Living the Dream

This photo, my friends, is called "Living the Dream," as in you are living the dream when you are able to eat all the homegrown tomatoes you can stuff in your face.

There is really only one way to eat your homegrown tomatoes: Slice them fat. Sprinkle them with a wee bit of salt and pepper. Stop. That's it. You could do more, but why go to all that trouble when they are already perfect.

If you have so many tomatoes that you actually cannot stuff them all in your face you have two choices.

1. Share them with someone who will appreciate them. DO NOT share them with some slob who would be just as happy to eat a grocery store tomato. That sad person does not deserve the heaven that you proffer. Find a true zealot.

2. If it is cook them or toss them, you may cook them. Here is what you do:

Stack in this order: a fat slice of tomato, a tiny bit of olive oil, a slice of fresh mozzarella, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Keep adding to your stack (or stacks!) until you have a lovely tower of deliciousness. Now, bake in a 375 degree oven until the cheese gets a bit gooey. Remove from oven and put on your plate. Now, drizzle your stack with 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil. A jaunty sprig of basil on top will only make it prettier. Enjoy!

(Credit where credit is due: This is modified from a recipe I cut out of the LA Times when they still had a weekly food section. Ah! How I miss it even now.)

Hope you are living your dream. And by the way, what is that dream these days?


Anime Expo

My youngest was hanging with her crowd this weekend--her crowd being the estimated 200,000 people who jammed the LA Convention Center to celebrate all things anime. Think Comic Con but Japanese-animation themed, more girls, and a generally pretty sweet-seeming crowd.

The die hards dress up, and when my girl jumps into something, she jumps in big. It was a four day event, and she had three outfits, which she coordinated with her best friend since kindergarten. They were a marvel to behold.

You should know that at Anime Expo people do not feel limited by Japanese animation and that there is a lot of gender bending. Day one: Fem Dr. Whos. That's the tenth Dr on the left and the eleventh one on the right.

Day two: Fem Dean from the horror show Supernatural.

Days three and four: Fem Russia and Fem America from the Internet web series Hetalia.

These are wondrous days, people. Wondrous days.


My Amazing Friend Desiree Zamorano

I am so proud of my friend Desiree Zamorano, whose book The Amado Women was published this month by Cinco Puntos Press. The story of Desiree's publishing success is a tribute to talent, hard work, and perseverance. So I asked her to tell us a little about it. Go, Des:

As I puzzled over The Amado Women I knew I wanted to write about wildly divergent women  committed to staying with each other, providing a vivid, conflict-driven story.  Where could I find this? The answer is probably obvious to you, thoughtful reader, but it took me some time to arrive at.  I was thinking too hard.  I was immersed in it, and like the air we breathe it was invisible to me. Where could I find it? In a family, of course.
                Years ago when I began working on my writing all the short stories I read, by very prominent names, had narrators whose parents in particular were absent, invisible, or irrelevant.  I found that puzzling, and did not, at that time, have the skill to label my misgivings about that.  The fact for me was that as an adult I had equal amounts of catering to and reacting against the people who loved me most in the world.  My family, perhaps like yours, specializes in over-identifying with each other, with an expectation of taking on a family member’s issue as if it were our own.  This can be gratifying or embarrassing, but a response to this enmeshment is also to hide parts of ourselves from each other, in a simple way to avoid further complications or conflicts or drama.    Sometimes simply asking for the truth, or telling the truth can be as challenging as flinging downa gauntlet.  Fun, right?  But in any case, the rich and wonderful stuff for a great story.
                All of us have multiple, conflicting identities, as Elizabeth Strout displays so beautifully in Olive Kitteridge with Olive’s complexity, longing and incompetence. Not all of these identities are family-friendly, and some of us are convinced we are in the wrong family.  In one of her essays, Ann Patchett  mentions Dorothy Allison, author  of Bastard out of Carolina, (now there’s a sundering family drama for you) as being worried about having only one novel in her.  From this  Patchett realizes that it's really one story, and that Patchett's story for all of her novels is: a group of strangers meet and become a community.  I thought about that, then looked into my own writing.  What story do I tell, again and again?
                 My stories are all about displacement: how we long to belong. 
                In our lives we may wonder are we in the right family?  Will they accept the shameful parts of us? Can we survive with or without each other? 
I hope, gentle reader, you will recognize yourself, your struggles, your successes, in at least one of these Amado Women.

Désirée Zamorano will be speaking at Skylight Books July 15, 7:30pm and Vroman’s July 30 7pm.
Find out more about Désirée’s novel and her events here.


Feminist Rant II: Because I have to

I can't have a feminist rant one week and then say nothing when the Supreme Court passes a sweepingly stupid judgment that affects reproductive rights.  So here comes another rant, but first let's get our facts straight.

1. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against a provision in the Affordable Care Act that mandated that the health care businesses provide employees must include access to no-copay birth control. Religious nonprofits and churches are already excluded from that mandate.

2. The Supreme Court sided with two plaintiffs, including a closely-held single family corporation called Hobby Lobby, who had argued that provided birth control violated their freedom to practice religion. In point of fact, the issue for the Hobby Lobby wasn't birth control per se, but forms of birth control that they believe are types of early abortion, such as The Morning After Pill.

4. The ruling is strictly limited to contraception and cannot be used to justify exempting things like blood transfusions, vaccines, or psychiatry, which other religions may oppose.

5. For more specifics look http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/06/30/327065968/hobby-lobby-ruling-cuts-into-contraceptive-mandate

Ok. I'll keep the rant brief because others have written plenty on this already.

1. I respect religious liberty, but if this were really about religious liberty than why clarify that this cannot apply to other things, like those blood transfusions? Why is religious liberty when it comes to reproduction considered more sacred than religious liberty when it comes to blood?

2. I know that in the US corporations are considered the legal equivalent of people, but isn't it a bit of a stretch to say that corporations can hold religious opinions? Here's a thought: Once my girls turned 13 I was no longer allowed to email their pediatricians because my right to parent butted up against their rights to privacy. If my girls are on birth control it is secret from me--no matter what my religious beliefs may be. How come a parent can't even know if her daughter is on birth control but an employer in Oklahoma can effectively control the birth control choices of his/her employees by effectively controlling their affordability?

3. Don't think for one minute that this is not about women. This is one more in a countless line of stands that says women's lives are defined by their ability to reproduce. They are SO defined by that function a pill that keeps an egg from sticking to the side of the uterine wall is seen by some as the equivalent of a bullet in a baby's head.

4. From where I stand, from what I see, there is palatable aggression against women for being women. The aggression of those five judges who cling to their activist conservative agenda was big, so we are all up in arms. But most aggressions fly low under the radar and most of us fly ride along with them every single day. Every day somebody says you must be mad because "it's your time of the month," you were punched in the face. Every day somebody makes fun of Taylor Swift's many boy friends (as opposed to any male rock star's girlfriends) you've been punched in the face. Every day a TV shows celebrates hook up culture, you've been punched in the face.

5. When you are punched in the face, you do not smile and laugh. So don't smile and laugh when someone punches you in the face.


Madame Margaret tells your fortune

Ahhhhh! Settle in: this is a good one.

Representing your past you have the king of swords, but he is upside down. That is significant. It is meant to remind you of a difficult man in your past, a real task master who liked to have things his way. I think you know who I mean. Why are you thinking about him? I think it has something to do with this:

Representing your present you have The Chariot. This is a good card. It means success. You are about to experience a success you have worked very hard to achieve. Well done. But how does the difficult man fit in? Hmmm. Maybe he pushed you in a way you needed to be pushed. Maybe he helped you develop the thick skin you needed to achieve your success. Or maybe it's just the opposite. Maybe he held you back. Maybe he's become something of an inner critic, making you doubt yourself. Think it through because look what's next:

The Three of Pentacles upside down. It means that your success won't last unless you put in the time to see things through. Don't drop the ball or your hard-earned success will fizzle out. We don't want that to happen! You've worked too hard! Your success belongs to you. Don't let people who once held influence over you hold you back.


Today's Feminist Rant: Four things we confuse with feminism

1. It looks feminist to be able to wear whatever you want, but the freedom to buy clothing is not equality. Here is how you can tell: Men do not wear short shorts or deep V necks. If it were equality, men would want to wear those things too. As it is, your choice to show off your boobs and ass is not empowering. It is choosing to buy into a culture that still values women most for their ability to attract the male gaze.

2. It looks feminist to take part in hook-up culture, but the freedom to have sex without emotional entanglements is not the same things as having sexual choice. If it were real choice, women would be able to say no without being seen as prudes, they would be able to get passed out drunk (not that I encourage it) and not get taken advantage of, they would not have to get drunk to excuse hooking up, and they would be able to have real conversations about what they want emotional, sexual and otherwise without it feeling weird.

3. It looks feminist to be able to swear, smoke cigars, and take on the trappings of hyper masculinity, but all this really does is send the message that hyper masculinity is the ideal human standard. The ability to perform and compete alongside men should not be confused with the highest level of human success. (Katness Everdeen is not a feminist symbol; she is a symbol that women can still only be seen as heroic if they act like men.)

4. It looks a like a feminist victory that women make up over half of all college students, but is anyone wondering why--now that that has happened--talking heads are wondering how necessary college really is?

The personal is still political. 

OK. So just thought I'd go a little old-school political today as I am still annoyed by the horrible van that recently parked in our town and advertised topless maids. 


The Graduate

My big girl graduated high school on Friday. So I am officially old. As you may already know, it has not been a easy road. She has epilepsy (currently about one seizure a week), autism, learning disabilities. Until sometime in January she also had what we thought were chronic migraines. Turns out they were side effects of Oxycarbazepine. (I mention the drug because I want everyone to know that it can cause symptoms that look a lot like atypical migraines and if that is happening to you or someone you know you should get the hell off that drug ASAP and not lose five years of your precious life.)

But that's not what this post is about so let's not dwell on that. Instead, let us raise a glass to the girl, who has endured more than most people ever will and who has--except for when the goddam Depakote reduced all her blood count levels and the doctors thought she might have Leukemia--started off every day with a smile. 

She is blessed with a sunny disposition and with fortitude. I would love to take credit for those things, but those are all her. She is a skinny slip off a thing. The evil Topamax made her stop eating for a while. That was at the same time as the evil Depakote so it was all a bit of mess for a while. But she has decided once again that she likes brownies so I think all cause for alarm at her declining weight can cease and desist.

The thing I hate more than anything is when people pity her (or us) or feel sorry for us. Because if you pity or feel sorry for her (or us) you aren't really seeing her (or us). You are only seeing what you're afraid of. She is not your cautionary tale. She is not the inspirational story that helps you appreciate how good you have things. She is not about you. She is not even about me (although that one is harder for me to acknowledge). She is about her. And she is remarkable. She has much to offer and she will accomplish much.


My Amazing Commencement Address that will likely go viral so you should check it out early

It's graduation season and yet--shockingly--my invitation to give a commencement address somehow got lost in the mail.  But don't worry, I have never let the lack of an invitation to talk ever stop me from talking. Here is my commencement wisdom for you:

Dear Graduates:

When I look out upon your bright, excited faces--so full of promise and collagen--I am reminded of my own graduation, so many, many years ago. Like you, I sat there wondering: What next? What does the future have in store for me? Why couldn't they get someone good to speak at this graduation instead of this lame woman who wonders--daily--if today is the day she says goodbye to the gray in her hair.

And I am here to tell you that the gray will be there for at least one more day. Because, ultimately, it is not the gray in our hair that matters, it is the questioning of the gray. It is the asking ourselves of those important existential questions--why do I exist? What is the meaning of life? Will students rate me lower on RateYourProfessor.Com if they think I'm really old--that define us, that help us grow and evolve into the kind of people who no one wants to make television programs for. Why? Because when you look at a Crate and Barrel catalog you think to yourself: Wouldn't it be great to have a cast iron griddle that sits on two stove-top burners. But when I look at that catalog I think to myself: Where in the world would I store a heavy, cast-iron griddle?

Graduates, age and experience do not make us wiser. They just make our closets fuller. Actually, that is not true. Age and experience do make us wiser. Age and experience are the only things that will make you truly believe the following, irrefutable facts: You will get pregnant if you don't use a condom. You will throw up and cry like a little girl if you mix beer and bloody Marys. A sock on the doorknob means stay out or you will see something you don't need to see. But you are college graduates! You know these things! You see: Age and experience taught you these lessons very quickly. Except the one about the beer and Bloody Marys. But when it sunk it, it really sunk in!

The point I'm trying to make is that, now, you are ready to embark on new adventures, new experiences. And these things will settle onto you like fine layers of dust, slowly entombing you and paralyzing you with the weight of the knowledge that all things die and that dissatisfaction is inevitable. But don't worry! No! Don't worry! Because I am hear to tell you that you are not alone. At a certain point everyone realizes that life is a loser's game that you never even asked to play. But, you see, that's all right because the more you can accept that the easier it will be feel on
your soul when you are left to ponder your inevitable decline and demise.

So, graduates, be happy! Rejoice in your momentous accomplishment. Too soon everything will fall apart and you will want to remember that day where everyone applauded you for basically wearing a shapeless muumuu, instead of felt sad that you no longer felt the need to wear anything with a waistband.

You are the future! Go! Live! Have fun while you can! And please find your own apartment because I've already rented out your room.


The Scout Report: Weathering the New Economy

Extreme, shifting weather patterns make market conditions difficult to predict, but the smart dog sees opportunity where others see calamity.

When May brings temperatures in the low 100s, think hot dogs
When May brings snowstorms, think hot dogs.
When May brings spring showers, think hot dogs.

Actually, whatever weather you are experiencing right now, hot dogs is the right answer. Make it simple. No bun. No condiments. Don't even heat them. If it will make you feel better to drop them in the dirt first, that will in no way affect your bottom line. Because the bottom line is that even the best kibble mixes well with dirty and/or sandy and/or puddle-splashed hot dogs.

Outside of hot dogs, predicting what commodities consumers will covet in a turbulent climate environment is challenging, and it would be wise to remember the investor's maxim, "Don't put all your bones in one basket." If you put all your bones in one basket, someone is likely to put the whole basket thing on the washing machine, and then where will you be? You'll be boneless. And no one wants that. Diversify your holdings! Put one bone under the couch. Put one bone in the backyard. Put a third bone in your favorite softie place. That way you'll have all your bases covered. But don't put a bone in the front yard. One of your competitors will totally steal it, and then you'll be boneless again. And that would sad because bones are excellent for chewing and chewing and chewing and chewing. And also hoarding.

Speaking of things to hoard, precious metals continue always hold th
eir worth in times of investor anxiety. But they are really not as fun to chew. And, frankly, you're best bet is still a hot dog. On the other hand, they have great potential for burying, and if the new economy is anything like the new weather, burying your treasure may be a pretty good investment strategy in the end.