Monthly Archives: January 2015

A grassroots movement to change our Homeowners Association Board

Karol and I purchased a house in a very nice neighborhood about 8 years ago. Before that she was stationed in Pennsylvania, and I was living in a little three-bedroom house I had purchased after my divorce. I loved that little house because it was something I bought on my own with my own credited and just my income. It felt like a major accomplishment to be able to provide that for my kids. It was a very small house in a working class neighborhood and I loved it.

I was a single working mom, and my kids went to daycare at a Baptist church just outside the neighborhood. While at the daycare my younger son became good friends with one of the other boys and was invited to a birthday party. When I took The Genius to the birthday party I just thought their house was the most elegant and beautiful home I had ever been in. I drove around the neighborhood and just fell in love with it. The houses were pretty, there was an elementary school in the neighborhood, a pool, tennis courts, and it was clean and tidy. It was just a very pretty place, and I wished I could live there.

Fast-forward about 6 months, and Karol was up for orders. We wanted her back in Virginia, so she chose to go back to sea duty and was able to get orders back to Hampton Roads. We were ecstatic and I started looking for homes. Of course the first place I looked was in the neighborhood that I had fallen in love with and a realtor and I started looking at houses. There was one house I really liked, but unfortunately by the time my realtor was able to write up a contract and get it to their realtor, the house was already under contract. What a bummer. So Karol and I expanded our search area and started looking in Hampton as well as Chesapeake and Suffolk. We actually started looking into building a house in Hampton, and gave them a down payment, and then I realized (thank goodness) that the house was being built on wetlands, so although we were promised a ¼ acre lot, 90% of the ¼ acre was on wetlands and we could not utilize it as a backyard. Since this was not disclosed to us when we made our down payment we were able to get out of that deal, and found ourselves back at square one.

However, as it turns out the house I really loved in Suffolk was available because the buyers had not been able to secure financing. Their loss was my gain, and Karol agreed to let me start paperwork to buy the house. It is the house we live in now, and it was in the neighborhood I fell in love with, Burbage Grant. We moved into this neighborhood in July 2006, and spent that summer getting acclimated to a new neighborhood, and a new town. The next summer our youngest two kids joined the neighborhood swim team, and had such a great time hanging out with their friends from school during the summer. It was a wonderful experience for my kids, and we became a part of the swim team “family”.

HOA

Unfortunately there was some pushback from some of our community leaders against the swim team and we had a very bad experience with the Homeowners Association Board, which I wrote about. Because of the negative, and very public way the HOA Board opposed the swim team, the parents got together and decided to start a grass roots movement to unseat the board and oust the negative board members who had been on the board for at many years with no opposition. In fact, the people who live here had become so apathetic because we did not feel the HOA Board was reasonable, that no one even bothered to show up to the annual meeting to try to make a change. It wasn’t until a group who has a shared interest in something they value felt threatened, that we were able to get the ball rolling for change. One of the parents stepped up to run for a seat on the board, and other neighbors who supported the swim team but did not have kids on the team also stepped forward. The team parents gathered their momentum, and proxies, and we successfully voted in a new HOA Board that was more positive towards the team. Democracy is a beautiful thing.

We thought this would move the neighborhood forward in a positive way, however we were wrong. The previous HOA President took every opportunity to speak negatively about the new board, and even started quite nasty threads on a Facebook page. He made snide comments about the newly appointed board president, and called him out publicly on several occasions. He accused the new President of not understanding the HOA finances, and spending money thoughtlessly, and not being a team player, amongst other things. He rallied supporters and they would attend each monthly Board meeting with the intention (at least that is how it appeared) of undermining the President at every turn. This caused a very clear divide in the neighborhood and people started bickering publicly on Facebook. Talk about a public way to bring down our house values!!!!

Well, I am glad to report that just this week we had our annual meeting. It was extremely well attended, and both sides of the debate brought in people and proxies so they could attempt to sway the vote one way or the other. The old guard was not successful, and again for the 2015 year we have people on our HOA Board who believe in community unity and family activities, as well as fiscal responsibility. I can only hope that with this second round of the community speaking quite loudly the troublemaker will finally slink away and realize his time is done.

I love democracy, and the ability to make changes with voting and canvassing. This is our democratic process in action, and it makes me proud that I believe in something so much that I am willing to fight for it!!

I am a feminist, and I don’t hate men!

Yes, I know, that may confuse some people.  A great many people think feminists are crazy radical women who don’t shave their armpits or legs, and carry on about how men are awful human beings who don’t deserve to be alive, and should just be servants to womankind forever.  Or something like that…..

First of all, as the mother to two teenaged boys who will someday be men, and a stepmother to a wonderful young adult who is already a man, that is the farthest thing from my mind.  If I hated men, wouldn’t I see my sons (i.e. future men) in that light?

However, to be perfectly honest, if I was brave enough to deal with the negative social feedback and nasty stares from people at the gym, I would NEVER shave my legs in the winter.  I just think that extra hair would keep me warmer….. however, I shave because I am not that brave……yet.  Maybe after I turn 50 in October I won’t give a shit about the social stigma.   There is always hope……

But back to the task at hand…..discussing feminism.

I am a double major Bachelor’s student at Old Dominion University.  I was a Psychology Major and then just for fun, I took an elective called Intro to Women’s Studies.  My professor for the class was a woman named Robin Ormiston.  Robin is an amazing Professor, and opened my eyes to so many things that I knew, but never really gave deep thought and attention to before.  Well, I started to give LOTS of things deep thought and attention once I started learning more and more!

So I decided to take on Women’s Studies as a second major because I think I can do something with a degree in Psychology and Women’s Studies to make an impact on the planet in which I live. Something to benefit the lives of women and hopefully make a difference. To be honest I really want to work with women of color in some capacity, because I believe white privilege exists (a post for another day), and I have a deep desire to do something to end that and to bring all women to equal status in our society, and abroad.

So what I have  learned about myself is that I am a feminist.  I have always been a feminist, I just wasn’t sure how to articulate that in a meaningful way.  Now I can put knowledge and my education to use to stand up for what I have always believed, but didn’t know how to bring it into my way of life, or speak about it in a meaningful way.  Now I have the knowledge from classes as well as my own research to do that.

Created by http://rebeccacohenart.tumblr.com/

Created by http://rebeccacohenart.tumblr.com/

Interestingly there are many, many people who don’t share my vision, or agree with my ideas.  Last year on Facebook, someone accused me of being like the guy at the bar in Good Will Hunting.  At first I was like, that is great, he thinks I am like Matt Damon, someone who thinks for myself, and can show that I am intelligent.  Then I realized he meant I was the ponytail guy who just reads stuff and “regurgitates” it without really knowing what I am talking about.  That actually hurt my feelings.  Because I DO know what I am talking about.  I am not so simple minded that I can’t read, and research, and formulate my own opinions about things like white privilege, and the wage gap, and the horrible way the media works against women and girls, and the genocide of Native Americans and forced sterilization of poor (mostly black) women.  I am almost 50 (as I am prone to say pretty frequently).  I have spent 20 years in the military.  I have been a single mom, and  I actually owned a house in an African American neighborhood in Chesapeake Virginia for 18 months. My two boys were the only white kids in each of their classes, and to be honest I thought it was a good experience for them to be the “minority” for a change.  In fact, I only moved from there because Karol moved back to Virginia from Pennsylvania and we needed more space than my small three bedroom house,  for our newly blended family of 6.

Then in class yesterday another student articulated what I feel about feminism in a two word response.  She said she believes feminism is “Common Sense”.  It was as if the sky opened and light shone down from the heavens.  COMMON SENSE!  YES!!!

So I want to list some of the “Common Sense” ideals feminists (including myself) strive for:

Equal pay for equal work….of course

Clean water no matter where you live or your economic status…….yup

No more gendered violence…..yupper

Treating humans with respect and dignity no matter their race, gender, orientations, ethnicity, economic status, etc etc etc….absolutely

The right to live as we choose……yes

Women have the right to be in charge of their own bodies: size, shape, contraception (or not), decision to have children (or not), and most importantly have agency over what happens to their bodies……..without a doubt

Unearned privilege is a system that oppresses and subjugates and marginalizes and should be removed from society………correct

That is just a few, but truly this blog is long enough, and I can write whatever I want here, so this topic can definitely be revisited whenever I want…..MWUAHAHAHA  I have the POWER!!!!!!!

I_Have_The_Power

Thank you Robin!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Stone Soup Recipe

As I have talked about before, my lovely Karol really enjoys cabbage.  So to please her I made Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls a few weeks ago when the boys were visiting their dad because the Universe knows, there is no way they would eat food with cabbage in it….sigh…..

When I made the cabbage rolls recipe, I only used half of the head of cabbage so I told her I would make some cabbage soup.  I was intrigued by some soup I had when I visited my mother during Thanksgiving, and hers had cabbage in it.  I enjoyed it and thought Karol would too.  As I looked over the recipe my mother gave me, I thought, “hmmmm, I bet I could change this up some.” I like to experiment in the kitchen, and really I think just taking stuff out of the refrigerator and throwing it together in a somewhat coherent fashion to make something yummy is fun, and challenging to boot.

Have I ever mentioned that in my youth I dreamed of being a chef?? For some reason my father dissuaded me.  He said it would be difficult for me because chefs had to lift really big heavy pots….hmmmmmm.  Somehow I think he just didn’t want me to be a chef….

So I decided to look through my refrigerator and make some soup ala “Chopped” style by just using what I had on hand…

And I ended up making what I am calling “Stone Soup”.  The name comes from the folk tale of a traveler who used a little trickery to create a lovely meal for an entire village:

Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.

“There’s not a bite to eat in the whole province,” he was told. “Better keep moving on.”

“Oh, I have everything I need,” he said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

“Ahh,” the soldier said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage — that’s hard to beat.”

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he’d retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. “Capital!” cried the soldier. “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king.”

The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.

So this is my:

STONE SOUP

1 tbsp olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

2 tsp minced garlic

4 chopped carrots

2 stalks chopped celery

1 package turkey kielbasa

2 to 3 potatoes, chopped into bite sized pieces

1 can beans (I used great northern, but kidney would be nice also)

8 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in Dutch oven or large pot. Cook onion until translucent. Then add carrots, celery, potatoes, and kielbasa and cook until veggies are softened and meat is browned. Add chicken stock. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Season to taste.

To me, the most important part is cooking all the veggies and meat together until you get those little browned bits in your pan. Then when you put the stock in, scrape up the brown bits, they will add a LOT of flavor. I did not add ANY seasoning to this soup, as the kielbasa and veggies flavored it enough. It was really quite delicious.

I shared some with the NewYorican, and she loved it so much she made it for her family the next day!  I am making it for dinner this week also.  It is perfect with a little baguette for sopping up the lovely flavors!

Enjoy!!

all the veggies and meat browning up and "shaking hands".  Getting yummy!!!

all the veggies and meat browning up and “shaking hands”. Getting yummy!!!

 

Finished product.  Hearty and delicious!!

Finished product. Hearty and delicious!!