Friday, December 21, 2012

hooray for Christmas break!

One of my favorite students made me an ornament. It made my day, even more than our in-class Olympic Games and Greek feast to close out our unit on ancient Greece. Still, I need these two weeks off.

Monday, December 17, 2012

a few words on Newtown

After talking to the teachers on my team about the Newtown shootings, some advice for parents:

Make sure you tell your school-age children to follow their teachers' instructions immediately, every single time. 

Imagine if one of the children who survived had walked out of class to go to the bathroom, saying, "My mother told me to walk out when my teacher won't let me go to the bathroom." Or if they heard the commotion in the hallway and ran out hoping to see a fight. Or if they'd refused to stop talking while they hid in the closet.

It sounds melodramatic, but it's true. Please drill into your kids that teachers give them directions to keep them safe and help them learn.

Monday, November 19, 2012

we bought a house!

We did it!

We are now the proud owners of a mid-century modern semidetached in Randle Heights. We're close to the Parkway, within walking distance of a Metro stop, convenience store, carryout and liquor store, about a mile from the grocery and a short commute to my school.

I literally could not be happier. I am actually this excited:

Now all we need is to move up our furniture from New Orleans, new front stairs, the lawn mowed, window boxes, paint, paint, and more paint, a housewarming party- you get the picture. But we can't wait. New adventure YAY!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lincoln in review

So I saw Lincoln at the Bethesda Row Cinema on Friday night. My mom agreed to go with me - nothing is better than a Mom Date - and picked me up and everything. When we got to the theater at 8:30, we found out that they were sold out until their last showing of the evening - at 10:15. Well, OK. We're grown-ups, dammit. So we bought our tickets, and gave tapas at Jaleo a shot.

I like tapas, but it was my mom's first time, and she was... let's say underwhelmed. On the 18-month old Serrano ham: "It tastes like it's twenty years old." On the mushrooms: "I'm pretty sure this is what whale blubber tastes like." I thought everything we ordered (gambas al ajillio, gambas gabardino, the 18-month aged Serrano ham, the chicken dish and the setas with potato puree) was fine, but for all the hype, none of the food was enough to make us come back again. Although their Coke was delicious.

But Lincoln? Fantastic. I've been a Lincoln buff since before I have memories. When my kindergarten classmates wanted to be princesses and firefighters, I wanted to be Abraham Lincoln. I can only imagine my poor parents having to break it to their three-year old daughter that she cannot, in fact, be a dead white man, and having to soothe her hurt feelings by reassuring her that she'll just have to be the president instead.

I digress. As a historian and former costume designer, the movie was eye and brain candy for my soul. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals with a screenplay written by Tony Kushner (of Angels in America fame), it focuses on Lincoln's attempt to push the Thirteenth Amendment through the House of Representatives in the months before his assassination. This is clearly and firmly placed within the context of the final months of the Civil War, and in the emotional aftermath of the Lincoln family losing son Willie to typhoid. The film paints a vivid picture of Lincoln the man, a consummate storyteller and shrewd politician, one willing to circumvent the law to enact morally right but legally suspect edicts like the Emancipation Proclamation.

The performances in the film are fantastic as well. Daniel Day-Lewis is nothing short of breath-taking as Lincoln. I feared that Lincoln would be given the stereotypical moral hero treatment, with a deep, booming voice and vaguely British-sounding accent - you know, so you remember it's old-timey and that he's important. But instead, DDL stays true to the historical accounts of Lincoln that stress the president's high pitched, nasal, reedy voice with a slight Kentucky drawl. He's also clearly studied that dreamy, faraway gaze of Lincoln so familiar from Mathew Brady's photographs. Sally Field gives a subtle, toned-down portrayal of Mary Todd, one with whom a viewer can be far more sympathetic than Mary Tyler Moore's histrionic ball-buster from Gore Vidal's Lincoln. Jared Harris, one of my favorite actors from Mad Men, shows up as a near-ringer for General Grant; his American accent is far better than David Oyelowo's, whose brief cameo as a USCT upstart is the weakest of the film. David Strathairn is predictably solid as Secretary of State William Seward. Tommy Lee Jones is even better as Senator Thaddeus Stevens. A quick Google Image search of Stevens shows how cantankerous he so clearly was in real life, but Jones plays him with a lovable crankiness that makes him one of the best parts of the movie; the resolution of his storyline is easily one of the film's most delightful.

From my view, the film's only weakness is its last two minutes (I call this "the Spike Lee treatment"). The scene in which the president leaves the White House for Ford's Theater after a light-hearted exchange with his butler should have been the end. Instead, the audience is forced to endure a confusing expository scene of Tad discovering his father's death in another theater, an awkwardly delivered "He belong to the ages now" from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and a painfully hokey superimposition of Lincoln inside of a flame that pans to a closing speech (I'm embarrassed that I still can't remember which one it is). Viewers unfamiliar with Civil War politicians and Cabinet members may also find the constant barrage of new characters confusing.

So if you can't tell by now, I'm a colossal Lincoln nerd, and I loved the movie. I definitely see it being nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars; I predict DDL will win. I recommend the film with absolutely no reservation.

Oh, and now I've got a new tattoo to add to my wish list:

Monday, November 5, 2012

one last time for marriage equality

From my friend, Mark, on marriage equality and tomorrow's election: Like he said.
As tomorrow is voting day, understanding that neither candidate has the immediate fix to our financial situation and both are likely making false promises. Vote for the candidate that supports the Phrase: "Every man is created equal."

As you all know this past July, my partner and best friend of 12 years took his own life. After receiving the most disheartening letter of my entire life. I called the turnpike commission and the police to notify them of the incident that was taking place. The first call I was told "because he is a missing person, file a missing persons report".

The second call, I was told I would have to contact his "family" to have an answer.

I learned that Adam had passed from the PA Turnpike's website posted that there was an accident at the same mile marker he indicated he would be taking his life. Not knowing fully if he was dead, the police called me to ask for his parents phone number and address "IN CASE" they needed to notify someone. I was repeated asked if he was alive or dead, which I wasn't given an answer. As the minutes passed an officer came to my door and asked again for his parents address. I knew then, and I told them I would not tell them until they confirmed..

I was not family.

12 years, we owned a home together, cars, bank accounts, began an adoption process, survived the trials and tribulations that most couples do, but because of laws that promote discrimination, I was not allowed to know.

It is my wish that everyone is equal. That my partnership impacted no one else, nor impeded on anyone's right to live or practice their religion.

This is not a fake internet story. This is my story. Please vote for the candidate, vote for all candidates that promote being equal. You are no better than me, as I am not better than you.

Vote Obama at the polls this election day.
Like he said.

Friday, November 2, 2012

on Maryland's Question 6

I'm going to say this early, since Maryland has early voting.

This summer, my friend Adam committed suicide by walking into highway traffic. Mark, his partner of 12 years, received his goodbye email, and immediately notified highway patrol. As Mark called the police over and over in hopes that they'd found Adam in time, they refused to release any information to him, even though he'd alerted them - he wasn't "family." Mark finally learned that he had succeeded in taking his own life from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Web site, which reported the accident. As plans were made for a memorial service, Adam's mother listed her son's partner in the obituary - as his brother. And thankfully, Adam had secretly transferred his savings into their joint account, because Mark was not able to inherit it.

This is what the current law allows - for long-term, same-sex partners like my friend to be denied basic courtesies during what is already the most difficult time of his life. Is that something that you really support?

If your answer is no, vote YES on Question 6. Voting YES doesn't require you to change your religious beliefs or traditional values, only that you show a little compassion for your neighbors, regardless of whether they share your beliefs. That's a value as old as time itself.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

all saints' day

I last spoke to my grandmother a year ago today, to wish her a happy birthday. I didn't know she'd be gone within a few days, but I know I miss her every day.

Happy birthday, Grandma. I wish you were here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

James Baldwin on sin and salvation can glide through the Bible and settle for the prohibitions that suit you best.
The prohibitions that suit the fundamentalists best all involve the flesh.
And here I must, frankly, declare myself handicapped, even, or perhaps especially, as a former minister of the Gospel.
Salvation is not precipitated by the terror of being consumed in hell: this terror itself places one in hell. Salvation is preceded by the recognition of sin, by conviction, by repentance. Sin is not limited to carnal activity, nor are the sins of the flesh the most crucial or reverberating of our sins.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do

A few weeks ago, a co-worker asked me, "Tierra, what do you love to do?"

I thought for a long moment, and answered, "I love to write." "Are you writing, Tierra?" he pressed.

"I used to keep a blog. I actually wrote every day. But then I tried to change the format to something more adult, with less profanity, and then I got this teaching job, and I just haven't been very happy all around, so I quit. Well, I stopped."

It's odd, how when we become unhappy, we believe that we no longer have time for the things that make us happy. I'm not writing or reading or cooking, not making new clothes or quilts, not even watching my favorite television shows. I complain about not seeing my old friends, but when I see them, I drink too much and yell at them for forgetting about me, or for not knowing who I am any more.

Clearly, I've been miserable. Not because I'm home. Because moving back to a place that you've placed on a pedestal will never live up to all your hopes for it.

Don't get me wrong: a lot of my problems in New Orleans have been resolved by moving home. All of my friends here are real, whether they invite me up to watch football with them in Federal Hill or not. Not only are they not alcoholics, drug addicts or ne'er-do-wells, they're the kind of friends that put the baby to bed early and stay up late to die-cut a thousand paper heart notes for your students before the first day of school, or who can't make your grandmother's funeral, so donate money to the Humane Society in her name instead. My family - who is half-deaf, shout-y and judgmental, and has no idea what it means to be a teacher or a grad student - is here and loves me dearly for no reason at all other than that I am theirs; they even let me move back into their house because being alone at my grandmother's started crushing my soul. And here, I've found a job that, while unfulfilling, is allowing me to buy a house, a home of my very own, in the same ZIP code where I grew up.

These are good things.

But being home doesn't change the fact that I'm still uncomfortably, newly wed. In fact, being a thousand miles from my husband exacerbates it, and has me grappling all over again with the questions of what it means to be a partner, a wife, literally and figuratively married to another person who is so incredibly different than me. It doesn't change the fact that I'm not actually sure of what I want for a career, or that my current two tracks - middle school teacher and academic historian - surely ain't it. And worse than doing nothing, being home takes the ugly truth that my grandmother is dead and rubs my face in it a few times a day. Thursday is her birthday. Saturday is the first anniversary of her death. I can't live in her house because it doesn't look or smell like hers - ours - any more, and I miss her so badly that sometimes when my students ask me about her I just stand there in silence and let tears stream down my face (thank God I teach twelve year old girls, said only me, only this one time).

These are the things that have stayed the same, and will stay the same no matter where I live or run away to, to be solved only by time or some kind of magic silver bullet.

And so, like I asked my students in New Orleans and ask my students now: what do we do here?

We do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do.

I want to be happy. Which means that today, I have to read this book about SNCC and student sit-ins and write an H-Net review for it. This week, I have to go to the fabric store and buy enough material to make baby quilts for my co-worker, my college peer mentor, and my principal. Next week when he finally moves here, I have to cook dinner with my husband again. When my furniture gets here from New Orleans, I have to re-upholster the love seat my Nana gave me before she died. In December, I have to go to the archives and use what I find to finally write a chapter of my dissertation. Every day, I have to - need to - remember that I learned how to do all of these things that make me happy from my Grandma.

And every day, I have to write. Because we do what we have to do so we can do what we want to do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

a brief re-cap of the last month

I haven't posted in a while.

That's because in the last month, I have:

  • moved back into my grandma's house from my parents'
  • turned thirty
  • received a visit from the Hubs
  • finally won a callback for a job interview
  • been called and interviewed for then offered another job the day before that interview
  • accepted the job and started the next day as Kramer Middle School's new seventh grade social studies teacher
  • given up on my PhD(?)
  • struggled with my husband's decision not to evacuate for Hurricane Isaac
  • watched a relative take most of the furniture from my grandmother's living room, where I grew up
  • staged a counter-attack my body's fight against its new sleep and work schedule
  • been signed in to the DAR
  • fought with my husband incessantly about him returning to D.C.
  • received a salary offer that's $10,000 too low
  • ignored a thirteen year old's question "Why are you dressed like a fucking whore?"
  • pre-qualified for a mortgage loan
  • realized that my hair is falling out - literally in handfuls

So I've been busy. I promise to do a better job of writing, and going places/doing things to write about. Because I can't be captive to the classroom. Or my soulless, empty living room. Or my husband's phone calls.

I can't be.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

it's strange

I've moved back into my grandmother's house, the one where I spent a solid eight years of my life, without counting the countless weekends and weeknights we spent here with her while our parents worked the less-desired shifts.

I never felt in danger here. Or alone. Even though my grandmother kept to herself and let us follow our own agendas. Even though her size and age made her a visible target for crime.

But now, all big and grown-up, being here without her makes me feel small and defenseless. I check the closets and behind the doors, to make sure no one is waiting to ambush me. Never mind that no one has broken into this house since the 1960s, when my grandfather, stark naked, chased them out and down the alley, much to my grandma's amusement.

Sold! (1961)
I don't know if it's a product of adulthood or the empty feeling of the house. But I miss how it felt like home.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

the big HR department in the sky

I've been applying for jobs in the D.C. area since June 2nd, the day I got home.

My friend Adam was an HR recruiter, and after reviewing my resume and cover letter, sent me a new template just before he died. I sent in my resume and cover letter, for the first time updated to his specifications, at 4am Tuesday morning.

Fifteen minutes ago, I got my first callback for an interview. For the job I applied for Tuesday.

Thank you, Adam, for looking out for me from the big HR department in the sky. Tell my grandmothers hello for me.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

on loving better

I don't know why, but today it occurs to me that we say "I love you" too easily, but don't love easily enough. Just a thought.

Monday, July 30, 2012

the Whole30 yards

It's been a tough year in the fledgling Jolly-Paleos home. We've lost an unusually high number of friends and family this year, we've both left jobs we quite liked with no success in finding new ones, and school has felt like more of a struggle than an opportunity. I'm trying to stay upbeat, but the stress of this year is really starting to show in one place in particular:

My backside.

In early 2011, I completely re-tooled my eating habits and simply by changing my diet, went from a tired, dimply 196 to a slimmer, more energetic 170. In six months. I also learned that I am either allergic or very sensitive to wheat and corn, and eliminated them both wheat from my diet (tacos, y'all, tacos - but I do minimize corn consumption to times when the only other option is wheat). I'm noticing that the added stress of this very difficult first year of marriage has led to more binge-cheat days than usual, and this morning afternoon, I weighed in at 182.5.

It's time to get serious about a healthier body again.

It's not just about my weight. I know that my mood and my eating habits are very closely related. So why not pre-emptively strike during a particularly tough month? I'm going back to a paleo diet by completing another Whole30. Today is Day 2.

What does this mean? It means that for the next 30 days, I'm only eating meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts. That's it. 

Mmm, breakfast.

Will it be easy? Hell no! My 30th birthday is this month. I'm going to the beach with friends from New Orleans this week. And as I type, my sister is devouring a bag of Utz salt-and-vinegar chips, and I'm fighting every fiber of my being to not club her with my Nalgene, steal the bag and go hide in my room while I lick chip-dust off my fingers. I couldn't get those in New Orleans, and plus, they're gluten-free, right? Yes, but that's clearly not good enough any more. Not sick does not equal good for me.

So let's do the damn thing, Jolly. We're gonna feel good again.

One day, I'm gonna fit these pants again, too.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

my bucket list

1. Visit all 50 states Alaska, North Dakota and Oklahoma
2. Visit every continent, including Antarctica
3. Visit all 58 the other 49 national parks
4. Run a half-marathon
5. Run for public office
6. Go to the Olympics as a spectator
7. Become fluent in Spanish
8. Show dogs in competition
9. Live in another country
10. Sing or play in a band
11. Own two homes
12. Learn to do a handstand
13. Learn to do a kickflip in the pool
14. Try out for the U.S. Olympic shooting team

Monday, July 23, 2012

goodbye, Adam

This afternoon, one of my best and first friends from college pulled his car over to the side of the highway, posted "Wishes everyone the best" on Facebook, then got out, walked into oncoming traffic and was killed.

No. Killed himself.

The phone calls started coming in just after I'd returned home from a memorial service - for a friend's fiancee who hung herself.

Today is a difficult day.

But instead of dwelling on that, some memories of Adam. He was one of the first people I met at Western Maryland: one night at fourth meal in the pub (our after-hours on-campus food spot), I overheard him spouting off some of the most vile libertarian nonsense my naive, innocent little eighteen year old brain had ever encountered. I marched over and countered with Bible verses, and left in tears. He called me (maybe just sought me out in person? it was 12 years ago) and apologized  - he was sorry I was so sensitive. I told him he was the worst person I'd ever met. He kept seeking me out, because he'd never met anyone as odd as me and I amused him. I continued to oblige, thinking that one day I'd be able to change his politics and his heart.

He came out to me not too long after that. He was the first gay person I'd ever known. My first Republican friend. My first Jewish friend. My first atheist friend. My introduction to the ways of the world. I was so ignorant that he eventually found it necessary to give me female anatomy lessons - on his (ahem) "pocket pal." He was the one who explained the mechanics of sex to clueless me. I watched him doctor his birth certificate to say that he was 21 so he could have a real ID to buy liquor with - and it worked. We ran for student council together on a slate with just the two of us - him for freshman class president and me for rep - and ran an all-chalk campaign; he lost, but my distinctive purple hair helped me win. We played terrible, cruel pranks (his idea) on his roommate, and fought over then-candidate George W. Bush. We called his new boyfriend - who he is still with today - "Rebecca," so that he wouldn't be thrown out of ROTC. His dorm window was directly across from mine, and we would shout across the parking lot to say good night. He always let me borrow his fancy new sneakers, since we wore the same shoe size. He pledged the same fraternity at the same time as my other guy friends, and through my boys, I met my college boyfriend, who was their pledge brother. Adam lived down the hall from me sophomore year, and we regularly had sleepovers and played Worms (remember that game? he always won). I was with him the morning of September 11th, and he cursed at the screen while I cried. We skipped our political science class together that day and went to Baltimore to donate blood.

Over time, he made me tougher and more world-wise; I helped make him gentler, and yes - eventually even a liberal.

I saw him in person on July 5th, for the first time since some pre-New Orleans homecoming. We met for lunch right after I picked my husband up from the Appalachian Trail. Adam was happy, smiling, bored with work, but doing well. He paid for our lunch. Adam and I both went to the bathroom on our way out, and he stopped me at the door to hug me and say, "In case one of us finishes first and I don't see you when you walk to the car, I love you." It took me by surprise, because he'd never really been demonstrative. And now that's the last thing he said to me.

I'm glad I told him I love him, too. I'm so angry at you, but I'll miss you, Weiner. I will miss you so much.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On the pontoon at Bladensburg Waterfront Park

Today, the baby sister and I made it to Bladensburg Waterfront Park just in time to catch their noon pontoon ride.

We both stayed up until sun-up last night (I was researching, no clue what her defense is), so my Lib-Lib was awfully sleepy.

My first impression? The river is filthy. The pontoon skipper (tee-hee) explained that pretty much any piece of trash that's dumped on the ground inside the Beltway eventually ends up at the Bladensburg port, based on how the rivers feed into one another. On the way out, a few exhibit panels explained that the Port of Bladensburg eventually lost its prominence because all of the silt from the river washed up and parked there, so I guess that makes sense. It explains why the river is so muddy, too. They have regular river clean-ups (definitely planning to volunteer at the next one), but given the size of the river's watershed, it's a problem with no foreseeable end.

The debris cleared the further downstream we moved. The wildlife became larger, too. We started out with turtles sunning themselves on rocks and logs, followed by skinny white egret/crane/heron things swooping down to catch fish and lounge on the riverbanks, fish plopping out of the water, and finally two huge hawks sailed by to land in a nearby tree.

Also, graffiti from Catholic's crew team!

We heard about Dueling Creek, and how Francis Scott Key's son was killed in a duel. We motored under Route 50 and the Amtrak bridge. It's a strange feeling to be in a boat and have the Acela Express zip over your head and disappear before your neck works your head all the way around. And I suppose now is the time to confess that I spent most of the trip trying to get the song "Pontoon" out of my head. Yes, I am a (now not-so-)secret undercover country music fan (what? their lyrics and singers are usually better than the ones you find in other genres). Shhh, don't tell.

I'd previously thought about renting kayaks and paddling around on the Potomac for my birthday, but rentals are so much cheaper here ($16 a day compared to $15 an hour at Jack's Boathouse) that I think I'll come here instead.

Info on Bladensburg Waterfront Park can be found here. They seem to have a pretty impressive collection of programs. Definitely an afternoon well-spent.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

you love some, you lose some

I'm thinking a lot about love and loss today, and wanted to post a photo of two of the loves of my life. I miss my grandmother every day.

KT duct-taped the hem into my husband's pants on our wedding day.
The other one? This city. I'm so glad to be home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

a new musical discovery

A friend sent me this video, and I was skeptical, but I really like this song! A translation into English can be found here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

you've gotta see this. really.

The same day my family went on the St. Elizabeth tour, we also went to the Frederick Douglass house. I don't have much to say about the site - because you should go for yourself - but I did want to post this photograph of the view:


I've made a conscious choice to avoid using profanity on this blog, but a view like this requires me to paraphrase one of my students' favorite things to say:

"You better get some toilet paper, because Anacostia's shittin' on you."

The east side is the beast side, y'all. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Who's your patriot?"

Today, I marched in the Independence Day Parade downtown! I didn't even know it existed. I'm applying to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, and they invited me to march with them.
Marching down Constitution Avenue with the 1812 Star-Spangled Banner

Even after five years in New Orleans, it's still my first time in a real parade. I even got to meet and take a photo with DAR's President-General.

White is definitely fattening and definitely not my color.
Everyone asks, "Where are you from? Who's your patriot?" to see if you're related. Especially cool was meeting another member whose family has lived in Washington since before it was Washington. Pretty exciting stuff for a nerd like me.

happy fourth of July!

Two thoughts for today:

1. Independence has meant different things to different people throughout our nation's history. Frederick Douglass' thoughts on the topic, delivered in an 1852 speech, remain as poignant today as then:
"You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America. You discourse eloquently on the dignity of labor; yet, you sustain a system which, in its very essence, casts a stigma upon labor. You can bare your bosom to the storm of British artillery to throw off a threepenny tax on tea; and yet wring the last hard-earned farthing from the grasp of the black laborers of your country. You profess to believe 'that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,' and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own."
2. Does independence, does freedom, involve the right to voting and legislative representation? If the answer is yes, then "give us us free" in D.C. (Amistad and Glory are my two favorite movies to watch on the 4th of July!)

From the D.C. Flag Day flash mob in Dupont Circle

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tony Porter, "A Call to Men"

Porter hits the nail on the head about a few things, namely:
  • Sex is only consensual when both partners explicitly say yes and are of sound mind to do so; and
  • If boys are "destroyed" by being compared to girls, what are we teaching boys (and girls) about girls?

Monday, July 2, 2012

dropping off the hub-hubs

I dropped el esposo back off at the trailhead where he left off his hike, in the tiny town of Pen Mar, right on the (surprise!) PA-MD border.

Literally. Right on the border.

I don't understand why he's so happy out here wandering off into the woods. And I have to admit to resenting him more than just a little for leaving me out here in the real world with all of the responsibilities while he traipses along in the woods.

But look at that smile. That big, stupid smile means I can suck it up for a week.

And he waves goodbye.
Bye, Nick. See you on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cherry Blossom Cakes

I can't remember the last time I ate cake. If I knew then it would be the last time I had cake, I'm sure I would have remembered and savored it; I used to buy whole birthday sheet cakes when I had the craving for cake.

But this bakery makes me so happy. Their cakes are a little pricey to just up and buy for a craving, but I'm CERTAINLY looking forward to a gluten-free devils food cake for my birthday in August.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

St. Elizabeths tour

Today, my mother, sister and I took advantage of the D.C. Preservation League's tour of the St. Elizabeth's grounds. My mom and I grew up in Congress Heights, and my dad grew up in Barry Farm, but none of us have ever really been inside the gates.

The gatehouse, which is under construction.
The original center building

Second story, fourth window from the left, is where poet Ezra Pound lived for years.

You can see clean through the front door to the other side.

They just don't make buildings like this one any more.

Instead, they make buildings like this - the new Coast Guard headquarters. Look at that view.

All of the mentally ill soldiers who died here with no family to claim them were buried on the grounds.

You can see more of the USCG construction from the cemetery.

And then look at this view. This is pointed toward Southwest.

And there, in the background in Northeast, and the Shrine.

We have one of the best views in the city over here.

A home built on the ground for a private, paying patient.

Old greenhouses. They'll be torn down, but replaced with buildings that evoke greenhouses.
I'm pretty interested in seeing how this project turns out, and how it impacts the neighborhood. The tour guy, a gentleman from the GSA, said that just the USCG building will mean 14,000 employees driving to the campus every day; this doesn't even factor in the second and third phases of site redevelopment, which had their funding pulled by the Republican Congress.

But for now, I'm glad they're opening the site up to the public. It's neat to finally see the thing that's taking up all the prime real estate in your neighborhood.


Even barber shops are grammatically correct here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

my dissertation 101

I'm a doctoral student in the history department at Tulane University in New Orleans. I'm back home in D.C., though, because I've finished all of my coursework, my comprehensive exams, my language proficiency exam (in Spanish, if you're curious), and my dissertation prospectus. This means that I'm in the never-never-land known as ABD: all but dissertation.

It's kind of cruel for people to say, "You're so close! Just one step left!" Because the final step is researching and writing a book. But I digress.

The reason I'm able to come back home and live in D.C. is because my dissertation is about D.C. (and because I get paid to do research). So just like my classmate who writes about the Spanish Inquisition gets to go to Spain for a year, I get to come home for a year, to dig around in the archives to find the documents I'll need, that are mostly here (Howard, GW, MLK, LOC and NARA, I'm looking at you). Except instead of moving home at the end of the year, I'll already be here. Hooray! I never have to leave the city again!

So what exactly is my dissertation about? Well, right now, it's about the relationship between national civil rights organizations and our local movement for home rule (self-government and national representation). What does the civil rights movement look like if we tell the story from Washington instead of Birmingham? Does the time frame we tend to place on it change? Do the tactics? Do the major players? Did Washington's major demographic changes between 1945 and 1973 contribute to the success of the home rule movement? And by looking at the civil rights/home rule movement here, what can we learn about African-Americans' unique relationship to the federal government at a national level?

You can follow my research more closely at Free D.C., a Tumblr devoted to cataloging my dissertation process online. But if you're not, just be glad you got the newest version of my dissertation elevator speech: I've finally got it narrowed down to a cool 45 seconds, so no more boring people to sleep.

help buy books for Ballou's AP Lit class!

In New Orleans, I worked for a program called AdvanceNOLA, which worked to increase the number of AP courses offered in local public high schools, and then supported students and teachers with teacher-mentoring, weekly tutors, and classroom materials. Why? Because studies show that students from underperforming schools who take AP exams are three to four times more likely than their peers to graduate from college.

There's no AdvanceNOLA here. So when I saw this listing over at Congress Heights on the Rise, I knew I had to donate. My parents met at Ballou. Seven of my aunts and uncles went there. The former principal of Ballou hired me to teach at his school in New Orleans. And when I finish my dissertation, Ballou is where I want to head back to the classroom.

If you're reading this, please consider donating $10.36 to fund Ms. Mortimer's AP Lit class. It's the cost of just one book; she needs 34. It's three lattes, or a burrito and a half (or the cost of a mixed drink at some shi-shi lounge on U Street). You can do it. Just dig not so deep into your PayPal account and help  a few hard-working, smart kids out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

MHP + HRC = hooray!

Melissa Harris-Perry is one of the three professors on my dissertation committee. I had the privilege of working as her teaching assistant at Tulane this spring, and also worked as the volunteer coordinator on her husband's mayoral campaign. She is kind, generous, and brilliantly smart and funny. Melissa has never hidden her support for marriage equality, but it's fantastic to see her express her support this publicly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

my house is gone

So it's not the one I would have expected, but I'm falling in love with this house. I make sure to drive by it on the way home, just to marvel at how wonderful the yard is.

No major problems, just minor repairs.

Oh no! I just went to attach the link and the actual listing is missing from Trulia! My house with the big, beautiful yard was sold. I guess this is why hubs says not to look at anything until we're pre-approved and can make an offer.


the hike begins!

This morning, I woke up at 6:00 to drive my husband and his best friend from middle school out to the end of I-66. They've wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail since they were little, and life circumstances have generously allowed both of them ten days free to hike their first segment.

I dropped them off at Chester Gap, and they hope to make it to the Maryland-Pennsylvania border by the 21st. I'm not looking forward to being sans husband for ten days - despite his being a major distraction from establishing any kind of research schedule in the last week - so I plan to meet them for dinner at their halfway stop in Harpers Ferry.

Here's how I left them today - clean and smiling. Let's see what the next week brings.

I'm going to burn those camo shorts when he gets home.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

capitol at sunrise

To anyone I knew in New Orleans who never understood why I was so miserable there:

Why yes, that is our nation's capitol at sunrise.

It didn't have this.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

a truly DMV day

OK, so I can't even put all of today's awesomeness into words. (I just went back to read this after I finished, and clearly I can put today into words. Lots of words.)

I got a late start, thanks to the bottle of wine from our wedding. But I picked my baby sister up from her last day of the year at my high school (okay, our high school) at 12:15. I hung around for a while to chat with my favorite teacher and a former classmate who is now a teacher there. I told my sister she could have lunch anywhere she wanted as a "hooray, you finished your sophomore year" treat. And of course the little girl says Chick and Ruth's in Annapolis.

Have you ever had a Chick and Ruth's crab cake? They are amazing.The guy in the visitor's center scoffed when we said Chick and Ruth's had the best crabcake of all time, but when I explained to him that I just moved back from New Orleans, where they put dill and green peppers in their crabcakes, he was aghast. "Go to Chick and Ruth's already!" he said. Done.

Crabcakes, chili fries, pickles and unsweet tea? Um, heaven. Sign me up for round two. Then Libs and I started an African-American history walking tour of downtown Annapolis, but gave up when we realized we'd just missed the Banneker-Douglass Museum. We compensated by getting ice cream and candy from Kilwin's, then headed back to my folks' house in Suitland.

I surprised my sister by stopping in a mega-church's parking lot on the way home. She just got her learner's permit, and my parents refuse to let her drive their manual transmission car. So I taught her the basics in my 1990 Honda Civic. I was so impressed with how quickly she picked it up, until she forgot to push the clutch in as she came to her first stop, and plowed my car into a "parking for church elders only" sign.

Thank God my car is old enough to drink.

She regained her composure, though, and redeemed herself (and my clutch) with a few pretty successful drills of buying me imaginary curly fries in the drive-through lane of an abandoned Arby's. We got home just as our folks returned from work. My dad decided that celebration dinner was in order; my sister declared that it was pho night. There aren't a whole lot of Vietnamese restaurants in P.G. County, so we headed over to Fairfax, near where my husband grew up, and grabbed dinner. My mom hates pho, so watching her navigate the menu is always hilarious.

We picked up my husband from dinner with his mom nearby, and after picking up my car at my folks', we headed to the Revivalists' show at Velvet Lounge. Did I mention in my post about the show how incredible they are? SO. GOOD. While Nick sat and made friends/scouted for jobs at the bar, I walked down the street to 7-Eleven.

Let's talk about 7-Eleven. They don't have them in Louisiana. I was raised on a diet of Coke Slurpees, chili cheese half-smokes and Jamaican beef patties: what? my parents were busy people. I recently discovered that I was allergic to wheat, but there are two foods in the world I will never give up, despite what wheat they may bring: fried chicken and Jamaican beef patties. Do you know how long it's been since I had a beef patty? So I marched down to the 7-Eleven on U Street, and got two. The best part? The almost-skeevy dudes who hit on me on the way down were so clearly college educated, and respectful. Could I have done without the attention? Hell yes. But were they really nice, really interesting guys? Hell yes. It's D.C. What else would they be?

I got back as the show was over, and drove El Hubs back to his mom's house in Fairfax, since he's got a meeting with a friend out here early in the morning. But as I sit here eating this Kilwin's crab claw (cashews, caramel and milk chocolate), I realized that today is the kind of day that I could only have in D.C. Three states, one day, nothing but awesome.

I have been unhappy for a long time. And by a long time, I mean five years. Which is exactly how many years I lived in New Orleans. I loved my life today in a way I haven't loved my life since I left. Nick keeps asking, "Are you drunk? Are you OK to drive?" 

Boo-boo, I had two ciders. I just love being home. I'm OK to drive here for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

our first anniversary

My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary today. In characteristic fashion, we did not-so-special things that feel awfully special to us, since we can't couldn't do them in New Orleans.

What does that mean? Lunch at Chipotle. A trip to the zoo. Dinner at Tony Cheng's Mongolian barbecue. Dessert and drinks at Old Ebbitt Grill (he was too full for oysters, sadface).

I love the prairie dogs!

Tearing it up at Mongolian barbecue
But most importantly, we had our first meeting with a realtor. She was beyond lovely - she's a keeper. The one. Our realtor. A far cry from the other realtors I've contacted, who don't return my phone calls or emails. I couldn't think of a better way to spend our first anniversary. The whole way home, Nick has been saying over and over, "We're going to be homeowners" and beaming. It's all pretty exciting stuff. Now, we're kicked back on the couch with a bottle of wine we saved from our wedding. You know, since eating year-old freezer cake is gross.

To my husband: May the brightest days of our past be the darkest days of our future. I love you.

He tripped over the broom the first time. This is take two.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

the revivalists come to dc

The Revivalists, a phenomenal band from New Orleans, will be playing here on Tuesday! What a happy coincidence to help me transition back to home.

They'll be at Velvet Lounge, at 915 U Street, and will go on at 9pm. $8 for 21+, $10 for the college set. Find out more about their music and their tour here.

coming home

Today was my first full day back inside the Beltway. I spent it with my parents, at their home in Suitland. We ate crabs, walked their new dog, and ran to catch the ice cream truck. My cousin came over to watch a movie with us. It was a wonderful day.

Molly is a six-month old Weimariner-mastiff mix. She also wears a size 9 shoe.

As I said goodbye to my mother, my brain scrambled to figure out when I could see them next before I left. That's when I realized I'm never leaving again. I can see my family any time I want.

I have never been so happy to be home.