Boston I Want to Eat You!

We were only in the city for two days.  It didn’t leave nearly enough meals to experience all of Boston, but I am going to highlight a few places I totally recommend.  All of these places were super child-friendly and actually really inexpensive.

Down by the Harbor near the Greenway Carousel  I stopped at the Cookie Monstah truck where I ordered a massively large ice cream sandwich consisting of hard serve pumpkin ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chunk cookies ($6). The three of us couldn’t finish it and it broke my heart to toss part of it away (but I’m kind of on a diet so it had to be done).  I highly recommend seeking out this truck if you are visiting. They have a schedule for their locations on their website.

Rosion Dubh (Black Rose) Pub:
I had a delicious Irish Coffee (okay yes, it was listed as an after dinner drink and I did order it as a pre-dinner beverage HOWEVER, I’d spent a good five hoursIMG_3946 walking around Fenway with a four-year old who really had been done after just fifteen minutes — so if you want to judge me — feel free)  and Lobster (lobstah!) as part of a seafood trio —   shrimp, lobster &cod, lemon pepper butter, colcannon potatoes & fresh vegetables. The seafood was amazing.  The shrimp was fresh and snapped in your mouth.  The cod was lemony and lovely, and the lobster was not in a shell (which I love) and was a fairly generous portion considering the $22 price. The colcannon potatoes were freshly made — creamy and lumpy and I also wish I could have finished them.  The vegetables consisted of carrots that were obviously cooked in some kind of broth (dare I say I swear there was an element of alcohol reminiscent of when I’ve made corned beef in whiskey or beer).  It was YUMMY all around.

I was going to get the Shepherd’s pie, but I couldn’t leave Boston without fresh seafood. Decisions had to be made. I tried to persuade my husband to order it, but he just wasn’t being a teamplayer that day.

Central Wharf. Co.:
I ordered the Pesto Garden Flatbread ($13) which consisted of local vegetables (zuccinni, grape tomatoes and corn), basil walnut pesto, goat cheese, olive oil. It was DELICIOUS.  I really, really wanted to eat the whole thing (I mean I did walk 6 miles that day), but I didn’t.  The combination of goat cheese and basil walnut pesto was perfection.  My husband ordered Pulled Pork with house dry rub, apple bourbon bbq sauce, onion straws, cabbage slaw, creole aioli, soft roll. I think he liked it but frankly, I don’t remember anything other than how good my meal was.  It was just me and the flatbread having a delicious affair that I knew wouldn’t last.  Which makes me wonder, am I the only person in the world who considers whether the waitress would judge me if I ate the whole thing?  I mean, I sometimes consider discreetly asking whether other diners tend to devour the entire dish, or is it just me?

Did I mention that the flatbread was the absolute bomb?

Those were mainly the food highlights.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any really good places that served chai, but I did get  a decent unsweetened Matcha Green Tea Latte at Ula Cafe which was located right by the Sam Adam’s Brewery (also a short walk from the amazing Orange Line subway system –Huzzah ).

Good food. Good people. Good public transit.  Boston, you are an amazing city!

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A Love Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

I’m somewhat in love with you.  I thought you’d be kind of cool to hang out IMG_3901with, but when I first sat on the Orange line of your subway at Wellington, I knew there something special about you.

First off, we were on a crowded morning train. I told my four year old that we’d have to stand, but the moment we got on, a man got up and offered us his seat.  The man next to us laughed as we patiently explained to my son over and over again, that ‘no this isn’t our stop, and we aren’t quite there yet.’   He said he had a four-year old too and smiled.  I thought maybe this was just a one time deal, but on the way home, and elderly woman who didn’t speak English, got out of her seat and when I tried to tell her it was okay she shook her head and pointed for my son to take her seat.

My love of the public transit system does not end there.  You guys have clean subways (stations and all).  The seats were soft and upholstered — UPHOLSTERED.  No one left trash behind or stickiness (if you’ve been on NYC subways you know what I mean).

When the train stopped, the people getting on WAITED for the people to get off (what a concept!). The train came every few minutes.  The stations were color coded.  The hallways to those trains were also color coded.   I didn’t get lost.

The city was beautiful.  It was lots of old and new.  The sidewalks weren’t crowded.  People didn’t push. They said ‘sorry’ if they bumped you. Cars waited for people to cross in the crosswalk (even when they technically had the light — which might get me killed when I cross the street in NYC later this week).

We also had PERFECT weather.  It was about 70 degrees and sunny. We hit the touristy spots, such aIMG_3892s Quincy (Faneuil Hall). Ate in Ned Devine’s. We drank at Sam Adam’s Brewery at 10 am in the morning. We toured Fenway. We took a trolley tour around the entire city.

We had fun. IMG_3927

My only regret is that we couldn’t stay longer. I want to see you again real soon.

-Love,
-C

***The food in Boston was delicious. I was only there for two short days. I wrote a separate post about that.

How Not Buying Shoes Could Save Humanity — The Crisis in Syria

I was about to buy a pair of shoes.  They were blue. Cute. Vintage-styled. $130 shoes on sale for $65 plus shipping. A steal.

But I didn’t buy them.

For one thing, yesterday I just paid off my credit card.  I promised myself that if I paid it off, I wouldn’t use it unless it was an emergency.  Shoes… I own like 30 pairs.  I used to own way more, but I’ve been trying to only keep things in my life (and my closet) that I love. That bring me absolute joy.

But I also couldn’t buy them with a good conscience.  Not when I’d just posted on my personal FB account about the children who died in the capsized boat two days ago. A two-year-old and a four-year-old. It struck home like many of these stories have for me in the past four years since becoming a mother.  I was never this emotional before, but I supposed that there’s this universal motherhood where we all feel it when the world loses a child.  I can’t say if it affects fathers too — but I think it must.

So how could I ask others to care about this, to take action and then buy a pair of shoes without doing anything?  If I could buy a $65 pr of shoes that would be worn maybe a dozen times over the following months, then I could easily donate that money to a charity instead. According to UNICEF, there are more than 2 million children refugees who have fled Syria. Hmm.  For a non-math major (English Lit.) that’s a lot of numbers to consider.

A while back Neil Gaiman did a piece for the Guardian where he visited refugees in camps.  He worked with UNHCR.  You can read all about it on his blog. There’s a lot of organizations that are claiming to support this cause and if you are like me, you will do your research and decide where your money should go and where it will be most effective.  UNICEF has a specific fund for child refugees from Syria. This is where my shoe money is headed.

I’ve been dwelling on a lot of bad stuff in the world these past few days and weeks. Children dying all over the news.  Police getting shot simply for wearing a uniform. Crazy people with guns shooting people in churches. When my friend (and fellow blogger) Colleen, added the news photo to her FB page, I’d already seen it all over the internet and couldn’t wrap my head around the awfulness of humanity sometimes and I posted that in a comment. She was quick to send me a link about how the citizens of Iceland were petitioning their government to open their borders.  Eleven.Thousand. Citizens. (Holy shit. More big numbers — this time the good kind). Many are offering to take theses strangers into their homes and feed and protect them. A single mom offered to take in child who she would raise along side her own son – teach him the language – give him toys and an education — oh yeah — and  a childhood.  I just read that Germany is allegedly willing to take in 800,000 refugees.

My faith is healing.

Most people don’t have money to donate — but then again sometimes we convince ourselves of that.  I don’t think we can drink a $5 Starbuck’s macchiato and be too convincing when we say we’d love to help, to do something, but we just don’t have the money right now.  I know how easy it is to win that argument, but I also know that if I want my son to be an active member of Society (a world society) and to be a contribution to humanity, then I need to lead by example.

If this isn’t your charity — that’s cool.  We all need to find something that resonates with us when we are handing over our money. But I ask you to consider whether you have an extra $5 or maybe could skip that coffee or pair of shoes and give money to a charity this month? This week? Today?

Update:  THANK YOU to the many readers and friends who contacted me to say that this little post inspired you to donate.  It means a lot that you read this and even more that this “thinking out loud moment” brought a bit of good in this world.  Well done!

With Pumpkin Spice Lattes Comes New Changes

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  There’s something exhilarating about the trees shedding orange and red leaves — a beautiful and sensual undressing. It’s kind of… sexy.  The air is crisp and holds promises of a new beginning. For me New Year’s might as well start in fall.  I can blame the academic calendar — since childhood the fall meant the end of the summer and the beginning — new clothes, new teachers, the promise of new friends – the possibility of being a new version of me.

As an adult it means I can pull out my jeans and knee high boots, wear sweaters and not have to worry about the humidity messing with my curly hair.  I can eat everything pumpkin until my little heart is full of warmth and I need to unbutton my jeans so I can breath.

It still feels like a new beginning even as an adult– hope for new possibilities.  And it is with that sense of hope that I now find myself restlessly considering some major life decisions.

For starters, I gave up Starbucks.  Like really.  I went from using it as a reward to myself for showing up to work every morning to using it as a “once in a while” treat to myself. Even though it is not officially Pumpkin Spice Latte Season, I have in fact started making my very own Pumpkin Spice lattes to bring to work.  I love it.  I mean who says that I can only have pumpkin deliciousness in the fall?  No really, I’d like to have a word with them.

*I’ll even share my recipe in another blog page as my gift to you. It’ll post this week*

I’m trying (always trying) to eat better and exercise more. It seems I’m on some sort of mid (ish) life crisis — or more like an evaluation where I am determined to make things cou2015-07-04 19.40.04nt.  I’m determined to start hiking with Finn. Finn — by the way is fully grown (hopefully) at over 100 lbs. I bought a hiking pack (which yes, is designed to turn him into a pack mule) because although I have plans to exercise, Finn usually doesn’t make it too far before requiring water. Carrying water for both of us is a bit more than I am designed for — so he can take one for them team and carry our H20.

My husband and I briefly considered training for a tuff mudder type event — until three seconds later when we both realized that it was ten miles (TEN.MILES!) to which we both agreed to push off training.  In truth, I figured if the training got too difficult, I could just get pregnant and legitimatize my excuse to back out.  BUT the idea of training for something does kind of seem like a great motivator. I’ve been intrigued by the idea of rock wall climbing or ropes courses lately — which is super weird because I am NOT a fan of heights.  Then again if you spend as much time shopping at outdoorsy stores (Cabela’s, LL Bean, Columbia) well then you pretty much have to actually consider being — outdoorsy — once in a while (please note that while I say “outdoors” I’d probably prefer an indoor rock wall).

Beyond that, I’m close (SO close) to finishing my novel.  This September marks the two year anniversary of when I began writing it, with nothing more than an image of a young woman breaking up with her boyfriend and a question of what had happened to her that caused her to tell lies.  I was intrigued, so I wrote to find out who she was and what had happened to her and what she was going to do about it.  I threw myself into my MFA program finally understanding that it wasn’t a choice anymore — to write that is — it isn’t a choice at all.  It’s what makes me feel alive.  I’d spent years envying people who said that they loved their jobs because they were doing what they loved. (WAIT…what?  How does one do that?).  It was admitting that for years when I tried to not be a writer (because writing is REALLY hard), that I just had to give myself over to, that the story would persist within me whether I ever wrote or not. It was the acknowledgement that I am an artist (why couldn’t I have chosen something more financially profitable?).  But alas, it’s who I am.

Which leads to change — how do I continue to fund what I am doing?  In the new year, I hope to send a final manuscript to some agents (one who was kind enough to ask me for a finished copy).  Fingers crossed and maybe something will materialize. But i fit doesn’t — well I am pretty eager to start my next novel.  My main character is getting anxious.  She’s getting irritated that I keep telling her to hush.  Her name is Willa.  I don’t know her very well yet, but I can tell you she’s growing impatient.

The point is that, my life  right now is totally awesome on so many levels. On top of this I have a head start on drinking pumpkin lattes AND I feel change coming — but good change (I’ve felt the onset of bad change as well and I can tell you this isn’t it).  I’m excited for the changing leaves because I feel like I am about to embark on something new and for the first time in my life I have no fucking idea what that is — did I ever mention I have mild OCD and I am type “A” and I love to plan — EVERYTHING?  And yet, all I can say is I don’t know anything for certain beyond my plans to keep making art.

When Do You Confess To Being A Writer?

A very good friend and fellow writer, Howie Gunston, recently launched his blog/podcast Writers Comma Ice Cream — which premiered a few weeks ago (check it out).  This season’s topic includes what it take to be a writer and his interviews range

Writer's Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

Writer’s Comma Ice Cream Interview (photo by Howard Gunston)

from those in weekly writing clubs straight through to published writers. My interview with him will launched this week and you can listen to it on i-tunes or here.   You’ll hear us discuss what it takes to be a writer as well as why it is that I believe Howie will not last long in a zombie apocalypse and why on earth Ben & Jerry’s would ever retire White Russian Ice Cream (I suggest we stage a massive write-in on this!).

We’ve been discussing for some time now, what it means to be a writer — but also when do you tell other people that your occupation is writing? I struggle to answer this question.  Is it when I get paid to write?  Is it when I get published?  Or is what makes me a writer perhaps the idea that unlike most people who yearn to be writers, I actually write — on a  regular basis — constantly- WRITE.

But also, with confessing that you are a writer comes the following questions:

  1. So have you written anything I can see?

    Well that depends what you’re asking.  If your eyes are working properly, then yes, you can give me a pen now and I can write something, my name even and you can see it.  But you’re probably really asking (rather inarticulately or perhaps over politely) whether I’m published or if you can read my unpublished first draft.  If it is the first, I promise you, my introduction will always be, “Hi, I’m Carri and I’m a published writer.”  It may seem pretentious, but at least I’m getting it out of the way.  The second part will be, “You’ll have to go to a bookstore to buy my book, because I gave away the extra copy I usually carry around with me, hoping to bestow on someone I’ve just met.”

    Now if it is the latter and you’re asking to read my finished, unpublished manuscript, unless you’re an agent or a friend who’s opinion I value highly, my answer is a firm “No.”  It’s not to be insulting but there is nothing worse than a  complete stranger with little to no writing background telling you how you should write your novel. In fact, it’s like the worst workshop class ever. It’s also like handing over a new born baby to someone you don’t know — who hasn’t washed their hands before touching their delicate skin.  It’s immune system isn’t quite ready for strangers.

  2. What’s your book about?

    Simple question, right?  Wrong. If I’m a decent writer, it’s taken me several years to write my novel. You want me to summarize it in small talk so you can judge my credibility.  And yes, I should have a log line — a little movie trailer (which perhaps I will record on  my phone and hit the play button for each time I am asked this question), but I can’t tell you what it’s about precisely.  It’s like saying that The Lord of The Rings is about a ring, or that it’s about hobbits and a journey to save Middle Earth.  What about the Shire, the Fairies  err I mean Dwarves, trolls and orcs?  Yet, it’s also my job as a writer to summarize my years of work into an accurate yet interesting description of what it is.  But until I do that, I usually respond, “It’s a story about a boy wizard.”

  3. You know, I fancy myself a writer too…

    Do you?  Do you wake up in the middle of the night because two of your characters are angry with each other and they want to duke it out here and now?  Do you walk around in a daze for week trying to figure out why that one really well written chapter just isn’t working with the plot, or do you panic in realization that one of your characters is going to die and you have no power over it?…Or do you think writing is just an easy thing to do, you know if you ever sat down and actually wrote anything? I want to be supportive of ANYONE who writes — even if it is terrible — but without sitting down and writing, please don’t fancy yourself a writer.  Fancy yourself as someone who would love to write but doesn’t feel motivated enough to do it.  I understand — we’re all busy.  Somethings simply never happen. I’ve always wanted to play the guitar and yet, it hasn’t happened.  But let’s be clear, I don’t fancy myself a musician either.

    At a writer’s conference, I met a retired math teacher, who in his seventies was pursuing poetry.  I got up early everyday so I could sit with him at breakfast and talk about writing. I wish I had kept in touch with that man, because he was inspirational.  Just because you don’t have time right now, doesn’t mean you won’t have time later (although that’s a dangerous gamble).  He never stopped wanting to create art and it was in his retirement that he was able to pursue it.  And I fancy him a poet, because he wrote some beautiful poetry — because he sat down one day and picked up his pen.

    Also, everyone’s pretty terrible in the beginning.  I don’t imagine that you get to paint tportraits without having at some point drawn stick figures.

  4. Do you write Romance Novels?

    No, but if someone will pay me, then ABSOLUTELY. This question sometimes gets under my skin.  For me, love is kind of central to the human condition. Everyone is motivated by love OR the lack of love. Depending how they perceive this, they react differently.  I mean even in horror, isn’t the villain usually someone who either feels outcast from society (unloved) or has a skewed and perverted idea of what love is — but still — it’s love.  Isn’t a soldier who dies for their country or their comrades in some way acting out in love?  Didn’t the Hobbits do it for love damn it?  My point is that Romance has a lot of meaning.  Love can be unromantic.  Romance can be considered less legitimate writing. And once upon a time the genre of Romance was entangled in the Gothic genre.

    So which Romance would you like me to write, and how much are you paying?

Okay — that’s it for now.  Please listen to my interview. Let me know what you think.

My Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe

 

It’s pretty simple and within a few days, you’ll have this down.

InPumpkinsgredients:

  • Hot Coffee (umm it is a coffee latte)
  • Pumpkin Spice Syrup (I recommend: No.21 Pumpkin Pie Latte Syrup)
  • Choice of Dairy (or non dairy). I use what I have – half&half, cream, skim — whatever you fancy.
  • Maple Syrup
  • Whipped Cream (optional)
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice

1) Brew your coffee as you normally would. My pot makes 10 oz individual cups.

2) While the coffee is still hot add 3-4 tablespoons of the Pumpkin Latte Syrup and mix until it dissolves.

3) In a small pot, heat up the dairy (or non-dairy) mixture of your choosing with 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup on low heat (you’re aiming just to warm it up).  This mixture should be about 1/3 ratio to your coffee.  It also depends how frothy you want this.

4) I remove the pot from the stove and (VERY) carefully use an immersion blender to froth my warm dairy mixture.  Warning: this usually does splash around. If the mixture is too hot, you may need to leave it stand a little. Also make sure the pot is deep enough to avoid splashing.

5) Using a spoon to separate the froth, pour the dairy mixture into your coffee.  I usually spoon the frothy part on last and then either add whipped cream for an extra rich beverage or just sprinkle a little pumpkin pie spice on top. (Cinnamon and Nutmeg can be used in place — it’s basically the same thing).

Enjoy!

*I plan to try out some variations of this recipe to make it iced or in frapp form.  Once I perfect it, I will share with you! I’ll also post photos.

The Hammock and The Maple Tree

Sometimes it takes a kidney infection – well a UTI to be more precise to corner you — or land you on a hammock.  This is where I find myself today with spasms of pain growing more intense in my left side.

The last time I recall having a UTI, I was a senior in college.  I called in to work to say that I couldn’t walk, could barely make it to the phone to call out.  I was met with a snarky manager asking me if I’d be in the next day.  I told him I wouldn’t be back. Ever.  It felt like I was dying and quitting my $7.50 job seemed to be a logical response to the pain that nearly had me toppled over in pain.

I spent the next few hours calling every healthcare provider in the county (PA).  None would take me because when my father died a few months prior, so did my insurance plan.  I have credit cards, I have cash. I’ll even donate one of my kidneys once you heal them. None would take me.  I called my boyfriend (the one who is now my husband) and he drove the forty-five minutes to my apartment, took me back to his county (as I cried actual tears in the passenger seat of my jeep) and took me to his Dr. It ended up that I was probably a day away from being admitted to a hospital.  It was bad.  The visit and the medicine cost hundreds of dollars.  I put it on my credit card. It took days before I could stand up right again.

So when the faint, yet familiar symptoms came to me last week, I did what seemed the smartest thing — I ignored them.  It’s summer. I’m busy.  I’m preparing to take a last minute trip. I can’t get sick right now.  I. Can’t.                                      But I did.

When my Dr. asked me why I was at his office, I told him it was because I had an UTI.  He looked at the results of test and told me that women know their bodies better than anyone else — they’re almost always right.  It’s true. Nine times out of ten, I tell the Dr. what my diagnosis is and he agrees (usually based on medical education and test results) and gives me my meds.  So why then, do I wait until I am in so much pain, that I find myself lying on a hammock in the 90 degree heat wishing I had a pet monkey who could fetch me a cold a beverage and a hot compress?

Being sick in August isn’t all bad though.  I need to reiterate that I am sitting on a hammock beneath a giant maple.  I want to name this tree, give thanks to it for holding up me and my hammock, but I don’t know it’s name.  I can’t very well give it a new name if one already exists.  I also want to keep this tree happy, because I suspect that a broken branch which hangs directly above me could  easily be dropped on top of me – making my achey kidney the least of my troubles. I’m grateful for this tree and I’m already wondering what I will do come winter, when I can’t lay beneath it and read my books or listen to my music.  This reminds me that we’ve had a good summer.  Sufficient rain, but mostly sunny days.  People have been complaining about the rain which baffles me.  They must not tend gardens or else, like me they’d have noticed the rain when the gardens needed watering.  Realized that most of the weekends this summer have been perfectly sunny and not too hot.  But people tend to forget — especially those without gardens.

In addition to noticing the wonderful weather, my kidney has caused me to halt in my tracks.  I slept most of an entire weekend.  A perfectly sunny, gorgeous weekend. Saturdays are grocery, baseball or soccer, house cleaning, laundry, dog walking and endless errand days.  But this past Saturday, I crawled into a pile of fresh laundry on my bed and SLEPT.  Then on Sunday, I did the same (minus the laundry which ended up balled into a pile in the basket). I even read an entire book (The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman) on my hammock.

My body had enough of my crap.  Enough of my busyness.

Monday, I went to the Dr., bought an Italian ice, drank cranberry juice and slept some more.  Then I rewrote a chapter of my novel.  A pivotal chapter that I’ve spent months on, because with a well rested body, a bit of meds, and a head that wasn’t concerned about the dishes in the sink, I managed to create. And do it like a bad-ass too.

But more than anything, when I get sick, I realize how terrible I would be at it long term.  It’s hard to sit still.  Hard to do the things that I love, like a spend a whole day reading a book.  It usually means I’m taking time away from something else.  My family. My house. My novel.  On the other hand it seems like a good reminder that if I don’t slow down (at least a little) I might very well be sick long term.

Anyway, a few more days on the hammock beneath the maple and a few more books and I hopefully, I will be good as new.

Gratitude – And Other Things I’m Working On

2015-05-12 17.59.37Part of practicing yoga is taking time to acknowledge the gifts in your life.  We call it gratitude.  It requires taking a few moments in your day and thanking yourself, your god, the universe for all of the good things that surround you.  It’s weirdly one of my favorite moments in my practice, aside from Shavasana (which is the corpse pose in which you lie quietly and relax, and CLEAR your head — if you do it right, it feels like that moment between being asleep and awake).  It’s at the end of practice where you thank yourself for taking the time to actually do yoga, for accepting your accomplishments, letting go of your failures.  It sort of reminds of that moment in church (Catholic) where you shake your neighbor’s hand and offer them peace — only you’re offering yourself peace instead — which is so much harder.

Anyway, it was raining the other night and I was sleeping as a guest in a bed that was not my own.  My back ached.  The rain was loud and I could hear the traffic from the intersection.  A nearby freight train could be heard every thirty minutes or so.  I was about to complain to myself — to tell my future self that I owed my future backache to the uncomfortable mattress and my moodiness to the lack of sleep.  As my inner self opened up her mouth, the word “gratitude” came out.  I was legitimately thankful that I had a roof over my head, a warm blanket, and a window between me and the street outside.  That I could sleep safely and not worry that someone would attack me or steal my stuff.  It was a strange thing — to let go of the complaints and to recognize that nothing was owed to me.

I started to list the things that I was grateful for.  An overpriced vacation.  My snoring son. My husband. Taking my stepson along on the first real family vacation we’d ever had with both children. My dog who hours earlier had eaten a new rug I had just bought for his indoor pen while the dog sitter was in the shower.  The fact that I had the means to do any of this felt like — a blessing?

Then something weirder happened.  Every time something crappy happened, I tried to practice gratitude.  Okay — so when the manager at a certain convenience store didn’t understand that I was annoyed that they literally filled up my 24 oz chai cup to the brim with ice and charged me $4 for what turned out to be 4 oz of actual tea and milk — I may have forgotten gratitude (although I was grateful for my constraint).  It can’t be applied all the time.  I’m certainly no Gandi.

So here I am sitting before this computer trying to practice gratitude when the fact is, my plans for July and August and really December have somehow spectacularly just fallen to pieces.  See, I am in the last leg of my MFA degree in Creative Writing.  I’ve suffered through a class of Early American Literature (I’m more of Brit Lit fan myself) from our sister department (English) in order to complete my coursework and FINALLY finish the novel I’ve been working on for two years.  All that I needed to do was A) Finish the American class (just two weeks to go!), B) take Shakespeare for the final summer semester   Six weeks with the bard. And I like Shakespeare too! and C) complete my novel by early October to graduate in December. And all of this went to hell a few hours ago when without warning my campus account sent me an alert that my class (which was scheduled to start one week from today) has been canceled. Not only canceled, but now I can’t seem to get into the Fall course and my summer funding is also now canceled for lack of credits.

My fall semester will no longer be devoted entirely to writing, but devoted to a fifteen week semester of analyzing Shakespeare (vs. the six weeks the summer course would’ve required). It also means asking my husband to accommodate my schedule — meaning Mondays are his day to watch our son — no exceptions.

I could go on with the ways that this negatively affects me, but then a friend said, “Maybe this is for the better?”

How?

How is this in my favor? I’ve had this schedule devised since March?

My inner voice keeps whispering, gratitude. But what are my blessings in this scenario???

I don’t know.  Yet. Perhaps there’s something in these change of plans that are super positive.  It frees up July and August to work on my novel.  It leaves me time to play with my son. To read books I want to read.  To catch up on these blogs (does anyone actually read this stuff, anyway?).

What I suppose it teaches me is that gratitude is hard.  It’s not just being happy sleeping on a bed as hard as a rock, but an ongoing challenge to sift out the everyday stuff that gets in the way of our happiness.  I can binge on Netflix (and not feel guilty), read those books that have been sitting on my shelf growing in numbers and mocking me for lack of time to read them.  I can explore some of the really good chapters I’ve been writing lately and see if that is where the story really wants to go.

But  most importantly, I think it was Elizabeth Gilbert who said, “I am my best person when I have less on my plate.” And probably a better mother, wife, and definitely a better writer.

25 Random (and Useless) Facts About ME

My friend Sue, tagged me in a FB post which requested that I share 25  random facts, thoughts, or goals about me.  I basically listed whatever came into my head — for better or worse.

  1. People who suck on hard candy too loudly drive me absolutely crazy.
  2. I once took my oldest brother’s wooden dolly that he used to fix his cars and road it down the slide in my backyard – even though I knew it was a bad idea – because the two boys I was playing with were too chicken. I missed the cushion I put at the end of the slide by about 8’ and almost broke my back.  They ran home and left me for dead.
  3. I had my first kiss in kindergarten – from a neighbor boy who moved away in first grade and broke my heart. I kissed him.
  4. I hated playing with dolls but loved putting outfits together (for Barbie).
  5. I’ve broken the second toe on my right foot probably close to a dozen times. I’m now prone to terrible and random foot cramping.
  6. I used to love Ace of Base. I Saw The Sign was nothing compared to the first rate b-sides.
  7. I have OCD. Not the light flipping on and off kind, but the need to be organized and planning things way in advance kind.
  8. I don’t wear anything white.
  9. I don’t generally cry at movies but the first five minutes of Up is the most ridiculously sad thing I have ever witnessed.
  10. I don’t know if Buddha said this or not, but I believe that “Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Happiness in infinite and someone else having something good happen to them does not diminish the happiness you seek.
  11. I fully believe that I will publish at least a novel.
  12. If I ask you if you’d like the last piece of cake and you say maybe later – it will be gone when you decide to look for it —later.
  13. I truly believe that buying nice handbags and shoes are in fact an investment in my future.
  14. I don’t like doing things that I don’t do well.
  15. I get annoyed when people tell me they are jealous of me or something I’ve accomplished. I’ve worked my butt off  for all of it.  None of it was luck.
  16. I am highly allergic to lilies, but I once drove over an hour with a giant one in my backseat because I knew my husband would love it for our garden.
  17. Sarcasm is in fact a sign that I am intellectually superior.
  18. I will buy anything related to Jane Austen – including Jane band aids.
  19. If it comes in plaid, I’ll take it (this includes men as well – preferably kilted).
  20. Based on my shopping preferences (LL Bean, Cabela’s, Columbia, etc.) one would believe I live a much more outdoorsy life than I actually do. I would love to hike and kayak (when the weather is just right and there are no bugs).
  21. If I get the opportunity to move to Scotland or Ireland at any point in my life, I will totally do it.
  22. In the Zombie Apocalypse, I’d probably be closest in personality to Carol from The Walking Dead.
  23. There are few things in this world as amazingly perfect as a good cup of tea, a great novel and a hot bath (in a deep soaker style tub or a claw foot).
  24. I think it’s possible that unicorns did exist.
  25. I don’t like beer. Which was rather problematic in college. Although I assure you, I tried, I really, really TRIED to like it.

This ended up being a fun little exercise to do and I encourage others to try it.

Everyone Deserves Cake (Tolerance and Cake)

Cake

Warning — political and religious views will be included in this post. If you lack open mindedness — I may offend some.  I tend to do that from time to time (actually, quite often)

I am a supporter of cake.  I love to eat cake.  I love to bake cake.  I’ll even bake you a cake if you ask me nicely and give me an occasion to, yet some people don’t like baking cake for other people — well if you don’t fit into their tiny category of approved lifestyles that is.

Even Marie Antoinette said, “Let them eat cake!”  — Well, okay actually what she meant was she was going to eat cake while her people  starved because she was young and poorly prepared to lead a country (and really loved expensive cakes), but for the sake of my argument, we will say that she was a supporter of the idea of cake.

The controversy at hand is of course much bigger than cake, but let’s look at it from a simplified perspective of who deserves cake and who gets to decides this.

I researched and found out that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was introduced by NY Congressman Charles Schumer and signed into law by President Clinton.  The act was supposed to “ensures that interests in religious freedom are protected.” That’s absolutely awesome, because we are the United States after all and founded on the idea that religious tolerance is expected from its citizens. I would be lying if I told you that I understood these newer laws of recent weeks.  Laws which don’t seem to protect all citizens equally.

Now back to cake…

My interpretation of religious tolerance means that everyone should be allowed to eat cake.  But even further, you should be allowed to buy cake from people who know how to bake it.  I’ve yet to order a cake from a bakery and have anyone question who I sleep with when I go home.  It’s never actually come up.  My sex life that is.  No one in a bakery ever asked me.

So my first thought when I heard about the bakery in Oregon refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple is that this is ridiculous.  It’s 2015.  A cake that would look like any other wedding cake to be used at the celebration of two people publicly declaring their love and devotion for each other. I just had a conversation weeks earlier with a gay friend and we were both discussing the amazing accomplishments the community has made in just the past couple of years.  We wondered about what the next movement would be — the causes our children would take up and fight for. But like all movements, there are set backs.  Whether we look at the movement for racial equality or gender equality, there are still, even today, so much of it that is far from done.  Really. Far. From. Finished.

Back to cake.  So imagine if I refuse to sell you cake based on my religious beliefs? Where does it end?  If I am basing it on your sex life, do I refuse cakes for baby showers of unmarried women?  Birthday cake for those children born out of wedlock?  If you don’t like same gender marriages, I wonder how you feel about mixed race marriages?  What if you had an abortion? Do adulterers deserve cake? Do divorced people deserve cake or even cookies?  Or beyond your sex life — What if I don’t sell you cake because you’re fat? Or because you have a different religion? Should we maybe ask everyone to fill out a questionnaire?

I don’t know if sins are in fact measured on any sort of scale, but if it is, I think people who love each other in spite of their differences are much less sinful than those who hate and hurt others.  And most bakeries have large glass windows — which makes me wonder why anyone would throw stones.  My God is also tolerant.  I think He prefers that the world were filled with love and tolerance too. I also think He’s a fan of cake.  I think He wants us all to eat it. I’m not sure why He’s made the calories quite so high.  I think He likes irony too.

When I bake, I do it with love. Sometimes it’s the scary — you’d do best to stay out of my way because this is going to be the best f*cking cake you’ve ever eaten — kind of LOVE (ask my husband — he’s witnessed these mad episodes of ‘baking is an art’ and maybe at times I take it too seriously). But there’s love in it and you can taste it. Which might be why I was so surprised that someone who does this for a living could be hateful.  To want to deprive someone of the joy of receiving and eating cake. It’s just mean, actually.

I am not trying to criticize people who act in their faith either –as long as it isn’t hurting others. This is what makes these topics so volatile.  People  have strong reasons on both sides of these arguments.  But I keep getting pulled back to the idea of loving thy neighbor.  LOVE.  In the news, it feels like I keep hearing about a lot of hate. I don’t condone actions that come from those dark places. I don’t know how businesses can be successful if they choose to only sell their products to the people who they deem morally worthy (this bakery closed up shortly after due to protests from the gay and lesbian community — which is sad too, because these owners lost their livelihood).  Damage was done to both sides.

I find the idea of this unsettling because once upon a time in a place called America, there were signs hung in businesses stating exactly who was welcome and who would be served. I read about in school.  I never thought it’d happen again.

I wonder precisely when our culture became so obsessed with what happens in other people’s bedrooms?  What if we used that energy and enthusiasm and worked together to tackle something much larger — like education, hunger, poverty, the environment, sustainability? There’s like 8 million issues more urgent than what is happening in the bedroom of consenting adults.

Julia Child once said “A party without cake is just a meeting.” If my office promised cake at the conclusion of every dull meeting — things would get DONE.  I promise you.  Decisions would be made and then we’d all eat up. Maybe we should serve cake at EVERY single session of Congress? Maybe that is what can be taken away from this.