Auntie Shelley, Iowa, USA

I don’t know if I have any.

For one, I am 35 – very nearly 36 – and I consistently feel as if I’m fresh out of college. Despite my increasingly creaking joints, utter lack of social life, and the blatant aging evident to me every time I work with my high school kids, I still think of myself as young and hip and cool and just starting out.

Two: I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I work in nonprofit, sure. But that’s more where my resume has landed me than what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. I can do a lot of things fairly well, but nothing exceptionally well.

Three: (more…)


I’ve been a very bad blogger. I fell off the writing wagon and the futher I fell, the harder it became to come back again. But thanks to a gentle nudge from Ruth and the anonymity of figuring most of you have something better to do on this between-holidays weekend than pay any attention to me, I’m back.

 As a warning, this is a very long and emotional post. (more…)

autumn waves 2
Originally uploaded by auntieshelleyk

This is politics in Iowa.

I thought I’d offer a (very) little education about our caucus system – from my own experience.

First off … this photo is of my caucus site. An elderly couple who live on a farm a couple miles south of our little town have hosted the caucuses for our party and district since I moved back home at age 30.

My first experience at a caucus was here. As one of the youngest in the group, and as someone who could type without watching her fingers, I was quickly designated the secretary for the evening. Mostly because it wasn’t my first time seeing a laptop computer and I knew how to run the danged thing. (more…)

As a lifelong Iowan, I admit I get a little thrill from our quadrennial domination of the political scene that is the caucus season. Our first-in-the-nation caucuses bring all the candidates to town – every single town – with the kind of doting attention that is terribly flattering and often annoyingly condescending (click on the radio spot under “on the air in Iowa” at if you don’t believe me).

I’ve been called by neighbors who want me to consider caucusing for their favorite candidate. I’ve been called by professional telemarketers requesting contributions, and I’ve been called by a major university’s political science department – twice – to participate in a poll.

This is all part of modern-day politics and I accept that and play my role as best I can.

However, I am getting fed up – to the gills – with the expectation that I boil my beliefs down to a sound bite. This is the actual question I was asked by a recent pollster:

“I am going to read a list of issues. Please tell me which ONE is the most important to your vote for president in 2008. Abortion, agricultural policy, economy, education, energy policy, environment, global warming, gay marriage, health care, immigration, Iraq War, or terrorism?” (more…)

What I’ve been up to for the past week: 

I had minor surgery a week ago. Outpatient, only a couple hours long. I went shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond on the way home.

This past Saturday, six days post-op,  I went through a depressive freak-out of pubescent proportions. Now, I happen to have gotten pretty good at recognizing my depressive cycles over the past few years, so I lucked out and was able to work my way through it. 

But, I’m a little ticked off that no one – not the surgeon, my doctor, the surgical nurse, my sister who works for an outpatient surgery center – no one mentioned post-surgical depression.


Looking back, I notice that food has been a big part of what I’ve written about since joining this project. I feel like I should explain, as I realize I’ve put off writing about this particular detail.

I am fat.

And before you pinch an inch on your own hips, please let me specify: I am morbidly obese. At my last doctor’s appointment they had finally bought a new scale for the office: One that was capable of measuring weights over 350 pounds. So I found out that I have, in fact, gained back every ounce of the 84 pounds I managed to lose 2 years ago.

But you’ll forgive me if I hold back on the actual numbers. I seem to be chickening out right now.

Regardless, I have recently started changing my eating habits. Drastically. Now that I am officially past the most trying portion of quitting smoking and am (today) nine weeks completely smoke-free I have, for the last two weeks, been making significant changes in how and what I eat.

I’m finding great joy in working for my food. I’m eschewing pre-packaged and ready-to-eat for down-home and made-it-myself. I am not counting calories or fat grams or carbs. But I am trying to make sure that the ingredients listed on a label have three or fewer syllables.

This means, a lot of days, I have egg salad and fruit smoothies all day long. Others, like today, I really get a bug up my butt and commit a few hours to a treat.

I have just made – for the first time – a batch of organic whole-wheat tortillas and I have a skillet full of mashed-em-by-hand refried beans simmering on the stove. My arms and back ache from kneading, rolling, and mashing and I have a small burn on my left thumb but I’m obscenely excited. Isn’t that strange? I’ve made myself happy by working for the last two-and-a-half hours for a refried bean burrito. Something I could have picked up for $1.99 in the refrigerated case at any gas station and warmed up for 2 minutes in a microwave.

I think what I’m doing is embracing the idea that I’m worth the work. I’m not cooking for my family or friends. I’m cooking for me. I’m going out of my way to make nutritional and delicious food for myself because it’s good for me, and I think just maybe I deserve the attention.

This is Shelley, 35 and worth the work in Iowa.

 When I was 30, I actually posted a profile on a recipe-exchange web site. Today, I found it.

I just thought I’d post it here so that I have something to remember those days by:

“I’m temporarily unemployed, so I’ve come home to live with my parents while my mother undergoes treatment for cancer. Meanwhile, I make dinner for my parents, my sister, her son and whomever else in our large and close-knit family cares to stop by. After living on my own for 12 years, the switch from cooking for one in an urban apartment to cooking for five in the midwestern countryside has been an adjustment … but I’m loving the challenge and finding new recipes to keep the troops happy.

“I’ve discovered canning this fall, having never done it before … and I’m loving it. Since I’m home all day I tinker around in the kitchen, using up the apples we have on a couple of trees around the farm and whatever else I can get my hands on. Apple sauce, apple butter, spiced apple rings, apple tomato salsa, apple-red pepper chutney, pear chutney, grape jam, apple- wild plum-grape jam, dilly beans and pickled carrots (kinda made that recipe up … have to wait and see how it turns out.) It’s been a great creative outlet and I’ve got a stockpile that looks decorative and welcoming in our hoosier cabinet and will make fantastic gifts this Christmas.”

So much has changed and so much has stayed the same … but that’s for another  post.

 This is Shelley, 35 and reminiscing in Iowa.

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