A few weeks ago, I made risotto for the first time in a long time. It was so much comfort, so much toothsome creaminess, and I’ve been wanting to make it again since then. But, I haven’t. The reason I haven’t is because I’ve felt that I don’t have the time or patience. My weeks have been filled with reading and writing and staring at a computer, so much that by the time the day is done I’m wondering if the words I’m speaking are even making sense. I can’t imagine standing over the stove for the 30 minutes of stiring and adding broth and stirring. I want quick fixes, I want to pull something out of the fridge, eat it fast, and be done with it.

Yet, I’ve also been thinking a lot about patience and how I have lacked it and neglected it for too long. I got tired of feeling like I had to wait for other things and other people and other circumstances in order to proceed with what I wanted. So I made quick choices, I stopped being deliberate, I leaped and leaped and leaped. Which is all ok to an extent, but I think I’ve reached the end of my leaping for a while.

For one, I’m just plain tired. For two, I’m reminded of the things, like risotto, that take more time and that pay off in ways they never would if rushed. Bread must have patience to rise. Jam takes patience to set. Pickles require patience for curing. Risotto asks for an almost trance, a quick saute of vegetables and rice until they’re glossy and smell like toasty earth, a hiss of splashing wine, and then the slow pouring and stirring of broth into rice. And just when you think it’ll never be right, it is.

There’s something sizzly and exciting about quick decisions, snap judgments, just going for it. It’s hard to be patient when you’re broke as hell and don’t exactly know where or how to be and feel like you’ve flung all your blood and tears and love into the universe with a slim garuantee of returns. But I want to pursue that quiet patience anyway. I want to be somewhere long enough, in a place or in a life, to plant and tend a tree. I want to learn all I can about the places where I am, so I can share that knowledge with new seekers and cultivate lasting bonds. I want to sink into the art of waiting like it’s warm water lapping at my cold feet.

Cookbook Club

About a year and a half ago, my now-friend Katy started a cookbook club in Seattle. The idea was to pick a cookbook and invite everyone to choose a recipe to cook from it for a potluck.  I love this particular concept, because my first forays into cooking were through reading cookbooks.  I latched onto the stories and memories a cookbook author shares even before attempting many recipes, and I’ve always felt the most safe and content curled up with a cookbook and a mug of something warm.

I’d read of food bloggers and other general “food people” holding these types of cookbook gatherings, but never felt myself “foodie” enough for them, and never seemed to have the glut of foodie friends necessary to pull one off. Katy started her club as a Meetup, and as soon as I saw the announcement, I couldn’t join fast enough.

Our first meetup was held in Katy’s candlelit Capitol Hill apartment in mid November. It was loud and joyous.  We cooked from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook and blog; I remember I made a wild mushroom tart whose crust wasn’t quite right, but I patched it together and brought it anyway and everyone told me kindly how beautiful it was.  We showed up eagerly prepared to eat and to be generous with one another.  Cookbook club is always a great reminder to me of how easy and worthwhile it is to be generous with others, and how generosity has such power to help us all bloom.

I’ve attended countless cookbook clubs since then, at houses and apartments and travel hostels and parks. I’ve cooked Persian omelettes, Indonesian potato salad, and Chinese hot and sour tofu, and baked Mexican pumpkin seed cookies.  I’ve seen people soften in the presence of shared food and community.  It’s why I desperately wanted to bring that spirit back to Minneapolis with me and start a cookbook club in the Twin Cities.

As I’ve visited Seattle over the past six months, I’ve signed up for cookbook clubs whenever I’ve had the opportunity. During my current visit, Arlie and I hosted a potluck at his house.  We cooked from V Street: 100 Globe-Hopping Plates on the

cutting Edge of Vegetable Cooking.  It was an experiment for me, because it was the first cookbook I’d chosen that was entirely vegan.We had about 15 guests, and the food was sensational.

pakoras

We ate spicy noodles with shiitake mushrooms, silky grilled eggplant, potato pakora with a puckery-sweet tamarind sauce.  And two kinds of ice cream: sweet potato and halva.

many_plates

Throughout the evening, I managed to ask most people if they were vegan “in real life”, and all but one said no, but that the food was amazing, and a few people said this with surprise.  The one vegan I did speak with also seemed overjoyed to be able to eat every single thing available.

eggplantFood aside, though, what I love about these gatherings is the diversity. Because the meetup is so big now, over one thousand members, I meet new people at every one.  I’ve met folks from India, Japan, South America, and Indonesia.  I love my friends, and appreciate the ones who like to spend time cooking and eating with me, but I also cherish the perspective brought by sharing meals with people I don’t know, and may, in fact, never see again.  Those interactions can be simple and sweet or powerfully memorable.  We start with the food in common, and then realize how much life we have in common, too, and the differences help us grow.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I was not successful in getting Meetup to work for me, so I created a Facebook group for the makings of a cookbook club in the Twin Cities. If you’re in the Twin Cities, or visit the Twin Cities with any regularity and want to be a part of it, please join.  I want to make a vibrant, generous community here too, and I’d love to have your help.

Edited to Add: This is my first time trying to upload images on this blog, and, as you can see, I leave a lot to be desired. Next time, I’ll include descriptions with the file name, since my screenreader isn’t reading them. Sorry to any blindies reading this, image descriptions with their corresponding file names are below:

Pakoras: Close-up of pakoras and sauce, with slices of green onion on top of the pakoras. Photo by Kwan Mariam, description by Arlie

Many Plates: Lots of plates, including eggplant, pakoras, cucumber and onion salad Cauliflower, a bowl of harissa, papadums with dal, and pizza. Photo by Kayla, description by Arlie

Eggplant: Close-up of eggplant, with bottles of wine behind it and the pizza sneaking into the picture. Photo by Kwan Mariam, description by Arlie

Just Call me Ira

In this post, I claimed I would only ask for support once in this blog. Maybe I should have said “once a year.” I also paid homage to Ira Glass’s asks on This American Life, because he only asks once, too.  Once a year.

 

There’s a paypal button on the front page of this site, where you can click to give a one-time donation in any amount at all to this blog if you feel compelled to do so.

 

If you’ve been following along, you know that I moved back to Minneapolis at the beginning of August last year. For the past seven months, I have been looking for work.  I’m not sure why I always think it will not take this long, and why I told myself I would find something soon after moving back, but it has and I didn’t and so here we are.  Every day, before I start in on my grad school work, I troll all the Minnesota job boards.  I know the ones that are most likely to give me jobs I’m qualified for.  I do all the things career counselors tell you to do: tailor my resume for every job application, get my resume onto just one page, go to specific company web sites instead of just looking at huge hiring mills like Indeed and Monster.  I know about informational interviews.  I am enthusiastic and scrupulously gramatical in my cover letters, even if I’m not terribly excited about the job.  My goal is to apply for AT LEAST one job every day before I start in on any other work.  Sometimes I apply for more if there are more I’m interested in, but I have to do at least one.  Finding work is my priority.  I’ve had a few interviews over the past months which have amounted to nothing.  I feel like, for whatever reason, what I’m doing is not working, but I don’t know what else to do, so I keep on.  It’s a slog, I won’t lie.  It’s depressing.  And it’s not getting me paid.

 

I don’t say this for pity. I’ve pitied myself enough and it’s also not getting me paid.  I’m simply saying that if you do feel compelled to donate, please know it will be a huge, momentary relief for me.  It will be used to pay my bills, student loans-credit card debt, groceries, Kiva food and necessities.  I will use any contribution with intention, care, and gratitude.  If you enjoy or laugh at or benefit from this blog in any way, I’d be so grateful if you’d consider a contribution.

 

In the meantime, I’ll get back to those job applications. And thank you for reading and being a part of this little corner of the Internet with me.

Donate Here:

Reparations

As I said in this post, I’m not a person of color, and in no way do I wish to appropriate my experience to that of black folks. Nor do I wish to co-opt it and use it as mine.  I am speaking as a white person, (woman, if you must), and I therefore will never know what the world is like as a person of color.  As a black activist said recently, “White skin is armor.” That is true, and in that way, I am safe in privilege.

That said, I’d like to take this post to talk about reparations.  This is the idea that people of color, who have endured slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc, deserve compensation from white people because of the hell they’ve faced in our society.  I’m on board with this, by the way.  There’s something to be said for equity rather than equality, and we’ve thus far left a lot to be desired in terms of equitableness. Here’s a great article on reparations, much better researched then this little blog.

I’d like to suggest the concept of reparations with disabled people as well. For the daily harassment, the job discrimination, the indignity, the burden of having to educate and find solutions to problems that we did not ourselves create.  Reparations seem to be in order.

As a younger person, I would have never gone for this. I wore my pride like a shield, and wielded it like a whip.  No one was going to give me “special favors” for being blind.  I did not apply for scholarships for visually impaired folks; I scoffed at the suggestion that I do anything differently or take an “easy” way to compensate for my blindness.  At amusement parks, people would offer me special passes to go ahead in line.  To my (still) great shame, I’m certain my high school geometry teacher gave me a “pity grade”, because he was too busy teaching to the few “smart kids” who grasped concepts quicker than the rest of us.

Now I see things differently. I still don’t think I should have gotten that grade, but rather than thinking I should have gotten a worse one, I think my teacher should have worked tirelessly to help me understand in a nonvisual way.  Today, I’d go to those same amusement parks and take the front of the line.  If someone’s uplifting the voices and presence of disabled folks by offering scholarships for school or skill learning, send me an application.  If someone offers me a “short cut”, I’ll cut.  The rest of the world is hard enough for someone who isn’t kept in mind when “innovation” strikes; I’ll take the compensation.  Call it a favor if you must, but I call it justice.

Recently, I started a group on Meetup. It turned out that the calendar for organizing meetups was completely inaccessible, and I could not set up an event without sighted assistance.  I did that for a few months, but it just wasn’t practical.  In the meantime, I was emailing with Meetup support, who were minimally responsive at best.  They gave me some suggestions without actually testing them first to see if they would work; they also sent me a link to Apple’s accessibility page, because, obviously, I never would have thought of that.  I told them I’d tested the calendar with three different screenreaders and also with the mobile app, using that very same Apple accessibility.

I should also mention that Meetup is a paid service. I was paying 20 dollars a month for a service I couldn’t even use.  At a certain point, I’d had enough of the incompetent replies, the seeming lack of interest in doing anything regarding accessibility, and I canceled my membership.  I also asked for a complete refund of the months I’d paid and had not been able to use the service.  Five years ago, two years ago, even, I never would have dared.  I would have felt too embarrassed, too prideful.  I wouldn’t have wanted anyone to have to “go through the trouble.” Now, I felt it was absolute least they could do.

Luckily, they did refund me, and I told them that if they ever wanted to make accessibility a priority, I would be happy to help. I doubt anything will come of that, but I hope, at the very least, I may have planted a tiny seed.

I have felt so angry with the world this past year, and I finally think I may have found a productive way to channel my anger, through reparations. Through asking for, insisting upon, even gently demanding, compensation for my trouble and for a world not made for me.  Through an insistence on reparations, I can stand my ground without giving into my anger.  I can attempt to shift the feeling of being a victim to a feeling of being empowered.  I’ll save the anger for when I really, really need it.

I’m currently doing a manuscript review for my friend Stephany, whom I met at a conference last fall. She’s a sheep shearer, and in describing her first forays into shearing, she says: “I start to laugh a little, a deranged, half-crying laugh, in pain, out of relief that I am done and the sheep is not dead, and at the full force of knowing, so immediately, that nothing I have ever done has been hard.”

When I read that, I stopped and sat still, like I’d been given a profound revelation. What if I were to challenge myself with this thought? What if nothing in my life, thus far, has ever been hard?

When I am faced with something difficult, with a shock to my system, with a hard slog, I tell myself a little story about how I am resilient. How I have grit. How I’ve faced this challenge before, or something similar, and I’ve gotten through, and I will get through again. What if all of that is just the story I tell myself, because I have no resiliency, no grit, because nothing I have ever done, up to now, has been hard?

What I considered “hard” things: my school closing down, a cross-country move with no guarantees, breakups with people I adored, constant dealing with people’s ignorance, bias, and thoughtlessness every time I leave my house alone, bleak years of unemployment, crippling student loan and credit card debt, directionlessness, inability to do what I want for lack of funds, loneliness. Not hard. None of it hard.

What could I do with my life if I suspended all belief that what I’ve been given has been hard, and what I face will always be hard? What free, unincumbered space would open up in my mind if I could let go of all that hard?

That space could be for new creation, for love, for more hand-holding and laughing and ice cream and intense conversations where we all figure it out, and more acceptance for each of us, particular and beautiful and human.

I remember the first time I heard of text messaging. I was in Spain, it was fall 2006 and I missed a required meeting for my study abroad program because, apparently, someone had texted that the meeting was happening. There was no assistive technology then for cell phones, or none that I had any awareness of, so I never knew about the text.

For years, I avoided texting and mocked it for its “impersonal” nature. Finally, in 2010, when I had the money and was tired of being the one at the table with no phone in their hand, I bought a phone that was compatible with a screenreader whose name I cannot even recall now. I remember the screenreader being around 300 dollars, on top of the phone cost. (Have I mentioned lately how egregious it is that blind people, who statistically bring in way less income than sighted people, are required to pay for assistive technology on top of regular technology?) Anyway, with that particular phone model, (hey hey, HTC Dash!), I could text. It wasn’t always pretty or without ridiculous typos, but it was something.

In 2013, I finally transitioned to a smart phone, some kind of Android thing because I couldn’t afford an Iphone. The screenreader was built in, but flaky. I had literally bought the very last smart phone in the T Mobile store with a physical keyboard that pulled out beneath the touch screen.

Finally, in 2015, I got an Iphone. I could no longer ignore every other blind person saying how amazing the accessibility was. I was skeptical because I couldn’t picture using a phone without buttons and a keyboard. But, I found the accessibility on my Ipods to be pretty good, more or less, so I finally went for it.

This is NOT an advertisement for Apple. In fact, they used to be terribly inaccessible until they got sued for it by a blind advocacy organization. But I will say that I prefer Apple accessibility to everything else I’ve tried. It is fairly simple and streamlined across most apps. So, when I got my Iphone, I installed all the apps: Facebook, Twitter, Meetup. I set up my Gmail. I was all in, constantly checking my notifications and trying to dictate texts. (Results varied greatly there.)

Gradually, I’ve started to see the toll this has taken on me mentally. If I didn’t check my phone a few times an hour, or more, I felt stressed. When I did check my phone, I’d feel better for a minute, because I got some kind of emotional validation from someone “liking” something I posted on Facebook, or I received an instant message, or a new comment or retweet. And then I’d feel anxious until I could check my phone again. When I was out in the world, I’d walk blocks looking at my phone, not paying attention to anything else. Or I’d at least listen to a podcast or music. I fell into a trap of needing constant distraction, validation, proof that people loved me, or that they at least took a half second to click “like” on something I said. That was love now, apparently.

I only started to really realize this after I deleted Facebook and Facebook messenger off my phone. Suddenly, I was on a bus and had no idea what was going on on Facebook. I felt panicky for a while, and then not, and then relief. Facebook messages could wait.

There’s more to it, though. The energy I had put into checking Facebook now went into me checking email, constantly refreshing, refreshing, as I went about errands and life. I recently read an article that said that checking your email more often led to more stress. (Well, duh.) This past week, I’ve deleted all of my email off my phone. All that’s left is text messaging (still full of typos, still bad at dictating), and calling. Those are the only things I can do to contact others when I’m not tied to my laptop.

I know people have described the way we constantly look at our phones as obsessive, even addictive. I’m not authorized to diagnose myself, but I know that I have obsessive tendencies and my constant phone checking got stifling. I’m really hoping I can stick to just texts and calls. I’m hoping it will reduce my anxiety and increase the awareness of my immediate world.

What about you all? Do you do anything to reduce phone gazing? Or, does the constant gazing not affect you? Or, do you think the whole screen addiction thing is ridic? Tell me in the comments, and if you have the time and bossiness level, feel free to check in to see if I’m keeping myself accountable!

I don’t want to write.
I want coziness and conversations that matter.
I want touch and cuddles and kisses.
I want coffee and tea and warm bread with butter.
I want sun on my face.
I want litheness in my body.
I want connection and figuring shit out together.
I don’t want to write.
I don’t want days of solitude
hunched in a chair, computer staring back.
I don’t want companions of just my thoughts and my demons.
I don’t want silence
Moving words around just feels like throwing myself in the same river.
I’m pretty sure you can step in twice.
We’ve all been telling ourselves our creativity matters.
This is the time for our voices.
We can’t rest now.
I don’t want to rest, but I don’t want to write.
I want to engage
I want to feel
I want to listen
to all the voices that are not mine.