Author Archives: mommyk8

What’s Up With All the Instagramming?

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

I knooow that’s what you guys are asking yourselves. Well, those of you that ‘follow’ me social media-wise. I’ve had Instagram for awhile, but I didn’t really start using it until a few weeks ago. Now I’m trying to add one post per day. Is it as simple as me just wanting to participate in something fun? No. Nothing is ever that simple.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, more than usual even. Trying to get some new perspectives, change old habits, pay attention to how different things make me feel. ln much the same way that I notice eating certain foods make me feel sick, consuming various types of information and media were also starting to make me feel gross. Now, this isn’t going to be one of those long, ranty posts about how much Facebook sucks, but I will say, that I started noticing that it wasn’t making me feel very good. I’m not going to lie. I friggin’ love Facebook. However, I found myself getting super annoyed and cranky with people that honestly, if Facebook wasn’t around, I would have no contact with whatsoever. I found myself getting wrapped up in the enormous long-winded oversharing dramas swirling around. Spending time wondering, “Gee, I wonder how so and so is doing with her whatserwhosit”. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t know. I’m what’s known as a ‘super-empath’, I know it sounds very new-agey, but whatevs. It’s what I am. Basically, I it’s a really nice way of saying I very easily get wrapped up in other people’s shit on an emotional level.  So, I started to back way off on Facebook. I deleted it from my phone. I did what dieters do when they try to get ahold of eating habits and check-in with myself when I found myself logging on to the blue beast, asking myself “Why?” Why are you checking in? This is what I discovered, most of the time when I was checking in, which honestly was frighteningly frequent, I was either:

  • Bored
  • Lonely
  • Procrastinating

Does FB really help me with any of those things? Sure it kills time, but it’s certainly not helping me achieve any of my goals, and aiding in procrastination isn’t great either. It does help with loneliness, but so does a text of a phone call. Anyhow, I’ve backed way off. Yes, I’m still on FB probably once a day. Sometimes not. I feel a lot better. Does this mean I’ve given up social media? Oh, God no. Which brings me to…

Instagram. (BTW, yes my account auto-posts to my FB and Twitter unless I unselect it. I can’t decide if this is obnoxious or not.) As opposed to FB, Instagram is making me feel pretty good. For one, I’m using it as a tool to find beauty in my everyday life. Well, beauty and humor, but I think those go together. I subscribe to other members that have similar ideas, but also that post amazing photos. So, instead of checking in on political rants or people’s divorces, what I’m seeing are incredible photos of MOMA, sunsets in Hawaii, knitwear, meals people are proud of. It’s a really different vibe, and it makes me feel better about the world around me, and what I’m putting out there. Pretty deep for a photo app, eh? Also, I have GOT to  become a better photographer. No, it’s required. I have new clients, and some that are in the wings, and in the world we live in today, if you are a writer, you better be able to take some decent photos. Publishable photos. I’m trying, you guys. I think I’m getting a little better every day.

Twitter, I love you. You’re a different post altogether.

If you want to see my photos, there’s a button over there —> to follow me on Instagram. You know, if you want to, or whatever.

Put Your Seatbelts On.

I got a text from a friend this morning telling me measles has been confirmed in her town. She’s pregnant with her first and she’s scared. And I’m scared for her. She lives out of state, but I’m scared for me too. For this very reason, I’ve been trying to stay off FB, and limit what I see on Twitter. As the entirely preventable measles outbreak makes it’s way East, I’m afraid. I’m anxious. I live in one of the most undervaccinated counties in the country. This keeps me awake at night.

I’ve been plagued by panic attacks for most of my adult life. I’m only just now learning how to deal with them. When one becomes a parent, the worry about oneself transfers over onto worry about their children. What then, should I do, living in this unvaccinated territory with measles looming.? I already skip the playgroups at local libraries because I’m scared. Is that right? Is that fair to my kid? Not really. But last year whooping cough was rampant in our community, and I wasn’t going to take the risk. Yes, my kids have their shots, but nothing is 100% effective, we need herd immunity to protect everyone. I’m not far off from holing up for the winter and ordering our groceries from Amazon.

The only thing that’s given me any solace lately is my new theory. I call it the ‘seat belt theory’. I drive the kids all over the place without fear. Back and forth every day to school, ballet, violin, the store. As we all know, driving in cars is a very dangerous activity, but I don’t stay up every night worrying about the drunk driver or the texting teen. I put my kids in the car, buckle them up, and trust we’re going to be fine. I have to look at these diseases the same way. I’ve done all I can. They’ve had their vaccines. They’ve got their seat belts on. It’s the best I can do.

Let’s Stop Being Jerks About Music

 

Bruce Springsteen in Milan ’06. Via Creative Commons. I bet Bruce would want you to stop being jerks about music too.

Music is good for you.  Don’t believe me? Here are a bunch of recent studies that explain how music has a positive effect on people and is good for mental health:

5 Science-Based Reasons Music is Good For you (ABC.COM)

Why Listening To Music is Key To Good Health (Daily Mail)

Sad Music Is Good For You (Independent) 

Music Therapy Brings Troubled Families Together (Reuters)

Music Lessons Spur Emotional and Behavioral Growth in Children (Washington Post)

I could keep going. There are dozens and dozens of articles touting the benefits of listening to music. And here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter what kind of music. Music does good stuff to our brains. It helps us feel good, it heals us. This is why I’m asking you, yes, you, and you over there, and especially you – to stop being jerks to each other about music.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I keep my Spotify list private because I don’t want people to see what I’m listening to.” Yes, I get it, some people just want to be private, but usually what is behind this is a sense of shame. You don’t want your friends to know you’ve been listening to George Michael’s Greatest Hits on repeat. Or how about, “Oh, I love this song/band, it’s my dirty secret.” Same thing. They have it in their mind that listening to that band or song or genre is somehow bad.

Where did they get that idea? Why do we have shame associated with certain kinds of music? I’ll tell you why. Haters. Haters putting their hateful hate all over everyone and the internet. The other day I saw a list titled: Top 5 Songs Assholes Like. (or something like that) I once read an article about the top 10 Bullshit Hipster Bands. The author went on a vitriolic screed about a bunch of bands she hated. I liked about half of them, and actually found myself feeling a bit of shame for liking them when I was done. Why do that? Yes, I understand we don’t have to be all happy la la, we don’t have to all like all kinds of music, but there’s a BIG difference between saying, “I personally don’t like this music because blah de blah blah.” and saying, “If you like this music you are an asshole.” One is called criticism and is often directed at the artist. Think music reviews. The other, totally unnecessary one is called, ‘being a jerk’ and it’s directed at listeners. See the difference?

When someone tells you that they like some music, they are sharing something deep and lovely with you. What they are saying to you is, “This thing I’ve been listening to makes me have a lot of feelings and is doing good stuff to my brain. I want to share it with you.” Why then do we feel the need to respond with, “Ugh, I hate Nicki Minaj.” or “I would rather die than listen to any kind of country music ever.” or “All metal bands are satanists.” We do not need to do that. You are doing a horrible thing to that person. You are telling them that they should be ashamed for liking that music, that they should probably stop it or other people will also think they are idiots. We need to encourage people to listen and to keep listening. So, the next time someone says, “Hey check out this song” and you don’t like it or you’ve already heard it, for the love of God just say, “Ok. Thanks.” Maybe you could also say, “Hey, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dolly Parton lately, check her out.”

I know a lot of musicians, and I read a lot of interviews with musicians and you know what they all have in common? They listen to a TON of music. Think of the amount of samples that are used in hip-hop. How do you think producers and musicians know about them? Because they listen to an astounding amount of music from different genres. Why don’t we all start doing the same? Just because you once heard a classical song, or even 10, that you didn’t like, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t one out there that you might enjoy. The point is this, listen to more. Branch out.

The arts are in crisis. That includes music. It’s an important part not only of our culture, but of what it means to be human. All these studies seem to indicate that we are wired for music. We need it. So in addition to not being jerks to each other about listening to music, I’m going to ask you all to stop being jerks about paying for it.  Just pay for some music. Go buy a CD or download it on iTunes, or even by some vinyl (no really, it’s coming back in a big way). Do you listen to Spotify or Pandora? Then pay for it. Pony up for a subscription. Best yet – go to some live shows. Check out what’s happening locally. Can’t get your butt out of the door? Well, stream shows right into your living-room. Just pay for it. Support the artists. Help them make more music. There are a million ways to do it.

So in summary, here’s what you need to do:

  • Be nice to people when they share music with you.
  • Give some different genres a shot.
  • Buy some music.

If we all try to do these things, the world will be a better place. No, it will. Really. Do you want to ‘come out of the closet’ about music you like? Share your deepest, darkest music secret with the world. Drop it in the comments. I’d love to start a list of things to listen to. I could even make a Spotify playlist and share it! That would be fun, right?

I’ll go first: Katy Perry.

 

Raspberries and whatnot!

Overnight Oatmeal

This could also be called ‘cold oatmeal’ or ‘refrigerator oatmeal’.  I’m including this in the Reddit 52 week challenge under dairy, because it is in fact, over half dairy. Or in my case, non-dairy. Here’s the thing about me, I’m not a strictly non-dairy person. I’m more of a limited-dairy person. I’m not entirely intolerant, but more like ‘moderately bothered’ by dairy. That’s why you’ll see me posting recipes that use coconut milk instead of milk, but still will include butter. Sometimes I just dairy it up like crazy, guts be damned. Enough about my guts. I very loosely based this recipe from one I found here, but modified it like crazy, so now it’s MINE, all MINE! Muahahaha!

Raspberries and whatnot!

Raspberries and whatnot!

This is my very informal recipe:

2 Cups Old-Fashioned (non-instant) Oats
1 can coconut milk (I used low-fat but you could use whatever. You could also use regular milk or goat milk or soy milk or almond milk or emu milk or whatever milk you kids are drinking these days)
1 glug of maple syrup (If I had to wager how much that was exactly, I’d say 2.5 Tablespoons)
1 shakea shakea of vanilla extract (maybe a teaspoon?)
1 sprinkle of cinnamon

Dump everything into a bowl, mix it, cover it, put it in the fridge overnight. This was a BIT too liquidy for me, but I like my oatmeal kind of dry. The kids said it was perfect, though.

You can eat this cold, or you can heat it up in the microwave or stove top for a minute or so. Top it with whatever you want. I used frozen raspberries and toasted coconut. My kids lobbied pretty hard for some whipped cream on top, so of course I let them have some. That makes it even more dairy-tastic.

If you want to be a super hipster, you can put this in a jar and take it to work. Enjoy!

Thoughts on an On-line Education

Bahaha! Look at this olde school setup. It is not unlike the USM computer lab.

I just got off the phone with USM tech support about a video issue with one of my classes. It’s a simple, 1 credit class. OK, it’s yoga. Yes, I’m paying to take a one-credit college-level yoga class. Don’t judge. Anyhow, the sound on the video sounds like Greedo:

Now, I’m not a tech-idiot. Here’s what I’ve done to fix the situation: Restarted, checked all software for updates, used 3 different browsers, tried to view it on my phone and iPad. Nothing. It doesn’t work. E-mailed the professor. Apparently I’m the only person with this problem.  * Update* Apparently ALL Mac users are having the same issue. Why? Because the professor created the video THREE YEARS AGO.* E-mailed and finally called tech support. You know what the end diagnosis is? My software and computer are TOO new and TOO updated. Fuck me. I mean come on. They told me to find a windows computer and use that. I do not have a windows computer, nor do I want one. I would be less stabby (maybe) if this didn’t happen every semester. Not this problem exactly, but this is now my 6th or 7th online class, my 3rd and final semester with this method of education and I can tell you, the first week is always spent messing around with problems like this. This is a long segue into my critique of online education.

I was so happy to learn that USM was offering a Liberal Arts major online. When I signed up I only had 36 credits left. I’ve been wanting to finish school for awhile, but I have 2 kids and limited time. I wasn’t interested in finishing up at one of the ‘churn and burn’ online schools either. USM seemed like the perfect solution since I’d done nearly all of my classes there anyway. So far my experience has been…OK, but there are some major issues both with tech and with teachers.

NO ONE USES THE SAME TECH

Every one of my classes has required different tech. They also use the ‘Blackboard Gateway’ but from there teachers go bananas. When you fill out the survey to see if online ed is right for you they ask if you are ‘comfortable using a computer on the internet and visiting various websites’ or something like that. Of course you are! What you should know is, you will have to use at least 2 sometimes 3 or more programs for each class. I’ve had teachers require that we watch lectures via Youtube, Quicktime, and worst of all try to run a Power Point presentation and sound via Itunes simultaneously. That was for one class. You may also be required to use VoiceThread, which actually isn’t that annoying, but another new software that you will have to register for and learn how to use. This semester I’m taking a music class that requires your sign up for and pay $85 for an online text-book/course materials. Well, it’s music, that makes sense right? Oh, guess what, you also need Spotify to listen to the music.  I beg you, USM. Please, please, start making your professors use the same tech. Personally, I would suggest having them use: Youtube for video lectures, and VoiceThread for presentations etc. These two seem to work phenomenally well for everyone.  I understand that Online courses will require different materials, videos etc.  That’s great! But let’s try to condense some of this shit. I never know going into a class what software I’m going to need. It’s stressful and detracts from my education.

SOME TEACHERS SUCK

I am very, very fortunate that most of my professors get it when it comes to online ed. They run it like a regular class as much as they can. That means they give a lecture. Sometimes they even give a real-time lecture and students can ask questions and interact in a sort of regular class discussion format. It works very well, and I like it. I have had a couple of professors that I feel have made my classes completely boring and a total waste of money. This is what they did: assigned reading from a text. Assigned a homework from that text. They did not do any online lectures or offer supplemental materials. It actually really pissed me off. It seemed like they were just saying, “Oh this is awesome, I’ll just make a syllabus once and chuck out the assignments. Easy Peasey” In fact one professor couldn’t even be bothered to make sure that she changed the dates on the assignments from the previous semester to the most recent one. Unfortunately since USM has decided to fire all their professors, I’ve noticed that the good ones I’ve had are being replaced by the half-assed ones. Not cool. A good on-line teacher needs to be engaged as much as a real-time teacher. She needs to give lectures. She needs to at least pretend she’s excited about the materials and the students. That makes a good teacher in general.

ONLINE CLASS MEANS ONLINE

OK, this only happened once and it still pisses me off. Last semester I had an online class that required I travel to an onsite location to take an online, proctored, open book exam. That’s right. I could have taken the test at home easily. In fact, the test was administered THROUGH Blackboard. I had to drive to Portland and sit in the computer lab so that I could show the professor my ID and prove that I’m not cheating on this stupid test. It really, really makes me mad. I’m taking an online class because 1. I hate going places. 2. It’s a pain for me to do so. Why did they feel the need to make us drive there? Basically because they think all students are cheaters, I guess. If you don’t trust a group of grown adults to take the test online in an online class, then don’t offer an online class. And don’t be surprised that people are angry when you make them take time out to drive 50 miles to take a test that they could have taken at home.

WORKSHOPS DON’T WORK

I am currently taking an online creative writing class. For a long time I believed that online writing workshops would be great. They aren’t. Sure, people post their work and other people comment on it, but it’s just not the same as real-time workshops. This summer I was able to attend Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, and have some real life workshopping. It was incredibly valuable. The biggest difference is that the online discussion is too nice. Everyone points out what works but no-one has the courage to say what doesn’t. Yes, I’m saying, and I know how weird this is: on-line workshop students are too nice. I also think there is something that happens when a group of people get together in a same room and discuss their writing in person. You have to trust each other not to be jerks, and you’re sitting in the same space as the person you’re critiquing, so you want to give them good, constructive advice. Now, that said, I think it MIGHT be possible for workshops to work if they were done online in real-time conference call style format. I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t participated in a class like that, but I think it might be an OK medium.

GENERAL ADVICE

Some final thoughts:

  • Do not assume that online classes are going to be easier.
  • Get a good printer
  • Get some good PDF reading software. I like Evernote. I like Evernote for a lot of things actually.
  • Make a schedule for all your work. I put it all in Google Tasks.
  • Software that saves to .docx. If you have Word, no problem. If you use Pages or Google Docs it’s kind of a pain but can be done. Just make sure you learn how to do it before your papers are due.
  • Be patient. A lot of your professors are thrown into this and are just learning how to use the tech too.

ASK ME ANYTHING

Got questions about online classes, NOT tech support :) Drop me a comment.

PS. Han shoots first.

This looks a bit yummier, right?

Non-Diet Diet Meal.

This year, for the first time in at least a decade, I did not include ‘lose 20lbs’ on my list of yearly goals. I do plan on eating healthily and getting lots of exercise this year, but with overall health and happiness as my main objective.  So, of course this year for the first challenge of the 2015 Reddit 52 Weeks of Cooking was Diet Foods. After reading the description, you can see it’s meant to be pretty tongue in cheek, in that with all the diets out there, you could make pretty much anything and have it fit into the category.

I was a little behind on the challenge this week and made my food on the 8th (deadline, 7th) but y’all know that’s how I roll. What did I make for ‘Diet Food’? Well, I had a wisdom tooth out and had to have a ‘diet’ of mushy food for at least 24 hours. Did you think I’d eat t jello and chicken broth? Oh, hell no. I made myself some high-quality mushy food.

First I made this:

Doesn't this look delicious?

Doesn’t this look delicious?

I know, flesh-colored pudding doesn’t exactly make you say, “I want to eat that!” But listen to me, this is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. It’s Butterscotch Pudding from Smitten Kitchen. No, it doesn’t taste like that horrible brown Jello Pudding Mix. It’s creamy and sweet and a little salty. I modified it a bit and used full-fat coconut milk, but I did use butter, so it’s not entirely dairy-free. Seriously, make this. It’s delicious.

For dinner I made this:

This looks a bit yummier, right?

This looks a bit yummier, right?

The Perfect Potato Soup by Pioneer Woman.  This has been on my ‘to make’ list since it came out 2 years ago. I used butter instead of bacon because I couldn’t eat bacon due to my tooth extraction, and I have to suffer, everyone has to suffer! I stirred the cheese in until it melted. I also skipped the heavy cream. As I blog more recipes that I try, you will realize that I almost NEVER follow them. I can’t help it. I mean I CAN help it, I just don’t want to. Anyhow, this soup is extremely delicious – Oh! And another thing I did was I pureed all of it, she leaves chunks. But I felt it was a very nourishing and hearty meal, and I ate two bowls of it.

Don’t these look kind of…gross? I”m sorry! I’m a horrible food photographer. Go check out the links to the recipes, the authors are much better photographers than I am. You know who else sucks at food photography? Martha Stewart. At least I’m in good company.

 

 

Why Amanda Palmer Is Like a Farmer

Via Creative Commons. If you read the book you’ll get it.

 

I just finished The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer last night. I’ll try to tell you about it without spoilers. You should read this book, especially if you are someone working in the creative economy right now. If you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, read her wiki. I’ll wait. Also, watch her TED talk.

Her  book is part autobiography, part expansion on her TED talk. She explains in depth  how she’s made a living as a musician making some pretty bold choices, like: ditching her label, not charging for music, creating a Kickstarter to fund making a record. She’s gotten a lot of flack from these choices from other artists and just the general public. A lot of people seem to have a big problem with crowdfunding, and I have mixed feelings about it, in certain cases. However, the way Palmer, and many reputable Kickstarters set-up their ‘asks’ is not unlike the CSA I join each year for vegetables. I prepay a certain amount of money in the spring, and then throughout the summer I get vegetables. The prepayment allows for the farmers to have money when they need it to buy seeds, equipment etc. This is exactly how Palmer’s Kickstarter worked. She needed money to make a record. People prepaid for the record and other goodies (some even bought private concerts) when the record was done, she sent it to them. That said, she already had a really good fanbase and was vetted as a known and reputable artist. She made sure to give some examples in her book of Kickstarters that have failed, what went wrong, and how it could have gone better.

This book is not entirely about Kickstarter, it touches a lot on her personal life, more than I was expecting actually, and I learned a lot about her life and her marriage to Neil Gaiman (who is an amazing writer). But she also speaks volumes about trust and how in her experience people are willing to help, if they are simply asked.

Finally, another thing that stuck with me from this book is that there are, as you know, lots of haters out there. People who were just generally shitty and said horrible thing to her and about her in the press and directly via her website, on many various topics. Palmer is very frank about this. People say mean shit and it hurts. She hears it, she sees it. What I want to know is, what do people gain from it? In this lovely book about trust and empathy, the trolls sneak in. Just as they do in real life. Of course not everyone likes Palmer’s music or how she dresses or how she looks or how she makes her living. That’s OK. We don’t all have to like each other. However, what is gained by being mean to her, just for the sake of being mean? Does it make people feel better when they write shitty things? One of my final thoughts, and I had many while reading this book, is that we all need to do better to just keep our mouths shut. If you don’t like something and it’s not hurting you or anyone else – especially if it’s art or music or writing, just shut up about it. Nothing good is coming from personally attacking the creator.

In conclusion, no matter what you think about Amanda Palmer personally, or about her music, this is a great book. Highly recommend.