Friday, November 28, 2008

"...And oh-oh just to be with you..."

This Thanksgiving, I have alot to be thankful for.

Just one short year ago I was in a really bad place in my life. Heartache that just wouldn't go away, a horrible job and the drudgery of graduate school were all piling enormous pressure on my (at the time) very, very slim (from not eating for seriously a year) shoulders.

So it is worth repeating... this Thanksgiving, I have alot to be thankful for.

Yesterday was such a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. Nothing terribly exciting or wonderful happened. There was brunch at my parents' house, then laying around in front of the fire to work off the mimosa buzz and then dinner at an aunt's house. But I got to be with most the people who matter the most to me. I got to be with my parents and Sara. And I got to spend the day with Jason, whose calmness around both my nuclear and extended family is just amazing.

As I'm sitting here writing this, David Gray's "This Years' Love" just came on my Pandora station. It's appropriate. I feel so loved and taken care of this year. My family's and friends' support of me has never wavered and now this year I am lucky enough to have the support and affection of an amazing guy who just happens to find all of my annoying little quirks endearing.

I missed Ginny and Andrew and Ushma and Meredith yesterday and having them around would have been exquisite. I think my heart may have just burst from happiness. And I quietly missed Nana and Pap and Aunt and Uncle but each time I started feeling weepy, Jason somehow found his way over to me and put his arm around me. I think he's already developed a 6th sense about how to head off waves of angst or melancholy that can sometimes wash over me.

In a way, all of the small things about yesterday that made me smile add up to everything I'm thankful for this year: a family who loves me, a boyfriend who stands by me, and friends I'm lucky enough to have and whom I miss dearly.

[Source]


Amongst all of the love and affection and heavy emotion of yesterday, Aunt Pat provided some comedic relief. As we were leaving her house and I was hugging her, she said to me "Your boyfriend is cute you know." I said "Oh, I do know." She pulled back from our hug and put her hands on my shoulders and said "Ok, good. I was just checking to make sure you knew."

Monday, November 24, 2008

"...And to the earth it gave great light..."


People who know me will tell you I'm one of the most irreverent people they've ever met when it comes to religion. I come by it honestly. I am my mother's daughter... Once, upon seeing a bust of the pope at a Buca di Beppo's Italian restaurant, my ma said "Oh look! It's the pope! I wonder if he's made of Parmesan cheese?"

That being said, I love Christmas. I've come to realize that I love Christmas not in the traditional "it's a high holy day for Christians" kinda way, but in a secular "I love twinkle lights and pine and ornaments and feasts with family and stockings hanging on the mantel" kinda way.

And I love love love Christmas music. I'm one of those irritating people who can listen to Christmas carols non-stop from now until New Year's.

It's a dreary and rainy day here in Pittsburgh and for some reason, the mood just struck me and I decided it's time to listen to Christmas music. So I'm signed into my XM Radio Online account and I'm listening to the "Holiday Traditions" station. The first song I heard was my favorite Christmas song of all time -- The First Noel. It's one of the more religiony, Jeebusy songs, but it makes me cry every time. And it reminds me of being with my family.

So. There's that. :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

"... Even if you were broke, my love don't cost a thing..."

This year, Oprah's people have announced that her "Favorite Things" episode is going to be "recession friendly" - no whacky HDTV refrigerators, or crazy-expensive gourmet cupcakes. According to press releases, Oprah's favorite favorite thing this year doesn't cost anything. What the heck could it be? A hug? A make out session with George Clooney?

I started thinking about things I love that are cheap or free. Here's my short list of favorite low-cost but fun things to give for gifts during the holidays.

1. Cookies in a little gift sack. Sure, cookie ingredients are expensive, but if you use a recipe that makes a billion cookies (Like the classic "Mrs. Fields' Chocolate Chip Cookies" which yields like 12 dozen) you've got yourself a pretty cheap pile of gifts to pass around. No, it won't work on your Mom or your boyfriend, but cookies are great to give to someone you work with or randomly know who expects a little something from you around the holidays.

2. A handmade wreath. What the hell are you going to give your grandma? Or your significant other's mom? Hellloooo handmade wreath. Hit the craft stores NOW to get cheap stuff to put on a grapevine wreath or hold of until the week after Christmas to make a nice winter wreath with all of the discounted gold and silver do-dads. You can give the homeowners whose house you go to for that New Years' Eve party a pretty wreath for their front door. I saw this wreath at a local craft store pre-made by the floral department. It cost $100 to buy ready-made. I found the grapevine wreath, similar do-dads to put on it and ribbon to make my own bow. Total cost for me (minus all of the swearing and labor when I make the bow) : $19.57.

3. A nice mix CD. Don't deny it... everyone still enjoys a good mix CD. Hit up one of the big box electronics stores the day after Thanksgiving for super cheap spindles of blank CDs. Last year when I was at Best Buy with my dad on Black Friday, I got a spindle of CDs for $3.99. Can't beat that!

Be creative. Think of things you like to get. You can't go to all of those holiday parties at peoples' houses empty handed, but you don't have to break the bank either!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"...There's a corner of your heart...for... me..."


Yesterday, the lovely Ushmama and I were discussing things we can't live without. Namely cheese and chocolate. We agreed that we just don't understand people who aren't extremely pleased by chocolate. Like, most guys, for example, couldn't care less about a candy bar. Most women on the other hand, would eat a king sized candy bar instead of their dinner if they thought no one would find out about it.

I've tried giving up chocolate for Lent, for New Year's Resolutions... it's never lasted more than a week. Maximum. This leads me to conclude that we shouldn't feel bad about liking the things we like. Social norms tell we human beings, especially women, that we should feel bad about enjoying things that are "bad for us" or "fattening" or "a waste of time." On the contrary, I think we should embrace the things we like, whether it's food or trashy romance novels or a nice night alone in front of the tv when you watch that really embarrassing show you don't want anyone to know you LOVE (I'll admit mine - Ace of Cakes on the Food Network.) Doing the things you love and WANT to do or eating a decent piece of chocolate once in a while balances all of the bland, boring things we HAVE to do everyday.

Here is my top 5 list of things I enjoy immensely from time to time and refuse to feel guilty/dumb about:

1. Chocolate (Obvs)
2. Belva Plain novels
3. Children's activities - i.e. coloring, reading picture books, carving pumpkins, getting really wound up on Christmas Eve, animated movies... etc, etc.
4. Paying alot of money to get my hair done
5. Eating a really, really late fancy dinner and then going to bed with a belly full of yumminess.

There you have it. I am a chocolate-loving, romance novel reading, pumpkin-carving, fancy-dinner-eating woman. Shammmmmmmmmmmme! ;-)

Monday, November 17, 2008

"...the wind plays with the leaves, the weather turns colder..."

I woke up this morning, still cuddled under the blankets, and looked outside to find snow clinging to the trees and flurries flying through the air.

And in that split second... you know... right after you wake up when you're really not sure what day it is and what you're supposed to do with your new day? Well in that moment, I really thought it was Christmas morning.

I was warm, I was well rested and I was being held. Christmas morning indeed.

It is of course mid-November, not Christmas morning. And ever since I got out of bed today, I've been cold. The sprinkling of snow on the ground has melted...

...But it's still flurrying outside and I can still feel that warm, happy feeling I had this morning.

And now I think I'm finally ready for the holiday season.

Also, check out these awesome bangles!



[Source]

They're available online at jessicacushman.com. I want one! It's the perfect kind of bracelet to wear on top of a tight fitting sweater to give it some kick and I totally want one with the outfit I'm wearing right now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"...I wanna know what it's like on the inside of love..."

"This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it."

Keith Olbermann's special comment about California's Prop 8


Saturday, November 8, 2008

"...S'ppose I never, ever met you..."

I'm sitting here in my shop, listening to music, sipping coffee and watching shoppers walk down Walnut Street. And I find my mind wandering....

... to thinking about how happy I'll be to see Jason and squeeze him tightly after his long weekend away to go dirtbiking with his buddies...

... to the Amalfi Coast...

... to Milan...

... to family vacations in Hilton Head...

... to that seemingly far-off trip to Colorado that Jason and I are planning to take in February...

I've been given to such strong fits of wanderlust lately... even thinking about being in an airport, decked out in some dark glasses; travel tote in tow; scarf tied hastly around my throat to ward of the chill of the plane... getting off of the plane in a new place... just the thought makes my skin tingle. So many things to look forward to...

I'm thankful for being able to go to all of the places I've been to.

And I find myself counting my blessings that Jason is a part of my life. What if I'd never met him? Alot of things would be different... I'd never have a desire to go to Colorado that's for sure. But since he lived there and it was a place he loved, I want to see it. And walk down the streets bundled up in a puffy coat, coffee in my right hand and his in the other...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"...to everything, turn, turn, turn..."

Yes.



We.



Can.

Monday, November 3, 2008

"...We are coming up..."

Tomorrow is election day.

Finally.

I'm so nervous.

::crosses fingers, goes and watches Obama's "Yes We Can" speech on YouTube for the millionth time::

Saturday, November 1, 2008

"...we're one but we're not the same..."

From Amnesty International (Source):

Somalia: Girl stoned was a child of 13

31 October 2008

Contrary to earlier news reports, the girl stoned to death in Somalia this week was 13, not 23, Amnesty International can reveal.

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was killed on Monday, 27 October, by a group of 50 men who stoned her to death in a stadium in the southern port of Kismayu, in front of around 1,000 spectators.

Some of the Somali journalists who had reported she was 23 have told Amnesty International that this age was based upon a judgement of her age from her physical appearance.

She was accused of adultery in breach of Islamic law but, her father and other sources told Amnesty International that she had in fact been raped by three men, and had attempted to report this rape to the al-Shabab militia who control Kismayo, and it was this act that resulted in her being accused of adultery and detained. None of men she accused of rape were arrested.

“This was not justice, nor was it an execution. This child suffered a horrendous death at the behest of the armed opposition groups who currently control Kismayo,” said David Copeman, Amnesty International's Somalia Campaigner.

“This killing is yet another human rights abuse committed by the combatants to the conflict in Somalia, and again demonstrates the importance of international action to investigate and document such abuses, through an International Commission of Inquiry.” Amnesty International has learnt that:

Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was reported as being 23, based upon a judgement on her physical appearance, according to one of the journalists who had reported the stoning. Her actual age was confirmed to Amnesty International by other sources, including her father.

Her father said she had only travelled to Kismayo from Hagardeer refugee camp in north eastern Kenya three months earlier.

She was detained by militia of the Kismayo authorities, a coalition of Al-shabab and clan militias. During this time, she was reportedly extremely distressed, with some individuals stating she had become mentally unstable.
A truckload of stones was brought into the stadium to be used in the stoning.

At one point during the stoning, Amnesty International has been told by numerous eyewitnesses that nurses were instructed to check whether Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was still alive when buried in the ground. They removed her from the ground, declared that she was, and she was replaced in the hole where she had been buried for the stoning to continue.

An individual calling himself Sheik Hayakalah, was quoted on Radio Shabelle saying:``The evidence came from her side and she officially confirmed her guilt, while she told us that she is happy with the punishment under Islamic law.'' In contradiction to this claim, a number of eye witnesses have told Amnesty International she struggled with her captors and had to be forcibly carried into the stadium.

Inside the stadium, militia members opened fire when some of the witnesses to the killing attempted to save her life, and shot dead a boy who was a bystander. An al-Shabab spokeperson was later reported to have apologized for the death of the child, and said the milita member would be punished.

Background Amnesty International has campaigned to end the use of the punishment of stoning, calling it gruesome and horrific. This killing of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow demonstrates the cruelty and the inherent discrimination against women of this punishment.

The reports on this killing should be understood within the climate of fear that armed insurgent groups such as al-Shabab have created within the areas they control in Somalia. As Amnesty International has documented previously, government officials, journalists and human rights defenders face death threats and killing if they are perceived to have spoken against al-Shabab, who have waged a campaign of intimidation against the Somali people through such killings.

Since the death, a number of individuals have told Amnesty International they have fled from Kismayo out of fear of suffering a similar fate to Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow.