Ireland, Politics and the feeling of Home

Is it possible for a place to call to you? To leave such an indelible imprint in your soul that you choke back tears just thinking about it?

sheep farm

#askingforafriend

I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I was sucked in by the smell of it. The mist, the grass, the peat smoke, the green of it all. When standing on the shore in Waterville, staring at the ocean, I begin to realize I didn’t want to leave.

ring of kerry 2

That’s where it gets complicated. 

For several years, I have thought in earnest about leaving my country. The most recent Presidential campaign has only served to catapult that idea. Growing up in Europe, my idea of paying taxes means the result is great programs and it is something I could never really articulate to those around me. I have never really fit in here even among those who shared my political opinion. My experience of those theories in practice made me “feel” these issues deeply.

Fast forward to November 8, 2016. I cried every day for a month. I still cry sometimes. I weep for the destruction of our institutions and the fact that civility and professionalism aren’t honored. It is all-encompassing and heartbreaking for someone who studied and worked in politics as long as I have.

It won’t likely ever return to the same way it was. 

ring of kerry

Feeling Ireland deeply in my bones and hearing of the election of their first gay Prime Minister gave me pause. Here is a country rooted deeply in religion yet progressive. Isn’t that what we strive for? We should be able to honor everyone’s background and learn from all of them while still doing what’s best and most inclusive for the largest part of the population.

I might have found my new home. 

Coming home to the mess we have in Congress just further pushes me away. I don’t want to live in a place that hates who I am, who my children are, who seeks to take away from the poor. Who will it make us as people if we submit to that? Before you tell me I need to stay and work and fight, I do that. I have been doing that for 20 years in politics. I have walked blocks, served in positions and faithfully voted. I can continue to do that without being physically being here all the time. (Check out Democrats Abroad.)  The truth is that for a short, beautiful time, Ireland made me feel like I belonged there more than my own country does.

So now the hard part. 

The planning and plotting starts. A return trip in the Spring maybe? How will I learn to drive #overthere  ? Talk about stressful! Where will I live? What will I miss? Who knows…but I look forward to dreaming a lot, researching a little and getting busy making it happen.

barney the horse

For your trip, I have ideas!

There are many places you can visit. Many places you can stay but I would like to suggest to you that you stay in the Killarney area. It is just magical and I mean that in all seriousness. If you take a spin in a Killarney Jaunting Car, give Barney a kiss from me! Do not forget to sign up for a Ring of Kerry tour because you won’t believe how beautiful it will look and how amazing it smells. Tell them Michelle sent you!

Please VOTE Today

I have worked in politics for many years.  I used to say, “Please vote, I don’t care who you vote for, but please just vote.”

This year is a lot different, they advocate policies that could kill my children.

I do want you to just vote but I can’t say I don’t care any more who you vote for.  I have three kids, one who is gay, one who is bisexual and one who is straight.  Legislation in this country is repeatedly being brought up or challenged based on the Right and their anti-equality agenda.  The VP on the Republican ticket literally advocates for conversion therapy.

NOT ON MY WATCH.

There is no way it would be responsible of me to sit back, say nothing, pretend I don’t care.  While I have engaged in a great number of Twitter debates, I have only lurked on DailyKos this cycle because there is only so much hate one person can take.  The amount of Bernie Bros I have had to block calling me an “insider” and “see you next Tuesday” is astonishing.

We do NOT have proportional representation in our legislative body.

You can complain about it.  You can throw your vote to someone who will never get a chance out of principle.  WHATEVER. But there are a number of organizations and lobby groups that could use your new-found enthusiasm to shake things up.  All you do here is to ensure that you don’t get a seat at the table.  Do you really think that Republicans are going to meet with you over your pet project?  They don’t give a SHIT about your project and they WILL look up your voting record before you come to your appointment. (You know that’s public record, right?)

There is a formula for all things, legislative concern is no different.

It’s been a while since I have been to DC, asking questions and knocking on doors.  One thing that was very clear before is that there is power in numbers.  I was told once by an aid that they don’t really pay attention to an issue until they exceed 100-150 inquiries to their office from their constituents.  You feel passionate about a bill coming up regarding shoreline issues in California?  Then get California people to get on the phone, send emails, ask their representative to see your side of said issue.  THEN, when you request an appointment to discuss your organization, they are going to pay closer attention to what you say because their constituents care.

It’s not perfect government, but it’s what we have.

You can be pissed off but the reality is you need Democrats to push progressive bills through.  You will rarely find a Republican sign on to bills deemed “controversial.”  The content of the bill will change more than once in committee and some items removed to appease centrist Republicans.  Does that piss you off?  FINE.  However, this is the system of government we were given. Be realistic.  This is not a dictatorship.  Checks and balances exist so no one person can run over everyone.  How did GWB get away with everything he did?  Because too many progressive people didn’t vote.  We outnumber them.  Start showing up.  If we have “the greatest nation in the world” we should be over a 70% of registered voters showing up to cast a ballot.

You are handing extremists the ability to take over and dismantle Obama’s legacy.

We have all seen the pictures.  The comparisons to a certain period of time in Europe are not just coincidence.  The KKK has endorsed THAT guy.  Your vote for your “principles” is a vote to allow them to take away protections for my children that should be automatic.

Please VOTE.  Please.  Please.

#ImWithHer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always a Little Wonky

This week’s got me like:

krabs meme

When I started trying to narrow down exactly what it was, my head kept correcting me.  I said “WOW, what a week!” and my head went “You mean, what a month, what a year, what a past few years.”

This is exactly why I have self-esteem issues. 

Let’s ignore for a bit that I talk to myself.  Everyone does that, right?  It’s just sometimes, well a lot of times, life in general is freaking overwhelming.  Between school, being a caregiver, being a mom, trying to be an independent person, doing what I have to and trying to find time for something fun, there just isn’t enough time in the day.

There’s not enough time in the day, y’all.

School is chugging along.  I am having to contend with trying to pass and instructors that will not allow even a comma out of place.  When I am say they won’t allow it, I am saying you fail if you have more than four errors.  BIG FAT F.  That stings, I don’t care how old you are.  I know that I don’t/can’t/won’t edit myself but this is a HUGE stumbling block to trying to get out of this Master’s program.  I have three more months.  Say a prayer to the old gods and the new for me…I just need to be done with some bit of dignity left.

I have been writing about Little Monkey a long time.  Every time I go backwards and look at pictures here, I am reduced to a puddle in the floor.  I have said before, the idea that she will be 16 this summer is mind-blowing.  We are making college dream sheets and planning visits and trying to work out the what/how/where.  It is daunting.  The first two were real clear about what they wanted to do and had real decisions made pretty quickly about where that would be but this one, man, this one wants the sun and the moon.

emma louI’m not kidding.

Little Monkey wants to go to an Ivy League school, become a doctor, apply to NASA and become an astronaut.  I blame Interstellar for this.  She watches this movie all the damn time and can’t stop.  She has been obsessed with the stars for as long as I can remember and taking her to Huntsville last year did nothing to help quell that fire.  It’s my job to encourage her, right?  Despite it being a hard road, despite it being complicated, despite it being such a narrow field…I am the MOM, I HAVE to encourage.  She is pretty much a bad ass, so who am I to say that she can’t do something?  The world takes enough from you.  I am looking forward to her punching the world right in the face and saying NOT TODAY WORLD. (If someone can, it will be her.)

My long list of projects continues to grow.  We got all the carpet pulled up but now can’t decide between all hard wood or partial carpet.  It makes my head hurts.  My table is a little too wobbly for the amount that we use it so we are going to build this pedestal, twice, and remedy that.  That means I need new equipment from Kreg but I will figure that out eventually.  Then there is the painting.  The living room, the bedrooms, the bathrooms, the kitchen, outside stuff…

Did I mention I have a headache?

miss kiwiMy sweet old lady dog hasn’t been doing well.  I knew this would happen, it’s just never something you are prepared for, I don’t care how old you are.  In and out of the hospital for weeks, the ladies at Paws and Claws have been fantastic but I am afraid it’s the beginning of a long struggle.  Today she is happy and I am happy for that.

Summer is coming, that’s something to be happy about, right?

My packed calendar tells me I am wrong.  Truthfully, I am always a little wonky.  Being less busy or less worried about things might make it worse.

How do you keep from loosing your mind these days?  Maybe you can lead me by example. Lord knows, I need it!

 

 

 

Everybody Grieves Differently

This month has been weird. My favorite and last surviving grandparent passed away. What typically is a normal part of life felt much different this time to me.

 

I spent most of my time with my grandmother when I was young. Her house was more like my home no matter where I actually lived. Going back there to her funeral did not change that feeling. Even without her now, it was still home and still full of things that remind me of her. She was a teacher and I think I learned more about the world from her than anyone. I can remember writing her a poem when I was in the fourth grade, something goofy about the spring and trees. She loved it, made a huge deal about it and then told me something that utterly blew my mind.

 

“Always remember, poetry doesn’t have to rhyme.”

 

In the fourth grade, that seemed like crazy talk. All the best things rhymed but what could happen if I didn’t have to go by the rules? I wrote and wrote and wrote. I still write now, for some 38 years since and it’s her fault really. There are things to be said and stories to be invented and characters to talk.

 

Thank you Grandma.

 

I have to go now but you are welcomed here any time you feel like being the inspiration. Now I have a murder to plot amongst spies…

A New Mission

Screen Shot 2014-11-09 at 6.35.48 PM

 

 

As many of you that follow me might know, I am caregiver to a disabled Veteran.  I have talked about TBI & PTSD pretty regularly but because of a few people reaching out to me for more information, I have decided to work on a blog specific to that issue.  While there may be issues that overlap between that blog and this one, it will be primarily geared to the journey of a caregiver.  I also will be blogging on the work on my novel from last year’s NaNoWriMo, SWITCH, which I have decided to pursue adapting to a screenplay.

All without trying to lose my mind.

I can do it, right?

If you are interested in following there, the blog is Diary of A Shieldmaiden with an associated Tumblr and Twitter account.  While my blog links will post to both of those, just like my personal accounts, there will be entirely different content on the Tumblr & Twitter accounts so you guys don’t get crazy bored.

As always, thanks you guys, you are just so awesome!

 

 

 

The Kevin Project

Many of you know that I married a disabled Vet, Kevin, and/or that my daughter, Emma, is trying to go through the steps to make the Junior Dream Team and later, the US Olympic Archery team.  This week, there have been a ton of discussions in our house after the tragic events in Texas and later in California…both committed by Veterans.  I felt like I should post something and decided it would be a movie I had to do for school.  I chose to do the short film about the relationship between Kevin and Emma.

I think that there is too much negativity in the media about Vets and not enough positive stories.  I know I can’t change that all by myself but I am setting the intention with the hopes that some people decide to follow my lead.  Too many Veterans and their families are suffering not knowing they can get help at the VA and how to get it.  Too many people are denying jobs to Veterans because they are afraid of the stereotype.  Too many caregivers are not getting the assistance they need mainly because there is not a great deal of publicity around programs that can help them right now.

This has to stop.

Its hard.  Each and every day along with taking care of myself, my kiddo and my animals, I have to now have the daily responsibility for a Veteran that would rather be able to do things for himself.  It’s frustrating for him and its frustrating for me.  But I remind him.  I remind him to get his hearing aids and to drink water.  I remind him he needs to shower before he puts his leg brace on.  I remind him of all the tasks he has while I am struggling to remember my own.  When he gets cranky because I have told him twice to do something, I endure.  If I don’t tell him, regardless of his reactions, he will suffer far worse than I.

In between, something amazing has happened.

Even when he has to take a pill to make the headaches subside just a little each morning, he still gets out of bed.  Even though his shoulders and elbows ache, he still packs up his bow in the car with Emma’s.  Even though he could sleep 20 hours a day, he endures so Emma can excel.

And boy, do we laugh!

I hope you watch this and it changes your impression of Veterans just a bit.  I hope it reminds you the next time you hear someone, read an article, watch a news report and you see an over generalized negative impression of Veterans, I hope it causes you to take action.

We need you.  

Ring in the New Year

rings

For those of you that know me, I am not big on resolutions.  I just don’t believe they work.  What I do at the beginning of every year is set intentions.  These are things I intend to do in the year and more often than not, I get through the list quite nicely.  This year, my hubs and I both wanted to set the intention of honoring ourselves.  We are so busy and our schedule is VERY much dictated by a child that wants to be an Olympic athlete.  We never found the rings we really wanted when we got married but when we saw these, we knew those were the ones!  The bands are from monkeysalwayslook on Etsy.  The outside shows the longitude and latitude of where we got married.  On the inside we took pieces of a Viking quote for both.  The full quote says “Love conquers all, let us yield to love” so mine is inscribed Love Conquers All and his is Yield To Love.  They were just perfect for us.  My engagement ring is also from an Etsy vendor, silvercoinrings and is a Dime-On-Ring.  It is a dime melted onto a ring and stamped with initials.  We had K & M stamped in.  I would highly recommend both vendors as they were easy to work with and all about making sure everything was perfect!

So what intentions do you have for the year?  I STILL need to get busy on learning to sew!

End of the World Baking

No, not that kind of baking.  Get your head out of the gutter.

I had some requests for my recipes from the other night so I thought I would post them for you guys.  We made sure to stay close to home the last few days just out of concern for the crazies exercising their last-day-on-the-planet desires.  As a result, I figured with Christmas coming, baking needed to get done and if some how the Mayans were accurate, what would be a better last meal than desserts?  Remarkably, I actually got a few other folks to do the same and now we are all a few pounds heavier and, well, happier!  So here we go:

Cake

Best Ever Banana Cake lives up to its title.  I found this on Pinterest, have made it a few times and I SWEAR it is actually super easy and comes out looking like you bought it at a bakery!  It is a lighter banana bread with cream cheese icing.  You can top it however you like (it calls for nuts) but I have done variations that include chopped dark chocolate, coconut and sea salt chopped almonds with great success.

Cranberry Upside Down

Cranberry Upside Down Cake is a Martha Stewart masterpiece.  A great bake & take to an event, it is an unexpectedly delicious combo that never lasts more than 24 hours.  I am serious.  It is that good.  What’s awesome about it, aside from being super fast to make, is that if any makes it to the next morning, it is SO good for breakfast with your coffee.  Growing up in Europe, it is the kind of not-to-sweet cake I miss living back here in the US.

 

Sweet and Saltines from Trisha Yearwood is what I would qualify as a candy.  It is so simple and you make it in a total of about 30 minutes start to finish.  A layer of toffee is cooked on the tops of Saltine crackers then smothered in chocolate and popped in the freezer for 15 minutes.  I use dark chocolate chips and it is just DELICIOUS.Sweet and Saltines

 

Cashew Brittle is a take on my friend Kari’s super easy microwave cooked peanut brittle.  Like I NEVER use the microwave to cook so this made think twice about it.  However, trying it, I am hooked!  I doubled the nuts and choose cashews but the possibilities are endless!

 

Cashew BrittleMISS KARI’S PEANUT BRITTLE

 

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup light Karo syrup

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup of dry roasted peanuts

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp margarine

1 tsp baking soda

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray ahead of time.  Mix sugar, Karo syrup and salt well.  Microwave for about 4 minutes or until amber-colored.  Take out and add peanuts then microwave for 2 more minutes.  Quickly add vanilla, margarine and baking soda and mix well.  Will set up fast so spread quickly on previously greased sheet.  Wait until completely cool, pry up and break into large pieces.

 

Enjoy!

 

Any really awesome recipes you baked this week?  SHARE!

 

Politics, Smut Peddling and My Year of Ups and Downs

Politics and My Real Life

I will go ahead and get it out of the way.  For those that know me, I know you are surprised that I have been silent on the matter.  That is strictly because I have been so damn busy.  Here goes–I am not sure why people even CONSIDER voting against their self-interest.  To say that I am continually dismayed by the state of civil discourse in this country would be an understatement.  If in my own family we so oppose each other’s opinions that the topic is off limits, I don’t have any hope for any change nationally.  So let me just give you some facts:

1.  I was married to a service member during the initial Iraq invasion.  While he is my ex and turned out to be a jerk, personally, I think it gives me some credibility to speak to the fact that the soldiers were lied to about their reason for entering that country and the result has been catastrophic for both our countries.

2.  Currently, I am married to a disabled Army Veteran.  His experience has been in the wonderful international destination that Afghanistan has become and later, Gitmo, Cuba.  I have held his had through PTSD episodes, nightmares, night sweats, tests, more tests, emergency visits, counseling appointments, frustrating goose chases that VA appointments can turn into.  I do think this gives me some credibility to speak on the subject.

3. President Obama signed a bill that allowed uninsured (like me) and those with pre-existing conditions coverage (my kids) and a number of other amazing things.  He also signed a bill that allowed me to become my husbands Primary Care Giver through a VA program.  This stipend allows me to facilitate every single thing necessary for him to get all the appointments, treatments, etc. that he needs without the fear of how to navigate a part time job and his critical care.  President Obama signed the Fair Pay Act and supports the right for me to make the decisions I need to for my own body.

Democrat or not, I can tell you that President Obama is the one that has done the most to directly impact my family.  Met with a crushing debt instead of what President Clinton left for President Bush, he has had a nearly insurmountable task.  He has begun a drawn down from two countries that we shouldn’t have occupied in the first place, trying to relocate prisoners in Gitmo that THEIR OWN COUNTRIES WILL NOT TAKE BACK, and some how try to help calm the fears in this country that our economy is permanently broken.

I wouldn’t want to be the President for all of the money and power in the world.  He was handed a Congress that lauded the fact that their job was to get rid of him and block his every move.  That should embarrass us all.  We can disagree but there are MANY things that could have been done to help us further along but simply because they were Democratic lead and sponsored, they were shut down.  It’s disgusting.

I support President Obama.  I hope you will too.

Smut and Those who write it

Whether you approve of Fifty Shades of Grey or not, there is no doubt that by now, you have probably heard of it.  I think that, overall, is a good thing.

I have been writing erotica since 2007.  My first piece was published on a The Erotic Woman blog and later, I had a relationship with the wonderful people at Love You Divine.  In both situations, I used the pseudonym (Mistress Cassandra) because at the time, despite many great literary pieces of erotic being accepted, working as a “smut peddler” was not a common and socially acceptable role.  What previously drew whispers, hushed tones and outright shut down of discussions now elicits endless questions and interested parties.  Since the popularity of Fifty Shades, everything has changed.  Overall, I think this is good.  Or at least I think that, until I see something like THIS.  There will be constant discussion now to define what one thing is versus what another is.  While I may personally think the BDSM subject matter is not reflected correctly, the author however is able to write whatever the author wants.  Clearly it’s sold without anyone having concern for the way it is perceived so who am I to pass judgement.

We have such antiquated opinions in this country about sex and about the human body in general.  I grew up in Europe and seeing someone partially clothed in a shower gel commercial there was not uncommon.  No big deal.  Here, we get ridiculously excited over “wardrobe malfunctions” but also have a society that supports a Jersey Shore culture and new shows like Honey Boo Boo’s.  You can’t have it both ways America.  Stop telling people what kind of sex they can have, what they can read about it and what kind of person you are if you write it when you have shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and send people on “private dates” where they can spend the night with each other.

I don’t get it.  So I keep writing.  This year for my Nanowrimo project will be an erotica novel under my own name.  Hopefully Fifty Shades gives me a little better chance of not getting hate mail and ostracized.  Or not.  Either way, I will keep writing.

My Year of Ups and Downs

Some of you know I had some serious stuff going on at the beginning of the year.  What went from a little test to a bigger test, to a procedure and then a bigger procedure nearly broke me.  As a Mom, the hardest thing in the world for me is the idea that I can’t take care of my family.  I try to let the older ones find their way and not intervene but having one still at home filled me with panic and anger.  It doesn’t make sense why things happen to people that try to do the right things and walk the path of good intentions.  I thought I was that kind of person so for me, anger often took over much of my days that weren’t filled with profound hurt and sadness.  It affects everything you do.

The result was this:  after a particularly horrific week in which I thought my husband was having a stroke and I had a huge problem resulting from the stress I was told I was having an emergency hysterectomy.  Although I have had all the kids I intended to, the finality of it was not lost on me.  I am not sure that is something anyone can really grasp unless it has happened to them either.  For the record, there is a lot of horrible crap on line about hysterectomies.  (Health situations are generally not the best subjects to Google, for sure.)  I have to give a shout out to Hyster Sisters, a great site/forum where you can get real information about what is happening and join a group of people going through the same crap.  I found it to be the What to Expect When Expecting of surgical procedures.  It answered questions I desperately needed and calmed me the hell down.

I am nearly six months post surgery now.  I feel SOOOOO much better.  You don’t realize sometimes how something that makes you sick can affect all parts of your body and mind.  Do I feel I deserved to go through what I did?  No and I am still damn angry about it sometimes.  Am I better off now?  OH YEAH.  Full speed ahead!

Archery Madness

Thankfully, I healed quickly because my year literally went nuts shortly there after.  Most of you know Little Monkey has been competing in archery competitions but mid-year, she decided to take it to a whole new level.  Rather than me writing about her, I suggested she use her journaling she does during archery class as a prompt to chronicle her experiences.  Monkey has met some amazing people and formed friendships with international archers as well.  She has set some lofty goals, started writing blog posts and will only be busier next year.  For now I am handling her linking and photo uploads but she is learning and loving it.  If you are interesting in following her journey, she has her own site, Tumblr and Twitter.  While I have a Pinterest where she hosts “Little Monkey’s Board” it is largely nail polish and crafty related so be forewarned!

Wrap Up

So I migrated to WordPress because iPage became so restrictive!  I am happy that I could pull in the posts from my old Blogger page but sad that I lost my iPage content.  WordPress gives me some cool features and I can post multiple links and pictures that I needed so YEAH!  Thanks for sticking with me through the changes.

I am still writing at Almost Nerdy, hanging out on G+ and Twitter as well as handling a Tumblr page of my own, one for grad school and one for our newest pet/internet star.  I am on month 4 of a 12-month Masters program with Fullsail University for a Masters in Education Media and Design Technology and getting to try out some new emerging technology.  My research blog I have to maintain for that program is here and my emerging technology reviews I had to do are here in the event that you are interested in either.

Tons of DIY projects are ongoing right now so you will see that stuff posted soon!

Later peeps!