Book publishing. And everything else.

Travel Season

Work travel comes in waves. I’m in Pasadena now, which is a welcome climate shift from the iceberg that is Staten Island. I’ve been walking a lot here, as much as I possibly can. Thanks to the Super Bowl, The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony” has wormed its way into my brain and refuses to leave, so I play it while I walk (among other things). A quick trip to Whole Foods ensured that I have food that agrees with me. Say what you want about global commodification – and I hate it – it does offer the comfort of knowing you can get what suits you no matter where you are, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

In another week, I go to Seattle. And then again two weeks after that. And then to London. And again to London two weeks after that. And then to Arlington. And then to San Francisco. Which takes us till June. I’m basically experiencing winter on a part-time basis.

This is okay with me.

My goal is to find yoga studios wherever I am and to make the time to go to sessions. This can be difficult, because there’s the expectation that you’ll socialize – heading for drinks right after work, etc. And I’m okay with that – I love my colleagues, and now that I’m working from home, I want to spend time with them when I can – but it’s tough to find a yoga class during a time of day when I’m free…never really knowing when exactly that will be. It might vary from day to day!

But at least there’s the walking and thinking. And I’ve been feeling much better. And the projects I’m working on are thrilling and challenging, and really give my brain a workout.

On y va

As Ta-Nehisi Coates says…

I’ve been feeling a bit reflective lately. I suppose drastic lifestyle change will do that to a person – it’s no more business as usual, but you have to think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and value the positive actions. It’s interesting to go through a radical re-engineering of health while simultaneously, outside in the world, there are ongoing protests and incredulity and the sense that Things Are About To Change – in essence, some radicalism on the outside and on the inside. I’m feeling rather plugged in, empathetic with the protesters because I’m waging my own health protest from within.

Maybe I’m thinking too much.

Anyway, I’m coming to grips with the fact that my best resource for the things I need is Whole Foods. I hate that. But my membership at the Park Slope Food Coop has come to an end – I just cannot do the required shift work from Staten Island and New Jersey. We do not have a Wegman’s, and our natural foods store on Staten Island is small (and singular). Definitely the better solution is for there to be a Food Coop on Staten Island, but this is not a population that is open to those sorts of organizations. A Whole Foods will come here first, and that’ll be the end of it.

So on we go. Muddling through as best we can. I really like the sort of acceptance of one’s own limits that Roxane Gay offers, for example, or Russell Brand. The way our capitalist system is constructed, hewing to your ideals while holding down a full-time job and raising kids and learning and loving and growing – you can’t. You just can’t, in reality, execute all of that unless you are in a certain income bracket.

So Whole Foods it is until I find a better option.

Ten days into this new regime, I have made meals of lean pork, chicken breast, turkey breast, fish. I have eaten my weight in skyr, it feels like. I have eaten tofu, seitan, kimchi, so much kale. I have consumed much ginger in all forms. And whole grains. Nothing but whole grains.

I was heartened for a bit because I wasn’t losing weight. I’m happy with my body and the weight I already lost. But this morning I got on the scale and I was down another 2.4 pounds. So it begins. My body seems to want 10 days into a new regime to begin shedding or gaining weight.

Next steps are purchasing a stationary bike for the basement (walking doesn’t allow much for interval training), and going on YouTube to gather up safe yoga videos for muscle development. My time is highly constrained (thanks, capitalism!), so I cannot make any of the yoga classes when they’re scheduled at my gym, and the only gym equipment I can use safely these days is the bike anyway – at least until my hip heals these two torn tendons (tendons take A Long Time). It means the social aspect of things gets cut out, but given that I am not getting it now, I can view it as a step forward.

On y va.


A Foodie’s Hell

I love cream.

I love cheese – all cheese. I love eggs. I love full-fat everything.

I recently discovered that I have a cholesterol level of 352.

So I have to recalibrate. I’m told to stay away from the things I love, as well as most red meats, potatoes, and refined flour (so no white pasta). So basically, I can’t eat most of what Bernardo cooks – pizza, lasagne, steak, etc. I can’t even eat too much of the so-called “good fats” – olive oil, avocado. I just have way too much fat overall in my diet.

Which suddenly means I’m cooking for myself again (which is fine – I love cooking), and it’s all different from what Bernardo and Gina are eating. (Yeah, I had a little cry right before dinner last night while they were having Porterhouse steak and roasted potatoes, and I was having a Morningstar Farm fake-chicken thing.)

Yesterday I did a big shop and realized that – aside from the occasional chicken breast or lean pork – I’m essentially looking at a pescatarian lifestyle. And given that fish doesn’t really travel well into the office, I’m looking at it mostly being a vegetarian lifestyle.

Today I did what I used to do years ago on a Saturday – cooked for the week.

I made black bean soup, with parsnips and onions and fat-free chicken stock and a TINY amount of sunflower oil. It’s nice and sweet. I thickened it by using an immersion blender to mash up the beans and release their starch.



Years ago, I was a vegetarian – I lasted about 10 years before the practicality of having little kids and little time intervened. But I’m familiar with vegetarian brands – I really like Morningstar Farms (though I’m aware that they’re fairly salty – which is probably why I like them). I made a ragout with MF “Crumbles” – basically flavored texturized vegetable protein. I used some tomatoes that I’d put up in August (Jersey-grown tomatoes do get a bit watery in the can, so I had to use some tomato paste to thicken it). This came out surprisingly well.


I also made a braised tofu dish with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and honey. Again, the MINUTEST quantity of sunflower oil, mostly just to keep the tofu from sticking during the searing process. I used to make this years and years ago.



And I made a sort of chicken-and-parsnip casserole, with oregano, garlic, and lemon.



And I roasted an acorn squash.


So I should be all set to come home from work, heat something up quickly, and sit down with Bernardo and Gina. We were joking last night that Gina wouldn’t even be jealous of my food because none of it is anything she likes.


Now, I have lost 25 pounds since June 9, mostly just through walking and monitoring my caloric intake. With this new way of living, it looks like I’m about to lose a load more – not intentionally, but just because I’m having to give up rich foods. Due to reflux, I’m also eating several tiny meals in a day – so I’m eating all the time, more or less. But it’s whole grains, nonfat yogurts, vegetable proteins or low/nonfat meats (turkey breast, chicken breast, fish), fruits and vegetables. Instead of seltzer, I’m drinking water infused with ginger and citrus peel. Instead of drinking so much caffeinated tea (basically, it was all day every day till 5 p.m.), I’m drinking more ginger/lemon tea. (Yeah, ginger’s kind of my best friend right now.)

Proof of Providential forces: a farmer’s market just opened up next door to my office.


How We Talk About Ferguson

Scamp texts me from a lockdown drill that she’s going to “wallow in bed all afternoon” because her anger has exhausted her.

Nothing from Diva – probably too angry to even talk.

With Bernardo, the conversation is sort of interspersed with other things. “Chicken cutlets for dinner.” “They’re blocking the FDR.” A staccato of inter-leaved realities. All important. Some more important than others. We’re on the same page. We don’t need to make sense to anyone else.

With my therapist – I emailed him in a moment of anguish on Monday night. Tuesday morning, I got a response that basically said, “No, you don’t need to come in because of this. What you’re feeling is utterly justified and there is nothing wrong with you.” Is it a mark of privilege when you need some sort of permission or blessing to feel justifiable pain, and let it spill over onto people you love? Or is it a mark of how incredibly screwed up we are?

My project manager comes into the office with his usual greeting: “How you doin’?” “Sad.” “Don’t even get me started, yo.”

Tomorrow we’re supposed to give thanks. Today I’m sort of trying to gather up the pieces of my frame of gratitude, and impose that frame on all this. It’s a better perspective than despair, I suppose.

In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with civil rights/feminist/human rights organizations to donate to. That’s the Christmas present I want Bernardo to give me. Suggestions welcome.

Oh, Dad

My father really loved Bill Cosby. We had a couple of his albums, along with Beyond the Fringe and other records. But Cosby…

My dad fought in the Newark riots. The Cosby Show was sort of mandatory viewing in our house.  Not even mandatory – we looked forward to it.

My heart hurts. Because, as my friend MiAngelo says, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And I hate it. Because my father expected better. He thought he had better. He fought for more than this.

I’m sort of glad that my dad is beyond where he can care.

But I’m not.

Pinhole Breathing

My new ENT tells me that I have “silent reflux”. This is reflux with no symptoms except…asthma.

Not that the allergy shots were a waste – I have been feeling better. But I’ve plateaued. So the allergist sent me across the hall to the ENT, and he…stuck a camera UP MY NOSE and INTO MY SINUS CAVITY and DOWN MY THROAT.

There is something very wrong about an object going IN a passage where you’re used to things coming OUT. You want to kind of stop and say, “No, see, you’re doing this wrong, let me show you” – but of course in the case of these teeny cameras on strings, it’s not wrong. It just FEELS wrong. (Oh, it feels so very, very wrong.)

At any rate, he was able to see the inflammation. I am to avoid all the things I normally avoid (except coffee – he said I could have a cup of coffee), and take prescription Prilosec before bed. When I told him I’d felt like I was breathing through a pinhole, he said that actually, my larynx was swelling up and pressing against my esophagus and so, indeed, that sensation was in fact accurate.

Tonight Bernardo and Gina are going to Gina’s mom’s house for dinner – I am going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill because it’s horrid outside, and then come home and have a pasta and knit and pickle my tomatoes and watch Big Bang Theory (which reminds me so much of high school and the nerds I hung out with).

What I’m reading: The Italian Secretary (on paper! Scandal!)

What I’m listening to: Silence. Blissful silence, and the wind, and critters scritching around my gutters.

All Is Safely Gathered In

If there is ever a constant to this life that rivals death and taxes, it’s that laundry will always need to be done.

Even tax-evading vampires need to do laundry.

Looking ahead, laundry is going to be the main chore through the winter. Laundry and sweeping up dog hair. Today we did the last of the fall chores. Cleaned the cars for the winter punishment. Raked the leaves and put them under the shrubs to compost. I closed the garden for the year, harvesting the last of the celosia:

Celosia harvest

And also the remaining green tomatoes, which I will pickle tomorrow:


I’ve begun using my winter feel-good light in the mornings, setting the alarm a little early. One problem I have as the darkness sets in is a tendency to expect too much of myself. To use the word “should” excessively. This is tough to combat – I was raised a Calvinist, from a long line of Calvinists going back to the 1600s. During the Scottish Revolution, Petheric McCurdy and his two brothers fled the Isle of Bute (which they had basically run since the 1400s) in a rowboat, landing in Northern Ireland. (The tartan I wear at St. Patrick’s Day events is the green version of the Stuart plaid, because the McCurdy’s are part of the Stuart clan – nobody knows the difference anymore, and I get a secret ironic giggle. That said, Petheric and his brothers would fairly well strangle me if they knew I’d converted to Catholicism.)

All of which is to say – if you are of a mind to expect more of yourself than you can reasonably fulfill, winter can be a hard time. Like so many, I dread the darkness. But somehow, as a civilization, we manage to get through it year after year after millennia after year. So the darkness comes – because it must – but it seems we’ve discovered that we don’t have to succumb to it. We can find our pleasures in the ordinary things.


Gina’s a Witch!


My Favorite Lucybun pic


RIP, Lucy




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