Gifting

An extra blog!  Reposting because I found a wonderful site about gifts to give your favorite author (and ME!) for the holidays.  Since Yule is this weekend – Enjoy that longest night! – I figured I’d better get this out there just in case you’d forgotten to add me to your gift list.  :)

Here’s the link to the original

Along with the post – and my commentary

Decorated-Christmas-gifts-2

1. Mention their name/book when someone asks “What are you reading?”   (Or anytime you talk with someone about Spirituality!)

2. Add their book(s) to Goodreads groups and lists.  (Yes please)

3. Buy and give their books as gifts to people on your Christmas list.  (What a great idea!  I have some if you need them – I’d even sign them for you.)

4. Request your local library get their books.  (Hey!  I have friends who are librarians.  They have limited budgets.  Books that are requested get higher priority.)

5. If children/youth books, tell your child’s teacher/librarian/PTA about the books.  (Well,  I think maybe your churches, circles, women’s groups, specialty bookstores, and the folks in all those classes you’ve been taking.)

6. Suggest the author/book for your book group. (There’s plenty in my books to talk about!)

7. Follow author on Twitter and retweet.  (Maybe GET me on Twitter – but the same is true with Facebook or linked-in and my blog.  The more you “like”, comment, and especially share the more people see it.)

8. Like their author Facebook page and comment occasionally so author knows someone is out there.  (I do have an author page on Facebook Lisa Spiral)

9. Write an email to author.  (I always love to hear from folks about what they got out of my books or how they are using them.)

10. Leave a review on Amazon or other site of your choice.  (Even better!  Amazon, Goodreads, or even those small newsletters that bookstores and religious communities put out.  Hey – The Edge occasionally prints book reviews too.)

Seriously, these things mean a lot. Thanks for reading!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!   (AND A JOYOUS YULE FROM ME!)

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed SaversVisit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

Baking

2014 - I skipped the popcorn for reasons that will become obvious.

2014 – I skipped the popcorn for reasons that will become obvious.

I haven’t done holiday baking for years.  It’s hard to make dozens of cookies when you can’t stand for more than 5 minutes at a time.  It’s impossible to make breads and sweet rolls when you don’t have the energy to do the kneading.

It seems odd that I would take on a project about sweets 5 months after a gastric by-pass.  But in my twisted mind it makes perfect sense.  If I’m seriously limited in what and how much I can eat I want what I choose to be exactly what I want.  If I take a bite of a sugar cookie I don’t want a grocery store bakery model.

My sense of proportion has changed too.  I don’t feel any need to make dozens of cookies for everyone I know.  Most of the people I know have 1. Dietary issues related to allergies  2. Weight concerns  3. General health concerns  4. Bake themselves – for the same reason I want to.  They know what they like!

So in spite of the surgery, and in spite of the car accident I decided I wanted to do some baking this weekend.  I trimmed the tree.  I gathered up groceries over the course of the week.  I spent some time cleaning too.  My cookie cutters haven’t seen the light of day in ages.  In fact, I discovered many of the one’s I remembered moved out with my daughter 3 years ago.

Minnie.  Isn't she sweet?

Minnie. Isn’t she sweet?

Thanks to the surgery and subsequent weight loss I wasn’t so exhausted from doing the prep that I couldn’t do the actual cooking.  I’ve had plenty of days like that.  It’s exciting just to be able.  But there was a small snag.  I had to babysit this weekend.  Karina’s puppy Minnie was over while she attended a conference.

Minnie could have been the one thing too many that put me over the top.  And I am definitely feeling like I may have over done it a little this weekend.  But the weather was crazy warm (it got into the 50’s!) which made putting the dog out at 4am a little less unpleasant.

What I hadn’t expected was for Minnie to be such a “helper”.  It never occurred to me to worry about the dog climbing up on the table.  I did wonder what she’d gotten into when I saw her with a nose full of powdered sugar, but thought I’d dropped something onto the floor.  However, she didn’t hide the evidence of my date walnut tart.

She really did eat the whole thing!  At least it's not chocolate.

She really did eat the whole thing! At least it’s not chocolate.

I guess I’ll have to find something else to bring to that pot luck.  I certainly won’t be tempted to eat too much.  Luckily I got most everything packed away before I took the tart out of the oven and left it alone to cool.  I’m just grateful Karina is the one who’ll have to deal with doggie diarrhea.  That I’m not up for.

Excuses

I didn’t post on Monday.  I could make excuses.  I took an extra shift at Gilda’s Club.  I was in a (little) car accident over the weekend.  The holidays have thrown off my schedule.   I spent the day on the phone to doctors and insurance adjusters.  I haven’t been sleeping well.  The list goes on.

The fact of the matter is I just needed to take care of myself first.  Still do.  No excuses necessary.

Hoping to catch you all again next week.

Post-Holiday-Post

Mom and Dad getting the turkey ready

Mom and Dad getting the turkey ready

I’ve started to write today’s blog several times over the course of the holiday weekend.  I had a follow-up post about gratitude.  I had a post about family and relationship dynamics.  I always have the option of a post about food, and this year in particular with the huge Thanksgiving meal a challenge after my bariatric surgery.  I had a post about the weekend and going to see comedian Josh Blue.

Just the appetizers!

Just the appetizers!

I don’t want to finish any of them.  In fact the only thing I really want to do is crawl back into bed under the covers.   It’s Monday.  It’s COLD outside (the windchill is hovering near -15 and the temps are just above Zero).  I didn’t get to sleep in all weekend.   It’s the post-holiday let down.

There is some comfort in returning to routine.  The problem is that between Thanksgiving and Christmas/Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanza all routine gets thrown in the trash (along with the excessive packaging).  There is a LOT of cleaning to do.  There is a LOT of cooking to do.  There is a LOT of decorating to do.  And then there’s shopping, and wrapping, and writing out cards.

Going to see Josh Blue with Karina and Orion

Going to see Josh Blue with Karina and Orion

Since Thanksgiving was so late this year I’ve been able to keep my head in the ostrich hole for almost the entire month of November.  Now I’m somehow surprised that it’s December and I’m not ready!  Somehow I don’t think going back to bed will help.

Grateful

Navajo pot

Navajo pot

As we come up on Thanksgiving my Facebook feed is starting to fill up with commentary about “The real history of Thanksgiving.”   Most of it is true, and most of it I am familiar with.  America was built on the backs of people who shared their labor and their knowledge.  Rather than responding with gratitude, our white European fore bearers appropriated their gifts and made sure their stories written out of history.

So I want to take some time to be grateful.   I am grateful to be able to live on this bounteous beautiful land.

Pitaloosie Salia - Cape Dorset

Pitaloosie Salia – Cape Dorset

I am grateful for wild rice, and corn, and pumpkins and all the food that is indigenous.  I’m grateful to see tribal people standing up for their land rights against fracking and pipeline building, knowing how destructive those technologies are to the environment.  I’m grateful for the people who share the history not taught in our schools and who tell the stories of the downtrodden.

Ginger jars and bowl

Ginger jars and bowl

I’m grateful for the immigrant cultures that have brought so much variety to my life.  I’m grateful for fried rice and tortillas and collard greens.

Christine Ntakirutimana - Rwanda

Christine Ntakirutimana – Rwanda

I’m grateful for print and color patterns and architectural wonders that were never a part of my European heritage.  I’m grateful for literature with points of view that are different from my own, but which make it easier for me to shift my own perspective.  I’m grateful for the music, the meditation, and the technologies that make my life easier and more pleasant.

Hmong migration story

Hmong migration story

I have been blessed in my life with the opportunity to travel.  I have been in positions to decorate my home with artwork from other cultures.  I have had the opportunity to work and play and truly get to know people whose upbringing was very different from my own.

East Indian blanket

East Indian blanket

I’ve recently started an online meditation series Headspace.  As I move through the meditation lessons they ask me to reflect on who else benefits from my practicing these techniques.  Trying to build a business speaking on spirituality I ask myself, “who do I serve?  Who needs to hear what I have to say?”

I think the cultures and people who supported the development of this country had that attitude.

“How can I help?  Who can I serve?”

I think our culture has an attitude of “What do I get out of it?”   I’d rather live with the former.

Polynesian mask

Polynesian mask

I’m grateful for the opportunity to try.

Hibernating

PART_1416239762512_20141110_082650This time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is often a breathing space for me.  I’m lucky enough not to have to host the Thanksgiving event.  Even my expected contributions towards the food are pretty simple.

This year, with a blanket of snow on the ground that appears to be here to stay, I’m even more inclined to take some “time off”.  All I want to do is curl up and hibernate.

Maybe it’s the longer, darker days.  Even night owls are “brighter” during the full moon.  Last weekend the moon was new, which means those nights are darker and seem longer.   Maybe it’s the cold.  Even with the furnace on, crawling out of a warm cozy bed in the morning isn’t appealing.

There is a food piece attached to this as well, although I’ve not quite figured out what it is.  I know it is typical to eat a little more as the days get colder.  I know it is typical to eat to stay awake, rather than wandering off to bed as soon as it gets dark.  I know that I think I want “heavier” foods these days.

I’m just 4 months post bariatric surgery.  Heavy foods don’t really sit well and even if they do we’re talking one bite.   I really wanted a hamburger the other day.  I ran out the door so breakfast was haphazard and lunch was late.  My mind had me stopping at a restaurant (like Fuddruckers) and getting a 1/3lb burger with cheese and bacon on an artisan bun with a side of fries and a salad.

I did stop at the store on the way home to get some hamburger I didn’t have to thaw.  Picked up some cheese as well.  I made a 2oz burger with cheese and ½ a piece of bacon and some barbecue sauce rather than ketchup.  I made a little (¼ cup) salad with lettuce and tomato (one small slice diced) and some balsamic dressing.    It was really too much.  And it was also really plenty to satisfy that craving.

Orion got a serious burger and fries for dinner.  I still wasn’t hungry.  In fact he got dinners from that pound of hamburger for several days.  My second 2oz burger is still in the refrigerator.

Thanksgiving marks the end of autumn for me and the beginning of the winter holiday season.   I’ll let Orion listen to Christmas carols in the car.  (He’d be happy having them playing year round.)  I’ll come out of hibernation and start baking and planning for the holidays.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just relax and enjoy a little bit of quiet time.

Money

It has been two weeks of paying big bills – all at once – with money I may or may not actually have.  That’s always fun, isn’t it?  The car insurance was due, there was a registration for a conference,  I have my car in at the shop today for winterization and its 60,000 mile check-up and of course the contract for plowing.  It doesn’t rain but it pours, except at this time of year when it snows.

out the window this Monday morning.

out the window this Monday morning.

I’m not sure if I got the contract in early enough to get this “snow event” covered.  (I kept holding back on sending it because of that iffy money thing.)  They certainly hadn’t come before I left the house this morning.  Thing is that Orion needs to leave before me.  Have you ever pushed a wheelchair through the snow?  They’re not exactly designed for that kind of travel.  Maybe if we had sled dogs!

The plows haven’t come through yet, so at least there wasn’t a huge mound at the end of the driveway.  Getting an electric ramp to lower – flat – over one of those mounds is next to impossible.  My plowing needs are complicated.  It’s been years (10+) since I’ve even considered picking up a shovel.  Those bus drivers (bless them) have occasionally gone above and beyond and made a path. Mostly I’ve been dependent on husbands (not an option anymore) or the plowing contract.

Go Mom!

Go Mom!

But today I bundled up and gave it a go!  Got Orion ready.  Shoveled a path for him down the driveway.  Got dressed and drove, on glare ice, to the dealership and am taking care of business.  It feels really good to be ABLE to do all of that in one morning, and still have a brain.  I’ve been writing this post in my head since last night.  While I wait I’ve finally got time to write it down.  That kind of busy is still new to me.   I really am enjoying it.  There are definitely things more important than money.

Be safe this winter driving season!

VOTE

PART_1414966271790_20141102_161041Mid-term elections.  What’s the point?   There are a lot of them actually.  It’s easy to get caught up in the Presidential races.  There’s a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of hype that goes into those campaigns.  It’s a high-profile race for a high-profile job.

Thing is, the mid-term elections are for jobs a lot closer to home.  The legislators aren’t representing the whole country, but your state.  The state office holders are representing your district (which at least includes your neighborhood).  City office holders determine things like snowplow schedules and lawn maintenance rules.

There are other even closer to home issues that come up on midterm ballots.  Sometimes there are local ordinances and issues – vote yes/vote no to a proposition that changes how things run in your city.  Or vote yes/vote no to a school tax referendum.

Yes there really was such an organization!

Yes there really was such an organization!

On the heels of Samhein, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos I am reminded that many of our ancestors fought hard for the right to vote.   Women couldn’t vote in this country until 1920.  That’s 145 years that we couldn’t vote and less than 100 that we could.  Blacks, or at least black men, were theoretically given the right to vote nationally in 1870.  In both cases there was strong enough opposition that people actively worked to keep blacks and women from the polls.

Husbands would forbid their wives to vote, and pastors preached against women exercising that right.   Taxes, tests, and intimidation prevented most blacks from exercising their right to vote until the voting rights act of 1965.  We still see active legislation (like for voter ID’s), and intimidation to try and prevent “undesirable populations” from exercising their right to vote.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

From the Minnesota Historical Society: Proceedings of the Convention of Colored Citizens of the State of Minnesota program, 1869. This program was presented at the first political convention black Minnesotans held after gaining the right to vote. The celebration held on January 1, 1869 in St. Paul also marked the creation of the Sons of Freedom, the first African American civil rights group in Minnesota.

When we vote we stand on the backs of those who went before us.  As disenchanting as the system may be it still works better when there is more participation.   My daughter says she’s often not happy enough with either candidate to vote for them.   I explained to her about how people get to be on the ballot.

If there is a certain percentage voting for your party in the previous election, that party is automatically included on the ballot for next one.   I have voted for a 3rd party candidate just because I believe we should have more than two choices.  If I can’t vote for someone I like, I can at least vote for inclusion.

Minnesota has historically high voter turn out.  We are often highest in the country or at least in the top 5.  We tend to average about 67% turn out.  This year may be higher as they’ve expanded the rules for absentee ballots.   You no longer have to actually be absent.  Anyone could go down to their city hall and request a ballot, or request one on-line.  The city halls are set up as polling places, or you could take it home and mail it in (or drop it off another day).

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

City Hall was set up as a polling place, but we brought our ballots home.

Orion and I took full advantage of that this year and voted early.  It was much easier for us than finding our polling place (which moves depending on the year.)   It also meant we didn’t have to stand in line.  Additionally the accommodations for Orion’s disabilities are much more readily addressed at home than in a busy polling place.

So please, honor your ancestors and vote.

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Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way.  After the election this gravesite was visited by a number of women and decorated with their “I Voted’ stickers.

photo by Deborah Ketchum

photo by Deborah Ketchum

Metamorphosoup

photo by Bonita Blumenauer

photo by Bonita Blumenauer

In the Twin Cities we are blessed with a wide variety of performance art options.  Some of my favorite events are community based, like the May Day Parade.   At this end of the seasonal cycle Barebones Productions puts on its Halloween Extravaganza.  This is an evening event, outdoors in a park late in the fall in Minnesota.   For the 21st annual production Barebones presented Metamorphosoup.

In line at the entrance

In line at the entrance

This year the weather has been perfect for this kind of event.  Last night when I attended the temps were in the cool, but comfortable 50’s.  Much better than some years, but still nice to be bundled up. This year’s presentation seemed shorter than some.   There is often a theme or story associated with the production.   This year seemed more pageant than play.

pre-show entertainment

pre-show entertainment

The audience entered through the mouth of the great whale and found their seats on hay bales under the trees.  Actors/street performers dressed in Halloween visions of carnival characters directed people to seating and kept us engaged.   There are 5 performances with a total attendance around 8,000 people (maybe more this year due to the fine weather).  We watched the new moon setting over the trees as we waited for full dark, for the audience to settle, for the main show to begin.

Fire spinners dancing  photo by Bonita Blumenauer

Fire spinners dancing
photo by Bonita Blumenauer

Complete with puppets, aerialists, fire spinners, dancers, singers and musicians we watched the cycle of birth and death and rebirth play out before us.  This was the story of the cosmic soup, the great cauldron of creation.  This was a pageant of evolution and destruction, of limited resources and greed, and the bounty of stone soup.   There were moments of profound loss and grief and moments of awe and joy.  There was an acknowledgement of ancestors lost and of remembrance.

all things come from the sea photo by Bonita Blumenauer

all things come from the sea
photo by Bonita Blumenauer

That description hardly does justice to the wonder that is the Barebones.  There were dinosaur puppets, bones perhaps not to scale, but certainly representative of the size and scope of actual dinosaurs.   The great wave of water brought the scene to the ocean filled with floating luminescent creatures lighting up the darkness.  Fire spinners dances in glorious numbers, circles and forms.  Each time they appeared the fires beneath the great cauldron seemed to glow brighter and the cauldron grew bigger and bigger.  In the end there were the ancestors, and the stars.

The plesiosaur came out after the show.  This is an animated puppet on a grand scale.

The plesiosaur came out after the show. This is an animated puppet on a grand scale.

Even after the presentation there is still production happening.  This is not just a play, but an event, a community ritual.  There is a beautiful Hungry Ghost Altar set up around the tree for people to spend time honoring their ancestors, beloved dead and unknown dead alike.  There is paper to leave notes and messages, candles available to light, offerings made with the great tree as witness to all that happens at its feet.

The Hungry Ghost Altar

The Hungry Ghost Altar

The Jack Brass Band(the Brass Messengers on other nights) played music into the night.  The brass band echoing on the wind is reminiscent of a New Orleans style funeral procession, somber on the way in but joyous and celebratory on the way out.  Sisters Camelot had hot food available for those who stayed and needed a warm-up.  There was also some merchanting, another source of funding for this amazing production.

photo by Bonita blumenauer

photo by Bonita blumenauer

 

This is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the season.  The bounty of the harvest, the acknowledgement of loss and change and transformation, and the honoring of the ancestors all tied up into a community event.   Happy Halloween!

 

100

October 2013

October 2013

I don’t know why the numbers make such a difference.  Ever since my bariatric surgery the question I get asked most often is “How much have you lost?”   Since the answer to that question depends a lot on where I start counting from even the numbers are ambiguous.  Do I start with my “top weight”?   Do I start with the weight on my bariatric surgeon’s chart from my first visit?   Do I start with the weight I had on the day of surgery?

It doesn’t help that I can be very casual about numbers.  I’m good with math, but I don’t really remember numbers well.  Every time I’ve moved (and it’s not that many times) I get my checks changed immediately, so I can LOOK whenever someone asks my address.  It takes me months!  The best thing about cell phones is that I get to keep my phone number.  I didn’t change plans until I could.

I can’t even remember how old I am.  My kids remember.  I could do the math, but if someone is asking I figure if they really want to know THEY can do the math.   I was 23 for 3 years, it was a number I could remember.  I’m bad with my kids ages too.  I don’t believe Orion just turned 26, but I’m sure he’s right.

I didn’t go into the bariatric surgery with my eyes on the numbers.  I cared about energy and mobility and health.  All of those things are noticeably improved.  I can stand longer, do more and am more comfortable.  I no longer shuffle when I walk.  I even put on a pair of heels.   I can curl up in my favorite chair.  I don’t need as many pillows in my bed.  I don’t get winded coming up the stairs.  These are the things that matter.PART_1413728483170_20141018_142123

Still, there’s that number.  100.  It makes a difference.  It shouldn’t, but it really does.  Hitting the 100 lb weight loss mark is a milestone, like it or not.  It doesn’t matter what percentage of my weight I’ve lost, or how much I have left to go.  It’s just that number.

I’ll hit it several times, depending on where I count from.  But I suspect the impact of the milestone will only hit me this once.  So, I’ll claim it.  Let’s hear it for 100!

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