Thursday, December 31, 2009

You know something has changed when...

You write a poem. And it was the easiest poem I ever wrote, which is saying a heck of a lot. Even that awful stuff I wrote in high school didn't come this easy. There's got to be a lit-class lecture in there somewhere.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Okay, so I'm really excited about tomorrow

Tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Adams Holiday Extravaganza, also known as the annual Christmas project. Each year we take turns choosing the project and the recipient. Last year, Mom chose. She picked this group, and we all went out hunting down warm pajamas and creative books. This project was great for two reasons. One, we could each purchase individually what we could afford and had budgeted for. Two, I had a coupon, two gift certificates, and LB had just put everything on "final clearance." Don't judge. The cheaper it is, the more you can buy. I got lots of super pairs of pajamas for $16. On Christmas Eve, we delivered them to Lorrie Shadko, who directs the Memphis chapter of the program. For me, comfort in its most primal level comes in comfy pajamas, bedsheets, and good stories. It was a joy and an honor to get to pass that on to children whose lives are desperately short on comfort and joy.

This year, Tom picked. It has a funny backstory. Tom called me at work one day to bounce the idea, and I confess I thought it...not likely to come to much. Frankly, though a good idea, I was pretty sure the State was going to shut it down. But I liked the idea at heart, and I'm really glad he decided to go through with it. Adamses are workers, and we love a project. But usually our projects don't always bring us into much contact with the beneficiaries. Like with the pajama recipients. Thanks to Tom's idea, this year we will.


With Vanessa's family joining in, we are going to set up shop tomorrow at the I-40 westbound Jackson rest stop to distribute more Christmas cheer, this time in the form of coffee and snacks. We have decorations, drinks, snacks, music--the works. I'm very excited about doing this, and although the weather will be miserable, hopefully we'll be a little spot of brightness. There are a few people who won't be there with us, but whose past generosity and openness of spirit will be with us:

Charlene Brown gave me a metal table-top Christmas tree last year that is lit with candles instead of string lights. Anticlimactic. But TDOT won't allow us to plug in any type of electrical cord, so her gift solves the problem!

Hope Shull got onto me once as a student about bringing food and drinks into her library. When I returned as an employee, I discovered she had actually purchased a coffee bar and was encouraging students to eat, drink, and be merry. In the library. She is letting us use all of the urns to keep the coffee and other drinks hot.

The State of Tennessee--inefficient, a "bottom ten-er", and run by good ol' boys--really liked the idea. That is, the guy at the Jackson TDOT headquarters did. And as long as we avoid the power cords aforementioned, don't solicit, and don't block entrances and exits, then they will support our efforts at Christmas cheer. They could have said no.

And I hope that our visitors will enjoy the Christmas cheer, too. I've thought a lot this year about what it means to put good things out into the world. You may call it karma or kismet or good vibes or whatever. How does our Christmas party for strangers at a rest stop ripple out into the rest of the world? I don't know, but it is my prayer that it does. I know you will put good things into the world.

Pictures to follow!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You must try this

A while back, I blogged about the albatross. Go here and buy the Aloe & Comfrey Lotion. Always happy to find an improvement! Drop the heavy duty foot creams. Most of them are just petroleum-based anyway. Maggie's Pharm (hah-get it?) is a lovely little hidden gem in Midtown Memphis that sells dried herbs, concoctions, lotions, shampoos, and all sorts of other good-smelling things (coffees, teas, spices, etc.)

It is smooth, cool, absorbs instantly (even on eczema), and heals heels within a few applications. A perfect addition to my regimen!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grumble, grumble

Put the Christmas spirit on hold for a few minutes. Students that were terrible students should not be allowed to evaluate their instructors. If you didn't come to class more than half the time, and actually posed the question "How seriously do you want us to take this assignment?" then just shut up. PS--This is student performance unworthy of honors students.

Part the Second:
To balance out the above grumble, here's an article to avenge the put-upon and bring a smile to your face:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091221/ap_on_re_us/us_brooke_astor
At least some poor b-----d got what he deserved.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Woke up with this on the heart




For my family, my friends, present and erstwhile. For Will. For deliciously soft yarns and clicky needles. For cityscapes and beaches. For the color red. For Christmas lights. For 3yos. For hills to hike up. Even the really, really hard ones. For JustLove Coffee. For new babies coming in January. For Brooklyn, NY and Nashville, TN and Alexandria, VA. For handmade paper. For Lucinda Williams. For kitties. For The Med. For a paycheck. For my church family. For dreams to dream. For vernacular architecture. For books, books, books. For a healing thyroid.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa's Not Real: A Cautionary Tale

Sitting around with several old and dear friends this weekend, the question of how to talk to young children about Santa came up. Santa--ubiquitious, inescapable, lovable, fictional. Some said their parents made a big deal of it, even punishing older children for "outing" the secret to younger siblings. Some said their parents didn't encourage a belief in Santa, but acknowledged that he was a useful tool (an implement, an implement!) for spreading all the sentiments of the holiday. Others still expressed belief that since Santa is, at heart, fictional then to perpetuate (you have no idea how long that took to type!) the story is a lie, plain and simple. My parents used Santa as a way to talk about sex.

Okay, my mom did. I will never need to know how Dad brought it up with Tom. At the tender age of 8, ah...I remember the event as if it were yesterday. My 10yo sister and I were taken to her room, which had two windows. One looking on to the front yard, the other looking onto the driveway. Beige curtains with blue and orange flowers matched the bedspread we were sitting on (being 1987 and all). On that sunny, cold day with the smell of ironing in the air, my mother asks, "Do either of you know what sex is?" After a suppressed giggle, Nicole says, "It's when men and women get in bed and kiss a lot." I come back with, "Nuh-uh. It's when men and women get in bed and take their clothes off and kiss a lot." And from there, the conversation becomes a collection of strobe-like images and words. Pictures of conception from the 1960s-era book her mother doubtless used to teach her about babies and growing changes. Mostly I remember the laughter of my sister and I as we were being fed the single-most ridiculous set facts of our young lives. More than once, Mom said if we couldn't get it together, we were going to go back downstairs.

But it's the end of the conversation I've never been able to get away from. Mom assured Nicole and I she was always available and open for conversations about sex, changes, confusion, even showing us where she kept these books so we could go back to them if we didn't want to talk. (Yeah, right. I wasn't going back to that!) Then she turns to me and says, "And by the way, Erin? Santa isn't real. Neither is the Tooth Fairy,the Easter Bunny, or the Great Pumpkin. Your Dad and I do it. Don't tell Rachel."

Puh-lease. You've sat here and fed me this clearly-unbelievable story about...sehhhxxx...and now you expect me to believe you about Santa? I love Santa--the idea of Santa. How there is someone in the world so devoted to the joy and reward of others that he makes impossible stretches of time, culture, religion, socioeconomics to bring that joy to all. Because of "Santa" we stand outside grocery stores and ring bells, or work in soup kitchens, or be nice to our neighbors, or create an atmosphere of peace and joy and beauty. Sex was weird. Sure it's the way the universe propagates itself, and it unites people in marriage as the "one flesh" the Bible speaks of. But it generates a lot of hurt in the world--infidelity, prostitution, sin, addiction, abuse, emotional distress, financial irresponsibility. But, but...Santa? Sometimes I wish the had story ended with Santa being real and sex being false.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Crying over broken ornaments: A Christmas fable

Layla: Aun Terin ("Aunt Erin"), come look at my Chwistmas tree!
Erin: Ooh, how pretty! Did you put it up all by yourself?
Layla: NO, me and mama and daddy. See this snowman's funny legs jiggle? But you can't touch. Right, Daddy? We can't touch the Chwistmas ownaments off the twee?
Daddy: Right, baby. Thank you for following directions. You can touch them, but don't take them off.
Layla: Ow ownaments have a stowy. Mama got this one at wook. We got this howse at the dewby in Kenkucky.
Erin: Do all of the ornaments have a story? What about this one? (Pointing to a large jingle bell. Located far to the inside of the tree. One would have to reach over other more fragile ornaments to get to it. Stupid Aunt Erin.)
Layla: No, but it makes a stowy! Wisten? (jingle, jingle.)
Vanessa: Layla, are you showing off our tree? (Reaches to straighten up jingle bell. Sends Layla's first christmas ornament to the floor, shattering in about a million pieces of glass.)
Vanessa: Oh, no! Not that one!
Layla: (Immediately clenching and unclenching her legs around my waist and her fists.) No, Mama! No, Mama! Don't tell Daddy. Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: Layla, it's not your fault. Mama dropped it because she wasn't being careful with it. It's Mama's fault.
Layla: (Now with tears in her eyes.) NO! NO! NO! Don't tell Daddy! Don't tell Daddy!
Vanessa: But Layla? You're not in trouble!

Narrator's note: My brother does not beat his child or wife. No need to get nervous here.

Layla: (Unintelligble words mixed with sobs and flailing arms.)
Vanessa: Layla, come here. It's okay.
Layla: (Something that sounds like) "Don't...Daddy...know...bwoken!"
Daddy: I'm not mad about the ornament. Let's have a hug. We're all okay. (Family group hug.)

And the three wise adults stand around looking shocked, trying to account for meaning in Layla's meltdown. We were almost crying, still mystified at the cause of such unfettered grief. Tom retrieved the broom and dustpan, and Vanessa began sweeping up the mess. Layla's defeated retreat to the fireplace was accompanied by more shuddering sobs and finally a meek little, "but ow twee is still pwetty, isn't it Aun Tewin?"

Was that the key? She knew she wasn't responsible for the broken ornament. She knew Mama would clean it up. She knew she wasn't cut. Layla was grieving the loss of perfection in her beautiful Christmas. I like to think she was mourning the loss of one part of the story her Christmas tree tells. "Environment" as a concept fascinates me: how it's created and how people respond to it. T&V's Christmas decorations create an environment not just of physical appeal, but of story, of tradition, and even a three-year old responds to it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tonight, it's jacket and scarf weather. This means I need to go look at holiday decorations (Halloween through New Year's), buy Starbucks in a red cup. Are the red cups out yet? Browse bookshelves that I'm not going to justify purchasing off of. Stimulate the economy and the like. Oh, especially the like.

Kudos to Will for fulfilling the American Dream and buying a house. Too bad it previously was owned by his adorable grandfather, and thus not eligible for Mr. Obama's stimulus package. Seriously, are all things attempted by the middle class exempt from the stimulus?

And yet, the sight of a three year old with mud half way up her jeans and a round orange pumpkin in her hand offering me candy corns makes the rest of the world seem as fine as nothing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Crash, un homage

Because I just found out a cover has been done of DMB's song.and I don't know how to feel about that. I'm still reeling from the original.
Sorry about the sentimentality. It was the only video where embedding was not disabled.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Really should learn: to proofread

"I love that which has meaning." is not what I meant at all.

I love the meaning which is in a thing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A love

I love that which has meaning.

Pulsing Wilco

First of all, I would like to say thanks to Rachel for getting in a car crash and breaking both of her legs so we could park for free in handicapped parking and sit in handicapped seating. The handicapped seating at the Orpheum is beyond words. Even if people stand up and jump and down (which they did, cuz it's Wilco) you still have an unobstructed view.

Second of all, I would like to say thank you to the people who recruited the opening act, some Britishspeakers named Eliza Jane and Liam Finn. Not making that up. Not since the Felice Brothers have I so...listened to the opening act. It wasn't just noise. There was writhing and growling, musical cleverness, a good rapport with the audience and Margaret, the gold shirt. Oh--and they are terrific singers and musicians. Eliza Jane came across like someone's kid sister giving a helping hand. And not in a Meg White "sister" sort of way. Her voice is airy and sweet and powerful and she doesn't look like an indie-waif. She gently swayed side to side as Liam turned did the Worm, the Hendrix kneel and burn, and that guy who always climbed on the drum kit. Clever turns of phrase. And oh, just generally eager to see them again. I hope that piques your interest. If not, just go check out the website and be impressed on your own terms. I can't satisfy all of you.

And now for the interactive portion of the blog. Someone suggest a synonym for "tight." As in, "Wilco is a really _____ band." You can just leave it in the inbox, thanks.

I don't remember ever thinking this about a band before, so it must be true: Wilco is the single most connected band I ever heard. The way six musicians move together it was like ocean waves or, or, something else that moves seamlessly back and forth together. Lifelong lovers, maybe. The sound bounces. Bounces. For everyone who ever took choir or voice knows that when a director says "give it a bounce" he really means pulse the sound with a tiny push of extra energy that gives vibrancy and richness to the note. Wilco sustained that tiny push of extra energy that recalls the runner's high, the yogi's flow, the pump and cycle of a piston, and leaves the listener oh, so satisfied. They played a lot off the new album, which, I am ashamed to say I have not heard yet. But they filled it in with crowd favorites off YHF and SBS. Next payday, probably.

But the highlight of the evening? At the end of "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" Jeff Tweedy broke off the music to make a request that audience members not film or record the concert. Not because they want to control distribution, etc. Rather, because "you should live your life and not live it based on an imperfect medium."

Since "Cinnamon Girl" was apparently not YouTubed, enjoy this instead. Particularly the guy's really big nose. You'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facebook Day Two

So yesterday after my half-articulated rail against FB, I actually checked it twice. That's improvement, in my opinion. You won't make me think less of myself for having done it, okay?

Here's my routine: Since I moved inward, I have not had the internet at home or through my phone or any other device I possess. Well, at least no internet I'm going to pay for. (Of course, ATT would allow me to access it through my phone at a "modest fee." Of course they would.) Friday night about 5:30 through Monday morning about 8:30--no problem. If there is an urgent need to be online--check a banking issue, order concert tickets, find out some info--well, I live two blocks from the office. Problem solved. Monday I come in, catch up on the email, scan Twitter and done--off to do the work I get paid to do.

Being so FB-needy has led me to spend more time at work than I care to admit, checking up on things. Why? What things? Instead of using FB as a tool to appreciate other people's family pictures, and catch up on life news, and exchange witty banter with friends, I've used it as a tool of self-flagellation. Why didn't I think to say this? Why didn't I think to post this? Why don't my pictures seem to get as many comments as XY&Z's? Ruh-diculous. Seriously.

Although saying this aloud may actually prove the opposite, I once thought I was a reasonably self-actualized person. Not that I didn't have moments of quavering or second-guessing. (And I'm pretty convinced even Gandhi had one or two.)

What happened and why did I let it? Huh.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"The time has come," the Oyster said

...to talk of many things." Like saying goodbye to Facebook for a little while. See, I've been thinking about making this experiment, wherein I determine if I could be a happier person, a richer person as it were, without the constant news stream. The constant comparison between my life and the lives of others.

I do not desire to live my life as Comparative Cathy and that's what I have been turning into lately. From a very early age, I always felt that distance between myself and others that comes with...well. I don't know. I think this explains it. Maybe.

Arrghh...I can't say just what I mean.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I Have a Dream

That I live in a small, four-room house with a tiny bathroom and a half-finished upstairs combo attic/bonus room. You walk up a small stone walkway through my tiny but lush yard, past the bottle tree, and up onto a brick-walled porch with small groupings of tables and chairs. Curtains are hung if you want the privacy, but are usually tied back to let air and light in. Open the front door into a wide center passage that runs the full depth of the house. And from the front door, you can either walk into any room you choose (all doors open into the passage) or you can join the rest of us on the back screened porch. Of course, the screened porch is also used occasionally for sleeping, so just be prepared for that.

If you choose to walk into the living room, you will make a left inside the door. On a rainy day, your umbrella will go into a big ceramic pot that probably looks like a cactus or something naturalistic Layla made for me in her after-school pottery class. You can hang your sweater on a hook in the wall. Feel free to throw your shoes off. Come in and browse the built-in bookshelves, flop down on a pile of big fluffy pillows on the floor and appreciate the atelier-style art arrangements, or lounge in the wide seat attached to the picture window with leaded panes.

After some time talking or watching a movie or listening to music, you will need sustenance, so I invite you to step on into my kitchen, which is through a small door in the back of the room. You probably almost missed the door because the bookcases go across the top of the door, and there are things hanging off of them. But the kitchen is through there, with checkerboard tile floors in white and black, and cool grey walls. You can sit at my red & white hoosier table while I fill the coffeepot from the enamel sink and I will tell you the story of the chair you are sitting on. It came from a Memphis brothel. If that creeps you out, you are welcome to move over to the faded green velour chaise. Make yourself at home. Please excuse the trashcans lining the back wall. Recycling doesn't come easy, sometimes. Nor does composting. Or cat care, for that matter.

We will drink much coffee, so just help yourself to the bathroom that opens off the central hallway. It is a little small, but the pedestal sink and tall linen cupboard in the corner help things fit more comfortably. The tile floors get cold in here, so I hope the fluffy bath rug will help.

I like a little private time in my office, so make yourself at home upstairs in the bonus room while I finish writing my masterpiece. The tiny windows at the front, sides, and rear of the big attic let in a little light, and you can see the moon and stars through them at night. But you will be very comfortable up here in the guest bed and you can put all your things away in the chifferobe. There is a record player up here, and records, so you will not be alone. Don't trip on the toys lying about that are supposed to be in the toybox and the dress-up bin. The nieces and nephews forget to put things away! Be careful on the stairs when you come down because they are wooden and quite steep. The original owner must have been shorter and skinnier and much stronger of leg than I am!

Join me in my office, and we'll talk and then go outside to enjoy a nice dinner around the fire pit. We'll watch the stars come out and the moon rise and watch the neighborhood kids catch fireflies. You can help me weed the flowerbeds, since I do a really bad job of it. In fact, I'll turn it all over to you if like. I get so ambitious and I like to have a nice view from the bedroom windows.

We will talk and laugh and discuss and reminisce and listen to music and eat and drink and be silent. Then we will go into the house and I will go to sleep in my bedroom where the bed is practically never made and clothes are hanging on the back of the vanity table chair. But the quilt above me is warm and snuggly and my family pictures are on the walls and a pile of books is on the nightstand waiting to be read. The cat's claws tap-tap on the wooden floors of the hallway and I hear him knock over some books that were sitting on a table. As long as he doesn't find the knitting and pull all the yarn off the needles--fine.

Good night.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Today is the day

And baby, isn't this your chance
To make a break with circumstance...

Today I declare No News Day. Today I declare No Politics Day. Today I invite 5 incredible people to my house for dinner and laughs about how a vegetarian just put 5 types of meat into one cassoulet that is going to be served to at least 2 other vegetarians. Today, I call the 'rents just to say hello. Today I read SACS compliance reports and type up minutes from the committee meeting and introduce a student worker the beauty that is PastPerfect. Today I have coffee with Lisa and laugh and gripe about work and all its idiosyncracies. Today I pet Beezus and go to work. Tonight, I will eat Leah's caramel apple sticky buns and laugh at Tom's oddly-appropriate-but-slightly-vulgar-sounding blog title and think for the millionth time how pretty Vanessa is and wish I was as well-versed in medieval literature and technology as Allen and hold Will.

It's going to be a good day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rejoicing when others rejoice

Kim McMillan is running for governor. Good for her. Tennessee recently came in 49th (that's forty-ninth, folks) in women's government participation. In 2000, we were 46th, and in 2004 we were 47th. Only South Carolina has consistently come in below Tennessee in this very important category. Please. Let me just stop you before you get there--No. I do not believe every word of these reports. Yes, I'm quite sure the IWRP has some sort of agenda that I would not subscribe to 100%. I do believe they uncover a larger trend that is worth looking at. Most of all, I'm just glad that at least one woman in TN is giving it the old college-try!

So...back to Kim. I met her briefly at an event Union University hosted in April to bring the (then) three Democratic gubernatorial candidates together. Ms. McMillan is cordial and down-to-earth and seems to listen when you talk. I look forward to her campaign with interest and will be eager to see if she can keep her focus on politics and carry herself with intelligence and integrity throughout the campaign, without degenerating on us, a la Sarah Palin.

But this post isn't even about Kim McMillan. It is about her campaign video.


McMillan held a contest allowing people to submit names for her first campaign video. Someone who could describe, in a few words what her campaign is about and what she represents. How to do this without being terribly cliche and slogany, but being honest and refreshing? The award goes to (drum roll) Will! Of course, you and I know that he is talented with words and is passionately commited to Democratic politics in Tennessee, but now Tennessee knows that, too. I admire his ability to be a particpant in the political process in ways that are only productive and grounded in principles. Not loud, aggressive, fact-bemused, angry politics. Just...politics.

It's nice to see the side of a person you enjoy daily validated by others, to see those people shine at their brightest, to see how they shine when someone else turns a light on them. (And I'm not even the least bit envious that his mother gets to go with him to the big celebratory shin-dig instead of me...)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Words are my love language.

Your words run through me like the blood in my veins
I could swear I knew your love Before I knew your name
Before I knew your name.
~Lucinda Williams

Conor Oberst's cover. My insides sort of want to explode violently.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy anniversary

Monday, a man from the local community stopped by my office to ask my advice about caring for some photos he found in his late wife's...
Now I stopped counting after 15 minutes, but it took several more minutes before Mr. Cook recovered his voice and resumed speaking, apologizing because it "had only been a month" since her death.

The day Will and I left for Washington, I was with a group of senior citizens on an outing to historical places in West TN. At one stop, several people got out of the bus but I did not, nor did the two couples in front of me. The two women were exchanging news of people they had gone to college with (cause everyone, just everyone, in this town goes to one college). Mrs. R mentioned one man, and how he had finally retired from his second career at the age of 80. Mrs. M asked Mrs. R if he and his wife "were still together." Only half listening, that statement jerked back my full attention. What would an 80 year old man accomplish by getting a divorce? Surely at 80 you would know to stay single if you couldn't pick the right person to live your life with! 80 years ago, the divorce rate was much lower than it is today. Our generation may be spoiled for lifelong marriage by the example of our peers and our parents, but really? He's 80?!

Is his wife still living? That was what Mrs. M meant by "still together."

After 38 years, my folks are "still together" both in the modern and antique sense. They have their ups and downs. Kids, job losses, chronic health conditions, financial burdens aside, they are still together. I've been using the expression "human endeavor is bound to fail" a lot lately. While it's true that my folks' marriage isn't perfect, it hasn't failed. Maybe one function of marriage is to show that despite human endeavor's proclivity for accidents, obstacles and imperfections, it doesn't have to fail. Maybe marriage can be good for things not related to marriage at all. Maybe this is the one place where we are supposed to see that it is possible to accomplish most things. Because my folks' marriage can last 38 years, then I can do the job I was hired to do. If Mom and Dad can stick it out this long, then I can tough it out too, in my job, my place of residence, my church, my financial situation, my relationships.

I reject the idea that this encourages or fosters a spirit of passivity or mediocrity. Accepting a less-than-best partner or fostering a sense of submission to what is an untenable situation is misguided and ought to be avoided. You fight for a marriage because you believe, on the atomic level, in the person you took those vows with. Failure is off the table. It just means I will work a little harder. To undertake serious things less lightly. And to stand ready to reap enormous blessings and to be part of a blessing for someone else. I want to marry, but more importantly, I want my life to stand for what marriage means.

A little anniversary present for Mom & Dad: At their wedding, my grandparents refused to let Mom have an Elvis song in the wedding. Something about "the sobriety of the event." So here it is Mom, 38 years later.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Score one for the hippies

**Disclaimer: It hardly ought to need saying, but I will: you can only choose the right treatment for you. Consult many sources before deciding how you want to go about being your own doctor.

Since freshman year of college, I have suffered from what my family delicately phrases as "gross feet." After several dermatological consultations, and attempts at adjusting my diet to determine a food allergy, I have come to the conclusion that those attempts were a waste of my time. The first dermatologist, Dr. Turner, took a couple of skin samples and diagnosed eczema. He came into the room to deliver the results, looked at me for a couple of seconds, and then left. He never came back, so eventually I just left. I called back the next day to be told there was nothing to do about it, except to keep it clean. Feet. Clean. I had a gp once tell me that it was a whole new type of disorder, and quizzed me on my overseas traveling (I hadn't done any). What he thought was an algae-bloom (no lie) was really the residue of red toenail polish that did not come off entirely. That ought to be adequate explanation of Why Modern Medicine Doesn't Work For This Problem.

What to do? When I started seeing Will, I thought nothing could embarass me more than having him see my naked feet. CS Lewis once described a character in my favorite book by saying "It would have shamed me no more to go naked." Exposed feet caused me more moments of soul-crushing torture than I like to admit. I finally took the challenge thrown down by our earth-hugging social clime, and researched some herbal alternatives. Score one for the hippies.

Every other night, I soak my feet for 20 minutes in a tea made of:
2 c. epsom salts
several drops pure tea tree oil
1/4 oz. dried calendula
1/4 oz. dried comfrey leaf

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil (mine is 6 qt.). When boiling happily, drop in the salts and stir till (absolved? resolved?) dissolved (that's the word I was looking for). Drop in the calendula and the comfrey leaf, and sprinkle drops of tea tree oil over all. Stir just enough to get everything under the water. Leave the lid on the pot for 10 minutes or so whilst steeping. Let the tea cool to a bearable temperature, and soak, soak, soak!

I've done this procedure for 2 weeks now, and it has almost literally performed a miracle--even the nails look healthier. Last night, I used a callus shaver about 10 minutes into the soak, and then popped the feet back to finish another 10 minutes of soaking. Follow up with a heavy duty foot cream and you just might be on your way to what my boyfriend now calls "less scaly feet"!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quick thought...and then to work

Last night, I picked up a new CD--something I haven't done in a loooong time. Okay, okay. You caught me: I have friends who engage in a little illicit burning. I will never give up their names. Do your worst.

The White Stripes self-titled album. Amazing. The album itself is no White Blood Cells, and definitely no De Stijl (my personal fave of their catalogue). An illustration, Reader. My friends Dave and Leslie liked to strap their toddler into her car seat for long rides, and then show her nothing but Tom and Jerry cartoons on the portable DVD. By the time they turned her loose, she was a whirling dervish of frenzied action and speech. She would turn in circles, generating her own electricity in a flurry of flying barrettes, sliding glasses, and impossibly slurred speech. Jack White, metaphorically, is that toddler locked up and fed Tom & Jerry for hours. The fury with which he attacks each track stuns the listener into a rapture that is akin to addiction. No wonder these people got a record deal.

My current favorite track:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Thoughts Thursday

Once upon a time I had kept a notebook of facts that I learned each day. No complicated descriptions or anything especially philosophical--just something that I knew by bedtime that I didn't know at waking. For example, one day I learned that the Jonathan Edwards (notable historical contribution: "Sinners in the Hands of Angry God") was the grandfather of Aaron Burr (notable historical contribution: dying by the "unintended" shot of Alexander Hamilton's gun). Makes sense. Another time it was that my car's backseat folded down so that I could expand the storage room of the trunk. Yes, I had owned the car almost 3 years before I knew this. Judge me.

Grand visions of a Samuel Johnson-esque diary aside, I thought the notebook could be useful as a tool to review the facts of life (no, not those facts) or at least provide a little humor one day in the nebulous distant future when I thought I knew all there was to know.

Today's new thought went a little something like this: Disagreements and misunderstanding suck the joy from living. Starting over is happiness.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nostalgia

For a museum curator, I don't get into nostalgia in a big way. I rarely use my camera to capture events like birthday parties or Christmases. My photos are either still in their original paper sleeves, or thrown around in a box somewhere (maybe). I prefer to live my life and archive someone else's. But today, walking across campus during my break, I got a strong, powerful reminder of one of my favorite childhood moments. You must now read about it. Yay for you.

If you live in the Mid-South/Southeast, you know it has rained for 10 out of the last 11 days. Today, the sun peeked out for a few moments, as if to say, "Hello! I didn't forget you. We'll meet again." The temperature, which has been hovering at a cool-but-comfortable 70 spiked upwards like all mid-south Mays are wont to do. 11 minutes of humid, sunny wonderfulness reigned. As the day sat upon its brief throne, I caught the strong scent of water, grass, and a whiff of chlorine. Instantly transported to being 7 in my red plastic kiddie pool, still small enough to get all the way under the water. It is the first time I remember being brave enough to open my eyes underwater. Things went fine until I snorted in water, trying not to laugh at how my sister's toes looked like hotdogs.

Hee hee! Thanks for that, Mother Nature.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I was eating lunch and thinking about poems. Here is a poem from Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems about 1960s New York. O'Hara was a curator at MOMA during its formative years. Curators, poetry, sugar-free peach pie--sounds like a lunch break well spent.

Ave Maria
by Frank O'Hara


Mothers of America
let your kids go to the movies!
get them out of the house so they won't know what you're up to
it's true that fresh air is good for the body
but what about the soul
that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images
and when you grow old as grow old you must
they won't hate you
they won't criticize you they won't know
they'll be in some glamorous country
they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey
they may even be grateful to you
for their first sexual experience
which only cost you a quarter
and didn't upset the peaceful home
they will know where candy bars come from
and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it's over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge
oh mothers you will have made the little tykes
so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies
they won't know the difference
and if somebody does it'll be sheer gravy
and they'll have been truly entertained either way
instead of hanging around the yard
or up in their room
hating you
prematurely since you won't have done anything horribly mean yet
except keeping them from the darker joys
it's unforgivable the latter
so don't blame me if you won't take this advice
and the family breaks up
and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set
seeing movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young

Friday, April 17, 2009

Immigrant blues

Will introduced me to Li-Young Lee not long after we started dating. The immigrant experience in America fascinates me, and this poem does a lovely job of encapsulating one man's experience.

Immigrant Blues
by Li-Young Lee


People have been trying to kill me since I was born,
a man tells his son, trying to explain
the wisdom of learning a second tongue.

It's the same old story from the previous century
about my father and me.

The same old story from yesterday morning
about me and my son.

It's called "Survival Strategies
and the Melancholy of Racial Assimilation."

It's called "Psychological Paradigms of Displaced Persons,"

called "The Child Who'd Rather Play than Study."

Practice until you feel
the language inside you, says the man.

But what does he know about inside and outside,
my father who was spared nothing
in spite of the languages he used?

And me, confused about the flesh and soul,
who asked once into a telephone,
Am I inside you?

You're always inside me, a woman answered,
at peace with the body's finitude,
at peace with the soul's disregard
of space and time.

Am I inside you? I asked once
lying between her legs, confused
about the body and the heart.

If you don't believe you're inside me, you're not,
she answered, at peace with the body's greed,
at peace with the heart's bewilderment.

It's an ancient story from yesterday evening

called "Patterns of Love in Peoples of Diaspora,"

called "Loss of the Homeplace
and the Defilement of the Beloved,"

called "I Want to Sing but I Don’t Know Any Songs."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another long poem. sorry. Tried steering away from them, but this is a good one. A colleague and I are instituting a new walking plan today. Since my thyroid has been overactive, I have felt terrible, both mentally and physically. I have stopped walking places entirely, because it caused my heart to beat a little too hard for comfort. But after a week of medications, I feel better enough to tackle the 2-mile round trip to work and back. I miss the feeling of striding along at a comfortable pace, the slight stretch up the back of my hamstring, the swing of my arms. I'm ready to have that back. It's also amazing how much your thyroid controls feelings like irritation which can be bottled in, and produced by the most unlikely of sources. Cracks in the sidewalk? Really?! I've almost been brought to tears because of it.

Pablo Neruda is best known for his sensual poems of "Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" and the open sexuality of "The Body of a Woman." Freud would probably have plenty to say about our eagerness to identify Neruda as a purely sexual poet. But readers often miss what Neruda's hallmark as a poet really is: his mastery of describing all sensory experiences. Enjoy this one about a walk through his neighborhood.

Walking Around
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.

The smell of barbershops makes me break into hoarse sobs.
The only thing I want is to lie still like stones or wool.
The only thing I want is to see no more stores, no gardens,
no more goods, no spectacles, no elevators.

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

Still it would be marvelous
to terrify a law clerk with a cut lily,
or kill a nun with a blow on the ear.
It would be great
to go through the streets with a green knife
letting out yells until I died of the cold.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
half frozen, dying of grief.

That's why Monday, when it sees me coming
with my convict face, blazes up like gasoline,
and it howls on its way like a wounded wheel,
and leaves tracks full of warm blood leading toward the night.

And it pushes me into certain corners, into some moist houses,
into hospitals where the bones fly out the window,
into shoeshops that smell like vinegar,
and certain streets hideous as cracks in the skin.

There are sulphur-colored birds, and hideous intestines
hanging over the doors of houses that I hate,
and there are false teeth forgotten in a coffeepot,
there are mirrors
that ought to have wept from shame and terror,
there are umbrellas everywhere, and venoms, and umbilical cords.

I stroll along serenely, with my eyes, my shoes,
my rage, forgetting everything,
I walk by, going through office buildings and orthopedic shops,
and courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow
dirty tears are falling.

Translated by Robert Bly

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Because today is that day.

Everybody Tells Me Everything

I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.

Ogden Nash

Monday, April 13, 2009

I cannot grow flowers.

I cannot grow flowers. I can keep them from dying, but only just barely. My sister's miraculous touch with all things verdant is legendary in our family: I envy the peaceful charm and sense of life that emanates from her balcony, her living room, and the tree she once planted in the backyard of the house we grew up in. Her connection to the earth and its creatures extends to the animal kingdom, as demonstrated by that we once lost her on a walking tour of Cades Cove. When someone in the group finally spotted her, she was standing in the middle of a misty field surrounded by grazing deer, who nibbled around her like she was an expected guest. Everyone started snapping pictures, which frightened the deer, who ran away. She is pure of heart. This is what it takes to foster life in all its forms. (And she will see God.)

I do not mean to draw the parallel that I have an inferior spirit or an uglier soul than she, although I sometimes am convinced of it. It just means that fostering life, this time in my plants, does not come naturally to me. But I believe in it to the utmost extent of my being. I am trying to do better. Being in love with a kind, generous, funny, smart, loving man has helped, as has my newly-revived committment to spend more time with God's word. I will falter and be human, and not do my best on plenty of occasions. I will be awkward and probably say the wrong things but with the right intentions. And then maybe, after plenty of stumbles and errors, I just might start to look like this:

Nothing to Save
by D. H. Lawrence


There is nothing to save, now all is lost,
but a tiny core of stillness in the heart
like the eye of a violet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I sometimes forget its message

I'm thinking about the future quite a bit, lately. Langston Hughes' tiny poem is more like a jewel box instead of a jewel. The jewel--the dream--I'm not ready to wear yet. The poem will keep it safe.


Dreams
by Langston Hughes


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The first poem I ever memorized

Part Three: Love, by Emily Dickinson
If you were coming in the fall,
I'd brush the summer by
With half a smile and half a spurn
As housewives do a fly.

If could see you in a year,
I'd wind the months in balls,
And put them each in separate drawers
Until their time befalls.

If only centuries delayed,
I'd count them on my hand
Subtracting till my fingers dropped
Into Van Diemen's Land.

If certain when this life was out
That yours and mind should be
I'd toss it yonder like a rind
And taste eternity.

But now, all ignorant of the length
Of time's uncertain wing,
It goads me like the goblin bee
That will not state its sting.

Monday, April 6, 2009

National Poetry Month: About today's weather

Snow-Bound [The sun that brief December day]
by John Greenleaf Whittier


The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
Slow tracing down the thickening sky
Its mute and ominous prophecy,
A portent seeming less than threat,
It sank from sight before it set.
A chill no coat, however stout,
Of homespun stuff could quite shut out,
A hard, dull bitterness of cold,
That checked, mid-vein, the circling race
Of life-blood in the sharpened face,
The coming of the snow-storm told.
The wind blew east: we heard the roar
Of Ocean on his wintry shore,
And felt the strong pulse throbbing there
Beat with low rhythm our inland air.
Meanwhile we did your nightly chores,--
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd's-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While, peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold's pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent
And down his querulous challenge sent.

Unwarmed by any sunset light
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag, wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the wing├Ęd snow:
And ere the early bed-time came
The white drift piled the window-frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.

*

As night drew on, and, from the crest
Of wooded knolls that ridged the west,
The sun, a snow-blown traveller, sank
From sight beneath the smothering bank,
We piled, with care, our nightly stack
Of wood against the chimney-back,--
The oaken log, green, huge, and thick,
And on its top the stout back-stick;
The knotty forestick laid apart,
And filled between with curious art
The ragged brush; then, hovering near,
We watched the first red blaze appear,
Heard the sharp crackle, caught the gleam
On whitewashed wall and sagging beam,
Until the old, rude-furnished room
Burst, flower-like, into rosy bloom;
While radiant with a mimic flame
Outside the sparkling drift became,
And through the bare-boughed lilac-tree
Our own warm hearth seemed blazing free.
The crane and pendent trammels showed,
The Turks' heads on the andirons glowed;
While childish fancy, prompt to tell
The meaning of the miracle,
Whispered the old rhyme: "Under the tree,
When fire outdoors burns merrily,
There the witches are making tea."
The moon above the eastern wood
Shone at its full; the hill-range stood
Transfigured in the silver flood,
Its blown snows flashing cold and keen,
Dead white, save where some sharp ravine
Took shadow, or the somber green
Of hemlocks turned to pitchy black
Against the whiteness at their back.
For such a world and such a night
Most fitting that unwarming light,
Which only seemed where'er it fell
To make the coldness visible.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy National Poetry Month

anyone lived in a pretty how town by E. E. Cummingsanyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

song lyrics

Something about hearing the opening riff of "Round Here" by Counting Crows floors me. Each and everytime.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

wow!

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/03/tenlapse.html?npu=1&mbid=yhp

Thoughts over Cantaloupe

Using my lunch break to do some blogging, and realizing that my blog is a crazy hodge-podge of this and that. Usually half-articulate and meaningful to no one but myself. Oh, and there is the occasional posting of urban legends that were reported to me as fact. But I think I made a new friend in Pet Snakes--that is, as long as he/she is not offended that I was only slightly miffed at his/her comment. I don't like to be corrected, even when it is totally warranted. Enough of this.

The last three weeks have been very tumultous weeks for me, mentally. I'm starting to feel like...well. Not me, anyway. I do believe my malfunctioning (but inconclusive) thyroid is contributing to this problem. I am looking forward to having it back on track again. New experiences, new problems, old problems, yada yada yada.

I am grateful for two things today, specifically. Room temperature fruit salad. Humans were not meant to eat cold strawberries that don't taste like themselves and make my teeth hurt. And Pandora Radio. The bff could probably clue me into several other internet-based entertainment sources for the indie-hipster crowd, which would be awesome. But there's nothing quite like making up my own station. Right now, White Stripes Radio is playing "Saint John" by the Cold War Kids. I find it interesting but not enough to want to hunt down their other works. I'll just take it as it comes and be thankful when it's done.

Friday, March 20, 2009

True Story

This story comes third hand, but I have a great deal of confidence in its veracity. Sitting on a diner stool, sharing fried pickles with ranch dressing, friend Leah shared the following gem. The friend who shared this with me knows a couple that I also know from college. This couple has a couple-friend to whom the following event really happened. This second couple also went to the same college we did, and therefore are inherently believable. If this can be believed:

So this couple lives in (small Middle Tennessee town). They keep a boa constrictor as a pet. Yes, as a pet! Sleeps in the bed with them--pet! They decided something was not right with the boa constrictor, so they take him to the vet. The vet asks what's going on with the snake, and they answer that he is "acting weird." Meaning? He's stopped eating for the last two days. And at night, he normally sleeps curled up at the foot of the bed, but lately he has been stretching out at full length between the woman and her husband. The vet responds by telling them the time has come to get rid of the pet. Get rid of the pet! Why? BECAUSE HE'S ABOUT TO EAT YOU! The vet responds. WHEN BOA CONSTRICTORS STOP EATING, IT MEANS THEY'RE PREPARING TO DIGEST A REALLY LARGE KILL. AND BY STRETCHING OUT FULL LENGTH, HE'S MEASURING YOU TO SEE IF HE CAN REALLY INGEST ALL OF YOU.

Editorial comment: At least they haven't allowed their affection for the pet to cloud their better judgment (?) and they got rid of him.

I believe the word you are looking for here is wha?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ryan Adams in Nashville

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals would always be a soul-shaking, credit-card-charging worthy experience. Listening to him wail out "Beautiful Sorta," or anthemize "Rescue Blues" is always worth it. Dare I say? It would be just about worth having my guts kicked out and my soul shredded by love just to respond to "Peaceful Valley" sung like that, resonating down into my very soul and releasing streams of emotion so powerful that every fiber of the universe must quiver speechlessly until the wonder of it subsides.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals in Nashville, at the War Memorial Building must be the quintessential Nashville music-scene experience. There are plenty of you Bloggy McBloggertons (to quote the bff) who are immeasurably more qualified to talk about the NMS than I, but I know that concert wouldn't have sounded the same in Alexandria or Silver Spring. Maybe in Brooklyn, though...

For a pretty adequate story of the concert the way it actually happened I recommend:
http://www.interference.com/9519-9519/

Monday, February 2, 2009

Since last posting, I turned thirty! I'm looking forward to my thirties, hoping to avoid some of the roller coasters that the twenties involved. Since many of my classmates and peers are turning thirty this year as well, I dedicate this to all of you:

A Lady Who Thinks She is Thirty
~Ogden Nash

Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror.
Miranda in Miranda's sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.

Shining like the morning star,
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda is a-pining.

Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.

Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?

Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then--
How old is Spring, Miranda?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Possession(s)

I passionately love AS Byatt's works. I own almost all of them, and have read them multiple times. Her words evoke scenes in which all the details are imagined and meaningful, from the characters themselves to the art on their walls, the books on their shelves, and height of the grass on their lawns. One scene she constructed in her novel Possession has stayed with me like few other images from a book ever has. Literary scholar Roland Michell imagines a perfect home to be white. White walls, floors, fixtures, towels. Clean, free of stimulations, peaceful. My mind needs to feel like that for a little while, I think.

I have felt entirely too cluttered over the last 7 or 8 months. Therapy helped, to some extent, allowing me to repackage one particularly traumatic event into smaller, bite-sized pieces. That experience is something that will always hurt, but finally talking it through has freed up a great deal of mental energy to devote to other thoughts. But what other thoughts? I had forgotten a time once existed when I didn't have to think about it at all, and I could use that space to analyze poetry, figure out how to rearrange my closets, plan for the future.

Over the last little bit, work has had many ups and downs, and I have felt unequal to the task. Everything needs to be done right now, and everything depends on everything else getting finished first. My finances do not withstand my own scrutiny. They would wilt under my mother's, and be positively charred to cinders under the eyes of Dave Ramsey. Because of some health issues, my nutrition is all over the map, and I feel a little like I'm backpedaling at the idea of having to get back in the habit of meal planning, etc. Exploring a relationship with a man with whom I have many, many common interests and thoughts on life and the living of it is truly a blessing and a very pleasant distraction (but still a distraction) from more tedious things like, oh say, personal finances, that are desparate for my attention.

Here's where all this is leading: I have to organize. To streamline. To declutter. The kind of decluttering that gets down into my soul and stays there. Reducing my possessions, limiting my consumption of goods, decreasing my debt load, purging my facebook page. Setting boundaries and following them so that I can fulfill my obligations not only with adequacy but with an extra measure of personal satisfaction in a job well done. I would be interested in hearing what other people are doing. I am a little daunted by this task, but think I know where I am going to begin.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oy vey

Ignore last post. I am now keeping a list of all stupid things done this week that could have been avoided with a little proper attention. Or new glasses.

1. Sunday: Entered wrong website to respond to a Newscoma post. By not putting in the "blogspot" segment, I sent her to an architectural firm instead. While architecture (esp. vernacular American) is one of my abiding passions, I can't take credit for that site. Although I would like to make some suggestions...

2. Tuesday: I replied to an email sent from a "no reply" address. I got back an email from IT that said "THIS EMAIL WAS MARKED NO REPLY. THERE IS NO ONE AT THIS ADDRESS TO ANSWER EMAIL!" For the vision impaired who might have missed their tongue lashing, the sentence was in bold, 48 pt. font highlighted in yellow. They did do that for the vision-impaired, right?

Starting the week off right

Blessings are due to Will for realizing that receiving two rambling phone calls within a 5 minute span qualifies as a "need for coffee" night.

This now-past week was an idiot sandwich. And I was every layer in it. But let us be fair: A thin spread of idiot-mustard should be credited to the IT department. When I follow directions for a project I expect to be met, at the very least, with apathetic acceptance. Being bawled out over following directions goes against every principle fostered by my American public school education.

I exaggerate slightly. There's no medicine quite like hyperbole. This week, here's to not being an idiot. Here's to thoughtful meditation on constructing a class syllabus. Here's to consistent organization of inventory records. Here's to the smooth introduction of my department's website. Here's to fruitful discussion over archiving audiovisual records. Here's to the death of overanalysis.

Cheers!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

So that's what you do with that...

Since moving to West TN, I have become THAT vegetarian. I stalk the bean aisle (unintended pun). I mow down the grains aisle (that pun was). I rack up at the spices aisle. We do, after all, have to eat from other sections of the grocery store than just the produce section. Did I say aisle? More like section of one row. The selection at stores is more limited (reasonably so) in these areas. A typical glance across the bean selection is: bags of black, pinto and blackeyed peas. Cans of black, lima, red, and baked. (Cause why would you ever need plain ol' pork & beans?) Grains--What isn't Zatarain's or Rice-a-Roni is long grain, medium grain, brown or white rice.

But yesterday...I found couscous. Yup. A little yellow package shoved back behind two other packages of pearl barley (also a find!). I slapped that package in my buggy so fast the lady down the aisle jerked her head up. Feeling a little like Lewis & Clark viewing the Pacific, I stocked up on some other goodies and headed to the check out. The manager stopped me as I was helping the girl bag everything and said, "Ma'am. I've been meaning to ask. What do you do with that?" Glad you asked! Couscous is the food of the gods, and I was happy to share with him my favorite "summer" version:

10 oz. couscous (whole wheat or regular)
2 cups water (or use 1 & 1/2 parts water to 1 part couscous)
1 tablespoon butter

**Salt the water and allow water and butter to come to a boil. Pour in couscous and immediately remove from heat. Cover pot and allow to sit 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If you ruin it, you're probably already pretty challenged in the kitchen.

Serve with:
Cucumber Raita
*Mix 1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt with 1 tsp. cumin, 1 peeled and grated cucumber, and 1/2 t. salt. Add more cumin to taste.
Feta Cheese
Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
Chopped Cilantro

Still working on my favorite "winter" version, but last night I ate it with 1/2 c. red beans cooked with garlic, cumin, and chipotle and a sprinkle of cheese on top!Couscous bliss ensued.

And then I knocked over the pot, and 3 cups of freshly-cooked couscous ended up all over my kitchen floor. Note to self: turn pot handle other direction when stumbling all over kitchen. Note to reader: allow couscous to dry and cool before attempting to sweep up. Wet, it just sticks to everything.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 and all's well

2009 woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in West Tennessee. Sunny and about...well, not freezing...50 degrees. (Whew. Thanks, Yahoo!) I however, did not wake up quite like the new year, and am just now hitting my stride for the day. I spent New Year's Eve hanging out with the coolest new friend I made this year--who, consequently, I got to kiss at midnight. So starting the new year with such a special "first"--I'm childishly eager to watch the way the rest of the year goes. I'm employed, with friends, healthy family, kissing beautiful boys, and happy. And just think of this: we get a new president in 19 days!