Friday, March 06, 2009

Spring Is Just Around The Bend

Throughout the winter we've been mostly cooped up indoors. Occasionally we went out to play in the snow, but that requires so many layers of clothing that it's hard work just getting out the door. And with a toddler who is still a bit too young to come up to me and say "Mommy, I'm cold," I'm always paranoid that he'll get a chill or worse. So we didn't go out in the snow as much as we could have this year. Maybe next winter will be the year for playing in the snow.

So just as we're getting really sick of being inside, all the signs start pointing to spring being on its way here. The sun is out more, this weekend we change the clocks and "spring ahead," and earlier this week I started hearing the birds singing at sunrise. It feels like it's been ages since I heard them. The weather lately has been almost balmy, too. It all makes me want to take the little 'un outside, or just hang out there all by myself.

But outside is actually pretty depressing right now. Everything is still brown and dead, which may make the cardinals easy to spot but is still not very pleasant to look at. It used to all be hidden by a layer of snow, but that's gone now and there's no green anywhere to be found yet. The wooded area we live in has no natural evergreen trees, and the few we planted last year are still tiny little things. We definitely need to plant some larger evergreen bushes this summer and some bulbs this fall.

But the most depressing thing of all is that the melted snow has also revealed three months of litter strewn around all the neighborhood roadsides. Where does all this crap come from? I think we're all pretty responsible around here and make a point to put our trash where it belongs. And most of it consists of three things: plastic shopping bags, plastic drink bottles, and aluminum drink cans. If this isn't enough to convert me to reusable drink bottles and shopping bags, I don't know what is!

So, happy spring everyone. May it be short this year, and let's get on to summer!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Our Friendly Neighborhood Owl

Even a year after moving to the north woods, the wildlife living around us still makes us pause. I suspect this will last a good long while. A lot of our local neighbors are much more impressive than the crows, geese, and skunks we were accustomed to in our more urban digs.

For several weeks this winter, the owl pictured here came and visited us on a semi-regular basis. That patch of brush faces due south and catches most of the sunshine available throughout the day. So, on sunny days, he (she?) came to our yard to catch some z's and some rays, and would disappear again an hour or two before sunset. We haven't seen our friend, though, for a while now, and kind of miss him. I wonder if we can put out some kind of sign to invite him back next winter...

This picture was actually taken with the assistance of a pair of binoculars and after a whole lot of fussing. We really need to get some better lenses for the SLR. We have a Canon Digital Rebel. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Fool's Journey

So I guess it's time to talk about why I'm really blogging again, and why December 2008 will live in my memory for a very long time.

Like many professional women of my generation, I've been a hard-working career girl who allowed herself to be deeply defined by her day job. My mother gave up her nursing career to be a stay-at-home-mom. Growing up in the 80s, I saw her life as old-fashioned, and swore my life would be different. I would be a "feminist", and feminists didn't stay home with the kids. So a few years out of college I wormed my way into a career job and worked my way up. I worked overtime, stayed awake nights worrying about deadlines, and carried the stress in every fiber of my being.

Somewhere in there, I also managed to build a rich and busy personal life too, but my job still defined a huge part of who I was. I did that for more than eleven years. That is, I did that until I became a statistic, and was laid off like many other very talented people.

Now I know you're not supposed to let a job define who you are. But I'm a type-A personality in a lot of ways. I obsess. And it wasn't like I was just making widgets. OK, so it wasn't life or death, either, but I felt that what I did had importance and was worth putting in the extra effort to make sure it was done right. I let my job define a very large chunk of who I thought I was, even though I knew somewhere deep down inside that I shouldn't, that I was asking for trouble. So, when the pink slip came, whoa girl, identity crisis!

The first thing I noticed was that the work stress evaporated in a flash. I instantly became a much nicer person to live with. But I'm still working my way through the rest of the acceptance and moving-on process. It would be one thing if I could find a job similar to my last one and just move into the next phase of my career, but my job was pretty unique, and having a very young child and living where we do limits my options for the moment. That means I'm also in the midst of a career change, and, with this economy, probably going the consultant/freelance route.

The prospect of going freelance is both freeing and mind-blowing at the same time. At first, I just couldn't think of a project I should work on. If I did come up with an original idea, the critic in my brain instantly shut it down. I had to break free of my old ways of doing things, of relying on a third party to determine which ideas were worthy of my time, and sometimes even coming up with the new ideas themselves. But eventually the ideas started to flow. Time wore a hole through my old ways of thinking. But then the opposite was true -- I had too many ideas, and I was The Fool stuck at the intersection of a million crossroads, unable to pick a path and move forward.

In many ways, I'm still that Fool, with society and the economy playing the role of the little white dog barking at my heels, urging me to just pick a direction, any direction, and move forward with all haste. Well, I'm here to say that I've picked a path, and if Fate agrees with me you'll see it evolve here over time. But you're also going to have to be patient, because I'm on an uncharted dirt road with a kid in the back seat. We're probably going to have to make a few side trips for crackers and to smell the roses. That's just what you have to do when you're traveling with a toddler, and this time his travel experience is as much a concern to me as mine is.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Soothing Yellow Pea Soup

This is my favorite "I'm sick" soup. The garlic and lemon juice cut through the congestion, the olive oil and bay make it go down smooth, and the peas make it nutritious. I make it in the crock pot because it doesn't need tending that way, and I don't feel like standing over a stove when I'm sick. But I'm sure you could do this on the stove and get it done a little faster.

1 cup dried yellow split peas
1 dried bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
6 cups hot water
1 1/2 tbsps lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine peas, bay, garlic, salt, oil, and water in a 4-6 quart crock pot. Heat on high for around 4 hours, or until the peas have broken down and made a smooth, thick soup. Stir in lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve hot with big chunks of fresh bread.