Friday Randomness (again)

Here I am, one week into my paid sabbatical.  The first few nights, I confess that I had nightmares about things happening and not knowing what was going on.  Those were lame and boring, and I’ve let them go by the wayside.

Friday we went to a couple of movies…the first being the new Woody Allen film, which was OK, but I’m not a huge Woody Allen fan, and I confess I started to fall asleep.   Ted bought be a frozen latte, and we went back in for round two, which was Boyhood again.  Really liked it the second time.   Saturday we went on an interesting hike.  The highway that runs up and down the California coast is Hwy 1, and there’s a stretch just south of San Francisco called Devil’s Slide.  So named because the treacherous roadway has been partly washed away during many a storm, and when you don’t have to worry about the roadway below you falling into the angry ocean, there’s always the rocks above falling down and crushing you.  Not good, very dangerous.  Several years ago, someone finally raised money to build some tunnels through the rock slightly to the east of Hwy 1, and thus circumvent this particular danger.  After they finished, they converted the old Hwy 1 into a hiking/biking trail.  Hopefully no one will be stupid enough to go biking or hiking in the midst of a big winter storm, so the danger should be minimized.  Though I do wonder at the expense of maintaining it merely for pedestrians.  Oh well.   We read about this months ago when it first opened, and thought it might be interesting to go some day and look at the stunning beauty of the Pacific ocean without the speed of being in a car.  So we did, and it was lovely and interesting and almost worth the traffic we were stuck in getting there.  Here’s a picture of the roadway at its worst, after a storm in 1995.

So that was interesting, and Ted wrote about it here.   I really liked the sight of a lone cypress tree hanging on to the side of a rock on the wrong side of the mountain….it made me think it was saying, “What?  How did I end up HERE?  Get me DOWN!”  Ted has pictures of that, and also pictures from Sutro Heights, a tiny park up above the Cliff House in San Francisco, about which I’ve read several times, but hadn’t seen myself until that day.  It was a good day.

Maya came home, tired and happy, after her visit to New York.  Now she wants to move there, and has decided that we should all move there together.  I like New York quite a bit, so perhaps if I win several million dollars, she’s on.   Then again, we also saw some gorgeous homes right next to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where we went when my sister and her family were visiting on Monday.  The Palace is gorgeous, and I would simply adore to live in that neighborhood.  Maya says it’s the home of the 1%, though I suspect she is wrong on that one.  It’s the home of the 10%.  Really well off doctors, some investment types, but probably some people do actually work for a living.  Anyway, we spent some time with my family, enjoyed the kids, getting to know my sister’s boyfriend a bit more, seeing swans in the pond, that sort of thing.

Then we came home and ran back out again, to go to dinner with Maya’s girl scout troop.  This was their final outing as a troop, and it was bittersweet.  They’ve been together like this for 10 years, and it’s sad to see them break up.  But also, nice to see them grow up, which is what causes the break.  They took last year’s cookie money, and spent every penny of it on dinner (and appetizers, and drinks, and desserts) for themselves and their moms, and one grandma who has been the treasurer for the troop this whole time.  It was really nice.  Shocking how much we spent, but a nice hurrah for the group.  As the leader for the last 2 or 3 years, I should have written a nice speech or something, but since every mom there has been the troop leader at some point, it didn’t seem appropriate, and I hate giving speeches.  So we just let it go.

So far, this sabbatical thing has been working out pretty well.  I’ve gotten some chores done, and more on my list.  Some socializing done, and more on my list.  I finished my book (Beloved, which was devastating), and have started another.  I’ve had a nap or two, and have gotten some exercise.  I can only imagine how quickly these next 3 weeks are going to fly by, but I intend to enjoy them for now.  Happy Friday.

Friday Randomness

Today is the first day of my sabbatical. My company has a newish policy, that every employee has to take a month of paid time off every four years.  This is my month, so I can’t look at my email or do any work of any kind. It’s kind of weird. My regular routine is to wake up, come downstairs, get the paper, and check my work email. I’m in California and most of my coworkers are on the East Coast, so often things have started up by the time I wake up. So this morning I woke up, came downstairs, got the paper, and….looked at Facebook. It’s not so much that I’m DYING to know what my coworkers are doing without me. It’s more just a weird thing to not be allowed to even check.

Another weird thing right now is that Maya is in New York, and we’re not. My parents’ graduation gift to her was a trip anywhere she wanted to go (in the U.S.), and she chose New York. They love New York, so they were happy with that choice. So they flew from Portland, she flew from San Francisco, and they met up there. So far they’ve walked a lot everywhere, seen a Broadway play (Book of Mormon) and done some shopping. It’s weird to wake up in the morning and see her bedroom door open, and know that she’s not here. Not bad, just weird.

So, what are we party animals doing while she’s gone and I’m not working? Today it’s supposed to be 100F or so, so we’re thinking of seeing a couple of movies. We’ll go see the new Woody Allen movie, and then if we’re so inclined, we may movie hop over to see Boyhood again.

Also, we’re eating foods that she doesn’t like. I don’t cater to anyone’s preferences too much around here, but at the same time I don’t generally make items that I know someone dislikes. Last night was linguine and clams, which was delicious. Tonight will either be steak or fish, I’m not sure which. Tomorrow will be steak or fish, whichever we don’t have tonight. Then she’s home on Sunday.

As for my sabbatical and what to do with all of this free time, I have some other plans around the house…organizing my mess of a closet, a little gardening, that sort of thing. But I think I’m going to ease on in, take it kind of slowly, and see how this month off goes. I do wish that my company provided us with spending money along with the time off. Like, “Here’s $5,000, go to Hawaii for a week. Then maybe drive up the coast and see what you see.” But they didn’t.


‘Boyhood’ is the story of Mason and his family, and follows them from the summer of 2002 until the autumn of 2013. At the beginning of the film, Mason is in 1st grade. His parents are divorced, and he hasn’t seen his father in a few years, as he’s been working in Alaska. His father (Mason Sr., played by Ethan Hawke) has come back to Texas and wants to get to know his kids again. Mason’s sister, Samantha, is two years older than he, and is always ready to goad and torture him if she can get away with it. Their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is a loving, though imperfect mother. She reads to them at bedtime, gets them out the door to school in the morning, and does her best to support them, going to college in order to teach. Mason Sr. is a loving, carefree type of weekend dad, taking the kids bowling, buying them gifts, trying to get to know them.

The magic of the film is that it was actually filmed over this same period. The actors came together and worked on scripts annually, and filmed for a few days each year. The director, Richard Linklater, wanted to tell the story of the parent/child relationship, the story of a boy growing up, but filming over more than a decade meant that there were many unknowns in the culture and the world around them, events and changes that would be incorporated into his framework as they went along.

So we have this clever conceit, that the story is filmed over 11 or 12 years, that the actors are growing up and growing older in front of our eyes. That’s enough to make the movie interesting, but it’s not enough to make it good. What makes it good is the writing that is involved, the beautiful cinematography, and the honest, wonderful performances of everyone involved. I don’t think the movie had many missteps.

As with other Linklater films, there isn’t a huge plot. It’s not the story of a boy battling cancer or saving the world or falling in love. It’s the story of a family, and a glimpse at some of the events that occur in the boy’s life over this time span. Watching the boy grow up and be about the same age that Maya was those same years…I don’t know, it touched me and reminded me of how quickly time flies right on by.

It’s a film that has me thinking about it afterward, one that I truly enjoyed. I think I’d like to go see it again, actually. It’s that well done.

Ted and I both really enjoyed the movie, and we decided to do his and hers blog posts. Find his here!

Finding Carter & Awkward

I can’t say I ever expected to find entertaining drama or comedies on MTV. I am old enough to remember when it was brand new and played videos all day, and that was revolutionary and cool. No TV shows, no reality TV, none of that. Just videos. As far as TV goes, I’m not a fan of reality shows. I’ll admit to being hooked on season 2 of ‘The Real World’ back in the mid 90s, but that was only because it was filmed in San Francisco, and we were homesick living in Philadelphia. Also, while it was kind of stupid and contrived, it didn’t have all of the truly fake situations that modern shows have. Like sending people to Hawaii or stranding them on an island, or whatever.

Anyway, I didn’t think I’d ever find a TV show on MTV that I’d want to watch, until last year, Ted started watching ‘Awkward’. ‘Awkward’ is a teen dramedy about a girl, Jenna, who is struggling through the very awkward phases of high school. Her parents had her when they were in high school themselves, and are ridiculous parodies of parents in so many ways. The thing is, it’s well written. It’s funny and serious and poignant. Season 2 recently ended, and now she’s finishing up her senior year. What’s funny about the show is the clever dialogue, the ridiculousness of it all, the parents and other adults who are, of course, immature in comparison to the teens. Jenna’s main concern is boys boys boys. That’s really the only thing she ever seems to care about, this boy or that boy or whatever. So that’s a little boring, and I do wish she’d get a real problem. But then again, I remember being a teen, and so much of my stupid brain being taken up with boy questions. Does he like me? Why? Why do only the boys I’m not interested in like me? OK, he likes me. Why doesn’t he call? Should I call him? Blah blah blah. So boring. And yet, the show gets a lot of it right (though not accurate to any real teens I’ve ever met, just accurate for the feelings involved). I recommend it.

This year, they’ve added another teen drama that we like even more, “Finding Carter”. Carter is maybe 16, and reminds me of a young Jodie Foster. More in her looks than her mannerisms, though there’s a bit of that, too. Carter is an only child of a single mom, and she and her mom are incredibly close. Trouble is, her mom abducted her when she was 3, and is not really her mom. Carter and some friends get in a bit of trouble, enough that records are pulled on her, and somehow connections are made that were never made before, and she is reunited with her real parents. Trouble is, she doesn’t like her real parents. Well, she kinda likes her father, but her mother is an intense police officer who lost the joy in her life when her little daughter was abducted years ago. She’s focused on trying to find Carter’s abductor mom, who has gone into hiding, and squelches all of Carter’s ideas of how life, and family relationships, should be.

It’s well written. It’s funny sometimes, but the story is compelling, and the characters pull you in and make you care about them. It’s 3 episodes in now, and at least the first 2 are available on Hulu, as is “Awkward”.

These shows are not “Downton Abbey”, “Game of Thrones”, or “Orphan Black”, but they’re good in their own right. Who knew? Quality TV on MTV. Not me.

Book Reading

I went to the library the other day to return a book, and didn’t have a new one in mind, so I did a bit of looking around to see what I could see. I ended up with two books from the ‘New Books’ shelf, and one from the stacks.

Two of the books I loved, and tore through quickly. the third, I expected to love, but really I felt like, “meh”, and ended up returning it to the library about 1/8 of the way in.

First was The Bear, the harrowing story of a 5 year old girl and her 2 year old brother, and their experiences in the days following the fatal mauling of their parents by a black bear while camping on a small island. I don’t remember how I heard about this book, maybe in a magazine. The point of view in the book is that of the 5 year old, and her innocence and lack of understanding is paramount. I don’t remember what it is like to be 5, and I don’t even remember a lot of conversations with my own child when she was 5, so I don’t know whether her understandings are realistic to a child in this situation or not. The story is compelling, and I could hardly put it down to go to sleep at night. And when I did, I picked it up and finished it first thing in the morning.

The second book I found was Blue is the Warmest Color. This is a graphic novel, which was made into a film that received great reviews in our local paper. I remembered that I knew the title, but not the story or what it was about. The story is a young French woman, high school age, who breaks up with her boyfriend when she realizes she’s just not that into him, and then falls in love with a woman maybe 4 years older than her that she meets in a bar. She has a lot of fear about coming out as lesbian to herself, her family, and her friends. And rightfully so. Her parents kick her out, her friends are horrified, and she herself has a lot of issues with being gay and doesn’t want to admit the reality. And really, maybe she’s more bisexual than gay. In the end, it’s very French, with explicit sex scenes and a tragic ending. I liked it a lot, and I’m glad I found it.

The book I rejected was Burning Bright, by Tracy Chavallier. I wanted to love it. I adored “Girl With A Pearl Earring”, and I really enjoyed her other books, “The Last Runaway”, and “Remarkable Creatures”. But I couldn’t get into it, so I sent it back.

New Order and Concert Etiquette

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Our friends Marilee and Paul had planned to see New Order in San Francisco on Friday, but life (ok, work) got in the way, so they gave the tickets to us. I was SO into New Order back in the late 80s. I loved them. Ted and I saw them in concert in 1989, where New Order was headlining with the Sugarcubes and PIL (Public Image Limited). The Sugarcubes couldn’t get the audience interested, and PIL were great. New Order was boring, and a lot of people left before the concert ended. So I wasn’t sure that I would pay to see them again, but since Paul and Marilee gave us the tickets, and gosh, we do love their music, we went.

I’m so glad we did. They were great, we had amazing seats, and it was a LOT of fun. Kind of different going to a concert for a band that was huge all those years ago, though. Most of the people were in their 40s and 50s, which is fine because we’re in our 40s, getting closer to 50, but somehow in my mind we ALL should have been younger. So we had really good seats, and the venue is such that when you’re sitting, even if you’re sitting behind a really tall man, you can still see the stage. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a concert without the filter of a tall man’s head right in front of me. The downside of this is that people were mainly sitting, not getting up and dancing. So I found myself wondering, “Is it OK to get up and dance? Would it be rude to the people behind me?” I looked at the people behind me a few times, and I decided they were very dour Russians, who had perhaps not had enough vodka to loosen them up, because they were just sitting there. Not smiling, not appearing to be into it at all. This put a bit of a damper on things, and I didn’t dance.

Until they played “Bizarre Love Triangle”, and then all bets were off. The guy in front of me looked over his shoulder politely, wondering if it was OK to dance now, and when he saw that I was up, he smiled a big smile, jumped up and started dancing. So that was the scene. Sit down for the slower songs, jump up and dance for the hits. At one point I looked back at the Russians, and they still looked dour, but they were singing along to the music, and appeared to know every word. So that made me feel better, like even if they weren’t dancing, at least they were maybe enjoying themselves.

Most concerts you go to, there is a huge screen, or many huge screens, and there are cameras on the band, so people beyond the first 3 rows can see them playing and singing. Not so with New Order. They barely spent any time in the spotlight at all, mostly just playing and singing, with lights or maybe a video on the screen behind them. We hypothesized that they didn’t want to look old, which they likely do, just like their fans. Or maybe it wasn’t even them up there playing, and they wanted to cover up that fact. Who knows. I would have liked to see them a bit more, but it was OK with the videos.

There were two encores. First, they came out and played a few songs from their days as Joy Division. Ted noticed that one of the Russians behind us was openly weeping at this point. Perhaps he was a friend of Ian Curtis, the Joy Division member who killed himself lo those many years ago, and whose face had been shown on the screen. Or perhaps he had had more vodka than I thought. The second encore was brief, and they played just one song for us, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, which seemed like a perfect way to round out the show. We had a great time.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, a shocking thing happened around here. I turned on the TV to the Food Network, and there was an actual cooking show being aired! I know you’re thinking, “No J, you’re confused. That was a cooking COMPETITION, or else it was a show where Guy F guy drives around and takes HUGE bites out of greasy food”. It wasn’t. It was an actual cooking show, where the host makes a recipe, and you decide for yourself whether you might like to try the recipe at home. I was in so much shock that I ended up watching an episode of ‘Sandwich King‘, a show I of which I had previously been unaware. I’m glad I watched, though, because amongst other items, he made a delicious looking ‘hot dog’ on the grill that I wanted to try. 1st, I like hot dogs. 2nd, this was made from lamb, and is really closer to a kabob than a hot dog. 3rd, it had slow roasted tomatoes, which I love. 4th, at the end of the episode, he and his family ate all of the various sandwiches he had prepared, and his wife said this was her favorite. So I added it to my menu, and a few days later, I made the dish. It was a hit, so I went ahead and made it again for the 4th of July.

The lamb is more the texture of a burger than a hotdog, so it’s very easy to eat. You could skip the bun if you were so inclined, but I would caution you NOT to skip the roasted tomatoes, because they’re killer. And the sauce is good as well. The other day, Ted took some of the leftover roasted tomatoes, some leftover sauce, some roasted chicken, and some kick ass cheese we had sitting around and made himself a delicious sandwich. So keep that in mind…the recipe makes more tomatoes and sauce than you’ll need, and that’s not a bad thing. Also, I saw no need for the skewers. Seemed like taking the dogs off of the skewers would just be an opportunity for them to fall apart. So I merely shaped into the right shape and length for my hot dog buns, and grilled as is. Worked perfectly.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes:
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kefta Dog:
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
Olive oil

Infused Greek Yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 packed tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Special equipment: 6 wooden skewers

For the tomatoes: Preheat an oven 325 degrees F. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly in a roasting pan with a rack inside if possible (the rack helps allow the tomatoes to evaporate water). Let them roast for about 1 1/2 hours checking for hotspots in your oven (rotate the entire pan if needed).

For the kefta dog: Preheat a grill pan. Combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, allspice, cayenne, garlic, shallots and some salt and pepper, and mix. Mix in the lamb in small pieces so the seasoning distributes evenly.

Mold lamb into 5 1/2-inch-long hot dog shapes onto your skewers. Drizzle each with olive oil. Place on the grill pan, and cook on each side for about 4 minutes, for a total of 7 to 8 minutes.

For the yogurt: Add yogurt, parsley, tahini, garlic powder, lemon zest and juice into a mixing bowl and incorporate well. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the kefta dogs with the infused yogurt and roasted tomatoes.

Friday Randomness

What’s new, Pussycat? Anything exciting going on? Interesting stuff on the internet? Stupid politicians doing stupid things, another mass shooting to piss us off and bring us further down into despair. Maybe Prince George got another tooth or Kimye said something arrogant.  I’m going to stick my head in the sand and ignore it all for the moment.

Ted and I celebrated 21 years together last week. Wait, no…it was our 21st wedding anniversary. We were clearly together prior to our marriage. He worked, I worked, and we went out for a lovely dinner in the evening. It was really nice, though the restaurant wasn’t firing on all cylinders this time. But it’s always nice to get dressed up and go out for a fancy meal, and spend time together.

Maya and I chopped off a bunch of hair.  I had 6 or 7 inches cut off, she had maybe 10 cut.  I think mine is perhaps an inch shorter than I would have liked, but rest assured, it will be an inch longer relatively soon.  Looking at their records, it appears I am so lazy that I only get my hair cut every 6 months.  Not good for the whole idea of shape and style, is it? Maya’s looks gorgeous.  She had a lot of split ends, and they’re all gone.  Her ombre is gone.  She looks more mature, less like a high school student, more like a college student.  That’s a good thing.

We celebrated the 4th with a small family bbq. I made a really good lamb kefta dog, for which I will provide the recipe soonly. SO GOOD. Maya went out to see fireworks with friends, Ted and I stayed home and watched fireworks on TV. We’re kind of late bloomers, as a family, to the whole ‘kid staying out late with her friends’ thing. I think part of that is because of the driving requirements in California. Minors have to have their license for a year before they can drive with other minors in the car. It seems as though a lot of kids these days aren’t in any rush to get their license, which pushes it back further. Maya got her license in August of last year, when she was almost 17 1/2. She can now drive with other kids in her car, because she turned 18 in March. So anyway, now that school has gotten out, and the stress of all of that is behind them, they seem to have plans almost every day. I think another part of it is that many kids are going away to college, so they are feeling poignant towards each other, feeling like they are going to disperse into the wind in their many different directions. And of course, they are. Thankfully, quite a few of Maya’s good friends are going to Berkeley, so they will be close.

Cramping her style and social schedule, but padding the pocketbook, today is Maya’s first day at her new job. She’s working in retail, which was her first choice. She’s hoping to keep the job once she starts college, though very part time. I agree with that. I think she’s starting to see what you can do if you have a little cash in your bank account, and that a job will take her further than the piddly allowance she gets from us.

Sitting on the sidelines of all of these changes is interesting. Probably not interesting for you, my poor readers, but it is for me. It’s strange to have my child come home hours after I’ve gone to bed. It’s strange to know that she and her friends are hours away hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains, and there was no need for parent involvement at all. It’s liberating for all of us.

We have some good friends, Paul and Marilee, who had tickets to see New Order in concert tonight, but now cannot use them. They gave us the tickets, so Ted and I will be going to SF for the concert. I seem to remember that we saw New Order in concert once before, many many years ago, and that they were kind of boring. Hopefully they will be good tonight…I like a lot of their music, and I remember being really into them in the mid to late 80s. Guessing the crowd will be mostly our age, which will probably make me feel kind of old. I was in my early 20s when I first got into New Order, and here I am, creeping up towards 50. Inconceivable. (I do not think that word means what you think it means.)

Reading has been hit or miss lately. I’ve had 4 library books, 2 of which I tore through in a day each, and the other 2 I couldn’t get into at all and gave up. Both by authors whose work I have really enjoyed in the past, so it’s a little disappointing.  Maybe I’ll write about those soon…nice to have some blog fodder, right?

LinkedIn suggested to me that perhaps I might know my mother, and that I should email her and ask her to connect with me there.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  To link up with our dearly departed through the ether of the internet, and keep in touch that way?  So much of my relationship with my mom was online anyway, with her living in Alaska and me in California.  We did talk on the phone, but emails and blogs were less expensive and provided different conversations.  I reported to LinkedIn that she has passed away, and they told me that at some point I had uploaded an address book, which I do not remember doing, and the email they had for her was not one that I had ever seen before (it was for a job she had, and I never contacted her there).  Anyway, I accepted.  I’ll let you know if she replies, thus ending the whole “is there life after death” debate once and for all.

Give All to Love

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21 years ago today, I married the love of my life, my best friend, my partner in crime. As with any marriage, we’ve had times that were good and times that were more difficult, but never once have I regretted the choice we made, to marry our fortunes together.

21 years. Our marriage is now old enough to drink. I keep telling people that, and no one thinks it’s funny but me. Oh well.

Our coffee table has a glass top, and drawers inside that can display treasures. We have books in both drawers. One side is Jefferson’s Letters, and is open to a piece titled, Bastille Day. We have a fondness for Bastille Day, as we were in Paris on our honeymoon on Bastille Day in 1993. The other side is Essays, Poems, Addresses, by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The book is open to this poem, Give All to Love. The book shares the drawer with a single rose from my wedding bouquet.

Give All To Love

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the muse;
Nothing refuse.

‘Tis a brave master,
Let it have scope,
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope;
High and more high,
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent;
But ’tis a god,
Knows its own path,
And the outlets of the sky.
‘Tis not for the mean,
It requireth courage stout,
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending;
Such ’twill reward,
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending.

Leave all for love;—
Yet, hear me, yet,
One word more thy heart behoved,
One pulse more of firm endeavor,
Keep thee to-day,
To-morrow, for ever,
Free as an Arab
Of thy beloved.
Cling with life to the maid;
But when the surprise,
Vague shadow of surmise,
Flits across her bosom young
Of a joy apart from thee,
Free be she, fancy-free,
Do not thou detain a hem,
Nor the palest rose she flung
From her summer diadem.

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho’ her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

Meena Alexander ~ Poetry Month

I’m not sure how I came across this poem, but when I did, it broke my heart and moved me so much. Meena Alexander is so talented and evokes a pain of which so many of us are unaware. In this poem, she tells of the pain of three young women, unwilling to put her family into a desperate financial situation so that she may be married…also unwilling to deal with the shame of not being married. It is a glimpse into a very different world that still manages to bring our own sexist culture into focus.

A School Teacher from South India

By Meena Alexander

Portions of a mango tree the storm cut down,
a green blaze bent into mud
and they come to me, at dawn

three girls from Kanpur, far to the north admittedly
(we know this from national geography class,
the borders of states, the major cities).

They hung themselves from fans.
In the hot air they hung themselves
so that their father would not be forced to tender gold

he did not have, would not be forced
to work his fists to bone.
So that is how a portion of the story goes.

Slowly in the hot air they swung, three girls.
How old were they?
Of marriageable age certainly.

Sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen, something of that sort.
How do I feel about it?
What a question! I am one of three sisters,

most certainly I do not want father to proffer money
he does not have for my marriage.
Get a scooter, a refrigerator, a horde of utensils,

silks, and tiny glittering bits of gold
to hang about my ears and throat.
Gold is labor time accumulated . . . labor time defined.

Who said that? Yes, I am a schoolteacher, fifth standard
trained in Indian history and geography,
Kerala University, first class first.

The storm tree puts out its limbs and
I see three girls swinging. One of them is me.
Step back I tell myself.

Saumiya, step back. The whole history
of womankind is compacted here.
Open your umbrella, tuck your sari tight,

breathe into the strokes of catastrophe,
and let the school bus wait.
You will get to it soon enough and the small, hot faces.

See how the monsoon winds soar and shunt
tropic air into a house of souls,
a doorway stopped by clouds.

Set your feet into broken stones
and this red earth and pouring rain.
For us there is no exile.

Quinoa Salad with Peaches and Pickled Onions


We’re kind of late to the quinoa bandwagon, but now that we’re here, I enjoy finding recipes that use the protein packed grain. I saw this one online, and loved the idea of peaches, arugula, and tomatoes mixed in with the quinoa. I wasn’t exactly sure about the pickled onions, but the reviews all said it’s key, and kind of makes the recipe, so I went for it. I’m glad I did. The pickled onions were delicious. Smelly when you’re heating up the vinegar, and also smelly when you’re pickling the onions, but delicious anyway. I subbed nectarines from the farmers’ market for the peaches, because we had them and because then I didn’t have to cope with peach fuzz. I like to throw a little extra arugula the next day and have it for lunch. Yum.


1 1/2 cups quinoa (any color) rinsed well
4 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 large ripe firm peaches, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1/2 bunch arugula, thick stems trimmed, leaves torn (about 2 cups)
2 cups small cherry tomatoes (about 1 pint), halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup 1/2″ pieces chives, divided
Freshly ground black pepper


Bring quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season with salt. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until quinoa is tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain, return quinoa to pan, and cover. Remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet; let cool.

Meanwhile, place onion in a small bowl. Bring vinegar, sugar, and 4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour over onion and let stand 20 minutes. Drain, reserving pickling liquid.

Toss pickled onion, peaches, arugula, tomatoes, oil, 1/4 cup chives, and 3 tablespoons reserved pickling liquid in a large bowl; season with salt, pepper, and more pickling liquid, if desired. Fold in quinoa.

Serve salad topped with remaining 1/4 cup chives.

DO AHEAD: Quinoa salad can be made 6 hours ahead (do not add arugula and chives). Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and toss in arugula and chives just before serving.

Deserving More

Last night we went to a graduation party for one of Maya’s friends, and of course there were several families there with kids who had also graduated. I was talking to one of the moms about the cost of college, and talking to her brought a couple of things to mind.

1st, the issue of deserving things that you cannot afford. The daughter is going to an expensive private school, even though the family cannot afford that in any way. The cost is about $60,000 a year. The daughter has worked hard and is receiving scholarships through the school that will cover half of that, bringing the cost down to $30,000 a year. Which the family still does not have. So they’re taking out parent loans for the difference, which means when the child graduates from college (and they still have a second child right behind her), they will be $120k in debt. They feel this is a worthwhile investment, because the daughter has worked hard and deserves it. More power to them, I suppose, but the concept of deserving is one I’ve come up against in the past, usually when someone is about to put something on a credit card that they cannot afford. “I know this is too much money, but I deserve it”. Once in awhile I suspect most of us do something similar, get tired of never having the better things in life or whatever, but if it becomes a mind set, you can find yourself in trouble pretty quickly. So really, the issue isn’t whether the daughter ‘deserves’ it because she’s worked hard. Of course she deserves it. But that’s not the same thing as, can she have it. At least not to me.

2nd, again, how expensive college has become. People who tell you to go ahead and apply to a private school are right. That fancy $60,000 a year school is REALLY $30,000, if you have the right mix of whatever they’re looking for. That’s the same price as a UC, a public University system that is unlikely to give much financial aid at all, unless you’re a star football player or something like that. So you can go to Cal and be lost in huge classrooms, taught by Teacher’s Aids, or you can go to a small private school where your teachers will know you and your work. For about the same amount of money.

3rd, how glad I am that Maya is attending a Community College for her first 2 years of college. She deserves a private education just as much as the other girl does, but we don’t deserve to be $120k in debt when she graduates. We’ll be taking out loans of some type when she transfers to a 4 year, I’m sure. But cutting that cost in half is well worth it. I do wish she were going to a 4 year right away. But at the same time, I’m glad she’ll be living with us for 2 more years. I’m not really ready for her to fly the coop just yet.

Dirge Without Music

How fitting is this angry poem, that rails against the unfairness and cruelty of death, in our current time of school and other mass shootings. The bitterness that boils up inside me, inside so many of us, as we hear of yet another child, police officer, teacher, friend, shot and killed. So many deaths, so many broken hearts left behind. I don’t know why Congress can’t stand up to the NRA. Yes I do. Money. Money and the fear that they will be thrown out of office, like Eric Cantor was (not by the NRA, not because of gun control, but an example of watching out for your constituency). So they talk the good talk for a little while, like right after the massacre at Sandy Hook, and it looks for a minute like something might get done. But it never does. And it never will, until we, the people, demand it. We must convince the electorate that this is what we want, what we need, and the only way to keep their jobs is by getting some serious gun legislation passed.

In the mean time, here is a lovely and heartbreaking poem that comes to my mind when I think of all of these people, young and old, buried before their time.

Dirge without Music

~Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.