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Day 314 of Project 365: Wonder Hummus

I was skeptical about this hummus-crusted chicken recipe, but it was wonderful. Instead of making my own, I used a small pot of jalapeño and red pepper hummus, which added a nice kick and complemented the caesar salad too. Experimenting with this basic idea will be fun.

Day 314 of Project 365: Wonder Hummus

gratitude: visiting two different libraries today · the first pumpkin spice latte of the season · Torgi’s checkup bearing positive news

grateful for bad jokes

So this mushroom walks into a bar, sits down on a stool, and orders a martini.  The bartender looks at him and says, “Sorry, we don’t serve your kind in here.”  The mushroom looks up at the bartender and says, “Why not? I’m a fungi!”
That is one of my favorite bad jokes, although I am pretty fond of just about every bad joke I have ever heard.  I don’t know why this is, and I don’t question it.  I just laugh.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for manners

All I ask is for a simple “please” and “thank you”.  That is all I ask.

Okay, that isn’t true.  I ask for a lot more than that.  I ask for turn signals and “pardon me” and eye contact and door-holding (from any gender, for any gender) and all of the tiny ways in which we communicate to each other that we know our own priorities are not the only priorities in the world, that we know our lives are very small and our concerns for the most part petty, that getting anywhere on time is not worth anyone else’s life, and that a genuine smile makes someone else’s day suck a little less.

Thank you to those of you who make the effort.  I notice, and I am so grateful to you.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for nightmares

Initially, this entry was about dreams, but most of my dreams are neither terribly interesting nor helpful. My nightmares are usually both.  Granted, I do not look forward to having nightmares, but I often learn something about myself from them.  Sometimes I don’t learn that something until I have related the plot and characters to my beloved, who is exceptionally good at sifting through my subconscious.

Most recently, I had a nightmare that meshed coworkers from several different workplaces, a near-accident involving 3 small children playing in the road, and an old friend of mine who didn’t recognize me.  In each chapter of the nightmare, I tried to convince someone of my identity, of my place in the world, or of my story.  In each chapter, I failed.

My least favorite recurring nightmare is something I call “Vanilla Sky” because I “wake up” (while still dreaming) to find that my current life is not my life, but rather some elaborate delusion.  I don’t learn anything about myself from that nightmare except that the movie creeped me out on a soul level.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for pens

The awkwardness of typing about handwriting is not lost on me as I write about writing instruments. While I have always been a fan of the written word, my fascination with fountain pens is only a few years old.  I do not remember how it began, although certainly it was fueled by my penchant for anachronism.  I needed almost no nudge at all to begin collecting beautiful pens that afforded excellent writing experiences.  Since I write most of my first drafts longhand, I have an excuse to continue to collect them.  At least that is what I tell myself.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for scents

This is a strange one to put into words, but at this moment I am enjoying a complex experience of scent.  As I ponder this, it occurs to me that I spend quite a bit of time smelling things or remembering moments of my past via scents.

The scent experience right now is a combination of the fragrance of a pumpkin candle and the pages of a book open in front of me. It has transported me to my little apartment in the Tendernob, right around Christmastime, when my beloved and I first found these particular candles at a bookstore. In my little apartment, I would light the candle and read by it, drifting off with my nose in the book.

It isn’t all charming vignettes, however.  Once I purchased the exact same deodorant brand I used in high school, and what ensued was two months’ worth of mornings bristling with hormone-fueled insecurity.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for the internet

Tonight I am grateful for the Internet, as without it I would not have attended my friends’ wedding today because I wouldn’t have met them. As I am exceedingly poor at distinguishing the subtleties of the theory of causality, I shouldn’t make suppositions like this one: I wouldn’t even be in California were it not for the Internet.

Ah, determinism!

Philosophical concepts aside, I have been blessed with a richness of friendships and careers through the ease of interpersonal connection provided by the Internet, and my life is all the better for it.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for san francisco

Nine years ago, I had no idea what to expect.  I moved to San Francisco, sight unseen, with a tenuous job and a temporary apartment.  Through perseverance and luck, I was able to parlay a series of complications into a stable life in one of the most idyllic places in this country, although that last opinion is firmly in the camp of liberal conjecture.

My relationship with San Francisco has not been without blemish.  I certainly war with the notion of personal freedom winning out over common decency, and I hardly take advantage of some of the city’s more striking features.  (Somehow, my presence at the multitudinous Web 2.0 happy hours, bondage dungeons, and Burning Man fundraisers has not been missed.)  Regardless, I visit her beaches and parks, wander her curious little neighborhoods, and spend each workday in her beating, bleeding heart.  I have come to know her somewhat well, and come to love her.

Yet I am not a native, and will never be.  Those who were born here are rather clear on this fact.  I stopped worrying about it a few years ago when I was gently told that no matter how long I’ve lived here, I am not a San Franciscan.  Most people aren’t.  In such a transient city, no one much cares.  Except I do, because I want to belong to the place I call home.  It might seem like such a silly little care to have, especially since I have been embraced for the time being by such loveliness.

San Francisco, to me, is the beautiful, enthralling, emotionally-distant lover I know I will one day leave, all the while never regretting one second spent in love.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for poetry

Exultant, drunk with the little victories: remembering to bring a homemade muffin only slightly less glorious than right out of the oven, flashing my usually-cloistered bus pass to prove my city citizenship, consolidating paper trails into one gleaming paper superhighway.
The hangover is quick, severe. Blurry comes into focus with a “fuck you bitch” and I am at work. Because this is how it is in the building of books and lost people. We who work here are the serfs, and all the jesters are kings.
— Halsted M. Bernard

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for being alone

This is a subject I have struggled with for most of my life, so it is a challenge to write about it in terms of gratitude.  However, I don’t want this exercise to solely be about enumerating all these fantastic things that anyone would be ridiculous not to want.

Over the years, I have sought out solitude, preferring relationships, friendships, careers and hobbies with a high degree of low maintenance. I have thought of myself as a loner and an introvert, and always questioned my ability to be around anyone else for more than short periods at a time.  “I never have enough alone time” became my psychological motto and mantra.

Some of this is still true, but some things have changed for me internally, and I owe the change in part to living alone last year.  Initially, I was happy to have my own space and my own schedule.  I was also so withdrawn from interaction that I would hyperbolize any communication from the outside world.  “I don’t want to talk on the phone right now” would turn into “I hate you and never want to speak with you again” and “I miss hanging out with you” would turn into “you’re a bad friend and never there for me when I need you” … you get the idea.

To remain sane, I forced myself to do a lot of recalibration, some of which is still taking place, about belief and trust.  I also forced myself to be more social than I had ever been, and discovered that I actually enjoyed it.  Old perceptions of myself were sloughed off, and although I still recharge by staying home instead of going out, I go out twice as much.

Nowadays, I get plenty of alone time all day long; despite working in a building full of people, and commuting on a train full of people, I have remarkably few connections in a usual workday. Information is exchanged, but that’s it. By the time I get home from work, my energy is depleted but I usually don’t want to be alone.  My next recalibration will be adjusting to more alone time than I need without backsliding into old anti-social habits.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for family

This is another one of those topics that, as a younger person, I would have called a “no duh”.  Of course I am grateful for my family! Through luck I am related to a whole bunch of terrific people, especially my parents. (Neither one likes being in photographs, or I would post them here.)  I owe much of who I am to my parents; without their influence, support, and genetics, I (or at least the “I” I know of as myself) would not exist.

My parents are very different people, but they have some key similiarities.  Both are extremely intelligent, charming, and interesting. Both are college professors. Both are good advisors and listeners.  And, despite friction between us at times, both have committed to having mature relationships with me. I simply would not want anyone else as my mom and dad.

Fortunately, I am an only child, so I never have to share them!

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for iPhone

Tonight I am grateful for my iPhone, because not only can I use it as my phone, digital music player, and PDA, I can lounge around in places that are not in front of my computer and use WordPress for iPhone to post entries like this one.

Unfortunately, they are not very long entries.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for travel

I can hardly sit still long enough to write this entry – today FunkyPlaid and I bought our tickets for our trip to Scotland this autumn!  We will be there for just over two weeks, and it will be my first time in Scotland.  FunkyPlaid lived there while he earned his graduate degree in Scottish history, and he has been there many times, so I will have an excellent guide.  My visit to Scotland is also laced with emotional symbolism; FunkyPlaid and I spent two rollercoaster months getting to know each other before he moved to Edinburgh, and I was more than a little envious of his big adventure.  Existing in Edinburgh with him will bring that part of our history full-circle.  It will also be a litmus test to see if I can stand to live there in the future when FunkyPlaid moves back for his doctorate, although truthfully I can stick it out anywhere for a few years.

I am so grateful for the ability to and predilection for travel.  Ever since I was born, my parents instilled in me a great love of seeing new places which has only grown.  Today at a gathering of friends at the Palace of Fine Arts, someone was talking about visiting Zanzibar, and I immediately thrilled at the thought of being there someday myself.  I hope to get to see as many places on my long, long list as possible.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for games

My life would be droll and dreary without games.  Today I am grateful for them because had a marvelous time playing a table-top RPG called Changeling.  I love RPGs, board games, card games, and puzzles.  I am rarely without a crossword or Scrabble puzzle book, and FunkyPlaid and I have become avid geocachers in addition to our World of Warcraft habit hobby.

Frankly, I could be a better game player.  My ego is wrapped up in my gameplay because I am a fast learner but a slow refiner, and if I don’t play as well as I think I should be able to already, I get frustrated and sulky.  I am also fairly horrible at games that require bluffing, but at least I know I’m horrible at those.  Thursday nights are Board Game Nights at Gamescape North, which I try to attend whenever possible in order to expose myself to a wider variety of games and people in the hopes I will lose my ego and let go.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for my job

It isn’t quite what I thought it would be, and some days it is downright taxing, but I am grateful for my job at the library.  I work with an astounding group of people who have shown me limitless generosity and sympathy.  Some of the interactions with the public have been harrowing, but I enjoy helping people find information, especially when I get to learn something in the process.  We have an amazing collection in a remarkable building, and we serve an incredibly diverse population.  When I am not bogged down by the minutiae of management, I am awed by the intricacies of such a grand institution.

On that note, I realize it is hip now for San Franciscan yuppies to lampoon the homelessness problem as it pertains to the main branch of the public library.  I truly pity those of you who do.  Who do you think will suffer from the degradation of libraries and deprofessionalization of librarians, only people not privileged enough to swaddle themselves in overpaid “new media consultant” jobs?  You might be able to order everything you need from Amazon now, until you realize that there is no 1-Click for consistent cultural community.  When the glittering dust clears from the mashups and meetups, the library will still be here.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for books

When I started this exercise, I thought I might have some trouble enumerating all the objects of my gratitude, since I had been so focused on the negative for so long.  Not so!  Today’s entry is another easy one: I am grateful for books.  I love words and stories, paper and ink, the sound of a new book’s spine as it is first opened, the smell of an old book’s pages.  I believe in literacy and libraries, in the power of the written word to inspire and to inflame.  I learned to read when I was 3 years old, and since then it has been my fondest hobby.  It is the greatest luck that I find myself with a career in libraries so I can live my passion every day.

My beloved gave me Iain Banks’ Matter for my birthday, and I have been savoring it in small morsels ever since. Today I am grateful for it keeping me company while I drift in and out of achy sleep.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for my voice

This summer cold has taken away my voice. I went through the day saying almost nothing, whispering when needed.  There were nods and shakes of my head, shrugs, minimal gestures.  Mostly I listened: to other people, to the sounds of children playing next door, to the cats purring, to my own sticky breathing, to my beloved’s quiet singing in the car.

I am always surprised by the sound of my voice on recordings. We sound much lower inside our own heads, which makes perfect acoustic sense but still startles me.  I sound like a little girl; my laugh is bizarre and whooping.  Not-so-secretly I have always wished for a lower, sexier voice, something that prowls around vowels and shudders spines, chuckles that emanate whisky and chocolate.  Today I would just like my own voice back, because I miss it.

One thing I like about my voice is that I sound a lot like my mom. She is a professional actor and voiceover artist, so I don’t sound like her when she’s performing, but many people have told me that they can’t tell our voices apart in casual conversation.  I admire her voice so much that if mine is like hers, it can’t be all bad.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for zen

No, this is not an entry about Buddhism. I am grateful for my not-so-small and not-so-normal cat, Zen. Zen turned 11 this year, which is hard for me to imagine, as it seemed like just yesterday I was adopting a tiny runt with gigantic headlight eyes.

Zen is having a difficult time with the recent move. She has never lived with another cat before, aside from her litter-mates way back when, and I believe her poor eyesight is adding to her insecurity because she cannot track Torgi’s movements very well.  Regardless, our little family persists, and I am hopeful that in a few more months we will all be adjusted to the new living arrangements.

Zen is round like a little football, and still very strange, and she is devoted to me. When I am sad or lost, she is unfailingly comforting. When I am stressed, I have dreams of Zen escaping from car windows or back doors, and I cannot find her.  These are obviously fabrications of my twitchy mind because when Zen escapes in waking life she just crouches down and sniffs until I grab her and drag her back inside.

On the hardwood floors, her little stomps resonate through the quiet house, and I am comforted just knowing she exists.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for health

This morning, I succumbed to the summer cold that’s traipsing around, so it might seem strange to write about being grateful for my health. The fact remains that my health is better than it has been in years, and all because I traced the source of most of my nagging problems to ingesting gluten.  (This is why, for those of you who are starting to read my journal now, I am on a gluten-free diet; it is not a fad diet, but a diet required by an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine called Celiac Disease. Read up on this before lecturing me about how diets are bad for me.)

Despite making such a huge breakthrough recently, I have much more work to go on my health. I need to find a daily exercise regimen that I will stick to, unlike going to the gym or jogging.  I might return to tai chi chuan, as that had the double benefit of improving my fitness as well as my state of mind.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for food

Despite my new gluten-free diet, I still love food. Perhaps I love it more than ever now that I have to be more mindful of it. Tonight I am grateful for the importance of food in my life, and I celebrated it with a homemade meal of pasta (brown rice fusilli) with marinara sauce, and blue lake beans sauteed in pancetta, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil infused with lemon. It took less than an hour to prepare everything, and was utterly worth it. Mind you, I won’t stop loving my curry take-out, but there is something inimitably satisfying about a good homemade meal, especially when shared with appreciative loved ones.

Yum. If I weren’t so stuffed, I’d enjoy another helping right now!

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for music

This topic surprised me. I am trying not to follow any sort of order with these entries, so I sit down at the computer and whatever is top of mind comes out. Yesterday I started playing with the Remote app for my iPhone, which allows me to control iTunes on my iMac over our wireless network. Today I was able to play one of my iTunes playlists in the front-room while entertaining friends. It was such a small but rewarding accomplishment.

I don’t recall being overly interested in music as a child, although I grew up with a father who appreciated classical music and a mother who was a professional vocalist.  There were some piano lessons, drum lessons, and voice lessons, the last of which served to inspire a few different involvements with bands when I was older. I have never had any confidence about my voice, however, despite repeated attempts on my mother’s part to get me to sing along with her.

Regardless of my interest level, there always seemed to be an album or cassette playing in my childhood home.  I was exposed to much more than I knew at the time; the other day I recognized a piece from Satie that could only have been played for me decades ago. Only now do I realize how integral a part of my life music is, how I use it for solace, for refuge, for stimulation, for contemplation.

My favorite band has been They Might Be Giants for many, many years, but I am willing to listen to anything once.  Thankfully, I receive excellent guidance from my music-loving and music-making friends.  One of my favorite things to do with FunkyPlaid is perusing the endless bins at Amoeba, wondering if that next risky purchase is going to contain something that crawls into my brain and stays a while.

While I don’t attend many concerts, I love stumbling upon live music.  Most recently, I heard the Smith Dobson Quartet at the de Young during the Chihuly opening weekend celebrations.  I was utterly transfixed by the melodies, and later purchased a CD online as well as one from Smith’s sister Sasha Dobson, another remarkably talented person.  Since I am horrible at classifying into genres, please take a moment to click their links and listen for yourself.  That reminds me: I always meant to share some of my current favorites via my Muxtape. Perhaps I’ll work on that next!

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for friendship

Simply put: I would not be the person I am without the support and love of my friends. I have been blessed my entire life with excellent friendships.  The only thing I struggle with, friendship-wise, is the occasional feeling of being left out or excluded. This feeling is entirely a fabrication of my fear, as I have no evidence to support it.

Aside from my parents, my longest contiguous friendships are with Adam (22 years) and Lara (16 years).  They each live thousands of miles away, but I know we can pick up right where we leave off, whenever that happens to be.  I also know that we know each other very well, and accept each other for exactly what we are.  I can’t ask for more from a friend.

A difficult lesson I am learning is how to cultivate friendships with a limited amount of free time. I will have to work even harder when I am in graduate school and have even less free time.  Lately I have spent more time fiddling with social software than I have actually being social.  Is that a function of the area or the times, or is it just me coddling my own introversion?

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

grateful for home

Today I am grateful for my home, which is why I retreated to it immediately after work tonight.

My relationship with my home is a bit complex.  All of my life I have struggled with the meaning of home and of belonging. Since I was eleven years old, with each parent in a different state, I have felt ties to more than one place. I seem always to be in a state of geographical flux, which may make moving less difficult for me than for other people. I tend not to identify myself with any one place for very long.

All that said, I am falling in love with my current place of residence.  It is starting to feel like home to me, instead of merely a very nice house in which I happen to reside.  I am beginning to learn its creaks and quirks; I know where the light-switches are in the dark.  It is big and quiet and close to the ocean.  It is cozy and comforting, grounding and centering, and somewhere I enjoy sharing with friends as much as I enjoy hoarding it with my beloved.

(This entry is part of one month of gratitude.)

one month of gratitude

My social software habits have become dreadful. My status updates are usually complaints about work or illness, compiled as an archive of generic distress that makes me cringe. I am not a victim of circumstances, and I want to behave accordingly. To this end, each day this month I will attempt to write about the things in my life for which I am grateful.

Today’s subject is the easiest: I am grateful for FunkyPlaid. Yesterday I felt utterly out of sorts by the time I returned home from work, and he listened to me, talked gently to me, drew me a bath and rubbed my aching, neglected feet. I generally avoid thinking about my feet because they creep me out, but today they creep me out a little less. That’s saying something.

Last night is just an example of how kind and generous he is to me. I could write about only him for the entire month, but it wouldn’t be a challenge. Here’s hoping that the last few days I won’t have to resort to topics like “shampoo” and “sporks made from corn”. (But I really do like them both.)

If you’d like to join me in this month of gratitude, please trackback/pingback so I can read your posts!

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.