Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Liebster Award 2012

Last year I began blogging. Over 181 million other humans are doing it and it is easy. One does not need anyone’s permission or a license or a publisher or a certification or degree or any money, for that matter— just a keyboard and a simple blog platform and, presto, one can begin writing and self-publishing. It is the ultimate form of democratic freedom—to have a voice and put it out into the universe unhindered. With a free blogging platform, a simple soul can share with the universe anything she (or he) desires—from books to recipes, joys or sorrows, memories or haunts, along with beautiful pictures and photos. It is as joyful as journaling, wrapping oneself in thoughts or ideas and watching them taking shape—fingers pressing pencil to pad, or in my world, letter keys producing typeface onto a computer screen. Thoughts come spelling out as words, sentences and paragraphs. I only had the tiniest, most microscopic, little itsy-bitsy agenda: to share—soft gentle things that I have gleaned worthy over the course of my life in the context of the place where I live. Things such as healthy food and recipes, positive growth and organic gardening, hobbies and recreation, places visited, movies, stories, reflections and hope. A middle-aged woman sharing simple mundane things laced with a little lesson or piece of information. But my enthusiasm began to wane after a year when I compared my blog to other seasoned bloggers who were more clever, more artistic, making money advertising, and had a following—an actual readership. Bumble always says, "Nothing is true by comparison." Yet I knew I was terribly green and not in an good environmental way but in a amateurish "need to get my act together" way. So my posts became fewer and I did not feel that I measured up. Like any living thing in the earth's ecosystem, in order to survive I needed to find my niche.

Yesterday, Arti from Ripple Effects tagged me in regards to the Liebster Award. It is an award for new bloggers that do not have a huge following (under 200) and, yes, that would be me. I have two followers, one being my husband, Bumble, and the other must be Arti from Ripple Effects. Someone actually read my posts and felt something. A connection was born. Having a mom of German decent, I quickly assumed Liebster meant favorite or beloved or sweetheart and indeed it does in the case of the Liebster Award. In the spirit of the Liebster Award, a person's blog that was tagged for the award must in turn tag other blogs, like a chain letter. And like any chain letter where one hopes to receive a special blessing, here is what people tagged for the Liebster Award are supposed to do: First post 11 facts about yourself, then answer the questions the nominator made for you (Arti proposed 7 questions). Next, you create new questions for the bloggers you nominate if you want. Then you choose fledgling blogs to nominate, and be sure to link them to your post. 

11 Facts about me

  1. I was ostracized and treated terribly in middle school and to this day I am a loner wary of humans.
  2. My first love was dogs, second love was horses, third love was snow skiing. . .
  3. My grandfather, John, was an illegal immigrant (he was a stowaway on a ship from Scotland).
  4. My mom once told me if you want to be happily married, then marry a Jewish man. I finally listened.
  5. Nature is my church or synagogue, I go there to meditate and pray.
  6. My 2nd marriage taught me what love really means.
  7. I have a terrible time remembering people’s names, yet I can hear a voice (or song) and identify the owner. 
  8. I love education, but after my long devotion to it, never landed the job of my dreams.
  9. I was unwed and pregnant at 15 years old and a mother of a baby girl at 16 years old.
  10. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do, and grand parenting is easy.
  11. I believe in karma, I cannot make a mistake without the lessons bashing me over the head immediately.
Now, my answers to the 7 questions that Arti from Ripple Effects posted for us:

1. What do you think of literary prizes? Good idea or bad?

Good idea. When I was studying library and information science, I learned there must be a certain set of criteria in which to evaluate a book, resource, or piece of information to determine whether it is credible, reliable or just plain good. Questions must be asked: Who is the author, what is his/her reputation, who is the publisher, what are their credentials and affiliations, if scientific is it current and timely, has the piece been acknowledged, nominated or the winner of any literary award from a scholarly group of peers? From a Pulitzer Prize to a Newberry Medal, a book or article that has received such recognition does seem have merit. Yet I must say with regard to the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes that just because a certain intellectual group believes something is there doesn’t always make it necessarily true.

2. If you could write any sort of book, what would you write?

A group of short story memoirs thinly disguised as fiction interwoven with nature’s ecological principles.

3. Describe your ideal home library/study.

A fireplace or Franklin stove anchoring the room, a large L-shaped contemporary desk complete with computer and printer, books and resources spilling out of built-in bookshelves, a colorful globe, plants, old worn leather chairs, good lighting and a window, filing cabinets, inspiring artwork and pictures, an additional space in a corner for my sewing machine and textiles, my cat and my husband.

4. Name two new authors whose work you think will last the test of time, and explain your choices.

Cheryl Strayed, because her prose is filled with ballsy honest raw human emotions. More humans should be this brave about what is going on inside them, we would have more genuine connections. Read:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail or Torch.

Sharman Apt Russell, because she writes about nature with such elegance that you see it again in a new light. Her deep research is a librarian’s dream. Read:  An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect or Anatomy of a Rose: Exploring the Secret Life of Flowers.

5. Which books do you hope to get for Christmas?

I do enjoy those big heavy coffee table books filled with photos that I cannot afford. One on my list would be: Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Eric Boman. Iris Apfel makes being herself and dressing in her amazing wardrobe the best art form of all—being living art.

6. What’s the last book you did not finish and why?

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road
by Margaret Roach.

Margaret Roach is a devoted and brilliantly self-educated gardener. I could not wait to glean knowledge from a kindred spirit. I am a master gardener with 25 years of experience, an MS degree in environmental studies, and have spent many years working in the horticultural field never choosing the corporate fast lane. However, midway through the book (even though some of the prose was lovely) I was not grasping the point and became disappointed with the self-possessed rambling. It was not a biological or emotional learning experience for me. I believe the author was blessed to have this book published because of her connection to Martha Stewart and her enterprise. I wish I had connections, but alas I am wary of humans (see fun facts #1).

7. Would you accept 20 books that were absolutely perfect for you and dependably brilliant reads, if they were also the last 20 books you could ever acquire?

Well, if you mean by “acquire” that they would be mine to keep, does that mean I could still go to the library and borrow and read as many books as my card will allow for the rest of my life as long as I technically did not acquire them? If I could still read library books, then perhaps yes, I would be awfully curious to see the 20 books that were absolutely perfect for me. I am a curious animal like my cat.

OK, now to tag other new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) for the Liebster Award. I only know of one fairly new blogger:  by Melinda S. (Her last name is withheld until she gives me permission to post it).  I love her writing and adventures, and like me, she does not advertise her blog on FB or any other social media that I am aware. I invite her to answer the 7 questions that Arti posted for me and, of course, share her 11 fun facts.  Good luck to everyone and may the chain of blessings begin.

References:  (sourcing information from NM Incite)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks giving

Lately, especially during long walks on crisp sunny Colorado mornings, I realize how fortunate I am and I say it out loud thank you Universe, thank you God.  I offer up my gratitude for being a very lucky women:  I have a kind husband who is my dearest friend, a little backyard garden that produces organic food, children who are grown and healthy and offering the world great services, a sturdy mid-century modern home that is almost paid for, a solid college education that helps me understand the ways of the world, a strong body that keeps going without injury, and rocket bombs are not raining over my head. I am very grateful.  Of course, there were many years in my life when things were not so good:  when I wasn’t married to my best friend but an enemy, when I lost a home I helped create to my ex-husband’s gambling debts, when I was worried how to feed my children and whether the divorce scarred them for life, and often I wondered if I would ever find love again. There is a line in the book and movie “Out of Africa” written by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Christenze Blixen) that goes like this: God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road. Sometimes in life we do not know the good (or the bad) that may befall us in our future. 

The holidays have arrived and I do love to prepare food—heart-warming healthy food. It feels satisfying and well, it just feels like love. And I do this job pretty much 330 days a year (I rely on leftovers to fill in for the other days). Yet, I must say, after preparing Thanksgiving Dinner for four decades—preparing the large tedious turkey dinner with more side dishes than a hooker has high heels—it no longer excites. Rather, it depletes me and the monthly budget, and adds a bit of stress (what size turkey should I get this year, who has the best free-range birds, how many bags of fresh cranberries do I need, how many vegetable casseroles is enough, will the gravy turn out, pumpkin pie or apple or both, what if I don’t have enough funds in my bank account, how many will I feed, on and on). Sometimes I wonder why women often do not get a holiday on a holiday. They are busy working in the kitchen making holiday happen for their family or loved ones. Rituals are lovely and very important, but for those who create them they can be tedious. Maybe there should be a new ritual that a woman who prepares Thanksgiving dinner at her home one year must not be a allowed to do it again for another 5 years—it must be passed around to others before it comes back to roost. Or perhaps after a certain age we just pass the whole mess on to the younger set. I could get behind this wholeheartedly.

Truth be known, I am really not that crazy about turkey. It is fairly high-maintenance poultry to prepare—it requires brining, basting or cooking upside down for a few hours, and even enveloping in some space-age clear bag. Upon consumption, turkey triggers a L-tryptophan reaction leaving one resembling the smokers in a hazy opium den. Perhaps, the football results may further add to the guest's depression. On the other hand, I do adore the mashed sweet potatoes, moist stuffing and pumpkin pie, but not the awful over-eating we all are guilty of on this day.  And let’s not forget the grueling clean-up—the challenge of finding the right size plastic container to store the leftovers in the fridge hoping everything fits, and the never ending scrubbing of casserole dishes, pots and pans.  I cannot imagine what is must have been like for my mom (or her mom’s generation). These women did not have the helping hand of an electric dishwasher which super cleans all our plates, glasses, goblets and silverware with ease.  Another reason for us to be thankful.

I wonder what stuffing a turkey and ourselves has to do with expressing gratitude. Is it the ritual of breaking bread with family and friends? Perhaps it is the gift of the cook to the family—saying here is my enormous spread, come partake and make your selves sick with gluttony and me with exhaustion—that we should be grateful for along with the bountiful gifts that nature (and the food industry) provides us. I suppose I am just questioning things more now. Why do we have to do this every year (in addition to the big Christmas/Chanukah celebration) because our cultural history requires us to? Earlier in my life I was just so dang eager to please, be a good mom, and feed people. Why can’t we take an occasional sabbatical from the rituals? Seriously would the sun not come out tomorrow? Would the Thanksgiving police show up at the door?

I can conjure up only one positive to preparing the big dinner—good old leftovers. Those leftovers finally pay off for all the work up front—all the planning, shopping, washing, preparing, chopping, cutting, sauteing, mashing, whipping, rolling, baking, serving and finally cleaning up. All I had to do after Thursday ended was throw together a hot turkey sandwich with cranberries and gravy for the next few days.  That was the leftover blessing.  Yum.

I hope everyone enjoys a great Thanksgiving this year and finds good reasons to be grateful. I hope you express gratitude for the cook/s (even if the dinner turns out slightly different from a Norman Rockwell painting). Lastly, if you really don’t feel up to it maybe this year you can take a break and go to a little French restaurant for Thanksgiving instead of hosting the whole affair at home. To be sure, I have witnessed some very happy unstressed people breaking bread at a great local French restaurant in Denver. The cost was less than what one spends at the grocery store and you probably would not miss the preparation and clean-up either. You may miss the leftovers but it would be a good trade. And I promise the sun will come out the next day.