Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Poem For Autumn


The English department at UW-Eau Claire is lucky enough to count Max Garland, Wisconsin's Poet Laureate among our current faculty. Max is an incredibly talented poet (obviously) and also one of the nicest people I have ever met. The choir I recently joined, The Master Singers, commissioned Max to write a poem for our composer-in-residence to set to music for our upcoming Fall concert. It's just starting to feel like autumn here so I thought I would post it. It's beautiful and if you want to hear it set to music (with a gorgeous cello accompaniment), come to our concert on October 12!


October Song

Show me the changing light on the river
And I’ll show you a portrait of time
Its blessings and burdens and blurring of borders
Between what’s yours and what’s mine

High in the arc of the waning season
The wild ragged flocks wind their way
By reckonings older than roadmap or reason
Moonlight, starlight, the land’s old sway.

Pay attention to this, cries the moon
How time pares the light away soon
Though deep in the sky, constellations and I
Will tend to the darkness’s wounds.

Rapids are the water wanting to sing
Wind is how cottonwoods earn their wings
Intimations of snow in the field’s afterglow
Tell more of what’s coming than we want to know

There’s wealth in the mill and the market
And a singular wealth of mind
There’s a wealth of gold in the tamarack
That the lucky among us may find

For the silos wearing sunsets like crowns
And the oak leaves changing ruby to rust
For the marshes on the outskirts of castaway towns
This is a song for the fugitive dust
A song for the fugitive dust




Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Can't Tell Yet If I'm Grateful for the Gratitude Challenge


As a means of kick-starting my path back to happiness, I've decided to embark on my own (scaled down) version of the infamous Gratitude Challenge. Despite the recent batch of cheating-boyfriend- lemons handed to me by Life, my spirit will not be broken! I will cheer up by recounting things I am grateful for! Over the course of 21 days!

Wait, 21 days, for real? That is a big commitment. I thought this was like a 4-day Facebook thing. I don't know I can stick with the full three-week regimen. But I guess there's no harm in starting....

One of the first activities suggested, after taking The Pledge, which I'm not taking because I'm not sure I want to do this for 21 days, is to use the alphabet to make a list of things I'm grateful for. Way to start off easy, Gratitude Challenge. 26 letters in the alphabet and I have to come up with something for each one that I'm grateful for? Well, here goes nothing and no worries if you get bored around letter N.

A - Antidepressants because they keep me sane and arguably saved my life.

B -  Boston. I'm grateful for having gotten to live there for four years and for my friends there.


C- Cats, specifically this one:


D- (my) Dad. He's pretty swell.

E- Emotions and being in touch with them. Yes, sometimes I wish I could turn off my Big Feelings...but then I wouldn't be me.

F- Feminism. Duh.

G- Gonzo, my favorite Muppet. He's deeply in love with a chicken. Stay chaotic, my friend.



H- (my) hair, which is pretty easy to deal with. A lot of people hate their hair, or fret about losing it. Mine never really stresses me out. Anything that doesn't cause me anxiety = something I'm grateful for.

I- the Internet. Are you familiar? It's great! My friend Noah was once recounting to his mother his attempts to find a picture of matzo brei on the Web and she said, "There are pictures of matzo brei online?" And Noah said, "Mom, there are probably pictures of people having sex on matzo brei online." (note: a brief Google image search yielded no results, but that doesn't mean it's not out there somewhere. Different folks et al.)

J- Job, as in the fact that I have one (a lot of folks don't) and one that I actually like most of the time and pays me enough to live on.

K- Karaoke. Seriously, if I could be a professional karaoke singer....

L- Laughter. Few things feel better than a good belly laugh. I crack myself up fairly regularly, either because I'm a narcissist or because I'm funny. Jury still out.

M- the Master Singers, the choir I recently joined. My heart is happy when I am singing. Corny, but true. And my Mom, because she reads this blog and if I say I'm grateful for my Dad and not her, I will get an angry phone call. Also, she is a wonderful person.

N- Netflix.

O- Oprah gifs.

P- Poetry. Here's a poem written by a friend's four-year-old that pretty much sums it up:

Poetry, poetry
I like poetry
It can be about ice cream
It can be about anything

I like poetry


Q- Quiche. It's one of my favorite comfort foods, far superior to omelets and much less appreciated.

R- RuPaul's Drag Race, aka the best show on television of all time, hunty!


S- Sleep. I take my sleep seriously.

T- Tough love. It's not always what you want, but it's sometimes what you need.

U- Ursula the Sea Witch, because she's the best Disney villain. So sassy! 



V- Vaginas. They're neat, no? If everyone had a penis, well, that would be...problematic.

W- Wine. Duh.

X- X-rays, I guess, because yay science? Xerox machines also make my life as a teacher easier.

Y- You, dear reader!

Z- ....zebra stripes? Because they're fashionable?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Relationship Remnants


Breaking up is hard to do, but once the dust settles, it's sometimes interesting to take an inventory of what remains. I'm not talking about crap of the other person's you accidentally or intentionally inherited or even stuff given to you by your ex. I mean interests, habits, expressions that you tend to pick up, whether you want to or not, when you spend a lot of time with another person. 

From my most recent breakup, I leave with a recipe for a Mediterranean-inspired guacamole. The ex made it for me on one of our first dates and it's just too damn delicious for me to never make again. I made it this past weekend for a friend's party and it was gone within minutes; a chef in attendance even praised it. It's not a family recipe or really all that ingenious: it's basically this, but with more garlic and balsamic instead of red wine vinegar.

I also must credit this same ex for getting me hooked on Game of Thrones (my attempts to hook him on Masters of Sex and Veronica Mars were less successful) and teaching me how to play Cribbage.

I don't know if I imparted any culinary wisdom that he will carry on with him into his future relationships. He often made fun of my creative efforts to make salad dressing (admittedly they didn't always come out as planned). 

The only thing I can think of, for now, that I can take credit for is introducing him to the best Mexican place in Eau Claire: Taqueria la Poblanita. He has lived in EC for eight years and I have lived here for one, but I still managed to discover a restaurant he had never tried and convince him of its superiority over the competing taquerias. It doesn't have much "curb appeal" but it's super tasty and cheap.



I think most of my contributions in my relationships are related to food, now that I think about it. Or alcohol -- probably most of the men I've dated emerged with more knowledge about wine than before. I'm probably most proud of the ex that I got to fall in love with sushi. When we first met, he claimed not to like it and refused to eat it, but further questioning revealed that the only sushi he had ever tried came from his college dining hall. Now he's a sushi fiend, thanks to me. Which hopefully hasn't landed him in the poor house. I realize a Cup-of-Noodles habit would be more financially viable.

What did sushi ex give me? Well, he was really into reading recaps of TV shows on websites like Television Without Pity (R.I.P.). Before him, I never followed commentary about shows I watched, but now it's pretty essential to my viewing rituals and I have him to thank. Even when binge-watching shows like House of Cards or Orange is the New Black, I pause between episodes to read recaps (mostly on Vulture now that TWoP is gone). It's a weird behavior -- to read a summary/flash analysis of something I literally JUST WATCHED. But it's pleasurable, what can I say.

From the Boston boyfriend, I got a lot of music -- I was exposed to a bunch of bands I never would have discovered had we not dated. And we're on good enough terms that I can still like those bands and not, like, think of him and collapse into tears. He got me listening to Bon Iver, Wye Oak, Robyn, Lucky Soul, the Pipettes, and a whole bunch of other stuff.  He also is responsible for me becoming obsessed with The Room. It's the gift that keeps on giving. He took me to my first screening and explained to me when to throw the plastic spoons at the screen.

I introduced him to the best burger in Boston:


It's at the Russell House Tavern. It's served on an English muffin. And perhaps best of all, as this picture shows, they give you the option of fries, salad or 50/50. The 50/50 option is so rad because you can feel good about eating some salad with your bacon cheeseburger. EVERYONE WINS. 

When I left Boston, this ex made me a lovely photo essay documenting him eating this burger as a tribute to the impact I made on his life. It's incredibly funny and if I had a scanner at my disposal, I would post the pictures here.  

Chicago boyfriend was a tech guy and helped me see the beauty in things I previously only valued for their utility, like cell phones. He had an amazing collection of sample phones and other gadgets that were sent to him to test out. He also inspired me to finally suck it up and get an iPhone and he was right, my life is better. 

New York boyfriend (well, the 2nd one -- sushi boyfriend is NY boyfriend #1) helped me rediscover my love for board games. And he got me into the live trivia scene -- from now on, wherever I live, I will seek out the best bar trivia because of him (and probably end up disappointed since his caliber for live trivia was very high). He also had some handy euphemisms for marijuana ("green shoes") that I have passed on to others (though my favorite is still "tickets to the Al Green concert" which I stole from someone in college). I think I got him to be a slightly less picky eater -- I know at least he now knows better than to order meat well-done. You're welcome, future foodie girlfriends of his. I laid some groundwork, made some headway. 

 ....That's probably enough self-indulgent reflection for one blog post. Whenever I'm newly single, I find myself ruminating on relationships past, looking for patterns. I have dated a lot of interesting people (and one famous one) and at first glance, they don't have much in common. (I used to joke about creating a reality show where all my ex-boyfriends are on a cruise together and have to figure out what they have in common: me. Not that I have enough exes to fill a cruise ship -- more like a moderately sized yacht.) But what they do all have in common is they are smart, funny, interesting, kind human beings. And I still carry a little love for all of them and always will.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reporting from America's Dairyland

The other night, when I couldn't sleep, I spent over an hour just reading old posts on this blog. I reached two conclusions: 1) I'm a pretty funny lady. There were things I had written and totally forgotten about that made me LOL.  2) I really should try to blog more - as in, once a week, minimum. So in that spirit, here's a post I started writing six months ago and abandoned -- a rumination on my new life in the upper Midwest. Now it's finished (and updated to reflect that I have now been here - gasp! - a year).



This is the state flag of Wisconsin. Seeing as I have now been a resident of Wisconsin for over a year, I thought I should take a look at the flag. According to Wikipedia, it is not highly regarded in terms of design when compared with other state flags (oh snap!). Our motto is "Forward" -- simple, direct. The state seal pictured on the flag "emphasizes mining and shipping." And yes, that's a little badger on top of the coat of arms. Cute!


It still seems incredibly bizarre that I live in Wisconsin, to both me and my non-Wisconsin friends and family. But here are five things I have figured out in the one year I have lived here:

1. "Wisconsin nice"

People here are really nice. Like, crazy nice. They always give you the benefit of the the doubt. Total strangers will offer you a ride at a bar if you're too drunk to drive (I have witnessed this, not been the drunk person, Mom). People will help you dig your car out of a snow bank. The locals take great pride in their kindness, especially in comparison to their neighbors to the west, Minnesotans, whom they claim are fake nice. I don't know a lot of Minnesotans, so I can't really comment.

2.The unofficial state condiment is Ranch.

Where I come from, Ranch is just a salad dressing. But lo, people dip everything in Ranch here! French fries, sandwiches, chips, their children (well, okay, maybe not that last one). Pretty much anything can be a vehicle for Ranch delivery. Cheese curds dipped in Ranch are especially tasty. Fried cheese dipped in Ranch: It doesn't get much more Wisconsin than that. 


3. The water here is delicious!

I have no idea why this is, but the tap water here is sooooo good. It doesn't have any weird flavors, no metal/mineral/chemical notes. It's crisp and cold (well, probably because the pipes are super cold) and tastes really pure.

4. Beware the Hodag

Wisconsin has its very own cryptid: the Hodag, a mythical (?) lizard beast that lives in Rhinelander. Here is a statue of the menacing creature:



The Hodag is now my second favorite folkloric creature, second of course to the chupacabra. Apparently the Hodag is not so much vicious as mischievous, presumed responsible for golf balls that are never recovered, interfering with local fishermen, and other mild recreational annoyances. See, even the state's monster is Wisconsin nice!

5. The summers are as lovely as the winters are brutal

When it finally began to warm up and all the inches upon inches of snow began to melt, I truly felt that I had survived something epic and terrible. This summer, in terms of weather, has been as intensely wonderful as the winter was intensely horrid. Glorious, sunny high-70s days, enough rain to keep everything verdant and some exciting thunderstorms, very mild humidity. Temps dropping low enough at night to turn off the A/C and just open the windows. Now that I know what's coming winter-wise, I understand why people try to soak up every last drop of summer. I'm in serious denial about Labor Day weekend, otherwise known as this weekend, otherwise known as the end of summer. 

As I embark on Year Two in Eau Claire, it feels both familiar and strange. Sort of like home, but also, due to some recent major life ruptures, a foreign and potentially scary place. But I still love my job, I've made some solid friends, and hey, I just joined a semi-professional choir, so I'll be singing again and meeting some new folks. I'm not in the same place I was when I rhapsodized last December, but hopefully I'll get to that state of relative contentment again soon. As my homegirl Florence says, it's always darkest before the dawn.