Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: The Year of Joy and Follow-Through

I'm not going to make any resolutions this year. Resolutions typically involve major life changes, and who in the hell can just snap fingers and resolve to dramatically change her life? "Done! New and improved life!" This is not "I Dream of Jeannie," people. Change takes WORK. 

So this year, I'm focusing on skills. I'll be honest: a few of these began as typical resolutions. I'm still struggling with the wording, though, because just like developing learning objectives for my lesson plans, I've got to have goals or skills that I can actually measure.

Here's what I've got so far:
1. Write at least one chapter of my dissertation and convert it into an article of publishable quality
2. Run ten-minute miles during my half-marathon this spring
3. Learn to play the guitar well enough to have another person recognize the song
4. Cook at least five different Paleo meals for myself per week
5. Plant three new vegetables in my garden, care for them through harvest, and incorporate them into meals
6. Finish every quilt I've already started, and try three new patterns
7. Add at least 365 common words and phrases to my American Sign Language vocabulary

This actually feels like a pretty manageable set of goals; yes, there are seven(!), but they all focus on following through on things I've already attempted (or demonstrated interest in) to completion/improvement.

But then there's the one that's less manageable or measurable, and more difficult to wrap my fingers around. I've spent my whole life doing the things I've been told I should be doing: staying in school and in a variety of relationships that make me uncomfortable (hello, friends who make me feel like crap), keeping my mouth shut or letting things slide, making a certain amount of money, keeping my natural hair color, you name it. This year, I want to start doing the things I want to be doing, things that make me happy, other people and propriety be damned. If that means red hair, or neck tattoos, or five friends instead of twenty, or selling my house and moving to Lichtenstein (I don't want to do that, I'm just saying), I want to start working up the courage to do whatever it is and experience the joy it brings me, which I'm finally beginning to believe I deserve.

And isn't that what life is really all about? 2014 is going to be the year I re-discovered my joy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Go after her. Fuck, don’t sit there and wait for her to call, go after her because that’s what you should do if you love someone, don’t wait for them to give you a sign cause it might never come, don’t let people happen to you, don’t let me happen to you, or her, she’s not a fucking television show or tornado. There are people I might have loved had they gotten on the airplane or run down the street after me or called me up drunk at four in the morning because they need to tell me right now and because they cannot regret this and I always thought I’d be the only one doing crazy things for people who would never give enough of a fuck to do it back or to act like idiots or be entirely vulnerable and honest and making someone fall in love with you is easy and flying 3000 miles on four days notice because you can’t just sit there and do nothing and breathe into telephones is not everyone’s idea of love but it is the way I can recognize it because that is what I do. Go scream it and be with her in meaningful ways because that is beautiful and that is generous and that is what loving someone is, that is raw and that is unguarded, and that is all that is worth anything, really.
Harvey Milk

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

on Christmas cookies

I just read this article about two sisters having cookie decorating parties for their kids every year, and it made me so sad.

My grandmother wasn't an amazing cook, but the woman could sure bake. Her pineapple cookies, dusted with nutmeg and sugar, were a thing of legend; even with her recipe, written out in her shaky, spindly cursive, my sister and I can't seem to get them just right. She was always baking cookies: to mail to family in Minnesota, for church bake sales, or just because I begged her to fill up Mowgedy.

Mowgedy is my cookie jar now.
But every Christmas, Grandma pulled out special recipes, the ones we'd almost forgotten about from the previous year. There were Chinese almond cookies, flavored with almond extract and sesame, with a whole blanched almond shoved right in the center. The spritz cookies had a strange peppery taste, and they crumbled a little as you picked them up, but they were fun to pipe out onto a cookie sheet in wobbly shapes and letters. Date cookies were bizarre, rolled-up chewy concoctions that looked like a mix between a jelly roll and fruit cake. And then there were my favorite: sandies. Hers were dense two-bite globes, chock full of pecans, rolled around in sugar while still warm, and actually felt sandy when they dissolved in your mouth.

We'd start the cookies just after Thanksgiving, a new batch each day, a new recipe each weekend. I loved the way the house smelled, like floor wax and half-cooked dough and stiff dish towels that had been dried on the clothes line. She always let me help. I chose the cookie cutters, and decorated snowmen tummies with silver beads. I sifted the flour and ground the pecans in her hand grinder until she couldn't wait any longer and had to finish the job herself. I carefully counted the cookies into dozens and placed them in freezer bags, where they would wait until mailing, or church, or the Christmas Eve service she held in our living room each year for family friends. 

A painting my grandmother made of my mom as a kid. It moved from her dining room to my living room. Note the Christmas tree in the background.
She told me stories about her family and her childhood. So many stories, and so many characters: one uncle with a hook who lost his hand in a farming accident, her favorite childhood doll Mary Fairy, Aunt Julia who took her to pick berries and mint every summer, her grandmother who survived a winter pregnancy alone with typhoid only to find her husband dead in a ditch at the spring thaw. They were better than any books, and the people were ours. I'd beg her to tell me again and again about her first blind date with my grandfather, who died before I was born, or about the time her nervous newlywed mother forgot to remove "the asshole" from the chicken she'd cooked to impress her mother-in-law.

My great-great grandparents, who emigrated from Sweden.
Now I sit in the living room of my own house, just a mile away from hers, surrounded by her lamps, and Mowgedy, and photographs of those relatives she made so real for me. I have so many memories and pieces of our life together that I shouldn't be crying over some silly internet article. But I don't have any cookies. I don't have any children to decorate them with. And I don't have her.

Christmas 1983

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

this year's Christmas list

(in no particular order)

Frye boots, size 11
real pearl or gold hoop earrings
J. Crew gift cards
women's Green Bay Packers swag
a fire pit for the backyard
an under-the-counter dishwasher
custom Ward 8 wallpaper for the main floor

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I have to finish it for her

I just realized that I'm sitting here, researching my dissertation in the same library where my grandmother worked as a janitor for twenty years.

So humbled. 
"Still I rise."

on being so angry I'm speechless

A guy in a Lexus in front of us threw a McDonald's cup out his window as he drove up my street. When we pulled up next to him, Nick said, "Stop throwing trash in my neighborhood."

Tell me why this man said, "Fuck this neighborhood."

"What?" I asked. 

"Fuck this neighborhood," he repeated. 

"Well, we don't feel that way," I responded.

"Well I do." He paused. "Thanks for telling me how you feel, though."

Nick and I just sat there in angry silence. As the light turned green and we pulled off, the man shouted something unintelligible at us. So brave of him.

I've never been so angry. Or so speechless.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

a better son/daughter

This song does a really good job of outlining how I've been feeling lately. I'm working on it. Be back soon.

on being dynamic

Me: You're a weirdo. 
Nick: Me? Why?
Me: You just went from "Wagon Wheel" to Ghostface Killah.
Nick: I'm not weird. I'm dynamic.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

some things that have happened lately

I said goodbye to this guy, who'll be out of town for the next year.

I got my hair braided, and now look remarkably like Melissa Harris-Perry.

I invited the rest of my fantasy league over to watch the Packers stomp the Redskins.

My kid sister obviously cheered with me. 
Although some of my friends didn't take the loss too hard.
And I went to the Maryland State Wine Festival with a bunch of my sorority sisters.

There's never been enough of us all together at once to take a black Phi Alph photo - so exciting!

The Fall 2003 pledge class Guthrie and I oversaw.

So good things are happening. Very good things. Just not my dissertation.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

naming a fantasy league is hard

I decided that this year, I want to run my own fantasy football league. This is partially because I didn't have another one to join, and partially because I think playing with all my friends will be WAY more fun than playing with a bunch of someone else's. And before I can even encounter any problems as the commissioner, I'm faced with the most epic challenge of all: naming the damn thing.

Here are the current contenders:
Not Great Bob
Password Is Taco
Lazy Sundays
Team Zissou

I'm thinking that my team name will probably be Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood, or maybe I'll go with last year's epically rude Yankee Doodle Handy.*

Anyway, help me come up with a league name, so I can invite people already. I'm spending way too much time on this part. I've got a team to put together!

*Dear strangers reading this blog, in my personal life, an unusually large proportion of the words that come out of my mouth are filthy. I'm like Joe Biden with better boobs. And so, for both that image of vice-presidential man-boobs and my keeping it clean here, you're welcome.

Friday, August 23, 2013

what I've been up to

I'm posting more photos than usual lately, mostly because they do a better job than I could at describing what I've been doing. This post is no different.

I finished my summer policy internship last Friday, and have been completely throwing myself into getting the house together. The yard has been entirely in my domain, since Nick hates plants and lawns. Fine. But here's how far I've come in my week off:

Before. Super intense, right? When the neighbors saw I was doing yardwork, they all started rushing out offering to loan me their lawnmowers. It was actually kinda sweet, even though they've clearly been judging the crap out of my yard.
After. Glorious, glorious after. And the vines on the railing belong there: that's spaghetti squash.

And here's a close-up of my mulched out garden bed and new tree, before the lawn was mowed.

Not bad, is it? And I did it all by myself with just hand tools. Well, except for the guys who mowed the lawn.*

Nick and I did rip out the basement carpe together; he pulled it up and cut it into pieces, and I rolled it up and toted it up the stairs and outside. I didn't write about it here, but soon after we moved in, Beans got a bladder infection and started peeing ALL OVER the basement (poor sweet thing hadn't gone outside the litter box before and hasn't since). We steam cleaned down there and briefly had a tenant; it was OK during her tenure. But then, right during the June heatwave, we had unexplained flooding down there (thanks broken AC and washing machine!), so our carpet had become a travesty.

But then, there's what we found underneath:

That's right. It's effing asbestos tile. Because apparently this IS your grandma's house.

But are you sure it's really asbest- Oh. Yeah, that's asbestos.

So our next unexpected project is to seal off the vinyl asbestos tile (wasn't the previous owner supposed to disclose this? raggedy heifer), put down quarter-inch Hardiebacker and then slap down some smooth-ass wood look ceramic tile. Seriously, have you seen this stuff? It's dope. 

And that's a week in the life of the Jolly-Paleos house. I'm giving myself a two-week vacation before I jump back into research on September 2nd, so expect more house photos.

*Chris Morrison of Out of Control Lawns (rude!) is seriously one of the nicest guys ever. He did our front and back yard, plus detailing some of our edges, and only charged us $35. You should call him and get your lawn did - (301) 908-3569.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What'd the five fingers say to the face?


I love her and all, but if I have to listen to her sing "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" into this lighter-microphone and call back, "Whitney, somebody lied to you!" 


I'm gonna go slap him myself. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

oh, this desert life, the high life

Sorry no recent posts. I've been living the good life with some of my sorority sisters at one's family lake house in New Jersey. This is what dreams are made of. 

Here's some photos in lieu of words:

Lake Arcadia

Guthrie is totally over this sparkletini

Tasha and Milo

My not so secret guilty pleasure. I ate three bags this weekend. 

We're gonna take the same exact photo every year. Can't wait for next year. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

shoulda put a ring on it

This is easily my favorite YouTube video of all time.

overheard at work today

"'What's a hoe without a pimp? What's a pimp without a hoe?' There are no rappers out there are willing to ask the existential questions anymore."

"Don't worry, girl. You're not interrupting anything but a conference call with Ice Cube."

I love my co-workers.

Monday, July 29, 2013

move to Shipley - it's safer here

This morning on the Metro, I pulled last week's Local Living section out of my purse – I don’t know why, but I've been carrying it around in my purse like it's my towel* or something - and looked at the crime report. The report is broken down first by ward, and then by crime: assaults, burglaries, homicides, motor vehicle thefts, robberies, thefts. Now, scary, scary Ward 8's incidents are roughly equal in number to the crimes reported in totally safe Wards 2, 5 and 6 (is your sarcasm detector working yet?). This doesn’t surprise me one bit.

But when I narrow it down to just where I live in Shipley, there were only three crimes reported during the week in question (July 11-17). Also not a surprise to me, since the only thing really going on over here  is fireworks popping at ungodly hours (when does school start again?), but since you’re curious now, here are our three horrendous, terrifying, drive-through-at-your-own-peril crimes:

Stanton Rd. SE, 3300 block, 9:45 a.m. July 11 (with knife)
Southern Ave. SE, 2500 block, 2:07 a.m. July 14
19th St. SE, 3500 block, 5:20 p.m. July 12 (with gun)

You might be thinking, “Wow. Two violent crimes and an auto theft in one week? That does sound dangerous!”Or maybe you're asking “So what?” right around this point. Don’t worry – I’m getting to my point… now. Why is it that the same folks who are so scared and reluctant to come to my house in an automobile are happier than pigs in shit to drunk-stumble around Columbia Heights? I really don’t get it.** Because they’ve got crime like whoa, y’all:

14th St. NW, 2700 block, 7:37 a.m. July 11
Belmont St. NW, 1400 block, 4:10 p.m. July 16
Sherman Ave. NW, 2900 block, 12 a.m. July 13 (with gun)
Spring Rd. NW, 1400 block, 3:20 p.m. July 15
16th St. NW, 3500 block, 1:10 a.m. July 14
Spring Rd. NW, 1400 block, 3 a.m. July 14 (with gun)
15th St. NW, 2300 block, 5:10 a.m. July 14 (with gun)
14th St. NW, 3100 block, 1:32 a.m. July 15
Irving St. NW, 1000 block, 7:14 a.m. July 16
16th St. NW, 2600 block, 7:26 a.m. July 11 (from vehicle)
Euclid St. NW, 1300 block, 4:42 p.m. July 11
11th St. NW, 2700 block, 6:48 p.m. July 11
14th St. NW, 2100 block, 3:25 p.m. July 12
Clifton St. NW, 1300 block, 4 p.m. July 12
16th St. NW, 2400 block, 8:53 a.m. July 13 (from vehicle)
14th St. NW, 3000 block, 2:44 p.m. July 13
16th St. NW, 2400 block, 11:31 a.m. July 14
16th St. NW, 2400 block, 12:22 p.m. July 14 (twice in the same block in the same hour!)
14th St. NW, 3500 block, 2:35 p.m. July 14
14th St. NW, 3100 block, 7:01 p.m. July 14
Kenyon St. NW, 1300 block, 7:26 p.m. July 14
14th St. NW, 3000 block, 3:28 p.m. July 15 (from vehicle)
13th St. NW, 3500 block, 3:17 p.m. July 15
Columbia Rd. NW, 1100 block, 8:48 a.m. July 16
Belmont St. NW, 1400 block, 12:50 p.m. July 16 (from vehicle)
14 St. NW, 3100 block, 7:20 p.m. July 17
Otis Pl. NW, 1000 block, 9:06 p.m. July 17 (from vehicle)

Have I made my point yet? Let me just drive it all the way home: this data clearly shows that despite the public perception of its incredible safety, Columbia Heights is far more dangerous than Shipley, the neighborhood where I live East of the River. This naturally leads one to wonder how it is possible that my neighborhood could be considered more dangerous and terrifying than one that had two burglaries, five robberies, eighteen thefts, and a murder. In the same week when mine clocked in at three. No murder.

You know where this is going. Let’s not even try to pretend that the answer is much other than a simple “black people live there.” Sure, we could throw in a little bit of media sensationalism, a(n un)healthy dose of relative poverty, a dash of ignorance (because really, how do you know it’s dangerous if you’ve never even been here?), and a hearty helping of the PR nightmare that exists in Councilman Barry. But what do all of those other reasons boil back down to? Ah! Black people are going to rob and kill me!

What do we do to combat this? Because the piss-poor level of services that exist in my neighborhood, and in the ward at large, is real-life proof that this fear and public misperception is preventing us from attracting the development we desperately need to economically thrive.

I’ll be over here brainstorming solutions, because I love this place more than my never-gonna-happen first-born child. You’re even free to help me if you like. But whether you do or not, stop calling my neighborhood scary and dangerous- or I’ll put you in a cab to Columbia Heights.

*That's right, that was a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy joke. Get some.
**This is disingenuous. I totally get it. Black people. We’re terrifying. Boo.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

two conversations, twenty four hours

On poor timing:
Me: Hey, where's your going away party tomorrow?
Friend: It's tonight. Right now.

On elderly neighbors and their adult grandchildren:
Me: Is Mr. B OK? There was just an ambulance in front of his house. 
Neighbor's Son: Oh, that wasn't for Mr. B. That was for his grandson. He passed out or something.
Me: Oh, man. Well I'm glad it wasn't Mr. B again. I know an ambulance came by and took him to the hospital a few weeks ago.
NS: No, that was for his grandson, too.
Me: What happened? Does he have some kind of health problem?
NS: Mr. B stabbed him.
Me: I'm sorry, what?
NS: He got drunk and started swinging on Mr. B, and the old man stabbed him.
Me: How do you know that?
NS: Because he walked up to our house that night covered in blood, knocked on the door, and asked, "Do you have a cigarette?" I mean, I know that panicking makes you bleed to death faster, but dude took not panicking to the extreme. "Can I have a cigarette?" Yeah, man. You can have an ambulance, too.

In conclusion, A) I'm an idiot, B) our next door neighbor has hilarious kids, and C) never swing on sweet old Mr. B.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

told you so

Oh, and P.S. I totally called that the new baby prince was going to be named Alexander or Louis. And what'd they name him? George Alexander Louis.


today, in nerd news

Tonight's blog will be a little bit wonkier than usual. But hey- I'm interning at a policy think tank. What do you want from me?

I spent the morning at a forum hosted by ETS. They hosted a discussion and panel on their recent report about poverty and education. It didn't feel like anything I didn't already know, but it was certainly a good synthesis of a lot of these pertinent issues, and offered recommendations for how to address them. Plus they had green salad for lunch, so I got to toss the bread from a tuna sandwich and concoct myself a gluten-free meal. Hooray! But for folks who didn't get to attend, here's a link to the report. You'll have to make your own tuna sandwich.

At the forum, the moderator referenced a recent study of social mobility that was featured on NPR last night. I have yet to look at the map that both the moderator and Raj Chetty (the economist who conducted the study) mentioned, but here's a link to that as well. It sounded fascinating, and frankly, I'm rushing through this post so I can hurry up and check it out already.

I ate dinner with Nick at a place I discovered yesterday called Rice Bar. It's a build your own bibimbap place (think Korean Chipotle), and it is, simply put, fantastic. I like mine with bulgogi and an egg on top. They also have a sushi happy hour. Next time I go, I'll get a rock shrimp and cilantro roll. Word to the wide: getting bibimbap and a sushi roll is too much. Even if you split the roll. Don't do it, fatty.

I finished my first draft of my very first brief today. It outlines a forum my NPO co-sponsored with Complete College America on postsecondary remediation reform (AKA holy crap, everyone who takes remedial classes drops out, what do we do?). Here's the gist on what CCA does. There's actually a whole reform movement and community surrounding this issue. Who knew? Now, you.

Oh, and tonight, after leaving an organizing workshop (more about that later), I dropped an acquaintance off at her apartment in Northeast. She lives in a new development called Rhode Island Row, and wowzers, is it nice! I just kept thinking about how amazing it would be if the Skyland re-development actually pulls through over here, because it's supposed to look a lot like this. I'll attach a photo as soon as I pull it off my phone.

I want string lights and stores in my neighborhood :(


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

the WalMart (and interview) that wasn't

Let's ease back into this blogging thing then, eh?

This morning, I got a text message from a friend of mien I met through Daughters of the American Revolution. She works for CBS and asked, "Would you be willing to do an interview for us tonight about the WalMart in your neighborhood? We're having a tough time finding someone who supports it willing to be interviewed for TV." Um, of course I would! If there's anything I love talking about more than East of the River, you should tell me, because I surely can't think of it. I started fact-checking that statistics I usually include when I talk about the need for economic development over here, and started getting super pumped up. And then...

The interview was canceled. They got held up filming in Southeast and didn't have time to interview me in Dupont Circle (where I'm interning this summer) before they submitted the video package at 3:30. Needless to say, this was a massive bummer. I was really looking forward to representing Ward 8* in my argyle cardigan and pearls. It takes all kinds, you know. It takes all kinds.

We're just one mayoral veto away from having this...

...instead of this.
Anyway, I wanted to share two articles and an editorial by Anthony Williams about the proposed development. And please know that I'm not generally a fan of WalMart. But I am a fan of adding more retail options to the approximately uh, none** that currently exist over here, where unemployment is around 25% and about half of residents don't have automobiles. But I digress. On to the articles.

Skyland Town Center Will Have WalMart, Apartments by 2016
D.C.'s Retailer Bill Will Do More Harm Than Good
Tommy Wells Will Propose Alternate Living Wage Bill
Six More Major Retailers Tell Gray They'll Reconsider D.C. Growth if Living Wage Becomes Law

*I know that the proposed Skyland WalMart is in Ward 7. But it sits right at the Good Hope-Alabama-Naylor crossroads, and Naylor Road is the eastern boundary between Wards 7 and 8. The Skyland development is less than one mile from my house.
**This is hyperbolic. But really, Ward 8 has one grocery store, three sit-down restaurants (and one is an IHOP), and negligible retail. Compared to communities west of the river, that is nothing. We already have the lowest average per capita and household incomes in the city. Creating minimum wage jobs in an area where there are currently none is an improvement.

Monday, July 22, 2013

sayonara Facebook, hello blog?

I recently disabled my Facebook account. All of the Trayvon Martin hate started bleeding together with photos of my friends and family having awesome times together without inviting me, and it made my heart ache. I'd like to be more attentive to this blog, but lately, I'm struggling with:

  • A. the longer format, since I've become a pro at the short soundbites and re-posts of Facebook; 
  • B. what I suspect is likely an extended bout with depression; and 
  • C. how to blog authentically about my life without talking at great length about being bone-crushingly glum, since the Internet lasts forever and I'd prefer not to be defined as some kind of unstable sadpants.

Fortunately, stopping the steady stream of trivial updates that is the Book of Faces has forced me to actually reach out to people. Remember how telephones used to be for calling people, and not just texting, Tweeting and liking at them? I've been doing that, and it turns out that ish is dope. And the people who respond - who call back, and email, and send photos - have to actively seek me out, not just stumble across something I've said on their news feed. My original goal was to go for one month without logging on, but now I can see it being a long-term lifestyle change. Plus, our air conditioning is broken, and who wants to sit around in the heat on a laptop when you can be over at someone else's house with AC?

But anyway. I'm going to try to ratchet it up. But tomorrow, though. I've gotta hit the hay. Big day of being a thirty year old intern in front of me tomorrow.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

because deep down I am totally a child

This year, my birthday falls on a Tuesday. Awkward.

I know it's a few months away, but I already know exactly what I'm going to do.

That's right. A moon bounce. We're renting one all day, buying a keg of something I can drink and cooking out in the backyard the whole Sunday before. Because that's how real grown-ups roll.

And then on my actual birthday, dinner somewhere nice like respectable adults. Maybe Komi. Because why not?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

lonely freak blues

Why all the posts lately about babies? Because pretty much every time I try to make advance plans with a friend, she ends up pregnant and cancels. It's starting to make me terrified that eventually I'm going to run out of friends to hang out with, and that something is wrong with me because I've always known I don't want kids. It's kind of hard to be happy for my friends when I'm lonely and feel like a freak.

Or maybe I can just take Nick's advice and get a bartending job; according to my husband, "degenerates" like him always hang out and make you feel like it's Cheers.

Monday, May 6, 2013

I want a gluten free *sandwich* directory!

Today, I had a massive craving for a burger. The problem? I'm gluten intolerant. I won't die if I eat a piece of bread, but my day is pretty much over; I get cranky, congested and itchy, and develop heartburn that doubles me over in pain. If I'm lucky, I just fall asleep and wake up feeling hungover the next morning.

When I Google "gluten free burger restaurant DC" or any equivalent search phrase, nothing worthwhile comes up. So I'm going to start a new blog label here, called simply "gluten free sandwich." Every time I encounter a restaurant that offers gluten free bread or buns as an option for their sandwiches, it will get that tag. It's unlikely Hopefully one day, there will be enough options that I can start my own app or directory or what have you, but until then, here are my only three current contributions:
Red Robin: this is a national chain, but they are delicious and offer gluten free buns for their burgers. That plus bottomless steak fries equals fat gluten free kid heaven.

Jimmy John's: again, a chain. But the JJ Unwiches are pretty much the stuff dreams are made of. Leave the cheese off, and they're even paleo. The Italian Night Club unwich made me feel bad for people who eat bread - they have to chew through all of that dough nonsense before they get to the good stuff inside.

The Wicked Waffle: a sandwich shop that puts all of its sandwiches on halves of Belgian waffles would totally creep me out, if they didn't offer gluten free waffles. The parking is atrocious, inside the place looks like a Bourbon Street daiquiri shop and the music is strictly Euro-crap, but if I can eat a gluten-free version of every single sandwich on the menu, I can put up with a whole lot.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

they're expensive, too

Sometimes, when I see my husband and his twelve year old sister playing together, I feel pretty guilty about not wanting kids. He'd be a fantastic dad: really fun and patient and hands on.
Then I remember that I teach children for a living, and at the end of the school day, want nothing more than to be away from children and around adults. Then I feel OK again. He doesn't really want to be a dad anyway. Too much work.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I heart the Constitution

Weeks like the last two make me very happy that the United States is governed by a constitution and not public opinion polls. I don't care if Dzokhar Tsarnaev was born on the moon; he is a citizen of this country and deserves the same right to a fair trial as every other citizen, regardless of where he was born, or how/if he worships, or the accusations he faces. I also don't care if 700% of Americans support even stricter gun control laws than the ones we have now; barring the (highly improbable) repeal of the Second Amendment, there is a constitution that says they're wrong. Thank you, Republicans in Congress, for the first reasonable thing you've done since that time you voted against re-upping the Patriot Act. And shame on you, anti-gun activists and NRA blowhards, for all of your self-serving fear mongering.

I'm not ever a huge fan of taking citizens' rights away, but I'm especially uneasy when these actions are motivated by ill-conceived, reactionary impulses. Laws are supposed to ensure rights, not strip them.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

it's mathematics

The streets in Washington, D.C., run three ways: east-west, north-south, and diagonally. East-west streets are designated alphabetically; north-south streets are designated numerically; diagonal streets have state names.

The alphabetical designations of the streets running east-west begin on each side of East Capitol Street and The National Mall. The first street on each is A, the next is N, the third is C; on through Y, with no J, X or Z Streets and the I shown by Eye. Once the letters of the alphabet are exhausted, the streets have two-syllable names, then three-syllable names, and then names of trees and flowers. Sometimes this system is referred to as the second, third and fourth alphabets.

The numerical designations of the streets running north-south begin on each side of North and South Capitol Streets. The first street on each side is First Street, the next is Second Street, and so on.

North, South and East Capitol Streets and The National Mall divide Washington, D.C., into four sections: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast. The streets are identified by the section of the city in which they are located. For example: C Street NW; C Street NE; C Street SW and C Street SE.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

definitely not an atheist

Sometimes, when I think about the horrors of the Middle Passage, or of the Holocaust - any genocide, really - I get so angry at God that I can't help but cry. How am I supposed to put faith in a God who sits back and allows so many people to suffer? And don't talk to me about mysteries of faith and master plans: you know who else had a master plan? Hitler.

These are the moments I wish I was an atheist.

Monday, March 18, 2013

ew, babies

My husband just told me that now would be the best time for us to have kids. Something about our schedules allowing someone to always stay home with the baby.

I'm totally freaked out. Who the F is this guy? My uterus is on lock.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

cigarettes and candy

Me: Potato chips?
Nick: You can have some.
Me: No. You walked up to the store and bought potato chips? And beer?
Nick: I bought other things. Cigarettes and candy.
Me: (blank stare) Who are you?
Nick: Don't write about this. Are you writing about this? I know what you're doing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

not a sermon, just a thought

People who talk about Jesus ALL. THE. TIME. are unbearable - pretty much the opposite of Jesus. Even Jesus used parables to share his message in real-world examples that didn't overwhelm or freak people out with theology, or guilt, or showboating. There are lots of folks on the Internet who seriously just need to chill out. Jesus wants ambassadors, not enforcers.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Freedman's hospital

This is the view from the rooftop bar of a swanky joint called Brixton. Never mind the racial implications of the name (for now), or that census records show my great great grandmother lived on the next block over. Being able to see HUH while I drink makes me feel strange inside.

My grandfather was an alcoholic. The kind of alcoholic who keeps drinking past when his wife, children amd pancreas have abandoned him. As a child, when my father was speaking to him, I remember visiting my grandfather in this hospital. Every time he was there, it was his fault - something related to his affinity for Kool-Aid over health. I never knew him very well. My father's strained relationship with him limited our interactions to Kool-Aid and Nintendo games.

And this hospital. He wasn't fortunate enough to die there. Instead, he died in a diabetic coma less than a mile from the school where I currently teach, where my father worked in the early 1980s.

And so, despite the fact that I am neither an alcoholic nor a diabetic, I suppose I feel immense amounts of guilt for partying here.

I suppose, as well, that I'll have to get over it. That's what Jollys do.

Friday, February 8, 2013

getting medieval on your sleep

I'm starting to really like my new medieval sleep schedule.

I come home from work at 4 and sleep until 8. Then I stay up to plan for school, watch TV and goof off on the computer until 2 or 3 in the morning. I get in one more round of sleep until 7:45, throw on some vaguely professional looking clothes, and head off to school.

My favorite part? I get to see my husband when he gets home from working nights.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

lefties support gun rights, too

"Of the many inhuman outrages of this present year, the only case where the proposed lynching did not occur, was where the men armed themselves … and prevented it. The only times an Afro-American who was assaulted got away has been when he had a gun and used it in self-defense.

The lesson this teaches and which every Afro-American should ponder well, is that a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give."

Ida B. Wells, Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases
I've kept pretty quiet about it until now, because I hate the idea of being lumped in with those fear-mongering racists over at the NRA, but consider this my official coming-out: I firmly believe that the right to bear arms is a fundamental political right, and that to limit or eliminate that right is unconstitutional.

Like Ida B. Wells,  I think that gun ownership is especially important for African-Americans. As individuals and as communities, we tend to be on the receiving end of institutional violence more often than other groups. It is too easy for us to find examples of our vulnerability during every moment in our nation's history. This fantastic, albeit long, blog post also does a better job than I ever have of tracing the modern gun control movement from white fears of black armed self-defense (a la the Black Panthers following police to prevent police brutality).

But even more important than self-defense, the writer makes the point - correctly, I think, or I wouldn't be writing this - that the constitutional right to bear arms is rooted in preventing the government (police and the military) from having a monopoly on the use of force. This is the same problem I have with capital punishment. The government should not have a monopoly on the power to decide if a person should live; based on the other inherent flaws in the way the death penalty is meted out (see above paragraph), I think it's best to eliminate that power entirely.

Back to the right to own a gun. Two passages from the essay stand out; the first is quite long, but quite powerful:
"I heard someone ridiculing a gun-rights supporter on TV the other day, along these lines:  Do you realize how ridiculous you sound when you talk about tyranny or resistance to tyranny, in the United States? Really? Let’s roll the videotape back a few years, and try that out again:  Do you realize how ridiculous you sound when you talk about American presidents, Republican and Democrat, torturing, kidnapping for torture, nullifying habeas corpus, spying without warrants on everybody, setting up a separate justice system for Muslims, rewarding billions in bonuses to bankers who crashed the economy, offering Social Security and Medicare as sacrifices to those bankers, aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers and journalists while granting complete immunity and government favor to torturers and banksters, personally overseeing the assassination of anyone they want anywhere in the world, including American citizens, starting seven or eight secret wars?  Do you realize how ridiculous you sound when you talk about the great European social-democratic states, Socialist governments included, overseeing forced austerity on behalf of banksters, selling off the land and assets of their countries, reneging on the pensions of their citizens, ushering in 25-30% unemployment, facing riots and pitched battles with police in the streets?
Understanding that things can and will change, radically at times, is an historical attitude. Asserting that the society and moment we live in today is omnipotent and unchangeable –proclaiming, essentially, that history is over – is what I understand as pure ideology. 'Tyranny' – or whatever you prefer to call it – has, not so long ago, already been here and been successfully resisted, with non-violent and not non-violent tactics – unless you think Jim Crow doesn’t qualify. And whatever-you-want-to-call-it is back – unless you think a regime that practices assassination, unilateral war-making, unlimited surveillance, austerity imposition, and issues from a completely corrupt electoral process, etc., doesn’t qualify.  And it may well be resisted again. I don’t know how the street protests and occupations of state capitols and such by workers and pensioners and student debt-slaves and people thrown out of their homes and out of their jobs may unfold in America in the near future, but they very well may take lessons from more than the edited history of such struggles in our country and around the world.  Nothing ridiculous there, as far as I’m concerned.  History is not over."
"The ultimate power does not rest with who starts out with the most guns, or even with who shoots them the most (or at all), but with who ends up determining which way they are pointed.  The most successful insurrectionary moment is one in which no bullet has to be fired; everyone just has to know at whom they will be headed if they are. 
That is still a struggle over the use and control of arms. Pointing a gun is using it."
And more yup. All day, yes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

now what?! (brought to you by tramadol)

I don't know if this is normal or not, but sitting around mostly immobile after this bone marrow procedure has me kind of obsessed over what happens next. I suppose it must be normal. I mean, for the past two weeks, I've been preparing for this extraction to happen. Now it's over, and poof! I have no idea of how Little Man is doing. And I'm not even allowed to know until three months in. Unless he doesn't make it. So I keep looking up survival rates for bone marrow transplants, and how HLH patients respond to BMTs, because I don't have anything else to do but sit here all jacked up on painkillers with ice on my back.

I keep finding all these resources about transplants and HLH, but don't want to post them on Facebook. I post enough crap on Facebook as it is, and I really don't want people interpreting it as some kind of pathetic attention grab because I did this good thing (I used to be friends with that girl, and she sucks).

So on the off-chance you're interested in information about bone marrow transplants or hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH, duh), I'm going to stick all of the really interesting stuff I find right here in this post.

Also, I have a clone. I repeat, I have a tiny person out there with my DNA who is my motherflipping clone. Whiskeytangofoxtrot.

Anyway, links:
HLH: A Simple Description - This whole Web site is an account of a little girl named Zoe's (winning!) battle against HLH (and we all know how much I love a Zoe).
The Histiocytosis Research Trust - "The prognosis for children with HLH has improved dramatically over the last 20 years and there is now a cure rate of more than 50%."
Thoughts One Year After Donating Bone Marrow Stem Cells - I had to have my bone marrow extracted directly from my pelvic bone, but other donors (like Ruth) are able to donate the stem cells that create bone marrow.
What Is It Like to Give? - From an awesome, now-defunct Web site called Sepia Mutiny. The site highlighted a few campaigns encouraging South Asians to register for the marrow registry; with only 1% of registry members of South Asian ancestry, South Asians have just a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a match.

because I felt like it

That's right. I ate two Filet-o-Fish sandwiches in one sitting. Yeah, I'm gluten intolerant.

But I figure if these painkillers are going to make me sleepy, itchy and cranky anyway, I might as well be those things and full of Filet-o-Fish.

So suck on that, body. I do what I want.

Friday, February 1, 2013

officially a donor

Yesterday, I donated bone marrow to a newborn with a rare blood immunodeficiency. I'm still pretty overwhelmed by the whole experience. I'm in awe that somewhere in the world is a tiny little boy who is fighting to live - and he has my DNA inside his body to help him now. There's a tough little mini-me out there, and all I want him to do is live.

The procedure wasn't painful - minus the sore throat left over from the anesthesiologist's breathing tube, and the pretty intense constipation - I was asleep for the whole thing, which took less than an hour. I am drowsy from the painkillers, and sore. I feel like I fell down a flight of icy stairs and bruised my butt and lower back.

I despise IVs more than anything else I've ever encountered.

One of my kids gave me a card and made me promise not to open it until after the procedure :)

Awake, but still heavily anesthetized, on morphine, and very confused by "KGC." This is also the most unattractive photo ever taken of me, so of course I had to include it here.

And I would absolutely do it again.

I can't run for two weeks while I recover. The doctor says that any kind of over-exertion too soon will cause the puncture holes in my pelvic bone to "connect the dots" and cause a fracture. So I'm counting down the days until I can put my Asics back on, and focusing my energy on fundraising while I wait.

I'm also praying. I'm not huge on prayer, because I'm not convinced God cares about what happens to us. But just in case It does, I want to give my patient, my Little Man, the best chance he can possibly have to survive and thrive. So it'd be nice if you'd pray for him, too.

it's black history month!

“There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. And I mean that very seriously. You must accept them and accept them with love.” 

This is one of my favorite quotes from James' Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. I'd post it to my Facebook wall, but you know how people on Facebook stay tripping because they're lazy readers and thinkers.

Happy Black History Month! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm donating bone marrow tomorrow morning, and I'm terrified.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

stupid boat

We're watching some stupid Travel Channel show about boats while I lesson plan for tomorrow (first day of the new semester with new students, hooray!). All of a sudden, Nick says, "That stupid boat's kitchen is better than ours. ...Fuck that boat."

I look up, and it totally is. So... like he said, I guess. Yeah.

Back to plotting on how to make twelve year old boys think my class is all about violence and war. Boom! Crash!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

hating the help

I wish I had something more profound or thoughtful to say about it, but today, I was forced to take help from my folks. There's only one thing I hate more in the world than admitting that I need it, and that would be accepting it when it's unsolicited.

Nothing makes you feel quite so much like a big, fat failure at life as when you're busting your ass, working a job that makes you miserable - a job that pays you more than you've ever made in your life - budgeting and cutting corners, but you still can't make ends meet because the world just keeps knocking you down. And I know, I know - I'm grateful to just be broke and not poor, but man. I need a break. I need a few breaks. Then today I got one, and it feels terrible.

I know how unbelievably lucky I am to have a family who is able to help, who is willing and happy to help us out. But then the part that's worse than having your dad offer you exactly what you need to get back on your feet, without your even asking? Refusing it (I should be able to do this myself), and being forced to take it anyway, then feeling like the lowest piece of shit ever for seeming like an ingrate.

It's a bitter pill to swallow, being the helpee instead of the helper. I hate it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

so I'm running a half-marathon...

I just realized that - in addition to not blogging nearly as much as I'd like - I've been leaving a pretty huge part of my life out in my posts. I kind of hinted at it in my New Year's resolutions, but haven't explicitly written about it here.

I'm training for a half-marathon. The Rock and Roll Half on March 16, to be precise. I'm doing this with my mom to help raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Mom's best friend is four years leukemia free, and considering she's been like an aunt to me - she's my baby sister's godmother, too - raising money for an organization that's done so much for her is a no-brainer to me.

So we go out in the cold Tuesdays and Thursdays after work to run. We have long runs on Saturday morning; I'll assume these were scheduled by Satan, since they start at 8am. Short recovery runs are Sundays. For our long run today, we went eight miles. Pretty exciting stuff for someone who never made it through a high school cross country race - a poor choice I endured for one single season my sophomore year - without stopping.

The best part? I live in DC so all of our runs are BEAUTIFUL!
I've only lost about five pounds since we started December 1, but I just keep losing inches. So many inches. I'm back in pants I haven't fit since my first teaching stint in 2007, and appear on track to squeeze into a few favorite pairs of jeans I've kept from college. My standing heart rate is 56 beats per minute, doctors say I'm in excellent health, and I love that now I do something after work that doesn't involve wine or midnight bacon and eggs. Oh, and I'm doing a pretty good job raising money for cancer. Halfway to my fundraising goal with two months left to go!

If you read this blog, we're probably friends on Facebook, so you've probably already seen my posts asking for donations, if you can spare them. But just in case you've popped in from somewhere else, consider giving a few dollars to help LLS continue its research and support programs for patients with blood cancers. My page (with running updates) can be found over here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I need a new dumpling

I just saw a banking commercial where a man said that he's a tenth-generation dumpling maker, and that his work is his life's passion. Of course, this was followed by the bank's exhortation to avoid doing the things that you don't want to do, so that your job remains your passion and never becomes work. Or something like that. Basically, make dumplings and let us handle your money since everyone knows that Asian people are terrible at math.

Disclaimer: Not all Asian people are good at math. That doesn't mean that they're bad at math, or just average at math. It means that math skills have nothing to do with race. I made a joke about racial stereotypes in advertising, not about Asian people. Just to be clear, since inevitably someone will miss that subtle distinction (Some place, somewhere, Rachel's soul is screaming, "It's not funny if you have to explain it, Tierra, GAWD!" You shut up, Rachel's soul. I hate your stupid mouth).

But anyway. Moving along.

Because I am currently in a position where I find my work to be important, but surprisingly unfulfilling in a way that crushes my soul every hour on the hour, this commercial hit me like a ton of Hallmark cards. What tasks and conditions would I give up at work if I could? What would I delegate to someone else? What would I keep?

My immediate thought was that I want to keep writing and talking about history, but to dump the classroom environment. Let someone else have the phone calls home, the "Ms. Jolly, you wear whore-colored lipstick," the bureaucracy inherent in any public school system, and the feeling of being an academic waitress, constantly on my feet taking the orders - and dropping off the ketchup, and haggling over the checks, and calling in the manager to deal with the issues - of twenty different diners every shift.

I want to keep writing lesson plans, conducting research, presenting it to people, and contributing to the educational development of children in under-served communities. I don't want to be in a classroom every day, no matter how old the students are (here's lookin' at you, college). I do want most of my professional time to be spent with other adults. I also desperately need a workplace environment where I can come in at 10 and stay until 6 on a Thursday because I had a doctor's appointment and it's totally cool that I sometimes get sick because I am a human being.

So what are the possible solutions? Public history looks like the best answer. I would love to write educational materials for museums and historic sites. Develop activities and exhibits. Represent the program/institution at conferences and networking events. Occasionally work with children. Have constantly changing research topics so that I'm always learning something new. I could be a museum educator, a curator, a director of education, an institutional historian, a curriculum writer for a school district, some kind of research analyst for some kind of non-profit, or one of those freelance historians who helps banks prove their new acquisition didn't own slaves in the 1700s. I could transition back into dramaturgy. I could even start my own part-time side gig as a genealogist.

All of these things sound like my dumplings. But how do I find these opportunities, and how do I get them onto my plate? Ideas and advice will be greatly appreciated.