Essay: A project for an ebb tide.

I’m about to embark on yet another project.  For those of you who know me, this isn’t much of a surprise.  I’m very project-focused.  In fact, were my blog a drinking game, most of the regular readers would be half-soused if the drinking word was “project.”  It’s not surprising that the universe found me a job at a school that uses the Project Approach to educate its children.  I’m all about the focused effort toward a goal that is the project.
I’m a bit at an ebb tide right now.  In fact, last night I started to write an essay about my ebb tide, but found I didn’t have enough energy to parse out what exactly that means and then format those thoughts into legible sentences, let alone paragraphs.  I can tell you that I don’t have a lot of extra oomph right now.  And that I don’t want to be a lot of things I usually am happy to be.  Farmer for one, that’s currently on hold.  The yard is a mess.  Enthusiastic athlete, that’s another one.  Running (jogging, really) has been on hold, because every time I do it, I hurt my foot.  I’m just doing a bit of walking in the mornings for now. Homemaker, there’s another thing I’m not really interested in right now.  I’m cooking at a minimal level to feed myself and doing just a bit of cleaning to keep the house in barely contained order.  But that’s it.
I think this feeling will pass. It feels temporary.  I might just be overly tired—I haven’t really been sleeping very well the past few weeks—or hunkering down for the cold winter.  Maybe my ancient farmer within wants me to rest after the harvest, despite the fact I never really got around to harvesting this year.
So while I’m waiting for the flood tide to return, here’s what I’m doing:  I’m writing 500 words a day from tomorrow until the end of the year.  That’s 500 words times 61 days.  I’ll have 30,500 words come December 31.  30,500 words of what, you ask?  Well, that would be the new novel I started in July and wrote daily until school started to ramp up again.  My plan is to get a first draft (hence the project) and then do something I’ve never actually done:  revise that first draft into something actually good.
I’ve written about 17,000 words already, mostly in chunks larger than 500 words.  That plus my 30,500 to come will have me ending up short of the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000, (and with two months instead of one) but that’s fine.  Ebb tide is saying NaNoWriMo isn’t really doable this year.  So I’ll adapt.  I know I can write 500 words in about 20 minutes and I feel like I can find 20 minutes per day from now until the end of the year.  And I know that I feel better having written.  And I know I just want the thing to get written.  And then I want it to be better.

I might have time to throw in an essay for the blog now and then, but if I don’t, maybe I’ll post a bit or piece of what I’m working on.  But perhaps not.  We shall see.  At any rate, I’m off on another adventure.  Wish me luck.

45RPM: Runaway Train, Soul Asylum

Where I match a song to a specific memory.

My brother is two years younger than me and we inhabited different worlds for most of our growing up.  I was books, he was sports.  I was rules he was push.  I was lonely, he was surrounded.  I was nerdy, he was popular.  I was struggle, he was ease.  By the time we had both settled into attending the same high school (he a sophomore, I a senior) we had our routines down and our orbits really only crossed at the dinner table and on vacations as well as a random day now and then when we did something together.

Except for a few standouts, most of his friends have melded into one friend amalgam.  They were of the same time, the kind of hippy, kind of athletic popular kids, who did much more socially than I ever did in high school.  Our age difference seemed vast at that time, and I always felt a combination of bemused at their childish/grownup antics and kind of inferior to their social status.  I mostly left them alone, though we weren’t unfriendly to each other.

Some of them sought me out, for whatever reason.  I found a journal entry that described a party my brother hosted while my parents were out of town (the exact kind of party, in fact, that kept my parents from leaving town for nearly all of my high school experience) where two of his friends found me in my room and chatted me up.  I even printed out and saved what they wrote when they were messing around on my word processor.  They cracked me up, even twenty years later.

I have a clear memory of one friend–name lost to time–encountering me on the stairs as I was leaving for work.  He gripped the Soul Asylum album Grave Dancer’s Union in his hand and was giddy with delight over something.  “Look!” he said to me, pointing to the CD cover.

“Butt.” he indicated the naked girl on the right.

“Butt” he indicated the naked girl on the left.

“No butt.” all that was left was the girl in the middle.

I smiled and nodded and continued on my way, confused as always by my brother’s friends.  And I think of that encounter every time I think of this song.

Kale Salad a la Casey.

This summer I had a great Kale Salad made by bride Casey for her wedding.  It was massaged kale and had quoina in it and was very, very good.

Upon receiving a bumper crop of kale from my colleague John, I put together this Kale salad inspired by her creation.

Here’s the recipe:

Bring 1.75 c. water to boil and add 1 c. quoina.  Turn heat to low and cook until done, approximately 20 minutes.

Clean and remove the stems from a whole lot of kale.  2-3 bunches from the store, or a huge bowl’s worth from your garden.

Put the cleaned and stemmed kale in a bowl and add 1 t salt.  Set a timer for five minutes and squeeze the kale in your hands.  Nothing will happen at first, but by the end of the five minutes, the kale will have nicely broken down.  Squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the kale and transfer your kale to a cutting board.

Clean out the bowl, discarding the salty kale juice, then finely chop the kale and return to the bowl.

Grate two carrots on top of the kale.

Cook 2-3 (or possibly 4?) rashers bacon, drain and cool.  The chop into small pieces and add to the bowl.

Put those on top of the kale and carrots.

When the quoina is done, add it to the bowl.

Mix up a curry vinaigrette.  In a separate bowl add 1/4 c. oil, 1/4 c white vinegar, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 T packed light brown sugar, 1 T minced fresh chives, 1/2 t. curry powder and 1/2 t soy sauce. Mix until combined.

Pour over the salad in the bowl and toss everything to combine.  Good cold, also probably good warm.

Postcards from Montana and the Netherlands.

This is from my friend Susan, wishing me a happy birthday.
And this was a fabulous piece of mail from a fellow Postcrosser.
The envelope, which was handmade.
A letter, written on that awesome thin paper.  It contained a quote from Maria Montessori, “Help to do it myself.”
Then the actual postcard, which came from Ikea.  That heart with the map on it is a bookmark.
Look at the back!  So incredibly pretty!

Thanks so much Marja.  I love this.

Scenes from a day off.

I took the Monday after my birthday off to recover from the many celebrations.  This was wise.  It was a great day.  
On Sunday I drove to Ikea and bought two more packs of clippy things for the curtain wire.  Today I could take out the wibbily-wobbly and all the postcards are straight now.

I caught up my checking accounts, both the paper copies and the computer record.

I had a light treatment for the psoriasis and then it was such a nice day that I walked down to the Rose Quarter to catch the train into town so my friend could buy me a post-birthday drink.  I also wrote a letter while I was waiting for the various trains to take me places.
I laid out the shrug pattern on the shrug material.

It was a great day off.


Tonight was my reading.  I meant to take a picture at the bar with my story leaning up against my cocktail and the dark atmosphere really setting the stage.  But I forgot.  I was nervous and then I was busy listening to the others (I went second) and then I was talking with my friends that came out and then I was talking with the other people in my class and before you knew it, I was home and instead of a dark, atmospheric photo, you got a picture of my Sunday paper and my reading.  But you already read it earlier in the week.

Things to note about this experience:  I loved it.  It was very fun to get up in front of people and read something I wrote.  I practiced a lot and thought throughout my many practice sessions, “there is absolutely nothing I can cut from this.”  Then when reading I left out entire sentences, thinking, “yep, that doesn’t actually need to be said.”  It was very interesting to observe that going down.  The lights meant I couldn’t see anyone while I read.  That was unfortunate, as I would have loved to see some expressions.  But I could hear a bit of laughter in parts, so that was cool.

Vintage Cakes. Texas Sheet Cake

Quite delicious and easy to make.
I encountered two difficulties.  One was that I had a 9 X 13 pan, but not a 10 X 15 pan.  My mom did, and I was all set to borrow it, but then left it at her house, and thus, ended up using the 9 X 13.  That didn’t seem to make a ton of difference.

My second problem was that the directions didn’t explicitly say to leave the cake in the pan and so I tried to remove it.  That was a bad idea and ended with me dropping the cake, causing part of it to shift, as you can see in the picture.  I wrote myself a note to leave the cake in the pan for next time.  You make the cake, make the frosting, pull the cake out of the oven, pour on the frosting and then let the whole thing cool.

Overall, very good cake and I’m excited to try the variation with cinnamon and coffee.

Three sentence movie reviews: Friday Night Lights Season 5

This was a good season, filled with the usual high-caliber dramatic tension set amongst the High School football field.  However, the series ending was so disappointing it colored the entire season and I feel cheated.  How could a show built on the foundation of struggle give every single character exactly what they wanted in the end?

Cost: free from library
Where watched:  at home, with Matt

poster from:

Essay: From the middle.

I’ve been taking a writing class through the Attic Institute.  It is a five-week class that ends this Sunday and culminates (at least to my mind) in a reading.  That’s right, I’m doing a reading at a bar.  With my other classmates, of course.  There was no time for an essay this week, as I’ve been polishing my piece.  But perhaps you want to read what I will read? This is from the middle of the book I’m working on, and some of you might recognize part of it from a prompt I wrote earlier this summer.  The book has three main characters:  Irene, Eddie and Alex.  This part mostly concerns Irene and her friends as well as Eddie.  Alex is mentioned once, but otherwise is not present.

            There were five of them, piled in the car.  Five of them barely fit in the tiny white Mustang II, but they made do.  Irene was driving, of course, and Katherine, due to a complex matrix of length of friendship combined with an early opt-in option she created herself, had permanent shotgun.  As Karen, Eddie and Marie dove into the back seat, Irene realized she and Eddie had been together long enough for a routine to develop.  Karen and Marie always put Eddie in the middle, because he could stretch his long legs out between the two bucket seats while he wrapped his arms around her friends.  Still, it hadn’t quite become routine.  Eddie caught her eyes in the rearview mirror, checking to see if he was okay.  She smiled and patted him on the shin, enjoying the change she’d seen over the past few months.  The first time Karen and Marie had sandwiched him, he made himself small, pulling in his arms and tucking his hands between his legs.  Irene was glad things were more comfortable now.
            “You look like you are enjoying your harem” Irene remarked as he settled into place.
            “He wouldn’t know what to do with a harem consisting of the four of us.” Marie bumped Eddie with her shoulder adding a physical jab to her mocking.
            “I don’t know,” Karen remarked.  “He spends enough time with Alex.  He must have picked up some tips.”
            Eddie laughed at their teasing, something else Irene had noticed he had become more comfortable doing.  “I have some ideas of my own for a harem, but for right now, I’ll stick with Irene. I’ll keep you in mind for the day I do take on a few extra women.”
            “That will be the day after I take on a few extra boys.” Irene commented, arching an eyebrow as she cranked her window down.  Katherine had already done so, letting the last heat of the day escape from the blue interior. 
            Irene started the car while Katherine leaned over to flip the radio station to something halfway decent and they drove off into the night.   The car only had an AM radio, but there were a few good stations, all of them playing oldies of some sort.  When they couldn’t find anything good on the radio, one of them would break into song and the rest would join in.  They knew a lot of songs. 
            After winding through the flat of town to the foothills, Irene stopped at the tiny neighborhood grocery store.  It was past dark, but before curfew, and the clerk smiled, knowing what they were up to.  She’d seen it before, kids spilling out of cars, swarming the store and happily lining up to hand over their dollar and change.
            Purchase made, they piled back in and drove up the road, then turned and parked in the glare of the church parking lot near the hill.  They rolled out of the car and pulled their towels and bags out of the trunk.  Katherine, Karen and Marie headed off toward the hill immediately, but Eddie pulled Irene back for a kiss. Marie turned back to say something to Irene, and when she caught the couple with their tongues in each other’s mouths again, she let out a catcall that whipped Karen and Katherine’s heads around.
            “I think we should start a PDA jar for you two” Karen called back to them. “One dollar for regular kissing, three dollars if we can see tongue.”
            “Marie is even disgusted.” said Katherine, referring to Marie’s infamous lip locks with her rotating cast of boyfriends.
            “Can’t you just save it for after you drop us off tonight?” Marie added.
            Irene squirmed away from Eddie, smiling, grabbed her bag and caught up to her friends. “Maybe I should take the money from this jar and use it to pay for the gas while I drive you guys around.  How much longer until you get your licenses?”  Irene had been the chauffer for two years now, as she was in the last group of Idaho teenagers to receive a license at 14.  Her friends had to wait a very long two years to get theirs.
            “I’m good in four weeks.” Eddie loped along beside her.
            “Four months.” said Katherine.
            “Six” reported Marie
            “I’ve got more than a year.” sighed Karen.  She was younger than Irene and the age difference cropped up in frustrating ways.
            “Well then, I guess soon it will be Eddie doing the driving.” Irene commented.  “Then he really will feel like he has a harem.”
            Eddie’s eyes gleamed. “Yes.  I’m eager to see what the four of you will do when I’m hauling you around in my van.”
            “I have a feeling it will involve taking over the radio.” Marie suggested.
            “And a lot of loud singing.” Irene agreed.  “Is this car going to have an FM radio?”
            Eddie winced.  “Not if I can help it.”  The girls’ singing was enthusiastic and lusty, but not necessarily pitch-perfect.  There was a reason all of them chose band over choir, and the wavering tunefulness sometimes got on Eddie’s nerves.  It was one of the prices he paid for hanging out with Irene’s friends.
            Their sentences grew shorter as they ascended the hill. It was a smooth hike, though steep.  The lawn had been graded and trimmed and Irene always wondered if the groundskeeper had to buy special mowers to maneuver such a slope.  Halfway up, Karen stopped, gasping, and they paused, sweating and panting while they stared at the city lights below them and caught their breath.  There were others around them—they could hear the laughter through the darkness—but the hill had room enough for everyone. 
            “Do you think he minds?” Karen stared up at the house above them, brightly lit against the summer night.
            “All of us here on his front yard?” Katherine asked.  “Probably not.”
            “Then why do we always do this late at night?” Karen asked.  “I’ve never seen anyone Ice Blocking during the day.”
            “It’s more fun at night.” Eddie said as they resumed their journey. “It seems like we’re getting away with something.”
            When they reached a good starting point the five of them broke open their bags, and their blocks of ice slid onto the grass.  They expertly caught them with their feet, holding them in check as they shoved the empty bags into their pockets, careful not to litter, though Karen had lost a very nice ring last summer.
            Quickly, each person folded their towel into a small square that just covered the rectangle of ice and set it down on top.  They automatically lined up in a row and sat down on top of the towels, their feet holding them on the hill, though the ice wanted to slide away beneath them.  They would start at the same time.  Ice Blocking always called for a race.
“Ready?” Eddie asked looking up and down the line to check no one had an advantage.  Nods came back all around. 
“Set?” They leaned back.  When Eddie shouted “Go,” they lifted their feet and were off, sliding down the grassy hill of a billionaire potato magnate in the hot night of a desert summer.
            Irene knew that if she kept her feet up, she could make it all the way to the bottom, but she never could.  The glee of slipping down a hill as smoothly as if it were covered in snow while sweating in shorts and a t-shirt always translated into uncontrollable laughter and she always lost control, tumbling away from her ice as it continued to slide serenely toward the bottom.  If she was fast, she could bounce back up and catch the block before it had gotten too far from her.  It usually took her two or three tries to complete a single run, and she knew from experience she would never win the race.  Katherine always did, her taut athlete’s body controlling her descent, abs tight and laughter waiting until she reached the bottom, when she stood and turned to watch the rest of her friends slide in.  As Irene continued down the hill, half sliding, half rolling, she watched Karen barely beat Eddie, and Marie take fourth, before she herself rolled to the finish, convulsed with laughter as her ice slid away from her one last time.
            Eddie pulled her to her feet and the group wrapped their ice in their towels for the ascent, saving their hands from the cold blocks.  They made five or six runs before they headed to the car, sweaty from the climbs and with sore stomachs from the descents.

            Later, as she repeatedly combed through the moments of “Eddie & Irene,”; while she assembled the timeline of events, Irene was surprised to realize that Eddie had already made his decision by that night. She was soon to return to “she” and lose “us.” She had no idea.