Monday, December 28, 2015

2015: Dirt Edition

Everyone says they hate the “top ten lists” that pop up this time of year. But here's the thing: everyone is a liar. According to the analytics of #’s, G+, searches and everything else, y’all love love LOVE that shit. You can’t get enough. Please sir, you want some more, you want some more!

2014’s year in review is about digging into the dirt I didn’t know if I wanted anyone to see:

This year, I present to you my Top Ten Formative Moments in 2015. Chronologically. Kinda. These are also things I'm not necessarily excited to share.

1) January: I spent my first New Year’s Eve ever with friends, rather than Significant Other/Family. It was what I wanted to do. I was with a tribe of women than understood the things I vented because they have the same chimneys.

2) May: I lose my feelings. After a number of triggering events (having my tires slashed, then my car vandalized in my driveway, continuing to unravel the trail of identity theft that follows me, personal losses of those close to me), I stopped feeling things.

I am told that, medically, this is my brain kicking into overdrive with serotonin. It is a numbing helmet for my feelings so that I can function without collapse. I donate 11 inches my hair to locks for love. I watch Annie Hall for the first time. I reread Hyperbole and a Half. My experience is different from hers.

3) I travel to Vancouver. I see, with my eyes, where the 100 mile diet started. I see a baby male orca whale, 59 miles away from land. He is deformed and has been abandoned by his pod.

I learn that hormones in oral contraceptives stay in urine, go sewage plants, and remain in full chemical chains, in the ocean. The pill was hell on my system. I am unable to fathom the larger, oceanic impact. I cry about this at night. It is the first feeling I get back.

4) June: I work with one of my Dad’s former PhD students to finish a paper on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was a pet project of his, but I was too young to get it. In Sep. it’s accepted for publication. A colleague tells me, ‘it’s beautiful proof of the many ways in which a life is a collaboration.’ My feelings are back.

5) July: I join a book club at the Library. We read: Lila (M. Robinson), The Sense of an Ending (J. Barnes), Station Eleven (E. St. John Mandel), Her: a Memoir (C. Parravani), and Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore (R. Sloan). After the age of 30, It is momentous to make non-work friends. But I do.

6) September: The 100 Dirty Books Party. So much fun and love that the seams of my house stretch to accommodate. Drunken readings of Ginsberg that were filmed and will never be posted. A celebration of all our stories since the previous year’s party. Celebrating making it through another year.  

8) October Part 1: I wake to an unjust raid by a SWAT team at 5 am. They were looking for a man next door. My dog was kicked, furniture flipped, I’ve made complaints and someone will get back to me in 4-6 weeks.

Vet said my dog will be smelling the pheromones of the US Marshalls for who knows how long. He’s on Xanax. He gets better drugs than I do. His experience with this acute experience of fright is something I will never comprehend. I can make a narrative of it. He can’t, I don’t think.

9) October Part 2: My dad was living in England when he died. Of the few things his cold girlfriend allowed me, I got the blanket he began crocheting for when I was 13 (and the hook he carved). I also got his Absinthe spoon (which she for some deluded reason thought was his baby spoon. Have since made it into jewelry).
I couldn't touch the blanket until the day after my house got SWATed. This is the day I start working on it again.

7) November: Drive 4 hours, take a 90 minute train and a half hour cab to celebrate my friend’s memoir, Hook. It is the most important trip I’ve taken this year. It is the most important book I’ve read all year. Buy it at the link below.

10) December: I see my name in print, in a book, for the first time. A chapter called, “Beowulf and Aesthetic Nervousness: A Multidimensional Pedagogy.“ From sending the abstract to holding the book, it was 18 months. I want to learn how to respond to others’ writing with the generosity, kindness and belief that my editor showed.  

Zora Neale Hurston said that there are years that ask questions and years that answer.  2015: Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Ros Chast (More Perecca's Patio)

June 2015: Lila by Marlynne Robinson (Nico's RooftopThe questions and answers in the bounds of this year have given me hope, confusion, total apathy and total love. It has been full of life, both grotesque and beautiful, simple and as complex as Atari used to be, sweet and sour.  

Bring it on, 2016. What you got?

Read n Greet Book Club:

Dirty Books Party:

Hook. Buy it or I hate you. I'm not kidding:

The Book My Chapter is in, Lessons in Disability. If you can only buy one book, buy Hook, and then tell your library to buy Lessons in Disability:

Monday, December 21, 2015

DIY Gifts Part II: The Thank You Note

Does the idea of writing "thank you notes" make you feel (or look) like this? Even in our fast-paced, electronic world, one must still send them. The craft, and gumption, for the hand-written thank you note has largely fallen out of style. Fear not, gentle reader, I am here to tell you exactly what to do.

First, begin with a perfect, 8 line template (change as needed). The important thing is that it is handwritten (preferably with soy-based ink) on an elegant card or note paper (obviously recycled). 

The template looks like this:

Line 1: Dear _________,

Line 2: Thank you so much for the thoughtful gift of __________!
Line 3: It really means a lot to me that you thought of me, and sent me something so special during the crazy holiday season.

Line 4: I know ‘thank you notes’ are a bit archaic, but whatevs, I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you and feeling grateful for our friendship.

Line 5: (Now, this is the most important one): I’m not being cheesy, I really did appreciate _______..... So much so that I put (them/it) to fast use (as you can see in the enclosed picture).
Line 6: I/we had a lot of fun with _______ at _________.

Line 7: Lots of love, hope to see you soon.
Line 8: [use whatever kind of salutation you prefer.]

So, back to sentence 4, you lazy bum, you actually have to take a picture of yourself enjoying the gift. Here’s the kicker. You must then GO OUT to a CVS/Rite Aid or some place to print your picture from your smart phone so you can actually put it in the envelope.

I know, it can be tricky.  Let’s say, for example, you’re gluten-free (like me) and someone gives you a box of beautiful, hand decorated sugar cookies. More importantly, there are certain people in your life that you might not know how best to show you are enjoying their gift—in this case, sugar cookies.

I present to you five different ways to show your enjoyment for the purpose of thanks, for five different social circles. Again, edit as needed.

Situation 1: Competitive Frenemy

Line 5: I’m not being cheesy, I really did appreciate the cookies! So much so that I put them to fast use (as you can see in the enclosed picture).
Line 6: I had a lot of fun with them at the bookstore buying your birthday present!*

(seriously, don't give anyone this book. It's pretty much a handbook for anorexia.)  

Situation 2: Potential Lover (who is too shy to pull the trigger)

Line 6: I had a lot of fun with these naughty little cookies at home while thinking of you......

Situation 3: Work Colleague

(Line 5 is the same as above for all the situations)

Line 6: I/we had a lot of fun with them at my desk while you were on vacation with your mistress in St. Thomas.

extras: use a meaningful book in regards to the work you're doing. suggestions:


Situation 4: Spiritual Friend From Hot Yoga

Line 6: I had a lot of fun with these gifts and I think they really helped me unlock the tension I’ve been carrying in my lower back. Namaste and a happy new year!

Experiment until you find a pose you can hold while balancing cookies (lest you drop them curl up into child's pose):

Situation 5: That Family Member That Keeps Asking When You Are Going to Get Married.

Line 6: I had a lot of fun eating my feelings in bed while reading chick lit  (There's Cake in My Future) and regretting all of my life choices!

Since this is for a family member, they will looooove to get pictures of you. So make sure to take a lot!

Seriously, they love you, so send many!

I cannot stress enough how happy your loved ones will be to get personalized thank you notes. Fridges don’t have enough pictures on them anymore these days anyhow.

Also, special thanks to my photographer, Leah, and Sprinkelista Bakery. They taught me how to decorate the cookies!

And last but not least, thanks be to winter break. I know I'm not the only one that needs it now.

Monday, December 14, 2015

12 Days of Dirt

Recently I had a conversation with someone about my blog. There were two take home points for me:

1) That I had no idea he had been reading my blog.
2) That the “dirt” part about this thing, whatever it is, gets lost sometimes.

In that spirit, and in the spirit of the tradition of the secular holidays I observe, I dedicate this post to that secret reader, and all my readers in Norway. (Seriously, who is reading this in Norway? Hit me up on twitter!). I also dedicate this post to continuing to ignore the dirt-issue.

It’s a secret-santa-type gift (get it? “-type” because it’s written? No?). It’s a song I wrote.

I call it “The Twelve Days of Digging.”

On the first day of digging my true love gave to me a partridge in a pair-tree

On the second day of digging my true love gave to me two ways of thinking about a partridge in a pair-tree

On the third day of digging my true love gave to me three ways of words for “time,” and two ways of thinking of that partridge in the pair-tree

On the fourth day of digging my true love gave to me four culling words, three words for “time,” and two ways of thinking like a partridge in a pair-tree

On the fifth day of digging my true love gave to me FIVE RINGS OF TREES. Four culling words, three ways of “time,” and two kinds of thought as a partridge in a pair-tree

On the sixth day of digging my true love gave to me six dogs a sleeping, FIVE RINGS OF TREES, four words that kill, three dimensions of time, and two schools of thought on a partridge in a pair-tree

On the seventh day of digging my true love gave to me a week seven seas a sailing, six dogs to let lay, FIVE YEARS IN TREES, four words that cull, three folds of time, two sides of coins bearing partridges in paired trees

On the eight day of digging my true love gave to me eight maids in masks, seven seas a swimming, six dogs not barking (the five rings of trees), four culled herds, three times two thinking equals one dimensional partridges in a pear tree.

On the ninth day of digging my true love gave to me nine ladies lying to eight maids in masks swimming the seven seas home to six sleeping best friends through all the forest despite words that cull or years of searching, even as they doubt their courage. All for that partridge in a pair-tree.

On the tenth day of digging my true love gave to me ten lorded larders, nine ladies lunching, through masks with big mouths, sea sick on seven seas, six dogs dismissing scraps, and five trees dried as I finger their rings, four burning words, three sides of time, two ways to be right about what lives in them thar trees.

On the eleventh day of digging my true love gave to me the smoke of eleven pipers that stank up the larder, sickened all the ladies even through their lunch masks. So then they swam away with Odyssean-like dogs, mawing sticks and trees UNTIL THE TREES ARE GONE. Four words broke away and changed the time into a squacking hen whose truth might be a lie depending on if there ever was a fucking partridge in a pair-tree, at all.

On the twelveth day of digging, this is what I learned:

My heart beats beats with the force of twelve tiny drums, depending on what kind of smoke is being blown towards the aft of my larder.

Ladies need to dance, and play with masks, and we need to trust each other. Internalized misogyny ensures doom when setting to sea. If you can’t trust those you ride a tanker with, more will sink than your spirits.

My dog is my best friend, he likes to dig at trees, and he’ll never say anything that hurts me (even if he will sneak-poop on my yoga mat). Past, present, future, it’s the kind of love that’s true. Sometimes the truth hurts, but dogs don’t know that twisted rhetoric.
There are two sides to every story (usually more). But the only one that matters is the one that does the least harm, protects kindness and a partridge in a pear tree.
Author’s note: I have no idea who my true love is. This is work of December and fiction. If my true love does eventually end up reading this, please do number three with the time thing. I would really appreciate that. Thanks.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dirt Drunk

Indulge me in a two sentence pity-party. Life has been pretty shitty as of late. After a series of rather unfortunate events, my Fall has sucked eggs and I’ve spent a lot of time crying.

But then! Then! I remembered the movie/book Julie and Julia. Julie was having a shit time, too. And cooking her way through Julia Childs’ famous tome healed her. In Julie’s own words (zoom in if you like):

I cannot imagine how many blogging/personal experiments Julie’s project spawned. And I can’t bear to google that. It seems to be on trend for self-help-writing-experiments: do something hard, write about it and you'll be transformed. See Cheryl Strayed's Wild for this as well.

My heart told me: for the month of December, cook your way through a special cookbook and it is going to heal you, too, damnit.  Programmed kitsch, luck and love to soothe the sore bits.

But what cookbook would I cook my way through? Something with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients, like Williams and Sonoma 365 Days of Soup (or whatever it is called)? Or The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Vegetable Cookbook? That would feel like cheating on all the seasonal recipes in the books in my dissertation.  Not a fabulous move.

A book that makes me dive into the roots of our country and make me think about the changes and love we’ve put into our food since blueberry catsup? Like Molly O’Neill’s American Food Writing? NO! That will just make me mad and get fired up about republican/democrat division. 

Then, like a beer can upside the head, I was hit with the idea of cooking my way through Hannah Hart’s My Drunk Kitchen: a guide to eating, drinking & going with your gut. Yes. Hannah Hart dedicates My Drunk Kitchen, “To Reckless Optimists, and all who believe we can do more and better.”

For those of you that don’t know Hannah, well, that’s about to change. She is what awesomesauce was meant to be served on:

Those of you that know me know that I love cooking. I love love it. I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I pickle raspberries and freeze hazelnut pestos. This would be an experiment that pushes me to my limits. To gain self-actualization and to heal my gut-voice I would de-learn my cooking!

 I made a plan. I made rules (such as "I will modify recipes to be both gluten and poultry-free." I have my reasons). I’d post weekly updates! I'd deal enlist my family, and do the holiday menus as suggested! Hartwiches and Can Bakes! BRING IT ON.

As I looked at the shopping lists, meal plans, and overarching philosophy more closely, the adult thought came to me. I WILL FEEL LIKE SHIT, AND WANT TO DIE IF I EAT AND DRINK LIKE THIS FOR A MONTH.

Hart makes it clear that this book is not a good idea to base a real diet around (which is why I wanted to do it, damnit!). It is a brilliant book, and I think any cuspian-millenial-adult should buy a copy. #holidaygifts! #thankyoudrunkkitchenIamhappyyouexist

Now that I've abandoned this project, I'm waiting to see if another one drops itself in my lap. Like writing out all my text messages by hand for a month--shit, I already did that once. Or maybe, as a wise man once suggested, I need to make a Not-To Do List, and stick to it. 

And if I do, I will make a gf-pizza cake. And eat it all at once. By myself. Come on. That just looks amazing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dirty Movies

Dear Proctors,

I am so lucky to live near you. I know you just finished THE BEST THING EVER—the run of the 100 American Film Institute’s picks. Wowza. Many of these I had seen before on regular televisions—or tiny laptops. But seeing them on the big screen? What a gift.
I bought the pass ($100 granting entry to all the films), and I made it to 42. Formidable, but I wish I had done more. In sonnet form, I could go through 42 ways in which I loved these films… Or 42 different dirt metaphors.

Instead, I much prefer to think of how these 42 films mark like tree-rings of this tiny era of time.

1. Rocky of all the movies, this one, the first, convinced me I had done the right thing in getting the pass. And I didn’t write the damn day down in my journal!
2. Shane 6/10/13 This is the week I started writing-pomodoros. As a writing technique, my life has forever been changed.
3. Manchurian Candidate 6/17/13 Mosquitos seem worse this year.

4. French Connection 7/1/13 Trying “pallet gardening” for the first time. Genius!
5. Bringing Up Baby 7/22/13 Pulling in no less than 1 lb of blackberries a day.

6. From Here to Eternity 10/21/13 Apparently I am so busy between July and October to get my butt in a movie seat.

7. Rear Window 10/28/13 I let a friend rake my lawn. It was his first time raking a lawn and he was really excited. I prefer to let the leaves give back to the soil, but whatevs, he had fun.

 8. Double Indemnity 11/4/13 Daylight savings time. I used my extra hour to read something beautiful.
9. To Kill A Mocking Bird 11/25/13 Started my phd exams…
10. Mash 12/16/13 …Passed my phd exams! I’m ABD! The hard part is over.
11. Dances With Wolves 12/30/13 The end of this year…. It was a tough one, but that’s how it goes after 30, right?


12. An American in Paris 1/27/14 Too cold to come out for movies the past few weeks. I’m a wimp!

13. Platoon 2/10/14 Groundhog day passed, I think they need to change the system, says everyone every year.

14. Modern Times 3/17/14 To Europe and back. I think I’m sick of going there.
15. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 3/24/14 My puppy is 4 years old!

16. Shawshank Redemption 4/1/14 Still stew-cooking weather.
17. Tootsie 4/7/14 I am excited to go to Hawaii!
18. Silence of the Lambs 4/28/14 Leaving Hawaii was stupid. If you are ever in Hawaii do not leave.

19. Cabaret  5/19/14 The spring always makes me want more alone-time.

20. Rebel Without A Cause 6/30/14 Tomatoes are popping up in places they are not supposed to be!

21. Vertigo 8/25/14 Berries were late this year.

22.Nashville 9/15/14 Hit my 100 book mark!
23. Philadelphia Story 9/29/14 The time of year to refinish furniture you find at goodwill is coming to a close.

24. The Gold Rush 10/6/14 Still warm enough to walk for short errands.

25. Singing in the Rain 11/17/14 It is snowing by now.
26. Dr. Zhivago 11/24/14 Ferguson and heartache.

27. The Wizard of Oz 12/29/14 Christmas and the semester have passed.


28. Midnight Cowboy 1/5/14 It is a new year, Neruda is the first book of the year.

29. E.T. 2/16/15 Snow day after snow day, I can’t take any more of this winter bling.

30. All About Eve 3/2/15: A friend is lost. Life as precious/life as curious/life as angry-making.

31. 2001 Space Odyssey 4/6/15. See above. And now my puppy is 5!

32. Blade Runner 5/4/15 The anniversary of my father’s death. This was one of his ‘desert island movies.’ Thank you, proctors.
33. Annie Hall 5/11/15 My birthday. The weather is summery already. Strange.

34. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest 6/1/15 Just back from Vancouver, new places are good.
35. Godfather 6/22/15 I’ve been hibernating even though it’s beautiful out. Has anyone else flipped the seasons?
36. Godfather part 2 6/29/15 SCOTUS legalized gay marriage! Almost proud to be an American today!

37. The Graduate 8/17/15 made new friends! This doesn’t usually happen in adulthood. And where the hell did the blackberries go this year?
38. Psycho 8/31/15 Skunks are alive and well, out and about, and spraying. Me and my dog.

39. Dr. Strangelove 9/14/15 The cold of fall is settling into my bones. Hit my 100 book mark!
40. On The Waterfront 9/28/15 I’ve started reading Harry Potter, finally,  and the blog has nearly hit 2500 reads. These seem like milestones.

41. Schindler's List 10/19/15 Days are getting shorter, but it isn’t as cold as last year.
42. Citizen Kane 10/26/15 The leaves seem like stained glass this year. I don’t remember that from before.

This standing Monday Night Date with myself was an important part of the last two and a half years for me (holy crap that's a long time!). I say with ease that I felt every human emotion possible through the run of these films. (including walking out of ET with snot running out of my nose.)
Best $100 I ever spent. Thank you Proctors, thank you thank you thank you.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Soil, Security, and Love

Mary Francis Kennedy (MFK) Fisher, arguably the most passionate and important American food writer, wrote many lovely little books (my favorite of which is the 1941 Consider The Oyster). In the forward to The Gastronomical Me (1943) she writes,

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and       mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens           that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one…." (353)

We know this. Food is not just love (as in our favorite childhood meal). It is security—from famine, from displacement, from exile.
For me, I see no line—a paper thin line at best, if there is a line—between our stories and our security. We need to be safe to tell our stories. If we tell our stories we increase our changes of safety.

When we love, deeply and wholly, we tell stories and they protect our love. They let it grow. We tell those stories over food, softly, or with laughter like bear hugs. Or we tell those stories despite hunger, despite loneliness and longing. This is what Mary Francis means.
A couple weeks ago, at the Garlic Fest in Vermont, I acquired pounds and pounds of papery, stinky hearts. They’re roasting right now, and they’re turning my slipcovers to scratch-and-sniff Olive Gardens. Romanian Red, Music and Hungarian Purple. Garlic confit, o as if there were any other name for love.

Garlic, o garlic, the apostrophe of the kitchen. Garlic is the occasion where I try to explain how I see soil and stories as “mingled and entwined that [I] cannot straightly think of one without the others…. And it is all one.” These soil-eggs, these stinky love-provers, these self-perpetuating seeds….
For me, the soil is not far from her holy trinity of Food, Security and Love. When I write about orange wine, or black garlic lemonade (pictured above), it’s all mediations of Food-stuffs, and companionship. But it is more about the soil that supported those grapes and those lemons.
It is a call to all of us that we keep our soil safe from many of our practices. And it is a call to keep everyone on all soils safe. Borders are bullshit.

When I write about the books I’ve read, I’m thinking about the spaces they make, and what those spaces teach us about how to treat our own places. How we can learn to love better, and read our food like we read books.
Show me someone without a story about garlic and I’ll show you someone that hasn't been listened to, carefully, in a very long time.

The intersection of things matter. It scares me how much intersectionality seems to disappear as we move into seasons of debates and fights.

 Aquariums and mermaid purses are how I write about securing that which we love. William Shatner is where I write about digging into my own history, and considering what good digging does.

Beautiful vinegars came home with me, too. And a tiny dish (for jewelry or garlic?) that had traveled back from Romania, here to me. Proper balsamic carries the story of its soil and its barrels in its taste. It is a perfect poem. Please hand me a spoon.