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Archive for January, 2009


Please buy, Madame, child vendor selling clay whistles in Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




My oldest daughter, Dee, made 48 brownies this morning for a bake sale today. She and two other seventh-graders are doing a “pay it forward” class assignment, whereby they identify a worthy need and then do good works to support the cause.

Dee and her classmates decided to raise money for a global non-profit called Invisible Children. The group was created in the spring of 2003 when…

…three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started out as a filmmaking adventure transformed into much more when these boys from Southern California discovered a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them, a tragedy where children are both the weapons and the victims.

After returning to the States, they created the documentary “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a film that exposes the tragic realities of northern Uganda’s night commuters and child soldiers. The film was originally shown to friends and family, but has now been seen by millions of people.

The overwhelming response has been, “How can I help?” To answer this question, the non-profit Invisible Children, Inc. was created, giving compassionate individuals an effective way to respond to the situation.


Invisible Children has a singular mission: To use the power of stories to change lives around the world. There are many organizations that help children, some decades old, and I can only imagine it was tough for Dee and her two friends to choose a recipient for their project. Ths group appealed to them because of the medium (film), the young vibe to the organization, and its focus on schools and books for kids (many of whom been forced to grow up and participate in a tragic war) in Uganda.







There is so much poverty in this world. I have seen children in Delhi and Agra, India, little blind beggars and dirty-faced kids performing acrobatics down crowded walkways of trains—scenes and situations brought to light in the movie Slumdog Millionaire. Vietnam, South Africa, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and communities in my very own New Mexico—these are some of the places where I’ve seen children living without the most basic of needs met.

It’s easy—perhaps even at times a necessary coping mechanism—to become inured to the realities of the world, especially when we don’t see with our own eyes the suffering and pain. But it’s all around us.

Dee and her classmates also chose as recipient for their works a no-kill animal shelter whose primary focus is to rescue dogs and cats on “death row” (those about to be euthanized by animal control centers in the state). One of the girls working with Dee on this project volunteers at this shelter, which is supported entirely by donations from the community and adoption fees.

These are tough realities for these girls to be aware of, yet they’re learning that through their efforts, no matter how small or big, they can make a difference.


It begins with doing a favor for another person– without any expectation of being paid back.


This is their second bake sale this month. Their goal is to raise $150 per organization. Their first bake sale they earned $80, and within just minutes of setting up for their sale today, they’re earned about $15. They’ll probably have one or two more sales before the project is due. I hope they surpass their goal.






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Green JacketIn the current decade?

I did. Many times.

I wore it to dozens of work meetings. It’s not even vintage yet I thought it was stylish.

I used to wear a bright pink long-sleeved t-shirt underneath it. To pick up the threads of pink running throughout the fabric. Or a bright cyan one.

How subtle.

I tried it on today for the the first time since about the fall of 2004, when I wore the jacket almost every week. I thought it might go well with a yellow t-shirt I had on.

Guess where it looked like I was heading?

To a used car lot. And/or the circus. And/or a late 70s, early 80s retro party. And/or to O’Neil’s Pub to begin my shift as Lady Leprechaun.



close-up of green jacket fabric 

close-up of green jacket fabric




I don’t know why I held on to this for almost five years. I’m usually so good about pruning out old, out-of-style clothes.

Maybe I thought I might need it one St. Patrick’s Day. Or that the guy who once asked me where I got it so he could tell his wife to go get one, too? I must have thought he was sincere. (I’m so easily duped; he worked for me at the time.)


So, this is my good-bye to the green jacket. It’s added a spot of color to the blacks, browns, and grays in my closet.

The time has come for me and my inner high school sophomore to part ways. I’ll try not to be ashamed that it took so long for me to let you go.



Me in the green jacket one last time



POSTSCRIPT: Maybe I should have taken a straw poll before I decided that the jacket was hideous. Is it as bad as it seems to me?




-Related to post Death Of A Short Green Sweater.

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It’s kind of cool when someone you know gets recognized for a job well done, and someone we know has done something pretty darned impressive: stevo from Asian Ramblings has become a finalist in the 2009 Bloggies!

The Bloggies are to bloggers what Addys are to advertising folk and the Emmys are to TV-biz folk. More formally known as the Weblog Awards, they’ve been around for nine years, and the winner is chosen not by an academy of blogger hoity-toities but by you and me.

So check out stevo’s beautiful photo-blog. He is an expat teacher in China, married to a Chinese woman (mrs. stevo) and he documents everyday life with unusual and often striking photographs. In this way he gives his readers a sense of what it’s like to be one among literally millions in that dynamic and fascinating country.

Then, if you’re so inclined, vote for Asian Ramblings. It would be awesome to see a truly unpretentious guy win this prestigious award.

The other reason to do it is so you can vote for blogs in the other award categories, such as “Best Kept Secret.” (I’ll tell you which one I picked if you tell me which one you picked.) There are well-written, well-designed blogs that I never knew about before today.

So if you’re at all interested in what’s considered the best in this bizarre medium of “weblogs,” check out the finalists. You won’t be disappointed. But voting closes Mon, February 2, at 10p Eastern, so don’t delay.


Oh, and just a quick logistical note on finding the categories to vote for:

  1. Click on the Bloggie 2009 link
  2. On my browser, I had to move my bottom panel slider-arrow-thingmabob over to the left to find the voting panel.
  3. You’ll see “best asian weblog” as one of the early categories. It looks like this:


stevo




Congratulations stevo!!



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Chaco Bell, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Chaco Bell, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December
2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All
rights reserved.



It’s still the dead of Winter in Minnesota, and we’ve got the temperatures to prove it. How do you know it’s January in Minnesota?


  • it’s -8 when you get up in the morning (that’s on a good day, without wind chills)
  • running water (if you’ve got water at all) sputters and spits through sluggish, half-frozen pipes
  • water turned off from 10:30pm Friday to Noon the following Saturday, after you are greeted post-work by a broken water main that creates an ice skating rink on the street in front of your house. All we needed was Kristi Yamaguchi (did you know she was one of the first to be photographed by Annie Liebovitz for the ‘Milk Mustache’ campaign?).
  • the annual Art Shanty Projects kicks off on Medicine Lake
  • the U.S. Pond Hockey Association holds its annual tournament on frigid Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis (See the winners of  the nearly 1,600 pond hockey fanatics that participated in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships of 2009)
  • close to 9,000 anglers gather on Gull Lake’s Hole in the Day Bay north of Brainerd for the World’s largest ice contest — the Brainerd Jaycees $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza (from an aerial view, you could swear those were gopher holes!)


Meantime, life inside home and hearth goes on. The week before Winter Solstice, our middle-aged cat Chaco (named after the canyon in New Mexico, elevation: 6200 feet) became seriously ill; we got him into the vet on December 18th. By the weekend, he needed to go to emergency care for IV fluids, medication, and monitoring, then back to our clinic on Monday. So began the last 6 weeks of caring for a chronically ill cat.

On our last visit to Dr. Heidi, she checked his blood again, and after treating a massive infection with three prescriptions of antibiotics, it seems his numbers are up on the kidneys, yet his anemia remains below the norm. He tires easily, but is eating, drinking, sometimes playing. He’s gained 1.2 lbs. of the 2 lbs. he lost. But there’s that nagging anemia.

The problem with anemia in cats is that it’s hard to diagnose the origin; it can be anything, including chronic kidney disease. We’ve elected home treatment for another month to see if we can get his anemia under control. This means continuing antibiotics, vitamin paste, subcutaneous fluids every 2 or 3 days, prescription foods tailored for kidneys (rich in lean meat, low in fats and additives), and monitoring his habits and schedule.



Chaco -- Room To Heal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Chaco — “Room To Heal”, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, December 2008, photo ©
2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights
reserved.



Those of you who have cared for ill animals know the drill. It’s good to call on friends who’ve been through a “cat crisis” when you need to make hard financial and emotional decisions involving care for ill pets. It’s truly a miracle that Chaco is alive. Right before Christmas, our vet told us the staff was begging her to put him down. But she saw a few signs of hope in his numbers; otherwise, I would be doing a very different kind of post.

The bottom line with seriously ill pets, is that it’s a very personal decision you must make about how much money to spend (prepare to dip into your savings), what kind of long-term care you are willing to sustain, and if the animal’s quality of life can be maintained without pain and hardship on either side. Tough choices.

Liz and I take it a day at a time. And are happy for the time we have left with Chaco, whatever that may be. On March 22nd, he’ll be 13 years old. With Liz caring for him most of his life, he’s lived like a prince!

We’ve learned quite a bit about cat care over the last month. Perhaps others can benefit from what we’ve been through.


 

Creature Comforts – 10 Cat Care Tips


Below is a short list of Creature Comforts that have made our lives easier over the last 6 weeks of caring for a chronically ill cat. Some can be found around the house. Others take a little cash up front, but we found it helpful to stock up on items that make long-term medical care more bearable for both cats and humans.

We created a home base (see photo above) tucked away in the bedroom where we could monitor Chaco, and followed his movements closely during the first few weeks. Creating a space where he felt safe was important. We also set aside a centralized place in the kitchen for his food, meds, syringes, vitamins, and a high place to hang the Sub-Q bag. Below are other ideas and product brands, but experiment and find what works best for you.



Products and items we’ve found to be helpful during the critical first week:


  1. Complete For Cats, A Fresh Approach To Home, disposable litter box — portable, made with 100% biodegradable, recycled paper with a unique, patented material that will not leak, tear, or shred.
  2. ExquisiCat Scoop, hard clumping, easy scooping litter —  or Scoop Away Odor Control litter. Make clean-up as easy as you can; you’re going to be tired!
  3. Simply Out! 30 floor protection pads — extra thick, ultra absorbent, fragrance free, leak-proof. Treated to attract pets, controls odors, no leaks, guaranteed (pet training pads but work great when pets are sick).
  4. Old towels and rags, plastic tarp as a base — and sanitary wipes like Scott MoistWipes. You may go through a lot of these.
  5. Heating pad, water bottle, reflective heater — to keep everything warmed up and cozy!


Products and items we’ve found to be helpful over the long haul:


  1. Sub-Q fluids and fresh needles on hand, along with web links to videos on giving subcutaneous fluids — Videos can help augment the vet training you receive before bringing your pet home. We found that watching a few different videos gave us a better-rounded picture of the process, and details of ways to handle problems that cropped up along the way. (If you are needle phobic, Sub-Q is NOT for you. You may have to pay your vet to administer fluids.)
  2. Stash of prescription foods (wet & dry), medications, and droppers for water and meds — cats like food, meds, and Sub-Q fluids better at room temperature. Experiment with different prescription foods until you find a few your cat likes. Two of our cats will drink from a dropper (good to know when they don’t feel well enough to drink on their own).
  3. SmartyKat Kitty Canyon Pet Bed — all of our cats love this. It’s plush, deep, and flips inside-out for a quick style change! It’s also Eco-friendly, made of EcoRest fibers, using 8 recycled 1-liter soda bottles. In the beginning, when Chaco was having trouble walking, carrying him this way gave us more mobility.
  4. Collar with bell to track movements in the night — Liz had one of Chaco’s old collars around and we strapped it on so we could track where he was during the night.
  5. Keep a handwritten log of your cat’s progress, from beginning to end — you can’t keep all this in your head! We made up a grid with categories for Meds, Food, Sub-Q, Bathroom Habits. You’ll also want to keep your veterinary and emergency clinics’ numbers handy at home, in your cell phone, and in your wallet. We have made a lot of phone calls!


I know there are many who have done long-term care for aging or sick pets. If you’ve got any other cat or pet care tips, we’d love to hear them. Please feel free to add them to this post. And remember, cat care is stressful, so take advantage of all the winter sports the Great White North has to offer and get some exercise!



Miracle Cat, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Miracle Cat, Minneapolis, Minnesota,
December 2008, photo © 2008-2009 by
QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



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-posted on red Ravine, Monday, January 26th, 2009

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What I know about Velveeta cheese is the color. More pale orange than most cheeses. The texture. A gelatinous blob, jiggles when you shake it. The taste, well, not so much uncooked as cooked.

One would be hard-pressed to get a slice of Velveeta, taken off the block, to melt in the mouth. It’d take a glass of milk, I bet, to wash it down, adhered as it would be to the roof of the mouth, like those tart molds I remember the dentist once made of my teeth. Or the body of Christ, embodied in a white round host, wedged at the top, the choking, almost suffocating from manipulating the tongue to dislodge it while the priest walked through the slow process of drinking the last of the blood of Christ and then wiping out the chalice with a green cloth that seemed too nice to treat as a washrag.

And I suppose it’s fitting that Velveeta would lead me to memories of teeth molds and Communion hosts. They were all wrapped up together in my mind, the days of Hogan’s Heroes and grilled cheese sandwiches with Shasta cola after school. Friday nights at the bowling alley with Mom and Dad, me tucked under a pinball machine watching tan cordury bell bottoms of teenage boys. Sundays spent sitting with bony knees in a pew wishing I didn’t have to eat a round wafer that tasted like paper but softer.

Things that melt in the mouth, or don’t, and why is it that Velveeta melts so well in a pan over heat? The mouth, isn’t it a constant 90+ degree oven?, but I guess the temperature just isn’t high enough to activate the wheys and milkfats to dance that swirling dance from solid to liquid. And what about biting into Velveeta? Already I can feel the film on my teeth, like washing globs of Elmer’s glue from one’s fingers.

I don’t have qualms about eating Velveeta in sauces, dips, or casseroles. It was one of the foods of my youth, as familiar to me as potato chips or mayonnaise. Although I grew up with a natural bent for natural everything. Made my own granola out of raw oats and sesame seeds, honey and California sun-kissed raisins, when I was still a teen. Gravitated to halibut when given a choice for any selection on the long main-entree counter at Furr’s Cafeteria. Hated red meats for the veins and shunned eggs and chicken because Mom had enough of slaughtered birds and fertilized eggs when she was young, and when she was older she passed on her food aversions to us.

But I still ate processed food, still ate whatever I could find in the fridge after school, even when it was a box of aging Velveeta, the open end hardened and discolored, cracked and in need of amputation. Grilled cheese sandwiches were one of the few things I could make by myself, and I picked up Janet’s preference for cutting them diagonally and then dipping the end in a puddle of ketchup before biting off a piece.

I still love grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in ketchup, although I’m not a regular consumer of Velveeta nowadays. I like a sharp cheddar cheese and just this afternoon I made a green chile relleno casserole that I suppose could have been done with Velveeta, although I mixed yellow and white sharp cheddar. The cheeses melted a sort of deep amber, and being as how I’ve burned Velveeta in the crock pot, I know that even cheese that melts well over heat can turn brown if you let it get too hot.




-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — VELVEETA CHEESE

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Velveeta drizzled over broccoli, slathered over corn tortilla chips, melted inside a loaf of homemade bread with pimentos and mayo and peppers, an open-loaf dip. I don’t remember specific Velveeta recipes as a kid. But I remember liking Velveeta on open-faced toast. Comfort food. Like buttery mashed potatoes, real vanilla milk shakes, homemade pizzas, macaroni and cheese, baked beans. These are comfort foods. High calorie, low cost, always warm to the touch.

It’s the smearability of Velveeta that makes it a hit. The easy way you can take the blade of a stainless steel knife and spread the cheese over a slice of whole wheat without ripping or shredding the bread into little pieces that leave holes that drip down on to your lap or chin. Are you one of those people who prefers using a napkin bib? I know adults who do this at home, not in public. They are prone to drips and spatters; sometimes large-breasted women seem to catch food on their shelves. Privately we laugh about it. Publicly, that kind of clumsiness can lead to embarrassment.

I’ve been thinking about Nikki Giovanni, the way she is so comfortable in her own skin. She’s been to the school of hard knocks, does not care what others think of what she writes, or shares from the heart. Not overt scare tactics or stun-gun sentences that some writers use to wake their readers up. Instead, the honest rhetoric that shoots from the heart. That kind of honesty can shock people, leave them not knowing what to say. Or thinking, should she really have said that on public radio? It doesn’t matter. She is willing to bear the consequences of her honesty.

There’s a certain comfort level one needs to get to in order not to care what people think or how they will judge. There is a confidence in their writing, with their presence in the smaller pecking order of their personal families, and the larger pecking order, sometimes ruthless, that comprises the rest of the world. Is it okay to say you love Velveeta?

Childhood foods, guilty pleasures. Why have foods like that become the blunt of people’s jokes. Especially those who pride themselves on eating “healthy” or only “whole foods,” food snobs. People get to make choices about how they eat, just as they do about what they say or write. To judge others based on what they eat, I don’t think so. Keep the focus on my own bare cupboards.

I like Velveeta and cinnamon toast and Kool-Aid. I don’t really care who knows it. I made cinnamon toast just last week. It’s another comfort food. When I was a child there was a container filled with cinnamon, swirled in sugar, wound and stirred into a brown concoction ready to be shaken into the mouth of a melted butter gob on top of white Wonder bread. These days, I eat whole wheat because I like the taste better.

I become the most food conscious when I am trying to lose weight. It’s true, processed foods are high calorie, not good for the heart. And the fried foods that I love can be deadly. But you can eat anything if you watch the calories. Again, who am I to judge others? There is a woman at work that most know to be the town gossip. Anything you tell her will make the rounds. It’s common knowledge, something everyone accepts about her. I watch what I say. Yet I like her. She’s abrasive, direct, honest, loves Velveeta cheese and smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.

And whenever people want to know what’s going on in another part of the company, they always go to her to ferret out what she has heard. If you solicit information from the town gossip when it’s convenient for you, no need to judge her for the rest. All this, from a box of Velveeta cheese.



-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — VELVEETA CHEESE

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Ha Noi Opera House (one), detail of a portal at the Ha Noi Opera House in downtown Ha Noi, Vietnam, photo © 2008-2009 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I know it’s only the third week in January, but today is feeling like a yellow kind of day. Maybe it’s the unusually warm temperatures we’ve been hitting here in the Rio Grande Valley (which actually cause us to grumble for the way the heat tricks the fruit trees into blooming and then wham, a hard freeze). It could be that gold-yellow dress the First Lady wore for the Presidential Inauguration. (Did you like it, by the way?) Maybe it’s the feeling of fresh starts.

Whatever it is, it’s here. The day is bright. I’m mellow yellow.


I have a yellow cashmere sweater that I recently rediscovered at the bottom of my sweater drawer. The other day I wore it over a yellow T-shirt I found at Target for $2.98. Can you believe it? $2.98! It was perfect for the sweater. I wore a (not real) gold chain, kind of heavy, and a more delicate (not real) gold choker with pearls, layered. I got lots of compliments that night. Yellow. Who would have known?

One time a co-worker walked by my cube. He peeked in on me and said, kind of surprised, “Wow, black is your color!” After that, any time I had a party to go to or something where I wanted to look good, I pulled out a black blouse and black slacks. After a while, I started to look like Johnny Cash. Stuck in Folsom prison. I love Johnny Cash and never tire of his music, but my look? It got stale.






Yellow’s a funny color. In architecture, it seems to be used more for home interiors—sunny kitchens, uneven walls sponged a Mexican sunflower—than for exteriors. The exception might be the antebellum Southern plantation home. Think Tara from Gone with the Wind.

The Opera House in downtown Ha Noi is a pale yellow, although under the bright Vietnamese sun, and given the size of the place, the yellow rises up from the pavement like a luminous ball (wall) of fire. Gracing the grounds of the Opera House is an outdoor café where you can sip iced Vietnamese milk coffee while sitting in bamboo and cloth chairs set under ramadas. It is, perhaps, the most civilized experience I’ve ever had.

Yellow has that effect. In spite of the fact that it’s a warm color, it calms and brightens at once. There is no agitation to yellow as there is with red. No melancholy that comes with the tranquility of blue. No, yellow is its own thing.

Fleeting, perhaps, in winter; enjoy it while it lasts.

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