Clean reading, dirty minds, & other people

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There’s been a shitstorm all week surrounding the Clean Reader app and what it does or doesn’t do to books readers try to read with it.  There are better places to find out what actual authors with real books out in the known world think of all that. The whole thing reminded me that I needed to call my mother because A) it’s been awhile and B) she’s totally the kind of person who will read books in which people behead each other for no other reason that “serial killer = bad man” yet get her panties in a twitch because the detective character, after finding the fourth headless body in the book, mutters, “Shit!” while sipping his cheap coffee as a blizzard threatens to blanket the crime scene. 

Which means, I told her all about the app and the controversy and received her expected reply, “Well, some people just don’t like all that foul language.” 

My reply was something along the lines of, “Fuck that. If it’s a poorly written book with profanity for no reason, don’t finish reading it because it’s a bad book. If it’s a well-written book, the fucking “fucks” are there for a reason. Dammit.” (Yes, I use words she doesn’t like for the same reason I discuss topics she doesn’t like because she does the same thing and because maybe I was too busy being the “good girl” I was supposed to be as a teenager and I’m rebelling twenty-plus years later so I can check it off a bucket list.) 

To which she sighed. One of those long, mom sighs. The one that generally suspects I am having a late-blooming rebellious phase and that she’d rather I skipped it all together. “Well, it’s not just bad words. Books and movies and TV shows all have so many other things we just didn’t have as kids.”

“You do realize that families were never as perfect as they looked on Donna Reed and Leave it to Beaver, right? I mean, domestic violence was considered normal, women found themselves essentially prisoners in marriages because it was so hard to leave –” 

“I was never a prisoner. I just didn’t have a job so I didn’t have any money.” 

“You do realize that not having any money, not having social support because the problem isn’t recognized or because of social stigma, not being able to find a job because of social norms… all that kept people in situations whether they were happy or not. You don’t have to have cages to create a prison.” And just because I’d managed to get a few words in edgewise (rare thing, that), I added something about the costs of WWII on the mental health of the returning men and the toll that took on families. I may have also mentioned that we haven’t really gotten much better with all that, we just call it a different name, tell everyone to “man up” or take some pills. Then we act shocked when people have trouble with that. 

“Whatever. At least there weren’t gays all over the TV back then. Stuff was wholesome. No one even knew what that was back then.” 

My turn to sigh. “Do I need to Google and email you ever painting, vase, or other piece of art from antiquity forward depicting gay sex?”

“You have time to do that and you can’t call me more often?”

“Middle of the night procrastination is a powerful drug. My point is that just because people didn’t talk about it openly for fear of being ostracized or arrested or murdered doesn’t mean no one was attracted to the same sex or both sexes or felt like they’d been born the wrong sex or anything else. If eating ham were so vilified in society that you thought you might go to jail or get killed or have to live in some subculture you had no access to… you’d probably stop eating ham.” 

“I don’t eat it that often anyway. Ham’s gotten expensive. Do you eat ham now?”

“I’ve been vegetarian for years, mom. No. And it’s probably all the hipsters with the goddamn bacon lotion. My point is, if something you liked were legislated against, you’d probably stop doing it because you like rules.” 

“What’s wrong with rules?”

*sings old punk songs full of profanity terribly because I can’t carry a tune.*

“Why can’t you listen to Enya. She has such a pretty voice.” (This part may have been from another conversation.) 

“Can I convince you none of the gods want you to eat Wilbur because he’s cute?”

“There’s only one god.”

“Don’t make me break out the Google. You have yours. Other people have theirs.” 

More sighing. <insert ten minute monologue about cat fur on the carpet or something>

Camp Cooking – Everglades Edition

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This past weekend we we camping with friends who had never been camping before and who had never been down to Everglades National Park before. I wanted to make sure they ate well on the trip because A) I like to eat well when camping, B) I like showing people it doesn’t always have to be a pack of hot dogs cooked on a stick, and C) I wanted to convince them camping was fun and they should do it again.

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As you might remember from the Crockpot Edition, or the Butane Cook Stove edition, I’m a big fan of instant or minute rice while camping. At home, not so much, but when camping nothing is more of a pain to get working right than simmering rice with a propane or butane stove, and after a full day of adventuring, no one wants to wait around for regular rice to cook either.

So, into the Everglades, I brought:

  • Instant brown rice
  • Tofurkey beer brats
  • Two Tofurkey Italtian sausages
  • An eggplant
  • A couple of zucchini
  • A couple of yellow squash
  • Two tomatoes (from Robert Is Here — awesome fruit and veggie stand!)
  • Two avocados
  • A tube of Gimmie Lean sausage
  • A pack of Tofurkey maple tempeh “bacon”
  • A bag of red potatoes
  • Red and Green bell peppers
  • A couple of white onions
  • Coconut oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • “Veggie” Pepper (blend of various ground peppers)
  • Garlic and Herb seasoning
  • Creole seasoning
  • Cayenne
  • A bag of hot dog buns
  • Six eggs
  • (and way too many snacks)

For dinner, I cooked the rice in an aluminum foil cake pan by boiling water, adding the rice and garlic-herb seasoning and covering with foil sitting on the picnic table. In another cake pan, I sauteed some chopped onion in coconut oil, added some sliced Tofurkey Italian sausages and set that aside to stir into the rice when cooked. While I did this, I sliced the eggplant and grilled it around the edges of the cake pan. I put the slices on a plate with some creole seasoning and a splash of rice vinegar. In the pan I used for the onion and sausage, I added a tad more oil and the cut up veggies with some more onion and a bit of the creole seasoning. While that cooked, I grilled the brats around the edges and while we set the picnic table, I tossed the buns on to lightly toast them.

For breakfast, I sliced onion and the potatoes, and cooked them in the coconut oil in another cake pan and some creole seasoning and cayenne to be spicy diner-style potatoes. Then, I cut up the Gimmie lean and cooked it with coconut oil until brown, and did the same with the tempeh. The eggs, I cooked in the same pan (I only brought three) by stirring them all together with onion scrambled style.  Breakfast was served with fresh avocado and tomato slices.

 

I may have overfed them, but… they’re already looking to book the next adventure. (And, I converted the carnivores for the weekend!)

Busy Busy Busy

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I think it’s time we admitted, as a nation, that we have a problem. I mean, if I can find all of the following in a matter of minutes, we are clearly overworking ourselves and then, because we know we’re working ourselves into early graves and we still have a healthcare/insurance system that rewards us for being wealthy and healthy and never using either, we elevate the notion of “working hard” while denigrating those who actually do.

Exhaustion is not a status symbol

Stop apologizing for work/life balance

Email etiquette for the super busy

If it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done

The busy trap

Escape from the busy trap

Why the busy trap doesn’t apply to young people

The ‘busy trap’s class problem

Busy is a sickness

You’ll never be busy enough, but you’re probably too busy already and if you aren’t working toward your dreams,  you’re working toward death, but if you’re working yourself to death, who has time for dreams… We’ve created a neverending, vicious, un-win-able cycle of meaningless effort to appease strangers so that few have time to stop and ask What the Everyloving Fuck are we Doing to Ourselves?

Busy is a luxury to people sick, on disability, or unwillingly unemployed. The ability to stop the Busy Treadmill and take a moment to breath or hang out with family or rekindle creativity is a luxury to those who work long hours or multiple jobs to cobble together enough money to get the ends to see each other from across the street.

I don’t have anymore answers than anyone else, but it does seem in a country we taut as great, in a land of such beauty and bounty, in a time with as much technological prowess as we have, it seems silly — nay, terrible — that we still have such a large proportion of our citizens ending their days as exhausted, overworked, scared, anxious, worried, sick, and precarious, as our 18th and 19th century ancestors.

Handheld Meatless Pie

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I have no idea what this actually was I made, but it was tasty, so feel free to submit better name ideas below. It started out as one of those, “I’m hungry but I don’t know what I want, what do we have?” meals.

Ingredients:

  • Phyllo (filo) dough (I had half a box leftover from vegan spinach pie)
  • Olive oil
  • Soy crumbles or TVP
  • Spinach (frozen is fine)
  • Bell Peppers (I used frozen “tri-color peppers” from Whole Foods)
  • Greek seasoning (or similar)
  • Extra garlic or garlic powder
  • Extra oregano
  • Dollop of tomato sauce
  • Onion

I threw half a bag of spinach, a quarter bag of peppers, and a half a bag of Gardein soy crumbles in the food processor with a clove of garlic, the seasoning/herbs, some onion (couple of slices), and about a TB of olive oil. I chopped/mixed all that up, added the dollop of tomato sauce and whirled it around a bit more.

The dough, I laid out on a clean counter, drizzled a bit of olive oil on, and scooped some mixture from the food processor on it. I rolled the sheet into a burrito shape and put it on a baking sheet. (Repeat until you run out of dough or mixture.)

Cook on 375F for about a half hour.

Eat.

Fostering Hope or Adopting a Demon

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On the road to hell’s good intentions, issues with more sides than D&D die, and weighty sacks of emotional crap.

I am terrible at titling things. Let’s just put that out there now.

I’m also tagging this with a Trigger Warning, not because it’s a collection of short stories by a man who should know better than to call a book that, but because it brings up topics that can cause a number of emotional responses ranging from rage to reliving a personal hell. Tread carefully.

Moving on:

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about this asshat, who, though he claims he had no idea he was handing his adopted daughter over to a pedophile, still gave away a child in a manner similar to how I got rid of my last car. Rehoming an old Civic for $600 is one thing. Rehoming a six-year-old in exchange for a job — which may not be the exact way this went down, but it’s close enough on the surface for argument’s sake (from the report, it seems he was hired by the school the month following receiving the two girls) is a whole other despicable matter.

Except, in many states, it’s no more illegal to rehome a child than to rehome a Civic. (And you have to fill out more paperwork on the car.) It becomes a loophole through which children who already fell through cracks find themselves pushed, sometimes by well meaning people and sometimes by malicious criminals.

How does a well-meaning person come to give a way a child? And how do we know if this particular family falls into well-meaning or malicious camp (or the adjacent Camp Bad By Proxy)? Stay with me a moment. See, many states don’t have a requirement that parents wishing to adopt should foster the child or children for at least a year first. Some states require this only in cases involving interstate compacts (transferring foster children across state lines for purposes of foster and adoption). Many potential parents, especially those whose only experience with children comes from their own or well-mannered and well-adjusted children of strangers, don’t want to foster first. They want to jump right in and prove to the potentially-adopted child that they mean well and they want to give the child or children a forever home. Except, unlike the unruly German Shepard mix you didn’t realize might need special training to not eat your couch, you can’t drop your “forever home” child off at the local pound to be euthanized. In some states, however, you can (legally, anyway) drop them off at the house of a pedophile and plead ignorance.

(Before we move on, don’t drop your dog off at the pound to get killed. Don’t adopt what you’re not prepared to take care of whether it’s furry or not.)

Now, yes, this particular family claims ignorance (lack of knowledge, not stupidity) of this pedophile’s tendencies. While this may be true on the surface, let’s be real. In almost every instance of someone wanting “off-the-books” children — who have very likely suffered abuse or trauma (and a high percentage of foster/adopted-after-infancy children have) and also are likely to have emotional or mental health complications — without additional financial or emotional support, that person’s up to no good. For every oddball saint, plan on at least a hundred sinners.

Look, we even offered support for the rehomed Civic. It had a few minor mechanical issues and the husband helped the new owner troubleshoot and fix them. Not to mention that I probably could’ve gotten at least another two hundred if I’d taken it to a used dealer instead. Even rehomed cars sometimes require a little support.

Which brings me back to the idea of fostering first. In most, if not all, states, foster parents are required to go through a basic certification process. Sometimes this involves classes, but at the very least it typically involves a background check, fingerprinting, and a home visit. After child placement, there should be regular home visits, re-certification classes periodically, and support at least by phone should issues arise. This isn’t always the case as we’ve all seen in news reports over the years and it doesn’t solve all the problems, catch all the people with bad intentions or bad coping skills, and it doesn’t provide all the necessary support, but it’s a baseline. It’s a starting point. And it’s often more than what’s provided in cases of outright adoption.

When I worked in correctional education, I saw more than a few horror stories of the foster care system. Again, all the supposed safeguards don’t always ensure children are safe. And sometimes children need more support than foster parents and the system can provide — and too often that leads them into the justice system and a lifelong cycle of catch and release or worse. There were children saved by the foster system and those abused by it. There were children who would leave a group home they even admitted was safe and “pretty cool” with “nice people who treat you right” only to go back to a pimp, a parent who abused them, a relative who sold them, a drug habit they couldn’t or wouldn’t kick, etc.

When we fostered my niece, a child who used to beat her grandmother when she was nine, we had to take classes, fill out a mountain of paperwork and worksheets, and pass fingerprinting and background checks. The social worker in charge did home visits once a month and was generally available by phone if we had problems, but she didn’t usually have a solution. The state-provided mental health care was meeting with a doctor once a month who asked “How are you? How’s school? Are you listening to people?” and wrote scripts for more pills. For a hundred dollars, out of pocket, every other week, we could pay interns at the local university psychology program to talk to her for an hour, but the interns never seemed capable of discerning the manipulative behavior from the actual behavior. Then, the overnight guy at the local mental hospital the cops took her to (after she threatened them with a knife), also thought she just needed more pills. She’s a good lesson in why fostering first is a good idea. Children come with baggage they don’t always unpack immediately and when they do, sometimes it’s terrifying — especially if you have the time, energy and money to deal with it.

A family I know through work adopted a child to join the two they already had. When the child was diagnosed with a pair of mental health disorders, they did research to find the best treatment. And the state said, “we can offer you this to help,” which was roughly 2% of the total cost of treatment. Without support from the community, the family would have had to choose between going broke or getting substandard care. (Incidentally, their daughter is doing well.)

I met one child through my last job who had been arrested for molesting his foster brother. He was young and seemed out of place even in a room full of young boys. One of the other kids asked him what he was in for, as the kids often did. Even though he’d been advised repeatedly not to talk about his case, he shrugged back at the other boy, “I was just showing my new brother how to play.” Which is to say, everyone from the social worker to the detectives to the correctional staff and state psychologists could guess what that meant, but it didn’t stop the cycle until after it had rolled over another victim.

Which is to say, I understand what it’s like to go into a situation with the best intentions and find yourself drowning in a system that’s been underwater so long, it’s grown half-assed gills. I understand the systems, patchworked and overworked, have flaws.

What I don’t understand is why, if you are a state representative, someone with the power and influence to suggest changes, to push for better laws or just speak out about the need for more support or training or funding or SOMETHING, why you would choose to just hand a kid off to strangers like a back-alley dope deal instead. Unless, of course, you were more concerned with your image than the children you legally agreed to guardian. And, you know, image is all that matters these days. Right?

(Please tell me I’m not right.)

Doing Things the Right Way

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Let’s start this off with what I think has become painfully, bleeding-on-the-floor obvious, but may still be a little fuzzy to others: There is no “right way.”

Maybe there used to be. I mean, for most people. Back in our parents’ or grandparents’ generation, depending on how old we are and when those people had kids — which is probably about the same range for 80+% of them because that was the “right way” to do kids back then, — there may have been a right way for almost everyone. Sure, if you were some sort of maverick, or too mentally ill to blend in, or were in some other way “different” or “defective,” which, let’s face it, for that generation was pretty much the same thing unless you were super wealthy (and maybe even then, you just got better shock treatment). You went to school, you met your sweetheart, you had 2.5 kids either before or after “the war,” whichever one applied, and settled into the suburbs or the exurbs or someplace with enough strip malls and station wagons to prove your job at the factory or the office supply store or phone company paid what it should. You may have hated your job at the factory or store or company, but you got paid enough to feed and clothe your kids and go on vacations once a year to someplace that made the wife and kids happy, but made you sunburned and tired when you went back to the factory or store or company and you did that until they graduated and you sent them off to college and eventually collected your pension and social security and gold watch and settled into a nice routine of summering up north and wintering in Florida.

And while almost all of us can now see that’s no longer desirable or true or remotely even possible even if someone did desire it. We graduate high school and our parents encourage us to go to college to get “good jobs” by which they mean ones that will pay enough we won’t live under bridges but they can’t afford to pay for it so we leave college as indentured servants to loans until we’re older than grandpa was when he died. Or we leave high school and decide “fuck that” to the college track and get a skill of some sort — photographing fashion models, designing web sites, writing game code, plumbing because that’s how Uncle Eddy had enough money to buy that boat he drunkenly sunk last summer — and muddle along looking for some kind of work-life balance that involves enough travel to boost our Instagram follower numbers.

And yet, despite the fact that there is, fairly obviously, no “right” way anymore (if there ever was), and we’re all clearly just hustling and muddling and striving every which way we know how in that ever-illusive search for a way to make enough to make a life worth living, we persist in judging and degrading people who are hustling differently than us.

To which I say, stop it. Do what you do. Talk about what you do if you want, but don’t talk about it like you have the ONE RIGHT ANSWER to life. Because you don’t. There are too many variables. (Yes, that’s a math reference. I used to teach math. And I don’t anymore. Not because I wasn’t good at it. I was. The math part. The instructing part. It was the mind games and political bullshit and endless ass-covering paperwork that perpetually changed without improving, the adults behaving worse than the students, the constant testing that never allowed for time to actually teach, the unreasonable expectations, the stuff that people have put up with for so long that they just shrug and say, “that’s how it is, deal with it,” instead of recognizing that it’s insane and impossible and downright stupid and petty and cruel.)

*deep breath*

There was a Salon piece about a month ago where a woman acknowledge that she doesn’t have a day job and it helps her write more than she did when she worked for someone else. This was followed by a million-point-seven blog posts about how she’s a terrible person, a terrible role model, and just plain bad at life and math and adulting. Because everyone else has day jobs and they manage by getting up at 2am or staying up until 3am or by getting spouses or roommates or parents or confused sex slaves into cleaning and cooking and bathing babies or dogs so they can have free time to write. Or they “prioritize” writing and act as though those who don’t choose writing over eating or pooping or that second job that keeps the lights on or sleeping or doing the laundry so the people at the two jobs don’t fire them for stinking… are all doing life poorly.

Some of these were couched in terms of feminism because the Salon writer had referred to herself as “kept.” Except feminism should be open to all possibilities and if one likes having someone pay the bills, that someone should get that option — whether the someone is male or female or some other identity and the person paying is… you get the idea. Feminism is about equality and having equal choices.

Many were written by men, whose own words seemed to suggest that their only responsibilities outside the day job were eating and sleeping and maybe catching up on Netflix. (I’m sure that’s not true, but it’s the illusion created.) Huffington Post had a listicle recently about how even guys who think they’re participating equally often aren’t. I’m sure there are stay-at-home dads out there or dads with spouses or partners with higher-demand jobs who also feel these additional burdens, but I haven’t met many of them. Which means if you’re a guy with a wife and a kid lecturing people on how they prioritize writing, maybe step out of the writing cave for a night and find out what your wife is up to while you’re writing and then imagine what would happen if the roles were reversed and she was the one with the dreams of seeing her name on a novel or a collection of essays or short stories. What would have to fall through cracks? And if you’re both seeking creative destiny in the small moments between laundry loads? Then what?

Stay-at-home moms who write? If that sounds easy to anyone, please give it a shot, because unless you’re wealthy enough to have a nanny or at the very least a bi-weekly maid service, children are a tremendous time suck. Sure, they love you and they can be cute, but they require attention and food and clean clothes. They make noise and messes and ask questions. And apparently you can no longer just throw them out the front door and tell them to come home for dinner like my parents did. Look, I just live with cats, but they still require litter scooping and feeding and trips to the vet and I swear every time I look in the cabinet they’re out of food.

Yes, I know that anyone who isn’t Stephen King or James Patterson who thinks writing pays as well as working at McDonald’s part time and panhandling on a rural road just outside town, is delusional and you feel it your moral duty to steer them back into the workforce like a parent herds children away from the path of oncoming traffic. Yes, I know what you’re doing is hard and you want everyone to know your Sisyphean struggle with unsaleable novels and unpaying story markets in the hours after fixing servers and Pontiacs and forty-seven Thursday Special meatloaf dishes. Yes, I know deep down you want all the wannabe writers back at the factory and store and company so you have less competition. Yes, I know you’re staring at that group of people who just keep writing books about being the best you and 1001 branding strategies for writers and creatives who like llamas, wondering what makes them think their ebook is worthy because don’t they know what’s not how it works. Yes, I know you simultaneously want people to accept whatever genre you’re writing as “real” literature while also hoping someone will elevate your work to “literature” or maybe just make a movie with a big name start who may or may not look anything like your character’s described.

My point is, none of us are doing it “right.” NONE. Because “right” doesn’t exist anymore. Whatever your’e doing or giving up or getting by on? It’s great if it works for you. It might not for someone else.

If you want to keep bitching and moaning because things are hard and you’re struggling, that’s okay, but could you stop with the finger pointing and the scolding and the judgmental tone? I think maybe we’ve all been judged harshly enough by now. It’s time to stop that and accept each other.

Can we learn to stop buying into the idea that everyone who isn’t us is wrong, that if one of us is working himself into an early grave, we should all be doing that too instead of helping out the guy who’s doing it? Can we stop shooting each other in the foot so we’ll all feel the same pain?

Great, go give someone (you know and who is willing to accept it) a hug.

But if you’re going to sing Kumbaya, you better bring the Thin Mints.


I suspect some of this has to do with the pressure we’re all feeling to Do It All, as part of our cult of busy-ness.

I may come back to that topic, but for now, this just popped up and speaks to that aspect: Exhaustion is Not a Status Symbol 

I am not fat, but I think I am

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Growing up, I was skinny. Stupidly skinny. After puberty, and throughout most of school, my rib cage stuck out more than my breasts. My arms and legs looked like sticks. I graduated high school at 110 pounds and just under 5’10” (which is still bigger than most models, but definitely in skinny territory).

Beyond a modified princess phase as a little kid, where I wore pink nightgowns and purple corduroy skirts — and then horrified my mother by climbing trees and jumping into ditches (Southern Ladies just don’t do that), I wore a lot of tomboy attire. I wore baggy t-shirts and shorts and jeans that never quite reached my ankles, sweatshirts and sneakers. I wore my hair long because, contrary to popular belief about all tomboys having short hair, long hair is easy. It grows out, you stick it in a rubberband and you go. No styling, few haircuts, and once it’s long enough it’ll stay behind ears or over shoulders.

In my twenties, I bought my jeans in the men’s department and my shirts in the girls’ department. I tried padded bikini tops, but you can’t swim in those. Wet, they’re like sponges. Gross. I had a friend back then who was a hardcore fashionista. She’d loan me clothes, drag me shopping, and otherwise try to girl me up. She was very column-shaped herself, so that worked out well enough.

The thing is: I hate shopping. Those people who wander malls and stores for hours, for fun? I cannot understand. In fact, after the friend and I stopped speaking, I ended up buying most of my clothes online. This was back when searching for “vintage” on eBay returned results other than vintage-inspired tinywear from China or neon plaid from the 80s. Vintage worked on multiple levels: the dresses looked structured and cute without too much fuss and the sizes made me feel normal because I wore an 8 or 10 instead of a 2 or 4. I mean, 2? I’m taller than a half the population of Miami (okay, that’s no scientific, but it certainly feels that way), a size 2 just seemed…stupid.

In my mid-thirties, I took up martial arts in addition to my occasional slow running and yoga. Somewhere along the way, I developed some muscles and my rib cage and shoulders seem to get wider all the time. I also all of a sudden seem to have hips. I have no idea where those came from or why they’d suddenly appear between 35 and 40, but I can’t wear men’s pants anymore and women’s jeans are full of spandex so they’re crazy tight going on and then fall off a half hour later.

It’s really just too bad I can’t live in knit shorts and t-shirts or yoga pants and tank tops. Knit dresses and a few of those vintage dresses still fit. I have jeans that fit one day and not the next, jeans that fit great in the leg but are too baggy in the waist and jeans that fit fine in the leg but are too tight in the waist. All of this makes me feel fat, despite the fact that I’m still technically on the thin side of normal.

Yet my hatred of shopping means I keep trying to wear things that don’t fit and complaining about being fat. I apologize for that. I don’t want anyone to think that because I’m uncomfortable in my sister’s hand-me-downs (she’s three inches shorter and forty pounds lighter) and clothes I bought ten years ago, that I think other people are fat or that being fat is anything other than an adjective, a description like blond.

And maybe one of these days, I’ll get around to buying some clothes that fit better so I can stop whining. Just, don’t make me go shopping.

Spring is on the Horizon

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We had house guests over the weekend. My sister and her best buddy showed up for some diving and warm weather, which the day they arrived it was our coldest in four years so there’s that. It did warm up enough that her buddy made it to the beach yesterday and “got a base tan!” (I wore SPF 50 and hid in the shade.)

I do have to admit it was nice being at the beach yesterday. And that’s weird. I’m such a summer girl that once it gets chilly (mid-70s) for the first time, I kind of pack away the bikinis and and don’t really go to the beach until summer happens again. It’s easy to forget how nice the beach (and the area) is when you’re stuck at your desk all day. (Self-imposed stuckness is just as valid as actual stuckness for the record.)

It’s also exciting to feel a bit of spring in the are. South Florida weather in March is usually utterly awesome as it’s before it gets too hot, but the chilly days of February are largely over. It’s also interesting to see the way, up close, visitors react to the place you take for granted. (I realize it’s a special kind of hell to take the beach for granted, *rolls eyes* but after a while the stress of everyday life and building the life and work you want and navigating this land of money-related pitfalls, overwork, etc.)

So, I guess the takeaway here is to stop and smell some roses and appreciate what you have or have access to.

Vegan Potato Soup

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It’s finally warmed up nicely here, but I realize much of the east coast is still encased in ice. This soup is great for warming up on a chilly night and, with the impending St. Patrick’s Day holiday appropriation, it’s similar to the creamy, cheesy soup at our nearby Irish Pub, but without the actual cream, cheese, or bacon.

Ingredients:

  •  Approx 3 cups of unsweetened original almond milk (soy, cashew, hemp, etc.)
  • 1 cup of water (tap is fine)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of flour (whatever kind makes you happy: quinoa, all-purpose, wheat, rice, etc. You could also use cornstarch, arrowroot or xantham gum, but I find that last one makes things…”squeaky.”) Alternatively, you could also just cut back on the water (above) and let the potatoes be the thickener.
  • potatoes (You pick. No, I don’t know how many, that would depend on the size of the potatoes and how thick you want the soup. I’d say 3 large or 5 medium, or a sack of small, but again, up to you.)
  • Onion (I used a white onion that was a bit on the small side so I used the whole thing. If you find one of those giant onions, you may choose half if you don’t want the soup super-oniony.)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (chopped or smashed, etc. to your liking)
  • a bit of “Fat Paulie” seasoning (Let’s say 2-3 shakes.)
  • “shit ton*” of “Salad Sprinkle” (blend of chives, dried onion, parsely, pepper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of vegan butter or margarin (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1 “no-chicken” bullion cube
  • Several shakes of “veggie pepper” or fresh ground pepper
  • Vegan cheddar shreds (I used Daiya)
  • Vegan bacon bits (many are — just check the label)
  • Chives (dried or fresh)
  • Scallions (optional)

Make the soup and use most of the bag of cheese to blend with it. Sprinkle a bit on top with the facon bits and some chives or scallions if you have them.

The things to say or not to say

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Yeah, I’ve been quiet here of late. Because, I’ve been trying to be on my “best behavior.” You know, try not to  stir controversy or rant or generally be myself. To avoid politics and religion and the things you don’t say at dinner. There are very good reasons to do so, as I’ve been told.

The trouble is, you know, you’re also told to be a brand, that brands aren’t people, that companies are people, that people are marketplaces… It’s all confusing and, frankly, illogical. Because, you avoid controversy to that you don’t anger potential readers or family or friends but you’re supposed to be social and interesting and…does anyone really want to read a blog post about my favorite color? (I sincerely hope the answer is no.) Without the bitey parts, people are boring. Of course, too many bitey parts and they’re shark-like caricatures. It’s a fine line.

Unless you look out into the internet these days and realize the fine line has been stomped into smithereens, that everything is ripe with potential controversy (if I say my favorite color is black, am I being morose? Blue is symbolic of my ball-breaking feminist agenda? Red might be the color of the secret society of barn-based terrorists this week). We’ve somehow reached a point where no one can say anything that isn’t some sort of anti-ist-ish unless it’s so plainly self-serving, egotistical, myopic and boring that it’s only interesting by the navel-gazing barometer of selfies and food pics and cats riding household appliances.

Except, that’s not fair to those things either. If we’re sharing our interests, our lives, with others — as a means to connect to communities we feel a part of, as a branding strategy, as a beacon like scrawling “i wuz here” on a bathroom stall that proclaims we existed to the universe –why do we only feel comfortable anymore sharing the best bits? If we only share selfies when our makeup is perfect, desk photos after we’re done organizing, lunch photos when we’re humble-bragging about the expensive lunch being bought for us…have we become more brand than person? Have we cultivated ourselves to remove our humanity?

Yet, shaming people for presenting exactly what they’ve been told by our culture to present is unfair, too. The television schedule is littered with “reality shows” edited to show what the producers want you to see: conflict, drama, “weirdos.” The producers are telling us simultaneously that these people we think are “so different” are just like us because they fight and struggle, yet emphasizing their differences to get us to tune in. Nothing is sacred. No one is safe. We’re all here to be judged. So, put on your best face and post that YouTube video for your promised fifteen minutes while we all sit and comment that you’re fat or skinny or ugly or hairy or old or liberal or conservative or dumb or does it matter? It can’t matter because no one can be all to everyone.

Which brings me back to politics and controversy. We can’t be all to everyone. And being silent is what my mother always told me to do in the South. I never listened to her before. Why would I start now? Granted, I’ve had to warn people that I’m a bit like a fungus; I grow on you.

But, let’s be honest. The character I’ve written most about is a former prostitute with a wretched snarky streak, a few PTSD issues she most assuredly will not be discussing with you because she’d rather prefer they don’t exist, and a regular urge to punch her problems that she mostly keeps under control. She’s held together by almost as many screws as the average piece of IKEA furniture and she flatly refuses to bother covering up her scars because it’s too damn hot in Florida to walk around in a full-length bodysuit and it’s not really anyone’s business anyway.

In other words, if someone’s put off by anything I say, they’re really not going to like Davis Groves all that much. Maybe they’d like Seth with the elusive last name? *goes off to find the right selfie filter*

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