chit-chat: on creativity

After seeing Sarah Kain Gutowski share Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life on Instagram, I decided to check the book out from the library. It’s a read I am digesting in small bites, in part because it makes me uncomfortable–but also because it’s the kind of book that is going to be most helpful if I give myself time for the ideas to marinate. I chafe against some of Tharp’s words; it is because she is so intense and absolute at times. For example, about the dancers she works with–who can be divided into two categories, “acceptable (great) or not (everything less than great)”–she looks for evidence that their work habits are as “exacting” as her own:

“Do they show up on time for rehearsal? Are they warmed up? Does their energy flag when rehearsals break down or are they committed to pushing forward? Are they bringing ideas to the party or waiting for me to provide everything? These are my personal pop quizzes to gauge other people’s involvement. I don’t want them merely involved. I’m looking for insane commitment.”

The (perhaps) insane commitment of artists came up in a conversation with a writer friend this week, who is reading Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning Just Kids (2010), about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe in the late 1960s, when they were young and poor in New York, before either was known or had known artistic success.

“She gave up just about everything for her art,” my friend said. I asked what she meant by that, and she talked about Smith going to New York with nothing, by herself, and living with insecure housing and food.

“I’ve never done that,” I said. “And I never will.” My friend agreed that the same is true for her, which might have something to do with why neither of us has been or will be (as it’s really too late for both of us) a Twyla Tharp or Patti Smith.

I’ve come to realize that I am perfectly fine with not being that kind of creative. Tharp seems to believe we all have one, true creative calling (our “creative DNA”) and cautions against being distracted from it by other creative interests. If there is such a thing as creative DNA, mine is to be the opposite of a specialist. Tharp has a creative autobiography exercise, and the answers to mine are all over the creative map. Hers (because she shares it with readers) is not. I assume my creative DNA is why, although I have a kind of time for creative work now that I haven’t had since early adolescence, I’ve felt a bit creatively paralyzed. There are so many things I want to do–write (poems, essays, blog posts, hybrid forms)! sew! embroider! knit! collage! blog! cook!–that I have been doing (almost) none of them. I’ve been feeling time scarcity, even though I have a kind of time I could only dream of even six months ago.

True self-care takes more time than I ever realized, which includes running the household in healthier ways than I’ve been able to manage before. Also, I feel the clock of my mortality tick-tick-ticking. I know it’s ridiculous and futile and counter-productive to fixate on that (so I don’t), but time does feel finite in ways it never did when I was younger. How best to spend the minutes I have, knowing what I know about creative processes and resources necessary to develop new skills? Namely, time for repetition and failure. It is so challenging to get through the stage where your taste far exceeds your skill, especially when you’re a recovering perfectionist.

Tharp would have no patience with any of these thoughts/feelings. In response to a common fear that our work will never be as good as the vision in our minds, she offers: “Toughen up. Leon Battista Alberti, a fifteenth century architectural theorist, said, ‘Errors accumulate in the sketch and compound in the model.’ But better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds.” I think I will credit her (as well as Kate, through a recent encouraging comment) with my decision this week to revisit an old impulse to honor/recreate modest homes and just start stitching.

In-progress embroidery of a small house
I did a quick sketch, working from a photo, and decided it would be fine if the lines are wiggly. I did not trace the sketch, but just drew it freehand on the fabric, a scrap remnant from the bottom of a trimmed Ikea curtain. I’m using only one color of thread, as my primary goal is to improve my stitching and experiment with line. I’m encouraged by seeing that my technique has gotten visibly better as I’ve progressed. (I started with the rooflines, and the latest parts are the door and porch railings.)

I’m not sure of how to best use my minutes, but I’ve been spending a lot of those available to me lately on getting our house in order. Literally. In the last 18 months, my son moved in and (sort of) out, Cane moved in, my daughter moved in, and our beloved (and surprisingly space-hogging) Daisy moved on. My son isn’t living with us anymore, but some of his stuff still is. There’s been a lot of transition and purging and shuffling of things and changing the purpose of rooms/closets. I’ve become a fairly minimal person, but our house is only about 1,100 square feet and it is accommodating the “stuff” needs of several adults.

I’ve long been a fan of productive procrastination, and I’ve decided that my organizing/house projects are that. Or, they are simply necessary to making space for creation. I waste so much time looking for things, and I can no longer afford to buy things we already have simply because I can’t find them. I mean, maybe I can–but I really don’t want to. It’s wasteful in multiple ways. Physical clutter and disorganization truly bother me, and I don’t do my best work when distracted by it.

So, while I’m avoiding making any real decisions/commitments about creative work, I’ve been thinking deeply about what we need and how we live and what makes sense for us now and how to best use our home. I’ve donated several carloads of stuff, and for the first time since we sold Cane’s house and moved his things here, the garage is clear. (Or, it was, for about half a week. Then the rain came and we moved the outdoor furniture into that space.)

For kitchen organization, I’m still finding the Adachi book I referenced a few posts back very helpful. The equipment guide from What Good Cooks Know (America’s Test Kitchen) is also helping me think through what we really need. Our kitchen space is tight, and we’re determined to make it work without costly renovations. Two weeks ago we found an old free-standing pine cabinet that cost significantly less than similarly-sized pantry cabinets at Home Depot, and the combination of adding that to our storage and paring down our kitchen things is changing my life in the kitchen. It’s allowing us to have more space for the things we’re keeping, which means that extracting a particular bowl or pan is no longer like playing a game of kitchen-cabinet Jenga. It’s calming, and I’m cooking more often than I used to.

Our kitchen projects aren’t only about function, although they are the primary driver. Our laminate counters had become stained and our cabinets are getting pretty chippy, so we’ve been making some aesthetic as well as functional changes.

Here’s what the kitchen looked like when I bought the house:

Bland kitchen counter and cabinets, with white cabinets and beige countertops, walls, and short tile backsplash.

Perfectly functional, but blah as blah can be. This is how it is looking now (still in progress; we need to paint the cabinets and finish tiling on the wall you can see on the left side, around the stove):

Same view of kitchen, with dark butcher-block counter tops and colorful tile backsplash that fills wall behind sink.

The danger with any productive procrastination activity is that it becomes a way to forever-avoid some larger task, and I know it could be possible to organize/tinker with this house in perpetuity. But that’s honestly not what this feels like. It feels like clearing a lot of psychic and emotional clutter, as well as physical. It’s its own kind of creative task, and it all goes in the mix. I don’t know yet if any poems or other written works will come out of it, but I like to think they will. (I’ll be OK with it if they don’t.)

In the meantime, knitting dishcloths gives me something almost-mindless to do with my hands in the evenings when I’m too tired for much of anything but watching tv or listening to an audiobook. Currently deep into Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a novel that is a long meditation on creativity, creative partnership, and story-telling. Highly recommend.)

The pursuit of okayness

You know all those self-help memes and articles and books that tell you that you can’t fix your life by changing the external circumstances of it? The ones that insist you won’t be happier if you have a different job or house or partner or friends, if you live in a different city or state or country? Because whatever ails you is something inside of you, and wherever you go, you’ll take it with you? Well…

Pretty font that says That's a load of horseshit"

Not entirely, I know, but I spent so many painful years believing that those messages were entirely true, trying desperately to find just the right way to exist within my marriage and job and community. I strove to find and embrace the good things about where and with whom I lived and worked, and to feel gratitude for all of my blessings (because I had lots of them). I went to 12-step programs and learned about the impacts addictions have had on my family. I did therapy. I joined gyms, cut out gluten, learned how to set boundaries, stopped being co-dependent, etc. ad nauseam. When my children were in kindergarten and I was teaching full-time, I got up at 4:00 in the morning to write because I believed the people who told me that saying I didn’t have time to write was just an excuse.

I pulled so hard on my bootstraps I’m surprised I didn’t break them. (Maybe I did?)

A lot of those things helped, and I’m glad I did them, but none of them solved my essential problem. I just wanted to be OK, and no matter what I did, I wasn’t. Not really. I had lots of wonderful moments (and all those blessings I was truly grateful for), but it was a constant struggle to be OK in any consistent or general way. Anxiety, depression, and a growing list of chronic medical conditions were ever-present obstacles that I couldn’t seem to think or work or do my way around.

Image of posters with words about attitude, hard work, and "get it done"

And then, over the past half-dozen years, I learned about the structural and systemic barriers that many of us live within and the real limits they put on well-being. I learned about gaslighting. I learned about neurodiversity and ableism and chronic illness and myriad ways in which the source of the difficulties I seemed to have was, perhaps, not all within me.

But I didn’t believe that those things explained my inability to be OK. Not really. Sure, I am a female living in a misogynistic patriarchy, and that’s not nothing. But I am also white, cis-het, raised Christian, and a middle-class, older Gen-Xer, which means I was the beneficiary of mid-20th century social supports that allowed me to dream of and then have a kind of life it will be much more difficult (perhaps impossible) for many Gen Z folks to have. My working-class parents were able to pay for my college tuition at a good public university without taking out loans, I was able to buy a home in my early 20’s through a federal loan program, and I got into a public pension program before cuts in the 90s seriously eroded its benefits, grandfathering me in to the promise of retirement. I was aware that I had the kind of good fortune that increasing numbers of Americans do not–so why couldn’t I just be OK, dammit?

Seriously: Why was OK an elusive dream I couldn’t realize? It had to be me. Because if I couldn’t be OK, how could anyone?

Well, as has often been the case in my life, I was wrong.

Because I am finally OK. I am more than OK: I am happy. And it feels weird to be happy, but damn if that’s not what I’ve been realizing this week that I am. (Happy feels weird, if you’re not used to it.) And, for the first time, I understand and believe and fucking know that I WASN’T WHAT NEEDED FIXING. (Yes, I’m shouting. I feel a little shouty these days.)

Happiness is not the absence of struggle. I still have my challenges and frustrations and griefs. I still grapple with health issues. I worry about our kids and what the dumpster-fires raging in our world are doing and are going to do to them. I live in a part of my city where many people are struggling to survive, and I feel angry every single day at the disparity between the parts of town that are like my neighborhood and those in which there are no tent collectives, no mothers and kids standing in traffic with cardboard signs asking for money, and no people who are walking illustrations of the havoc poverty and untreated mental illness wreaks on humans. I am all-the-time looking around and wondering why/how so many people don’t seem to really see what’s happening and are carrying on as if we’re still living in the world of 2010. But still, I’m OK now, and often more than OK.

I’m now in a healthy marriage with few stressors on it, and my survival needs (food, safe shelter, reasonable health care, drinkable water) are met, and all those problems I could never seem to solve–insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc.–are low-level on my worst days. I do meaningful work (mostly non-paid) every day, and I have time to rest, tend to important relationships, and be creative. I have the resources I need to care for myself and those in my communities (big and small). When I had to work for a paycheck to survive, I didn’t have enough of anything above the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Now I do, and I haven’t begun to figure out the words to tell you how OK I’ve become.

In the beginning stages of finally admitting that I wasn’t OK, I was in a sick marriage and a deeply under-resourced job (made more difficult by my invisible disabilities) that made it impossible for me to meet many of my needs. I was struggling to work full-time (in a job that demanded more than full-time work), raise children well, and take care of myself. Oh, and write, too, because it wasn’t enough just to be a good teacher. I had to fulfill some higher destiny, as well, the thing I was created to do.

Oprah Winfrey quotation: "There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It's why you were born. And how you become most truly alive."

What I know now, having escaped the toxic relationship and untenable career is that I didn’t need to work harder, change my attitude, have more self-discipline, or stay where I was and count my blessings. What I needed was to get out.

I finally fully have, and I wish more than anything I could share some way for everyone else to get away from whatever is making them not-OK, but the truth I’m seeing now is that there isn’t always a way. I made the moves I was able to make (leaving that marriage, changing to a different job within my industry), and I searched constantly for better alternatives. But I couldn’t leave everything that was damaging AND take care of my people the way I wanted and needed to care for them. I am not looking back and thinking that I should have made different choices. (I don’t regret them, given my givens.) I am looking back and wishing only that our culture had been more honest about the scarcity of good choices for many of us to make.

Think of what I might have done to actually improve my life if I hadn’t wasted energy on blaming myself, on attempting to fix what I didn’t have the ability to fix, or on “solutions” that were never going to address the source of the problem.

I wish I could change the world so that everyone could have what I now do. I wish there was some formula I could share for how to get it in the world as it is. For myself, it has required some compromise, some luck, some risk, and a lot of years of living in poor health and doing what I had to do to get here. (The promise of that pension kept me in the world of K-12 education, and without it the life I have now would not be possible.) I can’t tell you how to do it, and I want to acknowledge that not everyone can do it, no matter how hard they work, but I’m writing this because if nothing else, I can give an assurance that I wish others had given me. If you’ve worked to heal from and deal with your childhood traumas and have a clear sense of your strengths and challenges and are working hard within the systems you have to live within and are still struggling to be OK, I want you to hear (especially if you’re of my generation and grew up drinking a lot of Kool-Aid) that it’s not just you, no matter the privileges you have. Keep doing what you can for yourself, for sure, but be as clear-eyed as you can about what’s yours to own/do and what is not.

Think of what a different world we might live in if our goal was that everyone in it could be OK.

Lyrics from Ingrid Michaelson song: "I just want to be ok, be ok, be ok/I just want to be ok today..."

(Giving credit where it’s due: These ideas are not new, even to me. Gen Z is not the first to have them (see, for one small example, this), but the younguns are all over these lines of thinking, and I’m grateful for the ways in which they have helped me see my life experience through different lenses. Even though I’ve encountered these ideas in the past, I’m knowing their truth in new ways, now that I am able to live in a different way. I’m sharing in case and with hope that my understanding might help others still struggling to be OK.)

Retirement is weird

Technically, I’m still working a little bit, but I’m finally starting to feel retired. And it mostly feels…weird.

I started working in the fall of 1980. I was fifteen, and I got a job at our public library as a page. (It might be the best job I ever had.) The only time I haven’t worked regularly since then was about 4 months in late 1983/early 1984, my first terms in college–when I lived off money I’d saved from my high school job. I did get 6 or so months off when I was on medical and parental leave to have my kids, but even then, I still had a job (which occupied prime mental real estate) and I picked up some freelance editing work.

For 42 (whaaaat?!?) nearly-continuous years, I’ve been exchanging hours of my life for money, and it now feels so damn strange to just…exist. I’m still laboring every day, but I’m usually not getting paid for it by some outside entity, which means that my time belongs to me in ways it never has before, not even when I was a child. I have more freedom and independence than I had then. The thoughts/feelings this has been raising are…unsettling.

Yes, that’s the word. I do not feel very settled lately.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t had many words to share here. The few I have (such as these) I’ve forced out, hoping that the words will beget more words. That I will find my groove, or get it back. It often works that way, especially after a pause, but that’s not been happening. So many things are not working the way I am used to them working.

I am not complaining. I am also not celebrating or savoring or cherishing or regretting or wanting or wishing. I am not feeling any kind of judgement about this state–that it is good, bad, or otherwise. I suppose I am simply being and observing: Life (both internal and external) feels foreign, some place I’ve never before been. Can one be an ex-pat in their own life?

Perhaps I am just detoxing, still. I don’t expect this floaty state to last forever. (Everything passes. That’s one thing I’ve learned.) But this is where I am right now.

A few weeks ago, I had a weekend visit with a cousin I hadn’t seen more than a few times in the last three decades. Despite our 10-year age difference, she is someone I felt close to when very young. For a few years as she transitioned into adulthood, she lived in the town our parents grew up in, where our grandparents still lived, and we knew each other in the ways you can know someone you see often. She painted my nails with polish from her extensive collection and gave me ice cream cones during her shifts at Baskin Robbins (the coolest job ever, even better than my Grandma’s job at the Sears candy counter). When she was living with our grandparents, she let me sleep in her bed with her when I came to visit, and as we talked late into the night she shared stories about her own childhood, which was different from mine in important and eye-opening ways. She was pretty and kind and treated me like a real person, not just a kid. I adored her. (I still do.)

After she married in her later 20s, she moved to another state; it was years–decades?–before I realized she wasn’t moving back. It was even longer before I realized what that would mean for us, and what my own move to another state would mean for my relationships with everyone in my family. For the longest time her move and mine felt temporary to me, like something we were just doing for awhile until we returned to our real life with the family we’d been part of growing up. I didn’t understand that we were each already living our real lives, that we were living them right now, every day, and that each day we lived apart was taking us further away from the time and place where we were young and our grandparents and aunts and uncles were alive and we were all part of each others’ lives in ways that would become impossible to recreate or relive even before the generations ahead of ours began dying.

As she and I sat talking at her kitchen table in the state she moved to more than 40 years ago, sharing stories about our lives past and present, she suddenly interrupted herself: “Where have the years gone?” she asked, and the question wasn’t rhetorical or musing. It was real. It was a genuine wondering, full of bewilderment.

“I don’t know,” I said, and we were both quiet for a moment. I thought about how, in my own 20s, I understood neither what I was exchanging nor what I would (and wouldn’t) get for it. And now, so much (but not all, not all) of what once might have been can now be nothing more than what was. We’ve had the marriages and children and careers we’re going to have, and she missed much of mine and I missed much of hers. Still, she is as important to me now as she ever was, and in my two days with her time was malleable and stretchy and I floated between past and present in ways that are perhaps only possible when the present isn’t so insistent on being our most important reality.

My days are quiet enough for me to see such things clearly now, and perhaps what I am feeling most is curious.

For the first time in 42 years, I don’t have to exchange my life for money. What does that mean? What might it mean? What will I use my life for now, now that I have more choice than I’ve ever had?

I think before I can answer these questions, I need to come to greater understanding of and peace with the exchanges I made for so long they didn’t even feel like choices. (Maybe they weren’t?) I probably need to do some grieving. I for sure need to do some healing. Maybe then I can come to feel more grounded in what remains and in what remains to be seen.

Traffic Jam

I know, it’s been a little quiet in this space.

Sometimes it’s like my head is an interstate freeway, where my thoughts are speeding cars, and my hands are exit ramps, and this blog is a small town at the end of the ramp where the cars travel slowly and sometimes come to a stop.

(That’s a weird metaphor, isn’t it? Oh well. I’m going to run with it for the rest of this post even though it’s not the best one I’ve ever written.)

Although my life seems–no, is–slower than it’s been since 1977 or so, my head traffic has increased. There are so many more cars on the road. Just the ones about food alone have kept me from getting here in a while.

We don’t grow much food, but I want to grow more, which means I need to learn how to grow more. In the last month we’ve had a bounty of home-grown tomatoes (3 kinds) and basil and cucumbers. We also have a few other herbs (oregano, thyme, and parsley) we’ve grown for a long time, and we tried some onions but they never did much. Cane grew a plant full of hot peppers that were beautiful, but I can’t eat them because of my geographic tongue. (Yeah, it’s a thing. Who knew?)

(We have a little pear tree, too.)

Truly, there is nothing quite like the sharp, earthy scent of the tomato plants when I go out in the morning to pick some for our breakfast.

(Taken this morning. We still have fruit ripening. In October.)

I’m sad to see our bounty winding down (much as I am also relieved that somewhat cooler temperatures have finally arrived) because the food we grow has so much more taste than the produce I buy. The other night I made a salad with our tomatoes and basil and some fresh mozzarella and it caused a traffic jam in my head with thoughts about time and health and money and sustainability and simplicity and leisure and privilege and gratitude and nourishment.

That salad nourished not only my body, but also the parts of me that crave beauty and art and purpose. Lately, nothing fills me up more than working in my kitchen in the late afternoon with sun streaming through the windows as I assemble pleasing tableaux of shape, color, and texture on both our cutting boards and our plates, preparing food to feed people I love.

cutting board with chopped tomatoes, onion, and parsely

I’m not saying anything new here, even to myself. But I’m knowing something in a different way–the way we know things from living them rather than from reading about them.

But speaking of reading, I’ve been reading lately about anti-inflammatory diets, something I have time to do now that I’m mostly not working. When I had my big episode of back pain this summer, the only thing that brought me relief was a strong course of steroids. It relieved not just my back, but my knee, my feet, and the psoriasis that plagues my ears and scalp. Usually, any kind of medical mishap sends me right into migraine, but I didn’t have any around that event. One of the many medical people I’ve spoken with suggested adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.

This week I started Googling “inflammation and ____,” filling in the names for the various diagnoses I’ve gotten over the years (endometriosis, PCOS, migraine, fibromyalgia, geographic tongue, psoriasis, vulvar vestibulitis and vulvodynia, thyroid nodules, plantar fasciitis) and one I haven’t been given but is in my family and I sure do recognize in myself (autism, as it manifests in women)–and damn if inflammation isn’t connected to just about every single one of them–as well as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, common by-products of long-term inflammation. (It’s not connected to fibromyalgia, a condition we know very little about, and which I’ve always considered to be a diagnosis given when doctors don’t really know what the hell is wrong with you but want to acknowledge that your pain is real.)

This reading/Googling/learning took me to a place where the traffic gets all snarled up with vehicles carrying all kinds of things–memory, trauma, work, achievement, health care, anger, grief, regret–but I’m going to let all those cars stay on the freeway for now. Back to food:

I found a book recently, The Lazy Genius Kitchen by Kendra Adachi, and while there are very few self-help books (any?) that have changed my life in lasting ways–especially those in what I think of as the “life hack” sub-genre–this one might be the rare book that does. Adachi takes a set of principles (that I guess she developed?) and applies them to our ways of being with food and food preparation. (She previously wrote a general book about how to be a lazy genius in general, and it appears to be a whole thing.)

I have struggled with food ever since I left my parents’ home and became responsible for feeding myself. (In college, if the Domino’s pizza guy was at the door and didn’t have a name for the order, it was assumed he was there for me.) As a child of the 70’s, I grew up eating a lot of processed/packaged food and never learned how to cook. (The latter is more about being a child of my mother than of the 70’s; it was always clear to me that cooking was a chore for her, and I was grateful that she didn’t require me to participate in it.) When I was married to my children’s father, he did all of the food prep, including shopping. I didn’t have to be truly responsible for food until I got divorced in my mid-40’s–and then I had to feed not only myself, but my children.

I felt kind of like a guerrilla fighter in the kitchen during those years. I was definitely an irregular soldier with limited resources fighting small-scale battles, doing whatever I could to meet my objective (end everyone’s hunger with as little complaint as possible while spending as little money as possible). I never had time to think deeply about food or figure out what I didn’t know about how to feed a family or manage a kitchen.

In spite of a kind of shiny, glib cleverness in the Lazy Genius book that might usually put me off, I really like it because its approach is all about figuring out what your values and priorities are and making decisions from there. (Again, not anything new, but somehow hitting me in a new way.) AND it has some really useful hacks I’ve already put to good use.

(Detour: Years and years ago, I was sitting in a teacher inservice about some [likely now-debunked] theory of learning styles, where I was told that learners could be divided into those who need to know why, those who need to know what, and those who need to know how. And one other that I can’t remember–but it was probably connected to another one of the 5 W’s. I immediately recognized myself as a why learner [bummer, as the majority of people apparently are what learners–the quadrant I cared least about–which meant I needed to tone down my deep teaching dives into the why of everything because I was losing my students who didn’t care about/need to know why] and if you are someone who both struggles in the kitchen and needs to have a good why for doing what you do, this might be the book for you.)

Adachi talks a lot about aligning our priorities with the season of life we’re living, something I much appreciate. During the season in which I was a financially-struggling full-time educator and single mom of two tweens (and later, blended-family mom of three particular-eater teens), I could not do food the way I’ve been doing it lately. Just. could. not. No self-help book in the world could have given me the resources I needed to feed my family an anti-inflammatory diet with mostly whole foods and few preservatives.

I am grateful that I now can, but I am also angry, sad, and regretful on behalf of my younger self (and my last-year self) and all of those who currently don’t have what they need to nourish themselves, in all meanings of that word. (Oh, look, here come the speeding capitalism trucks that look like they’re going to plow right into all the other cars on this freeway and flatten/scatter them. Let’s just pull over and let them go by us right now, shall we?)

Oh, hell. I seem to have lost anything resembling a path. But it’s been kind of nice to wander around blog town for a while again.

In conclusion, I have no real conclusions–yet–which is why I’ve been mostly staying in the traffic and not taking any exits. And this is just what’s been going on around food–or most of what’s been going on–but the more I think/write about it, the more I think that food is about everything. Food connects to all the big problems confronting us right now, and a lot of the littler ones, too. I have this feeling that if I could just figure out how to do food–or, at least, figure it out better–I’d know how to do a lot of other things as well. (And maybe use fewer dashes and parentheses while writing about it. Maybe.)

At any rate, thanks for being here. I’d love to know any of your thoughts/tips/wonderings/challenges about food. It’s nice to take a road trip with friends.

(Hummus, local tomato, and avocado on Dave’s [whole grain] Killer Bread]–sandwich inspired by a recipe for a chickpea salad sandwich. And yes, I even shelled the chickpeas as recommended in the hummus recipe. Because I could. Because that’s the season of life I’m–gratefully, amazingly–in, apparently.)