24 August 2015

Five Ways to Eat Tomatoes

Collin Brooke's Rhetsy has a bit of the old school blog about it.  It's powered by TinyLetter, so it arrives by email, but each week's contribution has a few links, with some comments from Collin about what he finds of interest.  I like it.

He's called for lists of five, and that inspired me to dust off the old blog. It's August, and in northern New England, August is tomato time.  So what's on my mind?  Five ways to eat tomatoes.  (Although what I really need are 500 ways to eat zucchini.)

1. Slow-roasted oven tomatoes.  Yes, it can be hot in tomato season.  Yes, three hours is a long time to leave the oven on.  But these tomatoes are simply a taste of heaven.  I dream about these tomatoes all winter long.

2. Raw tomato sauce. Another Smitten Kitchen recipe description--she adapts it from Gourmet.  And I like her notion of simply asking people what recipes they adore. Trusting people who don't like to cook to find the most reliable recipes intrigues me.

3. Another raw tomato sauce, this one from the most unlikely of places: PMLA (104, 1989), the rather stuffy journal of the Modern Language Association.  When I first started graduate school, a requirement in the MA program was a proseminar for new students.  The proseminar professor brought in a recent issue of PMLA, showing us that a graduate student had published a piece in it.  He wanted us to know that publication was something we could do (this was back in the mid '80s, when graduate education was not professionalized in the way it is now; more graduate students publish more pieces these days.)  PMLA--which I never read anymore, having moved away from literature and the MLA--always reminded me of my imposter syndrome as I started graduate school.  But in 1989, this piece by Susan Leonardi captivated me: it opened with a recipe, and it referenced Nora Ephron.  That's my kind of literary criticism.  I keep this issue of PMLA on my cookbook stand, even though you really don't need to follow the recipe once you've read it more than once.  But it amuses me that I have a tomato-and-oil-stained PMLA in the kitchen.
Recipe for a raw tomato salad

4. Sliced, on toast, with salt.  Classic. Simple.  Tasty.

5. Tomato soup, with chickpeas, pureed.  The chickpeas create a creaminess that you'd swear comes from cream, except it's not. In the winter, pair with a grilled cheese sandwich.  In summer, perhaps a salad?

So what are your favorite ways to eat tomatoes? (Can I slip in a sixth, in my list of five?  Munching on sun-warmed cherry tomatoes as I garden is pretty darn delightful.)

School is starting again, but I find myself holding onto summer with each bite of tomato.  May we all have a bit of late-summer sweetness as the seasons progress.

02 June 2014

Love Perserveres

It's Blogging for LGBT Families Day, which draws me out of my bloggy hiatus. What a year it's been, politically, in the US, for many LGBT families: so many weddings!  It's amazing how fast the political landscape in this country is changing.

I'm spending the day home with a sick child. For the zillionth time, we're watching High School Musical 2.  I've been trying to get her to drink fluids, trying to get her to rest, trying to get her to alternate activities so she doesn't just spend the whole day watching TV (even though, if there's any day to watch TV all day, it's a sick day).  I'm thinking about planning  dinner and watching our garden out the window, while also trying to finish a work report in the way one does when a child is sick and the office calls.  Pretty much, just a regular gay old day around here.

But I've got a story to tell, about love and dementia.  My mom had a stroke last fall, and then she fell getting out of bed a few months later, and the combination of the stroke and the fall and the passage of time has accelerated her dementia (where are the blogs about taking care of aging parents?).  She doesn't always make a lot of sense anymore.  But recently, this happened:
Mom: I'm glad everything worked out with you and Politica. 
Me: Yes, it really has.  It's good.
Mom: You're very happy.
Me: Yes.
Somehow, out of all the confusion, she remembers that we're happy.  And given that she declined to come to our first two ceremonies, and had a really hard time when I came out to her in the first place, I think this is really quick remarkable.  She's watching and listening and growing and learning, even though her brain is weakening.

It's nice to be loved, and it's nice to have love be noticed.  And nice that my very Catholic family has managed, in its own way, with very little explicit talk, and a lot of passage of time, to fold in two happy lesbians and their daughter.  Hurray for all of us.

07 December 2012

Be Nice Out There

It's not news, exactly, that Bad Things Happen to Good People.  But this semester, I've been really struck by how very many Bad Things have happened to Good People I know--and also struck by how many of these Bad Things are probably invisible to onlookers.  I remember, vividly, the first afternoon of the separation that was the first step towards the formal end of my first marriage.  I didn't quite know what to do with myself, so I took a walk downtown.  I remember thinking that my world was crumbling, and marveled at the fact that every person who walked past me on the sidewalk had no idea how sad I was.  We carry our burdens quietly and sadly, so often.

This semester, I know people who have:

  • watched their child die
  • watched a parent die
  • been abused by a spouse
  • had trouble finding medical help for a seriously ill family member
  • suffered a depressive episode
  • filed for divorce
  • failed an exam
  • failed out of college
  • gotten fired
  • gotten a scary new diagnosis
  • called a crisis line
  • despaired that a problem would get better
  • refused medication that might help
  • been rejected by a sibling
  • watched a parent decline
  • gotten a call about a distant parent falling suddenly, seriously ill
  • struggled to help a child get to school
  • been separated from those they love for too long
  • had trouble finding schools for a student with special needs
  • lost a spouse
  • watched a child drop out of school
  • separated from a spouse
  • had a cancer recur
  • had a parent go to jail
Some of these people I know well; some I know through nodding acquaintance.  Some live near me now; some live far away.  Some of these stories I know well--although they are not mine to tell--some I know just the barest details of.

In response, I've also seen people circle the wagons and surround people with love, meals, and offers to walk pets; I've seen administrators reach out to help.  I've seen a lot of good things moving in the world--but oh, the sadness I've been aware of.

Which just makes me think, as the days grow longer: we should all put some kindness out into the world.  We could all use it.

27 November 2012


Curious Girl is 10 now, and one of the reasons I've been blogging lightly of late is that I'm not always sure what's her story to tell, and what's mine.  I'm working that out, still, but will try to focus on my part of her story......

School is a bit of a struggle for her, and we've been working for the past three years to understand just why things are hard and how to best support her.  She's a bit of a perfectionist, it turns out, and she has some extraordinarily talented friends, so when she looks around and then looks at herself, she often finds herself wanting.  She's not always an accurate observer, I hasten to add, but she does look about and conclude that she's just not fast enough, not accurate enough, not smart enough.  This breaks my heart.

We pursued an independent educational evaluation, which turned up an ADHD diagnosis, and otherwise generally confirmed that she struggles in math.  (Not so helpful to take your child in for an evaluation because she struggles in math, to get a report that says she struggles in math.  Rightio, then.) We hadn't talked with her about the particulars of the report (in part because we're still in the talk to the teachers, follow up with the evaluator, make sense of it all mode.)

Tonight, though, Politica was on the phone with someone, seeking some advice about how to handle part of our plan to support Curious Girl.  And CG, who'd earlier run upstairs in anger, had crept down the stairs to eavesdrop.  I found her on the stairs.  "Mommy thinks I have ADHD!" she said indignantly.  "I don't!!!!!"

Oh, dear. Can I borrow jo(e)'s language and talk about my beautiful smart wonderful daughter? She is just an amazing little person, and it breaks my heart to see how broken she feels inside.  And overhearing talk about ADHD probably isn't going to help her feel any less broken inside.  She's not broken.  Although perhaps she is broken.  But not in the way she thinks. I feel so, so sad for the burden she carries, and for the ways she resists help because she fears admitting a problem.

We're still coming to terms with it all, Politica and I. One thing the report suggests is that this isn't an issue of just "catching up" in math.  Curious Girl has been saying that math is hard since Grade 1, and those complaints coincided with two years of rather poor math instruction.  We were hoping that some catch up, once she got teachers who were more comfortable with math, would ease her way.  But it looks like she's facing a longer-term project where we'll need to find our way to help her face work that is challenging.  She can do it, I know.  But on a different timetable than the school curriculum has progressed.

I feel a bit like I've gone down the rabbit hole, ending up in a world where I need to be a guide to my wonderful girl, helping her figure out what kinds of practice and work-arounds will help her have the wherewithal to persist in the face of challenge.

01 June 2012

Another Gay Day

Thanks to Dana at Mombian for being the central location for Blogging for LGBT Families Day.

Another week, another Friday: woke up, read in bed for a few minutes, snuggled with Curious Girl, went down for breakfast and wowed her with the new cinnamon sugar shaker I'd put together after my last pilgrimage to King Arthur Flour.  I wrote her a little love note and tucked it inside her homework folder (ordinarily, I put it in her lunchbox, but on Fridays, she gets school lunch). I helped her practice cello (inspired by an acquaintance from a local music program, she's been aiming to keep a cello practice streak going, and is currently at day 107), and then we walked to school.  I went to work, although I left a bit early to come home and shovel mulch around in the garden after Politica called to say that our 3 cubic feet of mulch had arrived.  Then off to pick up CG, and then to gymnastics, where Politica met us and where she and I cheered for each of the girls as they performed their routines on bar, floor, and beam.  Home for dinner, and then out to a marshmallow roast at the neighbors'.  The kids ran around in the cool evening, while the adults talked around the fire.  We talked about aging and failing parents, about school, about kids, about houses, about summer.  We talked about spelling. We walked home.

Such is the life of the homosexual elite. When the Westboro Baptist Church came to town last summer, they said we were headed to hell and destroying society.  Me, I'm more concerned with trying to help my kid figure out how to cope with school projects than I am trying to undermine our neighbors' straight marriages.   In fact, I rather enjoy most of my friends' marriages--straight or gay, legal or not--as I find that most of my friends-with-spouses/partners tend to choose people who are themselves interesting and wonderful. We can all support each other--no one's marriage is a threat to anyone else's.

This is pretty much the kind of post I wrote last year for this occasion: a post chronicling the ordinariness of a day in the Granola household.  We work, we read, we play music, we eat, we garden, we hang with friends.

Tenured Radical writes today that marriage isn't her top political priority, but that the ways in which the Obama administration has worked in stepwise and significant ways to reduce institutionalized homophobia can ultimately work to reduce the power of marriage or other gay rights referenda to serve as get-out-the-vote drives for the far right.  She hopes for a day when marriage will be a purely private matter, not the public moral one it is right now.  Marriage didn't use to be my top political priority--and truth be told, it's probably not my top priority right now either.  But goodness, am I tired of the political initiatives that let voters in various places step up and vote on whether or not to take rights away from me, or to put in place insulting laws or policies that further distance even the possibility of change.  I'm tired of the challenge of remaining hopeful in the face of bigotry, even as I do.  I'm tired of the hypocrisy of a world in which cheating politicians pontificate about the sanctity of marriage.

But here and now, I'm tired from a day of good work and hard parenting.  I'm tired from a week of trying to figure out what sorts of school problems are normal and age appropriate and what sorts of school problems might be more concerning. I'm tired from a week of special events that keep my child up late and run all of us happily ragged.  I'm tired from a week of worrying a bit about aging parents (who seem to be fine now, but still...it's hard to be old).  I'm so tired, I'm not really up to the task of ruining society.  I have enough to do just keeping my little corner of the world working OK.

04 May 2012

Where I've Been

Today Magpie wonders where her readers have been. Turns out I've been to a lot more states than I'd thought: only 6 more to go to have been in all 50! Still a lot of work to do on the Canadian provinces, though (although it's hard to see the Maritime provinces I've been to on that small map).  I've always wanted to ride VIA Rail across the plains and the Canadian Rockies.

Where are your travel dreams focused on? (Maps made here.)


There are some newborn babies being rocked in their pumpkin seats at the table behind me at the coffee shop.  They're sleeping, their wrinkled little hands involuntarily curling as their bodies snuggle into handmade blue blankets.  Every now and then I hear a little snort or sniffle, and catch a glimpse of an eye slowly opening, then closing.  It's a baby's business to sleep, sometimes, and these two are working hard.

9 years and some months ago, I was in a coffee shop with Curious Girl, herself getting rocked in a sling.  She was 9 months old, not quite a newborn, but so very new to me.  She loved the foam on the coffee drink Politica got (and we had no idea then what foreshadowing that foam held: it would be years before she could really drink a beverage, years in which she would rather just play with the foam on the surface and ignore the nutrition).  And we loved seeing the drink through her eyes.  The foam was fun.  The spoon was fun.  Just being out of the hotel and out on the streets with a baby--our!! baby!!!--was a miracle.

Today, I sit in the coffee shop alone.  My baby--for she will always be my baby, I tell her, just as I at nearly 50 am still my mother's baby in a way--is off at gymnastics, and then off to dress rehearsal for a figure skating show.  She could drink a whole beverage tonight if she cared to.  She can flip and turn and twirl and jump, on ice or off.  Her life seems a blur (literally, she would tell you.  I love the way she uses literally, as in Literally, I love the way she says literally so often.).  She doesn't just walk places.  She turns cartwheels or forward rolls or walks on her hand.  She does waltz jumps or ballet jumps as she moves from the kitchen to her bedroom.  She's ever in motion, so absorbed in just the sensation of moving that she might not hear us speak.  She's so graceful, so packed with power.

And curious, ever curious.

And 10. Happy birthday, beautiful girl.  Happy birthday, my big, small-and-mighty girl, who's growing into her very own mighty self.

10 April 2012

Good Viewing: Love Makes a Family, and Practice Makes an Eater

Just a short pointer to a very cool documentary made by The Devotion Project.  It's called Listening from the Heart, and it profiles two loving women and their almost four-year-old son.  He's got a feeding tube, and looking at them feeding him, and doing what they call "therapeutic meals" brought back so many memories for me.  The Fitch-Jenetts keep a blog, and I'll be adding it to my feedreader.