Pursuit

I want to give a shoutout to a few random things that happened during those final three moons of 2015.

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The beautiful people at Blue Moon Farm sold me a buttload of tomatoes so we could taste summer once in awhile.

 

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That’s me on the left, talking with badass Jessica Hopper during a panel we were both on at the Pygmalion Tech Festival (you can watch the entire discussion here). I can’t properly convey how hilarious and awesome this photo is to me on several levels…

…nope, I can’t. (photo by Mike Thomas)

 

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Some friends of mine who shall remain nameless gussied up this statue (“Marker”, by Peter Fagan) at Meadowbrook Park – it gets cold out there. I like random acts of yarnbombing.

 

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Lily and I roadtripped to Minneapolis-St. Paul again in October for more college visiting. We did the Airbnb thing (that’s my room in the photo), and I read most of Patti Smith’s latest memoir. I was inspired by her Polaroids from the book; actually, all of her work has taken on heightened meaning for me as my kids grow up and I move through middle age and am always asking myself THE most important question: WTF? Aside: I wrote this little piece about her influence on me for her birthday, which was a few days ago.

 

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It’s not often we get the band back together, and the dynamic will change again when Lilly makes her move this fall. I’m not ready for that just yet, so I’m going to enjoy this photo from Xmess Eve 2015 while easing my way into 2016.

Happy New Year, friends. You’ve got 2016 in the palm of your hand.

Tell It

Head space: In canning, one must leave some in order to get a good seal. In life, one must to leave some in order to gain perspective, which is basically the same as getting a good seal. I mean, you want to be able to enjoy what’s in the jar, you know?

The Autumnal Equinox approaches – it’s this Wednesday. I’ve taken the day off and am giving it over to whatever (Canning tomatoes? Power napping? Writing?). The moon should be waxing under mostly clear skies this entire week, which thrills me. The signs of the change in seasons are everywhere in central IL – leaves starting to turn, squirrels acting stupid and running out into traffic, and the last of the peaches at the farmers markets.

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There’s nothing finer than the ultra-blue skies we get this time of year. ANYTHING thrown against that sky looks awesome, even (especially?) withering walnut trees.

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When I was a kid, I loved ladybugs and yellow was my favorite color. My love for ladybugs is now more about respect, and I’m not a huge fan of the color yellow… EXCEPT this time of year. I mean, look at it.

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It’s also a really birthday-heavy time in my circle of family and friends. Jim, Lilly, and I have birthdays between mid-September and early November. Our friend Douglas had a birthday yesterday, and invited people to his workspace in Tolono (he relocated Uptown Concrete there this summer) to check it out, play parking lot games, and witness a shopping cart bonfire.

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I made a rather sloppy carrot cake, per his request. I learned that it’s really important that the cream cheese frosting act as serious mortar to the bricks that are the cake layers (this is a TERRIBLE analogy), especially if you’re transporting the cake ten miles over bumpy and twisty county roads, so more powdered sugar is critical. It didn’t matter – it was delicious and it looked pretty with candles on it.

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It has not been the easiest 6+ weeks in the world. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my head around has been the death of my friend and neighbor, Mel Farrell. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor in spring 2015 and immediately started kicking its ass, but toward the end of the summer, her body tripped her up a few times, and at the beginning of this month, pneumonia claimed her life. She was a rock star in so many ways, and readers will likely be finding more about Mel later, but I’ll say this for now: Though I’d known her for about 10 years, and of her for 5 years past that, there was much I didn’t know about Mel. Since her death, I’ve come to realize that she was quietly expert at filling up any gaps in her life with more friends, more fun, more food, more… and it was the quality aspect of more, not the quantity. She was so very thoughtful and truly believed in the basic conviviality that goes missing from so much of modern life. Her laugh gave serious body to so many gatherings. And… and! She had stories. Sure, the whole legitimately-at-Woodstock thing was awesome, but I was electrified when she told me a few years ago that, when she was a kid growing up in NYC, her mother’s day job was, if I recall correctly, working for James Beard. That wasn’t my favorite part of the story, and I don’t think it was Mel’s either. No, we both loved the fact that her mom came home from working all day for Chef Beard and often had the following dinner, feet up: An onion sandwich (2 pieces of white bread slathered in butter with sliced onions in between) and a beer. I figured Mel and I had all the time in the world to eventually get some of these stories saved. We did not. I do wonder if she saved any of them herself.

Seriously. If you have food stories to tell – and we all do – write them down. Tell them to someone. You know what, though… don’t stop at the food stories (you don’t have to start there, either). Stories, period. Histories. Get them onto paper, or make some audio – just talk into your smartphone, if you have one. I truly fear real storytelling – the passing along of the big stories and the quotidian ones, the bare facts and the tall tales – is going the way of ultra-curated social media (which I feel sadder and sadder about with each passing day): Cropped and filtered just so for maximum effect, negative or positive, spun emptily one way or the other. We all seem to crave the unvarnished truth (witness the popularity of Storycorps), but we seem ever more reluctant to tell it.

Tell it.

You Can Go Home Again

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Detail from a painting by Chank Diesel

 

I struggle with the concept of “home” in the broader sense. Where is my hometown? When people ask where are you from, what do I say? How do I explain? What does it even mean? I left Minnesota in 1991 after 10 years, as did my younger brother. My parents split up in the mid-1990s and went to opposite ends of the country. I was born in New York; my young childhood was spent in two different parts of Florida. I spent some pretty formative years in Chicago as a young adult. I’ve lived in Urbana for 19 years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere, and I’m entrenched here. Home – as in where I’m from – could technically mean any of these places. But if we’re talking true affinity – old friends, depth, experience, strong memory, stuff like that – I’ll say it. Minnesota is where I’m from. I just haven’t lived there for a really long time.

[I never really intended to leave Minneapolis for so long. The move to Chicago was a statement move, the kind of move you make because, well, why not? I was 22 years old and ready, I thought, to test myself. I got my wish. Shit certainly got way more real in Chicago than I ever imagined it would. But when Jim and I arrived Urbana-Champaign for a weekend in March 1996 to see Mercury Rev and Hum play at the Blind Pig, I felt an enormous and immediate rush of familiarity. Something about the way the people at the show talked to each other and treated each other reminded me of… what? On the drive back up to Chicago, it hit me. The people there remind me of people in Minneapolis, I said to Jim. We should move to Urbana. He agreed. It took us three months, and we’ve been here ever since.]

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It’s time for college visits chez B-K, so we planned a long-deferred trip to MSP so Lilly and her BFF could have a look at my tiny alma mater, Macalester College, as well as the behemoth University of Minnesota. Further incentives: Being able to stay with my longtime friend Chank and his wife, Heidi (and Max, their 9 YO), attending a Minnesota United soccer match (well, Jim, the girls, Chank, and Max), and Amphetamine Reptile‘s Bash15 party with Diane, one of my CFoAT (Closest Friends of All Time). Here’s what we crammed in:

1. When we arrived, we went straight to the new Surly beer hall. Not only was the beer terrific, the food good, and the space gorgeous, Jim and I also smeared a couple dudes at bags/cornhole.

2. We visited the schools on Friday; some of Lilly’s impressions can be found here. She’s in the info-gathering phase for post-high school activity and is “building her list”, as her college counselor Lisa Micele says. I wasn’t getting strong feelings either way from her. Macalester felt incredibly small to me, after all these years with the U of I campus practically down the street, and I had to laugh when the “sample” dorm room they showed us was a room in Wallace Hall I hung out in quite a bit my freshman year.

3. Saturday morning, Chank and I hit the co-op and then Heidi and I took to Northeast. We checked out the Northeast Farmers Market, the Cultivate Northeast gardenChowgirls HQ, and their new, gorgeous event space at Solar Arts. I had a look at the Food Building. Activity and possibility everywhere I looked.

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4. Then it was hours of punk rock, walking, talking, eating, and checking out the beer selection at Indeed Brewing. The beer scene in MSP is intense. I ran into two people from high school at the AmRep thing, which was weird. Saw a friend from college there, too – much less weird.

5. We drove the 7+ hours home in relative silence. We were all exhausted.

It was a little hard to come back. The budget situation in the state of Illinois is frustrating and embarrassing and serious. There are lots of people here working hard and making things and thinking and creating and putting in the time, but I see/hear about unfortunate things happening here bearing the indelible stamp of THIS IS DOWNSTATE, AND DON’T YOU FORGET IT. I also see/hear about things bearing another indelible stamp, this time of WE’RE NOT FROM HERE, BUT WE KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU. How to balance that in this very unique community? I don’t know. It’s hard to not be distracted by what’s happening 120/250/515 miles north and west, knowing that those places aren’t perfect, either.

But I came home with fresh eyes. Since returning, Jim and I sat in on a workspace negotiation between a property owner and an artist that’s kind of a big deal for both of them. I’m watching one of my beloved local hangouts expand into a second location. A good friend is about to jump in head first to a new venture (actually, new ventures seem to rule the day lately). We have coffee roasters and flower artists and cake artists and food truck rallies and farmers markets and guerrilla furniture and true public art and bold moves, which is a lot.

This is the place.

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A senior year in high school and two fall soccer seasons are starting up soon for the B-K household, so some of my thinking is forced ahead, but the rest of me is all about high summer. The tomato blight that seems to be affecting most local gardens has really taken hold; I’ve already resigned myself to not having enough tomatoes to do anything with besides eat in the moment. The garlic is almost done curing. The basil is free thus far of the disease that killed it last year. Blackberries are off the hook. So much kale. So many coneflowers. The daylilies are almost finished. It’s too humid to hang clothes on the line. After yesterday’s hot atmospheric soup, I take back every negative thing I’ve ever said about central air. Cicadas rule during the day and katydids at night; the fireflies linger but are definitely on the wane.

I have 2 big things and one small things that need finishing before I can move on to this new idea I have floating around. The goal is to finish by the time school starts in 29 days. New season, new project. Maybe even a new workspace here at 909? Hmmm.

Departure

So. Nineteen years ago, we moved to Urbana. It was late May, 1996. Jim and Cody and I packed up the U-Haul in the alley of my apartment building near the intersection of Division and Damen in Chicago, and then it was time to… go? I didn’t know. Young adulthood = leaving plenty of apartments and roommates behind, but I had never left behind an empty apartment that would next house strangers, and I had only mostly moved alone in my 20s (except with Cody, who was on his sixth move at age three). I remember finishing the cleaning and loading the last box into the truck and closing it up and thinking, now what? Do we just leave? How do we leave, entirely, a place? A city where so much happened? 

Our close friends Ed and Janna are moving away this weekend, up to northern Illinois, almost exactly nineteen years to the day of our arrival. In 1996, they greeted us with 3 year-old Bronwyn and 3 month-old Tristan. The 7 (and later, 8) of us became thick as thieves pretty quickly – Ed and Jim and Janna all knew each other from school, so for them it was just a matter of getting reacquainted.

God, I could tell tales. So many tales. Here’s one, speaking only for myself: Janna taught me almost everything I know about growing food. There’s so much more – soccer and Halloweens and Harry Potter all-nighters and that thing that happened with those two geese (“Uh, those aren’t t-shirts”) and the hundreds of meals together.

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Mustn’t forget the viking helmet!

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Ed and Janna are grandparents now. Tristan, his partner, and their baby daughter are moving up, too. The house here will be inhabited by Bronwyn while she goes to grad school. Ed will telecommute and they’ll still come to town from time to time, but the reality is, our closest friends here – the family we grew up with – are about to leave Urbana for greener acres and a project house a couple hundred miles away.

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The truck leaves today. They’ll be back and forth for a few weeks, tying up loose ends, but after that, certainly by July, they will have left, entirely, a place. A town where so much happened.

We will still be here, missing them.

Same Difference

This is a photo of a photo that was taken by Cody’s father, Dan, in summer of 1991.

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That young woman in that photo – that’s me. I was probably weeks away from moving to Chicago from Minneapolis. It was probably hot. I was probably tired from being out too late the night before, or maybe I’d just gotten in from a night out. I had probably been mad at Dan for hurting my feelings, and I had probably forgiven him. It was a cycle that was to play out many times over the next 18 months in two cities.

Cody – not yet a twinkle in anyone’s eye at that point – would be born just over a year later. [As it happens, Cody’s the one who found this at his Dan’s the other day and sent it along – he’d never seen it before.]

What strikes me most about this photo, besides seeing my a bit of my daughter in my sleepface and the Star Wars pillowcase, is the dress. I remember the dress very well. I’m not sure what happened to it, but I currently own another dress quite like it and wore it just the other day; despite the passage of 24 years, my clothing preferences really haven’t changed. Why is that? Is there something about some of the music and clothes and habits and other personal touchstones from one’s early 20s that stay lodged pretty firmly in a person’s consciousness? Hmmm. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

These scientists died studying thin ice

Very nice music mixes by my friend du Nord

17 year-olds can vote in primaries and caucuses in half of the US!

IFTT recipes

These biscuits are the business

I might try this pancit recipe

Carrot Quinn is hiking the Continental Divide Trail

Mediashift splits from PBS

Sometimes it works to ignore your advisors

Architecture

When they were much younger, my daughter and her older brother spent hundreds of hours with tens of thousands of Lego blocks, building all kinds of crazy stuff all over the house. This work was Very Important.

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They first built according to directions. Then they took whatever it was apart and built something else altogether that, to them, was infinitely cooler than the model, the first thing. They’d never get the model back, but that didn’t matter, because they’d made this NEW AWESOME THING. Which was then almost certainly replaced by THE NEXT NEW AWESOME THING, often immediately. And next to it would be THAT OTHER STRANGELY HUGE BUT STILL AWESOME THING. Etc.

So. Imagine you’re a Lego-friendly grown person who’s been turned loose into a room where someone has overturned two giant tubs of mismatched Lego – including people and wheels and trees and all the other cool stuff they include with Lego now – and you’ve been told, here you go. Make whatever you want. Nope! No blueprint, no directions, no rules! Just get in there and build. Construct to your heart’s content. It’s cool. These are your Lego. Have at it. Bye! Have fun!

What would you do? Would you sort? If you sorted, how would you sort? By color? By block type? By size? Or would you jump right in and just start constructing buildings and vehicles and spacecraft, revising as you went? Would you consult the Internet, looking for advice on how to deal with so many blocks, so much potential? Would you put the blocks back in the tubs, overwhelmed by all the possibilities, and wait for your handler to let you out?

Architecture implies planning and designing. The architect is only occasionally the builder of a building (Lego construction excepted). My style has always been to not so much plan as to just start and revise. Sometimes I force things along (I just had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how forcing what you think you want rarely gets the desired results). I’ve talked here about planning and goal-setting before, and now I’m “suddenly” (haha) finding myself at a critical point with personal/professional projects, our house, my own self, and especially our family. Lilly is graduating from high school in almost exactly one year and a lot – A LOT – is going to happen in those twelve months, never mind what happens after that. Basically, the bins have been dumped.

I can tell you exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m sitting in my huge pile of metaphorical Lego, hanging out amidst the chaos and abundance of color and shape and variety… but have you ever sat on Lego blocks? Dang, you guys. The sitting can’t last, so I’m looking forward to architecture – to planning, designing, and then building/rebuilding, working alone, with Jim, with Cody, and especially working with Lilly on crafting her own plans, too.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively)

At some point I’ll get to this article about Pound – new content sharing tracking tool

How food co-ops are bringing food access to lower-income communities

Create better copy by changing a word (this isn’t that great, but it’s in the tabs)

10 things designers apparently (freaking) hate

Trapped Creative

SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME WITH IFTTT. My brain, jeez.

40 free modern fonts

Indiegogo for Nance Klehm‘s new project, The Ground Rules

Pondering the capsule wardrobe concept with Unfancy

Breakdown Break Down at the 2 Degrees Festival in London

Obsessed with the Mixte, but just looking for now

 

 

Challenge Challenge

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From Google:
re·source
ˈrēˌsôrs, rəˈsôrs
noun
  1. a stock or supply of money, materials, staff, and other assets that can be drawn on by a person or organization in order to function effectively.

Who out there has done a SNAP challenge? For those who don’t know: People not receiving SNAP benefits eat for a week on a typical SNAP allotment, blog about it, make it through (or not), and end up with a better understanding of what it means to have limited access strictly to food resources.

I haven’t done it, at least not for a long time. My own challenge with SNAP was less experiment, more reality. 23 years ago, I was let go from my job, pregnant, and eventually a single, way underemployed mom to one in Chicago. I/we spent about 18 months on what were then called “food stamps”.

At the beginning of those 18 months, I knew NOTHING about budgeting, food, cooking, or nutrition. NOTHING. I never bothered to learn. I came from a household where food and access to it was a given, ate more than enough food in the dining hall at school, and once I was on my own, ate mostly fast food and rarely cooked. I had no idea how to shop for or cook anything except for boxes of pasta.

By the end of those 18 months, I knew more. Thanks in large part to my friend T, who was also an occasionally-employed single mom, I learned how to shop the bulk bins and make meals from what I bought, I learned how to deal with imperfect produce, I learned how to make soup, I learned to like some foods I thought I despised, and I learned how to swallow hard and budget. I also learned how to accept the generosity of others – among other things, my roommate let me use her pots and pans, and friends would invite us over for dinner. These friends, this education T dropped on me, that access to utensils – these were resources that food stamps couldn’t buy. Friends and knowledge and pots and pans are pretty much priceless when you’re broke and trying to feed yourself and your kid.

I was 24. I was angry and sad a lot of that time because of a breakup, and I had no idea what I was doing. I made some dumb mistakes along the way, for sure. But I had the resource of a tiny, supportive community, and I was determined my situation would eventually change, because I ALSO had the resource of a college degree. And my situation eventually did change. However…

NOT EVERYONE HAS THE SAME RESOURCES AND KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE…

… which is why I wonder whether the SNAP challenge would be an even more effective and comprehensive awareness-raising tool if, in addition to finding out what the SNAP allotment is for a week, those doing it also blindly draw a circumstance or two or three. Some suggestions:

Car in the shop means taking public transportation to work, plus however much the repair cost (if it got done).

Forgot lunch at home? Don’t eat lunch, plus throw away the food that went bad. 

Go home puking from food poisoning (see above), but if you don’t work, you don’t get paid.

Go to an event you normally wouldn’t attend because the food is free.

Spend all remaining cash on diapers and detergent and toothpaste, which aren’t covered by SNAP. 

Someone lectures you, loudly, about how their tax dollars shouldn’t pay for the birthday ice cream in your cart.

Extended family does not want to know about your “situation”. It’s not that they don’t care, they just don’t know how to deal with it.

Break your only baking dish. Buying a new one would require a couple bucks and a trip to the thrift store, which will take 2 hours you don’t have right now.

The burners won’t fire on the stove and the landlord isn’t returning your call.

Your childcare provider abruptly decides they “can’t do this anymore” and suddenly you’re without someone to take care of your kid not just tomorrow, but for the foreseeable future.

[I should add these are far from the worst circumstances one could find oneself in.]

Food stamp challenges are solid, if basic, awareness tools, especially in terms of experiencing situational hunger, boredom with what’s available to eat, and deepening compassion for others. But what would a two week challenge look like? What about doing the challenge for a month, which is how benefits are distributed? I know – who has the time or energy to deal with that? Um, exactly.

Something else to consider: In terms of the social, cultural, educational, emotional, and other effects of wondering if you’ll have enough to eat – one week with limited access to strictly food resources doesn’t present a full picture. When I found the photo of the food coupon above – this is what they looked like in the early 1990s, before the EBT cards were introduced – I caught my breath. I looked at photos of other denominations of them. Unpleasant memories of having to count those things out at the checkout, followed by other unpleasant memories, came rushing back.  I felt my eyes well up. THAT WAS 23 YEARS AGO.

Anyway. My interest and work in food and learning how to grow it, prepare it, preserve it, eat it, share it? That doesn’t come from being a dyed-in-the-wool “foodie”, because I will freely admit I didn’t really give a shit about food until I didn’t have it; I cared about music and that was pretty much it.  My interest and work have branched in many different directions since then, of course, but it all stems from the experience of not having enough, feeling ashamed for asking for help, feeling completely disempowered in so many ways, and, now, wanting to help others NOT feel disempowered in whatever way I can.

Things are different now, for which I am eternally grateful, but for so many others, they are not, and it’s not getting any easier to climb out. HUNGER IS THE SYMPTOM OF A MUCH LARGER PROBLEM. We have a lot of work to do and problems to solve that have more to do with work and money and power than people not having enough to eat. Taking a food stamp challenge and giving to your local emergency food provider is a good starting place.

Please don’t let it be the finish.

Satisfaction

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April = satisfaction. Leaves emerge. Birds sing. Severe weather threatens. We survived winter, friends. WE PREVAILED.

Some things:

– I’m doing some writing about music – very amateur! I’m rusty as hell! – at Innocent Words. This link will take you to a thing I did about Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart. Another piece about (well, sort of) Donita Sparks from L7 was just published yesterday (language, y’all). I’m pretty insecure about my music writing because I’m not a critic. I’m not an academic. I just write about how music makes me feel, or how I remember it made me feel at a certain point in time, and describe those feelings through the lens of now. I don’t think about music as much as I used to. I don’t even listen to music as much as I used to, although that’s changing as a result of this assignment. I think about how old I was (25) when my dad was the age I am now (46) and how he was not even trying to understand “grunge” or Britpop because it all sucked and the music HE had in his 20s was better. JEEZ, DAD. But… while I totally love a lot of the stuff I hear in passing today, I find myself writing about the days of yore. You cannot take the Hugo out of the girl.

– Speaking of the days of yore and writing, I read Viv Albertine‘s memoir while I was on vacation and I loved it so much. I read it in 8 hours. I wanted more. I wanted five hundred more pages. And the device she uses as a “bibliography” – is brilliant.

– Speaking of brilliant, my daughter is doing some fantastic writing for Rookie. She’s a deeply-feeling athlete who doesn’t speak in coachy/jocky platitudes about “gutting it out” or “finding a way to win” – she’s writing stuff like I pour myself so wholeheartedly into the game that when my voice is silenced and my strength sapped I don’t know what to do with myself, how to react, how to adapt. I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

– Tomorrow is video release day and I’m pretty damn excited about it. I’ll post the link when it’s live! Yes!

I’m kind of excited about… everything! All the things! I have a lot to learn about saying yes and saying no and standing up for myself and holding my ground and managing my time and doing the work and basically figuring out what it all means. There are days when I freak out that I’m still doing this at my age, trying to get my shit straight, but I’m starting to realize that it’s never too late, and everyone’s always working on something.

LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

How to disrupt public radio

Being Boss is my new podcast obsession

I used to work at this bakery in St. Paul and I think this might be the ever-elusive bran muffin recipe

I’m making this for Lilly’s soccer team next week because Smitten Kitchen knows what girls like

My friends Brett and Bonnie talk about art, ecology, Scandinavia

Who’s read Good to Great?

Jealous Curator

Early days of the B-52s

Lessons learned from writing a cookbook

Case made for wearing the same thing to work every day – do you do this?

Rejection is awesome

Spring’s Broken

I love the smell of motorboats in canals and of chlorine pools. I love the feel of hot pavement and longleaf pine needles under my feet. I was a little kid in Florida, and it is the place every cell in my body remembers most.

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Yep, that’s me on the right, with my little brother. 1976. Orlando, FL.

I told my friend Kaya the Cake Guru that, in the 70s and early 80s, Florida was the place where my only business was that of being a kid, of learning how to be alive outside and in the world. Botany, zoology, neighborhood cartography, physical fitness (swimming, biking, tree-climbing), neighborliness, resilience, problem-solving, etiquette, curiosity, independence, troublemaking, and consequences were all taken care of by my Florida neighborhoods – the kids I played with there, plus their parents and their cigarette-smoking memaws and the old military guys with tattoos under their hairy forearms whom you always called “sir”, no matter what.

By the time we moved to the midwest, when I was almost 13, it was obvious some things were changing. It was clear that the culture was going to demand, if it hadn’t already begun demanding, different things of its young men and women than the trees we were climbing together or the forts we were building out of magnolia branches and palmetto leaves and Spanish moss in vacant lots. I know the rip tide that was Southern culture at that time was at least part of the reason my mother insisted we leave it. And she wasn’t wrong to want to leave – difficult questions and experiences regarding race, sex, religion, and class started tripping up us junior high schoolers more and more. Corporal punishment (“paddling”) was a much-discussed thing at our school. I was keen to be a cheerleader (the height of cool and acceptable/desirable female athletic accomplishment), but also wanting to play baseball like Zanboomer (still rather unacceptable for a young Southern lady in 1981). There were… interesting interactions with neighbors. Eventually, we left for Minnesota. No one got paddled at school and the coolest girls all played basketball and soccer, but my Southern accent and other quirks in 8th grade were liabilities. I lived in Minnesota for 10 years, and I loved my time there, but I’ve been moving progressively more to the south since 1991.

*****

We were on the road the day spring 2015 arrived in the northern hemisphere. We started off as soon we could after waking up and getting coffee in foggy & cool Tennessee, and continued south. We ended up in muggy & hot central Florida twelve hours later for a visit with my dad, who lives in a place where the orange groves of my childhood have given way to RV campgrounds and strip malls.  The next day, we were on the road again, cutting directly through west central Florida to Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast, where it feels like it is, or at least could be, summer forever. Those three traveling days felt like a week – in the best way – and then we had six days of staying put before having to return north.

People comment on the fact that we’ve returned each year – since 2004 – to the same coastal place in Florida each late winter. Why not try someplace new? Go with what you know is always my answer. Anna Maria Island isn’t where I was a kid – that was central FL and NW Florida – but it is a place where young me would have happily spent most days. Current me can literally unclench my stiff, tight body there because I don’t have to do anything except exist. We don’t plan much beyond eating food, drinking beer, and spending time outside. It’s pretty delicious, if you’re into that kind of thing. No one in my little family grew up there, but they’ve grown accustomed – to a week and change in March, anyway.

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I’m not sure how they’d feel about July. And Southern culture, especially politics, remain a serious conundrum.

We’re back now. We came home yesterday to a busted furnace, cat barf on the bed, and cold windy rain (or windy cold rain, or rainy cold wind – whatever, it sucked). Please send sunny days and 75° (more degrees welcome). Thanks.

Black Hole Sat

I’m not a planner by nature. How about you?

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Being prepared, planning, listing out steps, having an idea of what I want to do before I start doing something – it’s all very learned behavior for me, and I’m still not great at it. I was never taught, exactly, how to make plans, how to plan ahead, when I was a kid. I was told to do it by teachers and family, and I often experienced the fallout for not planning when I was a young student (I remember, very well, the day my mother told me what “procrastination” meant and I sat there thinking, there’s a word for this thing I do?), but there’s a big difference between knowing you’re supposed to be doing something and knowing how to do that thing. It smarts, especially when it seems to come so easily to everyone else, including your annoying little brother.

Things I’m somewhat hapless at planning in my personal life:

1. Anything with money (I’d just rather not spend it, or spend it on the same things)

2. The future (long-term)

3. What I’m going to wear (or even knowing what I have to wear) (related: #1)

4.What I’m going to blog about (I do have lists of topics now)

5. Leisure time (I just clean instead)

You can imagine how I’m feeling as Jim and I work with Lilly on Planning Her Future, which is a LOT of 1 & 2. None of us are really good at it and it’s terribly intimidating, but we’re trying to relish the challenge. Gulp.

There are certain types of planning I’m pretty good at. I know my way around conceiving, planning, and executing campaigns at my job. I LOVE the strategic planning process for organizations. I’m an excellent (though rather barky, if I’m not getting help) meal planner. And today I realized, after Jim and I did the grocery shopping and I was getting everything ready for the beef stew that’s on the stove right now, I really enjoy prep work in the kitchen. I like the peeling, the chopping, the dicing, the measuring, the mise en place. I enjoy cooking, but prep work makes me happy. When Jim cooks, I often help with the prepping of the vegetables. Our kitchen is small and we are not small people, but I enjoy being side-by-side, working together and bumping into each other.

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We’re getting a little more snow tonight. I was just outside to take out some recycling and it was so still and so quiet as the snow fell, the only sound my neighbor practicing his French horn. The stew is done. The biscuits are done (I highly recommend them). Before I go, here’s tonight’s LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

The Clash of Civilizations That Isn’t

Interview with Jeff Wise, who has an interesting MH370 theory

His theory

More spec from Jeff Wise

She Does podcast

The most amazing cattle you will ever see

Reddit AMA with animator Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues) – she lives in Urbana!

I hate the “picked for you” pins on Pinterest and use it less because of them

How to thicken stews