Friday, December 31, 2010

I Can Read in 2010

Since it is the last day of 2010 (and I just finished my last book) I figured I would share the books that were part of my life during this year. These are the books that I read for my own pleasure or edification. There were certainly other books that I had to read for school and work, but I don't count those because I was forced to read them-kinda. But the following are books that I chose to read all on my own. Ain't I a good girl! Since we were on a budget this year, I checked-out many of these from the library, and fell in love once again with my childhood playground.

Before we begin, I have to confess that I have a compulsion when it comes to numbers. I really like numbers to "balance". "Balance" is in quotations because I define "balance" in my own special way. There is no rhyme or reason to it, I just know in my gut that that is the right number to balance out a situation. My husband thinks I am ridiculous about this. It is something that he like to tease me about. And I let him, because frankly it is ridiculous. But I can't help it, so there! And for no other reason than there being 12 months in the year, my goal was to read 12 books this year.

Second confession: I read the last two books this week. Not sure if that still counts, but I made the rules so I says yes, of course it counts! So here we go, in the order I read them.

Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini- I wanted to read this book because my husband read and really enjoyed another book by this author, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Also I had heard about a certain controversy that arose with the child actors in Afghanistan as a result of making the film adaptation of this book. I had been wanting to read this book for some time, but the dark and heavy elements of the plot kept me away (child abuse, which is what the controversy was about in Afghanistan). But this year I decided that I needed to read it. I am so glad I did. This book is heart-wrenching and powerful in ways that I am still understanding. It takes you to dark places, questioning the goodness of man, but then leaves you with the desire to hope, to believe in hope. Beautifully executed, it gives an insiders perspective of life in Afghanistan.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver- I found this book thanks to Amazon's suggestions list. Based on some of the books that I had read last year, Amazon thought I might enjoy this one. And boy was Amazon right! This book is a nonfictional account of a family that moves from the suburbs to live on a farm. Their motivation was to lessen their global footprint. The challenge was that they could only eat food that was locally grown. This meant that they had to grow allot of their own food, and rely on the food grown by their neighbors. This book is a perfect combination of insightful thoughts, and information. If you are at all interested in reclaiming a more natural, sustainable, and wholesome lifestyle, this book is a great resource. If you want to laugh at yourself for crying about the mating habits of turkeys, this is also the book for you.

How to Rescue the Earth Without Worshiping Nature by Tony Compolo- This was a book that I found while cleaning out my childhood bedroom. It was an overview of different reasons Christians should take their role as stewards of the Earth more seriously, as well as some ideas of how to share this idea with others and how to take part in being more ecologically responsible. What I liked most about this book was the way Compolo depicts the world's opinion of Christianity and conservatism. Ultimately he says that we should be known by our love, our love of all people and all things created by our wonderful Creator. The book was not bad. I enjoyed it, but I can see how those who are moved by strong, theological arguments might not be. I have always been more of a heart/intuition person than a logical/head person, so it suited me just fine.

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.- This is a book that I saw my husband's sister reading. She seemed to be really moved by it, and so I decided maybe I should read it too. This was a library book that I now own because my dog decided to take a bite out of the cover. Anyway, this book explores the female side/attributes of the soul, spirituality, and the Divine. This was a weighty book to read, and I don't recommend it for anyone who is not seriously interested in the topic because the size alone is daunting. However, I am glad that I read this book. In this book issues of repression and denial of the female in history are brought up, a path to forgiveness, healing, and growth is prepared. Pinkola Estes is a Jungian psychologist and as such the topics of the book are explored through folktales and myths of various cultures. I am glad my dog took a bite out of the cover, because now I own this treasure, and can refer back to it over and over again.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard- This book was not an easy one for me to get through. It is not that I didn't enjoy it, because there were times that I did, and I am grateful for the moments of catharsis I had. But I have never really been able to fully appreciate well described scenery in a book. I have a hard time visualizing it, and I get bored quickly with it. This book is filled with such descriptions. It is sort of like Dillard's memoir, and scientific journal in one. What works in this book is that she was not observing nature to uncover a hidden profound meaning she could share with the world. Instead through her observations of the daily, and ordinary she realizes profound, and awe-inspiring miracles. An insightful and moving book.

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom- After reading those heavy books, I wanted something short and sweet. This book is short, but it is so much more than sweet. It was a book that I found in my house. I have no idea where or when we got it, but there is a note written on the inside cover from one friend to another, encouraging them in a time of darkness. That is was this book is all about, courage in times of darkness. Morrie was a professor of Albom's who enters back into Albom's life years later by God's grace it would seem. Morrie has a unique wisdom about life and walks through life in love and joy. That is what this book is about, trying to capture the great heart of a dying man so more could learn from his wisdom. This is a beautiful, touching, and powerful book. Don't even try to read it with out a box of tissues. You have been warned.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery- A man I respect in my Sunday morning Bible study referred to this book several times. I had never read it, and since, at the time, I was overwhelmed with work, I thought a children's book would be just right. This book is more than a simple children's book. There are so many profound truths discovered by the characters that this books warrants a closer look and study. For my first run through I was moved by the boy's discovery of the gift and sacrifice of love. The artwork is simple, sweet and lovely.

Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris- This is simply a guilty pleasure. This is part of the Sookie Stackhouse series, which HBO's "True Blood" is based on. This series is a quick read, and purely for mindless entertainment. I was first exposed to the series a couple of years back when a woman in the apartment complex where I lived gave me a copy of the first book in the series. I was bitten *wink* immediately. I bought the rest of the series and rushed through them that same summer. This one was a re-read. I wanted to refresh my memory for the newest book (which came out this year, but I still haven't read). Turns out I really didn't need to re-read it. Really, this is the kind of book that is a one-time read. Still, I did enjoy it for all the same reasons I enjoyed the others: the mystery, and the romance. That's right, I said it, the romance, so what! I know who I am!

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini- This is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle. I listened to the first two books, but this is the first one that I read. This book was great! It is a fantasy novel and as a result I got my dragon and fairy fix, my adventure, and drama, my hero's journey, and my cliffhanger. The story is about a dragon rider who must face the most powerful and evil dragon rider of all time. Humanity's freedom rests on his shoulders. Can't wait for the next to come out!

Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd- This is a book recommended to me by my husband's sister. I actually started reading it two summers ago, but lost it in Hawaii. I like to think that someone who needed it found it. This is a book about Kidd's discovery of the sacred feminine. That is such a big and vague descriptor, "sacred feminine". What the heck does that mean?!? Well it is hard to describe succinctly. It has to do with discovering the divine traits of God reflected in the female form. It has to do with reclaiming a position of rank in the realm of creation. It has to do with healing a soul that has been undervalued for so many generations that we don't even recognize the damages done. This was a life-changing book for me. I am now hungry to learn more, and to see how this knowledge will bring me closer to the One I ache to know.

The Soul of an Indian by Ohiyesa (edited by Kent Neburn)- I'll admit that I read this book this week just to meet my 12 book quota. I chose it because it was short. I think it was a gift my quirky aunty bought me one year for Christmas, which I am sure she found at BigLots or the Swap meet. So you can see why I was surprised that I actually really loved this book! This is an edited version of another book by Ohiyesa, The Soul of the Indian, which I really want to read now. This book described the spiritual and social beliefs of native americans through the eyes of a man who lived in both the native american world, and the world of European Christianity. His experiences give him a special insight and ability to draw parallels, and conclusions between the two worlds. I was surprised by how much my own beliefs were shared by the native americans. My favorite part of the book is the reference to God as "the Great Mystery". So beautiful and so true.

Aristotle's Poetics with and Introductory Essay by Francis Fergusson- I finished this one this morning. It was also chosen for it's brevity. It was a required text for one of my college classes that I never read. It is definitely a scholarly text. I confess that there were moments when I was just reading to read and not for comprehension. But I met my quota right? Basically this is Aristotle's analysis of the different types of poetic art at the time. He then scrutinized the elements of the art and determined the formula for the best possible artwork. As I read this I could not help but be floored at how brilliant Aristotle was, and how his contributions still linger today, centuries later. Amazing!

So that's it! I enjoyed doing this so much that I have made 12 in 12 my goal for 2011. I just hope I have time, seeing as how I start school again in a few days. Ugh! When will I ever be done...Blessing to you all in 2011. And read, because it is good for you!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Real Food???

Well since I left you all at the edge of your seats wondering what crazy new diet I am on (the real food diet/lifestyle) I figured I better explain. There is much confusion about what I eat. When I say that I don't want to eat animals that were treated cruelly, I do not mean that I am a vegetarian. If you ever asked me what I eat I may have said vegetarian just because it is much easier to say that than to explain what I really am. That, and if I really got into it your eyes may glaze over in less than 30 seconds. But since you are here, trapped (cuz it's not like you could close this page at any time) I will explain. I feel called to eat foods that honor the earth, the animals, other people, and my own body. In short I want to honor all of God's creation. There are too many people groups that have survived from eating other animals, so I am not about to tell them they were wrong to consume another life. Also if memory serves, it was God who killed the first animal to provide clothing for Adam and Eve. While not ideal, consuming animals is one way we have been directed to for our survival. Finally I really and truly believe that life comes from life. Even vegans are indirectly taking life to prolong their own. When a field is cleared to grow soy beans, the wild animals inhabiting that field are sacrificed-gophers, mice, wild birds loose their homes and shelter. So that said, I am not delusional to think that my life continues without costing another's, and I find a position taken by some Native Americans to be more in unison with my own, which honors and thanks the life given to provide for my own.

You are probably thinking that I really haven't explained what I eat. You are right. So let's get to it. I try my best (I am flexible with my diet, trying to accommodate as different circumstances arise) to eat locally, and organic, or at least pesticide free vegetables, fruit, and herbs. I try to eat pastured (as in raised on a pasture, grazing in grass), or free-range (yes there is a difference, and if you really want to know what that is, ask in the comments and I will explain) meats, eggs, and dairy. It can be tricky finding foods that meet these criteria, but I have had the most success at farmer's markets. Also, remember that I am flexible, so I don't starve because I cannot find food that meet all the criteria. Now regarding dairy, I try to stay away from pasteurized (please do not confuse this with pastured-these are two very different things) because it leads to stuffy sinuses, and allergy attacks, or sinus infection (I try to avoid gluten-and sometimes citrus-for this same reason). I do however, eat raw dairy, and have found that it doesn't have as severe an affect on me. WooHoo!!! Cuz I have missed my quesadillas.

I just recently bought some raw milk and it was nice to drink milk like that, it has been a while. I plan on making some gluten-free cookies this weekend and having them with a glass of cold raw milk. Yum!!! Funny how excited I get over simple things like that, since I have had to go without those things for a long time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, indeed!

The REAL part of my diet is the idea that I try to eat as many whole foods as possible. No foods with scary expiration dates/preservatives, chemical dyes, high fructose corn syrup, or instant meals. The idea is that I would live a life style where I make most of my foods, like folks did in the preindustrial era. That is the REAL part of the Real Food diet. It is taking us back to our preindustrial revolution roots. I think the main words behind this movement would be simple, whole, balance, and quality. This is a lifestyle not simply a diet. It is one that seems to encompass all the elements that I value, and it leads me to a life that I am already striving for. A life of dignity, honor, balance, wholeness, truth, and love.

So I can eat pretty much anything, as long as it is organic, whole, pastured, preservative-free, natural, and locally grown. Luckily McDonald's and Taco Bell's menus are just that! *wink*

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not dead...I promise!

I seriously doubt if anyone out there is still reading this, but if you are I just wanted to tell you that I am still here. Finished one year of teaching and am in the second year now. Started a masters program, dropped out, and am lined up to start another. Have two dogs now. Moved to Anaheim (a stones throw away from Disneyland!). Still working two jobs. Have converted to a Real Foods Diet (more on that to come) and am thrilled with it! It is good for my body and my soul.

Still crafting/creating, though not as often as I would like. Am currently working on completing a granny square baby blanket. Have successfully made gluten-free cookies, banana bread, stuffing, green bean casserole, pancakes, and pies!

Before I sign-off, a funny story courtesy of one of my 1st grade students: We were working on our journal entry and the theme was "Snowflakes are..." and she wrote "Snowflakes are pretty. I wish they were made of chocolate. I like chocolate." I laughed so hard when I read that. Aren't kids great!

Hope to be back soon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


About a week ago we dog sat for a friend. And this week we are doing the same for a different friend. I am not really sure how we keep getting ourselves in these positions. Probably because we have dogs, love dogs, and now have a yard. I don't really mind, but I am starting to wonder if maybe we should start a business? You see we aren't the type to just put our dogs in the back yard and check up on them for 5 minutes a day. I just don't feel right about doing that. Though I did come from that know, the one that just left a big ole' bucket of water and a big ole' bucket of dog food whenever we went on a trip. Yup, that was my family.

Well I didn't feel right about it then, and I don't feel right about it now. So of course each time we dog-sit it becomes a task that requires far more than I ever anticipate. We provide 5-star service here at Hotel Starriaza (Stier + Arriaza). And, truthfully, my husband ends up doing most of the work because he is physically at home more than I am. So I was thinking, since we are doing so much extra work maybe we should start up a business and charge a small fee. What do you think?

I would love to believe that it would be a huge success, but places like this already exist (dog hotels). Aaaand, people ask us because we are free, and they don't wanna pay. And like that a dream is crushed. You just witnessed it, mark it down in your journals. Well, at least we now have people who owe us a favor should the need and time ever come.

I have to go, Lucky can't find his doggie bed...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A long way yet to go...

It was hot today, so I wore a spaghetti strapped shirt. Makes sense right? Well let me take you back to a time when I was so scared to wear anything that showcased my femininity. I could hardly get myself to wear anything that might be mildly form-fitting. As you might have guessed this fear stems from abuse I suffered. And thanks be to God that I have worked through many of my fears and wounds. And so here I am a grown woman not afraid to wear a spaghetti strap shirt on a hot summer day until...

I walked into a store to buy some baking soda and when I approached the register there were two men "checking me out", but it wasn't flattering to me at all. This wasn't an innocent "checking out" (which I have noticed before and was not alarmed by). This was different. It felt dirty. I felt vulnerable and suddenly wished I had a sweatshirt on. And I felt like I had done something wrong, like I had provoked these men. Of course I know this is a reaction stemming out of my wounded past, but it was my response nonetheless. What is worse is that the cashier was busy doing something forcing me to linger longer than I wanted at the register, allowing those men to continue to stare, adding to my discomfort.

Friends, I wish I could tell you how I conquered those feelings, left with my head help high, striding with confidence and the power of the strong woman I aim to be. But I didn't. I kept my head down...typical victim. I rushed out of there as quick as I could trying to be strong but knowing I wreaked of anxiety. And I write to you out of anger and pain. Anger at myself for being so weak, for showing how far I have yet to go on my path to healing. Pain because it hurts to be reminded of things better left in the dark and hidden past. But I share this because where there is light darkness cannot abide. I share this because I have found that carrying the pains of these stories is made easier when many carry my story with me.

Shame on men who think it is okay to stare at women as objects! Shame on them who with their eyes send crude messages and evil thoughts. When they reduce me to breast, ass, and c**t, they have no idea they are missing my true beauty, my true light, and my unconquerable spirit. I am more than the sum of my body parts! And praise God for that!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Keep or Not to Keep That Is the Question

The other day some friends and I were talking about our hoarding practices. I am by nature a pack-rat. I can find some reason to keep anything I own: "I might wear that again never know, styles come in and out!" "But what if I need that one day? I know the second I give this away I am gonna need it and have to buy a new one, so I am really saving money buy keeping it!" etc. This got me wondering where this came from. Why am I like this?

I am not sure exactly, but I think it is related to my childhood poverty. In the grand scope of things, we weren't truly poor, especially compared to others, but we did pinch and save, and struggle a bit here and there. I have one vivid memory of wanting to get some Fruit Stripe Zebra Gum (remember that?) and my mom telling me she couldn't afford it. I could see how she hated denying me that small gift, and I never wanted her to feel that way again. Somehow I think this story is part of the formation of my inner pack-rat.

But recently I have been wondering if that is what I want to be. One of my friends said she is a purger, to excess sometimes. We giggled over her tales of realizing she gave too many clothes away and had nothing left to wear. Yet at the same time I found myself drawn to her ways.

I have moved quite a bit over the last 5 years, and each time I do I have the burden of moving all my hoarded items. And I haven't enjoyed it. Each time I get rid of stuff, but never quite enough.

And now I wonder if what I am holding onto is worth holding onto. They say when you die you can't take your treasures with you. Maybe I need to spend less time collecting items, and more time collecting experiences. There is a purifying element to purging, a cleansing.

Perhaps a purging of past memories is what is needed, and the first step is to outwardly purge, that I would invite my soul to an inward release and cleansing...