Saturday, April 25, 2009

Moving to

After all, this is really meant to be my journal ... I like sharing with folks, but not everything. But I don't want to self-censor my journal because it's on the Net -- journalling is too good for my mental and spiritual health. Livejournal allows me to pick and choose which posts to make public, semi-public (to designated friends), or for my own eyes only, so I can journal freely, without a separate paper book, posting just the public stuff publicly.

So here's the address in case you'd like to follow ... the latest (public) post is about the fun family sing we had at my mom's house last night, with a visiting cousin who's a terrific musician.

Friday, April 24, 2009


I could spend money on a gym membership ... spend money on a tanning salon or bronzers ... spend money to pay someone to maintain my yard ... spend money on flavorless, pesticide-laden, petroleum-guzzling produce at the grocery store ... and spend all the money I can come up with on the PMS, it still wouldn't fix it.

Or I could garden.

Hmmmmmm......... I pick gardening.


The house ... my future

My realtor just e-mailed me ... expecting an offer on the house over the weekend. *sigh* Now that I've gotten resigned to the need to get a real job ... now that I've gotten the veg garden all plowed up and ready to plant ... now that my neighbor is trying to help me rent out the basement because she doesn't want me to leave.... I still need to pray on it. I don't have a job, yet. I am taking money from my brother, from T. I love this place and this little town, but won't God have something better in store for me if I let go of it? Does just the fact of feeling reluctant to let go mean I should let it go? i.e., I'm clinging to property, to a location, to a house and yard, when really all good things come from God alone. Only in letting go of the old can we receive something new and more valuable. I would be free again ... I could contact the nuns again, I could go off to Florida to the school for missionary farmers, I could rent a little cottage or trailer on 200 acres somewhere if I am willing to give up my little half acre. I could have 25 chickens and a couple of nanny goats, maybe, someday, if I'm willing to give up my little urban garden plot.

How to decide, then, if clinging is disallowed? I don't expect the offer to come in at the asking price ... how much am I willing to walk away with? What are right criteria? Enough to catch up on my bills, pay back my friends, and make the quarterly tax payment I skipped last week, and pay a security deposit on a country cabin somewhere? Enough for a year's rent in case I don't figure this all out by end of August, when my current income stops?

PRAY, girl, pray. I'm in full-blown PMS, but I've also just gotten lazy, distracted, disorganized, and off track. I haven't even prayed Vigils for days, much less any of the other hours. Time to go pray. I am off center. My house is a mess. My garden is still 8 empty beds. Focus ... pray. I cannot figure this out in my head, I have to still the racket, clear the clutter, so God can speak to my heart.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tragedy update

If you missed the last post, the tragedy was one of those incredibly horrific murder-suicides, a man who killed his wife & 3 small children, and then himself. Friends of my brother and sister-in-law.

I finally talked with my SIL. The slain woman was a close friend. They were in a moms' group together; where she says in her last blog post, "I volunteered to serve on the board of my Moms Club," that's my SIL's position she was going to take over. They saw each other every day, and of course their kids were friends, too. My 6-year-old nephew took it harder, even though my 4-year-old niece was the one whose preschool class one of the little boys was in, but he has calmed down. They are much too young to understand.

I guess they went (at least my SIL and maybe my brother, but not the kids) to the Woods' parish church yesterday, and at first she was angry that they were praying for the father along with the rest of the family, but I am glad to hear that she came around to compassion for him, too. She hopes they are all in Heaven together -- he healed of his madness, the kids with their beloved father, Francie with her beloved (at least once upon a time?) husband.

He had bipolar disorder and had recently switched to a new medication. His job required him to travel during the week, so I guess warning signs would have been very easy to miss. He killed them the night he came home from his last trip. I have always heard that anti-psychotic meds are horrible, even totally non-functioning schizophrenics often prefer to live on the streets of D.C., getting robbed or locked up periodically for scary behavior, self-medicating on all kinds of street drugs and alcohol. Even if newer anti-psychotics are much better, not every drug works for every person. Might he have decided the meds were worse than the mania? My step-aunt has bipolar disorder, and she has always opted to medicate the hell out of the mania, even if it meant spending a lot of time depressed. Mania was terrifying, unbearable. I guess! how terrifying to know that this demon could drive a person to such an awful, bloody crime?

GOD, please have mercy on this poor, sick man, and on all of us who suffer from various mental illnesses, and from the family and friends, coworkers and neighbors, who suffer second-hand from our mental illnesses.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gardening happiness, and a bloody tragedy

I had my garden plot plowed up yesterday. I ended up with 8 nice-sized beds where I used to have 4. The paths between are smaller, naturally. I went today to try to get a pickup truck-load of mulch from Public Works, but there was hardly any there. Gee, I hope I won't have to buy mulch, I need a LOT to fill in the paths.

I mowed my neighbor's back yard with my tractor after church this morning, since it had gotten too long for her little push mower to handle and rain is predicted (again) tonight and tomorrow. Then this afternoon, I finished potting up the tomato seedlings and sowed peppers, eggplants, tomatillos and basil in a flat. Still plenty to do!

Tragedy ... a man killed his wife, their 3 little children, and himself, in my brother's little town an hour north of here. One of the little boys was in preschool with my niece. My sister-in-law is stunned (everyone who knew them is stunned). The mother had a blog -- she seems like a lovely, lovely person. I don't know how well they knew each other but she and my sister-in-law are Facebook friends. I haven't called yet ... I'm shocked. There is nothing to say but "I care".....

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More good news, in brief

I did my taxes yesterday (nothing like waiting till the last minute!). Unless I made some terrible mistake, I will actually get a refund for once. Wow. I will TRY to refrain from spending the refund before I get it, in case I did make a mistake ... but I don't think so! I think I will be getting some pennies from heaven soon (so to speak). Catch up on the electric bill! Replace the worn-out tire on my car! Get the car maintenance I've been deferring!

OK, this is very touching: the other day one of my neighbors came over. She said she had been walking home a few days ago and heard the rooster crowing, and just had an overwhelming feeling of being home. And that she doesn't want me to leave! She had lain awake in the morning brainstorming ways I could bring in some extra income so I wouldn't have to sell the house. She is going to help me find a tenant for the basement.

Then my realtor called this morning and said there's someone interested, may be an offer coming in soon. Well, I hope not to be selling the house after all ... I told her I'd had a very good job interview, and of course I'm still applying to others.... so I won't be considering any low offers, at least. Poor A, this will (hopefully) be the second time I've listed the house with her and then pulled it back off the market. I will have to keep her well supplied with heirloom tomatoes from the garden this summer, to try to make up for it.

Blessings to all who pass by here

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Job Interview #1

I had my first job interview today. It went very well! I very much liked the boss, as a person but most importantly, also as a boss. The emphasis and balance of responsibilities seems very attractive to me. The challenges I would walk into are ones I'm really happy to take on. Work-life balance seems to be well supported.

She'll be interviewing more candidates through this week, then her boss will re-interview a few selected finalists. I think she very much liked me for the job, too. If anything I'm a little overqualified, but not by so much as to disqualify me, and anyway she intends to try to get the job reclassified up another grade within the year. So ... good day! Now it's just waiting for more news.

There is nothing that affects job satisfaction as much as the relationship with the supervisor. I would be very happy to work for the woman I spoke with today. I hope I get offered the job!

Blessings to you
Regina Terrae

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter hostess

I hosted Easter dinner at my house yesterday for 24 members of my family. We usually do potluck for parties, but this time I offered to do all the shopping and cooking and just let them chip in for the groceries. I had a couple of reasons for it:

1, all our parties end up being the same -- they're terrific, I LOVE my family and we all enjoy hanging out together, and there are plenty of excellent cooks in the family -- but I wanted to do a special Easter feast, specifically for Easter (lamb) and specifically for early Spring (asparagus, greens, baby potatoes). I'm far and away the most religious member of the family -- there's nothing special about Easter to many or most of my people -- and I'm also the most hardcore local-seasonal-organic foodie, so if I didn't assume control of that special Easter meal it wasn't going to happen the way I imagined it.

2, I love to cook! Hospitality is something that I have discovered a love for in this past year. I enjoyed creating a welcoming, comfortable space for vacation renters, I had a great time hosting Fr. H's 80th birthday party, and I thought I would enjoy hosting yesterday.

3, I'm playing with the idea of cooking as a post-midlife-crisis career. I wanted to test myself. Fr. H's birthday was a sit-down dinner for 8, and I did well -- could I do a sit-down dinner for 20+?

I learned some lessons. First of all, when I first proposed it I didn't realize how badly I needed a boost in self-confidence. I needed to challenge myself and I needed to rise to the challenge. Since I've been looking for a way to make a living, I've been so conscious of my limitations -- the mental stuff, ADD & PMDD; the fierce moralism (mostly around economics) that makes it so hard for me to imagine working for a company or agency that I perceive as part of the problem instead of the solution. And the problem, as I see it, is so systemic that it's hard to find a way to get paid to oppose it. I was determined never to go back into the kind of bureaucratic number-crunching job I had before, but I'm discovering that I'm not (yet) qualified to get paid for anything I WANT to do. And meanwhile my friends are buying me dinner and slipping me cash to get me through this unemployment, and I am shamed by my helplessness. So I really needed a challenge to rise to, to build up some confidence.

I discovered how much I needed that by my emotional reaction to my mom repeatedly questioning how much I was spending on groceries and how we were going to divvy up the cost. I felt that she either didn't trust me to keep it reasonable or didn't have much confidence in me to pull it off, and it shot me straight into a weepy, dragging depression. My dad has had the same effect on me over the last year, again when I have felt him to be less than 100% supportive. Neither one of them is being overly negative, I'm just needy, I'm at a vulnerable stage in life when I'm trying to reinvent myself, letting go of the past and unclear on the future, it's an insecure place to be. I talked to my brother to get a second opinion on how I was handling the party and whether I was being too much of a control freak, or spending too much money, or whatever, and he reassured me. Finally, I told Mom that my feelings were hurt. She did a reality check with the same brother, and came back and apologized to me for "channeling [her] mother".... She said "I seem to be doing what drove me crazy when my mom did it." And, "I truly do trust you and am excited about the way you’re planning this whole thing." So we kissed and made up, and I felt better, and then too, it was happy resurrection Easter and not tragic crucifixion Good Friday any more (I really get into the Triduum), and I felt better. When I woke up yesterday morning, after 3.5 hours' sleep (late Easter Vigil mass the night before), I was confident and happy and did great through the morning.

Then Mom arrived, early, with extra folding chairs and tables and hot trays and carving platters, and that's when I totally lost control. Nothing at all to do with the confidence/no confidence issue, just that the presence of another person, asking "what can I do to help", shattered my focus. And the more people showed up, the more the whole thing broke down into chaos. Which leads to the second lesson, this one a more practical forward-building one. At first I thought the lesson was that I do better working alone (well, I already knew that) -- that I would make a better personal chef than caterer, e.g. But when I woke up this morning and pondered it for a while before getting up, I realized that what I should have done differently was to plan to delegate. I know that some guests will arrive early, and I know that they are family and expect to jump in and help, and by that time I've made the point that I am capable of pulling this off. But only if I stay clear on the overall process and don't let it all devolve into chaos. Mom tried to help me stay in charge (for example, trying to prompt me to step back from dishwashing, let someone else do that, and to look around and see what needed to be done next). But mentally, my focus was shattered, because I was not PREPARED to delegate. I had not built that phase of the party into my mental plan, and I was unable to do it on the fly. Now looking back I see what I should have, and could have, done differently. Just now, writing this, it also occurs to me that I (just like my mom!) was so entrenched in the old family-party model that I failed to give my family credit for adapting to this new plan, so I wasn't prepared for them to be ready to take direction, as I guess they pretty much were.

OK ... so anyway, the party was a terrific success. I was far enough along in my preparations by the time Mom showed up that I feel that I rose to the challenge I had set myself. There were leftovers of pretty much everything, but not huge amounts of anything, which means I did well with the shopping (except bread, I totally misjudged that -- luckily I got twice as much as I needed and not half). There was way too much dessert, but I didn't do the desserts, I let Mom and a sister bring those (4 pies and a cake! Yikes!). Family is never shy about divvying up the leftovers, so that's no problem. We didn't run out of anything, the meal was balanced, there were plenty of appetizers (again, just the right amount -- except too much bread). The weather was beautiful, but cool enough that it was SO worth it to take the (major) time and effort to wrap the screened porch with plastic (with T ... T, I love you, man). The lamb was a little more cooked than I would have liked, but flavorful and not at all dry. Sorry I let someone else make the hollandaise sauce, it didn't come out so well, but I still enjoyed it on the asparagus.

And the most important thing: my wonderful, wonderful, loving family enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sweet Relief

How many women do you know who are actually happy to receive their monthly visitor? Well, I am thrilled. I don't feel great, I've got cramps, but the fog is lifting. Whew. I am so glad to be really conscious for Holy Week, after all. It is a very powerful season for me.

I got called for a job interview this morning -- a bureaucratic job, but pays well, and it's at USDA -- agriculture being one of those things I am passionately interested in, and if I don't love everything USDA does, I am at least encouraged at the direction it seems to want to move in under Obama and Sec. Vilsack.

I am moving forward with an open mind. God has a plan for me, I don't know what it is and I don't need to know. I just have to empty myself of my own pushy will and pray that He puts His words in my mouth for the interview, and to also hear with His ears. If the job feels right, during the interview, and if it's offered to me, I'll take it with the understanding that in some way it will bring me closer to my dream, my true vocation. It'll get my finances straight, help me to buy a retirement mini-farm (hermitage?), add to my pension, and provide long-term care insurance, the one kind of insurance my old cushy job didn't offer. It'll give me a detailed understanding of the kind of grants USDA offers to small, sustainable, start-up, and/or community farms (whether I'd be making myself ineligible to apply as a retiree is a key question for the interview), and probably a broader acquaintance with innovative farms and farmers.

Thanks for the prayers, folks -- I think they're working, keep 'em coming!
Blessings to you

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Ups and the Downs

Today's more of a downer...... so far. Headache. Rainy and dark. Crow's starting to get broody and I haven't saved any eggs for her to set (I did break her up today, though -- she actually ended up laying one!) (Chickens stop laying when they get "broody", which means they're in the mood to sit on the nest and hatch the eggs out; to "break her up" means to get her to snap out of that mood). OK, so anyway, I guess on balance that's good news: she laid an egg after all, which I set aside out of the fridge, and I'm hopeful she'll lay at least a half dozen before going broody and staying broody. Last year it was the beginning of May. You can't imagine how cute baby chicks are, all tumbling after their mama around the back yard. Hopefully she'll lay some girlies this year!

See, I just needed to post in my journal to get in a better mood. And take some Excedrin for the headache. And my herbal PMS pills came in today's mail, so I have high hopes of feeling better. I cancelled the Rx for Abilify, cancelled the follow-up appointment with the shrink, and made an appt with an endocrinologist (hormone specialist). The first available appointment was for mid-May, so I will have time to see if these herbs do the trick. Another complete PMS cycle between now and then.

Meanwhile I self-medicate ... dark chocolate, red wine (hence the headache) ... I sleep more, thank God I have that option ... and I do not function very well. I can't think clearly. I tried to start doing my taxes today, but couldn't concentrate enough to even get started. I don't cook much, I don't remember to defrost something to cook, so I don't eat terrifically well. I sit at my computer all day, doing Sudoku puzzles, Text Twist, and reading blogs and everything related to Michelle Obama.

I got an update today on one of my gov't job applications: "Your application has been placed in the Best Qualified category and forwarded to the selecting official for further consideration." Well, that's encouraging! A realtor who LOVED my house the first time he showed it, showed it to another client last night. The first time, I came home while they were still here, and they were fascinated with the chickens (who wouldn't be! my cute little lawn ornaments). Yesterday I planted beets and kale and sage in the front entrance flower bed. That kind of thing seems to appeal to the kind of people who like my house: the veggie garden, the fruit trees (though young and small and not bearing fruit yet), the chickens, the big, fenced, sunny yard. It is a very peaceful place, it's hard to imagine it's inside the Beltway.

I had a nice weekend. Minimized the sitting at the computer. Worked in the garden. Spent time with T. Tried to describe to him what this PMDD feels like: it's like I see the world through a veil, and I feel it the same way ... I'm in a haze, my skin tingles (I guess because of the water retention). I find myself squinting and furrowing my forehead a lot, I'm not sure if my eyes are more sensitive, or it's the general free-floating tension, or -- maybe I am trying to narrow my field of vision, I can't handle so much sensory input at one time.

Anyway, sitting still does nothing for my mood. I should have taken Excedrin hours ago, and found some indoor work to do, and gotten off my duff. Well, once it kicks in I'll throw some dinner together, try to get a balanced meal in me. And drink herb tea.....

I am going to talk with a friend of mine, who is an out-of-work chef, about going into business together as "personal chefs". He's the husband of one of my very best girlfriends, and we're getting together Wednesday evening. It would be fun work, I could use it to spread the gospel of fresh, local, seasonal, healthy food, and G is well qualified where I am not so sure of my own qualifications. And his wife works in a place with lots of overpaid people who could afford personal chef services :) And my own backyard garden could be tied in as a source of some of the produce!

We'll see ... I haven't even talked with him about it yet, I've only spoken with his wife, so I don't know if he'll be into it. Hopeful, though. It does seem like an awful waste of a perfectly good mid-life crisis to go back into a job just like my old one.

Blessings to all who pass this way.
Regina Terrae

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Abbot Alban, Requiescat in Pace

Yesterday we buried Abbot Alban. He was 97 years old. He'd been the superior of this community for 30 years, from 1946 to 1975, when he retired. I didn't know him well, but I know he was loved and respected by the monks.

We sang and prayed and laid him to rest in the little monastery graveyard, on a bright Spring morning with such a whooshing wind in the tall cedars that we could not hear the Prior's speech over the grave, so each prayed in his heart for Abbot Alban's rest, and for his own soul to be safeguarded as the old monk's seemed to have been, until its journey home.

This favorite poem of Abbot Alban's (and of mine!), by John Donne, was printed on the program:
Holy Sonnet XIV
Batter my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend,
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee;'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am bethroth'd unto your enemie;
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe,
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.
Regina Terrae

Friday, April 3, 2009


I ended my last post, a couple of hours ago, saying that I was going to go out into the back yard, miserable in the throes of PMS (PMDD). I did, and so glad I did.

I took a book & a cup of wine out to the picnic table (yes, I know I said I gave up wine for Lent. I gave up computer games, too, and haven't managed it). The chickens came over to hang out with me, so I put the book down -- I wasn't really into it, anyway, the chickens are much more interesting. It was mostly cloudy, actually, and quite breezy, so I put on a jacket -- but it is decidedly spring-like weather, nothing like winter.

I ended up sitting out there for an hour or so, letting go of every thought, just enjoying the wind and the cloud forms and the birds, the cherry tree and tulip magnolia next door and the big weeping willow in my own yard, and the bigger oaks and catalpas and maples that haven't yet leafed out. Went up to get my breviary and prayed Vespers in the back yard.

Came back in, switched from wine to herb tea, washed the dishes so tomorrow morning will start off fresh, and came to post this -- what a peaceful time, the silence -- interior silence, openness, presentness.

I so want to be a hermit ... anyway, I am at my Lord's service. I trust Him to get me through this insecurity, and to show me the way I am to go. Well, I trust with some reservations, still -- Lord, help my lack of trust! But I will to trust, I will to depend on Him, I will to be His, entirely. Peacefully, simply.

OK, good night, now -- going back out on the porch with my cup of Sleepytime tea, then to pray Compline by 9:00, and into bed early.

Blessings to all who stop by here.

Regina Terrae

Mental health, female health (my health)

More on female hormonal issues ... so if the subject makes you squirm, this is a post to skip! Sorry, this IS my journal, after all, not a carefully edited selection of spiritual reflections or agricultural policy papers meant to edify the masses. Maybe someone out there will learn something useful ... these particular problems are not well enough studied or understood yet.

PMDD = pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder. It's pretty much defined as PMS taken to a debilitating degree, not so much the physical symptoms but the mental/emotional ones. It's not depression, exactly, although I can get briefly weepy. It's acute tension, and a total inability to concentrate on anything. Hard to define. I'm in a grey fog, and I just want to curl up in a ball and rock myself until my period comes and it all clears up again for a couple of weeks. I can't get to sleep at night, or I wake up at 3 A.M. and that's it for the night. I often get migraines this time of month, occasionally as much as every day for a week. I crave dark chocolate, sweet-tarts, and alcohol, and I feel very fatigued, and physically weak. I've been sitting in this chair pretty much all day, and I tried but failed to finish a job application that closed today. Anyway I feel like I could never function well in a job (specially not an office job, with the concentration problems) when I'm like this. And I'm like this half the time!

So I went to a shrink yesterday. A psychiatrist, because I wanted someone who can prescribe meds, unlike a psychologist or other mental health professional. The SSRI I was taking was helping somewhat, but PMDD is still kicking my butt -- less, but I'm still VERY aware when I have ovulated. (SSRI: anti-depressant that works on the neurotransmitter serotonin, the most common type of med prescribed for PMDD). But the shrink said that this particular SSRI, Serzone, has fallen out of favor because it can cause irreversible liver damage or even death, so he hasn't prescribed it for years. I was taking it because I wanted to try an SSRI for the PMDD, on the recommendation of a psychologist, I used to take this one for depression with good results, and my general practitioner didn't hesitate to prescribe it. So the shrink recommended that I taper off it and instead prescribed, not another SSRI, but an anti-psychotic mood stabilizer called Abilify. Anti-psychotic! Not another SSRI because I had tried most of them and ended up switching to Serzone, years ago -- mostly because of problems related to sex, and although I told him I am celibate now so that's irrelevant, he paid no attention and went straight to Abilify.

I took the prescription to the pharmacy, and dutifully halved my dose of Serzone last night. Then today I started googling Abilify and PMDD. WTF?? Not. I mean, I gather that it's a lot better than older anti-psychotics, but honestly, if the Serzone is working, why not switch to another drug in the same class? Abilify is prescribed for bipolar disorder (and schizophrenia), but these mood swings are clearly tied to my monthly hormonal cycles, this is NOT bipolar disorder. And anyway, if I took Serzone for years with no problems, am I not unlikely to develop problems now? It's not like it's been pulled off the market, and in googling it I don't find any more prominent scary warnings than most drugs carry. So I'm going to tell the pharmacy to please cancel the Rx for Abilify, go back to my regular dose of Serzone, and try to find an OB/GYN who knows something about PMDD. Oh, this is frustrating. It's not like, oh, I don't know -- a toothache, you know exactly who to call for that, and the dentist knows exactly how to treat it. This is just total trial and error.

Anyway ... meanwhile, I've ordered Estroven PMS over the internet (couldn't find it locally). It's an herbal supplement that has rave online reviews from users, including those diagnosed with full-blown PMDD. If it seems to help, then I may try tapering off the Serzone and see if the herbal supplement works well alone. Anyway, the Estroven PMS is quite inexpensive compared to the Rx, and since I may not have such terrific health insurance any more after August, that's something to think about. I did mention it to my nurse-practitioner and she thought it sounded good and safe. Fingers crossed!

OK, well it was pouring rain this morning but now the sun's out and it's like 70F out there, I think I will go curl up in a ball at the picnic table in the sun instead of in here at my computer......

yours truly
Regina Terrae

Thursday, April 2, 2009

7 things you may not know about me

I've been tagged! (This is so Facebook) :) Thanks to Michael at Love to Spare, here is my list of 7 facts about myself. I thought I'd better jump in fast, because many of my favorite personal bloggers have already tagged each other .... (I mean personal as opposed to news blogs, or the weather guys over at the Washington Post, or ObamaFoodorama e.g.)

The rules:
  1. Link to your original tagger and list these rules in your post
  2. Share 7 facts about yourself in the post
  3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and links to their blogs
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.
So with that out of the way, here are 7 facts about me:

1. I have been an Argentinophile since high school. I speak fluent Spanish, with a more or less Argentine accent -- it used to be totally Argentine, but over many years in a multi-national workplace it got diluted. I already had acquired that accent and fluency before I visited Argentina for the first time, in 1994, so I actually kind of passed for a local. That was thrilling! I have an extensive collection of Argentine rock and pop music dating up through my 2nd and last visit to Buenos Aires, in 1996. Pappo's Blues rules!

2. I used to sing in a samba band. That's how I learned most of my Portuguese, which I speak well enough to get along in conversation with a patient partner. I haven't been singing much lately, but I really should get something going...... church singing, preferably, not just because I'm religious but because I am NOT a night person.

3. I love, love, love to dance! Samba, salsa, merengue, calypso, reggae. My absolute favorite is Colombian bachata, a la Carlos Vives. Hmm, I don't do that nearly enough any more, either -- got to do something about that!

4. I love good food (OK, you already knew that one, LOL. Try again)
4. I am the 4th of 4 siblings, or the 6th of 7 if you count my steps, or really the 7th of 9 if you also count the steps on the other side, which I don't because they were my 2nd cousins before they were my stepsisters. Are you confused yet? LOL ... all the 1st marriages ended in divorce, my dad ended up married to my mother's cousin's ex-wife. No actual incest going on here! The beautiful thing about my family is that everyone loves everyone else. Last year we were all together near my stepmother's birthday, and she received a gift from my stepfather's ex-wife and her husband. Yes ... she received a gift from her husband's ex-wife's husband's ex-wife and her husband. And nobody blinked. I LOVE MY FAMILY! :)

5. I have lost the urge to travel (much). I want to put down roots, somewhere in the "Eastern Woodlands" ecoregion, preferably in or near Maryland where most of my family is, and though I love the sea it's the Appalachian mountains I really yearn for.

hmmm... 2 more .....

6. I can sit and pick & eat blue crabs for hours on end. I like them dipped in butter, but best is vinegar and Old Bay. An Old-Bay crusted beer bottle on one side, and at some point an ear of sweet corn to chomp on, for the rest a pile of steamed crabs and I'm a happy camper. So sad that the crab harvest has declined. It's those damn chicken factory "farms" polluting the waterways! I do hope and pray the damage can be stopped and reversed.

7. My mother's mother was Lebanese-Egyptian, my father's mother was a country girl from northern Vermont, and both grandfathers were hillbillies. Or at least, not more than first-generation out of the hills, with lots of family still to visit back home. One from southwest Virginia, the other from northeast Tennessee -- all of about an hour's drive apart on the modern Interstate highway. My mom grew up in D.C. and Latin America, a Foreign Service brat. My dad grew up in Tidewater Virginia, that's where I learned to pick crabs. I also inherited a love of Lebanese food and Appalachian music.

All right, that's it ... 7 bloggers who haven't already been tagged, hmm..... I'm going to have to go to Facebook and see if any of my family & friends are bloggers!

1. Sister Anne, at Nunblog
2. Sister Julie, at A Nun's Life
3. Grace, at Glynt Pottery
4. Meng-Hu, at The Hermitary
5. Heather, at New Cicada
6. Emily! at Emily's in the Rye
7. Amanda at Look Far

OK! A couple of these people know me in the face-to-face world, and one or two have never heard of me and I've never commented on their blogs. But I think they're all cool. Now, hopefully, they've all got "contact" links on their blogs, so I can let them know I've tagged them.....