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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Clean" Reprinted in Literary Orphans

I am so honored and humbled that Literary Orphans has chosen to include a reprint of my short story “Clean” in their latest issue, Bettie. I have not published a short in a very long time, and I couldn’t have chosen a better venue (and in fact I did not choose it; it was recommended to me by LO alum Matthew Kabik). So many online literary magazines exist simply to eliminate layout and printing costs; I had one magazine print a story of mine without any line breaks. But LO uses the features of the web to transcend its paper counterparts, and the effect is entrancing. I plan to curl up with this issue glowing from my iPad later tonight, tea and cats beside me. 

There is beautiful and brave work in this collection. Please take some time to join me there to feed your brain and heart. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bali Day One



My fiance and I just spent a week in Bali, Indonesia. This is from the travelogue that I did not keep past the first day:

After 30+ hours of travel, we arrived on Sunday night to the Bali airport in Denpasar to broken ATM machines and difficult decisions about whether to declare Gabe's oranges. For brief moments I was terrified we would spend the week in Bali without a way to get cash. But we found a working ATM and for probably the only time in our lives, we got to view bank balances in the tens of millions. After an hour and a half drive to Candidasa, we did little more than pick at the delicious traditional Balinese meal, then fell into a hard bed in sticky heat with only a single three-blade fan to cool us, and had the best sleep of our lives.

Ryan warned us we would wake with the sun, around 6:30am, and his prediction was vindicated, for me at least. Gabe was still deeply asleep beside me as I rose, found the villa's promised yoga mats, and padded outside to the postage stamp lawn. The sun rising to my left, I faced the ocean and practiced five rounds of sun salutations. It was the most peaceful and beautiful I have felt in so long.


It is impossible to write about the events of today without overshadowing them with our accident. John, Ryan, and Gabe rented scooters. I was too afraid, as is usual for me, but rather than stay at home, my compromise was to wrap my arms around Gabe's belly and ride on the scooter behind him. I was terrified at first, but seeing Gabe's pleasure and exhilaration at driving gave me pleasure and exhilaration. Driving in Bali is nerve-racking for so many reasons, and the rain--which I assume we will face daily (as it is the rainy season)--exacerbates them all. After riding many hours to visit the Taman Ujung Water Palace and the Water Temple at Tirtagangga,  we were mere meters from home, when, having missed what we thought was our turn, Gabe attempted a turnaround on a slick incline out of a parking lot. The bike slipped out from beneath us and sent us skidding over the gravel.

Immediately, we were surrounded by people who wanted to help. They got us to our feet and aimed hoses at the dirt that stuck in our wounds. Gabe had landed squarely on his shoulder and suffered a deep contusion, but thankfully no dislocation or breakage. He had a deep, large scrape on his elbow and is already proud of the scars he will undoubtedly grow. I was not as injured: a big scrape on my knee and cuts on my right hand, with minor scrapes on my elbow, arm, and shoulder. Gabe seemed to have a tear in his eye when he told me how thankful he was that I wasn't badly hurt. I knew the feeling.

The Australian owner of the Bayside Bungalows took good care of us, strangers. He sent one of his staff for iodine at a nearby "dokter," then sent two more to see us home: one to drive us in a van and a second to follow with the fateful rented scooter. Our brains mush from the accident, we mumbled apologies to the driver as we stared desperately, trying to remember where we were staying in this new town that had not even known us 24 hours. Finally, we were relieved to find our road, which Gabe will attribute to me, but what was really a lucky accident of our driver. We paid the scooter owner 100,000 rupia for the damaged bike (about $9USD), then limped home to Villa Nilaya.

This was our first day in Bali.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Year; Year One

It’s been a long time since I’ve written something very personal on this blog. I feel the urge today. Perhaps it’s because I’ve developed a recent addiction to reading personal essays by women. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always had an affinity for dates and anniversaries. Perhaps it’s because autumn makes me introspective. Perhaps it's because September 17th, 2012 was the beginning of the rest of my life.


One year ago today, a significant aspect of my life was flipped upside down. I know it was today because I wrote it down in my writing journal. “September 17th, 2012, ----- --------- broke up with me.” It was a single line in the margins between notes about the book projects I had in progress at the time.

My “partner” of 6½ years, with whom I had been living for almost 2 years, unceremoniously broke off our relationship one Monday morning. It was the first day of a week I had taken off work to dedicate to my writing. We'd had a fight the previous night when he came home too late and lied about who he was with. He woke up in the morning, showered and dressed for work, came out to the living room where I was lounging in my pajamas with a book, leaned against a piece of furniture, and told me it was over. He didn’t even sit down to tell me this.

I put “partner” in quotes because that’s never truly what he was to me. It was only what I called him. I started using that term in our sixth year together, when “boyfriend” was too young an expression and “husband” was something we agreed he would never be. (One of many compromises I made was that marriage and children were off the table.) We had a formal domestic partnership in place so that he could be on my health insurance. I had replaced romance with paperwork, thinking I would take what semblance of permanence and commitment I could get. He never used the term. I’m not sure what word he used to refer to me. I’m not sure he ever referred to me at all. I found out several months ago that his boss at a job he’s been at for years didn’t know I had written a book. He was a photographer who only took my picture a few times, an apt metaphor for our relationship. But despite the many problems, it's hard to overstate the effects being in a near 7-year relationship can have on a person, and even harder to overstate the effects of its sudden end. 

We lived passively together for the next 5 weeks, while we worked with our landlord to find someone to take over the apartment, and I tried to find a new place to live. Our life together was shockingly similar to the way it was before the breakup, a fact that made it easier to swallow the reality and the necessity of the situation.

The immediate effect of the breakup, aside from the traditional cycle of grief (which seemed to spin on an endless loop those first few weeks), was a deep introspection and a consuming need for intense self-care, which I had let lapse for years. I planned a trip to Colorado in an effort to reconnect with my semi-estranged sister, my relationship with whom had been strained in large part because of my ex. I emailed another friend with whom I had been estranged for years; he was ecstatic to hear from me, and we forgave each other for past wrongs. I wrote love letters to my friends. I called everyone I loved and made plans with them. I scheduled every day for a solid month to do something, anything. I dedicated myself to a new [semi]-minimalist lifestyle and gave away, sold, or trashed a significant portion of my possessions. I found a beautiful studio apartment in a neighborhood that scared me; I knew living there would make me grow. Moreover, it was somewhere I couldn’t live with another person, so I knew I would have 18 months of living alone—and that was essential for me.


In the midst of all this, as well as being sad and angry and confused, I reconnected with someone else from my past. He was a would-be suitor from a foray into online dating 7 years earlier. We’d run into each other on Facebook in December 2011, when my book came out, and had been “friends” since then, but one or the other of us had been involved. This was the first time we were both single, and to say I began to notice him is a gross understatement. By the time I was in Colorado, we were texting with each other every day, for almost the entire day. We had our first date on November 3. I threw up that morning because I was so in love with him, and we hadn’t even met yet. That date lasted 2 days. Today, we already have plans for a weekend away for our 1-year anniversary, and are planning a trip to Asia. I could write a book about what meeting this man has done to my heart, soul, and mind. We agree it’s a blessing we never went out those 8 years ago; we needed these years to become the people we are, the people who were meant to be together. I lamented the time “wasted” with my ex and he the time wasted on his own dating foibles, but we reminded each other that we are who we are because of what—and who—has happened to us. It truly feels like my whole life was spent in a run-up to meeting him, again, and having him meet me, and then falling in love with each other.

To spend time thinking about what else the past year has brought is not to minimize my new relationship. It is by far the most important thing to happen. But there has been so much more. Indulge me while I take inventory, in no particular order. 
  • I attempted—and failed—to learn French. Relatedly, I learned that learning is harder when you’re older, and that I am not, in fact, good at everything.
  • I turned 31 and threw myself a rager of a birthday party to make up for the failed 30th birthday that had gone forgotten.
  • I gained—and subsequently lost—18 pounds.
  • My football team won the Super Bowl.
  • I put out the second edition of my novel, finished the booktrailer, and threw the most glorious book reading for the best of my best friends and family.
  • I gave away almost all my art supplies in a conscious decision to focus my free time on my writing.
  • I bought more art supplies so I could draw my first comic. I drew my first comic.
  • I decided one day to stop texting my ex first, just to see if he would ever contact me. He never did and we haven’t spoken in 7 months. I deleted his number from my phone. I’ve seen him once, across the street at a festival. I don’t think he saw me.
  • I learned to love my body, instead of feeling like it is always a work-in-progress. I started to feel truly beautiful for the first time in years.
  • I cut out sugar and grains and have subsequently learned to cook some really interesting foods, like greenola and spaghetti squash.


  • I started practicing yoga at a studio.
  • I allowed myself to grow out my hair because I like it that way.
  • I started wearing more makeup because I want to.
  • I tried on bikinis instead of one-pieces. (I did not, however, buy one.) I started wearing shorts on the regular for the first time since childhood.
  • I decided that I would like to be heavily tattooed, and scheduled 9 hours of tattooing over the next 3 months. I hired an artist to design a tattoo to commemorate my first book.
  • I put over 20,000 miles on my car.
  • I took my bassoon out of its case, put it together, and attempted to play it for the first time since June 1999. It belongs to my nephew now.
  • I reconnected with my sister and spent excellent quality time with my niece, who is becoming an adult faster than I can bear.
  • I started spending my money on things that make me—and my loved ones—happy, instead of squirreling it away in paranoia and anxiety. I bought art. I bought pretty dresses. I donated to Kickstarters. I bought plane tickets to Bali.
  • I remembered how much I love to walk. I climbed a mountain. I regularly hike through Baltimore just to be sure I am truly noticing all the people and the things there are to see. I replaced driving with walking whenever possible.
  • I started bicycling. I am terrible at it, but getting better.
  • I took up feminism.
  • I realized I DO want to get married and I DO want children, and that I had deluded myself out of those desires because of a man, and fuck that forever.
  • I neglected this blog, but I started tweeting like crazy.
  • I started listening to more music and less news. I listen to hip-hop without feeling embarrassed about it. In fact, I listen to whatever I want without feeling embarrassed about it. I pretty much stopped feeling embarrassed, because people who make me feel embarrassed don’t count.
  • I took a class in religion. I discovered Buddhism and Unitarian Universalism, and started going to church sometimes. These may very well be the answers to the spiritual questions that have been haunting me for a decade.
  • I realized I might still like to be a minister some day, and I started looking into it in earnest.
  • I decided I don’t need a Master’s degree to feel like a whole person.
  • I cut down on drinking alcohol from nightly to once per week, or none at all.
  • I finally got over my fear of the dentist and got my teeth fixed. I FUCKING FLOSS NOW.
  • I learned that I can’t do everything myself. I learned to let people help me. I learned that the way it makes me feel really awesome to help people is the way it feels for other people when they help me, and it’s only fair that everyone gets to feel that.
  • I tried to smile and say hello to everyone I saw on the street. That ended when I realized how much street harassment I was facing. I realized I don’t owe it to anyone to smile at them, so I stopped. I feel very ambivalent about this, but I have become very outspoken against street harassment.
  • I went to my 10-year college reunion.
  • I networked. Like an adult.
  • I go out to eat or to concerts by myself sometimes—not because I can’t find someone to go with me, but because I realized I am friends with myself.
  • I Instagram my meals and my cats with abandon because fuck the haters.
  • I have more, better sex than ever, and I realized I am no less than one half of that equation.
  • I make a concerted effort to see at least one of my friends every week. Depending on your personality, this may not seem like a lot, but it’s a significant change from the way I used to live my life.
  • I remembered what it’s like to enjoy things with abandon. I remembered what real happiness feels like. I stopped thinking it was cool to be aloof or critical. I stopped giving energy to people or situations that make me feel bad.
  • I’ve made new friends. My boyfriend has made friends with my friends. I’ve made old friends into new friends. I’ve made acquaintances into best friends. I’ve made best friends into family. I got rid of friends-in-name-only. I will never again neglect the people who will never leave me.
  • I fell into a deeper, truer, more perfect love than I could have dreamed possible.

There’s more. So much more. What a year it’s been. 13’s always been my lucky number. I guess it figures that I’d be age 31 in the year ’13, and it would be the best fucking year of my life. It took a major shaking up to wake me out of the fog I was living in. It felt like a knife at the time. Now it feels like a gift. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Suggested Name Replacements for the Washington DC NFL Team

The Red Scans

The Red Skinks

The Ruxpins

The Rad Skins
 

Redd's Kin


And read this mic drop if you haven't. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Visit to Fairgos

Have you checked out the book trailer yet? Don't forget to check out the revamped www.warmastersdaughter.com as well!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dat Hash


I've had a couple of requests for this recipe so I thought I would toss it up here on the blog. This is my almost famous Brussels sprout hash, which has become a staple of my Sunday brunches. Since I cut sugar and grains from my diet at the beginning of July, I'm doing a lot more veggies, protein, and fat, so my table is probably going to be seeing a lot more of this favorite. It's low carb with enough fat and protein to make it a great way to start the day. To make this vegan, simply leave out the bacon and sub your favorite oil that has a decent smoke point. 

Ingredients:
  • 4 slices uncured bacon (Safeway and Wegman's both have delicious store-brand varieties)
  • A bunch of fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered lengthwise (Sorry, but I never notice how much I'm buying... I get enough to fill up my cast iron skillet. Probably 1-2 lbs should do you)
  • 1/4 - 1/3 c. your favorite nuts, chopped up (I've used cashews, pistachios, almonds, and pecans. They're all good, but I think pecans are my favorite for this)
  • 2 - 3 T. balsamic vinegar (Red wine vinegar will do in a pinch. Flavored balsamics are dreamy in this. I like to use the maple balsamic from Lebherz Olive Oil & Vinegar Emporium)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Fry up the bacon in a cast iron skillet over med-high heat until it is about 75% done. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Leave the drippings in the pan.
  • Add the quartered Brussels sprouts to the pan. I've found this dish is best if the sprout pieces are not uniform. Throw in big chunks, single leaves, etc. This gives you a variety of textures and flavors when it's all done.
  • Fry the sprouts over medium heat until they start to turn darker green and some of the smaller pieces begin to blacken. Tear your bacon into pieces and throw it back into the pan. Toss your nuts in now as well.
  • Continue to fry over medium heat, stirring frequently to keep it from sticking to the pan. You may need to add a splash of oil, depending how greasy your bacon was. Fry until the biggest chunks of sprout are tender, or until your hash is just about the desired level of char. (I tend toward more char because I love the sweet nutty caramelization on the sprouts when they're really dark.)
  • When you're pretty close to being done, go once or twice around the pan with your vinegar and stir. You can be more generous with the vinegar, depending on your taste. Add salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt; the bacon may be enough). Cook for 2 more minutes, and you're ready to serve! 

This dish is great with a couple runny fried eggs on top, or served alongside a steak. You can also make it a day ahead. Just don't cook it quite as long, and finish frying it in the cast iron just before serving.



Monday, July 22, 2013

Pictures From the Release Party

Thank you again to everyone who made this a success. Please do yourself a big favor and check out the work by my amazing readers, Laura Bogart and Matthew Kabik. Laura read from her novel-in-progress, and Matt read from his story "The Long Waiting Noise," recently published by Cease Cows.