A New Beginning

Do you ever get really into something, then life comes along and distracts you just long enough that returning to that thing feels a little awkward? You start to wonder if you really loved it, since you haven’t really missed it, but at the same time you feel like you should really get back to it?

It happens to me all the time, especially with blogging. I’ll be on a roll for maybe a week or two then something else pulls my attention and the next thing I know, more weeks have passed without a single post. I start to feel guilty, but rather than motivating me to write, it shifts into a bundle of anxiety that I shove to the back of my mind. I’ll get to it, I tell myself, as the anxiety builds each day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll think of something brilliant, I reassure myself, as the anxiety drips down my throat and curls around my chest.

The longer I give it free reign to grow unsupervised, the darker it gets. I tell myself there’s a simple explanation — not as simple as “life gets in the way”, but something more damning — I’m lazy. I’m a dabbler — not a true writer. I don’t belong in the blogging world, I don’t belong in the writing world. If I’m so easily chained to everything but writing, why bother keeping up the facade? Just give up already.

You already have.

It’s a metaphor for my life lately. My thoughts are scattered, too jumbled to untangle, too time-consuming to fit into a blog-length ramble. My life is on the precipice of some huge changes, both exciting and scary. And I know I should cut myself some slack, even though it’s hard.

I’m leaving my current job at the end of this week. My husband and I are moving halfway across the country so he can go back to school full time. And even though I’ve been relatively silent on the blog for the better part of this year, I want to share the adventure with you. I want to be better at making time for the things I love, and I’m hoping these changes will bring with them a shift in focus. A way to make time for things that can be hard, even though they’re enjoyable. A kick-start to get out and experience things worth sharing. An incentive to pause the Grey’s Anatomy Netflix marathons and take time exploring — either my community or my inner self.

I want to be better at this. And I thank you for sticking with me and my sporadic posting.

And Now the Apartment Smells Like French Fries

So there’s a cold going around, because it’s that time of year. Also because some people like to show up at work and cough and sneeze and touch everything and moan about how they hope no one else gets this cold because it’s just awful.

I’m not bitter.

I just have a sore throat and my nose is runny. But I’ve been assured if I picked up the office cold, it would have happened before now. Because I mean, it’s been three whole days since they were really feeling badly.

Regardless of the culprit, despite the day randomly feeling like spring instead of January, I needed soup. Loaded up with carrots and turmeric and ginger, just in case it *is* possible to catch a cold from someone three days after the fact.

We’ve recently changed our diet at home, because one of us needs to try out the FODMAP elimination diet and the other is spectacularly supportive. So coming up with a healthy, anti-cold soup without using my usual go-to ingredients like garlic and onion presented a challenge.

Because of the low-FODMAP diet (basically, we’re temporarily cutting out simple carbs/sugars, but we’ve also had to cut out a lot of spices, dairy, wheat…like pretty much everything) we’ve started eating more potatoes (and eggs, if you’re wondering what else is left). Therefore, my husband recently learned how to peel and chop potatoes. He loves when I let him help in the kitchen, so, as I was feeling scratchy and stuffy and not-happy, I figured our soup would be potato-based and set him to carefully cubing potatoes. We threw in carrots and celery, along with a bunch of turmeric, ginger, and a few other spices I know are easy on the tummy (at least in small little sprinkle-quantities). I “cheated” and sauteed a crushed clove of garlic in olive oil for about a minute before removing the garlic and adding the rest of the veggies. Obviously, this would be great with minced garlic and chopped onions, so feel free to add along with the other veggies.

Low-FODMAP Cold-Fighting Potato Soup:

Ingredients:
3 large brown potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 medium carrots (or about a dozen baby carrots), peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed with the flat side of the knife
olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and Pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
Turmeric
Ginger
Oregano
Basil
juice of 1/2 a lemon

  1. In large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over M heat. Add garlic and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant. Remove garlic and discard.
  2. Add vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Saute until slightly golden, about 7-10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth and water. Bring to a boil. Stir in generous sprinkles of turmeric and ginger, and pinches of oregano and basil. Cover and reduce heat to M-L.
  4. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until all veggies are soft.
  5. Stir in lemon juice.
  6. Remove from heat and puree smooth, in a blender or with an immersion blender. Return to pan and heat through.

This could be good with a generous pinch of cheese on top. We stirred in avocado chunks into our individual bowls, which was delicious, too. And, it reheats well for lunch the following day — always a plus in my book!

Bonus: all those browning potatoes will leave your apartment smelling like French fries, in the best possible way.

Have you ever watched YouTube videos of food on mute because you’re hungry and the day is dragging?

That’s pretty much how my week has been. I just discovered Binging with Babish and I cannot. stop. watching. food.

And now all I want is a burger, like immediately.

Yes, this post is mostly just a video of some dude cooking the Pulp Fiction burger, which is unfortunate for my first post of 2017, but it’s been a long few days back at work, and I’m exhausted.

Plus, one of my resolutions is to quit apologizing for being who I am. So even though I’m a little lazy, I am who I am and I’m not going to apologize.

This is me, 2017! It’s the year of loving my flawed self.

Did you make any resolutions this year? I’d love to hear them!

 

The Rock

img_2322
That is not Alcatraz, just the view from the ferry TO Alcatraz

So my husband and I were in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, and there was no way I was going to be just outside of San Francisco and not visit Alcatraz. I’ve always been a big fan of historical tours, fascinated by criminals like Al Capone, and hated ferry rides. That last one doesn’t really fit, but the sentence needed a third thing and it’s the truth. Damn you, Block Island Ferry!

fullsizeoutput_28

I also have a weird obsession with touching history. Those home tours with the ropes and signs that are all “Do Not Touch” are the literal worst (and I do what I want and touch stuff anyway). Before anyone freaks out too much, I mostly just touch parts of doors/walls/window frames that probably haven’t been touched by anyone since the historical figure who once resided in said home.

At Alcatraz, you can go inside cells and rooms and run your fingers over everything. Actual conversation between my husband and me afterwards:

Me: “I just love going in historical places that let you touch everything!”
Him: “I know. You should wash your hands.”
Me: “I might have picked up Al Capone’s syphilis and you don’t just WASH THAT TYPE OF HISTORY AWAY!”

He was not impressed.

He gets impressed by things like great views, which luckily, Alcatraz has. This place has everything: history, views, possibly syphilis…you know, fun for the whole family.

img_2410
It seriously has the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge

We learned that while there were three break-outs, no one ever successfully fully escaped from Alcatraz. They ended up immediately re-imprisoned or dead (though I suppose one might argue death is the ultimate escape… #philosophy).

img_2380
One of the cells tunneled out of using broken spoons.

Alcatraz Island was also a home for the Indians of All Tribes — a group of Native Americans who occupied the rock during the early 70s in an attempt to claim it as their own land. Fun fact: all federal lands that are retired/abandoned/out-of-use are supposed to be returned to the Native Americans it was taken from. The Occupation of Alcatraz didn’t end well, but it did positively affect federal Indian policy so it’s considered a win in the longterm.

img_2439

There are really spectacular grounds, too, which are open to the public in the winter – when it’s less wet, I guess. I wasn’t really paying attention to the why it was open for us…

img_2399

And those views. If nothing else, a trip to Alcatraz is worth it for the views. I’m sure it was a glorious sort of torture for the inmates who had cells with window-views of the city. The prisoners could even hear laughter from parties in San Francisco.

img_2397

Alcatraz is the most popular tourist destination in the United States, seventh most visited in the entire world. This might turn some people off to a visit. I get it. I hate crowds, being stereotypically “touristy”, and ferries.

This. Is. Worth it. I promise. Once you’re off the crowded ferry (you can huddle outside to see the views while avoiding the worst crush of people — it’s really windy and pretty frigid so bundle up if you so choose), the island is pretty large and you can kind of wander at your leisure. The audio tour means people lump around the halls, but if you don’t like crowds, come on, you know how to navigate around the oblivious masses. You’ll be fine.

img_2385
The kitchen, where they fed prisoners better than I feed myself (because you’re not trying to revolt en masse during 20 minutes of culinary bliss)

Or skip the tour (but if you like touching history, don’t skip it) and just go look at San Francisco from a unique vantage point. It’s seriously all winning. Even the ferry ride is only 15 non-horrific minutes.

img_2366

A Too-Public Apology

I’ve gotten carried away on Facebook. This election was ugly and contentious and it stirred up a lot of “yuck” on both sides. After the shocking results (or not so shocking, if you’re that one professor who’s always right about presidential elections), everything came to a head.

Going into Election Night, I knew a lot of friends and family voted differently than me–and that was okay. One person — whom I love more than my own life, and who did not vote my way — posted her “I voted” sticker to Facebook, and someone else commented “I hope for the right one!” Now, this could have been a statement of solidarity, like “so did I and I hope we made the right choice.” But I saw red. I almost typed back something along the lines of “who are you to judge if someone’s choice is right or wrong? She voted for the right person for her and that’s all that matters here.” I was ready to throw down, all in defense of someone who basically canceled out my vote, because I loved her more than a stupid vote or a stupid four years or eight years or whatever it will be. (Instead, I raged to my husband and settled in to watch Hillary #crushit). And then I lost sight of that completely.

I’ve always known I’m very competitive and not the best loser, but this was not some game I could shake off the way I should have. I’ve written before my reasons that I personally could never support Trump; I didn’t realize until he won just how much my own understanding of my immediate world was wrapped up in this election. Suddenly, I didn’t see family, I just saw betrayal. I felt confused — probably because I never took the time to sit down beforehand and explain face-to-face with people what it is that drives my thinking, and therefore how I believe they must think, too. I was — and am — terrified of what this can mean for a country already so divided.

I lashed out on social media, in a defiant show of love behind a veneer of anonymity, a soapbox once-removed. And I hurt people with some of the things I’ve “liked”, some of the posts I’ve shared. I didn’t take the time to put into my own words my terror and my angst and my confusion. I won’t apologize for fearing for my country, or for feeling hurt or betrayed or confused, because this is how I feel, and I am allowed to process this in my own way.

But I do sincerely ask forgiveness for the hurt I’ve caused through a careless, too-public post, or the words I’ve endorsed without explanation or attempt to make them my own. Because I’d like to think that while I shared some of the same sentiments, my own words could have held more love and less accusations. It’s too easy, when one is hurt and scrolling through a newsfeed, to say “yeah!!” and just click ‘share’ rather than sit and think and scribble out her heart. It’s vulnerable and difficult, especially when that heart is already bleeding from wounds others don’t realize they’ve made. Wounds that might have been avoided, if we’d shared our hearts sooner.

Because the people I love — those who want to Make America Great Again and those who were #WithHer and those who chose neither — they feel the same as me. They fear for America, they want what’s best and they didn’t intend to hurt me anymore than I wanted to hurt them personally.

And maybe this whole post shouldn’t be public, either. Maybe it would be better served individually, but a public harming deserves a public acknowledgement that while I’ve been screaming about “love” for almost a week, I haven’t done a good job of connecting through love with those I care about. And maybe I’ve hurt someone without even realizing it, and I want them to know I’m sorry for that, too. Love is not a weapon, but a shield we should use to defend what’s precious against a ravenous world. I lost sight of that, and I’m sorry.

I love you.

Dinner So Easy My Husband Could Do It

I was going to say “so easy your husband could do it,” but that implies husbands can’t cook which is sexist and also a complete falsehood. However, mine is culinary impaired so I really mean it when I say this dinner is so easy. It’s all about spaghetti squash, man!

  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Grape Tomatoes (like maybe a pint? You know how you and your family feel about tomatoes. Make that many.)
  • Pesto (I use the jarred stuff; you can make this yourself if you feel ambitious but I didn’t, and my husband certainly would not)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400
  2. Slice a large spaghetti squash (what is a large spaghetti squash? Yeah, no clue. Ours was the size of a Tom Brady football [#toosoon?] and it gave us 3 heaping servings. But seriously, I’d say a little smaller than a football. Or a little larger than a Game of Thrones dragon egg [because that reference is so much more helpful].) oh shoot, I didn’t finish this sentence: so, slice that bad boy lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I threw most of them away but one stuck to my finger so I ate it and it was as delicious as a pumpkin seed so I wish I’d saved them and dried them. Your call.
  3. Put the halves cut-side-up on a baking sheet and rub the flesh with oil (that sounds super gross and somewhat Silence of the Lambs-y so sorry ’bout it). I also sprinkled salt and pepper over them, but that’s optional.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes
  5. You can prep the grape tomatoes by tossing them with olive oil and a little salt and pepper. You’ll pop these in the oven (set to 350) when you take out your squash.
  6. Once the squash is done, let it sit and cool while the tomatoes roast (like 10 minutes). Then use a fork to scrape out the guts into a large bowl. The squash gets all stringy, hence the name. Once you’re all scraped out, discard the skins (sorry, I’m still thinking about Silence of the Lambs I guess). Toss the squash with a couple spoon-scoops of pesto. Kind of like with the tomatoes, you know how you feel about pesto. Use that much.
  7. Top the squash with the roasted tomatoes, then sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top (and more salt & pepper, if you’re obsessed like me).

PS: if you transfer the squash halves to a plate and use the same baking sheet (covered in foil) to roast the tomatoes, it makes clean up easier. Although I just realized you’ll probably get squash guts on the plate, meaning you still have two things to wash regardless. Ah well, what do I know, my husband does the clean up.

The Painful Joys of Writing: Research

My current WIP (that’s work-in-progress, Mom) is a historical fiction novel set during WWII. I’ve always been fascinated by that time: the beauty and the tragedy, the resiliency of the people and the fact that those generations can laugh after the horrors they witnessed.

My other stories have been completely imaginary, so it’s been refreshing having a number of sources to go to with questions rather than having to make everything up. The Internet is an amazing thing, with just a few clicks, I get more knowledge than I ever needed.

This is also a drawback.

Sometimes, I get too hung up on stupid tiny details that are only important for making the story authentic. My characters are going dancing in D.C.? Let me just Google what clubs might have been around in the early ’40s (spoiler alert: this was not as simple as it sounds. It took me days of research to scratch out a number of dance clubs my characters might have attended).

Wikipedia is helpful but not completely trustworthy. Its hyperlinked words make it too easy for me to wander, too. For example, my characters need a summer activity to be doing (or on their way to doing) when they run into another character (at which point, said activity no longer matters). Still, I can’t just say they’re eating ice cream at the waterfront. Today’s DC waterfront is nothing like 1940s DC waterfront (was there even much of a “waterfront”?). Google tells me the area I’m thinking of (now near the AMC Loews theater) used to be the site of the Georgetown incinerator. So…people probably weren’t hanging around where they were burning trash. So maybe they went to a museum. Or just hung around one of the monuments or memorials. The Wikipedia page for the National Monument takes me through the Lincoln Memorial page to the the Reflective Pool (not built yet in their time), to the Tidal Basin, to the WWII Memorial, to the grafitti “Kilroy was here” and the next thing I know, I’m reading about rationing in Great Britain during and after the war.

Also, my interest to know whatever I can about the ’40s is a drawback during quick-research time. In this example, I figure the Tidal Basin is probably a good area my characters could end up, so I leave the page open to read in a second, but first I want to continue reading about Marian Anderson’s epic performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after she was not allowed to perform at the DAR (because she was African American). And in reading more about Anderson, I find out she was good friends with Albert Einstein. He was really big in the Civil Rights Movement (and referred to himself as a devout anti-racist). One thing leads to another and two hours later I’ve somehow ended up reading about the U.S.O. in World War II.

Now my brain is full to bursting will all this barely-necessary knowledge and I’ve completely forgotten what I originally set out to look up. Forget about the actual story I wanted to write around that little detail–it’s gone. I leave the story for the following day, only to wake up and find the blank I’ve literally drawn to remind myself I need a relevant detail, and the process starts all over.