Friday, December 31, 2004


Since today is the last day of 2004, I decided to take a minute and reflect. Deep...I know.

2004 reveiled itself as the year of semi-change. Somethings changed, somethings remained the same. New experiences, old experiences. I have to say that even though I have experienced loss and sadness in 2004, I have also experienced happiness and success.

My idea of success has nothing to do with professional or financial success. Instead, it has to do with personal success. 2004 was the year that I went beyond what I thought I was capable of doing and doing a handful of things that I've always wanted to do.

Like anything in the media, I thought I would share with you my lists of 2004. Enjoy.

10 Things that Remained the Same in 2004
1. I still live in a basement apartment in Iowa.
2. I still adore my husband and everything we do together.
3. I still teach elementary school.
4. I still adore my close friends and make a point of talking to them at least once a week.
5. I still struggle with weight loss.
6. I still have an addiction to Diet Coke.
7. I still long to do more (personally, professionally, artistically, emotionally, spiritually, educationally, geographically, atheletically) in my life.
8. I still talk to my mom everyday.
9. I still enjoy grocery shopping...a little too much.
10. I still loathe airports.

10 Things That Have Changed or I Have Tried in 2004
1. I started to write my blog.
2. I took the pottery wheel class that I have longed to do since 1999.
3. I traveled to New York City by myself to visit my dear friend, Amy.
4. I have made a couple new chums, Jodi who likes to dish with me, and Julie who likes to teach me about scrapbooking.
5. I teach 4th grade after teaching four years of 3rd grade.
6. I have a new hobby, scrapbooking.
7. I went to a professional baseball game.
8. I volunteered my time with a political action committee and went door to door trying to get John Kerry elected.
9. I lost two of my grandparents to cancer.
10. I tried goat cheese and liked it. I tried hummus and loved it.

Monday, December 27, 2004

I Need A Break

Dear Blogger Friends,
I am putting my blog on hold until January 4. I will return from ND with lots of adventures to write about. I considered (AGAIN) for a moment about ending this blog. I decided not to end it. I decided to continue but to give me a needed break. I think this will give me lots to write about when I return. Also, I plan to write more and write better...(hmm...not a good start) when I return. I also plan on writing with some more spice and opinions, so be warned...your opinions of me could drastically change.
So, even though I was going to quit, cold turkey, I am going on a break. I will return January 4. I hope you have not given up hope with the Midwestern Position.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Christmas Baking

Like everyone else, I am busy preparing for the Christmas holiday. Today, I baked up a storm...or rather, dipped up a storm in some cases.

I made roll-cutout cookies. These are the best. They are so soft and have a yummy almond taste. It is the same recipe that my mom has made for years, and I swear, they are the best cutout cookie.

I dipped some pretzels. I know you can now buy white dipped pretzels anytime of the year at the grocery store, but that takes away the special-ness of the this treat.

I made some buckeye balls. I have no idea why they have been given this name, but they are so rich and creamy. Delicious. This was a new recipe for me and it turned out. It will go into my holiday repetoire.

I made some maple fudge and some toffee, yet the toffee did not turn out. Toffee is tough because you have to boil it to a certain temperature. Obviously, I did not boil it hot enough. I even used a candy thermometer.

Finally, I made peanut brittle. This was a sentimental thing. My grandmother who passed away last month made a great peanut brittle. She was also an avid letter writer and in her last letter she mailed me her recipe. I thought that was very special and I'll always keep her handwritten recipe. She use to say that her secret was that she shelled the peanuts herself rather than buy them already shelled. If her peanut brittle did not turn out, she was known to say, "Well, must have been a bad batch of peanuts." Funny. Mine turned out so the peanuts must have been okay. I plan on giving it away as gifts just like Grandma used to do. I know realize the hard work she put into each batch of peanut brittle because for one recipe, it only filled one pan and she gave peanut brittle to everyone at Christmas. She must have had to make a lot.

There is something special about Christmas baking. I have the strongest memories of my mother and her two sisters spending an entire Saturday at our house doing the Christmas baking. Mom always rolled and cut the cookies. Sandra always baked, watched, and took out the cookies, and Joy always sprinkled the cookies. My mom would make homemade peanut butter cups, peanut butter blossoms, and melting moment cookies, which are like shortbread. Sandra always made fudge at Christmas. I think I learned a lot just by observing during the annual bake-a-thons. I can use a rolling pin pretty well and I think it comes from years of watching my mom yield one.

I think baking is a family traditon that will remain strong in my generation. Baking connects me to my family and to the past. The idea that I use my grandmother's recipe and who knows, maybe it was her grandmother's recipe is endearing to me. Maybe someday, I'll teach someone else how to bake like I have been taught by the women in my family.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


My good friend is on bedrest. She is six months pregnant and cannot do anything but use the bathroom. Her blood pressure is an issue, along with her swelling.

I feel for her. Tonight, I brought her ginger ale and ice cream. We played Frogger and ate spaghetti together. We dished about work. We were also trying to brainstorm how she can be entertained for the next three months as she waits for her bundle of joy to appear. Some might think that bedrest would be excellent. You could rest, read, watch TV, just veg out. She is restless and needs some new entertainment. I offered her my seasons of The Sopranos. I have also recommended Six Feet Under.

Can you give me some ideas that I can suggest to her.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Boob Tube

Sometimes my husband will say after watching a television show, "I am now dumber for watching that."

Isn't that the truth?! Not that he is dumber, but that we can sometimes spend time watching television that has no intelligent or significant qualities. Don't get me wrong. I am guilty of this on a number of accounts. For example, tonight on Storm Stories on the Weather Channel, they documented the 1997 flood of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Um...I was there. Why did I have to watch it on television? I felt like I had wasted an entire hour, but by the time I had wasted it, it was gone. Gone forever. An hour that I will never get back.

My only consulation is that I spent about two and half hours watching PBS on Sunday about the Lewis and Clark expedition. I actually learned something during that television time.

My new fall resolution was to watch only one hour of television a day with the exception of news at 10 PM. Also, this rule does not apply to Sunday nights since I have far too many shows at the 8 PM time ranges from the absurd, Desparate Housewives to the smart, Significant Others on Bravo.

If you have never seen Significant Others, I recommend it. It is an improve comedy show about four couples in therapy. It is totally unscripted and I laugh out loud. This show also is special because it is one that Tim and I watch together. We only have a few of those now. I have sort of cut myself off of Law and Order because NBC has enabled my addiction to this genre of television. I can only thank my lucky stars that I did not fall into CBS's drug, CSI.

I am never embaressed by my television watching. I have come a long way since my years of watching Growing Pains and Doogie Howser. My mother always says that I was like a walking TV Guide in my early teens.
My Favorite Shows (in no particular order and some that are no long on the air, but I wish they were)
1. Significant Others-BravoTV
2. Pioneer Quest-PBS
3. Colonial Life-PBS
4. American Dreams-NBC
5. Scrubs-NBC
6. Desparate Housewives-ABC
7. Biggest Loser-NBC
8. Seinfeld
9. Family Guy
10. Six Feet Under-HBO
11. Sopranos-HBO

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Apartment Living and Complaining

Things I dislike about living in an apartment...

1. I have no place to put my drying racks. I know that sounds like a nitpicky thing, but who wants to stare at clothes drying.

2. My neighbors who like to smoke marijuana.

3. My upstairs neighbors who let their alarm clock go off at 5 AM and don't wake up to shut it off. Then, they turn on the snooze, get up, get in the shower, the alarm goes off, but they are in the shower so they don't turn it off until they are out of the shower, then they run (boom, boom, boom) to the alarm clock. UGH.

4. No window in the bathroom.

This sounds negative. That is okay...somedays I feel negative. Yesterday, I felt positive, today...negative. Catch me on a positive day and I will go on and on about how much I like my little basement apartment with it's white cupboards, big living room, and cozy feeling.

PS...after reading my post from yesterday, I realized that I may have sounded a bit like I was living in the past...I am not. I like the present and can't wait for the future. However, I think it is always interesting to think about where we came from and how it has shaped us today. Thanks, Mathman, for helping me think about that.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ol' Days

Does anyone ever look back on high school and say, "I'd do everything exactly the same. No regrets?" I wouldn't. There would be lots of things that I would have done differently. Some that I would have done the same.

The reason this comes up is because I was part of an important high school ritual this evening...the high school formal dance.

My youngest friend, Kelley, prepared for her formal dance. First, I am very proud of Kelley for going against the idea of having a date and instead, going with a group of girlfriends. This is what I am talking about when I say "regrets". Kelley will probably have a terrific time with her girlfriends without the pressure to get along, spend time with, or entertain her date. My friend Amy and I often speak about how we should have gone to our senior prom together and leave our male dates at home. We would have had a better time.

My date was a former boyfriend who had started dating a new girl from school. So, he spent the entire night dancing with her. I actually did not mind because I just wanted to dance with my other friends and talk with people. Amy went with our friend, Rimon. This was fine, but it was probably like any other Saturday night out with friends...just better dressed.

My point in all of this, with my youngest friend, Kelley, I try to share with her my mediocre wisdom about high school. I am glad that she went to her dance without a boy. There is plenty of time for that...but, maybe people who never dated in high school regret not dating...maybe they wish they would have dated more people. I don't know. Maybe the grass is always greener.

There are many things that I do not regret about my high school experiences. I made the best friends in high school. I know this because they are still my closest friends.

Some might think it strange to write about this topic, but tonight as I watched Kelley take her pictures and show her anticipation for the evening, it got me thinking about those days and everything that goes with them.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sweet Baby James

"Sara, you listen to TOO much James Taylor to ever get angry."
-Annoying Boy in High School

It was a shock to my system to receive such a judgment from a boy my senior year! Could it be true? Could it be possible that a love for Sweet Baby James could have mellowed my feisty spirit to a point of disrepair? What about Paul Simon? Can Paul Simon affect my soul and sense of angst?

Whatever the answer was, I did not spend too much time thinking it over because I would never give up my love of the 70's songwriters. I have continued to feed my habit of part bluegrass, pinch of blues, and with a slice of pop thrown in for good measure. Tonight, I picked up my James Taylor Christmas CD from Hallmark. Every year, they offer a special where if you purchase three cards, you can buy a CD for $6.95. The CDs are usually artists of mediocre standing. I have purchased Amy Grant and Natalie Cole. So, you could imagine my pleasure when I was presented with my James Taylor CD. Ooooo...good listening tonight.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Holiday Treat Recipe

Try this yummy, easy holiday treat! It is a great gift giving idea. Make it and put it in a holiday bag. Homemade gifts are the best!

Toffee Popcorn Crunch
8 cups popped popcorn
3/4 cup whole or slivered almonds
1-1/3 cups (8-oz. pkg.) HEATH BITS 'O BRICKLE Toffee Bits
1/2 cup light corn syrup

Heat oven to 275°F. Grease large roasting pan (OR two 13x9x2-inch baking pans). Place popcorn and almonds in prepared pan.

Combine toffee bits and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until toffee is melted (about 12 minutes). Pour over popcorn mixture; stir until evenly coated.

Bake 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from oven; stir every 2 minutes until slightly cooled. Cool completely. Store in tightly covered container in cool, dry place. About 1-1/2 pounds popcorn.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

"Bells Will Be Ringing"

Things I noticed while ringing the bell for the Salvation Army at the local grocery store...

People are generous. One lady put in a 20 dollar bill! I tried to keep track and an average of 3 out of 5 people put money in the bucket. Plus, at 6 pm, the bucket was plum full with bills and change.

People avoid eye contact if they don't want to put money in the bucket. All I was offering was a smile, a 'Hello', and a constant ringing of the bell, yet some people didn't say 'hello' back.

Sometimes people hug strangers. I never start the hugging, but I was hugged twice for just standing there ringing the bell. Anyone could do it, but two women thought I deserved a hug.

I was called SANTA I look that big?

The burliest and manliest men put lots of money in the bucket.

People will stop what they are doing even though they look very busy and put money in the one point, a woman's cart started to roll away from her and she was too busy looking for change in her purse. Luckily, I grabbed it or it could have been ugly.

Little kids love the bell. Little kids love to put money in the bucket. Little kids love to hear grown-ups say "Merry Christmas" to them.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Salvation Army this Christmas, check out

Finding My Religion

Growing up, I attended church and Sunday school on a regular basis. As a child, I proudly sang the songs "Jesus Loves Me" and "This Little Light of Mine" in the front of the church in my very best dress. The youth group and summer Bible camp influenced many years of my teen years. Every summer, I went to Bible camp where I had met friends and looked forward to seeing them every year. My friends from school also attended camp with me so I had the best of both worlds at camp. Every Wednesday night during the school year, I would go to church for youth group where we'd play games, discuss issues, and enjoy that special time together. As an adult, I attended school and even taught Sunday school myself when I lived in North Dakota.

I lived a charmed childhood and adulthood where I had experienced very little loss and was given very few times to question "it all". On mother's side of the family, they had their faith tested through the loss of their father when they were just children and the loss of their brother when they were adults. They continued to believe and trust in God. My mother and her sisters held true to their faith and taught it to their children.

Since moving to Iowa and experiencing loss several times since the move, I have come to question the purpose and the belief in organized religion, and more importantly, my place in it. I wondered if there was a place for me in organized religion with my views and beliefs. All I see on television is fundamentalist Christians that judge and criticize the way others live their lives. I have found hypocrisy in the lifestyles of the people around me who claim to be "good Christians". I didn't want to do that. I wanted to belong to a church that I truly believed in. So I waited. I didn't even search for this church. I just wanted to think, plan, and organize what I truly believed in before I began the search for my place in religion. I have been to extremes with religion. I have thought "maybe we are just here without a plan or God?" and the other extreme was when I was in the prime of my adolescence belief in youth group.

Even though others have heard me question and think about religion, I am ready to begin a religous journey again. No, I am not a Bible banger...not even close. What I mean by that is that I am ready to go to church again. I am ready to start to educate myself and build my philosophy of faith.

I believe that God does work in mysterious ways because just as I was thinking about this idea this past week, the major television networks decided to not show a commerical from the United Church of Christ because it illustrates their all-inclusiveness of families of all types...including homosexual people and families. This is unfortunate and sad for the United Church of Christ because their message is important and won't reach as many people, but there can be a slight silver lining for me. Because of the publicity this received, I found a church that believes in the same open-armed ideas that I believe. I have had such a bad taste for organized religion and the stance they take with gay rights, abortion, and many other ideas, that I haven't found a church with my ideals. So, on Sunday, I plan on attending church at the United Church of Christ.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


I think my new neighbors across the hall are smoking weed tonight. We have never had problems with smells coming into our apartment until tonight. And of course, it is weed. Since we are overly reasonable people, we do nothing about it the first time. But we have discussed it, and we will act if it happens again. (Good of us to be so strong, right? Putting our foot down and all.)

It is not that I am against weed. It is not that I don't want people to do what they want with their lives/brain cells/intelligence, but I just don't want smells in my apartment. Last year in our old apartment, we lived above a family who only cooked smelly garlic and vegetables. I wanted to die. It was as if garbage lived with us. We've had no problems until tonight. I want the smells to stop, please.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Making Copies

It is amazing what a little neon paint will do for a business. Take the newest copy shop to my little Iowa town. I noticed the neon pink "3 cents a copy" months ago and remembered it when it came time to copy my Christmas letter. My copy shop is in a semi-abandoned strip mall. I walk in not really expecting a KINKOS, but getting so much less than that.

Now, I don't want to sound negative because this is my new favorite place in town for so many reasons. First, I am a rescuer. It is in my nature to help others when they so desperately need help. This little copy shop needs help. Let me create a mental image for you...

You walk in. There is a young man, early twenties working behind the counter. He is a tad hairy on the face and in need of a good combing. I can see and hear that I have interrupted some sort of video game on the computer...probably a role-playing game. The copy shop does not have signs clearly labeling the capabilities of this copy shop. Instead, it has multiple copies of all sizes of Asian animation. A customer must admire these animations in order to understand that lamination, enlargements, and color copies are available. The rescuer in me wants to put up clear and concise signs stating what is available in services at this strange, little copy shop.

Part of me believes that this copy shop cannot be real. It has to be "a front" for something else. It is as if this young man bought himself a copier, some ASTRObright paper, and a sweet laminator and said, "Hey, I'll open my own business and make some copies while I play my wizardy type games all day."

He was so pleased when I returned today with as he calls it, "The biggest order that he has ever filled." All I wanted was 23 copies of my Gift-From-the-Heart cookbook that I had compiled for some Christmas gifts. I wanted the covers laminated, and the book bound. When he showed me the first copy, he was as proud as my ten year old students showing me their work. I said, "Good job!" Just like I say to my ten year old students showing me their work.

I am glad that I found my Asian Animation-I just opened my own copy shop-local copy shop. I will always give him my business. Plus, it is 3 cents a copy!