Kitchen Kvetch

I hate to cook.

There, I said it.

It’s not that I don’t cook, though that is true, too, for the most part.

It’s that I HATE to cook. I hate every aspect of cooking:

  • realizing I probably should cook
  • deciding what to cook
  • shopping for what to cook
  • chopping and measuring and prepping for what to cook
  • cooking the what to cook

I also hate finding a recipe for what to cook, but I didn’t include that in my list of things I hate because I hardly ever do look for a recipe.  Read a list of ingredients? Use specific measurements? Follow step-by-step instructions?  Makes me grumpy just thinking about it.

My mom is an excellent cook. When I was growing up, she often asked me to come into the kitchen and learn from her.  I remember standing at the stove, resenting every minute of every tutorial.  My sister, on the other hand, was happy to learn. When we were teenagers, I used to pay her to cook pancakes for me.

“But pancakes are so easy,” you say.  “What’s so awful about making pancakes?” you ask.

My answer is this:  pancakes involve spending time in the kitchen, at the stove, cooking.

And if I hate cooking pancakes, you can only imagine the feeling I have for, say, beef stroganoff or a chicken casserole.

Fortunately for the kids, I married a man who enjoys cooking.  Even now, when my adult children are coming over for dinner, they’ll ask, “What’s Dad making?”

They know me very well, and they have accepted this fact of my existence:

I HATE to cook.

 

Image credit: Pixabay CC0

First Take on Star Trek: Discovery

 

On Sunday, I watched the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery, the new iteration of my all-time favorite show.  I found a lot to like, certainly enough to come back for more.

Captain Philippa Georgiou and First Officer Michael Burnham are intriguing characters, both perfectly cast with actresses  Michelle Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green.  Lt. Saru, a Kelpian played by Doug Jones, is fascinating:  he’s already showing his vulnerable side, and that makes for interesting storytelling. I haven’t yet seen Jason Isaacs as Captain Gabriel Lorca, but that casting has gotta be gold, right?  I mean, shades of Lucius Malfoy in a Federation uniform?   Brilliant!

I also appreciate the nods to Trek canon:  the scenes of Vulcan children at school, the design of the Shenzhou bridge, Captain Georgiou referring to Lieutenant Commander Burnham as “Number One.”  In overall look and feel, Star Trek: Discovery is still my Star Trek.

So yes, there’s plenty to like, but I do have two complaints: shipboard scenes are shot with WAY too much lens flare (a la J.J. Abrams) and the Klingons aren’t right.

Now, before anyone accuses me of bias against Klingons, let me say that I accept that the Klingons of today are different from those in the original series. It makes perfect sense to me that a Klingon world would have different “races” of Klingons.

When I say these Klingons aren’t right, I mean that the people in charge of making Klingons aren’t making them right! These Klingons seem uncomfortable in their own skins, constrained by ill-fitting uniforms and a Klingon language that the Klingons themselves seem to just be learning. Clunky costumes and bad prosthetics make for scenes that are distracting and unsatisfying.

But overall, I’m happy:  happy to have more Star Trek, happy to see Gene Roddenberry’s dream continue.

Star Trek lives, and that’s always a good thing.

 

Image Credit:  “T’Kuvma.” Star Trek: Discovery, CBS.com, 25 Sept. 2017.

 

 

Why I Love Doctor Who

“Mom, I’m really surprised you like this show. You’re usually pretty squeamish when it comes to gruesome monsters and tragic endings.”

My daughter made the comment as I watched an episode of Doctor Who called “Knock Knock” in which a young man gets consumed by an old house, disappearing into the wood as his face is petrified–quite literally–in an expression of horror.

Karen had a point. I usually don’t tolerate too much sad and scary, too much action and adventure, too much running and screaming in my entertainment choices. Doctor Who  has all of those things in bountiful quantities.

So why do I watch?

I watch because always, the Doctor faces fear and in it finds truth.  He (and now, she) asks the same thing of himself that he asks of his companions and even of his enemies:  turn, and know what frightens you.  Even if you must first run to safety, you must then turn and look behind you to understand what you are running from.  In the midst of the painful, find healing.  In the midst of the sad, find strength. In the midst of the frightening, find courage to act.

Above all, find compassion, for both the monster and the human.  In “Knock Knock,” the character with the power to harm learns to let go of what he had fought so hard–and so wrongly and tragically–to keep.  He learns the freedom that comes with finding compassion for himself and others.  It’s a lesson shared by many of the great characters of literature, even though, of course, Doctor Who is not great literature.

What Doctor Who is is good story.  It might be described as a science fiction show about an alien from the planet Gallifrey, but it is more accurately described as a science fiction show about the human experience. And isn’t the human experience at the heart of science and fantasy fiction just as much as it is any other fiction?

So yes, despite its monsters and its tragedies, Doctor Who inspires me, and in the slide show below you’ll find just a little of the wisdom that keeps me watching.

Who Said That?

Perfect

 

beach conversations
drift around me
in my sun-sleep

sentences chopped by sea breezes
words swallowed by ocean waves

as I sink into the warmth

of my blanket

on the sand

 

 

Dear Evan Hansen: You Will Be Found

The title character of the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is a teen boy who suffers from a social anxiety disorder and whose struggle grows even more painful after the death of a classmate. In this song, Evan talks about feeling unseen by people around him, exploring the question that so many of us face at some time or other: Do we matter?

Take a closer look at the lyrics of “Waving Through a Window“:

I’ve learned to slam on the brake
Before I even turn the key

Before I make the mistake
Before I lead with the worst of me

Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away

So I got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say

Step out, step out of the sun
If you keep getting burned
Step out, step out of the sun
Because you’ve learned, because you’ve learned

On the outside, always looking in
Will I ever be more than I’ve always been?
‘Cause I’m tap, tap, tapping on the glass
I’m waving through a window

I try to speak, but nobody can hear
So I wait around for an answer to appear
While I’m watch, watch, watching people pass

I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

 

I don’t know what it’s like to suffer from an anxiety disorder like Evan does, but I struggled with feelings of self-doubt in high school.  Even though I had a family that loved me and spent time with me, that was attentive and supportive in all that I was involved in, I still found myself feeling alone and lonely.  When you’re a kid, parents and friends can’t protect against all that life throws at you.  You’re out there in the big, complex world of school for at least twelve years, trying to figure out who you are and who you want to become.  It isn’t easy.  

Robert Frost said that “the only way out is through,” and he’s right about that.  The only way into adulthood is to go through the tweens and teens (and twenties, and thirties).  There may be people in our lives who can help us navigate, but in the end, we make the journey by ourselves.  Parents and friends and teachers can give us guidance and support (and sometimes inadvertently send us on a wrong turn or two) but they can’t come with us every step of the way…because they each have their own paths to follow.  

What I like about this song from Dear Evan Hansen is the truth that it speaks for so many of us about the pain of growing up and wanting to belong.  What I like about listening to the song now, as an adult, is that I recognize that pain as a thing I survived, as a pain my own young adult children will survive, as a pain that my students are surviving.  I like knowing that once we all get through the awful parts, we’ll find that we can do more than just survive:  we can thrive.

Whatever the struggle, it does get better.  

And whatever we think we’ve learned already, remember that our stories are still being told.  In the years ahead, we’ve got more to discover and more to decide about who we are!  Each of us is both writer and reader of that story.  We get to make it up as we go along, figure it out as we turn the pages. The trick is to pay attention, and the secret is to forgive.  Be kind to ourselves as we do this hard thing called life.

Evan Hansen thinks that he’s got nothing to share with the world,  but give him time (and compassion, and acceptance) and he’ll eventually learn that he has a lot to say!  

He’ll find his place in the sun…he’ll find a reason to stay.

Wyoming Summer


When I was in middle school, my favorite way to spend a Saturday was on the swing in my family’s backyard, reading a book and thinking my thoughts. The white metal swing was built for two, but I’d stretch out by myself across the seat, feet up on the frame.  An occasional kick was all it took to keep up the slow back-and-forth motion as the hours slipped by.

Forty years later, I’m on a different swing in a different backyard, but my position is the same:  I stretch across the bench, head on a pillow, feet up on the frame.  An occasional kick is all it takes to keep up the slow back-and-forth motion as the hours slip by…

Sometimes the books are the same, too:  an Anne book, a Mary Stewart novel, a James Herriot memoir. Today I spent time on the Goose Bar ranch with the McLaughlins, reading again the story of Ken and his horses Flicka and Thunderhead.  I still like Ken, still enjoy spending time with him and his thoughts as he rides the Wyoming plains, but now that I’m an adult, I have to say that it’s his parents who intrigue me the most.

I’m especially drawn to Nell, moved by her quiet longing and inspired by her strong spirit. If My Friend Flicka is a coming-of-age story for Ken, then the sequel Thunderhead is a coming of age story for Nell and Rob.  They grow as people and as a couple, their strained marriage nearly coming apart until husband and wife can each face their demons.  When I was twelve and reading this series, I hurried through the chapters devoted to Nell’s depression and Rob’s anger, but as an adult, I find myself taking the time to sit beside them both, feeling compassion for them in their struggles, acknowledging what I recognize of my experience in theirs.

Green Grass of Wyoming, the final book of the series, is deeply satisfying.  Ken has matured, Rob and Nell are on solid ground, and it’s the horses that take center stage.  Who’d have thought that as a fifty-four year old woman, I’d still thrill at the description of a wild stallion and his life on the range?  My own saddle sits in the barn, unused for many years now, but when I’m reading Mary O’Hara, I can still feel my feet in the stirrups, still feel the power of a horse underneath me as I urge him into a gallop.

The Flicka books are seventy years old now, published at a time when this country didn’t yet have fifty states.  The series was old when I read it as a kid, and it’s much older now.  How wonderful that with a favorite book in my hands,  I can step out to my backyard swing and spend a day not only in another place, but in another time, hanging out with characters I love and the girl I used to be.

 

Image credit:  photo by me, taken from the backyard swing 🙂

Thanatopsis

Here in his fourteenth year, Chester’s coat is thinning.  It’s still orange, still soft—but not at all the thick lion’s mane it used to be. Our cat is showing his age, and in more than just the change in appearance.

Chester stays close to home these days.  He sleeps on the back porch for many hours at a time, ignoring the birds and squirrels that would have once entertained him.  Our chickens roam the yard, unmolested by the cat who used to enjoy rushing at them for a quick flutter of wings and burst of speed.  Our dogs try to interest him in a friendly game of chase, but Chester doesn’t run anymore.

His favorite place for nap is the big terra cotta flower pot by the porch steps.  It usually holds geraniums or petunias, but before I could get around to spring planting this year, Chester took a liking to the space.  He curls up on the sun-warmed dirt, fitting perfectly inside the edges of the pot, our own tufted flower of a cat.

We’ll leave it to him, this round plot of dirt.  He’s claimed it as his own, and soon enough, he’ll move to that “couch more magnificent.”  Until then, Chester deserves to rest in peace in a place of his own choosing, his orange fur shining in the sun.

Turns Out He’d Built the Bookshelves, Too

The California light is hazed and soft
as it drifts in through my grandmother’s curtains
softly illuminating my memories
of being there in her den

The light fills up the room:
the fold-out bed my sister and I slept on each summer
the bookshelves with their Peanuts and Marmaduke  comics
the heavy wooden desk stocked with thick paper, soft pencils,
and narrow stick pens of an age and style
that belong to someone else’s time

Eventually I learned that the heavy wooden desk had belonged to my father.

Why had no one told me that?
What was my father’s desk doing there, in my mother’s parents’ house?

If I had known all those years–
known that it was his!
I could have—-
Well—-
I would have—-

Well.

Someone should have told me
that it was my father’s desk I’d been sitting at each summer.

Then I would have known that he was still around.

To the Moor!

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Last night, I decided to change up my routine and read a paper book before bed rather than a digital download or newsfeed.  I reached for Wuthering Heights for a real escape:  different time, different place, different folk.

Problem was that I couldn’t concentrate.  I’d forgotten how irritating the whole Catherine Linton vs. Catherine Earnshaw thing is, and I found myself thinking about author Emily Bronte more than her characters.  Did Emily compare her work as a writer to that of her more famous sister Charlotte?  Emily’s Catherine (either one) is no Jane Eyre, and her Heathcliff no Mr. Rochester.  Poor dear had to feel it.

Heathcliff. What a great name!  Could there be a Heathcliff in real life?  One so wounded, so deformed in spirit that he could get away with living a public life so intent on making others miserable in his presence?  Who was the real Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s life?  Was she haunted by a tortured soul?

I put Wuthering Heights back on the shelf and turned to my beloved Jane Eyre instead.  That book I have in three formats:  Audible, paperback, and Kindle…five if you count the CD set and hardback somewhere in a drawer or closet.  

Jane has seen me through some good times and bad, a ready companion whenever I needed someone to share a long or solitary task.  She flew with me across the Pacific to Japan and back; she hung out with me as I painted the interior of a house we had just bought, she kept me company as I recuperated from more than one surgery.  I like Jane, and I believe she likes me.  We’re good friends, and we never tire of each other.

I’ve written about my book friends before.   I’m grateful for their influence in my life, and I look forward to many more years with them.

 

Image credit:  Kimon Froussios via Compfight