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The Story of Us

The "autobiographical first novel" doesn't always come out in one solid block of naive writing. Sometimes it fractures, as in a "fractured fairy tale," and it becomes a theme that runs through many novels in an author's canon.

I just read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which she describes to NPR as the closest thing to her own "autobiographical first novel," which she never produced in her youth. Instead, she wrote many novels about people and places totally unlike those in her own experiences growing up, but each was about a group of people thrown together unexpectedly and forced to create a community. This concept draws upon her experience growing up in a blended family, which she explores more explicitly in Commonwealth, hilariously splitting the character based on herself into two people: "the young woman who's saying, 'here is my story' and... the old author who is saying, 'I'm going to sell you out and take your sto…
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#Goals!

I was so busy working on my New Year's resolutions that I almost forgot to post about them! Here it is, only the 5th day of January, and my goals are getting #accomplishedAF. (I feel like Jane Austen would use that hashtag, don't you?)



Anyway, there's nothing like a subzero polar bomb vortex sharknado, or whatever is going on during this winter break, to help a lady focus on her domestic accomplishments. Here is the status of each of my 2018 resolutions:

Finish watching The Mindy Project.

We got to the beginning of Season 5, several episodes after Mindy Kaling's obvious lip injection. (I'm not judging, just noticing.) My favorite scene so far was Jody throwing nuts out the window of his apartment at Mindy during an old man-baby tantrum. God help me if we don't finish TMP before the next season of Victoria starts up on PBS, because I love me some soapy drama with hot dudes and amazing wardrobes, but I am not used to watching that much TV.


Complete my second nove…

Bye 2017, Hello 2018

It's the end of 2017, and I feel fine. How could 2018 not be better? There might even be a Rammstein album drop.

2017 was a year of natural and unnatural disasters. It was a whole four seasons of shock, rage, loss, and grief.

2018 will be a year to take stock of what we have left and rebuild, stronger than before. If Elon Musk succeeds at turning Puerto Rico into a world leader in sustainable energy, that will be inspiring.

Last year, I didn't make any resolutions. The whole idea of self-improvement felt absurd after Russian and Macedonian hackers exploited white Americans' self-righteous narcissism to get a dumpster fire elected president and bring back the Nazis.

I'm not sorry I didn't make resolutions last year. I was too busy anyway, keeping track of each domestic terrorist attack and whether I knew anyone who might have been nearby. Also I was busy watching innocent people get murdered by police on Facebook Live. Also I was busy learning how to advocate for o…

All of the Mother Reindeer

...used to pull the Solstice sleigh. They never let the winter triumph on the darkest day! 


Long before Baby Jesus and Santa Claus, Eurasians and Arctic Americans celebrated the Winter Solstice with lights, feasting, songs, indoor greenery, and tales of gift-givers flying through the night sky. Many of these celestial gift-givers were female, such as Befana the Witch (pictured below right, who still drops presents on good Italian children on the Epiphany); the Hellenistic goddess Baby Joy, daughter of Cupid and Psyche; and the Neolithic Mother Deer figures.


Gather Victoria provides this wonderful overview of Mother Reindeer mythology and imagery. She is the mythic ancestor of Rudolph and all related tales of flying Christmas reindeer. 

This holiday season is rich with beautiful stories and fascinating history, all the way back to prehistoric times. People around the earth have always celebrated this time of the year in diverse ways. Even within the little cluster of European cultures,…

Will You Hold the Baby?

This is my Christmas prayer.

When I was a teenager, I made a painful break from my Catholic church and school. I witnessed and experienced dishonesty, failure to protect children from abusers, dehumanization, and hypocrisy. I reached out to a fellow lost sheep of the flock who was neither white nor straight (which mattered very much in our faith community), and together we brokered a deal with our parents that we would go to church every Sunday if only they didn't make us go to this one. Our parents reluctantly agreed, and so we went on an odyssey of visiting a different house of worship each Sunday, in an earnest search for God.

We found God, many times over.

We found God at the Hindu temple, in the priest who didn't speak our language but who presented us with fresh oranges from the feet of the gods on their garlanded altars.

We found God in the crowds of fellow humans just as lost and confused as our own Catholics, looking for secret codes in the rantings of mystics.

We foun…

My Husband Is This Bag of Spinach Fettuccine

Tender but firm, since 1981. Toothsome. Al dente. Easy, yet wholesome. A little funky. Somewhat green in color. Cooks well.

This week, we celebrate my husband's 36th birthday. It's been almost 20 years since we met, 17 years since I quit pretending to hate him, 13 years since we finally uttered the L word, 12 years since our engagement in the woods, 11 years since the elopement, 10 years since the wedding we couldn't wait for, and 7 years since creating a small human to take over our lives.

Don't tell our spawn, but the next phase of our relationship is going to involve the adoption of a fuzzy wittle kitten. I am very excited about this. There are few things sexier than a beefcake snuggling a kitteh. For the past couple of weeks, my man has been building a cat tower out in the garage with big hunks of wood and tools and nautical-looking rope and dangly meow meow toys.

And on most mornings, between his pre-dawn shift as Santa's airplane loader and opening the bike s…

I Took a Shortcut in a Yellow Wood

And that has made all the difference.

Decades ago, in yonder century, I ran with a cross-country team in this very park where I now play with my daughter. In life, as in cross-country, there are shortcuts best not taken. You don't want to get disqualified during an actual race or trample through a hornet's nest or surprise someone trying to take a private poo. (I didn't have to learn all these lessons personally. That's what teammates are for!)

But sometimes a shortcut can save us way more than a few minutes of our time. For example, at some cross-country practices, sneaky little groups of us would veer off the training route so we could hide and eat pastries. I won't say these stunts were mindfully concocted. They arose out of desperate exhaustion and hunger after school. But they ended up creating some of our fondest memories and even (surprise!) being good for my overall health.

I'd had a good run (get it?) in ninth grade, when I made Junior Varsity and outr…