Wednesday, December 23, 2009

P.S. This Just In

I got the fancy, downtown publishing job.

Thank heavens. Literally.

A Two-Year-Old Deja Wishes You Well

Merry Christmas, all. Sam and I are in Tucson with the sunshine (!) and his sweet family. Last year I was suspicious of cacti with christmas lights on them. This year, I love them.

And this little girl loves you. I'm the cute, small, flirting one.
Merry day!

(sorry for small image. no idea why that's so. click on it?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I'm sitting in an empty classroom. It was the last session of my evening class and my students' final exams are in a stack in front of me.

Also in front of me is a Christmas card from a sweet student. Inside she said I was a good teacher, a helpful teacher. She thanked me.

And maybe she does this for every teacher. Maybe she's just a nice kid. But it's making me weep. I have three days left of teaching and I'm weeping about it.

I want to leave the school with all my heart. It's the right thing to do. It's a toxic, insane department.

But I'll miss my students. I'll miss teaching. I'll miss.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Drink a Cookie

In regards to my long-standing quest to not eat a cookie, I submit the following successful, harmless substitution:

I'm back to not eating sugar. I stopped eating treats of my own awhile ago, but I'd been having bites of Sam's sweet treats here and there, thinking bite-shmite, but I'm over that. Last night, at Cheesecake Factory, Sam got a slice of, well, cheesecake. And I took not a bite. Not. A. Bite. And you know? I didn't even want to. I could clearly remember the way it coats the mouth, how it churns in my stomach most uncomfortably, how my head hurts instantly from the sugar.

What have I had instead? Herb tea (like the sort above, or mint, which is my handsdown favorite) makes a remarkably excellent substitution for sweets; baked apples with cinammon and a little stevia; chocolate "milkshakes" made from almond milk, cacao powder, a bit of cashew butter, frozen banana, and stevia (Sam loves the milkshakes, too. They're goooood.), etc. No splenda. No sir. I'll do stevia, agave, date sugar, honey and maple syrup on occasion.

Oh! Oh! While we're talking food, my new favorite breakfast is as follows: oatmeal or steel cut oats cooked in the rice cooker with half almond milk/half water, a cut-up apple, a load of cinammon, and a touch of stevia. The apple gets all cooked and lovely. I top it with some almond butter for protein. If there's some left over, I put the rice cooker in the fridge and eat it cold as a snack when I come home from work. And, it's good. Oh it's good.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Vote a Coat!

The zipper broke on my new winter coat, so I took it back. They gave me money. Amd now I need a new coat. I want a prrrrettty one. I've spent much too long online but I think I've narrowed to these three. Please to tell girl which one to purchase? Also, which color? Coats one and three only come in grey, but coat two I could get in that there purple shade. Am I brave enough for a purple coat? Do tell.

Additional notes: I sort of adore the big buttons on coat one, and the neck seems warm, and I can make it smaller on the back (if need be, heaven help me). Coat two just seems lovely, but I'm not quite as into the buttons, but the swishy back! Oh pretty! And it would be long and warmie, too. I like coat three, and it seems perhaps the most classic, but I'm worried I'd look like a semi-fancy sack of beans.

I leave it to you. My winter life is in your hands.

Coat One (only available in grey)

Coat 2 (available in grey or "deep plum")

Coat 3 (only available in grey)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ear Bones

I have an ear canal infection. I find this odd. And painful.

I think this is how it happened: A few weeks ago, I took a bath before bed. Then, because there was some snoring up in here, I wore some ear plugs--that smooshy silicon kind.

The doctor said this weird bacteria only grows in dark, damp places, and I think the combination of the bath and the plugs sort of sealed the deal, literally. Ha.

I don't want to think of how this bacteria got in there in the first place. My house is clean as a whistle, honest.

My ear started to feel funny after that night, but I just thought I had done the ear plugs wrong. I always do the earplugs wrong. You know how you're not supposed to shove them in there? I have no idea how they would work without a little shoving. I mean, I've tried the seal-it-off approach, but it don't do no good. And so I shove, and then it gives me a headache, and I wake up feeling like I'm underwater, and it's not pleasant.

Anyway, so the next day, when it felt unpleasant even after I had taken the little suckers out, I thought I had just stretched my ear bones. I mean, I don't know anything about ear bones except that they're tiny and delicate and funny-shaped, and I just assumed that I had hurt them when I shoved. And I was afraid to go to a doctor because they'd just tell me I was an idiot to shove and to stop shoving because I was hurting my ear bones. I hate it when I'm a dummy. I have nightmares about people telling me I'm a dummy.

Meanwhile, driving in the car, sitting on my couch, teaching, eating, everything I did, I could feel these ear bones sort of tugging on me, aching. I had fantasies about cutting my ear off, but then I'd think of Van Gogh, and realize I didn't have anyone to give my ear to except Sam, and he wouldn't want it.

Finally, on Saturday, after cleaning my house with my iPod earbuds in, my ear was becoming increasingly less friendly. I thought, again, this was because my little earbuds had stretched my bones, but I was also beginning to suspect that was a pretty stupid theory.

And so we got in the car and drove over to Urgent Care in Cambridge. It was a windy day, and on the way there, sitting at a stoplight, we watched all of these brown leaves blow down the street, turning corners in unison, flipping and skipping along with what seemed like precision, as if they had a destination, a little specific spot in the universe that was waiting for them. I suppose they did.

After three hours at the doctor, a woman who looked like a cross between a forty-year-old and a four-year-old told me about the bacteria and the safe, dark, damp place that is my ear canal. I sat in a creepy dentisty chair the color of rotten Pepto Bismal while she wrote up a prescription of incredibly expensive white drops to put in my ear.

Now, every morning and night, I take my glasses off and press my left ear to the couch and Sam drips the cold white drops into my right ear. Drip. Drip. Dripdripdrip. And then it gets so full it sort of closes up, and I feel like I'm swimming, and I pretend I am swimming, looking at my house sideways. My cats come up to sniff the white pool in my ear, and I watch the corner of a blanket and the lens of my glasses, and Sam's tall legs walking around our little living room.

I don't think my ear bones were involved at all, but I keep thinking of them, how small they are and delicate. How their names are beautiful and odd: malleaus, incus, and stapes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gratitude: Page 6

(image credit here)


Is there a more perfect food?

If avocados did not exist, eating healthy would be no where near as interesting or tasty.

They're outrageously expensive here ($2+!!), but I buy them anyway, because when I eat a good one, a perfect one, one with no spots, one that's just the right amount of firm and soft, it feels like God invented them because He loves me, personally.

Gratitude: Page 5

I'm a sucker for things hanging from the ceiling. I don't know why. I remember going to an art exhibit at BYU which consisted of hundreds of tiny white paper boats hanging from the ceiling, swaying ever so slightly. I stood and stared and swooned.

When Sam and I were on our honeymoon in DC, we sat in the Calder room at the ... what, Smithsonian? Okay, I can't remember the museum, but there was a room full of Alexander Calder mobiles and we sat on a bench against the back wall, watching for a very long while. They made these gorgeous, moving colored shadows on the tall walls, and I rested my head on Sam's shoulder, and we whispered about how happy we were to be together and how pretty the room was. That has to be one of my favorite memories. Maybe that's part of why I'm so obsessed.

If I had my way (and maybe someday I will), we would have something hanging from every inch of our ceiling. And I would just sit with my head turned up, smiling. All day long. That's what I would do. That would be the life. Do you think someone would pay me for that?

Right now we have one mobile, hanging above our bed. It's this one.

We bought it in London at the Tate gallery. I find it endlessly beautiful. When I wake up in the morning, it's the first thing I see, and I don't have my glasses on so it looks like this fuzzy colorful presence floating above my head. There's a draft in our room, so it's always twirling a little for me. And if I look at it for long enough, everything seems okay.

Gratitude: Page 4

This is harder today. For some reason, days off are so much more depressing than days when I have to work. I hate the working, but it gets me out of the house and I have to smile at my students and pretend like I'm happy teacher lady. I am my best self in front of them.

Ah, there it is.

Teaching. I love teaching. I love that I must be my best self in front of students, and I find it makes me more that way. I call up reserves of patience and energy and enthusiasm from heaven knows where. Probably from heaven, as a matter of fact. There have been plenty of days I didn't have any of my own.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gratitude: Page 3

This pictures seems to capture so many things that are lovely to me. (Did I post it already?)

Open windows. A sunny day. Green green leaves. Gauzy pretty curtains. Framed postcards from Europe trip. Decorative object from Portabello Road. Handsome, contemplative, tail-less kitty. Our first apartment in Boston.

Gratitude: Page 2

I heard yesterday that there are jellyfish larger than blue whales.

Let me say that again.

There are jellyfish larger than blue whales.

I don't know why this delights me so. Driving home from church, hearing it on the radio, I had this feeling like God is really something. How does he come up with this stuff? He makes me, this little human thing that drives a red car and thinks what she has for dinner is important, and He also makes this enormous blobby, beautiful creature that's bigger than I can fathom and lives deep deep in the ocean. So deep I'll never see it. So big that if I did see it, I'd only be seeing one piece of it.

Walking around on campus, I think of the jellyfish's long, ribbony tail. And I am happy.

Gratitude: Page 1

I'm at my least favorite place (ie, work) and I can feel the nausea coming in like the tide. I feel sick almost the entire time I'm here, lately. And often when I'm not.

But oh well. I've done all I can do, and now I just have to ride it out until it's my pleasure to leave. In the meantime, I've decided to focus on pleasant things, happy thoughts, if you will. Teddy bears and buttons and the smell of fabric softener. I'd like to try to do more posts, and shorter ones, maybe even several a day. That's the plan, anyway. It seems a good week to concentrate on all the things that are going well, rather than profound disappointment.

So, part one. Sam. I like Sam, the husband.

Here is reason number 4,763:

Last night I read a few poems at a little church meeting, and Sam agreed to come. Just before we left, I said, carefully, because I was worried he'd be annoyed at having to change, "I don't know what other people will wear, but I think you might be more comfortable not wearing your jeans." Instead of being annoyed, he said, "Okay," and went back to the bedroom.

He came out a few minutes later without his jeans. Or pants of any sort.

He had his boxers on, a pair of tennis shoes, and red socks with festive green Christmas trees. It was really a stunning ensemble. "I'm ready," he said.

The thing is, we've been together for awhile, and you'd think I would have realized that I walked right into that. He couldn't have set it up better himself. But that's precisely what I love about him: his sense of humor never ceases to delight. And really, of all the things I thought I was looking for in a husband, this is perhaps the bonus I didn't plan on. He makes me laugh. Full, complete, surrendering, giggling fits almost once a day, usually more often than that.

What a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Well, Ummmm

After all that thinking last night, I got called for an interview at that big fancy publishing job downtown. This was just hours after I told the chair I wouldn't be back next semester.

Who knows if I'll even get the job, but that story doesn't really sound so bad. Working around the corner from Boston Commons? Come on now ...

Also, I got a poem accepted for publication.

Today is okay by me.

A Snatchable Moment of Clarity

It's late, very late, and Sam's asleep. Every once in awhile I hear him mumble something insistent but incoherent. I should be sleeping or grading papers, but instead I've been popping around on blogs, looking at people who have pretty lives, and imagining what I want mine to be. Here is the blog I just found tonight and have been reading for over an hour: Heart of Light. She buys pretty flowers and bakes pretty things and crafts tiny somethings and sells them in an etsy shop. Everything in her life looks bright and scrubbed into beauty.

I want that.

I've learned stuff this year: about myself and about working and academia and students and cooking and marriage and cleaning and eating and sleep and my body and healthcare and unhappiness and cats and meanies. I didn't want to know everything I learned. I didn't want to know I could fail. I didn't want to know that sometimes people won't like me. I didn't really want to know that getting a tenure-track job is not a holy grail; it's a JOB, a j.o.b. like any other, a sort of intense and consuming one that I'm not sure I want.

But now I know all that. And, if I can manage to think about it right, I'm at this beautiful moment right now where anything's possible, where I get to start over and decide who I am, who I will be next. I've really been imagining this all year, ever since I decided I hated this job. And I've dreamed big dreams. For awhile I was really serious about studying the social habits of elephants in Africa. I imagined a little boy who looks like Sam in a papoose on my back, pointing a chubby finger at the saggy gray beasts while I scribbled observations in a field notebook. That's one dream.

And since I've known this was going to happen, I've been applying to big fancy textbook publishing houses downtown to work as an editor. I've imagined taking the train into the city, wearing a sleek gray suit, reading poetry on the train, meandering over to The Commons to eat my lunch in the sunshine. That was a good dream, too.

But tonight, over dinner, Sam made a compelling case against all that--the fancy job downtown--a case that spoke to my heart. He said I'd probably like that sort of thing, probably be good at it, but I would sacrifice everything I actually wanted for it.

It's funny because my impulse is to think of this as a feminist thing and a little piece of me bristled when he was talking, thinking he was trying to keep me home taking care of babies and cooking his dinner--which is funny because it's so not Sam. How do I explain this? I've always seen myself as a girl who manages both a career and a family. But you know what? If I've learned anything over the last year, it's that I don't want that. We don't have babies; I'm not even close to thinking about getting pregnant, but sometimes when I would rush out the door to teach a class, there would be this little part of me that whispered I wouldn't want to rush out if I had a baby at home. And that's not even about all the rhetoric I know from church: a mother's place is in the home. That's about me, some little whisper in the deepest part of me that said there was another way, one better suited to who I am.

I've been trying to figure out what that way is. Now this is getting long, so I'll try to come to my point, but first another small tangent.

I have this friend in my ward who has two small kids and a delightful husband. The whole crew is delightful. And one of the most delightful things about them is that they seem to have cracked the code: they both work part time, do a ton of interesting, meaningful stuff with their spare time, take exquisite care of their children, and do all of this while managing to live in Cambridge, which has an laughably high cost of living. I have absolutely no idea how they do it, but I think it must have to do with some absurdly efficient budgeting. Which is another thing I've figured out this year: as much as, to me, it feels like freedom to drop big bills on a fancy dinner or a pretty haircut, true freedom (and I can't even explain how expansive and true that word is for me in this case) comes from living within ones means: living on very little and spending very wisely. Anyone who knows me knows I'm an absolutely train wreck at that, but I have a feeling I'm about to learn more about it.

Anyway, all this to say that I'm trying to imagine what my new life should look like, and I think tonight, looking through that blog, some ideas about it solidified. Dear universe, this is what I want my life to be, in no particular order:

1. I want to teach, but I want to teach in a low-pressure situation. I want to sit with students one-on-one or in very small groups and ask them what they think and help them think and write more clearly. (Maybe this means a couple of tutoring jobs?)
2. I want to write. Really, really write. Aggressively. With my whole heart.
3. I want to exercise. I want my body to be strong and lean and healthy. I want that feeling back that I used to get from running. That running feeling. I can't explain it.
4. I want to learn how to make meals at home with relative ease and joy.
5. I don't want to agonize about what I eat and how I feel so much.
6. I want a sweet sweet generous relationship with my husband and my family and with friends.
7. I want to make something with my hands that people will love. (Craft, visual art, collage, photography?)
8. I want to cultivate more faith, to pray more, to find more time for the study of spiritual things and more participation in my religious community.
8. I want to travel, to have a clean house, to wear clothes that define me and make me happy, to have flowers on my kitchen table more often, to spend more time petting my perfect cats.
9. I want to read good books, look at good art, watch good movies, see good plays, hear good music and say nice things.

Is that too much to ask? Is that impossible? I don't know. I know it would have been impossible at this current job, and I would have held onto that job forever if they would have let me, hating it and all. I know it's more possible in Massachusetts, where healthcare is available for (nearly) everyone and there's a market for education-related work. I know it's more possible with Sam, who feels more like my partner all the time, who is patient with me and clear about what our priorities should be, and so very much my best friend.

Okay, time to join him and sleep. May the sound of our combined snoring make an artful chorus. Tomorrow I will officially tell my job I'm hitting the road, and I will commence building this new life. Or at least try.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Bit More Info

Sorry for all the vagueness.

Here's the deal: The job-jerks are almost certainly not reappointing me. There's some strong evidence that this due to religious descrimination, so we're looking into fighting along those lines. (Read: possible lawsuit.) I have no idea what will happen with that or if I'll even carry it through, but for the moment, it's totally unbearable for me to go to work. I try and try, and I love my students so that makes it easier, but I'm not sleeping well and I'm constantly nauseous and I'm afraid to go the faculty lunchroom, etc. It's ugly.

So I've pretty much decided to leave the job in December when the semster ends. Sam and I are both applying for jobs. I'm applying for immediate positions in the area, and Sam's applying for tenure-track stuff all over the country. (I might apply for tenure-track stuff too, whenever I stop dry heaving at the thought of it.) We have no idea where we'll be or what we'll do next, but we'll probably be in Boston until at least next summer sometime.

In one version of the story, we move out further from the city but stay in the area, work adjunct, live on less, get on the groovy MA state health insurance, and write our little hearts out. In that case, the cats get to go outside and catch birds. They dig that part.

Anyway, who knows? The next adventure should be grand. It feels like anything will be better than this dump.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome to Privateland

(sigh of relief)

I have no big secret announcements. I'm just glad for a little space where I don't have to be quite as careful.

I'm probably leaving my job at the semester. Very long story, vague pieces of which you've heard.

Leaving at the semester will be the happy ending to said long story. Sam and I look forward to packing up my books and bringing them home, to safer pastures. I plan on rolling down the car windows and giggling maniacally.

Now I just need to find another way to bring in money. Maybe I'll knit toilet paper hats like my grandma used to make and sell them on etsy. Sort of like this:

(source here)

Hmmmm... Not a bad idea.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spider Fight Continues

I'm sorry to be so unposty lately. I hope to be back to my usual self before too long.

In the meantime, I have a couple of requests.

This thing with my job has taken an interesting turn, one that is calling for my being a bit more careful. I hope you can help.

Request 1: If you have a link to my blog on your blog (or anywhere), will you make sure that it doesn't list my last name? I'm particularly worried about my married name, as this is what I go by at work. If you could just keep me as Deja, that would be excellent.

Request 2: I hate to do it, because it makes me kind of sad when other people do it, but I need to go private for awhile. Please, PLEASE, leave me a comment if you'd like to still read. Sometimes when people go private I'm too sheepish to ask to be added. Please don't be sheepish. Leave your email address here or shoot me an email as soon as you can. I want to get this privatized in the next few days.

Thanks for your help. Maybe when I'm private I'll feel safe explaining a bit more.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This is my hand in the spider's mouth.

Thank you for all of your sweet, kind comments on that post. They made it seem okay.

And then, pretty much right after I wrote it, things got worse at work. Really bad. And since it's all I think/pray/talk about, it's hard to think of what to blog about. I don't want to say much.

This week, the fight was out of me. My fate seemed sealed, and I was ready to just quit before it could get any worse. Not fight, not defend myself, even though there was (is) this mountain of injustice. I just wanted to quit and move on. That's what I WANTED to do. That was the only thing it made SENSE to do.

And then I had this dream. It was an answer to prayer (it probably makes me weird that I dream my answers, but I love them.) and I don't want to forget it:

I'm in a kitchen, trying to make a salad, but the bag of lettuce explodes, and it's all over the counters and I'm frustrated. And then I notice there is an ENORMOUS spider on the counter, flipped on its back, its evil legs waggling wildly. It has bright green markings on its tummy. I scream and my mom and little brother, Gavin, come in to see what's wrong. And I am so upset. I'm stomping my feet and begging Gavin to kill it and thinking it's going to murder us all. Then the spider is rightside up, in a corner of the kitchen, the size of a little yappy dog, and Gavin says, "I think this is the kind of spider that likes water."

I dump a glass of water on the spider's head, and it makes the spider really angry. I can tell the spider hates me now, even though I was trying to give it what it wanted. Gavin comes up to it really slowly, and very gently puts his hand its enormous mouth. I am sure the spider is going to bite his hand off. He says, "I think ..." and rubs its tongue a little. I am horrified. "Yeah," says Gavin. "Its tongue is smooth. That means it's harmless." I am flabbergasted. Gavin says, "I think I'm going to keep it."

And then I wake up.

My mom says Gavin hates spiders with the white hot intensity of a thousand burning suns. He's allergic to them, so they can never be friends. And it seemed like, if he could put his hand in the spider's mouth, I could, too.

And I did. Pouting about it the whole way. But I fought.

I still don't think it will do any good.

But I did it.

I was at my office until 11 working on the fight, and when I came home, Sam I went out to rustle up some dinner. Waiting to turn off of our street, I saw a raccoon walking along a telephone wire. It was dainty and sure-footed. I turned, stopped in the street, and looked up at it. He looked down at me with his elegant black eye mask.

This seemed a good sign.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Little Girl

I've been fighting off writing this, even though I knew as soon as it happened that I would. It's scary to write it, more personal than I would care to be. But I can't stop thinking I have something so say, and so I must say it.

I'm in Utah visiting my parents for 30 seconds or so (Saturday-Monday). While here, I usually hit up Ross, as there ain't no Ross in Boston.

So there I was on Saturday, at Ross, waiting in line to purchase several cozy, well-priced sweaters, when two little girls came up behind me, pointed at my butt, and said, "Big butt! Big butt!"

Oh, the things I wish I could/would have said.

I turned around, said, "That's very rude."

Her mother heard me say it, asked the kid what she had said, and a minute later a very embarrassed seven-year-old came up and told me, "I'm sorry."

I didn't know what to say there either, as my smart sister (Kira) has pointed out that telling kids "That's okay" when they apologize gives them the wrong impression: it's NOT okay. Pointing at my butt and calling it big was decidedly NOT okay.

So I just left off the "that's" and said, "Okay."

This has never happened to me before. This random insult from a child.

And I have all these thoughts about it, how weird it all is. I mean, I don't think she meant to hurt my feelings. It was almost like, for her and her friend, the butt wasn't attached to a person. It was just out there, big, and worthy of comment.

But that's perhaps the worst part, that it came without malice. It makes it feel more like the message came from the universe, somehow. Like the kid was this pure source, even though that's probably not true. I mean, truth be told, she was sort of chubby, and I think her mother's butt was bigger than mine, and so, aside from how much it bothered me, it also felt like the three of us--mother, daughter, me--were this bendy triangle of body anxiety. The insult got pointed at me, but it came out of all of our angst, even from the little girl, who is probably just figuring out her butt doesn't look the way it's "supposed" to look. And I was that little girl, so I know what that feels like.

I've been thinking about this kid for two days, wishing I could hate her. But I can't.

And it's weird to wish I could have explained to that little girl what she had done, how she had cut into a wound that's already gaping and raw. How much of my emotional/physical/intellectual energy I devote to worrying about that very butt's bigness. How many YEARS I've worried. How tired I am of worrying. How, in the last year, it's grown with abandon and without permission from me and despite every possible effort to counteract it. How many doctors have thrown up their hands in bafflement and blame. How NOTHING I've tried has helped--and I've tried everything I can think of. How people assume I'm lying when I say that, that I must have cheated or done it wrong or been half-baked about it, or it would have worked. How hunted and judged I feel by everyone in the world, like this is my fault; I can fix it; it's so simple and straightforward and healthy, so why not?

I cried on the way back to my parents' house, called Sam and sobbed. And the poor, sweet man, who is endlessly patient with all of this, just kept saying, "I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Speaking of Teaching

This morning, while trying to grade papers, I asked Sam, "What am I supposed to do with a paper on cheerleading?"

"Hmmm," he said. He was really thinking about it. "It's too bad we don't have a paper shredder because if we did you could shred it up and make two little pompoms and shake them."

This made me giggle uncontrollably for several minutes. Lately everything he says makes me giggle.

And it's a good thing someone is here making me happy, because my job is terrrrrible again. Not the students. I love the students. The teaching is fine.

But, to be vague, there's a bad guy in the department who is out to get me.

There are channels for me to fight back, which I'm doing. But the chair is his best buddy friend, so I'm probably out of luck. They'll make me miserable.

And I am miserable. Sad, and disappointed, and angry. It's different this year because I know they're wrong and I'm healthy enough to deal with it, but oh it's a bummer. A serious bummer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Axing Frozen Seas

I love Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. Love it. If you're unfamiliar, the main character, Gregor Samsa, wakes up one morning as a giant human-sized bug.

I can't explain why this tugs on my heart so much, except to say that I think it's one of the most gorgeous, odd, true, terribly sad accounts of what happens when disease, mental illness, or addiction changes us beyond recognition. It's about what happens to families when someone is sick, how it breaks and remolds everyone involved. And I love it.

My students, on the other hand, do not.

They have in the past. I taught a class where they and wrote about it in their papers and I could feel in what they wrote that it felt true to them, that Kafka struck something.

But not this semester.

"This story sucks," they said at the end of class today, after a week of talking about it. I wish that sentence didn't bother me so much. I wish it didn't make me feel like weeping, like a failure. You can't teach when you feel like a weeping failure. I mean, you can. I did. But it's not easy.

And the thing is, I learned all this stuff today. Based on evidence they collected, I realized new ways to read the text. I learned that in a way, Gregor's demise can be seen as the first time he allows himself to be selfish, to demand what he needs and wants. I learned that the sister is an incredibly intuitive character who understands her family and what it needs and, perhaps, saves herself and her parents from a fate similar to Gregor's. I learned and I learned, and I told them all about it, asking them questions, showing them how to use their evidence to prove surprising arguments, and all but jumping up and down in front of the room with the pure joy of seeing something new in a text that I really love.

This story sucked. That was their response. I say "they," but I suppose I mean a few of them. One or two. But still, when I was dying to know how universal the negativity was, and I asked them to raise their hands if they even remotely liked it, only half of them did. Half. And most were tentative hands. And the week feels wasted. And I worry I'm making them hate reading instead of love it. And I think, for the hundredth thousandth time, about finding a new career.

But I don't want a new career. I like this job, more and more. And when I'm not standing in front of a class of rude (because it is rude, is it not?) students, it feels like what I was always meant to do. Pushing aside all the annoying business, I'm beyond blessed to have this job. And sometimes they love stuff, don't they? Doesn't it work sometimes? Today, I can't remember.

Kafka said this thing about literature that maybe you've heard: "A book should serve as the axe for the frozen sea within us."

So maybe they're all just frozen seas. Little frozen seas sitting in chairs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Don't Know What to Tell You. I Want to Tell You Everything.

It's been awhile since I poked my head up and said hello. We moved and it was hard. The semester started and it was busy. We went whale watching (!), and that will be another post.

It's late. I taught the third week of my night class tonight, during which this grown up accountant man said, "This class is like going to therapy!" I think that was a good thing, but I can't be sure. We were talking about childhood and identity and innocence and experience.

And out of all the things I could pluck out of the hours of my life to tell you, it seems most important to say this: I am, finally, happy. Really happy. Pleased as a peach to be in my life, not really longing for anyone elses'.

I can't explain this, really. I was depressed last year, and sick. And all of that seems so clear now: that I simply wasn't okay. Depression makes every moment into a brick; they weigh so much and take so long to stack up and once they're stacked you feel trapped and very tired. And anxiety makes you feel hunted, like everything you do must be wrong and everyone knows it and how does anyone manage to get out of bed anyway? My co-workers and students and the other drivers on the road and my family and my friends and men walking down the street and my husband and people at church and editors and God, everyone was filling up their days with watching me, waiting for my next mistake, and I was making so damn many of them. That felt absolutely true, like I couldn't remember when it wasn't true, like there simply was no room for error.

And now, I'm healthy. And I'm beginning to trust that feeling of health, which is a strange feeling. Suddenly, I can make plans with people and commitments to do things because I trust I'll have the energy to do it. I'm beginning to really love my job, to adore my students and their sweet insightful brains, the way it feels to stand in front of them and smile and nod and say yes-yes, the way I get paid to talk about this thing that's so important to me, this thing I really love. And the department's not perfect, but I don't care anymore. No one's hunting me or posed to fire me. I just do my thing and do my thing and do a little of their thing and then my thing again.

I had to teach for an observer today, someone who was assigned to watch me as they do all new teachers, to make sure I'm not a total flop. I was terrified about it because I had a big deadline yesterday and after I met it I locked myself out of my house and apartment for five hours, and I was so so tired this morning and the class to be observed was (is) the toughest teaching crowd I've ever had. But I prayed, and prayed hard. And God answered me. I didn't have a word written down before class, no lesson plan to speak of, but when it was time to talk, I knew what to say, and my students talked. It was as if He whispered in our ears. I don't know what the observer will think, but when I finished I felt wonderful. I felt like could do anything, and God liked me.

I didn't deserve this. There's nothing about me that particularly obliges God or anyone to help me. He could have left me sick and sad indefinitely. But I think, for whatever reason, He's decided to give me respite. I'm so keenly aware of it as an undeserved blessing right now. So grateful.

Monday, August 31, 2009

And my bathroom's blue.

Moving in Boston is very strange business. Word on the street is that 1/3 of the state moves on Sept 1st, and judging by what it's been like the last few days, another third moved over the weekend. Think narrow streets clogged with moving trucks, sweaty college students hauling boxes and lamps and sometimes chairs and bookcases and couches (!) across busy intersections, and mounds of castoffs lining the sidewalks.

Tonight I was introduced to another piece of moving culture when I noticed women pushing carts and strollers down the sidewalks, digging through the mounds of garbage and claiming what looked good. It's like grown up trick or treating.

While I was moving the last load out to the car, a little girl in a stroller kept shouting "bangBANGbang" and shooting me with a toy gun her mother plucked out for her. When I saw them a little later, she had big hulk gloves on--you know the ones I mean? So I guess it's sort of kids trick or treating, too.

But that's not why I'm posting; It's not why I've paused the mad dash to get out of this place (shhh--don't tell sam) and type out a few paragraphs. The real reason is the woman I met just now, who was driving by in her motorized wheelchair. As I struggled to put a big box in the front seat, she said, "This your trash?"


"You know what this is?" She holds up a plastic grocery sack that could only be the hefty bag of cat litter I'd just collected.


"It feels too heavy to be trash."

"Um, well. I think it might be cat litter."

She drops it. "Well, did the cats get on any of these linens?"

"I don't think so. Just with their fur."

Struggle struggle strruuuuggle. I begin to think the box is too big.

She pulls out a thing to cushion your lap when you use a laptop with a flat surface to rest it, and asks me what it is. I explain and she decides to take that, too. She says her sister has a computer. She's so excited about that. I feel awkward with my car full of framed prints and my ironing board and my books, but she doesn't seem phased at all. She asks me if there's anythinge else she might like in another box, and I think for a moment, tell her there's a scale in there.

She says, "Oh no, honey. I'm a big lady. I ain't got no use for a scale."

For some reason this is making me feel really bad, like I wish I had more for her. I pick up a plunger that's fallen out of a box. It's a big blue plastic one that we found in the basement. Sam said he wanted to toss it, wanted to get a new one he'd feel comfortable licking if he had to.

I say, "How about a plunger?"

Her eyes light up. "I don't even have a plunger!"

"Well, here you are then." And I hand it to her over the boxes.

"And my bathroom's blue!" She says.

I go inside to get my figs out of the fridge. I feel like I've done a good deed. A very strange, good deed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

If You Find My Foodie Ramblings Tedious, You'll Find This Post Tedious

I feel obliged to record some clarity of thought here, but I may just be talking to myself. In fact, I am talking to myself, but it's a self down the road, days or weeks from now, when I'm buried in the semester and not taking very good care of the Deja.

Self: poor, sad, unhappy self: listen up.

Awhile ago, when I posted something about going veganish, my friend Tara asked in the comments what made me make the leap. And I didn't answer, mostly because I didn't know how to answer concisely. I've turned the question over and over in my mind since then, figuring out how to articulate it. And, if you see how long this post is, I've given up on concise.

The short answer is that several months ago I was at the doctor's office, feeling really sick and miserable. I was getting a physical, which turned out to be the most absurdly lame physical I've ever received. I mean, my cat has given me better breast exams, if you'll excuse the image. This was a half-hearted sort of doctor, and when I told her all the things I was worried about, all the things that seemed to be going badly, she literally said, "Mmm-hmmm," and ignored me. I was frustrated, near tears as I put my clothes back on, and I had what I consider to be a spiritual impression, which went something like: They can't help you here; you have to get drastic; you have to figure this out on your own. (Please don't think I mean modern medicine has nothing to offer. I really really don't mean that. I just think this one doctor was a dud, and I've since switched, and medicine has helped me a lot in other areas.)

I went to the temple the next day, and in the chapel, waiting for a session, I read the Word of Wisdom (a set of health guidelines in LDS scripture) and felt very strongly that switching to a whole foods diet, probably a vegan one, was what I absolutely needed to do.

I'll pause here to disclaim: Do I think that's what the Word of Wisdom actually says, as in, do I think that's the only way to interpret what's there? No. I don't. Do I think everyone should be vegan? No. I don't. (Although the scientific research I've seen makes a pretty compelling case for it.) I hope you'll never catch me preaching it unsolicited, getting offended by other people eating sausage, making a big fussy deal of it. For me this has been so personal, so painfully personal at times. This has felt and still feels like direction for me, for my body, which is one of the things I love about it.

Back up 35+ years or so, before I was born. My mother was newly married, she had two babies (I think) and she was sick all the time. My dad was sick all the time. Her babies were sick all the time. And she was desperate. I imagine it was sort of how I felt in that doctor's office: hopeless and empowered all at once. There's something satisfying about taking charge of how you feel from the ground up. But anyway, they got drastic. They switched to a vegan whole foods diet. Over the years, they've gone through various iterations of that, and they no longer strictly follow that path, but pretty darn close. And I guess feeling like I'm following my mom is another reason. I like her. She's the smartest lady I know. And making a similar drastic change feels like home to me, feels like the way I grew up, feels like growing up to be like my mom.

Fast forward to today, which is my 27th birthday. In honor of my day, we went out to eat yesterday (Saturday). Sam had big plans to surprise me with whale watching (what a prince), but there's a huge freezing storm up thisaways, so that didn't happen. And we're literally in the middle of moving--stuff stradled between our new place, our old place, and a storage place--so sticking around here just made more sense. In the morning we decided to go to a little place in Allston for breakfast because they have vegan options. I opted for vegan pancakes with strawberries, and thus re-learned a very crucial lesson: vegan does not equal healthy. Actually, sometimes it means they cram in extra fat, sugar, and white flour to make it taste okay. This was one of those times. They brought me out three pancakes as big as my head: fluffy, naughty, de-licious objects. And I ate too much of them. Not nearly all, but too much. And they leveled me. Literally knocked me flat. They tasted incredible, but I hadn't even finished them before I felt miserable and sick and depressed and exhuasted. Although we had talked about hitting a museum and movie, I had to come home and take a long nap instead. When I woke up I was still sickly, and grumpy to boot.

So this is another reason: I don't respond well to food like that. Which is a crying shame because I love it with all my soul. I adore pancakes and nachos and hotdogs and marshmellows and ice cream and sausage and pizza (oh, pizza!) and cupcakes and and and. But they hate me. I'm jealous of people who seem to get away with eating this stuff. I even sort of hate people who get away with eating this stuff, who can just take a little nibble and be content and upright and slim. I've fought off the realization that I'm not one of those people for 27 years, been dragged away from it kicking and screaming, really. But I'm not one of those people, folks. I'm pretty sure that my reaction to those pancakes was not, well, normal. And Self, to you I say that no meal, no matter how tasty, is worth feeling that lousy.

For dinner I was determined to behave, to find something that would thrill me without killing me. I found a place in the North End I've been meaning to try called Grezzo, which is raw vegan place. Raw means that they don't cook anything above 112 degrees, so rawists are sort of insane but they literally glow with health. (The research on raw food is a little iffy, and it seems impossibly hard to do, but I just wanted to try it out.) Grezzo is a pricey, upscale place, epicurian, fancy shmancy pants, and it's so pretty inside. The food was gorgeous as well, and it's really just incredle what these people come up with. I mean, one of our favorite dishes was this "gnocchi" thing--and all the dish names could be in quotes because they can't really make stuff like gnocchi. They had crafted these clever little nut objects into gnocchi-like shapes and made this in-cred-i-ble creamy sauce (remember--vegan, so no cream involved) and, I don't know how to explain it. We had a bunch of other cool stuff too, but I'll just tell you about Sam's dessert, which was coconut "meringue"--a free standing, exquisite mousse-like object made from young thai coconuts, layered with a berry-basil substance. Holy wow. Not only does raw food feel completely guilt-free, not only did I come home and pack like 5 more boxes because it actually GAVE me energy instead of zapping it, there's the constant awe that accompanies every bite, like, dude, seriously, how are they doing this? I'm in love with that awe. I have had more astonishing, impressive dishes since I've been trying this vegan thing than I can even count. I have made more astonishingly tasty food than I could have ever dreamed possible. So that's another reason: I have a crush on the simple innovation of the whole thing.

But the real point, of course, is how I feel. It's the five boxes I packed, all the meals for tomorrow I prepared when we got home (to make tomorrow easier), the kitchen and front closet and bedroom that are ready to go because of what I did after I ate that meal. Today, of all days, the difference it makes is unmistakable. I have a long way to go, a lot of weird fears to unlearn, a lot of habits and healthy tastebuds to cultivate. But it's all clear at this moment. Perfectly, beautifully clear.

Self, Happy Birthday to you.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Dining

It's been hot here. 90 degrees by 10 in the morning, 97 by early afternoon. When we got out of our little yoga class yesterday, I groaned, "It feels like Mississippi." And it was so.

We're without air conditioning in our little place, which makes matters most unpleasant. The kitties station themselves under beds and couches and chairs, lying on their backs with paws tucked to their chests, surrendering. Sam and I sit on the couch, laptops in front of us, sweaty selves sticking to our clothes, writing and working or playing with blogs and facebook, and whining about the heat. Our two big fans make it sound like we're in an airplane, but do little for the actual temperature.

So yesterday we escaped to the only place that makes good sense: the movies! We drove downtown, parked under Boston Commons, and strolled over to the theater on Tremont. We went to that one specifically because it was showing two movies we wanted to see. As in, Sam went to one and I went to the other. He was in the mood for a horror/suspense (Orphan) and I was in the mood for looking at food (Julie and Julia).

(By the by, the movie was fun, but not as good as I had been led to believe. Did anyone else feel this way? Wasn't enough of a storyline or something. And although I wept (inexplicably) during half the scenes where Streep played Child, I was sort of annoyed by the contemporary character. Maybe I'm alone ...)

Anyway, when we got home it was just as hot, and although I fired up the oven to make these tasty items, I couldn't bear to be in the kitchen any longer. Sam, bless him, rigged up this little dining set up outside. Isn't it pretty? That's our back porch, which we should certainly take advantage of more often.

And here was dinner: big wooden bowl full three quarters of the way with spring mix, then the chickpeas, guacamole, Costco mango salsa, yellow peppers, chopped tomato. It was, if I do say so myself, so tasty.

Also, breakfast this morning. A bowl full of fruit, the ultimate summer dining. Kiwis, raspberries, blueberries, pineapple. And the husband suggested perhaps I bought too much fruit as Costco. As if!

(Okay, I did buy too much fruit at Costco. But look at how pretty! And I'm doing my best to gobble it so I can prove him wrong.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Poem I Wrote This Morning, Yo

Not polished, but pretty. I think.

Upon Attending a Yoga Class with My Husband

It’s a basic class, involving blankets and a dozen grey heads
on pillows, and soon he’s asleep, snoring slightly. I reach over
and tap his ribcage, and we giggle in the back of the room,
our bellies trembling, the lights low.

When we reach to twist our imaginary lightbulbs on and off,
I watch his hands, concentrate on them instead of my breathing,
how long his fingers seem, how deep his palms, how shocking
that he has a body, that he exists separate from me,
from how I think of him as husband, from his laugh, his job,
his methods for loading the dishwasher and taking out the trash,
even the way he touches me when I sleep.

We’re on the floor moving like elephants, like cows, like our cats,
like the very deliberate and slow. His left hand stutters
when he realizes it should be his right. It feels like kindergarten,
like somehow the two of us, who are eleven years apart,
have skipped backwards for an instant, joined each other
on the magic rug for stretching and naptime.

Then we’re standing and lifting our arms high-high over our heads
and I can see his belly button, his small belly button, and he is
so young and I am so young and we’re both imagining we’re floating
in shiny bright bubbles of light.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Movie

Tonight I went and saw (500) Days of Summer. Sam was more interested in hanging out at home, and the friend I called (check me out, calling friends.) couldn't make it, so I just went on my own. I've gone to a movie on my own once before, but that other movie made me feel crazy, and this movie made me very happy. I loved the music, the clothes, the insides of their houses, the wacky formal stuff they did (split screens and, well, I don't know how to explain it. it was cool.), and the story.

After it was over I walked several blocks to my car. It was about to rain so the air was sort of heavy and cool and flashes of lightning lit up the street. I remembered why I love seeing movies at the theater: when I leave, I always feel like I'm in the movie. I think that's particularly true when I watch them by myself, so it's good that the movie was so happy (sort of--I cried at the end) and full of gorgeous details that made you know everything just by the way the light flickered on the girl's face.

Tonight I was clearly the hero, the star, and when I walked down the street the camera noticed my little smile, that I seem to have a terrible habit of looking slightly to the side to see my profile in the store windows, that the wind blew my hair just so, and my sandals made a pleasant flapflap sound, and pretty runners and couples passed me, heading for restaurants and bars and the ice cream shop. But they were just my extras. What mattered was me, my paisley green skirt, my little red car which I would drive through the rain back home to our little brick house and the Sam and the cats. And everyone watching my movie would have known that I felt very happy walking down that street because I couldn't help reaching up to touch a red awning with white trim, and I couldn't help running my fingers through the leaves hanging down from the summery trees.

Monday, August 10, 2009

My New Most Favorite Summery Treat in the Whole Wide World

Strawberry Lemonade.

Check it. All you need: blender, some water, juice of two fresh lemons, 15-20 small frozen strawberries, a bit of stevia.

You do the thing and you make the thing and you put the stuff in the thing and then you blend the thing and then you drink it and then you are glad.

Watermelon? That works too. It's all summer in the tummy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ghosts in the Trees, Wearing Nightgowns

We went to the Forest Hills Cemetary yesterday, the same place that did the lantern festival. It's huge and full of trees and sculptures and they let you drive around and park wherever you want and have a picnic. We didn't picnic, but we did drive around looking for the contemporary art stuff. I'm not sure that Sam liked it as well as I did, but I certainly fell hard for a few pieces, for the whole place really. I made a mosaic of my pictures in Picasa, so that's what you're seeing here. I had too many pictures I was in love with to just post them one by one, and as it is this represents a severe butchering of all the others I wanted to show you.

My favorite was probably the one that looks like the trees are wearing dresses. In fact, the trees are wearing dresses, delicate-ish wire ones. I think you only see the mama dress here, but there was a whole family--one for mother and father, an older sister, and a child. Man, they're spooky and gorgeous. While I was hanging out with them, Sam headed back to the entrance for another map, and I ultimately got spooked enough to go back and try to find him. There was something just too real (or unreal?) about the dresses. Too close to what I imagine it would look like if a ghost family came to visit in the forest.

After the ghost-trees, we wandered past a village of tiny houses, set up in the rocks. The "Poet" house is what's here, but there were a half dozen of them--very strange and lovely.

And the stone pillow comes from a piece with a few tiny stone beds.

I should have written down the artists for you. Whoops.

Then we sat by the lake on these cool tree stump chairs, like the one I sat in the night of the lantern festival. It was such a lovely day, and there were lots of Canada geese and a pretty grey-blue heron.

We found e.e. Cummings grave, which was quite a task, actually. The map had him marked, but we kept looking for at least a semi-impressive headstone. Instead, after much searching, Sam sort of stumbled on him, an extremely unassuming flat marker, set in the ground, next to his wife. Very e.e. of him. People had set out flowers and a little pile of cashews, who knows why.

I insisted we find him because I wanted to think about him. I like e.e., more than I think is in fashion these days. This is mostly because of my mom, who is the best darn reader of Cummings I've ever heard. At this moment I can absolutely hear her saying, "and the little lame balloon man whistles farrrr and weeee." Sigh. If she were here I'd make her read it to me and pat my head.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pretty Baseball

Sam and I got tickets to a Red Sox game through the church. They were a killer deal, and Sam likes him some baseball, and I have fond memories of Padres games with my dad (okay, mostly I have fond memories of the NACHOS at Padres games ...) so we went.

I know it's probably not a baseball thing to say, but it was so pretty there. The sun had just gone down so the sky was this violet blue, and the lights were bright and the weather was perfect and everything was so deliciously green. See?

We had a notion to be fasionably late, which was dumb. I just remembered Padres games taking FOREVER when I was a kid, so I figured we had all the time in the world. But the Sox were playing Baltimore, and apparently Baltimore was, um, not so great, because they were getting socked very very quickly. (Get it? Bah!)

By the time we showed up 45 minutes in, it was inning 5 or something, and the last innings were over in less than an hour. It was crazy fast. Which was probably good, because mostly what I did was take pictures and talk to some of the church friends and watch all these weird bachelorette party women walking around in boas and tie-dye tanktops and tiaras and big sloshy plastic cups of beer. And an hour was plenty of time for all that.

I have trouble watching sports because they seem to sever the connection between my eyes and my brain. As hard as I try to concentrate, as much as I get menfolk to explain the rules and the action and why it matters, I'm still rendered stupid after about three seconds of concentration. This has got to be similar to what happens to some of my students when I talk about poetry, so I don't feel too bad. But really, that place was so beautiful, and everyone seemed so happy and to be having so much fun and eating so much trashy food (I didn't have any--I swear. Nary a nacho.) that I longed to be in on it, to feel connected to all the people in the stands and all that drama on the field.

There was this particularly lovely moment when someone started the wave and I sort of did feel in on it. Apparently Fenway is the place that started the wave to begin with, so they really know how to do it right there. People went crazy for it. We were perfectly synchronized, perfectly undulating around the park again and again and again like a giant sea anenome with thousands of tentacles. And we felt beautiful, and we felt like one thing, and I loved baseball, and I payed attention perfectly, just for a moment.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quoth the Raven, Ouch

I went to Dollar Tree the other day for frames. Dollar store frames are my favorite. I put several of our Europe trip postcards in them.

I also couldn't help picking up a cat toy for a buck. I got a little fake bird--styrofoam covered with feathers--thinking it might remind them of days at my parents' house when they were allowed outside. They'd catch big dirty birds, murder them, then drag them into the living room to show my parents. Much to my parents' delight, I can assure you. Apparently vacuuming up feathers is annoying. Who knew?

Now, from the way they sit in open windows, noses pressed longingly to the screens, I think they miss those days. So I bought the bird.

Meatsock immediately commenced murdering it. Until it is, after a day, as you see it here. Poor thing.

Here is Kitty, giving Bird a big friendly kiss.

And here he is again, just after he'd knocked it to the ground and gnawed its styrofoam jugular a little more. They're the best of friends.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pictured, Not Pictured

We had friends over for dinner last Sunday.

Yes, friends! I was as shocked as you are. They're ward friends who were excellent at ohhing and ahhing at our food and our little house and such. I like that a in a friend.

I managed to snap a picture of the table before they arrived.

Pictured: the pretty set of dishes Sam's mom gave us for Chistmas, hydrangeas from our yard, our special $1 placemats from Target, Sam's pink lemonade, and, in the back there, our glamorous trashcan. (Is the silverware on the wrong sides? Sam set the table, not that I know how to do it myself. Oh well.)

Not Pictured: green salad full of herbs (have you tried fresh dill in salad--yum!), homemade balsamic glaze, lemon cashew pesto with angel hair, broccoli, potato onion garlic bread from When Pigs Fly Bakery. For dessert, Celestial Cream (whipped cream sort of thing from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan), fresh blackberries/blueberries/strawberries/cherries, very naughty Blueberry Cranberry Lemonade bread from the same place.

Also not pictured: our lovely friends, our lovely conversation, a little Miles Davis in the background, our conversation about art and local thrift stores.

We had a smashing good time.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It's Too Late to be Awake

But I'm so taken with this line from Jean Rhys' book, Good Morning, Midnight and I updated my goodreads review of it to include this, and I want to record it here, too. So's I remember it.

Not even sure why I like this bit so, but I do:

"I want a long, calm book about people with large incomes--a book like a flat green meadow and the sheep feeding in it."

Maybe I like it because it's so not what this book is like--it's about a very poor, sad, desperate woman--and there's something delicious about saying that within its walls. Maybe its because I know that feeling--not just of wanting to read a book like that, but of wanting to BE a book like that--a calm book about a person with a large income, with something akin to well-fed, drowsy sheep. If only.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Warning: Mushy Anniversary Post

A year today, folks. A year we've been married.

I could do the traditional wedding day pic, but I don't have them on this computer. So instead I give you each of us in a dryer at a little laundry mat in Italy. Why? Because this seems like an aspect of marriage to me: a little cramped, a little silly, not always comfortable, but good grief it's fun.

Especially to be married to Sam. When we were doing laundry and waiting for the clothes to finish in the washer, I turned around and Sam was as you see him here, just to hear me giggle. And giggle I did. Then I climbed in one of my own.

Lately my insomnia has been raging, so I stayed up most of last night working on a video for Sam - an extremely amatuer compilation of a bunch of pictures from the last few years and "our song" - Fiona Apple's version of Across the Universe. (Did I ever think we'd have a song? No, no I didn't. It just sort of happened, honest.) I figure no one would be interested except the two of us, but if you're dying to see it, type "Sam and Deja" into youtube and it should come up.

So that was my present to Sam. His present to me? The most gorgeous suede-bound journal I have ever seen. He bought in Florence when I was sick as a pig, and secretly harbored it all the rest of the vacation and kept it stashed since we've been home. Sneaky man. Anyway, it's softer than anything and the paper is thick and gorgeous with a cool watermark on every page, a sweet note from him inside, and on the front cover there's a red kitty. Maybe I'll post a picture. Anyway, it made me weep.

One more story to illustrate the state of my heart, as I feel compelled to do today.

Last week Sam got some great writing news; I mean really great. He won a cash prize and publication in a fairly prestigious literary journal that he's been trying to get into for years. It was particularly wonderful because the story is based loosely on, well, me. And our relationship. So it was a triumphant, happy moment for both of us. I love seeing him happy like that.

"You know how it makes me feel?" he said. "I'll show you how it makes me feel." And he opened his laptop, went to youtube, and had it play Frank Sinatra's song, "My Way."

I laughed and he took my hand and insisted we dance in our living room. I kept laughing because it seemed kind of silly, but it was also lovely. He kissed me ever so tenderly on the neck, more tenderly than I ever remember being kissed in my life.

And he said, "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Really? You really think so?" I said.

"Definitely not. I think you have to care deeply about something before you can write well."

I don't know how to explain how all of this felt, except to say that it gave me this heady sense of ownership. He is, in a way, all mine. And I am, in a way, his. And we seem to have stumbled upon this thing that we didn't think would work, that we had no hope would work except that we really wanted it to. And, against some odds, we seem to be doing it, building and strengthening and shoring it up, getting better and more in love all the time, finding out love is wider and deeper and stranger and more fantastic that we could have imagined. How sweet it is.

Sam. I love you. I'm looking forward to the years to come.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

We Become Delicate Boats

Several years ago, I watched Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. It doesn't happen in the book, but there's a scene in the movie where these villagers write the names of people they love on little paper boats and send them out onto a lake. The movie is good. That scene was incredible.

I thought maybe the boat thing was just in the movie. But I'm ignorant. Turns out it's a Buddhist ritual to remember the dead. It also turns out that a nearby cemetery participates. Sam and I went tonight.

We had no idea what to expect. As Sam said, "When it's called a Lantern Festival we should have expected a festival." There were hundreds of people gathered around this lake, eating picnics, listening to traditional music, surrounded by lanterns they had decorated for their loved ones. Sam and I neglected to bring a blanket, so we perched by a tree and ate our dinner--falafel wrap for me, cod wrap for Sam--from our favorite little healthy food place.

We got a lantern and I wrote the names of my grandparents and my friend who died last year. Sam helped me think of things to say. We were at a crowded table, everyone drawing hearts and beach scenes and I-miss-yous with Crayola markers, and I was thinking hard about what I would tell these people if I could say just one thing. I won't share all of them, but I will say that I told my grandma--my mom's mom--that I wish she could have met Sam, and then I got sort of choked up.

We wandered around the lake, weaving through blankets and chairs and glasses of wine and tupperwares full of fresh blueberries. We finally found a place to set the lantern on the water. Since we had to get down very low to do it, and my arms are pathetically short, Sam set it off, and we watched it glide away. I wish I could describe how that lake looked with hundreds of lanterns on it. Maybe it looked like the night skyline of a city. But maybe it just looked like a lake with hundreds of lanterns on it, if you can imagine that.

There were mosquitoes and they love Sam (who can blame them?) so he was sort of miserable by that point. He wandered away from the water while I sat in a fancy tree stump carved into a seat. It was dark, and there were little girls climbing the tree in front of me. I liked seeing their silhouettes in the tree, and behind them all the little lights floating around on the water, being blown about by the breeze, picking their paths delicately. Rarely have I seen anything so beautiful, or felt so connected to my dear lost family and friend.

What follows are a few pictures, even though they don't come close to doing it justice.

Here I am with our lantern.

Here's Sam sending it off.

Three of them.

The whole lake.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Since You're Dying to Know All About Deja's Eating Habits

I haven't wanted to say much about the vegan thing since I got home because I didn't want to jinx it. I knew I was going to have a junk food fling in Europe and boy did I ever. But I was also rather careful, got the smallest cups of gelato and threw them away when I didn't want anymore, ate vegetarian and tried my best to get as many veggies as possible, etc.

Vegan is the wrong word for what I am, anyway. I mean, it's sort of my goal and I like thinking of myself that way because it helps me steer clear of a lot of food that makes me feel lousy. But I'm not in it for the animals. And if I order veggies and don't ask for them butterless, hey, I don't care. I am pretty strictly vegetarian now. It makes me feel sick just thinking about eating meat. I can't handle the texture or something. I ordered a shrimp pasta dish one night in Italy because I really wanted everything else in it and I thought I could handle it. Oh no I couldn't. It didn't help that they were big un-beheaded prawns, so their googly black eyes were looking at me. Sam had to take them away quickly.

Anyway, I was worried when I got home that it would take me awhile to get back to the eating habits I'd been trying to establish pre-trip. But I'll tell you what, my body was begging, just begging for healthy food when I got home. The night we got back I bought a watermelon, cut it up for breakfast the next morning and ate mounds of it. It felt wonderful. Since then, with few exceptions, the healthy eating has come naturally and joyfully to me. Easier than before by far.

Speaking of watermelon and joy, we came across this little watermelon stand in Rome the last night we were there. We were wandering around, trying to decide where to have dinner, but when I saw it I knew it would be my appetizer. I had an defining experience with that watermelon (yes, I have defining experiences with produce). For the whole month I'd been eating exquisite pastries and crepes and ice cream, but I swear that nothing I tasted even came close the sweet, complicated yet simple flavor of that melon. It was perfect.

Oh, and here's Sam doing his David impersonation with the rind. Silly man.

In line with that watermelon stand, I've been discovering all these gorgeous flavors at home. The day after we returned I bought a juicer off craigslist, and Sam and I have been juicing our little hearts out. His favorite is carrot/apple, and that is good and sweet. We juice before dinner and drink it for dessert--yes, it's that sweet. Tonight I made a monster green juice with celery/parsley/green apple/mint/cucumber/beet greens/lemon. For myself--Sam doesn't drink green things, he says. I was worried it would be too green for me, and the color of it was certainly funky, but oh I loved it. Love love loved it.

Also, allow me to recommend Almond Breeze almond milk. While I can tolerate soy and rice milk IN stuff, I've never been able to stand drinking them alone. Almond milk is drinkable, deliciously so. The last few days I've made myself breakfast and dessert shakes with it. For dessert: almond milk, frozen berries, the tiniest bit of stevia. For breakfast: almond milk, berries, stevia, mint, and spinach. I know the mint might sound weird in there, but it's delightful. Even Sam liked the sip he had of it, which is all I was willing to share. It wasn't green because of the berries, so he didn't break his no-green rule.

So here's to beautiful fruits and veggies! They are my friends.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

On the Grass

I'm teaching right now. Sort of. I'm sitting on the grass with my students and they have their laptops open, writing. The sun's setting, light coming through the trees and bouncing off a big map of the school, so that every time I look up it blinds me. The students are lovely here, bent over their keyboards, young brows furrowed. Can I say their young brows are furrowed? They are.

It's not quite as romantic as it sounds. I mean, it's lovely out here, and the sun is well-deserved after an astonishingly gloomy summer. But I think I'm moving back into my depression, old friend. It's arrived fiercely in the last few days, leveled me. It feels shameful. I'm working on kicking it out the door, but who knows how long that could take.

The students and I have had a semi-painful discussion about poetry, in which I had to explain why it's not true that "there's no wrong answer." If you can't support it with the text, folks, it doesn't really exist. I wish that were true: that there are no wrong answers. I wish I could tell them that and smile and nod when they say something absurd. But there are so many wrong answers it makes me ache.

In non-achey news, we found a place to live. In Waltham. Which means we have to leave our ward, but we'll have more money, and we'll be close to the hip/happening Moody street. We'll see if we're hip and happening.

Must go. The chickens are restless. Time to teach again.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One Picture

A cat in Monterosso, the town in Cinque Terre where we stayed. He was sitting patiently on the windowsill of a fancy seafood restaurant. On the counters just below him were mounds of prawns and squid and eel and floppy fish. He didn't seem to want to get in, just sniff deeply, remember such a world exists. Who can blame him?

Can you see the man in the window? We thought he looked like an aging Popeye.

I Am Buried

Got home Sunday at eight or so, having bickered all day. We're so not bicker-ers. We were tired and ready for non-vacation time.

I had to teach Monday afternoon. I thought my syllabus for the class was on my laptop. It wasn't. I thought it was perhaps on another laptop, which was in the shop. It wasn't. I learned this an hour before class started. Whoops.

Maybe the syllabus never existed. Maybe I'm out of my mind. Maybe all the gelato turned my brain to mucus. Ew.

Anyway, then I had jury duty. They didn't pick me, glory be.

Then I had to write the syllabus that perhaps never existed.

All this to say, Paris? I was in Paris? How very odd. This is a different world, a different life, and I haven't even unpacked yet. My pretty pink shoes are still wrapped in a scarf, tucked in my backpack. It's been too rainy here to wear them anyway.

But I do remember. Our very last night we rode the train into the city and wandered around, bickering, trying to find somewhere to eat. Once we had food in our bellies, we were friends again. We had landed on that little island we went to before, at the same restaurant even. Then we waited in a long long line for one last ice cream cone. I got green apple and strawberry sorbets. We walked along the river, saw Notre Dame lit up, saw teenagers pouring vodka in bottles of soda and a young man in a short black skirt and a curly pink wig. That stroll along the river felt like a big smooch goodbye. Goodbye Paris, goodbye vacation, goodbye little moment out of all the moments.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Playing Hard in Pink Shoes

I'm way behind, yo. We've been to Cinque Terre, now we're in Rome. We fly back to Paris tomorrow and then home to Boston the day after that.

I've gotta say, we've had a lovely lovely trip, but we're SO glad to be heading home.

Here's my advice: if you make it to Italy, the place to go is Cinque Terre. It was probably our favorite place throughout the whole trip. It's an area along the Northern coast, a series of five colorful little fishing villages. We went swimming in the Ligurian sea (which is very very salty, it seems to me), ate the best food of the trip (bruschetta, foccacia, pesto, pine nut gelato, chili pepper herb tea, etc), took a boat to a few other towns, lounged on the beach in fancy beach chairs and read books. A man walked down the beach carrying a big basket full of huge tropical leaves and chunks of fresh coconut shouting, "Coco, bella coco!" Oh how I loved that man. And each little town had a few friendly kitties lounging in the sun. It felt like a team of experts had designed the happiest place in the world for a Deja and a Sam. We were in love with each other and with that place.

Anyway, that's a very brief and sorry excuse for all the lovely days that have been in between my last post and now, but it's late and the Internet ticketh, and I still need to pack for Paris. But here are a few pictures.

The shoes.

Dang. And all I have time for are the shoes. I have more stories to tell. When my Internet isn't attached to a clock and a credit card, I will tell them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I may have bought a pair of pink Italian leather shoes.

Okay, I did.

Okay, I bought three pairs--one hip, pink (ish), pretty, heeled item (you'll see, once I'm back to real Internet access); one pair of shockingly comfy blue sandals that Sam had a crush on; one pair of more conservative, lovely deja-esque mary jane-ish dark brown ones. We were in that store for about ten years, Sam trying to convince me to get all three, me squealing at the impracticality of it all, but not being able to put any of them back. And the Italian woman who runs the place mounting in irritation. In the end, they were a steal--much less than I would have paid in the states. And they'll make perfect school shoes. Plus, I'm in love them. It was the kind of purchase you take out of the bag and box as soon as you get home, even though it's too rainy for leather shoes, but you just have to look at them again, to hold them and snuggle them to your face.

One other happy thing before we do laundry: We ate dinner at a little place overlooking the Arno, and while we ate our ribolitta (sp?) and salad, a little river otter came swimming up to us. He got out on the beach and groomed himself, cleaned between his toes and smoothed his fur. He reminded us of a kitty. I asked the waitress about him and she said he was a cross between a mouse and beaver, only she didn't know the English word for beaver so she held two fingers up to her mouth like long teeth. We loved the mouse-beaver.

Tomorrow, we head here, Cinque Terre. Italy is fine by me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Catching David

So I got sick. Real sick. I'm feeling better enough now to be out and about, but yesterday I slept and slept. I'm pretty sure I was feverish and my throat closed and ached; my nose hated me. Sam spent the morning tracking down vitamin C and orange juice in little Italian pharmacies where they luckily understood the phrase "wife sick" and were willing to help.

I finished reading Poisonwood Bible (which I adored until the last 100 pages or so) and read all of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (which I absolutely did enjoy--quick and delightful, if full of some unrealisticly lovely dialogue). I can also recommend The Cellist of Sarajevo, mostly. I found it to be rather, slightly, oh, dramatically written? May I say that when it was about such a terrible event? I think I can. I was in a swoon for it for many many pages, but then it seemed the characters thought thoughts that were too similar, ultimately too simple or something. Nevermind. I'll do a goodreads for each of them soon. All I meant to say is that I read all day, which was nice.

Back to Italy. We're in Italy, but yesterday I wouldn't have known it if the OJ carton wasn't in Italian. When I tried to go out in the afternoon, it only took about thirty seconds before I felt dizzy and terrible and whined for Sam to take me home, which he did. We ventured out again after dark, when it wasn't so hot, and I'm happy to report that I did sort of fall in love. We stayed away from the city center, found this lovely dark restaurant with a red velvet couch-thing and kind waiters and we ate simple, tasty food. I had some spaghetti object with thyme and lemon, Sam had the spaghetti object with an incredible, classic tomatoes and herbs sauce, then we split a grilled vegetable plate with some sort of smoky cheese on the side. And we may have ordered a dark chocolate souffle with bitter orange sauce, maybe, which I might have taken tiny bites of, despite my stuffed nose. As I said, the day had cooled off and there weren't so many drunk teens with cleavage and/or tight jeans. We strolled along, in love, talking about romantic things like ... budgets and grocery shopping. It was pleasant indeed.

Today the heat wave seems to have broken. I'm sitting at the Internet cafe which overlooks the Arno. The back door is open so I feel a delightful breeze. My nose is stuffed slightly and my throat feels ick-ish, but I'm confident I don't have the Pig Sick, which we looked up all the symptoms for yesterday, of course.

One more thing. In my feverish haze, I kept feeling stupid for my last post, which I also wrote in a feverish haze. What was I thinking saying David was a sexy beast? What am I, 12 years old? Yes, sort of, anyway. What really happened when I saw David is that from behind it looked like he was participating in a trust exercise with me, like he'd get the nerve up to fall back into my arms any second. And I would catch the leggy teenager in my arms, under his strong shoulders, and he would sigh the sigh of 500 years, stand, ruffle my hair with his enormous hand, and stride off. The female busts in the other room would sputter jealously.

And that is what I really thought of David.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I Have Seen the Clothes of the Future, and I am afraid

Okay, so much to say, but the clock's a'ticking at the old Internet Train Cafe, and so I must be brief.

-David is one sexy beast.

-Uffizi Gallery gives you the history of art in under 2 hours, but by the end you want to kill yourself.

-Pizza is yummy, even without cheese.

-I bought a black leather purse, thinking I would be practical because I don't have one, then remembered I DOOOO have one. I should have bought the pink one after all.

-Lemon gelato. Pistachio gelato. Coconut gelato. Chocolate gelato. Minty chocolate gelato.

-Sam stepped in a big pile of crap. I tried to say, lookout lookout! But he didn't know what to look out for. Next time, we have a code word.

-I have a fierce cold and sore throat. I blame this on the gelato.

-Italian people hate me. I can't speak Italian, so they either look at me like I'm a moron or ignore me. It's depressing.

-The truth: we wish we could say we were enjoying Florence more. It is damn crowded and damn hot and sometimes it smells like sewage, and the locals seriously seem so irritated with tourists. Not that I can blame them. We're doing our best to fall in love, but both of us are getting ill and it's making it hard. Tomorrow we have absolutely nothing on the schedule. That will help, we hope.

Any tips on what to do when you're weary of travel?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Safe in Italy

Florence, to be precise. It's magic. But we don't have internet at our place this time, so posts will probably be sparse.

Here's what I think so far:

*It's a bit warm here. What I mean to say: Good golly it's hot.

*There are people on little scooters (mopeds? vespas?) everywhere. And not just hip young teenagers, but middle-aged men and women, business people in suits, and the young folk.

*I just ate a pizza at a place called MaMMaMia. Among more traditional veggie toppings, it had thinly sliced zuchinni and carrots (!) on it. Sam was afraid of the carrots but they came out all roasty and sweet. Yummmmmm.

*Time for gelato. Caio.

P.S. Thank you for sweet comments on my last post. I was afraid to say it. You made me glad I did.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Kid, Bad Kid

A few notes on London.

Last night we had dinner at Wagamama with John, Karla, and Chris Bennion. (John was/is my mentor professor at BYU/life.) It was lovely to see them. I don't even know how to say how lovely it was. Sam made John laugh. That was what I hoped would happen. And it made me happy. I talked with Karla as we walked up to Kensington Gardens to see a performance of Peter Pan. They built this special venue for it that consisted of a big cone-shaped white tent, with a theater in-the-round inside. I can't say it was stellar acting, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's hard to explain this part, but they did stuff with projecting up on the top of the tent, so when Wendy, Peter, Tink and crew took off to fly to Neverland, not only were they were really suspended in the air, but it looked like they were flying over London--THE London, with parks and the National Gallery and St Paul's, etc. I couldn't catch my breath during that part; I felt like I would weep; I felt like a little kid. A very happy little kid with some of my dearest friends in the world.

Speaking of little kid, there was an exhibit at the Tate Modern that made me giggle. It was just a plain room with an enormous table and set of four chairs in it. Can you picture that? (I was this close to getting a picture when a security guard scolded me.) It was sort of like when we were all very small children and we could walk under the table, but we weren't very small children. We were adults with car payments and aching feet and complicated relationships and allergies and friends who died too young and everything else grown-uppy, walking around in this room where an everyday object positively dwarfed us again. It was wonderful. Almost everyone who wandered in smiled. And that is when I love the art: when it arrests us, knocks us silly, makes us see something we haven't really seen in a long time.

None of this is in chronological order, so now is as good a time as any to show you this de-licious butternut squash "burger" I had. Check out that avocado. The thing is, for the most part I find vegetarian fare so much more interesting than meat. Could a regular old chicken sandwich hold a candle to this beast? No sir.

Here's Sam walking away from the Tate on the Millennium Bridge, towards St. Paul's Cathedral. This, this bridge between two of my favorite places, is perhaps my favorite spot in all of London.

What else should I tell you? Oh, we went to Portabello Road market on Saturday because we didn't feel like going far. I expected both of us to hate it because it's crazy-crowded and hot, but we actually enjoyed ourselves. We found the perfect gift for my friend who graduated med school, and bought a couple little matted old photographs. One was of children being evacuated from London during WWII. They look, for the most part, like they have no idea what's going on. They all have nametags in case they get lost, and pretty little boxes tied with string that look like they have strawberry tarts in them. Turns out, according to the man who sold us the photo, those pretty boxes have gas masks in them. He would know, since he lived through the war, since he was a kid that got evacuated, too. That was part of why we bought the picture, because he was so kind and interesting.

I've re-learned something here: people like to talk, and I like to talk to them. I'm so afraid of people, even people I know. But I'm especially afraid of strangers. On Friday we stopped at the laundromat so Sam could drop off a few shirts. He had to run back to the flat to get one he forgot, and I stayed behind to put stain-remover on the others. While he was gone, I was alone with the lady running the place, a serious-seeming older woman. After a few minutes, I said, simply, "How are you?" It was so easy! And she answered! And we had a nice chat. And when I said we were on our way to Florence next week, she said, "That's my name! Florence." And I liked her.

One other thing we got at Portabello. I'm not sure it will make any sense, and my picture won't do it justice, but we're so excited about it. It's a set of printing press letters. Well, not a true set, because it's pulled from a bunch of different sets, so it's in all different fonts and it looks super cool. A lot of the letters are slightly red or orange or green because they were used to print posters. Can you tell at all what it is? Probably not. Come to my house and I will show you. We're pleased with it anyway. The perfect writerly souvenir.

One more something to tell you. It's personal and kind of long, by way of warning.

For one reason and another (getting home late from the show, Sam's phone ringing at 1 a.m., a 1:30 snacktime involving toast and strawberry jam, looking at apartments for next year on craigslist, etc), we didn't sleep much last night. So when the alarm went off at 7:30 to make it to 9 a.m. church across town, it wasn't hard to decide I would shoot for the single's ward at 1. Sam woke up craving a full English breakfast, so I took a quick shower and met him at a greasy spoon on Queensway. I was sitting there, watching the white bread of my toast turn to glue from the bean-sauce (I ordered beans on toast), thinking about Sundays, about how it feels like it's been a long time since I had a really quiet, peaceful one, the kind we Mormons are supposed to aim for. I was feeling bad about it, feeling like I should have bought breakfast stuff Sam was interested in so we could eat at home today, wondering what it means to "keep the sabbath day holy" when I'm married to someone who doesn't believe what I believe, when I'm traveling, etc. At home I try hard and do fine for the most part, but out here, how do I balance the need to spend time with my husband and the need to worship? I'm crummy at it now, still figuring it out. I don't know any other Mormons married to Catholics, so there don't seem to be any guidebooks for me. I'm making this up as I go along.

Anyway, so off we dashed to church. Sam planned to sit in a little cafe and write while I went in for Sacrament meeting, then we'd hit some free museums. Only, the church website had the times wrong. I got there a half hour into the Spanish branch meeting, and about two hours away from the YSA meeting. I was devastated, surprisingly so. I called Sam and told him come back, and when he got there I was weeping, my lower lip pouted out, close to sobbing. I stood there on a corner of Exhibition Road, saying over and over again, "I'm a bad kid." I said, "I think God thinks I'm a bad kid." This is my biggest fear: that God doesn't like me, that lately He finds me to be a lazy, worthless, whiny thing. I thought I blew it, that it wasn't fair to make Sam wait another 3 hours to do what we had planned, that I should have just got up and made it to the dang 9 a.m. meeting.

Sam, bless his heart, held me. "Deja," he said, "You need the sacrament. You need to be fed." (We've been talking about the metaphor of "spiritual food" lately--how apt it is.) He held my shoulders and looked right at me: "You're not a bad kid. This has nothing to do with you being a bad kid. You just need to take the sacrament. We'll wait as long as we need to so you can." And so we did.

And so I did. And so I felt much better. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful, lovely days we've had so far.

I talked to John and Karla last night about marriage as an institution, how odd it can be, how it's such a blend of the sacred and the profane.

That moment, right there on the corner of Exhibition Road, that was the sacred part.