Friday, September 16, 2016


I slept with the windows open last night and woke up this morning to a pleasantly crisp Lovely Apartment.

Fresh autumnal air made a delightful environment for yoga and breakfast. I drink tea all year long, of course, but it tastes best this time of year.

Sitting here in a summer nightgown--sleeveless, knee length--I have goosebumps on my arms, and my feet are chilly, and I am happy.

It occurs to me that I could have kept the apartment this temperature all summer. But, even setting aside any environmental concerns about air conditioning, it would not have been the same.

Seventy degrees of gently breezy fresh air is not the same as seventy degrees of forcefully propelled conditioned air, just like seventy degrees in early spring feels not the same as seventy degrees in late summer.

Happy first harbinger of fall.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


The first time Lou visited Lovely Apartment we realized that we have very different relationships with the sun.

Lou: This balcony would be great for sitting with coffee and the newspaper. You should put a small table and chair out here.  

me: 0.o It faces directly east. 

Lou: Yes! Isn't that wonderful? You can just soak up the sun!

me: No! It's horrible. I would burn to a crisp. I will never sit on that balcony in the morning. 

And I haven't. I often go out in the morning to water the plants or to put laundry on the drying racks, but never for more than a couple of minutes. I do, however, enjoy the balcony with a cup of tea in the afternoon or a glass of wine in the evening, when the light is diffuse and the whole of my garden is in shade.

More and more I find myself seeking shade wherever I go, which is not easy when I accomplish a significant portion of my commute with my feet. 

I walk because walking means not driving and not driving means not parking. I walk because it brings physical movement into my sedentary life organically. I walk because it reveals my community to me in greater detail. 

The greatest challenge in my walking life is the sun. Without a hat or a headscarf, my scalp will burn through my hair. Even with sunscreen, my exposed skin crisps quickly. 

So, I've developed an odd habit of standing in scraps of shade. 

The fact that my shadow isn't visible in the picture above means that I have successfully placed myself in the shaodow of the diminutive, ivy-covered treeling in the picture below.


I'm not a skinny person, and even I fit in the shade of a lamppost or small tree trunk. Since I started looking for them, I find these bands of shade everywhere. Like narrow fragments of oasis.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

on hosting us for food

Elder, Younger and I are difficult when it comes to food. Most of you know at least a little bit about our challenges, you know enough to ask for a reminder when you invite us to an activity that includes food. I always struggle with how much detail to give.

I'm going to post this chart so I can send the link the next time someone asks.

Actual clinical allergies
Things that are unexpectedly okay
Things that are not preferred
tree nuts – walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, pecans, almond, beech nuts, chestnut, hickory nut – in all forms – raw, fresh, roasted, oil, butter, meal

peanut  - in all forms – raw, fresh, roasted, oil, butter, meal

**these nut allergies include products “that have been processed in a facility that also processes tree nuts” or “may contain traces of peanuts or tree nuts”

sunflower seeds and oil

stone fruits – apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, necarine – only when fresh
pine nuts
sesame seeds

stone fruits when frozen or cooked to softness
seafood, both fish and shellfish

an abundance of cow dairy I'll abstain from ice cream or pizza for example.  I’ll be okay if you cook  with cream, milk, or butter, but please don’t make milk or cheese the star of every dish on the table.

seafood, both fish and shellfish
capsaicin – all hot peppers in all forms, including chili powder and paprika
mint (all of them)
bell peppers, black pepper

It's a daunting chart, I know. Having read it, you might be reconsidering your invitation to host one or all of us. Please know that we recognize how difficult we are. We always carry a snack with us and are prepared to eat that if we need to. We are also always happy to bring a safe-for-us dish to complement the meal you're planning for everyone. 

Our two biggest requests are these:
1. Be careful of cross-contamination in your kitchen. Don't, for example, slice vegetables for a salad Kate will eat on the same cutting board you just used to chop the nuts for everyone else's dessert. 

2. If you're not sure something is okay for one of us, just let us know. We're happy to read the label or the recipe ourselves and make the decision. 

Some helpful tips for hosting us or other guests with food restrictions, especially for large parties with lots of guests who probably have lots of different dietary things going on: 
1. Plan simple dishes. 
2. Think about what can be left on the side. Can you put a dish of slivered almonds next to the salad bowl instead of mixing them in? Can you put the shredded cheese next to the chili? 
3. Don't use the same ingredients in every dish - not everything milk-based or with garlic or with chili powder. 
4. Save the packaging from any items or ingredients. If you're not used to looking for allergens, you'd be surprised where they show up. As you cook, pile the packaging in a corner so that your guests can read it for themselves. They may choose not to, but giving them the option is a powerful act of hospitality that shows understanding. 

Readers, please feel free to suggest further tips in the comments. I'll be happy to add them to the body of the post.

Friday, August 26, 2016

finding the joy

I've been having a bit of a freakout this summer.

On paper, my career is moving in a good direction: I submitted an article to an academic journal and am now revising in response to reviewer comments. That same journal asked me to review someone else's submission. I accepted a postdoctoral teaching fellowship at a denominational liberal arts college. All positive signs of my professional development.

Although I've been celebrating my new full-time teaching fellowship with cheers and champagne and flaily muppet arms, I couldn't find the joy. I felt relief as this job lifts the burden of worry about finances, I felt gratitude for the recognition of my skills, but not joy for the work itself.

And then I felt guilty for not feeling joy. I love teaching. This job should have put me over the moon. Where was the joy?!?!?!?

Then, I had a disturbing epiphany. The last time I started to feel like a professional who was being taken seriously, the last time I had made my career a priority, tragedy exploded my life. The last time I allowed myself to believe these things were real and that I deserved them, I had to give them up. The circumstances--signing contracts, planning research, settling in to my own space--feel familiar.  I'm having trouble trusting this reality again. My lack of joy is like a Pavlovian conditioned response: professional security will be followed by darkness and turmoil, so prepare thyself.

Since I've been able to see the dynamics at play, they've had less power. My full-on freakout has subsided to the normal stage fright I have at the beginning of every semester.

And today, there was even some joy. At this university, the faculty dress for convocation. Since I didn't march in my doctoral commencement, today was the first day I got to wear a hood and tam.

It felt pretty amazing.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Saturday, July 30, 2016


A little over three years ago, people started telling me I was brave. For a long time, this label made me deeply uncomfortable. But people just. kept. saying it, and I got tired of debating my (lack of) bravery.

First I practiced not arguing with the people who told me I was brave. When I had mastered that, I practiced not physically recoiling from the word. And when I had finally mastered that, I started thinking about what they might see that I did not.

Because, really, from my perspective, I have not done anything brave or, for that matter, anything strong. First I did the next necessary things. Then I did the next logical things. Then I did the next possible things.

In a fit of nostalgia this evening, I was watching the 2001 romantic comedy Kate and Leopold, and Hugh Jackman's character told Meg Ryan's character that
The brave are simply those with the clearest vision of what is before them--glory and danger alike--and notwithstanding go out to meet it.
It's a beautiful definition, but it certainly doesn't apply to me. While I have continued to act despite fear, I wouldn't say that I've ever had a clear vision.

Recently accepting a postdoctoral teaching fellowship, a full-time contract position with salary and benefits, was such a joy. I was walking down the sidewalk that afternoon, grinning like a fool, and feeling validated, not only by the job offer but also by recent progress in academic publication.

A little over a year ago I was an unemployed graduate student whose life was in boxes, and now I'm a post-doctoral teaching fellow with one article forthcoming and another under review.

A little over a year ago I was an unemployed graduate student whose life was in boxes...and I moved my family halfway across the country? Without a job? What the fuck was I thinking?

This last year could have gone much, much differently. All along, I had had a vague sense that things might not work out, and I made sure that there was enough cash in my emergency fund to drag my life back to Kalamazoo if necessary, but I did not have a clear vision of the dangers until this moment in which I finally feel safe.

I only ever see my own audacity in hindsight.

Sunday, June 26, 2016


In general, I don't think that deathdays should be marked. I would rather celebrate my dearly departeds on their birthdays. Today, though, is demanding my attention.

There's something different about three. One felt light. I had a sense of relief at having gotten through an entire cycle of holidays and birthdays and seasons. Three feels heavy.

Maybe three feels heavy because my life is so different now. I've made a different set of choices for myself and the children than we had made as a married couple. To live in an apartment. To live in this city. To build a career.

I've been thinking about the final poem in Lorca's Lament this month "Alma Ausente."

4. Absent Soul

The bull does not know you, nor the fig tree, 
nor the horses, nor the ants in your own house.
The child and the afternoon do not know you
because you have died forever.

The back of the stone does not know you,
nor the black satin in which you crumble.
Your silent memory does not know you
because you have died forever. 

I could add a verse:

The cat does not know you, nor the rabbit
nor the plants bearing fruit on the balcony. 
The walls of this home do not know you
because you have died forever. 

The heaviest thing right now is the tension between my sadness and my happiness. I am profoundly sad. I am sad that Adam died in the prime of life. I am sad that the life we had planned is gone. I am sad that I am lonely without a partner. I carry these sadnesses in my bones. Yet, at the same time, I am  joyfully happy. I am happy to be wresting with my research and building a career. I am happy to be here, in the city, on the coast. I am happy with my sit-com life

Happy and sad at the same time is a jarring dissonance. I am not alone, though. In church this morning, Psalm 77 gave equal weight to lamentation and praise, and I was reminded of the early days three years ago when my prayer life contracted to the words: Help, Thanks, Wow. There were many nights when my cries for help were accompanied by exclamations of thanks and wonder.

Maybe three feels heavy because I don't know what comes next. The next three years could hold as much change as the last. I only know that I am happy, and I am sad.