Saturday, December 31, 2011

Are We Richmonders Yet?

It's official!  We have lived in Richmond for an entire calendar year (and then some).  Feeling like we're part of a community is very important to me.  I love feeling part of a place, as if our lives are woven into the fabric of the landscape and the culture.  In the new places I've lived as an adult, each move is an opportunity to get to know a place, its personality, its skeletons and rainbows.

In 5-1/2 years in Oklahoma City, we really got to know it.  It was the longest I lived anywhere, and it was a close rival for my husband.  I miss it so much.  Especially our dear friends and neighbors and house.  We got a Christmas card from one neighbor named Connie.  She wrote us a great 'update' about our block, and I will admit - I have emotions - and I got upset when she said "I'll always think of the house across the street as your house."  So will I.  :(

This being the 4th or 5th place new place I've lived as an adult, I feel I've been more mindful and strategic about getting to know Richmond.  So here's my breakdown of our year becoming Richmonders:

Family life:  We are card-carrying members of the Children's Museum of Richmond, the Metro Richmond Zoo and I got a Richmond Magazine subscription for Christmas!  We know where all of the indoor mall play areas are!  I read faithfully!  But I hear there are fantastic parks I want to explore!

Neighborhood:  We have found a great, locally-owned respected daycare that we love and grown into.  We know all of our neighbors and have had several gatherings at our house!  I started a Facebook page for our neighborhood which has about 16 members!  We got to know each other so much better during the Hurricane Irene power outage, and have found great friends in a certain family (you know who you are!)

Culture:  This one is sketchy.  I don't feel like I know much about the personality or characteristics of the greater Richmond community yet.  This takes time, I realize, and I think it is easier for folks living 'downtown' as opposed to the 'burbs' where we live.  Living in Chesterfield County, it has a personality of its own - and we live on the edge.  (I've noticed that Richmond is a mesh of kind of disjointed cities/community and that there's some lack of cohesion in identitiy.)  I do, however, know that I live in the Dale District, I know who our representative is and saw him in Arby's the other day!  As the kids get older, we will explore more Uniquely Richmond things - I hear there are great festivals - and with my Richmond Magazine in hand, that is step one!  (Although Richmond magazine so far makes me feel like I lack a certain level of coolness to fit into this city!)

Getting around:  I will admit, I'm still mainly a GPS driver in Richmond.  However, I at least know where major roads are now in relation to each other, and how to get to most places using 64, 94, 195, the Powhite Parkway and the Chippenham Parkway.

Professional Realm:  This is a toughie.  I had a good network of colleagues in Oklahoma and I had a good thing going in my job.  Here, I work with a lot of great people who I'll call colleagues AND friends, but I still feel pretty much like an 'outsider' in the Healthcare community.  Again, this takes time.  Richmond wasn't built in a day.

In sum, I miss the OKC.  I will always be an Oklahoman at heart (Go Sooners!).  And a North Carolinian.  And an East Coaster.  And an honorary Togolese.  But I've been a Virginian longer than I've been anything (if you add up the 3- and 4- year periods) am enjoying becoming a Richmonder and look forward to building our relationship with her in the years to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New MyMemory Samples and Giveaway January 5th!

I am a very serious person and would not pull your leg.  MyMemories has some seriously cool software!  I am showing you some more samples of what you can do.  I used one of the Holiday templates - free with the software - that had 6 pre-designed beautifully laid out pages.  It was so easy to upload my pictures and move the design elements around.  I love the idea of doing a 'family recipe' page or even a whole book!  The prices for printing books are very reasonable and much cheaper than buying all the scrapbook supplies and starting from scratch!  Keep reading!
I am giving away a copy of the MyMemories Digital Scrapbooking software to one lucky reader!  I am requiring at least 10 entries - so enter now!  To enter this giveaway, simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and tell me how you'd use the design and the software!  SWEET!  (Drawing will be held January 5th!)  *BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

f you can't wait until then or don't win enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook V3 software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!   

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  

Friday, December 23, 2011

The New Nativity Scene: A Hot, Bloody Mess?

I love Christmas.  I love so many things about it...  the food, the festivities, the feelings, the fun.  All of the F's.  I love that so many people around the world are celebrating something so deeply personal all at the same time in a variety of public ways.  And if you know anything about me, it may shock you that I love the story of Christmas.... as in, the story of the birth of Jesus.

My 'deeply personal' religious story is winding, rooted in interesting experiences, observations, and has yet to have a plot twist or denouement, nevermind a happy ending.  Let's just say I have more questions than I feel there are answers.  That said, I think the story of baby Jesus is one of the most beautiful I've ever read or heard.  The plot is as intriguing as it gets.

A young woman - Mary - pregnant even though she's never had sex.  Scared, told that her baby is the son of God.  Joseph - a young man, kind and supportive to her.  An arduous journey that peaks with her having the baby in a barn with farm animals.  Angels making proclamations to people.  Can you imagine?  Real angels - what would they look and sound like?  In my imagination, the sights and sounds and smells of the story are stunning.  All of that hope and love and joy and peace embodied in a tiny baby, bundled up in swaddling clothing, who would change the course of the world forever.

Who couldn't love sweet baby Jesus?  Babies are cute and I'm sure Baby Jesus was adorable....  but Mary is the real central character here.  I love how in all of the manger scenes, it's just her and Joseph and the baby, all looking clean and glowing and happy.  Are we to believe that this young girl gave birth with only Joseph to help her?  Or are we to believe that Jesus just popped right out, all clean and cute and cuddly? How did they cut the cord?  What did they do with the placenta?  So many unanswered questions.  

I remember from my Catholic days, Jesus was all God and all man.  So I think he must have been born like all men, in a painful, hot bloody mess.  Having gone through childbirth myself now, I feel I understand a little more about what may have happened that night.  Mary was out of her mind with pain for many hours.  She may have felt like she was going to die.  There was a lot of screaming involved.  Jesus was born an adorable, hot, bloody, sticky, gooey mess.  Surely there was a midwife to help.  Mary breastfed Jesus.  She got freaked out by all of the blood and gunk that came out after the baby.  This I can related to.

Leaving all these details out of the story and the Nativity Scenes does a disservice to the story and to Mary and that whole experience that night.  What it must have been like. So I think in all Nativity scenes from now on, There should be a midwife honored among the wise men.  Mary should be shown breastfeeding Jesus.  And there should probably be some blood on her clothes and in the hay, but I guess that would scare children. 

If you have seen a Nativity Scene like this, show me!  I will put it in my yard! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crying in the Juice Aisle

I almost cried in the juice aisle today. Let me back up for a minute and tell you about a time when Big Sister was 5 months old (over 3 years ago). I breastfed her from the start but around 5 months old, the milk I was pumping was not meeting her need at daycare. We had to buy formula. I clearly remember standing in the formula aisle at Target just crying and crying, and my husband rubbing my back and telling me that it was ok, we had no choice, our daughter needed to eat. I felt like a failure. I felt like a bad mom. I wanted to provide everything she needed and this was the 'writing on the wall' that I couldn't do that. The end of the story is boring. We bought the organic formula because it just sounded the best, she got hooked on it, wouldn't drink the cheap stuff, and we still nursed until she was a year old.

Fast forward to today. I didn't really cry. I almost did. I was trying to buy apple juice. To get you up to speed, there is recent news about excess arsenic in apple juice due to unregulated pesticides used in orchards overseas. ARSENIC?? What mother would want to buy something that has arsenic in it??? Well, my kids love apple juice. They are snobs about it. No other juice will do. The stuff is good. So I'm thinking - "I can do this. Surely I can find juice made from organic apples grown in the United States." I read the labels on every bottle. I know other customers thought I was crazy. Slowly, I felt the stinging behind my eyes. Clear sign that tears are coming. What is wrong with me? I thought. Why am I crying about this? It was the same feeling I had years ago in Target. I want to provide the best for my kids but I feel like I don't have a choice.

I had no freakin' clue which apple juice to buy.

I landed on an expensive organic apple juice. I brought it home. Big Sister loved it. I now feel like a good mom, like I've done the best I can.

The problem with both of these stories is, while I did the best I could, I wouldn't say the same of the formula or juice companies or those who regular their sale and the process that gets the apple, turns it into juice and gets it on the store shelf. Months after we bought the formula, it was recalled for being contaminated with bug parts. None of the juice companies put on the label where their apples were grown.

So many people think that health and well-being is all about personal choice and personal responsibility. I feel like both of these stories, and my emotional reactions, illustrate that the personal is political. Even in the juice aisle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Christmas My Memories Giveaway!

It's baaacccckkk! 

I am hosting another MyMemories Suite software giveaway!  The best part is -- I'll be giving away the software on Christmas day - December 25th!  You can enter to win for yourself or a friend or loved one.  

If you haven't checked out MyMemories lately, you should.  They have just released Version 3 of the software and the new features are so much more user-friendly.... which is great because they were pretty user-friendly before!  It flows with how you would naturally make a paper scrapbook page. 

It is easy to import pictures, and there are so many free nicely designed page sets of all sizes that come included!  Also, MyMemories gives away free paper sets regularly.  To the left are just a few pages from one of the included paper sets.  I didn't design these - just did the 'automatic import' option.  I just wanted to give you an idea.  There are tons of cool embellishments like flowers of all colors, buttons, stitching, and so much more.

 To enter this giveaway, simply visit the My Memories Suite webpage, choose your favorite design, and comment below telling me how you'd use the design and the software and you could win a free copy of the My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking Software!  SWEET!  (Drawing will be held Dec. 25!)  *BONUS entry if you also become a follower of my blog or LIKE the MyMemories Facebook page!

Here's the best part:  If you can't wait until Christmas, enter the following code to receive a $10 discount off the purchase of the My Memories Suite Scrapbook V3 software and a $10 coupon for the store - $20 value!   

Tell your friends and family to do this too!  I LOVE giving free stuff away!  Trust me - this is worth it if you love scrapbooking or doing creative projects with photos!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Working With Style

OK.  I am not wild about this picture, but I've been wanting to link up with the Liberating Working Moms Working with Style series / blog hop for a while now.  So here it is!  I love this outfit.  Regardless of how I think it looks in the picture, I feel good in it.  It makes me feel like "myself."  There's something about jeans or tights+boots that just put me in a good mood and good frame of mind.  But there's something about taking a picture of yourself in your office using the auto-timer on your camera that just makes you feel very weird not unlike the feeling of confessing you've done something naughty.  Perhaps Santa will knock me down on his list for this.  But if he hasn't, if you're reading dear Santa, bring me more of these skirts!  And tights!  And boots!  For they make me happy.  Despite feeling a little be-frazzled in the morning, lucky to have gotten a shower, having given up on taming my crazy hair long long ago, an outfit you feel good in is priceless.
Shirt:  Teal; Gift from my in-laws for Christmas last year, by Jeanne Pierre.
Tights:  Purple; Kohl's
Boots:  Brown; JC Penney (though I'm currently boycotting them; see previous post).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Should We Boycott Next??

Chick-fil-a, you won't be getting our $ anymore.
First, it was JC Penney. (Or JC Penny?  Is there an S?)  I began boycotting JC Penney's when the news broke that they were selling this shirt targeting girls ages 7-12.  Despicable.  I think it's great that they took it off the shelves, but somebody in their organization a) decided that at one point it was a good shirt, b) decided it was something JC Penney should sell and c) obviously didn't see a problem with it.  THAT's what I see as the problem.  So I haven't bought anything there since .  Which is a little sad because I used to really like them, much to the dismay of persons-to-remain-unnamed who basically said "ewww gross!" when I told them I shopped at JC Penney.  And now you understand a little bit about the priority of clothing in my life.

Now it's Chick-fil-a.  Or Chick-fil-A.  Or some other iteration of Chicken filet.  My husband informed me that recent reports seem to suggest their foundation arm has discriminatory policies towards homosexuals and has given quite a bit of money to anti-gay organizations.  This is a much more important reason to boycott a place.  I understand not to believe everything I read, but there's enough there for a reasonable doubt.  Not only does it conflict with our personal beliefs of equal rights for all people and support for gay marriage, but it surely has an impact on the chain's work environment and who they hire.  Hopefully an investigation is in the works.  So despite them having the cleanest indoor play areas in all of greater Richmond and having great Tuesday night free kids meals, I am agreeing with my husband on this one and the boycott has begun.  SeeYaLater despicable suckers. 

And now I've used the word despicable twice in this post.  Next up:  unconscionable.  And why are the names of these places so hard to spell?

I am really tired of the parade of unsavory, unconscionable acts by big corporations.  But JCP and CFA are standing on the shoulders of giants such as Wal-mart, KFC, Abercrombie and Fitch, Lehman Brothers, Johnson and Johnson (formaldehyde in baby products?? Oh yeah I'm boycotting them too) and others who take their customer's money and use it - knowingly and intentionally - irresponsibly.  Technically I guess they can do that.  Well, actually, I don't know if they can 'do whatever they want' as some people say - legally, that's up to the courts to decide.

I DO KNOW that I can do whatever I want with my money (except I have to pay taxes) and I'm exercising that right by NOT SPENDING IT at these deplorable places AND now I'm telling you about it as well!  I am also very interested in joining the Occupy movement but - and this is not a comment on their employment or sanitation issues - I am too busy with the rest of my life, job, etc.  So bummer there.
Where else should I boycott?  Bring it on!!!  Pretty soon I will be grinding my own flour, raising sheep and spinning my own wool for clothes, buying a cow and getting milk and butter.  Now I'm getting carried away --- but it doesn't sound like a half bad idea.  Let's see if my husband will join me in that hairbrain scheme!