Category Archives: my thoughts

Being Thankful

David Shatzman

I met David through my mother in law, Helene,  probably 15 or more years ago, when he decorated her house in Florida.  Fast forward to today, we have both undergone a lot of changes in our lives, and somehow both landed in North Carolina.  The photo above is his beautiful property.  He drove up to see Helene when she visited us last month.  It was nice to see him, and his enthusiasm, style, and talent were still greatly evident.  We’re Facebook friends now, and I look forward to his daily musings.  Most of them, to be honest, are a little over my head, but each of them give me something to think about.  This morning something he wrote really jumped out at me.  

“Human kindness and understanding … opens everything good in life – humor, joy, sym-pathy, love, friendship… Why live another way, when doing, so surely invites a world full of aggravation, uncertainty and competition? Imagine, missing good because of a fearful heart, manifesting as bad behavior? I think, it is, all fear, and unknowing…

Then I think, oh, of course, everyone learns and learning always dances with suffering – so, I feel better, not that other people suffer and learn, but that I am , at least in this case, normal – and it helps me to understand endless reasons to be kind and understanding.

Lately I have been thinking about being Thankful.  There’s a Facebook thing going around…20 days of thanks…starting today and leading up to Thanksgiving.  I am thankful for so many things, I don’t think I can fit them all in a list of 20.  But David’s status this morning reminded me that I am thankful that I have been fortunate to know so many wonderful, different, interesting people in my life.  People who, just like me, love, laugh, cry, feel sad, have friends, give to others, feel insecure, are sometimes competitive, desire to learn, but who might have been raised in a completely different environment than I was.  They might have different beliefs than I do, whether religious, political, child-rearing, dietary…you name it, but underneath it all, we’re all just learning to live our lives in a meaningful way.
“Human kindness and understanding” is a learned behavior  and we’re all learning.  
I grew up with a wonderful, loving family, and they mean the world to me.  I learned so many things from them.   My religious beliefs were planted when I was very young.  I was surrounded by other people who believed the same things I did, my family and my church friends.  It was easy to believe what I believed because I wasn’t questioned.  I fit right in.  Later in life I met lots of different people with vastly different beliefs.   One night after dinner, I was sitting around a table with some friends who were raised Jewish.  One person asked me a question that I had never been asked before.  To be completely honest, I don’t remember the exact question, but it was about my religion and “Why” I believed what I did.  I don’t need to get into the logistics of the actual question, or how I stammered the canned answer I had been told my whole life, but the thing I took away from the conversation was I needed to learn more about “Why?”  I didn’t need to research Bible verses…I knew that already.  I wanted to learn why I believed that was the definitive answer.  My research strengthened my faith even more.  I started thinking that the people I knew who had found their faith later in life, whether converted Jews, Christians, or something else, seemed to have a much stronger conviction in their beliefs.  They had come to it on their own.  It also made me realize that the fear I had in earlier years of anyone who believed differently than I did came from unknowing.  I was afraid someone would question me, and I was afraid of someone who had different beliefs than I did.  What I have learned is that human kindness and understanding are not qualities specific to any religion.  I know people with different beliefs who are better people than I have ever known.  And I learn things from them.  When I married a Jewish man, I worried that his friends and the jewish community would always know I was different, and treat me differently.  My experience has been anything but that.  But I know that there are probably people who do feel a little uncomfortable around me, because I have different beliefs.  Their feelings are from unknowing, and unknowing causes fear.  I represent something they aren’t familiar with.  
Underneath it all, we are the same.  We are human beings, learning, always learning, and always trying to be the best we can be.  And today, I am thankful for all the human beings I have met along the way, and appreciate that I can still learn and grow. 
David Shatzman’s photo

To see more of David’s work, visit his blog!

What I’m not Thankful For

 Woke up to rain this morning…blessed cool rain.  I had forgotten how much I love rainy mornings when I don’t have to be anywhere.  In a few hours, the madness of Thanksgiving week begins, but for now, I can relax with my coffee and my crossword puzzle while my dogs sleep on the floor next to me.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday…maybe my favorite.  It involves eating, family, time off from school and work, the weather is not freezing or sticky hot, and best of all, you don’t have to buy gifts!  We’re fortunate enough to spend the holiday with my parents and my husband’s parents, a tradition we started about 4 years ago.  We started our marriage with the compromise, Thanksgiving at his parent’s, and Christmas at mine.  That seemed fair, given that my mother lives for Christmas, and his mom, being Jewish, felt the same way about Thanksgiving.  It worked out great the first couple of years, even though my mom’s birthday always falls during Thanksgiving, so I had to miss that.

Then my daughter was born in September, 1993.  Our first Christmas with her was at my parent’s new home, and we had just finished opening presents with my brother and his family when we received our “Merry Christmas” phone call from my mother-in-law.  Her joyful holiday wishes soon morphed into a sobbing moment, when she said, “I can’t believe I’m missing it!”  So, from that moment on, they would travel to Nashville to celebrate with us.  It became a wonderful tradition…Christmas Eve Dinner with my parents, and my husband’s parents and their respective spouses, Christmas Eve Services at church (my favorite holiday tradition is having my jewish in-laws at church with me!), and Christmas morning at my moms.  It took us 16 years to convince my parents to come to Thanksgiving with us, but it’s been great.

Yes, I am thankful for family.  Having a loving family, in relatively good health at this point in my life, is something I never take for granted.

Other things I don’t take for granted…A daughter who is everything I wish I had been at her age…and more, and a husband who is my best friend, and who makes me feel like I’m the queen of the world.  I’m thankful for a lot of things.

But this morning it occurred to me that there are a lot of things I am NOT thankful for.

I’m not thankful that there are terrorists in our world who have given our government a reason to take such precautions for our safety that our country has been focused for days on the stupid body scan/pat down controversy.  You know what?  As soon as someone hides an explosive on their person that is not found by our security and blows up an airplane or God forbid, another high rise building, people will be re-thinking their opposition to all of this.  What part of “It’s for our SAFETY” do people not get?  Geez.  If they have some body part that every other human being doesn’t have, and they don’t want anyone to see it, then don’t &*(*& fly!

I’m not thankful that Belle Meade streets have been so torn up for the better part of a year that I can’t bike on any of the streets without fear of losing a tire.  For that matter, I’m not thankful that they haven’t paved the road in Percy Warner Park going from Belle Meade Blvd. to Deep Wells.  There is one turn there that is like a minefield!

I’m not thankful that Kate and Jon Gosselin are still celebrities, in some way, instead of in jail for bad parenting.

I’m not thankful that my daughter has so much homework over Thanksgiving break that we have to take another suitcase to hold her books…I weighed them…55 pounds!!

I’m not thankful that a woman in Pakistan has been jailed for a year and a half, awaiting execution for talking about her religion.

I’m not thankful that one of my dearest friends and her husband have been fighting cancer for the last few years.

I’m not thankful that Nashville doesn’t have more options for buying humanely produced meat.  And I’m not thankful that a handful of companies have taken over the production of the vast majority of our food, putting smaller companies out of business and producing inferior food that makes us sicker and fatter.

BUT, I am still more thankful than not.  Thankful that I live in America, thankful that I have my health and my family, and the ability to to just about whatever I decide to do…including putting my thoughts into words.   I’m thankful for the opportunities that my daughter will have as she graduates from High School in a year and a half.  I’m thankful that I can spend time in the mountains, a place where I feel peaceful and closer to God.  I’m thankful that my body hasn’t given out yet, and I can still run and bike and swim.

So, when I start to feel all negative and pissy about the things that make my blood boil, I just remember that the good outweights the bad. 

What are you thankful for?

Where does your family’s food come from?

The summer I was six years old, my mom had abdominal surgery.  I was shipped off to stay with my grandparents at their farm in McMinnville, TN.  I remember several things about that summer, like fishing in the brook, and when Grandma taught me how to make homemade rag dolls.  We cut the basic shape out of scrap material, turned it inside out and hand stitched almost all the way around, except for one of the feet.  Then we stuffed them with small scraps of material and used the strings from the recently shucked corn from her garden to make hair.  Sewed on buttons for eyes, yarn for mouth, and voila!  A toy!  It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I also remember  going to the garden and apple orchard to harvest whatever vegetables were ready…tomatoes, corn, green beans, apples, okra, strawberries and squash are the ones I remember.  I also remember that I only ate some of those vegetables at Grandma’s house.  For some reason,   they tasted so much better there than at home.

They had lots of animals…cows (to be milked), kittens (to catch mice), and chickens (for eggs).  At least, that’s what I thought the chickens were for.  I loved gathering the eggs, and feeding them.  I had names for them all…Chuckie, Suzy, Betsy…and would call them by name as we threw the chicken feed all around their feet.  WARNING:  The next few sentences are not for the squeamish. One morning, Papa asked me if I wanted fried chicken for dinner.  “Sure!” I replied.  Never in a million years did I think he was talking about my little friends.  To me, chicken that you ate was the white slimy stuff my mom bought at the grocery store.  While I was busy feeding them,  Papa walked over to Betsy, the biggest, fluffiest chicken of them all.  He grabbed her by the neck, whispered, “Thank you, my friend,”  and before I knew what was happening, had slung her around in a neat little jerk, and popped off her head!  Her body fell to the ground and her legs kept going, like she was trying to run away from what had happened.  I don’t remember much after that…mostly screaming and crying and not understanding at all.  I think he tried to explain the circle of life to me, but I wasn’t having any of it.  It was a long time before I ate chicken again.

But I did…I ate chicken, steak, pork, bacon, and my favorite…Rudy’s Farm Sausage!  As I got older and became more health-conscious,  I ate less and less of it.  It became a treat, not a normal thing.  But for my parents, and their siblings, and countless others who grew up on farms and when meat was considered a luxury, the last few years of mass-produced, affordable animal products, have resulted in diets that centered around the meat.  I love to cook, and when I cook for family and friends, I never thought I could serve them anything without meat.  It wasn’t a meal, otherwise!  I understood that animals like chickens couldn’t live in the wild for very long, that they had comfortable, loving homes on a farm where they had plentiful food and places to run around in the sunshine.

Then I saw the movie, “Food, Inc.”  Actually, I watched most of it with my hands over my face in horror.  It showed that a handful of corporations control our nation’s food supply. Though the companies try to maintain the myth that our food still comes from farms with red barns and white picket fences, our food is actually raised on massive “factory farms” and processed in mega industrial plants. The animals grow fatter faster and are designed to fit the machines that slaughter them. The majority of mass-produced chickens are raised in the dark, their breasts becoming so  large that they’re unable to walk. But that’s okay, because they’re not allowed to. The antibiotics they are fed to keep them breathing in such conditions end up right there in every bite of your sandwich.  Even “organic”, grass-fed cows are slaughtered at the same slaughtering facilities as the ones raised in dark barns, eating a diet of corn that fattens them up but becomes breeding grounds for E-coli.  Those slaughtering plants stun the cows, hang them upside down by one leg, and slice open an artery so they quickly bleed to death.  Although the numbers are improving, there is a percentage of cows who are not completely stunned, and are slaughtered while awake.   Tomatoes are bred to be shipped without bruising and to stay edible for months. The system is highly productive, and Americans are spending less on food than ever before.  In the process, the food doesn’t taste like food anymore.  The tomatoes I buy at the grocery store bear no more resemblance to the tomatoes I ate on Grandma’s farm than an orange and an apple.

“Food, Inc.” is not trying to push vegetarianism.  It is just raising awareness about where our food comes from.  That a small handful of corporations are controlling not only our meat supply, but the seeds use to grow our crops.  They are methodically pushing the small independent farmers who are capable of producing food in a humane way that will safely feed us out of business.  Meat plants are “washing” beef with ammonia and chlorine to guard against E-Coli, even though just five days of feeding a cow grass could safely eliminate the risk.  Americans expect their meat to be cheap and plentiful, so there no easy solution.

My family is no longer eating meat.   Not that we have an objection to animals being eaten, but because we don’t see an easy answer to how we get it to our table.  When I entertain a group of people who I know don’t consider it a meal unless meat is served, I try to seek out grass-fed, locally produced meat.  There is a growing group of “conscientious carnivores” and a growing number of  farmers who are raising animals for meat and dairy in a humane way and offering concerned consumers a choice about what they eat.  The choices in my area are small…basically it’s Whole Foods, or sometimes I find small farmers at the farmer’s market.  Here’s a great website to find humane sources of food in your area. 

The upside is that more and more people are thinking twice about what they eat, and where it comes from.  The downside is it’s more expensive.  But  I think this is a win/win alternative: Eat less. Who needs a 24 ounce steak?

12 Stepping for Facebook Games

I was just informed that I’ve been saying it wrong. “Two thousand and nine”. It was explained to me that in 1909, they called it “Oh nine”, not “Nineteen hundred and nine”. Whatever. All I know is, the years are flying by…In another year and some odd months I’ll be fifty freaking years old. I don’t know how that can be. I feel like I’m in junior high in so many ways. When I walk into H’s basketball games, as the mom of a new student, I don’t know where to sit. Do I just sit down wherever I feel like it? Do I try to find the other “cool” moms and sit with them? So far, I look for eye contact and a friendly face and gravitate that way. But we don’t have the years of shared history that I did with the moms at H’s old school, so after the pleasantries of, “So, how were your holidays?” or “How was the weekend?”, I usually pretend to be intensely focused on the game. I always thought that when I was a grown-up, I wouldn’t have to worry about this kind of thing. I feel like there’s a neon light over my head, blinking NEW MOM, NEW MOM, NEW MOM….

I’ve been thinking about “Oh Nine”. I usually avoid New Year’s resolutions, because they’re so predictable…Getting organized, losing weight, eating better, etc. I made the same resolution for about eight years in a row before I realized it just will never happen…I have boxes and boxes of old photos in the attic that I’ve been meaning to put in photo albums, but just never do. So I stopped making that resolution. Now I’m spending way too much time scanning them and posting them on facebook.

Speaking of spending way too much time on facebook…I have discovered Scramble and Pathwords-word games on facebook. Now, I’m wasting even more time. Although, in true justification mode, it’s improving my crossword puzzle abilities. But it’s a problem.

Ever since the holidays I have been dragging…really exhausted, more so than usual. It gets even worse at night, after dinner. I can barely hold my head up and have every intention of going to bed early. The only problem is, the computer is in my office, on the way to my bedroom. So I go in to plug in my phone, check email, and before you know it, three or four hours have passed and I’m still up! Last night, J came by around 10:30 and asked me what I was doing. I felt like an alcoholic, hiding my booze, when I explained why I hadn’t gone to bed three hours earlier.

So, this is my resolution. I don’t think I can completely cut it out. But I am going to “schedule” my time playing the games…Bridge Baron, Scramble, Pathwords, and whatever else I discover. No more than one hour a day. I knew I was in trouble last night when my girlfriend and I were chatting on facebook, and I went “offline” so that I could play without having to respond to her chat! So, I’m cutting that out. If I’m online, I’m online. No more hiding. I’m informing my husband, so that I have some level of accountability. If I am exhausted at bedtime, no more playing games. And if you’re my friend on facebook and you see that I’m online…feel free to ask me what I’m doing. I promise to stop playing and talk to you.

What kind of blog is this????

O.K., I just realized I haven’t written a post in quite a while.  In fact, I don’t know if I’ve really “written” a post in a VERY long while.   Sure, I’ve been busy, H’s been busy, holidays, school, volunteering, blah blah blah.  I still write.  But I don’t  put it on the blog.  Now that I’ve had this thing for a couple of years, I’ve decided I really need to decide what it is. 

I started it as an online diary, just a place to write down what was going on in my life.  I never wanted to make money doing it, or get a zillion readers, or any kind of recognition like that.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  J doesn’t want me to put anything out there that identifies us, whatsoever.  At first it was easy.  No names, no identifying photos, just a diary.  That was fine for awhile.  Then I wrote a post about my friend getting bit by a dog in Williamson County.  So one day, she does a search on Google about “dog bites in Williamson County”, and she found my blog.  Mentioned it to me.  Now I have to be careful not to write about her, or her daughter (one of my daughter’s best friends).  Then, last Thanksgiving, I was writing something while my parents were with me, and my Mom saw my blog.  She spent the rest of the weekend reading every post.  Great.  Now I have to be careful not to write anything that will hurt her feelings, or Dad’s.  And it kept happening.  Acquaintances would mention they saw my blog.   And now I wonder who else knows about it. 

Then last year, when I had my Mrs. Robinson crush on Jason Castro, from American Idol, I wrote a few posts about him and suddenly my traffic increased exponentially.   And even though I didn’t write this blog to make money, or get recognition, something inside me sparked a little when I saw my traffic go up.  I started checking my stats constantly.  Started writing posts that got more hits.  Recipes, celebrity sightings, etc. 

Now, it’s exhausting just trying to figure out what to write that won’t identify my family, or hurt anyone’s feelings.  I was just surfing around on some of my favorite blogs and noticed that I’ve been taken off a couple of blogrolls.  I understand why-this blog doesn’t really know what it is.  I definitely don’t have the energy to have more than one blog…recipes vs. fitness vs. parenting vs. politics, etc. 

If I have any readers left who blog, can you tell me how you get around the whole “writing about your life” without offending your friends and family?

I’m going to keep writing, some things will be safe to publish, others for my eyes only, but I’m really trying to figure out what I want this blog to be.    

Blogging 201…I need advanced lessons!

Now that I’ve been doing this blogging thing kind of regularly for a few months, I realize how much I don’t know about blogging. Every time I figure one thing out, it changes.

Like blog subscriptions. It took me hours to figure out how to get an RSS feed, and let people subscribe to my blog. I think I have like two people who subscribe to my blog. I’m burning up the blogosphere, I tell ya! Seems some people think that’s too old school. There are a few aggregators that are making it easier to scan the top headlines from a whole lot of blogs. I found out about one of them from Soapbox Mom, called Alltop…from the blog expert, Guy Kowasaki. There are nine categories, work, living, cultures, geekery, etc., and the top stories from the top blogs. (Mine’s not there…yet) I also like Nashville is Talking, produced and hosted by WKRN-TV in Nashville, and it covers blogs and what people are talking about in and around Middle Tennessee.

Oh, and the name of my blog. I don’t think I’m any busier than any other mom out there, and I would have loved to have a really great, catchy name, but now that I’ve registered it on more sites than I even know about, I have NO IDEA how to change it. Plus, there’s another “Busy Mom” who has a blog that’s about a million times better and well written than mine, and she’s had the name a lot longer than me. So, with great apologies to the original Busy Mom, if anyone has any suggestions on how to change the name of my blog and not lose the two regular readers (or a few more on a good day), I’d love to have it.

And another thing…how do you make the comments automatically show up under each post? I’m guessing I would have to really learn html language or something and use something other than blogger to get that, but I like going to other blogs and reading their comments without having to open another window.

Other things I’ve learned that probably don’t need a solution, or a solution doesn’t really exist, is that blogging has added to my procrastination problem. I need to study my bridge lesson, or fold clothes, or get some sleep, or go for a run, but I have to look at a few blogs and before I know it I’ve spent hours at the computer. Biking season has started which will put a dent in my blogging frequency, I’m guessing, because it takes a lot longer to bike than it does to run. That is, assuming I manage to bike before I sit down at the computer. Come to think of it, writing the blog has exacerbated my ‘busy mom-ness’, so maybe it’s a good name after all!

O.K. I sat down here 64 minutes ago on my way to study for bridge tomorrow. I really need to go do that. Just want to check out one more thing before I go….

Nosy Neighbors

O.K. Tell me if I’m making a big deal out of nothing.

We live in a really great, old neighborhood a few miles from downtown Nashville. The yards are big, and most of the houses are old ranch homes (they started out that way, at least). J and I have lived in this neighborhood since we were married (17 years ago this past Sunday!). This is our third house. The first was a tiny little ranch house on almost 2 acres. The next we lived in for 13 years, all of H’s life. Renovated it a few times until we couldn’t change anything else. Then we were ready for a new house, but couldn’t find one we liked. So we found an empty lot about a mile from the old house. A contractor had actually MOVED the old house (as opposed to the tear-downs that take place around here all the time), and was going to build a spec home on the lot, so we just bought it from him. Serendipitous timing.

Almost three years later we moved in to our dream house, although it probably belongs on about 5 acres in Colorado or somewhere. Somehow we built a contemporary “mountain” home on a flat 1 1/2 acres in Nashville. We love it, but I admit, it is a little bit different from most of the neighborhood.

We moved in almost a year ago. We’ve gotten used to cars slowing down in front of our house to take a look, and to people we barely know who want to come over and take a look. All well and good.

But what is it with those people who drive into our driveway, get out, walk up to the front door and start taking pictures? Or who park in the grass in the front yard and walk across the yard, up the sidewalk to the front porch and stand there with their friends, pointing and chatting like we invited them?

This morning J came in and asked me if I was expecting someone. I said, “No.” He said, “Well, it looks like someone is visiting.” I went to the front door and there they were, just standing there, looking around. I opened the door and asked them if I could help them.

“No, thanks, we’re just looking.”

Just looking! Like it’s a department store!

“She’s building a house and we wanted to look at the details of your home.”

I felt like they were waiting for me to invite them in.

What is it with people?

Tagged…ten questions

1. I love to eat: Yes, I do!

2. I hate to eat: REFUSE to eat: mushrooms and cheese (separately or together..blech!)

3. I love to go: to Lake Toxaway, skiing in Colorado, shopping in San Francisco

4. I hate to go: to Whole Foods on Sunday afternoons

5. I love it when: Our family is together, with no homework or other obligations, preferably in North Carolina, but anywhere we’re together is good.

6. I hate it when: I see my daughter cry.

7. I love to see: my daughter play basketball

8. I hate to see: politicians making empty promises

9. I love to hear: the sound of rain on my windows when we’re all inside, warm, and safe.

10. I hate to hear: people on cell phones talking loudly in places they shouldn’t be doing so…like on my run in the park this morning.

Now it’s your turn!