Friday, June 27, 2008

Indiana Summer

So, the weather is finally muggy. God love the midwest and its muggy-ass summers!

Husband and I were walking to work yesterday from the train, and we were both sweating our respective parts off, when it dawned on me that before I became an adult, I used to LOVE this weather.

I used to love the sweaty feeling of summer days, and the cooler (yet still humid) weight of summer nights. But, something has changed... oh, I remember, I've changed because I no longer get to enjoy it like I did. I am what is oftentimes called "a grown-up" and in many respects this is a good thing: I get to live without my parents, and drink alcohol. I get to order pizza whenever I want. I get to stay up late and watch whatever movies or TV shows I want. AND, I have the added bonus of living with a boy full time. Joy!

BUT, I miss summer vacation. I miss the feeling on the last day of school when everyone would sing that Alice Cooper song while walking down the hallways towards the exits. I miss that feeling of having the whole glorious summer ahead of me. I miss jumping off the bus at my stop and thundering down the street towards my house for the last time that year with all the carefree joy and abandon that my heart could possibly hold.

Mostly, I think back to long days at our neighborhood pool. I was lucky enough to grow up in a awesome subdivision. We had a big lake in the center where we could go fishing, tons of kid-friendly sidewalks to ride our bikes on, and a glorious pool (complete with a deep end and diving board) that was open to residents anytime, day or night. We'd pretty much go there every day, all day - even when it was cloudy. And we'd stay until our bodies got tired or the need for a mom-made sandwich drove us back onto our bikes and back home.

Even with all the daytime swimming, we were not satisified. And sometimes, at night, when dinner was over, our Dad would agree to take us back for a nighttime dip. I am confident that even when I am old and gray, I will look back on those precious times as some of the happiest of my life, and most certainly, I will look back to those times and remember my father incredibly fondly. He is an excellent swimmer. He was actually a lifeguard as a teenager, and he would delight us with incredible feats of underwater swimming, and allow us to climb onto his back and be a passenger on some of his trips below the surface.

Afterwards, we'd tumble home in the dark and rinse the chlorine from our bodies and hair and climb into warm pajamas. Even now, my nostalgia is no match for my incredible need to provide these kinds of memories to my children (which I will hopefully have someday). They're so precious. Those moments in life that elevate you and open you up to happiness are the most treasured possessions anyone can have. In spite of all the shit that we have to go through everyday, in spite of all the times Husband or I feel trapped or depressed or futile, I always have memories like that to go back to.

So, when the man's got me down, and the checking account balance is surprisingly low, and work sucks, and I look around and realize how far I still have to go, I just think about summer vacation. I think about the quiet beneath the water and the way it felt to joke with my sisters while we rode our bikes to our favorite spot. I think about my Dad's smile when he'd climb up the side ladder after a perfect dive. I remember us. And it never fails to give me back some of what adulthood takes.

Just a little good, old-fashioned joy. No responsibilities. No impending collapse. No worries.

Just us, a pool, and a summer to spend by it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Me. In Pictures.

I'd seen this on a couple of other blogs and thought that it was very interesting. So, I am jumping on the bandwagon. The way it works: Answer the 12 questions below and then type each answer into a Flickr search. Take one of the pictures that comes up for your word and paste it into the mosaic maker at:

Then, when you're finished, post it for the world to see you in pictures! Here are the questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you attend?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.

1. Van Dyke: Allison, after Picasso, 2. Homemade Pepperoni Pizza, 3. Homestead High School, 4. Verde no Aquarius, 5. Harrison Ford, 6. 8pm landscape, 7. The Night City, 8. kahlua chocolate mousse, 9. Young student with his teacher, 10. return for refund., 11. eyes so tender, 12. Going Up And Down

I do find it hilarious, that the picture for #10 was found on my search for Husband's name (as he is the thing I love most in the world). Return for refund... hmmm. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fumbling Towards a Change

Hello friends. I'm so sorry it has been a while since I last posted. In truth, I have been pretty darned busy and blogging definitely fell out of the limelight and into the background.

What was I up to?

I threw a successful and fun shower and bachelorette party for my best friend last weekend. I was pretty consumed by making sure that everything went well and in addition to that, Husband and I had been entertaining houseguests for basically the entire week previous. Needless to say, the combination of those two things left little time for anything personal.

But, the guests have all left, and the party has been thrown, and Husband and I are looking forward to a blissfully open weekend (aside from one family get-together on Saturday afternoon). A little "down-time" is definitely in order.

In addition to these little events, I have also been feeling a larger event in the making deep inside of my heart. For a long time now I have been struggling with making the transition into being the best version of me possible. Although I know that becoming the best you can be takes a lifetime and is probably never really accomplished (because we are just human, after all), I have felt on the brink of making a huge stride in the right direction for some time now.

I have spoken before on this blog about my deep affection for all living creatures. I do indeed have very intense feelings about animal rights and about fighting cruelty and about becoming closer with nature and the Earth, but I realized the other day that I'm being a total poser. Yes, my feelings are legitimate, but I'm not really doing anything about them. The most overwhelming part of the realization was the fact that I had never even thought about that before. It had never really occurred to me that all of my rambling and my hurt feelings and my love for my dogs meant basically nothing on a larger scale.

I needed to take action.

So, I started. I decided first to begin replacing all of my beauty/hygiene products with ones made from natural ingredients by companies who conduct no animal testing. Because I wasn't sure who these companies were, I went looking (where else?) on the internet. I found a website called and another (which I found the most helpful and easiest to use) at The Caring Consumer page is run by PETA and gives a list of all the companies that do and do not conduct animal testing. The second page is run by the National Anti-Vivisection Society and allows you to search by company or product to see if they are using animals for research there.

I was surprised both by how many companies have shunned the practice and by how many companies still refuse to see the light. The truth is that there are many ways of testing beauty and household products that do not rely on dropping chemicals into the eyes of a bunny. Companies that carry on these practices DO NOT NEED THEM. They are completely without merit and oblivious to the plight of the poor creatures trapped in their labs. Yes, some animal testing is required by law, and although I do not like it, I do understand that when a new medicine is released testing on animals can show the possible side-effects that might mean death for those taking it. Companies that do this type of testing are required to do so by the government, so my beef is not really with them. What I am protesting here is the fact that animals are losing their lives because I want to wear make-up. It's a simple and as ridiculous as that.

I urge you all to consider going to one of the websites above to check out which of your purchases are involved in this atrocious practice. You may be pleasantly surprised that you already buy products that are created by enlightened companies. For example, make-up companies like Almay, Revlon, Bath and Body Works, Bare Escentuals, and Smashbox are all created without the use of animal testing. However, companies like Cover Girl, Procter and Gamble, Aveeno, Johnson and Johnson, Neutrogena and many many others are still employing this barbaric technique.

Another line of products that are easy to replace are your household cleaners. This one is a little bit tougher as almost every single cleaning product that is commonly used is created by one or two archaic corporations that refuse to give up their lab rats. However, please keep in mind that not only are these types of products hurting defenseless creatures, they are also hurting all of us by polluting our Earth and ruining our natural water sources. You can check out the lists, but if you use Windex, Clorox, Tide, Pledge, or any of their associated products (plus TONS more) you already own an Earth polluting, animal abusing product. And I'm not trying to make you feel bad about it - I personally have all of those products in my house (much to my dismay).

The important thing to remember is that there are alternatives, lots actually. It may take you an extra trip to a different store, but there are a lot of Earth-friendly, natural cleaning products that are also never tested on an animal of any sort. The products I plan to purchase are found at my local Target store (and I'm pretty sure can be found at any Target):

Method, Inc is an AWESOME company that uses totally natural, biodegradable ingredients and has never participated in animal testing. They are very down-to-earth and all of their products are very reasonably priced. Some other suggestions I've received for similar types of products are Holy Cow, Ecover, and Third Generation. I know that Holy Cow can be found at several grocery chains and Walgreens.

The last bit of change I'm making for now is cutting back the amount of meat I eat. This is not just for purely cruelty-related issues. This decision is actually primarily based on the environment. The meat industry in this country is one of the single largest contributors to environmental issues - not to mention the fact that we could be feeding our country and others much more efficiently if we were using our land for raising crops rather than cattle.

True, if I were totally prepared for this endeavor, I would cut meat altogether. But I'm trying to take my Dad's advice and make "little changes that will stick rather than drastic ones that won't." I do see myself hopefully cutting meat completely from my diet altogether (as this is what my heart is telling me to do) but my head knows that 26 years of meat-eating won't be easy to break. So, rather than eat meat every day of the week, I'm going to cut down to 2-3 times a week.

Also, when I am purchasing meat I am doing my best to search for organic, free range chickens that have not spent their lives in a tiny cage with half their beaks cut off (which is actually what they do). It may be a couple dollars more expensive (example: I paid $15 for four organic chicken breasts at the store, while their non-organic counterparts would have cost me $12)but that price is worth it to me, if it means that the animal was able to live a more natural life before its death. I have also been buying the free-range, vegetarian eggs for quite some time and have been paying attention to which milk brands do not use hormones in their cattle. There are lots of options out there, so if these causes are near to your heart they way they are to mine, very few sacrifices have to be made in order to make a difference.

I apologize if I seem like I'm on my soapbox, but my mind has really been consumed lately with the fact that our environment and our world really are in trouble. We hear it all the time, but we do need to wake up and begin doing our part to ensure that future generations have a viable planet to live on. What's most exciting for me is that I get to establish a lifestyle now that I can pass on to my kids (when I hopefully have them). It is our human responsibility to take care of our planet and the creatures that inhabit it. We may have been given dominion over it by God, but that does not mean we have the right to disrespect the Earth or its inhabitants or to bend them to our will. We have a responsibility for their well-being. We are the only ones who can turn our behavior around, and I'm quickly learning that just a few small changes from all of us is the way to begin doing just that.

Thank you for reading. And please consider looking into some of these things for yourself. They are terribly important, and we would really be doing future generations a disservice if we continue on the way we are. I sincerely hope you are all having a great week so far, and I'll be sure to update you along the way of this journey. I'm certain it won't be entirely simple, but for once in my life, I feel like I'm really heading in the right direction.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, "Life is no way to treat an animal." And even though I used to agree, I really think that with some hard work, we can prove him wrong.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I stole this idea from Slouching Mom. She linked to a picture and you were supposed to write down the first three words that popped into your head and then use those three words in a memoir-style story. Obviously, I am not creative with my word choices. But I do find the stream-of-consciousness style and the place my brain went naturally interesting. Do we all have a penchant to go straight for the melodramatic? Thought provoking stuff, kids.

I suppose it was silly to get on this stupid boat. I was naive to think that just the act of climbing on a cruise ship would help me to relax. When, in truth, my anxiety has been worse than ever. But, oh, how they encouraged me!

"You really should take a vacation, Julie."

Right. Like a vacation is going to solve my problems. Like all my issues would just suddenly melt away as soon as I sat down in a deck chair. Like they would vanish as soon as I gazed out on all that blue water.

The cabin is nice enough, I guess. And I haven't gotten sea-sick yet. And there is an open bar with which to attempt to dull the ache of worry. But, it isn't exactly what I was promised.

No, it's not what I was promised at all. I was promised surrender. I was promised relaxation. I was promised that something about this stupid experience would help me to forget the fear clutching at my heart each time I hear a strange noise at night. I was told that a little fun in the sun would help to erase that feeling, and the memory of him standing over me, and the realization that I just might die.

No, not what I was promised at all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back in Action!

Hello dear readers!

Welp, I'm back from the ole vacation and am finally caught up enough with work, life, and all that junk to remind you all of my existence.

Aren't you glad? :)

The vacation was a lot of fun aside from a serious case of car-sickness that occurred just as we were about to view one of the most gorgeous national parks I've ever seen. (Good timing is not my forte). But, all the nausea aside, it was a wonderful time. I gambled a bit in Vegas and even won a bit of money on the video poker machines at Paris - which was a cool feeling.

Husband and I were both very ready to get home and see our boys, so waiting for our 5:00 PM flight home from Vegas on Friday was torture, but it was definitely all worth it for the fun that was had. I'll try to post some pictures when I have them handy.

In other news: I saw this today and just can't help but share it with all of you... personally, I laughed my ass off because I swear that the content of this video is ALL I can remember from Little House on the Prairie. Seriously.

And for any Aussie friends who may be reading who seem to NEVER be able to see my videos, this one's on under the title "The 30 Second Little House: I'll be Waving as You Drive Away."

Love it.