Monday, March 26, 2012

I've Moved!

I've decided to wander over to Wordpress, and I'll be blogging over there from now on. Click here to check out the new blog!

Hope to see you over there soon!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My First Letter to the Editor

I was flipping through the March digital issue of Seventeen magazine this morning over breakfast when I found myself appalled. It's amazing how a short little phrase can have such an effect on people, and that is precisely why people must be careful of what they write! I was so angered that I decided to do something I've never done before: I sent a response to Seventeen via e-mail. I doubt anything will ever come of it, but Seventeen need to realize the harm they're doing to the self-image of thousands of girls. Here is my letter in its entirety. It may not make a difference at Seventeen, but I hope it makes a difference to someone out there on the Internet.

Dear Seventeen:

I loved your magazine as a teenager, and I still enjoy picking it up now when I need a fresh, young perspective on things. However, I was incredibly disappointed when I read the letter from Ann in the recent March issue regarding the Pretty Amazing Contest.

Although I can tell you tried to put the emphasis of the contest on the entrants' accomplishments and personal stories, it was the way Ann wrote one phrase that left me completely appalled: "yes, you have to be pretty to be on the cover...." I would think that a girls' magazine that has been popular for as many years as Seventeen has would realize that ALL women are beautiful. I would think that the editor of such a magazine would also realize this. And while you may say that you believe it, a simple phrase such as the one I quoted above reinforces the idea that some women are pretty, and some are not.

One thing I've learned as I grew older and battled constant low self-esteem was that the very things that I thought made me ugly were some of my BEST assets. I want other girls to realize that they, too, are beautiful, and when a magazine implies that they'll be judging girls according to whether or not they are pretty, this implies that you have some criteria for what constitutes "pretty," which is the very reason that so many girls feel ugly to begin with.

Is a girl not pretty because she isn't "skinny?" Is she not pretty because her teeth are crooked? Is she not pretty because she has rosacea? Is a girl not pretty because she chooses to wear black clothing instead of the latest fads? Every girl who reads your magazine is now wondering what criteria you're using to judge how pretty they are, and they are despairing that they don't meet it.

Maybe you, as a girls' magazine, should be emphasizing things that make girls accept the beauty that they already have, instead of pitting us against one another in some ridiculous beauty contest. Then maybe there won't be another generation of girls who grow up ashamed to look in the mirror, trying desperate measures to change their appearance because they feel their face is too round or freckled, their hair too curly or mousy, or their arms too long or hairy.

ALL women are pretty. ALL women are beautiful in their own, unique way. Magazines should be celebrating this, instead of discouraging it. You can do better than this, Seventeen, and you owe it to women everywhere.

Marian H.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This weekend wasn't anything special, but at the same time, it was absolutely remarkable. I did the same things I do every weekend...I hung out at home, watched tv while I cleaned up after the dogs, and tonight is our scheduled weekly movie night. Jason's been sick, so for the most part, he's left me to my own thoughts, and it was a welcome chance for me to reconnect with myself - and that is exactly what made this weekend so remarkable.

I've enjoyed my time spent in Oklahoma City, but let's be honest...I haven't exactly accomplished much here, have I? I know many people have this issue...we graduate from college and walk out into the world, but have absolutely no idea where to go from there. It's a source of constant anxiety for me, and the longer I go with no life purpose, the more I feel like I'll miss my chance once I finally figure it out, so I flounder. I grab for any shred of a path to plant my feet on, then take a few steps and realize that it's not the right path for me. I see the people around me shaking their heads at my feeble attempts to do something with my life, and I become discouraged and afraid to keep trying, lest I keep failing.

So I've hidden myself away at home, focusing all my attention on my dogs, finding excuses to avoid facing the world. And while I love my dogs, and I am most certainly an introvert, I'm not meant for this kind of life. I've let the world push me down and stomp on my dreams until I stopped dreaming.

This weekend, I did some soul searching. I realized some pretty obvious revelations about myself, and once those floodgates were opened, the self-realization that was started way back in college started rolling again. I love who I am now, because I've accepted a lot of things about myself that have always been there, but were never recognized. I celebrate who I am and love showing people who I am. But now that I know who I am, I am even more clearly convinced that the path I'm on here is not the path meant for me.

I enjoy being a housewife, but pretending like I will be fulfilled if this all I ever am in life? That's not me. And while, yes, I do still think I would make a fantastic Mrs. Weasley, I don't want to be an imitation of someone else. I want to be ME.

Now, it's all very well and good for me to talk the talk, but what about walking the walk? That's a bit more complicated. I still don't know exactly which path to follow, but I do have a general direction. When I look at myself and ask what I want to really do with my life, the answer is clear: Something creative. That's super vague, I realize, but there's more to it than that. I know - KNOW - that I am supposed to be an artist. What kind of artist? Of that, I'm not quite sure, because I have multiple creative talents, and I find it difficult to decide to pursue just one.

I know I'm meant to go down that creative road, because it's been an unchanging part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother tells me I used to hum songs before I learned how to talk. I used to reenact Romeo and Juliet on our balcony (by myself - running up and down the stairs to switch between roles). I have numerous notebooks containing stories I started as a kid and young teen. And, of course, I've been sketching since the moment I first got a pencil in my grubby little hand. When I decided that studying Religion in college was a stupid idea and decided to change my major after my freshman year, I picked English. Why? Because ETBU didn't have an art program, and I didn't want to transfer out. English was my second choice, because I figured it would help me learn to write better, and writing would at least help me to express my creativity, although it isn't my preferred method.

But after I graduated, suddenly the "real world" hit me square in the face...and let me tell you, I was nowhere near prepared to face it. In the midst of struggling to learn how to support myself, I faced a series of unfortunate events that kept setting me back. Soon, I had to let go of my dreams of making something of myself simply to make room for the responsibilities of life. Something I've noticed recently is that every time I sit down to be creative, what is forefront in my mind is whether or not this pursuit will help me make money. And while I've dreamed of supporting myself with my crafting for a while, who really wants to ruin their perfectly enjoyable hobby with thoughts of how to make money on everything they create? It was a blessing for me to be able to pursue my creative aspirations during college without worrying about money, even if it caused me to be shell-shocked by the real world when I made my adult debut.

I can't help but feel I should try to get that freedom back. Yes, money is still an issue. We live paycheck to paycheck, after all. But now that I have a job again, even though I HATE it some days, it's a big feeling of relief that it brings in the money and allows me to pursue my hobbies without the constant preoccupation with how I'll pay the bills. I really think I'll go out and find another job when this temp position comes to an end. Working is good for me, as it turns out. ;)

It's true, I still haven't really found my path. But at least I'm being honest with myself, and getting pointed in the right direction. It's time for me to get out of the house. It's time for me to meet more people with my same passions. I have a feeling that things will become more clear as I go along, and we all know that I won't discover anything if I keep standing still. I've been lying to myself for so long. I've been so afraid to face my fears that I let go of my dreams and ignored my very identity. I've been filling my life with things that aren't really that important to me, because I didn't want to admit what was important to me.

So yes, it's been quite a remarkable weekend for me. I still have a lot to figure out. But I feel just a little closer to my goal than I did, and for that, I am excited. For today, I am pulling my husband out of bed to take a walk with me at the lake and discuss things. Jason struggles to understand my creative side, so my weekend revelations may prove harder for him to accept than they were for me. But I'm his wife, and I need to be honest with him about who I am just as much as I have to be honest with myself.

Namaste, friends, and I hope that your Super Bowl Sunday is just as beautiful as mine.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Memory of Baby

Recently, a community outreach (spay and neuter education) position at a local animal shelter in the city opened up, and I decided to apply. This gave me the opportunity to sit down and write a cover letter that explains how my passion for animals began. I've decided to share this story with you, because I believe that it is a story worth telling. The events written below are a true tale of my life.

I grew up on a small farm in rural Texas, and I can’t remember a time in my life when we didn’t have dogs. They were my constant companions and best friends. But I also grew up in a lower-income family that didn’t believe in spaying and neutered. I’ve seen a lot of birth for someone my age…but also a lot of death.

One traumatic experience in particular became the eye-opening moment when I dedicated myself to animal rescue. As a young teenager, I had a terrier mix named Baby. Baby was gentle and affectionate, playful and loyal. Baby had several large and successful litters (most of which were eventually carted to the pound against my wishes). During Baby’s third litter, though, a puppy got stuck in the birth canal. As she struggled in the front yard, obviously in pain, I pleaded with my father to take her to the vet, but money was tight; we couldn’t afford it. I wasn’t even allowed to hold her while she suffered and died that day, but was instead sent off to school in tears. Baby was only two years old.

Not long after that, I got my first job, discovered the wonderful, local, low-cost vet clinic, and used my own money to spay and neuter most of our remaining dogs. My life changed with Baby, and the lives of every dog I have cared for since were changed by her, although they may not know it. I educated myself, and then my family. I helped my sister get her Australian Shepherd spayed. During college, I went on to volunteer at the local humane society, and after my move to Oklahoma, I have continued to encourage and educate others on making the right decisions for their pets, and help them find ways to do so in our struggling economy. My love of animals was learned early, but my passion for saving them was born through experience. It is an experience that drives me, and which I feel is worth sharing with others. I know for a fact that I will spend the rest of my life working with animal rescue in some capacity. It won’t always be easy, but every effort is worth it, because every animal is worth it.

This is a situation that I am certain happens over and over in low-income communities. I don't blame my parents for Baby's death (this was shortly after my parents' divorce, as I was living with my retired father who supported us on just his pensions and benefits, and the situation was pretty effed up) - I blame the lack of education. Would things have played out differently had my family understood that there were low-cost options? Maybe. We'll never know. What I do know is that Baby's death affected me deeply, and fanned the flame that had already been building in me for pet rescue. And even though she is gone now and may not know it, her death has helped me advocate and save many pets' lives. This is something I know in my heart I will continue to do, whether I can do it through the backing of a successful humane society, or whether I must plunge steadily ahead, making a path on my own.

If you live in the Oklahoma City area and need assistance spaying and neutering your pets, I encourage you to contact the below organizations before it is too late. They can help your pet live a longer, happier life with you - and that's what we hope for, for every pet.

Update 2011-Nov-15: I received a message from the Humane Society regarding my application, but she is currently out of town the beginning of this week, so we haven't been able to schedule an interview. Fingers crossed, though!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Baking - Pumpkin Pie #1

In case anyone was living under a rock lately, Halloween was a week ago. I don't do much to celebrate Halloween anymore, other than hunting around the beginning of November for clearanced holiday candy (my cravings for M&Ms lately have rivaled those of a pregnant woman's). I LOVE making elaborate costumes, but they're often so time-intensive that I only do it if I have somewhere really awesome to show them off. This year was a bit dull, but I had Jason buy me a few pumpkins to carve, since it's been a few years since I indulged in that particular pleasure, and he totally didn't take me to pick apples like I've bugged him every autumn since I moved up here, so he owed me one. Here are the results of a Saturday afternoon:

This is Reginald. His mouth was a total pain. I just couldn't figure out exactly how to get it right and went through several different attempts which culminated into this. I'm super pleased with how he turned out. Definitely one of my finer jack-o-lanterns.

This is the colonel. He is less exciting than Reginald, in part because I was getting freaking tired at this point. In retrospect, I should have just shaved the rind for his beard and made his mouth the cut-out, and he lasted all of a day before he was collapsing in on himself. Oh well, now I know.

As enticement for Jason to let me have this bit of fun when I already have a to-do list a mile long, I told him I would save the "guts" and make some tasty pumpkin treats for him. Jason can't say no to tasty pumpkin treats.

With the help from a blog post by a friend of mine (check it out here), I learned how to get the most from my pumpkin and puree the meat for later baking. And let me tell is a FREAKING PAIN. But I feel my efforts were worth it. So much so that when we saw pumpkins on sale at Walmart on Halloween evening, we bought four more. Go ahead and shake your head at me. I'm still not completely finished pureeing it all, but I suspect by the end of it, we'll have at least three or four GALLONS of pumpkin puree. We've already started passing it along to family members.

I know, I know. I call this the Lazy Girl's Guide to Baking, and there's nothing lazy about making your own pumpkin puree when you can just go to the supermarket and buy a can. But let me tell you, fresh pumpkin tastes SO MUCH BETTER than the canned stuff. Even lazy girls have to admit that some things are just worth the effort.

Now that I have enough pumpkin to last me at least until next Halloween, I'm ready to go on a baking spree, and I decided to start with a classic: pumpkin pie. I don't have any particular recipe for pumpkin pie that I feel especially passionate about, so I've decided to have a bit of fun with this: I'm going to use a different recipe for each pie I make, and see where it gets me. It should be a fun little challenge to play with, and should keep me interested enough that I won't get bored making the same pie over and over and over.

I made the first pie on Saturday, and instead of turning to the interwebs to kick things off, I dug out an old recipe book that my dad gave me before he died, when he was to the point that he could no longer eat solids and had no need for cookbooks. This particular book has no cover, so I'm not exactly sure where it came from, but I'm fairly positive it is a church cookbook. It originated in Longview, TX, my hometown, which makes it a special cookbook for me.

Here is a picture of the recipe itself:

And here is what it looks like after I modified it:

Pumpkin Pie

3 cups real pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar (mixed light and dark, because mine was all mixed up in the same tub lol)
2 1/2 tsps pumpkin pie spice (see, I really am lazy)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 Tbsp melted butter
2/3 cup milk (skim is what we had)

Of course, all those measurements are approximate. I am in no way a stickler when it comes to exact measurements. I used measuring cups/spoons so I get it close, but if I happen to throw in slightly less than a cup of brown sugar, or if my cups of pumpkin happen to be heaping, I just shrug and keep going.

The pumpkin was the most challenging thing to get right. Check out that recipe - 1 large c. pumpkin? At first I thought that meant a heaping cup, but if you read the recipe, it states that one large CAN of pumpkin makes three pies, which brought up the question: how big is a large can of pumpkin? Particularly since this cookbook was probably made in the 50s or 60s. Who knows if a large can of pumpkin now was the same size as a large can back then? So basically was I did was start with one cup of pumpkin puree, add all the other ingredients, mix it up, and then continue to add pumpkin until the batter tasted right and was the right consistency (it needs to be fairly thick). From my estimation, three cups was about right.

Now, as I've mentioned before, I'm a lazy baker. I don't like making pie crusts. They take too long, and mine tend to come out tasting like oil. Yuck. So I cheated and made this pie with a graham cracker crust, as we have several boxes of graham crackers that need to be used up. To do this, you just crush enough graham crackers to get a cup and a half of crumbs, add 1/4 cup sugar and approx 6 tablespoons of melted butter, mix it well, and press it into your pie plate. Nom nom nom.

You can pre-bake it if you like....I was lazy and didn't, but I'm wondering if I ought have, as the bottom crust was pretty moist as an end result. I don't know if pre-baking it will help it keep its crunch or not, but I'll probably give it a try with the next pie and see.

I suppose it's a testament to the tastiness of this pie that I didn't even get a picture of it after it baked. Jason and I had half of it gone by Sunday morning, and the rest we shared with his family. I was pleased with it, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it, so pumpkin pie #1 was a win.

I haven't decided what recipe to use for pumpkin pie #2, but I expect it will get baked today or tomorrow. Feel free to make suggestions!

For the record, I'm trying to get in the habit of using Twitter more than Facebook. I'll still be around on FB, but I suspect a lot of my posts will be routed through Twitter so that I can encourage more followers over there. Everyone loves my hilarious statuses, so be sure to check it out:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Dog Park Discovery

I know I pretty much only use this blog to talk about my dogs and my toys, but don't be deceived by this post's title - this one's about toys, not dogs (although, I will try to get a new post about the dogs up, as I took some adorable pictures of Piper and Munchie the other day).

On Monday, Jason and I took Munchie to play at the dog park. While we were down by the pond, I noticed something floating in the shallow water. Munchie went over and picked it up, so I had him hand it over and discovered this little guy:

Of course, at that point, it was dripping red mud. It's not a dog toy, and if someone brought it to the park as a dog toy, I would be sorely disappointed, because 1) it's tiny and could easily be swallowed by the large dogs at the park (we get a LOT of danes at our park), and 2) it's a beanbag - so the dogs that are too small to choke on it could rip it open and choke on the pellets inside. Not a good toy for a dog at all. Of course, the fact that I pitied the poor, muddy thing might have affected my decision to bring it home. ^.^

Once home, I scrubbed it up with soap and let it dry out. That's when Lizzie found it and claimed it as her own. We're still haven't picked a name yet, but I'm sure I'll find a good one soon. In the meantime, aren't these pictures of it with Lizzie cute?

So who knows how this tiny stuffie ended up at the dog park that day, but it's most certainly welcome in my toy room. Little, lost toys are always welcome in my room.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

McToys! Part Two

What's this? MORE McToy goodness? I think yes!

If you know me well, you know that my favorite movie Of All Time is Toy Story. I LOVE that movie (and its sequels!). This toy, if I remember correctly is a McToy from the original movie, circa 1995. It's actually a decent little pull-back car, really. I remember playing with it way back when it was a new toy. It's getting a pretty distinguished place of honor in my craft/toy room now. ^.^

I don't remember a story behind this toy, but Doug is the original emo kid of the nineties, so in a homage to awesome 90s Nickelodeon cartoons, I couldn't part with it. Big Smiles when I found this one (and a lot of humming the theme song!).

Pretty sure these guys came from McDonald's when I was very little. I didn't even know what they were when I was a kid! Never fear, though, I've grown into a moderately capable nerd-girl. Everybody needs a little Mario in their lives, after all.

I've always been a sucker for miniatures. I'm not sure why, I just love tiny plastic animals! I was a total dino nut when I was younger (and I still kind of am hehe), so the dinosaurs are just awesome. I remember that the pig used to belong to my farming Barbies (lol!). And I used to carry those little frogs around everywhere when I was about ten or eleven. I loved reptiles and amphibians! I don't even recognize the giraffe, but it's a pretty cool giraffe, so I suspect it'll find a place in my stop-motion when I get around to making it!

Oh, man. Where do I even begin with these? My sister and I were NOT car nuts. We didn't collect Hot Wheels obsessively. But we did, over the years, accumulate a few of these die cast cars. And while, yes, we did take them outside and play with them in the mud, we weren't technically playing "cars." No, these cars all had names and personalities, and the big cars were the parents while the tiny ones were the baby cars. Yes, we took perfectly awesome boy toys and turned them into something very girly. But I have very vivid memories of these cars, and still remember exactly which tree we would play under with them. Megan and I had a lot of fun with these, whether it was girly fun or not.

And lastly, the army men. I got these after my sister had stopped playing with toys, and they came to me through various second-hand means. I was never really into playing war or such, but given my love for Toy Story, seeing green army men always makes me smile. ^.^

Never fear, for these aren't nearly all of my McToys - I know I have at least one more box still left in storage to go through. I've culled a selection of them out to get rid of, but I still have these pictures as well as a healthy selection of others in my craft/toy room. I look forward to including them in future stop-motion video adventures, as opening the McToy Box always sends my imagination reeling, just as it did years ago. And I'm not going to lie, I still pick up a Happy Meal from time to time, so there's always the prospects of new characters being added along the way. ^.^

I've only just realized that I completely forgot to feature the McBarbie collection! No worries, though, I'm sure they'll find their way onto the blog soon enough. If there were ever McToys that we played with more than any other, it had to be the McBarbies. And seeing as I am STILL a huge Barbie fan (you never grow out of some things...), I think we all know we'll be seeing them around. ;)