Monday, October 31, 2011

A Place to Belong

When you were a teenager, did you ever feel lonely, rejected, unloved, unlovable, or maybe even like the world would have been better off without you? I did, despite having had the benefit of supportive family, a few good friends, and a lot of advantages that I took for granted. Being a kid/teenager is hard - your body is changing, your brain is developing, things are changing so fast that you can barely keep up, let alone manage all of your thoughts and emotions.

Now imagine that you are going through these changes, thoughts, and emotions, and your family can't be counted on, at all. You have been abused, maybe in every way possible. What do you do? Where do you go? For a staggering number of kids and teens, there is only one answer - you leave, you run away, you figure the streets are a better option than your home. Most street kids are homeless because the homes they left behind were so bad they could never go back. Many are homeless because they CAN'T go back; they've been kicked out or they're unwanted. Maybe you know someone like this, or maybe you can even relate if you have a difficult background. Did you, or would you have wanted, some place to turn? A place where you would be accepted, to get a hot meal, and relax in the safety of a comfortable environment. A place you could watch a movie or surf the internet for a little while, and just be a kid. A place where you were made to feel welcome, and like you matter. A place where you belonged, no matter your current situation or your vices.

Sox Place, in downtown Denver, is this sort of place. They offer a place for the homeless young people of downtown to drop in, eat a meal, relax, feel welcome and safe. It is a Christian organization, but acceptance of the homeless is not based on desire to be saved. Anyone is welcome, everyone is made to feel valued. 

Sox Place is 100% non-profit, and they do not accept government aid. It isn't one of those charities that you hear about from time to time, where the guy who runs it shows up to work every day from his million dollar home in his brand new BMW. No one is getting rich from Sox Place; in fact the man who started it draws no salary. He isn't doing good works because he wants money or recognition; he does good works because he feels God has called him to do so. Because Sox Place is non-profit, all costs such as the rent on their building, the small salaries of a few employees, keeping the power on, etc, come from private donations.

If you or someone you know, would like to help out a really great charitable organization, please contact me and I'll get you in touch with the right folks at Sox Place. In addition, their annual fundraiser is coming up on November 3. It's at Comedy Works south in DTC. Tickets are $75, and can be purchased online or at the door. You can also check out their website for more info on how you can help. If you can't give anything, please just pray for Sox Place, if you're so inclined. Pray for generosity of donors and that God will continue providing the methods for this center to keep their doors open.

Please consider giving this holiday season, whether to Sox Place or to another charity of your choice. The holidays are so often consumed with what we're getting and even what gifts will make our friends and family think more highly of us. Let us never forget those who don't have homes to go to or families to shop for.

Disclaimers: I am not employed by Sox Place. I do not have any stake in Sox Place. I was not asked to post this or compensated for doing so. My husband's uncle is the person who started and runs Sox Place, and the center is very much a family affair. I have seen first hand the good that they do, and I want to assist in any way possible with keeping the doors open. If I did not believe so strongly in how good and necessary Sox Place is, I would not have made this post.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I've been baking bread for years... And I'm still a total novice

I have a favorite recipe. For a while, I was making all of our bread. I had it down almost to a science. But I could never figure out why my crust would look sort of crinkly and the bread would be kind of crumbly at the edges. I took a lengthy break from baking bread when Gage came along, and I'm now trying to get back into it. Of course I've lost the "down to a science" part, but I figure I can get my baking groove back with practice.

I made two loaves today. As usual, the bread came out kind of wrinkly and weird. It tastes delicious though, which is the important part. I decided to ask my friend Google some questions about why my bread was coming out as it is, and I quickly found my answers. Basically, I'm a baking hack. OK, not quite, but I've still got a lot to learn. I can't be too hard on myself though, yeast breads at altitude are notoriously difficult to master. Here's what I found out.

1) I'm not kneading long enough. I use my Kitchenaide stand mixer for kneading, but I only let it go for a minute or two after all ingredients are mixed and dough is the right consistency. Apparently for yeast breads that should have a smooth texture, it should be kneaded for 5-8 minutes if using a mixer. Yeeeaah. That's a lot longer than my usual minute or two.

2) I cover the bowl that the bread rises in with a flour sack dishtowel, which results in an unfortunate crusty coating on the dough. I should be covering it with oiled plastic wrap, because that crusty coating impedes rising.

3) I'm ripping the big dough ball right in half after punching it down to separate it into two loaf pans. Apparently that screws up the gluten strands. I should be cutting the dough in half with a sharp blade or scissors, in one downward motion.

4) I'm not effectively shaping my loaves before putting them into their pans. I should be shaping them roughly, letting them rest for a few minutes, and then placing them into loaf pans.

WOW. I didn't realize I was doing so many things wrong! I'm looking forward to eating up these two loaves so I can try again with these tips at the forefront of my mind. Fortunately, Gage is a homebaked bread fiend (maybe he gets that from his momma). He will certainly help me eat my crumpled, flaky, yet delicious bread. I'm glad he likes it, even if it isn't pretty. I sure do!

And hey, sometimes good flavor is the best us novices can hope for after baking for years. HA!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween is less than 10 days away

And Gage is good to go. Since he isn't quite 2 yet, he won't be going trick-or-treating. He doesn't eat candy and Brian and I don't need buckets of candy around the house. I also feel Gage is too young to enjoy the experience of running around outside after dark, so there is really no point.

That said, I think dressing him up is a blast. We were at my mom and dad's house for Halloween last year, so we enjoyed sharing his "costume" with the family and taking pictures. We had stumbled upon some glow in the dark skeleton pajamas in Kohls that we thought were perfect--comfortable, warm, and soft. He wasn't a year old then, so it worked out great. He was really cute.

This year, I didn't give too much thought to Halloween until a few weeks ago. We'll be headed to my parent's house the weekend before Halloween, just to carve pumpkins, have dinner, etc, since Halloween is a Monday, we'll want to be home. We aren't decorating this year (we have very limited space in the apartment, none that grabby hands can't reach) so I just haven't been too concerned. But when I DID think about it, and started looking into costumes for our little, I discovered something unfortunate. Most costumes rely on headpieces for the majority of the effect... And Gage hates things on his head. I am not about to subject him to wearing something miserable just for one day of a few pictures.

We decided to just go the skeleton pajamas route again. And after searching high and low (who knew that after we stumbled on them last year, they'd be so hard to find this year?) we finally found the last set of 18-24 month skeleton Pjs at Old Navy. They'll JUST fit him, but we really only need them for now. They were on sale for under $10, so even better. I also didn't want to spend $20-$30 on a costume he would wear once. We picked them up, brought them home, and that was that.

Until I decided Gage needed matching footwear. Last time we went to Target, I was planning to pick up some white fabric paint, but forgot. Then I remembered that I had some fabric paint leftover from our wedding (I'm not too good at throwing away; we got married 4 years ago) and so I pulled it out of my arts and crafts box. I found a pair of black socks that Gage has almost outgrown, and stuffed an old pair of his sandals in them to stretch them like feet. Then I used the white fabric paint to paint on foot bones. And I think they came out AWESOME! They look really good. I can't wait to see him wearing everything, I think the full effect will be pretty cute.

So I guess if Gage wants to be a skeleton next year I'll just buy him a pair of black Pjs, and paint the bones on myself! 'Cause hopefully next year, he can have some say in what he wants to be!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Perfectionist in name only

Is it weird to be a perfectionist in some ways and a total slob in other ways?

In some ways, I want every single thing to be perfect, as they pertain to certain events. Birthday parties for my kid, giving birth, surprises for others, and things like that... I demand perfection in such a way that it would likely never be obtainable. By the time the thing I wanted to be perfect is over, usually I've gotten a grasp on the things that DID go well, and I'm ok with whatever wasn't perfect. But in the planning process, I tell you what, everything better go just right or I'm panicking. I think that this has an effect on my insomnia; I lay in bed the other night debating for hours if I could give a gift that was baked in my kitchen to an acquaintance who's daughter has a peanut allergy, even though what I baked wouldn't be around or contain peanuts. It's a severe allergy, so ultimately I decided it wasn't worth the risk -  but why worry about it into the night? Why not have the thought, consider it, and either think about it tomorrow or make a decision? Instead I lay there worrying for hours about whether or not they would feel left out, and whether that was better than a possible allergic reaction because hey, I fix my kid a PB&J in the kitchen every day and what if a molecule of peanut butter got into the bread I was baking even though I clean the kitchen before big bakes? Ugh. How can my Christmas baking be perfect if someone may be allergic to the peanut butter molecule that may or may not get into the baking? Can't sleep must think. Sigh. I appreciate my ability to consider the minutiae, but I sometimes wish it were restricted to the daytime hours.

But in other ways, I'm helplessly NOT a perfectionist. Toys all over the floor in the living room? Meh, no big deal. A few dishes in the sink? No big thing. They'll get done at some point. I don't wish I was fanatical about keeping the house clean, but I DO wish it was a little more inherent for me to clean. When I met Brian, he was a fanatical neat freak, and I was fairly slobby. Over the years, we've worn off on one another, but I sure do wish I could find a little more motivation for cleaning than I do. I would like for Brian to come home to a (more) clean house. I keep thinking I need to make a schedule for myself and adhere to it better - then maybe I could get done the things around the house that I want to instead of realizing suddenly that he will be home in 10 minutes and there isn't anything I can do then (even though there really is.) With cleaning, that is one of those things that I'm going to just have to pep talk myself into and get it done. I've told Brian on numerous occasions that I'll try harder and it hasn't happened... so it sure would be nice if I could actually get my stuff together and be a better housekeeper, considering I'm here all day.

In other news, I talked to the apartment leasing office yesterday, to find out if they could be of any assistance with our rent going up and now I don't know what to believe. The leasing office told me that they would never raise anyone's rent more than $100/month, and that it would likely only be $30-$40. But a friend/co-worker of Brian's recently moved out of here because they were going to raise his rent by around $200, so that makes no sense. I'm really not sure what to think, but ultimately our plan will just be to look around and see what's out there. I can't figure out why either party would lie to us - why would our neighbor lie/exaggerate by that amount? Why would the leasing office lie? We'll know what our increase will be in a few months! Is it normal for apartments to raise rates on existing renters? I've never lived in an apartment more than a year, just a rental townhome... is it normal? It seems once someone's renting, you'd be best to just leave their rent alone, unless something crazy happens, like the addition of a really great amenity. I don't know. I'm just confused. Brian's dad made a good point yesterday though - he said our responsibility as renters is to be sure that WE are getting the best deal, which means looking around for ourselves, no matter what the circumstances. We are responsible for being prepared for a rent hike, whether or not it actually happens. We of course knew that, but it was a nice reminder. We'll keep an eye on the rental market in the coming months, to be sure. Because, you know, we have to have the perfect place to live. Ha.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Writing like a crazy person

Well, so maybe crazy people don't write a whole lot... but forgiving the figure of speech, I'm at one of those phases that folks who freelance write or do writing from home get to. We work our regular writing assignments (mine is the magazine - it is not freelance, I am a staffer,) we look for other opportunities, we throw our scribbling out into the world, and we hope madly that someone will like our work enough to pay us a little money for it.

I'm still making a pittance from the mag. I still enjoy the work (mostly) so that's ok. And hey, a teeny tiny income is better than no income at all. But I sure would like to add a few more projects to my plate in the hopes that I could bring in a little more money.

I'm in talks with one of Brian's co-workers to take over their monthly newsletter. Not sure what the pay there would be, but it's worth the talks. We're kind of halfway through my telling his car club what I would do differently, etc. I haven't heard back yet from my most recent round of discussions (it's all through email) so we'll see what happens next.

On Saturday, I also spent the better part of FIVE HOURS working up a resume, answering questions, scanning writing samples, and putting all of that together to apply for another automotive writing job. A friend of mine sent me the job listing a little while back, and I decided I better either apply or decide that I wasn't interested. As I WAS interested, I did want to apply. It was just time consuming - they wanted writing samples, but they didn't want any attachments to be sent to them, only links. Well, all of my writing (other than this blog) is from print media. I had to figure out how to scan a few examples, and then get them online so that I could send a link to the company instead of attachments. I created a basic blog and uploaded six scans to it. Then I had to manipulate the sizes to make the scans legible, but not obnoxiously large. It took a little (ok, a LOT) of time! They wanted text of the resume, rather than an attachment, so I had to import my resume into an email and format it correctly from a .docx to the body of email. That also took some time. They wanted three questions answered about cars, writing, and writing about cars online. Since I am not capable of answering complex questions in a couple of sentences, and because I need to edit my writing to death when it's not casual writing (like this blog) that ALSO took a while. I felt very proud of what I submitted though, so we'll see what happens. I'm a little nervous! I will be a little disappointed if it's back to the drawing board and I don't get a job that I spent that much time and care applying for. We'll see.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing like a crazy person, and hope it'll all work out. Because, ya know, it will.

Monday, October 17, 2011

(Almost) Always the optimist

Yup, that's me. I'm a pretty optimistic person, I am fairly good at trusting that the Lord will help get us to where we need to be, no matter the obstacles. I haven't always been this way. I always really tried when I was a teenager, but I succumbed to negativity and darkness. Anyone who reads me who knew me as a teenager would probably be surprised that I turned out the way I did! I was looking at my Jr. High yearbooks the other day, and discovered something I had totally forgotten. I was a member of Youth Under Christ in eighth grade (the first time. Yes, I repeated eighth grade. When I was young, I didn't think school was terribly important.) I had totally forgotten. I think the whole reason I joined was because I figured the Christian kids were more likely to be accepting of me, and not mean. I mean, we went to church, but I never really fit in there any better than I fit in any where else. I wonder how the course of my life would have gone if I had chosen to stick with Youth Under Christ instead of going the way I did, with the darkness? No point in wondering REALLY - my life's choices have made me who I am today, and I wouldn't change a thing, but still a curiosity thing for me. One of these days I'll post my testimony (it'll be a two day post) and then you'll get a better idea of what I'm talking about. Because right now I'm way off topic of what I was going to talk about.

Last week, we were told by the leasing office at our apartment complex that the people who live above us are moving out. We don't know when exactly, but they've not renewed their lease. So we decided we would very likely just stay here another year, since the majority of our problems are tied into the stomping from above, the birdseed, the mice caused by the birdseed, etc. Last night, I was talking to our downstairs neighbor. I mentioned that the people upstairs were moving out, and she wasn't surprised. She wondered how anyone could afford to stay... she was not going to renew her lease since they were raising her rent by $400. Seriously. She signed her lease a month or two before we did, so it isn't like sh'es been here for five years and she's due to have her rent adjusted for the times or something. She's lived here a little under a year. Just like we have lived here a little under a year. Needless to say, the chances that we'll be staying here are a lot slimmer than they were. When I'm done writing this post, I plan to call the leasing office to find out if they can estimate what our rent will go up to. We would like to start preparing if we'll need to move again - about 2 weeks from delivery date by the time our lease terminates, so it would be nice to not have to do all of our packing when I'm huge. When I was pregnant with Gage, we moved when I was about a month from delivery... course I felt a lot better with that pregnancy, and we didn't already have a toddler, so it was a bit more simple.

Brian is concerned about the rent hike, as he wonders if rents going up by THAT much are standard among apartments, or if it's just here. He's worried about moving when I'm extremely pregnant, and he's unhappy that we've moved each year since 2009. I'm on board with these worries to some extent; I can't say I'm excited to move AGAIN, I hope everywhere isn't raising rents too much, and I hope we can get Gage into a stable home that we can stay for a while. But I trust that we'll end up just where we need to be. Maybe we'll find an even better apartment. Maybe we'll find a house we can rent. Who knows? Maybe we'll find someplace we'll want to live for the next 5 years. Sometimes things that seem miserable when they happen can lead to good outcomes, ultimately. God only knows, and time will tell. But for now, I'm trying to let the troubles roll by, and pray it all comes clear in time.

How do you deal with stress? Do you worry yourself sick? Do you just let it go? Or do you lay it at the feet of God and trust that He'll bring you through?