Monday, February 22, 2010

Ebb and Flow

When I was younger, I thought that when my spirits were high and I felt in the zone, all was right with the world. When my energy and attention span diminished, so did my self esteem. I felt like a prisoner of my own life rhythms.

I'm older now, and I think I am finally starting to understand what I imagine some people may never struggle with at all. My energy and attention and capacity to learn still ebb and flow just like they always have, but now I see those cycles as signals of when I should pursue what.

The past couple of weeks have been rough. I couldn't remember words for common things, my joints hurt with the simplest motions, and I was exhausted beyond measure. I couldn't seem to get beyond the have-to-dos in order to tackle the ought-to-dos, and the wanna-dos were nothing more than blips on my attention deficit radar. I have big plans for this spring and summer, and I started to worry that my mind and body were conspiring against me to squash those plans. Then I remembered to just ride the wave.

I slept more. I ate more chocolate than I should have. I read my scriptures. And eventually I started to feel better.

A lot better.

My mood lifted, and my energy surged, so I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning catching up and making plans. (Because I still haven't mastered not going overboard when I start to feel better.) I'm plowing forward with school, home, and family projects, and some other new assignments have come my way--magically at just the right time. (When I say magically, I mean that Heavenly Father knows exactly what He is doing.) I'll probably get a little bit ahead of the game while I am back in the zone, which is good, because I can guarantee that it won't last forever.

Don't worry. I have a big stash of chocolate, and I'm good at taking naps.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And you thought Willie Wonka was strange...

Skin and Other Stories Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This month's book group selection is Skin and Other Stories by Roald Dahl. The book is described many places as a collection that introduces teens to Dahl's adult fiction, and I can see how my teenage boys would enjoy these off-the-wall tales. However, if I weren't a writer, I don't know if I would like this book as much as I do. Many of the stories cross the border of odd and venture into slightly creepy--but they do it so well, I cannot help but appreciate Roald Dahl's skill.

Dahl begins and ends each story during the action, no dilly-dallying around with warming up or droning on with conclusions. He also knows precisely when to withhold information from a story and allow his readers' imaginations to fill in far more vivid details than he can wrangle onto paper. For example, in "Lamb to the Slaughter," we never know exactly what Mary Maloney's husband said to her that caused her to snap, and in "Skin" we never learn the method of artistic extraction. (Thank goodness!) In "Beware of the Dog," Dahl demonstrates how to artfully capture the surreal when he describes the pilot's hazy descent from airplane to hospital bed. My favorite story is "The Wish," probably because I have three boys and I have witnessed how they spent entire afternoons avoiding imaginary hot lava when they were younger.

Overall opinion: While this is not thought-provoking or life-changing literature, these strange stories that are expertly told make nice little escapes from reality.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Let's just call them truffles...

I've been feeling more domestic lately.  When I say that, I really mean that I have been thinking about being more domestic: reading cute blog articles by domestic goddesses or dreaming of hiring someone to deal with all the domesticity that I am so behind on.  I did, however, run across one project that looked fun to try: Cake Balls by Bakerella. I can't seem to say "cake balls" without giggling like a 12-year-old boy, so from here on out, we're going to refer to them as truffles.

The recipe called for a red velvet cake, which I have always thought looked kind of pretty, and red velvet seems to have an almost cult-like following in the home baking world.  Luckily, Bakerella recommended a mix, because baking a cake from scratch might have squashed my June Cleaver-esque attempt.


After baking the cake, I have to say that I just don't get the fascination with red velvet. Maybe it's blissfully better when it's made from scratch, but maybe--just maybe--the overabundance of red food coloring kills off the chocolate flavor of the cake and does nothing more than makes a big mess.  I'm just saying.

To make the cake balls truffles, I had to crumble up the cake, mix it with icing and roll it into little, um,  spheres. All the red food coloring in the cake made that task quite messy, and I couldn't help but feel as if I were channeling Lady Macbeth.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!

When the truffles were all rolled, they didn't seem as crimson. I realized that my tasty treats were actually more of a UALR maroon than a bright red, and I felt a swelling of school pride. (Don't worry. I took two aspirin and rested for a few minutes, and the swelling went away.)

Does that make these Trojan Balls Truffles?

Finally, I dipped the little cakes in chocolate.  (Because what is the point in spending that much time in the kitchen if there isn't chocolate involved?)


Mine didn't turn out as cute as Bakerella's, but I also don't have as much practice with making cute swirly designs on top. I think the contrast of the red against the chocolate is pretty, but not pretty enough to make up for the mess.  


Don't get the idea that I don't like these--I just think I could like them more.  That's why there is a good old fashioned chocolate cake cooling in my kitchen right now... 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Never Let an (Identity) Crisis Go to Waste

Last semester I took a class about new literacies. We studied how things like Facebook, Twitter, and Blogger are changing how we communicate with each other, how we teach, and how we learn.

We also examined how people establish their identities online, which has given me reason to more closely examine my own online identity.

If one were to judge who I am based solely on this blog, they might assume that I'm a mother who abandoned her kids to run away to Mexico and was never heard from again after I was kidnapped by narcotraficantes.

 Do these look like narcotraficantes to you?

 But rest assured, that is not what happened. I came back from Mexico at the beginning of August, just like I planned, and I have been running like a hamster on a wheel ever since.

Another impression that a reader of this blog could get is that I am inconsistent, slightly smart-alecky, full of analogies, and that I swing from blinding optimism to the depths of depression on a regular basis.

All of those conclusions would be true.

Still I wonder...Does my blog paint an accurate picture of who I am? When I began,I was at a transition point in my life. I had stayed home with my children for so many years that my brain was turning to oatmeal. Going back to school had reminded me that I loved manipulating words on a page (or a screen) the way a florist tries a blossom here and spray of baby's breath there until a bouquet is just right.

I didn't want to be branded a "mommy blogger"--not because mommy blogs aren't a delight,I have several friends who enchant me with the way they faithfully chronicle the little moments that bring life joy. I avoided the mommy blog genre because I had been "Mom" for so long that I had forgotten I even had any other name. I needed to carve out a space where I could rediscover myself, so I purposefully kept mention of husband and children to a minimum. I wove their presence into my story instead of making them be my story.

I envisioned my corner of cyberspace as a place where I could primarily experiment with words and develop my voice as a writer--and just because I like pretty pictures of yarn-stuff, I could also throw in some knitting here and there. I thought that having a blog would help me to feel committed to writing regularly. As my schooling progressed, however, I found that I didn't have much time to experiment with words that weren't for an assignment or to knit anything worthy of display. I can say, though, that over the last couple of years I have gotten to know myself better, I now realize that I do have a name (that isn't Mom), and I am learning to blend the Mommy and not-Mommy parts of my life together better.

Where does that leave this blog? Well, when I started thinking about the direction I wanted to take things here, I ran across a post that discussed bloggers having an obligation to their readers, an obligation to post regularly and post something worth the time it would take to read it. (That was way back in October, and I can't find the link now to save my life. Sorry.) I can honestly say I don't feel obligated to "my readers". I'm sure all three of you have better things to do than wonder if I've posted any new ramblings.

At the other end of the spectrum is the blogging without obligation movement, which says that bloggers should just post whatever they want, whenever they feel like it.

It is cute and sassy and oh-so-free, but still doesn't seem quite right.

I guess at the end of the day, I have an obligation to myself. I want to become a better writer, and I've heard that might actually require doing some writing, so I am  crafting a plan to fit that writing into my schedule. I may reinvent this blog; I may start a different blog; I may use quill and ink on parchment and lock the scribblings away in a trunk, never to be seen again. Now that I am aware that I am crafting an online identity--intentionally or not--I will try to be more intentional about it, but because I'm still not that clear on my offline identity,I still don't know exactly how to shape this online persona. One thing that I am sure of:  I am still inconsistent, slightly smart-alecky, full of analogies, and I still swing from blinding optimism to the depths of depression on a regular basis, so this wishy-washy declaration of who I am and what I am doing here should really come as no surprise.