The Barb Curlee Memorial Bookmark

Barb Curlee was my friend.  She died last year, of cancer, after fewer years than she deserved.  Barb and I met at church, where we eventually served on the vestry together during three difficult years when the vestry had a lot to do!  Barb was wise and strong and mostly cheerful through it all.  Barb also coordinated our church’s coffee hours and many special meals for nine long years, until she was very sick.  That’s my job now, and remembering Barb helps me keep my determination to keep things going so that we all eat well.

Barb’s memorial service included happy reminiscences from her siblings, and I think they’re the people who produced this lovely keepsake.  I never before attended a funeral that had anything to take home other than a leaflet with a little information about the departed.  It turns out that a bookmark with photos is a perfect thing to take home!

Barb in the oceanI’ve been using this bookmark, and that means that every time I open my book, I remember Barb and think about her for a moment.  It keeps her memory alive.

I really like this picture, and I appreciate that they put the date on it, because it reminds me that Barb had some good times as well as some really awful times in her last months.  Although she had to do a lot of boring responsible stuff, getting her affairs in order and arranging for her sister to take custody of her 14-year-old daughter, Barb also made time for one last vacation.  It’s wonderful to have this reminder that she got to walk in the waves and enjoy a lollipop!

The bookmark also reminds me to pray for Barb’s daughter, Evie.  She’s a great kid, and I’m sure her aunt is doing a fine job of parenting her, but it’s got to be hard losing your single parent to a devastating disease.  Evie moved to the suburbs with her aunt and isn’t coming to our church anymore.  We miss her!  I hope she’s okay.  I hope she still can feel her mom’s love.

Barb and Evie
Yes, my bookmark is showing signs of wear.  But it only works because I’m using it.  If I put it away in a drawer, I wouldn’t think of Barb nearly so often as I do.

A memorial bookmark might sound like a silly idea, but it really works for me!  If you’ve lost a loved one, please consider this easy, affordable way to help people remember her fondly.

Visit Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more budget-friendly ideas!

Save Money on Earth-Friendly Products!

Earth Day is coming up in less than a month!  What will be your Earth Day resolution?

One easy thing to do is to switch to a more earth-friendly version of something you use regularly–like toilet paper.  There are many brands of toilet paper on the market now that are made from post-consumer recycled paper (that’s paper that good citizens put into recycling bins) and either not whitened or bleached with oxygen instead of chlorine bleach–and they are not all scratchy!  In fact, I haven’t encountered a scratchy recycled-paper toilet tissue in about 15 years.  If you’re really particular about texture, buy a small amount of a brand before you try my money-saving tip.

One objection to switching to a better product may be that it costs more or it isn’t sold at your usual store.  Of course, nobody wants to make a special trip every time they run out of toilet paper or wants to spend a lot of money on it.  There’s a simple solution to both problems, and it will make your life more convenient, too! Read more…

Lemon Creamy Salmon photo tutorial!

Lent is about half over.  If you’re fasting from meat during Lent, and you normally eat a lot of meat, by now you’re probably getting kind of bored with fish sticks and macaroni-and-cheese.  Time to try something new!

I’ve posted this recipe before, explaining how this delicious complete meal can be adjusted to work with whatever greens and starch you have handy.  In this post, I’m making a specific version of it, helpfully illustrated with photos for all you visual learners.

Bonus Parenting Tip: If you have a child who is old enough to use a camera and is casting about restlessly saying, “I want somebody to dooo something with me!” on a Sunday evening just as you are about to start dinner, ask him to be your photographer for a cooking article!  It will keep him busy, and it will enable you to get photos of every step of the process without having to pause the food preparation to wash your hands so that you don’t get fish fat and onion juice all over the camera!  (That is the reason I don’t take photos of cookery more often.  Well, also it’s because taking the extra time to load photos into a post rarely seems worth it to me–not being a visual learner myself.)

All photos in this article were taken by Nicholas Efran, age 10.  Thanks for your help, Nicholas!ingredients

To make 4 servings of this particular version of Lemon Creamy Salmon with Tangy Greens, you will need:

  • 15 oz. canned wild Alaskan salmon, including liquid
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cups fresh kale
  • 1/2 lb. whole-wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 tsp. instant vegetable broth mix (We get this in bulk at the food co-op.)
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (separately from above oil)
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Read more…

The Power of Purple Is Real!!!

I am putting this post in a variety of categories because it’s kind of silly but I’m kind of serious, too.  I would like to believe that in this very complicated world, my actions truly do make a difference, even in unexpected metaphysical ways.

Purple is my favorite color.  At this point in my life, I feel like I finally own enough purple clothing.  On my fortieth birthday, which in various ways did not go very well, I was wearing an all-purple outfit when Daniel and I went out to lunch and he (very uncharacteristically) spilled an entire glass of ice water on me.  When we got home, I was able to change into another all-purple outfit.  That’s the way life should be!  I am happily on my way to being that old woman in the famous poem by Jenny Joseph.

Monday, I wore a purple sweater.  This was really just because I had finally gotten around to washing this particular sweater, so now it was available again, and at this point in the year I am kind of tired of most of my sweaters, but it had been at least two weeks since I’d worn this one.

Tuesday, I wore a purple and white striped knit top.  As I took it out of the drawer, I thought, “But I just wore purple yesterday!” like I might be enjoying myself too much or something, but then I remembered that my church was hosting the East End Lenten Series supper and service that night, and purple is the color for Lent because purple is the color of sadness in church tradition.  It works all backwards with me and is one of the reasons why I like Lent.

Tuesday morning’s e-newsletter, for employees of the gargantuan “health system” where I work, encouraged us to wear purple on Wednesday to support patient safety. Read more of this post

A Day as Mama and Data Manager

Welcome to the March 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Day in the Life

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have given us a special glimpse into their everyday.

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There are three main things I do in my day-to-day life: mothering Lydia (10 months old) and Nicholas (10 years old), working 40 hours a week as the data manager of a social science research study, and writing this Handbook.  I write quite a bit about the first activity, and if you are reading this you’re obviously aware of the third.  But I’ve written very little about my job.  What is a “data manager of a social science research study,” anyway?

My job is to organize the HUGE PILES OF DATA collected by interviewing 1,517 men every 6 months for 4 years, then every year for 9 years, and 3 more times since then (whenever we got a grant to follow up).  Other people do the interviews; I just work with the data.  The study started when the guys were in elementary school.  They answered questions for about 2 hours each time, and in the early years their parents and teachers were interviewed, too.  Each person’s answer to each question is encoded as a number in a data file, which looks like a spreadsheet.  The row is the data on that participant, who is identified by a 5-digit number.  The column is the question, which is identified by a string of 8 letters and numbers.  There is a separate data file for each questionnaire, each time it was asked; each data file has a name, also 8 letters and numbers.  There are patterns to these 8-character strings, which I can “read” and remember very easily after 16 years working for the study.

In addition to organizing the data from the interviews, I make variables called “constructs”, each of which represents an idea that is measured by a bunch of different questions.  I write computer programs that do arithmetic and algebra with the “raw data” from the questions to create the constructs.  For example, the construct Parental Stress sums up the parent’s answers to these 14 questions; a parent with a score of 14 is exceptionally calm, while a parent with a score of 70 is a frazzled wreck.  My programs attach labels to the constructs and their values so we can keep track of what all the numeric values and 8-letter-and-number variable names mean.  (No, “frazzled wreck” is not the actual value label!  It’s “very high stress”.)

So, it’s my job to know what questions we asked, how the answers were coded, what constructs were made, and where everything is in thousands and thousands of data files.  I also spend a lot of time looking for things that don’t make sense, figuring out what’s wrong, and fixing it.  The higher-level statistical analysis is done by other people, as well as most of the writing of papers about our findings–but because I like to write and am a grammar zealot, they often ask me to proofread and sometimes let me write a section.

The main focus of the study is juvenile delinquency: which boys do it in the first place, which ones outgrow it rather than becoming adult criminals, and what factors make crime more or less likely.  We also have lots of data on mental health, substance use, parenting practices, and demographics.  Interesting stuff!  I love my job.  I’m surprised I managed to summarize it this briefly!  Okay, let’s get on with A Typical Day In My Life…. Read more of this post