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Showing posts with the label arts&creation

TBT: Men Belong in the Kitchen

Before my daughter came along, my husband and I had a variety of roommates, including a cook who taught my husband the seductive culinary arts! I wrote the post below in the 2000s, when I was gardening, working two jobs, and participating in National Novel Writing Month.  Today, my family still benefits from my husband's crash course in kitchen witchery. On his last day off, he made pizza dough and pie crust dough from scratch while our daughter remote-schooled and I remote-worked. When we ladies of the house finished our work, we joined him in the kitchen and put together some delicious calzones for dinner and an apple pie for dessert. It makes me feel so warm and content to cook with my loves, and to be honest, it makes me feel more attracted to my husband too! It's only human nature. If I may boast a little more, my husband also does almost all of the grocery shopping since the start of the pandemic. And he's great at it. Not every wife can feel such affection toward her

$Monday: Remote Work and Class in a Working Class Household

In a chaotic year, a tidy little home workspace is everything, and I do mean everything. It's work, school, shopping, socializing, news consumption, cooking class, physical training, and entertainment. It's the hub of daily life in a pandemic. While I look forward to the day when we're not tethered to our home computers, I know that realistically, we're in this for another year at least. This is how my own working class / lower middle class family is making the best of it and savoring the silver linings wherever we can find them. There are as many ways to set up home offices and school desks as there are families and individual circumstances, and it can take time to figure out a setup that works for you. While there are unique challenges for everyone, except for maybe the disgustingly rich, I've found that there are also some benefits of working and learning from home that we, as a society, may want to not only extend into the future, past the pandemic, but also ext

$Monday: We Can Rise Above Death Cult Capitalism

Mmm, doesn't the smell of a bonfire make you feel punkin' spicy? Growing up, I internalized the United States cultural values of hard work as its own reward, high scores, and monetizing everything. From the age of 13, I scrounged for paltry wages (childcare, tutoring, arts and crafts sales, retail and food service and office temp jobs) while earning high grades at expensive private schools. I learned to feel guilty about "wasting" time relaxing without multi-tasking or enjoying a hobby with no intention of turning it into a hustle . I didn't have enough time to eat or sleep properly, and it made me sick and tired all the time. I was curious and drawn to new experiences, but I always felt ashamed of spending any time or resources pursuing an interest that offered no clear path to a paycheck or an award that would reflect a flattering glow upon my forebears. I had a healthy rebellious streak, but I learned to justify my transgressions with proofs of respectability a

TBT: The Harmonious Homes of Dr. Merle Kindred

Near the beginning of this millennium, I enjoyed the privilege of meeting Dr. Merle Kindred, a woman of the world who has dedicated her long, beautiful life to building a cozy future for all the people and other living beings that inhabit our planet. Although Merle no longer owns a house in the Keweenaw, she has left a legacy of wonderful human habitats for others there and in many other locations around the globe. She continues to educate and inspire developers and home builders with the warm care, wisdom, and complex technical knowledge she has gathered over many decades of thoughtful work, building not just structures but relationships and sustainable ways of life. Below is the post I wrote when I was a young, traveling activist in the 2000s. Merle offered me and my supervisor hospitality on a journey to organize rural Michigan for health care reform, and she also gifted us with a tour of her showpiece Northern Michigan home as well as a photographic tour of her house in Kerala, Ind

$Monday: The Race to Keep a Roof Over Our Heads

The American Dream in 2020 is to not be homeless. This summer, up to 40 million of us are on the verge of losing our homes due to an inability to make rent or mortgage payments. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are already homeless, which is too many on a perfect day. During the pandemic, it has become suddenly impossible to safely house the usual, insufficient number of people in existing shelters while homelessness has become a much bigger public health crisis than it was before. Most people who struggle to stay in their homes find somewhere else to go and don't experience true homelessness, at least not for long, but forcing people to bounce around among inadequate living situations has serious health and economic consequences. Putting down roots in a safe and healthy habitat is one of the most important determinants of future success . This is always true, but during quarantines, personal space and privacy aren't luxuries so much as basic necessities. So do whatever you

TBT: Buddhist Meditations

Zen meditations! Inspirational quotes! Sick burns! Buddhism offers them all. As many American college students do, I enjoyed studying and practicing Buddhist rituals in college. As an ethnic Catholic from a weirdly fundamentalist family tradition, I found the "bells and smells" of Buddhist temples familiar in a comforting way and the anti-dogmatic edge of Zen exhilarating in a refreshing way. I learned that extreme prayer and self-control are not owned by Christians, nor is smug superiority. What valuable lessons for a young person to learn. So valuable, in fact, that in our late 30s, my husband and I are still paying the bills for our private college educations. Can you put a price on ancient wisdom? Is that a koan? In my earliest adulthood, I took solace in the meditations below. Please enjoy them here on the Magic Nutshell, free of charge. Buddhist Meditations The Buddha sought a middle path between asceticism and materialism. All over the world, people are happiest who h

TBT: Fabulous Fake Beauty

When I was a teenager and a young adult, everything we now understand as "drag" thanks to RuPaul--outfits, makeup, hairstyles, accessories, ways of holding ourselves and moving and speaking and any other ways in which we intentionally manage or change our physical presentation to others--was condemned as FAKE. It meant you were a poser, a liar, an object, or an inhuman lump of plastic. In one of my college classes, a douchebro declared that guys lying to girls to get them into bed was equivalent to girls wearing makeup. Both practices were equally sinister, dishonest, and manipulative. The cool girls, with their peeling burn/tans and caked-on hangover concealer, nodded and made serious facial expressions to acknowledge the deepness of this thoughtful thought. Oh, how times have changed. "We're all born naked and the rest is drag." -RuPaul Andre Charles Now all of us who aren't conspiracy zombies or flaming turdbags are wearing literal masks when we go

$Monday: Corona Summer Self-Care

Nobody wants to hang out in a waiting room at the height of this pandemic summer. One of my friends just dodged an outbreak by procrastinating on having her cat's claws trimmed. Now everyone who's been to that vet during the past few days is supposed to do the two-week quarantine routine. Now on top of copays and the usual discomforts of obtaining care for our furry friends and our human selves, there's the risk of catching the cooties. Definitely go and get any treatments that you need, but it's great to not need as many office visits. I'm doing what I can do at home to take care of my own health and have all of my stupid, silly summer fun in relatively safe ways--like having a redneck pool party in the lawn with my daughter and husband. Here are some other ways I'm staying healthy, safe, and sane while maintaining social distancing and a spark of faith that my kid might somehow be able to go back to school next month: keeping active with silly st

$Monday: Farewell, Dreams of Flight

When I was young, even after 9/11 made it a little more scary and a lot less convenient, I loved the thrill of air travel. Nothing compares to being lifted into the sky and jetted across the United States or to another country, another continent even, in just a few hours. And nothing in life can fully substitute for the mind-altering trip of immersing oneself in an unfamiliar culture for days, weeks, or months. Once I started traveling, I thought I'd never stop--I had become a traveler! --but financial constraints and parenthood put international travel goals on pause after my honeymoon. Now that the world has had to reckon with pandemic and climate change like never before, I've accepted that my dreams of continuing to explore the world as a traveler are indefinitely grounded. For moral as well as practical reasons, my husband and I decided--even before the pandemic struck--that we would no longer make any long-distance journeys until: 1) it was for a critically importa

$Monday: The Value of Wall Color

Home is where the heart is (and the office and the break room and the spa and the outdoor-distancing social gathering spot and the gym and basically our whole lives now). This year, the home color palette has become more important and more personal than ever. How is yours feeling after this cabin-fevered spring? Wall colors affect the inhabitants of a room in complex ways. Each person may have a different response to each color , so get in touch with how different colors make you and your living companions feel, and consider repainting as a relatively affordable and easy way to improve your everyday quality of life--your mood, productivity, sleep quality, alertness during waking hours, and behavior. Consider different values (on a light/dark scale) of your favorite hues and how different finishes respond in your particular environment. Assuming you're not preparing your house for sale or making your living as an Instagrammer who earns revenue via painting your own home's wa

TBT: Virtual Personal Trainers

Outside the homes of those fortunate enough to dwell in safety, terrible threats are raging: authoritarian violence, injustice, contagious disease. In this moment, finding an online personal trainer may seem vain or frivolous, but in truth, home fitness has never been more relevant. The value of self-care cannot be underestimated, especially for those most vulnerable to illness and toxic stress. For anyone with access to the internet and a space to exercise, a virtual class can be a powerful tool for an individual to maintain physical and mental strength to stay in the fight for justice. The pandemic has already created a boom in virtual training sessions. Personal trainers and dance and fitness instructors across the nation have pivoted to offering virtual lessons. If you can afford it, paying a professional for interactive virtual services is the best way to stay fit online. You'll support the career of someone who might otherwise be out of a job, and your teacher can offer you

$Monday: Pitching Books in a Pandemic

#PitMad is coming up on June 4, and I am going to try it out even though all of this sounds a bit like hurling books into a natural disaster. (And even though I've never bothered to learn how to use Twitter properly. Why not learn a new thing in quarantine?) I hope that my tweets will at least attract some hints about which of my completed novels I should focus on querying this year. It does seem like an inauspicious time to put a novel out there, but I'm doing it anyway, because unlike lobbing an actual paperback into a tornado, this exercise costs nothing but the time I put into it. My books will still be there afterward, fully intact on my digital shelf. They were written in the Before Times about medieval times, so I don't believe that they will somehow become less relevant after this pandemic ends. I never set out to write to a trend. I wrote the kind of books I wanted to read, which were incredibly fun and rewarding to create. I love researching a long-forgotte

TBT: The Best Free Medicine (Hint: Not Hydroxyclean)

It's not Hydroxyclean. Or any kind of disinfectant. Or hydroxychloroquine. It's not anything hocked by our joke of a president. But it is jokes about that and anything else that makes you laugh instead of rage. Humor has become more important than ever to my family's mental and emotional health during this global crisis. My tastes may have matured (or... something) since my days of watching Sacha Baron Cohen movies--now I prefer watching YouTube shows Trixie and Katya Save the World (WOWPresents) and I Like to Watch (Netflix) and following @knee_deep_in_life on Instagram. My husband and I laugh so hard we cry over a well-timed fart joke. Our nine-year-old daughter is a bit more sophisticated, but she shares the dark side of our sense of humor; we all adore Christina Ricci's iconic portrayal of Wednesday Addams. The news is, as usual, full of horror that isn't funny. Right now, the two main themes seem to be pandemic tragedy and racist violence. My husband and