Archive for September, 2008

This is so great.  I’m loving both the commentary and the photos on this site:  (Found via Apartment Therapy’s Ohdeedoh…)

1001 rules for my unborn son

It made me think about advice my parents have given me…  And I can’t actually come up with any.  I know that my dad taught me that one shouldn’t talk about or ask how much gifts cost.  My Aunt Angie taught me how to blow my nose (but I guess that isn’t advice).  

When I moved to New York, and was terribly homesick, my dad was listening to me on the phone, talking about everything that was hard and different, and all of the reasons I couldn’t come home.  My dad, after listening, said with finality and reassurance, “Well, you’re not in the Shire anymore.”  

Which caused me to both burst into tears (because truly, I wasn’t) and feel relieved that he totally got it.


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The VGT Omnivore’s One Hundred

I saw this on Silly Little Mischief and decided to try it instead of writing about American Theological Liberalism (the pre-1905 section).

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Italize out any items that you would never consider eating.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros (but I think I would like them)
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile 
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho (I don’t know what this is, so maybe I have?)
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (I’ve had truffle oil, though. Yum.)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom Tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (Double yum.)
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda (I didn’t know this was how it’s spelled, but yum.)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl
33. Salted lassi (Hmm.  Had lassi, but not salted.)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (Guh-ross.)
37. Clotted Cream Tea (Um, I think this is more than one item/ a meal, but I’ve had it.)
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O  (Seriously?)
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects-covered in chocolate! (I’ve eaten insects, but without the chocolate.)
43. Phaal 
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more 
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine 
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (all of the above!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (Yes!  I forgot what it was, but I love it!)
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu (I don’t know what the ‘tasting menu’ means, but I’ve been to starred restaurants.)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate (?)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Interestingly, the foods I haven’t eaten yet easily became foods I think I won’t eat.  

I would like to make a meal out of my favorites: baklava, dulce de leche, pocky, paneer, s’mores, chicken tikka, hot dog from cart, and cheese fondue.  My birthday is coming up…it could be a non sequitur feast!

Okay, on to Gary Dorrien.

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Warts and all

First of all, because I’m a nerd, a quick etymology search tells me that “wart” is related to the word “verruca,” which means “swelling, wart.”  I made an instant connection.  Get it?  Remember Veruca Salt, from _Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory_?

Another search underlines the connection: “Dahl claimed that ‘Veruca Salt’ was the name of a wart medication he once had in his medicine cabinet” (Wikipedia).  She was a bad egg, “warts and all.”

Although, “warts and all” often has a slightly positive connotation, as in, “The candidate had nothing to hide; she was willing to talk to the press, warts and all.” Apparently, someone was painting Cromwell, and he wanted to be known as an honest man, not a gentlemanly soldier with vanities and affectations.  And he had a giant wart _on his face_, and didn’t mind being painted that way.

Note to my future biographers and potraitists: I want to be painted in the style of John Singer Sargent, for example.  Lots of light and luminescence.  No warts.

So: I have some warts.  I have one regular on on my ankle, and an entire constellation of plantar warts (flat, not raised) on the sole of my foot.  They are making me crazy.  I ruminate over them, over how ugly they are, over how they might spread, over getting rid of them.  I feel dirty and awful.  I _hate_ them.  I have tried cutting them out with nail clippers, and scraping them off with razor blades. Scary, I know.  And a mess, because it makes a mess of my foot, and doesn’t work.  But I want them _off_ and I can feel them all the time.  

I felt bad about using the doctor’s time with something so non-life-threatening and (relatively) insubstantial, but I couldn’t take it any more.  I need them gone.  I went today, and she was great.  She took care of one, and fixed up the scraping I’d done on my foot, and gave me a referral to a podiatrist.

She got out a big, colorful book with photos of amazingly horrible, terrible wart photographs.  I literally had to look away and focus on breathing.  The ugliness of them was outstanding.

But why do skin disorders bother us so?  If someone was talented, kind, smart, and good, but had fingers covered in warts upon warts… I wouldn’t want to take their hands.  And one of the photographs I’ve seen had a wart on the eyelid, hanging over the lashes.  I am riveted, and disgusted by these images.  And I feel so, so vain for worrying so much about these tiny, tiny things.

And no one even _sees_ my feet!  But just knowing they’re there…  My doctor said that warts don’t mean I’m dirty, or mean anything bad at all.  I said, “But there’s no euphimism for them–there’s no positive word for them–they have such a negative connotation.”  It’s true: I can call a zit a pimple, or a blemish, or even a spot, and feel better with each degree of positive connotation.  But what else can I call a wart?

I think, inspired by Mr. Dahl and Miss V. Salt, I will think of them as “bad eggs.”  Tiny, and many, but (merely?) bad eggs.  And soon, hopefully, they will be gone.

(Portrait of Cromwell via phrases.org.uk)

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I always think that every free hour should be filled.  Filled with meaningful, productive work, _not_ puttering.

My cousin Little Larry and I once discussed how our uncles and grandpa didn’t understand what we were doing in the city, because they couldn’t understand what we did.  ie, what we _made_.  We didn’t produce anything.  Little Larry was working in computers, and I was an English major.  It got slightly better for me when I became a teacher, because everyone (supposes she does) knows what a teacher does.  But this American practicalism of needing to be _producing_ haunts me.

On Mondays, I’m due at work at ten o’clock in the morning.  Class at two o’clock, free at four o’clock.  In my mind and calendar, I should be up early to do some reading, and should go straight from class to the library, to type a paper three days ahead of time, to get an advanced start on reading or research, or to work on translation at the very least.

Often, though, I just don’t _want_ to.  I resist.  I want to take my shoes off, and sit on my comfy couch.  I want to wait for the bus, and ride to a bookstore, or look at fancy cheeses in one of the markets I never shop in.  

I don’t _think_ I’m a slacker.  That is, I get excellent marks, I run a variety of projects, I’m founding a new academic journal…  Intellectually, I know these things. But the guilt that comes from looking at novels and cheese.    It’s not as if my slovenly nature has caused failure in my life, in which case a harsh self-voice might be rational.

It’s fall!  I want to photograph apples and look at the cheese!  And search new recipes for figs stuffed with mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, and read at my own pace.  Oh, self-voice–how old will I have to be for you to grow silver and finally patient?

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Summer into fall

Last weekend definitely felt like the last day of summer.  After Sunday school, the parish had a picnic at a beautiful home of one of the congregation.  Ancient hydrangea bushed bowed low to the ground, full of their blooms.  A peach tree stood alone in endless trails of morning glory and moonflowers.  The kids splashed in the pool, barbeque smoke filled the humid air, and I had a last plate of potato and side salads. (No ramen noodle vegetable salad come wintertime, when butternut squashes and polenta will come into my palate again.) 


Yesterday, we went to a circus in the park, and it was cool enough that I wore tights and a jacket.  Leaves are starting to crunch underfoot, and the air feels like the inside of an apple. Everything smells more delicious, and I start to feel the strange poignancy that comes with fall. Is this a biological impulse, this poignancy?  Does part of our bones remember a cave, a hut inside a hill, dried apples, one potato, and no fresh milk through a long winter?

I’ve been looking at the photos I took all summer long.  I’m surprised how bright (purple!  gray with yellow!  red!) the colors are. Looking outside even now, in the middle of the day, there is a yellow cast on the red brick, the green trees.  I think if I awakened out of a deep, fairy tale sleep, I would know immediately that it was nearly October, by the light alone.

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Being sick

I’m under the weather.  Sore throat, runny nose, very tired and achey, and my ears hurt.

I’ve still been going to class, and work, but other than that—I’ve been sleeping when I want, and as much as I want.  If I don’t want to eat, I don’t eat.  If I want to eat, I eat.  If I just want to lay on the couch and stay warm, I just lay there.  Guilt free.

It’s strange that I usually am so hard on myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to just sit, just rest, sleep in…but I wouldn’t.  So in one, way, being sick and feeling awful has a silver lining. My inner voice becomes much more forgiving, and less strict.

Currently, I’m watching _Law & Order_, and sipping lemon/lime bubbly water.  I’m not doing dishes, or translating Greek, or returning phone calls, or planning youth curriculum.  And I don’t feel guilty!  Next step: channel this positive, gentle self-talk into every day life, for use when I am completely healthy.

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Sunday school

With the new school year comes the start of Sunday school.

I teach at two churches, one in the morning and one in the evening on Sundays.  Last year, the curriculum began with the story of baby Moses, and Miriam’s faith, and Moses’s adoption into the royal family.  

My main method when teaching Sunday school is to trust in the divinity that is within the kids.  That is, I believe that they are also near to God, and close to God.  I do not like or trust curricula that try to evangelize to children, as if kids are not already faithful.  I think that if the children begin to understand and internalize the stories over time, the stories will begin to shape their internal landscapes.  I also believe that it’s important to _be with_ every child, and allow things to move at their pace.

I generally start a “lesson” off with just talking to the kids.  I check in with them, ask them how they are, about school, or birthdays they’ve had, the week before…  I like hearing from them, and giving them all my attention.  For really little kids, we play with wooden dolls I’ve made, and as the play develops, I introduce the story for that week.  Although I do like crafts, and always include them, I don’t feel like rushing the kids to finish them, or insisting that they do them a particular way.

Last week, a mother who came to visit the Sunday school asked me, “So what are you doing today?”  I wondered if it might look like we weren’t doing very much.  I tend to put more emphasis on the experience of the kids (relaxed, calm, caring atmosphere, time and attention, gentle story-telling, and truthful question-answering) than on the _production_ of things.  As ever, it’s a human endeavor, a Graceful undertaking.  I’m lucky to get to be with these little people, and share these ancient stories with them.

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