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For those of you who read (I don’t think there are many of you), I’m still here, I’m still alive, and I’m still not ready to talk about what’s going on in my life.  Still in transition.  Although I can bring myself to type out some things that have been going on with me lately.

The first draft of the 25-page paper is done.  I finished it last night, after spending six hours writing on Monday and about an hour doing the conclusion yesterday.  I hate wrapping up papers, I always feel like I’m not as eloquent as I want to be.  But.  It’s done.  And it’s sitting on my computer for a few days before I can sufficiently pick myself up off the floor to edit it, slap the bibliography and title page on it, and send it to be printed.  Yeehaw.

My friend Tina’s bachelorette party was this past weekend.  We went to Foxwoods Casino, had dinner at Shrine, and got pampered at G-Spa the next day.  It was a really good time (I wish I could get a full-body salt scrub and massage every week of my life, truly).  My friend Drea got a picture of me all made-up and fancy (wearing a borrowed dress — thanks, Tina!).

 

And then Drea made me laugh…which resulted in this picture.  Which I think I like better, honestly.  It’s less fake.

I am not a glamorous person.

I am on my second-to-last required reading for the semester, which means that school is only two weeks and one finals week away from being done.  Scary.  I’m nervous as all hell about my grades and especially about these papers, but I’ve worked really hard, especially in light of recent events that have made studying and writing very difficult, and I at least know that I did my best.

My husband quit his old job yesterday.  David had been working 76 hours a week (on average) and yesterday decided that the burnout was just too much and he was going to quit his part-time job.  I’m glad.  He was really only keeping it for the insurance, and he can get emergency-only medical insurance through his other job.  I know that he was happy about the extra money, but money isn’t everything, and I’m glad that he finally took a step back and re-evaluated the situation.  I’m hoping this heralds good changes.

Here is a seal photobombing some penguins.  It’s been making me smile lately.

I haven’t posted in almost two weeks, and there’s really only one explanation for that — something I’m really not ready to talk about, on a personal level.

Suffice to say that right now, my life is in transition.  Big changes are coming.  They are probably going to be changes for the better, but right now I’m a little raw and it’s difficult to see the silver lining.  In truth, I will be okay, I realize this.  Whatever the storm that comes, I will be okay in the end. 

Life may not be what I anticipated, hoped, or expected, but it is still a life, and it is still mine, and it is still precious.  Must remember that.

 

I find, in times like these, when life is in transition, the best thing to do is go back to basics, do what makes you feel happiest, the simple things.  I am knitting a sock on US 2 DPNs, of Noro Silk Garden Sock Yarn (my favorite) — a simple, basic pattern that requires little thought.

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The book is my last required reading for my History of Sex and Gender class — War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America by Beth Linker.  It’s strange to think that I’m reaching the end of the semester.  My 25 page paper has 10 pages complete, 15 to go (too bad those two pages of endnotes — with many more to come — don’t count towards my page count).  I haven’t started the 15 page paper yet, but the research is almost complete.

There’s a lot of rawness in my life right now, a lot of pain.  But it will get better.  It will.

Hello everyone!

That was certainly a blog outage.  Unfortunately, this is Holy Week, my busiest week at work for my day job (working at a church), and I’ve been running off my feet all week.  Fortunately, it’s almost over!  This is my Friday, and tomorrow I’ll be in Massachusetts for Friday and Saturday.

Since I will be trying to take advantage of the days off to read, research, and visit family members, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have time for a blog update.  But have no fear!  This week we’re going to do Book Reviews You Won’t Care About a day early!

(I know you’re all so happy you won’t be missing it)

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In BRYWCA, I will review the latest history-based book I’ve had to read for class (or chose to read, because I’m me and I love that sort of thing.  BRYWCA books will always be nonfiction, and will always be historically factual (or theoretical).

This week was a particularly good one for assigned literature in class.  Both books were short, snappy, and very interesting.

ImageIn Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City, author Greg Grandin writes about the automobile magnate and capitalist giant Henry Ford’s attempt to create a mini-American city and rubber plantation in the Amazon jungle in the early 20th century.  Believing that “what worked in the United States would work everywhere”, and having pioneered and perfected the assembly line model, Ford bought a tract of land in Brazil the size of the state of Delaware, and built a rubber plantation.  After building tiny streets of clapboard American cottages, and after hiring workers at the then-incredibly high sum of $5 a day, Ford’s dream of a tiny Americana seemed ready to take off.  But sociological differences between American and Brazilian culture, coupled by a biological ignorance of the growth of the rubber tree, lead Ford’s bustling little Fordlandia into economic ruin and failure.

Fordlandia is a really good book for both lovers of history and the public market.  It is a tale that those who study or are interested in imperialism will know well: a wealthy idealist chooses to buy or invade a country that he knows little to nothing about, tries to convince the natives that his way is the best way, ignores customs and biological differences, and his little empire collapses around him.  The difference between Ford and other leaders (like King Leopold we spoke of last week) is the lack of brutality mixed with his blind ethnocentrism.  While I shed no tears for the death of Leopold in King Leopold’s Ghost, I felt sad for Ford as his empire collapsed around him, and as Grandin described his last years as his plans deteriorated and he became largely conservative and technophobic, almost in a Howard Hughes’ manner.  As my teacher put it, this is the story of a “kinder, gentler imperialism.”

Condom Nation: The U.S. Government’s Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet, by ImageAlexandra Lord, is a short, brief, but thorough look into the history of American sexual education in the 20th century.  Beginning with the outbreaks of syphilis and gonorrhea among American soldiers during World War I and continuing into the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the culture wars of the 1980s, and the continued fights between conservatives and liberals during the 2008 presidential campaign, Lord gives considerable insight into the eternal arguments “Should sex education be only taught at home?  Does abstinence-only sex education work?  Should the government ‘interfere’ in our sex education?  Does it help more than it hurts?”

I really liked this book.  Like Fordlandia, it’s written for a more public, rather than scholarly, audience, and it was a quick and easy read.  It was interesting to see the pictures of the pamphlets, advertisements, and posters used to alert the public to the availability and advisability of contraceptives and avoiding venereal diseases.  Having grown up in the post-culture wars era, during the rise of the AIDS crises, I was really only familiar with the latter part of this book, and it was very informative as well as interesting.

Fordlandia: ***

Condom Nation: ****

It’s time for everyone’s least-favorite blog topic!  The not-so-triumphant return of Book Reviews You Won’t Care About!

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In BRYWCA, I will review the latest history-based book I’ve had to read for class (or chose to read, because I’m me and I love that sort of thing.  BRYWCA books will always be nonfiction, and will always be historically factual (or theoretical).  This week, we have two books (and have I been reading.  Sheesh.)

ImageKing Leopold’s Ghost; A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild, is a sad and compelling tale of a Belgian king whose dreams of owning an empire lead to tragedy and genocide.  In the 1880’s, King Leopold II of Belgium decided that he wanted a colony of his own, and snatched the opportunity in the Congo.  From his throne in Europe he commanded forces to enter the Congo, commandeer it, and maim, torture, and kill the inhabitants, while compelling them to harvest ivory and rubber to line Leopold’s own pockets.  The eccentric and ruthless king ruled his “empire” with an iron fist, while cagily manipulating the mass media, still in its infancy, until his death.

This book is, and there’s no better way to put it, depressing, but thrilling.  The stories are incredibly sad, especially because, as the author admits, many of the victims of the Belgian genocide in the Congo are nameless and faceless.  The photo section in the middle of the book is horrifying — children whose hands have been hacked off, a father crying over the hand and foot of his baby daughter, a man being beaten (most likely to death) by a chicotte whip — none of them are easy to look at.  The only part of this book that restores the reader’s faith in humanity, is the latter half, where Hoshschild writes about the media moguls who attempted to raise awareness about Leopold’s atrocities in the Congo.  Still, it’s a terribly sad, if wonderfully written, book.

Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, by Ellen Chesler, was one Imageof the books I was looking most forward to reading this semester.  This 500-page biography is more about the life of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, than it is about the birth control movement in the United States.  Yet the two are forever entwined; Chesler shows that from an early age Margaret was pushed towards the mass market and social acceptance of birth control in the United States and even across the world.

I liked this book, even though it was super-long and took me FOREVER to finish, mainly because Chesler really does attempt to paint a fair and balanced portrait of Margaret Sanger, a woman who is usually either revered or maligned.  Although she does tout Margaret’s successes and strides in the birth control movement, she also does not sugarcoat Margaret’s “collateral damage” — her failed marriages, partial estrangement from her children, and the areas where she fell short.  Chesler claims in her afterward that she was trying to give Margaret “the biography she deserves”, and I do feel she hit the mark right on the head.

King Leopold’s Ghost: ***

Woman of Valor: ****

ImageAnnotated bibliography: done.  

Ten pages, word count unknown.  Seventeen sources cited, cut down from the original twenty-five.  I am proud of it.  It was a labor of love.  Well, apreliminary labor of love…the paper will really be the finished project (and clock it at fifteen pages longer).

Let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s enough for the History department.

(BTW, if you think I’m overselling this, it’s my first real graded paper since 2008.  So it has been awhile.)

Back in February, I wrote an entry about how I was cutting sugar out of my diet — both for Lent, and also for health reasons.  Aside from the fact that, post-wedding, I developed quite a stomach pudge (ugh), I spent a few weeks reading up all the ways that sugar is pretty much poison, or if it isn’t quite poison, it certainly isn’t doing you any favors.  So I decided to cut it entirely out of my diet.

I started small.  On February 22nd, I switched from white sugar to raw sugar.  (I know, I know — careful not to trip over that HUGE leap there, NH).  After two days of obscene migraines, I finally managed to go a whole day without feeling like I wanted to shoot myself or anyone who had the misfortune to wander into my office. 

It’s been about a month, and while I didn’t feel the need for sugar, I desperately felt the desire for it.  I had a Dunkin Donuts coffee on Sunday with cream and sugar (Sundays don’t count in Lent), and OMG, I had forgotten how delicious it was.  And what a freakin’ crash I got after having it.  Sunday was also the day of my friend’s bridal shower, so it was not the smartest day to cheat on my “no sugar” diet.  Back to the grindstone I went on Monday.  And then things took a turn for the more interesting.

My boss is obsessed with losing weight, and discovered Skinny Muffins on Dr. Oz’s website.  He cooked one up the other day and let me try it.  The recipe is simple — you mix all the ingredients in a mug, cook it on high in the microwave for 50 seconds, and then eat.  I hit up the grocery store yesterday in search of the ingredients that I didn’t have — ground flax, coconut oil, and Stevia.

Well, I seriously balked at the coconut oil ($8 a jar!), but relented when I remembered that people on a message board I frequent had been talking about its uses for skin and hair as well as consumption.  But Stevia was expensive, and came in a tiny little jar.  As I roamed the shelves looking for a substitute, I noticed blue agave nectar, and remembered that one of my friends had recommended it to me when I first gave up sugar.  I had made a mental note at the time to try it, but it had completely slipped my history-fried mind until yesterday.  It was also half the cost of Stevia, for about triple the amount.  So I threw it in the basket, went home, and made myself an altered Skinny Muffin.

Neophyte Historian-Altered Skinny Muffins
1/4 cup ground flax
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tsp. agave nectar
1 egg
1 handful Craisins (or raisins, blueberries, any fruit)

Mix together in a mug, microwave for 60 seconds (I like mine slightly firmer).  You could probably eat it right out of the mug but I prefer to flip mine out onto a plate and let it air cool for a few minutes before eating.  It’s definitely filling, and is touted as an energy-booster.  I definitely felt the energy yesterday afternoon!  This is pretty delicious.  It looks like crap  but has the consistency of a slightly-denser muffin.

My feelings on agave?  So far, I LOVE it!  It’s sweeter than sugar, so you can get away with using a lot less of it.  I’m going to have to experiment with it in cookies and baking and whatnot, but for use in coffee and tea, I don’t plan on going back to sugar ever again.

* Weirdly enough, I’m excited for school this week!  Mainly because we’re getting down to the wire and there are only six more weeks of school!  I’m behind on my Thursday reading, and I just discovered last night that I’m missing two books of required reading (one for each class), so a trip to the school bookstore is in order, but…that’s okay.  We’re getting there!

* David and I bought a NEW CAR (well, new to us) on Saturday.

ImageTechnically, it belongs to both of us (both names on the insurance, etc.) but it’s going to be primarily David’s car, since he drives so much more than I do, and my old car has over 165K miles on it.  But it’s beautiful, it’s new to us, it’s a 2007 Camry and I love it.  We love it.  Life is going to get a lot easier to manage from now on, no more juggling two schedules and one car!

* I went to my friend Tina’s shower yesterday.  It was good times, and I’m getting really excited for her bachelorette party at Foxwoods Casino next month.

* Came home last night to find out that David got us tickets to Wildfire Retreat in May!  Wildfire is a fire-spinning convention/camping trip that takes place in May, August, and September of every year in Connecticut.  We went to August 2011 Wildfire, and it was amazing, definitely the best part of the summer.  We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get tickets to the May Wildfire (they sold out in a record-breaking 8 minutes online yesterday), but David managed it while I was at the shower.  May is going to be an incredibly busy month, but hey, they’re all fun things!  I am so excited.  We have to get a tent (we  borrowed one last year but it’s really time we get one of our own), and David needs a new water bottle (his shattered last year — don’t ask), but other than that we’re raring to go!  I can’t wait.

* Dave is working 78 hours this week between both jobs.  I’m going to have a lot of time to finish that annotated bibliography.  I’m thinking tomorrow is going to be the night that gets done.

* I’m making crock pot pulled pork for dinner tonight (best meal ever).  I’m trying something new — instead of just piling the pork with BBQ sauce I added a little Woodchuck ale to it.  I’m hoping it comes out all right.  David improvised gravy with Sam Adams last week for St. Patrick’s Day and (supposedly) the shepherd’s pie he made came out magnificently (I don’t eat shepherd’s pie — no ground beef — so I wouldn’t know).

Monday’s shaping up to be pretty damn good.🙂

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