Saturday, September 20, 2008

I popped . . .

My double stroller tire. I have a Phil & Ted's Sport and the tires are all air-filled which makes walking really enjoyable. Usually on Saturday, I take the boys for a nice long walk in the stroller. I look at houses and listen to music, Z1 chatters away and sings to himself, and Z2 just cools out. So around 4:00 PM, I wrassle Z2 into the stroller because the brother really hates being strapped into anything. I head out. Along the way, I notice that a car repair shop is open and so I figure I might try to get them to help me put some air in the tires. There were three mechanics: two young ones and an older one who I think owned the place. One of the young ones comes over to help me and asks the older one permission to fill the tire. The older one tells me that I have to take the children out of the stroller but after struggling to get Z2 in there, I really don't want to. So I tell him that it's okay, that I've filled it before with them in there and it was not a problem. He is not having it and says to the younger guy that if I don't take the kids out, that I should do it myself because "I don't want nobody coming after me". Now, I don't know who crossed him before but isn't such a damn shame that in this society we live in, you can't trust people anymore? I really didn't want to do it myself as I had on a not-so-comfortable skirt and I didn't want to mess up my hands. But whatever, the guy got the hose out for me. It was a strange looking hose and I had to fiddle with it quite a bit. A first I was just taking air out of the tire and then I realized that the other nozzle would probably put air into the tire. So I finally get the air pumping and I'm about to take the nozzle off to check the pressure with (oh so cute, bought specifically for this purpose) pressure gauge when **PLAM**. The tire explodes. Shit. Not only am I embarrassed as hell (because it looks like I don't know what the hell I'm doing even though I've done it tons of times before) but my tire is busted. I can't even patch it. That's how busted it is.

I call the hubby. He asks how it happens and I tell him and he says, "Well, I can't do anything from work, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" and I say to myself, "Self, now why did you waste your time calling him? . . . you knew what he would say." So I call around to some other folks to see if I can get some numbers to somewhere--just trying to figure out what to do next. I'm rolling my broke down stroller the two or three blocks it takes to get back home. I get my niece to get me the number to a baby store where they carry my stroller and I find out they don't carry parts but that any bike store would. The only bike store I know is two towns over. Meanwhile, the hubby has called me like 4 times already while I'm on the phone. I'm finally call him back like, "Yes?" And he says, "There's a bike store on the avenue"--I cut him off because I'm already driving to the one I know. Why didn't he volunteer this info when I called him? Whatever.

By the time I get to the bike store, The Z's are knocked out cold. Darn it. Z1 has no bladder control when he's sleeping. Anyway, I put Z2 on my back and Z1 in the single stroller and go and get a new tube. Z1 is still sleeping. I head over to the grocery store across the street but then decide to go back to the bike store to get a pump because honestly, I'm tired of folks snickering at me and asking me if I know what I'm doing when I go to the gas station to put air in the tires. Z1 is still sleeping. Of course, he's peed on himself. Great.

I was planning to make some cornbread following this recipe from perhaps my favorite food blog Nyam: Adventures in Cooking and Eating. Would the grocery store have some simple, plain old corn meal? Of course not. That would be too easy.

The day would have been a complete bust if three things had not happened earlier:
1. We went to the thrift store and I was able to score 5 books for a dollar a piece:The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. I've read The Kite Runner and Memoirs of a Geisha before but they are definitely ones to have in the library and to re-read. I'm looking forward to reading the other three after I get done with what I'm reading now (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).
2. We went to get Z1 some sneakers that he could wear with thicker socks for the fall. The price on the box read $29.99 but they rang up $20.73. WooHoo. It's great to be a "preferred customer" even though I'm not sure what qualifies me for that. Granted, these sneakers are themed sneakers (Disney Pixar's Cars) and they light up but Z1 was so pleased with them, I couldn't deny him. He's never even seen Cars but I guess he likes the character (Lightning McQueen).
3. We went to the playground and after we were there for a while, my good friend and her two kids arrived quite unexpectedly. Oh, Z1 was beside himself and it was such a joy to see how lovely and nice her two babies are growing, so tall, healthy and beautiful. My friend and I re-committed to seeing each other regularly again.

So overall, it was a good day with some bumps. The boys have been down almost an hour. The kitchen is clean. All the towels and table linens have been changed. I'm about to make a cup of tea and relax until the hubby gets home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Emergency Preparedness

It has been in my spirit for many months now to become prepared for an emergency. Life is busy and hectic and so I haven't really made a concerted effort to focus on emergency preparedness. A sistren of mine forwarded a long-list of emergency preparedness tips to me eons ago. I will be reading it over again and taking steps to prepare. The water filter, I think, is one good step in the right direction. I also want to make sure that my pantry is very well stocked. I will be organizing and preparing even though in the case of an all out disaster, no amount of preparedness may help. Doesn't hurt to try. I hope we never have to live through a disaster, though. But after Hurricane Katrina, I realize that disaster is always a possibility.

The time right now is very crucial. There are changes happening all over and we all need to be prepared physically, mentally and spiritually. Sometimes when I start to worry about things here in the States, I get antsy and in my mind I start to think that it would be best to just leave. Move to Ghana or something. I don't want to live in a police state. I don't want my children to suffer. I want to be free. But in reality, the world is one place. There is no escape. We have to make the place where we are the place where we want to be, if that make sense.

I found this site which gives tips of the day. I'm going to put our car kit together and get our water supply together this weekend. Anyway, if you know of any other good sites for emergency preparedness (practical not alarmist), please forward them to me.

Filtering Water

So two years ago when I went back to work, one of my foremost goals was to get a water filter. While the water in my town is pretty good it still smells like chlorine, I worry about lead in the pipes and fluoride (which I believe is not to be ingested) and I hate the way the water tastes. I wanted something that was pretty comprehensive in terms of what it removed from the water and had settled on a reverse osmosis filter from Multi Pure. Well, that job pretty much took over my life and for the few months I worked it, I didn't do anything beside work so I forgot about the water filter and we've been using bottled water--drinking almost a bottle a day. I remember learning a while back that bottled water may only be nominally better than regular old tap water not to mention the amount of waste that accumulates from water bottles (although we do recycle them).

There are issues with the reverse osmosis (RO) system though. The first issue is logistic. We have an old enameled cast iron sink. We'd have to hire someone to drill a hole so that we could install the RO system. Another issue is that since our kitchen is quite old, the pipes underneath the sink are leaky. It's a bit crazy under there. Stuff is held together with putty and ropes and stuff. I'm not sure how an RO system would fare under there. Furthermore, in another couple of years, we'd like to redo the whole kitchen. At that time, we could have the RO system installed. The second issue is that RO systems remove all minerals from the water (including the mineral I want removed: fluoride). I believe we need some of these trace minerals. One way to take care of that problem is to buy trace minerals and add it to the water or take it just like you would any other supplement. I *hate* taking supplements and I would just loathe having yet another supplement to take but I guess it wouldn't be too hard to filter a pitcher of water and add the minerals to them.

So in the meanwhile, I think we will just go ahead an get a Multi Pure on-the-counter filter. I've done the research and Multi-Pure is a stand up company who I feel very comfortable buying from. We will recoup the cost of the filter in less than a year (since we drink about 1 bottle of water daily). To the hubby, this is an exciting prospect and it makes purchasing it very sensible all-around. In 7-year's time, when we go to renovate the kitchen, I will get the RO unit and the on-the-counter unit will have (hopefully) served us well.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Today's Green Smoothie

Yesterday I went to the market and decided to branch out from the kale and spinach that I've been using exclusively to make my green smoothies. I bought some red Swiss chard and also some dandelion greens (in addition to my regular greens). This morning, I used the Swiss chard for the smoothie and it was delicious. Here's the recipe.

One ripe mango, peeled and flesh taken off the seed
1 cup pure water
Juice of one lemon
One bunch Swiss chard
2 bananas

Blend in Vitamix till smooth. It was quite good.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to these green smoothies. One school says it's best to have a larger percentage of greens than fruit. The other school, of course, says the opposite. I don't know what school I belong to yet but I really enjoy fruity green smoothies although I don't mind the slight bitterness of really green ones.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Has got to be my favorite book of all time. I cannot even keep count of how many times I have read it and I just finished it again last night.

I'm an Igbo girl cut off from my culture. I'm not sure if my parents did this on purpose although I think they did. It wouldn't be a stretch to say they were fanatically Christian (with all the fervor of youth that has now dissipated to make them much more moderate in their older age). Growing up, going to my father's town (village) meetings was something he frowned upon. Yam festivals were summarily dismissed as "pagan rituals". Masquerades were something that was frowned upon along with any other "fetish" things such as herbs and roots, spells and incantations by the local "witch doctor". I remember my father telling a story about how he used to suffer immensely with bouts of malaria (my Dad does not have the sickle cell trait which, they say, provides some kind of defense from the illness). His mother would scrape together what she could to go to the native doctor, to collect the roots and things to make a medicine for him. It must have tasted awful. But it kept him alive till he turned 21 when, he says, Jesus healed him completely and permanently after he decided during one particularly nasty episode to solely rely on Him and not his mother's roots. He always made his mother's roots seem vile, backwards, wicked and, worse yet, impotent. Yet it kept him alive all those years.

Anyway, I've never attended a traditional wedding. We visited Nigeria a total of two times while growing up. My parents did not teach us to speak Igbo although since I was an only child for 5 years before my sister came along, I understand it quite well and, with some serious thought, can speak a bit. My grandfather's funeral was my first glimpse into some aspect of traditional Igbo life and I absorbed it like a parched desert absorbs water. I kind on envy my cousin who had her traditional wedding in Nigeria some months ago. Oh, to be steeped in culture.

So, when I read this novel, I get little bits and pieces of that culture. It makes me feel connected even though many aspects of that culture have been destroyed. Oh, there are remnants such as traditional weddings and burials but all the spiritual aspects have been replaced by Christianity. To me, it makes these rituals hollow but, in the end, it's better than forgetting about the rituals altogether and it helps us remember who we are as Igbo people. Our identity. Well-established, rich and royal. Long before the coming of the European. Yes, there is conflict about some of our practices such as throwing twins away into the Evil Forest (which is, perhaps, the most disturbing for me) but I believe with my whole heart that every culture, even in a vacuum, eventually evolves. Because humans evolve. And humans make up culture.

The main character, Okonkowo, reminds me so much of my father. I love to imagine that I was there experiencing life in Umuofia. That I painted myself with cam wood and all that. :)

Of course, this novel is *HIGHLY* recommended reading. It is thought-provoking and intense. And just a masterfully told story.
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