note to self:

Turns out baking the holiday gifts may not be the most efficient way to get everyone a gift.
flourUnless, by efficient, you mean you end up tired, sweaty and covered in flour.

grandpappy’s damn good eggnog

eggnogThe crazy work madness is over (allowing me to settle into routine work load) so I’m celebrating with a drink! Actually, this post originated as a Facebook discussion, but this eggnog is just so good, I had to share it with the masses. You know you’re in good hands when it’s a grandpappy’s recipe. Unfortunately, it’s not my grandpappy’s recipe (Something makes me suspect neither of my grandfathers – one Thai and the other, a Christian missionary – were too much into eggnog. But you never know.), it’s someone else’s grandpappy’s recipe that I just happened to Google when my parents asked for eggnog after Thanksgiving dinner. (And by asked, I mean they suggested in wistful tones that it would be lovely to have eggnog and wasn’t it a shame we hadn’t picked some up at the store, and I volunteered to make it with what we had to save us from such despair.) This recipe, which you can find here, looked like the best of what I could find – and man, was it ever! My family is insisting this be a new tradition to include with the rest of the holiday fare.

And by holiday fare, I suspect they mean any meal and/or without a meal on special days that you need such a pick-me-up. Like on days ending in “day”.

So in such holiday spirit, I feel I should share the wealth.

In the spirit of the public good, I should also draw your attention to the fact that there is a very good reason the recipe begins and ends with a disclaimer about “drinking responsibly” and designating someone responsible (read: more sober than you would be should you drink this) to drive your drunk ass home. Or be smart like us: drink this in the comfort of your own home, where the longest, most dangerous commute is from the living room to your bed. Or couch. Or wherever you happen to land.

Because the recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of rum AND one and a half cups of bourbon. Ahem. It’s good stuff.

I made 8 servings, which basically called for:
4 fresh eggs
1/2 c. of sugar (separated into (2) 1/4 cups)
1/2 c. of rum (I used Myer’s dark rum)
1 1/2 c. of milk
1 1/2 c. of bourbon (I used Woodford reserve for about half of it and Chivas for the rest because I didn’t want to use up all the good stuff)
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
and nutmeg to serve (This part is important!)

Easy Instructions:

  1. Separate eggs into yolks and whites in separate bowls.
  2. Beat egg-yolks with 1/2 of sugar, set aside.
  3. Beat egg-whites until stiff, then mix in other 1/2 of sugar.
  4. Pour the yolks into the whites and mix together slowly.
  5. Stir in rum slowly.
  6. Stir in milk slowly.
  7. Stir in whiskey slowly.
  8. Stir in 1/2 of cream slowly
  9. Whip rest (1/2) of cream and fold in carefully.
  10. Serve at room temperature and sprinkle nutmeg on the top.

Cyril K. Collins sure knew what he was doing. This stuff is super rich and creamy (so, not the healthiest drink calorically…but who’s counting? Not me.). If you take care to blend it smoothly, it goes down super nicely. I hate when you can taste the layers of different drinks like in a poorly made Irish coffee. Bleah, no thank you. But this one? Smooth as a baby’s hind-ang.

And alcoholic enough even my hubby stopped at one. And my hubby can pack the alcohol away.

Of course, my mom had two servings in one sitting, so there you go.

But then, I don’t recall whether she did do more than sit after that.

What I really want to do is make some of this again this weekend. And then take some of it and put slices of good bread in it to soak overnight and in the morning, take a fat slab of butter and maybe some cream cheese and jam and fry up the best stuffed French toast ever made on this beloved planet.

man on the bus

bus_signSo I’ve started taking the bus to and from work lately and quickly remembered that when you take public transportation, you inevitably meet some colorful personalities. Like one guy who took it upon himself to direct people to whichever seat he thought they should take. Or the old woman babbling loudly in Vietnamese to no one in particular. Or the man who smelled overpoweringly of stale, rancid marijuana…and clearly hadn’t bathed in weeks…and who decided the seat next to me was the one he should sit in. (As I tried to breathe through the window.)

While most people keep to themselves, some friendly folk try to spark up conversations with the random strangers who happen to sit next to them. I happened to sit in front of an older man who was such a figure. A young high school boy got on the bus and sat next to him. The older man turned to him, and without a hi or how-do-you-do, he asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Clearly nonplussed, the teenager mumbled out some incoherent response. Undeterred, the older man immediately launched into a tale of all the people he’s asked that question and their colorful responses, ranging from President, doctor, and lawyer on to “rich” and “happy”.

He was full of advice too and he happily rattled off a whole host of advice unsolicited to the poor boy, who nodded, laughed, and agreed politely. But the one bit of advice that caught my attention just as I was about to get off for my stop was this:

“Don’t try to impress the boys. You know, I see all these young guys everywhere, always trying to impress the guys, trying to show they’re hot stuff in front of their friends. Naw, they got it all wrong, you know?”

The boy agreed hesitantly.

“Naw, the ones you gotta impress is the girls. That’s what I gotta tell ya. Impress the girls. They’re the ones you want. The rewards are way better when you impress the girls.”

I chuckled to myself as I got off the bus. Old man, you are my new hero.

ways i can go green

Disclaimer: Since I started blogging regularly I’ve tried to avoid getting political on here. I use this blog for a different purpose, so I don’t think this is the forum for my political rants. Even if it means biting my tongue ‘til it bleeds sometimes. (I’m working on a doctorate in political science, so you can see how I might have a few political opinions itching for expression. Oh, the restraint.)

But I think going green in a financially viable manner (FU Lazy Acres!) has shifted from the expressly political to a more socio-cultural phenomenon of late. And if not, well, I’m not telling anybody else to go green. This post is about how I can be more green. If it helps others, that’s fabulous. But if that’s not your cup of tea, I’m not on a soapbox and I’m not talking about you anyway. M’kay?moopbagSo it all started with MOOP (matter out of place). There was a lot of it this year. And with the simple action of picking up a MOOP bag that said “Earth Guardians – Leave No Trace”, collecting MOOP, and feeling a bright, shiny little glimmer of pride, I suddenly catapulted into becoming highly motivated to be more green. Especially if it is also cost-friendly because, did you hear? (whisper) We’re in a recession.

It’s not that I haven’t cared about the environment up until now. I have. But in more of a “we-should-really-care-more”, wave-of-the-hand, gestural type of way. Because I am a lazy, lazy slave to convenience. There, I said it. I admit. I like things easy. I also like them cheap. And most green options I’ve seen have tended to be much harder and much more expensive than the status quo. So having a bin for recyclables was pretty much the extent of my eco-consciousness.

(Side note: I was also on Weight Watchers, where losing weight is made much, MUCH easier by single-serving packaging. Yay, weight loss…BOO waste. Even I felt ashamed of the egregious waste…as I continued to do it.)

But going more green is daunting. Doing my research (Because when I don’t know, I read. Copiously. Generally online.), I find going green really is a lifestyle change. I’m telling myself it requires baby steps. It’s small goals and little changes and moving to bigger changes when you’re ready. Kind of like exercising: if you go from coach-potato to running a marathon in one day, it will hurt. And it will pretty much guarantee a moratorium on all future exercise. So…baby steps.

A lot of the things I found don’t apply to me because I rent an apartment instead of owning a home, so it turns out there’s no one go-to-list of things you can do to go green. Thus, baby step number one, for me, is creating a list of things I can do to go green: things that speak to my lifestyle, my habits, and my needs.

1. Use reusable grocery bags. I got a few from Trader Joe’s, but remembering to use them was kind of a hit-or-miss event (though I do always say no to bags when I can carry things myself). Paper and plastic bags I got, I saved for re-use in other ways (like as trash-can liners), but I can commit to being better about using only reusable bags. My question is: what do people do about trash bags? Are there non-plastic trash can liners? Will the trash guys pick up trash cans filled with unbagged trash?)

2. Commit to washing and reusing Ziploc bags. I use Ziplocs a lot. They are so useful for a whole host of reasons. But I can cut down on a lot of waste by reusing them.

3. Take the bus to work. Not only does this save me the cost of a $400 annual parking permit, I’m also reducing my carbon footprint, saving gas money, and reducing dependence on foreign oil. Well, I suppose I still depend on it for the bus to operate, but at least it’s not the bus AND my car operating on it.

4. Shop more from our local farmer’s market and food co-op. I’m actually really sad at myself for not doing this more often before. Yes, it means extra stops for shopping because I can’t get everything I need, but it is better for so many other reasons. I’ve always complained about wasted food because buying at groceries kind of enforced bulk buying since everything comes in family-of-four sizes. And the extra always went to waste because my family-of-two simply cannot consume that much. But also, buying locally means I can bring in some of my old cartons (like egg cartons) and fill them up instead of buying new ones all the time and throwing them away. Less waste! This idea comes from The Greenest Dollar and reading through her list of ways to reduce plastic was like “Whoa. Make your own yogurt? Use vinegar in your hair instead of conditioner? Eschew ALL plastic? You are awesome, lady, but I’m just not there yet.” But I can reduce some of it. Now, if only Asian food supplies were produced locally…but alas, I must still rely on globalization to meet my needs there.

5. Stop using plastic water bottles. This is a big one for me. I use way too many of them, even though I do own a stainless steel water bottle. It’s just…I don’t like the taste of metal in my water. Which means if I use my stainless steel bottle, I end up drinking less water…which is baaaad. I need to drink more water. So…working on this one.

6. Use more eco-friendly laundry detergents and homemade cleaners. Okay, this one is a no-brainer. Why haven’t I done this before?

7. Diva cup. Men, ignore this one. Ladies, just google it.

8. Gift wrap and gift cards. I’ve been kind of anti-gift wrap and gift cards for a while. I like making gifts look pretty and fun to unwrap, but I don’t like the waste or the fact that gift wrap often costs almost as much as the gift itself (I have a large family and a small budget. Christmas. Don’t judge.) And gift cards? Unless you have something really special or important to write? Kind of a waste of money. Plus what do you do with them after? Save them for a while and then fight between guilt and necessity when you eventually throw it away because you’ve run out of space. I’ve started saving ribbons and gift bags for reuse. But now I’m on the prowl for other gift-wrap packaging that can be reused. Like this gift I recently made for a friend: homemadegiftshomemadegiftboxHomemade lavender milk bath, brown sugar body scrub and honey yogurt facial supplies. With (super cute!) reusable glass bottles and basket.

9. Make more use of This one is a new discovery for me. But the next time I’m tempted to just toss something, I’ll offer it up to someone else who might find it useful. And I will try to get more things second-hand because I’m getting over my prissy need to be the first owner of things.

10. Turning off lights. I like a lot of light. I’m a light-consuming creature. I do try to turn off lights when I’m not in the room, but I could be more conscious about it and also try to avoid turning on lights that aren’t necessary. I don’t know how well I’ll succeed at this one, but it is a goal. I should also be unplugging those phantom energy users, but I can already tell I’ll be annoyed by a bunch of unplugged plugs lying around or by power strips I’d forgotten I’d turned off. It disrupts my sense of order. But maybe, with time, I can change my attitude about that.

11. Start saving money now to buy a Kindle. Because I LOVE books.  And I love the idea that I can have all my favorite books, without having to schlep, move, and save space for the heavy, bulky things, while still supporting my beloved authors and publishing companies. It is officially on my wish list (alongside an ice-cream maker and juicer. Hint, hint. You know, in case you want to buy me something. I’ll be your best friend! Just sayin’…). If I ever get lucky enough to be an author in demand, I’ll also send special love to agents and publishers who prefer e-submissions.

12. Start composting. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which does produce a lot of food waste. But by composting, it can turn into something that is not waste at all and I can make my landlord’s (and maybe a few neighbors’) plants happy.

13. Use a junk mail stopper like Direct Marketing Association or Mail Stopper (formerly known as Green Dimes) to stop the junk mail. Oh, I’m so excited to discover this! I’ve already gone paperless with bills, but still receive so. much. junk. Every day. No more junk mail? Sign me up!

14. Any suggestions from you?

Anyway, hopefully if I start with baby steps I can develop habits that are more sustainable (both for the environment and for my motivation).

    Where do you live?

    homeI realize a question like that makes me sound like some crazy stalker lady and you all might decamp immediately with your children in tow, but that’s really not how it’s meant. In the next year, my husband and I will have to move from sunny southern California to who-knows-where and I find I haven’t the foggiest idea where I would want to go. (I’m a spoiled brat, what can I say?)

    The thing is, I’ve lived in southern California almost all of my life (not counting the first five years where I was born and lived in Mississippi). I’m simply used to having sunny weather, oh, 92% of the time. And not oh-my-god-I’m-roasting-in-an-oven-sunny. A nice temperate 70-degree sunny. I’ve traveled a lot and I know that I can handle super hot and humid weather. I can also handle some cold (down to about 30 degrees), though really I’m not a fan of supercold. I can deal with snow, as long as I don’t have to shovel it from my walk every day. But having lived with the sun for so long, I’m not sure how well I’d deal if it was gone for too long.

    woman on bench

    I’m also used to having a wide variety of really good ethnic food – ranging from excellent sushi to stunning Indian, Moroccan, Vietnamese, and amazing Mexican (because we, here, know what a good avocado is) – and Asian stores where I can buy coconut milk, curry paste, Asian vegetables I don’t know the English name of, and rice noodles, etc. But you know what does suck about California? Property prices. We are now paying $1,350 a month to rent a 1-bedroom apartment (a shoebox at that) which is pretty much more than a mortgage for a house just about anywhere else in the continental U.S. And I would LOVE to have a house with SPACE. And my husband would be happy anywhere he could go for long, scenic rides on his motorcycle.

    As far as society and culture go, we’re in our late twenties now and we do like to go out to nice restaurants, watch movies, and grab a drink at the bar. But we’re also equally happy eating dinner at home and watching DVDs or reading books. We don’t need a fast-paced, high-society life (though we do enjoy it). However, we do need some diversity and things to do whenever we have been cooped up in the house too many days straight.

    So these are our considerations when we think of moving somewhere. We’re ready for something new, and would love to live elsewhere for awhile. And for (my) career reasons (my husband works remotely), it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will have to move somewhere else this time next year. But not having lived anywhere else, I’m curious to know about the places other people live, what they think about where they live, and what they love and hate most about their location.

    Where do you live or where have you lived? Give me the skinny on what your life as a native is like!
    (I realize this is public space on the internet, so only go as specific as you feel comfortable. Responses like “southwest Nebraska” are totally fine!)

    Things I Wish I’d Learned in High School

    When I look back on my high school education, there’s not much I can think of that I learned that’s really stuck with me over the years. Geometry? Pssh. Biology? Ha! History? Doubt it. Most of what I know of history I learned after high school. Pretty much only some books I read in my Literature class and the lessons on how to write essays really stuck with me.

    And really, I’m not feeling like I’m missing out on too much for not remembering most of those four years because in my daily life I just don’t encounter such things often.

    But what I do wish is that high school had a Life Skills class. This class might be similar to Home Ec, which my school actually didn’t have. But a Life Skills class would be more comprehensive; not just cooking or carrying an egg around, pretending it’s an actual child. It should be a year long course, senior year, when students realize that hey, maybe this stuff could come in handy. (Yes, I know, I hear teachers and administrators grumbling “Good luck finding resources for that.”)

    It would include segments on:
    - How to write a business letter and resume

    - How to do well in a job interview, and other professional etiquette

    - How to change your oil & tires, and other basic car maintenance
    Because you never know when you’ll actually need this kind of information. Or at least, if you’d rather not spend the dough to have someone else do it for you (because pedicures are much more fun ways to use that money).

    - How to use a sewing machine
    I confess. For the life of me, I cannot use a sewing machine. I can sew well by hand, but that takes forever. So I borrowed my mom’s machine and I got online instructions on how to thread it and of course it was step-by-step with illustrative pictures for mounting the spool and getting the thread to the needle. But then the complex bit with the bobbin was reduced to “you just put the doohickey in and around the thingamabob, turn and pull the loop up tight and there you go!” Wait, what? The more sure I was I had finally gotten it right, the bigger disaster I created when I actually tried to use the thing. In the battle between me and the machine, the Singer won.

    - How to understand credit cards, mortgages, and manage them wisely
    Credit crisis. Need I say more?

    - A whole month could be devoted to conflict management
    In college, I took a class on conflict management and it was definitely one of the most useful classes I’ve ever had in my life. People don’t know how to deal with conflict, and often end up exacerbating the argument when they’re just trying to resolve it. Little do they realize, their own actions are what fuels the conflict more than anything else. Learning how to stand up for yourself, listen to what the other is saying, and still find ways to de-escalate a tense situation is a lesson everyone can use. Might save a marriage or two. At least, people might come to understand that everybody has a role to play in creating a conflict and that we all must own up to our own responsibility when things go wrong. Nobody is only victim, much as we might like to think so.

    - How to be a good citizen
    More than just understanding the process and knowing the institutions (which is what your Government class is supposed to cover), students should be taught the importance of various civic duties like voting and charity & community service, as well as how to perform such functions. But they should also learn more about other roles they can perform as a citizen, such as: buying products in a socially conscious way, engaging productively in discussions with others about politics to learn about different points of views, serving in the military, and the myriad ways they can make themselves heard (not just once every four years at the ballot box). Not saying everybody has to do all these things all the time, but students should be encouraged to engage with society in deeper and broader ways.

    - How to live in a more eco-friendly way
    This is a huge topic, so maybe it would work best to be directed by class interest, beyond such staples as recycling and being product conscious. But it could cover anything from energy efficiency to urban farming, all in ways that are simultaneously cost-conscious. Ultimately, people are free to choose to live life how they want to, but I do think these things are becoming a big enough fact of life that people should know at least how to go about living in a more eco-friendly way, should they decide to do so.

    True, we live now in the great age of the internet, where most of this information can be found online. But who wants to learn everything the hard way? (wink) Are there any life skills you wish someone had taught you, or that you think more people need to know?

    A Virgin’s Guide to Burning Man

    I believe everybody deserves the opportunity to go to Burning Man. Whether or not you decide to take that opportunity is a decision only you can make. Never let someone else tell you whether you should or shouldn’t go. Only you can determine just how willing you are to deal with adverse climates and how open you are to letting go of all societal inhibitions. But there’s nothing worse than being left behind because you’re told you probably can’t deal with it (especially if, in your heart, you disagree). I have a pretty rigid layer of societal inhibition, but it is also pretty thin. When I made the decision to go to Burning Man for the first time, I also made a decision to let that layer go. Turns out, when I opened my eyes on the playa that first morning, I took to that dry lake bed like a duck to water.

    That said, Burning Man is not something to take lightly. It’s not camping in Yosemite with the grandparents and it’s not a spectator sport. It’s a mindf*ck, and it’s everything and more you could ever want it to be. But it helps to be prepared. And not just with your camping gear, but with your entire being, mind, heart and soul. To really go to Burning Man, you really have to BE there. To do that, you have to come mentally prepared.

    So here is a list of suggestions to help you prepare for your virgin trip to Black Rock City:

    1. Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely, you MUST read the Event Survival Guide. In order to be mentally prepared for Burning Man, you must first be physically prepared for it. Make sure you have good shelter, proper equipment to protect yourself and your camp, enough food and water, and other creature comforts to ensure your basic survival. People think Burning Man is all about dropping acid and having sex in the desert, and while for some people that is true, you can’t do either of those things if you’re suffering from dehydration or you’ve effed yourself on some wayward rebar in a duststorm. While people are more than willing to help, there is no guarantee they can and it’s not fair to assume you can leech off the good will of others. It IS radical self-reliance.

    2. Bring the craziest, awesomest costumes you can think of. Nobody expects you to act or dress in any particular way – and that is the beauty of Burning Man: you can be WHOEVER the f*ck you want to be. You can go as Superman; you can go in your prom dress, you can go as your total free self; you can even go completely naked the entire seven days you’re there. If you could step into an alternate universe and your outfit could really reflect your inner mushu dingbat fliftybuck, what would it look like? Whatever that is, wear that. You can look however you want to, but do think about it and prepare for it, because otherwise when you get out there and see everyone else floating around with their mojo shining, you’re gonna wish you did that too. My absolute favorite outfit from my first time was a bright hot pink miniskirt with matching cowboy hat and Hello Kitty pasties. And I was hot. Not because I was topless save for two little stickers, but because when I wore that outfit I just exuded confidence and my own little spirit and other people responded to it. It’s not uncommon to walk around the playa and have random strangers tell you how beautiful you are. Because not only are you less inhibited to be yourself, you’re also less inhibited to recognize the beauty of others and tell them you appreciate their existence.

    By far, the biggest concern I hear most often from Burning Man virgins is that they fear they don’t have the self-confidence to put themselves out there like other burners. My first response is: Don’t worry about it. Absolutely nobody cares what you wear or don’t wear. So if you don’t feel comfortable dressing up, just go in your comfy camping/vacation clothes. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in. There are absolutely NO expectations regarding dress codes. My second response is to remind you that you have an entire week to get acclimated. So bring what you would wear if you had the cajones, and decide once you’re there whether you want to wear it or not. Most likely, once you see all the cool stuff people are wearing, you’re gonna want to do it too, and you’ll have started to get used to the whole no-judgment atmosphere. The only thing that would suck is to wish you had an outfit to wear, but to be stuck having brought nothing. It’s better to at least have the option.

    If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, take a gander at Patrick Roddie and Scott London’s photos of what people have worn in past years.

    3. Set your intentions and release your expectations. It helps to go to Burning Man with a goal in mind, but you cannot have any expectations for what will happen, how people (including yourself) will be, or what it will be like. Burning Man will screw with you if you expect something out of it. But if you have a little wish, it’ll deal it back to you in ways you could never dream. My first time, I wanted to recover from a very difficult and traumatic experience. My only aim was to go write something on the Temple and hope that it helped. When I arrived, when I discovered the Temple that year was the Temple of Forgiveness, I cried. It was exactly what I needed to hear; it was exactly what I had come for. I made my gift for the Temple and when I sat in the silence with tens of thousands of others watching it burn, I felt the most incredible cleansing and release. I found forgiveness, and I found it in abundance. So come with a wish. It can be as little as to just have a good time, or as big as a soul-changing experience. Just don’t have any preconceptions for how it’ll play out.

    4. Bring a gift. You’ll hear this a thousand times: Burning Man is not a spectator sport. It is full participation. One of the best ways to participate is to bring something you can offer the community. This year, my camp is bringing a full bar stocked with $1,500 worth of good booze. We will unload ALL of it by the end of the week. And remember, it’s a GIFT economy; you give, you don’t barter, and you sure as heck don’t sell. In fact, it’s very odd and disconcerting to make your first cash transaction after leaving the playa and re-entering the default world; it seems a gift economy is the way things should be. But the number one reason why giving is great participation is because you put yourself out there and meet so many wonderful people. My first time, I baked 200 cookies and walked around with a little spray bottle filled with water and lavender essential oils, asking everybody I saw whether they wanted a cookie or a misting. I met so many wonderful people and got to see so much cool stuff, it was pure joy to do it – it just feels good to give. And within two days, people would recognize me and call out, “Hey it’s the Cookie & Mister girl!” (Don’t be surprised if you develop a playa name.)

    5. Lastly, I would recommend bringing one or two items that would just make your trip the tits. The one or two creature comforts that transport you from doing just okay, to saying, “Life is aaaalll rriiiiight…” For me, that is baby wipes and the lavender water. I take little “baths” with the baby wipes every morning to freshen up, and the spray bottle helps cool me down in the heat and the lavender oil is relaxing and refreshing. Perfect for my soul. But find your thing, whether it’s your kick-ass homemade bloody mary mix, your favorite tunes, or your must-have comfort food (dry ice does wonders for keeping things cold), and be sure to bring that along.

    Burning Man is a million things indescribable, but the first words you’ll hear when you step foot on the playa are “Welcome Home.”

    Come find our bar at Spearmint Dino (Adapt & 7:30) and we’ll pour you a drink!

    The Language of Love and Grief

    Several years ago, I heard a theory that people give love in different ways and it is important to learn to speak each other’s language of love so that your loved ones perceive and appreciate your tokens of affection and so that you can see when others are giving love in return. It is when we misinterpret or don’t even see each other’s efforts that feelings of hurt and under-appreciation arise.

    According to this theory, there are five languages of love: quality time, words of appreciation, expensive gifts, acts of service, and physical intimacy. We all engage in all or most of these actions to greater or lesser extent, but we usually tend towards one or two predominant ones. We give love and expect love back in those terms (or at least recognize it most easily). Quality time people relish most the time spent in their loved one’s company. The act of being together, even if not really doing anything, often is more meaningful than the finest diamonds in the world. Words of appreciation people love to lavish praise and verbal affection, and it is warm words that mean the most to them. Meanwhile, for others, words are not as important as other gifts. For some, love is measured in extravagance. These people love to spoil and pamper, and the cost of the gift is proportional to the act of love. For others, love is measured in gifts of devotion. Cooking special dinners, helping with various and sundry tasks, and otherwise doing for others becomes a demonstration of love and affection. And finally, physical intimacy and the need and desire to embrace, hold hands, or just be in touch with someone (literally) becomes a manner of expressing love and affection.

    I would say my language of love is primarily acts of service, with quality time and physical intimacy as secondary traits. I do engage in the other two, but to a much lesser extent. My husband, however, I would say is primarily and “expensive gifts” person, with quality time and physical intimacy as secondary traits. I used to expect more acts of service from him, and felt slighted and undervalued when I didn’t always receive them. It wasn’t until I began to see all the little and big tokens of affection – anywhere from buying groceries, to taking me to dinner, to the fabulous, expensive coats – as all the ways he shows me he loves me that I could truly see and appreciate his devotion on the level it deserved recognition. But with quality time and physical intimacy as both our secondary traits, we speak easily in those domains.

    However, I think what might be true of love, might also be true of stress and grief. I’ve been listening to various family dramas lately and it occurs to me that people deal with grief differently too, and if we don’t understand and respect each other’s way of dealing with grief, increased conflict and hurt feelings could result.

    From what I have seen in my limited experience, I think there might be four languages of grief: sympathizers, bottlers, imploders and exploders. Sympathizers (of whom I would be one) reach out to others for empathy in their grief. They love to console and be consoled, and this constitutes a major part of the grieving process for them, as well as a way to bond with others. They see empathy in times of need as another way to deepen a relationship. Bottlers, on the other hand, shut people out. They may even act passive-aggressively in dealing with their grief, but they keep it close to their chest and much prefer to deal with grief and anger on their own terms. Imploders are similar to bottlers in their sense that they are better left to themselves when upset. They grumble in anger, they may even be spectacularly violent in their fury and perhaps destroy a few inanimate objects, but if left to their own devices, their pain is usually short-lived. Finally, exploders are those who deal with anger and grief outwardly. In more positive ways, they may insist upon dealing with problems and hashing out concerns with the targets of their frustration, working at a problem until it is resolved. In more negative manifestations, they may engage in accusations, argumentation and blame.

    I think these categories may even fall along two dimensions: intimacy and time to deal, where intimacy refers to how inwardly or outwardly grief manifests itself in relation to other people. Time to deal refers to how long it takes to manage and resolve the grief.

    While I’m a sympathizer, I would say my husband is an imploder. But I quickly learned to give him space and he learned that a warm embrace and a few sweet words go a long way towards me finding me inner peace again. Thankfully in doing so, both of us help each other deal with grief more efficiently so the bad times don’t last any longer than they have to.

    But this is just a theory based on my own personal observations. I would be very interested to know if this theory holds true in other lives. Also, being a sympathizer and married to an imploder, I feel I might understand these perspectives a little more clearly – and may have given short shrift to the other two personality types. If anyone feels they can elucidate those two perspectives better, I would be most willing to amend my little theory here. It’s a work in progress. Please pardon my dust.

    Transitioning to Tweens

    Yesterday, I attended a younger sibling-in-law’s sixth grade graduation. The principal gave the typical speech about “the challenges ahead”, advising them to always think critically, be themselves, and not be pressured by their peers. As an educator and socially responsible person, I’m nodding “yes, yes, of course, sound advice that is”, but as someone who has suffered through and survived junior high, I found myself thinking I could have used an entirely different set of advice before embarking on that adventure/tragedy that is junior high. Oh, the social awkwardness. So this is the non-parent/principal-approved list of advice I wish I had gotten when I was 13. To the adults out there: what advice would you like to have gotten before going to junior high? Feel free to add your own to the list!

    The (Alternative) Guide to Junior High School

    1. Don’t pop your zits – As satisfying as it is, you never know when you’ll pick the wrong one and just get a bloody mess and scars for your efforts.

    2. Yes, it’s true. The social hierarchy does depend almost entirely on the clothes you wear. The sad truth is it is so easy to move up the hierarchy but the kids at the top almost never deserve it and yet the kids at the bottom don’t realize how such tiny, inconsequential, superficial things determine their fate. It’s not a matter of “following the crowd” like your parents warn about; it’s a matter of social survival.

    3. That said, it’s not worth caring much about the social hierarchy in the long run. Most of the popular kids end up barefoot and pregnant before adulthood, and the nerds and geeks come into their own and end up being the really cool people you want to know right around college.

    4. Avoid being in photographs at all costs. You’ll only want to burn them later because a) hormones and braces are evil, and b) 7th & 8th graders are just not the best judges when it comes to make-up.

    5. These are the years you discover sarcasm, rolled eyes, ineffable boredom, the joy of cussing and general negativity. Embrace it with your peers, but realize every one else finds it supremely annoying.

    6. To the A students: If the choice is between doing homework and hanging out with your best friends, more often than not, opt for friends. You only need to test well to get into advanced classes in high school (and even without that, you can petition)…other than that, NOBODY looks at your grades from junior high. Fun times and hilarious memories are far more worthwhile.

    7. Guys, as much as it might seem cool to act like a badass, you’re not fooling anyone. Except maybe yourself and other wannabes.

    8. Girls, ALWAYS have an extra tampon/pad, even if it’s not that time of the month. You never know when emergency or disaster will strike you or a loved one.

    9. Eighth grade dances are not like the proms you see on TV. Imagine all the girls on one side and all the boys on the other side, insert awkwardness and music compiled by people three sheets shy of cool, and you have the first half of an eighth grade dance. In the second half, when people start actually dancing, awkwardness increases exponentially as everyone realizes they have no clue how to dance. Successful slow dancing requires being able to rotate slowly in a circle, while weaving from side to side, without stepping on anyone’s feet or dress. This can be hazardous when people’s feet and arms are out of proportion from the rest of their bodies thanks to growth spurts and when boys are a head shorter than girls but girls must still find a way to rest their heads on the guy’s shoulder.

    10. Romantic relationships will probably be the most dramatic, soap operatic, and short-lived of your entire life. Two survivor rules: 1) Dating your best friends’ (ex)boy/girlfriend is so not cool. No, it’s not like they’re not going to get married, but it is a code-of-honor issue among friends; 2) Don’t freak out when your friend gets a bf/gf and spends less time with you. They’ll be back eventually when they discover how much of a dweeb their bf/gf was.

    And above all:
    Nothing that happens in junior high is the end of the world (though it all seems like it), and so remember: This too shall pass.

    Lessons From My Father

    1. We are always on stage. Whether we like it or not, we always have an audience and should dress and behave accordingly.

    2. When you love someone, you take care of them. You find ways, little or big, to show you care, without having to be asked. To do for others is to show them they are loved.

    3. To always be gracious, say thank you, and genuinely appreciate the gift, even if you hate it.

    4. Hopskotch is the happiest time.

    5. Appreciate good wine, good cheese, good friends, and good music.

    6. Sometimes capturing footage of a rampaging elephant is more important than staying in the safety of your vehicle.

    7. Sometimes making your loved ones happy is more important than being right.

    8. Always act so that you’ll be proud of yourself 5 years from now. And 10 years from now. Live life with no regrets.

    9. Start with an outline: who, what, where, when, why and how. Can you say it in 25 words or less? And look it up in the dictionary.

    10. Always explain to your children why. Punishments are never unjust when kids understand why what they did was wrong, and thus the lesson will be much more quickly learned. Treat kids like adults and they will act with maturity.

    11. Library is NOT pronounced “lie-berry”.

    12. I can do anything I want, if I want it badly enough.

    13. I have many talents and I can be a little good at a lot of things, or really, really good at just one thing, and this is the choice I must make.

    14. A woman can never have too much adoration, especially from the special men in her life.

    15. Sometimes you just need to let a man make his mistakes.

    16. Parenting is on-the-job training. Have pity.

    17. Let the man pay for dinner. It’s good for his ego.

    18. No matter what happens, there is never any reason you cannot come home. Your parents will always be there for you and always love you.

    19. There is nothing you cannot tell your parents. (But there are things you probably shouldn’t tell them.)

    20. English muffins topped with sour cream and boysenberry jam is heaven on earth.

    21. Tea with honey and lemon works wonders on a sore throat.

    22. Sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them. If you wrap them first in saran wrap and then in tin foil, they’ll stay fresh through lunchtime.

    23. Hugs and snuggling are always wanted.

    24. Take every opportunity to learn foreign languages. You never know when Norwegian or Zulu will come in handy.

    25. Don’t get high on acid and burn your dissertation. As much as you might want to, it just makes for a depressing story.

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