Friday, August 29, 2008

Ai ai ai...

The sort of day I'm having: I took my son for his first eye exam (necessary for kindergarten) and I waited a month to get in to see this recommended ophthalmologist. We had a 9:15 appointment and I was even naive enough to think that we might have time for some playground shenanigans before school started at noon. Oh, sweet, optimistic me.

We were there until noon, nearly three hours, we were late for kindergarten, though we could have gone but the deciding factor was that my son's pupils were dilated like Jim Morrison's on a bender due to approximately four different eye drops that I was not anticipating so I was unable to prepare him. Thus, from hour two until hour three, there was a lot of crying and general anxiety about his newly compromised vision.

The good news? My son has perfect, 20/20 vision! The bad news? He needs glasses anyway! How, what, come again, huh? He has a condition called accommodative esotropia, which is a latent (undetectable without sensitive equipment) inward crossing of the eye, which causes double vision. After an eternity of my poor boy reading numbers and letters off the screen (did a perfect job, I might add), having the lights turned off, his doctor peering into his cranium via his eye using a miner light contraption, covering his eyes one at a time with a plastic strip, having his six-year-old self sit still as she determined his prescription AND having her mutter incomprehensibly to no one in particular but then speak again in exactly the same mumbling tone (seriously, it was like, "...mgrapmmm...hmmm...mmmm...good...mmmph...") and expect me to be able to hear her, I was pretty much ready to karate chop strangers. Not to mention him missing kindergarten on our first week of school when I have writing to do.

What with having a hungry, bleary-eyed Lizard King as a son, we decided to go home and make the German Apple Cake from The Joy of Vegan Baking to console ourselves.

Shalom, everyone/

Obama's speech...

I didn't watch Barack Obama's entire speech at the DNC last night, but what I saw gave me some hope.

Admittedly, I am pretty disgusted by the Democratic party as a whole and I hold them as accountable as the Bush administration for our nation's spiraling problems: the war in Iraq, the inequality of our public education system, the entrenched corporate influence everywhere. They have failed to be a voice of the people, failed quite astonishingly at this. When I see Dennis Kucinich speak, as I did addressing the DNC a few days ago, I think to myself, "Why is this man treated like he's such a joke?" The Democratic establishment, they are the joke, but it's one of those not-funny, makes-your-stomach-hurt-to-think-of kind of jokes. He said something very wise in his speech: he said that he is not talking about a shift from right to left, he is talking about a shift from down to up. This may not seem revolutionary at face value, but it is. He is talking about disregarding that old dial, the one that trapped us into believing in the false duality of the Republicans versus the Democrats, and create a new one, one reflecting deep change, true progress. Again, I have to ask, why is this man treated as such a joke?

Anyway, back to Obama. I cannot imagine that McCain and his tired old cronies can generate even a small percentage of the passion that Obama did in that Denver stadium, not even if they had Merlin whipping up a tempest in his cauldron. The debates between them, I think and hope, will look like the Kennedy/Nixon match up and the Chicago senator will blow that old war monger out of the water. He is the old guard, despite his largely mythic and construed maverick persona, and the people are tired of it. McCain is more of the same, and we cannot abide any more of the same. Obama, while he still gives unfortunate lipservice to the importance of nuclear development and various other Eisenhower-era values, does represent a change in the guard here, not necessarily from down to up, but at least from down to middle. That's something! And I can only hope that the mixed race child of a single mother would be personally aware of how working people are living today. I can only hope that he's not so shielded that he is out of touch with this.

So I am guardedly hopeful. Barack and Michelle Obama: they have exactly the sort of image - I'm sorry if that sounds superficial, but it's absolutely the right word - we need on the world stage representing our country as soon as possible. I am not swept up in Obamamania, but after these last eight years of an utterly atrocious administration that makes decisions befitting such an outfit of robber barons and crooks, I am hopeful that something different can occur with him. And we desperately need something different.

Shalom, everyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is there an echo in here?...

Remember how Hillary Clinton was actively loathed and depicted by the Limbaugh's of the world as a calculating, power hungry she-devil for having the audacity to be a woman of accomplishment and confidence way back when her husband was running for president the first time? I am not and have never been much of a Clinton fan but much of what was leveled at her has always smacked of plain, old fashioned, garden variety misogyny. (There is plenty to criticize about Senator Clinton that is not rooted in the fact of her being a female, especially her continued support of overseas aggression* and that she has not accomplished much in terms of a progressive voting record since she became a senator. She is not alone in this: the Democratic politican as a spineless, sniveling whiner is the absolute gold standard with the exception of a few decent but relatively powerless folks like Kucinich. Oh, Nancy Pelosi, you have failed us.)

Anyway, I did not see Michelle Obama's speech the other night, but I was telling John a while back when people started first grumbling about her - she's too harsh! And this Harvard-educated lawyer and her husband hate "whitey!" (can't they do any better than this?) - that if we thought people were threatened by Hillary, wait until this educated and accomplished woman of color is masticated by U.S. talk radio. I wonder what is going to be her symbolic act of penance to mainstream America for her confidence and achievement. Will she have to bake cookies like Hillary? (GAH!!) Will she have to make a declaration on public record of all of her shortcomings and failures in chronological order? Will she have to demonstrate her two left feet on Dancing With The Stars? Only time will tell.

Shalom, everyone.

*I wonder if there is a word that's the female equivalent of "emasculation" (to strip a man of his masculinity and thus his power as a male, with the implication that he has become a pansy, a.k.a., a woman)? Efemization? Efemalezation? I need a equivalent word to describe the process of stripping a woman of her vital female power and turning her into an honorary male. I'm pretty sure this is what happened to Hillary Clinton somewhere along the road.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bittersweetness is another face of love...

There is an orange-y/pink sherbet sunset (or maybe it is vegan and a sorbet sunset), bright burnished gold at the bottom, and my son is asleep in our spare bedroom. It is very early for my little night owl to be slumbering. This is late August, a very bittersweet time many of us, but the locusts are still buzzing away, unaware (probably? I think?) of the cruel winter that seems inconceivable, almost laughable, on a luxurious night like this one. My husband is working on his Stuff, and as I wrote this paragraph, the deep indigo of the sky is pushing down on my gauzy band of sunset, squeezing it out. Sunsets, like August, remind me of the fleeting nature of pleasure, of time. I want to grasp life's beauty (how's that for a little Heartfelt Themes in Poetry 101, but it's true) and I have difficulty loosening my grip sometimes. I would be one of those Buddhist monks begging to design my sand mandala in concrete. I'm not very Zen most times, I'm afraid.

There is nothing like having a child, perhaps, that teaches us how very ephemeral life is which can be both reassuring and painful. Love or enjoyment mixed with sadness is the nature of bittersweetness, usually wrapped together with a note of longing for what is no longer. Judaism, the religious tradition in which I was raised, has bittersweetness seemingly at it's very core: an appreciation for what is (or recently was) and a knowledge that it will soon be no longer (or has past). I think it's because of the Jew in me - or, at least, that's what I blame - that I have such a propensity toward tears and emotionality. (I also love to laugh, of course, and any of my friends would confirm that I am an absolute goofball, but this is part of the Jewish Thing, too: laugh now, because tears are right around the corner.) My mom is the same way with crying. I remember as a child I was leaving a medical building for my annual checkup with my mom and there was a woman on the elevator with us who was quietly weeping to herself. It seemed clear that she got some bad news at one of the doctor's offices. As we were going down the floors, my mom turned to her and said, "Can I help you with something?" The woman shook her head, saying nothing, and hurried off the elevator. My mom was already crying in solidarity.

I'd like to say here that qualities of bittersweetness can very poetic and can lend to artistic, soulful expression. It is also very easy to abuse and make saccharine. I'm sorry to anyone if I'm crossing that line.

Continuing on the theme of sunsets being extinguished and August tick-tocking past, my son has finished the preschool he has been at since he was three and is going to be entering kindergarten in a few days. This is (was? Again, the bittersweet) such a lovely place. It is run out of the home of a Korean-born, Jewish-converted woman who has such a magical touch with the children. I'll call her Ms. K. You know that expression "an iron fist in a velvet glove"? That's Ms. K, though the word fist is far too violent sounding. The meaning, though, is that she is that perfect combination of strength and softness. She does not allow the children misbehave, and she has very subtle but effective ways of handling misbehavior, but if a child is misbehaving because of something rooted in the emotions, she is unerringly compassionate, loving and gentle. She has three other teachers - three life-affirming, committed and lovely young women - who work at her sweet little home school. They each have a unique approach and particular gifts, but they are all united in the core values of Ms. K's preschool: to help children feel cherished, important and respected, giving them the very best start as they make their way through the world.

Ms. K has a background in painting, so the school's walls have some beautiful paintings throughout. There are also sweet drawings and seed/bean works on the walls made by the children. Every day before snack time, the children rest and reflect while Ms. K plays the piano; after a few minutes, she calls them each up one at a time to stretch and they take a seat at their respective tables for a simple meal, usually crispy bread and fresh fruit. The school is on the second floor of Ms. K's home, and though creativity is encouraged, it is never, ever chaotic. All the scarves and wooden blocks and tea cups are put away in their appropriate containers by the children when play time is over. In order to foster a sense of peace, there must be order. Once you have order, and thus peace, then creativity can flourish. (The myth or stereotype of the artist thriving in chaos may be very entrenched but I don't find it particularly honest. When my life is disorderly, I can't focus on creating because I'm too busy dealing with the chaos. When my life has an overriding order to it, though, I can thrive much more as a creative person.)

Anyway, Ms. K's school has been a very big part of our lives for three years. I have learned so much from her and her school. Her approach - always the perfect, precise measurement of what is needed in any given situation - is something I find both admirable and deeply humbling. Being a parent will expose your very nexus of frailties sometimes. I can be short-tempered, impatient, demanding and harsh in ways that I never knew possible. (Of course, there is that infinite wellspring of love to soften the blow.) Observing Ms. K with the children (always listening, always fair, always encouraging) has helped to give me something to aspire to as a mother. The way she brightens a room with her warm smile has made me more aware of the simple gift we give with the corners of the mouth lifted upward. The way that she always greets the children as they are arriving as though she hadn't seen them in weeks - five days a week she does this - and they are very special to her, well, that is the mark of a very remarkable person, someone who is so enriched by giving. The way she has told me so many times in my more weak and worried moments that my son - different from the others because of his very essence, which I know to be a good thing ultimately - is a unique individual who is a gift to be treasured and nurtured. I will try to internalize this because I know it to be true, too.

Friday was my son's last day at school, which was technically camp. He is officially kindergarten bound. I knew that I would be sad and I certainly cried, especially when I was picking him up. He looked up at me, his eyes worried, and asked why I was doing that, why I was crying and I told him that I would miss his school. I hate crying in front of my son but I couldn't avoid it. If I could have, I would have told him that my tears were bittersweet: gratitude toward Ms. K and her school, and sadness about it ending. (There is also bittersweetness about my little boy growing up and that's related but distinct.) The sadness, though, is brightened immeasurably by the gratitude. I feel so fortunate to have shared this time of my life with such a special person, and I am so deeply glad that my son got this exquisite and absolutely uncommon start in life.

Life is fleeting. Make the most of it while it is happening.

Shalom, everyone.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breaded Tofu Nuggets of Forgiveness (A Recipe)...

You have had a very challenging day with your six-year-old. You fantasize about running away from home; contemplate belatedly putting him up for adoption and how you will break this news to him ("This just isn't working out..."). This boy of yours - with eyes like your eyes, you have heard, your first and only born - giggles with sadistic glee each time he manages to get under your skin today, which is often but not without skill on his part, and you start to see a flicker of the teenager him, with his cool indifference to your pain.

Still, he is six and he does not like to see his mother crying, hopelessly tangled in a knot of
merging highways from four directions in the distant suburbs, a bitter reminder to her that the suburbs are the Devil's Lair, that the architects of these cement torture chambers deserve to traverse them in construction zones for eternity. It is not lost on either of them that their Bermuda Triangulation was precipitated by him screeching (yet again, she grinds her teeth) like an orangutan until she misses her exit. They are an hour late to meet friends, but thankfully they are forgiving friends. The mother reverts back to how she dealt with anger in her childhood: a seething, hissing figure, more radiator than person, glowering at her son as he happily skips with his friend and moves on.

He has not forgotten, though. He is tentative around her, certainly aware of their power imbalance. Finally back home, she has cooled off and he is seeking companionship from her after the deep freeze of their day together. He is missing his friend, his mother. She makes an overture: what should they make for dinner? "Something that I like to sneak on," he says, a hopeful sound in his voice. She knows that he likes to sneak on tofu and vegan cheese. After some negotiation and an only mildly awful trip to the grocery store, they settle on pasta with roasted vegetables and the breaded tofu nuggets that will broker the forgiveness deal between them.

He pours the marinade and swishes it over the tofu; he dips the cubes in the breading and gingerly places the coated pieces on a plate. She thanks him, perhaps too enthusiastically, but she is grateful for the opportunity. She sneaks glances at his little hands, still pudgy from toddlerhood but with fingers that are trying to be nimble and deft. He is proud of his work and trying and she loves him at moments like these more than she can ever express.

Breaded Tofu Nuggets of Forgiveness

1 pound firm tofu, drained and cubed


1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-inch piece of ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place the tofu in a 9X9 pan and pour the marinade over it. Let it marinate for at least twenty minutes. Remove cubes and keep the marinade for future use.

Crispy Coating

1 cup nutritional yeast (the big flakes, not the powder, for goodness sake)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs (gluten-free rice style worked well here)
1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs found at natural foods store)
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix this together in a big bowl. Roll the tofu cubes around in this and place on a plate.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook the nuggets in this, taking care to not crowd them, for five minutes, turning them to brown all over. Do this as many times as you need to until all the tofu is done. You may need to re-oil the pan.

Enjoy and forgive.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guilty pleasures...

I realize that my posts might come across like I'm some superior, self-righteous crank which I am totally not, but that runs the risk of sounding obnoxious as well, so with that in mind, plus the fact that I have no inspiration behind a post tonight, I offer you, dear reader, a sampling of my most guilty pleasures. Bear in mind that these are just the ones that I will reveal, so you can use your imagination for those that I am keeping to myself. (And, no, you sicko, that isn't one of them.)

1. I watch I Love Money. I watch nothing else on TV but I do watch what may be the absolute nadir of the VH1's Celebreality oeuvre, which is saying a lot, and it is every bit as car-wrecktacular, peeking through your fingers horrifying as you can imagine. Yet I watch, week after week. I have also lost precious IQ points - points that I just don't have to spare - because of it, too, yet I am addicted to these idiots. Every Sunday at 8:00, my Superego says to my Id, all sanctimoniously, "At the end of your life, are you going to wish you spent more time with your son or are you going to regret having missed I Love Money?" and every Sunday at 8:00, my Id shoulder checks my Superego and says, "Shut the eff up, you prig."

2. Along the same lines, I have People magazine and the National Enquirer within arm's reach. I did not buy these tabloids: my mother did and I am borrowing them. [I feel like I should apologize to Elizabeth Edwards, who is staring back at me so guilelessly from the cover of People: Elizabeth, it's not what it looks like. And, yes, honey, your husband's a major schmuck. Major. Can I buy you a margarita?] I have possession of these magazines for research purposes only. Strictly for research purposes.

3. Regarding this topic, do men have an equivalent of the "guilty pleasure" or is that strictly a female thing, invented to create yet more self-loathing among women? If a guy wants to do something, doesn't he just generally do it, no guilt or excuses necessary (figuring that it is within the bounds of law)? Anyway, more guilty pleasures: Ah-laska chocolate syrup; the Go-Go's CD I just bought (though it was used, which mitigates some of the guilt); filling my reusable mug with unpaid-for iced tea at various establishments that do NOT rhyme with Manera or Shipotle (and squeezing in a little lemon for good measure).

I honestly can't think of anything else. I'm such a priss.

Shalom, everyone.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

These old friends...

I have been in a nostalgic mood lately, though I'm not sure why. According to an astrologer, that might be how things are aspected in my chart, though a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner might believe that an organ or two could be out of whack. A psychoanalyst might say that I have unresolved issues that are causing me to resist living in the present. I will let the astrologer, Chinese medicine practitioner and psychoanalyst hash it out among themselves until they come to some sort of consensus - this sort of demographic is terrifyingly close to an assembly that could happen in my actual life - but in the meantime, I will just follow this whim and see where it leads me.

In all probability, it is writing for this blah-ggg that is causing my self-reflection, which in turn causes me some duress because I despise solipsism and navel-gazing so I am especially sensitive of being a perpetrator myself. That all being said, I can't deny that something in me is turning to the past, to old friends and heartless bastards alike, but especially the friends. I think that I am seeking some nourishment from these old ties, some validation that we were at one time very important to one another. I think the previous post about family got me thinking again about my particular group of college friends and our platonic but very passionate connection to one another. (Are women ever able to recreate these fervent relationships after, say, the age of 23?). Over the years - my immediate post-collegiate career was during the antediluvian period prior to electronic messages - the group of us just drifted apart, separated mostly by just plain and simple physical distance. I think that if the magic of email were around when we moved apart, we would likely still be in one another's lives.

We found each other when we were juniors, brought together by a rare and bold synergy that was palpable to all of us, and it was electric when we were together. We were all feminists, all activists, all finding our way through the world, all seeking something, namely, family. We were urban and from small towns, affluent and impoverished, lesbian, bisexual and straight, but it was the first time in my life that cliché from the 1970s had a personal meaning: sisterhood is powerful. Indeed, it is. Sisterhood cut through any superficial differences. (It wasn't all perfect, though for a time it was idyllic: we fell victim to a major schism toward the end, based on some pretty uncool, selfish behavior. Still, for a time it was magical.)

I distinctly remember a caravan of us driving to Topeka in support of upholding Roe V. Wade, and, more vividly, a different caravan to Wichita, screaming in transgressive unison to Patti Smith's Horses album (until we were, appropriately, hoarse), on our way to protest the Miss America contest, where we wore tiaras and sashes painted with Miss Stake and Miss Ogyny and whatever else tickled our collective fancy. We raced back to our friend's father's house - a stern-faced lawyer who was not expecting us - to watch ourselves on the news, eat cake and crack up. We had topless sleepover parties because we thought it was funny, we cried over our childhoods, we cooked together and, more than anything, laughed our asses off. I have so many stories from this time in my life, but I'm thinking that it's wise to parse them out sparingly if I'm going to be blah-ggging. (Yes, I'm keeping that new spelling for now.)

Anyway, last night, I couldn't sleep - what else is new? - so I did some internet searches on three old friends of mine from this time, women who, for the most part, I haven't been in contact with in more than ten years. One is a professor of psychology with a feminist bent and a published author. Another is the executive director of the only freestanding birth center/natural pregnancy center in her state. The third is the executive director of a bi, lesbian, and transgendered abuse survivor organization.

I am so proud of these old friends of mine, women I have been out of touch with for years but will consider lifelong friends. I'd like to think that we all helped to shape one another during this crucial time in our individual lives, helping to form the people we would become and help to create a standard together of living with authenticity and gusto.

I love my friends, even the ones who are no longer in my life. Hopefully one day that will change.

Shalom, everyone.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I think that I've rendered myself rantless these days what with stepping as far to the side as far as I can to avoid popular culture's tentacles while not becoming Unibomber-esque. I'm not living in a barricaded and isolated mountain shack...yet. Still, most of what consumes me with righteous indignation and ignites my perpetual sense of moral outrage can be traced to the vapidity of this stupid world we live in, and this stupid world we live in, in this country at least, is completely tangled up with popular culture: idiotic television programs that inform taste and trends; bombastic and hypocritical punditry; the same ol' political theatrics, presented to us as some sort of duality when it is so clear that what keeps it alive is our buying into this alleged duality; the sadness I feel with the state of feminism and the unwillingness of environmentally- and socially-aware people to acknowledge the legitimacy of adopting a vegan lifestyle. All these things agitate me, like a washer out of its cycle, thrashing and shaking. What I used to do is throw myself into the ring, and, to use a violent metaphor, slug my way (verbally) at my opponents, fists perpetually balled up. These days, I don't know if I have become more peaceful or more passive, but the last thing I want to do is engage with those who are hellbent against progress.

The principle behind homeopathy is that like treats like. Perhaps, in life, like seeks like as well. We usually think of harmony as disparate elements in balance, the yin and the yang fitting together like a perfect squeeze, but maybe it is more subtle than that, more of a delicate fine-tuning to find your inner-harmony. When I think about my close friends, yes, we might have some basic differences, but they are not insurmountable: our core values mesh well. I am trying to live a meaningful, rich life and so those who I seek out and those who seek me out tend to be doing the same thing. Of course I don't attract anti-immigration Limbaugh-listening hunters into my life and I wouldn't even if I lived in that territory: we are not in resonance. You know that hoary old chestnut that if you dislike someone, it's because they remind you of some aspect of yourself that you don't like? Well, I do think that at times that's true, but sometimes you just don't like someone because he's an asshole whose values and behavior are totally foreign to you.

When I moved out of my childhood home and went to college, I discovered a broader but deeper meaning of family. The friends I made there became another family to me, a family of my choosing and discretion. Whereas family once meant to me something that I was locked into, an inevitability that I had little to do with, my family in college gave new meaning to the word, making it much more dynamic and personal. I didn't have to be constrained anymore by birthright, tied in with an alcoholic father because of our shared DNA: I could have sisters who were brilliant, creative, deeply compassionate because we were drawn together due to something almost as inevitable as DNA: our likenesses. Again, like seeks like.

I am always going to be an activist; I am always going to speak out. It's just that what I'm drawn to in my personal life is not argument and conflict. I'm too busy for that. Thus, I avoid the news, I avoid pop culture, and, in general, I try to trim the fat of life away as much as possible. I have found my life moving more and more in this direction over the years, leaner and more on target, less scattershot. What this means is that I have fewer things that I'm angry about, and, thus, fewer bloggable moments.

I hope that I can still make this work. I'm going to try.

Shalom, everyone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Our children are our teachers...

Today, I was walking through Humboldt Park when my son bent down to sniff some Queen Anne's Lace flowers. "They smell like tortillas," he remarked matter-of-factly. "Sweet tortillas." I laughed but then was compelled to sniff them myself. He was absolutely right: sweet tortillas.

I blame it on a dweeb named Chilton...

I have had chronic insomnia since about the age of 20, the first year I had an apartment without a roommate. It was a basement (a.k.a. garden, although there was no garden to speak of, only some gravel - hey! - maybe in retrospect it was a rock garden but I was too small-minded to see that) apartment in a rickety old dark red wooden house near campus. I had three tiny rooms - a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom - and I am convinced that I could hear the inner-workings of every pipe in that house. Sinks, showers, toilets: any time any of those were in use, I received an at times screeching, at times rumbling announcement. It was as if my apartment were in somebody's very hungry (or displeased) stomach. Needless to say, I figured out how to spend most of my time in painting studio, coffee shops or bars.

I couldn't sleep in those places, though, and therein was the problem. There was another problem. His name was Chilton (Chilton!!) and he lived directly upstairs from me. He was a preppy, old money alcoholic from Kansas City and not long after he moved into the house, he started blasting - I mean blasting - his stereo at thirty second intervals starting at about two in the morning, and what made it worse was that he had awful taste in music. He'd be playing Styx, Foreigner. Anyway, that first night, after about a half hour of a bed rattling across the room and feeling like plaster was about to start falling from the ceiling, I went upstairs to confront him, which meant going outside in my robe because my apartment was along the side of the building. I pounded on his door for a good minute before he heard me. When he finally did, he opened his door with a wide smile, like, I don't know, he was expecting me to have brought him a 2:30 a.m. welcome-to-the-building cake or something, and I just said all staccato-like,"Turn. Off. Your. Horrible. Music. Now." He did, but being an entitled and privileged white boy, my angry demeanor tripped something in him that said, "Oh, she really doesn't like me. I must have her," and he commenced a month-long campaign to win me over that included flowers left at my door, notes slid under it, moon-y glances whenever I'd run into him while checking my mail. He was really, really annoying. Once it was clear that his overtures were not working - and that this wasn't just me being coy as I honestly, deeply disliked him - he began blasting his stupid stereo again and thus began my rocky relationship with sleep. I would call my landlord in the middle of the night and hold my phone out toward the ceiling and she would call him which would result in about twenty minutes of passive-aggressive stomping by him and broomstick counterpoints by me, and by the point that ended, I'd be so wide awake that I couldn't go back to sleep. So I'd read or draw or write until it started to get light and then I'd drift off again for a couple of hours and start with my day.

I think I realized during this time that there were these hours during the middle of the night that could be better utilized. Plus, sleeping involved dreaming, and I had (still have) some doozies thanks to my frequently scary home environment as a child, not to mention the fact that dreams were Freud's domain and, as a feminist, I was duty-bound to consider the person who championed of concept of "penis-envy" with derision. Thus, not sleeping could be interpreted as a feminist act of defiance. Take that, Freud! I would do without dreams and spend my REM hours catching up on assignments, building the case for a revolution through my creative output. It was like I had stumbled upon a secret - led there unintentionally by an annoying doofus - that there were all these extra hours of productivity no one else seemed to know about. (Of course, there were also many hours in the middle of the night when I was not sleeping when I was drinking and carousing with my friends: I wasn't always all that productive.)

These days, more often than not I am awake for at least a few hours in the middle of the night. Meditation, chamomile tea, self-hypnosis, caffeine- and sugar-avoidance do not really have much of an affect on whether I sleep or not. Except for a few short overlaps, one of us in the house seems to be always awake: John often stays up until midnight and I take over around 2:00 and stay up in 5:00 or so. Our son wakes up at 7:00. I guess you could call us vigilant. (Just last night I went downstairs to sit at the computer at 2:00 and I noticed that there was still cold water in the glass on the table next to me.) I don't know if it's because of a lust for life or a basic lack of discipline, but for me, the quote, "I'll sleep when I'm dead," feels very accurate.

Shalom, everyone.

Monday, August 11, 2008

In lieu of a summer vacation...

So it looks like fixing up the car, continuing to keep our home and the ability to purchase groceries is taking presidence over taking a summer vacation this year which I have to admit makes sense, even with my often-times impetuous attitude toward life. If we went away, it would surely be a nail-biter the whole time, and though I can be resourceful - I had to be when we ended up in San Francisco with far less money than we thought we had, and my son and I ended up getting by on approximately $7.00 a day for a week - I am really all right with the knowledge that if we do end up with time away from home, it'll probably be a weekend exploring the exotic wilds of Wisconsin. John and I are taking steps now to build more of a stable future, or at least a future with fewer threatening phone calls, and this feels right. As someone who has always jumped from whim to whim with the carefree nonchalance of a flowerchild, it feels a little scary to be so accepting of buckling down, but new behaviors are always challenging, right?

So it looks like Greece-Israel-Seattle-Vancouver-New Mexico will be another year. Given that, I think that a little walk down memory lane of all the horrible stuff that has happened to me while on vacation is in order.

* While downhill skiing somewhere in Massachusetts (I don't have any recollection where), I got my period and a forty-eight-hour hour flu at approximately the same time.

* An Amtrak to New York that was so delayed that my weekend in Manhattan ended up being about one full day.

* Standing in the extreme cold and rain of Washington, D.C., in November to protest George Bush's inauguration. While this was hardly a vacation - more like a spur-of-the-moment roadtrip with friends to scream at a processional of black-windowed limos presumably ushering Bush, Cheney and their cronies for about an hour - it was foreboding and appropriately chilling.

* Driving to Mount Rushmore with my family in the mid-1970s, with a father who was prone to road-raging and equally disinclined to pulling over for anything but the predetermined destination, no matter what the cause or how emphatically you pleaded it. We had the barf along the side of the car - thrown from a disposable cup at 70 mph - to prove it.

* The family wedding I went to with my parents in St. Louis, during the height of my feminist awakening in college. My father spotted my unshorn armpits at some juncture and he was apoplectic. He and I ended up having a screaming match in my room at the Marriott, a cathartic (for me) letting loose of nearly twenty years of mostly bottled-up rage at him, leaving me hoarse for days. While that was a distinctly unhappy trip, it was ultimately very therapeutic for me.

* Going to Chicago when my wallet was sitting in my desk drawer in Lawrence, Kansas.

* Driving down Route 66 in Oklahoma and Amarillo as a newly-minted vegan and trying to not develop a protein deficiency or scurvy.

* Listening to frantic message after message back at home in Chicago while we were visiting friends in Kansas, unable to piece together what had happened, only that it was something very bad and that I needed to call my mother as soon as possible. My father had suddenly died of a heart attack the day before New Year's Eve.

* The Evil Girl Squad who reigned supreme on our bus and tormented everyone who wasn't one of them on my seventh grade trip to Washington, DC. They stalked up and down the aisle, mean power gleaming in their eyes, looking for fresh victims while the rest of us, including the chaperones, slunk low in our seats, steadfastly avoided eye contact.

See? Traveling is not all it's cracked up to be. Vacations can mean sunburns or a disappointing amount of rain, forgetting your swimsuit, unfortunate reactions to the local drinking water, an unfavorable exchange rate, customs, a heightened likelihood that you will lose your wallet, locals giving you the evil eye for being less than fluent and arguments over who left the map back at the restaurant sixty miles away.

Oh, who am I kidding? As soon as I can responsibly divert a little cash from our car, house and debt, I am so out of here.

Shalom, everyone.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Barbie-riffic birthday bonanza!

Last night we were driving home from a fairly late dinner with friends and their son when our car - which, poor thing, has so many problems, not the least of which is a failing transmission system we have been too broke to replace - started sounding even more pathetic than usual. We had just gotten on the expressway and we were about forty-five minutes from home, when it started to sound like there was a jet tailgating us, then it quickly became wobbly, and it's been many years since I slept through a Driver's Ed class, but still I know that you can't or at the very least shouldn't drive too long while wobbly, so we moved onto the shoulder of the road. John went out to inspect and you know that things are scary with your car when you're hoping for a flat tire versus some other, more sinister sight. Well, we got what was behind Curtain Number Two and that was a brake pad that had dissolved like a sugar cube with hot bits of sharp metal all around the back tire in its wake. Luckily, a helpful state trooper in a very reassuring trooper-y hat pulled over and called a tow truck for us, which apparently means that assistance has to arrive within thirty minutes as opposed to if we just called, which would have the sort of commanding effect of a meek, "Um, hey. Could, like, someone help me and my family out when you get a spare minute? Yeah, I'll just be hanging out." So, anyway, the state trooper called for us, a tow truck arrived about a half hour later, a really nice guy got our car all hooked up and he drove us all back home. We didn't get home and to sleep until after midnight.

I woke up like a shot this morning at 6:30 because my son had his cousin's birthday party in a distant suburb (the moral here, one that I already knew, is that the distant suburbs are Satan's Playgrounds, clearly) at the suitably ungodly hour of 10:30 and it's too painful to relive the chain of events that finally conspired to transport us there, but I will say that it involved an ill-fated, haphazard taxi ride part of the way to Union Station and another ride an hour later to said distant suburb that cost $90.00. Right after paying $175 for a tow. Oh and purchasing three tickets for a bombastic animatronic dinosaur show for another $175 because we were feeling flush at that brief moment before everything started collapsing around us. This damn show better help my son become the best paid paleontologist in the world, that's all I have to say. In the meantime, there are always lemonade stands and random, idle conversations about the Paleozoic era.

So, bringing us all back to the title, my sweet little niece turned four today so, almost inevitably, she has cotton candy-scented, bubble gum pink blood coursing in her veins and Cinderella on the brain. Disney has received a full access pass to this girl and her imagination, and it shows. She talks non-stop about princesses and castles, glitter sparkling and falling around her, like a pixilated little woodland nymph. Today, she received Barbie movies, Beauty and The Beast dress up stuff, Dora the Explorer pajamas, books featuring Cinderella. I think that our gift, a child's picnic basket and supplies, was the only non-pink, non-corporate-be-logo'ed item purchased for my niece this year. (Not that we're perfect by any stretch: this was the same gift we'd gotten her last year but mistakenly repurchased. Exchanging that will be another errand to remember.) During the gift opening, all I could do is all I usually do during the frenzy of shredded wrapping paper and discarded ribbons, which is to just sit and stare, an ersatz Margaret Mead, agitated about the narratives corporations are feeding the girls of today and our complicity in it, our raising the spoons to their mouths. Honestly, I am so grateful to have grown up in the much more gender-neutral 1970s, when we all wore GrrAnimals and the word princess was used as an insult, not something one aspired to become one day. We were too busy inventing things, creating stories, getting dirty. You cannot climb an oak tree in pink, plastic slippers, that much I know.

Another thing I know is that I am deeply grateful to have a child who is besotted with dinosaurs
and has only expressed deep apprehension about the purple corporate one. He creates elaborate stories about coelophysises and postasuchuses and bambiraptors without any interference and I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible. I am not a puritan but I can't really see any true benefits to giving corporations access to my child's imagination. There may very well come a day when he resents that he didn't spend more of his childhood with Spongebob, but for now, I'll keep my kid logo-free and independent in thought and spirit. He can go to therapy later.

Shalom, everyone.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

All About My Grandmother (and food and love and whatever else pops into my head)...

Today, I was at Kaufman's Deli with a friend of mine and our children when somehow the subject of kasha (buckwheat groats) came up. Oh, I know: my friend was ordering a kasha knish and I wondered aloud if she had ever heard of a dish my grandmother used to call 'Seashells and Kasha', my friend having grown up in a Polish home. She had not. I related to the best of my memory what was in it and how it was made (toasted kasha - which my family always called kashi, like the organic cereal - sauteed onion, an egg beaten into it and those little seashell-shaped pasta shells) and I asked the grandmotherly-like person who was checking my friend out at the counter if she had ever heard of it. She hadn't, but likely would have if I had called it by it's common name, kasha varnishkes. My friend remarked that she would have loved to have met my grandmother, and, boy, would she have adored her. It doesn't take much fo me to wax rhapsodic about my grandmother and for some reason, she's been on my mind more than usual lately. To me, she was truly perfect in every way, except that she was not with me for life.

My grandmother was the youngest of six, the daughter of Jews fleeing the pogroms in Russia. Her father was a trunk maker and her mother was a wonderful seamstress according to her daughter, creating beautiful lampshades. As I said, she was the youngest and the only one born in this country, both of which, I think, helped to infuse her with a lifelong spirit of optimism and vitality. If there was one person I admired growing up, it was my grandmother. I was equally devoted to my grandfather, her husband, but how I felt about him was different. He was quiet and mild and content by comparison, always a sweet smile on his face (that is until dementia took hold when I was fourteen); my grandmother, in contrast, always had a funny story, was a dynamo, a flirt with her neighborhood butcher, lit up from within with a contagious lust for life. I have come to understand in retrospect how her indomitable spirit doused my mother's, through no fault of her own. I don't think that my grandmother, who was so natural at winning people over, ever really understood her middle child's quiet resentment. My mother certainly loved my grandmother, but it was complicated. I think that my grandmother was a constant reminder to my mother of what she didn't have, namely, social ease and, far more significantly, a happy, stable marriage. My mother aligned herself more with my grandfather, with whom she enjoyed an uncomplicated, easy commeraderie.

Anyway, my grandmother. I think that she probably taught me more (of the sort of stuff I want to retain, that is) than anyone. She was a feminist without the word, through her confident, unapologetic nature and she had no shame about her voluptuous figure. She treated everyone she was speaking with as the most important person in the room, that is unless that person said something offensive, at which time she would politely remove herself from the conversation. She was exceedingly warm and friendly but also the tough daughter of immigrants: I was by her side when she was almost mugged near Sheridan Road, and she fought her would-be purse snatcher with two furiously protective fists until he ran away. (It was the first and only time I ever heard her say a curse word, which was more shocking to me than that whole potential mugging thing.) She loved to cook, sew, make preserves, all the stuff that the new generation of DIY enthusiasts have embraced and her own daughters rejected as too retro, too "Old World." I think that my love of cooking and my new enthusiasm for pickling and canning stems in some small part from a desire to keep her alive through me, even if her physical body has left. Every time I hang clothes to dry on my laundry line or make jam on my stove in the punishing heat of the summer, it's a way of communing with and connecting with my grandmother again.

I have a photo of my grandmother sitting at her dining room table, her sweet look-alike sister Mary by her side, both with huge smiles on their faces. I wonder who took the photo. Anyway, I look over this photo nearly every time I cook dinner for my own family and it fills me with warmth. [As I said, I am also someone who loves to cook and I long ago rejected (not that I ever accepted it) the notion that cooking for yourself and others is un-feminist somehow.] Her food, though I loved it as a child, is not the kind of food I would eat today. Partly through her example yet again, I have a love of animals and so I am vegan. Food is very deep, though, and it creates lifelong habits and cravings within us; it also helps us to connect with our heritage, our ancestors. To this day, I can remember the smell of the hot oil in her kitchen, cooking the potato pancakes (fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside) and I can see the little cells of fat floating on the surface of her chicken soup. Clearly, this created an imprint.

When I became a vegetarian at fifteen part of what hurt was my grandmother feeling like I was rejecting her when I would no longer eat the brisket. It was something I had to do, though my grandmother loved to remind me how much I used to love meat. I just couldn't do it anymore, though, and I think that she finally understood it was about me being honest about what my spirit needed. About a dozen years later, I became vegan, thus excising some of the last connections to her food, which was so much a part of her. To me, though, my convictions were a higher calling. I would keep her spirit alive in different ways. I was content to leave it at that.

Not too long ago, though, I got a cookbook by a Brooklyn-based, proudly Jewish chef named Isa Chandra Moskowitz (and co-author Terry Hope Romero) of much acclaim called Vegan With a Vengeance. In its pages are vegan renditions of kugel, knishes, and that beloved Jewish powerhouse, matzoh ball soup. My heart lifted when I saw this recipe: it had been communicated to me that vegan matzoh balls were an quixotic fantasy, that they couldn't be achieved without the leavening action of eggs. Okay, then, I would just content myself with memories of her matzoh balls. Light, fluffy but dense, my grandmothers matzoh balls came to personify her to me in some strange way: they were just the right combination of yielding and strong, that perfect union. My other grandmother (a.k.a, my Mean Grandmother) made matzoh balls too, but they were like her to me: tough, flavorless, hard little balls of anger. When I saw the recipe in Vegan With a Vengeance, my heart lifted that I might be able to experience this little memory of my grandmother again.

It is a painstaking recipe, obviously written by someone who also wanted to create the perfect vegan matzoh ball (which, by the way, is brought into existence with the distinctly non-Jewish addition of silken tofu, but the Jews love Chinese food, right?, and I am not a purist) and worked really hard to achieve it. There are many steps and it takes quite a bit of time, but the recipe does create a more than acceptable vegan facsimile of the classic matzoh ball. The first time I took a bite, it was like Proust's madeleine to me, something that sent me instantly back through the years to my grandmother's cheerful, busy kitchen, sitting at her table with one foot hooked between the other, a spoon in hand, and, most important, my grandmother sitting across from me with her generous smile, easy laugh and impossibly soft, powdered skin. I am so grateful to these vegan chefs for giving me more immediate access to my memories again. The matzoh balls are not quite as perfect as my grandmother's - nothing could be - but they are all I need for them to be.

Ah. I could talk about my grandmother for days on end.

Shalom, everyone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My produce drawer scares me...

It feels like an incredibly privileged thing to complain about (because it is), but my produce drawers are full-to-bursting with assorted items: sweet potatoes, apricots, beets, pickling cucumbers, regular cucumbers, jalapenos, a big ol' bowling ball of a red cabbage. It's always this way this time of year for us when we get a CSA box, which we hadn't for three years so I'm out of practice, in addition to our town's fantastic farmer's market. I've got big plans for it all - pickles, preserves, giardenera - except for the cabbage. I fear that another one is ready to come rolling down the pike at me come Saturday, so I had better make with the choppy-choppy. Myra Kornfeld's excellent Voluptuous Vegan has a recipe for German red cabbage with beer and caraway seeds and that is what I am leaning toward now. I am getting a little nervous about when tomato season officially hits here but I am going to be prepared.

Shalom, everyone.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The squirrels are circling...

We have this little back yard, a typical lot size for this area, and a garden that expands a little every year. I remember our first summer here, now four years ago, and we were so proud of the garden we cultivated. Looking back, it was probably about 5X5, but to minds shaped through years of apartment-dwelling, it was an idyllic paradise, thick with basil and echinacea plants. We even had dragonflies and it made my heart swell with pride to see bees choosing our plants - our plants! - to pollinate. I felt like St. Francis, and I imagined myself a benevolent figure, extending my arm to the various flying, jumping and crawling creatures, a gesture to be read by them as, "By all means, please partake."

As this is our forth year, we have a learned maybe a little more about how to coax blossoms and fruit out of our little patch, and that little patch has grown a bit more every year, to the point where it now takes up about a third of our backyard. Last year, we could not get sunflowers to take no matter how hard we tried and I desperately wanted them: as soon as they'd grow a little, they would get unceremoniously beheaded by squirrels, who would leave chewed bits and sad yellow petals behind as something like looked like a warning to me, like something a mafia henchman would do. Why they were warning me, I don't know, and perhaps I'm reading too much aggressiveness into their feasting habits. Couldn't they be a little less greedy, though, and share a little with the goldfinches, bees and dragonflies? And did they have to be so violent?

This year, we started to see some fat stalks rise up out of our garden that we hadn't planted. "If I didn't know better, I'd think these were sunflowers," John said. But we hadn't planted any. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks, green, bulbous tops appeared at the ends and we counted over twenty sunflowers in our tiny garden.

Monday, August 4, 2008


There were tremendous thunderstorms this evening and I sat in our sunroom working on an article, occasionally looking up to see the roiling black sky suddenly illuminate with a dramatic bolt of lightning. The tornado sirens were wailing, and my son was distressed: he is fascinated by natural phenomena, and he's terrified. He sought reassurance that a tornado was not going to rip apart our home and I tried my best. I told him that tornadoes like to form in rural areas, like where his dad grew up, where there's lots of space between buildings for it to bounce around and build up strength, not in our urban landscape of towering, solid buildings rubbing shoulders together. Cities are not fun for tornadoes, I told him. Mostly I was glad that John was home to deflect this to tonight. Ultimately, my son must have believed us that he was safe because he settled into just being mildly piqued by the whole thing.

I remember what it was like to seek reassurance from my parents during troubling times and, for the most part, come up empty. As a parent, one who seeks to leave the ghosts of my childhood traumas behind, I am often torn between wanting to provide my son with an iron-clad assurance that we will shield him no matter what fire-breathing dragons appear at our doorstep, and the knowledge that this is impossible. I would do anything for my child, but I simply cannot control if thunderstorms turn into tornadoes. All I can do is my very best if a nightmare should materialize.

Tonight, I am grateful for my home, the warmth of my family, the safety I enjoy that's so rare in this world. My thoughts are with those who do not share these privileges and who are so vulnerable to the storms of the world.

Shalom, everyone.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

It's all about meme...

Since I don't have many blogging buddies yet, I figured that I'd send myself one of those annoying memes you can't help but read and then afterwards calculate roughly how much time you wasted that could have been used toward doing something productive, like saving the world. Since you aren't likely going to save the world in five minutes or less, you may as well read the damn meme. So sit back, relax, stop taking yourself so seriously, and enjoy my self-composed, not to mention utterly self-centered, meme. (As if blogging weren't the height of narcissism, I have to take it that one step farther.)

Introducing my Summertime Meme.

Favorite cold drink: That would have to be the perfect iced tea, which would have lots of ice, a lemon wedge, and must not be too bitter. As bourgeois as this sounds, there's not a lot than annoys me more than ordering iced tea at a restaurant and getting lukewarm, Lipton-y swill with a half a wussy 'cube floating in it. Pah. Mop water.

Favorite (locally grown) summer fruit: Tied between watermelon and blackberries. Has anyone tried the Michigan pawpaw? They're apparently a rare delicacy, but they taste like a cross between mango and banana custard. Or am I confusing this with the durian, another near-mythic fruit? In any case, pawpaws - how can you not love that name? - are supposed to be dee-lish but I haven't tried one yet. Imagine, a tropical-esque fruit from around these parts.

Favorite summer vegetable: Again a tie, this time between broccoli and eggplant. If there's something vegan with eggplant on the menu at a restaurant, even if the rest of it sounds like caca, I have to have it. That's how much I love eggplant.

Least favorite (locally grown) summer fruit: I'm so wishy-washy with these ties, I know, but this time I'm at least spicing it up as a three way (every frat boy reading this, yes, all four million, just got a mini-hard on with the word three way) tie: the Evil Melon Duo, cantaloupe and honeydew, which, really, I am lucky that I'm not dry heaving as I write their loathsome names. It's sad because they're cute names wasted on Melons of Nastiness. (Speaking of, guess who got a, like, fifty-pound cantaloupe in her CSA box this week? I'd just as soon eat a jackalope. John and my son better just make short work of it; I don't want that thing for days on end making my fridge all cantaloupe-y with it's stink-lines emanating.) The third would be the strawberry, sour and sandy to me, but really not worthy of sharing space with The Melons because at least it's tolerable as jam. I am still giving the strawberry the sideways glance, though.

Least favorite summer vegetable: That would have to stand alone: the watery, bland, disturbingly stringy when ill-cooked (and it nearly always is) bottom-feeder known as the summer squash, also known as yellow squash. I think that the flavor - or lack thereof - gets to me, but what really irks me is that you know when you have to go out to dinner once a year with all those family members who get on your nerves for someone's birthday or some such and you're just eye-balling your nearest clock whenever possible (that is, when you're not rolling your eyes at something stupid someone said) and there's no way in hell that these people you're dining with would ever be cool enough to pick a restaurant that had a semi-decent selection for a vegan family so you have to make do with whatever you can cobble together on the menu because you're already known as the Family Troublemaker and you don't want to make veganism look that challenging? Of course you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, these restaurants will always make some pasta with marinara and a side of limp-ass, boiled-to-death vegetables. And when they do, I guarantee it, summer squash will be the sickly star of the show. You'll shovel it in anyway just to not have to converse with these people. So summer squash is perhaps unfairly tied in with family issues, but, still, it's ick.

Favorite summer in memory: Probably that summer I met John, 1993. He was in between careers and freshly divorced and we just had so much fun. The most fun? Seeing the deliciously disgusting Vaginal Cream (Creme?) Davis at the Czar Bar on Division. A bacchanalian good time had by all! I also had a blast the first summer I drove off with this male librarian who wore skirts named Owl to the Rainbow Gathering. I was nineteen and amoral, which I found to be a fruitful combination.

Favorite childhood summer tradition: chasing fireflies every night with my neighborhood peeps. Summer was spent outdoors playing nonstop with occasional meal breaks. I wonder what sort of memories of summer our over-scheduled children will have.

Favorite contemporary summer tradition: chasing fireflies every night with my son.

Song that most reminds you of summer: There are two that really mean summer to me: Saturday In The Park by Chicago (I can't help it, that was popular when I was a kid) and anything from Bob Marley's oeuvre, except Redemption Song, which is certainly a late autumn song. (Also, that Turkey in the Straw song that plays on all the local ice cream trucks, all warped and lovely.) [John and I have a tradition each spring of remarking on the first ice cream truck sighting of the season. Also, the spookiest of the season, like when the hand-painted. dented-to-hell indies - cool kids to the Good Humor goody-two-shoes trucks - can be seen driving very slowly, or very, very quickly, down a side street in the middle of the night, the tinny recording playing all innocent-like.]

Favorite "thing" about summer: the feeling of freedom; being able to ride my bike all the time; not having to run from place to place to avoid freezing my buns off; no more layers; the sound of crickets and, yes, even locusts; the return of my garden; all that great, in season produce; seeing my son bike and splash and gallop about outdoors.

Least favorite "thing" about summer: mosquitoes and excessive heat. I'm a goth girl at heart and I have to protect my ghostly pallor.

And that's it!

Shalom, everyone.

Since last we spoke...

So, apparently, I have an avoidance issue with keeping this blog updated. (Least of which is my [admittedly tiresome and predictable] loathing of the "word" blog, but I should probably relax that schoolmarmish pursing of my lips and just go with the flow.) Honestly, in the craziness of my life and the maddening pace in which ideas and activities flow in and out of it, I had forgotten about this little corner of the internet that was all mine. I think that blogging fell out of favor with me originally because I was having problems posting, but it appears that I can again. I mean, how much more do I need to say on this topic? It wasn't you, it was me. Baby, I promise, I'll change. You'll see.

So, let's make with the update.

Since the last time I posted, I have written a novel, which felt a lot like I gave birth, though, thankfully, there are no diapers to change. (Though you might have to change mine when I start the publishing process, which you could interpret to mean that I'll be crying and behaving like an infant or I'll be so old, diapers will be necessary. I'll leave that interpretation up to you, but I am hoping for the former.)

What else? I am keeping up with the freelance writing and it looks like I'll be putting more of a concerted effort into that, especially in pursuing more of the Holy Grail: paying gigs! I am actually so haughty that I am seeking monetary compensation from my precious, painstaking prose. You bet your sweet patootie I am, and that is the latest gripe that's been putting the agitation in my swirling vegan feminist tempest: publishing bodies that don't pay but want to use your work to drive sales. (I'm not talking about websites, which for the most part do not pay. nor am I talking about any magaznes in which I've recently been published, which I adore.) What kind of effed-up voluntary serfdom is that? I mean, I understand and appreciate that we're all trying to get by after, lo, these last eight years of a glorious Republican economy that only smiles upon robber barons, but, still. There's something about the non-compensation of writers that strikes me as one-sided and quasi-abusive. Bah! (I swear, if you met me, you wouldn't believe that someone with such a sunny disposition could write such cranky posts.) Anyway, I can't pay the mortgage with free copies of magazines - I know because I have tried - in which I am published (which, seriously, is offered with a straight-face as compensation for publication) so I am seeking more paying jobs. Was it really necessary for me to be so verbose with that?

Also in the time between posts, we adopted a kitten my son named Clover. She is the cutest, sweetest little white-and-black bundle of feline goodness. I have never had a cat before. My mom, and all the females in her family, is petrified of cats, really, to the point of running in terror if a cat so much as licks a paw in her presence, so we were always a dog family. Later, I got hitched to this guy who has a raging cat allergy. Anyway, we're still hitched, ten years later, but now we've got a kid who desperately wanted an animal to love on. We do have a dog, Buster, a nearly twelve-year-old basset hound who, in defiance of all things basset, is aggressive and ornery and at a point in his life where he is not accepting applications for affection from a six-year-old boy. So we adopted a kitten named Clover and all is well. She is so darn lovable John's allergies were like, "We can't compete with this. Fine. Have a cat." Even Buster with his cold, dark charcoal briquette of a heart has to grudgingly admit that she's eminently lovable. (He just let me know that he's not admitting to anything and that I mistook his temporarily non-bilious behavior for acceptance. He's just laying low whilst he figures out next steps.) Anyway, yes, a cat named Clover.

Gosh, there's so much more. But I think that what I'll do is just update this more often so not as to flood my three readers (shout out to you, Jane!) with posts of Chaucer-like proportions. So stay tuned. There is much to say and comment on this world when you are a vegan, a feminist and an agitator.

Until next time...