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Steve and Lauren hosted another mouth-watering Slow Food weekend a few weeks ago, and Steve posed the question, “What would it take to get people involved in the Slow Food conversation?”

That really tripped my wires and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. See, when I think “people” I think of the families I work for; single-parent families who rely on CCAP to pay for their childcare, and work a minimum-wage job when they’re not trying to finish a degree at Metro. Time and slowing down is something far out of their frame of vision. Slow food for me and Cuyler is much more attainable, and we cook at home, from scratch, about five nights a week. Why? Because I love it and he’s along for the ride, although his personal reading and cooking journey is becoming very meaningful..ask him about Fast Food Nation (and the amazing soup he made).

I learned to love cooking in college, before I knew about the “movement”. It’s a stress reliever for me as a process and certainly it tastes better! Grilling a steak, simmering a sauce or a curry, making a salad with a glass of wine that slowly increases my feeling of warmth as the food slowly cooks…I absolutely could not live without it now.

So, okay, it’s great for me. How, and WHY, do we convince people with no time that Slow Food deserves a place in their lives..a place that would certainly have to be carved out by eliminating something else?

I don’t know the final answers to that question, but I know what they would ask.

1. What for? What’s in it for me? Why should I rearrange my very busy life to spend a few hours cooking every day when I could just order a pizza?

2. How can I afford it?

3. How can I make the time?

I only have very vague ideas of how I would answer these questions, but here’s the gist of it.

1. Health benefits, family bonding time, better-tasting food, and knowing what is going into your body.

2. You might not be able to, but cooking at home with cheap ingredients will be less expensive than eating out every time.

3. Making the time is where is really cuts. In the life of a single parent, getting home at 6 or later, dog-tired, is exactly how normal goes. Homework for the kids, dinner, bed; there’s no room for relaxed cooking in there. The only place you might be able to carve out the time is television. If there’s any kind of tv happening in there, there’s at least 30 minutes that could go into a meal.

But….the kids will pitch a fit, they definitely won’t help cook (kids of single parents often run the show because their parent either feels too guilty or too tired to step up and discipline) and do you really want to deal with all that?

There’s no question that life is hard for the minimum wage earners of America, and all the “time saving” options helpfully offered by the television and convenience food industries only make everything worse. We live on over-processed crap, visual and edible, because we are too tired to make anything better for ourselves…we are too busy working that awful job to pay the rent and buy the Lunchables and soda, we don’t have time to cook.

The TV is largely to blame, in my opinion, because it is the voice in every house that says “Faster, faster” All The Time. If we could silence that voice we might have both time to cook and the space to slow down.

SO essentially, you’d have to convince families that there were real benefits for them in learning to cook; then that the only way to make space for it is to shut off the tv and get the kids in the ktchen helping.

That would have positive effects too, since the next generation would grow up knowing how to feed themselves to some extent.

My heart aches for the kids who stumble, bleary-eyed, into my classroom at 7:30 am, clutching a Pop-tart and a can of Pepsi. I know they have a Lunchable in their bag and I sincerely doubt that dinner will be a lovingly prepared, balanced meal. Food is an expression of love to me, and although I know that these parents love their kids, I wish I could see a clear path to helping them give their kids a piece of bread instead of a snake or the equivalent breakfast pastry.

Dear Santa,

You may have noticed that I have been almost unbelieveably good this year. In fact, I can’t remember ever being so good.  I have not stolen any cookies, hit my brother, lied to my mom, or neglected to do my homework.

The great thing about getting older is that the list of things that are naughty is suddenly much smaller. All the rules put in place to train you are removed, and you are left on your own to decide what constitutes a good life.

Here is all the good stuff I did this year:

Graduated from college.

Got married to a nice boy.

Paid my bills.

Got a job as a kindergarten teacher and did well at it.

Here’s what I didn’t do so great at:

Patience, kindness, selflessness, controlling my temper, self-denial, gratitude and avoiding gossip.

So  the big stuff is still there, I guess. Always will be. I can accomplish stuff that makes my parents proud, but that isn’t what really makes me feel I’ve progressed. the only progress I feel I’ve made is the tiny handful times I managed to control myself in any of the above-mentioned ways without the threat of a spanking to reign me in. I did it myself.

All that makes my list seem silly, now. Still, in the spirit of kindergarten priorities and since I’ve got my list for what I’m making for everyone else all prepared…

For Christmas I would like A GIANT SQUID. squid This one is neat too, although not quite as neat:octopus

A robot that cleans things, like this: robot
A robot that wakes you up: robot

I would like a kitchen timer shaped like something amusing, like this: timer

I would like a sewing machine like this: sewing machine

I would like this amazing book: book

I would like this squid shadow puppet: squid
A necklace like this: necklace

An i-dog: dog
The Octonaut books: book
Edward Gorey books: book

A french coffee press that makes extra-good coffee: coffee

A pink deer lamp (gawd help us) deer lamp

A cookie jar that looks like a cupcake: cookie jar
And I would like a puppy. A Bassett or a Dachshund. I know I won’t really get one, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

Love,

Shannon

Cuyler is taking a Sci Fi Lit class, and came up with an amazing idea for a final project based on this: (WARNING: contains very disturbing images and….well, it’s pretty much totally disturbing)

A Demented Love: The Story of Carl von Cosel’s Obsession

The story will be revealed as we go…for now, call it an alternative ending to this very sad story.

1. Finish my CO teaching certification.

2. Send my resume to all surrounding school districts.

3. Be a doggy foster parent.

4. Weigh 120 pounds.

5. Submit a design to a magazine.

6. Finish editing and writing memoir-ish stories.

7. Own a garter belt.

8. Convert back patio into garden, and raise a successful garden using actual gardening knowledge involving pH and so on.

9. Teach in another country (Nepal?) for a year.

10. Do photo comic with husband.

11. Write and illustrate Edwin book.

12. Write thank you notes.

13. Finish putting photo albums together.

14.

I haven’t seen him in a year, and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge, including, ahem. my marriage.

I think it’s safe to say I’m over him. Yeah. I was over him a long time ago..it was a process and it came to an end.

What I’m not over is IT, the pain and rejection and self-doubt and the helplessness. The abstraction that remains in my life crops up just when I need it least.

I can always feel a nightmare coming, like a migraine. I don’t want to go to sleep because I know it’s coming. I worried for a long time about it, maybe it meant I wasn’t over him and I’d made a mistake jumping into this lifelong committment, although I can’t imagine what there’d be to wait around for in that department of the past.

I finally told Cuyler and he told me that I always seem to have the bad dreams, the screaming shouting horrible dreams about my ex-boyfriend, when something else in my life is out of control.

It’s true: when work has me treading water and sinking, when I feel like marriage is overwhelming, like adulthood is overwhelming, that’s when my sleep is invaded and I wake up stumbling out of bed to shake off the swamp.

He has become an archetype of things I can’t control, things that will hurt me and make me feel like a failure.

I don’t know the real person anymore, even though we shared almost all our time for four years. It’s amazing how much can fit into four years, and even though it was the grand prize winner of the crappy-relationship contest, it mattered because someone who observed your life for a long time is gone. Some things that I did, said, experienced, only he was there for, and has probably already forgotten. It hurts to lose someone that was close to you and my brain is still working through that.

Eventually the nightmares will go away, I think. I know I made some really good decisions in life, and I know I’m taking for granted what an amazing man I share a room, a bed and a life with. I know perfectly well that sometimes I put off appreciating him fully because I have stress to be stressed, worries to worry, hissy fits to throw at the prospect of being grown up.

Lord, what fools these mortals be.

Motherf-ing KIDS.

I’m teaching this one kid to crochet, awesome, boys doing needlework, all over it. EVERY GODSDAMN TWO SECONDS he whines for help, but WON’T GIVE UP. In between that I have to resolve every possible tiny insignificant STOOPID conflict that 24 kids can possibly have with each other.

I was at work for eight hours and I have to go back in two for a staff meeting and hear about everything I do wrong. I swear it felt like twelve. I’m sitting in my underwear downing a stiff screwdriver and using all the cuss words I can think of. How the HELL did I survive today? I wanted to crawl inside myself and die , letting them poke my lifeless body and squeal to my carcass, “miss shannon, miss shannon, she KICKED me!”

How about for once in your life, you make some semblance of an attempt to resolve things yourself before you make me solve it? Huh? HUHHHH??????

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the need to voraciously research a subject. I think all those MLA-style papers burn out people’s natural desire to research, and make it a word that has a Pavlovian response of the cold sweats.

But. I read this fantastic book called The Monsters of Templeton http://www.amazon.com/Monsters-Templeton-Lauren-Groff/dp/1401322255/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1213053072&sr=8-1

by Lauren Groff, and it had a sea serpent in the lake. It was beautiful. My brain is not in a writing mood, I feel like everything I’m saying is stilted, but I don’t want to forget this stuff.

So. I ordered fifteen or so books from the library on prehistoric survivors and lake monsters. There was one that’s out of print called Prehistoric Survivors by Karl Shuker, and it was really pretty convincing. Aaagh. Don’t I sound ridiculous? Like I’m not the four millionth person to hope for living dinosaurs. But there are so many things in the world that are still being discovered, there has to be hope–the mokele-mbembe, secret brontosaurus of Chad…the sabre-tooth tiger…giant sea plesiosaurs..their habitat is certainly smaller but has not necessarily disappeared, and why not? Why not?

It is strange that there have been really no photographs to speak of. Lots of eyewitness reports but no pictures. It comes down to trusting strangers’ word. Lord knows we’re all okay with that.

This is a sad sad post with no flow to it at all. Let’s just call it a fact bookmark of the mind.

It’s inspired several new characters for my drawings. I’m going to start storyboards soon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mokele-mbembe

There’s a bulletin board in the hallway of my school, and it has a display of drawings my students did before I came here. They drew their dreams, and clearly they all had different ideas of what a dream is…not surprising, adults do too. Some of them drew themselves sleeping in their beds, and that was them dreaming. Some drew the images that roll across the inside of their eyelids when they are asleep, and that was them dreaming. Some drew a night sky, and that was them dreaming. One boy drew a burning house with men with guns, and a cross on fire.

That was his dream, too.

I’ve been watching my husband try out a few new games lately because he got a trial gamefly subscription. He likes a lot of different stuff and there have been kid games and some that are maybe not. That’s the point. There’s this one where a muscle-bound vampire sucks blood from chained and ragged victims to gain energy. I’ve got to admit it made me uneasy to watch. The sound effects were pretty visceral.

One of my favorite books when I was twelve was Dracula by Bram Stoker. I also loved Gone With The Wind and The Count of Monte Cristo.

There are ragged, chained victims, rape scenes, murder, the undead, injustice, revenge,seduction and all manner of violence at the soul of those books. I would recommend them to any child.

I don’t know if I’d let my future little boy play Grand Theft Auto.

Why?

When you read you sit in the passenger’s seat. When the character does something you experience it, you might not even see it coming, you might be the girl with the vampire’s teeth at your neck suddenly, when you weren’t ready for it. You might be carried up the stairs and raped by your own husband because you crossed him one too many times. You might plot to kill the man who had you thrown in prison and stole your fiance. You’d do it, too.

Is that better than screwing a prostitute in the backseat of a car in GTA because you chose to hit that button?

Does the fact that it’s written down make it intrinsically more meaningful and not-evil?

When I was fifteen I read through all of Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus thrilled me to the core. I told my mom about it. That guy killed a little boy and fed him to his own mother baked in a pie. She said she wasn’t sure I should be reading that. I said it’s Shakespeare! She said does that make it right, because it’s Shakespeare?

Yes. Yes, it does. If I saw that in a video game would I be horrified? You bet.

I’m going to have to leave this here without coming to a conclusion because I don’t have one. I’m not sure if I could ever know my own child well enough to sense when he was ready for something like that. What if he dreamt of guns and fire in the attic? My heart would break. Is it just your love that matters, a safe place in the world for a child, a distinction between fantasy and reality, right and wrong?

On a similar but sort-of-different topic, I’ve been doodling a little amorphous bear creature and my husband suggested I write a children’s book around him. I really like that idea. However, I am faced with a completely foggy idea of what a good story would be. I’m trying to remember what books I liked as a kid.

  • I liked repeating phrases
  • I liked animals
  • I liked monsters
  • Especially monsters so big you could only see their bottom half on the page
  • I liked intricate drawings with detail it took you hours to see all of
  • I liked it when the main character was in terrible danger
  • but escaped miraculously

There will be a monster. A big one. My creature will be in terrible danger but will escape miraculously. He will bake a cake.

Now I just have to fill in the spaces.