Kate’s Kitchen: The Long Disclaimer & How I Learned Things


I feel like the kitchen is an intimidating place. There have been times in the kitchen when I’ve felt inept, judged, and even betrayed (an incident with a wooden spoon and a blender).

Also, each of us has her own relationship to food and I don’t want to go sticking my nose into anyone else’s kitchen without invitation. Food is intimately personal and important. There is a spirituality with food, even for people who would say they are non-spiritual. There is a sense of community and beauty and dolce far niente (“the sweetness of doing nothing”). I’ve had meals which seemed to overcome the power of time, forcing it to pause and wait while we laughed and tasted.

On the flip-side of the coin, I struggle with my relationship to food. That’s one of the reasons I’ve spent time thinking about it and learning to cook. I obsess about food. I think about what I am going to eat at the next meal every moment of every day – sometimes several days in advance. I fantasize. I torture myself trying to be thin. My New Year’s resolution this year was not to weigh myself, because I always want to know my weight, every day, multiple times each day, just in case.

For those reasons, writing a series of blog posts about the kitchen is super intimidating to me. I want to write it, and I want to write it in a sort of instructional way, but a large portion of people who read this blog also cook. They know things and I fear telling people who already know things about the things I know.

Yet, I love food. I love cooking. I think food and cooking are delightful, and I hope to write some delightful posts.

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As I can’t seem ever to shut off the Hermione in me, my response to feeling intimidated and vulnerable in the kitchen was to study.

I have read tons of cookbooks and watched tons of cooking shows. I have yet to take a cooking class, but that is high on my list of to-dos when I’m no longer a starving college student.

So… Kate’s rules for cookbooks.

Cookbooks

1. Cookbooks should actually be read… cover-to-cover, if possible. For a long time, I was skipping the introductory stuff and looking ahead to the recipes. Recipes are great, but they provide instructions for cooking one dish. Introductions, on the other hand, explain cooking in general. They also usually present a food philosophy, which I think every person ought to have.

2. Cookbooks are not Bibles, nor are they even text books. I used to feel like I was supposed to follow recipes exactly and perfectly on every jot and tittle. Doing that was too stressful for me and it kept me from learning to improvise. It kept me from feeling joy and artistry in the kitchen.

3. Kitchen tools can be like jeans or like wedding dresses, so don’t go buying crap you’ll only use one time. Make sure you know the difference between the items you will use and the ones you won’t before forking out the dough. Most cookbooks include a list of everything everyone ought to have in the kitchen. The lists include items ranging from pots and pans to spices to pantry ingredients to gadgets and gizmos. I read everything on those lists, but I have never, not even one time, had everything on one of those lists. Having that stuff isn’t usually important, because where there is a will, there is a way. It’s better to improvise once, even if you get it wrong, than it is to buy an expensive gadget that’s eventually going to be donated to Goodwill.

4. Use the public library and used book stores before you use Amazon. There is no reason to buy a cookbook unless you know it’s going to be helpful to you. There is also no reason to buy a cookbook new. If you do it right, you are going to dump flour and drip EVOO all over the pages of your favorite cookbooks. Buying them new is a waste of money.

5. Apps and e-books are good for lounging on the couch or in bed, not for the kitchen. Often, you need to look at a recipe RIGHT NOW, not after you wash and dry your hands. It’s better to touch a hard-copy with greasy fingers than it is to touch a screen. If you must use an app or e-book, print stuff out.

6. Have a variety of cookbooks, including one for beginners, one that seems old-fashioned like your grandmother probably used it, one that’s aspirational, one specific to your food philosophy and dietary restrictions, and one that’s sort of niche.

  • Everyone should have a cookbook for beginners, because they don’t feel as terrifying as the rest of the cookbook world. They explain techniques that seem intimidating (like blanching), as well as ingredients that seem intimidating (like spaghetti squash). The recipes are foundational and become staples of everyday life. They often replace boxed foods, like mac ‘n’ cheese, and nothing is worse than that powdered Kraft cheese crap that was created in a petri dish.

 

  • When I say old-fashioned, what I mean is Better Homes and Gardens, Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen, or something similar. This type of cookbook is usually binder-style, so you can pull out individual recipes. It includes an uncommon variety of recipes concerning both difficulty level and dish-type. They have recipes for dessert rolls that take a million steps to make and for veggie broth, which is super easy. They are easy to navigate: they’re tabbed, with tables of contents for each section. They also include food that works for any and every occasion.

 

  • Aspirational cookbooks are the ones with the recipes you always want to make, but almost never do. They are usually the Julia Child/Wolfgang Puck books that seem great for all of those fancy dinner parties you intend to throw but never do. They are the wedding dresses of the cookbook world, and everyone ought to have one to pull out once every five years and impress people.

 

  • I usually go with vegan cookbooks for my food philosophy/dietary restriction books… even though I’m not a vegan. Half of the recipes in most cookbooks are wasted on me since I only rarely eat fish and eat no other meats. Vegetarian cookbooks are fine, but they seem to spend less time and emphasis on understanding food than vegan ones. Vegan books explain that they’re using nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute, which helps me improvise down the road. Also, it’s easier to add cheese to a vegan recipe than it is to take cheese out of a vegetarian one. Vegan isn’t the only way to go, though. There is a cookbook out there for every food philosophy… keto, paleo, dairy-free, gluten-free, raw, etc…

 

  • When someone asks what your favorite food is, what do you say? Indian food? Israeli? Chinese? Popcorn? Ramen? Coffee? … this is what I mean by niche cookbooks, and what I like about them is the variety they bring to my favorite things. I know how to pop popcorn, but having a cookbook dedicated to popcorn allows me to try new and different things with it AND these types of books are great for hosting. Having a popcorn bar where people choose how to flavor their own food is super fun and easy.

 

  • A note on food memoirs… I don’t like them. They seem to be sort of indulgent navel-gazing that hasn’t helped me at all in my kitchen. That said, there is one book that I would place in this category called The Everlasting Meal. It’s totally helpful and worth it. Plus, the Pima County Public Library has a copy, so you can read it without having to pay anything.

7. Food blogs are great for consulting, but not for reading. I know there are some great food blogs out there. I just don’t really like any of them. Partly, it’s the screen thing. Hard copy is always superior to me. Partly, there are so many of them that it’s hard to separate the good from the bad. Partly, they feel too much like food memoirs. Partly, it’s the fact that good food blogs eventually put out a cookbook anyways.

I know… this thing that you are reading is a blog post. Thank you for reading, but reading a good cookbook would be more worth your time. 🙂

8. Magazines and newspapers that write about food are for consulting. They’re fine. They sometimes have great recipes. I love that the N.Y. Times includes a recipe on their daily briefing, and have read many a recipe they have posted. But they strike me as having similar problems to blogs (minus the navel-gazing usually).

*I suppose if you kept a nice file and printed out the recipes of the Times or a good food blog, it could be as good as having a cookbook, although, I don’t think it would actually save you much money, you should probably laminate them, and you would be lacking a coherent body of recipes that are united under one food philosophy.

9. Ask people in your life for their recipes. I’m not very good about this one. My grandmother, however, used to send me a recipe in every letter or card she ever sent me. I think she would get them for free from somewhere, and they weren’t her type of cooking so she’d mail them off to me. Her type of cooking was more along the lines of: dump sugar, salt, flour in a bowl, add some water, stir for a bit, shape and stick in the over. She just knew how to do things in her kitchen and would try recipes only occasionally. For years, I didn’t think it was exciting to receive her cast-off recipes, but I did keep all of them. I mostly used them as book marks. When I started cooking, though, I also started trying some of the recipes she’d sent me. None of them has struck me as spectacular, but they have been a nice way for me to keep a piece of who she was as she gets older. My mom often laments the fact that my grandmother has reached a stage of life in which she only eats Little Debbie boxed desserts and the occasional microwavable mac ‘n’ cheese. At one time, she was the best cook I knew.

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Finally, specific book recommendations.

My number one recommendation is any of the Thug Kitchen books. There are a few different ones, but start with “The Official Cookbook.” It’s the best one. Thug Kitchen books are delightful. The writers curse at you all the time (subtitle: “Eat like you give a fuck”) and they explain exactly the right amount of things. The recipes are wonderful. Hands down, this is the cookbook I have used more than any other.

For niche books, Jerusalem. Again, this one is at the Pima County Library, so free. It’s got a great intro, even getting into how history and geography has played into the food. Plus, it’s got an excellent shakshuka recipe, although, I have to admit, I combined it with the N.Y. Times recipe, mostly because I wanted to do it in a cast-iron pan and stick it in the oven. I’m not a fan of the runny yolk for shakshuka, although I know that’s the way most recipes recommend going, and it’s probably more traditional that way.

For an aspirational food philosophy book, The Wicked Healthy Cookbook. The intro is excellent. It’s got just enough about the writers and their stories to make you feel like you know the philosophy and the the whys behind what you’re doing. Woody Harrelson wrote the foreword. Also, even though the recipes are complex and challenging, they taste amazing and are well worth it in the end. Fair warning, though, this is a situation where the recipes build on each other. The first recipe I tried was for Ninja Nuts… basically almonds that are toasted in the oven after being coated in a sauce. The sauce, mango sriracha caramel, was delicious, but it required that I first make (or buy, I suppose) regular sriracha. It took me a week to make the sriracha itself, because of fermenting, and it took me another three (ish) hours to turn a bit of it into the mango caramel stuff. I felt super accomplished after the fact, though, and Ninja Nuts have become my go-to snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kate’s Kitchen: A Summer of Writing About Food and Developing a Food Culture


All I have written about on this blog for the past two years is the law and dating. Both have been pretty important in my life, but I’m feeling like this semester is the first in which I have been sane about both school and dating. I haven’t even felt the need to check my blood pressure this semester, because I’ve been so calm. I’ve been wanting to get back to blogging again. I often miss it…

Thus, this summer, I intend to write about food.

This post is about food culture and food philosophy.

I grew up mostly eating foods that were either purchased from a restaurant, microwaved by me, or came with little or no assembly required.

I’m not complaining. My mom is (was? because she has sort of retired) a nurse. She would work long days and be tired and none of the rest of us helped out with much of anything at home. She would walk in the door to find piles of dishes in the sink, piles of laundry, and the rest of us lounging in front of the tv eating Chex Mix.

My dad could cook, but he wasn’t the type to cook dinner every night. He was the type who might wake us all up at 4 a.m. to eat homemade cinnamon rolls. Junk food was really his thing. Peanut butter candy, cheese dip, party mix, layered candy bars, etc… Those were his things. If he was responsible for getting dinner on the table, he’d order a pizza.

Also, I was a jock. While I did take a home-ec. class once, I really, truly wasn’t interested in being a homemaker. I occasionally tried to cook things, but it was like once every two or three years that I even felt the need to cook anything.

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Fast forward.

When I got my own place, I distinctly remember my first few trips to the grocery store, because I didn’t have any clue what the hell I was doing. I definitely only shopped at Walmart for probably four years, because I felt like Trader Joe’s was pretentious.

My mom made sure I had the basic kitchen things when I moved out: dishes, pans, spatulas, etc… and when I came home from the grocery store, I came home with the edible basics: Marshmallow Mateys, Lean Pockets (trying to be healthy, you know), and cheddar cheese.

For a few years, I stuck to microwavable foods, with the occasional real meal added in. I was fond of a chicken and rice bake I found in my Betty Crocker cook book (another basic Mom supplied me with). I sometimes did salads. Sandwiches. Pastas with store-bought sauces. It honestly wasn’t until I bought my own house that I started to cook real food for myself on a regular basis.

And I started reading books about food.

Lots and lots of books about food.

And dvds about food.

One of the books (I can no longer remember for sure which one) started out with a chapter stating that the problem with the American diet is that we don’t have a food culture.

On the one hand, that’s not entirely true. We have southern cooking, which is its own culture within the larger American culture. We have Thanksgiving, which seems to me the most valid piece of food culture we’ve got, although I also hate it and was called the Thanksgiving Grinch last year. We have burgers and french fries for the Fourth of July. And I’m sure there are other quintessentially American meals that I’m forgetting. Go ahead and remind me of them in the comments, if you like.

To me, pumpkin pie seems like all we can really claim in the way of food culture.

So I set out to develop my own personal food culture. That was probably something like five years ago.

This summer, I’m going to post the things I came up with.

As a general overview, I should say that I’m either a vegetarian who rarely, but occasionally eats fish or a Pescatarian who rarely, but occasionally eats fish. Neither label seems fully satisfying, but it’s how I’ve been for about 4 years now, and it’s a big piece of my food philosophy.

Steve, Lori, and I had a conversation quite awhile back about the theology of food, and I generally have a problem with factory farming in large part because of that conversation and food documentaries like Food, Inc.

I firmly believe that we are poorly stewarding the earth, in no small part, due to factory farming. I am opposed to the idea of feeding corn to cows. I’m opposed to chickens so fat they can’t walk. I’m opposed to eating a burger that is made up of meat from bunches and bunches of cows instead of just one at a time.

Also, though, I have reached a point where my practice actually exceeds my beliefs. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat. I just think it’s wrong to treat animals poorly (as well as treating the earth poorly) before we eat them. Yet, I am kind of grossed out by most meat now. When I contemplate eating meat, I can’t stop thinking of the animal it came from and how sad it is that it has died to provide something for me that I don’t even actually need.

Even though I definitely don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying a slab of beef from Whole Foods where you can select an animal who has lived a better life than lots of children in this world… I almost never have it in me to eat animals anymore (except fish for some inexplicable reason).

Because of my philosophy about stewarding the earth, I also have a leaning towards eating local, organic, and whole foods cooked by me at home, although it’s way too much work for me to be committed to doing that all the time. I also try to avoid foods that seem to have been invented in a petri dish… for instance, if I need fuel on a run, I tend to eat pouches of organic baby food rather than Gu, and I try to buy food with labels that make sense to me.

So… there isn’t much else in my food philosophy, but there are some staples in my diet that I’m going to try to write about this summer.

 

Eggs

Popcorn

Rice (and just about any whole grain)

Red wine

Avocados

Nuts (all types, but especially walnuts and cashews)

Coffee

Spices (especially paprika)

Spinach, onions, tomatoes, and certain squashes

Almond butter

Apples, berries, and frozen fruits

 

Additionally, I am trying to branch out and do more with tea, vinegar, homemade sushi rolls, and homemade sauces. I only rarely bake (unless roasting veggies and making pizzas count) and I’m not as interested in desserts as I am in savory foods. I also rarely cook for others, because I oddly feel like I am imposing on them by making them eat my food. This summer, however, I may try to host more so as to get more comfortable cooking for others.

 

I will try to post pictures, as if I were a proper food blogger.

 

Happy cooking!

 

 

End of 2L Year


Hi there!

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in here, so I thought I’d write a bit.

I’m nearing the end of my second year of law school, and I’m pretty jazzed about it – just one year left to go and then I can be a fancy lawyer!

This year, the main thing I did is I wrote my Note/substantial paper/dissertation, presented it, and submitted it for publication. I researched and wrote about situations where kids who have been removed from the home because of parental abuse are court ordered to visit their abusers. It was rewarding and enlightening work, and I’m so happy that Karen talked me into changing topics. 🙂

I also secretaried a club, represented (sort of) four clients in the Wrongful Convictions Clinic, and mentored a 1L. This summer, I will be at TUSD, doing policy work in school law, which is exciting for me, although it’s not as fancy as it sounds.

Everyone in my life right now seems to be having babies and/or getting married, which is pretty cool. Shout-outs to (forgive me for only listing mommies and brides… daddies and grooms are important too) Kira, Sis, Lori, Kendra, Laura, Melissa (not Hernandez as far as I know). Also, my nephew is getting married and having a baby, and I don’t know his lady’s name, so shout-out to them as well. It’s simultaneously nice and horrifying to be reminded that I could still get married and make babies, even though I’m getting so old. 😉

In addition to getting old, I seem to be getting fat… I injured my Achilles in November and haven’t been able to run very much since. I’ve been pretty frustrated about it, so on Saturday I was angry-icing it and gave myself wicked ice-burn… so now, in addition to being unable to run, I also can’t walk in real shoes. Way to go, Kate. Still, I’m fully committed to completing my New Year’s resolution – not weighing myself for a full year, because of Bonhoeffer. I know, that’s weird.

The dating front continues to be a thing. I have become an expert first-dater – I don’t think I’ve been turned down for a second date in years… but it’s one of those things where I’m sad-happy, because people seem to be interested in me, which is a confidence boost, but the vast majority of them are clearly not a good match for me and I’m constantly having to tell them so… sometimes more than once… sometimes having to completely ignore their repeated attempts to contact me.

At this very moment, there is a text sitting on my phone from a nice guy who I rejected, but he has now contacted me again. Before you get worked up trying to get me to respond to him… he has lost 180 lbs, and wants to lose another 180, which isn’t a big deal except that he can’t talk about anything except the weight loss. Also, our first date was a Sabino Canyon road hike, which he wanted to do because he’s been hiking all the time in an attempt to train for a ten-mile summit challenge. Even so, he got blisters and hiked at the glacial pace of a decrepit snail. I tried to tell him we didn’t need to do the full 7.whatever miles, but he insisted we finish. On the one hand, who really cares? I don’t even really like hiking very much. On the other hand, if he’s going to do athletic sorts of things with me, he’s gonna have to keep up or let me run ahead and meet him at the finish line, and he doesn’t seem capable to either of those options. Also, he lives in Sierra Vista. Also, he lives with his mom, her friend, and his grandmother. Also, his date with me was his first, first date. Ever. Also, he kept asking me to give him constructive criticism while on our date. Also, he texts non-stop.

And, finally, I’ve saved the best news of the year for last… how could I possibly beat such an excellent first date story, you ask?

Drum roll, please…

I GOT WIFI… WOOHOO!

I actually don’t love having the internets at home, but I hit a point where I just hate being at school so much that I’d rather fork out the dough and be able to write memos while wearing pjs and drinking snooty organic cashew milk lattes.

I also have Netflix, and I think I’ve decided to keep it. I was on the fence about it. I got the 30-day free trial, and maybe I see the $8/month value in it… I hate that they keep advertising their NETFLIX ORIGINAL crap to me. Also, most of the shows I actually like are CBS ones and unavailable via Netflix. Plus, I’m having issues getting the CBS app thing onto my XBOX 360, but I’m not buying an XBOX ONE until they come out with another console that’s newer and fancier. But, hey, Making a Murderer was pretty legit (thanks, Lori) and since I haven’t had tv or internet access since it was provided via dial-up and cable in my parents’ house, there are a few shows I’ve intended to watch over the years that the library was unable to provide. Although, I have to say… it’s silly that I still have to go to the library for The Expanse, The Last Ship, and Game of Thrones.

 

Kate’s Rules for Enjoying Online Dating… & a Quick Life Update


I have somehow become a zealous proponent of online dating. I think people should do it and stop feeling ashamed. Here are some rules I have embraced in order to enjoy the experience…. also, this is advice I would give to anyone who is setting out on an online dating venture. No, I don’t think I’m an expert.

  1. Online dating is not shameful. Talk about it. Everyone in the world loves a good dating story and will be supportive. There is nothing funnier than a story about a bad first date.
  2. Lori was right: you need to pay the effing money. Free sites are fine, and you might find someone awesome there, but you change the dating pool in important ways when you fork out a little cash for a subscription.
  3. KISS – Keep it short, stupid. People don’t read profiles to find someone they want to date; they read them to eliminate folks they don’t want to date. The less you say, the less ammo you provide to anyone who is looking for a reason not to date you.
  4. People who write a lot are usually more intelligent than people who don’t, so don’t eliminate anyone just because they’ve got a TMI profile. (Yes, it’s contradictory to rule 3 and confusing.)
  5. Improve the online dating community by not being a JA. If a normal person messages you in a nice and normal way, but you don’t want to pursue anything with said person, respond. Thank person for the compliment of messaging you; tell person you’re sorry but you don’t think the two of you are a good match; tell person you hope he/she finds the right person soon; include a smiley. 🙂 It is really sad the number of times I have been thanked for responding this way. People totally appreciate it, because so much of the time, they message folks who ignore them.
  6. It’s a numbers game, so give everyone a first date (except creepers and those with whom you are 100% sure it won’t work). Disqualifying factors include murdered animal carcass(es) in the profile pic(s) and if a standard row boat would capsize with the person in it (wisdom from Michael Scott). The best first dates I’ve been on are ones I was not enthused about.
  7. First dates 101: Ferret out and eliminate the crazies. Don’t waste time worrying about chemistry, attraction, or whether you actually like the person across the table. You can figure that ish out later.
  8. First dates 102: Your job is not to impress the other person. All you really need to do is show him or her that you aren’t crazy. (Becki Scheel wisdom – she was talking about the goal of open house when you are a teacher, but it can be generalized to many pressure-packed situations in life).
  9. First dates 408 (this is a much more advanced skill than one might think):  have a nice hug, then walk away. Even if it is a spectacular first date, do not, under any circumstances, share saliva, your last name, or your address. Anyone who is normal and wants a relationship will be happy with this.
  10. It’s a numbers game. Give everyone a second date (except creepers, crazies, and those with whom you are 100% sure it won’t work). HOWEVER, you really shouldn’t go on a third date unless you’re pretty into the other person. Date #3 (to almost everyone) signifies something that’s relatively serious.

Life updates and some highlights from the last year of online dating:

The biggest highlight of my online dating experience was Stuart. My time with him was magical. I move forward with lots of warm, fuzzy memories about him, no regrets, and tons of lessons learned. I still struggle with being brokenhearted and angry about him. I feel resentment at everyone who hints that, “It’s better to have loved and lost…” because I’m pretty sure it’s better to have loved and not lost. Also, I’m not cool with romanticizing brokenheartedness. Bokenheartedness sucks.

Then there was Jason. I really only talked to my mom about him, but he is delightful, and I wish he hadn’t been the first one I met after Stuart. I was such a mess and didn’t intend to meet someone so quickly who I could be serious about. He is a great guy and I wasn’t ready for him at all. The girl who gets him is going to be super lucky.

Then I met Russ. He and I are trying to be friends. It’s a first time I’m making that attempt, so we’ll see how it goes.

 

 

On the school front, I’ve maybe changed my goals for what I want to do after graduation…. maybe education law…. probably something that involves less litigation and removes me a few degrees from trauma.

I’m pretty sure I’ve secured a summer internship with a school district, although I haven’t officially received an offer.

I submit the final draft of my note (dissertation/substantial paper) soon and present it in about a month. I’ll be happy to have that one behind me.

Next year, I will be a note and comment editor for my journal…. not as fancy as it sounds, but I’m still enthused to tell everyone that I am an editor.

Up until the end of last week, I had managed to keep up with EVERYTHING at school. I read every reading assignment. Met every deadline. I basically killed myself keeping up with everything. Was skipping church and Bible study. Canceling coffee dates with people. Not walking poor Moose. Venting on the daily to my mom. I was basically a lunatic again. But I’ve surrendered now…. not going to be prepared for everything anymore, but I will be ever-so-slightly more sane.

 

 

Looking forward to my mom coming to town next week. Sister having a baby. S & L adopted. Bought myself a Groupon for a deep tissue massage. Feeling like I’ve been healthier about several different things lately. Watching a ton of Star Trek. Voyager is pretty awesome once you get past the first season. Also, everyone should watch Father Brown. Just trust me. It’s going to feel sort of slow at first, but stick with it until you’ve finished the first episode.

 

Fall 2018 is in the Books!


I am so happy to be halfway finished with law school.

So happy. So incredibly happy.

I had a rough ending to the semester. Around Thanksgiving, the dry heaving started again. Being that I hate the holidays and was getting ready for final exams, I sort of dove into the anxiety for a bit. Lost a little weight, which is pretty much the only positive I experience during final exams.

I managed to get the dry heaving and panic attacks under control just before Stuart and I broke up.

It was like a week and a half before finals, which was just spectacular timing. I spent a super-productive week having panic attacks and crying a lot. I’m sure my grades this semester will be super. My favorite part of the breakup was the morning after, when I ended up walking and crying in the rain. Two miles to my thereapist’s office, where I continued to cry, then two miles home again, crying in the rain. When I got home, I saw that Moose had pooped in the floor – I didn’t even have the heart to scold him.

Having never really done the relationship thing before (or the breakup thing), I really had no clue how much I was going to be just like a sit-com. Not only did I cry a lot and have panic attacks, but I called my mom like every-other-day, laid on the floor a lot, and ate nothing but ramen. I watched two full seasons of Survivor in a matter of days, and convinced myself that God was talking to me through one of the characters/players. I walked an average of something like 6 miles each day and read a lot of sad novels when I should have been studying. I even managed to have a real cute text fight with Stuart, although I’m pretty sure he deserved it. 🙂

I’m now in the fun stage of the breakup where I oscillate between denial and acceptance. One moment, I feel pretty sure that Stuart is going to figure out we were meant to be together and show up in my yard holding a boom box over his head.  The next moment, I’m back on Match, imagining how perfect my life would be with this or that person who is messaging me.

Now that the semester is over, I’m doing a bit better. Struggling with how to know whether I’m ready to move on or not. Don’t want to rebound date, but, you know, I want to meet someone and live life together.

I have a hot date planned for Christmas night… Winterhaven. It’s maybe not the most conventional date for a first date, but he seems like a good guy. We’ll see.

Other things going on include final deadline for my substantial paper is coming up. 10 pages to write. Job searching for the summer. Need to figure out if I would be okay leaving Tucson, because the opportunities are definitely better in Phoenix… but I kind of love Tucson.

Hope all is well with everyone else.

Drop me a line if you feel like grabbing coffee. I’ve got time for the next few weeks and would love to see folks.

Merry Christmas!

 

A Letter from John Steinbeck to His Son: About Being in Love


New York
November 10, 1958

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love,

Fa

*This is evidently from a collection called Steinbeck: A Life in Letters. I don’t have the book, so I can’t fully confirm. I found it on the interwebs and it seems like exactly what I needed to hear today. 🙂

Unpolluted


I have always wanted to write a post about Kathy Spencer.

Kathy is someone I worked with as a teacher. She taught math in a classroom just around the corner from mine. She had long, long hair. Straight hair. Thick glasses. A high-pitched mousy kind of voice. She loved anime and Hello Kitty, and she had this childish way about her.

The kids all adored Kathy, I think because they saw her as their kindred spirit… an adult who hadn’t quite abandoned the magnificent things of childhood. The honesty and vulnerability and fun. The hope of the young.

The other teachers all loved her too, but I always wondered if they saw her accurately. It’s one thing to come across to kids as an adult who really is still a geeky teenager. It’s quite another thing to come across that way to colleagues.

I struggled with that as a teacher, not so much because I exuded the childlike quality Kathy Spencer had, but more because my colleagues knew I talked to kids about video games and Harry Potter, and I think they weren’t quite sure if I was having fun with the kids because I was just a kid myself or if it was something I used intentionally, to help me teach. It still haunts me that one of my colleagues told me I was, “winningly naïve.”

Some of our colleagues acted surprised when Kathy gave a speech at a school board meeting. Lots of them talked about her as if she were naïve. I think they were flabbergasted that she could be in her twenties, yet so seemingly innocent, inexperienced, pure…

I always thought it was strange that they saw her that way.

I assumed Kathy had been intentional to some degree in becoming the woman she was becoming. That it had taken remarkable strength of character to go through college and come out clean on the other side. That she wasn’t the way she was because she was afflicted with permanent rose-colored glasses… I assumed some sort of hidden resilience within her. Where she was rebellious against the cynicism and elitist academic attitudes that come with teaching at a school like the one where we taught.

When I think about Kathy, I actually think about the Bible verse that talks about what God wants from us. It says something like, He wants us to walk humbly before our God, to defend the orphan and the widow, and to remain unpolluted by the world.

 

It takes such painstaking work to remain unpolluted.

 

Kathy seems like a good example of that to me.

I also think about Andy Dufraign from Shawshank Redemption… crawling through miles of the foulest shit imaginable, and coming out clean on the other side.

In getting to study and work on wrongful conviction cases this semester, I’ve met clients who’ve been in prison for more than thirty years, who claim they are innocent. I’ve met an exoneree and his wife. Heard them talk about how the decades he spent imprisoned have made it so hard on their marriage. Even little things are a struggle, because the exoneree spent two decades never turning off a light… which drove his wife nuts. She would come home after a day at work to find that every light in the house was on. Always. Because her husband needed time to retrain his brain to even realize he had control over the lights and could turn them off.

It’s such a striking thing to talk to someone who was punished for the entire length of my life for a crime he didn’t commit, because exonerees seem to be the strangest, most encouraging examples of deciding to remain unpolluted by the world.

 

Life is so incredibly painful sometimes.

As I come to the end of the first half of my law school career, I struggle to remain unpolluted… not necessarily from school itself, although that’s definitely a thing. Law school is designed in ways that break a person down. But, bigger picture, I actually believe remaining unpolluted is a mental health thing. That a lot of the turmoil I feel can be attributed to my unwillingness to take in the bad stuff, make space for it to exist in my heart and hold it there, as long as necessary for God to reshape it into something clean that I can unleash back into the wilds.

I know that’s a weird way to think about it. But I think that’s what exonerees and Andy Dufraign and Kathy Spencer have done. And I guess, as I struggle through finals and the holidays, my hope for myself is that I can do what it takes to remain unpolluted. Naïve. Pure. Childish. Innocent. That I can look at my life and say, “Well, this is the situation and looks like God is pointing that way. Let’s take an uninhibited step in that direction.” Not cynical, expecting shit to go wrong, even if it went wrong last time. But, rather, childish. Trusting. Unburdened by the past and by evil. To some degree, unsavvy.

 

The Bible, as a whole, suggests to me that’s how I’m supposed to be. And my hope and prayer for myself is to find the resilience to absorb the aches and groanings that hurt so deeply, hold them in my heart for a bit, and let God purge me with hyssop… so that I can walk humbly before Him, as someone who manages to be stubbornly unpolluted.