Wednesday.

attic

Attic Afternoon.

This morning Ophie accused the plumber of stealing Andy’s wallet. I spent a lot of time on hold with the bank. I put socks, shoes, and breakfast on/ in my children. I waved like a lunatic at the daycare window. I said “fuck” in a meeting, more than once. I had lunch with Andy. I ate a burrito. I took a walk. I picked up my big kid. I picked up my little kid. I ate an English muffin with pizza sauce, mozzarella and a pineapple ring on top and called it supper. I wrote about Beanie Babies and sewing and dogwoods. I did a load of laundry but didn’t dry it. I whacked my wrist in an unexplainable way on the banister.

And I just found a piece of dog food on the kitchen table.

That’ll do, I suppose.

The bread and the knife.

coffee

Totally unrelated photo. Turns out home is my favorite coffee shop because there is never a line for the bathroom.

So, here’s this little guy. Reciting Billy Collins at the age of three. Pretty impressive. I mean, my three year old can sing almost all the words to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” so, you know, genius takes many forms. Ahem.

It seems like a million years since I was accustomed to spending my collegiate days and nights discussing/ writing/ reading poems, and who knows how long since I memorized one. High school maybe? In preparation for an overdramatic performance at a speech team event?

Birdy read Shel Silverstein’s “Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too” to me the other night while I was folding towels, and I was able to keep up reasonably well– and I realized it’s one of very few that I have committed to memory. There’s the William Carlos Williams piece about the plums that I’ve always loved, and some chunks of James Tate and maybe the Gettysburg Address, if you count that, which I don’t.

But do you know how excited I was to hear that poem when she read it? It flipped some switch, juiced some dormant rhythm and language wire that’s buried under all of the regular reading and speaking and copywriting stuff. And when we got to the part where we shouted, “Hooray! What Fun! It’s time we flew!” I got a little teary.  Shel, my friend, I hear you. But I didn’t hear you until I heard you.

There’s something completely magical about committing words to memory and speaking them out loud. And I forgot all about it, the way we forget about all kinds of magic, all the time.

So I’m going to memorize a poem this month. And as a tribute to that little guy and the slits under the arms of his too-little but still-beloved shirty (1:12 in the video), I’m starting with Litany.

(And then I printed it out and taped it in my notebook and pretty much wept at the act of cutting out something beautiful and saving it in a physical place, but that is a different entry.)

Litany

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

(Now hear Billy Collins read it)

We ate it, and it was good. GLORY BE.

Piiiiiiiiiiiintos

Piiiiiiiiiiiintos. I can’t tell if this is going to look good or gross. It looks straight-up gourmet to me, but I just ate two helpings, so my perspective is limited.

So, we are on this thing I’m calling the “new budget.” Which is exactly like the old budget, numerically speaking, but with the new twist of actually following it, even when it’s telling you something you don’t want to hear. It says ugly, mean things, things like, “You have $13 for groceries until the weekend and four mouths around that trendy Parsons table of yours, Lady.”  And since I’ve yet to (and will likely never) learn to coupon, I have to put on my granny’s apron and get cozy at the stove.

We used to cook like this all the time– as recently as last summer, even– until we got busy with all of these (okay, TWO) kids and had to go out and earn money and blah blah blah we fell off the wagon and into the loving arms of the pizza place around the corner. And into the habit of just putting whatever our little hearts desire, la-de-dah, into our cart and putting our budget out of our hungry little minds.

But tonight! We took our $13 and Loaved and Fished that shit and came up with something so amazing and delicious it felt like it should have cost a lot more and been ordered from a menu somewhere. Which, funny you might ask, it actually does– the vegetarian joint around the corner serves a fab dish that inspired this one, and I dare say we made it even better for a fraction of the price.

Can I Get a Kale Yeah for Pintos? 

  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium-ish onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bag chopped kale*
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice (just a few drops and totally optional)
  • 1 block extra firm tofu
  • Brown Rice – 4 servings prepared according to package
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Frank’s Hot Sauce

To make the tofu (skip this if you don’t like it):
Press the water out of your tofu block (use whatever method you love– I sit it on a cutting board next to the sink, prop one end up and set something heavy on top of it for about 15 minutes while the water drains out) and cut into thin slices. Pat with paper towel, brush with olive oil, add salt/ pepper to taste and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

To make the rest:

  1. Cook the onions in olive oil over medium heat until they’re translucent; add the garlic and stir around for about a minute more.
  2. Add several handfuls of Kale– more than you think you should, because it’s going to cook down quite a bit.
  3. When the kale looks wilty, hit it with a few dashes of lemon juice if you have it, then a few pinches of salt… maybe 1/2 tsp or so? I don’t know, who measures salt?
  4. Add the beans and stir around for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add your baked tofu to the mix.
  6. In a little bowl, mix Frank’s and Ranch (=Franch) to your own spicy liking.

Plate the pintos over the rice, pour on the Franch, stir it around and pretend you paid $9 a plate.

*Usually I’m all for buying bunches of veggies / greens over the pre-bagged ones, but our Kroger had no kale bunches (the indisputable sign of our neighborhood’s healthy hipster infestation) so I bought the big bag of Glory Greens. I have SEEN THE LIGHT! Cutting and de-stemming kale is a bitch, and no matter how small you try to cut it, you always end up with a few meal-ruining giant chewy mouthfuls of too-big kale– whereas Glory takes away all of the pain and gives you perfectly bite-sized, curly green bits of green good. Worth it. Really. GLORY BE.

In with the new.

deskSo. That’s my office right there. Because everything’s different now, and good, but weird and new, too. Okay, that’s not really my office. My office is the kitchen table. That rickety side chair becomes my office when the kids need to eat.

I left my job back in October, did you know that? A job I liked, that paid well-ish, that I was good at.

I found myself at a significant crossroads professionally and personally and I decided to just drive the damn thing across the cornfield because why not? And then it turned in to not exactly quitting, but some miraculous opportunity to stick around and make things up as I go along. Which, for now, means some time in the office doing work for an agency I like, and some time at home building a base of freelance clients and writing my own story, so to speak.

I know. It’s what I’ve always wanted. phew.

So I’m navigating this new time/ schedule thing by making an OCD-level number of to-do lists and trying to be patient with myself as I re-train my thinking away from the nine-to-five mindset. And I’m also trying to be patient with myself about being patient with myself, because that is also hard.

It will come. This is the shaking-the-wrinkles-out part. The important part. As for today, I got to go to my agency office and meet with smart people, go shopping in my awesome neighborhood for Ophie’s birthday present and a new moleskine for me, make myself a giant salad, work for a while with my weird old dog at my feet, walk to school to get Birdy and watch her run around with friends on the playground, pick Ophie up before it got dark, read with the kids when it wasn’t even bedtime and actually enjoy putting food on plates for us. All this while Andy’s traveling for the week and I’m flying solo.

Perfect fit. So ridiculously thankful.

Just one link tonight, I’m sleepy (but it’s a great one) :

The Oatmeal on writing internet content

Create & Repair

All of it.

I went to two different Michael’s craft stores today and bought all the fake white fur they had. All of it.

In the first Michael’s, I walked right  in the front door at 5 past 9 and made a bee-line for the far south corner of the store. I realized about half way there that I had absolutely no reason to believe the fake fur was kept there, and no prior experience with buying fake fur at this Michael’s, but somehow I just knew. Like I had worked here in a past life or something. I darted around the slowpokes. I walked with purpose. I trusted my gut to lead me to the fake fur, via the shortest path possible.

And I was wrong. They had it, but I had to ask two different salespeople and it was pretty much right by the front door. And they only had two little fake pelts, which is not enough for a clydesdale. I asked at the counter if they could contact the Michael’s across town, and the man behind the register says to me:

“I need to find a gun.”

Excuse me? Isn’t this just fake fur we’re talking about? He leaned into his little lavalier-clip walkie talkie all serious and said, “Please send somebody up here with a gun.”

Ah, ha. Right. A gun. To scan my fake fur. Ha-HA! I gave him a figurative rib-elbow and muttered something about how that sounded weird ha-ha, nervous-nervous. He did not think that sounded weird. He then said to me:

“Debbie’s in the office with all the guns. Someone’s going to have to go in and take them.”

I tried to make it a joke again and ended up saying something about hostages but it turns out that’s nothing to laugh about in Michael’s. GO FIGURE.

Scheduled Maintenance
Also today I had two different repair people in my home: glass repair guy who also tried to get me to pay in cash for a discount (shadesville), and the heat and air tune-up guy, who was jolly and had beautiful handwriting. Both engagements took about twice as long as they needed to because both technicians were on the phone the entire time. The window guy’s phone rang about 4,000  times to the tune of no fewer than 6 different ring tones, one of which (Bing-bong-bing!) he refused to answer. I was about 2 seconds away using my best prying mom-voice as I chopped my onion: So! Danny! Who was that?

And later, when the heating and air guy finally pulled out of my driveway after sitting there for a solid 25 minutes after the job was over (on the phone, no doubt!) thus un-blocking my path and setting me free to go pick up the kids, I passed his truck parked on another side street and saw him all slinked back in his seat, leering at his drivers’ side mirror to watch an unsuspecting and very young woman jog past. It sounds all harmless and girl-watcher when I type it out because I’m tired and whiny and feeling verbally lazy, but this was no Doublemint commercial. I did use the word “leering,” right? The point is, I instantly regretted our conversation about the coming tropical storms and the details I shared about my former cat.

Undressed to Impress

There was a huge work presentation in Kentucky last Friday. It was a big deal, and there was a lot riding on it, and we even showed up bearing cupcakes. So, naturally I wore a homemade dress with uneven seams, a mildly dirty black cardigan (keep your distance) and my favorite belt, pictured here. It’s gray and yellow and may or may not be held flat with a yellow ponytail holder; I bought it for $1.99 at Goodwill a couple of years ago. It’s become my Presentation Belt, and I wear it when I have to stand up and talk about/ explain/ sell my work and put some reasoning behind what I do for a living. It’s not a superstition, exactly, but it is kind of a thing.

After this last presentation, I was apparently so worn out by being all prepared and scrutinized and looked at and listened to in general that I inconspicuously took off my special Presentation Belt in the back seat of the CEO’s car for the ride back to Tennessee. I came into the office this morning and guess what was sitting in a neat bundle on my desk, along with some other forgotten items including my sunglasses and fancy notebook full of weird meeting-induced doodles? I am exposed for what I am: a grubby, distracted, concentric circle-obsessed cheapskate who has no hesitation about undressing in dark backseats in Kentucky. It’s a bit freeing, actually.

Moving Right Along
Today, I interviewed a bright and talented writer who is very interested in having my job and my desk and my phone extension. And as I prepare to make this big shift I think he’s probably the one I want to give it all to, but it is so strange to be letting go of something you’re okay with losing when you’re watching someone else trying to win it. It’s like every yard sale in the history of the world– the moment when you’re sitting in your lawn chair with your little Home Depot apron pockets bulging with change and you look over to the card table at the edge of the yard and see some weird old lady picking up the nun-and-priest salt and pepper shaker set your Aunt Linda gave you as a wedding gift. You’re not sure who you pictured paying 25 cents for them but you’re not completely sure it’s supposed to be this woman– she has taken you by surprise, somehow, even though your precise aim was to draw strangers to your castoffs– and you really consider the salt and pepper shakers for the first time probably ever and you think to yourself, but is she worthy?

Put some Friday in your Monday

So, I took a personal day. I had Bird’s First Grade Book Club make-up meeting to prepare for, after re-scheduling it so I could go do a presentation in Kentucky last week. Like any book club I’ve ever been involved with, I had not read the book and had no activity planned. Plus, I had next to nothing on my work agenda but a boatload of freelance work to cram in and one more personal day to burn before my days as a full-time employee come to an end. I called in on a Monday, and I didn’t even make an excuse and I didn’t feel guilty or wonder what anybody would think or say. I said “I’m not coming in because I’m going to do these things” and then I did them. It’s a small victory, but it felt nice.

Not going to the office and doing book club meant that this Monday followed the same formula as my Fridays soon will. And hey, mama. It was niiiiiiice.

I walked Bird and O. to school. I got some exercise in the sunshine. I noticed leaves and houses and other people in my neighborhood. I got a bunch of work done and I did the dishes. I scratched the dog behind the ears and meant it. I took a shower. I showed up to First Grade Book Club prepared (and bearing candy!) and led an activity they really liked, without watching the clock. I had the loudest lunch of my entire damn life with the first grade. I took comfort in the fact that cheese pizza is always accompanied by buttered corn. I picked around at the Goodwill.* I bought a sweater and a skirt. I did some more work and then picked Bird up after running club. In a few minutes, we’ll walk to daycare to get O.

I accomplished far more than I normally would without rushing anything or anybody, not even once.

I think this is going to work out just fine.

 

*Notes on Goodwill:

  • If they’re not going to throw them out, they should just make a designated  section for tiny shrunken wool sweaters from J Crew and Gap. I mean, I have done my share of accidental hot washings and subsequent additions to the donations pile, but who is buying thick-as-hell tiny sweaters? Nobody. I vow to never donate another one.
  • Every time I visit the Eastland Goodwill I hear these two songs: Yester Me Yester You Yester Day and La-La Means I Love You. Singing along is almost involuntary at this point, as those are great songs.
  • And yes I try things on at thrift stores, and yes, I do think about lice. And then I stop thinking about that and start thinking about sweet, sweet bargains, my friends.

 

No place like it

Red Dress Drag

An old college friend is in town from L.A. with her squishy new baby boy, Wyatt. I went this morning — without my own children, thank you Andy– to hug her/ squeeze him at another friend’s house, out in a very nice part of our city’s edge where there are lots of trees and hills and massive houses and personal space and Baptists and Republicans. And as I drove home, I had a whiny, jealous period that sounded a little bit like meh meh space and meh meh wooded lot and meh meh laundry room and meh meh grown ups, etc. And then I got off on my exit and wiggled my 18 blocks into the heart of my own neighborhood, and came upon a cop directing traffic around a massive gathering of men in red dresses and formal gowns, milling about between fun run and pub crawl. I realized that one of them was our metro councilman, who turned around and waved at me right after I took this picture.

And then I smacked my forehead and said, “this is home.”

Remember this:

“Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That’s the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it prestigious.”

–Paul Graham, How To Do What You Love

Found here.

In which I reverse my position on Farmville.

A wall in my office. I’m about to spend a lot less time with it. I’ve been building this for 4 1/2 years– many things have gone up, but I can’t think of one thing I’ve taken down.

I thought I’d be super clever and post something on facebook about how I get 1,000 requests to play Farmville and other nonsense. So I did. I posted this:

“Hey, just want to clear up a bit of confusion for everybody: I am not going to play Farmville with you. Not now, not ever.”

And lots of people (42 and counting!) “liked” it and a few people commented and there was silly banter and I mentioned something about how all of the requests came from my hometown and I was starting to think it was leftover high school code for “let’s get drunk in the cornfield,” and ha ha ha we are all laughing even if we didn’t graduate in my senior class of 120 kids because we know what Indiana is (supposedly) like.

And then, this happened:  a former classmate commented with a sincere apology for bothering me with these requests. She is now posting notices on her own page, asking for “do not contact” replies so she can make a list of people she should remove from her Farmville list because she really doesn’t want to get on their nerves if they don’t want to play. And this girl reeeeeeallly likes stuff like Farmville (which is fine! seriously!), and she goes to church with my parents, and lots of other life details which are now known to me thanks to Facebook and which make her somebody you just shouldn’t be picking on, you know?  Unless you’re a dick. Which, apparently, I am.

Know when to fold ’em.
Now that I’ve put the wheels in motion for this big job shift business, I spend an awful lot of time daydreaming about how I’m going to take care of all of this laundry.  Mounds and mounds of it, as soon as I’ve got a little more time; how easy it will all be, how neat, how not-wadded, and on and on about the laundry. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve subconsciously quit my job just so I can fold clothes. That would suck.

SEVEN.
Today, my Bird turns that many. Seven. And we are going to get her ears pierced after school, right after I show up in her classroom at the appropriate time with two boxes of individually wrapped fig newtons (a baker, I am not) and jugs of apple juice which I have yet to purchase. I’m just hoping the Claire’s girls down at the mall can do both ears at the same time and get it over with, as much for me as for her.

My sweet girl. Beautiful and kind and giving and brave and forging new ground, all the time. She’s got a hard job as the first child of people who are clumsily, earnestly making it up as we go along. Fortunately, she’s willing to collaborate with us on that. I’m so very very lucky she’s mine, and even more honored to be hers.

Today’s thanks: My Bird, obviously. And my parents’ dependably adventurous spirit.

Today’s links:

Some pandas gettin’ down on a bamboo breakfast

 This threatens the punchline of my favorite hipster joke: Why did the hipster burn his mouth? Because he ate his pizza before it was cool. 

Potato Jesus in cake form, and in party form.

This kind of thing makes copywriters like me do a slow clap. 

And last but not least, my favorite essay on fall, ever, which I know I’ve linked to before but don’t care.