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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Monday, January 31, 2011

    Amigo gets athletic, takes show on the road

    "Mom, you should write a post about me and wrestling and going to Ohio."

    Wow. The teenager wants me to post about him? Cool! And his new involvement in athletic competition is cool, too.

    He called us Saturday night as they got on the bus to come home from a wrestling meet in Ohio. The state schools for the blind compete against each other, which means travel. Road Trip! Amigo enjoys road trips, so this is just another piece of the whole positive experience. He can tell me the route they took to get from Wisconsin to the other schools, the choices of highways if there are more options than one. He packs his armband radio and explores the states by finding local radio stations and getting local flavor.

    Back to Saturday night. He talked about the meet, how he'd done, and the ribbon he had that he could bring home. Of course we talked about the upcoming Super Bowl - did you have any doubts, readers? He's as wild and crazy a Packers fan as I am. As his bus rumbled down the Ohio turnpike, Amigo shared updates of the meet and I shared updates from home, including Super Bowl plans.

    Sunday night he called again. There was one more adventure on the road; the bus broke down near Champaign, Illinois. The repair was major, a new bus had to come get them, and they arrived back at their dorms in Wisconsin at (are you ready for this?) 5:30 A.M. Sunday. Ouch. He slept until noon, and was still tired when we talked to him Sunday night.

    Wrestling is his third sport this year. Amigo started the year in track and field, then participated in Goal Ball, and followed those with wrestling. We were amazed at first; he's a sports fan, but other than the Challenger League summer baseball, he'd never competed in team sports.

    He's had a great experience in many, many ways. Enjoying practice with his peers, making progress in his own abilities, surprising himself in competition, win or lose.

    And then there were the road trips. He and I might have to do more road tripping next summer; he has so many stories to tell, and being on the road is a great way to bond and share tales.

    As long as he doesn't expect me to wrestle with him, all will be well.

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    Friday, January 28, 2011

    La Petite's Dream

    As long as dreams seem to be the item of the week, here's one that La Petite dreamed last week. We know the inspirations for the dream; Chuck woke her early in the morning with a message on the answering machine telling us that the AT&T crew was on the way. As for the, ahem, members of the crew, we saw this "band" of technicians on Oprah after Christmas.

    We've traced the sources already; no need to interpret. Just enjoy.

    The dream:

    The service crew, the techs from AT&T UVerse, had arrived at our home to finally replace the lines that stretch across the backyard. These lines have been nibble by squirrels, hit by lightning, and tangled around growing trees. We've been waiting a long time and we were so thrilled they turned up!

    The techs replacing the line were (are you ready for this?) the Backstreet Boys.

    The talented boy band members demonstrated their other skill by replacing the line successfully. When they were done, they climbed into their service van and drove away, singing.

    Now here's the question: what were they singing? My contribution is "Wichita Lineman." You might remember the first line: "I am a lineman for the county." Come on, readers, let's hear it.

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    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Fiber Choice

    Long ago, Chuck's doctor tried unsuccessfully to convince him that a fiber regimen would help ease his, er, um, stomach discomfort. I tried, too, as shown in a post one Saturday morning. The dialogue went something like this.

    "Here, dear, I found a jar of Metamucil for you."
    "I'm not ready."
    "Not ready?"
    "I like my Saturn. I don't want to drive a Buick yet."
    "I took it years ago when I was pregnant with Amigo."
    "And look what you drive now!"

    My minivan -- he'd dissed my minivan! The minivan that took us on more than a few vacations, moved La Petite to and from college, brings big batches of yard waste to the brush dump every summer, took my carpool to graduate classes for two years, and more
    Well, now that we're both 50, fiber isn't such a taboo topic. Whether Chuck knows it or not, I sneak wheat germ or flaxseed into a lot of the food I serve. Both of us eat vegetables regularly, but I'm the only one that nibbles on fruit. MomCentral offered a chance to try Fiber Choice, I decided to participate, whether Chuck does or not.

    Here are a few basic facts about Fiber Choice products.
    • Fiber Choice supplements are prebiotics, which nourish the probiotics, or "good bacteria" that live naturally in the digestive system.
    • Probiotics help maintain the balance between the good bacteria and the bad, keeping the body systems functioning well.
    • Fiber Choice comes in packages of 10, 90, and 220 with prices ranging from $2.49 to $19.99.
    • Available flavors include orange, pomegranate, assorted berries, and a sugar free assorted fruit mix. Chuck likes pomegranate: maybe he'll try it.
    • I like the assorted berries flavor.
    • Fiber Choice is available at local pharmacies and many times in the health aisles of the grocery stores.
    • You can follow @FiberChoice on Twitter.
    Fiber Choice is an easy and even tasty way to work more fiber into a diet. And that minivan? It's still in the garage, still my main vehicle. So there.

    I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of FiberChoice and received a coupon to facilitate my review and a gift code to thank me for taking the time to participate.

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    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Dreams: what do they mean?

    Chuck thought my dream had a simple interpretation: I've been typing too much. I went to bed with a sore thumb.

    He may be right. I do have arthritic symptoms in my right thumb, and my left is catching up. I have a splint for the right wrist and thumb; I wear it at night to immobilize both and ease the pain somewhat.

    So here's the dream.

    I was in the emergency room - again. Same doctor, same staff, all recognized us from our back to back visits in early winter. This time, I was there because I'd dislocated my left thumb. Is that even possible? In my dream, the thumb had already been set, back in place, and the pain and swelling were gradually easing. Even so, it still hurt like the blazes. Dr. S had decided that I needed a cortisone shot in the joint. Disclaimer; I have no medical background and have no idea what would really be done at this point. It was a dream, remember? I've had many cortisone shots in my foot, so I know that they are very painful, but also very effective. I think the discussion went something like this.

    Dr. S: Have you ever had a cortisone injection before?
    Me: silent nod.
    Dr. S: So you know what it feels like?
    Me: silent nod
    Dr. S: Okay, here goes.
    Me: turn head, find focal point, breathe.

    Chuck thinks it's as simple as going to bed with a sore thumb after being on the computer too much that day. He may be right. The other interpretations could be a little more complex.
    • Why was I completely unable to answer the doctor? I'm a verbal-linguistic person; words are my strength. I'm rarely intimidated by medical people. Was my silence significant?
    • The repeat visit to the ER - likely a flashback to the last one, when I opted not to be admitted to the hospital overnight and went to school to leave sub plans instead. Bad choice; I'll never do that again. At least in my dream I followed the doctor's instructions, no matter how painful.
    • Then again, there's that sore thumb. I'm relearning how to handle a keyboard and mouse in less painful ways, and I'm learning to limit the time I spend on the computer and prioritize that time more effectively.
    Readers, chime in. What do you think of my dream? Simple, just a result of a sore thumb joint, or a deeper, more complicated meaning?

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    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Butternut Squash Soup - slow cooker version

    I used my big slow cooker, the 6 qt model, for this soup. One butternut squash yields a lot of squash!

    1 large butternut squash (about 4 lb), peeled, seeded, and cut into pieces
    (estimated amount: 10 cups)
    1 large apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 medium white onion, diced
    1 large carrot, peeled, diced
    2 teaspoons curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1/8 teaspoon white pepper
    3 1/2 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
    1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
    1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
    3/4 cup packed brown sugar

    Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray. In cooker, toss squash, apple, onion, carrot, curry powder, salt, and white pepper. Pour broth over vegetable mixture.
    Cover; cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.
    Use immersion blender or remove small amounts of soup (3 cups at a time) into blender to blend until smooth. Add milk and brown sugar while blending.
    Turn heat setting to high. Cover; cook for another 30 minutes.

    Serve. Enjoy.

    I realized that three fourths of the family likes butternut squash, especially in its soup form. Note to self: plant butternut squash this year. Let's grow our own!


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    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Spring fever - I'll be ready.

    My garden is under a foot of snow. The topsoil is frozen, but underneath, the little microorganisms keep living and dying and decomposing, making the soil rich and fertile for spring. There are several piles of compost, frozen solid, dumped last fall but not spread, in between bouts with gout and an influenza-like virus. We barely got the rain barrels emptied and turned so they wouldn't freeze during the winter - spreading the compost just didn't happen. It'll have to get spread in the spring.

    Spring. I can look to spring and think positive thoughts. I'll still be on my extended leave of absence. I won't be juggling planting schedules around school calendars; I can work on putting in the seeds earlier than usual, and care for the seedlings by putting them on the deck by day to soak in the sun, and bringing them inside overnight to avoid freezing.

    In fact, in the middle of winter - in January! Football isn't even done yet! - I went to Fleet Farm and bought one of these. It's called the Ultimate Greenhouse. I don't know that I'd call it Ultimate, but it was an inexpensive set-up that will work beautifully on my deck while I'm waiting for the frost danger to end.

    It does look handy, doesn't it? Mine will be full of vegetables rather than flowers. It's still in the box in the garage. When spring fever hits (April, most likely), I'll put it together. I'm looking forward to that activity, and that's what it's all about right now.

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    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    Winter decor

    I was watching one of the morning news shows and they blew me away with their decorating feature. They were talking about SPRING and FLOWERS and putting away the winter decor!

    Sorry, people. Martha Stewart doesn't live here. We still have a few holiday items up. The "Dream" tree is a gift from an artist friend; it's staying up for a while.

    The snowmen are out now. We save them until after Christmas each year. Behind the S'mores snowman is one of La Petite's vases. The results of her ceramics class are scattered around the house; they're not seasonal. They're year-round special.

    Just in case you were wondering, yes, we have a few (ahem, cough, cough) Green Bay Packer items gracing the house along with the snowmen.

    "My" Packers may be playing in Chicago, but they'll bring their Frozen Tundra experience and cold weather attitude with them on the field.

    We're decked out in our Green and Gold, planning our "eating the opponent" menus, and getting ready for the Big Game. This one may be bigger than the Super Bowl.

    Go! Pack! Go!

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    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Simple Changes

    One week ago I posted a few simple pleasures. I'm still adjusting to the major changes in my career outlook and in my health, so when SocialMoms Network asked for bloggers to post about simple changes, I wondered if I could manage to view any of my changes as simple. Long term leave of absence: major change. Diagnosis of clinical depression: major change. Are there any simple changes, less complex than these?

    One small change I've made is drinking half-caffeinated coffee. Now that I'm home all day most days, it would be very easy to over-imbibe in the delicious coffee gifts I received for my November birthday and for Christmas. Instead, I'm mixing the lovely flavors with a standard decaf. I still get the pleasure of the flavor, but I don't get excess nervousness or hyperactivity from the caffeine.
    Another change is the way I'm eating: increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables in my diet. We already eat a few servings of vegetables and/or fruits every day. I'm aiming to increase that to the recommended five a day in this category. A handful of berries on breakfast cereal or yogurt at lunch. A serving of vegetables at lunch and at supper, with a fruit snack such as an orange or apple for mid-afternoon. It's a small change that will take my diet balance to the next level.
    I've always been a goal-setter. This year I'm concentrating on keeping those goals reasonable and writing them down. If I set a goal that takes too much energy and too much time, I'm not likely to achieve that goal, which will be disappointing at best and at worst very upsetting. There's enough negative in my life; I need to stress the positive and keep plans and goals accessible. Big goals are weekly or even monthly; smaller goals are daily, and may be part of a larger goal. This week I had planned to investigate mall walking, but I decided to put that one off and finish progress reports instead. The reports are due at the end of next week, but I wanted them done and out of my mind. The mall-walking exercise goal will have to wait until next week. It's important; it'll happen.

    That's the main point to remember with changes, small or large. If it's important, make it happen. Setting goals, eating well, and watching the amount of caffeine in my (I admit it) addiction, all are simple changes that make a difference in my life. If all goes well, these simple changes will make an impact on my full recovery and my eventual return to teaching.

    I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Simply Orange® blogging program. If I am one of the first 65 blogs received by SocialsMoms, I will receive a $25 Target gift card and a gift pack that includes a Simply Orange® cooler bag and logoed fleece. I believe they've already received 65 posts, but I thought the topic was worthwhile.

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    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Depression - slow and steady wins the race

    It's not a race, really, but the philosophy holds true. Healing and recovering from clinical depression is more like the tortoise's pace than the hare's.

    Depression isn't an overnight recovery. It's not like a cold: treat it, it lasts seven days. Leave it alone, it lasts a week. Depression isn't like influenza, either: there's no vaccine or chicken soup treatment. Influenza may be as miserable, though, I do admit it. I've been there, too.

    Anti-depressants can help. Rest can help. Counseling therapy can help. Together, they're all pieces of the treatments available, but none of these will result in immediate improvement.

    That means patience. Rest, eating right, taking time and looking forward to the day I'll wake up in the morning and want to run around the block. Or not.

    Christmas was tough. I had a to-do list that was much too long. Amigo loves Christmas, and he kept asking if I wanted help wrapping presents or baking cookies - two tasks we enjoy together every year. I had to put him off, telling him I had to finish my schoolwork, and then being unable to do anything else due to fatigue. Finally, on December 24th, after school was finished, Amigo and I wrapped and baked and decorated like crazy.

    I still didn't accomplish all I wanted. I had new recipes in mind: two new cookies and one for orange scones. I baked one: pecan cookies. They were good. Delicious, in fact, and I wished I'd been able to make the others. But my get-up-and-go had got-up-and-went, and no amount of anti-depressant could take the place of a nap. I had to face the fact that it was okay to let things go. As long as the presents were wrapped, the kitchen floor could stay crumby for a day.

    It took a lot of energy to be joyful on Christmas Day, too. My in-laws were here, and I left La Petite and Amigo to entertain them while I wrapped up the banana bread for their gift baskets. They're wonderful people, but I had no energy for small talk.

    I'm on the road to recovery. I expect it to be a long road, some of it uphill and some of it still under construction. Eventually, I'll be myself again. All in good time. Slowly, steadily, like the tortoise, not the hare.


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    Wednesday, January 19, 2011

    Influenza - it's on its way to your neighborhood

    I mentioned last week that I feel grateful I don't have to face flu season in my class this year. There are several reasons.
    1. I'm less likely to get sick. Even though I faithfully get a flu vaccine every year, some strains can slip through. Being on extended leave of absence takes me out of the main drag for spreading viruses.
    2. Preparing make-up work. Some students can work at home. Some can't; they're too sick to concentrate, or their parents can't (or won't) make it to school to pick up the work.
    3. Collecting and recording make-up work. This is a huge time investment.
    4. Changing the pace of instruction - reteaching, slowing down, catching up everyone.

    Last year my class was hit hard by H1N1. Out of twenty-one students, I had between five and ten students gone on any given day for close to three weeks.

    The Center for Disease Control (CDC) focuses a lot of its resources toward flu research. Anyone can benefit from that information by looking up free resources at the CDC's flu pages. There are

    Around my house, the only thing spreading is NFL Football Playoff Fever, and I'd like to keep it that way. Go! Pack! Go!

    Graphic at top from There is more information at This is not a paid post; I was asked by the CDC to help get the word out, and I agreed. I've seen the impact of influenza on families; if I can help minimize the number of children who get sick, I'm happy to help.


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    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Oatmeal Apple Cake

    As always, I've modified this from its original version. Chuck and I enjoy having a piece for breakfast. In fact, as delicious as it was warm from the oven, it was better the next day. Second day cake held together better, was still moist but had no liquid, and seemed to taste better, too. Here goes:

    Oatmeal Apple Cake a la Daisy

    1 cup butter or margarine, softened (2 sticks)
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup packed brown sugar
    2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
    1/4 cup flour (pick your kind; I used all purpose)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
    2 cups apples, diced, cored, peeled
    3 cups quick or old fashioned oats - yes, it's a lot. This amount is correct.
    1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped - I like walnuts; they go well with apples
    1/2 to 2/3 cup applesauce
    1 teaspoon vanilla


    Cream butter and sugars. Add applesauce (or alternative), vanilla, & eggs. Blend well. Mix in dry ingredients (including nuts). Add apples and oats. Stir until moistened. Bake at 350 for about one hour in a 9 inch square cake pan.

    Actually, the 9 inch square pan was a little small. I might experiment with a bigger pan next time. The cake will be thinner, but it will be more likely to bake completely during the hour and might not be as moist and crumbly. Not that moist and crumbly is a problem; it's awesome with vanilla ice cream. And coffee. Of course.

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    Monday, January 17, 2011


    In the wake of the Tragedy in Tucson, and in recognition of Dr. King's Dream, below is a re-post from times past.

    I dream that differences will be valued, not disdained.
    Eye color, hair color, body shapes, and skin shades will be appreciated for their beauty and variety.
    Cultural traditions will not disappear, but will thrive and grow together into a rich and fascinating sharing of knowledge and beliefs.
    I dream that blindness will be merely a different way of seeing, and deafness impair only the quantity, not the quality of the language 'heard'.
    Children will matter because they own the future. Their education, academic and social, will become and remain of utmost importance.
    The mediators and the peacemakers will be recognized as the strongest leaders.
    Questions will come from curiosity, not ignorance, and the answers will breed respect.
    Knowing each other, knowing ourselves, will lead to knowing that fights and conflicts, wars of all kinds, will cease to be of value.

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    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    What does a baby do with a big pot?

    Amigo borrowed my new big canner to teach his cousin some new tricks.

    "Hey, Amigo, I got it! I can solo now!"

    "What's that? You in the corner - are you laughin' at me?"

    "Wait a minute. This isn't where the drummer goes."

    "Next gig, Amigo, we'll wow 'em at our next gig."

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    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Simple Pleasures

    Simple Pleasures while not working, that is. Listing positives is a good exercise in addressing depression. It's also a good way to focus my thoughts on life as it is, not as it "should" or could be.

    These lists must avoid sarcasm. Do you know how hard that is? A list of cynical positives might include:
    • I don't have to teach through flu season! No danger of catching it myself, leading to multiple sick days and huge amounts of substitute lesson plans. No stacks of make up work for kids who miss multiple days of school, either. Yeah!!
    • I don't have to teach Valentine's Day! The sugar hell, I mean sugar heaven - the holiday that's not a school holiday and really shouldn't even happen in class but I'd be in so much trouble with parents if I didn't allow kids to pass out their little cards and candy - oh, thank goodness I don't have to teach Valentine's Day!!
    But these are cynical, even sarcastic suggestions. While these are legitimate thoughts and legitimate reasons to be happy, they're not the kind of positives on which I need to focus. Here's a second try.

    • I get to read the morning paper in the morning, taking my time reading the whole thing.
    • I can take my time getting dressed, and then I can dress casually.
    • Lunches are relaxed rather than rushed. I can actually cook a decent and nutritious lunch and take my time eating it.
    • I can watch the early news shows. It's a guilty pleasure, watching the features in between the real news, but it's a pleasure all the same.
    • Cooking supper is more relaxed, too. I can thaw something and cook it, taking my time, because I'm not rushed between school and supper. I have more time to think and plan meals in general. Hopefully that will be a plus for my health (darn this anemia) and not a weight gain!
    There are more simple pleasures while on this lengthy sick leave. I'll share more later, and I promise to do my best to avoid the sarcastic versions. I'll think them (oh, you know I will!), but I (probably) won't post those.

    Readers, here's your challenge. Leave a comment with at least one positive element in your life right now. Humor is fine, but no cynicism or sarcasm allowed!!

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    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    For Christina

    Christina Taylor Green will be mourned and buried today. Vibrant, positive, excited about life, she sounds like an amazing young woman.

    Christina was a Child of Hope: a baby born as our world turned upside down on September 11, 2001. she was killed in another public day of violence as our world turned upside down once again.

    Baseball, ballet, horses, science. church, choir, student council. She was enthusiastic and involved in everything possible. Photos show her smiling, grinning, looking eager for the next adventure.

    Christina attended the ill-fated town meeting to meet her representative in Congress and learn more about politics. She was sincerely interested in making a difference, perhaps by running for office and making a life of public service.

    Christina won't get that chance. Her life was cut short in a senseless and violent shooting rampage. Are there any other kinds of shooting rampages? Do any make sense? Of course not. An early and violent death like Christina's doesn't make sense, either.

    I keep using her name so that Christina stays real: not just the nine-year-old killed in an unbelievable event. Not just the student council girl who wanted to meet her congresswoman. She was a real person, a daughter, a neighbor, a student, a sister, a friend.

    Christina didn't get to live her dreams and her passions. For young dreamer Christina, gone too soon, I call on the rest of us to step forward and make a difference.

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    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    More Rockin' Chicken

    It's really Moroccan Chicken Stew from Campbell's Kitchen. I saw this in a magazine, said to myself, "Well, we have all the ingredients we need in our pantry, why not?" Of course I made a few modifications, the main one being cutting the recipe down significantly. We were feeding three adults (Amigo was away at school), so I changed the 8 chicken thighs to 3 chicken breasts. The 2 red onions became 1 yellow onion rather than make another trip to the store. I imagine when summer comes the green pepper will be interchangeable with whatever peppers are ripe in the garden or at the Farmers' Market. The Tablespoon of curry powder became a generous teaspoon instead. I made it in my cast iron Dutch oven (a birthday present). We served the spicy chicken stew over brown rice and pronounced it good.

    Daisy's version of Campbell's Moroccan Chicken Stew

    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    3 chicken breasts
    1 medium yellow onion, sliced
    1 medium green pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1 can condensed Tomato Soup
    1/3 cup raisins
    1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained
    1/3 cup slivered almonds

    1. Heat oil in 5 qt. saucepot (or Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until well browned on both sides. Remove chicken from pot.
    2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, pepper, and garlic and cook 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add cinnamon and curry; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in soup and heat to a boil. Return chicken to pot. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15-20 minutes.
    3. While chicken is cooking, stir raisins and chickpeas into pot. Cook until chicken is cooked through. Stir in almonds.


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    Monday, January 10, 2011

    What's next? Planning during depression

    Looking forward while suffering from depression is a necessary challenge. Setting up routines and sticking to them while still allowing time to rest and rejuvenate - that's a difficult balance to find. I am settling into routines in the mornings. With school no longer part of my daily schedule, I've filled the mornings - but not too full.

    Getting up with Chuck starts my day. Even if I haven't slept well (Darn those stress-filled nightmares!), I'll drag myself out of bed and come downstairs, feed the bunnies, start the coffeepot. My morning routine is fairly relaxing and allows room for a nap if, as I mentioned, I didn't sleep well the night before.
    • start coffee
    • feed bunnies (They're always happy to see me. Pets are wonderful.)
    • read newspaper & have breakfast
    • watch morning news shows, sip coffee
    • check personal emails and blogs
    Now comes the tough part, the part of the routine that has the potential to cause blood pressure spikes and stomach aches.
    • Check school email. I'm still in communication with a few of my coworkers, and there may be important information I need. For now, I check it daily. Later, I'll reduce my school email checks to once or twice a week.
    • Work on progress reports. This was part of my commitment to making my leave of absence smooth and seamless for my replacement; finishing the semester one progress reports. Fortunately, we have a new online progress report, and I can access the system from home.
    • Click Save on the progress reports, refill coffee, relax.
    • Read. Reading for pleasure keeps my mind occupied and lets my body rest.
    These may seem like small goals and an overly simple routine. But during depression, attainable goals are important. Making supper each day feels like a huge accomplishment. Making a to-do list is alright, but the list must be reasonable. If it's too long, finishing the tasks could cause a collapse from exhaustion.

    Long term planning isn't realistic right now. Making big decisions - career changes, moving, major projects - isn't a good idea while my mind and body are so wiped out. I'm taking one graduate class online, and I continue to blog and work on a family writing project. And if we get snowed in? For me, there will be little or no change. We have plenty of coffee and hot cocoa and a big bag of bunny food in case of winter emergency.

    Keeping change to a minimum, no matter how it happens, is the best plan for right now.


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    Friday, January 07, 2011

    Depression Awareness

    I was taking Amigo to an appointment and noticed an issue of WebMD Magazine sitting on the table. There were multiple copies of this special edition, which led me to think, "Maybe I can take this with me." The focus topic?


    Amigo was called just then, so I folded the eight-page publication and tucked it into my purse for later reading. As I moved into my extended leave of absence, I wanted all the information I could get on my condition.

    Depression awareness is growing, but awareness is still the lowest form of knowledge. For people with depression to really feel comfortable talking about it, our society needs to move beyond awareness into a deeper knowledge and true comprehension of this illness. Yes, illness. Too many think depression is a simple sadness, a case of the blues, a mood swing. How did I know whether my boss would consider this an illness or a personal weakness? I still don't know, and I'm not sure I trust her enough to ask.

    I'm lucky. My family understands depression as an illness, and they know what kinds of support I need. When I need to rest, they say, "Go" and push me up the stairs to take a nap. When I need a little extra moral support, they're ready to talk and listen, and when I need to be alone, they allow it -- within reason. Those closest to me, friends and family, know that depression affects people differently, and with me, feeling isolated worsens the symptoms overall.

    I can't say this enough: depression is an illness, a serious illness that affects people differently. My true friends know that. They know me, and they respect and understand how I feel. They don't expect me to snap out of it or magically heal overnight.

    They know I'm ill, and they also know I'm going to recover.


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    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    My part of the Compassion Project

    The Compassion Project is an art project, a mosaic, made by students all over our fair city.

    The Compassion Project inspired discussion, thought, and potentially acts of compassion.

    Students decorated tiles to become part of a large mosaic. Teachers could volunteer to decorate a tile for the mosaic, too, so I offered to make one. Mine is still sitting, blank, in the kitchen. I have ideas, but I'm still struggling with the details.

    I really want to emphasize visual and hearing impairments, disabilities. I thought about incorporating more disabilities into my 6" x 6" tile, but decided to keep it personal and stick with what I know. I can't use La Petite's "Touching Words" photo; I would need to take my own picture. Another idea: I could create a border using the word compassion in Braille. We have a Braille embosser and a labeler, too; the Braille border would look good.

    But hearing impairment is harder to portray as visual art. I could use American Sign Language, finger spelling the word compassion, but finger spelling isn't really accurate. The true sign for compassion would be an active sign, incorporating motion that won't fit on a small tile in a mosaic. A photo of hearing aids, side by side with the Braille? Maybe, but that seems lame. There must be something better.

    A quote might be nice. A quote in the middle, surrounded by a Braille border spelling compassion or rewriting the quote itself, could be effective. Maybe the quote could reference hearing impairment.

    There is Helen Keller's "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." It's a good sentiment, but the quote is overused. I'd rather find something else.

    Here's one from actress Marlee Matlin: "It was ability that mattered, not disability, which is a word I'm not crazy about using."

    Then there is "Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were made to stand out?" I saw this first in DeafMom's blog. She tells me it comes from the movie What a Girl Wants.

    I'm looking for a way to represent hearing impairment on a 6" by 6" ceramic tile with a Braille border. Simplicity is good; it will be part of a mosaic with hundreds of other identically sized tiles, each illustrating compassion in some way. My tile can stand out or blend in. Ideas, readers?

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    Tuesday, January 04, 2011

    Orange Cranberry Scones

    Continuing my series of holiday recipes after the holiday - these, like the pecan cookies, can be made any time of year. They make a delicious addition to a holiday breakfast or brunch, but they don't need to be reserved for Christmas. I've been so tired that I couldn't make the goodies on Christmas morning itself; I put together a batch later in the week and made them again on New Year's Day while we watched the Rose Bowl parade. Enjoy!

    from Food in Jars blog

    Food in Jars posted this as a Gift in a Jar format. I haven't given it away yet, but I have made the recipe twice. Here it is!

    To be layered in a pint jar:
    1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)
    3 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or regular salt)

    Mix the zest of one orange with 1/4 cup sugar and add to jar.
    Top with 1/2 cup dried cranberries. Possible substitutions include dried blueberries or raisins.

    To bake the scones:
    Mix contents of jar in medium mixing bowl.
    Cut 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter into the mixture.
    Beat 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 egg together. Add to mixture and stir to combine.
    Once combined, turn onto baking sheet and pat into circle.
    Cut into 8 wedges, but do not separate. A pizza cutter works well.
    Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top.

    Serve with jam or apple butter or drizzle with powdered sugar frosting.

    Finding yet another recipe that calls for whole wheat pastry flour makes me determined to find it. That's my task for the week: check out the local specialty stores and if they don't have it, try Woodman's!

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    Monday, January 03, 2011

    I'm done. It's official.

    Pushing to the Winter Break is always a challenge at school. The moodiness. The excitement. The full moon and lunar eclipse, concurrent with a snowstorm and other mood-altering atmospheric conditions -- well, I can just say the last week of school in 2010 was more of a challenge than usual.

    But I'm done. I survived. It's over.

    It's more than over, though. I'm done - for the year. Not just 2010, but the full 2010-2011 school year. I'm taking a leave of absence from my teaching job from now until June.

    Illness made teaching tough this year. Gout, flu-like virus, even the possibility of heart trouble had me missing more days than I wanted.

    But more than that, school has been a struggle: a struggle that was making me sicker. I didn't sleep well at night. Worries kept me awake, and when sleep did come, I'd awaken in a head to toe sweat. Stomach aches every Monday morning, heartburn and headaches Sunday nights, there were too many symptoms to ignore.

    There were tipping points. Getting hurt while preventing a student from throwing a chair. Getting threatened by a student and seeing no administrative response whatsoever. Spending time late at night to leave decent sub plans - against the doctor's advice - only to get all kinds of nasty notes about how my work hadn't been sufficient.

    Between me, the doctor, and my family, we decided it was time: time to look into a long-term leave. A time to recover, to heal, both physically and mentally. A time to really examine my commitment to teaching and whether it can weather this kind of conflict. Before I make any kind of decision on my future, I need to rest. Rest, recover, and feel good again -- even on Mondays.

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    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    Happy New Year: a year in First Days

    Let's work backwards with the retrospective this year. Preparing this annual post is fun; finding out what was on my mind at the beginning of each month is fascinating.

    November: Must have been a Tuesday. Another Apple Crisp!
    October: Random Dental Thoughts If you're wondering, I did call the doctor after my dentist appointment. The nurse thought my nitrous story was hilarious.
    September: She Needs to Read - if you're wondering about this student, she's still around. Stability is no longer a foreign concept.
    August: Math, Math, Math. August, and I was already preparing to teach. I'm more skilled at teaching reading and writing than I am math; the Math Institute was time well spent.
    June: Rhubarb Dessert Yum. I have rhubarb in the freezer; maybe I should make this!
    May: Seed Inventory! Oh, sigh, for a patch of dirt that isn't frozen!
    April: Hershey's Basket Blog Hop A blog blast and a picture of baby Krumpet!
    March: Creativity I'd rather Avoid What will they think of next? No, don't answer that.
    February: On Brahms, Life and Death, and Being There One of my most serious posts. If you read only one from 2010, make it this one.

    I noticed that I rarely posted on the first of the month. What's going on in my life at the turn of each month that makes it so hard to put up a post? The collection includes a few recipes, a couple of product reviews/ blog carnivals, and a lot of teacher posts. I predict 2011 will have a different focus; you'll see why in a few days.

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