When your writing career carries on without you…

 

So today I got an unexpected email from the folks at SAGE Academic Publishing. About four years ago, I wanted to write some short encyclopedia entries for them and they said no because I didn’t have a Ph.D. It was one of the things that made me consider graduate school.

They advised me that if I could find someone to co-author who had the necessary credentials, I could write for them.

I enlisted my college era friend Annette Varcoe, a brilliant scholar in American history and Women’s studies who had a freshly-minted Ph.D. after her name. She allowed me the pleasure of helping her edit her final dissertation.

The topic at hand was one of my favorite places in the world, Djibouti, and the article was based on a capstone project for my international affairs degree I had just completed. She knew nothing about Djibouti but her critical eye brought life to my dream and she got hooked on this region of the world and conditions there. Our first article was on poverty in Djibouti. She approached me a few months later and asked if I would consider doing another on security.

We did. Both pieces were submitted fairly close to each other. We probably wrote them both in 2014. The poverty piece was published in July 2015. I got the email that the second has now been published. March 2018. My career looks current even if I have stalled a bit!

This refreshed my memory that I never actually saw a book review I submitted to Global Studies South. Since my husband is home from work today using up his vacation, I asked him to look me up in the academic databases to which the Lafayette College libraries subscribe.

And here I am!

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Less than one month out

I am not the most athletic person in the world. I am clutzy and awkward and have a gait from my cerebral palsy. I have struggled with severe anemia. And broken bones (one dominant hand, four years ago on Monday; one right ankle, two years ago come late August).

I vowed to get in shape before I turned 40 because of the lessons these ailments taught me. How quickly strength deteriorates. How weakness can sap energy and leave you a tired heap. How walking becomes impossible if I let myself go.

I changed my eating habits. My exercise habits. I seriously started weight training.

I tried to motivate my teen daughter to be active.

And in the height of my fitness craze, I admitted to my girlfriend that someday I wanted to run a 5K. Not walk. Run.

Two years later, she signed me up for one. Training started well, in my half-hearted lazy way. These were my best times: 41:47.91, 41.45.88, 38:51.28.

 

img_4480Two months out from the race my daughter and I got sick with the weirdest head cold.

Regained my strength from that, and tried to go for my second, outdoor, three-mile run. I got caught in a snow squall. Between the cold, the oscillating snow and sun, and my sheer out-of-shapedness, I surrendered at two miles.

Finally, a few days later, I was ready to get out there and do it. I dropped a 15-pound dumbbell on my toe.

It’s not broken.

img_4841But I’m not running on it.

This race is going to kill me.

Fire Up the Ninja

While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.

I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.

When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.

As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.

Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.

And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.

So what did HE use?

A Ninja.

I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.

Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.

I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.

I had no choice.

I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.

I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.

I am in love.

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatball Mix

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Salad in the Ninja

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Breakfast smoothie

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Gaz’s Falafel, Hummus & Flatbreads

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Hummus Mix

An Open Letter to American Society

I am home today battling a hand-me-down cold from my daughter. It’s not a bad one so far, but I am doing everything in my power to keep the damage to a minimum. With flu season ravaging everyone out there, I will take my little cold.

I have a part-time job in retail, a job that pays the bills and allows me the flexibility to live my life with the quasi-freedom a writer’s life should have. It is not ideal, but few things are in today’s world. It’s an overpopulated, under-resourceful place, this world, or maybe we waste too much of what we have.

I have traveled enough to understand what “first world problems” really are. I have talked to enough people from cultures more or less the opposite of mine to see how selfish many people have become.

So, today, I write a brief letter to my fellow Americans. This letter is based on things I see everyday. Too often.

  1. Please stop giving babies iPhones and junk food. If your child isn’t old enough to walk or talk, he or she does not need an icee. And I know it’s not easy to drag an infant everywhere you have to go, but believe it or not, they are fairly easily entertained. Giving your baby an electronic device to watch movies or play games while you shop prevents your child from interacting with the world. That’s how they learn. I saw a mother recently apologize for the fact that her child was mesmerized by a toothpaste box. Good for that kid! Good for that mom! Let your child see things, touch things and meet people.
  2. Get off the phone. A lot of people are busy. We get it. But perhaps that also is a sign that you are misusing your life. And it’s not just people on their lunch hour. It’s the elderly who sometimes can’t hang up the phone to go through the check-out line. It’s just rude and it dehumanizes the person helping you. My daughter recently asked me how you could receive calls at a pay phone. I told her it had a number listed on it so if you really wanted to hang out and receive a call, you could. I also reminded her that this was also the time period where you had to answer the phone to find out who it was and before answering machines and voicemail, if you weren’t home or missed the call you would never know…
  3. Stop buying useless stuff. I think the only reason people buy half the things they own is because of an impulse that starts with “this is cute.” We buy too many clothes, too many knick knacks, so many things. Why?
  4. Live within your means. Be careful with your paycheck and try to save those credit cards for emergencies. Buy the car that fits your budget, not your lust. Not everyone needs the big house. Not every family needs more than one car. Consumers in debt are the playthings of big business.
  5. Eat better. You don’t “need” pizzas and burgers and soda. You don’t need fancy sugar-laden coffee drinks. You want them. You need water (lots of it), fruits and vegetables and healthy protein. I’ll spare the full lecture, but the better you treat your body, the better it will perform for you.
  6. Stop acting spoiled. Or entitled. Or privileged. Whatever word you prefer is fine. You want the random stuff and the fancy coffee drink because you feel you deserve it. And that’s fine. But when they run out of your favorite flavor ice cream, or things don’t work out the way you want, remember everyone usually is doing their best and it’s not the end of the world.
  7. Treat each other kindly. Be gentle. The more we share patience and kindness with our families and those we interact with, the more it will spread. I see too many people get nasty to the sweetest people honestly trying to be the best at their job, and when I see truly good souls fighting tears because someone (who probably has their own demons to fight with) decided to be mean, I don’t question why teens are seeing guns as solutions.
  8. Take care of the elderly. I live in a rare neighborhood. We lost our 90-year-old neighbor last week. Several neighbors helped care for her as she became more and more of a shut-in. The children would all visit. I would always help her carry her groceries or send my daughter to help when I saw the opportunity. That woman died very loved. And my daughter learned how to be a neighbor.
  9. Let your children grow up. Let your children solve their own problems. Have their own experiences. It’s hard to let go. I know. Start small. Let them do meal planning and cook dinner. We saw a team of teenagers working on a school project in a store. They were amazed at the cost of laundry soap and a tad befuddled. Remember, parents are training children to be adults.
  10. Appreciate other cultures. The more you value other cultures, the more you learn about yourself. I think Americans are particularly bad at this.

I’m stopping my list here. I just wanted to give you something to think about.

New Adventure: Reviewing Horror Movies with my Teen

It’s probably been a decade since I met William Prystauk at an after-party of sorts when Kaylie Jones came to the Lehigh Valley to promote her memoir Lies My Mother Never Told Me. My attendance at that book signing was itself a convergence of factors, primarily two: my attraction to Paris and my experiences with parents dealing with alcoholism.

The party in question was hosted by a former work colleague then involved in an MFA program as one of Ms. Jones’ students. She invited me to her home after the event and that’s where I met Bill, also in the same MFA program. And we discovered we had similar interests and were practically neighbors so somehow we ended up meeting for coffee.

At some point in the last week or two, Bill suggested my teen daughter write for his web site, Crash Palace Productions, http://crashpalaceproductions.com/, reviewing horror movies. Except, I pointed out, that my daughter doesn’t watch horror movies due to bad memories of The Walking Dead.

That request got me thinking and I proposed doing a joint review. Last night we watched Netflix’s I am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House. And this morning, I wrote and submitted the review.

My next hope is that my daughter will watch the 90s classic The Craft and examine whether it holds up with today’s generation. I might even consider that a project for today.