Wednesday, May 22, 2013

what we learned in our first year of freezing

We bought a deep freezer last fall. We intended to buy a small chest freezer and put up a few vegetable dishes and sauces for the winter. Naturally, that meant we ended up buying a massive upright model and freezing 80 pounds of tomatoes.

We threw ourselves into freezing. (Canning, while quaint and more energy-efficient, still seems a little too intense for us. Also, botulism.) We made three kinds of soup. We made six kinds of tomato sauce. We made pesto. We froze ratatouille. We experimented with salsa. We oven-roasted tomatoes, a multi-, multi-hour project that heated up our kitchen in the middle of sunny September. We dragged the table into the living room so we could spend the afternoon watching movies while peeling and seeding tomatoes. We were Into It. We were Hardcore. And, like I said, we wound up with 80 lbs. of processed tomatoes in our freezer.

Here's what we learned.

1. Don't put all your frozen eggs in one basket.

Two years ago, Derrick and I fell in love with an heirloom tomato soup recipe. It is truly a stunning soup, brimming with fresh tomato flavor and finished with a swirl of heavy cream. It's gorgeous. It's the perfect wintertime way to celebrate our favorite vegetable (yes, vegetable, science be damned). Last year, we put up a single tub of it in the freezer; we thawed it on our very last spell of cold weather. Readers, one sip of that soup and we were back in August. It was magical. It was like time travel. It also felt a little like cheating, to taste ripe heirlooms when there was still frost on the trees.

It was like summer in a tupperware. And when you live in New England, why the hell wouldn't you want summer in a tupperware? We dreamed of it sustaining us through the long winter, sipping tomato soup while the snow softly fell outside and the fire roared and we wore flannel or sang Christmas songs.

 So we froze two shoeboxes worth of tightly packed quart-size bags filled with tomato soup. And we ate about...6 bags' worth.

 Here's the thing: No one person can eat that much tomato soup. No one person can eat that much of any kind of soup. It's SOUP. Not crack.

 Looking back, I think we were at a loss of what to do with our tomatoes after we bought them. We had a recipe that worked. So we cooked the crap out of that recipe. And we suffered the consequences.

2. Pasta sauce is your friend. Make more of it.

 Neither of us particularly like taking in soup to work. Both of us love taking pasta to work. It's quick. It's easy. It's office-friendly. But we're running low on pasta sauces from the freezer, and lemme tell you, when it's 8:00 on a Sunday and you realize you have nothing to eat for the next week, you are not going to whip up a pot of marinara. Freezer sauces, bless them, are ready in as much time as it takes to turn on some hot water and stick a flat bag under the faucet 'til it thaws. Boom. Homemade lunch. Done. Let's go watch Game of Thrones. 

3. If pasta sauce is your friend, pesto is your red-hot lover. 

If you think you go crazy over soup, you will completely underestimate the power of the scent of basil in the middle of March. You will lose your mind. Plus? Pesto? Just as convenient as freezer pasta sauce, but infinitely more versatile. Put it on pasta! Put it on a sandwich! On couscous! In a wrap! Bean salad! Lentil salad! Pasta salad! Potato salad! Your dog! YOUR FACE!

Too far. Sorry. I just get really worked up about pesto.

Which is why I need to make a heck of a lot more of it this year.

4. Experiment with lunch-friendly food. In small batches.

Last year we put up eighty gallons of soup and one batch of ratatouille. We just thawed the ratatouille two weeks ago for a quick weekday lunch, and it was wonderful. It was a treat: the summer produce isn't in yet, but we were eating basil and tomatoes and summer squash. I'd like to have a lot more summer-fresh, lunch-friendly things and a wide variety of them. That way, next year I'll know what hit the spot, what failed, and what I want a whole lot more of.

5. Don't freeze eggplant (or find a way to do it right).

 Freezer eggplant is spongy and squishy. Enough said. If you have any tips, let me know. Likewise, I haven't had success freezing peppers unless you're using them as a base. Squishy limp peppers = sad.

6. Plan ahead. 

I'd usually end up buying more produce than we needed (with the intent to freeze) and then need to spend hours finding recipes on the internet before I could, y'know, actually make something with it. This year, I'd like to go the market with a list of what we need for freezer-friendly recipes: no waste, no scrambling.

7. Label with dates. 

Follow the rule: First in, first out. Your non-freezer-burnt taste buds will thank you.

9. Oven-dry your tomatoes like they're going out of style.

Yes, oven-dried tomatoes can be a pain (they take several hours on a low, low oven). But these buggers are little godsends: throw them in salads (especially grain salads), in pasta, on pizza, in sauces, or just eat them plain. They have all the convenience of canned or sun-dried, but with better, fresher flavor. Smaller tomatoes work best, and cherry tomatoes taste wonderful, are relatively quick to roast, and are conveniently bite-sized (no prep work needed).

10. Freeze for spring, not for winter. 

To be honest, I didn't feel the need to thaw tomato soup or eat corn in the middle of winter. I was happily munching away on winter foods: long braises, roasted meats, legumes, grains, and as many potatoes as I could fit into my body. But as soon as temperatures rise above 50 degrees I am ready for fresh produce, dammit. Seeing the trees bloom makes me want to eat every green thing in sight. Even the poisonous ones. Especially the poisonous ones.

Having fresh foods in the spring keeps me sane (and saves me the trouble of memorizing the Poison Control Hotline). Yes, there are still a few weeks 'til the farmer's markets open. Yes, even though there are flowers popping up and buds bursting from the trees and you want nothing more than to bury your face in a giant bowl of lettuce, there are no (edible) greens in sight. Comfort yourself with dried tomatoes and frozen vegetable-stuffed ravioli. The time for cuddling bunches of arugula and pea shoots will come. Until then, there's pesto in the freezer. 

Do you freeze or can? What have you learned? Share the love!

Monday, April 29, 2013


What is there left to say to you, my dears,
what is there left for me?

What words are left to me? Which ones haven't been stolen, scrapped together and shoved at you?

What haven't you seen? 
By now, what haven't you heard?

Nothing, I'm afraid. I'm afraid you've all been so oversaturated with Boston, so goddamn sick of Boston, and here I am, worrying over a sore spot like a dog with a bone.

But here I am. In Boston. Moving forward, moving in general, putting one foot in front of the other. There is healing in the broken land. There will be more.


I had visitors after the lockdown. The day after. Out-of-towners off to see the city, my city, and they cheerily headed into town, onto the T, past the sights,  and they were so normal. So unbelievably, casually normal.  I couldn't believe it. I couldn't grasp that outside of my city limits there was normalcy to be had. I felt strained, stretched too tight. Everything was in boxes. I had no groceries to feed them because of the lockdown. I had spent the entire previous day glued to the news, watching my friends and co-workers get evacuated, seeing SWAT teams on their roofs, watching the city watch in disbelief. And 24 hours later, the tourists still came to see and marvel. And why shouldn't they? Life moves on, no? 

And it does. And I move on. But that day, that visit, it hurt to fake it. And I wondered about the Boston they were seeing as they moved through the city. I wondered what I would've seen differently, where I would have seen the healing and the hurt and the paranoia where they simply saw streets and buildings and passerbys.
I wonder if I would've seen nothing at all. 


We moved the weekend before the marathon. My first day commuting to the office from the new house was Marathon Monday. By right, the house should've been too new, too foreign to provide any comfort when I finally made it out of the city--my instinctual home should've still been my quirky 1950's rancher in the suburbs, not a cold, boxed-filled house across from, of all things, a goddamn cemetery.

But that house works magic, I swear to you. It is old, a 1920's house with old bones and a new face, and I swear there is magic, or there is something in the trees, or the water out back, or else it's just the serene, unbelievable quiet that comes from living across from a literal final resting place. The sun slants through the trees--real trees, woods, even; the sun catches the water of the pond out back, and there are birds and grass and turkeys and deer and everything, I think, a human being needs to heal.

A turkey was courting a female out front in our yard. The water sparkled. The trees moved. The house was brighter than any four-walled roofed structure had a right to be. And I realized many things, I think: that we had chosen the right house; that I never again wanted to live without trees surrounding me, and that it amazed me I had gone seven years without it; and that we would be okay. Okay tomorrow, okay the weeks after, okay in general. We'd be okay. And, largely, we are okay. Better, I think.

Macabre, perhaps, but it seems fitting that our immediate neighbors are both a cemetery and a garden center. Across the street there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of corpses, and the living come to grieve, solemnly plodding down our street in funeral processions with flashers on and tissues out. We deal with death every day here, indirectly, yes, but we face it--quite literally, in fact--every time we look out the front door.

And then next door there is life, so much life, with bright-colored flowers bursting out of their pots, herbs straining to reach the sun, plants heavy with blossoms and new limbs. There are children playing in the garden and women talking over vegetables and husbands leaving with flowers to bring home to their brides. And amidst this display of both life and death, we have the turkeys picking the crickets from the graves, the fish eating the gnats on the water, the plants stealing sun from the sky to feed the insects to feed the birds to feed the hawks; and we have the dogs and the sky and the water and the lush, green grass; and in the center we have us, the starry-eyed lovers in the middle of it all, moving forward, moving on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

the house hunt is over but the zombie hunt is just beginning, y'all

I don't even know how I got here, readers. I know March and the end of February were utterly consumed with house-hunting. I know I spent every waking hour scouring Craigslist, realtor sites, and apartment search engines. I know I wrote more emails in 30 days than I had in six months. I also know that I dealt with more absolute idiots in those 30 days than I had in my entire lifetime. And 90% of those idiots were realtors.

Hi, my name is Nicki, and I'm looking for rentals with private yards and private entrances, preferably single families. I have two dogs, both about 70 lbs. each....

Ten minutes later:

Hi Nikki, here is a downtown studio apartment let me know what you think please...


Hi Nick, here is a townhouse, small dogs only, can you see it today?


Hi Niki, dog-friendly rentals are hard to find in the city, is there someone else who can take them?

Yes, city-dwellers, I know the fastest way to go certifiably insane is to deal with a realtor. Especially a Boston realtor, where apartments are snapped up faster than you can say granite countertops. But we were looking for a yard--and preferably a house--so we found ourselves in a lion's den. 
A lion's den of grammatically challenged young males with snappy names and several restraining orders.

And then there were the dogs. My God, I love them, but finding housing for two 70-lb. dogs in a city notorious for being one of the least pet-friendly cities in the country is a little like trying to shove a bloated elephant through a pinhole. Add the fact that one is a German Shepherd and it becomes like trying to shove a registered sex offender elephant through a pinhole in a daycare center. As in: it wasn't happening. 
We found ourselves scheduling meetings, running the dogs like mad beforehand, parading our dogs before landlords as if to say: See? They aren't dangerous, child-eating killers! They play fetch! They can sit! They can shake! For God's sake, they just want their belly scratched!

It was exhausting. And every day I'd send out twenty emails, and every day I'd get twenty nos. Or, more accurately, I'd get five nos, two I'll call the landlord and never get back to yous, twelve no-but-here-are-twenty-other-apartments-that-don't-meet-your-search-criteria-at-all, and one sure that got my hopes wildly up before turning into yet another no the next day.

One day, after having our house-hunting hopes and dreams crushed yet again, we spotted a perfect little house with a perfect little Home For Rent sign out front. A perfect little house about five minutes away from where we currently live. A perfect little house that, thank God, was not posted on Craigslist or in the grubby clutches of a realtor.

So we did what any reasonable house-hunter in the modern age does: we stalked the crap out of that house on Google Maps. And saw that had a backyard for days. And that the backyard was all woods. And that there were no houses nearby. And that it was about five minutes from our current house. And it was across from a cemetery, so hey, quiet neighbors. (Cymbal crash.)

And so Derrick called. And who should answer...but the cemetery.

And lo and behold, the cemetery had no problem with dogs. Even large dogs. Even German Shepherd dogs.

And so we found ourselves renting a darling little house from...a cemetery.

And so we find ourselves moving in to a darling little house across from...a cemetery.

Which sounds pretty sweet in itself-- the cemetery landscapers cut our yard and remove our snow, non-nosy neighbors, quiet nights, no chance of having the cops called if we have a party--until Derrick pointed out that we will be royally screwed when the zombie apocalypse starts.

So we're moving in. We're covering the hardwoods to protect them from our dogs' wrath. And we're stocking up on ammunition.

Because the way I see it, when the zombie apocalypse happens, we can all hole up and get trapped in our homes, Night of the Living Dead-style, or we can all arm ourselves with instruments of destruction and head to the Winchester, Shaun of the Dead-style. The choice is yours. But I know my choice is going to be the one with beer in it.

(Pictures coming soon.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

working girls

 THE working girls in the morning are going to work--
     long lines of them afoot amid the downtown stores
     and factories, thousands with little brick-shaped
     lunches wrapped in newspapers under their arms.
Each morning as I move through this river of young-
     woman life I feel a wonder about where it is all
     going, so many with a peach bloom of young years
     on them and laughter of red lips and memories in
     their eyes of dances the night before and plays and
Green and gray streams run side by side in a river and
     so here are always the others, those who have been
     over the way, the women who know each one the
     end of life's gamble for her, the meaning and the
     clew, the how and the why of the dances and the
     arms that passed around their waists and the fingers
     that played in their hair.
Faces go by written over: "I know it all, I know where
the bloom and the laughter go and I have memories,"
     and the feet of these move slower and they
     have wisdom where the others have beauty.
So the green and the gray move in the early morning
     on the downtown streets.

 --"Working Girls," Carl Sandburg.

I ride the subway with pretty girls, with sleek ponytails and high boots and red pea coats, so many beautiful girls in one subway car -- the odds shouldn't be this good to have this much bloom of youth in one contained space, one moment, one 7:05 train hurtling towards the city. They have, to steal from Mr. Sandburg, a peach bloom of young years on them, a certain undeniable blush. They always have pea coats. They always wear boots. They always have long hair, pretty hair, down to their waist or past their shoulders. They're going to work at ad agencies and magazines and real estate offices, going to write or answer phones or fill out spreadsheets, and at night I imagine they go out and dance or laugh or order tall glasses of wine, and I hear them talk to each other on the subway as if in a different language. I'm curious, I admit, and I steal glances to those standing or sitting around me -- admiring the earrings, the silken scarf, the cream-colored coat.

 It reminds me so much of Sandburg's Working Girls, except as I move with them, balance the train car's shuttling movement and pour off the train with them, wait next to them on the street, I know we're going to the same place, but I can't help but feel I'm part of the gray stream, not the green, and I wonder when I ever was part of the green, and if I ever could be again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

in which nicki snaps herself out of it and realizes she is absolutely ridiculous and incredibly whiny; also, muppets.

Yesterday was one of Those Days.

You know Those Days. The 90-minute-commute days. The disabled-train-in-front-of-us days. The grate-your-knuckle-off-with-a-microplane days. The your key suddenly, randomly, and cruelly decides that it will refuse to open your front door the way it has six hundred times before, forcing you to trudge through 2 feet of snow all the way around the back of the house IN FLATS kind of day.

I stood sullenly in the kitchen, grating ginger so hard I shook the entire counter. I hated the snow. I hated the commute. I hated that I had to cook. I hated that it was already 8:00 and I hadn't finished dinner yet. I hated that I got up at 5:30 and would do so again tomorrow. I hated this week. I hated the impending move. I hated a lot of things. But mostly, I think, I hated that tomorrow would be my birthday, and I was spending it alone.

So childish, yes? A birthday is a day like any other day. Another year gone by. I'd celebrate later. Set my sights on a play in New York that's opening in March; figured we'd make a weekend out of it, eat our way through Manhattan. Derrick's on nights for the rest of the month, and we live in opposite schedules, passing like ships in the night: he's heading home just as I get to work; by the time I get home, his shift has just started. When it's done, there'll be plenty of time to celebrate. And again, it doesn't really matter. Just a day. Like any other.

After I grated my knuckle bloody I realized I was doing it all wrong. Like Walter says: Don't you remember? You guys are the Muppets! You do this to music! And it turns out Walter was right: a strong song on the radio was all I needed--though the strong drink in my hand didn't hurt, either. I pulled myself together. Snapped myself out of it. After all, I had a birthday bottle of champagne and a marbled ribeye in the fridge, didn't I? Who says I had to have someone else with me to celebrate?

So today, yes, today I'm going to stand on the train with strangers and spend my day in the office computer training, yes, but I'm also going to have a damn party. A me party, to reference the Muppets again (and let's face it, it wouldn't be a Nicki birthday without the Muppets). Because eating alone, drinking alone doesn't have to be sad. It can be joyous. It can be empowering. And it can be a little bit liberating. Especially if the thought of a frosted glass of bubbly is the thing pulling you through a cold, dripping, puddle-filled workday.

And doubly especially if you have plans for an champagne-filled after-work Muppet Show marathon. There will be pajamas. There will be fuzzy slippers. There will be many, many bad puns. And there ain't gonna be no one around to judge me for it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

underdressed and overexposed; or, learning to shop like a big girl

I am not a Shopper. I do not understand Shoppers. I do not understand why anyone would willingly spend a day in the mall for fun. Malls are not fun. Malls are zoos. Malls are like the Sahara. I have seen women maul other women. It is a lion-eat-lion world, and I am not predatory enough to thrive. I am the lion who hides in her cave with a copy of The Great Gatsby. I am the nerd-lion. Shopgirls sense this and ask me if I am lost. Am I perhaps looking for the bookstore or the coffeeshop? Yes, I reply, gratefully, and they helpfully direct me back to my own kind. I take comfort in my espresso and The Catcher in the Rye. So what if I was here for a new pair of boots? So what if mine have the heel worn clear off? It is safer here among the cookbooks and self-help books. You are among your own kind. Do not stray.

When I am forced to go shopping, I make A Day Of It. There are no casual shopping encounters. If there are, I am going to either Target or the cookware store, which, I must add, is within walking distance of my current house--yet another reason why I'm sad to move. At this store, I can browse the grill tools, the tortilla presses, and the bakeware pans to my heart's content. I can drift from aisle to aisle, idly fondling garlic presses and dish towels, turning down help requests from the too-cheery aproned staff. Ah, this? This isn't shopping. This is drifting through a cloud of cookware. This is delightful.

But, sadly, as no one has devised a way to wear whisks and spatulas to work, I need clothes. I have avoided shopping for so many years I still wear clothes that I have had since I was in 9th grade. I tell myself it's vintage, but really, it's just sad. We have reached the end. The fiscal closet cliff. I have no choice. Thrift store pieces will only carry you so far. I am standing on the towering ledge of my closet, and I have no choice but to build a bridge.

Derrick is as almost as bad as I am. His dress shoes have worn soles and honest-to-god cracks; his shoes leak when it rains. He has dress shirts and surf T-shirts and absolutely nothing in between. His jeans are as frayed as they are faded. We are in sorry shape. We are young professionals now, we tell ourselves. We have to look the part.

So we go shopping. But not, as I said, "Let's just run out and look around." We tried that on the long MLK day weekend. Macy's is having a sale on dress clothes, I push, we should go. Just to look. Take back the Christmas things that we've been meaning to return. So we go. We take back the things. We head to Macy's, and women are everywhere. Crawling over the shoes, ripping things off racks, shrieking and shrillly laughing, all the while chattering, This is such a good sale -- would I ever wear this? -- is this cute or is this ugly? -- what's 20% off of $60? -- but I already HAVE  a mint blazer --  oxblood is soooo in this season. I'LL SHOW YOU OXBLOOD, I want to yell, IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF MY GODDAMN WAY.

Shopping does not go well.

I try nothing on. In fact, I wind up fleeing to the men's department after a mere five minutes. Derrick circles the shoe department four times without trying on a single thing. "What kind of shoe are you looking for?" The salesman tries. "I can't explain it. I'll know it when I see it." 

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we dress in rags.

We end up buying a few light bulbs and a fine-mesh strainer at Target. We exit, defeated.

When we shop, we Shop. We are here for dress shirts, damnit, so let's buy eight of them so we never have to do this again. Let's buy five pairs of dress pants. I drag Derrick through the store, play interference with the not-helpful-at-all measure-you-wrong salespeople, encourage him to try on pants. I coddle. I plead. We leave with bags of dress shirts and pants and vow never to put ourselves through it again.

As bad as he is, I'm worse. Derrick pushes me through the store. Honey, you need clothes, remember? Just try this on. Do you like this? No, don't give up. I'll go get your size. How's it going? No, honey, they don't only make clothes for size-zero stickpeople from Mars. I think that's an armhole. I think that's a neckhole. I think that's a dress, honey, not a skirt. Yes, baby, I think these clothes should come with explicit diagrams, too...

And he's encouraging, even when I've tried on 14 pairs of jeans in 3 different sizes and none of them fit. Even when I've tried on dozens of dresses that are made for girls with no boobs or no hips or no waist or huge boobs or three boobs or clothing clearly made for size-zero stickpeople from Mars.

I've scored a few pieces from online shopping, where I can clearly see the measurements and know if something will fit (whether it'll actually look good on my frame is a different story). I've learned my "tells:" buy something with a defined waist or you'll look like a blob. A little skin showing in the neckline is good; a lot will make you look like a hooker. The longer the hemline, the better. If it looks like something a kindergarten teacher would wear, it's probably something you should buy.

But online shopping will only carry a girl so far. And I need boots. And I need more flats. And I need more...well...everything. How do you do it, women? Do you drug yourselves? Do you bribe yourselves? Do you get up early and shop right when the stores open? Do you wait 'til it's about to close?  Do you just get really, really, really drunk?

Tell all. I'm desperate.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

end of an era

I do not necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens. A harsh word, a hard conversation. An intake of breath. A slammed door, an outstretched hand, a pop of champagne, a glass clinks, a baby cries, a door opens and the world is made, piece by piece, forged on steps and moments and sighs and words spelled out, stretched out, words thrown and words whispered, letters strung into words into sentences and these sentences become celebrations, become sorrow. 

The moments I've had these past few months--the text that told me we'd be forced to move, the close of the house door as we headed to Virginia, the crackle of a shrimp shell I peeled in celebration of a fresh-faced college grad out to conquer the world. The hugs goodbye, the silence of the car. The click of a record about to play Vince Guaraldi, the spell of jazz as we open our presents. The car again. The dogs again. The presents again. And home we go.

The lists forged on new resolutions, written with new pens and new paper. A new Dutch oven on the stove, a pressure cooker in the cabinet. New slippers, new robes, new pajamas, new sweaters; the glow of a fire, the warmth of a mug.

A text one day that says Please call me.  
The grief that follows.

The whir of the train, the drone of a priest, the honking, gum-spit sidewalks of Manhattan.

My office, my quiet little desk on the fourth-and-a-half floor, my red-brick walls. Except it isn't my desk, and it isn't my office, I remind myself. You are a placeholder. You are temporary. You are here until they need you and not a damn day more.

But my first day back from the funeral, I learn that it is mine. It is mine and it always has been. My freelancing days—if I want them to be—are over.

And yes. Yes, I want them to be.

And so I get a letter. And I get a mailbox. And I get pretty little papers that say things like vision insurance and flexible spending and I am out of water, out of my damn mind, and this moment, this moment has been a long six months—10 months?—coming, and it is mine to seize.

And folks, I'm gonna seize the crap out of it.


Yes, folks, I'm selling out. Selling my Bohemian, penniless, fragile, feast-or-famine freelance existence for a 9-to-5 job with crazy things like benefits and 401ks and paid vacation time. The difference, my friends, is that instead of writing to fill other people's pocketbooks (namely, my clients) and meet their demands, I wholeheartedly love what I've been doing for the past six months. I won't bite my fingernails hoping a client's PayPal payment will come through, I won't have to chase down new clients, and I will not have to write about roofing or SEO or potato farms (though that would be awesome). Instead, I'll be working with food, writing about food, editing stories about food, and yes, tasting food, and the fact that someone is willing to pay me to do all that still seems re-god-damn-diculous. 

In fact, someone please pinch me to make sure this is not one giant Craigslist scam.

I cannot celebrate enough. There are not enough balloons or confetti or bottles of Moet in the world to achieve the level of celebrating I'd like to do. So please, tonight, when you're at home, eat a cupcake or a bite of baked alaska or just pour yourself a big ole glass of wine, because we're celebrating, readers, and I can't do it all by myself. There is only so much room in one person's stomach.  So have one for me. Have one on me. Have one in close proximity of me. I don't care. Last week it was nine degrees outside, so if there's ever a time for a little celebration to warm the world, it's here and now.


And now I want to say something to myself. Go ahead. Roll your eyes. I'll wait. 

But Nicki, I don't know how you hung in there these past 10 months, but you hung onto that company like a bulldog with lockjaw. Good for you. Good for you for not giving up, for believing that maybe, just maybe there'd be a light at the end of that tunnel. Good for you for transforming your little weak, whipped-dog-self into a semi-capable person. And good for you for going somewhere. For taking a step. For finding something that you wanted bad enough to say this. This is it, this is right, this is what I needThis. Because you got it. You won. And strange as it is to say, I'm proud of you.

Now get out there and knock 'em dead, killer. 

Friday, January 11, 2013


My uncle died yesterday and it is fine. It isn't fine, not really, it's awful and tragic and unexpected, but it is, and it will be, and I will go home on Monday and grieve with my family on Tuesday and make them chicken soup and lasagna and pie and anything else I can wrap up with foil and pack in the refrigerator with love, my version of love, made with my own hands.

My stepfather makes everything with his hands, large capable hands, the hands of his brother, the hands of his family. They were born to make, to fix, to build, and to mend.
Most days, my hands do nothing. They type and they scrawl and they accomplish nothing. My hands are soft and they are useless. My stepfather's family's hands are roughened and calloused, moving with sure and steady precision, capable. So capable. When I fell in love with Derrick, I fell in love with his hands first-- large and roughened and capable, born to mend and to heal. They were hands like my stepfather's. Hands that I needed.

I was born to fix sentences, not things, not people. I know where to put the noun and where to put the verb. I work in a language created by humans when they tired of grunting and pointing to indicate meaning. That's what I do for a living. I indicate meaning. I grunt and point. Eloquently.

My uncle fixed cars. My other uncle builds cabinets. My stepfather crafts parts. Capable hands, sure hands, hands now left idle in their grief, hands struck dumb at the sight of the casket.

And so I will go home and I will do the only thing my hands can do, the only place they are sure. I will roll dough and chop garlic. I will cover myself in flour. I will roll and wrap and simmer and stew and keep them busy. Make myself useful. I will listen. I will stand quietly. I will bake.

And I will grieve.