Thursday, June 20, 2013

Language bullshyte walls

Unnecessary euphemisms are asinine.

Necessary ones can be quite practical when you have young ears around or folks who you don't really want to know what you're talking about, but unnecessary euphemisms are slowly starting to annoy me.

I mean, why?  Why use it?  Are you using it because you believe the listener will be offended by what you're saying or because you are too skittish to say what you really mean?  Are using euphemisms a tactful way to avoid offending others or do we increasingly lack the courage of our convictions and so we choose alternative, sad, watered down versions of what we're really trying to say?

The longer I teach, the more annoyed I get with euphemisms.  The handbook we use reminds students (and teachers) to be direct and succinct in word choice and expression, so this has become a part of my life.  Don't fill your language with fluffy, indirect terms that don't add any real meaning to the text but instead are just circumlocutory ways to get to the point.  Be direct!  Say what you mean with courage and conviction.  If it offends, oh well--at least your point was clear.

The more I become a lover of language, the less tolerant I become for language bullshyte.  (I suppose in some ways using "shyte" could be seen as a euphemism for "shit," but I don't use "shyte" because I need a euphemism; I use it because I like it.  Anyone who knows me knows I have NO qualms about cursing.)  Language bullshyte is a waste of time--mine and yours.  Yours because you had to find a roundabout way to say what you didn't want to say directly.  Mine because if I don't understand what the heck you're saying, I have to waste time figuring out what the fuck you meant.  Be direct; don't waste time.

Becoming a parent changes your life in so many ways.  Since becoming a parent, euphemistic words that annoy me most relate to the genital parts of the body.  I'm starting to see that it's a preference for some people, but I also surmise that it's a generational thing for some people to choose to use words like "peterwhacker," "vajayjay," "pecker," "vaj," and the like.  (And this is to say nothing of the slang terms that we all know so well--"cock," "dick," "pussy," "cooch," etc.  The slang terms are another topic for another day.)

When I first became a parent, I decided that my child(ren) would know and use the correct terms for the body parts: penis, vagina, breast, etc.  I mean, we don't say "peepers" (eyes) or "walkers"(feet) or some other asinine words for other body parts, so why do we feel the need to teach children euphemistic terms for penis and vagina.  Giving these parts cutesy terms delays understanding.  It distracts, and it gives people a language wall to hide behind.  It makes it as if the real words and by extension, the parts themselves, are an embarrassment.  This cannot be healthy.

From my own experience, growing up using the euphemistic terms delayed my ability to openly and freely discuss my body when it was necessary.  Discussing, looking at educational images of, thinking about these parts became taboo and somehow wrong.  That certainly isn't healthy.
Could it be that simply not using the correct terms makes people embarrassed about discussing the body parts?  And what happens when people are embarrassed to discuss genital parts?  Disinformation?  Delayed understanding of sexuality?  Hiding things unnecessarily? 

And if no one ever comes back to the child later and has a real life discussion with the real words about how everything works and why you shouldn't be ashamed of the words OR the body parts, what happens when that person becomes an adult and still has the embarrassment factor associated with their genitalia?  What happens when they encounter the opposite sex or the same sex in a sexual encounter?  What happens when they first learn of people being asexual or transgendered or a hermaphrodite or anywhere else in between?  Do they seek an understanding of these new ideas and thoughts or do they remain just as embarrassed because they were never exposed to the correct terms from an early age?

Now, I'm not saying that simply using "penis" or "vagina" will stop people from being confused or repressed or secretive.  I'm also not saying that people need to go out and practice free love and overshare, but I am saying that having honest conversations with honest language does a world of good.

In recent months, what's annoyed me most about the words "penis" and "vagina" is the pregnancy and parenting message boards I frequent.  I read these posts that use the euphemistic terms and think, "Ok, you're actually pregnant right now, and you can't (or won't) use the actual words for the body parts that made you pregnant?  Is this a personal preference or can you not say the words?  Are you seeking not to offend or are you skittish?  And if you're seeking not to offend, isn't it a bit damn ridiculous that people frequenting message boards for pregnant people cannot use the words 'penis' and 'vagina'?  What the hell?"

And while we're on the words "penis" and "vagina" and generations.  I crack up a little inside each time my son uses the word "penis" and an older person cringes.  It makes me smile that my son is using the correct terms and in some way is chipping away the way of language bullshyte that my loving family create for themselves.  It also makes me smile because in some ways, I'm raising a budding rebel. ;-)

Admittedly, it took me awhile courageously stand on with my convictions to use clear, direct, real language--especially as it relates to "penis" and "vagina."  But I'm there now, and I encourage others to go forth and conquer your language bullshyte wall.  Perhaps if we stop using language bullshyte, we'll come to demand it of others and we might all be a bit better off.

For now, I'll encourage you to check out this spoken word poem "Totally like whatever, you know?" by Taylor Mali.

Go forth and speak with conviction.

Tear down your language bullshyte wall!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Draper was ALWAYS a monster!

I just read "Don Draper's A Monster, and Here's Why We're Finally Noticing" from the Huffington Post, and I have a few issues with this title and the article.

Don has ALWAYS been a monster, and I don't know whether to shrug off the suggestion that people seem to just now be noticing or to rant about what the hell have people being paying attention to if they didn't see that well before now.

I also take issue with what he was finally called a monster for doing.  Yeah, it was jacked up that he stole the credit for the idea out from under Peggy, and she was definitely right to confront him--it's one of the main things I love about her lately.  But this isn't new Don.  It's the same Don we've always seen.  Why was this recent lying and recreating a false backstory any different than all the other times before?

Again, Don has always been a monster.  A perpetual philanderer, an absent dad (yeah, it was the era, but still), an alcoholic who typically could hold his liquor, but sometimes not, an extreme alpha male who always had to win, a sexist (again, the era), a liar, an identify thief, and did I mention an alcoholic and philanderer?  I'm sure I could list more, but it's been a lot of episodes.

Perhaps it's only because he is spiraling slowly out of control is why people seem to just now be noticing or are just now caring.  Perhaps it's because I joined the Mad Men fandom late and watched three full seasons of the show back to back on Netflix in a few months time.  Perhaps we were just so enthralled with the show and Don to notice.
As the article points out, his failings were always there, but he was cool so it was somehow brushed off, but now "his cool is starting to lose its luster."  

Is that why people are just now noticing or is that why people are just now starting to care?

I don't think that it's that people are just now noticing (if you've missed that he's a monster and complete asshole to the extreme, then you haven't really been paying attention), people are just now starting to care because his sexiness and coolness have started to wear off, so our patience is running thin with the monstrous aspects of his character.  It's almost like when a young teen has a crush on the sexy jock, hot cheerleader, studiously sexy class president, whatever.  That person is the guy or girl of your dreams until you get to know them and realize he/she is cool and sexy but goodness is he/she also a complete ass.  You ignore the rumors of them being an ass or the evidence you see from a distance of them being an ass, but when you see the ass-ness up close and personal, you forget the cool factor and your crush dissipates.

I've seen and strongly disliked Don's monstrous qualities from season one, but that's part of the attraction of the show.  I'm sure I'm not the only person to feel this way.  It's always been there.  We chose to ignore it or not care.  Always there.

From the first season when we meet (and ultimately, watch die) Don's/Dick's brother, Adam Whitman, and Don treats him like shit... 
From the first season when Don was whoring and cheating his way through the season while Betty sort of attempted to be the perfect housewife... 
From the first season when he (and his wife's doctor) made Betty seem like she was the one with the problems (well, she is, but still) and suggesting that Don's shit didn't stink...
From the first season when we see Don do whatever the fuck he needs to in order to achieve what he wants with minimal regard for others...
From all of these things and more, we see that he is a monster.  But I suppose because the monster was dressed in nice suits and an awesome coolness, we ignored the monster. Again, like the h.s. crush.

What happened on the most recent episode, "The Quality of Mercy," that made Peggy say that he was a monster wasn't actually all that bad, compared to ALLLLLLL the other shit he's done over these 6 seasons.  In reality, what he did needed to be done to save the ad and to help Ted (and Peggy) save face.  Sure, he blindsided them with his statement, and I'm sure he could've come up with some other b.s. excuse, but that's what Don has always done: come in with some b.s. lie or story to sell the client on what the agency wants the client to agree to.  How is this incident any different?
What annoyed me most is that he screwed Peggy out of credit for something once again, but geez, how many times must we see that before we're desensitized to even that.

Then again, perhaps I've seen his monstrous ways for so long and accepted them for so long as a part of who he is that I'm blinded by the monstrosity. 

It's still genius writing, and I continue to tune in.  I LOVE a show that creates a flawed character and endears that character to the audience; nowadays, I prefer shows with flawed characters.  I'll continue to tune in, but don't try to sell me and others on this "we're just now noticing his monstrous ways" shtick because I ain't buying that.

Yes, he's a monster, but this isn't news.  This is "meh!"

Amazing homemade bacon cheeseburger

Along with making tons of soaps and whatnot, we also try to make a lot of food at home to cut down on costs.

Recently, I was craving a bacon cheeseburger.  I drove over to Hardee's and was only moderately pleased with the burger I bought for $5.  

So, the craving rolled around again and the hubs suggested I make one instead of buying.
"Fine!  Get me the bacon, buns, and beef." I replied.
So, off I set to make my bacon cheeseburger.  The results were ahmazing!!!

I took 1 lb of beef and seasoned with season salt, pepper, and worchestershire sauce.  To the mixture, I added diced onion and peppers (we always keep a supply of a frozen "seasoning blend") and italian bread crumbs.  (I couldn't tell you any measurements because I rarely measure anything.  Eyeball it and season to your tastes.)

I shaped the meat mixture into four patties and baked for 16 minutes at 375 degrees.

While the burgers cooked, I fry the bacon in the pan, sliced the tomatoes, and toasted the buns.

Once the burgers were done, I put slices of American deluxe cheese on top, and bacon on top of that.  The heat of the burgers and bacon sufficiently melted the cheese.

I dressed the burger with the tomatoes and spinach leaves (instead of lettuce), and VOILA! My awesome homemade bacon burger!
I always feel all the more accomplished when what I try to make turns out as or better than expected!

Go forth and conquer your cravings and homemade foods! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Decisions & indecisions...

Indecisive people annoy the shit out of me!

We make decisions based on the best information we have at the moment, or at least, we should.  That means, gather your information, be as informed as possible about your options, then choose!  If you need advice from others to help you make a decision, seek it, then re-evaluate your options based on the information you've gathered, those people's opinions, your own assessments, then make a decision.  If making the decision takes time, that's fine, but 
don't keep asking people their opinions over and over again on the same stuff.

Why do people feel the need to constantly reconsider or constantly confirm a decision or constantly seek advice before ever attempting a choice? Are they unsure about their choice?  Insecure about their choice? 

Huge life decisions require time, consideration, consultation, and serious thought about the best decision and consequences of that decision.  By huge, I mean buying a house, having a kid, attending school some place, moving, changing or starting careers, purchasing an animal, changing your food habits, etc.

Minor life decisions do not require as much thought though some forethought it still required.  Weigh your choices, pick, and leap.  If shit gets fucked up from that choice, try a new choice.

Being informed seems to be the theme I keep coming back to.  Because I value information, planning, and being decisive about choices, indecision annoys me more than it should.  It's also possible that my pregnancy hormones and brain have heightened this annoyance, but I don't think that's it.  I've always been annoyed by indecision.  People hemming and hawing and bouncing back and forth between decisions annoys me.  

By no means am I saying that I have the answers, but I do suppose that people bring themselves unnecessary stress and grief when they bounce back and forth between decisions rather than researching thoroughly, then making an informed decision to begin with.  

Be informed.
Be wise.
Leap into your decisions with all your being.  If they fail, try another choice, but you'll never know if you keep being indecisive and never choose anything.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

Started this post on Father's Day 2013...

Giving me the first example of what a real, hardworking, honest, loving, caring, disciplining man was, my father set the example for my life and more lives than I could ever count. Not only is he an awesome dad, he is the best granddaddy in the world, and has never hesitated to take in and help other folks kids when necessary.

I took these life lessons and was blessed to find a husband with those same qualities and many more of his own unique, admirable qualities--qualities he's able to pass on to our own children.

I feel so blessed to know so many amazing fathers.  I feel even more blessed that my dad and husband both continue to amaze me.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

DIY-land: Getting rid of dryer sheets

I grew up in a house that faithfully relied on Bounce dryer sheets when washing clothes.  I never really questioned the habit as I was taught load the clothes, add the detergent, put in a dryer sheet, put the clothes in, start the dryer.  At various times, the laundry detergent we used varied, but it always Bounce dryer sheets... always!  As I aged and started buying my own laundry stuff, I had to switch to the cheaper sheets.  The clothes didn't smell Bounce awesome, but they were static free-- well mostly.

In fact, the Bounce sheets and smell are such a part of my parent's house that my dad washed and returned to us a blanket we left at his house that still smelled like Bounce months later.  Although I'd had to switch the cheaper, not-so-long lasting sheets that usually reduced static, getting that awesome smelling blanket back reminded me of the house I grew up in, the warm, nice smelling clothes fresh out the dryer.

So, as I've shifted to DIY-ing, I've been trying to replace soaps and whatnot that have bad chemicals and provide cheaper yet efficient alternatives.  My DIY missions are typically at least three-fold: ease, reduce chemicals, and save money.  So, what to do about having softer clothes, reducing static clean, AND possibly having a nice smell?

Enter vinegar, aluminum foil, and essential oils.

After washing with my homemade liquid detergent, I set out to use the next three ingredients to make my clothes softer, static-free, and smell nice.

Vinegar as softener: I've added 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the last few loads of clothes I've washed. I put it in the fabric softener cup that sits atop the agitator after loading the clothes--while the water is still filling the machine.  It could also be added to those Downy balls and tossed in with the clothes.  

Outcome: The clothes are soft.  And NO they do NOT smell like vinegar.
You should, however, be cautious not to add too much because vinegar is a form of acid.
I've read other websites that suggest adding the vinegar to machine during the rinse cycle.  Since I grew up using dryer sheets only and have never added liquid softener to the wash during the rinse cycle and have NO desire to watch the machine and wait for the rinse cycle (aren't washing machines the ultimate set it and forget its?), I'll stick to adding it in the beginning. ;-)

Aluminum foil to reduce static: Take 1 sheet of clean aluminum foil, ball it up to create a ball between 2 and 3 inches big and toss in dryer with wet clothes.  You can use 2 to 3 balls depending on the size of the load you're drying.  These balls can be used for up to 6 months OR until they start tearing.
Outcome: No static cling! 
If you're like me, when you first read that you thought, "HUH?  Won't it catch fire?" 
Trust me, I've read pages and pages and pages about this and researched it for weeks and weeks, and the only negative thing I've read is that the balls didn't really reduce the static cling as much as the person wanted.  After drying my own towels and testing it for myself, I can say I'm happy with the lack of static and no, there wasn't a fire.  The balls weren't even warm when I took them out of the dryer. 
And as one commenter on this page stated, "foil is non-combustible" and "dryers use indirect heat."  So, when I thought about the indirect heat, I thought about foil going in ovens and on grills.  I'm not a science whiz in any way, but that's what I considered.

Essential oil for smell: Put 6 to 7 drops of essential oil (I used lavender) on a damp rag and toss into dryer with wet clothes.  If you're washing towels, just drip the oil onto one of the wash cloths.  If you're NOT washing towels, keep one or two go-to rags in the laundry area to dampen and drip essential oil on.
Outcome: With only 6 to 7 drops of the essential oil, the clothes have a very mild nice smell.  I suppose if I want a stronger smell, I'll just increase the number of drops.  
My first foray with using the essential oil to make my clothes smell good was with towels, so I just dripped the lavender oil onto one of the damp wash cloths.  However, my plans are to cut up old towels and use these regularly.

So, yeah, I now have to do three things to have softer, static-free, great smelling clothes, but 1) I had all these things at home anyway, so it wasn't like I had to go out and buy new stuff; 2) vinegar and foil are staples that everyone keeps in the house and are relatively cheap even if I had to buy them; and 3) my quest to get the chemicals out of my laundrying might just be conquered.  

Number 3 alone is worth the few extra steps.

Happy DIY-ing. :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Apple's Tax Avoidance

Upon seeing a poll in The, I started thinking deeper about Apple's tax mess (that has recently come to light despite going on for years): 
                if it wasn't Ireland, it would've been some place else.  

It's possible Apple chose Ireland to avoid the typical tax-havens (Cayman Islands, Switzerland, etc.), and therefore, "legally" get away with not paying taxes here.  Apple has seriously been on the cutting edge of things lately, so why not be on the cutting edge of tax evading?
It annoys me to no end that what Apple did is technically legal, and therefore, they very likely won't be punished in any way.  And what would their punishment be--pay a fine?  Big damn whoop!  Just like that hefty fine the banks had to pay for their part in the foreclosure nightmare (and ultimately, global financial meltdown).  Never mind that many states used that money to plug budgetary holes, which meant people actually hurt by the foreclosure nightmare won't see the money or at least, not much of it AND never mind that a total of several billion taken from banks, who can make billions in the blink of an eye, won't make a bit of difference, so that the "fine" is more like plucking a grain of sand from a beach.  But I digress...

As much as I LOVE Apple's laptops and desktops (not a fan of the phone or tablet that have taken over the world), should we really be surprised? I mean, hell, the computers weren't even made here until a Dec. 2012 promise to bring jobs back to U.S.--and notice that that promise says "some computers"--not all.  And they were applauded for that.  

And as often as we've seen and read stories about companies in this country not paying any taxes (GE and Verizon to name just two), should we really be surprised anymore?  I mean, isn't it obvious by now that once you get so large, you don't really have to pay taxes because you find every loophole, tax shelter, minimally-taxing country to stash your money meanwhile, regular folks MUST pay taxes or they'll lock our asses up.  Hell, even celebrities, who are often millionaires, aren't immuned from being locked up--just ask Wesley Snipes and Lauryn Hill or any of a number of other celebs.  I guess they had money, but they weren't a corporation or didn't have the right accountants or something.
And once you get so big that the fucking Supreme Court says "you're a person" and can affect elections just like regular people can, who can stop you?  You'll simply buy a politician who will propose a bill that benefits corporations, lobby for it, and get it.

So, when will we stopped being surprised by this shyte and start fighting back and demanding change? 

It is NOT acceptable that a company as large as Apple can stash their money elsewhere for years to avoid paying taxes here and then have the audacity to say, "well, if you lower the corporate tax rate, we'll bring the money home."  Excuse you!  Your company is hear; you owe taxes here.  Pay them.  It's non-negotiable... or should be.
 How about if we're really going to commit to this "globalization" nightmare dream, companies shouldn't be able to pick and choose when and where they will pay taxes?  How about if a company is in a country, they must pay taxes in that country or those countries if they have offices everywhere?  

Can you imagine the revenues this country would have if all companies located here paid their taxes?  Hell, we're not even talking about increasing any taxes.  Just if they paid what they should, at their actual tax rate instead of using all sorts of loopholes, shifting money, moving it out the country, etc.  What kind of budgetary holes would that plug for the country?  Would we even be in a sequester right now?

We likely wouldn't even need to increase tax rates on the wealthiest citizens if companies simply paid what they owe.  And we need to cut off corporate welfare.  Tax breaks and incentives for simply existing?  Seriously?!  You station your company here, you pay taxes here.  Simple.

I know I'm oversimplifying shyte, but geezalou.  Citizens must pay; why can't they?

Ok.  Off my soapbox.

Be well.

Be informed.


Monday, May 13, 2013

DIY-land: The Wonders of a Foam Pump

My most recent lesson in DIY-ing... soap may not always thicken as the recipe says it should.

After trying for TWO days to get my homemade liquid soap to thicken, I finally had success today by simply putting it in a foam pump dispenser.

Two days ago, I set out to make a liquid soap from this easy recipe: grated bar of castile soap and heated water.  As you can see on the linked page, the recipe calls for two 5 oz bars of castile soap and 1 gallon of water.  Well, since my bars of soap were 4 ounces each and I didn't have a container to hold a gallon of soap once it was made, I winged it a bit.  I used one 4 ounce bar and 56 ounces of water.  (My empty old liquid soap container was 56 ounces, so why not?!)  This did NOT turn out as I hoped it would.

Beyond those adjustments, I followed the directions from the page I found to a tee:  heating the water, grating the soap, combining the grated soap and heated water, and letting it sit for 24 hours.  
Twenty-four hours later and my soap was still quite liquidy.  So, I grated about 1 more ounce of bar soap, reheated the liquid soap, and added the new soap gratings. 

Another 12 hours later and the soap was just barely thicker, so I added glycerin (1 Tbsp) although I knew my castile soap had glycerin in it.  (I got the idea for adding glycerin from here.)

Another 12 hours later... just barely thicker.

So I whipped it with my handmixer, as suggested on this page and this page.  Great foam on top.  Not really any thicker.  UGH!  By then, I was frustrated, but I refused to toss out the batch.  It still functioned as soap and cleaned my hands properly, but it wasn't much thicker than water, and I knew my toddler would say "momma, it's water" just as he did the first time I tried the soap and it ended up quite liquidy.

So, then I googled "what to add to liquid soap to thicken it?" and found this page that suggested that using a foam dispenser would dispense the soap in a better, less liquidy way and voila!  Problem solved!

Thank goodness I had a foaming hand sanitizer bottle that was nearly empty; I was almost out the door to go buy a foam dispenser until I remembered that bottle.

So, woohoo!  I don't have to go out of my way to thicken my handsoap; however, I'll still keep tweaking my recipe and methods to get the soap the consistency I want it without fighting with the soap and getting frustrated because it isn't doing what I want it to do for two whole days.

So, there's my recent lesson in DIY-land.  Over these few days, I've learned that the projects won't always turn out how you want them, but the end result is worth it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a day I approach with trepidation each year because I never know what my emotional state will be.

I'm thankful to say that I awoke this afternoon (yes, afternoon!) to find my phone FILLED with messages of cheer from many friends.  

I went to bed last night with the thoughts of the awesome Mother's Day card my hubs sent to me.

I was greeted by my precious son with a cheerful Mother's Day wish.

I miss my mother daily, but I know that she's proud of who I am today. 

So, to all of the mothers, surrogate mothers, aunt-mothers, godmothers, father-mothers and everyone in between, I pray you have a fantabulously blessed day.  And I want to remind everyone to cherish the people in your lives right now rather than waiting until they've passed on to heap tons of praise onto their memory.  Love them while their here and make sure they know it.

That is all! :-)

Be well and blessed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ball of Confusion...

You ever been so pissed off that you wanted to cuss, scream, spit, punch, stab, drink, cry, and sleep all at the same time?

I mean the type of pisstivity that makes you want to harm someone--not yourself and not to the point of legal repercussions.  The kind that you can't see or think straight more than a few minutes at a time.

Yeah.  I'm feeling that right now.

Parents are supposed to raise their children and help them be productive citizens, which for many people means getting your child to and through college.  What happens when one of those parents is an impediment to that progress towards adulthood?  What happens when that parent is so beyond asinine that his/her actions borders on child abuse.  Well, maybe I'm stretching it to call it child abuse, but seriously, what the fuck?

I wash my hands of it--or at least, I'm trying to.  It actually breaks my heart to watch this unfold before my eyes, but I've lived too much of my life reactionary to this person.  As I encouraged in this previous post, I MUST be actionary and stop being reactionary.  I WISH I could say on this day, not a single fuck was given, but I'd be lying if I did.

I need to go and regain my brain and worry about my own shyte.

For now, le mu'fuckin' sigh.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

DIY-land: Baby wipes again

The last time I blogged about baby wipes, I mentioned that I'd be making a new batch with different ingredients because 1) mineral oil (the base of baby oil) is not good for babies and kids and 2) while all in one baby washes are awesome, they too can be harmful for kids due to some of the chemicals commonly used in them.  Now, I'm not naive to think that I can completely rid my life, family, and home of chemicals.  But I learned a valuable lesson from my mom years ago: "you learn better, you do better."  I know a bit better now, so I'm trying to do better.

So, in trying to do a different mixture, I again, set out to find the best and easiest recipes.  I found two that I've sort of combined to make my own.  They come from the Kitchen Stewardship and DIYNatural websites.

From the ingredients on their websites, I developed this ingredient list:

1-1/4 C. of water (boiled then cooled a bit)
1 T of lavender liquid castile soap
1/2 t. of Vitamin E oil
2 -3 drops of tea tree oil
1-2 drops of lavender (optional)
1/3 of a thick paper towel roll, cardboard removed
old wipes container

Rather than measuring then boiling the water, I actually used my Keurig machine to get the boiled water this time.  The largest cup size on my machine is precisely 1-1/4 C of water.  Plus, we only use filtered water in that machine.

I waited for the water to cool a bit; it was still warm though.  Then I added the castile soap.  The mixture became a bit cloudy; this is natural.

I then added 1/2 t. of Vitamin E oil and 2-3 drops of tea tree oil and 1-2 drops of lavender.  I only added the extra drops of lavender because the tea tree oil gave the mixture a strong smell.  Although I'd smelled the tea tree oil before, I wasn't really expecting it to overpower the lavender from the soap so much.  I stirred the mixture, then poured it over the roll of paper towels sitting in the old wipes container, and let it sit.

Admittedly, I really liked the clean, baby product smell of the first batch I made.  This batch is healthier and has less unnatural chemicals, but I may be reconfiguring again to get a better smell.  I may cut the tea tree oil next time or find something to replace it since I'm mainly using it more for its antibacterial properties than for smell.

Although I wondered about the small amount of oil added (only 1/2 t. of vitamin E oil compared to 1 T of baby oil in the first batch), I realized the castile soap has some oils in it. Plus, one of the websites mentioned above doesn't add any oil at all.

I'm currently waiting on the water to soak into all the towels so I can use them later.  Since my little dude is 99% potty trained and doesn't use wipes as much, and the littlest dude hasn't arrived yet, I won't be running through these too quickly just yet.  But I certainly need to perfect which method I like for when the day comes that we will be going through wipes like water.

So far, both methods have been pretty easy.  The hardest part has been cutting the roll of towels and collecting the ingredients (which wasn't that difficult).  
The first batch smelled better, but I think that's just because we're so used to what baby oil and baby wash smell like.  My husband complained of the first batch being too soapy (it had 2 T of baby wash compared to 1 T of castile soap this time), but I'm sure he'll complain of the smell this time. ;-)

We shall soon see which is better overall.

Happy DIY-ing. :-)

UPDATE 03/15/13
So after a day of having the wipes bin next to my bed, the scent has grown on me.  It's so clean and nice.  I find myself wanting to wipe my hands with the wipes just to have the scent on my hands.  I don't even really smell the tea tree oil anymore, but of course, I know it's there.

And no irritations from the use of the essential oils.  

SUCCESS!  I may have found my baby wipes formula! :-)

Patronizing or Celebrating?

We've been in the full swing of Lent for a few weeks now, St. Patrick's Day is coming soon, it's Women's History Month, and Black History Month was last month.  Are these things being celebrated in our culture or patronized by companies trying to sell us stuff?

Since Lent began last month, everywhere you turn someone is offering a special on some sort of fish: McDonald's has new McFish Bites (REALLY not inclined to try them), Wendy's and Hardee's (and I'm sure others) are promoting their Alaskan Cod sandwiches, among other fish specials at other places.  Plus, there's the Shamrock Shake that McDonald's offers every year.  As far as I know, I'm not Irish so I can't speak from personal feelings on this, but I always cringe a bit whenever I see these shakes and wonder if people who are Irish hate these, love these, or don't really think about it.

It's now March, and since St. Patrick's day is coming soon, everywhere you turn, stores are selling things related to St. Patrick's Day, Ireland, and Irish culture in every permutation.  Irish Oatmeal (which is essentially steel cut oats that you can buy year round anywhere, but they get special placement during March), "kiss me, I'm Irish" clothing and paraphernalia, things with clovers, and every permutation of green one can dream of.  Is this celebration of culture or patronization and commercialization?
Images of women are always everywhere in society, so there isn't really something to repurpose and repackage as a "woman's thing," but I'd imagine there are all sorts of things assumed to be affiliated with women (spa days, mani-pedi specials, shoe sales, etc.) that places are offering--if they even bother to pay attention to the fact that it's Women's History Month.  We get news reports and C-Span has an awesome series they are airing on the First Ladies of the U.S.  So, at least for this special thing, the celebrations seem to be educational unless my assumption about specials on gender stereotyped things is correct.

And then last month, most places you turned were offering something as it relates to Black History Month (BHM) and selling us all sorts of things in the name of celebrating the month.  If you drove by schools with announcement signs, I'm sure there was some sort of Black history program, channels aired specials of black culture, and every year there's always some damn store somewhere in the country that offers a chicken special for February and then claims they didn't mean any offense by it.  

Seriously, we're still on the chicken stereotype?  HUMANS (who eat meat) like chicken; race doesn't matter.  I digress...

I read an article last month in Clutch Magazine Online about how blacks don't really celebrate BHM as they should, but that the bigger issue is that we're being sold our own history back to us from companies and corporations who only want to make money off of the history and contributions.

In comparison, is a similar thing happening to faith, Irish culture, or women's history or any other fill-in-the-blank group during an important commemorative time?  While it may not be true that other groups (of whatever kind) aren't really celebrating their special date(s) as the article claims blacks are during BHM, I present the idea that there is some truth to companies simply wanting to make a buck off of a special date to a particular group.

However, on the flip side, would we be encouraged to explore other cultures, groups, dates of significance of groups not our own if those things were mass marketed to us?  
It's become painfully clear that most students' experience and lessons of history and other cultures is not fully encompassing (although some are).  Studying history and other cultures have been relegated to non-required breeze courses that students can easily opt out of.  

For those students who aren't exposed to historical and cultural contributions, would they ever be inclined to explore these things if these things weren't in our faces via marketing and consumerism?  

Should we be thankful that these things are in our face so that people who wouldn't otherwise notice them might pay a little more attention? 

Or should we be pissed that these things are only "celebrated" so that they can make someone else money?  Because in reality, "celebrating" something by buying green items or fish instead of other meat is really only celebrating our consumeristic culture rather than the real meaning behind these things to begin with.

About two years ago, I became really annoyed with the over-commercialization of holidays, and set out on a quest to research the true meanings and/or history behind things we celebrate.  I did this because I love knowledge, history, and learning about other cultures and customs.  How many people don't give a damn and simply go along with what's being sold and packaged to them during any given time of the year?

I guess in the end, this topic raises more questions than offers answers, but I don't profess to have all the answers on anything.  I ask the questions I have and encourage others to do the same and seek the answers for those burning questions they have.  I suppose I've just reached a point where I need more meaning behind why we do what we do and how we celebrate as we do other than celebrating by buying more stuff or simply because tradition suggests it should be done that way.

We're a tossed salad of a nation--complete with millions of cultures, backgrounds, histories, stories, etc. We come together in a salad bowl to make this nation, but each individual piece still is its own.  We should promote celebrating who we are, where we come from as well as who we are now that makes this nation who and what we are here.  We should not buy crap to claim to celebrate whatever the current flavor is.  

Support St. Patrick's Day and study and celebrate Irish culture year 'round because you think it's a beautiful land with awesome people and culture, who've weathered a hell of a storm of life to still stand tall and proud not because you want to blend in on March 17th.  
Buy fish because you want a friggin' fish sandwich any time of the year.  
Celebrate Lent (or not) your way.  
Study the history of people of color (all people of color) year 'round because you seek that knowledge not because it's February.  
Promote an understanding of the hellish experiences and amazing triumphs of women in March and the other 11 months because you want to.  
Reject the thought that you need something to be repackaged and sold back to you in order for you to remember its awesomeness.

Celebrate, explore, and question because you're led to from within not because some crafty marketing suggested you should.

Keep seeking knowledge.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Reflections on life and death

Life can offer some incredible highs and deep, horrendous lows. (If you're in a relatively good mood, or are already in a depressed mood, you may want to stop reading now.)  

Wednesday, I had wonderful and reflective conversations with two people.  One a former student who is in the prime of her life; has an honest, wonderful, and growing relationship with Christ; and is figuring out things that people at least 10 years older than her aren't always fortunate enough to figure out.
The other conversation was with an awesome colleague.  We started discussing work-related matters, but towards the end, I reminded her that she was one of the first people I connected with in my first semester of grad school.  Grad school is the time of my life that I grew up, became me, found my voice and purposes in life, so I feel quite blessed and fortunate to still be friends with folks I met during those years, esp. since I'm not still close to many people I met during undergrad--other than family who I attended the same school with. (Sorta sad, eh?)
It was an awesome day filled with fun memories, good (and some tough) conversations, and  overall, a rather productive day.  I ended the evening by starting to watch Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States.  An interesting series that I'm excited to finish, but it too is a reflection of life and death.  Overall, a decent day.

Thursday, I was reminded that life is short, fleeting, and  filled with emotional upheavals and sometimes, epic personal battles.  I was also reminded that cancer is really fucked up.

Everyday I'm reminded just how evil cancer is because it took my mother from me, and it has taken many other relatives and afflicts far too many to count.  

Every moment I feel this new being moving inside of me, I relish in that pleasure but wallow in the sorrow that my mother is not physically here to enjoy it with me.

Thursday, I received news about cancer from two people.  And as I thought of them, of course, I began to think of Ma and a good friend who is currently battling it.  All people are/were strong-willed and awesome.  All have influenced my life positively.  All I feel blessed to know.  None deserve(d) to deal with this in any capacity, but at least, with Ma there was a direct causation, but what about when there is none?  How do you adjust and cope with that.

We try to eat and live right, but what does it matter if you eat right, do right, try to be healthy when an illness can still strike without cause, without understanding, without reasoning.

Knowing of illnesses (and possble mortality) of friends and relatives, esp. my mom, makes me want to take life by the horns, say fuck it all, and simply do what I want.  Take my family to live on an island, sell all possessions and move to another country, drop off the grid, just enjoy life.   Life is short and fleeting although it can also be long and filled with awesome memories. We try our best to hang on to the good and trust and believe in God and greater purposes and all of that, and most days, we win.  But some days... some days just beat you all to hell.  Thursday was one of those days for me.  

Most days, we can take a bit of bad news, but when the news starts falling like an avalanche, even the strongest ones break down especially if we're the navel-gazing type and begin to reflect on similar situations.  But news is news and we must be informed and process in our own ways.

In the end, I suppose I simply must be thankful for the time I'm granted with friends and family, celebrate their peace if they pass, remember the good times, make awesome memories, and love them while I can because tomorrow certainly isn't promised to anyone. And even if "tomorrow's another day," there's no promise that it won't attempt to knock you down.

Keep fighting. Keep loving.  Keep praying.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Homemade Stuff... Nicole in DIY-land pt 2.

The beginnings of my DIY-land adventures began with making my son's food when he was a baby and it kind of fell off for awhile, but on Christmas Eve, I had a very interesting conversation with my sisters and brothers that sparked my recent adventures.  It was about detergent.

While sitting around Momma's table joking, singing, eating on Christmas Eve, my brother mentions that his wife (who hadn't yet arrived) got him into using homemade laundry soap.  So, my sister gets there and she tells us her mom has been making laundry soap for years and her mom parcels it out to everyone because she makes 5 gallons at a time.  By then, my interest was seriously piqued.  "Makes laundry soap?  Hmmm?"  We inquired about the difficulty.  My sister said it wasn't too difficult.

So, I promptly started googling for details the next day.  My other sister and I were talking about seriously getting into making the soap once we saw it wasn't that difficult.

Fast forward to the end of January, and I'm still researching laundry soap.  I'd made it up in my mind that I was gonna do it, it was just a matter of when.  I was collecting websites with good info, figuring out where to buy the products, etc.

Then out of total necessity one day, I ended up making homemade baby wipes.  I tell ya, when you and the hubs are just a bit too tired to go buy the wipes you've been buying because the cheap ones gave the kid a rash, you do what needs to be done.  

I found this really easy recipe on Homemade Mamas blog, copied the recipe to a tee, and voila!  My first homemade product--aside from food.  The baby wipes were super easy.  Super efficient.  Very economical.   PLUS, I already had everything in the house--water, thick paper towels, baby wash, and baby oil.   However, after making the wipes, I found out tons of info about making my own baby wash and not using mineral oil because it can be harmful for babies.  So, next time I make the wipes, I'll revise the ingredients and do a post about that.

So back to my laundry detergent adventure.  Now, of course, whenever I first mentioned to people that I was making homemade laundry detergent, they balked and questioned why would I make it when I can buy it, then I mentioned cost, and they quickly understood that part of it, but still thought I was a bit strange.  I'm thankful my sisters are in this DIY-land with me and at least, they understand. :-)  Thanks SM-squared.

Now that I've made the detergent.  Check out my post here about it.  I doubt I'll ever turn back.  If I can make most of the products that we buy regularly for a fraction of the cost and certainly a fraction of the harmful chemicals, why not.

I'm really excited to be on this DIY adventure and super thankful I have my two sisters (actually SILs) along on the journey with me.

We're always so excited to share what we've been making with one another (perhaps they'll even do guest posts in the future, if I'm lucky and beg), and I'm happy to share here with you. :-)

Homemade stuff... laundry detergent.

On my quest to cut costs and figure out better alternatives to things we use daily, I did a lot of research on the easiest and best ways to make homemade laundry detergent.

I don't approach anything hastily.  Before actually making the soap, I searched on countless pages to figure out what would be the easiest method to follow and the most cost efficient.

The first websites I found showed how to make 5 gallons of soap.  I feared making this much at once because what if it went wrong?  Then I'd have 5 gallons of crap to toss out.  And I'm not super environmental, but tossing out 5 gallons of any mixed product cannot be good for the environment or waterways although wherever you toss it may smell great for awhile.

I finally found an awesome website that offered easy directions and a 2 gallon method.  It was WhyNotSew.  I loved this page because the directions were really easy to follow, and I wasn't tied to using one specific type of soap.  Lots of websites reported using bars of soap, such as Ivory or Zote (which I've never seen and don't know what it looks like) or castile soap (which can easily be found at Target, but was NOT cheap).

As with any method of prepping anything, I ended up making minor adjustments compared to what's on the WhyNotSew website.

Here's what I used:
1/2 bar of Fels Naptha laundry bar
1 cup of Super Washing Soda
1 cup of Borax
1 gallon of hot tap water
1 gallon of cold tap water
12 drops of essential oil (lavender)

BIG pot--large enough to hold more than 2 gallons of liquid.  (I used a 16 qt. stock pot.)
measuring cup
wooden slotted spoon/stirrer

1. Grate half the bar of Fels Naptha into a empty pot.
2. Pour 1 gallon of hot tap water into the pot.  Turn on the burner.  (I turned it to high since the pot was really big and you eventually want the liquid to boil.)
3. Cook the liquid and stir the pot until you know the grated soap flakes have dissolved.
4. Add 1 c. of borax and 1 c. of washing soda to the pot.  Stir well to integrate.
5. Bring pot to a boil.  Stir occasionally.  If the burner is on high, do not leave unattended.
        The liquid will begin to thicken and possible coagulate.
6. Turn off the heat.  Remove pot from burner.
7. Pour in 1 gallon of cold tap water.
8. Optional: add 12 to 15 drops of essential oil
9. Let sit to cool down enough to pour into 1 gallon size jugs.  (Cleaned out, old detergent, milk, or vinegar jugs are great, but whatever you have on hand that will hold 1 gallon.)
10.  After cooling, use a funnel to pour the liquid into the jugs.

I let my liquid cool about 1.5 hours before pouring it into the jugs.  It was still warm, but not warm enough that it would've burned me or melted the plastic jugs.  I noticed that the lavender was faintly present, but I didn't want to add too much in case anyone in my family is allergic to lavender and we don't yet know it.

FYI Notes:
After completely cooling in the jugs, the detergent will be gelatinous.  You'll want to shake well before each use.  Use 1/2 cup of liquid for regular loads, more for heavily soiled clothes.  A 1/2 cup is roughly equal to the cap of a commercial detergent bottle.

The liquid detergent smells mostly like the Fels Naptha bar, but the cleaned clothes don't really have a scent.  Adding the essential oil adds a bit of scent, but so does using scented fabric sheets or softener.  Here's a page that describes various essential oils and their uses.  Commonly used oils in homemade cleaners are tea tree oil, lavender, and some citrus oils.  (I would avoid buying an oil before actually knowing what is smells like, the properties of it, and/or whether or not you may be allergic or unable to use it due to a health condition.)

The water will not suds like when you use commercial liquid detergents--as you can see in the picture.  Consumers have been led to believe that suds equal clean; this is not true.  Companies add chemicals to make the soap have suds.  The important thing is whether or not the clothes come out clean.  My husband and I have washed several loads; they come out clean! :-)

If you find your mixture too thick, add a bit more water.  Too thin, add a bit more soap bar.  As I've read on other sites, making homemade laundry detergent is not a perfect science, so experiment and play around with it just like I did.

I used only 1/2 of the Fels Naptha because I read several websites that it was a strong soap, so I didn't want to risk irritation.

As a child, my mother always told me, "you can do anything you set your mind to."  I've set my mind to being a working mom who makes homemade things to save money and to try to find healthier alternatives to the things we need to use and consume.  I'm happy to share what I've learned with you. Enjoy!

UPDATE 05/27/2013: I'd seen a couple of websites that microwaved the soap and then either cut in chunks to food process or put in a plastic bag to break by hand rather than grating.  

Today I tried the microwave method.  I microwaved the 1/2 bar of Fels Naptha twice for 30 seconds each time.  I let it cool a bit, so it was easy to handle, then cut into chunks that would fit into my small food processor.  I processed it until I had almost powdered soap.  It worked wonders and cut time!  No more grating Fels Naptha for me.

I've read, however, that microwaving doesn't work so well for castile soaps, but as demonstrated on this page (Cheeky Bums Blog), castile soap cut into small chunks easily melts in boiling hot water.  This theory was tested and proven positive today as well.  

Score two for me!! :-)

UPDATE 12/5/2013:

I noticed that some of my clothes still had oil stains after washing and some of the clothes weren't getting a clean enough smell, so I tried adding dish detergent.  
Every since my college days, I've used a little squirt of dish detergent to get oil stains out of clothes.  It's made to cut grease, so why not, right?  Well, when I made my last batch of detergent, I add 1 cup of Seventh Generation Lavender Floral and Mint to the pot after adding the soap, borax, and washing soda.  
I also increased the borax to 1.5 cups instead of 1 cup to help with odors.
I let it set as normal, then poured it into the containers and added the essential oils.

Results: cleaner clothes, less odors, and BONUS--the detergent doesn't clump up as easily.  It poured smoothly for a good month and a half before the normal clumps returned.

Score three for me!! ;-)

Homemade Stuff... Nicole in DIY-land pt 1

My adventure in actually making stuff really began after my first son was born.   Prior to him being born, I started researching on products I could make to save money.  I researched homemade baby wipes, homemade baby food, using cloth diapers, and all sorts of other stuff.  I ended up only making the homemade food at the time.

When I first began making his food, it was more about saving money than avoiding chemicals or being super organic or something like that.  After slowly becoming more cognizant of the crap that's in the foods we consume, I set out on a mission to make most of his baby food.  If I had to buy his food, it was organic unless we were in a dire situation (travelling on the road and only a convenience store shelf of regular baby food was available).  I bought the baby food books, the little baby food ice cube type trays, lived on, and happily told anyone who asked about his food and my methods.  The food adventure was fun, economical, and I even got my husband into doing, which I really thought would be a battle.  Granted he's always been supportive of my little experiments, and he's not "your average male," but it was great to see him actively get involved with making the foods. I'm glad we have that experience to carry on with baby #2.  

It was a bit frustrating at times to have to defend why I made his food to older relatives.  They questioned and joked about why I only/mostly bought organic foods for him and why I made his food.  I made his food because we couldn't always afford organic.  It's healthier, but geez, it can be expensive.  Fresh and frozen is better than canned and prepackaged, so I'll do that instead.
When I finally reminded these relatives that their parents fed them "organic," homemade food (although it wasn't called that then) considering the time period they grew up in, they backed off.  I still trudged on regardless of the criticisms.

Now, that baby #2 is soon to appear, I'm happy to have an upgraded blender, more websites to turn to, my own, more active blog, and more knowledge about food to be able to make even better foods for the little person when he's old enough to eat.

My own food journey during this pregnancy has been much more informed thanks to my being a "label hawk" and becoming a wiser food consumer over the years.  Thanks to my desire to make my son's food, I've paid much more attention to what's in food, how food works for or against the body.  I'm by no means as healthy as I should be, but I have better tools to become so now.

When my older son was born, I always said I was determined to make him an adventurous and healthy eater.  To this day, he still is.  So, DIY-ing it must've done something right.

Happy DIY-ing!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Attempting to Open Eyes...

In my life, I view it as my goal and life's mission to open people's eyes to things around them, information they've been fed or led to believe, and in general, make people think for themselves.  I seek not to make people think and feel as I believe, but simply to encourage them to think and know for themselves.

I am a lover of knowledge.  I don't profess to know everything, but the things I do know, I am sure of and sure that they are right for me and my life.  As my son ages and my second child makes his way towards this world, I grapple with wanting to impart my version of wisdom, truth, faith, kindness, and love of knowledge and progressivism compared with simply wanting them to seek their own truths--even if they depart from mine.  This is something I'm sure I'll battle for many years to come.  Strong willed parents tend to produce strong willed children.

Being a strong willed person herself, my mother raised me to be my own woman, to think independently, to seek what I wanted, and to work hard for what I believed in.  My father--not as strong willed, but still stubborn and strong minded--imparted political, historical, conspiratorial :-), and people-observing lessons to me.  Together, they raised me to be my own person, but truthfully, they happily shaped me into mini-versions of them.  So, of course, when our views diverged (which happened often as I've aged), debates and disagreements ensued.  But debating what you believe in and questioning it to reaffirm or reassess the belief is important in life.  Many of our views are still on the same path, but now, as an adult, I know what I know and believe what I believe for me--not because they told or want me to.

I carry these lessons with my into the classroom all the time.  I stress that I seek to make them aware of the world around them and for them to question what they've been told--not necessarily to change what they believe but to know what they believe and why they believe it rather than "because my mom/dad said..."

So today, a conversed briefly with a student before class about 20th century figures that she had confused.  We were in a room with a picture of Cesar Chavez; she looked over and saw "Chavez" in big letters on the picture and asked, "wait, Chavez? isn't he bad?"  
I replied that she was thinking of Hugo Chavez, and it depends on whose perspective of bad.  
Her: "oh, the guy on the t-shirt."  
Me:"no, that's Che Guevara."  
Her: "oh, well, he was definitely bad."  
Me"again, it depends on perspective."  
Her: "well, didn't he run in Cuba with communism and all that."  
Me: "well, no, that was Fidel Castro.  Guevara was his second in command during the revolution."  Her: "well, oh, communism, yeah, bad."  
Me: "again, it depends on perspective."  
Her: "well, it was communism.  And I mean, I admit I haven't study a lot of South American leaders, but isn't there a lot of communism?  And I've met Cubans who really disliked Castro."  
Me: "You've met Cubans who live in America."  

I then said, "it depends on perspective because some feel that the guy before Castro took office (meaning Batista) was much worse.  It all depends on perspective, but let's not demonize everyone in the South American continent or in the Southern Hemisphere.  But back to your original question, that guy (pointing to the picture on the wall) is Cesar Chavez.  He fought for the rights of farm workers."  
I then had to cut the conversation short because class was starting.

What I would've loved to have done was have an extended discussion about the biased version of communism, socialism, Marxism, and the other -isms (except capitalism) that students are taught in American schools.  And I say this NOT to say, "let's promote these other -isms," but I would've loved to have given her a fuller version of history to show that depending on perspective Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Batista, and even Cesar Chavez could all be viewed positively or negatively.  

Schools are so busy teaching kids one way to think that they don't bother to teach them simply to think.  Students should be taught to seek knowledge and truth for themselves and that it's ok to stand on that island or branch alone as long as you are sure in your thoughts and sentiments.  It's okay to have a different opinion.  It's okay to think that some aspects of another sort of -ism are ok while thinking that other aspects are horrid.  We don't have to stay in one box.  We don't have to always color inside the lines or stay in our own lane.  We don't have to agree completely with one thing and reject completely another thing.  It's okay to feel a little up, down, and all around at the same time.

I would've loved to have talked with her without constraints of time about why Castro and Guevara sought to overthrow the Batista regime, but that it turned into a dictatorship.  And let her ask questions, and I ask questions, and we seek those answers for ourselves.  I would've loved to have discussed to her who Cesar Chavez was/is as well as who Hugo Chavez is and why he seems to do what he do.  I would've loved to have explored why we are taught to think one way about communism, socialism, Marxism, etc. when other people in the world view these things differently.  I would've loved to have explored socialist democracies and what that means.  Or even explored capitalism with a critical eye.  

I don't have all the answers, but if I don't ask the questions and get them to ask the questions no one will ever have the answers and we'll stop seeking knowledge.

In my goal as a mother, I seek to give my kids all the things my parents gave me.  But most importantly, I seek to give them a love of knowledge and a desire to always want to know more.  If you're never full off knowledge, you'll always be hungry and always want more.  

And I seek to remind myself that it's definitely ok if my own kids don't always march to the beat that I want them too.  As a student once told me, "parents often forget that kids are their own people with their own minds when they arrive here."  Too often parents do forget this.  We're so focused on shaping them in our images or trying to relive our lives through them.  We have and had our chance.  Let them explore the world for themselves.  It's hard but must be done.

So, I suppose I seek to open my own eyes as well as others.

Be wise.  Seek knowledge.