Monday, July 14, 2014

The Passing of Family and Loved Ones

  On Thursday this week, we will be back home, saying a last goodbye to my Grandpa Arnie. He died last week on Thursday, so we will have had a full week to mourn before the funeral. I wanted to write, suddenly, about all my loved ones who have gone before me, a kind of memorial to my family.
  The first funeral I can remember going to was for my Great Grandma Johnson, Grandpa Arnie's mom. She was a sweet lady, and called me Sunshine whenever we were together. I remember going to her little apartment with Grandma Joan and Aunt Susan to clean it. I recall avocado green, and peanut butter sandwiches. Her presence was soft, and larger than life to a small child. One of my final memories of her was when she was close to dying, and couldn't really speak anymore. She whispered to my Grandpa, and he smiled, and said to me, "There's my Sunshine." I was no older than 8, and was probably younger than that. The passage of time has rendered those memories dim. I later found out that she was quite artistic, and family members have several of her watercolor still lifes.
  My Great Great Grandma Karnes was the next that I recall with clarity. I remember her rather well, and her smile and love. She made the world's best tapioca pudding. Her house was small, and well stuffed with glass knick-knacks and doilies. Her husband, Great Great Grandpa Karnes, was her second husband, but he was so cool. He sharpened saws, and had such hairy ears. (I was a kid, ok?). There was always an envelope at Christmas from him, with a few dollars in it, new and crisp from the bank. Grandma had died first, and then a few years later he passed, and they did an estate sale. My dad bought a box of assorted things in it for me, and I ended up with a set of apple shaped glass plates, matching coffee cups, some of her crocheted hanging towels, and a set of root beer glasses.
                      (word of warning: these memories will be in no particular order.)
  I remember the summer that my Grandpa Taylor died. Mom and I had not gotten along, so Grandma Marie invited me to live with her. Grandpa Roy was living in a home at that time, so she had room. That summer, he passed away, and I was glad I was living with her then. I wasn't able to do much, but I think that I gave her a sense of purpose, someone to fuss over, to help her with her grief. Grandpa Roy was musical, and played the violin, the guitar, mandolin, and harmonica. He never learned any sheet music; everything he knew he picked up by ear, and practice. I remember him recording himself with an old tape recorder, singing "Skip to My Lu" in his rusty voice. He shucked walnuts in his garage, staining his fingers black. He tinkered with his car in the garage until it purred. He had a workshop in his basement, and he fixed his violins and other instruments in it. I inherited a pair of his pliers in college, and I still use them to this day. He had four violins, and my mom got one when he passed.
  The day of Grandpa Roy's funeral, we found out Great Grandpa Carlson had died. I ran to MN to be with my boyfriend of the time, and came back in time for his funeral. Oh Grandpa Walter... he was a funny, awesome man. My mom told me a story of how he once found a pot plant near one of his buildings, and he nurtured it. Apparently, it grew rather tall, and he just laughed at the thought of some law enforcement finding it. He had this hearty laugh that came from his belly, and was infectious. I have so many fond memories of the ranch style house he and Great Grandma Dru lived in. He taught my dad's family the love of camping. I remember eating plums for the first time while camping with them and my sister. He made all of us great-grandkids walking sticks, which were dowels with a metal cap at the bottom, and a doorknob on the top. Getting hit by one of those HURT. He had a little stone statue of a man in a sombrero, walking a donkey. It was faded to white, but it was one of those details you never forgot. He kept everything. When he passed, the estate sale was enormous. My mom ended up with one of his steamer trunks.
  Great Grandma Dru lived there for many more years, until a stroke and a fall forced her to sell the farm and move closer to family. She had a talent for hospitality that I strive to match. When Grandpa was alive, she made pies, cakes, cookies, bars, whatever, and on their three seasons porch she kept them. She made the best fried chicken in the world, in an old electric skillet. When I was in college, I drove down to visit her, and she brought out a suitcase filled with old photos. These were all of her family, and it was one of the many things they had been able to save from the fire from the original house. She also had this wonderful, large portrait, done on linen of some kind, of her father, Great Great Grandpa Franklin (Grandma Karnes first husband), as a little boy of 4. It's in a gold frame, that apparently he had tried to cut up with a saw, as he hated it then. I inherited this portrait at Christmas 13 years ago. She remembered that I had been fascinated with it, and made sure I got it. I also got the "gamma banket", a crazy colored crocheted afghan, that I wrapped myself in at college. It is still used, to this day. I miss her so badly. I remember family dinners, and her being the last to sit and eat, and the first to jump up and get someone anything. "Are you sure you don't want anymore?" was often heard from her. I ended up with a dresser that way. They always seemed to have something to give. As children, my cousins and I would play down in the basement, where her canning kitchen was, and they had these antique school desks. We would play school, or with the handmade animals and barn that my Great Uncle Wally had made. (I had never known him, as he had passed away many years before, from sickness) We used the antique typewriter, and wondered at the plane prop that Grandpa had mounted on the wall down there. I miss that house, and those grounds. She did get to meet both Brendan and Isaac before her passing. 5 generations all together.
  Grandma Marie passed away 11 years ago. She got to meet Brendan, but aggressive pancreatic cancer took her. She taught me how to embroider and cross stitch, and I remember watching her crochet while she watched baseball. I think she like the Chicago Cubs... or White Sox, I don't know for sure! Honestly, I think it was just for background noise while she counted stitches. I remember playing with Barbies and dolls, dressing up in her costume jewelry and shoes (she had TINY feet), and eating cookies that were so hard you needed a full glass of milk to down one (sorry Grandma!). There was always cake or pie after dinner, and bread with butter with dinner. She made Chopped Soupy (her version of chopped souy... it was different). She grew rhubarb, had a green thumb, quit smoking in her 70's (cold turkey!!), and could swear with the best of them, until she got much older, and decided to tone it down. She worried a great deal about my mom, after she and dad divorced, and to this day, I believe she still watches over mom. She kept bread bags, and shared stories of the Depression. She listened to the local radio station, which played polka. She ended up going into assisted living, and had to sell her house and possessions. After she died, and right after the funeral, we had to go to her apartment and clean it out. I inherited a picture she had done from the Creative Circle company, a small roasting pan, several spices, and a picture I had taken near her house of the neighbors garage (photography class in college). My Aunt Nancy has the photo I took of her front porch, all in bloom, with that old wooden porch swing.
  My Uncle Merlyn was a tall, slender man, who always called me Applejuice, or AJ. He was my favorite uncle, I admit. He spoiled me, and when I was in kindergarten, married my Aunt Ann, and I got a cousin, Casey, out of the deal. When she turned 16, he officially adopted her, and made her one of the happiest people. That was the kind of man he was. Always there, and while life had made him seem hard on the outside, he was the biggest teddy bear on the inside. Although, he hated cats, and I remember him sitting just inside his back sliding doors, chasing away cats with a bb or pellet gun. I gave him a book on the many uses of dead cats, and he thought that was hilarious. My Uncle Gary and him worked together, and would take this old rifle, and make it more ridiculous every year for Christmas, and pass it back and forth that way. He was my mom's only brother, and she was closest to him out of all her siblings. Cancer took him away far too soon. I wasn't able to go to his funeral. I had given birth to Brendan only a week or so before, and couldn't travel. I like to think he stops by once in awhile and visits.
  Last year, my husband's Grandpa John died. He was an old Swedish farmer. He had served in WWII, and was a proud American. He was a community pillar, and a gentle soul. He loved John Wayne movies, and raised large horses to pull his replica buggy, that he drove in parades, weddings, etc. He had a horse drawn sled and plow, and LOVED to drive fast in his little Ranger. He would get this grin on his face, as he raced around with Brendan next to him. Later, Isaac would also get to ride with him, but sadly, only a couple of times. According to Kev, Grandpa also loved to light stuff on fire, but I can't confirm that. He had a true love of life and of his family. He reminded me so much of my own Grandpa Arnie, and I miss him.
  Which brings me to Grandpa Arnie. He was a man who, even as he got older, always seemed larger than life. He had a big laugh, a big presence, and a love for my Grandma Joan (pronounce Jo-Ann) that was rivaled only by my Great Grandparents love for each other. He always had a hug and kiss for me, and called me Sunshine, just like his mom had called me. I remember the family parties, the puns and innuendos the guys would share, the laughter, games (Bunko was a favorite), and general tom foolery that would ensue. The Johnsons love life, and live it to the fullest. He farmed up until last year even, when his health finally wouldn't let him drive the tractor anymore. He and Grandma went to Florida every year with their 5th wheel camper during February, sending me a post card with who they were visiting, etc. We celebrated his birthday while camping at Devil's Lake State Park. He would wear the silly hats, let us girls decorate him, and kept us all in stitches.
  It's times like these that I wish I lived closer to home. I don't regret leaving my hometown; I needed to. But I miss my family, and I don't get to see them like I used to. They don't know my sons as well as I would like them to. I feel like a stranger there, peeking in at the closeness that the others seem to have. I know it's not true, but it's hard. We'll be going down this Wednesday, drawn together by our grief, and celebrate my grandfather's life. Rest in Peace, Grandpa Arnie. I love you.
 
ps: just realized that I have mashed both sides of my family together, so I thought I should clarify:
Carlsons and Johnsons are on my dad's side, Taylors are on my mom's side.
 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Organization, and Me...

  And so begins the Spring cleaning. I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore; I make spring ones. I tell myself to be more organized, clutter free, and fit. I drool over garden books, plants and tools. I oooh and aaah over storage bins and ideas. I re-look at Pinterest. It's a dream, and goal, of mine to be that person who really can get her stuff all together.

  And then I laugh and laugh, and go back to Facebook.

  But this time, it's a tiny bit different. I've been on my herbs for a year (or slightly less), and it's made a helluva difference in my energy output and drive. Yes, I still have black days, and a few days before my period ain't pretty, but pretty much I'm able to do what I've always said I would do. I even got my mom's birthday present done and sent when I said I would. I still need to finish Shelley's Christmas present, and Steven's afghan.... but I'm getting better!
  I've been able to keep the house clean(er), keep up with teaching the boys, and keep myself from descending into a pity party hell that normally happens. This is HUGE. I like myself a lot more now. I've embraced my nerdiness and geekiness, and I revel in passing that on to my boys.
  Boys are doing well; Lug is finally 2" taller than me. Ugh. Packie is still cute and cuddly, but he's starting to get that 8 year old lip that isn't fun. I have to create a chore chart that they can daily use. Writing stuff out on the whiteboard isn't working anymore; they need a hands on chart, and I found an idea I'm going to try, using velcro, white tagboard, and lists. Schoolwork will still be written on the whiteboard, but I won't have to write the repeatable stuff up anymore. YAY!
  What else: Keven is trying to get his kickstarter project up and going.
Pietus Secularum
This is HUGE! He's writing a curriculum for Christianity that is NOT denominational. In fact, it's a scholarly look at Christianity from it's beginnings on up to modern times, as well as how to read the Bible, Hermeneutics, language, etc. It's meant for people 13 years on up, from homeschoolers to churches to people just interested in learning about Christianity. If you're not a facebook friend of mine, you probably haven't seen me pimping this out, but I hope that you check it out! We've got some nice bits for helping fund it!
  Shelley and I will be working on our crafting blog, 2 Dainty Crafters, as a team now, as she's ready to take on subjects! wOOt!! So watch for those posts; they should be happening every Wednesday (give or take a holiday!).
  That's all I have for now! Laters!
Alyssa

Monday, February 10, 2014

Today is a GOOD DAY!

  Depression lies. We all know that, and my depression was trying really hard to make me believe some stupid stuff. Today, however, I felt that weight leave my shoulders, and I have the energy and attitude to deal with life. I also happened to look at my stats, and realized that I still have visitors to this little slice of the Interwebs, so I thought I would say a little something about our busy lives.
  I came to the conclusion this year that I needed to be more organized. Not in the New Years resolution sort of way, but in a if-I-don't-do-this-I-will-cut-someone way. So, I bought new Dry Erase markers, got an erasable calendar, and started making chore lists/school lists for boys. I quickly found that the erasable calendar was too small for that, so I went back to my big white board for them, and turned the calendar into a menu planning device... which works part of the time. I have a hard time planning meals ahead. I also adapted a cleaning calendar, so that I wouldn't feel overwhelmed with house tasks, and actually DO them. It's been a moderate success, and it does keep getting better, so yay!
  Boys are doing very well. I've got them doing more chores, and earning game time. We've actually cut their game time down to an hour a day (hour and a half if they earn it!), and it's working. They are doing things like making their beds and cleaning up their room so that they can get their "first half hour", without me nagging them to do it. Granted, this is not every day, but they're getting better. I did find out that Packie was cheating on his reading. He is supposed to read 20 minutes a day, and at first we supervised him, but he proved he could do it without us hovering. Well, he's been caught just watching the clock, and then skimming his book for the last 5 minutes. Now I have to make him read out loud to me again. Lug, on the other hand, has been really getting into his reading for 1/2 an hour a day. I picked out "Where The Red Fern Grows" for him to read, and now that he's most of the way through it, he's really getting into it. He will even talk about some of the characters with us, and what happens to them. Usually, I don't think he pays attention, but this time is different. I know that he's not a "reader", but being able to read, and understand what is written, is so important! So, I'm happy. :)
  Kev is working on a couple of projects right now. His job with Corborn's Delivers is going all right. He was experiencing extreme anxiety for quite a while, though, since it involves driving a giant delivery truck through Cities traffic. We finally came up with a solution for him, involving lavender oil massaged into his feet at night, and 5-htp before bed to help him sleep (getting rid of dreams about delivering totes!). We're both taking the 5-htp now, and I've been sleeping so much better. Also, taking more vitamin D has helped (damn cold, dark MN winters!). At any rate, he doesn't love the job, but it's been a boon financially.
  He's officially a member in discernment with the Minnesota Conference for the UCC. What that boils down to is another fucking YEAR of bullshit before he can officially tack that "pastor" title to his name, or get a church, marry people, etc. (mumbles about pastor that fucked us over.... ahem). My annoyance with organized religion is swiftly becoming hatred, and while I like a lot of people at the current church we attend, if I never had to set foot in those doors again, I would be the happiest camper. On the other hand, it has given Kev the boost he needed to work on his own projects, which I will talk about in another post soon (we're still working out kinks), and this is a good thing.
  I am still crocheting and knitting like mad, and need to get over to my crafting blog soon, as I have a ton of projects I want to share. I also got onto Instagram, and I should probably blog about that, and post my blog on Instagram... so much to do, argh!
  On the mega bonus side, I am over the hump with this particular depression cycle, and I feel ever so much lighter and better! I know there are going to be some rough spots in the next couple of days, but they'll be spots, not hours! YAY!
  And now for a Monday Funny... I haven't done a Friday Funny in forever, so I'm gonna just throw this atcha:
(if you get this, you are awesome!)
Alyssa :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Twitter!

*disclaimer: This is a serious post, with a serious question. It involves atheism and alternative religions, and I expect no answers. I just felt the need to respond to some things I have been witnessing on one of my favorite social networks.*

  Twitter! I love Twitter. I follow Wil Wheaton, Steve Blum, bloggers like Jenny Lawson, news sites, etc. I get my daily dose of comics and satire, and I am a happy girl. I also have friends/followers/random persons who are religious/non-religious on there. On the whole, I enjoy reading their different takes on the topics of the day. But I'm starting to get troubled by some of what I read.
  There are folks who are atheists (gasp) out there. I like to read their thoughts and concerns, because 9 times out of 10, they're the same concerns and thoughts I have. American culture is being warped rather quickly by extremists of all stripes, and I like to keep abreast of this, and the most honest things seem to come from the non-religious types. However, there can be a price to this.
  Blanket statements. Yup. I'm bothered by blanket statements. "What do you mean, Alyssa?" you might be thinking. "Typical Christian mentality" is the current one that has set me off. I am reading these tweets, and I'm hurt, not so much by what the tweet itself is saying, but by what the person who retweeted it is thinking.
  I am married to a man of God. He's halfway to ordination (goddess, that's been fun *insert sarcasm here*), and he strives very hard to live out those principles of Jesus. He's a scholar, a teacher, and a good moral man. He has given me the benefit of his education to make my own decisions about my beliefs, or lack thereof as needed. He does the same with anyone who has questions about faith of all kinds. He loves to teach. He wants to help others discern. He DOESN'T shove any form of faith down anyone's throat, and it irritates him when others do. So when I read blanket statements set for by atheists/agnostics about faithful people, I get a bit upset.
  I know who they are ranting against. It's not my husband, or people like that. It's not people like me, either. But when they post things that say ALL Christians/religious types are stupid and ridiculous for believing in a Higher Being of some sort, I get annoyed. Is this how I am perceived by someone I respect? Is this how my husband is perceived? I shouldn't be taking this personally, but it's getting to the point where I feel I am being called out.
  I started this post out with the idea of asking those who identify as atheist/agnostic why you are hating so hard on those of us who aren't crazy Right Wing Republicans/Dominionists/Fundamentalists, but it's boiled down to something much more personal. Why are my friends whom I love and trust making me feel like they think I'm crazy for having faith?  I can't prove my faith, nor would I want to. How I believe is how I believe, not how anyone else does. My experiences are my own, and as such are unprovable. I don't want to be angry or upset. I don't want to feel this way.
  I do get who they are reacting against. Fundies of all stripes piss me off, and fundie atheists are now up there. I want to applaud some of the things I have seen written, because they are thoughtful, provocative, and spot on. And then I read tweets calling Christians lunatics. Thanks. Glad to know I'm married to a lunatic. When should I commit myself?
  I guess, in the long run, none of this matters. People are people, and we all have human failings/triumphs. At this point, I may have to save myself some grief, and quit listening to/following persons who call me crazy. I'm just going to leave you with the link to my husband's blog about Grinches. Enjoy. Grinches

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tipping your server :)

  Many of us have had jobs in some sort of server capacity. You work your butt off, smiling at people, try to get orders right, and hope that when each person walks out the door, they liked you enough to leave you a monetary tip. (Servers make lousy wages) Yes, some servers suck, and others are fantastic, but the truth is some sort of tip should be left. You never know what their story is, and why things were lousy/great.
  My husband's grandfather, on his dad's side, was notorious for not tipping waitstaff, or rather, for leaving bible tracts as tips. It didn't matter if service was good, bad, or indifferent, it was his lousy way of getting out of a tip.
  Ok, so now why am I bringing this up? Well, my (practically adopted) son is a server at a popular chain restaurant. He is also gay. He's fantastic at his job, smiling through his crohn's pain, and he really enjoys the work. He's had his days of great tips, and not so great tips, but rarely is there anything too bad.
  Yesterday, Sunday, Kev had his first paying preaching gig, at the church we attend. As he is not an intern there anymore, they have to pay him, and they payed rather nicely. We decided to go to the restaurant that my boy works at and celebrate. We also brought his boyfriend with, as we wanted to thank him for all the work he did on Kev's compy. We surprised him, had some good food, and left him a nice tip for the work he did. As we were leaving, his boyfriend gave him a little, quick hug. Nothing dramatic or over the top, just a little hug. D'aaawwwww, right?
 Well, apparently, that was too much for the couple in the corner booth who witnessed it. They decided to scratch out the rather nice monetary tip they were going to leave him, and instead left him two bible tracts. Yup. They decided that saving his soul, via little bits of paper, would be better than making sure he could pay his rent and medical bills. Unreal.
  Now, I was a bit stunned when he brought them home (Kev likes to collect tracts, for giggles), but what really shocked me is that they make bible tracts specifically for waitstaff. I was floored.

*wait a moment, I'm fuming*

  I wish I had a scanner, so I could show you how insulting this is. I'll have to do this the old fashioned way and type out the front page:

  Thank you for your kind service! I really appreciate your friendliness and hard work, so I'm leaving you "More Than A Tip". I hope that you'll keep this and read it soon--on your break or when you get home. Thanks again!

  This is the front page. The inner pages go about the usual Evangelical gobblety gook, and saying their magic words that will fix everything stuff. Who the hell do these people think they are? Do they honestly think that giving a little book with poorly chosen, out of context verses, will keep a roof over someone's head, or food in their bellies? Spiritual care is all well and good, but when someone depends on your tips so that they can put something on their bus card so they can GET to work, this is a slap in the face.
  My husband is almost ordained. We're getting towards the finish line in this long process. We are a family of faith. Yes, it's a mixed bag of things, but we have a very spiritual approach to life. That includes making sure that if we have extra, we help those we can. We believe in living the words, not just saying them. As such, I would NEVER leave a pamphlet about as a way to "get out the Word". LIVE the Word, and tip your server! It's not rocket science, people!

Friday, September 6, 2013

What. The. Hell.

http://cheezburger.com/7780938496
I just... I almost can't understand this.  Almost.

If my boys EVER thought something as tasteless, disgusting, and filthy as this was cool, I would beat the tar out of them.

And there is our double standard, ladies and gentlemen.  If a house of college girls did this, people would be up in arms like crazy!  However, this is just "boys will be boys".  I want to barf.

I find nothing about this funny, and actually, neither do the commentators on the site, which somewhat unusual.

And that is all I have to say right now.  My articulation has left the building.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Motherhood, babies, and religion

Great Risk, Great Reward
  That's the link to this article about a couple who adopted a pair of embryos, and are giving birth to at least one (I couldn't tell if both embryos took or not).
  First reaction: Yay for her!  She made a choice about her reproduction abilities, and was able to do this.  Congrats on their upcoming bundle of joy.  The world, mostly, loves babies, and I certainly do love to hold/cuddle/feed/be with the little poop makers.  (Haha, I love babies, but they are little poop machines, don't lie!)
  Second reaction: Well, they went with an organization that only allows married hetero couples adopt the little embryos.  Well shucks, isn't that special.  Way to cut down chances of healthy ladies adopting these little bundles of cells.  Oh, you're a lesbian?  Nope, sorry, your uterus isn't good enough.  Oh, you're gay, but found a surrogate mom to carry for you?  Nope, sorry, you might molest this baby/teach it to be gay.  For real?  Good parents will be turned away simply because they are gay/lesbian.  Fuck that.
  Third reaction:  She will lose her sight.  What a brave woman.  No, she's not brave.  I'm sorry, I don't see that as bravery.  She has a condition that she was treating with medication, and instead of continuing her meds and helping already born children with cleft palettes, and her other pediatric duties, she willingly made a choice to do this to carry more children into this world.  My opinion: continue to help the children already born who have life threatening deformities.  Don't discount all the good you were all ready doing. 
  Fourth reaction: She's already over the age of 40.  That is cutting it a bit close, biologically speaking.  Children born of women who have them later in life tend to have a long hill before them.  And, it's potentially detrimental to the health of the mother as well. http://www.babycenter.com/0_age-and-fertility-getting-pregnant-in-your-40s_1494699.bc  (I'm only posting one link; google can be your friend too :)  ). 
  My reactions may seem extreme.  I don't apologize for that.  This is, after all, my reactions to an article, and yours may be very different, and that's what makes for a lovely discussion (for more on that, check out Kev's post at http://keventhinks.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-nature-of-choice.html).  I just cannot stand stories that make out persons to be hero's, simply because they're pregnant.  Millions of women get pregnant; it's not that huge a deal.  I've been there, done that twice.  I understand that there are women out there who are desperate to have children; I don't discount them.  Motherhood is the greatest/hardest thing I've ever done.  But more than that, it's the "look at what they're doing, why can't you be that self-sacrificing?" attitude you can read between the lines.  I knew I was done having kids after my second.  I don't have it in me to handle more than 2 of my own brood at a time.  (so yeah, not trying for a girl, sorry!  too old and broken for anymore of that shite)
  So, take what you will from this rant; I apologize if I came off as harsh, but this is something that always, ALWAYS bothers me.  It smacks of religious fervor to control a woman, and I get mad enough that the government wants control over my body.