Monday, August 31, 2009

Every light in the house is gone

When I moved in I was told that the power bill for my house was often $350/month. Scary. Worse, when I called the power company to set up service they charged me a $500 deposit (equal to the largest bill the house has had). O.M.G.! So immediately upon moving in I reset all of the thermostats. Only using AC after 5:30 at night and making the default setting 78 degrees (if we're too hot we can manually turn it down and it will reset later). We've had two bills now, averaging $200, which is GREAT for the summer (tends to be my highest power usage so the bills should get cheaper). It's better, but still... So, I'm looking for more. The home already has upgraded insulation (blown into the walls) and the windows and doors have good seals. All cooking and heating is gas and the main part of our bill is electric, by a LOT, which I assume is still mostly AC as the weather has been consistently 85-90 degrees every day.

Our next step was the light bulbs. Our kids like to turn on every single light in the house and, being a newer house, the house has a lot of can lights. We counted 80 lightbulbs in the house. 80! This weekend we removed every one of them (well, except the two we can't reach) and replaced them with CFL bulbs. If the lights in the house are on an average of 4 hours a day we'd save $50/month. That's about right since some don't usually get turned on and some never get turned off. I'll settle for $30.

Next I want to look into thicker curtains, especially for the sun facing windows, to cut down on the need to cool/heat from window heat transfer.

What have you done to cut down the energy bill?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Secret 24: Not the iPod OR Zune

I don't like iPods. It's not so much the iPod itself that's the problem but iTunes. I hate the idea of having to install special software to make it work. The Zune comes with user agreements that are too invasive (it is after all Microsoft so it's not a surprise really). However, I ♥ my Creative Zen. It's the size of a credit card and is all flash memory. The menus are really simple to use and can integrate with your winamp playlists. And it's a drag and drop file structure. I connect via usb and drop my files on there and it doesn't have to convert my songs to special formats. There is software that makes it easier to work with on your computer but you don't have to install it (say at work where there are restrictions on what you can install). I try to spread the word because I don't think the Creative Zen gets enough attention and when you say Zen people often think you meant Zune (did Microsoft do that on purpose?).

Now they have announced the Zii Egg. It supports HD video in addition to all the cool new features (and will interface with your HD TV). I cannot wait for this to come out!

See more info here and here!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Life By Mom's Rules: A Survival Guide

Life By Mom's Rules: A Survival Guide

Before they do the time, make SURE they did the crime.

So I mentioned in the first Rules from Mom that sometimes she had those moments where it was clear she wasn't perfect, moments where I learned what not to do. A clear point of this is the moment of the chocolate chips.

We loved chocolate chips. And we stole the bags from the pantry ALL the time. But we lived in the sticks so hiding the bags was problematic. If you put the bags in the trash then mom will surely find them and you're busted. But if you hide them anywhere in the house then you are equally screwed. So my oldest sisters, then around 10 and 11 years old, got creative. They hid the bag under the mattress of the next sister, middle-middle (who was about 5). Then if it was found, THEY weren't going to be in trouble! Brilliant, yes? Um...

Not long after this my mother was looking for something that had gone missing. It was more serious and completely unrelated to the chocolate chips so let's just say that it was 2am and she was in a VERY bad mood. And she was tossing bedrooms, ALL of them. She came to middle-middle's room and lifted the mattress and there was the chocolate chip bag. It was obvious, in a 2am haze, that of course she had done the crime and therefore must bear the punishment.

So the next day, still angry, my mother sat down middle-middle with a bowl filled with 2 pounds of chocolate chips and a trash can. If she wanted chocolate chips, she was going to get chocolate chips. And she's not getting up till it's done (hence the trash can)... It didn't come out until that very first Confession Christmas what had really happened, more than 20 years after the incident. Middle-middle still doesn't like chocolate chip cookies to this day, more than 30 years later.

Now that I have my own kids, before I punish them, I make sure that they're guilty. Circumstantial isn't enough.

Other lessons learned

Monday, August 17, 2009


I try to keep everything interesting. Let me just say that a canoe doesn't corner very well. Or at all really. Oh sure, I could have put it over the cab of the truck but it would scratch the paint and anyway I was only going 3 blocks with it. Are you buying that? Well, we did at least have a guy sit on it the whole way for ballast so it wouldn't move around to much... And I'm sure I brightened the day of everyone who saw us do this as I'm sure it was pretty hilarious to watch. Yes, THAT'S why I did it...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Secret 23: Nothing broken

I've never, not once, broken a bone. Of course, now that I've said that I will immediately fall down a set of stairs, I'm sure. I did crack a rib once. I was in the third grade and I had just started at a new elementary school. There was a very tall set of monkey bars (taller than the teachers and probably 6 or 7 feet up). Our playground was entirely concrete, ALL of it (this was before mom's everywhere started complaining because kids could get hurt ~ like that would actually happen... wait...). To make things safe for the kids there was about 2 or 3 inches of sawdust on top of the concrete but who are we kidding?

So, being the incredibly intelligent children that we were the girls had a contest. Standing at the far end of the monkey bars, you jump and grab on to the furthest rung you can reach (as opposed to just grabbing the first bar and off you go). I had the record. I could jump to the fifth bar before grabbing on and, having the record, I was the ruler of the playground for a little while.

Then a new girl started at our school. She played our game and also grabbed the fifth rung. Well... I couldn't just be tied, could I? And anyway, who did she think she was? (These were my very logical thoughts.) So I tried for the sixth bar. And missed. I fell from roughly 6 feet, at speed, onto concrete. As previously mentioned, 2 inches of sawdust means zip now. I completely knocked the wind out and couldn't breathe. One little girl went into hysterics screaming "SHE'S DEEAAAAD!" and almost hyperventilated. Duty teachers from all over the playground ran madly for me as soon as the 1/2 dozen or so screaming girls registered in their ears. It was all very dramatic.

** The image is from here

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Secret 22: String bean

I lived in high water pants as a child. It seemed that I grew so fast that as soon as pants were purchased they were already an inch too short and then got worse. As I finished the 4th grade I wore a size 4 shoe. I owned a pair of high heels (for play only) and they were yellow and SO cool but it wasn't meant to be as I soon couldn't put them on any more. As I started the 5th grade (only 3 short months later) I wore a size 9. I added 5 shoe sizes in 3 months. You can imagine what that did to the fit of all of my clothes as the rest of me was sprouting along as well. I spent most of that summer in a fetal position as my bones were growing faster than my muscles and skin could keep up. The doctor said it was just 'growing pains' and all we could do was wait it out (I can still remember the feeling. *shudder*). I hit 5'8" in the 5th grade and outgrew my mother and every single kid in my class. I was taller than everyone and kind of felt like a freak. In the 9th grade the school nurse measured my height at 6 feet tall. I started saying that I was 5'12" because 6 feet tall sounded like an amazon and 5 foot 12 inches is just really tall... Yes, it's technically the same thing but how you say it makes a difference, trust me. Now as an adult I'm only 5'10". The doctor explained to me that my vertebrae probably compacted a little during my pregnancies. My 3 beautiful children took 2 inches off of me. I'll consider myself lucky that my feet didn't get bigger which I've heard can happen.

Luckily, the same year that I hit 6 feet tall and right before I moved, my teacher Mr. Earl Lau pulled me aside. To give you some background, he was the social studies teacher and the wrestling coach for the junior and senior highs (remember, it was a very little school). Every day he started his classes with stories about places he went hunting or how he got heat stroke at the bottom of some valley and couldn't climb out and almost died. His quote in the yearbook was "When I was rafting down the Rogue river..." It was incredibly fascinating and we all tried to be on time to class so we wouldn't miss a word (which I think was his plan as once we were all there he could then teach to a rapt crowd). He was a very admired teacher in the school. And he pulled me aside and told me to stop slouching (and here I thought maybe no one would notice). He said to stand up straight and be proud of my height. Yes, right now I was teased, but that would end. One day I would find that the guys were just intimidated by height and it could be my asset. But in order for that to happen I had to start standing up now and be proud of it. He told me a lot of other things during that conversation that I'll never forget and will be forever indebted to him for. After that conversation I never again slouched. I stopped feeling like a freak, and "string bean" became a compliment. And I owe it to him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Secret 21: What I believe

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

This is from a book by Marianne Williamson and was used in Nelson Mandela's inauguration speech. I have not read the book but this quote makes me curious.

I apologize in advance that this post is a little heavy. :) This secret is still a bit of a secret even to me. I'm still sorting this out.

I'm not a religious person. Normally I classify myself as an atheist with agnostic leanings but that's not really acurate either. Perhaps pantheist is closer. According to wikipedia it's philosophically indistinguishable from atheist but I see a difference. To me atheist means that everything happened on its own and there is no greater meaning. There isn't really anything bigger than exactly what you can see. Pantheist implies that there is something to the natural order of the world. It's not a god, exactly, at least not a God (capital G). Everything we see is a part of "god", including us, and there's more meaning in everything than perhaps we are capable of understanding.

Specifically I believe in a greater power, but not one that fiddles with all of the details. I don't believe that if something could create this world that it would be created messy and done wrong. I don't believe that any one people would be valued over another as we are all a part of it. I believe that it is within us.

One of the things that tells me that my beliefs are right for me is standing on the edge of an ocean. Standing there, looking out at the might and beauty, always made me sad. It's so vast and so beautiful and I was not a part of it. Even were I to jump in to the ocean and let the water cover my head, while I would be in it, I would not be a part of it. But lately (in the last 10 years or so) that has changed. Now I stand at the ocean and look out and I am filled with joy. I am a part of what's out there. I believe we all are. This world that surrounds us is absolutely amazing and while I call it nature myself, I understand calling it all god.

Am I a pantheist? I'm not sure just yet. Does this mean I will try to "convert" you or try to say that my belief is correct for everyone? No, most certainly not. My beliefs are for me. What beliefs are right for you is a decision that you yourself have to make and I'm certainly not going to hold myself out to be an expert on anything. I am curious, though, where religion takes you. You don't have to answer, obviously, but if you feel comfortable I would like to know what you believe.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Secret 20: Overprotective mom... Sorta...

I come from a large family and I noticed once that any time we seem to seperate one from the group a comment will come up about the one thing that bugs us. I saw this happen for each of my sisters so I asked once "Okay, what is it that you say when I go away?" I wanted to know what the pet peeve was with me (because let's face it, there is something in ALL of us that bugs somebody). The answer I got was that I'm too overprotective of my kids.

I kind of get it. There are lots of things that I did as a child that I won't let my kids do yet. Like play in the front yard when I'm not there. I did that (living on a busy street) in the 2nd grade and I won't let my second grader do that. I used to walk to a friends house to play that was a long way away (a mile?) and I don't want him walking anywhere by himself. Part of it is that I don't think he has the sense yet to stay out of the street (I didn't either) and part of it is that you never know who's out there. When will I let him? I don't know yet.

On the other hand, I think in some ways maybe I don't protect them enough. Someone says to me "your son is sniffling a lot, maybe he's sick" and I think "he just has a runny nose, he'll be fine". Okay, maybe it's a cold, but he's not complaining or unhappy so is it a big deal? My mother only took us to a doctor if we really needed it (we didn't have a lot of money for doctors then) and I try not to overreact and take them in for every little thing. So what about a cough? Last week my daughter was overly tired and she had a minor cough. She wasn't having any trouble breathing and other than sleeping an extra hour most nights she was acting normally. I decided to take her to the doctor (still thinking that I was overreacting) and it turned out that she had a little pneumonia and a type of mono. But she was happy and breathing fine. If I hadn't taken her in would it have gone away? Probably, but it would have taken longer to correct itself.

So, am I overprotective? Yes, definately. Would I change it? I'm thinking no.

** And don't worry. Thanks to steroids and antibiotics little miss has already stopped the cough she had and according to her doctor she should be completely her old self within the week.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Blog Camp ~ Reno

It's a lot omfsm, what took so long teeny bit overdue but there is now a blog for Blog Camp ~ Reno. 3 people are thus far coming, which leaves 2 more beds available and we can probably fit a couple more with couch (pretty comfy actually) or sleeping bag spots. The idea is to include PJs, blogs, laughing and hooking up with the original Blog Camp ~ Denmark via the web. Aside from that the weekend is very open to whatever the campers want to do. I can't wait to meet everyone in person!

There's a little more here as well.

Secret 19: The Sportsmanship Award

The elementary school I went to included 6th grade and the junior high was only for 7th and 8th graders. We were classified as a 2A (small) school and I was in a class of roughly 25 kids. As in, there were 25 6th graders TOTAL, in the whole school, and there was only 1 school in the district. The elementary, junior and high schools were on the same campus and served by a grand total of 4 school busses for 6 towns (including the town of Nimrod. Giggle).

The 2A softball rules said that if a team has more than 3 6th graders that it is considered a middle school team. Having 6 of them on our team we had to choose: Either we cut 3 girls from the team or we play against the middle schools. So, we played against the middle schools... With 4th, 5th and 6th grade girls we played against 6th, 7th and 8th. And four of our 4th graders were very small for their age (1st or 2nd grade size, really. There must have been something in the water that year). So, needless to say, we lost a lot. In fact, we only won one game. By forfeit of the other team.

The parents wanted to teach us to encourage each other so every time one of us cheered on a teammate (saying "Good Job" or whatnot) they put our name in a ziploc bag for that inning. At the end of the game one name was drawn from each inning to win a candy bar. We knew we couldn't really win but we cheered each other on a lot anyway. At the end of the year we did win one thing: the Sportsmanship Award. It was a unanimous vote by every team in the league.

After I graduated high school I was talking to someone about sports and I told them that I was on a 2A team that never won and do you know what she said? "Well, you at least beat XXXX didn't you?" to which I replied "I was XXXX...".

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Secret 18: I was potty-trained by happy meals

I am the same age as the Happy Meal, introduced the year I was born. When I was little my parents were photographers and we traveled a LOT. This of course meant we spent quite a bit of time driving down highways and freeways. My mother is far sighted and she says that I could still spot those golden arches before she did. As soon as I did spot them I would conviently "have to go", even if I just went 3 miles ago at the last exit. At a young potty training age it was a very good incentive to go if I thought I could also get some chicken nuggets at the same time. Of course, this was also when the happy meal toy could stand up to time and use. Some of the toys lasted so long that I passed them on to my own children a couple decades later.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Secret 17: I brought them together

So, my sophomore year of high school I dated a guy named Brian. My junior year I started seeing John. They were in seperate cities (that whole moving thing in secret 16?) and didn't know anyone in common aside from me. And yet they became friends. At first it kinda freaked me out since they ganged up on me a lot but I also thought it was kind of cool that they could get along so well seeing as Brian was a friend that was going to be around for a long time (still is, in fact).

A little over a year ago my husband and I divorced. He and Boyfriend have hit it off as friends... Hmmm... I'm seeing a pattern here.

Last weekend I went to Oregon and I saw both Brian and John. They're still close friends roughly 13 years later. And I'm now wondering what it is that brings these men together? It's been suggested that it's the "common trauma" of having known me, almost like the bond from serving in a war together... Can I really be THAT bad? No, it must be something else. Like pie, maybe. Everybody loves pie.