2015 wanes. Has it really been three months since I’ve written? 3 full moons? A quarter of a calendar year? I just realized that I stopped writing at the Fall equinox and resumed just after the Winter Solstice. Coincidence? I think not.

I’m eyeing the exiting calendar year with an eyebrow raised. Our weather has been anything-but-wintry. The calendar and the culture tell me I should be packed snugly into my house, with tea and piles of books and candles everywhere, hygge-ing it up, but it feels incongruous. I’d rather prowl my garden and marvel at what’s still alive, so I do.

Kale thriving.


Chard surviving.


I fell asleep last night to flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder (I found this comforting, even in its weirdness; what I dislike is the water in our basement from the 2″+ of rain we’ve received in the last couple of days). As far as I’m concerned, winter is over, not just the year. (I know. January and February. I know.)

2015 felt like the film Groundhog Day (or perhaps Edge of Tomorrow), facile as that sounds. Much happened, as it always does, but it felt like it was happening around me. I frequently felt powerless to stop the bad things from happening, and often felt like a spectator at the good things that were happening. It wasn’t a terrible year by any means, but something felt off. I haven’t felt this rudderless in a long time, so I’m going to hang out with myself at a cafe in the coming days and do something I haven’t done for years: Figure shit out. I have some ideas. I’m grateful for that.


What I’m reading:

Drawing Blood

Out on the Wire

Robert Kennedy and His Times

Listening to:

These Spotify playlists for Star Wars characters are fantastic

Joe Rogan’s podcast

She Does podcast (on hiatus for a few weeks)

You Must Remember This podcast (also on hiatus for a few weeks)

Root Simple podcast

The New Yorker Radio Hour


So. Hello. And not in the Adele way.

How Soon I Forget

Paine Balsam Fir Incense making 909 smell like camping

Does anyone remember life before tabbed browsing on the Internet? I barely do. I’m trying to imagine, now, opening a new window every time I click on a link or whenever I want to enter a URL (it became a default in Firefox in 2002). I’m grateful for tabbed browsing the way I’m grateful for vegetable peelers and food processors and bulb planters – really simple but good ideas that became tools to help us save time and make things a little easier.

My problem with tabbed browsing is that I love all my tabs. I keep tabs open forever. It goes beyond mere browser clutter: I AM A TAB HOARDER. I’ll get motivated to clean things up and click on a tab and be like, what the hell is this.. oh, yeah, I had that open for work, I think… Instagram demographics, so yes… hmmm. Maybe I should read it again so I can get rid of it. Oh, wait… : clicks new link : I’ve even had a feature on past blogs called “Open Tabs” that I’m totally resurrecting at the end of this entry because, well, I can declutter my browser while sharing with you… and never really lose track of those links.

So yesterday I ran across Food52’s recent posting about cooking goals for 2015 (tab opened 1/2/2015) and I was like, shit, that’s right – it was just a New Year, and we were all so excited about turning over new leaves! [Is it just me or has the fact 2015 is new has kind of already faded into the background in the larger culture? I’m still excited about the New Year and the possibilities it brings, but a trip to the grocery store indicated that the New Year is loooong gone and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it’s hard not to feel like we’re being herded through time in this really artificial way that, of course, demands the spending of money.] Anyway, I’m an unabashed fan of what they do at Food52 on all levels, even if I cannot relate to it financially, and upon re-reading this tab, I discovered they have some goals that are worth getting behind, like making soup ahead and making biscuits with leaf lard and reducing kitchen waste (although since my chest freezer crapped out on me last summer, I have a major storage problem). It was a nice discovery to re-make on a Sunday afternoon that was crammed, as Monday loomed, with laundry and grocery shopping and washing dishes. [Is that really any way to spend a Sunday?]

Another discovery I re-made yesterday: I’ve become a competent food person, with emphasis on competent. This is big and I appreciate this discovery every time I re-make it. I didn’t learn to cook at home as a child/young person, although my mother was/is a terrific cook. For whatever reason, I left home not knowing how to do much in the kitchen, nor did I really know how to appreciate food, to use any kind of discernment while choosing it or eating it. I also left home not really knowing how to do much at the table other than have good manners. I knew nothing of food ritual, other than eating traditional foods over the holidays. It took me forever to relax while eating with others. There’s more to this story, but the short version is that it never really occurred to me that food is the thing that matters in so many of our social interactions AND in so many of the ways that we spend our time alone.  Everything I know about food and its place in my world I learned here in Urbana, starting 19 years ago when Jim and Cody and I landed at 704. Thanks, Urbana.

What brought this rediscovery on, you ask?? Making chili with Jim, chopping peppers. Whipping up a batch of buttermilk cornmeal muffins, scraping every last bit of batter with a rubber spatula into the muffin pan (when I was learning to bake, this move was always difficult for me, for some reason), and judging them done by smell, not by timer. It’s been a slow evolution.

One last thing for this morning: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about success, how it’s defined in our culture, and how we define it as individuals. In my adult life I’ve seen a few friends and acquaintances reach what most people would consider the pinnacles of success in their fields – platinum records, magazine covers, awards shows, recognition of their work from legends, perceived financial security, etc. I can assure you that, at least with the people I know, they have worked their ASSES off, and continue to work their asses off, in their chosen vocations. They have had breaks, to be sure, but they have also gone in and still do go in every day to DO. THE. WORK. They hustled, in some cases for decades, before anything “happened”. Except… a lot was happening while nothing seemed to be happening. Maybe not visibly to you and me, but these people laid the foundation for their careers like one lays bricks for a wall and have reaped the payoffs… and the pitfalls, in some cases. There are sacrifices and mistakes at every level. And they have, at times, been absolutely terrified.

My points are these, and they are painfully obvious: Nothing really worth having comes easily; talent and gifts and abilities require care and feeding; being good at what you do is not effortless and does not always pay off right away and sometimes does not pay off at all; payoff, if it comes, often does not always look like what you think it should look like (in most cases, ++$$); giving up sucks. I lose sight of these points all the time, and I still cringe at the breaks I ignored over the last 2+ decades because I was unwilling or unable to do the work, because I gave up before I got started, but mostly because I got scared. I certainly have said “yes” more as I’ve chugged through my 40s, but there is more work to do, especially to deepen “yes” when I say it.

Sermon over. On to LOTSA (Lisa’s Open Tabs Saved Aggressively):

Fan-athlete interactions on social media

Food52’s 11 favorite cookbooks from food bloggers

Smitten Kitchen’s butterscotch pudding

Some stuff from the NPR’s Social Media Desk Tumblr

Bullet Journal!

A Soundcloud mix from Sasha Frere-Jones

More about how tabbed browsing evolved

More about SFJ leaving the New Yorker for a startup

I wonder if she refers to herself as Google’s Security Princess

Are we living in the past of a parallel universe… or WHAT?