Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cranberry Cookies

Last year, when I went to visit my boyfriend's grandma, he and I spent a lot of time sitting on stools at her counter watching (and occasionally helping) her cook. During all this whisking, chopping, and sifting, she asked me if I had spent a lot of time cooking with my mom.

I answered with an honest no and felt guilty about it.

My mom was a master of breakfast for dinner. No one can fry potatoes and grill pancakes like her. Her smothered enchiladas were my standard request for birthday dinner. What I am saying is: we were well fed, but we weren't a made-from-scratch, Joy of Cooking household. I did not realize that it was possible to make a cake without using a Pilsbury or Betty Crocker mix until I was 14. In second grade, on a special Mother's Day assignment where we answered questions about our moms, I wrote that my mom's favorite thing to cook was "Michelina Dinners" which are single-serving, microwave meals.

But, while we made our cakes from boxes--my mom explained to me that it was easier and tasted just as good--I have so many sweet and enduring memories tied to baking with my mom. While our day-to-day meals were whatever could be quickly cooked up, baking was an art. It was something that wasn't approached out of harried duty, but genuine excited and expectation for the finished product.

Christmastime always added an extra special element to our baking endeavors. There were two types of cookies that we only cooked during the yuletide: banana chocolate chip cookies and cranberry cookies.

Holidays have changed dramatically in adulthood, and while it takes some adjusting to, there are so many new good things to embrace even as old traditions fade. But even so, nostalgia and a unique sort of homesickness sometimes still creep in.

That's why I decided to make cranberry cookies today. I texted my grandma for the recipe. I did not want some internet knock-off that didn't taste like my Christmas. I shelled the cranberries, preheated the oven, put the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas on the turntable and got to work.

By the time I was taking the first batch out of the oven, I was almost too full from sampling the dough to really enjoy the final product. But now, as I write this with one hand, and stuff my face with the other, I can tell you the cookies taste like home.

Oh, and here's the recipe, if you want it:

Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup walnuts
2 1/2 cups halved cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cream together butter and sugars. Add orange juice, egg, and milk. Sift in dry ingredients. Fold in walnuts and cranberries. Use a teaspoon to drop onto baking sheet. Bake for 7-10 minutes.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

craving community

i just dropped my first ever online class.

i was excited at the prospect of learning at my own pace and on my own schedule and fantasized about being on my laptop late at night learning about things like cultural hybridity and the model minority myth.

however, the reality of my first week of being an online student was very different. the pressure to be working on tedious (yet interesting) assignments was a constant, grating anxiety gnawing away at my sanity.

maybe i can blame that i have been on a six-year hiatus from post-secondary education.

but mostly i blame craving a community. there is definitely a convenience to being able to cover all the material and post your mandatory comments and responses to the discussion fora, but there is also a lacking. while i liked my online classmates and they had interesting ideas, not being able to respond in real time stifled the conversations.

basically, i wanted to drop the class from day one. however, i tried to convince myself that it was a lack of self-discipline and fear of doing hard things that was inciting my desire to quit the class, and while it would be incorrect to say those factors had no bearing, i longed for the classroom setting. even if i was just sitting quietly listening to overly talkative blowhards spout their ideas.

i am not against online classes forever. i hear for some subjects they can be really great--like math. however, for a heavily discussion and theory-laden class like Education for Multicultural and Special Populations, i want to see my professor and classmates once a week.

Monday, March 7, 2016

voting your heart out

i'm a journalism school dropout.

at the tender age of 19, quitting the print journalism program felt incredibly freeing. i finally really understood the term "took a load of my chest" because i really did seem to have a new lightness. sure, i had some worry that the Ws--indicating that I had somewhat impulsively withdrawn from my classes--would mar by transcript, but those worries were invalidated when i got into grad school at NYU a year and a half later.

however, a fair portion of my undergrad experience was spent in introductory journalism classes, and while that hardly makes me any sort of election coverage expert (here's where i shamelessly link one of the very few articles i wrote as a budding reporter that just happens to be about an election), it makes me want to add my wee voice to the cacophony of people talking about the election.

while there will be many persons to be elected to many positions in 2016 only one election is the election. the presidential race.

with our sluggish system of checks and balances, i honestly don't have an absurd amount of faith in a united states president bringing to fruition all of his or her campaign promises. i hold out for maybe one progressive new agenda item to make it into law at a sloth's pace.

the presidential election gets a lot of media attention because it is the most powerful political position in this country, and since electors in every state have a say, its got the largest demographic pull. though, honestly, people could make a bigger difference by voting strategically for members of congress than sweating over who to make our president.

not that our president-elect isn't important. when he or she receives a clear majority, it's fair to claim he or she has a mandate. you can't gerrymander when all the lands get to vote--the masses (or rather the percentage of the masses that make it to their polling place on a certain tuesday) have their say.

still, one of the biggest issues that was covered in my intro to news reporting class in 2007 was that elections were covered like a horse race. "And here we come around the corner, and it looks like Bernard Sanders is ahead by a hair but that could just be that he didn't use as much product as the other candidates." polls are covered more than issues. in 2016, it's polls and gaffes and petty tiffs that are widely reported.

this emphasis on numbers moves us from the issues and real debate to playing a game.

in 2012, i spent a fair amount of time with my absentee ballot (i was over a thousand miles from home that election day) splitting hairs over which presidential candidate to support.

perhaps, i give my political leanings away when i admit here that in 2012 i voted for the green party candidate, Jill Stein.

she was the candidate whose brand of idealism jived most closely with my brand of idealism. i still had mulled over whether i should vote for Barack Obama to bolster his popular vote numbers. i was playing that blasted game where i put strategy over my personal conscience.

Jill Stein received 469,501 votes which is .36% of the popular vote. according to wikipedia, she is actually the most successful female presidential candidate in united states' history (actually all the facts in this paragraph are courtesy of wikipedia).

i'm not saying here that we need to elect third-party candidates. although, it would be interesting if we developed a multiparty system--democratic evolution! i just think, especially as we are in the midst of the primaries, that it is okay to be undecided, but we shouldn't be undecided because we are weighing strategy against the ideals we truly wish to be upheld.

i have my own hopes for election outcome and i graciously accept that they may be different from others. in the end, i think we all want peace, happiness and prosperity. perhaps one day we'll find the quickest route there...

...though i think in the political realm paving the route is a lot more about local involvement than one guy or gal with with the title president before his/her name.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


i've been eking out a bit of a subsistence as an educational mercenary.

i feel like i learn a lot about myself stepping into a new classroom. i'm fairly often overcome by a certain awe and excitement at the colorful--and usually outdated--posters on the wall, the artwork and compositions in the hallway, the lesson plan thoughtfully drafted by the full-time (and fully credentialed) teacher.

i've been lucky enough to substitute for a lot of music classes and the thrill of waving the baton to 4/4 time as middle schoolers find the notes on their rented instruments really gets to me. i've also had those tender moments when a fifth grader writes a little note to thank me for subbing and i think i could teach for real, as a career. i could.

but between those shining moments are those gut-wrenching moments of classroom management trying get kids to simply shut up without breaking their spirits or feeling like a tyrant. i have a pretty strong belief in letting human beings do what they want and letting the natural consequences take their course. granted, i'm willing to give advice (occasionally--okay, maybe frequently--unsolicited) but i like to think i do a good job at recognizing people's agency. however, you don't want someone's errant ways distract from a whole cadre of kids getting the knowledge they deserve.

you hear all the time that discipline and classroom management are the bane of any novice teacher and that the tricks come with experience and practice. but, man, getting a whole group of children to focus on completing a string of assignments and assessments over the course of a six hour day gets exhausting. though, to the credit of kids, most of them do great, and now as an adult whose gotten used to doing what i want when i want, i'm not sure i could maintain the focus that is generally required of them for the rigors of the school day.

though i will forever applaud the valiant soldiers in our public education system, i find myself more and more inclined to investigate those alternative education methods like those montessori and waldorf folks, for example.

i've also thought that any career i might have with kinderfolk might be more small group or one-on-one. again though, mad props to the teachers of this world working with whole squadrons of students every day.

Monday, February 22, 2016


a dog had long been on our to do list.

if you were to analyze our search history the past few months, you would find an inordinate amount of dog breed related searches.

"shiba inu." "best moderate energy dogs." "smartest dogs." "english mastiff." "what type of dog will love me the most." "how to tell if you are ready for a dog." "top 10 cutest dogs." "pitball dachshund mix." you get the idea.

i would gleefully point out whenever a dachshund earned a top spot on dog breed rankings--which they tend to do a lot. they are sassy yet loyal, ridiculous yet adorable, little yet fierce. despite my knowing looks and elbow nudging every time the wiener dog's virtue was expounded upon by the writers of the internet, i still thought my dachshund-loving would be forever reserved for the rascally pups of my youth, Dirk and Diva, and we'd end up with some other breed (that i'm sure would've been equally loveable.)

however, when we finally moved into a dog friendly place and began routinely scanning the local animal adoption agencies dog listings, a little dude named hector caught both (or rather all four, as we each have two) of our eyes.

hector the long-haired miniature dachshund with a grand total of seven teeth.

the process went overwhelmingly fast. in the lazy hours of a sunday morning, i decided that we should just go for it and submit the application. by sunday afternoon, i got a call that they'd already called our references and landlord, that we were approved, and that we could meet hector the next day. after about a fifteen minute greeting in which hector nonchalantly acknowledged our presence while mingling with some other dachshund, we were signing papers and taking him home.

this is where it got rough. we know relatively little about hector's past but he's six and a half years old and was surrendered to the shelter by the owner of a puppy mill because the mill wouldn't pass a health inspection with hector because his mouth was in miserable shape. within days of being becoming a ward of the shelter, he had the bulk of his teeth removed (in addition to some of his manhood.) i can only imagine all of his fears and reservations about moving to another new place.

for the first few days he was terribly afraid of us. it sort of felt like we were holding a tiny hostage. on day two, we were really overwhelmed with it and had a tearful moment where we had to assess whether we could really do this. we gave ourselves a week. however, even the next day we had to admit we were in too deep, and he was our dog.

today marks two weeks of hector in our lives. since i am rather underemployed since we moved to fort collins, i am sort of a stay-at-home dogmom and we've gotten pretty attached. he's still got some ways to go, but i really believe we'll get there.

now as he lays curled up at my feet, i am reminded of jacob, who was reminiscing over our long discussions about what type of dog to get, leaning over and saying, "this is proof you win everything."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hibernation Aspirations

Something about the initial onset of winter catapults me into a homebody state. I want to stock up on all the foodstuffs, hot beverages, and fleece blankets on the market and never leave the cozy 400 square feet of my studio condo.

However, watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix gets tedious after a few hours, and though I still feel adamant about not leaving home until the need to earn money through exchanging labor for a paycheck deems it necessary, I start to get aspirational. Like "what do I want to be when I grow up" aspirational. This antsiness to set goals and contemplate career paths could also be correlated to the copious amount of coffee in my bloodstream.

Nonetheless, for the first time in forever, I began seriously contemplating re-entering the grad school ring. My so-called professional life has been windy to say the least. I have experience in preschools, Italian homeless shelters, candy stores, national nonprofits, London-based charities and fondue restaurants. Two years ago, I got stoked on the idea of applying to the Jack Kerouac School for Disembodied Poetics. I got as far as writing a personal statement and creating a shrine (see below). But I may be able to get serious this go-round and get all the way to actually submitting an application.
However, slowly--and unexpectedly--a common thread has developed in much of my work: a focus on youth and community development. I sat lamenting to my boyfriend (I have one of those and I love him) about how I felt I never developed one particular passion and he thoughtfully responded that maybe my passion has been right under my nose--that I care about education and education reform that my words ring of conviction and I speak more excitedly.

Hence, while Netflix played in the background and my banana bread baked (see below for a picture of its majesty), I diligently researched graduate programs in education. Ranging from a study of Adult Education and Training to School Counselor Education to a program in Education, Culture & Society, I felt jazzed about the potential of these courses of the study and the chance to marry my odd myriad of experiences with a specific academic credential. 

So, we'll see what happens. (I'm clearly the master of strong endings.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

on september 11th and comedy

Time: 9:11pm
Location: Kitchen
Knock knock.
Who's there?
September Eleventh.
This isn't a September Eleventh joke, is it?
Just ask, “September Eleventh who?”
Okay. September Eleventh who?
You said, “Never forget!”

My cousin was actually in the Twin Towers that day.
Oh wow.
He was on the sixty-first floor. They told everyone above the sixtieth floor to go up. That they would be evacuated by helicopter from the top of the building. But the helicopters never came. If he'd been one floor lower, he may have lived.
Oh my gosh, your cousin died?
One of my friends worked in an after school program with twelve-year-olds. One of their outings was to a local library where they learned about all of the research implements that have basically been made obsolete by the information dominance of the internet. You know, microfiche and the like.

The kindly librarian guide explained how they could use the library tools to help them with school research papers. The topic she chose to demonstrate how the available resources could be used was September Eleventh. To engage the youths she asked what year the September Eleventh attacks occurred. These children of the new millennium answered, “Sometime in the 1960s, right?”

To further illustrate how removed the school children of today are from the tragedy that defined mine and my peers' adolescence, one of these twelve-year-olds nearly ate pavement tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. Her response to her near-brush with scraped knees was, “Man, I almost went down like the twin towers.” The twenty-something group leaders we appalled alleging it was “too soon.”

I've always been an advocate of humor and its power to take the edge off of life. Everything is absurd an unpredictable and I guess we get to choose if we are going to laugh or cry at the chaos of it all. But maybe sometimes we have to cry before we can laugh? And we are not really allowed to laugh at the pain but is it okay to laugh at the absurd? Am I terrible person for telling a silly September Eleventh joke to someone who had to attend a funeral for someone who died that day?

Comedian Tig Notaroperformed some groundbreaking stand-up comedy after she was diagnosedwith breast cancer. She announces her diagnosis to her audience in her characteristic candid and dead-pan way. The respond with a concerned guttural sound, like they'd been gently punched in the stomach. However, as she continues to discuss the sounds emanating from the crowd turn from pained “oohs” to uncomfortable laughter to genuine amusement and a beautiful cacophony of encouragement. Interestingly, her monologue is mostly her convincing those gathered to hear her performance that it will be okay. And it is funny.

I like the idea of comedy as comfort. I also like the idea of comedy as a means of awakening sensibilities (e.g. racism exists, sexism exists, the world in many ways is not fair, etc.) However, I guess it has its limits, but I am all for gently and respectfully pushing those limits.