Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Week I Am…

Roasted Tomatoes

* roasting tomatoes using the technique from this recipe.  They are delicious!  And you can totally use canned tomatoes if that’s what you have on hand.  That’s what I had on Sunday, and the smell of them in my oven was intoxicating.

* catching up with blog friends and saying hello on their posts.  (Hi, guys!)

* trying to pick recipes from Vegeterranean, which is a lot on the cheffy side for my taste, but maybe I’ll learn something new by moving out of my culinary comfort zone.

* speaking of Vegeterranean, I’m trying to recommit to my streamlined list of 2013 goals.  I feel like I have so much to think about these days!

* still thinking about this post and the idea of using new-to-you things right away or waiting to decide if the new thing should be returned.  I think I want to write about this, but I’m not exactly sure how it fits into thoughtful consumerism.

* enjoying pumpkin spice flavors.  Not in latte form, but in my family’s favorite pumpkin muffins or a bite of Paul’s whole-wheat apple pancakes at Kerbey Lane over the weekend.  (Okay, there was probably no pumpkin in his pancakes, but apples are pumpkin’s fruity fall cousin, right?)

* thinking about how it makes so much sense to me that in relationships, we share responsibility for feelings.  Feelings are dynamic, malleable experiences, influencing and influenced by each other.  People are happier and things go more smoothly when we acknowledge that nurturing a relationship is a shared act of love.  

* Just for fun, how about a fun set of formulas for fall outfits?  Simple and inspiring.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Friday, September 20, 2013

“The open road still softly calls…”

Truthfully, it’s probably a bad idea to start reading a Carl Sagan book on the bus on a Wednesday morning.  You will want nothing more than to find the nearest cozy nook where you can devour the book and sink into a kind of imaginative reverie, thinking about the discovery of new worlds, the Big Bang, and the edge of the universe.

I just started reading Pale Blue Dot, and coincidentally, Paul and I are heading to Austin this weekend for some fun and friends in that lively city.  I’m excited to hit the road for some new adventures, and this passage from Pale Blue Dot reminded me of that sense of happy anticipation before a trip.

For all its material advantages, the sedentary life has left us edgy, unfulfilled.  Even after 400 generations in villages and cities, we haven’t forgotten.  The open road still softly calls, like a nearly forgotten song of childhood.  We invest far-off places with a certain romance.  This appeal, I suspect, has been meticulously crafted by natural selection as an essential element in our survival.  Long summers, mild winters, rich harvests, plentiful game—none of them lasts forever.  It is beyond our powers to predict the future.  Catastrophic events have a way of sneaking up on us, of catching us unaware.  Your own life, or your band’s, or even your species’ might be owed to a restless few—drawn, by a craving they can hardly articulate or understand, to undiscovered lands and new worlds.

Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, spoke for wanderers in all epochs and meridians: “I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.  I love to sail forbidden seas…”

En Route to Routt National Forest{On the road and into the mountains in Colorado}

Happy weekend!

Sunday, September 15, 2013


A while back, Kate hinted that she’s got some ssb (secret single behavior) that might be carefully stowed away, now that she and her fiancĂ© are living together.  Kate and I have many things in common; most relevant for this discussion is that we have lived alone for a long time, about ten years for each of us!  That’s a long time to develop the perfect repertoire of ssb.  I’m somewhere between living alone and living with another person.  Paul and I are talking about living together in the vague future, and he is, ever so slowly, leaving things behind in my apartment.  I currently have in my possession one sewing machine, one toothbrush, and several chargers for various gadgets.  He thinks he’s being stealthy about this, but I’m totally onto his plan: move in so slowly and gradually that I won’t even notice it.

And you know, there is something to be said for a gradual transition.  There are little things he does that make me feel like he lives here, and I just melt with happiness.  The other night, we were making dinner, and he stepped outside to pick some fresh rosemary for the oven fries.  He didn’t say anything, he just did it, and I loved that.  Mi casa es su casa.  My herb garden is your herb garden.  There’s no need to ask.

That being said, I’ve got my own ssb—things I tend not to do when he’s around.  Maybe this will change with time, but for now, there’s still a curtain between my home-alone behavior and my home-together behavior.  For example, when I’m home alone:

* I usually don’t close bathroom doors, because why?  Ain’t nobody here but the cat, and she gets upset about closed doors.

* I like to dance badly.  Paul would probably enjoy seeing this, because it would make him laugh, but I’m shy about it.

* On weekends, I like to wear my pajamas until the afternoon.  It’s about 2:30 PM on a Saturday as I’m typing this, and I’m wearing a big t-shirt and my glasses.  So sexy!

* I like to be alone.  This is the thing that worries me most about living with a partner: that I’ll never have the house to myself again.  Paul and I have talked about it a little bit, and to be honest, this is something that we both worry about.  Still, I have hope that we’ll work it out.  I am sure we are not the first pair of introverts to contemplate the challenges of living together.

* I listen to podcasts or music nearly nonstop.  I don’t do this when Paul is around.

* I eat many of my meals in front of the computer.  But I also enjoy eating a meal with Paul or friends, away from the computer.

* I like to spend weekend mornings reading and puttering on the computer.  It’s one of my favorite ways to relax.

And then there’s my ssb outside of the house:

* When I’m stressed and in need of relaxation, I like to browse at stores.  My favorites are Pier One, Target, or Old Navy.

* This isn’t really shameful, but eating out alone is another way I relax.  I spend so much of my time cooking and cleaning up after meals that letting someone else do that work feels like a wonderful, yet relatively cheap, indulgence.  A tip from Paul: if you happen to live in a town with a Freebirds (hello, fellow College Station dwellers!), order the vegetarian nachos and you will get a boatload of food for about five bucks.  Seriously, I did this the other night, and it was like getting rice ‘n’ beans, a salad, and fresh chips all in one very inexpensive meal.  Usually I get a burrito at Freebird’s, but I may be a convert to the nachos.  It was life-changing!

So what about you?  Do you have any secret single behavior you want to share?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Postscript

Recently this article showed up in my snail mailbox.  I read it and then got fed up with it.  The problems of privileged women are just not very compelling to me, perhaps because most women, as one commenter put it, “have to make do” with what we have.  In an article that overflows with the dilemma of choice, it is important to remember that most of us do not have unlimited choice, because most of us are not wealthy enough to fund all those choices.

But there was one part that I thought was applicable to all woman.  Even the ones who don’t date men:

Both genders need to be more forthright in discussing the obstacles that women face. All too often, women are scared of raising the topic of gender with men, thinking it will brand them as radicals or troublemakers, while men are terrified of saying or doing anything that might classify them as politically incorrect. The result is that no one says anything productive at all.

Pardon the self-congratulations, but this is exactly what I did with Paul when we started dating.  We have an on-going conversation about what we want in life, as individuals and as a couple.  I think the gender discussion has given us both permission to reach for a higher level of honesty.  Rather than assume, we ask.  I delight in our gender role non-conformity.  Paul wants to be a stay-at-home dad some day.  I’m okay with being the primary wage-earner because I enjoy my work so much.  Paul is an emotionally expressive feminist man.  I am a feminist in part because I want men to be free to show their feelings without fear of patriarchal judgment from anyone.

When we start to worry about saying something that’s not politically correct, I think we set that worry aside so that we can communicate an idea.  Maybe it’s a half-baked idea, maybe it is offensive or politically incorrect.  But within the context of an intimate relationship, I think it’s more important to keep the lines of communication open than to be perfectly articulate all the time.  That strategy works for us.  It works because we trust each other and because we don’t expect flawless behavior.

Which brings me back to the most important point: I am grateful that our discussions about feminism let me dispel any myths about my own superwoman status.  Superwoman I am not, nor do I ever plan to be.  I don’t want to do it all.  I want to do enough to build a happy, fulfilling life.  What exactly that means is something I am still figuring out.

We are figuring it out.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Mom and Her Four Kids

It is days like today that I wish I believed in a god.

My brother Scott would have been 35 today.  He’s gone now, having passed away almost a year ago on October 7, 2012.  Yesterday was eleven months since his death.

Scott’s memory pings me at random interludes.  I don’t cry every day; the worst of my grief seems to have faded.  I thought about Scott when I was in Albuquerque—how unfair it was that I was healthy and able to travel, while Scott had been saddled with bipolar disorder, unable to count on the stability of his own body as he moved through the world.  But he did move through the world; he lived all over the place during his four-plus years as a Marine.  Being a Marine was one of the proudest experiences of Scott’s life, and I’m grateful he was able to serve.  It’s hard to know what military life was like for him with his bipolar disorder.  Within my family, we don’t agree on how the military affected his mental health.  For me, knowing it was something he wanted and was able to achieve seems like its own measure of worth.

He’s been on my mind for the past week, with his birthday and death anniversary so close on the calendar.  When I think back now on Scott’s life and death, I feel grateful for my family.  We are a family that nurtures individuality, and I am glad that each member of my family had their own relationship with Scott.  It is through those other relationships that I came to know him better, that I was able to better understand him.  I feel a lot of regret for things that went unsaid, for the apologies and forgivenesses that we never uttered aloud.  More than once have I wished I could reach back in time to say and do more.  Do I believe I could have saved him from suicide?  No.  I have to believe that he made his choice.  I don’t believe suicide to be an irrational response to what must have felt like an impossible situation.  I’m sad that we couldn’t save him and that there weren’t better treatment options for him.  It tears me up inside that he had to live with bipolar for so long, to endure its terrible lows with little relief from the pain.  I suppose the best I can say now is that he is not in pain any more.  And for that, I am grateful.

Scott’s death showed me how fragile we all are.  Without thinking about it, I had always assumed my family was invincible.  We are a solid, sturdy bunch.  But alone, each of us is fragile, capable of being broken by the chaos and cruelty of life.  I think it was a struggle for Scott to stay with us as long as he did—suicide was always an option, and he resisted the temptation for many years.

When he passed away, we held two ceremonies for Scott.  At our informal family ceremony, my sister-in-law’s uncle read this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, and I thought I’d share it today.  I think of it often, and it makes me cry.  It really is a perfect fit for Scott.

“Wild Geese”

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.”

I’m not inclined to believe in a life after this one.  The day of Scott’s military funeral was a harsh, cold, grey autumn day.  After I stepped outside of the pavillion where I placed my hands on the box that contained his remains, a flock of wild geese soared overhead, honking to announce their passage above.  I like to think that they were speaking for Scott, saying good-bye and thank you.

* * *

Two footnotes:

1)  The photo is an old family photo, taken before my little sister was born.  Starting at the top left and going clockwise, that’s Charlie, Scott, my mother, John, and me.  I’m probably about three or four years old, which means the photo was taken in 1984 or 1985.  Charlie, Scott, and John are my three brothers.

2)  The poem is from this site.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wine Notebook: Totally Random Peach

Totally Random Peach

This peach-flavored white wine from Totally Random was surprisingly delicious.  Paul and I bought it on a whim from Spec’s (about $10 a bottle, if my memory is correct).  I forgot I had it until I opened my wine drawer one day and hurray!  I have a bottle of wine in the house!

Paul and I opened it one night to eat with dinner.  I don’t remember what we ate, but of course it was vegetarian.  This peach wine is a great summertime choice: it’s definitely on the sweet side of things, with some delightful carbonation that adds a refreshing quality.  The next day, my friend Courtney and I finished the bottle while she made migas for us.  I wish I’d had another bottle of it to open because I think we both could have gone for another glass.  This was a really good second-day wine—while the carbonation had fizzed out a bit, the flavor had deepened into something lovely.

This bottle is definitely on the to-buy-again list.  It reminded me a lot of the fresh peach moscato spritzers that my sister and I drank during her visit.  Yum!

PS  Happy Labor Day to my American readers.