Thursday, March 27, 2014

I am the luckiest

When my mom dies and I have to give her eulogy, remind me of this time she brought me Chipotle and a McDonald's hot fudge sundae when I was sick, just because I asked her to. 

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."