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GoCrib Giveaway

GoCrib is a portable crib that folds up into a little backpack. How convenient! And Cute. Anyway, they're doing a giveaway and I am trying to win it. :)

May I introduce to you..

My wonderful and talented husband:

Daniel left Sunday morning (while I was still in Plymouth)  on his three-day venture to Waterdown, South Dakota for the Northern Light Professional Photographers Association convention. It's a competition of professional photographers for all of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Although Daniel has attended parts of the convention in the past, this was his first year entering the competition as a professional photographer. To say Daniel did well is a gross-understatement.

During the awards ceremony, Daniel confessed it was almost embarrassing. The presenter quietly asked him to just stay on stage, rather than walk off, turn around and walk back on for every award. Daniel hoped the audience didn't think him presumptuous! But he really swept the awards away. He won well over half the awards. He won every award he could for North Dakota and all but two awards for the whole competition. Halfway through the awards ceremony, an audience member yelled out, "What a rockstar!" and that became his nickname. Afterward, he had crowds of people coming up to him to shake his hand, meet him, call him a rockstar, etc.

For posterity sake, and, well, hell, he's a photographer, Daniel took a picture of the awards he won for his four prints. Three of them received merits. In order to be considered a master photographer, one needs to obtain 12 merits in prints. One competition, he's a quarter way there. Daniel told me there was quite a bit of commotion because noone had quite swept away the competition like this before, and certainly not in their FIRST YEAR.





And here are a links to the winning prints:


Vietnam Wall
Abandoned Dreams
Here's the Problem (Men working on a train)
Hope Within Loss (Flower Picture) - The one that scored the lowest but is one of my favorites. Maybe it's not as great as the others from a technical photography aspect, but I think it's just unbelievably neat. It's meaningful to me, I guess.

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I just realized after I posted this that for three of the pictures, I was standing right next to Daniel when he took them. The Vietnam Wall picture was during our trip to Washington DC. What a great time we had! The abandoned car picture is from us driving around rural North Dakota. When Daniel saw the house, he begged for me to pull over, so I drove down this old, muddy road so he could get closer. It was CREEE-EEEPY. The train picture was from when a steam engine that was making a cross-country trek stopped in our town overnight. Daniel had me dress up in my white ghost-like dress and head out to take this picture. I lost my favorite necklace that night.. and Daniel searched high and lo to find a replacement for me because he felt bad. Aww.

Life with Daniel is certainly an adventure. :) I'm so proud of my husband!

Shoes and Customs

Just because I'm curious...

Poll #1551475 Shoes and Customs

If a guest arrived at your house and they did not take off their shoes, would you consider that action:

perfectly normal. They should keep their shoes on!
7(43.8%)
not preferred, but acceptable.
4(25.0%)
slightly rude.
3(18.8%)
extremely rude. They should take their shoes off!
2(12.5%)

Where do you live?

Lyric Poem

Shuffle your music, write down the first line of the song and post the resulting poem!

OH.WOW. - I cannot believe how well this "poem" turned out. It actually flows together and makes sense. <3

Sit Back, you don't have to work so hard
get out your measuring cups and we'll play a new game
we can turn the city upside down, like an umbrella
Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do

Call my friends, to share some wine
Say Goodnight and Go
I want to live where Soul meets Body
Where are we?

I'm in a room full of people all hanging on one person's breath
You gotta get up in the morning
You don't have to move that mountain
Baby, I'm amazed at the way you love me all the time

Sit down and fire away
I'm sticking with you
When I find myself in times of trouble
How can I just let you walk away?


Isn't it beautiful? :)

Job

Today I tagged along to a site visit with my coworker. I visited a center where homeless or at-risk youth can 'drop-in' for resources, information and referral, to use a computer, for counseling, independent living skills, to get out of the cold, to eat a warm meal, or to just generally hang out. As soon as I walked in I was immediately impressed and excited to be there. The very spacious room was filled with mismatched and oversized couches, pool tables, computers, tvs with game systems and the walls were painted with half-finished youth art projects where kids were clearly encouraged to be creative. The center had a kitchen and a food pantry so youth could cook a meal for themselves if they needed or receive help in filling out a job application or writing out a resume. It looked exactly like the place where youth would want to hang out.

I met with the two ladies that oversee the project and their dedication and passion were nearly unmatchable. It was truly impressive how much work they did and what impact they were making on people's lives. One question we had to ask (since we supply the food) was if they charge for their meals or food. It's against our policy. The food is meant to be given to those that cannot afford to eat and thus, no charge should be made. The ladies answered honestly that they never charge for meals and that anyone can come in and take the food if they need it. They did say it was a pretty common scenario where a youth would want to contribute or give back in some way, so often, they donate a DVD or a video game or something that they have because it means that much to them.

---

This is why I love my job.

---

Last week I traveled to a tiny town in remote North Dakota. The average income for the county is $17,000. To say impoverished is a bit of an understatement. We drove up with a semitruck full of boxes of food for people to take if they were in need. I met an old-time pastor who ran five different churches in the community. His accent quickly gaveway that he was originally from Boston and as he told us his story, his past unfolded. He worked in the ghettos of New York and in the poor towns of Chicago.. and now here he is, in North Dakota, learning a new culture all over again. He talked about learning Native American customs and incorporating them into his preaching practices to honor and respect the individuals. He talked about bridging gaps and respecting others and the prejudices that he often encounters. He rambled on about things that mattered and it was heart-breaking and spirit-lifting all at once and I imagine he encounters both in day-to-day life.

After we handed out food, I sat around with the volunteers of the church who all expressed interest in setting up a regular food pantry. Here are the women who poured so much into their community. They laughed as they confessed we were really looking at about 10 different organizations since each one of them represented several groups, The Kiwanas, the Auxiliary, the Bank Foundation, etc. etc. These women were poor. These women often were in need of food assistance themselves and they told us that this is just life in their town. We were overwhelmed with volunteers that day. People were ready to load boxes, serve us hot chocolate and goodies, and do what needed to be done. They weren't afraid of hardwork or giving back to the community. It was completely touching.

---

When I tell people that I work with food stamps outreach, I can often see that glint of prejudice behind their eyes. Some will go so far as to tell me that horrible people will take horrible advantage of such a system. Don't I know that people SELL foodstamps for drugs and alcohol? Don't I know that it only encourages government handouts and people to rely on anything but themselves?

That was the attitude I was raised on. My mother was attending college while working and raising two kids. We were poor. We received a food basket from the church one year and my mother actually turned around and gave it right back! We would have easily qualified for welfare. One year our community built a house through Habitat for Humanity and I helped in construction (as much as a 12 year old can!). My mother told me, not out of spite, but out of humility, that the family that received that home made more money than we did. She was trying to help us understand that you had to work hard to make it and I appreciate the work ethic she instilled in us. My mom really scrimped and saved and made it through, but certainly not without help. We lived with my grandparents for two years and though it must've been a blow to my mother's pride (especially now that I understand what her parents DID to her), we were able to make it through because of them.

I understand that even though my mom worked hard and pushed through it, in some ways we were still really lucky. There are others who do work just as hard and still cannot afford to put food on their tables. Mom wouldn't have been able to do it for us without my grandparents.

And yes, yes, yes, there will always be lazy people who take the handout and abuse the system and rely on assistance and don't go for it themselves.. and yes, yes, yes, I have only been at this job for three weeks so certainly there is a lot more to see and experience and witness But what I like is that food stamps helps people eat which is a basic necessity of life. And it doesn't cover everything, it isn't meant to. It's to help assist through some difficult times. It definitely helps those who are recently unemployed as is happening all over the country. And especially for a state whose highest income revenue is through food, it helps the economy. For every $5 spent on food stamps, $9.20 is generated in community spending.

And the program does encourage working, in fact, it mandates it. If a person is able to work, they must work. If they are unemployed they must look for work, take a job offer, or go on to further training.

----

So that's what I do. I'll travel around to pantries and drop-in homeless shelters and churches and centers. I will talk to people about food stamps: what it is, what it isn't, clear up misconceptions and help people determine if they're eligible or not. If they need assistance applying for the program, then I will help them apply.

Every state is mandated to have a food stamps outreach plan because the percentage of people who receive benefits out of the total that are eligible is relatively low. The government has already set aside money for the funds and essentially that money is 'wasted' and not poured back into the economy and local communities as planned. (That and people who could be receiving better quality food, aren't, but the government cares more about numbers, let's face it). My state plan is basically ME. It didn't have one so the Great Plains Food Bank (the only food bank in the state) wrote a plan and a grant and shared the cost so I can come on board to do this.

Oh, and I haven't even started talking up the Great Plains Food Bank which is one of the most efficiently run food banks in the US!

---

So that's my job in a nutshell. <3

Gilgamesh

Each day, wash your head, bathe your body, and wear clothes that are sparkling fresh. Fill your stomach with delicious food. Play, sing, dance, and be happy both day and night. Delight in the pleasures that your wife brings you, and cherish the little child who holds your hand. Make ever day of your life a feast of rejoicing!


I had forgotten how much I love Gilgamesh and how much the story meant to me in college. The oldest record history known to us and it deals with a human struggling with the Very Same Thing with which I was struggling. Mortality. Death. Meaning of Life. And all that jazz. Not only is the lesson still applicable today but the fact that the lesson is still applicable is a lesson in and of itself. I take comfort in universal truths.


He left his city to learn how to avoid death, and he returned having learned how to live...

PS I miss college. A lot.

Honeymoon Dilemma!

Poll #1405620 Rooms.

If you could stay in a room themed after one of these authors, which would you choose. Explain!

Alice Walker
0(0.0%)
Dr. Seuss
0(0.0%)
EB White
0(0.0%)
Edgar Allan Poe
1(16.7%)
Emily Dickinson
0(0.0%)
F Scott Fitzgerald
1(16.7%)
Hemingway
1(16.7%)
Herman Melville
0(0.0%)
Jane Austen
1(16.7%)
Lincoln Steffens
0(0.0%)
Shakespeare
2(33.3%)
Tennessee Williams
0(0.0%)
Virginia Woolf
0(0.0%)


[Edit:] I should add that there are more options if this hotel interests you so much that you would like to stay there.

The Classics rooms include a private deck and fireplace but are out of our price range:
Agatha Christie
Colette
Mark Twain

Colette is apparently the honeymoon suite. I'd be tempted to stay in Agatha Christie's room but would be afraid of being murdered?

The Novels are cheaper than the above option but because they lack an oceanview, which I think would be worth. Otherwise, the option would clearly go to Tolkien, though the others would be fun, too.

Gertrude Stein
Oscar Wilde
Robert Louis Stevenson
Tolkien


PS I am saddened they don't have a CS Lewis room. I picture a wardrobe over the doorway. ;) It'd be so easy to do! <3

Save the Date!

Please watch below:




<3

There's Something about Mary Part II

Seriously, Mary is my favorite person in this whole world. Apart from Daniel, of course.  But really. I keep expecting her to show some terribly flawed side of her; is that cynical of me? But as an idealist and perfecionist by nature, I tend to have too high of expectations thus I am wary of someone I like as much as her. But no, every day I meet with her, talk with her, etc. She continues to astound me. 

Mary recently was hired on for a new position. She is an activist at heart so she joined a healthcare reform campaign. I invited her over for some tea at my new house and we talked about it. I have tremendous respect for her. She is the epidomy of open-mindedness and acceptance. I don't know how such a strong woman with such strong convinctions can be so laid back, open and friendly. She genuinely seeks to understand. She tells me little tidbits and lessons that she has taught her children over the years and I marvel at her wisdom. She truly encourages them, and others around her, to be free thinking and independent. She is not like most people I know.

One of the things she is doing for her campaign, which is very grassroots, is to have house discussions on it and slowly spread the word, to write letters to editors, represenatives, senators, etc. To grow a movement toward healthcare. She asked if I would ever want to hold a house discussion, invite some of my closest friends, and have an open and honest talk on healthcare.

I laughed a little and explained that I have a strange assortment of friends, from the very conservative to the very liberal and the most opinionated and active ones of them all are libertarians, some who do not believe the government should fund or be a part of education, let alone healthcare. Her eyebrow raised slightly and she said, "Really?" Not as in shock or dismay (which you would really expect from a strong liberal as herself) but as in genuine interest, "Wow, I would really like to talk to them to understand where they're coming from. I tend to approach issues in a liberal way and want people who think differently than myself to explain themselves to me so I can understand"

And she means it. She is a good listener and does strive to understand. She's persuasive by nature, and perhaps on purpose, but not in a way that it's her sole goal. She believes strongly that people should be educated and come to conclusions on their own. She thinks action can be done by people finding their common agreements and working together regardless of their disagreements. It's a refreshing viewpoint in politics where so many politicians drive a wedge.

I am not as reserved as she is. I would like to think that I am open minded and willing to hear all sides. In many ways I am.. I do strive to understand, but I am nothing like her. If I find that people do not believe in equal civil rights for all (whether they descriminate by race or sexual orientation or gender) I tend to feel outraged at their lack of civility. Though Mary believes in civil rights as much as I do, she would be the type to sit down and really listen to why someone wouldn't want to have equal rights. She would strive to understand. Then she would strive to find the similarities and work from there. She's the type that gets the right action done. She's the type that genuinely lives by the motto that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, even when the fly is skating on morally unsound ground. It's sound to them. Though I believe this, she acts it, which is amazing.

Mary confessed that her true desire would to someday own a business, even if she's an activist at heart. We were just talking about the lack of decent tea shops in the area, so she thought she could venture into a tea shop! I told her that I could see that, with plenty of room to have roundtable discussions on politics, the arts, science, etc. We decided it should be called Tea & Talk. How cute. Isn't she lovely?

I am so glad that Mary is in my life. She is the mentor I have always wanted. I want to take life lessons from her. I want to know how she raised her children to be so conscientious, intelligent, caring and responsive individuals because I desire that with my own children.

It seems so glib to say that I want children who are free-thinking and open-minded. What does that <i>mean</i> anyway. It seems like a catchphrase. But what I mean is that they are open, like Mary. Where they hold strong convictions, but they base those convinctions on their morals of equality and compassion for humankind. Yet, despite or because of their strong convinctions, they constantly seek out opportunities to grow, change and learn more by facing those that oppose them. Not by arguing, debating or fighting, but by sitting down with a cup of tea and saying, "What do you believe and <i>why</i>? Explain it to me so I understand." and bridge that connection. I want to instill a sense of community and civic engagement in my children.

Granted, I do not have children, so who knows what will happen once I see their darling little faces, my heart will surely change, but these are my values and these are what I want to see in the world. I believe that change can and does happen. I believe that these underlying values, principles and philosophy that is important for people to share regardless of where they stand on certain issues. Mary and I could disagree on the world (we don't) and still be friends and respect each other and that's what I love about her. She is inspiring to me. More than most anyone I have ever met. She has a way of showing me what's really me and what's good about me, what I love and what I am passionate about.

I like activism quite a lot. I like being involved. I like social justice. I like civic engagement. I like building a sense of community instead of living in disjointed houses next to each other. I want to hear opposing viewpoints. I don't want to become a like-minded America (the notion where people who think alike, live in the same communities and thus only become more extreme in their values instead of taking a hard look at what they stand for).

For anyone who doubts I am INFJ, you just need to undrstand that this is at the heart of who I am. The protector. The champion of the underdog. I have to be fighting for a cause or doing what I believe. I can't really explain it other than it just drives me. It's the core of who I am to try and do what's right, to seek understanding and go from there.

I want those skills that Mary oozes from her pores. I want to be able to have a discussion on something I believe in strongly without isolating those around me. I am trying. I am working at it.

It's funny.. next week I will be in Washington DC. It's a good time, because I have never felt more proud of being an American citizen. I admit, growing up, I was one to easily bash America and it's quick, easy and cheap mentality. We are a fast food society. Blah. But now I see all that is wonderful about America. I am not a fan of big government by philosophy, but I love government, I really do. I love that we have a government of the people for the people. I think it is beautiful that every of-age citizen can help choose the policies that take place.

I have been reading The Federalist Papers recently where the founding fathers really hammered out their ideas on the Constitution. It was a shaky time in America. We could have gone in a hundred different directions, but instead, those intellectual men met together to determine the fate of who we are and shaped our country. I am thankful they went in a direction where my vote and my voice matters. Sure, there are flaws. Lots of them. And I will continue to fight to erradicate the flaws, but I am proud of what we have. Not because the guy I voted for won the presidency (in fact, this has always been the case) but because of our rich history of giving the power to the people.

<i>Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists -- INFJs gravitate toward such a role -- are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.</i>

Dream

As you most likely know, I dream and I dream vividly. I can recall detailed plotlines complete with unforeseeable events and surprise endings. I dream anywhere from the mundane to the downright silly. Every so often a dream comes along that is so real, the only reason why I know it is not is because is does not jive with reality around me. I wakeup from the story and that’s how I know. Other than that, the dream looks and feels real. I react to it as if it really happened and then I wake up.

So now in the morning I am left with a fake memory and real feelings in reaction to the fake memory and sometime’s it’s a downright nuisance. This morning’s dream was one of those dreams…

I dreamt that Daniel and I had a baby. He had just turned 9 months old and I was putting his preciously soft and cute clothes on him. I picked him up and marveled at how big he had gotten. I couldn’t believe it. He felt so heavy, looked so big, etc. It was baffling.

Which is funny because lately I have had friends with babies in real life, not just dream babies, marvel at how big their babies have gotten. And while I get the concept, me from the outside looking in just thinks, “Hrm, they’re growing at a normal progression and look like they should” I have never marveled at how quickly babies grow up.

But my baby.. well, that was just a different story. (I just adore being a mother in my dreams).

I was spending some time with the baby before I had to leave again (sad times). Daniel and I were separated (physically, not relationshipwise) because he was undergoing a training process that would take a few months. It wasn’t as formal as college, but he did have different classes all day long. I am unclear as to what he was doing. I think it had something to do with being a professor or teaching because Melalvai was also in the class with him.

Melalvai also had a baby girl around the same age as our baby boy. It was unclear as to whether this was Nell, her real life daughter (who is now 13), or whether she had a second child. Regardless, I was pleased Daniel would have some company and would be able to be with someone who has a baby around the same age.

I, on the other hand, had to leave. I had to go back home.

Fastforward a few months, I come back to visit Daniel for a few days. He was nearly done with classes, so I was waiting it out until he finished. While he is in class, I have oodles of free time. I find out that Mel has an online journal and I begin to read it. While I was reading, I could see exactly what she was describing as if I was there. She wrote about her classes, about her baby and a good deal about Daniel. The four had slowly bonded over the few months (good) until they were really close. They planned most everything together.
 
I read one particular entry where it was ‘graduation’ day from their classes. Everyone in the training classes dressed up to have a little ceremony. In order to celebrate, Daniel and Mel planned an outing together. They were going out to the park and then the beach. Mel wrote, “It seemed ridiculous that we had to take two cars even though we only had two children. It was like the four of us wouldn’t fit in one car. Of course we could have, but we joked that we couldn’t because our children had so many accessories with them: diaper bags, blankets, car seats, strollers, etc. that there wouldn’t be room for anyone else!”
 
It was that point that my heart just sank.. our children? I understand that she meant Daniel’s child and Mel’s child, but the lines seemed to be very blurred. Furthermore, Daniel never told me about graduation, let alone invited me (Mel’s husband, by the way, was there). I went up to talk to Daniel on his break and I explained that I was sad about what was happening between us. I said that we were so far away but he shrugged it off saying, “Of course, we’ve been living apart for a few months” I explained that was not what I had meant. We were distant. We used to be on the same page. We used to be able to talk without really talking because we just got each other. We were more than just on the same page, we were on the same sentence, the same word. We were partners completely insync with each other who had open communication. We told each other even the mundane things. But we’ve grown apart. And yes, that’s bound to happen but now we weren’t on the same page, we weren’t even in the same book anymore. He didn’t tell me about graduation. I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have supported him.. but now we were strangers who happened to be married.

The break ended and so our conversation was cut short. I started to leave when my doctor called me. He told me the bad news that the treatment I was trying was no longer working for me. It showed no results. Mel overheard.
 
I left in near tears. I kept running into old friends and then quickly dodging them because I didn’t want to see anyone in the mess I was in at the moment. I was driving myself crazy with nothing to do and too much emotion. I decided that I needed my baby. We could play together. Playing with him would give me something to do and make me happy.

I went back in the classroom in the middle of class, walked up to Daniel, and picked up our baby. I also got all of his playthings and walked out.. much to the shock of Daniel. I pretended like everything was normal and played with my baby.. who, by the way, was ecstatic to see me. There is nothing like watching the joy on a child’s face because you are near. Wow.

Anyway, Mel came to sit with me shortly after I left the classroom. She was pretty upset but also sympathetic. She said that I should get a second opinion from another doctor and that just because there were no results doesn’t mean the treatment wasn’t working. She was worried I was going to drop all treatment.
 
I looked up at her in surprise, “I wasn’t even thinking about that” and she couldn’t understand why I was upset. I was losing the two most precious things in my life .. and I felt like I was losing it to this woman standing in front of me right now. I didn’t care much about my medical health when I didn’t have Daniel or my baby. (This is, by the way, why I couldn’t have the baby or be with Daniel when he was going through his classes. I was sick and needed treatment). I very nearly said, ‘Do you even know who I am at all?’ but I didn’t want to be hurtful to this woman that I liked so much. I softly explained and promised that I would not make a rash decision. I am the sort of person who researches everything. I would weigh my options. I would discuss my treatment with several experts. I would read anything I could get my hands on and make a logical decision based on it. I would not get upset. (Even though I did want to yell at her for not knowing this about me, I reminded myself she was doing this because she cared and I backed off). Mel, satisfied that she fixed the problem, went back into the classroom.
 
At this point, I had such strong emotions course through my body. It is difficult to describe, exactly, only because the words I have to describe are insufficient. They draw the wrong picture. To say I was strongly jealous was correct, but that implies, to me, that I had burning rage or resentment attached to it; I didn’t. To say that I was sad over losing my loved ones implies a much deeper depression than I mean to conjure up. My emotions were strong, but subtle. I was disappointed at the turn of events. I
 
didn’t blame anyone. It was the way it goes. All I wanted was Daniel and the baby back. I wanted them as mine again. Not just in theory or in writing, but us as a family. I wanted to be that person Daniel went to. I wanted him to share with me, to tell me, to be in sync with me. I wanted everything back. I was not happy at all with Mel for taking it away from me. I didn’t blame her; she was just there. I was glad that Daniel and Mel had a friendship. I am glad they had each other because they needed it. I just wanted to be that person. (I am nearly crying when I write this)
 
A few days went by, I believe and I had a lot of free time to read, research, talk to friends and talk to my doctor. It turns out, my doctor had some surprisingly good news for me. I couldn’t wait to tell Daniel but Nika was there instead. I couldn’t explain that I had to talk to Daniel alone so we just chatted until she was gone. The doctor walked by and winked at me, “How’d he take it?” and I sputtered for a second and shook my head to imply I hadn’t told him yet. Nika left and Daniel picked up on this. He asked if I had something to tell him…

I did. So we sat down and talked. I told him.. that I was pregnant! We weren’t excitingly giddy by any means, but we both knew it was good news. I felt so far and so distant from this man sitting across from me, yet here we were with a child on the way. It was strange, but it was good. It was like we realized that we had to work hard to get back together before the baby was born so we could prepare to be a family again. He was happy and I was happy, but we weren’t yet happy together.. but we were taking a step in the right direction.

And that’s my dream.

In writing it out, it sounds mediocre at best. I skipped parts of it because I was focusing on the main story. It may not sound like much, but I was slowly watching my husband and my child fall away from my life and cling to another woman and her baby. Even though they were never techincally romantically involved, the idea that my family was no longer mine was awful. Even still, like I said, I experience more painful, more depressing and more jealous moments in my life than this, but I do not know if I have ever felt anything so deeply.