Sunday, January 31, 2021

Climate Change

Should I entitle this Climate Change 1, or put a date after it? Because it’s not like I’m only going to write about it once.

It’s not that I’m a pessimist or an optimist. Most people don’t fall into neat categories like that, just like most of us aren’t strictly introverts or extroverts. We’re pretty fluid, we human beings. But I do feel good about labeling myself a survivor, as in, I want to keep living and won’t go into a corner and wait for disaster to find me.

It would be a mistake to say I was thrilled when Biden was elected. I voted for him, knowing how warty his record was (sorry, Julian Castro and Andrew Yang were both out of the race by the time it was Massachusetts’ turn to vote in the primaries), but as unstable as Trump was, I didn’t want to celebrate until Biden was inaugurated. And then after the insurrection on January 6, I didn’t want to stop holding my breath until I was sure we would get through the entire day without incident.

We did, and I’m immeasurably thankful for that. One of the only credits I’ll give to Trump is that he made us grateful now for normalcy – and by normalcy, I mean things working according to the law. And as a climate activist, I feel a little more hopeful than I would have if Trump had been re-elected. To say it’s easier to work against climate change at the federal level now is such an understatement, it’s almost snide.

So why only a little more hopeful? Because if Biden hadn’t won, there were still things we could do at the state and municipal levels. We know states can limit what can be sold in their borders (hello, California), but cities and towns can also limit who’s allowed to have a permit to run a business in their cities, and can control what goes into the waste stream. It’s a hell of a lot easier when there’s coordination at the federal level, but it’s not impossible, and if Trump had been re-elected, it would have been imperative.

Who am I kidding? It’s still imperative, and the states need to stop trying to prove their fealty to, what, coal and oil, two industries that are dying already, or biomass, one of the most inefficient and damaging energy “solutions”, and start thinking about how they can augment federal regulations, not stimy them. I read recently that we’ve lost ice in the last few decades that was the equivalent of the size of the entire UK, and the melting of said ice has an added an inch to the level of sea water around the world.

How about this? If I do choose to go into a corner and die, it won’t be so I can drown. Keep at it, because life as we know it doesn’t end unless we let it.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Cookbooks are lifestyle guides

 I think I already said this before, but it’s still true.

And to be clear, there’s a point in many people’s lives where those are necessary. If you’re a young adult and you weren’t taught how to cook, cookbooks can be, if not a lifesaver, a big money saver. Or maybe you’re someone who’d really like to try a different kind of cuisine – Indian, Korean, Greek – and you’ve never cooked anything like it. Then, yes, cookbooks can be a big help, many times even more so than videos.

But these conditions do not apply to me anymore, and what I’ve found in the many cookbooks I’ve read over the last three decades (and more – I read cookbooks at a very early age) is that while there is much instruction, there is also a good bit of food writing, and more than a fair share of “this is how you do it properly.” Think Martha Stewart, but also, in her own way, think Nigella Lawson. Really, all of them. In the last few years I started to feel like cookbooks were putting me in a straight jacket, not showing me new opportunities. I think what finally set me off was an author – someone who was writing in his thirties – admonishing me about how to cook beans, as if those were the most difficult things in the world to cook and if I didn’t do it just so they pretty much wouldn’t be worth eating.

I think I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m tired of people talking to me like that about anything, which makes it hard to read a lot of blogs, but that’s another story.

Before the tidying a few days ago, I went through my collection of cookbooks and got rid of over half of them. I would have gotten rid of more, but my husband has sentimental attachments to six of them, one I received as a gift from my sister (the author was a next door neighbor), and another is a book I use very frequently (forgive me for not having already internalized how to make kimchi). That feels right. I also copied, over the course of a few years, recipes into a beautiful notebook my oldest daughter bought me as a present several years ago. Oh right – I also already know how to cook.

And speaking of blogs: around the time of the bookshelf tidying I also tidied my blog reader. I have one blog about food justice and one blog about foraging, and that’s it for anything related to food. Thank goodness I already got rid of Instagram, because otherwise there would be no escape, from food or lifestyle guidance.

Friday, January 29, 2021


If my last post sounds a little bitter, it’s because I came to the realization a few days ago that I needed to pause the writing project I’ve been working on since 2017 so I can accomplish the project I’m referring to. Sorry, I could of course do both, but it’s become evident to me that if I don’t want to have any more episodes like the one I did on December 30, I need to take pressure off of myself.

Bitterness comes from thinking about the pages I’ve already lost.

Full disclosure: there is one more project I have to work on during this time. My sons are nearing the end of their homeschooling career, and it’s time to move them on. We’re focusing on finishing up math, getting them ready for assessments, and working on their transcripts. This is non-negotiable. It’s not hours of work every day – well, not too many hours – but it’s work that needs to be done just about every day. I can do two things pretty well, but I can’t do three.

I picture myself, the last few days of April, and certainly the first week of May, writing furiously to give voice to the characters who have pounding on the walls of my subconscious to get out, and I picture my sons feeling confident about what the months after will bring for them.

The difference between a fantasy and a plan is the work we put into it.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Does Not Play Well With Others

I do not. But one of the benefits of maturity is that I don’t feel bad about that anymore.

In the final analysis, I’m just a little too ruthless to work with almost everyone else. Someone says something about a deadline, someone says something about an objective, and I start doing this thing most other people find weird: planning. But, it turns out, other people like to talk more and explore options. Which is fine, except that people seem to want to do more of that as that deadline approaches and more planning still needs to be done. And I suspect that much of the world is utterly sanguine about that, but it fills me with panic about last minute adjustments and having to put off the rest of my life in order to make something work.

Well, as of May, I’m done with all of that.

I do a little visualization exercise in the mornings, and I realized a few days ago that I put myself in group settings where I haven’t felt comfortable before. This may be my fantasy – visualizations are sometimes just that – that I’ll be able to feel like I belong in those places, but lately I don’t like that fantasy. I’m now starting to picture myself alone in settings where I’ve enjoyed myself, or with people I know I feel good with (aka family and friends). And that feels like something I can make a reality.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021


 My heart started bothering me again on December 30, 2020. I don’t usually put down dates like that, but I remember it very well because it was the day before NYE and I was visiting one of my daughters at work with my husband and sons. Too much excitement? Maybe. I don’t know, but it did seem clear to me that day, and when I was exhausted after the next episode, that all of the workout plans I’d been pursuing were out the door for the next few months. (This is part of what I mean about trying on new personalities, or in this case trying to fit back into old ones.)

So I’ve been doing something I wanted to anyway and have been focusing on walking and qigong. (Yes, I’m also drinking tea maybe once a week, and coffee never; that last part isn’t hard at all.) I love walking, and since reading The Nature Fix I’ve been trying to expose myself to as much green as I can; I’m fortunate to live in a part of Boston where that’s easy.

As much as I dabbled into qigong before, I found I really loved Lee Holden’s approach, and after using his practices on Hoopla A LOT, I treated myself and bought four of his dvds. (I’m old-fashioned, I know; I like to be able to use things that don’t depend on whether I have a good wi-fi connection.) And I’m using them regularly (well, three of them; the fourth feels a little too light). And I love it. It focuses my breathing, goes at the right pace to allow me to move into a flow, and I break a little bit of a sweat. It’s not magic – I don’t always emerge from a practice feeling all of my troubles fall away – but it does make me feel better without making me feel worse. (People who work out regularly may know what I mean.)

The big question: do I get another DVD?

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


 I’ve been busy reading quite a bit. Finally finished the Poppy Wars trilogy, and that’s all I’m going to say. Also got to read Scott Anderson’s fantastic The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War--a Tragedy in Three Acts, and before that I finished America for Americans. I also dug into two books I’ve had on my To Be Read list for a while, The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality and New Worlds for All:Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. When I finally dug into those, I wondered why I’d waited so long: not only were their lengths very manageable (less than 400 pages), but they were so good. Weirdly for me, I acquired We Have Been Harmonized: Life in China's Surveillance State almost as soon as I heard about it, in part because it’s a subject one of my sons has been obsessed with for about two years now. It was good, but by the second-to-last chapter I felt like the author had made his point and I was just waiting for it to end.



Now finally digging into Beasts Made of Night, which is a needed departure from some of the fiction I’ve been reading recently, and trying to get through To Hold Up the Sky, Cixin Liu’s latest release of short stories. My reading goal this year is to get through my library Holds list (seven items as of now), then my For Later shelf (nineteen items as of now, but two of them are movies and three I can't touch until the libraries are open to the public again), and then move onto the books sitting on my piano, including a re-read of The Fifth Season, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, Ken Liu’s latest short story collection, and Monkey, one of the many versions of Journey to the West. Ah, but then there is the newest Brunetti, Ken Liu’s third installment of the Dandelion Dynasty, and most especially, Fonda Lee’s Jade Legacy. Twenty-six books to look forward to. This should be a good year.

Monday, January 25, 2021


While my husband read through the last chapter of a book that was, frankly, beginning to exhaust me, I decided to tidy (or re-tidy) my space. Amazing how much we can fit into relatively small spaces; when I was done about 90 minutes later, I was giving away two bags of clothing and had generated a bag of garbage. Mind you, this was only my space, not our shared spaces. Those hauls are always more impressive.

Why re-tidy? Shouldn’t you only have to do it once? Perhaps, but apparently I like to try on different hobbies and personalities more, and while I’m pretty ruthless in some ways, it can be difficult to discard things people have given me that I don’t want.

Always a good exercise to go through, especially when it results in a little more calm and clarity.