Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Things that would not happen in Washington (but would happen in a movie)

Hello, friends. It's been waaaaay too long. Maybe some of you are still using RSS feeds, and will see this.

I've been feeling pulled to come back and post some things here again, frequently, and have put those feelings aside.

But then something so completely in the original spirit of City Mouse Country happens here where I live now that I cannot help but share it, and it feels like a (kind of violent) sign from God that I need to return here.

From the local paper: Plane, deer collide at Keene airport

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Sorry it's been so long again, folks. Been thinking about you, and this space, lots. We should talk about what we're going to do around here.

Meanwhile, I had a CMC-appropriate thought.

It is a totally valid life choice to declare, "I'm too old to ever help anyone move again."


It is a totally valid life choice to date a person in their 20s.


You probably cannot maintain both those life choices at once.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Metaphorical malpractice

This evening, I'm keeping a friend company in the hospital.

He's fine.

But I just overheard a healthcare professional saying to another healthcare professional, about a patient, "She's healthy as a baby. Healthy as a clam."

Neither of those are expressions.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Just got the following email from my Rock Star Friend:

Remember the cute dating blogger that I saw in an elevator many many years ago and my friend gave him my number and I was mortified and I think that maybe you even wrote about it on your blog?
Well, now he's a speechwriter for the mayor.
Morals of this story:

  1. Dreams really do come true. Not for my friend in the way of dating the blogger, but in the way of the blogger seemingly getting a job he likes better than competing with hair models for stories and women. 
  2. The story can always get better. 
  3. If you tell me your funny stories, I will not only blog about them, but I will blog about them again six and a half years later if you give me more fodder. 
  4. Other things that count as sufficient cause for me to use "OMG" on the blog now, when a few years back I couldn't imagine ever using it: Trapped in a Closet, a frustrating experience with Goodwill, forgetting to blog for an hour and a half, being late, a story about RS's office parties, and what I'm wearing to my high school reunion.
  5. Any excuse is a good enough excuse to remind you how funny this blog used to be.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

One true correct

Today on Facebook, a friend of mine posted, "Every religion thinks it's the one true correct religion. Assuming there is one, they can't all be right."

She herself is not religious, and she is not the first person I've heard say this — or the hundredth. I think it's a pretty common perception about religion. I didn't say anything on Facebook, because I'm not interested in shaming people or getting into a battle about it.

But in case I have readers who deeply believe that to be true — it's not.

Some religious people (including a handful I've met) think their religion is the one true correct one. I've met some of those folks.

But I don't.

Almost none of the religious people I know think that.

Most of the religious people I know think their religion is the one that works best for them, right now. Many, many of the religious people I know have shifted religions, embrace folks of other religions or no religion or something in-between.

And there are lots of religions that are pretty explicit that that religion itself does not exclude other religions or religious doctrines, even among its own followers.

Like I said, not looking for a fight on this — just correcting a misperception I see a lot. Be careful of words like "every" and "all."

In other news, it's 35° here. Feels like June.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'd wave a white flag, but you'd never see it

Sorry I keep talking about the weather.

This winter is KILLING me; it's led to car issues and house issues and travel issues and a weeks-long bug that I am finally over. I have never been so ready for spring.

Temperature when I checked it this morning: 9°.

That is 20 degrees warmer than it was that time yesterday.

We have had one day in February during which the temperature rose above freezing at any point.

And should you dare to walk outside at all, you're walking in a maze: at least butt-high snowbanks on either side, often more like waist-high or higher. There's no "just cutting across" What's underfoot is mostly snow (the consistency of sand or granulated sugar) over ice, with unexpected patches of pavement just to ensure maximum unevenness.

Here's one of the better weather-related jokes making the rounds on Facebook:

And up here, we have it so much better than Boston.

If you sometimes consider donating any money to a shelter in the northeastern U.S., or speaking up when you see someone who is likely homeless being kicked out of your favorite coffee shop or bagel place or art gallery — this seems like a good time for that.

Stay warm, friends.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cold snap

This morning I brought RI to work because otherwise, he'd have had to walk, and it was -11° outside, and that is unreasonable. But it still meant I was awake and outside at 6:50 in the morning in -11° weather. I am so sick of this winter I could punch it.

Related: Thinking of changing my name to brrrrgrrrl.

Monday, February 16, 2015

City Mouth Country

Things I got used to in 8 years of city life that continue to disappoint me after SO MANY years not in the city: restaurants that are open on Mondays. I just want a damn Cobb salad.

Friday, February 13, 2015

How's the weather up there?

Woman leaving a building ahead of me yesterday, brightly: Oh, look! It's snowing! We needed it, really.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Genderalized Anxiety

To discuss, with as much or as little anonymity as you choose:
What is your gender?

An essay on that topic was assigned someone I know as homework. You don't have to write an essay, but I'm interested in your answer.

I have had several answers to that question that I could explain briefly or at length, but right now, I don't have one. That doesn't mean I don't have a gender, obviously; it just means that the words I used to use seem inadequate or inaccurate.

So, whatcha got?

Thursday, January 29, 2015


So it's been more than a month. Sorry.

Also, although I haven't had a lot of Big Stories or even Deep Thoughts I wanted to share here, I do, frequently, find myself with a quick thing to say. I shouldn't even try to tell you I'll do this thing or I'll post that thing here anymore, because usually when I do, I then definitely don't, but it may be that quick thoughts, almost Tumblr-style, is what'll happen here for a bit.

Here's the first one:

I used to think Mercury being retrograde was nonsense, like Mercury was basically always retrograde and people just used it as an excuse for miscommunication. Then I read anything at all about it and realized that whether it's nonsense or not, Mercury's not retrograde that much of the time and if I notice it when people are miscommunicating, well, that just is what(when?) it is.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sentence of the Day, Social Justice Edition

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." — A friend of mine in her role as a panelist at a social justice forum yesterday. It's not original to her, but boy howdy, did it resonate in that context

Monday, December 8, 2014

Shaming Santa

WARNING: This post is inappropriate for younger readers. Younger readers, if you read past this point, you may find things you do not want to find.

OK, so I'm just going to admit it.

I don't understand what's supposed to be happening in the world of the song, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Like, does the kid think she's caught her mother cheating with Santa, but really, it's her dad dressed up as Santa, so, adorable? If so, why would parents go to the length of dressing up for their sneaky kid only to break the magic by making out?

Or in the song, is Santa real, and the kid has actually caught her mother cheating with Santa?

Or is someone else dressed up as Santa?

In any case, why does the kid think it would have been a laugh if her father had only seen?

Is the context putting presents under the tree? Or some kind of grown-up party the kid's supposed to be in bed for?

Does kissing Santa not count, because he's Santa?

Or does kissing under the mistletoe not count, because it's festive? This is the only explanation that makes any sense to me at all, though even there, the tickling is just weird, right?

Maybe Mommy and Daddy and Santa are in some form of polyamorous relationship, which everyone's fine with, but then why's the kid making such a big deal out of it?

Seriously, this song has troubled me literally since I still believed in Santa, and I haven't figured out anything that makes it less troubling since. Fortunately, I mostly forget it exists. But once I hear it once (and I did, Saturday, in a nail salon), it's enough of an earworm that it bugs me for weeks. If any of you folks has anything that can resolve this, I'd welcome it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Errand Grrrl

We haven't talked a lot about the advantages of living in a small city, over the other kinds of places I've lived in: small towns and big cities and even medium-urban non-city census-designated place counties.

But here it is.
At 12:58 p.m., I was pulling my car out of the work parking lot.

I then:
  • Drove to the bank
  • Parked
  • Went into the bank
  • Endorsed two checks
  • Deposited them
  • Drove to the library (narrowly avoiding hitting RI's step-grandmother as I went)
  • Parked
  • Went into the library
  • Applied for and received a library card*
  • Found the book I wanted
  • Checked it out
  • Drove to the dry-cleaner
  • Parked
  • Dropped off a comforter for cleaning
  • Walked to the fish market
  • Bought lunch
  • Drove back to the work parking lot
  • Parked
  • Walked back into my building and up the stairs to my office.

At 1:29 p.m., I was sitting at my desk, eating phenomenal seafood chowder and writing this post.

Thirty-one minutes, friends.

*I already had a college library card, which lets me take books out of either library. Today, I decided it was high time I had an actual city library card.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mirror, mirror

This may feel duplicative; it's for sure related to my last post. But here's the thing about these gratitude posts: Increasingly, public expressions of gratitude make me feel conflicted.

I think it's important to express gratitude to the people or entities to whom you feel that gratitude. I do that lots of ways: I give money to important nonprofits, I continue to patronize businesses that serve me, I pray, I say, "thank you," for kindnesses small and large.

But writing about the things for which I, specifically, am thankful increasingly feels boastful or tone-deaf or maybe both. For every blessing I have, and for which I am truly thankful, there are others — including others who read this — who are suffering for its lack. Right?

Except, I don't know. Conversations about gratitude also feel important to me. But maybe they can be just that — discussions about gratitude and its expression — without being laundry lists of all the great stuff I have. I suppose I have 11 months to think about it.

Any thoughts from you?

Day 30 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for opportunities at introspection, for time for reflection, and for the folks who contribute to that kind of thinking.

Fair enough

"It's not fair," we whine, and if we have a certain kind of parent, they reply, "life isn't fair."

And they're right, and we know it, and so what? That doesn't change the fact that we want a thing we can't have in that moment, and probably our sibling does, or something.

But here's the thing: It is much easier to think about how unfair life is when it seems unfair in a way we don't like. I, for one, forget about how often it is unfair in ways that benefit us, in big-picture (race, class, sex, ability, gender, straight...) privilege ways, in small-picture found-a-dollar-on-the-street ways, and in thousands of medium ways.

I mean, life's not fair in any direction, right? And it is for sure less good-fair, overall, to lots of people than it is to me.

Day 29 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for the occasional ability to be mindful of times that life is unfair in my favor, for chances to use that to make life a little fairer for someone else, for chances to let that awareness offset the times my life is unfair in ways I dislike.

Six at one blow

I've already written the last two posts of the month, and have decided to give up on this particular month of gratitude at midnight, so this is the last post I'll write, and it'll just be a bulleted list of things to cover days 23-28.

I am thankful for:
  • My family and their support
  • Leftovers
  • Stories
  • Pie for breakfast
  • Snow days
  • A few days without college students in this college town


The day before Thanksgiving, we hand a biggish snowstorm up here — big enough that my boss sent me home at noon.

I lost electricity for a couple of hours in the afternoon and a few more in the evening. RI and I hauled the mattress off my bed and moved it into the living room, where we were able to keep a fire going and read to each other by flashlight.

Day 22 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for electricity, for the people who work hard to ensure that I have it nearly without thinking of it, and for alternatives on the rare occasions when I don't.

This must be the place

Last night, the local one-screen theater showed Stop Making Sense, a thirty-year-old concert movie I went to with a bunch of younger-than-I friends. I've loved the Talking Heads for a long time, but it was my first time seeing the film, and it was incredible. I love the friends I was with, of course, and it was fun being with them.

But it was amazing watching the people my age (43) or a little older, including many of my friends from around town, including state and local politicians, including business leaders and freelance writers and RI's relatives. Those were the folks who were out of their seats, dancing down front, whirling and waving their (OK, fine, our) arms like it was 1984.

Day 21 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for nostalgia, for chances to be or even just remember who we were. I'm also thankful for giant suits, though I understand not everyone will agree.



The beauty of life on the internet is that there are nearly limitless jokes at one's disposal, including ones that are silly, funny, inoffensive. Here is my recent favorite, though I'd be very glad if any of you wanted to share one of your own.

"I invented this new word: Plagiarism."


Day 20 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for humor, as it gets us through days and makes us giggle.

None of your business

So, long-time readers (it's been more than seven years now, if you can believe it) will recall that I started this blog largely to keep my D.C. friends posted on what's happening in my life up here in the country.

Some of those D.C. friends will also recall that I left with promises of frequent returns, and for a while, I was returning, at least sort of frequently. But now it's been just shy of two years. That is too long.

Day 19 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for a surprise invitation issued by a former boss, which is giving me the opportunity to return to my old coworkers (and still dear friends) for a whirlwind weekend next weekend. I am thankful for a workplace that built friendships I still care to return to. And I am thankful for old coworkers who have often been better than I at maintaining those dear friendships. See you Friday, WBJ.

Luck of the drawing

Last Sunday, RI and I met April and her family for a trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

I guess this is a short post; just, if you're local enough to Amherst, MA, you should check that place out. Current exhibits celebrate Harriet the Spy at 50 and Madeleine at 75.

Day 18 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for just about everything about that day. I am thankful for friends who've known me 25 years and still want to get together, even as lives and interests change. I am thankful for their kids, who accept me as part of their lives and share their own lives and interests with me. I am thankful for museums, for places I can explore the truly magical or priceless. I am thankful for books, for the same reasons I'm thankful for museums. I am thankful for chances to make art myself, for color and observation. I'm thankful for the spirit and strength of both Madeleine and Harriet — and for the influence they've had over my life for four decades. I'm thankful for a partner who's willing to spend his one day off engaging in all that with me — more than willing, I'm thankful for a partner who is as excited as I am by all of that.

I can breathe in a small town

So about that fundraiser last Saturday.

It was for Green Mountain Crossroads, which is an organization I love and support, and which organization has also given me so much. And I am bad at asking for money, and did it poorly the other night, but I'm going to do it poorly here, too, because it matters to me, a lot. One thing that made it easier the other night was that I was talking to such a great and mixed group: rural queers, GMC volunteers, beloved allies. Oh, hey. That's a group not unlike you people.

Even before he started the "It Gets Better" project, sex advice columnist Dan Savage talked a lot to young LGBTQ people about how their lives would be better once they got old enough to leave their small towns and go to a city where they'd find more people like them. For some people, that is no doubt good and even life-saving advice.

But: I tried that.

I moved to a city in my 20s for many reasons, in part to find more queers. And... I didn't succeed. I found a handful of wonderful gay men, and eventually I found a closeted girlfriend. As much as I love (in some cases, still do love) that tiny handful of people, they weren't a big community of queers. They were great friends, but they weren't a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. Those individuals had my back and helped make my life fun and richer, but they weren't a network of support.

Those things, I found (eventually) when I moved back to a rural place, thanks in no small part to Green Mountain Crossroads and its predecessor organization.

That is what GMC does: It supports and uplifts rural queers. Some of that is community-building, in dances and social events. Some of that is support-type support, in a confidential queer-and-questioning youth group and a monthly trans pot luck and discussion and a local group for LGBTQ people with disabilities. Some of that is political organizing and leadership training and consulting with businesses and healthcare providers who want to be more queer-friendly*.

GMC is doing all that with the help of some dedicated volunteers and one part-time employee. We want to do even more.

Day 17 of our month of gratitude: I am so, so thankful for the work of Green Mountain Crossroads and other organizations like it, and I am very thankful for the folks who've supported GMC's current fundraising push. Want to be one of those people? The donate button's here. Small monthly gifts make even more of a difference, and you can set that up online, too.

*Helpful hint: If your business has bathrooms, and if they are single-person bathrooms, and if they currently have gendered signs on the doors, take those signs off, for starters. It just makes everyone's life easier and involves literally no commitment to the cause.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ice box, baby

This weekend, I had a little fundraiser at my house for a cause that's important to me. You'll hear more about that (and about some of my other weekend activities) later.

Sometimes, though, you're filled with a gratitude so immediate, so urgent, you just have to get it out.

Day 16 of our month of gratitude: Tonight, I'm thankful for leftover icebox cake. I can't imagine why there is or ever would be such a thing as leftover icebox cake, but there is, and for that, I'm thankful.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Quiet... too quiet.

Today's guest post is from my friend Calvin, who usually blogs in poetry and who tried (as I did) to use a bunch of hovertext in this piece, only to discover that you can code it right all you want; Blogger will just break your coding. Stupid Blogger. So, basically, if you see a term that looks like a link, hover on it. If you get some explanatory text, don't bother to click through because you'll just get an error message. If you don't, you can click through if you want — I think the only real links are on Cal's blog above, on "Dark Matter," and on the tweeted image. I think. Good luck, readers.

Earlier this month, I went to a gender conference, and it was OK.

The best part was the keynote, DarkMatter—a trans, South Asian performance/activist duo—who did a set at the close of the day that left us all awkwardly moaning for more. They tore apart Dan Savage and marriage equality and Harry Potter's white tears, and Alok's dress was covered in eyeballs!

The other best part was something I was afraid might be the worst part. I almost didn't go to the transmasculine caucus. I usually don't try to be around a bunch of other transmasculine people because...well...transmasc people say some entitled, misogynist, self-involved shit. Just like cis men! (Gasp.) But a friend who I was at the conference with reminded me that we have a responsibility to be in those spaces and interrupt the sense of entitlement that creeps in with masculine privilege, so we went.

And right away my angst melted a little because there were so many earnest-looking babies in the room. The conversation did, inevitably, meander into some "our monolithic trans male [sic] experience is way unique and important" territory, but there were quite a few folks in attendance who were able to bring some other perspectives. And then a thing happened where I realized I just rode in a car 150 miles one way to find out my dear friend and close neighbor is the smartest person ever.

One person was talking about being gendered by strangers on the street and hearing "ma'am" or "sir" and how the experience of being read consistently as male just makes things a lot quieter for him. And I'm all nodding and imagining how nice that would be, and then my friend goes, "And what do we do with that quiet?"

Glitter bombs have been going off in my head ever since, about the value (for me) of discomfort, of tension, of noise, the purpose that not passing can serve. For some, passing is a choice, and for some it is not, and for some it's a privilege, and sometimes that quiet can serve us well, and sometimes I think it's the noise that's going to ever change anything, if we can listen to it instead of run from it.

Poem of Gratitude for Noisy Times

Let me catch my breath,
Figure some shit out, and then
Come on, bring the noise.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Thousand Points of Lights & Sirens

Today's guest post is by my friend Mike, who is very good to have around in an emergency, whether grammatical or medical. Also, if you're looking for CPR training in the D.C. area, check out Takoma Park CPR.

Last night, closing in on 13 years as an EMT with my local volunteer fire department, I responded to my 1,000th 911 call. That is not, in my neck of the woods, a big deal – we have volunteers who run more than 800 calls per year. Still, it’s a nice round number that triggers some reflection. While I’m not claiming any sort of trophy, I will take the excuse for an Oscar speech. I’m grateful to:
  • Everyone who calls 911, for themselves or someone else. Either it’s a no-brainer obvious emergency, which requires somebody to stay calm and act decisively, or you’re not quite sure whether it’s the right thing to do. In those cases, it’s the right thing to do, and calling sooner leads to better outcomes. We like that.
  • The taxpayers, seriously, and donors — people who have hard choices to make about spending, and who recognize the value of well-trained, well-equipped emergency responders and of well-trained instructors at a well-equipped academy to teach us how to do what we do.
  • Each of the 149 EMTs and medics (yes, I counted) with whom I’ve responded — mentors, peers, proteges, volunteer and career. No one does this stuff alone. Dispatchers, too, though I don’t know most of your names or faces.
  • The seven chief officers I’ve served under. Nobody in the world has your back quite like your fire chief, and nobody gives more to your community. You have no idea.
  • Everyone who has trained and mentored me, and everyone who has come to me for training and mentoring. If I’m keeping the right attitude over the years, neither of those groups will ever be much bigger than the other.
  • Everyone who’s on duty when I’m not, because I’ve needed you, and my loved ones have needed you, not just in theory. Everyone who steps up to give some time and energy back to the community — as a volunteer or as one of the “paid” responders who can’t possibly be paid enough for the 24-hour shifts away from their families, the risks inherent in their work, the stress and burnout and politics that can take all the fun out of helping people. Thank you all for being there.
  • My local hospitals, ’cuz I’d feel pretty stupid bringing all these prehospital resources to people in distress and then taking those people somewhere less than reassuring.
  • Heather. My first firehouse mentor, Master Firefighter Tom Horne, likes to say that his wife refers to the fire department as “the other woman.” My wife, compared to whom there is no other woman, has been my first and steadiest moral support since I first applied to join the fire department, which was before we were even dating.
  • And you, bzzzzgrrrl, who did this stuff long ago and persuaded me that I could too.

Nobody is born knowing how to respond to medical emergencies or put out fires. It takes a commitment of time, but mostly, it takes training and training and training and training and training. I’m grateful for the opportunity to soak up that training, put it to use, and pass it on.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Boy howdy

Yesterday marked 18 months since RI and I first started dating. Our anniversary gift to you: pronouns.

He, him, his.

I haven't used any pronouns for RI here before now because when I first told you about him, he was out to me but not to everyone as transgender. But now, he's "he" to everyone in his real life and on Facebook, his legal name has changed — I could keep not using pronouns, but I know your brain fills them in anyway, depending on some cocktail of who you are, what you know or assume about me, and what you know or assume about him.

Everything else you know about him is still true. He's still wonderful and magical and sweet and funny and a good bowler and hasn't seen Moonlighting (but has now heard of it, thank goodness). But, yeah. Eighteen months. He, him, his.

Day 13 of our month of gratitude: I am so thankful to have RI in my life, neither despite nor because of his gender. I love our journey together, love all the laughter and hugging and playfulness and support — and learning and exploration, of many kinds, together and individually.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Even in Australia

This morning I fell down some slick stairs with a bunch of things and left my wallet and my book for book club at RI's house and my foot and hand still hurt from falling even though it was 10 hours ago and I hit myself in the face with my car door and I don't have any groceries in the house and my meeting went late and...

Day 12 of our month of gratitude: Today, I am firmly set on somehow being thankful for warm places to sleep, a wallet that enables me to buy things, my book club, fully functional (if sore) limbs, a car, the general ability to replenish groceries, and work. Forgive me if I grumble a little anyway.

How's your day?

Friday, November 14, 2014

I never promised you

Someone shared a thing on the internet today that said "REDHEADS are God's way of giving the world ROSES."

My reaction to that was not:
  • To think of the many redheads I know and love, and smile
  • To be delighted that the person who shared that has such a sweet way of thinking of her great-grandson
  • To be glad that an infinite and wonderful God, in whom I believe, has so many ways of expression.

No, my reaction to that was to think, "Aren't roses God's way of giving the world roses?"

What the hell is wrong with me?

Day 11 of our month of gratitude: I am so thankful not everyone is as cynical and snarky as I am. People's lovely thoughts are, in fact, lovely thoughts, and I am glad people are having them.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Getting mugged

Do you even KNOW that it's possible to make really delicious brownies from scratch quickly and in the microwave and in a coffee mug?

So, as you may recall, last night I got home with my delicious salad and enjoyed it very much, and then I was chatting with a friend online about other magical things and it occurred to me that I would like something sweet. And so I said, said I, to my friend, "I am going to make a microwave brownie in a mug, because I LOVE them. It just fascinates me that you can make a good baked thing from scratch in a mug in the microwave."

And he replied, "It seems like an accident, or an anomaly, or both."

And I said, "It does, or a miracle — but then I'm a person of faith."

Day 10 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for the tiny miracles of science — of combinations and temperature and things that melt in your mouth in three minutes.

What's that? You want a recipe? You got it. Those of you who are sticklers for accuracy in baking, be warned: It's more like frostingless chocolate cake than it is like a brownie. Who the hell cares? It's delicious.


Today's guest post is by my college roommate, April, who's way better at walking than a two-year-old.

One of the sad truths that I've come to accept over the years is that I pretty much suck at all sports. The worst day of the school year for me was always the day we had to take the New York State Physical Fitness Test, a component of which was doing squat thrusts until your arms and legs forgot that they were attached to your brain and splayed out wildly, causing you to collapse on the floor. At least, that's what always happened to me.

There were no tennis courts in the town where I grew up, and I held out hope that tennis was my sport until I got to college, signed up for tennis lessons, and discovered that it was, in fact, not. I can swim well enough to save myself if I should happen to fall out of a boat, but it's not pretty.

I am good at walking. I can walk for a long time, for long distances, at a decent pace, even up hills (we like to call that “hiking”). And so, I had sort of made peace with the fact that my physical activity of choice was always going to be one at which many two-year-olds are also competent.

Then I tried yoga.

I love very many things about yoga. I love that the walls of the studio where I practice are painted the exact color of Chobani key lime yogurt. I love that the part of each class that my instructors insist is the most important involves lying on the floor and being completely relaxed, often with a lavender sachet over one's eyes. I love that we all laugh together when someone falls out of tree pose or the teacher mixes up her right and her left. I love that yoga requires me to attempt, over and over again, to clear my mind of whatever concerns, lists or ideas might be bopping around in there and simply be present. “Tell your thoughts to sit at the edges of your mind and behave themselves,” one of my instructors says. I love that.

Now, lest you get the impression that the reason yoga is a great physical activity for me is that it's not actually very physical, here are some other things I love about it. I love that almost every class uses some muscle I didn't realize I had. I love how the poses send blood flowing through all my muscles and organs and leave me feeling awake and exhilarated and, against all odds, graceful. I love that I can now get up out of bed without my back hurting and climb stairs without knee pain. I love that it's looking like I may learn to do a handstand at age 44.

Maybe the coolest thing about yoga for me is that it's communal, yet totally individual. It's about finding your own edge and pushing it just a little. It's about paying enough attention to your body to know when it's time to come down into child's pose. It's about learning to recognize the quiet space inside. And it's always just practice. The person in class for the first time is practicing; the instructor is practicing; the crazy people with their legs wrapped around their necks in Yoga Journal are practicing.

I'm thankful that yoga helps me care for my whole self, that it's changed the way I perceive my body, that it's always just practice, never a big game, and that I no longer have to demonstrate my physical fitness (or lack thereof) in front of thirty of my peers.

Salad days

Today was not a great day.

It wasn't a horrible day, nothing went catastrophically wrong, no one was hurt. But there were obstacles and missed calls and worry about deadlines — that kind of thing. When I left work at 8:05, I'd already been looking forward to dinner for hours — Wednesday is salad special day at the place that has my favorite salad, and it's so cheap and so delicious, I was sure it would salvage my grumbly mood. So I called on my way out the door.

"Hi, can I place an order to pick up?"
"Um... I'm sorry, but we close at 8:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays now."
"But — My salad station is still set up."
"Really? A salad is all I want." (Note: I might have said that with a little more desperation than is appropriate.)
"OK, and this is [my real name]?"
Stunned silence. "Um..."
"Oh, sorry, we have Caller ID now, too. What can I get for you?"
"Can you do half a Cobb salad with chicken?"
"Sure, I can do that. That'll be ready in about ten minutes."

And when I arrived there was a perfect salad waiting for me, and cheerful people happy to sell it to me, even after they were closed, even at a greatly reduced price. I left an enormous tip and was on my way, very much cheered up.

Also: That was only the first of two excellent food experiences I had this evening, but the other will wait for another post.

Day 8 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for great customer service, for people who are willing to go a little out of their way for me, for opportunities to think about how I could do the same for others, customer or not. And for really, really delicious salads. I love salad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


This is a selfish, selfish, selfish one.

I do understand the reason for the season, as it were, and I do honor veterans, for reasons both similar and dissimilar to Heidi's.

But also.

RI works and/or has school six days a week. The seventh day, we often-but-not-always get to spend together, and the last few weeks, we've had a lot of stuff happening on those seventh days: an extra day of training for RI, a high school reunion for me, a writing workshop for RI, a board retreat for me.

Today, thanks to veterans everywhere and the armistice ending World War I, we had time sleep late, to run errands, to have breakfast together, to spend some time individually connecting with family on the phone and together playing games. We spent some time outside in the beautiful weather and some time just hanging out indoors — some time in serious necessary conversation and some time laughing and some time writing. We had a whole extra glorious day.

Day 7 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for time to rest and time to spend with people I love, and double-thankful for time to rest with people I love.

Who It's About

Today's guest post is from my good friend and occasional commenter Heidi. There's more from Heidi on Twitter: @queerminister.

Anyone else want to get in on the guest-posting fun? Let me know.

Veterans Day is kind of a big deal at my house. This is a new thing for me.

I didn’t grow up in a military or government family (although my Mom’s oldest brother served in Vietnam). I did however marry into a military and government family. Have you seen that movie Meet the Parents? My father-in-law is Robert DeNiro’s character in that movie. People think I’m kidding until they meet him. Then, they discover that I’m not. He’s kind of a gruff, rough around the edges dude on first meeting. He has however discovered that I will bring him his favorite alcohol when I visit, and cook him requested dinners, so I’m in the circle of trust now. That works out well for me.

My father-in-law is also a veteran and retired from the United States government, having served overseas for much of his professional life. My mother-in-law is former government. My sister-in-law is a military wife. My partner’s grandfather was career military. The well runs deep.

It was a little bit of a treat for me to marry into the family. I love my country (a lot) despite all of its faults. I own a scarf in the design of the American flag. I sob my way through the National Anthem and patriotic songs fairly regularly. I still feel awed every time I go into a voting booth. You get the drift. But it’s not totally “PC” in my circles to love America as much as I do.

I’m a queer person, and a liberal, Christian minister. My circles are often full of people who are not only pacifist (which I am too), but deeply anti-war and anti-military. I get a lot of side eye from radical queers when I trot out the flag scarf, or excitedly discuss our 4th of July plans.

And I get it. I really do. I understand the frustration with war that seems endless and exhausting. I share it. I understand that people don’t know what to make of our intelligence work when the NSA is all over the news spying on people in inappropriate ways. I get that the military industrial complex is a real thing.

But here’s what else I know.

I know that my best friend from seminary (a military chaplain and officer herself) is facing her first Veteran’s Day with her husband deployed overseas. She is one of the strongest people I know.

I know that my friend M weathered 6 months of her wife’s deployment under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with almost none of the benefits straight couples get at that time. Someone else was going to get the phone call first if her wife was killed in combat.

I know that my friend C has served 2 tours of duty in Kuwait and Afghanistan, her most recent alongside her father. People at a conference gathering for our denomination actively avoided her mom under the guise of pacifism while both her daughter and husband were at war.

I could go on and on with stories. But I’ll end with this. Today is Veteran’s Day. It’s not about you, or me, or our politics — unless you're a veteran. Today it’s about gratitude, and saying thanks.

Oh, and for the record? I’ve never met anyone as pro-peace as a veteran.

Day 6 of gratitude: Today, I am thankful for our military personnel, our veterans, and their families. I am grateful for their commitment to serve a country who often does not care for them as we should, and the sacrifices they make. I am even thankful for my sometimes cranky, always entertaining father-in-law, and the fact he does not own a polygraph machine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Unexpect the Expected

Sometimes, Netflix suggests something to me that seems racist, horribly violent in the ways I dislike, or that I will otherwise obviously hate.

Easy. I don't watch those things.

Sometimes, Netflix suggests something that seems fantastic.

Easy. I do watch those things.

And sometimes, Netflix suggests things that seem so random and boring that I assume there must be more to them — there must be a real story that I will, somehow connect to.

Usually, that's accurate. Sometimes, it's really, really not.

Related: You can probably skip Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony. That subtitle is inaccurate. If the film is an accurate depiction of the adult fandom of My Little Pony, they are entirely expected. Don't get me wrong, I don't judge them for it, but there are no big shocks.

Although: If you were going to watch it anyway, and you are a viewer of Bob's Burgers, I really recommend watching it before watching "The Equestranauts" (Season 4, Episode 17). I understand that it is not generally worth it to watch a 90-minute boring documentary for slightly enhanced enjoyment of a 21-minute cartoon.

Day 5 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for the sheer quantity of entertainment available to me, any time, in so so many media. For movies and television shows and books and the internet and newspapers and magazines and music — for those that elevate and those that amuse.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hear me roar

A while back, someone I know who is definitely on the line between "acquaintance" and "friend" said she was starting a feminist book club. And I got immediately excited about the idea. Like, disproportionately excited.

And in thinking about why, I think it's that I miss, in some ways, having a community of women. I have plenty of women friends, of course, some of you among them — but I don't have (I thought) a women-specific community of women. I've had them before, eschewed them before, and finally settled on just listening to my own excitement, got the audio book, and listened to The Round House as I did a lot of driving around a few weekends ago.

Book club itself was great. Next time, we're reading Kate Chopin's The Awakening, and I'm pretty excited — not just because one of the other members of the group is a bona fide rock star and published author of a book I love. For a bunch of white women in a feminist book club in Vermont, we're pretty diverse, and the thoughts shared sparked new thoughts, and basically it was all very nice.

Then this week, I went to therapy. It's not a big deal; I'm usually in therapy. I like therapy, a lot, actually. But about a year ago, my therapist pulled together a group to do group therapy, all women, varying ages and orientations, and we get together and do therapy (which often involves more movement or psychodrama or whatever, rather than just talking) every other week.

But it is maybe not coincidence that I was missing a community of women during the period that my therapy group went nearly two months without a meeting.

And last night, to settle back in, we just talked — no movement, no psychodrama. And very quickly, it felt like what I like to hope feminist consciousness-raising groups were like. It was amazing, the points of commonality, the nods and gasps as we became increasingly aware of how alike so much of our baggage is.

Earlier in the day, I'd had a longer-than-expected dental appointment, because my hygienist and I are friends, and we needed to talk about politics and her kids and my teeth. As I left, she'd said, "We need to get together," and I knew she meant the two of us and the mutual friend who introduced us, and again, I was immediately and disproportionately excited.

Day 4 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for communities of women, the more inclusive*, the better. I am thankful for opportunities to talk about similarities and differences of experience, about socialization and its impact. I am thankful for quilting bees and daycare collectives and dental chairs and book clubs and my suite in my college dorm.

*It occurred to me late that I should be specific here. I mean, inclusive of people who identify as women, specifically including people with different body parts, ages, classes, races, family backgrounds, ideologies, abilities, and experiences. 

Bubble, bubble

And already we're playing catch-up. A lot of catch-up.

Last night, a friend asked about hidden talents: "What are your hidden talents (skills and abilities people would not normally associate with your employment history - e.g. a high school math teacher who is a trophy-winning race car driver - or social background - e.g. an American of Italian descent who is fluent in Xhosa)?"

I thought it was a fun question, so I played along, and posed the question on my own Facebook, and read lots of other people's fun answers.

My answer, at the time, was thus: "I'm not sure I have any real skills that people would find surprising, but I am competent at a bunch of things people seem to find surprising. Like, I'm a slightly better than average bowler. I'm a county-fair-honorable-mention-level jam maker. I can run a light board adequately (which is probably less surprising to college friends than to people who've met me since then). I am stronger than it seems like I should be, a little."

But I think I might have a better one, as of my morning-shower-thinking-session. I think they didn't occur to me because most people would not necessarily regard them as skills or talents, but I for real do: My queerness and my capacity for radicalism and my faith. All three of those things seem to surprise people about me, but they are, like, a lot of who I am and a lot of what I do. So, yeah. I'm going with that.

(Also, perhaps obviously, I am interested in hearing more both about your own hidden talents and about what you think mine are.)

Day 3 of our* month of gratitude: I am thankful for what simmers beneath the surface, in myself and in those around me.**

*Still open to hearing from those who'd like to contribute. Please.
**Wait. Is simmering a thing that can happen beneath the surface, in a literal sense? Isn't simmering about the whole temperature of the whole thing?***
***Also a hidden talent: Literalism, and, therefore, metaphor.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Home shopping

One night last week, I sent the following sequence of messages to RI:
i know you're already asleep
but i need you to have this information
on qvc, they have a line of what appear to be knock-off uggs
you would think uggs is the worst name for a thing
but these boots are called lamo
they pronounce it to rhyme with "camo," but i think we all know better 

Several days before that, I sent this sequence of messages to RI:
they are selling a fragrance on qvc
Day 2 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful to have found QVC on my Roku after many years without cable, and to have a partner in this world who is capable of at least feigning amusement at the things that surprise or delight or amuse me.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Oh, look! It's November again. And one reader loooooooves the Month of Gratitude, so I'm doing it again.

Here's a thing about me that many people who know me well do not know about me: I am terrified, like, total-panic-level terrified, of Doing It Wrong.

That is true for almost any It I do over the course of a day or a lifetime:

  • doing my job
  • getting dressed
  • accessorizing
  • being a friend
  • being a girlfriend
  • dancing
  • singing
  • stage management
  • staying in touch
  • eating
  • dental hygiene
  • feminism
  • antiracism
  • telling a joke
  • cooking for people
  • playing pool
  • coordinating an event
  • having people over
  • blogging

Some of you will want to reassure me that I don't do at least some of those Its wrong, because you like the way I do them. That is sweet, but not really the point.

Of course I'm good at some (many) of those things. I don't do a lot of them unless I'm nearly certain I can do them right. And even still, I screw up sometimes.

The most liberating thing a former colleague ever said to me was, "Sometimes, done is good." I don't put that advice into practice very often, but when I do, it is always, always a relief.

All of that by way of saying, some of why you don't get very many blog posts from me is that I am really really, often, afraid of Doing It Wrong — of not being funny or clever enough, of offending someone or making space for someone else to offend someone. And here is where I should say, "but I'm over all that. If people get offended, that's their problem. Maybe they needed to be offended." But I won't, because actually, I think concern for that kind of thing is one of my pretty good qualities, even if it is the flip side of one of the qualities that gets in my way most.

Day 1 of our month of gratitude: I am thankful for friends and readers who are not usually as hard on me as I am on myself. I'd also be super, super thankful if any of those friends or readers wanted to write a guest post this month, à la last year.

Note: Lest any of you start worrying that I apply the same standards to others that I do to myself, I don't. First, I am too busy worrying about me to worry about you. Mostly. Second, if you're in my life, it's probably because you do at least one thing very well that I wish I could do so well. Nearly all of my friends share that. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giving out

Apparently, today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Giving Tree, a book about which many people (including myself) have strong feelings. 

I will admit that my take on this much-beloved/much-loathed parable is maybe a little skewed by the fact that I first encountered it as a young adult, rather than as a child.

So... what's yours? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent? Can't believe anyone gives it this much thought? Also: why?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I recently read an internet comment (I know, never read the comments...) in which someone suggested that a relationship between a forty-something and a twenty-something is, if not doomed, then probably shallow, because what would they find to talk about? It is not the first time I have heard this suggestion.

I am 43.

RI is 28.

Also, the last two people I dated were 18 years older and 13 years younger than I. I have a little expertise here.

In case there are those who literally wonder what people with a more-than-ten-year age gap find to talk about, and who are not merely pearl-clutching as an accessory to judgement, I offer a partial list from my current relationship (list may skew to the recently-discussed):

  • Our days
  • Our jobs
  • Our volunteer work
  • Bowling
  • Laundry
  • Sleep
  • Politics, local
  • Politics, national
  • Politics, identity
  • Religion
  • The Office
  • Other TV shows
  • The Ramones
  • Other music
  • Movies
  • Playing games (card or board, not mental or emotional)
  • Our respective childhoods
  • How we feel about each other
  • How we feel about ourselves
  • How we feel about other things
  • Our friends
  • Our families
  • Our schedules
  • Social inequalities
  • The future
  • What we're having for dinner
  • What to do with so much kale
  • Money
  • Sex
  • Our deepest values, and how attached we really are to them
  • Our health
  • If this outfit looks OK
  • Yard saling
  • Prison
  • Stuff we read on the internet
  • Stuff we read in books
  • Jokes, heard or read somewhere
  • Jokes, inside
  • Jokes, nonsensical
So, yeah, kind of a lot of what we talk about is pretty surface level. And also, some of it is not — and I am not sure it is always possible to tell which, nor am I sure it always matters.

I can't speak for RI, but I'm pretty happy with the balance.

What do other people find to talk about?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Good to the last drop

Lisa's not the only one who can take a picture of a mug. Mug provided by bzh.

Welcome, Polka Dot Cottage readers! There should be some new stuff here soon, but it'll be about Plattsburgh, NY, so if you want to get up to speed around here, may I recommend you start with The Plattsburgh Saga from nearly three years ago? (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) To get a feel for the rest of what I write, click around on the labels over there in the left rail, according to your interests.

Regular readers, hey there! A much more popular blogger than I (who is also my old friend) featured me on her blog this morning! She writes all kinds of useful/interesting/fun things, and today, she posted an interview with me! Grab a cup of coffee and get to know your blogger better. I will be drinking iced tea. Or lemonade. Probably an Arnold Palmer, because I'm indecisive like that. But I don't drink coffee. That was a bonus fact for those of you who actually read CMC, whether newly today or all the time.

(Also, today is RI's birthday. Happy birthday, RI!)