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So, where are we?

Well, obviously, since I haven’t begun blogging about packing and movers and signing contracts, we’re still in Atlanta.  The house has been on the market for nearly three weeks, a tiny drop in the bucket of time these days.  Considering how the housing market is going, the three walk-throughs we’ve had can be considered good traffic.  We’re lucky to be at a low price point, although that already low price is going to be falling, due to the foreclosure in the neighborhood and the house down the street that closed for significantly less than the listing agent hinted it had sold for.  Regardless, if we can sell without owing money to someone somewhere, we’ll have to consider it a win.  Our Realtor is awesome, working hard at marketing us, and checking in with us often to ask how the job search is going.

On that end, I have to admit, it’s tough.  Jason went out to Seattle last week (There are some incredible airfare sales right now, folks!  If you want to travel, now’s the time.) to meet in person with some of the recruiters he’s been talking to and some of the other folks he’s met through networking.  This includes a drama friend he hasn’t seen since high school graduation.  How cool is the internet?  We can thank Facebook for that reconnection.  The job boards are starting to pick up dramatically in comparison to their holiday slump, although we’re still getting word of companies putting positions “on hold” due to economic strain.  It is not a fun time to be job hunting anywhere, but add in a 3,000-mile removal, and you have to work twice as hard.  Jason did get a cell phone with a Seattle area code, however, in anticipation of the house selling (Mom and Dad don’t have a home phone, so we’ll both have to have cell phones at that point), and to show recruiters and HR folks he’s serious about moving out there.  We think the trip he took really helped with that.  He’s no longer just a name on a resume to them.

As for me, I am in limbo.  I’m loathe to commit to anything here, knowing (in my optimistic frame of mind) that we won’t be here that long.  Nicky’s karate contract runs out next month, and we’ve passed on the sign-ups for spring tee ball for Kalen.  (He’s quite upset – not about the game, but about missing after-game snacks.  Apparently, my snacks don’t compare favorably to the Oreos and donuts often provided by parents at practice.)  I’m beginning to stress about the money running out in a couple of months, and I’m frustrated at the lack of nibbles for the stuff we want and need to sell – the china, the crystal, the dining room suite (and, yes, the house).  I’ve contacted an auction house about the furniture and dishes, so it’s a good feeling to have that decision made.  They will sell at auction (no reserve); the only question now is for how much.

I’m also feeling a bit cut off from the world.  My internet relationships (how funny does that sound!?) are all the same, but with the public decision to move, the IRL contacts have become fewer and further between.  I realize this is probably 100% my doing, as I’m working so hard, mentally, at placing us across the country, I can’t realistically be “here” in any significant way.

The kids are feeling it, too.  Both have gone through a rough patch at school with their behavior (Kalen not so much, but to a certain extent), but I think they’ve evened out as of this week.  We had discussions on what happiness is, and Nicky and I especially had a heart-to-heart about what truly makes us both happy.  I told him I am happier when he is happy, and I wondered out loud how happy he could really be getting in trouble like that at school?  I could practically see the light bulb turn on as he made the decision to “make good choices all day.”  His behavior reports have been stellar so far this week, so I’m crossing my fingers.  I know we’ll deal with this off and on for the remainder of his school years, but I love that his emotional maturity has come so far.  They are both such cool kids.

I realize the time has come for me to commit to finding a job myself.  My fall-back plan of working at the store I worked at for so long is a no-go.  They wouldn’t even take me on for the busy season, when in the past they would hire upwards of twenty people for this busiest time of year (their post-holiday sale is usually busier than the holiday season).  My only other option besides retail is getting back into admin.  I refuse to take a long-term job.  Besides the fact that I am trying my damndest to retain my positive visualizations about moving out of state, I could never in good conscience take a job under the assumption that I’ll be there longer than I plan to be.  That leaves administrative temp work.  I can say with all modesty that I am a really freaking good administrative assistant.  I have six years out of the work force (I did admin for a while right before Kalen was born), but the great thing about temping is that they test you on all the computer stuff, so those blank spaces in my resume don’t speak very loudly.

On that note, this long-winded update comes to an end.  Now, let’s hope I still have a copy of my old resume in my computer files somewhere…

I know – three posts in one day after a month-long drought? What happened?

Search me. Or, rather, stay with me while I figure it out in my typically stream-of-consciousness manner…

Remember that whole cyclical-life thing I talked about earlier this summer? I sort of cycled out of creativity altogether for a few weeks there. A lot of stuff going on…in other words, life.

I got a great IM from my sis yesterday, though. She began with, “I’m here to kick your butt in gear!” Turns out her messenger bag is a HUGE hit (and I’m still waiting for her to get pics of it, so I can share it with you), and now that law school is back in session, she has a bunch of friends who want plarn “bags, scrubbie things, wallets, whatever you got .. they want it!!”

Well, wow. That’s pretty cool.

And then today I was approached out of the blue about another creative opportunity, combining two things I love to do. I have to leave that as a tease for now, but if you want to do a little happy dance to celebrate with me anyway, feel free! I was happy dancing all afternoon.

And, all of a sudden, I’m fired up again!

I’ve felt sort of in limbo since school has been back in session. When I took my leave of absence (in April) from the store where I worked evenings for three-and-a-half years, it was with the understanding that I’d come back during school hours when Kalen started Kindergarten. I sort of had the feeling as August approached, though, that my availability (10am-2pm) wouldn’t quite mesh with the store’s needs, especially taking the current economy’s effect on retail into consideration. I spoke to my manager last week, and she wanted to mull it over…to play with the hours a bit to see if it could work. That in itself is a compliment. She could have just said no outright. I talked to her Monday, however, and it is a no-go.

I’m okay with this. The income would have been nice and would have helped pound out the debt faster, but we’re fine. And now that I know, I’m at total peace. I have excitedly thrown myself at the feet of my children’s teachers, offering to do whatever they need me to, I’m going to start volunteering at the media center at school, I’m writing for my ongoing gig, and I can start designing and crocheting for my etsy shop. I am going to miss the closet design aspect of the retail job quite a bit, but bag design should fill my creative needs, don’t you think? I don’t believe I can accurately convey my thankfulness that I have the opportunity to stay home with my financial contribution being so little. Many thanks to my husband for working so hard, and to both of us for sticking to our total money makeover.

All off this finally brings me back to what my original purpose for clicking “New Post” was. I’m finally going to sit down tomorrow and design a bag for my shop. You heard it here first!

Reason #3,283,128 (more or less)

Today is my mother’s 60th birthday. (Yes, I know it’s rude to reveal a woman’s age, but she sure as hell doesn’t look 60, so revealing her age always gets her tons of compliments.) I am sick, so I can’t go see her. My cold or infection or whatever’s brewing in my sinuses and throat + her immune system = not good. It hurts to be only 15 minutes away and not be able to give her a hug on her birthday. So, on his way out the door this morning, Jason asks, “Should I stop and get her some flowers?” So he did. He broke into their house* a few minutes ago and left them on the kitchen counter, so Mom and Dad will find them when they return from her birthday dinner. He’s pretty cool.

*He has a spare key, so it’s technically not breaking in, but doesn’t it sound cool?

I’ve been kicking this post around in my mind for a couple of weeks now, and the time has come to bite the bullet and just write the darn thing with the knowledge that I have an edit button and the ability to write further posts on the subject should I ever feel the need.

There is a common misconception out there that left-wingers, liberals, progressives (pick your label) are not patriotic. That our protest of the war is automatically an abandonment of our fighting men and women. I find this attitude and accusation to be uninformed, egocentric, and downright insulting.

First, let’s address the issue of patriotism vs. nationalism. A patriot is someone who believes in their country, who supports it and is loyal to it. Patriot is defined by dictionary.com as a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. Nationalism has a slight – but very important – distinction. The same source has these as two of nationalism’s definitions:

  • excessive patriotism
  • the policy or doctrine of asserting the interests of one’s own nation, viewed as separate from the interests of other nations or the common interests of all nations

I read an article a couple of years ago that clarified this distinction for me nicely. It came at a time when my patriotism – or that of people who think like me – was being questioned by people around me (although not my friends or family, thank goodness!), the media, and prominent people in our government. At the time, I was angry and frustrated and insulted that anyone would accuse me of not supporting our troops or of not loving our country, and that article helped calm my nerves.

What has swept over our country in recent years is not, as many would claim, a glorious wave of patriotism. Rather, it is a smothering flood of nationalism.

A patriot will defend his country, whether on the battlefield or the sea or in the air, in the blogosphere, by working hard to keep drunk drivers off the roads and protect our loved ones, by running for office, or simply by being a representative citizen of his country in the best way he knows how. A patriot, in my mind, understands that no government is infallible and recognizes that it is our duty as citizens to question our government’s decisions and actions in order to keep the country moving in a positive direction.

A nationalist, on the other hand, believes, “My country is right, right or wrong.”

This kind of nationalism is dangerous. Just as believing your child could never do wrong and so turning a blind eye to his harmful actions is dangerous. Just as letting your child run about unfettered with no regard for the feelings of others is dangerous. Turning a blind eye to the poor decisions – and in many cases supporting those decisions – based solely on the fact that our government made them is so dangerous it’s staggering. This is very much a “my way or the highway” attitude that can have few positive effects in the world.

Our country was founded on the principle that the people should decide its way. The people are supposed to be the guiding force behind the government. It’s a simple concept with a complex application (and that application could admittedly use a bit of work…but that’s a different post). So what does it say of our patriotism and our adherence to those original principles when we give up our own opinions to mutely follow in our government’s footsteps? It should be the other way around.

I put it out there that ignoring these principles is decidedly unpatriotic. That giving free rein to our elected officials to decide our fate without question is a 180-degree turnaround from the base on which our country was founded. That we need to step back from the nationalistic crowing and think hard about what is really best for our country, our people, and the world around us.

And if you are of the opinion that my protest of this war is somehow unpatriotic, or that somehow I don’t care about our troops, I put it to you that I see it as my duty as a patriot, and as a caring human being, to question any action that puts my beloved countrymen in harm’s way. There are times when war – as horrible as it is – is necessary. This was not one of them.

This brings me to my current charity project. During the primary season, Knitters for Obama knit and crocheted somewhere around 1,000 hats and bibs for preemies in hospitals around the U.S. For the general election, we’ve changed our focus to taking care of people our government has abandoned. We are currently knitting and crocheting warm hats, scarves, fingerless gloves, lap blankets, and washcloths for homeless veterans in at least 4 states. How sad it is that there are so many veterans without family, without homes. These men (because they are all men in these particular shelters) sacrificed greatly for their country – our country – and receive next to nothing in the way of thanks or even basic needs from the government for whom they fought. One shelter has relayed to our group that the federal assistance they receive in a year wouldn’t pay for the needs of one veteran.

I am one person with little energy. I cannot change the world. But I can give a few men who have served our country a warm head, a clean face, and a big thank you. And I can work to support a candidate who will fight for their rights. It is one small way I, a patriot, can do my part to contribute to our wonderful, full-of-potential country.

Each year, my boys, along with a couple of their friends, attend Culture Camp at our church. Culture Camp can easily be described as a concept in a few short sentences, but it’s hard to relate how much the kids actually learn in that same short way.

First, I suppose I should answer the obvious question. Think of Culture Camp as sort of the UUs’ answer to vacation Bible school. Culture Camp, and the related Peace Out camp for younger kids, is a study of peace and the people of the world. Each year, they “visit” three different countries, and the children learn about customs, language, food and art. This year, I believe the kids visited Costa Rica, Tibet (wonderfully appropriate choice this year!), and South Africa. The prevailing theme throughout, however, is peace.

I love this. I can’t convey how much I love it. Not only are the kids excited to learn about cultures different from our own, they’re learning at an early age how peace can influence us all. The best part is that the counselors don’t talk down to them. I don’t believe children need to be treated in the Victorian fashion…they are not miniature adults. However, neither are they stupid, and the difficulties of the world do not need to be completely hidden from them. By exposing them to what’s going on in the greater world at such a young age, I hope we’re raising young men who will be aware of the global culture and who will fight (peacefully) for what is Good and Right.

That’s not to say this camp is about what’s wrong with the world. On the contrary, it’s all about what’s right. It has opened up some great opportunities for discussion, though. It becomes easier to explain the political undercurrents surrounding the upcoming Olympic Games when they’ve already had a simple exposure to Tibet and China. When we see Nelson Mandela flash across the television screen, his complex life becomes something relatable when they’ve read stories of his homeland, listened to the music of his people, and chowed down on mealie pap they made themselves.

We are citizens of the world, a fact which too many people forget, and which others take for granted. I hope my boys will do neither.

As usually happens, something I’ve begun has generated a result completely off from my original intent. This time, it’s this blog. Originally intended to be a documentation of our family’s letterboxing adventures (hence the title), it has morphed into a showcase and journal for my crochet projects, as well as a place to share about the family. (And will shortly become somewhat political, as I’m having a hard time keeping my opinions about the current Presidential race to myself.)

I am still learning to love my hop-skip-and-jump approach to life. You see, I have what I consider a severe lack of sticktoitiveness. I get on kicks – currently it’s crochet – that may last a few weeks, a few months, even a year or more. While I’m on a kick, I am certain it’s going to be my creative outlet for years, if not decades. And then one day – bam! It’s done, interest for it is nowhere to be found, and I move onto the next thing. Genealogy, digital scrapbooking, writing for children, crochet, letterboxing, altered books…these have all been vehicles during the process, and most of them come in and out of focus in my life.

Jodi was the first one to tell me this cyclical approach to things is not only normal but good. What I have seen as lack of focus she sees as great creativity. I like Jodi. Not only does she encourage me in my wanderings from obsession to obsession, she often joins me in them. She’s a prime model of the creative lifestyle, and I only have to look to her to gain confidence in my own nomadic projects. Plus, she’s a teacher, and I still have enough of that authority-pleasing little girl in me to love a teacher’s praise.

And there you go. This “In case you hadn’t noticed, this isn’t a letterboxing blog anymore” post turns out to be a “Jodi helps me realize my coolness” post. As usual, I like the result better than the intent.

My boys

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