Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Also: If you are new to reading my blog, I want to apologize for its totally artless appearance. It's both intentional and unintentional. I got fed up with messing around with pictures and thought I'd take it back to square one, just black and white with default everything. Then somehow I got stuck and still canNOT figure out how to change anything again! I don't mind the black and white, but the font and spacing are terrible! I am way more artistic than this blog makes me look, you must believe me.

Speaking of black and white, I just read Bea Johnson's hot new book, The Zero Waste Home. Thanks to my friend Rachel, I have been following her blog for a few months and have been totally inspired. I have to say that the blog frightened me a little bit. In the first post that I read, she talked about freaking out on a camping trip when they had to buy a plastic jug of water. Little things like that made me wonder if this woman was totally immoderate, like in the way that makes everybody uncomfortable. But I was charmed by pictures of her wearing the same black oversize man's button-up shirt every day, all summer, in 40 or 50 different cute ways. So I kept reading, and I'm convinced. I want to adopt new ways at a natural pace, and the last thing I want to do is be weird about it or make anyone else feel bad, but count me in. Here are some very small steps I've taken since I started reading the blog, both to simplify my life and reduce my waste:

  • Ripping up old t-shirts to make "paper towels"
  • Remembering (more often) to bring a bag to the store
  • Finding a store where I can buy bulk
  • Signing up for dairy, egg, meat and produce shares with local farmers/friends from church
  • Recycling more; donating lots of old stuff to the thrift store
  • Using olive oil as a face cleanser and vinegar as a toner (they both really work)
  • Massaging coconut oil into my hair occasionally, so that I don't need conditioner
  • Choosing to buy those recyclable toothbrushes made from yogurt cups (laugh at me!) 
  • Buying a water filter instead of buying so many dumb jugs of filtered water for kombucha
  • Keeping a coffee cup in the car for the free coffee at Half-Price Books... that's a joke, because it was a dirty coffee cup from that morning. But I did make the decision to turn around and get it, and it was raining!

This summer I would like to accomplish a few more steps:

  • Minimize my wardrobe and donate extras (cutting down on laundry!)
  • Composting (for... other people's gardens I suppose)
  • Finally figure out how to do the dishes correctly (I always waste tons of water)
  • Streamlining kitchen and pantry
  • Getting the appropriate containers for buying/storing bulk foods (I drool over her 100 mason jars)
  • Assess weekly/monthly food needs so that I can minimize trips to the store
  • Get the dang bike fixed and find one for Mon Epoux

Those are slightly more daunting tasks than bringing a bag to the store. But not as daunting as say, using moss for toilet paper, which the author used to do when she was even crazier about zero waste. And none of it is as daunting to me as the Diva Cup. Eek.

Please let me know if I ever become judgmental or weird about this. What I don't like about the book is how Zero-Waste seems to have become as important as a religion to the author. I absolutely think that mindfulness about the material world is part of becoming more attuned to God. But it is easier to be zealous in organizing my closet than in rooting out those pesky baobabs from my planet, especially when the former zeal can be flavored so deliciously with pride.

I must go make some cookies.

Just mopped my kitchen floor with my foot and a washcloth. Why not?

Cantique de la vierge marie

An iconography class friend lent me some CDs of African music. So far the Senegalese (Catholic) monks of "Keur Moussa" have gotten the heaviest rotation. The chant sounds Western but is accompanied by the lovely kora and even some percussion.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"crunchy cashew thai quinoa salad"

I am eating the leftovers of this salad right now and it is incredible. I didn't use red cabbage because I could not find it either at Kroger or Aldi's. I suppose it's not in season, but I don't know when that has ever stopped either of those stores. I also substituted rice vinegar for red wine, because I had it, and why not make it more "asian?"

We served this salad the other night to some very happy guests, along with brats, beer and lemonade. It was a perfect side! This blog seems annoying, but the recipe is great.

Crunchy Cashew Thai Quinoa Salad

too young

Sometimes, the heart is too raw. I feel like mine has been given a once-over with a lemon zester.

A close friend of a close friend of a close friend of mine (sounds distant, but I liked him a lot) fell to his death out of a skyscraper window last week. He had just arrived in Chicago after a 24 hour train ride from Santa Fe, got a little drunk, and fell asleep while sitting by an open window, sixteen stories above the pavement.

On Thursday, an eighteen year old boy driving to school in my hometown flipped his truck off the road, killing his twin brother, while he (the driver!) walked away with a few bruises. My two youngest sisters were good friends with him. I did not know him, although he's spent a lot of time at my family's house, I guess. The story is so perfectly tragic that I can't stop thinking about it. The brother was asked how he was doing at the funeral: "I'm fine. That's the problem."

Both of these deaths remind me of the astounding tragedy at my other sister's college this fall, when three students lost a game of chicken with a train. My sister's housemate hung on for several weeks but finally passed away before Christmas.

Hoku, Michael, Lenore. I don't know what to say.

Matt's dad died of cancer when Matt was only eleven. After so many years, in certain ways, of course he's used to it. He never speaks about it with much pathos or regret. But the other day, he suddenly said, sadly, "It's a real shame you never got to meet him." In a way, I think the loss will keep growing. As a child's horizon expands, the light touches more and more of the earth that should have been shared with the father. He should be able to introduce his wife and children to his father, to ask him for advice, to return to the origin of his manhood and the image of his future.

When I was a child, I used to hear my parents say "Oh, so young!" when someone their age would pass away, and I'd think "Not so young, 45! 50! That's old!" Now I am saying "Oh, so young!" about people who are my age. Currently we are young. But I don't think it will ever stop hurting, or ever seem right. It will always be wrong, it will always be too young.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

chilly may morning

This morning we played through a scene we know very well: Matt is up a couple of hours before I am, and spends them happily reading and drinking coffee. I waddle out of bed, brush my teeth, and before I get ready to settle down to my book, I go over to Matt to greet him with a smooch on the cheek, and he does not even look at me, much less respond. Sometimes he heaves a great sigh and looks at me with a pained expression.

It always makes me mad, and today I actually didn't even get all the way over to his chair because I just didn't want to start out the day by taxing him for two seconds of attention.

I'm telling the story like I'm still mad, but I'm .... not exactly.

Anyway, I ended up standing awkwardly kind of near his chair and saying "hey," then quickly turning around to get my coffee. A window in our wall frames the face and hands of the person sheepishly pouring coffee,  so he watched me with an exasperated grimacey smile, and then said very pointedly, GOOD MORNING.

This is how the morning goes between a serious introvert and a 1% extravert. I KNOW that he doesn't want to have a big conversation first thing in the morning, and neither do I, really. I'm not jumping onto his book and laying across it like a cat. I need a few seconds of human affirmation to start my day, just one smile and two words. To me, it doesn't seem like much to ask for something that feels so important to me- look up from your book which you've been reading in complete silence for two hours to say hello and then I'll leave you alone until you want to talk to me! To him, it feels like a huge intrusion for something that shouldn't be so important to me.  We both think the other person is being selfish.

On my good days, I compromise and wait for him to greet me. I can understand that he would like to choose at which point to put his book down, so I try to restrain myself. Sometimes I don't mind.

After 2.25 years of marriage, I think I can now (slightly saltily, of course) advise those interested in getting married: the introversion-extraversion differential is the source of very deep (if not the deepest) conflicts. I don't say the most explosive conflicts, simply the most stubbornly innate.We can talk about chores, religion, and tastes in relatively dispassionate tones, but nothing can change the fact that I need a little bit more interaction than he does, and he needs a little bit more solitude than I can bear. We overlap quite a bit on the introversion-extraversion axis, but the fringes where we differ are still baldly glaring. If we were more different I can see that it would be big trouble. This is something you don't realize about a person until you've lived with them for a while, and as far as I can see, there is no way around it, especially not first thing in the morning.

And I suppose that is where love comes in, no, actually, I do believe that is where love comes in, but that doesn't mean that it's easy or I know what to do. We can talk through or compromise our way around everything else, but these opposing needs comprise the last imbedded stone in our way. It is not moveable by reason or bitter self-effacement.

Friday, May 24, 2013

This awestruck profile of a presumed edgy artist in Indianapolis made me laugh, but the longer I sit with it, the more depressed it makes me:

“I have very specific ideas of what I think is cool, and what I think is lame,” Graves said. Something cool to her would be music by Chopin, or really any music that’s played in minor keys. “I like that mournful sound,” she said. Something lame would be the Kardashians.

She resembles the characters she paints. Her hair is dyed pink, her skin is pale. The effect is elfin. Mab isn’t her real name (she borrowed it from Shakespeare’s Queen Mab, a magical fairy who facilitates dreaming,” but she won’t say what her real name is. In fact, she won’t give much personal information. She has three sisters, her parents live in Greenwood, she does yoga, she drinks green tea, she’s reading Edgar Allan Poe. That’s about it.
            Her telephone answering machine says it all. “This is Mab. You’ll never catch me.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

sumer is icumen in

There are only seven days left of school, and I have never been more ready for summer. Mostly I feel stuck -- there isn't that much left to do for my classes, other than some tedious homework grading that doesn't really matter. But I'm not ready to start any of my summer projects, because it's hard to make a good beginning without peace, quiet, and cleanliness. I feel like I'm just killing time until June 1st, when I can take a good, long, look at everything around me and get it back in order. The language of that statement brings my physical environment to mind, and that's certainly a priority for me this summer. (Pantry and kitchen are due for an over-haul!) But I also need to make rhythms for myself, a sort of habitation in time, or I'll move forward erratically and desperately.

I just looked down at my hands typing: older and more serious than they used to be. Not unbeautiful, though.

I'm looking forward to reading Shakespeare with a friend, long sessions with novels, a little bit of Greek or Latin every day, pickling and baking, soft and cool early mornings, those intoxicating evening drives through tall green corn country, and breakfast. We don't eat breakfast during the school year.

Monday, May 20, 2013

living on a prayer

The damage wasn't too bad; my conscience has to deal with throwing away tons of paper plates, but that's the worst of it. The furniture is still rearranged; I'm using the laptop on my bed (which I try to never do!) because all the comfy chairs are in the room where my husband is taking a nap, and I don't want to clickety clack him awake.

About forty lovely people came through to eat spicy Indian food, sweat, drink, talk, play croquet and cornhole. I can not really explain why (aside from a couple bullshit theories,) but I ended up pounding several beers, although I'm used to no more than three. I was determined to have fun, I guess. I became terrifically drunk by the end of the night, but I was with forgiving company, and as far as I know, none of the poison in my soul hatched out into the daylight. So although I marvel at my stupidity, and although I had an incredible hangover the entire next day, I ain't sorry I done it.

In fact, I have decided that it was a huge relief. The demons of anger, fear, resentment, and judgement have been gnawing on my flesh for several weeks. They have been so persistent, and I so weak in their faces, that they have even begun to poison my eyes against innocent people. But for two days- the day of drinking and the day of hangover- I just ignored them. And they didn't say a peep. Obviously when I was drunk, I was full of good cheer and affection for all, but to my great gladness, even during the hangover, the hatred was gone. I just didn't have it in me to criticize or to draw up the accounts in my own favor. I was such a complete doofus, and so aware of it, that I had not a single bad thought about anyone else. During church, all I had to say was "Dear Holy Mother of God, keep me from falling over or throwing up." I sang lustily and without regard for anyone else's errors, because it was all I could do.

And I was so thankful for every single person there. I don't know why.

So keep this in mind. When you are struggling with hatred, maybe you should throw a big party and get so drunk that you have no room to criticize anybody else. We're all just trying to hang on and stand up. But I'm no theologian.

Friday, May 10, 2013

O Death, where is Thy sting?

The 15th Antiphon sung at Matins on Holy Friday demonstrates the height of Christian irony. 

Today He who hung the earth upon the waters is hung on the tree,
The King of the angels is decked with a crown of thorns.
He who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.
He who freed Adam in the Jordan is slapped on the face.
The Bridegroom of the Church is affixed to the Cross with nails.
The Son of the virgin is pierced by a spear.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
We worship Thy passion, O Christ.
Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

During Holy Week, I asked my eighth and ninth grade Latin students to read through the hymn and identify instances of the rhetorical figure of parallelism. The two parallel terms in this figure always have something in common. There is a spectrum of identification, from terms which are the most similar to terms which are only related in that they are opposites. In this hymn, all of the parallels dwell within the range of irony, with one word or image uniting two very different ideas, and as my students hypothesized, the intent is to highlight the sheer absurdity of the Passion of Christ.

He who hung the earth upon the waters could not possibly be hung on a tree.
How can the King of Angels be decked with a crown of thorns?
I refuse to believe that the one who wraps the heavens in clouds is wrapped in the purple of mockery.

To me, the last parallel is the most shocking, and even sickening. I did not dwell on this one with my students.

The Son of the Virgin- the Door through which no man can enter- is pierced by a spear.

The whole thing is just so ridiculous.  It's one thing to try to identify with the terrible suffering of Christ as a man. That is understandable. I can extrapolate from my own experiences to approach a deep sympathy with the sorrow and pain of his Passion. As horrible as it is, I can comprehend the crucifixion of an innocent man. But the hymn leaves me dazed. The irony is stunning. Nonetheless, We worship Thy passion, O Christ. In fact, it's all we can say. Show us also Thy glorious resurrection.

So then He does. But does the glory of the resurrection obliterate the irony of the Passion? In years before, if I had thought about it, I would have shrugged a yes. This year, however, after dwelling so much on the irony, I saw it again in the angelic pronouncement to the myrrh bearing women:

Why seek ye the living among the dead? 
Why mourn ye the incorrupt amidst corruption? 
Go, proclaim the glad tidings to the apostles!

One year, my friends and I jokingly ascribed to the angels a certain sarcastic tone-- Um... why would you do that? Duh. He's not dead! How could he be?

The sarcasm is very good-natured, because the joke is not on the women, but on Death. In contemplating the irony of the death of the Life-giver, we are stunned with grief. But on this side of the Resurrection, the absurdity of looking for the Life-Giver in the graveyard can only make us laugh! Before the Resurrection, How can it be? is denial. Afterwards, it's gladsome- in fact it's hilarious.