Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Last of July

July 24
Pretty much after getting the news about my Abuela dying. A text. Then a call from my brother. Pretty much I fell apart for the rest of July. And yeah, the first week of August. I can't pretend I've come around this week, either, but. No, yeah, it still guts me.

If you need an affirmation, or just confirmation that you are Ok, it's on the Internet. That's something I've learned. Unconditional love, and words of encouragement, empathy, validation, reassurance? There's a meme for that. I've been collecting, gathering to my bosom, armfuls of mental health balms about self-worth, as-I-am beauty, resilience. I've been reading about systemic racism, about oppression, gaslighting, and toxic relationship behaviors. I have been learning about learning, about unlearning. I hope it sticks. I hope I am internalizing strength, courage, self-esteem, and self-care, grace. And all this learning, and yearning to be well, to care for myself, is hard. And all of the doubt, cynicism, the false narratives, mean habits, bad lessons... they are hard, and persistent. So, even now, I am reminding myself: Speak your mind, and be yourself, and no one else has to validate you, or allow you to feel, to be. Stop living to accommodate, to be loved, to be worthy, to not offend, or disappoint. Shit. Can't believe I need to learn all this. Can't believe how rooted some things get, like weeds.

I didn't plan on sharing all of that. I haven't planned much of anything. There may be more I'll share, or I might just make this a photo-dump, the last days of July, the memes, and moments of a month that already feels like a long time ago, indistinct, elusive.

Let us imagine that I've written a worthy and insightful essay about how logographs like hieroglyphics, cryptograms, and text symbols are seamlessly integrating into our spoken and written language, and we are gaining an almost universal language. Have you read Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud? It's a great read, insightful. I have to ask, Has he written an update? Is he enthralled, like me, by how much visual iconography has taken a hold in our everyday, in the mainstream? I shared this panel from Worry_lines, with Janece, and nothing else had to be said. Between us, it's a conversation about our shared immersion into becoming Plant Ladies, our focus, and journey, how we are nurturing and nurtured. She replied with the heart-eyes emoticon. I remember it all like a meaningful, lengthy sharing of concepts, emotions, our lives. Yeah, that was a good talk.

Happy Birthday, Ruth. Maria, Geoff and I went to Holly and Rich's backyard, social distanced get together. We wore masks. I appreciate when people post, or text, about some place they went, people they met, and they add: "We wore masks, we washed our hands, we stood six feet apart." I say it to reassure, to put you at ease. If, as some say, We are all in this together then I wore a mask is an expression of love, of care.

For us, this is dining out. We dine out a few times a week.

July 26

If you've wondered... Cairo still rat dances. But his beloved Black Ratty disappeared. I've searched and searched for it. I am afraid it got mixed up in something and tossed out, which is really unfortunate. Ikea stopped making these ratty-rats, and that is very, very unfortunate. Oh, this is one of those keeping it real pictures, where you see the unmade bed, the mess of yarns, and fall garland that slipped my notice and is staying up, forever, it seems. As this is about keeping it real: Five months socially isolated at home, has made it abundantly clear... I am not tidy, organized, motivated, ambitious, nor disciplined. Furthermore, with ample time and opportunity to change, improve, step up, grow, evidently, I am not ever going to be tidy, organized, ambitious, nor disciplined. I am still caring, empathetic, hospitable, and actively engaged in many activities, projects, and supporting others in their interests and pursuits. Probably, I need not ever mention any of this, again. Fait accompli.

July 28
It's terrible what I am conditioned to do... to think and feel. For example, when a friend sees my work and says, "You are amazing!" and my head fills with criticism and shame, that's not good. Why is my immediate response "No, I'm not"? I can't be "amazing" for making a blanket, because, and then I list all of the ways I have failed, dropped the ball, the unfinished chores, the incomplete jobs, and neglected things. I don't need to be proud of my messes, but I am tired of instinctively thinking of what I do wrong, whenever someone tries to appreciate something nice I've managed. How do we take what we've learned and internalize it? Because, I know all sorts of good things, things I easily apply to others, like patience, compassion, respect, admiration, but it dissolves when it comes to me, when I need recognition or appreciation, care, some kindness. I probably won't ever be able to handle needlepoint pillows with uplifting pronouncements, but if I could accept a compliment, share success stories, mention achievements, wear sleeveless dresses, live out-loud... that would be good.

I was this years old when I learned that... dot dot dot are "ellipses," and people don't like them. I saw a meme about it, and people were merciless in their criticism and loathing of the type of woman that uses ellipses. I didn't discern exactly why, except it implies a laziness, or suggests that the writer is a "bitch." What? "An ellipses doesn't make what you said seem more interesting. It just makes you sound like a bitch." I read that. On the Internet. I use dot dot dot a lot. You've probably noticed. Can anyone explain how this makes someone "sound like a bitch?" Also, I never thought to use ellipses to seem interesting. I use them, because I write from the thoughts in my head, and conversationally the ellipses... feel like a long pause, where I am putting my thoughts in order. Well, as many funny, silly, helpful, insightful, or useful memes as I have found, there is certainly plenty of rubbish on the Internet, as well.

July 29
Points of view can be fascinating. I've seen a lot of ideas and norms change from when I was a child. And even though some of my ideas have been challenged, I am glad to see things in a new way, to understand how many ideas and practices aren't "normal" or "natural" but simply so long ingrained into our language and culture that we forget to question them, to dismantle them. It might surprise younger people to know how awkward, taboo, inappropriate, it used to be to say "condom." Seriously. When the AIDS crisis was full blown, I remember counselors, and PSAs coming at us in high school and college (about 1985) with open talk about rubbers, and it was a sudden and complete about-face from everything we were used to. Instead of discreetly whispering condom, we were offered free rubbers, by the bowlful... and thank God. They're lifesavers. I just read that a Tampax commercial was banned for demonstrating how to correctly insert a tampon. It seems a lot of women people aren't sure how to do that. So, here we are, again, when we are being challenged to question a norm of being embarrassed, or silent about a bodily function, about a human experience. People menstruate. And there are products that help them cope with this blood that regularly leaves their body, and this healthy, bodily function is still a taboo subject. If we are uneasy about this subject, it isn't because it's actually "inappropriate" or "bad," it's because we've allowed our culture to subjugate us, to normalize shame, to dictate how we react to, and address menstruation.

From our visit to JPL, to planting our potato bed, we have been eagerly anticipating the launch of Perseverance!

Over the years a lot of money has been taken away from agencies and programs meant to protect and serve our communities, reducing the effectiveness of schools, counseling, mental health programs. These safety nets, programs that help feed citizens, guide people through rough patches, intervene when families are in a crisis, support veterans, care for the elderly, keep children healthy and safe, foster extracurricular activities, make safe and beautiful public spaces... they strengthen communities, give hope, restore pride and confidence, and unify people. They don't cost more money; the money is being spent in other ways. What if we helped people, instead of punishing them? What if we actually protected and served our citizens with care, intervention, opportunity, respect, instead of addressing them punitively, harshly, fatally? And "them" is us. We are paying for armored cars, weapons, and tools of escalating violence, to be used against us, and it is costing us billions of dollars and too many lives.

Probably for as long as we have lived here, we've known we need a new roof. And today, July 30, it's coming! Cairo watched the trucks and supplies roll in on Thursday morning, including the conveyor belt that extends up to the house top, loading asphalt shingles. No more leaks! Happy dance, here. It's not as exciting as a vacation, or a room addition, but we feel fortunate to be getting this done, and for a bonus we are adding solar panels, and this feels super exciting. Sun Power! Clean Energy! This is so very good.

It's fun to recognize yourself in a meme. If that butter tub is in our refrigerator, it definitely has black beans in it.

I am voting for Joe Biden, and Kamala Harris. I am voting for progress, for reason, for respectability, for lawfulness, for integrity, for democracy, for human rights, for hope, and for the interests of education, healthcare, jobs, and civil rights justice. It's a clear choice, and no argument.

July 30
Breonna Taylor should be alive, and countless other men, women, and children, like her, have been not only brutalized and murdered by the police, by policies that foster and promote racism, but little has been done to serve justice. We are in a Civil Rights Movement, and this fight ain't over.

Time has become an amorphous river, swiftly hurtling to some unseen horizon, a point we all hope is not a waterfall. Only five or ten roofers crashing and hammering, ripping and scraping on our house, over our heads, made time grind to halt. We were captive to every boot fall, and power tool. Ideally, getting a new roof is the kind of luxury enjoyed from a distance, like at a lakeside cabin, or while we runaway to our friends' home for the day. No such options during a pandemic. For me the sudden bangs and unexpected thuds were difficult (yes, "expected," but we didn't know when and where a violent, house jolting reign of thunder would happen, so it kept me tensed and anxious for seven days.) I think Geoff may have suffered the most. He understands construction, he and I both have done roofing, and he did years of meticulous research on replacing this roof, and adding solar. So. Overseeing the job, like being in the attic when we saw them drop trash from holes in the roof into our home, it was hellish. He didn't let things slide, and he worked hard at getting the quality of work he knows is in order, and for his effort and the strain, he deserves a week at a lakeside cabin.

July 31
It seems vacations, and getaways are not in the cards for us, not this summer. But we are still never bored. We are still making fun, making messes, making plans, helping each other, looking out for each other, and managing to connect with friends. Wearing masks. Washing our hands. Staying six or more feet apart. We care. Paul and Janece gave us a clever device for sharing pictures, like the one in this picture. Janece sent me this memory from her NixPlay... when was this? I know it's from our first time meeting in person! Isn't that wild? Blogger friends, in different states, meet after six years of online friendship! I think this picture might be ten years old. Amira and Maria, so small. Paul, so obliging! Pictures, like this one, make me thankful for every chance we took, to meet friends, to gather, celebrate, travel, share our time and ideas, do stuff. Of course, I want to do more stuff, but I am filled with great memories, and revisiting those happy events, places, people, and experiences, has been a tremendous pleasure. I'm glad that taking pictures has always been a favorite souvenir, and that I've got this blog, with at least some of our stories and memories recorded. This river ride, rough patches and all, will slow down, and we will come to a good, safe place, again. I need to continue learning, and connecting with the world however I can, and I want to believe that if I trust that I can live out-loud, take my pictures, speak up, vote, try again, share... more of us can get there, to a safer, more just place, together.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Something New

This is Kristina Gill. She is a cookbook author, and a food and travel photographer, she lives in Italy, and for the last month I have been riveted by her Instagram stories! She posts good stuff. I'm talking about potatoes, pasta, desserts, platters of food that make you want to get on a plane and go! It's a bit of a torture, but I keep coming back for more. I've taken to thinking of her posts as my bedtime story, and I settle in for the recipes, inspiration, the cute dogs, the mindful activism, the french fries. She tucks me in, and puts nice thoughts in my head, with all of her sharing.

When I learned Kristina Gill was doing an Instagram Live interview, with Black Food Folks, I had to tune in, and get to know her better. And somewhere in the middle of her talking with Clay Williams, she said something about artichokes, something about doing things in new ways, "In the United States people are always breaking off leaves and scraping them with their teeth." I felt seen: I was in middle school when I tasted my first artichoke, and since then I've only ever steamed them, then gnawed on every leaf. I commented, I have artichokes, please, what should I do with them that's "different?" And Kristina Gill replied! She DM'd me with a recipe, and encouragement! And how nice is that? It's as nice as Kristina Gill, that's how nice. She shares, generously promoting fellow cooks and photographers, engaging with them effusively, kindly. I like her easy manners, what, and how, she shares posts on Instagram, her modesty, even her smile... it's all disarming, warm. I saw that on IG, and watching the interview, it was a pleasure to see more of this gracious woman.

Though I did not have all of the ingredients on hand, and I soon discovered my artichokes were not super fresh, I decided to do what I could to try something new with artichokes. I began with soaking them in cold water with lemon juice, which I think helped to freshen them up a bit. Now, if you want the recipe, you should buy her book, Tasting Rome. And I will add... please try to buy it from an independent, Black owned book seller, and please please read about what a raw deal Black, Indigenous, and People of Color get in the food, and publishing world.

Peeling leaves from the stem and base, then revealing the dent... all new to me! And the dent is the spot to slice off the leaves, and expose the choke in the middle. I scooped all of that out, then quartered the heart.

I did have garden mint, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and I added those to the quartered hearts in a hot pan, with a squeeze of lemon juice. Sadly, I did not have Pecorino Romano nor a crusty loaf of fresh baked bread. But the artichokes started steaming and bubbling under the lid, and smelling amazing. I texted her again, about not having good bread on hand, confessing I would probably serve the dish with crackers, and she totally put me at ease, again, replying "Trader Joe's ritz knockoffs ARE GOOD." Yeah, I like this woman. And I really like this new way of preparing artichokes.

My cookbook arrived. I am looking forward to making more new somethings.

Mr Williams, don't hesitate, don't be intimidated! Kristina Gill can walk you through cooking a worthwhile artichoke dish!