So Now What Am I Supposed To Do?

So Now What Am I Supposed To Do?

Well that sure was a curveball.

I have friends who write who have managed to rise to the occasion in the past week. My friend and teacher Jesse Rosen always posts on Wednesdays, so she actually had to come up with something to say the day after the shit hit the fan. And she did, here.

She’s a stronger woman than I.

I just can’t get blood from a turnip this week, you guys. But I love you for being here, for checking in, and for just having it in you to get up and face the day,

and the next four years

of days.

I  attended a service this past Sunday at my beloved, struggling, ass-kicking Unitarian Universalist church. I’m not gonna preach, but let me just say that if you’re looking to get involved in the work that will heal our country, but you’re not sure where to start, try checking out your local UU church. If for whatever reason you’re a little freaked out by the word church, trust me that these are safe places. All are welcome.

The service was just what I needed: full of hope, some tears, but mostly practical advice about what each of us can do to help.

I love practical advice. I fucking love a good hack.

Our minister (who blogs here) also talked a bit about the need for self care during this time. While we are called to step up and pitch in as never before, we are also required to listen to our bodies and souls, and know our limits.

So, in the spirit of practicality and self-care, I decided to look back in the archives and find a blog post that I could use for today.

This one seems like it could work.

In it, I talk about how I sometimes do a little meditation that helps me with fear. A lot of people are afraid right now, and with good reason. As for myself, I might try it with the word “grief.” Because that’s what is heavy on my heart right now.

Then I thought about a different post from a while back, one that dealt with a long held grudge of mine. Like so much else before November 8th, 2016, that old grievance seems unimportant from where I stand today, but I’ll probably be using the meditation a lot in the coming months. Here’s a chunk of that post:

As time passed, and my grudge still nagged at me, I decided to do a little research. Tich Naht Han wrote a whole book on anger. In it, he suggests we “take care of” our anger:

“Anger is like a howling baby, suffering and crying.
Your anger is your baby. The baby needs his mother
to embrace him. You are the mother.
Embrace your baby.”

The idea of embracing my feisty little anger-baby, stroking it and singing it Beatle’s songs, sounded like a nice change, but also kind of creeped me out, though I can’t exactly say why.

I decided to give it my own spin and, with props to Tich Naht Han for the inspiration, came up with this mini-meditation hack for when you can’t let go of being pissed. Feel free to play along:

First, I close my eyes and imagine my grudge. Not the person I’m holding it against, but the actual anger, the whole fiery, dangerous, white hot thing. My grudge is roughly the size of my son’s Nerf basketball, or one of those mini-watermelons that seem like a good idea, but are totally not worth the money. Anyhooo…

I hold it in my hands and see that it is beautiful,

orange and red and yellow.

I feel its warmth.

I don’t try to cool it down or make it smaller.

I don’t try to make it be nice.

I take care of it.

Holding it in my hands reminds me that it isn’t part of me, it’s a thing I am holding:

Anger.

When I do this meditation now, I feel empowered. I DO want to take care of my anger, because it will help get my ass off the couch. 

I’m just not sure about blogging right now.

Not only because there’s so much important work to do, and the time to volunteer and write letters and make phone calls has to come from somewhere.

There’s also this.

 

We all need to do the work that is ours to do. And no one is going to wait, holding the door for me until I have the courage to get on with things. So I’ve been thinking about what work is mine to do.

Sigh. I’m just at sixes and sevens, to use a phrase that I like but have no idea what the fuck it means. (See? I have no business writing a blog. Who says that??)

I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting here, but I do know that I won’t be posting a lot about politics. You don’t need to hear what I have to say on the topic, believe me. Here’s what I do: I think up stories in my head, and write about my regular old life in the San Fernando Valley. And right now, I’m not sure about anything.

Take care of each other.

Peace, friends.

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Eat This: An Election Night Menu

Eat This: An Election Night Menu

Today is one of those days I wish I were a food blogger. 

They are so lucky.

They just have to tell you what to eat and how to make it, but they don’t exactly have to dive deep.

In contrast, personal bloggers are kind of obligated, I think, to take what’s going on in their lives, or the world, and talk about how it feels to be dealing. In exchange for your time and eyeballs, we pledge to be open, and honest, and take what’s coming to us.

The thing is, right now I’m pretty spent when it comes to political opinions, even my own, and I can’t imagine that I’m feeling anything all that unusual. Here, in a nutshell, is my entire inner life, as it applies to the 2016 election:

It’s scary, awful, exciting and just too much. I want it to be over, but only if it ends the way I want.

Not exactly insightful commentary.

Which is why I find myself, on Monday Nov.7, writing my very first Pretend Foodie Blog Post. Why not? 

What follows are a few recipes that are my gift to you, on this historic day. This is what’s for dinner at my house tonight. They are easy enough to make while your mind is on things like the future of the free world, and the ingredients are things you probably have on hand, which means you can skip going to the store and spend more time staging the perfect “I Voted” selfie.

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An Election Night Menu For Hopeful Citizens, plus Me

I know I’ll want a snack, right up front.

It’s a special day, after all, and since I burned all those extra calories standing in line at my polling place, Ima treat myself. If you voted by mail, you deserve an extra snack as a reward for being so together.

My snack of choice, courtesy of my friend Dena who has good taste in everything, is this:

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It’s possible I’ve talked to you about Mt.Tam cheese before. If so, I’m sorry but I can’t help it. I love it so much that my son, 11, has suggested that I marry it.

Now, I know you probably don’t have this exact cheese on hand, and while you can sub something else and still be happy, it won’t be the same. Either way, scratch what I said before about not going shopping, and go buy some special cheese. You will be so glad you did.

Whole Foods sells a tennis ball sized Mt.Tam for fifteen bucks, which is about ten dollars more than I’d normally spend on cheese, but you only elect the first female president once, y’all! (see what I did there?)

Next up:

A Simple Fall Salad With Balsamic Vinaigrette

The world seems to have gone crazy, am I right? It’s times like these that we need to keep our heads screwed on and remember the basics:

  1. Think before you speak
  2. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
  3. Always have something green on your plate

When I look upon The Orange One and fear for our collective future, this list and it’s timeless wisdom soothes me. Plus, FLOTUS wants us to eat salad, so I’m all in.

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Salad:

  • Romain lettuce, chopped
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • pear or apples, sliced
  • toasted pecans
  • goat or blue cheese (optional, but when given the option of cheese, I vote yes!)

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 or 2 or however many you want Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • a healthy glob of dijon mustard
  • a pinch or three of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  • half a shot of maple syrup

Mix all the vinaigrette ingredients until it looks good, and toss it with the greens. We are all grown-ups here. We know how to make a salad.

And Now:

Vodka Pasta:

This is one of my favorite dishes to make when I want to please everyone. it is bi-partisan in it’s deliciousness, the Switzerland of dinner items, except, you know, Italian. Also, because it has vodka in it, no one will look at you funny for having the open bottle next to you at the stove. This feature will be important, as the evening progresses.

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 4 big juicy garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • one of those big 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes (I like the fire roasted)
  • 2 Tbs. vodka
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 c. parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lb. penne (you could choose gluten free or whole wheat, but when it comes to pasta, like Trump, I make no apologies for preferring white.

In a big-ass pan, sauté the oil, garlic, red pepper and salt. When the garlic is just turning golden (if it becomes the color of The Donald, you’ve overcooked it), take a sip of vodka and dump the crushed tomatoes into the pan. 

Stir it all together and let it simmer on the stove for about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, boil the penne.

(sip vodka)

Drain the pasta and throw it into the tomato mixture, which has thickened slightly. Toss in the vodka and mix, keeping the heat low for a minute or two. Mix in the cream, then turn off the heat and let it rest for a few minutes, before making it fancy with the parsley.

(Now’s a good time to toast the Suffragettes with a healthy swig of vodka. Bask in the moment.)

Serve the pasta and salad on the same plate, since you will be freaking out enjoying your meal in front of the television, and that’s how we roll in America.

By now, the early results will probably be coming in. I can’t predict what I’ll be feeling, but it will either be something like this:

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Or this:

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Either way,  it’s time for pie.

The thing is, I can’t really tell you how to make a good pie crust. I mean, I’ve tried to make a good pie crust and sometimes it’s ok and sometimes it sucks. The only thing consistent about my pie crust is that I always end up thinking that it’s just not worth the effort. But hey, you may disagree.

And guess what?

***We can disagree and still have pie!***

(PS- See? Women totally need to be running the world)

Ok, for a delicious pie, Do This: (or don’t, it’s a free country. For now, anyway.)

When you go to get the Mt.Tam cheese (did I mention it’s the queen of cheeses?), grab a box of those ready made pie crusts. I know, I know, they’re made with partially hydrogenated lard, but nothing’s perfect, right?unknown-2

And if you can’t have “the perfect” pie crust, don’t you at least want the very good and capable pie crust??? Or are you one of those people who would say, “No, I don’t want pie-crust-as-usual! If I can’t have my pie crust, the crust I think I should be able to have, then I’ll just have a big ol’ shit sandwich, please!”

No, I didn’t think so.

Where were we?

Oh yeah, put one crust in a pan and fill it with a bunch of peeled apples, a few globs of butter, 1/4 c. of sugar, 2 Tbs. of flour, some cinnamon, a little salt and the juice of a lemon. Slap the other crust on top and pinch it together like your Trump pinching a— never mind.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 50 minutes and, wonder of wonders, you’ll have pie.

Alternatively, you could just get yourself a perfectly nice already made pie, and be done with it.

That’s what I’m doing. Pie making is for suckers.

So, there you go. Eat up, enjoy, and leave the dishes for tomorrow.

I promise,

no matter what,

there will be a tomorrow.

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All Souls, Forgiven

All Souls, Forgiven

So it’s that time: All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos, Samhain.

These holidays, celebrated during  the time of year when the veil between the living and the dead is at it’s thinnest, call us to remember our ancestors.

Which is why, when it came time to write this week’s post, I was all set to talk about my mom, who passed away just over a year ago.

If you’ve read any of my past posts like this, you know a little about her, but I thought it would shake things up a bit if I tell a nice story about my mother, for a change.

True, it would take some digging, but I was determined.

Until, that is, I sat in front of my computer and thought, why would anyone care about that??  

A story about how my mother once cooked a nice leg of lamb won’t mean anything to anyone. It’s self indulgent and uninteresting.

Also, it’s not even true.

Blogging is dumb, I decided.

So,  I quit.

Just like that.

(It is worth noting that I quit blogging exactly two and a half times a week, and don’t really think it’s dumb, except sometimes. )

All of this brings me to Sunday night, when my sons and I were hanging out, eating the homemade chicken soup I had so lovingly prepared, and discussing something that had happened between my 13 year old and one of his friends.

(Those of you who are parents will know that, in recounting a conversation about my son’s friends, I am skating on very thin ice. It is for this reason that I will scramble all details, rendering the whole thing completely mysterious. If you think I’m being paranoid, check out this cautionary tale.)

So anyway…

My son mentioned that a friend (we’ll call him Chauncey) had an issue with a girl we know. According to my son, Chauncey finds this girl “spacey.” I, being an astute observer of human behavior (and also clueless in the workings of the adolescent mind) said, “Well, Chauncey is a little spacey, himself, so he shouldn’t talk.”

“No he’s not,” 13 said, his spoon frozen in mid-air.

(I know what you’re thinking. This is where I should have stopped talking. Who the fuck cares what Chauncey thinks?? Certainly not me, and yet…)

“Yes he is,” I said.

“Name one time he has acted spacey,” he countered, in full defense mode, like only a 13 year old can.

Looking back, I am warmed by his loyalty, by his willingness to have his friend’s back, even in the face of his own mother, who’s approval he still grudgingly,

almost imperceptibly,

but still most definitely, craves.

The rest of the conversation went pretty much like this: me giving lots of amusing examples of Chauncey’s spaciness. I was careful to keep it light, peppering the list with other observations, like how smart Chauncey is, and funny, and kind to animals.

“I love Chauncey!” I assured 13, who had already dumped his bowl of hot soup and was busy making cinnamon toast (a passive aggressive move that wasn’t lost on me), with tears in his eyes.

God.

The whole night went south from there, with 13 giving me the silent treatment, leaving me to wonder why in the world I feel it necessary to share my opinion on every little thing to anyone who will listen, or, in this case, anyone who has no choice but to hear it.

I let a little time pass, then delivered a sincere apology.

This wasn’t the “I’m sorry if I said something that bothered you” kind of apology, but the three part real deal apology.

He deserved it.

I had, for no good reason, criticized a friend of his. It  wasn’t kind, it wasn’t necessary and, as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t true.

Like the good and compassionate egg he is, he accepted my apology.

So why didn’t I feel better?

The maternal anxiety I was feeling was clearly out of proportion to the pretty minor screw-up. What was my deal?

It wasn’t that my son was mad at me, puh-leez. Happens all the time.

Only later, in bed, as I stared into the dark and hoped for sleep, that I realized what was gnawing at me: the whole thing, the petty observations, the criticism disguised as humor, the taking down of someone smaller and weaker—

all of it was straight out of my mother’s playbook.

Shit.

Thus commenced a longish stretch of self-loathing, which brought me to my kitchen table at around midnight, pen in hand, to hash it out on paper.

The veil felt thin alright. In fact, I had the unsettling sensation of my mother sitting right beside to me. 

Maybe even a little bit inside me.

I hated the idea of being like her in any way. Because I saw her as wholly awful in the mother department, I wanted her as far away from me as possible.

I remembered her falling asleep with her cigarette burning, spending the scarce money on Jack and stealing from my ballerina jewelry box. I would never, I thought, and opened my journal.

Unforgivable. 

I began to write.

But, weirdly enough, what ended up on the page, was this:

Yes, She Did That. But She Also Did This

She taught me to eat a balanced diet

She taught me that making art was worthwhile

She didn’t obsess about her looks or her body and that rubbed off on me

She was funny, and I learned that laughter is a survival skill

When I was eleven and chipped my front tooth, she didn’t let the dentist give me a silver cap, even though it would have been cheaper.

I put down my pen and looked at what I’d written.

Not bad, Mama, I thought.

I didn’t plan to post a blog about it. The list was long overdue, and it was just for me.

But then I noticed something had lifted.

I could see, or was finally letting myself see, in the dim light of the midnight kitchen, that I couldn’t help but occasionally sound like my mother. By the time I was thirteen (ah, 13), she had gone, but, like the sculptures she made of me as a child, I was covered in her fingerprints.

The only way to live with that, to forgive myself when I occasionally sounded a bit too much like her, was to raise the veil and take a long slow look at the truth, even if it complicates the story.

Even if it means I have to give in a little.

Like a lot of us, she was just an imperfect woman, raised by an imperfect woman.

And we are all forgiven.