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Showing posts with the label knowledge

A Lightbulb Moment

All the lights are on! This weekend, my dad finished installing our kitchen cabinets as well as three pendant lights that hang above them. Hallelujah, let there be light! Now we can finally see what we're doing, giving us a boost of productivity by providing both visual access and a more pleasant work environment--which will soon become a warm, welcoming place to cook and eat and converse! This bright, warm light is a great metaphor for something else I've realized over the course my month-long home renovation staycation--which, though hard and busy, has been a clean break from my nonprofit work, my novel-writing creative work, and most of my social life too. I had an "aha" moment about illuminating the kitchen that my family has designed and built ourselves with a set of clear, warm lights that my husband and I chose together, as well as the fact that we are no longer living in other people's stuff. We're approaching 40 now, and we've finally been able t

My Kitchen Is a Dirty, Empty Box

My kitchen is demolished! Goodbye, soffits! Goodbye, can lights that never worked and dead outlets and bad fire-hazard electrical circuits! Goodbye, busted hinges and wonky drawers and peeling laminate cabinets! Goodbye, moldy plywood and crumbling tile countertops! Goodbye, load of rubble I drove to the dump in my rusty old pickup truck! Goodbye, goofy tile backsplash and chunks of various glues! This week, we'll say goodbye to corroded pipes and have some new plumbing stubbed in before we install new cabinetry. Soon, we'll get to start adding new stuff to this empty box! Tomorrow, I'll get a quick YouTube education in how to plaster a ceiling. I have never done a demolition or construction project before, so this is all stressful and scary, yet exciting. It's nicely metaphorical to gut and re-imagine a living space as the whole human world feels its way out of the worst (we hope) of a historic pandemic and thinks carefully about rebuilding differently than how things

How to Make a Grill Out of a Log

Over the past few years, our local power company has had to cut down several trees on or near our property that someone in the past had, according to an inexplicable mid-Michigan tradition, planted in a row directly beneath a power line, resulting in a very slow-motion disaster. By the time the power company finally cut down the trees, some of them had already died, and some had been severely damaged in the past couple of ice storms. We were grateful to see them taken down at no personal expense to us, and we were also glad to have the firewood left on our property because we have both an indoor wood stove and a backyard fire pit. But it turned out to be a lot, and the utility workers left the tree trunks in hearty slices about the size of end tables, which have proved laborious for us to split, especially as a couple of the larger trees were tough old elms. Happily, we have found a couple of uses for them that don't require us to wrestle with their knotty old fibers: outdoor end t

Pocket of Joy: Close Grandparents

One of the best decisions I ever made in my life was to settle close to my parents before having a child. I even convinced my parents to move right into my neighborhood after they retired, a ten-minute walk from my backyard, and everyone in my family has benefited from the arrangement . Grandparents and grandchildren are great for each other's physical, mental, and emotional health. And the support grandparents can provide in helping to care for and raise a child benefits the child's parents. Over the past year, I think we all realized just how important it is for parents to have reliable and safe childcare, and unfortunately our nation has some work to do to provide for the needs of working class families. Those of us fortunate enough to have parents who are willing and able to help us care for our children are blessed indeed. Close relationships between grandparents and grandchildren create well-being and resilience in every generation of the family. It is wonderful to have

Endo Belly Dance

Later this summer, I have an ultrasound scheduled to begin the process of maybe, finally, diagnosing the endometriosis that I believe I have.  End of summer edit: Diagnosis achieved! It's not endometriosis, it's ovarian cysts and internal vascular damage caused by a history of untreated, rupturing cysts combined with severe dysmenorrhea caused by an excess of oxytocin, which also caused me to produce milk like a prizewinning dairy cow and to experience other side benefits that you can probably guess, which helps make up for the lifelong menstrual disorder and extra painful labor. I have begun taking a low daily dose of progestin, which is already helping without causing noticeable side effects. There are many reproductive and menstrual disorders that can cause similar symptoms, many of which can be diagnosed with a minimally invasive ultrasound and treated in ways that can transform your health and quality of life. Get it done if you need it. You're worth it! Sometimes I fe

How Diverse Friendships Elevate Our Family Dinners

And not just because we learn new recipes. Our friendly relations with immigrants and second-generation Americans from all over the world, from casual encounters to long friendships, have benefited each member of my family and our shared dinners together by nourishing us with knowledge, inspiration, cultured openness, and fresh ideas about food, health, cooking, responsibility, gratitude, respect and appreciation for differences, the variety of sensory pleasures available to the human heart and palate, and the sacredness of shared mealtimes. It is tragic to me that so many Americans--white and white-passing and others too--fear racial diversity due to misleading stereotypes and the brutal trauma of institutionalized racism in our nation.  And maybe, for some, due to some throwback tribalism inherited from way-back, animalistic ancestors who really didn't know how to cook and ate a lot more dirt, sand, and parasite-infested raw meat than what is imagined by fans of 21st century &quo

Budget Bride Spring Wedding Roundup: How to Throw an Authentically Joyful Celebration and Launch a Happy Marriage

It's boom time for planning post-pandemic weddings! It looks like it will be possible to throw a biggish, in-person wedding celebration next year, when all people, including children of all ages, will be eligible for vaccination. Can you imagine? If you can't, let me help! Below are links to all ten posts in my Budget Bride series, a collection of throwback tips from my own wedding that took place in a simpler time, before Instagram filtered and squared off our dreams--before aesthetic perfectionism distracted us from the gorgeously multi-sensory experiences that can only be referenced in, not totally captured by, photographs--and way before Covid put our lives on hold. The Budget Bride series hints at how to recapture that all-consuming joy of the Before Times while avoiding many unnecessary wedding costs and logistical hassles. Even an aesthetically maximalist wedding can be done on a minimalist budget and with a minimum of negative drama. My wedding was a meaningful day to r

Pocket of Joy: Indian Food

I have adored Indian food since I first tasted it at a fine Indian restaurant as a young adult. And I loved it so much that I wasn't content only to keep coming back to that restaurant (though I certainly did that); I wanted to learn how to participate in the alchemical art of Indian cooking.  Indian food isn't just a full bouquet of sensory pleasures, it can also be exceptionally healthy . Like the Mediterranean diet, traditional Indian food packs in a variety of whole grains, fresh ingredients, vegetable proteins, and immune-boosting herbs and spices. It's also very labor-intensive and complex, requiring quite an arsenal of spices and herbs, some of which can be hard to find outside of specialty Asian markets--but, for me, the time and investment are so worth it! And shopping at Asian markets is a delight. Realistically, made-from-scratch Indian food is not something I can have every day. I can't afford Indian restaurant meals of the quality I prefer very often, and I

Beauty Sleep and Butterfly Slime

It's as gorgeously gruesome as a Grimm's fairy tale: In order to transform from a chubby grub to a thing of winged glory, a butterfly must seal itself off from the world, dissolve in its own hungry juices, and let "sleeping cells" take over the slow process of building a butterfly out of a soup of primordial slime. The caterpillar must come undone for the butterfly to grow in its place. I sure feel like I've turned into a slug of slime over the past year--but I trust that this response to a global pandemic is somehow natural and temporary and adaptive in the long run. I hope it's not just preserving me but changing me for the better. And I hope the same is true for our world as a whole. At the beginning of the crisis, I felt almost thrilled. Suddenly all my anxiety issues and low-key prepping tendencies became useful and rational. I had this sense of everything in my life leading to this one moment, when I abruptly felt like the sanest, most well-adjusted pers

Breaking the Lawn! Breaking the Lawn!

This year, I'm back to work on healing the land, one square foot at a time. After I bought my house over a decade ago, and before I had a child, I created and maintained an ambitious food garden in my back yard. That practice was satisfying, productive, and educational. It fulfilled my desires to grow organic food, carry on beloved family traditions, and reduce the size of my suburban turf lawn. I'm one of those people who feel that domestic lawns (unless you are actually using them for activities like touch football or something) are obsolete relics of a time when most people weren't aware or didn't care about their impacts on the natural world, including whether they were poisoning their own air, water, and soil .  I have enthusiastically joined the movement toward replacing lawns with more beautiful, functional, and healthy landscaping that supports and enhances all of life (human health, floral abundance, native pollinators, birds, butterflies, etc.) without requir