Category Archives: Journaling Posts

Chimeras, Evil Laughs, and Vampire Bats

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MakerSpace was great on Sunday, August 9th. I had been looking forward to cutting up stuffed animals and sewing the parts together to make new, made up creatures, and I was not the least bit disappointed. For those of you who don’t know, MakerSpace is a concept being adopted by many Asheville schools and other programs for kids. As the name suggests, it is all about making and creating, whether it’s through cooking food, making arts and crafts, building and inventing stuff, etc. My Unitarian Universalist church’s RE program (religious education, a UU’s equivalent to Sunday school) does all sorts of different MakerSpace activities over the summer. August 9th marked the third time I’d helped out with MakerSpace this summer. The first two times, I helped with cooking activities, something I hope to do more of with kids.
Cooking was fun, but August 9th was the first time I got to see just how creative these kids are. They are in grades kindergarten through sixth, and they all came up with the strangest, silliest, most original creatures to make with old stuffed animal parts. Some of these chimeras were: An elephant with the body of a teddy bear, a squirrel with bat wings and a dog’s head, a horse with a penguin’s head and purple monkey arms (wearing a panda mask no less), a penguin with a dog’s head (with hair pretties on her ears), a dog with a monkey’s head and antlers, a penguin with a polar bear head, a guinea pig with a teddy bear’s body and corduroy bear legs (I helped cut that guinea pig’s head off), a bunny with a teddy bear body and a frog’s leg for a tail, and a vampire bat; a long stuffed animal’s leg that’s been made into a baseball bat with a face and sharp teeth. The kids seemed to really enjoy making these creatures. Needless to say, I think they also enjoyed cutting up old stuffed animals. The leader of this activity even encouraged them to start the session with an evil laugh! These funny, creative kids were a pleasure to work with. I got to hang out with some of them after we were done.
Here are some of the quotes from me, the kids, and the other MakerSpace teachers I wrote down while we were doing this:

“Who wanted the bunny head?”

“Here’s a bunny body for whoever wants it.”

“I’m cutting off his ears!”

“Let me find a head for you.”

“Hey, that’s my body! You have a penguin body!”

“Somebody lost a tail.”

“Here’s a purple arm.”

“Did somebody take the guinea pig feet?”

As these quotes suggest, this was a fun, creative, hilarious, somewhat evil session in MakerSpace. Most of the kids loved it and took home the stuffed creatures they made, with two exceptions that I know of.
There were two little girls who didn’t enjoy this session. One of them is the daughter of the woman I usually ride to church with. She knew it would be too traumatic for her to see stuffed animals get chopped up, so she didn’t even go. There was another little girl who went and did the activity, but didn’t want to take home her stuffed creature. That was OK, though, because I had brought a teddy bear for the kids to chop up, but before we started, this child decided he was too cute for that and asked if she could take him home. I said yes. So I guess she saved the life of at least one of those animals. Some of the other stuffed animals didn’t get cut up at all. There were also lots of leftover heads, limbs, tails, and bodies, which I imagine will be used when we do this again next summer. If I’m in charge then, I’d tell the kids to try their best to use the body parts we already have before cutting up more stuffed animals. We will always need more animals for this, though. I will too, because I’m going to try doing it myself. I wrote down the basic supplies I’ll need, and maybe people can help me sew the parts together. Maybe someday I’ll post my own pictures and directions for making stuffed toys this way.
Anyway, MakerSpace is almost over. Next week we’ll be making chalices (the Unitarian Universalist symbol) out of clay, and we will end the summer with a garden party. Then it will be time for regular religious education, where I will be telling stories and helping with more hands-on activities. I can’t wait to be trained for those two things!

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My Toolbox of Life

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As yesterday’s poem may suggest, I have started working on a Toolbox of Life. The tools in this toolbox vary greatly in terms of how often I use them, what I use them for, what they mean to me, etc. I’m sure there are additional tools I haven’t thought of yet. Here are the tools I have come up with so far:

Self-discipline. This is one tool I know I lacked in college and to some extent still lack. With more self-discipline, I think I could be a better writer and blogger.

Courage. Of the three “Wizard of Oz” traits, this is the one I think I lacked the most in college. I’d probably be much prouder of my college education now if I’d had more courage at the time; courage to learn from my mistakes and do what I knew was right. I really like how courage is illustrated in “Minions” (a topic I will touch upon in another post), and I found a really powerful quote about courage that I like. It goes like this: “In life, you always have three choices: Give up, give in, or give it all you’ve got!” I think this quote could also be applied to self-discipline. I found it on Facebook, but it wasn’t attributed to anybody.

Passion, knowledge, and compassion. These tools, I feel, are more specific versions of the other two “Wizard of Oz” traits. Knowledge is a more specific version of Brain, while passion and compassion are more specific versions of Heart. I believe I have these traits in ample amounts and already use them on a regular basis, but there is always room for improvement. I will also start writing down instances of when and how I use them.

Memory and imagination. These are two other tools I feel I have in ample amounts and use on a regular basis. They are also two of my favorites. What I said about passion, knowledge, and compassion also applies to these two, though.

Happiness. This is a very important tool, but unfortunately, I think it is the one I sabotage the most for myself. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people who have depression and/or anxiety, like I do, have the same problem. How we use this tool in life is not always clear, but we all know how important it is to keep and cherish at all times.
To help with this, I have been looking into buying “Bucket Full of Happiness” books. These are children’s books, but I think they can be helpful for adults, too. One of them even says it is for people of all ages. These books focus mostly on filling your own happiness bucket by making other people happy. That concept is very important to me, and I will also try to remember that there are other ways to fill one’s own bucket, which are perfectly fine as long as they don’t “dip” buckets belonging to other people. For those of you who are interested, here is a link to the “Bucket Full of Happiness” web site.

Volunteer Orientation at Brother Wolf

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Last Tuesday, August 4th, I attended a volunteer orientation for Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. At the orientation, I heard about Spay-getti and No-Balls fundraisers, where Brother Wolf Animal Rescue takes over a restaurant for a day, and the proceeds from all the food they make and serve benefit the organization. These events are also obvious reminders to spay and neuter your pets. I’d love to volunteer for one of those events sometime. I’m also looking forward to the VeganFest next Sunday, August 16th.
Both before and after the orientation, I petted some of the kitties. One of them was a very sweet, very affectionate tom named Rocky. The moment I stuck my fingers in his cage, Rocky started licking me and rubbing his head against my hands. He was big for his age, being only a year. I petted some younger kittens, too. One of them, a female named Poppy, kept batting at my fingers. Another kitten, a young tom named Bash, was crying, so one of the other people at the orientation took him out of his cage. The three cats I know so far are Rocky and Poppy and Bash (oh my!). I wonder how long they’ll be at the adoption center.
Speaking of which, I found out at the orientation that volunteers can adopt animals. There isn’t a rule against that like there is at the shelter in Virginia where Dan volunteered, back when we were in high school together (I’m engaged to my high school sweetheart). Dan and I probably won’t be getting a cat for awhile, but it’s nice to know I won’t have to stop volunteering to get one.  Even though I won’t be getting a cat anytime soon, I will get to know lots of cats while playing with them, especially since I will play with whichever cat(s) don’t have check marks near their names on the chart. (That means they haven’t been cared for or played with yet that day). I will get to know each cat’s unique personality, which will come in handy when I help with adoption events. I might even help with the adoption table at VeganFest.
The volunteer coordinator seemed to really like me. She high-fived me when I guessed right that “community cats” means the spaying and neutering of feral cats that can’t be adopted. She also loved my jokes, including (and perhaps especially) my poop jokes. When she was talking about the importance of poop bags when taking dogs for walks (I’m not a dog person; I won’t be doing that), she said we should always bring one bag for the dog and one for us, because “you never know.” Then she said, “Have you ever pooped in a ditch? No? Then you’ve never lived!” I said, “Oh, I see! Yeah, she’s right!” (I’ve camped out in the woods before, where there weren’t any bathrooms). Everybody laughed. Then, when the volunteer coordinator talked about getting a little brownie pan from the organization’s thrift store, for litter training little kittens, I said, “So I guess it became a cat brownie pan!” Everyone liked that joke, too. Somebody even said, “She strikes again!” That made me feel good.
Aww, yes, the thrift shop! I learned several cool things about Brother Wolf’s thrift shop. First of all, it accepts just about everything. Dan and I can bring our old stuff there instead of to Goodwill. We can shop there, too. I also heard that some of their kitties live at the thrift shop, as do some guinea pigs and bunnies. As it turns out, cats and dogs are not the only animals Brother Wolf rescues. Besides the bunnies and guinea pigs at the thrift store, most of the other animals (besides cats and dogs) that they rescue are in foster care, including pigs. I would love to talk to, maybe even interview, someone who is fostering a pig. There are also pigs and cows at their sanctuary, but that’s kind of far away from where I live. Maybe I can visit there sometime, but I’m not sure I should count on volunteering. I wonder if the Asheville Humane Society or some other organization has a livestock sanctuary that’s closer. I’d love to learn more about saving livestock from being eaten.
The day after the volunteer orientation, I checked my top 3 choices in volunteer tasks. These tasks include taking care of cats, writing pet bios and other website work, and helping with VeganFest. I saw some other interesting opportunities, too, that I’ll take a second look at soon. Among other things, they included bottle feeding kittens and a lunch event at Loretta’s Cafe. I would like to help with both of those.

Please enjoy these poems about the volunteer orientation:

Cat Haikus
Stick fingers in cage
Hands and fingers licked, rubbed, loved.
Sweet, loving kitty.

Stick fingers in cage
Fingers batted, fingers boxed.
Playful kitty-cat.

Get to know each cat
Each cat’s prrr-sonality.
They are all unique.

Ready To Work
Cats,
Dogs,
Guinea pigs,
Bunnies,
And pigs,
Read to work
With critters!

Pet bios,
Bottle-feeding
Special events,
Ready to work
With critters!

Excitement,
Poop jokes,
And high fives.
Ready to work
With critters!

I Am Grateful For My Sense of Sight Because…

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Note: For this prompt, I felt it necessary to also write what I believe I could still do if I were blind. (I, of course, have no way of knowing for sure what I could still do, but these are my guesses).  I have incorporated all of these activities except the most important two into the reasons I am grateful for sight. The two most important activities I could still do if I were blind are read, because books come in both braille and audio form, and write, since I write on my computer, and computer keys can be in braille.  (There are also devices that say what a person is typing back to her). So, without further ado, here are the reasons I am grateful for sight:

I can see little children, so beautiful, so dainty, yet so strong.

I can do art

I can collect dolls, stuffed animals, and fairy statues, and see them displayed on my shelf

I can blog

I can watch my favorite movies

I can see trees in the forest, especially their trunks and branches, which I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate with no sight. If I were blind, I could probably still hear the leaves whispering in the wind.  Most likely the only way I could appreciate autumn leaves if I were blind is by hearing the sound of them crunching under my feet.  Other ways I could appreciate autumn, my favorite season, if I were blind, are by feeling the cool air and smelling the changing leaves.

I can see deer, squirrels, and bears when we cross paths. These animals are usually quiet, so I might not be able to notice them if I were blind.

I can see spiders and their webs. Spiders are silent, and so are their webs.  I cannot see how I could appreciate spiders, one of my favorite animals, if I were blind.

I can maybe garden someday

I could maybe someday identify birds by both their song and their appearance. Right now all I can do is identify a few birds’ songs.

I can see all the animals at zoos and the nature center. I probably wouldn’t even be able to pet animals in a petting zoo if I were blind. I could pet dogs and cats that I know, but not less tame animals like the goats at the nature center.

Spinach-Tomato Soup

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The spinach-tomato soup I made, in a bowl and ready to eat with crackers!

When I made spinach-tomato soup, I didn’t want to ever stop sauteing those onions, garlic, and celery, because the veggies and olive oil smelled so good, and the sizzling was like music!  It was similar to something that would happen periodically all through my schooling years, from preschool to college. When we did something in school I really enjoyed, I often did not want to stop doing it. Then I was disappointed when we started doing something else that I didn’t like as much. Not wanting to stop sauteing the vegetables didn’t end up being that similar to it, though, because the second step after sauteing was adding thyme and oregano to the mixture. Those seasonings made the mixture even more fragrant!
The part that was somewhat disappointing came when it was time to add the canned crushed and diced tomatoes to the mixture. When I first put them in, they diluted the aroma of oregano, thyme, and sauteing onions, garlic, and celery. Soon, though, the tomatoes cooked long enough to become fragrant, and the aroma took on a whole new form. The soup became even more aromatic when I added the spinach along with basil. When the soup was simmering in the pot, I could smell all the different ingredients combined.
The recipe said to add balsamic vinegar along with black pepper shortly before serving. I had never heard of putting balsamic vinegar in soup before, so when I first put it in, part of me worried that I was making a mistake. I knew it was the right ingredient, though, when the vinegar added a whole new aroma to the soup.  It smelled right to me.  All the different smells were combined, and at that point, I was ready to see what the soup tasted like!
At first the soup was a little too acid-tasting from all the canned tomatoes, but once I added garlic and onion powder, it tasted better. I knew garlic and onion powder would be good in this, both because garlic is good in almost everything and because the soup already had fresh onions and garlic in it. Even with the garlic and onion powder, though, I knew any kind of tomato soup would taste better if it were made with fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes.  Unlike the canned tomatoes diluting the aroma at first, though, this was not a disappointment.  Since it was made with canned tomatoes, I didn’t expect this soup to taste that much better than it did.  I ate it up anyway, though, because it was healthy (even though fresh tomatoes are healthier).
I am looking forward to making more tomato-based soups in the future, but next time, I would definitely like to make it with fresh tomatoes. There’s a few things I’m not sure of, though. Would a soup taste better with fresh tomatoes than canned tomatoes even if the tomatoes aren’t local or in season? I know tomatoes always taste best when both of those are the case. If I ever get around to canning my own tomatoes, would they taste better in soup than store bought canned tomatoes? Please share your opinions on these questions below.  Until next time!

I Dream of Hosting…

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Having lived in my own apartment, miles away from my mom and dad, for more than six months now, I am finally starting to get the hang of cleaning the apartment and cooking for myself on a regular basis. In order to keep our apartment clean, instead of constantly forgetting to do cleaning tasks, my fiance and I will need to pick chores we can do during the week and chores we should save for one of the two weekend days. We should both stay home on that day, which would also give me time for my writing when I’m not cleaning. In order to keep this day free, I know I will need to pick and choose which events I attend over the weekend and which ones I don’t. I go to lots of potlucks and dinners, and, even with my setting aside one day of the weekend to clean, such events will be much easier once I can host them myself. The apartment I have now is too small for that, but that won’t always be the case.
Someday, after a day of cleaning, I will be able to have my fiance’s parents over for dinner. Then I’ll be able to cook for them, instead of his mom always cooking for us. I will need to make it clear, though, that this is one of my rules: if I won’t eat it, I won’t cook it. This means no red meat when they have dinner at our house. Peppers may be okay, even though I don’t like them, since I can eat around those. No desserts made with bananas or coffee, though, since I don’t like either of those. I know they’ll be happy as long as they get their chocolate, something I definitely approve of.
I’ll be able to entertain other people, too. The sky is the limits for the types of parties and potlucks I can host! I’ve thought about hosting charity parties around the holidays and environmentally conscious potlucks at other times of year. I should think of what types of creativity parties I can host, too. I’m sure I’ll get ideas from the Arty Party this Saturday with the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Group. I can also think about the holiday parties my writers’ group back in Virginia hosted, as well as their Writers’ Block Parties for 4th of July.
The Writers’ Block Party is an obvious play on words. It’s a potluck where we all shared what causes writer’s block for us and how we overcome it. That’s a pretty simple event. The Writers’ Group holiday party was a much bigger deal. It involved a White Elephant gift exchange, swapping regular gifts (usually pens, notebooks, and other writers’ gifts), and usually a raffle for a writing instructional book. A White Elephant gift exchange is definitely something I’d like to host someday. Those are a lot of fun. You never know what you will get or who will like what they unwrap.
The only other idea I have so far for a writing/creativity party is doing group writing exercises together. If you guys have any ideas for creativity parties, environmentally conscious parties, charity parties, or occasions for a White Elephant gift exchange, please share them with me.
That’s all for now, folks! Please check back soon.

Are Humans Like Voldemort?

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I have been known to say that humans are like Voldemort. If we really want to kill a creature, we can and will. I’ve said this because as we speak, humans are wiping out many endangered animals.  As if that wasn’t enough, when still-plentiful animals adapt to the unnatural surroundings humans have created, we try to get rid of them, too, because they’re supposedly interfering with our quality of life. That really makes me angry.  We have endangered and wiped out so many species that I fear we will also wipe out mice, rats, pigeons, cockroaches, and other creatures that adapt well to development if we try hard enough. That’s why I think if humans really want to kill something, it will happen sooner or later, hence my comparison to Voldemort.
People have told me that this isn’t true. They’ve told me that some so-called pests, especially cockroaches, can withstand anything humans throw at them, and will be around long after everything else dies out. I hope that’s true. I hope cockroaches and other pests ultimately win the fight when we try to wipe them out. But even I have come to question myself on how accurate the comparison of humans to Voldemort really is. Before I get to that, though, let me vent a little.

It’s as though humans are saying to cockroaches and other creatures we consider pests, “How dare you adapt to your new surroundings after I destroy your natural habitat?” I mean, what the heck? When their habitats are altered, animals can do one of two things: adapt or die out. What, Humanity, did you expect all wild creatures, or at least the ones you don’t like, to die out when you developed their land? I’m afraid that doesn’t happen as often as you’d like, Humanity!

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can talk about my own perception of why the Voldemort analogy might not work with humans. Here’s what I think:  When looking at all those times we’ve wiped out or endangered a species, we often see that it was done indirectly.  For most of those instances, It was not a direct or intentional action. It may be that none of the species that went extinct at humanity’s hands did so because humans wanted to wipe them out. Well, okay, that did happen with wolves, which is why wolves are still endangered today. Wolves were believed by humans to be pure evil, which is why we tried to eradicate them. I’m sure there have been other cases like this, too, but it still seems that the vast majority of animals that have gone extinct at our hands were killed indirectly, not directly, by our actions. Very rarely have we endangered a species because we wanted it to go extinct.
Even when we try to get rid of cockroaches or other “pests,” we’re usually not trying to completely wipe these creatures off the planet. We just don’t want them near where we live, and, since none of these creatures are endangered, wiping them out near where we live wouldn’t be a problem, if the methods we used killed only them and not other living things. But that’s another rant for another day.

Anyway, I really do think we should learn to live in harmony with all living things, instead of trying to wipe them out near where we live. I mean, what’s wrong with cockroach-proofing your house, and letting those bugs live alongside you? Ultimately that’s all we can do, considering cockroaches are predicted to be around for at least as long as we are.
That’s why I think pest-proofing our homes, our crops, etc, is the best solution. In other words, I think making it so these critters can thrive without harming our homes is the best way to deal with them. After all, God made all living things to live alongside each other. I should research the different ways people can pest-proof their homes.
Another solution, of course, is taking advantage of the methods Mother Nature made to control the populations of these pests. One way of getting rid of mice and rats, for instance, is making your yard a favorable habitat for owls. I should research methods similar to that, too, for Mother Nature meant for owls to be the exterminators of rodents, not humans or domestic cats.
I know another example of taking advantage of a natural predator for pest control is making sure crops have lots of lady bugs for eating aphids. Just as owls are an important alternative to cats, which unfortunately kill smaller birds as well as rodents, ladybugs are an important alternative to pesticides, many of which will poison any living thing that comes into contact with it. That brings me back to the point I made before, which is that controlling pest populations wouldn’t be nearly as problematic if the methods we used killed only what we intended them to kill, not so many other living things, including humans in some cases. Everything is connected, and one of the many things this means is that what kills one living thing will often kill others. That is an important message to keep in mind when we want to control pests, and an important reason why it’s best to try to live in harmony with them instead.
In short, I guess humanity isn’t that similar to Voldemort. As a whole, we’re more like a dangerous beast that doesn’t know it’s own strength. I mean, we go to kill just one kind of bug that’s devouring our crops, and we end up killing a vast number of other living things in addition. It’s more that we don’t know how capable we are of killing. Or maybe we do know, but either keep forgetting or try to deny it. Maybe both, depending on the circumstances.