Staring Down the Dark

Staring Down the Dark

I really did plan to write a cheerful holiday post today. I put the order in and sat poised at the keyboard, ready for inspiration. Instead, here is what came out: that time I thought I might die. Proceed with caution if this isn’t your bag ūüôā

When I was a kid, I loved being afraid.

Grocery shopping with my mother, I would be drawn by a force I didn’t understand, to the far end of the meat section, where they stocked the chicken and pigs feet, frog legs, fish heads and tongue, all stamped with bright orange stickers, “Low low price!” I’d creep toward the display and stare at it, shivering.

It was brutal, scary, and weirdly soothing.

I learned then that if I could look long enough at the white belly, the bone, the hoof, my fear would eventually turn to curiosity. By the time I heard Mama calling me, the parts had lost their grisly pull, and although I never wished to see them on my plate, I wasn’t afraid of them anymore, at least until the next time we went shopping, when once again I would wander from the kid-friendly entertainment of the cereal aisle, into the place where nice girls didn’t go.

I remember creating haunted houses in the sweltering attic of our small house, hanging my dolls, bloodied with magic marker, from the ceiling, and arranging bowls of spaghetti brains, broken mirrors, and rubber knives in creepy tableaus.

As I got older, I added to the scene, with death threats scrawled on paper that I carefully burned around the edges, and descriptions like this, next to each installation:¬†“This very baby carriage¬†and it’s human contents was crushed by the axe of a madman!”

It was a little intense for the other grade schoolers in my neighborhood, so usually it was pretty much just me up there, hanging out on summer afternoons, hot as hell and perfectly at home in the dark.

My friend Risa told me that the fact that I wasn’t afraid of the dark was proof that I was The Devil. We were living in the Bible belt, so this was a pretty big deal. After I got over that first rush, similar to getting cast as the lead in the school play, I admit it gave me pause.

I had good reason to think she might be on the right track in her assessment of my character, but in the end I was way too insecure to think I could be the Anti-Christ himself. For one thing, I was having a heck of a time memorizing my multiplication tables, proof, in my own mind, that I would never be tapped for such an important gig.

By fifth grade, I was an avid reader of horror comic books. After comics came ghost stories like The Bell Witch. Later, while my friends were reading Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, I read Amityville Horror and Helter Skelter.

I was the kid who was always looking up leprosy in The World Book Encyclopedia, or holding a seance.

My idea of fun was slipping into fear like a pair of comfy slippers and walking around for a while. There were a lot of demons inhabiting my world. For some of us, feeling scared helps us, well, not be so scared.

Once I grew up, my world felt a lot safer, and I mostly seemed normal-ish, at least when it came to my idea of a good time.

Then a few months ago, I decided to address a slowly percolating health issue.

Let me preface this by saying that all the tests have come back clear and I am basically fine. No biggie, as they say. But during the whole biopsy/second opinion process, my entire being was screaming “Are you fucking kidding me? This is a biggie– this is The Biggie!”

Even though I wasn’t conscious of it at the time, looking back now it’s clear that I employed the skills honed way back when, at the grocery store.

I looked.

Not at Google! I repeat: NOT AT GOOGLE. (Please don’t look at Google while waiting for test results. You’re welcome.)

I looked at what was scary.

After meeting with a surgeon who painted kind of a bleak picture, I found myself strolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s, planning my funeral, making a mental list of the friends who I could call on to help my sons and husband once I was gone.

Like a lot of women I know, one of the ways I cope with stress is to share with friends, which I did.

Some friends responded to my¬†news with a big smile and, “Oh stop it– you’re FINE!”¬†They meant only the best, of that I am sure and I love them for wanting to save me from my own dark side, but flipping on the lights isn’t always the compassionate move.

And plus, how could they possibly know I was fine, at that point? I couldn’t know that about them and I would never pretend to.

One friend and I talked about what we could binge watch during my chemo. We discussed the merits of something called “exposure burial” vs. cremation. I instructed her to save my journals but delete my texts, which she totally understood. We laughed about how crazy it was, but we never shut each other down.

She sat with me in the dark.

Although I had been talking funerals, and chemo, and loss, my real fear was of having to go through it alone.

By the simple act of not looking away, she told me that nothing about me was too scary. She would be there, even if/when things got that fucking bad. She would watch t.v with me, and find me banana popsicles, and help me change my bandages.

I’d do the same for her.

There’s an image in my mind that, if it had happened back in 1972, would have made all the difference: it’s of a little girl, at the far end of the meat section. She is shivering from cold coming off the refrigerated cases, and from what she sees when staring into them. She doesn’t want to look away, but feels her friend standing next to her, and knows she is not alone.

They both look.

And they are both afraid, and less afraid, together.

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I’m Done With People Leaving

I’m Done With People Leaving

A mom friend and I were hanging at the park with our kids a while ago, when she casually mentioned that she and her husband were looking to relocate. LA had changed too much for her over the years and she was done. She wanted more space, and fresh air.

Just like that? I thought, but didn’t say.

I tried to sound regular. “You’re moving?”

“We’d love to get out of here,” she answered. “We’ve already started looking up north.”

I was shocked. Not shocked at her announcement, I’d already said goodbye to three dear friends and my sister in the past five years alone, losing them to lower housing prices and walkable neighborhoods elsewhere. It’s going around.

What shocked me was my reaction.

I was pissed.

I was pissed that I’d grown even just a little attached to her, this kind-hearted animal -loving urban farm girl. I didn’t want another long-distance friendship kept on life-support through social media.

One of the worst things about my face is it’s transparency. She saw me shut down. Later I got a text: Sorry if I upset you earlier. We are looking to move eventually, but it probably won’t happen for a while. I hope we can still be friends!

Sigh.

My fingers typed what I thought was the right answer: Of course we can.¬†I’m an asshole! ūüôā

In Los Angeles, you get used to people leaving and if, like many of us, you moved here from somewhere else with a full set of fancy abandonment baggage, it can be a pretty rough. Over the years I’ve learned that¬†if it seems like someone is just passing through, it’s probably best to let them.

At this point, it’s about staying power.

Back in Nashville, my Grandmother had the same steadfast group of women friends for years. We called them “the Marys” because they mostly shared that name. If you were to run into one of them around town and drew a blank, you could throw out the name Mary and know that you had at least an 80% chance of nailing it.

For years the Marys gathered weekly for their “sewing group.” It was an afternoon of chicken salad, cocktails, and conversation, where occasionally something got hemmed.

They took turns visiting when each other was sick. The few Marys who could still drive at night would fairy the others to dinner parties, and the wedding receptions of  grandchildren. It was a bond forged over decades, a lifeline, as they chartered the waters of their own old ladyhood.

I don’t know about you, but that’s looking pretty good to me these days.

Recently I read the book Life Reimagined, in which the author, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, counts supportive friendships as one of the most vital ingredients in a long and healthy life. The evidence suggests that more than genetics, diet or even excersise, friendships keep us going strong.

It’s medicinal, people.

While the data supporting the link between friendships and our health was new to me, the idea of friendship as a lifeline was not. I’ve written before about how, as a kid, I fed my attachment hunger through close and durable ties with my friends. I may have had a wire monkey at home, but in the homes of friends, I was patched up and found a sense of belonging.

I was hooked.

Which is why when my friend¬†Wendy tells me over drinks at a bar we know so intimately that we just call it “the corner”, that living in LA is just too expensive and that her family may, like so many others, need to pull up stakes, I freeze.

“I mean, look what you can get in Iowa for 300K” She says, handing me her phone. I scroll through her Zillow feed, unsure of the correct response. Happy? Excited? Envious? I am none of those.

I am hurt.

Look, I know it isn’t about me. I know it’s about this friend of mine, who may have to leave her hometown, her world, and move into the unknown, not because she wants to, but because she has to.

But at that moment I am unable see my way to being a grownup.

I pass my finger over the screen, scrolling past circular driveways and sprawling farmhouses with mature trees in every yard. The numbers are so low compared to LA home prices that I think there must be a mistake. But there is no mistake.

Or is there?

Taking a good size gulp of Pinot, I wonder if maybe the mistake is trying to have lasting friendships in a town of transients.

We finish our drinks and split the check. I tell her I’ll try to be supportive, but I’m not sure I have it in me. I don’t want her to leave. She understands and says what everyone says when these conversations have run their course. “It probably won’t happen for a while.”

It has occurred to me that LA would be a pretty hard place to be a Mary. Some days it’s a hard place to be a Maggie, so I can only imagine.

Oh well.

At least when we can no longer drive at night, we can get an Uber in like five minutes, so suck it, small manageable towns with low property taxes.

(Now, normally, this would be where I’d put in a big plug for LA:its beaches, its mountains, its tacos, and weirdos, and seventy degree default temp, and I’ll-never-leave-no-way-this-is-MY-TOWN!)Los Angeles California Skyline

But that would be a lie, at least the never leaving part.

It may be that one day my husband will have to cash out and move to cheaper less crowded pastures. That’s the reality for a lot of us in tinsel town, and other towns too, all across the country.

So where does that leave friendship? If we are all apt to up and move any old time, is there anyone we can count on, and can anyone count on us? Am I wrong to even want that?

This reminds me of the sand mandalas created by Buddhist monks. You know, where hours and hours go into the creation of intricate sand paintings, which are then purposely destroyed as a reminder of the impermanence of everything.

Non-attachment. It’s their favorite.

Maybe in about ten thousand more lifetimes when I am way more actualized it will be my favorite too, but I’m just not there yet.

Of course none of us knows who will stick around and who won’t. It could be housing prices, a bad diagnosis, or divorce, but the truth is that shit happens, especially as you get older. Maybe the dream of my own band of proud Marys is an effort to soothe the anxiety that comes with that midlife realization.

I don’t know how it will feel to say goodbye to the next friend who leaves. I only know that I can’t let myself go on a preemptive strike. As hard as it is, I will fight to stay open to these relationships, even without the guarantee. I will build my friendships not like a sand mandala, but like a Vegas hotel– built to last, at least for now.

We can’t know otherwise, none of us.

In closing, let me quote the often unappreciated genius of this song, made famous by the one and only Ronnie Milsap. I’m actually not kidding.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world

Wouldn’t have missed lovin’ you girl

You’ve made my whole life worth while, with your smile.

I wouldn’t trade one memory

Cause you mean too much to me

Even though I lost you girl

I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Feel free to sing with abandon at your next Karaoke night, after a shot of Jager. Now go forth with an open (or open-ish) heart, my friends!

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You Can Write, But You Cannot Hide

You Can Write, But You Cannot Hide

I’ve missed you.

I could give you all kinds of reasons why I’ve been weird about writing for the past several months, but I’ve written a version of that post before, and all the reasons are kind of boring at this point, aren’t they?

So let’s do this: lets just move on.

But there are going to be some changes around here, and I feel like I at least have to warn you ahead of time. The truth is, I got super bogged down with all the cute blogging tricks, and that takes soooo much time, you guys! Like, finding a gyph can take way longer than writing a decent sentence in which you say what you really mean.

I started this blog because I want to write.

I want to connect.

And while funny gyphs, clever photos and SEO friendly titles may encourage a few people to tune in, for me it’s kind of the blogging equivalent of stuffing my bra. That’s not actually who I am. At least, it’s not who I am every single week on Wednesday, in eight to twelve hundred words, rain or shine.

Instead, I am going to focus on writing true.

Ima do it when I can, however I can.

I am going to work very hard to be consistent because apparently that’s important when you want to get better at something, whether it’s writing or taxidermy.

Consistency separates the real writers from the people who use their “Writing Time” to eat scones and read books on writing while taking occasional breaks to cruise Pinterest for sheet pan dinner recipes.

Or so I’ve heard.

The other reason I started this blog, and return to it again and again, is that blogging is fun.

I imagine it’s like photography, in that it kind of gets you looking at life differently. “Oh, look how the light falls on that crust of bread- I want to capture that.”¬† When I’m into my blog, I see patterns I might otherwise miss. I might still be flinging spaghetti against the wall, but by writing about it, I find meaning in what sticks.

Blogging is uncomfortable. This discomfort is part of what makes it worth doing.

I’ve shared before that I worry a personal blog is, in the words of my twelve year old, kinda cringy.¬†¬†giphy

Over and over I ask myself, why anyone would care about the minutia of my little life in the San Fernando Valley, yada yada yada. But even if I’m able to get past that, there is a worry that came up after a year or so of posting regularly, and I just haven’t been able to shake it.

If I’m going to write true, then I might not come off looking so great. I talk all big but, in truth, I am afraid of being cast out.

Can you relate?

I have a recurring dream in which I frantically attempt to hide the body of someone I’ve murdered. The killing doesn’t take place in the dream, it’s only the desperate wrapping in plastic, or burying under leaves, garbage, stuffing into a closet. The body leaks and smells and I know I will be found out. I wake in a sweat, relieved that it was only a dream, and that no one will ever know how broken I really am.

So there’s that.

Do you ever feel that kind of free-floating shame?

It can appear as procrastination, perfectionism, defensiveness, and plain old bitchiness. I admit to having these on a steady rotation, and I’m pretty sure they all spring forth from the deep well of shame I have within.

Why would a person who has spent her whole life ducking and covering take up a practice that, if done with integrity, will certainly result in her feeling exposed?

I must just want to stop hiding the dead bodies.

So, on that note, Happy Holidays, friends!

It’s good to be back ūüôā

What I Did For Love

What I Did For Love

This past weekend I had to deliver a testimonial at my fab UU church, to celebrate the conclusion of our pledge drive.  It went just fine, despite the fact that I clearly have shed my old actorly ways and am now TERRIFIED of speaking in public.

Good lord, the shaking.

The blushing.

Ours is not a large congregation and, for the most part, I think they harbor only good will toward me, so I kind of don’t get why the major case of nerves. Also, the thing I wrote was less than five minutes. (I know, get a grip, right?)

But how’s this for a confession:

I’m glad I was nervous because, in some private recess of my damaged heart, I believed that looking happy to be up there reading something I had worked hard to compose, would be like wearing slacks and suntan pantyhose with a reinforced toe.

Out of fashion.

Awkward.

Best to keep a low profile. Pretend I just threw something together at the last minute. “What, this old thing?”

It’s official. I may be all grown up, but a thin film of middle school still covers me like a second skin.

Maybe you can relate.

None of this is conscious, of course, and it’s really just now, as I sit typing, that it’s becoming clear. I can’t be the only one who struggles with the desire for approval and the deep flesh eating shame of wanting attention.

So wtf. Ima go there.

Yesterday I gave myself a present in the form of the audio version of Bruce Springsteen’s memoir, Born To Run, read by The Boss himself, and available on Audible. (By the way, my subscription to Audible is, by far, the best $15.00 I spend each month. Just sayin’.)

If you happen to see me walking the streets of the San Fernando Valley wearing a dopey smile and a gaze of distant longing, it’s because Bruce is in my ear, telling me all about his life, his hopes, his dreams. I may be holding my dog’s leash in one hand and a bag of steaming poo in the other, but in my mind he and I are reclined on a chase, before an open window, somewhere in Tuscany. “Tell me all about it,” I say, while sampling a variety of cheeses.

Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah. One of the first things Bruce offers up is an explanation of what has driven his career in rock and roll. His success, he says, was and is fueled by a list of things (and I’m working from my admittedly iffy memory here), that includes a desire for attention, approval, money, and love. 

Hold up, Bruce.

You mean you are looking for my approval? The stories you tell, the poetry you write, exists, at least in part, because you want to be… liked??

And get this, he wasn’t apologizing for it. Knowing that he cares what I think of him doesn’t diminish any of his work for me to know this. Obvs. Unknown

There’s a part of me that always assumed that artists, especially talented artists, didn’t give a shit what the rest of us thought. They worked in service of their vision and that’s what made the good ones good.

Or so I thought.

I’m no authority on showbiz in LA, since I had basically waved to that in my rearview mirror when I left Chicago, but I do remember when I first got here, sensing that, to get the job, one needed to not to need the job. Use words like “amazing”, “awesome” and “outstanding”, when asked how things are going, and as an agent once told me as she cocked her head and squinted across her desk at me, whatever you do, “Try not to care so much.”

That’s the catch.

When it comes to approval, you can want it, but you can’t ask for it.

I’ve bought into that forever. As for my own hunger, I blamed it on my mother, my school days, my gender. Anything to avoid pulling back the curtain.

But if I stop making it into a weakness, the desire to pin it on someone else disappears, and running around pinning shit on people is a total time suck. I think we can all agree on that.

The truth is, I care a whole bunch what you think.

Yep, me and Bruce Springsteen.

When I make a painting, I hang it on my wall. When I write something, I want someone to read it. To me, without sharing, the work isn’t complete.

I have a friend who told me she writes all the time and feels no need to share any of it. I haven’t decided if I believe her, but if it’s true, I envy her. If you’re an artist who doesn’t have any fucks left to give, then I guess you are lucky. It’s an advantage to feel free to take risks, to create for the sake of creating. But honestly, if I wasn’t in a lifelong search for love and approval, I probably wouldn’t do anything but down snacks and watch reruns of Sex and the City, so hey, there’s that.

At it’s worst, my desire for external validation can make me too careful, causing me to miss my mark and sometimes not even try. But at it’s best, it’s my editor, agent and cheerleader. My personal Mickey Goldmill.

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Back in Chicago, I remember I used to stare down the bar at the “real” actors who huddled at the other end. Usually a group of three or four guys in their 20’s and 30’s, and maybe one woman (hmm, interesting) would hang together, drinking cheap beer, dissing Los Angeles, while trading snark about their last Steppenwolf audition or the pilot they were shooting .

They were just So. Fucking. Cool.

They were talented, and their talent seemed all the more mysterious because they didn’t seem to care about it. Eventually I would make a good living on commercials, long running crowd-pleasing shows (decidedly un-cool) and voice-overs, but in my mind, those thoroughbreds at the end of the bar would always leave me in their dust.

I could never compete with them because I always, always, read my reviews.

And yet, here I am.

The same need that drove me to put myself out there in search of approval, was the same need that pounded on the floor for me to “Get up!” when I was knocked on my ass.

Now that I’ve named it, will I try to move beyond this, to a place where I float far above my blog stats, my inbox of rejections, my submissions, all my naked trying?

Will I pretend that I don’t desperately hope that you will like what I’ve made for you?

I don’t think so.

And I’m cool with that.

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Stuck. I Had My Reasons.

Stuck. I Had My Reasons.

Hi.

What’s up?

Let¬†me¬†just get something¬†off my chest so I¬†can move on, ok? Here is a list, in no particular¬†order, of reasons I haven’t been writing here for a while:

  1. Trump got elected and, overnight, my blog seemed so dumb and pointless that all I wanted to do was stuff it deep in the trash, like way down under the coffee grounds, Valpak coupons and empty containers of Nosa blackberry serrano yogurt .
  2. Trump got elected, which was not normal,¬†and I felt I should be using every bit of time I could¬†to fight racism, fascism and willful ignorance, not¬†blogging about our family’s road trip¬†or my period.¬†You know, priorities.
  3. I’ve always had the feeling that there is¬†something wrong with a person who feels the need to share¬†her private thoughts¬†publicly.¬†Desperate plea for attention, right? If the shoe fits…
  4. I pretty much ran out of ideas.
  5. I found myself so happy when people responded well to a post that it scared me. I knew I was way too attached to getting a positive reaction and that I would start bending over six ways from Sunday to get more. Of course this could only result in shit writing, which made me want to quit.
  6. I have a sister who I don’t talk to. (Long story). She found my blog and it made me feel exposed, vulnerable, and like I didn’t want to write here anymore.
  7. I thought I should stop spending so much time writing and spend more time on…well, I wasn’t exactly sure what, but something that either brought in a paycheck,¬†or was, like, a “good mom” thing. For example, I could learn to play Dungeons and Dragons, or that game my kids¬†call¬†“Awesome Possum,” which I’m not sure is even a real game but wouldn’t a good mother at least know those things???
  8. “First world problems.” This phrase is fucking poison. Thanks to self-righteous Facebook posts it got in my head and I’ve let it stop every idea or creative impulse I’ve had for months. I believe it is the mother of all censors because it goes for the jugular and tells us¬†that what we have to say¬†is meaningless.¬†Translated, it’s “sit down, shut up, and let the grownups talk.”¬†
  9. I followed the rules. Second to listening to the voice of #8, this was¬†my biggest mistake. The rules I followed were:¬†you¬†post every week, you post on the same day every week, you use lots of visuals, your posts should be 800-1200 words, you¬†have a searchable title, you deliver the same kind of content every time. All the rules were a major buzzkill and pointless too, since my goal has never been to rule the world through blogging. My goal is to make you like me! (Oh, I’m kidding. My actual goal is to have my ex-boyfriend find me through a Google search and see how successful I am, which is why it would be really awesome if you could just say something ¬†in the comments like, “hey, Maggie, congrats on the book deal!” TIA)
  10. I was scared of becoming obnoxious.

So those are the reasons I stopped, and imbedded in each of them are the reasons I’m starting again. Creative blocks are intense, and first world problem or not, I’m committed to pushing through.

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PS- I’m sorry that my blog probably won’t do a damn thing to fight Pussy-Grabbing-Anti-Intellectual-Environment-Destroying-Nationalist-Batshit-Crazy Trump. I wish I was that kind of writer. But for now, I’m just me, and I’ve really missed showing up¬†here.

PPS- I might write less and shorter blog posts these days because it is a new ballgame, thanks to Agent Orange. This site helps me prioritize action items.

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 ‚Äútake care of‚ÄĚ 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.‚ÄĚ

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, saut√©¬†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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