Friday, November 02, 2007

This is what my husband does!

At least according to The Onion... It's sort-of how I think of things in a very general way, too. I like to call the device he works on, which is named Pegasus and is a spherical torus device, the Science Machine. I *know* it's not, and even know some of the reasons that it is technically incorrect to say that it "makes science." It just seems so much more approachable when you put it that way, you know?

Mike wrote a more succinct note about it in his blog. I'm just glad it's important enough to write about in The Onion.

In other good news, the doctor said I can take muscle relaxants to help me survive the difficult transition to being able to do Yoga without giving myself terrible migraines. The idea is that, in the long term, Yoga is really, really good for me, even if in the short term it puts me in bed for two days with a migraine that makes me sicker than I've ever been. It still seems sort of against the whole idea of yoga, to have to take muscle relaxants...


Thursday, November 01, 2007

These are pictures of our pumpkins this year. Mike's is a happy pumpkin. Mine is a hedgehog!

This is the farm where we picked our pumpkins. It was in the middle of just about nowhere to the West of Middleton. It was such a perfect day for pumpkin picking!

The leaves in Madison are beautiful colors, and the sky has been clear and blue, so walks have been highly enjoyable.

This is my mom on some of the stones crossing a small stream near our house in one of the preserves. She had already fallen into one at this point. Don't tell her I told you that.

My Life's Purpose

So, I realized the other day that I know exactly why I'm here and what I'm supposed to be doing. It doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, really, but I guess a lot of people struggle with it for a lot of their lives. I feel moved to share what I've figured out.

I don't think I'm here to *do* anything specific, like take a bullet for an innocent bystander in the year 2030 or something dramatic like that. I am here on a journey. My journey will be full of lessons taught by the circumstances and people in my life. Some lessons are simple, like treat everyone like a sister (that's the latest from my two hedgehogs) to see beyond anger to the suffering that causes it (from my own painful experiences). My lessons seem to be pointing me towards learning how to be a more compassionate, giving, balanced, understanding and patient person, but I don't know that there is an ultimate goal. It's a process. I try to look for the teachers that come into my life, no matter what size or shape they may take.

My purpose here is to help. That is what is clear. That might mean helping people who are suffering or helping them find justice or helping animals, I'm not sure. It may mean helping the people in my life find happiness. I am sure that I don't need to know more than the next step at any given time, and all I have to do to find the next step is to follow what is life-giving to me. Right now that means hedgehogs, long walks, music, light exercise that doesn't give me migraines, and good, healthy food. It also means looking for jobs that will not only pay money but also make me feel like I am following the right path, the path of helping. It's about doing the right things along the way, not about having a final destination planned.

There are definitely times I feel lost. That's normal. But when the fog lifts, there I am on my path. Maybe I'm a few feet off the trail, but I can find it again. And when I'm on it, I can tell. Things are just good. My migraines are a good indication of when I'm drifting off the path. They're really bad when I'm feeling lost, or going in the wrong direction. They are a sign that is very hard to ignore, for better or worse!

So there you have it. My life's purpose as I see it. Notice I didn't mention God. I don't like talking about God's role in my life. I haven't figured that out yet. I sort-of figure that by the time I figure that out, I will either be meeting or not meeting Him/Her, and won't have to puzzle it out for myself anymore. I follow what is life-giving, and believe what I feel. I know there is something more than myself, but there's so much baggage when we use the word God... Oh, my endless struggle with Christianity. I swear.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Big Business Profits Make Technology Suck
I find that really irritating. Don't you?

The title isn't very concise. I don't like that we have worse and higher priced cell phone, internet, cable and other technology services because we let big corporations dictate how they are to be regulated in order for them to generously provide these really expensive upgrades to our grateful citizens. Bleh. We'd be better off doing it with government contractors, having them build up the infrastructure and then leasing it out to the corporations, even though that would be totally inefficient and painful.

The article was good.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The status on my internal holy war

I read a very interesting article this morning as I was contemplating my most recent emotional frustration with organized Christian religion. It was a very patient discussion of the recent shift in Evangelical viewpoints and particularly their political bent. No, they're not tree-hugging lefties now, but the wild, lock-step Republican scaries have seemingly retired to their corners to nurse their wounded pride after the failure of their perfect, God-sent president.

Like I said, it was patient, and much more forgiving that I just was. I'm not patient or forgiving in general. When all the scary lock-stepping and Republicanism was going on, I was very tempted to move to a different country and pretend to have been born there. Call me young and rash, because I probably am. I do not yet have the years to recognize when the country is going through a phase. To me, it appeared that it might have been the end of the free world as I knew it.

In any case, it was a very interesting article about the internal struggle of the Evangelical church. It almost made me feel sad for them having to re-evaluate their stance and actions over the past 8 years. Almost. It made me more ashamed for them.

What I thought was most interesting was its discussion on the values espoused by the Evangelical church during the previous two elections, specifically anti abortion and gay marriage, why they have historically been so important to the Evangelical church, and why movements to a more balanced view of Christian values is so difficult for some to comprehend. The article suggested that the focus on gay marriage and abortion is largely a working-class issue, and that as the church has become more established, it is now looking to more middle-class issues.

I just don't think that's it. I like to be more generous than that. Even though there are many working-class people who prefer simple, unthinking morals and religion, I would hope that there are some that consider the wider implications of Christianity and morality and social policy. I really, really hesitate to tie social awareness to household income or profession. I think it has more to do with whether people have the internet, if they read papers from large cities, whether they know people who are different from themselves. It's more a small-mindedness versus an open-mindedness to me.

Let's face it: Gay marriage and abortion are an idiot's way to being good, moral Christians. They are knee-jerk issues. Binary. Yes-no. There is no sort-of, no shades of gray. They are like sports where you can choose a side and cheer for it. You can make cheeky slogans and bumper stickers. You can boil it down to over-simplified sermons. It's a very easy way to approach values. Besides, for most white, middle-aged married Evangelicals, it's easy not to be gay-married or have an abortion. Ta da! They're good Christians!

What am I trying to say? Maybe that Evangelicals aren't changing their political and social stance because they're earning more money. Maybe it's because people are realizing that we're not living in the 1950's anymore. There isn't just one role for a man or a woman or a child. The USA can't just invade a country and win. Things are COMPLICATED. There are global implications of driving our cars, using household cleaners, and even eating hamburgers. It's hard to keep track of whether it's more ethical to eat vegetarian or eat organic or eat local. Gasoline is bad, but some say ethanol from corn produces just as much greenhouse gas in its production. You need to watch your budget, but you KNOW that shirt from Walmart was made in a sweatshop somewhere and that the employees at the store in your town aren't getting their breaks or healthcare. You like chicken, but you know what they do to them, and you know that's not ok, but organic meat is so expensive, and your husband doesn't like tofu. So where does Jesus stand on that?

Abortion and gay marriage are way easier. And so is being a Republican.

And how that relates to my internal holy war: I struggle with those issues. Methodist sermons tell you to love one another. UGH. Ok already. I got that lesson a few years back. What about the chickens? And my car? And Walmart? How do I resolve the differences between what I know is ethically right and what is practical? I am frustrated that "my" religion doesn't place as high a value on the issues that I value most, such as animals, the environment, and social justice, in that order. Rules about what to do and not to do, and what is or isn't a sin when it comes to sex or material wealth or worship or reading the bible just doesn't interest me unless there is something about how to resolve the issues that are most important to *me*.

Ah, yes, I search for my own personal, tree-and-squirrel-hugging, fair-trade-coffee-drinking Jesus, but only if he doesn't make me talk to him all the time. I'm not into clingy relationships.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

It's a really nice fall. So I took the hedgies out for some pictures. I have to say, they didn't like it. Maybe it's because they're albino. Maybe it's because they're nocturnal. Maybe it's because they're albino and nocturnal. Or maybe our grass smells funny. It's really hard to say. In any case, I did get some nice pictures with Mike's help (he was the hedgie wrangler). For a present to myself, I'm going to custom order tiles by Judy Peters of all my hedgies to use as coasters for the living room. She does great art, and I think it would be an artistic way to incorporate them into the house without plastering the walls with their photos and ribbons and things.

In any case, it's fun to take the hedgehogs outside to see what they will do, for about 5 minutes before they get really scared and then I start feeling bad for them. It might be more fun for them to run around at night in the dark, but I imagine the trolls would get them then. While I have made peace with the fact that their life spans are very short, I have no wish to shorten it even further by troll abduction.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Well, I'm out in Denver and finishing up a weekend full of fun and adventure! I'll have to post more later, because I'm currently exhausted, but I wanted to put up a picture and a brief "here's where I am" as though anyone is waiting on bated breath for such a thing. I'll be here for another night hanging out with people and resting up before traveling back tomorrow. Perhaps I'll have more time to write then while all the other folks head off and I wait for my flight to leave. Well, what can you do! For now, I go off to nap. It is an excellent thing to do.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I like spiders. I think they're really interesting creatures. Yeah, I know, most people are afraid of them, or they don't like them because they bite, which is really just another form of fear. It seems unjustified to me. Mosquitoes bite more often, as do horse flies and heck, even puppies, yet spiders are the ones people fear. Perhaps it is because people feel that spiders prey on them at night, or make them feel vulnerable in general. To me, it seems that spiders are afraid of me when I come near them, or are protective of their space, and they have never tried to wrap me up in a ball of spider silk and eat me. I doubt any spider the size of those around Wisconsin that tried to eat humans would survive long enough to reproduce. Thank you, evolution, for that.
In any case, I like spiders. I think they are beautiful. Last week I walked to a pharmacy near my house and passed by a number of empty stores in a strip mall. The spiders had taken over. There were a half-dozen or more different varieties, and I got some very interesting pictures of them. They were all very good subjects, holding very still and not jumping out at the camera. I suppose spiders that tried to eat cameras would also not survive long enough to reproduce. When you look close enough, they have such beautiful, intricate markings. This one in particular struck me as beautiful. The patterns seemed almost Frank Lloyd Wright-ish. I haven't been able to find spider-species identification guides online, so I can't tell you more about what this spider is all about, just that I found it hanging in a window.
People's fear of spiders is like people's fear of a lot of things, I suppose. We can be quite irrational. I think there is a certain gratification in loving things that other people don't understand. Taking the time to look and study something that others pass by can be so deeply rewarding. Perhaps it is hedgehogs that taught me that. Perhaps classical music. I have looked at spiders and thought about them and made up my own mind not to be afraid of them. I doubt this spider appreciation will change my life, but it is interesting to think about. It also makes for great photography.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

This is a picture of my two hedgehog girls, Harriet and Bianca. They are doing pretty well these days. This is a picture of Bianca licking her nose. Her sister, Harriet, is snuggled up beside her. They were getting comfortable as I held them in my shirt. They are very lovely girls! It's so interesting to have sisters. No hedgehogs I've ever had have been accustomed to being around other hedgehogs. These girls cannot be apart! They snuffle and shove and crawl over one another, but they are always curled up together when I visit them during the day.
My Girls are also the biggest hedgehogs I've ever had living with me. Harriet is the small one, weighing in at about 600 grams, and Bianca is just over 700. To give you some perspective, Sophie, my first hedgehog, topped out at 320, Lola at 350, and Ash is currently at 250. Yes, these girls are literally twice the size of my little Ash. And no, it's not just fat. They both run quite a bit at night, and each can curl up into a ball quite comfortably. Well, ok, Bianca is getting a little fat, but I've started measuring their food again, so her weight should be under control. They are also just big hedgehogs! They would starve long before they could weigh just 250g. Sort of like Mike's dad is much, much larger than I am, I guess.
So, there's the picture! Ta da!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Our First Car Crash

So, I was in a car accident tonight. To answer your some common initial questions:
No, no one was hurt.
No, I wasn't driving.
No, it wasn't our fault.
No, an asteroid did not hit our car.
Yes, our car was a Buick.
Yes, the other car looked like it slammed into a brick wall.

Now that that's out of the way, let me explain what happened since I'm sure you're very interested. My friend Nathan came to visit from Google-land (some call it California) and we had dinner with him at the fantastic Hubbard Street Diner. Mmm. I had some carrot cake that was exactly like my wedding cake, because that's where we ordered the wedding cake from. It was awesome. I digress. After dinner we took Nathan downtown to go to the Bela Fleck concert with his friends John and Jessica (I *think* their names are John and Jessica). We said our goodbyes and were headed back home to Middleton for a quiet evening.

We were headed West on Campus drive and were in the center lane as we approached the intersection of University Bay Drive as can be seen on this google map. We had a green light. A car made a left across traffic and barely made it, which I thought strange seeing that it was dark and rainy, but whatever, it's Madison. After that car barely made it, a blue car started to follow it. I saw it before Mike did (Mike was driving), I yelled and he slammed on the brakes. There was no way to stop in time. The car hit us in the front driver's side hard enough to knock us into the right lane (which was fortunately empty). We got slammed pretty hard, and jarred. Mike's neck will be sore, and the seatbelt caught me hard around my lower stomach, leaving me feeling like I was punched. Parts of the car flew. It sucked.

Then everyone asked if everyone else was ok. For like 20 minutes. That's how I'd summarize it. I didn't ask if anyone else was ok, because I figured everyone else asking was pretty much covering the topic, but many, many people asked me. An ambulance arrived quickly (we were right outside of the hospital) and we told them we were ok. A firetruck arrived (to help how, I wondered) and we told them we were ok. By-standers helped us and the other driver stopped by our car and police were there and a tow-truck driver. It was a happenin' scene. Oh, and it was raining and we all got really wet. I did not have a good time.

I also broke my glasses. Granted, they were already being held together with super glue, but still. Now they're REALLY more broken than they were.

In all, we're fine. Mike was taking the bus to work anyway, and I have a car if we need to go places. We have car insurance even if the other driver didn't (which he didn't). We aren't hurt badly, just sort of jostled. We also have fantastic health insurance should we require medical attention tomorrow. It could be a lot worse.

But we could have also not been in an accident, which would have been better. Because contrary to how cool and sexy car accidents look on tv, they're not, kids. Say no to car accidents.

My left-overs from dinner are ok, though.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

There's a cricket loose in my livingroom right now. I love it. It's such a sweet, calming sound. I think it must be behind the couch somewhere. I also bet that it's the same one-legged cricket that I tried to remove from the house last week (a leg fell off in the process, unfortunately). Somehow it got past the insect-killing barrier my husband put around the door (which still makes me squeamish) and onto the rug. I figure that makes it a superior cricket, and one worthy of providing entertainment to the Bongard household.

It provides a very interesting counterpoint to the construction noises coming from out front. When I say construction noises, I mean the BOOMS and house shaking RATTLES, with some noisy hums and metal-on-metal scrapes. You should also know that it takes a lot to rattle our house. We live on a concrete slab. I never knew concrete could move like that.

So yes, cricket song is nice. I could lay here and listen to it all day. Unfortunately, I have other things to do. I think I'm having a wedding any minute now.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'm going to have a wedding any minute now. I think it's going to be good. I think that I have thought of everything that needs to be done in order to ensure a good time is had by all, and that all of us are wearing pants or dresses as appropriate. My hair will look very nice, the dress fits, we will have music and food and cake, and there will be a ceremony. Oh, and pictures, we'll take pictures. Those are the really important things. Especially the cake.

I really like picking music for the reception. I've had a great time with iTunes and our dj's digital music system. Do you know how many versions of "Rainbow Connection" there are? More than you'd ever want to hear, that's for sure! I think we'll have some really fun dancing music and ballroom music, and plenty of stuff to make people cry for sure. The dance floor should be big enough for everyone to enjoy!

And of course, we'll have cake. Did I mention I'm excited about that?

The beer on tap at the Overture Center is Spotted Cow, which is absolutely wonderful. No offense to people who like Miller or Pabst, but they suck and anyone who drinks them sucks too. I'm kidding. But I am still excited to have such a delightful micro-brew on tap for the wedding.

I hope I have some time to spend with my family even with such a busy day. I know all the ladies who are getting our hair done will have a fun morning at the salon. We'll have bagels and coffee and juice and mimosas and snacks and stuff. I plan to pick up some chocolate croissants, too. Mmm!

Now I just have to finish up with my hedgehog ornaments for the hedgehog ornament exchange so I can get started on making the seating name tags and stamping them and stuff... Whee!

Oh, and here's a preview picture for you to enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Therapeutic Blog

I need to write a therapeutic blog today. I saw the movie "SiCKO." I'm generally anti-Michael Moore. I'm not into shock journalism. It's just not my thing. That said, I currently work as a benefits-specialist at a non-profit public interest law firm. I thought it would be interesting to see a big-screen take on the issues I see every day, and the firm bought us tickets, so going to see it on our "field trip" this afternoon seemed like a no-brainer.

I wasn't surprised by the story of the man who had to choose which finger to put back on because of the cost. I wasn't surprised by the mom who recounted the death of her daughter that resulted from her seeking ER treatment from a hospital outside of her network. I wasn't shocked when he discussed the length to which insurance companies go to avoid paying benefits to people who are sick, the ferocity of lobbyists and lack of political action. I've seen all that before.

The tear-jerking stories are the ones I hear every single day on the phone. Every single day. I've heard insurance companies lie over the phone about what the law says, abuse their unsophisticated clients and put their health in jeopardy. I hear Medicaid workers tell me that their caseloads are going up and their budgets are slashed, and how aggressively they will pursue a poor mother who was three dollars over the income limit last month. I even sometimes get to tell people what they are too used to hearing: There's nothing I can do to help you.

There isn't help for everyone. There are little kids who get leukemia and can't afford treatments. Yeah, and they even die. Little kids die.

Seeing it on the big screen was different. I watched the stories of the 9/11 rescue workers, how they aren't being taken care of. I watched their faces when, during a trip to Cuba, they finally were told not to worry, that it was all going to be ok. Cuba doesn't charge for medical treatments, by the way. Incidentally, Cubans have a longer life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate than Americans.

And no, I'm not saying that Cuba is without it's problems. I'm not saying France is perfect, or England or Canada either. They all have problems, some more serious than ours by a long shot.

But their faces. They cried. They were without pain for the first time in years. They could breathe. They finally knew what was wrong with them, and how to treat it. And I cried. They had happy endings, they got their medicines and dentures and treatment plans.

And I can't do that for the people who call me.

And I just think about how horrible it is. How heartbreaking. My clients aren't moochers. They're hard-working people, trying to get by, but facing premiums of $1,000 or more per month, and deductibles of $7,000 per family member. And yes, some have "health savings accounts," but when you're poor you don't have things like "savings." You don't have things like a car or bread sometimes either.

And why are they poor? What about a mom who gets her daughter treatment the doctors say will save her life, even when the insurance company says they won't pay? What single mom, even one working three jobs, can afford $30,000 in hospital bills? And what mom would put a price on her daughter's life?

What about the families who aren't broken, but are working for themselves. Small business owners "living the American dream," right? But they don't qualify for a group plan. They buy private insurance, but private insurance can refuse to cover you, or can raise your premiums by over 200% to drive you away. They don't qualify for COBRA after that. And they're not quite bad enough off to qualify for a government program. Aid from Red Cross is a one-time thing. They're a family, with several young kids.

So many people assume that there is someone out there who helps these people in need. A church, they think, or maybe some sort of charitable foundation. I used to think that, too. I've learned better. There is no help out there for these people.

I know them. I talk to them.

And after a while, it doesn't even phase me. It doesn't surprise me or shock me or make me angry. I don't cry. But I get migraines. And I get depressed. But hey, I have insurance. I earned my way into the land of the insured by marrying a man I loved and would have married anyway, if several months later than I did. I can afford the therapy and drugs, at least for now. At least until he switches jobs and we lose insurance. Or until one of us becomes seriously ill. Paying 20% of your medical costs is nothing until you need a million dollar bone marrow transplant.

And so it was good to watch the movie while I wasn't in "professional" mode. I remembered what it was like to be on the outside of all this mess, the devastation, and look in. It was good to cry.

It was also neat to watch a movie where I knew that the facts he was citing were real. Yeah, we have the worst infant mortality rate in the industrialized world. And yeah, 18,000 US citizens die every year simply because they don't have insurance. I can cite those figures if you want to see them.

Tomorrow I go back to my "professional" mode, back to the clients, back to telling people to call their legislators because there's nothing more I can do for them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What's in a Wegistry

Wove, twoo wove... Name that movie!

Registries are funny things. I mean, you are sort of telling people to buy you presents. I don't really think of it that way anymore. You get married and people want to give you stuff. I know I want to give stuff to people who get married. I think it's just a "thing." I suppose registries are better than getting six single-settings of china in different colors, or 12 microwaves. Twelve microwaves? That's just silly!

Mike and I have worked hard on our registry, which sounds strange, but it's a lot like shopping for things in all the bad ways including deciding colors and patterns, without the fun actually-getting-things part. Well, not yet anyway.

I digress. We were working on our registry tonight because Mike confessed to me that he secretly loved my old flannel sheets (that don't fit our current bed). Of course, the only thing to do was register for them! As we were perusing our registry, we noticed that there was a spot where we could see what has already been purchased! Crazy! So, being curious, we looked. As was expected, nothing was purchased yet, because the wedding isn't for a few months. Nothing...

... except a cheese grater.

I just find that really funny. Is that strange?

Mike, by the way, coined the term Wegistry tonight.
Wedding + Registry = Wegistry
Only a rocket scientist, I tell you!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Go see my wedding website!

The invites are out, and the site is up! At you can read about me and Mike, learn more about the wedding location, find a hotel room and search our registries. We will continue to develop the site as time goes on, including details about the meal choices, our engagement story, and construction information.

I have to say, getting those invites out the door was a big relief, even though it was Mike who did most of the work. We've even gotten a few RSVPs back already, which is pretty neat. All the big things are done now, so it's just little things like buying shoes, reserving tuxes, finding a hair salon and finalizing the menu that are left. No problem!

Also, I'm officially being sworn in on July 18th here in Madison, which is rather exciting. I've also received notification that I am now in the pool of potential hires for the Wisconsin State Public Defenders office. Now all that needs to happen is for a PD to leave and create an opening in one of the four or so counties where I've agreed to work. :) I'm not holding my breath, but it's still nice to know I'm employable!

That's all for now. Cheers!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why I'm not afraid to grow older

I was walking through the mall with Lauren yesterday, discussing the beauty of short engagements and fine china, when we passed by a store I hadn't visited in a while. It's called Wet Seal, and it's pretty much what it sounds. No, it's not actual seal skins, nor is it swim wear, but the clothes there certainly fit about the same as both a seal's skin and a bathing suit. It's for teens and maybe early twenties. I'd look for clubbing clothes there back when I did things like "go out."

Like I said, I haven't visited the store for a while. I looked for a while at the clothes hanging in the front window. In the past, I might have felt jealous of the size of the human-like figures wearing the clothing (ugh, everything looks great as a size 2!). Yesterday I didn't feel that at all. I looked at the clothes and thought, wow, I'm glad I don't want to dress like that anymore.

It's not because I don't like fashion these days. Fashion is fine. And it isn't because I want to lay around in sweatpants and fell comfortable. I wear plenty of uncomfortable clothing. I felt glad because I finally felt like I was too old to shop at Wet Seal.

I'm 26. I am starting to get lines on my face, though only in places where I wrinkle when I smile. I've started caring about the arch supports in my shoes. I've cut my morning routine in half and check my make-up less often. I don't try on seven outfits before going to a social event, and I go to dinner parties rather than drinking parties. I go to bed before midnight almost every night, and can wake myself before 8 without much trouble. I have stretch marks and celulite.

And I love it.

I have earned a quieter life. I have earned a break from high drama. I KNOW who I am, I really do, and I'm ok with it. I'm ok with letting people know the "real me," and don't feel like I need to do anything in particular to make them think of me differently than they do. The friends I have, though fewer, are good people, and they're people who don't get upset when I don't call every day.

I wonder why some people are so afraid of growing old. I feel like I've survived, and I'm proud of that. I know I'm not done with excitement and joy; there are many landmarks I haven't met yet, and a lot I have to learn. But I look forward to growing older, of gaining the peace and confidence that can only come from knowing that life is about more than just the current crisis, that people don't keep track of how often you wear a particular shirt, that everyone gets zits, and that usually no one notices when you do something stupid. I'm so relieved to be where I am, with the people I'm with. I'm going to soak it in.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You should really check out the pictures on my gallery. It's one of the links to the right. You'll find pictures of my wedding, pictures of my new hedgehog Ash, and all sorts of awesome things. It's totally sweet.

I like not being a student, by the way. Now if only I could manage the "being a working adult" thing...


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jenny Sengpiel died on Saturday in a plane crash in Montana.

Jenny and I went to high school together. We drove downtown to Milwaukee every Monday night for MYSO rehearsal. We were best friends for a while, though we drifted apart in later years. She was engaged to be married in August. She and her fiance both died when the plane they were in crashed shortly after take-off. They were going sky-diving before leaving Montana at the end of the month.

Even though I have a paper due Thursday and an exam tomorrow, I just can't stop thinking about her. We had reconnected on Facebook this year. She was a really good person, and a fantastic musician. I remember riding with her and talking about what music we'd want played at our funerals when we died. She and I both decided on the Rutter Requim. I think they're playing it at her funeral on Monday.

I am just so, so sad. I'm looking back on our time in high school and thinking, we didn't know that she only had 10 more years, or 8 more years, before her life would be over. She was supposed to be just starting her life when it was really almost done.

I just think about the kids she should have had. I think about the cd's she was supposed to record, and the orchestras she should have played with, and the people she should have given music lessons to. I think about how she was supposed to be a big sister for so much longer than she was. She was in love. She was just starting.

And now she's gone. I wonder how she'd feel about being in the news, and what she'd think about how very many people cried when they heard the news. I wonder what she was thinking when she died. I hope she held Kyle's hand.

I wrote to a good friend of mine and told her how much I appreciated her. I haven't gotten mad at Mike. I haven't slept well. I just hurt and hurt and hurt. I can focus for a little while, and then I just hurt.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you realize that money cannot be eaten.
--The Cree People

Monday, April 30, 2007

Blood Donation: 0 for 3

I tried to donate blood today. If you don't know, it's a really big deal for me to try to donate. I have a bad history of shot and blood-drawing fainting episodes for whatever reason. Yes, I have to lay down to get my flu shot every year. Yes, I know this makes me a wimp.

But it just so happens that I married a wonderful man who, in addition to all the other altruistic and amazing things he does, believes very strongly in donating blood regularly. He's been asking me to come donate with him since we met. Today it finally worked in my schedule and so I said I'd go with him.

Now I've tried to donate blood in the past. After 9/11 happened I waited for hours to donate, just to be told that a medication I was on made me ineligible, or at least made blood donation inadvisable. I tried again two years ago after my regime of allergy shots made me more comfortable with needles in general, but was anemic.

So I geared myself up for donation today. I've been thinking about it and trying to re-frame it as a positive experience all morning. I drank lots of water yesterday, ate leafy greens and meat, and even felt enthusiastic about the process. I did the finger-prick with no problem. It was super easy! And my finger even bled, which is not a sure-thing for me generally speaking. They had a new machine that was more accurate in its estimation of iron in the blood, so I was hopeful that it would show that I was slightly over the minimum of iron instead of slightly under.

Yeah, no.

So, once again, I have been thwarted. Maybe I'll pick up some iron pills on the way home tonight and try again in a few days. At least I tried, right?


Friday, April 20, 2007

This afternoon Lola was put to sleep. Her Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome had progressed to the point that she could no longer eat or drink on her own. It hurts a lot to say goodbye, but I have no doubt that it was the right thing to do.

This is the first time I've lost a hedgehog without another one here at home waiting for me. It feels very empty without her. It will be a while before that emptiness fades.

In honor of Lola and her beautifully trouble-making life, I've come up with some Life Lessons according to Lola:
Lola's Life Lessons:
Even cranks can come around with enough time and patience.
Always look for interesting stuff.
You can enjoy things more when you feel safe.
There are very few things a blanket and snuggle won't fix.
Baths may be evil, but it's nice to smell good.
If you beg you get more of what you want.
Don't think so much; just be present.
Always be on your best behavior for strangers.
If something smells good, dive right in.
Just because there's no way out, doesn't mean you shouldn't go in anyway.
The funnest things are the things you're not supposed to be doing.
Approach every day and every obstacle with a sense of fun and adventure.
Sometimes even the best of us just needs to nap.
Friends share troubles and heartaches.
If you're uncomfortable, DO something about it.
Never doubt your capacity to love and heal.
Don't be afraid when it's time to go; death is just a new adventure!

Thank you for the honor of being your human companion, Lola. You have been a wonderful teacher.


Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm Married :)

Mike and I tied the knot this weekend. Don't worry, the wedding is still on for September. This was primarily for practical reasons such as health insurance and name-changing issues. I have to say, though, that it was just perfect and I'm so glad we did it. :) Our families were together for the first time, and really seemed to get along. All those who will be in the wedding party were there. We had a very short, small, intimate ceremony that was full of emotion and meaning without being fussy and stressful. It was amazing to have the opportunity to declare my devotion for my husband before those who love us most. It was beautiful and relaxed and fun!

My name will officially be changing. I'll take Mike's last name and add it to the end of mine, no hyphen. I will probably use his name socially, and use the full name professionally. Now I just have to change my driver's license, my social security card, bank account names, insurance names, the name listed for me with the University... I think getting married was the easy part!

Actually, that's one thing we both felt: "Wow, that was really easy." That's how the beginning of our married life together should begin. I'm so glad it has. :)


Friday, March 30, 2007

Maybe I'm just feeling a bit punchy... but does this seem sort-of morbid to anyone else?

Irish Blessing (as found on a random website):
"May the light of heaven shine upon your grave."

I imagine the first portion (May through heaven) being said with a kind Irish accent, then switching to devil speak for the last portion, which is really just telling someone they're about to die. Is it funny if I have to explain it?


PS: My version of our wedding website, and Mike's version. :) We'll consolidate later.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I found this on a Facebook message board, and wanted to have some fun with it.

"You know you're a music major if..."

My answers:

... you phonetically analyze all foreign words
... you always drink tea
... you never drink milk
... you experiment with speaking without using glottal stops to see if it helps your voice last longer
... you have ever gone on vocal rest
... you call your doctor every time you almost feel like you could possibly be coming down with something that could eventually grow into a cold
... you laugh musically
... you never sing "Happy Birthday" without breaking into at least 3 part harmony
... you have ever sung "Happy Birthday" in minor, just for fun
... you have a LOT of black in your closet, but you're not goth
... "spin the sound" makes perfect sense to you
... you can name and sing along with the orchestral excerpts in techno songs
... you groan at the mention of John Williams
... you try to isolate the pitches emitted by your dishwasher
... you have ever used a piano to determine the note the elevator makes when it dings
... Pachelbel's Cannon in D makes you scream (and you find this absolutely hilarious)
... you always hear elevator music, and usually hate it
... you think that Mozart was dirty
... you are intimately familiar with the healing properties of eccenacia, throat coat tea, sinus rinsing, vitamin C drops, and breathing steamy air.

I'll probably think of more and post them for the rest of the day. This is fun!

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I think I'll sleep.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Bible

I was talking with some friends the other day about religion, the bible and our relationship with God. It seems to happen anytime we get together and drink, which is a little strange I suppose. You may or may not know that I consider myself spiritual but not religious because of a very dark time during which I was very angry at the church and its patriarchy because of what some "Christians" did to me. I am worlds away from these particular friends, who struggle with living normal lives and not taking the bible literally, or at least figuring out which portions of the bible to take literally and which were just the result of the complex societal changes and pressures of each specific author as he was sitting wherever he was sitting while he was writing what he wrote. Yeah.

In any case, one friend was struggling because her church said that she should only hang out with people who believed just like she did, and used a bunch of quotes from the bible to prove it. To me, it sounds ridiculous. Apparently interpreting this particular biblical text is a source of stress for some people. In fact, trying to discern how Christians should live their lives according to the bible in general can be quite stressful.

This got me thinking. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean when you go to church and they say homosexuals are going to hell, when you clearly know that they are loved by God just like everyone else? How much can you trust the bible, a book that has been used to justify nearly every system of repression, ethnic cleansing and other very un-Christian things? Do you really have to love the bible to be a Christian?

I think the answer is no. Well, of course I would, because I still loosely identify myself as Christian without loving the bible. However, I found a really good justification and explanation for my lack of biblical enthusiasm. Here it is: Christians follow Jesus. The things Jesus said and did are recorded in some portions of the bible. The rest is largely a collections of the opinions of some man who people agreed with when they sat around and decided what to include in their religious dogma. Therefore, you can love Jesus, learn about his life, and still not have to like the rest of what amounts to a giant Christian editorial.

Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of really great things in the bible. My fiance, who has read the bible at least 3 times cover to cover, says that the overall message is one of love and forgiveness (and since I haven't read it completely I will take his word on that). There are amazing songs and prose that capture many of the religious feelings Christians have had through the years. There are also stories and teachings of Jesus, which I think are absolutely relevant and important. That's all great.

What isn't great is that some people use the bible as THE ONLY WAY to be a Christian. They say that not only are their interpretations of the bible the only ones that are correct, but also that only the opinions of the men included in the bible are correct interpretations of Jesus' life and our intended relationship with God. To me, that's a lot like reading, for example, The Awakening, then reading a literary interpretation of The Awakening, and concluding that that interpretation is the ONLY way you can interpret the book itself.

If I read The Awakening, or any other book, I try to find my own meaning. Sometimes it's interesting to see what other people thought the birds represented, or the ocean, but sometimes a theme is apparent to me because of my views on life, my life experiences, or just my mood when I read it. Just because I find meaning on my own, and maybe no one ever though about it that way before (or at least didn't write it down) doesn't mean it is any less important, or a less valid reading the book.

Why can't the same apply to the bible? Why is some long-dead-man's opinion of what Jesus was all about more valid than mine? If Jesus told us that we can all have our own personal relationships with God, that we would have the power to perform miracles and move mountains if only we had enough faith, why can't we figure out what he and is teachings mean to us, and what makes sense to us? I'm not talking about moral relativism. Knowing that we don't know everything about God's plan is not the same as saying that clubbing babies could be ok in the right circumstances. I just don't think any one person, any one church, or even any one religion has a monopoly on the business of understanding God, and understanding what a Christian way of life looks like.

I believe that Jesus was a great man and a great teacher, and that if all who call themselves Christians tried to live more like him the world would be a better place. It's when we get wrapped up in dogma that directly conflicts with Jesus' life and teachings that things go wrong. Jesus' teaching was to love one another. No exceptions. If any church rule, or sermon, or letter from the pope conflicts with that teaching, then it's not Christian.

And that opinion is just as valid as any of those other biblical editorials. So there.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tentative Date: September 7, 2007
Tentative Location: Overture Center

Very tentative. We'll take a tour of the Overture Center on Tuesday next week and look at the space. We both would love to have the reception there, and maybe even the ceremony, who knows!

Meanwhile, I'm working on class work and getting a client out of jail. And it's raining. All I really want to do is sleep. Sleeping sounds better than doing work.

And my sweet Lola's back legs are barely working anymore, poor dear.

It's a busy time, that much is for certain!

Monday, February 26, 2007


Mike and I have officially decided to tie the knot! He proposed over dinner on Friday night, to my complete surprise (I knew it would happen sometime, but definitely wasn't looking for it!), at our favorite restaurant, Biaggi's. The ring is just beautiful, and we couldn't be more excited! We have not yet set a date. The hope is that we will have a short engagement and can plan a wedding with minimal fussiness and stress. The location will be Madison, which has been my home for 8 years, and where I met my fiancee, Mike, the love of my life.

The love of my life! Officially! And now the whole world will know!

If anyone has any tips for planning a wedding in general, or has connections in Madison to things like florists, bakers, photographers, banquet halls, etc, please let me know! I think we'll have a website to keep loved ones up to date with plans as they solidify. More on that if/when it goes up.

I learned after the proposal that he was hoping to have the ring in time for our get-away last weekend, but when the ring arrived on Friday afternoon, and I called him from work and said "Let's do something special tonight," he knew it was opportunity knocking and that he had to answer!

Oh, so sappy and cute, I'm sure I'm radiating a field that's lethal within 20 feet. One of these days my feet will touch the ground again.

~Kristen Z. (soon to be Kristen Z. B.!)

Friday, February 23, 2007

A bunch has been going on in my life recently, and most have meant I was offline and unable to post. Not that I've taken a bunch of time to post even when I don't have convenient excuses, but still, I might as well use excuses while I can.

It all started with my birthday, which was on Sunday Feb. 18. I'm now 26 years old, in case you were wondering. I went away for the weekend with Mike to Country Springs Hotel and Waterpark. It's located about an hour east of Madison, near to Delafield and the smiley barn (or "Amish Barn", though it'll always be the smiley barn to me). It has an indoor waterpark. That seems to be a good investment for a hotel in Wisconsin, what with the ridiculous cold we have had this February. It was nice and warm, had some neat slides and a great indoor-outdoor hot tub. Unfortunately, it was also full of screaming children. We stayed for a few hours and retreated to our room.

It was a great weekend, despite screaming kids. We had dinner on Saturday night at a Chinese restaurant, I think it was called Emperor's Kitchen. It was FANTASTIC. Mike and I are spicy food freaks. Just to give you an idea, our chili recipe now consists of 5 jalapenos and 5 habinero peppers, and it's still not terribly painful. Well, the Chinese food was DEFINITELY painful. Painful in that good sort of "ok, so now I know my limit" way. It was also very tasty. I washed down my meal with some tasty plum wine, which was a really interesting beverage, while Mike had a Chinese beer. I don't know if it was Chinese style or actually from China. Apparently, some very Chinese things are made right here in Wisconsin, such as Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Who knew.

The hotel room was nice, especially the two sinks and the tv in the bathroom. I want two sinks and a tv in MY bathroom. For now I'll have to make do with dust bunnies and spiders.

Sunday we had a wonderful lunch with my parents, my bro and his gf. We at at the Water Street Brewery in Delafield. It's a very nice place, good food, great service. It was rather nostalgic, too. When I used to play in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (during my previous life as a musician), my family would go eat at the Water Street Brewery afterwards, sometimes with my oboe friend and her family. The restaurant in downtown Milwaukee is actually on Water Street, but the one in Delafield is still quite nice.

I got a couple fabulous birthday presents from my family. My brother gave me an adorable hedgehog rug that I absolutely love. My mom and dad gave me a really neat necklace and Guitar Hero II. If you've never played Guitar Hero, you probably should. It's very musical, which is part of the draw for me. I'm terrible at it right now, but just you wait...

And thus ended my weekend of fun. Just one excuse for not writing in my blog. More to come later. :)


Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm 26 weeks from being a practicing lawyer.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I got good grades last semester for the first time in Law School.


I wonder if this will make it easier to find a job?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

And again, school begins. Tomorrow is my last first-day-of-the-semester. THANK GOD. I have no remorse, no sentimental stirrings as I approach this historic day. No, I am just ready to get the hell out of there. No more stupid grades.

I think that's what I hate about law school. The classes can be interesting. The people aren't bad, as long as you don't try to be friends with many of them. The professors are a bit batty, but harmless for the most part. I just hate grades. I hate the grading scale, I hate the scheme, I hate the game and I hate the impact they have on even getting interviews. I hate grades.

I have no idea what my grades are from last semester. None of them have been posted yet. Not a single one out of five classes. It sure is a good thing they don't expect law school professors to do any actual work. I mean, really.

I'll be working with the legal defense program this semester representing indigent defendants in misdemeanor criminal cases. I'm mostly doing this to prepare myself for working as a public defender in Madison until a more permanent position presents itself. The market for attorneys around here is very tight. Something about 300 law students graduating each year seems to flood the market. Who would have guessed?

On a more positive note, it was a very productive break for me. Mike and I painted his bedroom blue, and got a B E A U T I F U L bed (headboard, foot board, side rails) that Mike will have pictures of soon. I also finished the curtains for his place, and they are now in place. It's amazing. Mike has lived here for three years, and it FINALLY looks lived-in!

And now for the big news... Mike and I have officially decided to move in together when my lease expires in July. Since I only live .4 miles away, we plan on making it a very slow process, bit by bit, to avoid a heavy-duty, super stressful one-day event if at all possible. We have to make some adjustments to his condo before I can really live here, though. Maximization of closet space is a necessity, since I currently take up a huge, walk-in closet all on my own. We'll install some shelving in closets, rearrange stuff, etc over the course of the semester.

The best thing about moving in is that Mike is allowing me more freedom in making his condo Kristen-friendly. That doesn't mean I'm moving all his kitchen stuff to lower shelves (we talk about those not being Kristen-friendly a lot), but it does mean that Lola is staying over when I'm here. It really is so great to have my hedgehog with me wherever I am. She has a small enclosure in the living room that she seems to like well enough. She stays warm on her heating pad and feasts on turkey every night. She is currently on medication (an antacid and an antibiotic) to try to clear up some tummy trouble, and Mike is around every morning and night to help with the giving-Lola-medication process. It is quite a process. I think anytime you try to give oral medication to a creature who can completely disappear inside its own quill-covered skin... well, what other animal is really like that? Maybe an armadillo... In any case, she's very good at not taking her medication. It really does take two of us to force it down.

It has been a wonderful break, full of days where I've slept for 14 hours and read fantasy novels for at least 6, and days playing silly video games starring a purple dragon. I've watched Dune, the extended version of Return of the King, 14 hours of season one of "24", the original Conan, and countless Daily Shows and Colbert Reports. It has been just great. I'm loathe to return to the real world. Oh well. There's always unemployment and retirement to look forward to.