Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eating More Vegetables! ...

My mom jokes that she's part rabbit. Indeed, growing up, the sandwiches she'd make for us were ridiculous towers of lettuce, leaf after leaf of iceberg folded to fit within the confines of the bread, but never a toothpick to hold everything together, so, often, the compacted lettuce would expand and the top slice of bread would fall over onto the plate.

Mom makes the best sandwiches. Of anyone. Ever. But I've been off of bread – and grains in general – for about a year now. But my lettuce addiction has never waned. I make ridiculously large salads for myself. But lettuce is mostly water. There's very little there there. And I love cramming forkfuls of food into my maw. It's a good thing I didn't grow up in a time or class that called for dainty dining. Dainty dining. Pffft.

Pasta, of course, is excellent for maw-cramming. But Pasta = Grain.

Enter spaghetti squash.

I've eaten it in the past. It's fine. Whatever. I've never been a huge squash fan. Zucchini is good, though I preferred it baked into a quick bread. Yellow summer squash is oddly nondescript. Acorn, butternut, and the like were never part of my diet growing up. But spaghetti squash is novel, at least.

Mom shares my appreciation for spaghetti squash, so I shared this post with her. And Mom, because she is awesome, made it this week and shared.

We agreed from the get-go that it needed more bacon. Because everything needs more bacon.

And she included an extra hunk of goat cheese when she shared it because she thought I might like more goat cheese. Because everything needs more goat cheese.

I had some Parmesan in the fridge, already grated, so I added a healthy flurry of that to the dish. Because everything needs more Parmesan.

I can report that it's very tasty. It works very well for maw-cramming.

And best of all, it's vegetables! Look, there's spinach in it, too! Granted, it's vegetables with bacon and two kinds of cheese, but it's vegetables!

Mom and I decided that some mushrooms would be a fine addition. I'd brown them in a bit of butter first, then add them. And some toasted pine nuts might be nice.

And some extra spinach would be good, too, to make me feel more virtuous.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Yet Another Nudge From The Universe – And This One Has A Name ...

A month ago yesterday, I wrote this post, "Another Nudge From The Universe."

That nudge was the discovery of Dani Shapiro's Still Writing and a particular passage that "brought forth a stunned-silence, tears-streaming revelation," to quote my own post, which feels rather obnoxious. I plead journalism. Accuracy above all else.

I follow Dani on Twitter now, so perhaps that's how I decided to read Devotion. I was aware of it but hadn't yet read it. But then I did.

And yesterday, wouldn't you know it? Another passage knocked me out.

I tweeted:

And that passage is this (click to enlarge):

I read that and surprised myself when I whispered, "I don't want that to be me."

I've been uttering things involuntarily of late. It's as though my thoughts want me to be sure to take notice.

And I do.

Oh, how I relate to Dani's mother. My office isn't "a museum of unrealized ambition" (a damn fine bit of writing, that) in the literal sense – I don't have the stash of artifacts Dani packed to give away – but when it comes to notions and plans, I am a hoarder metaphorically.

I have some starts of things. I once printed out the pages of my "screenplay," such as it was, not so much a script as a collection of anecdotes that I might want to use someday, and punched the holes and fastened the pages together – top and bottom holes only – and held it my hands.

But it was merely a prop, not an accomplishment. Maybe someday, right? Maybe someday. All those scribblings on pieces of scrap paper that I've collected, moments when I've scrawled down a bit of dialogue that popped into my head, might hold together as a story or be germs of ideas.

I once tried my hand at fiction in an intentional way. As I've mentioned before, I do not have the fiction knack.

But I have been writing more this year than in years past. I am fortunate to have some very good nudgers, Dani now among them, unbeknownst to her.

Though I am grateful for the conduit that is Twitter, grateful that I can tag her and she sees my appreciation:

The notion that I might write something someday that will help someone in turn is what propels me, a moment of connection or recognition, the relief in knowing that someone else has felt the same way. I keep that in mind as I write. I don't write toward that end. I do my best not to contrive. But those moments do arrive. And for now, the someone I end up helping is me.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Love Is Love, Indeed ...

I came of age in the '80s. It was a different time. Fashion trended toward neon. Bracelets were rubber, well before Livestrong. I alone was responsible for the depletion of a good portion of the ozone layer. Aqua-Net was my dear, dear friend. Sorry about that.

Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." was every bit the phenomenon people remember it to be today but The Cure was also huge. And Duran Duran. And the B-52s. And New Order. And Big Audio Dynamite, though BAD was born out of an earlier era in music that was even better. And Alphaville. And Ultravox. And so many more.

I found my niche in the speech and theater department, though on the edge of that niche. Really, I've never thrown myself headfirst into any social realm. I prefer to be alone or in conversations one on one. I've never been one to mingle.

I was drafted onto the speech team out of need. The star radio speaker would be graduating in a year – or was it two? – and she had no acolyte until Mr. Benjamin tapped me to try. I learned the ropes. I did OK. Performance anxiety and all that. Even alone behind a mic. But I appreciated Mr. Benjamin's encouragement. Years later, I would briefly pursue voiceovers as a vocation. I can't imagine I would have done that if it hadn't been for Mr. B.

I took a Theater Arts class because it seemed like a good way to spend a part of my senior year and Mr. Sweeney was my homeroom teacher for part of my high-school stint, so I took it. And I let myself be convinced that I should do a couple of interpretations in competitions. Interpretations. As in interpreting scenes. As in acting. With partners. In front of people. Me, the girl who prefers to be alone. We did not place well. Apologies to my acting partners.

But Mr. Sweeney was an early encourager of my writing, one of the first to help me to see that there was some talent there. Indirectly, I am not a doctor because of him. As a pre-med major, it had been my intention to find the cure for cancer – make no small plans, eh? – but instead, you're reading this post.

I was happiest in the auditorium. I have always loved the view from a stage. Performing appeals to me and terrifies me in almost equal measures. Terror has the edge. I was on stage for one high-school play. I had very few lines. And I couldn't commit even those to memory. Which, of course, hampered the performances of those on the stage with me. Acting is like tennis: you have to lob the ball over the net in order for your partner to return it. I lobbed balls smack into the net too many times. Once again, I plead performance anxiety. Once again, I apologize.

And so, it made sense for me to work on crews, to putter on the stage and in the wings and in the workshops but to leave the acting to those who could act. And so I did. And I am glad. Because my mom would drop me off early on Saturday mornings – crew days – and Mr. Nerius would show up with a cup of coffee and we'd sit on the edge of the stage or at the table on the stage if a table was part of the set. And we'd talk. I like one-on-one conversations, as I've mentioned, and I've always gotten along better with folks who are older than me. So chatting with Ner, as we called him, was one of the best parts of my high-school experience.

Today, I call him Rob, as we're both grown-ups. He most assuredly, me ostensibly, though somehow I'm the only one with grey hair.

Which brings me to the reason I sat down to write: being a part of the theater realm, however peripherally, was being a part of a microcosm of the world. As James Corden said in his introduction for the Tonys, the theater has always been a place where everyone's accepted. And so it was that I got to know, in some small measure, the first of my classmates I learned to be gay. But we already had theater in common, the intersection of our Venn diagram. And so "gay" was just a trait of each of those people, not the people themselves.

I went on to college and my experiences expanded. And friendships formed, many that endure to this day, some friends who were gay as gay could be – assuredly gay – and others who either weren't yet entirely sure or who weren't yet ready to make it known.

In this week post-Orlando, as I've seen too many allusions to hatred – secondhand glimpses in my Twitter feed mostly – I've been wondering yet again about why some people fear "otherness" so profoundly. Why all the vitriol? Do they simply not know anyone who's gay? But how can that be? Doesn't everyone know someone who's gay? But perhaps not. Perhaps I've once again fallen into the thinking that everyone's experience mirrors mine, even though I know that that can't be true.

But then I think about today's generation of younger people – because I am old enough to use a phrase like "today's generation of younger people" – and it appears that, incrementally, we're moving toward a human experience that's much more loving and appreciative of our differences rather than judgmental and divisive. There is still judgment and division, to be sure. But I have friends on Facebook who share stories about their kids' good hearts and I see the shift, post by post. And then I multiply that in my mind by all the posts that I don't see, by all the people whom I don't know. And it's there.

I don't mean to exclude anyone. I don't know any trans folks, for instance – at least, I don't know if I do – but Jenny Boylan, if you happen to see this, if you're ever in Chicago, I'd be delighted to buy you a drink.

I love that marriage for all is the law of the land. I love that I'm seeing discussions about the meaning of gender and that "binary" in some contexts is becoming a four-letter word. We are who we are. Difference is just difference just as red is not the same as blue. Whether I want someone in my sphere comes down to a simple yes or no: are they a good person? It's the guiding principle by which I live my life. I try to be a good person. Some days are better than others. But the overall trend is to the good.

I know that great challenges persist. I know that many resist in their hearts and minds.

But change lies in another simple query: What would love do? It applies universally, to every choice. In the end, everything is either love or fear. May we all do our best to choose love.