larger shop that did all the photo scanning and layout. We had two full-page photos mapped for black and white pages. (Yes, the publisher was too cheap to pay for full-color pages throughout the magazine! Likewise, I was making roughly minimum wage + a dollar, with a college degree.) At some point, someone recognized that the two black and white photos for a particular article were possibly switched during production of this issue. The error could have happened during photography, while the author was writing the article, when I labeled and submitted the content to the production company, or anytime at the production company. I’ve always believed that the mistake was on me — it’s kept me humble since then.

I’ve gone through triumphs and failures. I’ve had highs and lows that were totally circumstantial. A lot of my career has been in the software industry, which hasn’t been super stable outside of the Silicon Valley.

Maybe if I could go back to that first job, I would. I wrote, but I also did so many other things I was not trained or prepared to do. Maybe I’m hoping my next professional journey will be just as scary — I want to embrace new things in light of all my experience while learning from others who have magnificent experiences.

Homemade Christmas Ornaments II

The finished product! Acrylic paint on a well baked salt dough is a great medium for your artistic visions. After painting my dog Emmett’s footprint, I touched it up with a Sharpie. Likewise with BB8 — I drew his details in with a permanent marker.

Then I coated both ornaments with five layers of  Modge Podge.

Salt dough is a perfect medium for dog prints, baby feet, adorable hand-made things, and even lover thumb prints you see on Etsy. Go nuts, and share in the comments!

Homemade Christmas ornaments

I was determined to make a Christmas tree ornament of our dog Emmett’s paw print this year. I never did capture a paw print of my late Peanut, and that’s one thing I wish I had in some form.

Our ornaments growing up were all handmade salt dough — little works of art my mother crafted and hand painted that we hung with glee for many, many years. The dough mix is quick and simple, roughly as follows:

  • One part salt
  • Two parts flour
  • One part water (but start slow)

The dough rolls easily, is not sticky, and is easily transferred to a cookie sheet for baking. Emmie was so good with making her paw impression that I decided to use my leftover dough to try my hand at a raised ornament, too.

For the impression, I simply cut a circle in the flattened dough, bribed the dog with treats, and had her stand on the counter for a minute.

For the raised ornament, I simply used the spare circle of dough, rolled the rest by hand to make some spheres, and placed them on the background circle with drops of water.

After baking the ornaments in the convection oven, I used acrylic paint as a base layer and let them dry for 24 hours. When baking them, don’t worry about burning them or achieving an even color because you’ll paint them. Instead, bake them enough so there is no more moisture in the dough. Extreme over-baking will cause the dough to crumble, but as all things in life, moderation is key. Bake 10 minutes at a time until the ornament is hard.

Please stand by for photos of the finished ornaments!

 

Introspection on a hot summer night

dallas-starry-nightI just walked the dog and looking at the stars in the sky reminded me of my teenage years, when I would sit outside alone at night and write in my journal. As I remember it, I genuinely believed that I was a deep thinker. In hindsight, a 15-year-old who ponders big questions, writes hypotheses, and then does research is probably good grounds for a critical thinker, dreamer, and writer.

I wouldn’t change my undergraduate education if I could do it again — my degree in professional writing has served me well in my career — but I would probably steer my 20-something AND 30-something selves in grad school to pursue a business degree.  Instead, I got hung up on humanities as soon as the business requirements were out of the way, so I’m stuck believing in business ethics and research methodologies.

Honestly, at 43 I’m still the same dreamer I was at 13. The hot night and the summer stars brought back tons of memories of the introspection I used to do. These days I find myself thanking God for a lot of people and things that I know I don’t get around to thanking those people about.

The Great Clean-up of 2016 continues

Some efforts deserve to be documented! After a pretty successful massive purge of my clothes, I knew I’d continue the momentum. My home office became my target this week because my chiropractor suggested that a more ergonomic set up would help alleviate some chronic pain I’ve been having since 2006.

While I was addressing my desk situation with a trip to Ikea, my husband said that while I’m at it what I needed to do was get rid of the janky cabinet the printer is on.

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Here is the janky cabinet, complete with piles of junk on and around it because it was too unorganized and full to put anything else inside.

Here’s my BEFORE shot of the office:

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Here is the AFTER shot, which is much nicer because all the crap is now organized and in its place:

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Similar to my closet clean-up, I ended up with a huge pile of old papers to be recycled. I feel great! I’m not a tidy person, but because I work from home I’m afraid that I’m even less neat or organized! Having a nice office helps morale and reduces distractions. Thinking about how happy I am in this office makes me grateful that I’m not working at a crappy start-up in a tiny cubical. Home sweet home is office sweet office!

What will be next in my year of the purge? The kitchen and my bathroom are tentative options.

 

The butterfly effect of cleaning

My husband and I are looking forward to buying a house in the near-ish future. We talk about all the adulty things around such a purchase, like credit scores and budgets, as much as we discuss our dream house’s features. One thought took root in my mind and refused to wither away, which was: Are you really going to move again and haul all that crap in your closet with you?

So I googled “how to clean out your closet,” and came across a blog post on bemorewithless.com. Although I’m not quite ready to commit to owning only 33 items every three months, as is the gist of the site, I did take the advice of one post about how to go about purging my crap:

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I spent about six and a half hours going through all my clothes and shoes. I took the closet in three sections, and then tackled the dresser. The entire process yielded seven loads of laundry, several bags of trash, two over-filled bags of clean clothes and linens that I donated to a shelter, dozens of unmatched socks that got trashed or recycled, and one giant pile of hardly worn brand name items I’m going to sell on Swap.com.

Years ago, I got a deep desire to purge all the physical things I owned. I mentioned this to a friend, somewhat fearfully because saying it out loud (or rather via AIM) would commit me to letting go of things. She said that she had read a book weeks prior, which inspired her to purge closets, too. She said that the book warned that even when you don’t tell people what you’re doing, other people in your life will catch the cleaning-out bug, too.

I shared my purging process and the blog link on facebook, and since then two people have called me out for spreading the clean-out bug. And no, they were not grateful comments. One friend said to me, “I don’t know whether to love you or loathe you,” and the other simply said she blamed me for her purging project. (In my defense, both those ladies had a lot to purge.) Several other people have commented on our various posts about their plans to follow suit or the results of their clean-out.

This weekend my husband and I had a few friends and family members over to celebrate his birthday. He mentioned how my purging project really helped us clean the rest of the house to host people and lots of food. The things we needed out of the way were easily stashed in the closet for the day because there is now so much room in it! A deep clean really does have a butterfly effect!

December 11

My father’s father passed away today. He was my last grandparent. He was 98 years old.

Grief is so weird. My granddad is the fourth of my four grandparents to pass, so this isn’t a new experience, but I keep cycling between relief that his ailments are over, and a very deep sadness. I had such a strong affection for him. I remember telling him when I was pretty young that he was my favorite grandfather, and my mother’s mother was my favorite grandmother. (AWKWARD.)

More proof that I’ve never had and never will have a filter.

‘Tis the season for celebrating, and despite our loss my family has been blessed with so much. I’m incredibly grateful.

And puppy makes three

I haven’t published much this year because my Very Important Deep Thoughts on Life* are mostly about being a newlywed and involve another person. That person — obviously, my husband — may or may not care to have his personal business posted on my blog for the seven or so people who read it.

We have a new member in our little family. Team AJ is now tEam AJ with the addition of R.E.B. “Emmie” Baylor, a rescue from Dallas Animal Services. Before I get into how this addition came to be, let me introduce The Emmie Dog!

When I met my husband, we had the talk about pets. I’m such an animal lover that I couldn’t wrap my mind around someone’s proclaimed indifference to pets, but I saw how he treated other pets with affection. He told me about how the loss of his own pets hurt him, and I understood. My Peanut was my best friend and most reliable companion for 15 years, and losing her was devastating. Taking a plunge into an emotional relationship that is guaranteed to be relatively short-lived is a tough commitment, and this time I needed to be sure enough for the both of us.

I didn’t take adopting a dog lightly and was happy to commit to all the responsibility and care of the right one. I knew that once I got out and about and started actively looking, the right pup would come along. I went to the shelter in Petsmart on the advice of a friend. I saw lots of dogs, but on the advice of a worker, gave extra consideration to a sweetheart they called Missy. I knew this dog was The One because she was so responsive, affectionate, sweet, and clearly sharp. Any fissure of doubt I had about adopting this dog evaporated when the staff asked us to pose for the 37,000th adoption picture, and Emmitt gave me a huge kiss as the shutter clicked.

Emmie has worked hard to win over my husband, and I’m touched to say the affection is mutual. Today one of his sisters said on Facebook that he would make a great father, and I have seen proof with my own eyes. I’m so blessed by my family! Emmie is a wonderful addition to our family. I love to hear her snores when she sleeps and happy yips every time Jeff comes home. I love to hear Jeff sing to Emmie. I’m so blessed, and I couldn’t be happier.

*These Seriously Important thoughts include such vital topics as why the quadruple roll of Charmin is so much nicer than the triple roll of Cotonelle, why TCU fans seem to be total douche weasels about football yet offer nary a mention of any other Big 12 sport, wondering what dogs and babies dream about, and pondering why my sleeping habits are pretty crappy. Also, Covet.

True or False: Introvert edition

My husband busts on me a little bit about being introverted, but mostly because he, like many people, doesn’t quite understand what introversion is and isn’t. I can’t blame anybody for that, because I didn’t quite get it myself until I was in my mid-20s.

When I take personality tests, I rate right down the middle between introvert and extrovert. I suppose I’m an outgoing introvert. For people who don’t really get what “introvert” means, an “outgoing introvert” must sound like a contradiction, which is the first FALSE I can think of. Being an introvert means that I recharge my battery being alone, or being alone with one person who I’m close enough to that we can either talk or not talk and feel comfortable. I can even recharge with a group of people like my close family or very close friends. Once I had breakfast at a busy restaurant with four friends and felt utterly rejuvenated: At the time I said to my friends that being with them felt like coming home.

I read an interesting article tonight about ways to love an introvert. I agree with a lot of it and would call those points true, but first I have to pick apart what I think is false. I mean, the second sentence is complete rubbish:

Where extroverts are social creatures, introverts are most certainly not.

The author wrote a sloppy introduction to an otherwise pretty spot-on article, and if I were his editor I would have red-flagged this and asked for clarification. Saying that extroverts are social and introverts are “most certainly not” is essentially saying that introverts are anti-social. FALSE. I am most certainly social and introverted. In some situations, I feel socially awkward, mostly because these days I worry about not meeting my husband’s expectations. I genuinely enjoy getting to know people; I’m very interested in knowing more about my people. One TRUE thing about the Lifehacker article, in which the author totally contradicts his statement I’ve quoted above is:

If you label introverts as [shy or anti-social], then you obviously don’t understand them …. Most introverts love to meet people. It’s just that while extroverts enjoy small talk, introverts would rather discuss deeper issues in a more intimate setting.

Last weekend, we went to a party … actually we went to two parties in a row! At the first party, I knew exactly four people — the hostess-slash-guest of honor, her husband, my husband, and a guy I’ve met once. At one point, the three guys took off to do something manly or carry heavy things, and I was left alone at a table with a youngster. She was pretty clearly feeling awkward, and I was sitting there telling myself, “You’re the adult, start talking to this kid! Why don’t you know what to say to her? It’s your responsibility to put this girl at ease. What should you say?? Think, think, think … how do you break the ice with an 8-year-old you’ve just met?” Eventually, I had the idea to bring up the universal topic of food! That broke the ice and we were soon friends, but those few minutes have lingered in my mind. With that in mind, I think the following is mostly TRUE:

Don’t leave them hanging at a social event.

Writing this has helped me realize so much about how I need to communicate with my husband! Yay! And I happily call one last point from the article very TRUE:

Explain how you perceive the world differently …. Introverts love to listen, so why don’t you tell us all about it? We would both benefit if we learned from each other.

At the party last weekend, the husband-of-honor told me that he holds back around me because I’m an introvert. FALSE. I’m not scared of people or different personalities or extroverts. I process internally, and perhaps to some slowly, but I still want to know you.