rebel, rebel

I don’t know about you, but I spent the entirety of my holiday break in pajamas, watching Netflix, baking cookies & cakes, and eating potatoes. Having spent the past several months working four jobs, volunteering, and earning As (!) in my classes, on top of the political nightmare that continues to unfold, disappearing for a few days was much needed. And yet, there was still that lingering feeling of being unsettled. I envy those who are able to get off the grid, who can carry on with their daily lives, not a care in the world – or for what’s happening in it. Unfortunately, it’s just not who I am and never has been. But there sure are times when I wish I could run away to some hidden cabin in the woods and pretend nothing else matters.

One of the more recent things  weighing heavily on my mind right now is this mass of celebrity deaths. I think everyone can agree that this has been quite a devastating year. The reality is, we don’t know these people – but we feel like we do. Celebrity deaths matter because these extraordinary people make an impact on our lives. The represent the beauty of escapism, characters we dream of being. Why do you go to a movie or listen to a song? For entertainment, yes, but often we go to get away from it all. We sit in a dark theatre or lie in bed, headphones on, and willfully surrender ourselves to another realm. Carrie Fisher’s untimely death resonated with a lot of people, I think, not just because of her trials in life, but through her characters on screen. Princess/General Leia, to generations of people – women, especially – represented strength, courage, and of course, hope. While those characteristics will live on, they’ll be tinged with a bit of sadness, as we wanted our heroine to live forever. We want the dream to live forever. Because of the fantasy provided on screen, the character became ours, the actress someone to whom we felt a connection. When we become engaged with a character, it is often because we see something of ourselves in that player, or endeavor to be like him or her. Even if it’s a cartoon, we may find ourselves thinking, “I want to embody those aspects,” or, “I do those things!,” and they provide reassurance of our own humanity. When you have stars like David Bowie or Prince, artists who owned their individuality, and who explicitly declared that it was okay -nay, GREAT- to be different, to be weird, they become our idols. They may live fantasy lives and project otherworldly images, but we watched them achieve those illusions by talent, yes, and also by challenging the “norm” and furthering the acceptance of diversity. Music, like film, transports us. Regardless of whether a song invokes a sad memory or a feeling of empowerment, there’s still that connection to the musician, that s/he is speaking directly to us, and therefore this magical, untouchable creature knows exactly what we feel. Again, the lyrics, the melody, and the message remain, but when the translator of said message ceases to exist, it can shake our very core. Celebrities often represent the things we often cannot do or say. When they die, our voices, through theirs, feel silenced. We mourn because we feel grateful. The person who watched Star Wars, knowing she would not be an actual princess saving a galaxy, became a politician, an advocate, a teacher – encouraging others to learn and find the fortitude to guide others. A voice. The person who may have been a terrible guitarist, but heard the call to create, to own that Flock of Seagulls haircut, became a designer, a store owner, an ally to others who felt like they didn’t “belong.”

So last weekend, as I watched Carol, Suffragette, Ghost World, Cafe Society, and binged on the entire season of Hello, My Twenties, I was thankful for that escape. Inspired by the historically-based and real-life characters of Carey Mulligan and Natalie Press, identifying with Steve Buscemi’s nerdiness, and motivated to go out for black bean noodles (we’ll be dining at a local Korean restaurant tomorrow night!) , these are examples of how celebrities and their art affected me in a span of a simple few days. Nothing particularly life-changing, but they made a small impact, and they helped me find some solace when the future can seem rather bleak. This is why the arts, and the lives who contribute to them matter. They afford us the ability to disappear, even if for a mere two hours. As Princess Leia said, they brought us “hope.” And for that, I am grateful.

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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

My brain is foggy right now, so I’m afraid my words are not going to be as eloquent as I’d like.

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America broke up with me last night. I have to say, it came as a bit of a surprise. I thought we were on the same page with our goals in life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice, but I was stunningly wrong.

As I sat stunned into silence, America told me in no uncertain terms that:

My LGBTQ friends are worthless; their “lifestyle choices” are disgusting and that not only did they need conversion therapy, but they don’t deserve the same rights as “straight” men and women. Love is only love between a man and a woman. America said that my gay best friend deserves to live in fear for his life. America told me that fags and dykes are ruining family values.

My immigrant friends and family are a danger to our way of life. They are taking jobs, they need to speak English, that they are terrorists. They aren’t welcome here. America told me that my Hijabi, Muslim friend, a citizen of the country, is a threat to society, secretly working for Al Qaeda. She should be deported. I was also told that my immigrant grandfather, who spoke seven languages, served in the United States military, a doctor of internal medicine, and was forced out of his country because of the war, represented what is “wrong” with this country. That we were letting too many immigrants in, and that has to stop. America told me that the rag-heads are dangerous.

My extended family, my African-American aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother, are criminals. IT’s okay for a white man to have a gun, but not a black man. White men are trying to protect their homes, while the black men are thugs out to rob you. Their skin, in various shades of brown, is dirty. Their lives don’t matter because they shouldn’t be walking in white neighborhoods to begin with. They should only wear clothing that doesn’t appear “threatening.” They bring violence upon themselves. America told me that you can’t trust a nigger.

My sex isn’t equal. Because I am a woman, I deserve less pay than a man, should be subjected to harassment, and kept quiet. America laughed at my stories of sexual assault, blamed my friends for being raped, and told me that my body doesn’t belong to me. America said my body, my vagina, my ovaries, my breasts, belong to man. America said I wasn’t capable of making decisions regarding my reproductive rights. America said my grandmother, one of two women in her class to graduate medical school, with degrees in anesthesiology and psychiatry, wasn’t as qualified as her male classmates. America told me I can be anything I want to be – unless a man wants that job. America called me a bitch, a slut, rated my appearance, and told me I was only a vessel for procreation.

My disabilities don’t matter. I shouldn’t get healthcare – in fact, no one should have access to free healthcare. America said, “tough luck, not my problem.” America made fun of my friends with physical and mental disabilities. Said we were all a burden, retards begging for handouts. Fight or flight.

America laughed at me last night. America told me I don’t matter. I really thought we were in this together – after all, we’ve been in a relationship for quite a long time now. But America broke my heart, stripped me of my sense of being, took everything we had together, and destroyed it all. I didn’t know there was that much hate in America’s heart. America walked out on me last night, leaving me in a puddle of tears and a state of disbelief.

If America were actually a person, everyone would agree that I’d be better off without him or her. But America is not a person – it is my country, my home. How is it that this type of abusive behavior is acceptable for millions of people?

Take note, America. We will not be silenced.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light”

Moons and Junes and Ferris Wheels

The last couple of months have been…challenging. Not a day goes by where I don’t miss my Ro. After she left us, I was sick for a month and then Olivier, my little perma-kitten, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He was born with a congenital problem that made him stay small – around 3 lbs. But he was a sweet, fluffy three pound ball of love and we all miss him.

Now that October has arrived and the oppressive heat has finally abated, I feel energized and mentally ready to get back to writing. Festival season is in full swing, and the county fairs are quickly approaching. I spent yesterday afternoon judging the photography exhibit at one of them, and look forward to going back and taking my annual cliche ferris wheel photo while smothering myself in cotton candy. The evenings have been especially rewarding now that I’ve gotten the opportunity to throw at the wheel again. I am, admittedly, not the best potter, but I love it, and it’s fulfilling to learn new techniques.

By kismet, a Boston baby let me be her human, and I named her Iris Rose. Iris means ‘rainbow’ in Greek – a nod to Rosie being at the Rainbow Bridge, for the many rainbows I and her friends saw immediately after her death, and Rose – in honor and memory of my sweet girl. Iris is a sweet girl, though at 4 months old, she is teething and her mouth is full of tiny knives. She’s got a muppet smile, a lively personality, and is eager to please. She’s also a bit of a maniacal genius – a Boston through and through. It’s still hard without Rosie, though, and I hope that I can make Iris as happy as Robes made me.

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it’s hard being a puppy

I’m hoping to get back into baking this weekend, now that it’s not as brutal being in the kitchen. My friend, Megan, of Hello Bardeaux shared a recipe for an apfel marzipan kuchen on Instagram that I am dying to try. Marzipan is my favorite candy ever, so I’m sure this will be delicious! I’ve also got to move around many of the plant babies and make sure the garden is prepared for these cooler temperatures. One thing is for sure – there will be plenty of gourds lining the greens!

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Smile a little smile for me

I’ve been composing this post in my head for over a week now, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.

We celebrated Rosie’s 10th birthday on July 25th, with a new shirt, a cookie, and a meatball from a local restaurant. She was still recovering from surgery – she had had mammary gland tumors and “old lady” warts taken off – and was getting adjusted to being on Lasix, as she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, common in pups her age. She awoke smiling, as always, and had a really nice day.

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Throughout the next few weeks, her breathing was still a little ragged, and she went to get checked out at the vet. Her sutures were removed from surgery and her doctor said she looked perfect, and that we had to give the Lasix time to work. The high humidity wasn’t helping, either. Rosie remained her usual cheerful self, barking at me when I arrived home from work and snuggling in bed for cuddles. She was even gifted a stroller to help her get around easier!

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Still, her breathing just wasn’t good. We are fortunate enough to be able to text and call her vet tech anytime, and my “sister” is one, as well. Everyone said to keep her cool, so we lowered the air and kept her near fans. It became difficult for her to eat, and I think that it’s like when you get a really bad cold -you can’t breathe out of your nose so closing your mouth to chew is difficult! We spoon fed her and used syringes to give her water when she wouldn’t eat or drink.

On Saturday, August 6th, my parents took her out for a Puppuccino from Starbucks, which she enjoyed. But she just wasn’t right, and I had hoped to take her back into the vet the following week. I came home Saturday night to stay with her and she had a really good evening. She ate everything I fed her, and settled down on the couch between my mom and me, resting and breathing fairly well. She awoke, coughing, as usual, the next morning, and went downstairs for breakfast. In the afternoon, I decided to take a quick nap and asked my mom if she’d bring Ro upstairs so we could snuggle. That was at 1:24 pm. At 1:35pm, my girl was gone.

As I texted a friend whose dog had also been diagnosed with CHF, I felt something wet beside me. Because Lasix is a diuretic, I figured Rosie had had an accident – which was to be expected. When I turned to her to tell her it was okay, it was clear something was happening. I jumped up and called her name, asking her please not to go, then screamed for my mom. While the life left her sweet little body, my parents came running up and my dad and I administered CPR, but there was nothing to be done. It is apparent that she threw a clot, and with CHF, dogs can die just walking down the street. While I knew that she wasn’t 100%, this was still fairly unexpected, shocking, and tragic. I’m still in shock.

I held her the rest of the afternoon, telling her I wasn’t mad at her and understood that this was what she had to do, and how much of a sweet and good girl she is. We napped for a few hours, and I kissed her soft cheeks, rubbed her little ears that had been chewed up in her former life in a puppy mill, felt the curl on her chest, took inventory of her cow belly, her snaggly teeth, her nubby tail. We stamped her paw print in ink, and wrapped her in one of the many blankets I smuggled for her off of airplanes.

She was cremated, and along with her ashes I received a paw print in clay and a lock of her fur. Her best friend’s mom, one of my best friends, found a vintage pendant on etsy for me in which I will be placing some of her ashes, and my friends at the jewelry store where I once worked engraved her name in pink on the back of said pendant, and attached it to a chain so I can wear her close to my heart.

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It is very quiet without her. She wasn’t necessarily a loud dog, but her joyful energy could fill the room. I miss her kicking me in the back at night, then throwing herself into my arm for cuddles and smiles in the morning. She was truly happy each and every day. I miss seeing her burrowed under the blankets when I’d come back from my shower, and her scratching and yelling at me for attention when I returned home. I miss sharing potatoes and cherry pie (her favorite) with her, and watching her play with her Lambchop. Because she was rescued from a puppy mill as one of the breeder dogs, she came to me not knowing how to play with toys. It was the best day when she finally learned to do so, and from then on, kept all of her toys and treasures (socks, underwear, tissues, toilet paper rolls – even bags of toilet paper! -, etc) in her bed, pulling them out to play. I miss seeing her run into the room when she was ready for bed, and how excited she would be to try on her new clothes (she genuinely liked them), ready to pose for a photo. The only time she would pout was during her baths, or if I was out of town for too long. Her happiness spread to everyone. I had several friends who claimed to not be “dog people,” or “animal people,” yet they would ask to hold her or comment on her photographs. We tried to make sure her life was as full as possible, to make sure she was so loved and appreciated. Rosie loved her electric blanket, spicy snacks, her Lambchops and hedgies, snuggling, popcorn, being blow dried (even when not wet!), shredding toilet paper, naps, having her photo taken, her belly rubbed and chest scratched, going on car rides, and licking inanimate objects. She had me wrapped around her paw, and could have and do anything she wanted. Ro was the best girl, always well-behaved and eager to please. Mainly, she just wanted to love and be loved, and she excelled at both. I’ve never seen a little creature touch so many hearts. She came to live with me on June 1st, 2012, and I was so lucky to have that little girl let me be her mama.

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bathing beauty

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cow belly

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spooning with mama

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a meatball for my Meatball

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home

I know she’s at the Rainbow Bridge, but I miss her everyday and my heart aches terribly. There will be (and are) other dogs, other animals, but there will never, ever be anyone like my Ro.

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wild and free

summer wine

July was wild. It’s my favorite month because we make our annual trip to Hilton Head, the days are rife with summer storms, the gardens are overflowing, and there are many celebrations. This July was particularly full, as we enjoyed the beach, drove into Savannah, toasted a friend’s engagement, and then I flew off to Philadelphia and New York for the DNC and to see two of my best friends. Now that I have a month off from the 2nd of my 4(!) jobs, I will have some time to catch up and actually write! While I get everything in order, here’s a sneak peek through photos of what is to come.

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sunsets at Hilton Head

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sunday morning tea blending

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trespassing through a nearly demolished recording studio in Savannah

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vegan blueberry banana bread

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twilight hour engagement parties

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the shakespeare garden in central park

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celebrating the success of nominating HRC as the first female candidate of a major party

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thrift store finds & birthday surprises

Fingers crossed I can get on a regular schedule here! 😉

 

Food, Glorious Food

I really love food. I mean I really, REALLY love it. While eating lunch, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. It should come as no surprise, then, that when visiting other cities, meal planning is high on my list of priorities.

While I had some favorites to hit up in Olympia & Portland (hello, Big Tom’s!), I was eager to explore other restaurants. To be honest, I would have been fine with fries and goop from Big Tom’s the entire time, but I think that my traveling companion might have bickered!

We actually spent a good bit of time at the Olympia Farmers Market, sampling all the goodies that vendors were selling. We tried homemade macarons (passion fruit for Travis & me, peanut butter for Peter & Nicole), the delicious homemade sauerkraut, freshly picked cherries, and tayberry & marionberry jams. We got up early one morning to get breakfast there so Peter could try the Cap’n Crunch shake, and I had an enormous vegan breakfast sandwich.

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breakfast of champions

I wish we could have taken home all of the plants, fruits, and veggies at the market. I am going to order some of the tayberry jam from Johnson Berry Farm because it’s just so good! The tayberry is a cross between a Scottish raspberry and an Aurora blackberry, and it’s a perfect blend of sweet and tangy.

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nothing like fresh washington cherries

Once in Portland, I had to take Peter to Sushi Ichiban, where my friend, Ainsley, of Palate Polish, hipped me to their “Eliza” roll last year. I could go on and on about the amount of premium quality sushi that you get for next to nothing, but I won’t since I think I already did that on a post from last year. 😉

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oh, eliza

While I follow a primarily vegan diet, I have a weakness for fancy ice cream. After seeing numerous friends posting about Salt & Straw, I knew we’d have to go. There are, fortunately, several Portland locations, because the first one we went to had a line that wrapped around the block. The second one had a line, as well, but we only ended up waiting about fifteen minutes and it was every bit worth the wait. I tried to convince Peter to get the Fish Sauce Caramel with Palm Sugar flavor off of their Fermentation Series, but he wasn’t having it. Instead, he chose the Freckled Woodblock Chocolate with Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, and I got Honey Lavender and the Sourdough with Chocolate and Cherries off of the June Fermentation menu. I’m looking at the July menu currently, and trying not to cry because the flavors of the Berry Series look amazing. Portland Creamery’s Goat Cheese Marionberry Habanero & Gin Spiced Blackberry Jam and Chocolate Chips? I’m dying. And now, thanks to Salt & Straw, I have been ruined. We got ice cream at Bluebird in Seattle, which was also good, but it just wasn’t the same. I am beyond tempted to join the “Pints Club” and have it shipped to my door…

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honey lavender & sourdough w/chocolate & cherries

While wandering around Portland, we had a light dinner at Maurice, a sweet French & Scandinavian luncheonette named after the owner’s rabbit! The airy, white interior, is filled with a mismatch of tables and chairs, vintage tins & flatware, marble counters, & a fully stocked bakery case of impeccable sweets. It’s the kind of place where you’d pop in for a quick fika break, have a first date, or a dinner party with all of your girlfriends. Peter enjoyed a vegetable risotto while I dined on a cool melon soup and beet & strawberry smorebrod.

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melon soup with crusty bread & tomatoes


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beet & strawberry smorebrod

Because we enjoy the art of dining so much, we drove into Seattle one evening simply to have dinner in Chinatown. Upon entering Ping’s Dumpling House, you feel like you have been transported to a rural Chinese home. The inside looks nothing like what you would expect from the outside – it’s far better. And then there are the dumplings. We were pretty hungry, so we ordered up a feast containing two types of dumplings (mixed vegetable and wood ear mushroom), a large bowl of “almost tofu,” and a giant vegetable steamed bun. All of this was served alongside a pot of hot tea and several sauces with which to dip your dumplings. I don’t think either of us really expected just how many dumplings would arrive – we ended up with about two dozen total! Much like at Sushi Ichiban, we left stuffed while at a bargain price. While I probably wouldn’t buy much from the adjoining market, I would highly recommend the restaurant section to anyone and everyone.

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dumplings for days

The best meal we had, however, came from Nicole. Being able to just sit at their home and eat pasta with our friends, Boston Terriers begging at our feet, was so nice. Nothing beats a bowl of noodles with fresh veggies from the market and a glass of wine!

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mmm gluten

I’m heading back to Philly and into NYC toward the end of the month and have already begun my food research. High on the list are Russ & Daughters, a snack of Peruvian Fries from VStreet, and 35 cent pretzels. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

Make Them Hear You*

What a strange past couple of weeks it’s been. Upon return from the Pacific Northwest, we were thrown immediately back into the swing of things, and it’s been non-stop ever since. Then, once the events in Orlando took place, I couldn’t find the energy to do much of anything, let alone post here. I debated talking about it, but I just couldn’t (and still can’t) really find the words. I’m sad and I’m tired. It’s heartbreaking to receive texts from my friends saying that they are “scared to be in their own skin.” I can’t imagine their fear, their tremendous sadness, and the anger. I, myself, am beyond pissed. There are days that I troll Facebook, sharing article after article, getting into heated debates with narrow-minded, bigoted, fear-mongering, hate-harboring maniacs, and then there are the days that I just want to retreat. Which is better? I’m trying to find a balance between being active in discussions, in furthering awareness – not just about LGBT rights, but women’s rights, tighter gun laws, better accessibility to health care and mental illness resources, etc., and staying calm, centered, and content. It’s a double-edged sword, I think. You can’t be involved and not have strong reactions/feelings, but you also don’t want to live each day in frustration. But to not have your voice heard, to stay silent, creates a different season of discontent – I can’t imagine not being proactive. That orange monster was two hours away from our city recently and, filled with seething rage at the thought of him possibly campaigning in our town, and I  vowed to ignite another protest if that happens. We turned away the KKK 6 years ago – I’m ready for this ding dong.

In the meantime, what to do to stay sane? Once the afternoon is done, and the incessant dinging from Facebook notifications has ceased, websites from various news outlets closed, I try to retire to the outdoor world for a bit, even if it’s for only thirty minutes to an hour. Our garden has become a refuge. Even on the days where there’s not too much to be done – deadheading completed, plant babies watered, waiting for the next harvest – just sitting quietly is rewarding. When the world has lost its damn mind, there are these little creatures that pop up from the ground, full of life, flowers bursting with joy, and trees birthing new fruit – reminders that not everything is terrible.

I couldn’t, with peace of mind, keep writing without recognizing what has been happening in the world. This is not a political blog, but it’s a human one. I’ll be resuming with more posts about our trip, Rosie, gardening, sweet treats, and reviews soon.

To all of my friends and family trying to make sense of everything right now:

“Go out and tell our story.
Let it echo far and wide.

….

And tell them, in our struggle,
We were not the only ones.
Make them hear you,

Make them hear you.”

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* the title of this post is from the song, “Make Them Hear You,” from the Tony-Award winning musical, “Ragtime.” It was performed by my friend, Russell Joel Brown, who is currently on Broadway in the role of “Mufasa” in “The Lion King,” at our dear friend’s memorial service over a decade ago. Jaime was a champion of equality and acceptance for all, and someone who made a tremendous impact in all the lives he touched, including my own.