Garlic and Grace

February 10, 2017 § Leave a comment

I love garlic. Love it. Onions were cheap when I was in college, so I’ve had too many sautéed onions and tomatoes/potatoes/okra/cabbage (all of them more onion than anything else) to enjoy onions very much right now. But garlic goes in almost anything I cook – soup, meatloaf, tacos, pasta.

This is why, last night, I decided to make fish with butter, soy sauce, ginger, and chopped garlic. And that’s how I ended up chopping the garlic with my New and Improved technique of using the point of the knife as a pivot. This technique, improved though it was, didn’t stop me from accidentally slicing into my middle fingertip. Of course.

The cut was – is – deep, although it doesn’t need stitches. I applied pressure, washed it off, then bandaged it up and finished cooking my fish. I ate lying on the living room floor, as is my custom, then rolled over and went to sleep. On the floor. At some point during the night I made it to my bed. This has not always been the case.

This has been my experience of Real Adulthood over the past year – varying degrees of constant, inescapable exhaustion. Worrying about my weight. Worrying about money (or lack thereof.)  Worrying about work. Worrying about my family.  I have no doubt that most of my exhaustion comes from needless worrying. But so few stressful situations are easily resolved like they were in college. There are no essays, no assignments, no auditions. Just one problem after another.

2017 has been a rough year so far. I’ve actually had reason to worry. Beginning the week of January 23, it seemed like our personal troubles were finally coming to an end.

And then, that Wednesday, a truck skidded on ice and rammed the front of our car. While I was driving it.

The car was totaled. I escaped with some bruises and mild dizziness and nausea. The airbags deployed, but they didn’t even damage my glasses. The financial and psychological aftermath has been difficult, of course – I still have to drive to work, snow and ice or no.  But I’m okay, and I am so grateful. We are getting a new car this week, and I’m grateful and excited for that as well.

Last night I cut my finger.

It’s such an insignificant thing to trigger this mess of a post, but my life is nothing BUT insignificant things – I’m not in grad school, after all, which I’m mortified about.  From middle school all the way to college, my parents, teachers, classmates, and friends expected me to end up in grad school. The fact that I’m not is … unexpected.  For the longest time, I felt worthless because I wasn’t in a graduate program.  Worthlessness and self-hatred are exhausting, too. Leaving Facebook has helped, but it’s going to be a long fight – and not one that will be solved by going to grad school, necessarily.

Since the accident, I’ve resolved to practice what is (for me) the hardest form of self-care: being kind to myself. Like many people, I’ve gained weight since leaving college and incorporating things other than sautéed vegetables into my diet. I have spent a truly obscene amount of time despairing over the shape and size of my body. But it’s healthy, and it’s the only one I’m likely to get. I forgot how lucky I am to have it.

Life as a Real Adult has been nothing but problems. This is something I know all too well. What’s easy to forget is that life is also a series of solving problems. Every accident, every cut finger, every bad day at work and poorly executed gumbo recipe, is both an obstacle to overcome and a lesson for the next time.

I hope that one day I can stop worrying and learn to face my problems with humor and grace. I think this is a talent that comes with practice. And I am so, so lucky – we all are – to have the opportunity to practice.

[January 23]

January 23, 2017 § Leave a comment

The car door’s slam echoes brightly
in the cold December air. Inside
the restaurant, a man chats with the cashier,
speaking too quickly, eyes too dangerously alive. This is a dangerous
time of year. A mouse lies near
the double doors, probably frozen, paws
tucked close to its chin as if in
mid-pounce. There are bigger pawprints
in the parking lot, a sure sign
of wolves, although we never see them.
Wolves belong to the dusk and dawn anyway,
not to the early morning
when every razor-sharp outline
bleeds its color into the sky.
The man steps off the porch, his whistling sparking and pure. He carries
a single plastic-wrapped eclair,
to be eaten in his truck, slowly,
as he waits for the edge of cold
to fade away.

The Larks

September 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

On a warm August morning two years ago
I walked alone through the streets of
the largest city in my experience, secure
in the knowledge that I was twenty-one
and therefore nothing could hurt me, nothing
was permanent. It was 5 A.M. on a Saturday morning,
which is about thirty minutes after Friday night
has truly ended and everyone has gone home.
The first train whisked beside me
into the lightening east, and I remember feeling
incredibly foolish yet incredibly happy, because
I was in the heart of the city, my city, and for once
there was nothing for miles but silence.

Mornings have always been better for me
because so few people seem to like them. If I were
the running sort I’d take myself for a jog
with my music and pepper spray (because, at twenty-three,
I am no longer invincible.) As it is, I check the news,
feed the cats, fry an egg or two. The building awakens
around me. In this fragile silence,
unique among all the silences I have found,
I am never alone. Sometimes I pass another
morning person on the stairs, and we make eye contact,
perhaps nodding briefly to one another,
as if to say This sunrise is the best one yet.
This is the time when we belong.

June 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

For some reason, I form memories related to taste and smell more readily than I form visual memories; this has always been the case.  My earliest memory, if I want to be honest, is of eating blueberries-and-cream baby food.  Maybe this was the beginning of my intensely emotional love/hate relationship with food, but that’s a question for later.

I was eight when the September 11th attacks occurred.  My memories from that day are few and vague.  I remember the cinnamon raisin oatmeal I ate for breakfast, and the distinctive, acrid smell of dust that characterizes late summer in Phoenix.  I remember walking down the hall, still smelling of sleep and my clean, faded pink comforter, confused about why the TV was on so early in the morning.

What I do not remember is the look on my mother’s face as she stood watching the news.  In fact, I barely remember the reactions of any adults around me that day.  I imagine they’d be similar to the reaction I had, reading about Orlando last Sunday morning.  Anger first.  Anger literally for days.  I recalled the people I’d met, even at my university, who truly, wholeheartedly believed that the worst of the violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals was over.  I wondered what they were thinking now, and I realized that I didn’t particularly care.

The information kept coming, and I wanted to look away but couldn’t.  I didn’t want to know, but I needed to know.  It took the next few days to sink in.  The magnitude of this event.  On Monday, I read press release after press release of foreign dignitaries offering the United States their sympathies.  Countries suffering from their own tragedies were reaching out to us.  I heard my mother’s voice break on the phone that night.

A few summers ago, “Same Love” came out, and I remember hearing it on the radio in the central Texas town I lived in and rejoicing.  Maybe things are getting better, I thought.  That moment seems so long ago, now; much longer than a few years.  I carry new scars, both physical and emotional, and this world seems smaller and heavier than ever, constricted by fear and pain.

I want to remember Sunday.  I want to remember more than just the scratch of the apartment carpet against my bare legs and the taste of my chocolate-covered protein bar as I scanned the news.  I want to remember the anger and exhaustion that I felt so that, in the future, I can at least mean it to myself when I say Never again.

I used to read Dr. Ed Friedlander’s website a lot when I was in high school, and I still visit occasionally.  Although he is a pathologist and not a politician, his thoughts on violence are some that remain close to my heart, because he has phrased them more eloquently than I ever could.

Like most other mammals, when we human beings are HURTING AND CONFUSED at the same time, we have a natural (though lamentable) tendency to lash out against (blame, physically attack) someone else, regardless of the realities of the situation. We’ve all seen individuals do this, and perhaps we’ve even done this ourselves …

As before, my best prescription is Dr. Virchow’s: reduce the hurting and confusion through real democracy, honest science, reasonable security of person and property, and access to education and rewarding work.

Nothing else can possibly work.

[June 6]

June 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

This is a world ruled by water;
even the sun is reduced to goldfish flashes
beneath a marbled sea of clouds. The air is spiked
with chemical compounds as soothing as their names:
ozone, terpenes, geosmin. They flow across skin
and epithelium alike, leaving behind traces
of mud and memories of lakeside afternoons
long ago. Water hovers, quietly waiting,
an endless, mystic expanse under the bridge I cross
every morning and every night, and it’s becoming harder
and harder to cling to my origins, to remember air scented
not with dampness and mold but with sharp heat. Harder still to
look beyond the words on the news websites and realize
that there really is another woman out there,
one who probably looks very similar to me. She opens
the curtains every morning to look out on a city smeared
with silver and peach, early sun slanting through
billions of dust particles. She is water trains and
rotting mangoes, she is brown eyes glinting amber
in the light, and she cannot possibly imagine a landscape
beaded with hundreds of tiny lakes, heavy with calcium
and iron. Dust, when kicked up
or thrown, hovers in the air like ashes.

Updates & Moving On

June 1, 2016 § Leave a comment

Hi everyone (everyone who is reading this, anyway):

I apologize for the lack of updates over the past few months, but as it turns out, transitioning from part-time student to full-time adult is harder than I expected. Work’s good, and I am learning more every day. But work + commuting + chores + lingering physical & mental health concerns = not a lot of time for creative pursuits.

I’m happy to say that I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I look forward to establishing a more regular posting schedule within the week.

I hope you are doing well. 🙂

Pan-Seared Cod with Butter and Lemon

April 4, 2016 § Leave a comment

I made this for dinner tonight! I think I’ll cut the lemon juice in half for next time because we thought it turned out too sour. Otherwise it was delicious! 🙂

Yuliya's Kitchen and More

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cod fillets (about 1.5 lbs), cut into 6 pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • a splash of olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Combine the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a large shallow dish. Pat the cod fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side with salt. Cook the fillets in two batches.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and a splash of olive oi in a large saute pan over medium heat. Dredge the first batch of cod fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides, shake off excess, and place in the hot butter. Cook for about 3 minutes, then carefully flip on the other side. Sprinkle with lemon zest, juice half a lemon over, and cook for 3 more minutes basting with butter…

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