Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Mitten Count

February's magic mitten number is 12 pairs! (Because I am all about total honesty and complete disclosure, I'd like to say that pair #12 is still on the needles but will be finished before today is over.)

That brings my gesamtsumme to...wait for it...TWENTY pairs.

Gesamtsumme is "grand total" in German. Or so Yahoo's Babel Fish tells me. Have you tried Babel Fish? It's a super fun way to waste time on the internet. You type in words or phrases and Babel Fish translates them into foreign languages for you.

AmyDubDub ist ein strickender dummkopf.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Review

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
by John Boyne.

Have you read this book? Or seen the movie? I first came across the title while browsing online through a book list on Barnes and Noble's website. I thought it sounded interesting and would be a quick and easy read since it is classified as juvenile literature. I recommended it to my book club and we will be discussing it in March.

I finished the book a few days ago. I'll tell you that there is a surprise ending. Maybe I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. And it is horrifying. And unsettling. I am blown away by it. I wish I could forget about it. And for that reason alone, I highly recommend it. My children will be reading this book.

The idea behind the book, according to the author, is that there are two boys sitting on either side of a fence, having a conversation. These two boys should not be there.

One of the boys is dressed in striped pajamas, with a striped cap on his head. This boy's name is Schmuel. He is imprisoned in Auschwitz.

The other boy, Bruno, is on the "good" side of the fence. Bruno is the son of the commandant stationed there to run Auschwitz. Bruno's family moved to Auschwitz from Berlin and Bruno is not happy about their new home. He hates it, in fact.

"He walked slowly towards (the window), hoping that from here he might be able to see all the way back to Berlin and his house and the streets around it and the tables where the people sat and drank their frothy drinks and told each other hilarious stories. He walked slowly because he didn't want to be disappointed. But it was just a small boy's room and there was only so far he could walk before he arrived at the window. He put his face to the glass and saw what was out there, and this time when his eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O, his hands stayed by his sides because something made him feel very cold and unsafe." (p. 20)

The general message of the book is that we must not forget what happened during the Holocaust.

The lasting lesson for me is that whether you commit the evil yourself, or if you encourage it, or even if you only allow it to happen, a part of you will be destroyed.

"Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age. " (p. 216)

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Last year on September 12 (and I know it was September 12 because that was the day Hurricane Ike blew in) I got bronchitis. I didn't know it was bronchitis at the time - I figured I had an allergy/asthma cough because there was a lot of barometric stuff going on and a huge load of unknown stuff and crud and particles blowing in from the gulf ahead of the storm.

I didn't find out it was bronchitis until 10 days later when the electricity was finally mostly restored and my doctor's office was finally re-opened. Those 10 days were something else, I'm telling you. In so many ways, it was unforgettable. But that's a story for another time.

Anyway, Dr. E gave me some antibiotics and sent me home. The meds did their job, and when I went back to Dr. E about a week later for my yearly...ahem..."female" exam he said my lungs sounded clear. I did feel much better but I was still coughing. A lot. So he hooked me up with some cough medicine and told me that a "bronchitic cough sometimes lingers for as long as 3 or 4 months."

Three or four months? Seriously?

A week later, while coughing uncontrollably, I heard a loud crack/pop and instantly felt some pretty intense pain in my ribcage. (If you look at that picture of an x-ray it's #9 or 10 or 11.) I hurt. Bad. I went back to Dr. E and told him I thought I broke a rib and he said it was entirely possible. He poked and prodded around for a bit (STOP IT! That hurts!) and said they don't really do anything for possible broken ribs. No kind of wrapping or treatment or anything. Not even x-rays to find out for sure, since it doesn't change the treatment (which is NOTHING). He gave me an Rx for some vicodin and more cough medicine. He said it would heal in 6-8 weeks.

While coughing so hard I couldn't catch my breath I broke another rib, in my back near my spine, the first week in November.

And while wondering if I might possibly have Whooping Cough in December I re-broke the first rib that was broken.

Do you understand what your ribs do for you? Everything. Breathing hurts. Coughing or laughing or sneezing? Forget about it. Standing upright? No way. Driving? Puh-lease. Rolling over in bed? It might make you want to die.

You have to laugh, really, or give up and cry. I mean, picture it. You're in bed, holding still in one position for so long because of the pain that you've grown uncomfortable. You can't roll over because of the pain. But you try, and it hurts so much that you try to go back. Which kills. Now you're trapped in another uncomfortable, painful position. And you've only been in bed maybe 10 or 15 minutes. You've still got 7 or so hours to go.

Welcome to my life for the past five months. It's been five full months since the first busted rib. I still cannot lay on my right side in bed without discomfort. That area is still tender to the touch. Coughing or sneezing still hurts. I cannot sit comfortably for any length of time.

The most surprising thing about it was how much it hurt to walk down stairs. I had never noticed it before but the body reflexively makes continuous adjustments to keep you standing up straight and balanced while you are going down stairs. You can't stop your brain from telling your body to do that - it wants to make sure you don't fall. But those little adjustments pull on your ribcage and hurt like nobody's business.

The moral of this story is: Don't break any ribs. Because you won't get a cast to keep them immobilized while they heal. And because it will hurt for a long time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Man Funk

If you live with a man, then you know - Men have Funk. I live with 4 men and it's no picnic in a fresh, flower-scented meadow, believe me. Sometimes I walk into one of their rooms and I have to walk right out again.

I just have to turn around and walk away. Away. Far, far away.

What is Man Funk anyway? It's not a b.o. smell, or bad breath, or sweaty feet, or the general stench of the unwashed. It's more like a potpourri. (But not any kind of potpourri that a person would deliberately have smelling up their environment.) And I honestly don't understand it because if you walked up to any one of my men and took a big, long sniff it wouldn't be bad. It would be manly, but in a good way. And I wash their bedding and their dirty clothes on a regular basis. But their rooms stink. They stink of Man Funk. It's like some kind of angst-y fog that has seeped into the very paint on the walls.

My friend C has a husband and 5 or 6 teen-aged boys/young men living at her house. She says her whole upstairs smells like Man Funk.

Poor thing.

There are a couple of things I keep on hand in my battle against Man Funk. The Works is necessary. It makes the boys' bathroom have a clean, sanitized, lightly chlorinated scent. A couple of strategically placed Renuzits are good. (Sunny Laundry is a nice, fresh, Renuzit scent.) Deodorant must be available at all times.

Febreze is good, too. If you happen to have a little boy (or more than one), go ahead and start stocking up on Febreze now because, and trust me on this, you are going to need it when that kid reaches puberty.

And yet, these things just cover up the Man Funk. They don't totally eradicate it. Man Funk is still there, faintly, in the background.

Man Funk: it's a mystery that I have yet to solve. There are some other things about living with men that I don't understand.

For example, I don't understand the yellow stain on the blue shower curtain in the boys' bathroom. It CANNOT be pee, can it?

Because for cryin' out loud, why would anybody PEE on the shower curtain?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Gratitude is sometimes difficult for me. As a rule, I am generally quite content. I'm not always wishing and craving and yearning for more or different or better - I'm happy and satisfied with what I have. I think "contented" is one of my best qualities. But contented is not quite the same as grateful, and grateful is something I'm striving to be.

I think I'd like to occasionally record things I'm grateful for. Count my blessings, so to speak. There are things that I am grateful for right now.

Right at this moment I am grateful for:
  • sunny skies
  • but still cool and dry (YAY February!)
  • yard work that is nearly done
  • good sons who cooperate with me
  • a darling daughter who shares her life with me even though she's all grown up
  • a good mom who did her best
  • whose best was plenty good enough
  • a husband who is always here for me
  • except for when he's at work
  • where he has a good job
  • that he does to take care of me and our family
  • a home of my own
  • all our cars are currently running
  • debt that is going down, down, down
  • and will soon be all gone

But what I am the MOST grateful for right at this very moment is forgiveness. I'm grateful that I've been taught to forgive. I'm grateful that I don't have to live with pain or frustration or anger or hurt or fear. I'm grateful that I can have peace and tranquility in my life through forgiveness.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Barefoot Contessa

Have you seen the Barefoot Contessa on TV's Food Network? The Contessa herself is Ina Garten.

(What a name, by the way. Sheesh. It's not as bad as that you've-got-to-be-kidding-me Ima Hogg of Texas fame. At least Ina's maiden name is Rosenberg -thank heaven it wasn't her parents who dreamed up Ina Garten. Garten is her married name. Although if it were me and my name was Ina I'd have thought twice about taking Jeffrey's name. I might have thought more than twice. One time I met this somewhat cute and interesting guy who asked me out and I turned him down because I knew there could never be a future for us. Because of his last name. I guess I'm just shallow that way.)

I love watching the Barefoot Contessa. Here are the reasons:
  • She has a beautiful, uncluttered home. Her kitchen is lovely.
  • She's not "hollywood". She looks and dresses like a normal person.
  • She seems friendly and interested in everyone she encounters as she goes about her day.
  • She cooks real recipes using regular food. She doesn't give out guilt trips if you just want to use regular grocery store ingredients. She doesn't make you feel like you have to get all your supplies from specialty food shops. Like some other homemaking maven who shall remain nameless. (This means you, Martha Stewart.)
  • She used to work in the White House as a budget analyst and wrote papers on nuclear energy. She has an MBA. She's a smart cookie.
  • When she throws a dinner party she lets somebody else do the decorating/setting the table/grilling. She shares the work. Brilliant.
  • She obviously loves her husband. I like a person who loves her husband. They've been married more than 40 years and she looks completely devoted to him. I'm impressed by that. She's always making special meals for him and loving on him on her show.

I wish I was nervy enough to call myself The Contessa. It sounds better than The Queen. But I'm not nervy enough so I guess The Queen will have to do.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Survey Says...

it's time for a poll!

How many times per month does your entire family eat a meal together in a restaurant?

When the kids were littler we used to take them out to CiCi's Pizza about twice each month. They loved the food and the atmosphere and the whole idea of the buffet (which meant they could skip the salad and pasta and go straight for the pizza and dessert). Cici's was nice for us because for awhile at least one of them could eat for free and the other two were charged a lower price than Mr. Dub and I were.

After a couple of years we had to start paying the "adult" price for one of them, and the other one aged out of the "free" price. So we were paying 3 adult prices and 2 children's prices. Then our nearby CiCi's burned down, and by the time it reopened we were paying 4 adult prices. And the food in the new Cici's wasn't as good. And we had got out of the habit of going every other week.

We haven't been there as a family in years.

In fact, we hardly ever eat out as a family. For a few different reasons. Mr. Dub and I go out to dinner together nearly single week but I still prepare dinner that night for a kid or two. Usually once a week I will get take-out for the whole family. Usually at least one person is not here to eat it.

It was fun when we all used to go to Cici's together.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sweetness and Light

"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away". ~ George Eliot

Friday, February 20, 2009

We have a winner!

(You guys didn't even know there was a contest?)

Melissa T! You're the lucky winner of a prize, handmade by me, and sent to you as a small token of my gratitude.

YOU are the poster of the 100th comment on this blog - thank you for validating my existence. (Thank you also for the tip about using turkey kielbasa in Dirty Rice. That sounds delicious.)

Watch the mail for your fabulous (and very small and inexpensive) prize. Is your address correct on our Junebug site?

I hope you'll think of me and remember how much I value your friendship every time you use it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Crest Pro Health

(This post contains a tip. It also contains a warning.)

The whole parenting thing is tough. Sometimes I do fantastic and come out smelling like a rose, and other times are pure fiasco. But my eldest is 21 years old - I'm not exactly a rookie here.

I've found that solutions to problems are sometimes readily apparent and other times it might take you 20 years to figure it out.

Having had four children I have spent a lot of time cleaning toothpaste off of bathroom counters, sinks, floors, bathmats, the toothpaste tube and its lid, shirts, faces, toothbrush handles, etc. You get my drift. It's been a problem and a pain in the behind. In the past I have attempted to solve the problem by:

  • yelling at the children
  • grumbling about it as I scrubbed petrified globs of blue gel
  • shaking my fist at the universe.

Finally, after 20 years I figured out the solution - and it was there all along if only I had thought about it for a second. Little kids have little hands. Regulation tubes of toothpaste are hard for them to use with any amount of finesse -squeezing out a tiny dab onto a little toothbrush is tricky when you are being jostled around in the bathroom by your siblings and - pay attention here, folks - your tube of paste is bigger than your arm.

In a moment of perfect clarity and brilliance I bought my Little Friend travel/trial sized toothpaste, and voila! No more toothpaste problems in the bathroom. It's been working well for several months now.

There's your tip. Tried and true.

On Monday I bought my Little Friend a tiny new tube. This time it happened to be Crest Pro Health in the "clean mint" flavor. He brushed his teeth with it for the first time on Tuesday morning. And promptly came out with red and watery eyes to report that "some of my breath came out while I was brushing and the spicy air got in my eyes".

And here's your warning: Watch out for spicy toothpaste air and definitely don't get it in your eyes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Product Review

Zatarain's New Orleans Style Dirty Rice Mix

We love this stuff. I think it's meant to be a side but we eat it as the main dish. It's spicy and flavorful and filling. It's perfect if you don't feel like cooking dinner but your family still feels like eating dinner. I suppose that it could be compared to a Hamburger Helper-type meal. Except it's so much tastier and not so...I don't know..."glumpy" is the only word that comes to mind.

Start with about a pound of ground beef (I usually buy ground sirloin because it's lean) and brown it in a saucepan, breaking it up into smaller crumbles as you go. Then you add the envelope of rice and seasonings from the box and some hot water and let it cook for 25 minutes on low.

There you go. Dinner is ready. You could have a green salad with it or cook up some frozen peas and serve that.

"Glumpy" is probably not a real word. But I bet you know exactly what I mean.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Google it!

My cousin J did this on her blog last week and I thought it was so funny that I decided to try it out here today. I entered the phrase in quotes in Google, clicked Search, and posted the first thing that came up:

  • "Amy looks like" she's about to sneeze.
  • "Amy says" lyrics are the property of respective authors, artists, and labels.
  • "Amy wants" to record in Jamaica.
  • "Amy does" totally want to say that snorting vodka is kind of smart.
  • "Amy hates" bamboo, mylar balloons, polyester dinner napkins, hot sauce, homemade soaps, high-fiving, gourds, futons, and constipation.
  • "Amy asks" Grandma, what's a lesbian?
  • "Amy likes" mountains. 'Cause they rock!
  • "Amy eats" a cat treat.
  • "Amy wears" a love bite on her neck that looks like a heart.
  • "Amy was arrested for" transporting an illegal alien in a hidden compartment.
  • "Amy loves" books.
Oh my stars. I want you to know that I wanted to clean it up a bit. Because, you know, MY CHILDREN read this blog. But that would be breaking the Google Game rules.

And I'm nothing if I'm not an obeyer of rules.

Amy hopes everybody has a beautiful day!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bad Memories

I read an article on MSN yesterday about a new use for the drug propranolol. Apparently it might one day "erase bad memories". You can read it here if you like:

I don't want to get into how it works or why it works or if it really does, but it got me thinking about my own bad memories.

Some of them make me angry.
Some of them make me sorrowful.
Some of them make me feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Some of my bad memories make me afraid.

I've had enough therapy that I don't have to relive any of the incidents that are at the root of my bad memories. So I have that going for me. And I'm grateful for it.

But I believe that everything that has happened in my life up to now has had an impact on the person I've become. I wouldn't want to "erase" any of the bad because although those incidents were painful or scary at the time I've tried to learn from those things. Sometimes the only lesson I learned was to be more gentle and patient with other people who may be facing the same kinds of things - it's still a valuable lesson to me. I'm not sure I would've learned any other way. Would I be able to remember how painful some things are if I couldn't remember the cause of the pain?

Other things have lasted so long and had such a deep impact that there is good and bad that are inextricably intertwined. I'd have to throw out whole years. And who wants to erase years of her life? Definitely not me. I have a hard enough time remembering what happened yesterday.

Just a little something to reflect on on a beautiful Monday morning...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Survey Says...'s time for a poll!

Do you wash your face before you go to bed?

OR do you wash your face earlier in the evening? Like when you get home from work or something.

OR do you not wash your face at night?

I always wash my face right before I go to bed each night. I live in a hot and sweaty climate in a big city (so there's air pollution too) so I always have accumulated some grime on my face during the day.

I also wear makeup practically every day. I don't like to sleep in it's kind of gross. It feels awful to wake up in the morning with yesterday's makeup smeared all over. I would have to wash it off the very first thing in the morning before I did anything else. And the only days I don't wear makeup are days that I am too sick to leave the house. Which is its own kind of crud all over my face.

I don't want to get that stuff all over my pillowcase during the night. Because then I'd have to change my pillowcase every morning. Which means I'd be doing laundry a lot more often. Because there is no way that I'm laying my head down on a pillow that has smeary old makeup and other grimy crud on it.

You know, I've just realized I spend a lot of time and effort to avoid GROSS. Some of you who know me very well maybe have realized that about me. But I have a very sensitive gag reflex. It's easily triggered. And it goes from gag to vomit lickety-split.

It just seems a lot easier to wash my face before I go to bed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

From Precious Bane, by Mary Webb.

Then he said, slow, with a laugh at the back of his voice, but with a cosseting sound as well -
"There, there, my dear! None shall touch you now!"
All the strong life of the man was gathered in his eyes, and blazing full on me. So he'd heard! Folks do sometimes when they seem nigh dead. He'd heard and remembered the words I'd said when his head was on my bosom and my heart was well rent with love. What could I say? Nought. Where could I hide my burning face, that his eyes did so dwell on? Nowhere at all.
"Hi, Weaver!" they called. "Waggon be come and we be hindered for ye!"
"I never knew a mother's love, nor yet a sister's, nor yet a sweetheart's." He said it ever so softly, but despert earnest, so that the words burnt in. "But if I had, I should have forgot 'em all three when you said those words to me, Prue Sarn!"

Friday, February 13, 2009


It blows me away how much trouble these varmints cause. I can't believe that in the 21st century so many Americans get sick and DIE because of contaminated food. Americans!

It seems like a new thing but it surely can't be, right? Is it just a case of broader, more widespread reporting or is it actually a more serious problem than ever before?

How will this problem be solved? Are more stringent standards of inspection by state and federal authorities the answer or will it have to come from manufacturers taking more responsibility for their products? Will individual families start producing more of their own food?

People also get sick because of the germs living in their own kitchens.

This is salmonella. It is not your friend.

And if that doesn't make your skin crawl, maybe you'd prefer e. coli:

Wash your hands, people! Sanitize your kitchen surfaces! Use a clean dishcloth and towel every day! The alternative is too gross to comprehend. And it might make you very, very sick.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

En Pointe

These kids keep me on my toes.

All kids, I think, are naturally curious. They want to know. I like to think that one of my duties as a mama is to encourage in my offspring this innate desire to explore and to understand.

I also like for them to think I have all the answers. To think that I know everything.

I don't feel like that is too much to ask. And it's not that I am super conceited or anything like that because after all, when they were newborns and babies and toddlers and preschoolers and we were establishing our relationships to one another I DID know everything. I knew exactly what they needed and I provided it. I always knew what day it was. I knew how to fix skinned knees and broken toys. I knew how to find the hopelessly lost shoes, dig out splinters, and make the pancakes exactly right. I knew everything. I was omniscient and omnipotent all rolled into one admittedly squishy, but also very smart and loving package. Ah, those were the days.

Last week my Little Friend asked me a question. (I think he lays awake at night trying to figure out questions that will stump me. And he always starts off in a way that tricks me into thinking I'm going to ace this round.)

He said to me that his teacher told him that everything you can see is made out of matter. That's true, I told him, and things you can't see are also made of matter. Air is matter.

See how clever I am?

He asked me what the states of matter are. This is a test. I know that he knows what matter is. He's trying to see if I know the answer. I said that of course I do - matter is either a liquid, a gas, or a solid.

See how well I can handle this?

Then he delivered the crushing blow. The coup d'etat.

What is fire?

Picture it if you can. I am sitting there next to a nine-year old boy with a stupid look on my face, trying to figure out if fire is a liquid, a gas, or a solid.

As my kiddos have grown up I've had to learn a new phrase. "I don't know". If you're a mama, try saying those three little words. It's hard, isn't it?

I had to find out. It turns out that fire isn't a liquid, a gas, or a solid. But now I know what it is. (I asked the daddy, Mr. Dub, who knows everything. That is part of what makes us a good team. It is also part of what makes it hard to live with him sometimes.)

If you don't know the answer to this question, this is your lucky day. Because I'm going to tell you. I don't want your kids to get the better of you on this one. You don't have to thank me - it's what I'm here for.

Fire is a reaction.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No politics, thank you very much

This blog will never be about politics. Of that I give you my solemn vow.

But I saw this picture and it made me glad - I'm not sure why. After all, I didn't vote for this guy.

Actually I just figured out why I like it - there is something so hopeful and so joyful and so vibrant in their faces.

President Obama, you have a beautiful family. Please take good care of them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Back when I was only thinking about starting a blog, and wondering if I'd have something to say every day, and wondering what I'd want to reveal about moi, I thought long and hard about who might read it.

I have some girlfriends I knew I could count on to justify my existence. I thought a couple of my kids would look at it once in a while. I thought maybe one or two of my sisters would be interested. I figured my mom would probably feel obligated to read it.

I thought there were certain things that I would share:

  • Recipes
  • Funny and interesting happenings in my daily life

  • Insights into the inner workings of my mind

  • Photos of beautiful and talented children (mine)

  • Pictures of my secret boyfriends

(Wait. What was that last one?)

Then I found out that Mr. Dub was reading my blog every day. He is a hunka burnin' love, I tell you. Some of you know that about him already from our conversations. Others, namely our children, may be a little sickened by the thought. But since I am Mr. Dub's one-and-only, I like for him to think that he is my one-and-only too. He might not like it if there are lots of secret boyfriends lurking around in the recesses of my mind. In the interest of openness and honesty I did tell him about one of them.

(There might be others.)

I'd like to make it clear that my heart, body, and soul belong only to Mr. Dub. But there's a little bit of Amy Dub that likes to look around at all the manliness there is in this world. Here's a peek at my secret boyfriend - the one Mr. Dub knows about:

Oh my. Jon Bon Jovi not only looks ruggedly handsome, he also sings. And plays the guitar. Mr. Bon Jovi, you rock.

Mr. Dub, you rock too. In a different way. I'm here at home if you'd like to get "reacquainted" with me.

Sorry, kids.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I want to KNOW

how the universe was created. Was the Big Bang really the way it happened? Did a tiny, atom-sized seed of creation suddenly...POW! BLAM! into the immensity of what we have now?

Or was it some other way we have not even begun to understand?

Is the universe really still expanding in all directions? Why can't I feel that? Is there a center point of the universe from which it is expanding? If there is, where is it? If there isn't, where is it all coming from? Is the universe going to shrink back down to that atom-sized...thing...when it's done expanding? Will I be able to feel that? Will anybody notice? How long will that take? How did everything get so big? Why?

What part does gravity play in the creation of the universe? How does time work across the universe?

These are some of the things that keep me up at night.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Survey Says...

it's time for a poll!

There is something going around here. Two people in my family have had it and lots of people I know have been sick or have sick family members. It's the kind of thing that lasts about a week, involves a fever, sore throat, headache, and finishes up with a cough.

The last time I was sick I had bronchitis. Last September. It wasn't a particularly serious case of bronchitis; antibiotics, when I finally got them, cleared it right up in a few days. But it triggered a series of events that I'm still trying to recover from. More on that another day.

Today's question: what did you have the last time you were sick?

Please don't gross me out. Just a simple diagnosis is all I'm looking for here. I promise to have lots of sympathy for you even without my knowing all the gory details.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Pioneer Woman

This girl is hilarious. Her name is Ree and she lives on a working cattle ranch with Marlboro Man in Oklahoma.

Every day she encounters herds of wild mustangs, mama cows and baby cows, dogs, 4 punks (kids) and cowboys. Ree confesses, cooks, photographs, remodels, homeschools, and blogs it all in a way that'll make you laugh and revive all your childhood cowgirl/farm girl dreams.

Ree loves her husband without reserve. She's not shy about loving her husband. Marlboro Man is Ree's whole world. I like a person who loves her husband.

I envy her way with a camera. And with recipes. Her pics are gorgeous and she shows every step in the recipe. I'm trying to emulate her posting style with my recipes here but so far it falls flat. How does she take a picture of her own hands cooking? I'll keep trying.

Check out the pioneer woman at

Oh, and emulate? It's cool word. It's perfectly fine to emulate people you admire. But please - don't ever try to immolate somebody. It sounds like it could be the same but it's not. And it'll make a mess.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Starry Night, Part Three

Personal Reflections on a Well-known Painting, and a little bit of Shakespeare.

I have seen this painting many, many times in my life. When I was a child I didn’t like it very much. I remember thinking that it looked rough and unfinished. It bothered me that the brushstrokes in Starry Night don’t blend nicely together. I had heard, of course, that Van Gogh was mentally ill. I took that to mean that he was crazy and I thought this painting’s jagged appearance was a reflection of a disordered mind. As I have grown up and contemplated this (and examined my relationships with mentally ill family members) I have realized that being “crazy” does not automatically preclude a valid point of view. I have also learned that Van Gogh was inspired by other art forms, specifically Japanese woodcuts. This could account for the way that he laid the paint down on canvas in this painting. I can see that it could easily translate to a woodcut print.

Van Gogh’s tormented life and beautiful painting Starry Night can be described in William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29:
When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon my self and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

In line 3 of the sonnet Shakespeare says “And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries”. This is illustrated in the painting because of the techniques Van Gogh used. God would not hear Van Gogh because he, like all signs of humanity in Starry Night, was small and inconsequential. The brushed arcs of the sky in the painting are not smooth and easy - they are rough and coarse. The swiftly moving forces of the sky are not peaceful and gentle. It seems like Van Gogh loved God and greatly admired his power and glory while at the same time he feared what God’s power could do to him personally. And yet, as in the last two lines of the sonnet, God’s love for us brings us wealth that can never be compared with earthly treasures and humanity’s respect.

Because of the many times Van Gogh felt unloved and all alone in life, his unsuccessful attempts to console others through religious ministry, and the unalleviated suffering of mental anguish, I think he must have felt the sentiments expressed in Shakespeare’s sonnet. When I think of these words and look at the painting I remember the love of God and how it has comforted me in times of despair. I feel empathy for Van Gogh, and an appreciation for the works of art that he created, especially Starry Night.

The End!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Starry Night, Part Two

Personal Reflections on a Well-known Painting

I find Starry Night to be intensely spiritual. I see the power and majesty of God portrayed in Starry Night. There is something infinitely dynamic in the swirling brushstrokes that create the clouds and sky, and the glow of the stars and moon. The hills and vegetation in the painting also seem to move with power and authority. The cypress tree in the foreground of the painting has the shape of a flame – a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Cypress trees are traditionally associated with death. Van Gogh did not fear death. He said, “Looking at the stars always makes me dream. Why, I ask myself, shouldn’t the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France? Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star”.

The cypress tree points up to the heavens as if directing to viewer to look up to God. This message is repeated in the spire of the church, but in this painting the church seems like a small and weak reflection of nature. I feel that this contrast is significant in the painting. Mankind is a smaller, weaker reflection of the omnipotence and glory of God. All evidence of humanity is portrayed in the buildings - they are small and insignificant.

I feel that Van Gogh might have felt this way because of his experiences in life. He was unsuccessful finding lasting happiness with a woman. He was unsuccessful finding satisfying work among people. He was unsuccessful finding sanity and peace in mental health facilities.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Personal Reflections on a Well-known Painting, Part One.

Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night in June 1889. It is oil paint on canvas and measures 29” by 36.25”. It is currently located in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Van Gogh created this painting at a very troubled time in his life; he was a patient in a French insane asylum overlooking the village of Saint Remy. The painting was finished just thirteen months before he committed suicide. His entire life was a miserable one; he committed himself to several mental asylums trying unsuccessfully to find a cure. He sought to find happiness in love but was devastatingly unsuccessful time after time. He studied and trained to be a minister but failed the course and was later dismissed from his position as a lay minister. Van Gogh lived in poverty in Belgium in financial and spiritual despair until he realized that he could teach and influence people through his art. Many people feel that Starry Night is a reflection of this desire. There are eleven stars in the painting, and this may correlate to Genesis 37:9 which states, “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” Van Gogh wanted to share with others his perspective on the God of nature.

Nature figures abundantly in Starry Night. The sky fills two-thirds of the space, and hills, trees, and shrubs figure dominantly in the rest. The man-made structures that Van Gogh could see from his room in the asylum - houses, barns, and a church - are tiny when contrasted to the vastness of nature. The colors are natural too – the vibrant blue of the sky and hills, the fiery gold of moon and stars, the dark grays, greens, and browns of the plants.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday's quote...

... by Vincent van Gogh.

"There may be a time in life when one is tired of everything and feels as if all one does is wrong, and there may be some truth in it - do you think this is a
feeling one must try to forget and to banish, or is it the 'longing for God'
which one must not fear, but cherish to see if it may bring us good? Is it the
'longing for God' which leads us to make a choice which we never regret? Let us keep courage and try to be patient and gentle. And not mind being eccentric, and make distinction between good and evil."

Here's another one from Lucy Maud Montgomery:

"I am well in body but considerably rumpled in spirit."

Today I am feeling tired of everything and that I've done it all wrong. I am therefore considerably rumpled in spirit.

Tomorrow I will post Part One of an essay that I've written about Vincent van Gogh's painting Starry Night. I hope you will enjoy it.

Now I am off to work on my patience, gentleness, and courage. And unrumpledness.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Little Friend

This is my littlest son.

He's a beautiful boy, inside and out. Since he's the littlest one in the family, his babyhood has been artificially prolonged and he still gets his way most of the time. Everyone in the family wants to be on his good side and brings him treats, presents, and surprises on a pretty regular basis.

He is also rotten to the core. You just don't get your way all the time and not become a tyrant.

Here are some things you may not know about him:
  • I call him my Little Friend. His dad calls him our Little Treasure.

  • He was super sick as a baby. This solidified his place in the family as the one who gets the most TLC.

  • I believe that he would have died as a baby without the blessings of modern pharmaceuticals and skilled and inspired doctors.
  • I've spent many nights kneeling at his bedside giving him breathing treatments and checking to see if he's okay.

  • I used to sing to him during those times.

  • He's since told me that he didn't care for my singing but because he was too little then to talk he couldn't tell me that.

  • Even though he's thin now he was very chubby when he was a baby. We called him the Tubby Little Cubby.

  • He likes it when I, the mama, call him Cookie.

  • No one else is allowed to call him Cookie. Ever.

  • He doesn't take any lip from his much-older brothers. He can hold his own against them.
  • He is a miniature version of his oldest brother. He looks just like him, talks just like him, and has exactly the same mannerisms. They're so similar it's a little scary sometimes.

  • He likes math and science in school.

  • He hates homework, especially writing homework.

  • He likes to run. He takes an afternoon run nearly every day.

  • He has goldfish crackers and chocolate milk every day at school for lunch.

  • He is allergic to peanuts and refuses to eat eggs, cheese, or meat.
  • His favorite meal is a chicken nugget Happy Meal.

  • He is allergic to several kinds of fruit.

  • He is a very sensitive little man. He gets very upset and emotional if he thinks he's in trouble or that we are unhappy with him for any reason.

  • He is a good friend to his buddies.

  • He gets along pretty well with other kids.
  • He prays every day that his big sister will be safe while she's away from us.

You're a star, my Little Friend!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Survey says...'s time for a poll!

I got an email the other day from a friend of mine who now lives in Belgium. (Amy B., if you happen to read this, HI!!! It was so wonderful to hear from you!)

Amy B. said something once that I've never forgotten. She said that her "best friend" is always someone that lives nearby to her. What she needs is a best friend who is close at hand. She's moved around a lot in her life, and she's a great person and is likable and fun and friendly and easy to get to know. Even though she remains friends and stays in contact after she's moved away, she makes a new best friend with someone who lives near her new home.

As a person who has never felt like I've quite got a handle on how to make, maintain, and keep friends, I am curious about everything I hear from people about how they do these things. I know that friends are so important, as important as family, and I am very grateful for those friends of mine who have remained my friends in spite of my deficiencies.

So here is my question for today: Do you have the same best friend you had when you were a kid or in some stage in life other than the one you are in now? Or is your best friend someone new in your life? Or are you socially backward and blindly stumbling through trying to figure it all out as you go along, like I am?