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Getting back into the world [Jan. 4th, 2016|05:32 pm]
Ferrett had someone to go out with last night. He asked if I was okay with it.

I said, sure. It was comfortable to have him out of the house for the evening. He's been out a lot lately, and I've gotten used to it.

That alarmed me.

The past couple years have been emotionally difficult for me. In reaction to it, I've become an introvert. I have to work myself up to go out, even with people I really love. Once I get out, I'm good with people for a while, but it exhausts me.

In the meantime, Ferrett's dating pool has increased. He has been enthusiastically making friends, going out, having weekends away.

And I realized, with a bit of shock, that I've sort of offloaded his emotional needs to other people.

This isn't to say that I stopped loving him, or stopped wanting to be with him. I had just stopped being emotionally involved with pretty much anybody. Out of respect for all I've been going through, Ferrett retracted most of his needs, redistributing them elsewhere. We still love each other, but we were in danger of becoming affectionate roommates.

This realization does not make me unhopeful. The fact that I recognized it at all is a sign to me that I am recovering that much more from the deep hole of grief in which I've spent the last couple years. I am looking up, looking around for the light of my life. And realizing that he is further away than I want him to be.

We've already talked about this, and are already making changes: rearranging some times that were intended to be apart, replanning evenings so that we get out to the movies together, reorganizing evening activities so that we eat dinner together and I do the craft work I want to do at the same time that he is writing. These are, for the most part, easy adjustments, things that have more to do with awareness and scheduling than emotion.

But they will return us to the things that bring us closer. In our early marriage, when we had a lot of growing and changing to do and it seemed like every conversation was about The Relationship, I insisted that we put that crap aside and just go out and enjoy each others company. It made all the difference, remembering why we were putting in all that hard work. Now it's not hard work, but it is reconnecting. And doing so from a place of enthusiasm from both of us. Because everything stems from our core relationship. We're good that way.
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That New Year thing [Dec. 31st, 2015|01:29 pm]
I don't do resolutions anymore. They are always failures. Instead, I set a goal. One year, it was learning to juggle. I accomplished it, and felt great about myself.

This year? My goal is finishing up my UFOs. That's quilter slang for UnFinished Objects. Years ago I used to teach quilting classes, up in Fairbanks. For those classes I made sample pieces in different colors. Now I don't teach, but I had four different lonestar centers, the beginnings of full-sized quilts. I also have a top pieced together from the different step examples from a different class. That's four quilts to make, not an insurmountable number to accomplish in one year.

Pictures, as projects get finished. Let's see how I do.
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Tamir Rice, and why the wrong decision is tragically right [Dec. 28th, 2015|11:31 pm]
No one will face charges in the death of Tamir Rice. And as frustrating as that is, I understand why it happened.

We are wrong to look at the actions of individual officers. What needs indicting is the system of police training itself.

Within the parameters outlined by the grand jury (the exact details to which I am not privy), I can only surmise that the details were quite straightforward: officers were informed by a 911 operator that a black youth was pointing a gun at people in a park. Officers responding placed themselves between the youth and other potential targets. Officers saw black youth reach for a weapon. Officers responded with protective--and, alas, deadly--force.

Facts presented in that way make it clear that the officers, though they may be regretful at the death of a 12-year-old, reacted in a manner that followed police procedure. And, in that light, the grand jury could not return with a warrant for prosecution.

They made the proper decision, based on what was presented. But what was presented is a long way from the universal truths.

Truth one: Tamir Rice was a dopey kid playing with a pretend gun. The way he played would be written off if he were white. But because he wasn't, someone called him into the cops.

Truth two: Cops are trained to a kind of risk avoidance that perceives persons of color as a far bigger risk than they really are. The stats show that cops are at less risk now than they have been in the last century, but they are trained to regard every difficulty involving a minority as possibly fatal. No one wants to end up dead on the streets, so this training makes cops much edgier than reality warrants.

Truth three: An African American male cannot overcome being viewed as a deadly enemy. Tamir was playing. His play can be regarded as thoughtless and stupid, but considering that white mass murderers have been brought in without injury, an honest assessment of the situation has to consider that unsubstantiated fear triggers tragic reactions.

The cop who shot Tamir testifies that the kid was admonished at least twice to drop his weapon. Yet the act of reaching for the weapon--possibly to drop it--was the inciting act that led to the firing of shots that killed a 12-year-old boy. How could Tamir have survived a situation where trying to drop his toy gun resulted in getting shot, but not trying to drop it would have led to getting shot? The kid was literally in a no-win situation. Perhaps if he had had the wits to drop to his stomach with his hands behind his head he might have survived.

Is that really the standard we want to accept? Perfect understanding of a situation and the ability to make a decision that only cool hindsight would make obvious? Dear heavens, that's not the standard I want to abide.

And yet that is the standard to which we appear to be holding black youths. Don't you know that you should always be perfect? Don't you know that anything less that complete compliance is a death sentence?

Why can't you just be the good nigger?

It's painful to write that sentence. But I can't avoid it. It's what so many people expect. A white kid murders people in a church, and the cops find the time and energy to talk him out of his stronghold. They take him to freakin' Burger King.

A black child plays unwisely with a toy gun. And people defend his murder as his own fault.

Tamir Rice didn't bow and scrape. He wasn't white, so he didn't get the benefit of the doubt. He hadn't killed anybody, but because he wasn't white that didn't matter. Any minute now, a black man could just freaking kill anyone. Everyone.

Being black and all.

And yet, I will sadly and regretfully nod in agreement of the decision made, regarding these cops, in these circumstances. Because this nonsensical behavior is what they were trained to do.

The problem is not with Officer Friday, on patrol. The problem is systemic, endemic. It stems from the belief that The Other is inferior, that there is only one way to live, to be.

Until we deal with that. Tamir Rice is just one more statistic.
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The most wonderful time of the year [Dec. 24th, 2015|01:11 pm]
Running around the house getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Tonight will be Beef Wellington with bacon-roasted potatoes and asparagus. Tomorrow morning we go to the Meyers' to enjoy Christmas morning with them. In the afternoon, another viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And then the next day I begin my *second* favorite time of year: I put my family on airplanes and get the house all to myself for several days! I am in need of serious aloneness, snugged down in my house with my puppy, my books, my craft room, and no need to talk to anyone for at least three days.

I don't need this very often; I love my family and love having them around me. But once in a while my introvert batteries rejoice in being left completely alone. I always think that I'll watch movies and such. I usually don't turn on the TV at all, reading and sewing. And just thinking.

By the time they come back I will be thrilled to see them. But for that few days, I will be basking in privacy.
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So, this thing called Star Wars happened.... [Dec. 22nd, 2015|07:04 pm]
I have been slow in writing my review, mostly because life, but also because my first impression and my second impression were so very different.

I came away from my first viewing of The Force Awakens feeling a resounding, "meh." It wasn't bad, but I felt like it just didn't hold up to the end. I absolutely adored all the new characters, and felt like they needed more screen time than they got. But there was too much retread about it that missed some of the pacing marks vital to make A New Hope the emotional success that it was.

I went and saw it again the next day. and knowing where the flaws were, being able to set them aside, I came out absolutely LOVING the movie. I can't wait to go again. Once again, the casting of the new characters was absolutely perfect, and there were lots of great emotional beats. I still don't think the ending quite pulls off the triumph for which we seek, but there's lots of good stuff going on.

Now for the nitpicksCollapse )

It's going to make a fortune, beyond what it already has, and it's absolutely worth seeing if you have any interest. Also, the comments on this are open to spoilers, so if you don't want to know, don't look!
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Watching the red carpet, jealous and excited - #4 in a Star Wars series [Dec. 14th, 2015|11:30 pm]
A long time ago, in a state pretty far away....

I was a freshman in college when the first Star Wars trailers appeared in the theaters. I was still living at home, and had a job, so my best friend and I had disposable income and a mutual love of movies. We went to lots of them. At one, we saw a trailer for a science fiction movie about "a boy, a girl, and a galaxy!" When it ended, I turned to my friend and delivered my first impression of Star Wars:

"Wow, that looks stupid."

By the time it reached us in Portland, the first rush of excitement had been conveyed on the evening news. Everyone was abuzz with Star Wars fever. The only theater it was playing at in Portland was clear over on the other side of town. My best friend and another friend dragged me across town, where we discovered a line that wrapped all the way around the building.

"Well," they said, turning to me, "since you have to go to work at 6am, we should probably come back another day."

"Oh, hell no," I growled. "You dragged me all the way here, we're bloody well seeing this movie."

In reality, the line had caught my attention. Something was going on here. We couldn't get into the 7pm show, and the theater people came out and counted heads, figuring out who could get into the 9:45 show. We were beyond that mark, and nowhere near the end of the line. After a huddle of the managers, they announced that they would, in fact, show the movie again at 12:15--unprecedented.

Again, my friends suggested we leave. Again, I dug in my heels. We sat on the sidewalk and played cards with another group of determined viewers. Finally, very tired, we dragged into the theater--the biggest theater screen I've ever seen, by the way. We were wowed.

The lights went down. The first words appeared. The music started. I was tired and still skeptical. A small ship flew into sight, bright lights flashing behind it.

Then a Star Destroyer flew in over the tops of our heads and my mouth hung open. I remember thinking, "I'm watching movies change forever."

Star Wars gave us something that can never be duplicated. It was a watershed moment in cinema. That kind of magic is not going to strike again.

But the other thing that Star Wars gave us is an entire galaxy to play in. George Lucas almost killed the love with the prequels, but the Expanded Universe showed us that there are a million stories to tell, not just the ones of our three heroes. On Thursday, those stories move into a new generation.

Tonight starwars.com livestreamed the red carpet of the premier--sometime tomorrow someone will put up Carrie Fisher and Oscar Isaac's interview, and you should absolutely find it and watch it; they are hysterical. Anyway, watching the excitement of all those people waiting to see the movie, fans who are at least as rabid as I, I'm reminded of those lines so many years ago. We get to share it again.
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Fanus rabidicus - #3 in a Star Wars series [Dec. 13th, 2015|06:28 pm]
I have been watching a weekly video show on YouTube called Jedi Council. It's definitely for serious Star Wars geeks. Every week they discuss Star Wars for at least an hour, often 90 minutes.

I love it.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago they reported that J.J. Abrams had confirmed that the movie was officially finished, officially "in the can." And my reaction at the news reminded me of another reaction I had. A long time ago, in a state far, far away....

Back in the days of VHS tapes (I told you it was a long time ago), the Holy Trilogy was released for the first time in letterbox format. After watching bad aspect ratio for years, we were all excited to see the rest of the movie. And a few days before the release I realized that I should probably actually preorder it as the demand was exceeding supply.

I stopped by SunCoast Video and asked to reserve a copy. The nice young clerk took my money. As we were finishing the transaction, I chuckled and said, "This being Alaska, it'll probably won't be here on the release date anyway."

"Oh no," he said, cheerful. "We already have them all in the back."

And the look I saw next on his face told me what the look was on my face. His eyes went wide, and he actually took a step back into a defensive position.

Yes, I looked like I was about to leap over the counter and assault him to get the movie. I was a little embarrassed and tried to reassure him, but he was nervous until I left the store.

And that's how I felt when they announced it was in the can. Like I should jump into my car, run to the nearest theater, and hold them hostage until they showed me the movie. Oh, I recovered. but the fan rabidity was there.

It was definitely there.
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How is the Force awakening? - Star Wars, second in this silly series [Dec. 12th, 2015|12:00 pm]
In the trailer, Han confirms that the legends - the Jedi, the Dark Side - it's true. All of it.

Which implies, of course, that the Jedi have once again been all but forgotten in the galaxy far, far away.

I've heard some people be irked about this--why "Return of the Jedi," only to forget them again? How much amnesia do they have in this galaxy that they can forget the spectacular deeds of Luke Skywalker in such a short time?

But really, how many people actually saw those deeds? Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids. Mon Mothma knew about the Jedi, but we don't see him using his Force powers even in front of his fellow Rogue Squadron members. He had barely rudimentary abilities by Hoth, and then was gone with Yoda, followed by chasing down Han.

Outside of the Rebellion? Ain't nobody knows about this.

I can see Mon Mothma asking Luke to keep it on the DL, and the galaxy not ever learning that the Force had returned. Just rumors. Legends. Much skepticism. And the powers of the Force slow to awaken.
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In which I am a geek - Star Wars, the first in a series [Dec. 11th, 2015|09:57 pm]
We are less than a week away from the new movie. I am ridiculously excited about it. Probably more excited than I should be. I have failed entirely at keeping my expectations low.

The thing that has allowed me to be this excited? Harrison Ford on the publicity trail.

If you go back and watch Ford's interviews in the last few years, they are worry-making. He slurs his words. Loses his train of thought. Seems to drift off. I wondered if he was getting senile or suffering mini-strokes.

Now I'm pretty sure he was stoned out of his gourd.

In the interviews now? He's lively, excited. He plays at being a cynic, but he's present. He actually cares about this movie. He's gotten involved in fan outreach for charity, he went on Jimmy Kimmel and let himself be very silly in a sketch.

He hasn't had this kind of enthusiasm about a project for a long time. He's seen the movie and is excited about it.

I think we're in for a good time.
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Hickory Farms [Dec. 4th, 2015|04:47 pm]
I missed them last year--to be fair, I had rather a lot of good excuses. But this year I made an early trip to the mall.

Because I could not live another whole year without their honey pineapple mustard. And last year when I missed them and looked online, you could only buy it in tiny wee jars. I picked up four, knowing that it won't get me through a year but feeling awkward about asking if they had a case price.

And once I was there, I couldn't resist meltaway mints. And sausages. Amy could barely lift the bag.

So now when I check, you can order it online.

Of course.
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Last time I learned this, I was 9 months old [Dec. 3rd, 2015|04:12 pm]
I am relearning how to walk.

After taking a number of falls, I finally admitted that I needed to see a physical therapist about it.

She made me walk. And then told me how I was doing it all wrong. My posture, the way I step, the way I hold my head.

I have to relearn it all. She told me that it would take time, and that it would be painful. She is right about all of it. Remembering to walk with my head up, to lift my legs differently, to hold my body differently, it's exhausting.

I'm worn out my walking down the street.

Like all physical training, it will get better. For right now? It's a pain in my neck. And butt. And lower back.
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T-day redux [Nov. 28th, 2015|12:23 am]
Since we had dinner at the Meyers' yesterday, and since Amy was with her dad and stepmom for Thanksgiving, we are having our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. I have made the stuffing and the cream of mushroom soup for green bean casserole (SO much better when it's homemade soup!), and the turkey is brining. I have leftover sweet potato casserole from yesterday in the fridge, and since I'm pretty much the only one who eats it that will be enough. My bird is a mere 14 pounds this year, what with it being just the three of us. I'll make buttermilk rolls tomorrow, and finish the green bean casserole. The mashed potatoes will have sour cream and horseradish in them as they are yummy that way.

After dinner, we'll finally go see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2. Our movie watching is way behind this year.

So, all in all, I predict a very nice Saturday!
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Thanksgiving [Nov. 26th, 2015|10:52 pm]
Spent the holiday with Kat and Eric, plus good friends of theirs and those friends' parents. The day started quietly with us arriving early in the afternoon so that we could visit and play games. Between the craziness of our schedule and the craziness of theirs, we haven't seen much of them in the last few months. It was nice to have time.

Dinner was, of course, vastly too much food for 13 people. There was the usual chaos of getting everyone to the table, getting all the plates filled, people passing things in two different directions, laughter, confusion.

And finally that moment when it all falls silent as people tuck in. Everything was delicious, and we lingered at table for a long time, talking, telling stories, laughing.

I felt her absence through it all.

It's the second Thanksgiving without Rebecca. Her absence isn't an awkward silence--when things happened that reminded us of things she had done, we recounted those stories and chuckled to remember her. But to see the kiddie table with two little boys and one little girl, instead of two and two, it still hurts.

The grief doesn't buckle my knees, most of the time. I've realized that you don't get over it, you just learn to live with it. But sitting out on the front porch for a few minutes I was struck by it all again. "My god," I thought. "That actually happened. I remember her sitting in this chair, and the next day she died." It still shocks me, sometimes.

I'm grateful that I knew her. I'm grateful for the memories of that spunky, strong-willed, thuggish little spark. Even as I continue to mourn, I'm grateful.
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Once again, I'm so lucky to live in Cleveland! [Nov. 24th, 2015|09:48 am]
So, Clevelanders! I have a tip for you. Paulius Nasvytis​, the genius behind The Velvet Tango Room​, has just opened a pizza parlor, Citizen Pie. Like, it's opening today. It's directly across the street from the Beachland Ballroom, and it's delicious! Ferrett and I got a chance to preview the pizzas last week. Beautiful, simple, interesting ingredients, all cooked in a woodfired pizza oven that was shipped over from Italy--none of this "it looks like a wood oven, but it's actually fueled with gas" nonsense. I had the Caponata, and it was amazing--a brilliant selection of olives, matched by the surprise of currants as well as pine nuts. Every mouthful was a new surprise of flavor combinations. Ferrett went with the basics, a marinara. Made in true Italian style, not smothered in cheese, the fresh ingredients really shined through.

The place is cozy, with limited seating, and the cooking is all done in an open kitchen. Go with an appetite; you want to eat this!
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Barbie [Nov. 23rd, 2015|12:57 pm]
A couple days ago tfcocs had an entry about getting a Barbie. She had a picture of the boxed doll, and then said, "Deboxed, she probably looks like this:"

And my thought was "naked, with her hairdo wrecked."

I have never seen a Barbie, be she a standard one or an Elsa one for whom a little girl has begged incessantly, survive more than 15 minutes before that little girl had her stripped and her carefully manufactured coif pulled out. The ones that last 15 minutes are generally because Mom is standing over the child, scolding her that the doll will never look the same again, once she takes her hair down. The moment Mom's back is turned? BOOM, out come those tiny rubberbands that held the braid so nicely.

Frequently, this rifling of Barbie's outfit is followed by the child bringing the doll to Mom and begging her to "fix it." And then recrimination and tears. But if you handed that child a pristine duplicate of Elsa/Anna/Cinderella/Ariel, the result would be the same: tiny plastic shoes lost, mermaid tail removed, hair asunder.

I know, because I did the same with my Barbies when I was a kid. I can't remember exactly why, except that I was always itching to brush her hair, and to fashion new clothes for her out of fabric scraps.

Barbies spend most of their life naked, it seems, stripped by little girls who never quite get around to dressing them again. And it doesn't seem to matter to them that the doll they clamored for becomes just one more Barbie, once she's stripped of her regalia. They have to have that special one. And drive Mom crazy with the way they play.
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4 weeks! [Nov. 20th, 2015|01:01 pm]
A couple months back I went to the gynecologist--again--because my body hasn't gotten the message that, at 57, I never intend to procreate again. The doc suggested a treatment path, but suggested that he should do another biopsy just to make sure that the one that came out clean last spring didn't miss something. So I got to slide into the stirrups again.

As I recall, the last time we did this he told me that no news was good news, and I got the results by mail a week or so later. I expected the same this time around. But that's not what happened.

The next day I was in an all-day seminar when my phone vibrated. I looked down at it and saw that it was a Clinic phone number, but I couldn't answer. Notification of voicemail appeared a few seconds later. I resisted it for about fifteen minutes, but figured I could listen to it.

"Hi, this is Nora at the Clinic. Please call me at your earliest convenience."

My heart rate went through the ceiling and I started sweating. Why would they call me if it wasn't bad news?

As it was, I sneaked out about half an hour later and called back, and everything was fine. The doctor just wanted me to know as soon as possible so I wouldn't worry.

But during that half hour? I was certain that I had cancer and was going to die. And what was the first thought that came to me about my impending death? Was it "I won't be there when my daughters get married"? Was it "Ferrett is going to take this so hard"? Was it about my family or friends at all?


It was, "I won't get to see all of the new Star Wars trilogy!"
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Pain [Nov. 8th, 2015|11:36 am]
I've slipped a disc in my back. I already have degenerative disc disease and am practically bone-on-bone where my lumbar spine and sacral spine meet. I've been working to protect my back, but one bad step was all it took to mess me up. As in, I went straight to the ER. If you know me, you know that getting me to go to the doctor is often a battle.

I keep inching closer to back surgery. To say that I don't want to go through that is a severe understatement. Monday I have to follow up with my doctor and the spine clinic.

In the meantime, I've missed a weekend away with my hubby. I don't want this to become the pattern of my life. I am not young anymore, and it's a real risk. It makes me sad.
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Loss, and grief, and helping [Nov. 3rd, 2015|11:52 am]
A year ago today my mother died. It was not a surprise; she had made the choice to discontinue painful treatment and to go into hospice. That gave me an opportunity to fly out to Montana and spend some time with her while she was still lucid. We had a good visit: much laughter, much reminiscing, a bit of old business that needed to be dealt with and gotten past, and then more laughter and reminiscing. I will always be grateful for those days.

I'm still devastated. It's still hard to believe, a year on, that I can't pick up the phone and hear her voice. Returning to the West, being in the places that she knew and loved--both last April for Ferrett's book tour and on last month's adventure--had me time and again thinking, "Oh, I should tell Mom about this," before remembering that she wasn't there to tell.

But as hard as losing Mom was, the death of a parent is in the natural order of things. We know that our parents will die. We expect that they will die before we do.

Not so, the death of a child. A child's death disrupts the timeline. It feels like an insult to our very existence.

When children are dying, there is a wealth of resources for support for that child. Make-a-Wish is just the best known, but there are lots of other organizations and businesses who reach out to help. Our sense of the unfairness of a child dying, of how wrong it is that their life experiences will be stunted, cut short by death, motivates people to provide what fun they can for that short life.

But once the child is dead, all these organizations walk away, ignoring that a broken and grieving family must go on, must try to figure out how to function as a family with that hole in the middle. Surviving children, who spent the last months or years always feeling like they came second, like they were a continual afterthought in the face of medical treatment and last days, have resentment and guilt to work through. Parents often feel that everything they'd put on hold for the last few months needs to be handled *right now* -- even if right now is when they most need a break from the demands of the world. In the stress of readjusting, a family can get lost and overwhelmed trying to cope with everything at once. The divorce rate for parents of a deceased child are more than twice that of other couples.

And all the help that preceded their child's death? It's gone. Yes, there is still grief counseling, but the kind of help that let a family walk away from their problems for just a little while? Nothing.

That lack of support is what inspired my friend Kat Meyer to start Rebecca's Gift. After Rebecca died, Kat looked for resources to help families coping with grief and in need of time to get away, but there simply was nothing there.

The philosophy behind Make-a-Wish and other organizations is to provide experience to a dying child, but the family that's left behind is a damaged and frail entity, and in need of healing. The Meyers took a family trip, a trip that took them out of the day-to-day demands and distractions of life. It helped them rediscover themselves as a family unit. Without friends and TV, all crammed into one hotel room, they weren't distracted from each other. They bonded.

That is the mission of Rebecca's Gift: giving the families of deceased children a chance to get away from the stresses and demands of daily life and rebuild their bonds. Like Make-a-Wish, Rebecca's Gift will send families on trips so that those families can rediscover themselves.

Rebecca's Gift is having their first major fundraiser on Sunday, November 15, 2015. Rebecca's Boardwalk will celebrate Rebecca's great love of the Jersey Shore and all the games and foods of summer. This is a family event, with lots of prizes and games for kids, and it's for a need that truly is not being met by any other organization.

If you are local to Cleveland, please come and enjoy the fun. If you are not local, please consider donating. Help bring joy into the life of grieving families.
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Apricot chicken [Nov. 2nd, 2015|12:31 pm]
Driving back across country, I spent my final night away from home with our very good friends Laura and Jeremiah, in their wonderful new house in the Chicago area. I arrived late and left early, but I did get a few hours with them in the evening.

And in the morning I was sent on my merry way with a wonderful treat: 8 jars of Laura's homemade jam. She's been doing a lot of canning this year, and has impressed and intimidated me with her urban homesteading while holding down a fulltime job that often takes her from home for weeks at a time. She's my hero now.

Anyway, when I got home I decided to make apricot chicken. Now, I've had apricot chicken that was too sweet, too cloying, the chicken sort of boiled in a sweet soup of apricot. That's not what I was looking for. So instead I came up with this:

My family pronounced it delicious, so I thought I'd share it with you. Like all my recipes, there are no measurements. I am a jazz cook, and my recipes are more like a fake book than actual sheet music.
Apricot chicken

5-6 bone-in chicken thighs
1 large onion
handful of shredded carrot
3 cloves garlic
8 oz. jar of apricot jam, preferably home made by a kitchen goddess
olive oil
salt & pepper
garlic powder
Dijon mustard
balsamic vinegar
4 cups cooked rice, salted

Preheat over to 375.

Chop the onion and garlic. Cover bottom of skillet with generous amount of olive oil. Saute the onions and shredded carrot until they are soft and onions are browned. Add garlic and continue sauteing until it browns slightly.

While onions and carrots are sauteing, generously coat the skin side of the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Think you've been generous enough? Unless you do this regularly I bet you haven't been generous enough. Go back over them one more time. Trust me.

Once the garlic is the color of an early summer tan, scoop the veggies out of the skillet, draining as much of the olive oil as possible, and set them aside in a small bowl. Turn up the heat and gently place the chicken thighs, skin down, in the skillet. If you haven't salt/pepper/garlic the thighs again, and cook them about 5 minutes, until the skin is browned. Turn them over and let them cook another 5 minutes.
In the meantime, spray an ovensafe pan with cooking spray and put your rice into it, smoothing it out to the corners. When the chicken is ready, place the pieces skin-side-up on the bed of rice. Return the skillet to the stovetop and turn off the heat.

Add the sauteed veggies and the apricot jam. Stir until smooth. Add a little Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar to taste. The balsamic should not be overwhelming, just enough to make the flavors pop. Spoon this glaze over the chicken thighs, being careful to cover them completely. This won't be a thick covering, but it should be enough to cover the thighs.

Bake for 35 minutes for a convection oven, 45 for a conventional. Serve.

We had ours with roasted asparagus. The leftovers didn't last until morning.

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(no subject) [Oct. 29th, 2015|12:37 pm]
You know, now that I have a nondescript white panel van, it occurs to me that I have the potential of never having a parking problem again. I can just get a couple big business magnets printed up, something like "Pataski's Plumbing and Exotic Dance," and then I can stop my van anywhere, flip on the flashers, and stroll away, confident that my van will be there, unticketed, when I get back.
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I've had an adventure. And now I am home. [Oct. 26th, 2015|02:15 pm]
We are coming up on the first anniversary of my mother's death. When she died, she left me her cedar chest and my great-grandmother's treadle sewing machine. But these items were in Montana, at the home my sister now owns, and getting them from Hamilton to Rocky River was a logistics nightmare. Shipping them would be expensive and a lot to ask of my sister. Renting a U-haul to drive them across country was also expensive.

And then I got a brilliant idea for a harebrained scheme. I would fly to Seattle, visit friends there, and buy a used van for cheap. When I got back home, I would sell the van for essentially the same amount that I bought it.

And so I took off for Seattle on a one-way ticket, relying on friends to help me in the quest for a van. Friends and Craig's List. On day one I sent off emails and texts to an assortment of folks with vans listed and then went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was amazing to be once again in a place where neighborhood gardens can look like this:

And then you cross the street and walk immediately into this:

I hiked down off the bluff, finding a charming waterfall at the bottom of the hike:

I really do love the PNW.

When I got back, there was an email from a person living across the sound, telling me his van was still available. So the next morning I figured out the bus and ferry system and chugged myself out to Bellevue. The ferry ride was lovely, in spite of the rain:

The person who put up the ad, however? Not nearly as lovely. After three buses and a ferry ride, I found myself standing in a grocery store parking lot, no van in sight. And no further response from the person. It was someone's idea of a prank call for the 21st century.

I was pissed. And my feelings were hurt. I worked my way back and started on the process of finding more vans. The next day, I found the perfect van. I swear that karma was involved, because in order to make myself feel better about the wasted day I bought a homeless person a sandwich.

Anyway, here's Sebastian:

He's a 1999 Ford F250 Econoline with 250,000 miles and great maintenance. He's a real working van, with built-in shelves and drawers in the back. Working AC, cruise control, and an updated stereo that has an auxiliary jack. I could listen to my tunes for the rest of the trip!

Sebastian secured, I spent one last day visiting in Seattle, then went down to Portland to see family and my best buddy from high school. Had a great time, then headed for Montana. Spent a couple days with my sis, loaded up the furniture, and headed for Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone wowed me. Just gorgeous, lots of wildlife, and geysers. This beautiful river was right at the entrance, and then this amazing formation looked like a glacier but was actually minerals and bacteria growing in a mineral stream:

It was late when I arrived, so I had to work my way out of the park to find somewhere to camp. Even though the weather was gorgeous, all the park campgrounds were closed for the season. The place I found was a forest service campground 5 miles off the highway, where I camped all by myself under amazing stars.

I hung my food in a tree, then laid on the picnic table looking up at the sky until I heard a footsteps. Turning on my flashlight, I shined it right into the face of a coyote about 10 feet away from me. I shooed him off, but was suddenly very aware of how alone I was. Time to lock myself up in the van!!

The next morning I got up early and returned to the park. This was when I got into the caldera. As beautiful as Yellowstone was just for its natural environment, holy cow was this awesome! Even though it was raining, I stopped at every hiking area and walked around the wooden paths that were set up all around.

And, at last, I arrived at Old Faithful. The first thing I did was go to the Visitor Center to see what time the next eruption was predicted. Only 20 minutes! Perfect time to use the bathroom, get a drink of water, and snag a picture from this big guy, who was lying right outside the door to the Visitor Center:

Right after I took this, the ranger came out to chase people away from the bison. Because of course it's half a ton of sleepy critter that could suddenly turn cranky. Eep!

Then it was out to the platform where less than 100 people waited for the geyser. Ended up talking with a cute family and explaining to their boys that a prediction wasn't the same as someone flipping a switch. But the geyser went off within 5 minutes of the prediction. I was surprised by how quiet it was, and how long it lasted.

So this is my Old Faithful video. There are many out there like it, but this one is my own:

I stood there, thrilled, watching. And then I was suddenly sad. I had been loving my independence and traveling at my pace, but having no one to share with was suddenly lonely. I left Old Faithful and headed on through the park, spontaneously deciding to head for Grand Tetons National Park with the idea that, after seeing the mountains, I would head for Mt. Rushmore.

It was raining and cloudy, so my peek at the Tetons was minimal. But I headed north along the Wind River Valley, one of the prettiest drives I've ever experienced. It was granite ruggedness followed by Badlands-style landscape followed by red rock canyon country. Alas, no pictures because it was raining.

But at that point, all I was was homesick. So I turned east and started hoofing it. I drove down and across Wyoming, getting into Nebraska. That night I called Ferrett. "I know I was supposed to be out here for another 8 days, but do you mind if I come home day after tomorrow?"

Ferrett had been quietly lonesome and miserable, missing me terribly but not saying anything because he wanted me to be happy and enjoy myself. He was *thrilled* to get me back early. I cranked across Nebraska at 85 mph, blew through Iowa, and stayed the night with friends in Chicago. I slept in that morning and got home at dinner time last Tuesday.

Now Sebastian sits in our driveway, and I'm sort of attached to him. Rather than selling him, he may become a camper for us. And I'm glad to be snuggled in the arms of my sweet weasel, every night.

I'm glad I had my adventure, and I'm glad I had home to come home to.
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In which I admit my hypocrisy [Oct. 1st, 2015|11:37 am]
When it comes to language, I am a proud Luddite. I cling to the proper use of grammar. I object to people using the word "problematic" to mean "a problem" when the actual definition is "questionable," and agree that I can hand you the remote, but you haven't asked if I will. I insist on spelling out words in texts, eschewing "cu l8tr" for complete sentences with proper punctuation. I champion the Oxford comma.

And yet.

And yet.

I now regularly use "ima" in place of "I'm going to." Oh, not in writing. But speaking? "Ima stop at the grocery store. Want anything?" I hear myself do it, at least part of the time, and reflect upon this slippage of my speech. I know it's not the only example of my speech getting slangy, it's just the one of which I am most aware.

There is nothing about this phrase that is superior to the other phrases that I reject. It just works on my tongue. I have to admit, then, that language is a living thing that does, in fact, move and change.

But I still believe that grammar and vocabulary are important. Precision of thought requires precision of language. Communication beyond the basics is deepened by mutual agreement about the meaning of words.

Ima keep fighting the good fight.
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Empty house [Sep. 28th, 2015|12:57 pm]
Erin and Matt and gone, along with their dog. It's really quiet, and I miss them.
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Full house [Sep. 17th, 2015|03:23 pm]
My younger daughter has just moved in with us for a while. Her big sister is moving to Colorado next week. Her furniture and belongings are all being hauled away in a truck this afternoon, so she, her boyfriend, and their dog will be staying with us for the next week. There will be five of us, and one bathroom.

I can't wait.

I feel so grateful that my daughters have both grown into women that I love to be around. They're thoughtful, intelligent, and wickedly funny. We can talk about everything. They are both passionate about the world they live in, and insightful.

The years of raising kids were not always easy, but having adult children who are such a delight is such a blessing. I'm thrilled that my snowboard-passionate daughter is getting to fulfill her life-long dream and move to the Rockies, but boy am I going to miss her.

For the next few days I will be cooking for five. I'll be making all the kids' favorite meals and we'll talk and laugh and probably argue over the stupidest damned things. Because we're still family, and family means we rub each other the wrong way now any then, particularly in close quarters. Both girls have tempers, and like all sisters know just how to get each other's skin. I have a bit of a temper, too, and they can trigger the "mom voice" in me. But we will have a great time together.
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Junk drawer [Sep. 15th, 2015|01:38 pm]
I get so irked at myself for not taking before and after pictures of things. Suffice to say that I stumbled into accidental dejunking today when I went to look for something in the junk drawer.

The problem with junk drawers is that every house needs one--that repository for batteries, lighters, takeout menus, scissors, tape, pens--but they quickly become the tossing place for everything that comes into hand but you don't have time to deal with. "I don't want to throw this out, but I don't have a place for it. Hey, the junk drawer!"

Also, I live in a household where certain people (not naming names) have a tendency to change the battery in something and toss the dead batteries back into junk drawer. Also to treat empty tape dispensers like they may grow new tape if they're left alone in a dark place for a while.

I, on the other hand, have a tendency to receive photos of friends and family and, not knowing what to do with them in that moment, toss them into the drawer. The thing is, I *do* know what to do with them; I have a special drawer just for photos. Only I forget that. All. The. Time.

I'm as guilty as anyone else in the household of not wasting the brain power to figure out where a thing actually goes. So the drawer had reached the point of needing to be jammed shut.

Not anymore. I put away, or threw away, at least 60% of what was in there. It's neat and organized, and I found that pair of scissors I've been irritated had disappeared. I feel very accomplished.

It will last about two weeks....
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Carrying water--and when to put it down [Sep. 14th, 2015|01:01 pm]
I just got a motion for a trustee to dismiss one of my client's cases for not providing tax returns. When I met with this client, they had not done their tax returns for multiple years. I told them they had to do them and get them to me ASAP. I have heard nothing from them on the subject.

So why do *I* feel guilty? The client is adult, and the consequences were explained. The client was reminded a couple weeks ago.

My calendar is filled with tick reminders to client after client as to when their payments are due--even though they receive the orders and I gave them the dates at the time that we met. I just spent two months straightening out three separate clients who stopped making their chapter 13 payments without ever letting me know.

I'm not a lawyer, I'm a babysitter.

I think I have to get more assertive when I meet with people. I have to tell them the deadlines, but then I have to tell them that they are personally responsible for meeting those deadlines, and if they want me to be their calendar they'd better fork over more money.
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Nerding [Sep. 10th, 2015|10:54 am]
In this day and age, when everyone has jumped on the superhero bandwagon, there are a lot of people sounding like hipsters: "I was into the Avengers before they became popular." For many of them, it's kind of a disappointment to find that the passion they'd learned to embrace as the thing that made them different is now shared by millions.

To me, this is great. My biggest fandom is Star Wars, and having all this new merch around is fun--even if I buy next to none of it. I'm not worried about over-exposure. I love what I love, and seeing Star Wars stuff everywhere makes me happy.

I learned many years ago that there is a difference between fandom and geekdom. When visiting a friend for the weekend, I was informed that, though I had not watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, that night was the finale, and she was watching it live. She'd watched the whole series, and she wasn't about to miss the end of it just because of out-of-town company. So we watched, and seeing that final episode was the impetus behind my going back and watching the entire series in reruns. Since it was on 5 days a week, I accomplished in just a few months what she'd taken seven years to complete.

The movie Star Trek: Generations came out a couple weeks before another visit. When I got to her house, she asked if I'd seen it. I told her yes, and then excitedly expounded about how, in the last iteration of the time loop, we hadn't actually seen Lursa and B'etor die, and so maybe those characters had survived and could come back.

She gave me a kind of side-eye look and said, "You've gotten way too into this...."

That's when I realized that there will always be levels of fandom, and that I would always be the kind of person who, when I fell in love with something, took it to extremes that other fans wouldn't even imagine existed.

And that's cool. My friend isn't less of a fan because her fandom doesn't drag her into a depth of passion that mine does me. I can love the Marvel movies and DC television shows even though I don't have an understanding of the history behind the characters that Ferrett, as a comic book geek, has. I've seen his glee, while watching The Flash, at the introduction of characters, and I know that he'd "getting it" on a far deeper level than I am. But that doesn't mean I'm not having fun.

Yes, you are probably much more of a geek about the things you love passionately than other people who like that thing. But it's a big tent. We can all fit in it.
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365 degrees [Sep. 3rd, 2015|01:11 pm]
I have been slaving in the junk mines, hauling enough crap out of the house that Ferrett has started having dreams about moving--his subconscious can't believe that there's this much activity going on without us actually changing residences.

So why is there still such a mess? My dining room is currently giving my agita. My sewing machine is on the table, along with all the detritus of making a quilt. There is packaging for a piece of furniture that just arrived. Erin left behind some things when she picked up Summit after we dogsat for a week. There is fur everywhere, waiting for me to get enough picked up that I can actually vacuum.

I turn around in a full circle, and all I see is the mess. Then I turn just a little further and I am reminded that this is a home. It's a living, evolving space, not a museum. Messes are going to flow in like the tide, and then flow out again. And my friend Lucy, who was over yesterday evening, helped me with perspective. I was complaining about it, and she said. "It's not really a mess. It's just a mess compared to what you want it to be."

I admit it. I find sparseness restful. Ferrett, on the other hand, finds it cold. When the house is as clean as I want it, he feels like he's living in a hotel.

So I make concessions. There are toys scattered on the living room floor, because dog. In one month, all the Rock Band instruments will come back up from the basement and clutter my living room with plastic. But it's plastic that bespeaks friends and fun, and so I will live with the drumset that's about the size of a VW Beetle. Because several times a month my house will be filled with laughter and music, and that's a good thing. A bit messy, but still good.
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Shedding [Sep. 1st, 2015|02:12 pm]
We have been living with two dogs for a little over a week now. My daughter's dog, Summit, is a white, shorthaired mutt. My dog, Shasta, is a black, shorthaired mutt.

Together, they apparently believe they fight crime. Judging from their barking, at least.

Shasta's short black fur hides pretty well on the furniture, but Summit's white is another matter. My carpet looks like it's grown elderly and needs a dye job. I haven't vacuumed because Summit goes home tonight. Tomorrow, there will be vacuuming.

In the meantime, however, I am adding to the mess. What I'm shedding, though, isn't fur. It's threads. I'm working on a quilt for Ferrett, and hauled my sewing machine and equipment upstairs. Because I am insane, I chose a pattern that has over 3500 pieces, many of them not much larger than a quarter. This has led to a lot of thread bits, many the same length as the dog hair, scattered on the floor, the carpet, tumbleweeding companionably with fur in corners.

So, yeah, pretty much the whole family is shedding. Oh, did I mention that Ferrett is balding as well...?
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Melanie Wilkes is my copilot [Aug. 31st, 2015|12:06 pm]
My friend Bart spent yesterday evening on Facebook, live-tweeting his experience of watching Gone With the Wind. He made the argument that it is, for the most part, incredibly feminist and progressive. He concentrated on Scarlett, of course. But to me? The real badass is Melanie.

People miss this, because Melanie is kind and quiet, and because our main POV character is Scarlett. Scarlett doesn't get Melanie until the very last. But when she does, she realizes that Melanie was her true champion all along.

So let's break it down. The first time we see Melanie, she's all mousy in dove gray, and Scarlett attempts to make her jealous and convince her that Ashley is a lying scoundrel. Melanie hears what Scarlett says, and her reply is the sweetest, "Well bless your heart, aren't you the cutest thing?" dismissal of Scarlett's venom. She pulls Scarlett's fangs, and our little belle doesn't even realize it.

Melanie is never physically strong, but she's the one who keeps going at the hospital. She's the one who's got the guts to assist the doctors while Scarlett runs away.

And when they get to Tara and Scarlett shoots the potential rapist in the face? Melanie's the one who's all, "You go, girl, let's loot the body." She keeps her head, keeps the rest of the family away with a quick lie, and keeps Scarlett focused on dealing with the body.

Melanie is the one who, in the midst of a very judgmental society, accepts the generosity of a prostitute when all the other "good" women sneer at her. She's the one who is not just willing but proud to acknowledge her gratitude and debt to Belle Watling.

It's not that Melanie is weak-willed. No, when India Wilkes catches Scarlett in the arms of Ashley and scurries off to tell Melanie, Melanie is all, "Bitch, get out my face, out my house, you dead to me." And that's the end of India. Ashley's sister has to wait until Melanie is on her deathbed for dispensation. Melanie rules with iron.

And that iron is surrounded in a velvet so soft that most people don't realize the iron is under there. At the Atlanta ball scene, Melanie--who can't be more than 20--is considered such an important pillar of society that her endorsement of unconventional behaviors makes them acceptable. While people may regard her acknowledgement of Belle Watling as naive, no one looks down on her for it. Melanie calmly lies to the face of soldiers, cool enough that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, and they believe her because she has always been genteel. She saves Scarlett's reputation--and Bonnie's future in society (had she lived) by her acceptance of Scarlett into her home.

Melanie's kindness and gentleness gave her the latitude to be ruthless as hell and get away with stuff that no other woman could. And everyone around her loves her--even Scarlett.

Yeah, Scarlett's got all the flame, blazing on the surface. But Melanie? Melanie's the hot coals at the base of the fire, where the real work gets done.
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Unnerving moments [Aug. 28th, 2015|09:53 pm]
This weekend Ferrett and I were scheduled to go to a con in Lansing. Because Erin is out of town, instead of our built-in dogsitter we had both dogs to watch. But the daughter of a friend has watched the dogs for us before. So we had arranged for her to come again.

Then Tuesday I came down with pinkeye. When I was at the doctor's office, he asked if I had a fever, nausea, earache, any other symptoms. I said no, but he looked askance.

I should have known there was a reason behind all that. As the week went on I felt worse and worse. Last night I was up in the night, throwing up, feverish, miserable. This morning Ferrett and I regretfully agreed that I was not in any shape to go to a convention.

I contacted the mom of our dogsitter, apologizing that we would not need her.

A bit later, I heard back from her. Turns out that her husband, dogsitter's dad, had shown up at the school intending to prevent me from taking her with us. Their relationship is...contentious, to say the least. So we wouldn't have a dogsitter in any event, messing up the weekend if it hadn't been messed up by my illness.

But, stupidly and I know ridiculously, I feel like I've dodged a bullet. A literal bullet. Even yesterday, when dogsitter's mom mentioned that her dad objected to her coming her, but that it was okay, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that things might go very badly.

This morning, when I thought about going to get her, a chill went down my spine and I thought, "If I go there, he's going to shoot me."

Now there is not one reason in the world for me to actually think that. I don't know that he owns any guns, I've never heard of him owning guns, and while I don't like the guy, I've never seen him threaten anyone.

When I stop to think about it, logically, it's a very silly, melodramatic thought. But in this day and age, when shootings happen live on TV, it's probably not surprising that I had this reaction. Because there's a nonzero chance that an angry father, believing that he is being manipulated, could pull out a gun--a legally acquired gun--to make a point. And that, in a moment of heat, that gun couldn't end up being fired.

I have always been in favor of the right to bear arms. I lived in Alaska, and owned firearms. I had lots of friends who owned firearms. I like to go target shooting.

But I'm not sure it's worth the risk anymore. Not when we kill each other so regularly. Not when walking into a disagreement between a married couple makes me fear for my life.
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Crafting, and crafting [Aug. 27th, 2015|03:15 pm]
About five years ago Ferrett was really getting into woodworking. For Christmas that year, I bought him a set of power tools to set up a shop in our garage.

Those tools sat in boxes in the middle of the garage floor for two years.

In 2013, Ferrett and our daughter Erin took a long weekend and set up the tools. They built an arcade cabinet.

Then everything sat fallow for the next year or so.

Finally, last fall our friend Eric wanted to build some bookcases for his third-floor office. The guys worked on that project, decided they really enjoyed woodworking, and when spring came this year got pretty serious about projects. They now have Woodworking Wednesdays, once-a-week evenings when they craft. They've replaced some of the not-very-good beginners tools with better equipment, and are in the process of turning our garage into a working shop.

By this winter, I should be able to park inside again. I can't begin to tell you what a thrill that is.

But as they are out there, measuring twice (or more) and cutting once, I am in here, crafting as well. I'm making a quilt, Ferrett's otter quilt. I'm measuring and cutting, then putting the resulting bits back together. When the guys come in from the garage, they chuckle at the parallels of what we're doing. My sewing machine sat fallow for a while, but I'm crafting again.

What he makes is sturdy and supportive. What I make is soft and cuddly. I am at an advantage, because if my cuts are a little off I can ease or stretch, something that's pretty tough with wood. In the end, we have one more thing in common: other people see an awesome piece of work, and we see our mistakes. But even with goofs, both our projects bring warmth and a feeling of being loved to the person who receives them.
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The 365 project [Aug. 24th, 2015|03:24 pm]
Today, I removed five dead computers from our house. Some of these computers have been hanging around here, defunct, for more than a decade. Every year our local government have a technology disposal week. Every year I think, "Oh, I need to take advantage of that!"

Every year, I forget. But not this year! Five! Five dead computers gone.

That only leaves three, maybe four dead computers still hanging around. Hey, you do what you can.

Anyway, it's part of what's referred to as the 365 project: donate, recycle, or throw out one item from your house every day for a year. Getting the crap clutter out of the house. It's harder than you think. Oh, I got rid of probably 365 separate items in the last month, clearing out a bunch of junk from the basement, and the computers, old speakers, cables, keyboards, etc. It's easy to do the big stuff.

The tough part is doing it every single day. It doesn't matter if you got rid of 50 things on Tuesday, Wednesday you need to figure out something else that can go. That's when you start drilling down and really evaluating what can go.

We all have way too much junk in our lives. It weighs us down. I'm trying to lessen that weight, lighten the physical burden of life.

Until we moved to Ohio, it was pretty easy. I never lived in one place for more than three years. At least every 36 months, often considerably less time than that, I had to pack everything up, haul it to a new place, and find a new place to put it. When you have to schlep all the crap, you get a lot more ruthless about what you really need to take with you, what you need to find another place to store.

I've been in the same house for 14 years now. I have a basement, with big storage closets. It's easy to keep things "just in case" I need them.

I seldom do.

So now I'm dragging crap back out of the house. Some days it's, "Oh, crap, I don't have much time, what can go?" Other days I come across a treasure trove of crap to mine.

We'll see what things look like by next August.
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(no subject) [Aug. 21st, 2015|05:25 pm]
Ferrett and I watch a show called Food Network Star. It's a contest that selects one cook to become the Next Food Network Star. The only really big star who has come out of the contest is Guy Fieri, but winners (and some runners-up) from other seasons are now perennial favorites on the network.

All contestants must have a viewpoint, the thing that is going to sell them as the next star: Aarti Sequeira and her Aarti Party entertainment show; Jeff Mauro as the Sandwich King. So a few times over the years of watching, Ferrett and I have wondered about what, if we were ever contestants, our shtick would be. I'd never been able to think of one, until I was cleaning up the kitchen today and noticed this:

It's clear: I would be the Cast Iron Queen.

Yes, I have felt the pull of All Clad and its shiny, gleaming silver. I ever have one All Clad skillet. And it's lovely for omelets. But most of the time, I reach for the sturdy black of my cast iron. I love the way it holds heat, I love how sturdy it is.

I love that it doesn't require a lot of scouring to look good. And compared to All Clad? You can outfit a kitchen with cast iron for the cost of one All Clad saute pan.

So that would be my thing, on Food Network Star. I'd advocate for heavy cookware--and probably get thrown off after just a couple weeks for lack of sophistication. But if they want down-home cooking, me and my cast iron are the ones to pick.
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The kitchen is reopening [Aug. 20th, 2015|03:58 pm]
There's bread rising on my counter.

For those who know me, this used to be a common, multiple-times-a-week occurrence. I baked bread as regularly as breathing.

That all stopped a couple years ago. I honestly can't remember when I last baked bread. A lot of things about my life kind of came to a halt in the last couple years. I shut down to minimum life support. I bathed, I read, I kept up on clients, and barely spoke to people.

But in the last month or so, I've felt like I'm slowly, slowly waking up. I'm working like someone who likes her job, I'm getting exercise, I'm keeping up the house the way I like it kept up.

And I'm starting to cook again. For a while there we were eating out a lot, bringing in a lot of takeout. Now, in the last couple days, I've actually felt like cooking for the first time in a long time. And yesterday I felt the need to revive my pour sourdough, to see whether Shelob had survived my neglect.

She had. So today I am baking a loaf of the bread that was the staple of my baking, the bread I can bake without pulling out a recipe, with a minimum of measuring. I am definitely rusty, but it's rising.

I can't say for certain that this will become the regular occurrence it was before. After so long of being so subfunctional I'm finding it hard to trust that this new energy of mine will last. I'm still not all the way back--my tolerance of crowds is low, and even the company of my dearest friends is something I can only take in small doses. Some days being responsible and working just feel like they're going to kill me, like I can't possibly do it another day. I worry that I'll fall back into that morass.

But not today. Today I'm baking bread.
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Games mortgage companies play [Aug. 17th, 2015|11:12 am]
Today, I received mail from one of the many mortgage companies I deal with. It was a request for permission to contact a client of mine directly regarding a loan modification. This is a pretty standard form, so I signed it and prepared to send it back.

That's when things got a little suspicious. The form instructed me to send it back in the self-addressed, postage-paid envelope accompanying the letter. But the envelope I received had exactly one sheet of paper in it: the form itself.

Well, I thought, human error and oversights can happen. I'll just mail it myself. I looked the form letter over. And then studied it closely. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Though it's pretty standard stationery, there is no address to be found anywhere on this letter. No address, no fax number, and no contact number for the person who sent the letter.

I had so much trouble believing this that, even as I'm writing this entry, I paused to study that letter one last time. No contact information whatsoever appears on this letter. I can't help but assume that this is intentional: a false attempt to appear cooperative while actually stonewalling the borrower.

I wish I could say that such incidences are isolated. But my experience over the years is that mortgage companies are seldom cooperative in the loan modification process.

Whenever a client of mine has prepared a loan modification packet, I instruct them to send it by certified mail, so that someone has to sign for it, and to keep a copy of everything they've sent. Because mortgage companies are notorious for misplacing loan modification packets or claiming they never arrived.

In the worst incident, the borrowers had sent in 8 separate copies of the loan modification packet. Every time they finally got acknowledgment of receipt of the packet and began working with a mortgage company representative, that representative would get transferred, someone else would be in charge of their mortgage, and that person would not have a copy of the packet anymore.

By the time they came to me, they were fighting tears of frustration. A short-term layoff had gotten them behind on their mortgage, but because the mortgage company would not accept their payments they were now months behind, in danger of foreclosure, and the interest and penalties were piling up.

Unfortunately, there is very little regulation that forces mortgage companies to act in good faith. There have been some class action lawsuits leading to multi-million dollar settlements, and some borrowers are benefiting from those funds. But as far as actually changing the behavior of these companies on a day-to-day basis, the lawsuits have accomplished very little.

It's pretty appalling that we as a nation loaned money to these companies, sent none of the CEOs to jail, let them all pay themselves giant bonuses, and are still getting screwed over by them. But hey, corporations own the government now...
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The weird granularities of tableware [Aug. 14th, 2015|02:35 pm]
The food is cooked, the plates are filled. Everything smells delicious. Smiling, Ferrett hands me a fork. I smile back, but apologetically.

"Um, thank you. But can you get me a big one?"

It completely baffles him, but I hate eating dinner with a salad fork. For him, it's an instrument of delivery for food. For me, it's part of the food experience. The weight of the fork, the size of the bites, the balance in my hand, they all have a direct impact on how much I enjoy my food.

What I've never confessed to him (until now, obviously) is that since we've gotten a new set of flatware I often reject the dinner fork of one of the patterns for the dinner fork of the other pattern. This is not a matter of preferring one pattern over the other. No, I actually choose different ones on different days because that one is going to feel better eating this particular meal.

I know it's silly. I've actually been so embarrassed by this at times that I accept the proffered fork from Ferrett, and then sneak back into the kitchen to switch them out. But eating is more than just flavor. It's an experience for all the senses, and my sense of touch comes into play with the weight of that fork in my hand. Thin, flimsy silverware at a restaurant actually distresses me--but then again so does the stuff that's overly heavy. Each spoon doesn't need to weigh a quarter pound. I just don't want to feel like I can tie it in a knot, either.

Let's not even discuss bent fork tines [shudder].

Anyone else have odd aversions, ones that don't relate to the actual food? Or is it just me?
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Why I am stupidly happy with Play Boy [Aug. 13th, 2015|06:12 pm]
Playboy ran an article in early July of this year that was a pictography of "ways of the O" - but worrying about women finding their happy place was not the thing that made me excited (see what I did there?) about the article.

No, the exciting part for me is that half the pictures are with plus-sized models. Go take a look; it's pretty much work safe (unless you work in a church or a daycare, I suppose). The first five pictures are a very standard, very blonde model, but the last five contain models (two of them) who have a little more meat on their bones than what's considered the standard of beauty.
This is a delightful development. Considering that most women are at least the size of, if not larger, than the plus-sized models, it's nice--great, in fact--to see this kind of acknowledgement that we exist, and that men can find us attractive, and can and should want to take our pleasure into consideration. A more realistic view of the female form in all its glory can only be good for us all.

I can, however, anticipate that there is criticism. Those who worship a random idealization of body type undoubtedly think of such pictures as "giving women permission to be fat." That it encourages women to "let themselves go."

To them I say, good! The idealized female form in modern society--skinny and young--is achievable by maybe 1% of women. Even that 1% can only stay young for so many years. The constant pressure to be something that we can't be serves only the beauty business that relies on our self-loathing. Oh, and the $6 billion/year diet industry.

Thank you, Play Boy, for showing women who actually exist in daily life. We're an awful lot of fun to snuggle up with.

After all, we're built for comfort, not for speed.
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Columbia House: Another dinosaur falling to dust [Aug. 11th, 2015|10:55 am]
When I was a kid, every magazine had that little postcard-weight page with a hundred record albums listed, each with a tiny box in front of its title. "Get 12 albums for just a penny," it said at the top. I'd check off 12 albums on that Columbia House Records ad, daydreaming about how great it would be to own all this music. (My mother, wise woman that she was, absolutely forbid me from actually sending in the postcards.)

Now, Columbia House is on their way out. And for good reason. Selling music in the digital age is a completely different animal than it was back when I was a kid.

My goddaughter Carolyn does not own albums. She owns a computer, and it has a connection to YouTube. When she wants to listen to songs, she looks them up and plays the music video. The music is just there for her. Why would she spend money on it?

It's proving to be a challenge for the music industry. Meaghan Trainor had to cancel shows because of her vocal chords hemorrhaging. Hemorrhaging! Good grief! And she's not the only one. More artists are ending up with vocal nodules and other voice problems, because they're out on the road touring a lot more. I'm seeing my favorite a capella group Home Free for a third time in a year next month because they are on their third tour in 18 months.

Because that's where the money is. Album sales just aren't driving the industry anymore.

But exhausting our favorite singers can't be the final answer of how the music industry survives. I'll be interested to see what innovation artists will come up with, now that the big labels and distributors are no longer the answer.
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Little blue slave driver [Aug. 7th, 2015|11:36 am]
I have a Jawbone now.

You're probably thinking, "surely she had one before; most people are born with them!"

Ah, but this Jawbone is a step tracker, an ugly blue bit of plastic wrapped around my wrist. I chose the Jawbone over other trackers because a cluster of my in-laws have the same device and now we can all be on a team together, even though we are half a country away from each other.

Which means that they can now see whether I'm getting my sleep, and whether I'm getting my steps in. It's kind of like a weird, cellphone based Santa Claus (he sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're walking the dog).

Honestly, I am enjoying sharing this increase in fitness with my family. We can send each other cheering notes, and there have definitely been evenings when I haven't really *wanted* to walk the dog, but I've done so in order to get the last of my 10,000 steps in for the day.

But, wow, on those days when work or other situations just make it impossible for me to get them in? So much guilt! Particularly when I see my sister-in-law logging 20,000 steps or more. 20,000? I haven't gotten anywhere close to that, ANY day! I'm impressed and intimidated.

And now I've been working and writing and on the couch for way too long. It's not whips or chains that drive me on, it's peer pressure! Off to movement for a while!
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Be awesome to each other [Aug. 6th, 2015|02:13 pm]
I'm feeling blue today, after a conversation with a couple who are breaking up. She did things, and he did things, and then they both did things out of anger and pain and defensiveness.

In the end, she sits stricken, tears rolling down her still face. And he has the calm of someone who has walled away his emotions.

I sit between a woman who doesn't want a divorce, and a man who can't stay any longer.

And I just want to smack them both.

Yes, there were things done, and things said, that are unforgettable. But when I see that much pain between people who obviously still care, I just wish I could knock some sense into them.

It takes a lot to put aside pain and anger when someone has hurt you badly. And some people are determined to just keep causing pain. Sometimes you've both changed too much to reach across the gap.

But sometimes it seems like two good people of good will who care about each other simply can't get past an event.

I've heard the phrase, "Never assign to malice what can be attributed to stupidity." And when Ferrett says or does something hurtful, I try hard to remain calm and point out the painful thing instead of shooting back.

Sometimes I fail. And then Ferrett is generally wise enough to tell me that I've hurt him.

Sometimes we both fail. But we try not to fail for long. We can damage each other, but we have faith in our good will and push through our own anger to reach out to each other.

As I sat with that couple, I wanted so much to help them reach through their anger and hurt. But you can't force that on people, and a year of painful encounter takes a lot to get through. All I can do is urge them to be as good to each other as they can.
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Dream anxiety [Aug. 4th, 2015|10:31 am]
Last night I dreamed all night about packing and moving from an apartment. It was a very anxious dream: I had to paint the apartment and pack, and I just couldn't get myself to get anything done. In parts of it there were children who had to be cajoled into packing, in parts it was a dorm room, but all of it was anxiety about deadlines of getting things packed and painted.

In other news, I have a whole series of clients doing irritating things that require me to write motions and go to court. I'm sure there is no relationship between these two occurrences.

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Desert days [Aug. 3rd, 2015|11:21 am]
Saturday evening, I walked my dog into the past.

It was a perfect evening here in Cleveland: 80 degrees, but the humidity was low. The sky was blue, and the slightest of breezes lifted the leaves; even flags were too heavy for its gentle touch.

We came up a different street than we usually walk, one that is rich in trees and older homes. And half a century just evaporated. I was back at my great-grandparents’ house at the end of 8th Avenue in The Dalles. The long blocks of manicured, green lawns gave way, on the west side of my grandparents’ house, to the desert from which it they had been claimed. The street rose abruptly in front of their house, almost like a horse rearing from danger. And danger there was, indeed, for just across the street, behind Marge Kraft’s house, was The Bluff.

It might have had an actual name, but for us kids it was just The Bluff.

There were always skid marks on that part of the street, where it was steep enough to require the application of horsepower and a running start. Then it curved around Grandpa’s house to become 7th Place, a street that would have been an alley in any other part of town but for the fact that the houses on the north side of it had nothing beyond but The Bluff.

That little crescent on the west side of Grandpa Lemuel’s immaculately kept lawn was our own little chunk of wilderness, when we were little. Rough and broken granite pushed up in large and small chunks, and the prairie grass grew wild. In the spring there were blue bonnets and bachelor buttons and other wild flowers that we would gather and present to Gramma Lemuel for her many vases. In the summer there were prickles and burrs that scratched our legs and had to be wrestled from our clothes.

Those jagged rocks were stepping stones over hot lava. Over poison. Over rough seas. And they were milestones as well, demonstrating the triumph of our growth when we grew tall enough to make the leap between two stones that had been impossible a month before.

I can’t count the number of banged-up knees and elbows that were Bactined and BandAided through the years. Parents and aunts and grandparents scolded us for our tears, pointing out that they were all our own fault. But they never told us to stop playing on those rocks.

And when we were old enough to cross the street by ourselves, there was the magnificence of the pirate ship in the Krafts’ yard. Oh, to you it might only be a giant, ragged chunk of granite. But for us? The magnificent way that it started high at the south end, dipped low in the center, and then rose into a prow at the north?

Captain Hook never captained a better ship than this. The hours that we passed, half a dozen kids scrambling over that rock, can’t be counted.

Never mind that the north end of it dropped off about 12 feet to more craggy rocks and then the long, steep roll off The Bluff. A fall from it could have been fatal, but the couple times we tumbled off led to nothing more than bruises and sprains and admonitions to be careful.

We had no electronics. We came in at night filthy and exhausted. We climbed into bathtubs where we yowled at the hot water on our scratches and cuts.

They were the best times ever.
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The hazards of clear-cutting a jungle [Jul. 31st, 2015|12:52 pm]
I'm currently nursing a bee sting on the index finger of my left hand. The hand is swollen enough that I'm having considerable trouble typing.

I can't blame the bee. She was doing her job. A giant creature was ripping out all the vegetation in front of her home, and what would a bee think the purpose of such a thing to be? Why, attacking the hive, of course. Her job was protecting the hive, and this was the third time in four days that the giant creature had assaulted her home.

I think that's why she and her compatriots were so persistent in chasing me down. Before, when I've gone around the corner of the garage and out of sight of the hive, they have settled back down fairly quickly. This time, I was standing a ways down the driveway and they were still determined to drive me further away.

As a counter-measure, I put my hand in the air, pinkie and thumb out in the "no worries" pose, and flickered it back and forth. The shadow resembles a chimney swift, and bees generally flee from it.

Not this time. This time I felt the sharp bite of a sting. Apparently I pushed my hand up just where Miss Thang was flying, and she tagged me. I'd been calm to this point, since I was wearing a bee net and long pants and sleeves. But I had on garden gloves, vented in the back, rather than bee gloces. Cursing my stupidity came into the house, peeled off the glove, checked for a stinger, cleaned it up, and went back to work--in a completely different section of the garden. I could definitely feel it, but it wasn't that bad.

By the time we walked to the movie theater last night I was holding it up in the air to keep the swelling down. By this morning it was definitely swollen. Now, despite Benadryl, I can almost watch it swell more. And I feel a bit achy in my joints. I've always reacted dramatically to bug bites, but believe me, there will be no gardening today!
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Best laid plans and all that [Jul. 29th, 2015|12:38 pm]
The plan was:

1. Go to bed early
2. Get up early
3. Work on the garden before the heat became unendurable

As you may recall, just over a week ago I posted a lamentation about the jungle that was my back yard. Well, the city sent us a letter about "weeds over 8 inches tall." And I laughed: "Haha, you fools! Some of these weeds are over 8 FEET tall!"

Then I realized I was overachieving in the wrong direction.

Anyway, the letter arrived on Saturday, and while it does give us a couple weeks in which to correct the error of our ways, I figured I'd better get started on it. So Monday I got up early and put in an hour of garden time. These giant dandelions were abuzz with honeybees, and I briefly considered trying to declare our yard a honeybee sanctuary, but decided that probably wasn't going to get me anywhere. It was pretty toasty by the end of that hour, and I figured I should definitely stick to the early hours for such things. Yesterday I had court early, so gardening was out. So I made the aforementioned plan.

The result was:

1. Go to bed early
2. Toss and turn until around 2am, get up late
3. Work on the garden despite it already being 85 degrees out there.

This time I was able to locate the bee hood, which is good because I was working close to the hive and the bees were getting pretty unhappy with me by the end. It also kept the sun from beating down on my face and head. But at the end of the hour, when I hauled 9 leaf bags of detritus to the curb tomorrow's trash pickup, I was pretty darned shaky. Which is when I realized that there should have been a couple more numbers on my list:

4. Take some water with you
5. Eat something before you start

I staggered back inside, hot and trembling, and flung myself into a cold shower. Then I laid on the bed for about 45 minutes with the ceiling fan on. I had to ask Ferrett a question, so I texted him. Because getting up to walk to the living room would take too much effort. I've had some water and milk now, but have to get up the energy to actually eat something.

But I have to say that the absolute worst bed of weeds is almost tamed. It just has this odd fringe in the front. Why? Because that's directly in front of the hive, and they were DECIDEDLY not happy with my presence by the time I got that close. It makes sense; I was yanking things around, changing the shade patterns and temperatures of the hive. When I saw them lifting off by the dozens to hover in front of me, it was time to quit for the day.

I'm hoping to make it out there early tomorrow, yank up the last of those weeds, and get it all out for the trash pickup. There will still be lots of work to do, but at least that will be a good start.

(And the bees appear to be thriving on neglect. We lost the newer hive, but the older one is quite healthy. We haven't been in there at all this year, and I don't know whether we will. If we don't, we are still contributing pollinators to the area. And we won't steal their honey.)

There will be pictures. But not until I have an "after" that's not appalling.
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The reward for doing a good job is being ignored [Jul. 28th, 2015|12:57 pm]
I hurt Ferrett's feelings yesterday, because I didn't understand that he was in an emotionally vulnerable place.

I didn't understand that he was in an emotionally vulnerable place because he'd been making a concerted effort to keep his vulnerability to himself, not to burden me with his misbehaving brain weasels. As a result, something that should have been a minor toe-trodding turned out to be really hurtful. Because from his worldview he was already doing as much as he could, and from mine there was no perceived effort.

The details of what and why are unimportant. What it made me think about is how darned much time people spend struggling with their own hidden demons, and how oblivious we all are when the brain weasels of others are chewing on the last nerves.

It's tough to be a grownup all the time. There's no one to give us a cookie, or even a pat on the back, on the days when simply getting out of bed feels like climbing a mountain, when our inner child is throwing a tantrum over taking out the trash but we do it anyway without complaint. When the dishes in the sink make us want to scream and stamp our feet, but instead we just clean it up.

And then comes the moment that pushes us past our ability to cope, and we get hurt, or yell. And the other person, dealing with their own brain weasels, is likely to be all, "What the hell?!"

It ambushes, and yet life would be so much worse if we didn't control those demons and weasels. It's exhausting to deal with people who don't control them, and off-putting. But we are very bad at seeing beyond our own efforts.

If we're lucky, the other person will get past the initial shock without too much defensiveness, and we can get over the hurt without it turning into a fight. If we're *really* lucky, the other person will recognize the weasels gone wild and provide us with pats on the back and cookies (figurative or real).

For my part, I am reminded once again that when the person in the grocery store is surly, or a driver blasts a horn and gives me the finger, these people might not just be jerks. They might, in fact, be having a very bad brain weasel day, and just being on their feet and functioning is kind of heroic. I'm reminded to be patient, and give them space. Maybe some gentleness will make their demons easier to live with. Maybe they will be able to pass that on to others.
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Smile or die [Jul. 27th, 2015|12:03 pm]
The question of whether or not Sandra Bland hung herself in her jail cell--while important--is distracting us from the more important issue. Sandra Bland should never have been dragged from that car, and blaming her for her arrest is appalling.

15 years ago I got pulled over by a cop. It was winter, the roads were solid ice, and when the light changed on Northern Lights Boulevard, I tried to stop. Despite antilock breaks, I slid into the middle of the intersection of "C" street. The light completed changing and 5 lanes of traffic started moving toward me. It was rush hour, it was dark, and I had no way to back up. All I could do was clear the intersection.

Looking in the rear view mirror, I saw a police car turn onto Northern Lights and flip on his lights. Sure enough, he was after me. I pulled over, shaking with fury. He asked if I knew why he'd stopped me. I said no, because I'd been unable to stop. He said I'd never even braked. I said that he couldn't have seen that because of where he was sitting when I slid into the intersection. He gave me a ticket anyway. I was crying and angry and not at all cooperative.

He didn't demand that I get out of the car. He apologized for messing up my morning.

That's how such an encounter should go. A police officer should expect that pulling people over is not going to make them happy. An officer should expect that people might, in fact, swear at them, and that the officer's job in the situation is to calm things down.

So when I see people saying that what happened to Sandra Bland is because she was uncooperative, I am horrified. Who are these people who think that police officers should be mindlessly obeyed, and if they do not receive not just cooperation but eager cooperation then those officers are justified in dragging people from their cars and arresting them for resisting an officer.

This is only a few steps from a "let me see your papers" kind of police state. Our fourth amendment rights are threatened and many people are supporting the police as they trample these rights. We are supposed to be protected against unreasonable search and seizure. Refusing to put out a cigarette is not an act that should triggered reasonable seizure. Where does it end? Disagreeing with an officer? Rolling one's eyes? Not smiling?
Do we truly want to live in a world where red lights flashing behind us leave us in fear of our lives?
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Adulting [Jul. 25th, 2015|12:49 pm]
I was contemplating what it means to be an adult today, triggered by reading my "On This Day" in Facebook. Two years ago today we were in Kauai, and one of my posts read, "Hello, Kauai! I'd forgotten the joy of coconut syrup!"
Of course, I immediately remembered that forgotten joy, and wondered if it was something I could acquire in the states.

Kauai's coconut syrup is a unique product, cloyingly sweet, and it is the one item that overcomes my dislike of sweet things for breakfast. I dislike maple syrup, and generally am not fond of pancakes. But give me a bottle of Kauai coconut syrup and I will DROWN those flapjacks in it.

So of course I was curious as to whether this product is something that one can get via the internet. And the answer is, only sorta. You can get Hawaii coconut syrup, which claims to be just like the syrup served in island restaurants. But it's a different label, and I am suspicious.

Alternatively, you can get a dried version of the real thing, to which you just add boiling water to reconstitute. This makes sense to me. Shipping from Hawaii is prohibitively expensive, so why ship the water if you can avoid it. It's not quite the same, but it's the same company, so I bet it's close.

And that's when I began contemplating adulthood. There is nothing of nutritional value in this syrup; it's almost certainly 99% sugar. And while it's a wonderful treat when I get to Hawaii, is it something I want to have in my home for mundane use?

If I was a kid, I could whine and beg and probably storm away in a rage at the unfairness of life when I was refused this silly thing. But I'm an adult. I have a credit card. I could click the button and make Kauai coconut syrup appear in my house.

Which means when I look around for someone to tell me yes or no, that someone has to be me. I'm adult enough that I can choose what I want. I'm grown up enough to make those choices be smart.

I closed the amazon page.
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And we forgot the taste of bread.... [Jul. 24th, 2015|11:34 am]
As some of you know, last fall Ferrett and I did an experiment wherein we ate Soylent--and only Soylent--for a week. The first few days were hell, but by the end of it I kind of wanted to go on just eating Soylent. So we started a subscription by which a month's worth of the stuff would be sent to us every four weeks.
This was one of those experiments in which we mostly learned how much we suck. Because of course for the couple weeks we had to wait for the Soylent to arrive, we went back to eating real food. So when it came we were no longer inured, and our taste buds screamed, "What the hell are you doing?!!"
We have only succeeded in soylent-only days a couple times, none of them consecutively.

Our next thought was, well we will eat soylent for breakfast and lunch, and regular food for dinner. Which might have worked if we didn't fall upon dinner like ravening wolves who hadn't eaten all day. And if in the midst of all this we were actually going to the grocery store and shopping.

Instead, we would get to 6pm, both be famished, and order something out. On some days, we might have the insight to have ground turkey in the house and make turkey burgers. But mostly it was last-minute audibles involving the collection of takeaway menus in one of the junk drawers.

A week ago I stopped at the grocery store for milk and peanut butter, and standing in the produce aisle I had something of a panic attack: I honestly couldn't think of things to do with the abundance of food before me. Couldn't think of recipes, couldn't look at a vegetable and get inspired to put something together. Dismayed, I fled to the fluorescent comfort of the dairy section, picked up the two things I'd come for, and checked out. But the experience left me unsettled. I've always been kind of a jazz cook: show me ingredients and I come up with possibilities. Where had that gone?

Wednesday afternoon--woodworking Wednesdays for Ferrett and our friend Eric--I was driving home from a client meeting and wondering where we'd get dinner. And a wave of disgusted nausea rolled over me. I texted Ferrett to tell him that I could not look another takeout dinner in the face. I was heartily, completely, sick of it. So I was going to the grocery store, and making white chicken chili for dinner. I knew that wasn't one of his favorites, but it was something for which I knew all the ingredients and could shop efficiently.

Or so I thought. I got about 3/4 of the way through cooking and realized the four ingredients I'd missed. Slightly daunted, but unwilling to change plans, I hopped in the car and ran back to the grocery store. Erin came over for dinner and she and I finished up the chili together.

Ferrett didn't like it. I don't think Eric cared that much for it. Then again, they got the pepperless, low spice version, because Ferrett can't stand peppers and Eric has no tolerance for any kind of heat. There's was more of a chicken soup than an actual chili. Erin and I, on the other hand, loved ours, and she took home over half of the leftovers.

I'm not quite sure how to go forward. We still have four cases of soylent, and I know for a fact that the week we actually did eat it I felt healthier. But I also know that we've made at least three commitments to soylent-only days and have broken every one. I'm bad at straddling these two worlds, and not sure how to proceed. I've got no wise words or insights on which to end this, just a shrug and a promise to follow up as things progress.
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A matter of taste [Jul. 23rd, 2015|10:04 am]
When I was a wee child, I loved black olives. I’m talking about the pitted ones, straight out the can and tasting of metal as much as anything else. I think it was mostly because I could stick them on the ends of my fingers and march them around like the guards at Buckingham Palace.

Yes, as a 4-year-old born in Oregon, I was already an Anglophile. Blame Captain Kangaroo.

Anyway, somewhere around 5 or 6, I suddenly hated olives. This might have been concurrent with my sudden hatred of cheese (and I do mean sudden—one day I had a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch and the next day informed my mother that I hated cheese; I can still remember the look of total bafflement on her face). But the cheese hatred ended when I was about 12.
Olives, on the other hand, I despised for decades. Even olive oil was distasteful to me.
I remember when that started to change. It was my first visit to Ann Arbor to spend a week with Ferrett, some 16 years ago. He took me to Macaroni Grill, and they gave us bread with olive oil for dipping. They dressed it up with cracked pepper and freshly grated parmesan cheese, and though I turned up my nose at the idea, Ferrett encouraged me to at least taste it.

I didn’t like it.

At least not on the first taste. It was bitter and sharp and musty. But after a few minutes my taste buds said, “Hmm, try that again.” And I still didn’t like it, but I didn’t like it in an intriguing way that brought me back for several more tastes.

In a very short time, I liked olive oil. But only mild olive oil, and certainly not olives. Then by a couple years later I liked stronger olive oils, but not olives.
It wasn’t that I try. I’d figured out that black olives from a can were a bastardized and dreadful creation that would never be any good. But by that time it was pretty easy to find decent quality olives around, and I would try them now and again. No-go. Even salads with olives chopped into them were nasty to me.

In 2008, for my 50th birthday, we went to New Orleans. Someone told Ferrett that we must make a trip to Central Grocery for their muffaletta sandwich. The sandwich is a kind of meat-and-cheese concoction with a thick layer of olive salad. I was willing to walk with him to Central Grocery so that he could have the experience, but I was only going to take a single bite of this olive-laced monstrosity.

After my fourth bite, Ferrett huffily (and justifiably) told me to get back in line and get my own. The funny thing is, I was still having a wincing reaction to the olives, but around that it was delicious.

Still, my attempts at approaching the unadorned olive were still abortive at best. I really wanted to like them, tried time and again, winced through eating them, and was generally failing.

Then in 2014 we went to Italy. And there I ate olives, olives in quantity, olives of beauty. I feasted upon olives.

Then I came home and ate them only rarely. But last week Erin came over with a container of olives from the olive bar at the grocery store, and she and I ate olives and drank wine and that was dinner.

And this afternoon, walking by the olive bar, I craved them again. And brought home olives. Which Erin and I nibbled at while cooking dinner. For which I sautéed the vegetables in a grassy, strong olive oil.

The odd thing is, part of my tongue still isn’t pleased by either the olives or the oil. I both like them and wince at them. But I’ve learned to appreciate that wince at the bitter, and enjoy the rest of it even more because of that odd complexity.

And the other day I ate on olive garnishing some baba ganoush. The moment it was in my mouth, I knew it was an olive from a can. Those? Are still disgusting.
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