Friday, December 12, 2014

B3-A5-C1-C1-C4, B1-D2-B4-A5-C3-A4!


Dear Chris,

Good morning! At least, it is morning now when I am writing this. Well, morning if you count that as anything between midnight and noon, the technical definition. It is not sunrise or later yet, so in informal speak, it's the middle of the night. We don't really have appropriate words for these non-technical concepts, do we? We'll just call it "asleep time" for now, and highlight the fact that I am clearly in the opposite state.

The other living creatures in my house are resting so peacefully, that I have decided to quit the room they are in and retreat to the kitchen, where at least there is hot chocolate and cookies. I turned on the Christmas tree lights for a pleasant glow, but I confess, they are not yet warming me with the Christmas spirit. I have seen glimpses of this elusive apparition this year, but it has not yet solidified into a welcome companion. Which seems about right. It is only December 12, and the activities that signal the arrival of Christmas time have only just begun. I'm pretty sure getting laid off is not one of the traditional harbingers of the season of Christ's birth, but overcoming another year of earthly toils is, so we will let it fuel that fire and press on.

Speaking of which, I want to write a great many things about this year's toils, waxing profound and throwing about the weight of my newly acquired wisdom. But I'm finding it hard to put in the concentrated effort to extract the wisdom from the experiences into clever sentences poignantly summarizing and cathartically releasing the pent up emotions. Even as I write that, it occurs to me I am most decidedly doing it wrong, and yet not, because I got those 2 sentences out! But more likely than not, my focus should probably not be to jump straight to the pithy analysis stage, but rather to embrace wrestling with the emotions and experiences in all my written pieces for years to come. It would be silly and pointless to expect anything less. I have been given the gift of adversity which I have thus far survived—why try and hustle that aside so I can return to my previous state devoid of inspiration?

One hour, 1 mug of cocoa, and 1 sheet of paper later, I feel pleased with my emotional progress. Had I continued to lay in bed while awake and asleep did battle, I am certain I would have trudged through the coming day with bitterness over lost sleep polluting my mood and demeanor. But maybe I have a tiny bit of hope now that to keep on keeping on is my best chance at finding the peace and rest I seek.

Thanks for keeping vigil with me. It really helps to have someone to talk to.

<3, Rachel

The original ink-on-paper version of this note will be waiting for you on your desk on Monday. Hope you don't mind I shared it with a few friends online in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fairy Party

You can always tell when the fairies have their raucous autumn party because the morning ground is littered with dainty yellow ginkgo fans that cooled and fluttered at the nighttime rave.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Still feeling penance over the Great Gourd Fiasco of 2012, I carved baby pumpkins again this year, specifically putting one aside for my long-suffering friend. I even put his name on it so it would be clear I was giving it to him:


I made one for Matt to take to work, too, and he said he would laugh every time he saw him with his little bow tie:


These two will sit on my desk, grinning their stupid grins at me, until their teeth rot out of their heads:

heh heh


Monday, October 6, 2014

While I Was Healing

Abdominal surgery: it's not something I recommend for everyone, but if modern medical science has a solution for what ails you and it involves cutting open your belly and poking around in your insides, it might be worth it. Even so, while I was out healing, I couldn't wait to get back to to the following:
  • Wearing outfits that don't include sweat pants
  • Taking care of myself
  • Taking care of other people
  • Going out to eat
  • A hearty belly laugh
  • A messy cry
  • Some semblance of routine
  • Coffee walks
  • Being active and running
  • Getting stuff done
  • Seeing people I know on a daily basis
  • Lifting things that need moving
  • Leaving the house to go shopping or whatever
  • Feeling energetic
  • Careless hugging

I can't complain a bit about the care I received when I couldn't very well care for myself. My mother scrubbed my tile bathroom! My friends visited me and brought me food! People sent me cards and flowers and treats and activity books! My husband worked from home a lot so he could make sure I wasn't going crazy with antsiness and loneliness! I felt loved.

While I was out, I felt like I had this gift of time to do whatever low-key activities I wanted. I thought I was made for such things as sitting in one place all day reading and writing! But even sitting around and healing takes a lot of energy. And while I probably fared better than many, 4 weeks is an awfully long time to sit without the ability do the things on the list above to break up the long stretches of time spent in stillness and solitude.  Even so, I found a few things to do, including:
  • Watched a mini-series called The Paradise
  • Read The Ladies Paradise, by Émile Zola (because I wanted to see if it read better than the mini-series. It did, though it was very long and contained a lot of descriptions of store displays in the haberdashery department, etc.)
  • Watched documentaries on topics such as:
    • Lego
    • Henry VIII's palace
    • how cars are made (though I forget which ones)
    • Selfridges
    • back-up vocalists
  • Watched a strange mini-series called A Young Doctor's Notebook that I'm not sure I'd recommend, though it did have John Hamm in it.
  • Watched several comedy specials:
    • Jim Gaffigan's Mr. Universe
    • John Mulaney's New In Town
    • Comedy Roundtable with Ben Stiller, Mike Myers, Seth Meyers, and Michael Ian Black
  • Watched movies:
    • Lego Movie
    • Amazing Spiderman II
    • The Other Woman
    • Remembrance
    • How to Marry a Millionaire
    • Under the Tuscan Sun
    • Moneyball
    • Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day
    • Stuck in Love
    • Silver Linings Playbook
    • Tiger Eyes 
    • Girl Most Likely
  • Started reading several books I fully intend to finish someday:
    • Remembrance of Things Past: Swann's Way
    • A Tale of Two Cities
    • Gone Girl
  • Finished reading several books I started once:
    • On Writing Well
    • The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories
  • Continued reading several books I am in the middle of:
    • The Elusive Pimpernel
    • Walden
  • Worked on making my Halloween costume, which will be a peacock in flight!

Collection of Beloved People

Left Brain: Heart, I noticed you've added someone to our collection of beloved people. Might I remind you that you are already in love with about a million people already? And that you don't seem to fall out of love with anyone? How is that even possible?

Right Brain: Let's go as a peacock for Halloween!

LB: Plus, Heart, you've already got a person like that, are you sure you need another?

Heart: This one is unique. They are all so special.

LB: Well, if we are going to love them all, we're going to have to remember to remember them all. Can we at least make a list?

RB: No wait, not just a peacock, but a peacock in flight!

LB: If I at least keep track of who hurt you, you can make safer choices in future. But you should probably just pay more attention to the people you already love a lot, like your husband.

RB: I should start thinking about what presents to get people for Christmas. And pen club! I want to restart The Pen of the Month Club!

LB: Do these people even know you cherish them? I really don't think some of them deserve your time.

RB: I want to put together an eggplant and blush outfit. I really like that color combination. I should look for purple shoes!

Heart: <3 <3 <3 COLORS!!! <3 <3 <3

LB: Seriously, I am so stressed out. You're out of control, Heart! How did you even expand enough to let another one in? It seems mathematically impossible that you could love anyone else without loving someone less.

RB: I bet there's, like, some kind of concept, like where the more you love, the more love multiplies. Like, 1+1=3!

LB: Right Brain, you have no idea what you're talking about. You are totally making things up.

RB: Research it!

LB: I hate researching. It's so boring. Let's just catalog the facts we already know.

Heart: I love all my beloved people. I want to squeeze them all and tell them I love them. I want to fill them up with love so they feel warm inside even when I'm not there. I want them to feel known, cared about, and hoped for.

LB: What if they don't want you to squeeze them?

Heart: I will grow little hands and reach out to hold their heart's hands.

LB: That's weird. And gross.

RB: That's such a cute idea! Maybe I can write something about it!

LB: Finish the peacock costume first!

RB: I've got an idea for a blog post! What if we type up this conversation??

Heart: To tell them all we love them!

LB: This is impossible. [initiates SLEEP sequence]

Friday, August 8, 2014

What It Means to "Be Published"

It has recently come to my attention that if I "publish" my writing on my blog, I may be preventing myself from submitting that writing elsewhere to be "published" in a more formal fashion. I had no idea this would be the case but I guess I didn't really think about it. I'm not sure if it matters now or if it is too late, but I have removed the fiction pieces from the blog that I thought had any potential. This makes me sad, because I feel like I have to squirrel away my writing in case a "real publisher" has any interest in it, when all I really want to do is share my writing with other people, and the best way I have to do that all by myself is through my blog.

I'm not sure how long I should wait or how many times I should submit a piece before I give up on it winning a contest or making it into a journal. I don't really want my blog to be only my "leftover" writing that I've given up on. That is so depressing! And it doesn't seem likely that it would really help my blog readership much, either. So I'm not sure what to do with my writing or my blog in the future. I will have to think about it and research it more.

Friday, July 11, 2014


This road may lead to a brilliant future and I have no choice but to take it, however, I am reluctant to drive on ahead with a pleasant past still visible in my rearview mirror.

Though it grows dark, I detour down Memory Lane. I round the bend that brought our paths together. I cruise the straightaways of our companionable twosome. I grin even as I jostle through the potholes and curves, recollecting how they brought us closer together.

Yet now I must turn back onto the main path. At the end of Closed Door Road, I will hang a right onto Open Window Avenue and continue until it becomes New Era Boulevard. But in my mirrors, for as long as I can, I will watch the sun set on our golden age, and remember what drove it to greatness.


I've been working on this piece for several weeks and even solicited feedback for it from various writing groups. It has gone through many revisions. I'm not sure if it's done, or what done looks like, but it is time to post it.

It isn't about one thing in particular, and yet, today, it is, about something I love that is changing. But I'm not going to elucidate what, because I want you to allow you to read it broadly enough to be about changes in life in general, and not just one particular thing.

If you have an excellent memory, you may notice that, yes, it uses some words and phrases from something I posted a year ago. But there is nothing like a little change to necessitate additional ruminations.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Galaxial Fables

Fern fronds frolic across the carpeted terrain of a deep-space merchandiser, the writhing corpuscles announce their unbiased censorship, and the earth sheds her misgivings like a sub-Saharan stargazer. My darling, your nonsense vaporizes my retina in a cranial conflagration reminiscent of a red giant: the hitherto hidden hope for nebulaic stardom.

I'm welcome to receiving feedback on this piece! Feel free to let me know your reactions/comments/feedback in the comments or in person/email!

Friday, June 6, 2014


Last Friday I read an article outlining the upcoming Dexter-Ann Arbor Run. I found out I could still sign up for the 5k, 10k, and half marathon races even though they were only 2 days away. After reviewing the route maps, I saw that the 10k started and finished right next to my work place, where I could park ridiculously conveniently and for free. The weather looked decent, I felt in good health, and I could think of no further excuses for why I shouldn't attempt my first 10k race.

As I've only ever once run that far without stopping, I didn't want to make a big deal about it and freak myself out. I've been running at least 3 miles/week for several months, but my legs sometimes feel like rigid planks the entire time, and I never know if running is going to feel good on a given day or not. Matthew thoughtfully looked up race day advice on the internet and made sure I packed protein bars to eat before and after as well as dry clothes to change into. I almost succeeded in not getting myself too nervous except for the dreams I had the night before about being late to the race and having to cover the ground with words as I ran (a conflation with NaNoWriMo, no doubt).

When the time came to finally awake on Sunday morning, I felt so excited to get out there and start running. I wanted to challenge myself, and I came ready to battle with God the whole way, struggling with the mental and physical pursuit. I arrived right on time to find over 1,000 runners lined up to run the 10k with me!

At the start, most people stood in groups chatting with friends. I felt a pinch sad that I had come alone, but extremely glad to not be lining up with my friend Yuri at the half-marathon start, her daily training having better prepared her for such a feat (Perhaps another time I can talk her down to the 10k...). Eventually, we runners in the back noticed that someone was singing the National Anthem and quieted down just in time for "the land of the free..." Not long after, the group began walking forward, and I couldn't tell if the race had begun or we were crowding to the start line. Perhaps both. I crossed the starting line about a minute and a half after the race had officially commenced.

Runners took up both lanes of the road as we headed north on Main Street. I started out slower than my usual running pace, partly out of fear of the miles to come, and partly because of the difficulty of running amongst so many people. By mile 1, where a volunteer band sat playing the Rocky theme on repeat, we started to spread out and the running got easier without as much jockeying for position. Just after mile 2 is where the guy in the lead passed me on his way back to the finish line, almost at his 4th mile. Some people in front of me clapped and cheered for him while the rest of us pressed on further north.

It wasn't until I made it to mile 4 that I gained complete confidence that I could make it the whole way, at which point I picked up my pace to at least the 10 minute/mile pace at which I train on the treadmill. I knew it would be uphill at the end (one of the features for which the Dexter-Ann Arbor run is known), but the finish would be nearly in sight, and I would manage. I realized I hadn't had to coax the steps out of myself the whole way like I sometimes do when I'm running at the gym, and it felt amazing. With so much to look at and so many people to watch, I was happy with my decision not to listen to music or carry a phone to check the time. Some people chatted while running, and I enjoyed hearing snippets of their conversations. But it felt so free to just be me, my legs moving like running was my modus operandi, nothing to carry, following the herd towards triumph and the rest of a beautiful summer day.

As I ran toward the finish, I took a moment to thank God for all the parts of me that work. My flexible ankles keep me from falling when I take a misstep, my leg muscles contract and release to pound the pavement repeatedly for over an hour, my healthy heart pumps blood to and from my extremities, and my lungs take in the fresh air to supply the blood with oxygen as the whole machine that is me motors on down the road.

I finished with an energizing sense of accomplishment in just over an hour with a 10:04min/mi pace, placing 559th out of 1,147 runners. The rest of the day as I wore my finisher's medal around the house, I felt something akin to invincibility, and when I met up with Nick, Yuri, Matt, and Andrea at the Taste of Ann Arbor for lunch, I felt like I could eat anything because I'd run 6 miles and gotten over 10,000 steps all before 9am. I'd do it all again, and I fully intend to. As I continue to run for fun and exercise, as well as strive to keep myself in good working order, I hope I can remember the unexpected joy I found in completing that 10k. I won't get a medal for my efforts every day, but I do daily get a chance to choose perseverance over resignation and adventure over fear.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gambling with Vegas

When Matt was invited to speak at a work conference in Vegas, I got excited about tagging along so that afterwards we could head out into the desert and see some stars. I'd been reading a book called The End of Night which had gotten me really geeked about dark places and preserving the ability to star gaze, even though I don't know anything about what stars I'm gazing at. I could think of someone who does, though, and thought my vacation experience would be greatly enhanced with his presence. With little more than a month's notice, I took a chance and emailed my astronomy-loving friend Josh whom I hadn't seen since grad school:

"What are the chances you and Kristen want to fly towards Vegas the weekend of May 2nd to drive out into the desert and look at stars and dirt and rocks and stuff? In my ideal world, you're looking at your calendar holding a wad of spare cash and thinking "gosh, it's been like 9 years since I saw those crazy Dulls--we should plan a trip in May to hang out with them!" In my slightly less ideal world, you're reading this email chuckling to yourself about my persistent ignorance and naivety in life, but you're a nice guy and so will at least set me straight on my star gazing plans. In my living nightmare, you agree to come but only if we stay at the Clown Motel. So give it to me straight: what kind of world am I living in?"

Several hours later he responded:

"I definitely would like to see those crazy Dulls and regularly wish they lived closer to us for hanging out. Game-playing, craft-beer-loving, home-ownering librarian-type couples being in relatively scarce supply. Well, get this. By coincidence it so happens we are going to be in Arizona for a trip to the Grand Canyon area right around the time you guys will be in Vegas. I am very scared of that clown motel."

I did my best to compensate for Josh's characteristic understatement by replying to his email with no fewer than 6 "omg"s. Las Vegas is a mere 4 hours from the Grand Canyon and Arizona is a perfect place to view the stars! Jackpot! Vacation plans quickly fell into place.

A little over a month later in a brew pub in Sedona, Arizona, we Dulls reunited with Josh, and met his fantastic wife, Kristen, for the first time. In addition to being enjoyable company, they are also excellent planners, and Matt and I pretty much leeched on to their vacation plans in lieu of researching our own (Librarian friends are so useful!). Over the next several days, we would meet up in Flagstaff to play games and drink local beers, and take a day trip together out to Walnut Canyon and Meteor Crater. We also stopped by the Lowell Observatory to view the moon, Mars, and Jupiter through the observatory's sizable telescopes. It all made for a great vacation! Click through to my Flickr album to see our pictures.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Right Now's Favorite Things

Drinks with friends.

Wall of inspirations at my studio.
Kitty peeking out the window in the morning.
Tall, pretty shoes.
A day's FitBit graph that looks like this.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hind Sight

Sometimes I narrate my daily goings-on to myself in my head to practice describing things even if I never write it down.

This morning when I walked into the bathroom at my studio building, I thought it smelled funny, but I didn't know like what, so I went about washing my coffee mugs before heading to the stall. The first stall, I noticed, had not yet been cleaned (oftentimes the toilet seats are still up when I go in there in the morning) but also had not successfully been flushed after its last use. A #2 was still in the pot from the day before, or perhaps over the weekend, given that it had largely disintegrated and turned the water the murkiest of browns. I decided to be a good lass and go in there and try to flush it. It's the kind of toilet that you have to hold the handle down on, so I could imagine how the remaining turd was an honest mistake. I held my breath and the handle, waiting to see the outcome. Alas, it didn't all go down this time either, but at least most of the brown water had been replaced with clean. The toilet bowl was still really stained and the room still smelled rank, so in a split second decision I decided to leave the turd as an explanation for the custodian, who I had seen in the hall prior to coming into the bathroom. I proceeded to the next stall to make my own deposit, but made sure everything flushed completely down.

I returned the the bathroom later in the morning, and only then did it occur to me that I should not have left a turd for the custodian to find, for he would be as likely as not to think it was mine since he had seen me go into the restroom. And he would think it had been a doozy, too, given the lingering putrid smell! Worse than not knowing that I had done him a small favor, he would now think I'd left him a trap!

"Hind sight," I thought. "Which would make a perfect title for this narrative if I wanted to blog it." So I did. You're welcome?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Another analytical post about friends

When in a group of n friends, where n is greater than 2 and less than or equal to 5, the conversation depth and style often default to the level of the least strong relationship, in order to be inclusive and polite. Topics and comfort levels of the deeper relationships among subsets of the friends are checked at the door, and efforts are concentrated on bringing the newest friends up to speed, or at the very least courteously not conversing only in inside jokes. However, the more established relationships should continue to be nurtured or they will tend to regress. Ideally, this nurturing can happen outside of designated group activities and in a way so as not to exclude or devalue the newer relationships, but they must be given the opportunity to experience their previously attained depth of connection or risk abandoning it altogether.

These are my general observations, at least, and the models fit much of the personal data against which I compared it. Have you notice similar dynamics amongst groups of your acquaintances?

I have experienced these situations at various times from different vantage points. I have been the new girl hoping to join an established group, and I have been the old friend sacrificing a part of my long-held relationship hoping it will expand to include another. My time as the new girl reminds old friend to not be selfish, and my time as old friend reminds new girl to be patient and not so jealous. I am grateful to have had enough friends in my three decades of life to allow for the gathering of this empirical data, and I assure you that my frequent analysis of friendships has not detracted from my enjoyment of them in the least!

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Could the key to the intestinal distress I've been feeling since January be all in my head? A results of too much internalized stress, anxiety, and empathy? Have years of worrying what other people think about me, worrying that I am not helping other people enough, worrying that there will always be something to worry about, and worrying that I worry too much finally caught up with me?

I am afraid of wasting time, wasting resources. I try to care too deeply. What am I trying to accomplish? What am I trying to prove? Am I just trying to get people to care about me back? What if my care is only selfish and I'm doing it all wrong? If I'm not okay with positive byproducts accidentally coming out of selfishness then my whole life may be worthless.

I want to be like everyone else, and I want to be unique. I can't very well be anything but either and both. A paradox. I know this isn't deep, only tortured. I am one of those people who put their feelings on the Internet for others to read. What would compel me? I am ashamed of it myself, why would I want to share it? What does it mean if I can't even figure out my own motivations? I am adrift in a sea of questions trying to hold together a raft made of driftwood answers. (That sounds like it might be a good analogy but it is not. The imagery is mildly interesting, but it doesn't make any sense, does it?)

I've noticed a few times recently that in conversations I've gotten talking and then couldn't remember what point I was trying to make, or what question I was trying to answer. I think people must do this all the time because many people don't make sense when they are talking. I do not really wish to be one of these people, but once, in the moment, I pretended I was and acted as if that was normal. I did not apologize for getting off course like I normally would, and I did not check to see if the other person noticed I hadn't made a point. In each instance, my conversation partner just went with it and found something to say back! How extraordinary! And how gracious. As I do want to be an advocate for sensible conversations, I will try not to make a habit of forgetting my point, but it's nice to know I have options.

(Did you read that last sentence and wonder what "options" I was referring to? A good writer would have made it clear she meant options of how to handle it if I did forget my point, not options of forgetting my point or not. She would also probably not waste your time and call her credibility into question by pointing out her writing foibles. Alas, sometimes you read the blog of the confused amateur writer you know, not the blog of the polished professional writer you don't know. For which, bless you!)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Foods, Part II

I'm now in my 6th week of gluten-free eating. It has gotten easier while remaining difficult all at the same time:
Forbidden double chocolate stout...

But I'm collecting lots of data, so let's get to it!

The Applegate hotdogs were not my thing. I bought a different kind the next time, and the cashier at Trader Joe's said, "Have you tried the Applegate hotdogs? They're my favorite." I had to politely disagree due to their lack of hotdog flavor.

As for the feel good foods egg rolls, have I ever eaten an egg roll from frozen that was decent? No. Not sure why I thought gluten-free ones would be any better.

The Hummuz crackers, like the Applegate hotdogs above, are not strictly marketed to the Gluten-Free crowd. I like crackers, and I like olive tapenade, so I thought why not? My cracker intake has shot up noticably in proportion to my decrease in bread consumption. These, however, will not even be finished let alone purchased again. When Matt first tasted one, he thought it was stale. I just thought it was gross.

The frozen battered cod was legitimately good! I would buy it again, but from Busch's this time where I saw them this weekend ($6.99) instead of Whole Foods where I bought it them first time ($9.99).

I've made Pamela's Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix twice now, with different results, but both delicious. I used almond milk and the vegetable-based butter substitute seen in my last post to make delicious lactose- and gluten-free cookies.

The Bold pizza is one of the best frozen pizzas I've ever had, which is saying something because this one didn't even have real cheese. It wasn't cheap, but it was organic, so you're paying for the alternate recipe crust AND the all-organic ingredients. But I would totally recommend it. Processed convenience foods that are moderately healthy and delicious are hard to find.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Foods

For health reasons, I have been experimenting with a lactose-free, gluten-free diet for the last 2+ weeks. It can be difficult, as any gluten-intolerant person or vegan will attest to, and grocery shopping all of a sudden takes about twice as long as we learn about new products and read ingredients lists. As eating and tasting are two of my primary joys in life, and sampling new things and collecting data points are my modi operandi, I thought a blog post was in order.

First, the products I will not be buying again, even if my new diet becomes a permanent thing:

You can't see it in the picture, but the Lärabar is "gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher". In its defense, it suffers from the same chalky and crumbly downsides that I find in glutenous Balance bars. The So Delicious coconut milk yogurt was not the worst thing I've eaten recently (*cough* hot dog buns *cough*), but I enjoy other lactose-free options better. The Schär hot dog buns were among the farthest things from edible I've ever tried to consume. Gluten, as it turns out, is crucial in the food we know as "bread", thus, no bread product can effectively be replicated sans one of its key ingredients. But that's not the main reason these rolls were so terrible. If the thing your fake bread product is missing is elasticity, and the bread product you are trying to approximate is one whose success hinges upon having a workable hinge, the least you can do is make a decent slice into the center of your roll. These buns suffered from having a huge indent on the underside, and then they were sliced so as to have a thin bottom. When I tried to place my all natural gluten-free casein-free hot dog into the roll, the lengthwise half of the bottom of the bun snapped right off. I tried flipping the bun over and perching my dog atop the remaining, hingeless, 3/4th of the roll, but the dryness and flavorlessness of the non-elastic bun made it both impossible and undesirable to eat. I abandoned pieces of it with each bite before eventually giving up and eating the ketchup-covered hot dog with my bare hands. Priced at over $1 per roll, these mistakes will not be funded by me again.

These next products proved edible, but still felt like compromises:

Matt claims to really like the Bob's Red Mill pancakes and the Earth Balance "butter". I found the pancakes a bit gritty, and the consistency was exceptionally thick. Perhaps I should have added more rice milk, or perhaps a soy or hemp milk would be better. The crispy rice bars are okay for a quick snack, but not that flavorful. With the aforementioned failure of the Lärabar, I'm still on the lookout for a tastier granola-style bar. As for the sausage, next time I won't get the maple flavor because it tastes too sweet.

The following are products I have legitimately enjoyed:

The gopicnic lunch meal with plantain chips and black bean dip tasted really good, even if I sort of regretted that small amount of beans for the rest of the day. For breakfast, I've replaced my usual Greek yogurt with a lactose-free yogurt and a hard-boiled egg. While I prefer homemade cookies, Pamela's Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies are among the best packaged cookies I've ever had, and Matt, a packaged cookie connoisseur, has eaten at least half of them. The Nut-Thins in both Pecan and Almond variety taste good, are crispy, and make me feel like I'm actually snacking on something with substance. Finally, King Arthur's gluten free muffin mix produced such tasty muffins that we had no problem eating all 12 giant muffins (I added cranberries, too) in under a week. A grateful thanks to these manufacturers for making even restricted dieting delicious!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Taming the Mustang

The snow falls regularly, maintaining the brilliant white wintery landscape. Fresh layers compact on the roads and sidewalks until they are flung in uneven heaps at the edges of both. Each new dusting hides previous sins of neglect by disguising uncleared ice and unshoveled walkways.

I was not made for this. I can go 0 to 60mph in under 7 seconds in dry conditions, but on these roads I'm lucky if I can get 50 feet within 7 seconds after the light turns green. In the summer my engine purrs like a kitten, but in temperatures below freezing it sounds more like a grumble. This pony was born to run free, not vault obstacles and traverse hazards like a whipped steeplechase horse! And I'm not a draft horse pulling your wagon around town. I'm a rear-wheel-drive, sunshine-loving, Mustang convertible! Tie your hair back, drop my top, and peel out around the corners while the sun warms your skin and the open breeze makes you feel like you're flying.

But not today. A convertible in Michigan in February is like a palm tree shivering on the tundra, or a colorful toucan in Siberia—the correct answer to “Which of these things just doesn't belong?” I'm stuck at the bottom of a hill, my doors are too wide to open next to a snowbank, and my low chassis won't glide through unplowed snow.

Someday the spring will come, someday we'll meet again. And the wild 'Stang will run free again. Someday when my dreams come true.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


It can be an incredibly hard time even when there isn't any one big thing going terribly wrong. Sometimes a handful of smaller challenges, annoyances, and frustrations pile up enough to make it feel incredibly hard. You can even have moderately good things happening right along side the hard, and it will still feel like a difficult time. And sometimes you can't let yourself cry about it because the excess of phlegm in your nose and throat leftover from being sick a month ago makes you gag and puke when you cry, so it's really best to put the kibosh on the crying after only 1 or 2 tissues, max.

So I will try to remember:
  • Spring will come, if I survive the winter.
  • It's always darkest before the dawn.
  • That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

Diana Ross may be singing about a breakup, but there's a lot of universally useful advice in her chorus: "I will survive, as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive. I've got all my life to live, and I've got all my love to give, I'll survive, I will survive."

Hey hey.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Why be realistic? Don't wake me from my dream.”

Last night I dreamt that I was in a class and we all took turns talking about something with which we were obsessed. I talked about my favorite band, They Might Be Giants, detailing how I own most of their collection*, wear many TMBG t-shirts, and have attended quite a few of their concerts. I woke up thinking this would be a great blog post to write right now while it's still fresh in my mind, if only I hadn't gotten up late for work. I remembered almost my exact words from the dream, but now that I think back on the enthusiasm I had for it in the morning, I'm not sure I really have the interesting angle that seemed so brilliant then. Would anyone really care that I have 25+ of their CDs, 4 records, 7 shirts**, a personalized ring tone, and have seen them at least 6 times on tour? Maybe, but only if I could package it in an interesting story.

After I delivered my TMBG fan-girl resume in my dream, my friend CGAT stood up and said, “You know what I'm really obsessed with? Cankles.” Someone in the dream unfortunately stopped him before he got any farther.

*I'd love to say I “celebrate their entire catalogue”, but it's quite extensive with many many non-studio album releases, and it would be a lot of work to track all that down, though I do what I can. See the extent of it here.

**For some time I have been considering writing a rant about the difficulty and ridiculously poor usability of buying a tshirt on the internet, but haven't been able to calm down long enough while thinking about it to write anything sensible.

(Title from “We Live in a Dump” off of the Dial-A-Song album)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Year's New Careers

My dear blog readers, I have not meant to abuse your readership by my long absence. Life things needed tending to, not the least of which have been holidays, snow, and illness. But then there has been some excitement, too—a long-in-coming story which I shall presently tell you.

Some time ago, I attended a training session for work. After two unexpectedly difficult days of challenging exercises and discussions, we were asked to state one thing we had gotten out of the experience. My honest response was that I had learned that nobody was going to define my role and my job for me and that I have to do it myself. This isn't the case at all jobs—sometimes you are put in a very narrow box and told exactly what to do. While I wasn't oblivious to the openness for possibility at my job, I confess I had been wishing, hoping, and waiting for someone to tell me what they wanted me to do so I could be a team player and do it. I wanted a box defined, and I wanted to be awesome at doing everything in that box. Since I could no longer pretend that a preconceived notion of my box was forthcoming from someone else, I would have to define it myself. I may have cried in the bathroom of the conference center that day.

That night after training, I talked with Matthew. Emotionally spent, but newly motivated and determined, we discussed my career future. Over sushi and sake, several possible plans emerged and none of them involved working full time on something other than writing. I'd always dreamed of a day when I might get paid to write and so could justify not making money using that graduate degree I bothered to get when I couldn't figure out how to make money using a creative writing/literature degree right out of college. But how could I ever get there from here? Time has become my most valuable commodity, and time is what my job asked most of me last year. Maybe I should take time back, ask to work part time, or just quit altogether (it'd been a long week—by the next week I was less keen to quit outright).

I socialized the idea to a few close friends. I took my required “career development planning” at work seriously and described my ideal job on the worksheet as one where I get to write and revise and think all day (I enjoy what I do at my work presently, but not everything you enjoy is your favorite). I got up the courage to ask my dear friend/boss if I could switch to part time after the new year so I could spend the rest of my time working on writing. After a bit the answer came back yes! Though the details have yet to be hashed out, it looks like a thing that might actually happen in the near future. I might actually get enough momentum to finish revising a novel, and I might not have to become a hermit to do it!

As if all that weren't enough, my friend Jessica called me one day soon after that ball had started rolling and said “I'm going to look at an office this week for my wedding planning business and for writing. Most of the spaces are too big for me by myself, and I remember that you had a dream of having a writing office someday. Do you want to check it out with me?” Shocked, delighted, amazed, and more than anything grateful that Jessica is a woman of action, I couldn't say no.

Cut to today. I am in a fantastic old building, writing at a desk in a room all my own made cozy by a vintage La-Z-Boy, a colorful rug, and a granny square blanket made by my grandmother. I have a mug of tea at hand, and there is no cat or mound of dishes here vying for my attention. It is a thing of beauty and an enormous blessing which will only grow when I can spend more than just Sunday afternoon enjoying my new space's comforts.