an appropriate expression of sentiment

It’s just no good at all when your husband thinks a chin hickey is an appropriate expression of sentiment. Anyone got concealer?


Okay, this post isn’t actually about that. I just had to get that off my chest. But have you ever had a day where a series of seemingly innocuous minor frustrations build up until you explode? A day where you think you’ve got it under control until something tiny, like getting a blister, reduces you to vitriol and tears? Hyperbole and a Half calls it the “Sneaky Hate Spiral”. Hate’s a strong word, but the concept is valid all the same.

I had one of those days. A day just full of stress and worry and no time to get it all done.

I was in the kitchen, prepping dinner. I had the mortar and pestle in front of me and I was mashing garlic and chili peppers like they were heretics and I was the Spanish Inquisition. Bang bang bang. Then, out of nowhere – well, not nowhere, exactly, since it was out of the mortar – so, out of the mortar flew a chili seed straight into my eye.

I dropped the pestle and cried out in pain and burning and rushed to flush my eye out with water. I teared up like crazy, stomped around, and basically couldn’t do anything for 5 whole minutes until my eye started to go back to normal.

I sat there, whimpering in misery, until I just had to laugh at myself.

This is what you get. Get angry at the world and you’ll be the one with chili in your eye.

I don’t believe in karma in the sense of: in the next life you’ll be a dog, kind of karma. (Although, when we went to the temple on Sunday, my sister was praying that in the next life she’ll be a famous singer or entertainer, but my aunt was praying that, in the next life, she’ll just skip this whole “human” thing altogether and move on to the next level.) But I do believe in karma, in the sense that, whatever you put out will come back to you.

And apparently, if you put out spice, it’ll come right back. In your eye.

tell it to me tuesday – 10 minute free write

I had a wonderful birthday and I’me thinking of luggage and flowers and vintage and fabrics. I’me feeling inspired and relieved, contrary and perniculous. I don’t know why I’me saying such things but the words pop in my head and what am I to do? There’s so much work to do tomorrow fbut for the moment, I’me relaxing. We watched Stand By Me and Toby said he didn’t like the name of the movie it was too romantic. But I think it draws more attention to the relationship between the boys than Stephen King’s title “The Body”. But we ate so much this weekend and the food was so good. And it really was good to have my parents in town. I really am lucky to be close to them. I know many people aren’t close to their parents the way I am. They have given me lots of things to think about in Thailand. But mostly they’re easing me from having too many thoughts. I guess that’s why I said I’me feeling contrary. So many mixed thoughts and feelings. So much running around, throwing around. Colliding around in my skull. I need to take a breathe. I need to breathe. It’s too hard to breathe with too mch shite on top of your head. But I’me getting out. I will get out. Just a little while longer. Toby said it’s been too long since I’ve really just sat back and enjoyed where I am in life. And it made me want to cry. Because it’s true. I need to get to that place. I need to take a step back and just get to a place where I can just enjoy. Enjoy enjoy enjoy enjoy enjoy. Like chocolate cake and raspberries. Like birthdays and vintage. Like stickers and snowmen. Pastries. Swimming pools and margaritas. What time is it? 3:47 left. I’me staring at the screen and The Yellow Suitcase is in the back of my mind. I want to do more research. I want to flesh out the ideas for my next book. Japan. Picture brides. Home. But I must wait. Just a little more. Then I can focus. I just have to get to a space where I can let myself focus. Like my dad says. When am I going to get these monkeys off my back? Time to get rid of the self-imposed monkeys. Fuck the monkeys. Pardon my French. So let’s sew. I’ve got some great fabrics. I just got to get rid of my fear of making a mistake. Nothing lost if I mess up. Just learn. Learn to have patience. One step at a time. One step at a time. I’ve never been good at that…I need to practice one step at a time. Then I won’t be so scattered. I’me so scattered. So scattered.

You’ve got 10 minutes. Don’t think. Just write. No holds barred.

Then just post the link in the comments below!

Next week’s challenge: “If I were a bag of some sort, I would be a…”
Fancy purse? A backpack? Reusable? What would you carry?

women unbound – their eyes were watching god

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a seminal piece in African American literature. In this novel, Zora Neale Hurston chronicles the story of Janie, an African American women who is pushed by her family into a marriage she doesn’t want, escapes it, only to land in another marriage with a man who did not live up to the fairytale vision he portrayed during their courtship. Under his authoritarian nature, Janie begins to understand herself just a little bit better. When she is forced to reign herself in, she begins to understand precisely what it is she wishes to say. After his death, Janie begins to demand freedom. Though society tries to hem her in, she falls in love with Tea Cake: a risk, a gamble, but a man she well and truly loves, and who loves her in return. She has learned to push off the shackles others place on her, but in the end, finds the shackle that remains is one of her own making: her fears. Now that she has learned to love, she understands the fear of losing her beloved.

This is the theme that emerged for me in reading this book: all the ways in which we can become enslaved. We can become enslaved, yes, by the expectations of family or society or by the hand of a ruthless man. Or sometimes we can enslave ourselves, when we allow ourselves to become captives of our own fears. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by them, to become blinded by them, to not even see or know how we do this to ourselves. It can become so hard to emancipate ourselves, especially when we know those fears so well. When they become a cocoon to hide within. When they are justifiable. But no matter how much reason we have to be afraid, those fears prevent us from being free.

And often have the potential to lead us to unjustifiable actions.

It is amazing what humans are capable of doing when they are afraid.


you capture – hopeful

Hope and fear are two sides of the same coin. Hope is a prayer that fear runs underneath, like the rumble of jagged stones beneath chaffs of wheat reaching towards the sky above.

Hope is a dream, an endpoint, a goal…the sunny scent of candles filling your nose.

Gruyere Chicken & Asparagus and Potato Salad recipes

Gruyere Chicken & Asparagus and Potato Salad recipes

Fear is the shadow lurking, taunting you with the promise that life will never measure up.

My attempt at the Gruyere Chicken and Potato Salad...

My attempt at the Gruyere Chicken and Potato Salad...

Hope is when you try again, and again.

Recipe for Steak with Tomato Herb Vinaigrette

Recipe for Steak with Tomato Herb Vinaigrette

Telling fear to buzz off, for you don’t care if you fail, you’ve at least got to try.

My attempt at the Steak with Tomato Herb Vinaigrette. (That steak wasn't as rare as it came out in the photo!)

My attempt at the Steak with Tomato Herb Vinaigrette.

Hope is the many-fingered rosy dawn that led Odysseus home.

Recipes for Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Beef Nicoise Salad

Recipes for Gnocchi in Brown Butter and Beef Nicoise Salad

He feared losing wife and home, but still he spurred on and on, fighting demons of all kinds

My attempt at Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sauce

My attempt at Gnocchi in Brown Butter Sauce

Until his hope of returning to his wife, Penelope, was finally realized

My attempt at Beef Nicoise Salad

My attempt at Beef Nicoise Salad

And triumphantly he came home.

I am hopeful…

…I hope that you’ll wander over and read a short story I wrote! It’s called: My Brother, Soweto. And then head over to Beth’s site, I Should Be Folding Laundry and participate in this week’s You Capture challenge!

P.S. I can’t wait until it stays light later in the day so I can get dinner food photos under natural light. Sorry for the poor quality pics! Well, the recipes and cookbooks are fine, but my own attempts at these dishes need a little help…


tell it to me tuesday – fodder for comfort

(And coincidentally, my 200th post!)

So it figures, I chose this topic and then cannot narrow it down to just one book or one movie. If I were to have a weekend all to myself, and just wanted to turn to a book or movie that I knew, time and again, would give me pleasure…well, the list is small, but the choice difficult.
TITMT_comfortbooks1For books, it is easier. As much as I love books and have a long list of favorites or important ones, the one set I can turn to without fail is the Harry Potter series and in the following order: Book 6, Book 7, Book 4, Book 3, Book 1, Book 5 and Book 2. Two was always my least favorite, and I love Six (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) above all the others for the all the things Harry learns, for his love, and for his pain. It is most special to me and there are always more hidden gems of wisdom and connections to make, even though it ends as it does.

Movies, on the other hand, I am far more moody with. If I’m feeling sentimental and totally girly and looking for the happy ending, I know I can always turn to Pride & Prejudice – the A&E version ONLY, because of course there is no proper pride without Colin Firth and no duly understood prejudice without Jennifer Ehle. But if I don’t have a full 6 hours to devote to allowing my heart to swoon over Pemberley, then Love Actually is my modus operandi.
TITMT_comfortbooksMmm…still thinking about Colin Firth. And the look upon Mr. Darcy’s face when he hears Elizabeth does love him. Be still, my heart!


However, some days, I am just in need of a good cry. For that, I turn to either Meet Joe Black or Playing By Heart. I can always count on the masterful performances of Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt to bring the daddy’s girl in me to a weeping puddle. And the ‘Goodnight Moon’ scene in Playing By Heart unfailingly and unflinchingly tugs at my heart strings.

What about you?

What book or movie do you turn to when you are in need of its comfort?

The Rules
I think there is real power in the human voice, as flawed as it may be. And when the voices speak together, when you have a multitude of voices speaking, patterns begin to emerge and there you can begin to understand truth. So in the spirit of the personal narrative, I am hosting a weekly challenge every Tuesday morning, where I will post a topic (ranging from the banal to the intimate) and ask readers to respond. I would love to see everyone’s answers and how similar and different they all are.

You can respond in any way you choose. You can give a fictional response or a true one. You can use words, sentences, and/or photographs. If you have a blog, you can link it with Mr. Linky below. Please be sure to include “Tell It To Me Tuesdays” in the title, and link back to this post. Feel free to use the “Tell It To Me Tuesday” button available to the right. If you don’t have a blog, but want to join in, you can just leave a comment. Please follow the rules. I don’t want to have to delete links. I like links! Don’t make me delete them.


Next week’s challenge: Finish this phrase: “When I was a child…”

addressed to anonymous

sidewalksceneHave you ever left things unsaid? Is there anything you wish you could say, but haven’t, or someone you wish you could talk to, but can’t? What if you had the chance to change that?

There is a new blog called “Addressed to Anonymous” that tries to deal with this very thing. As the blog author explains:
“Yesterday I had a lot of emotions I wanted to purge. I wrote them and sealed them in a letter, but had no where to send it to. So I got to thinking…what if there was somewhere to send that letter anonymously. Some place to put it out into the universe and maybe even to get response (not from the intended recipient, but from someone who could relate or just wanted to provide comfort and wisdom). Out of this I started a new idea/blog/community share site. Addressed to Anonymous. What do you have to say that you can’t or just haven’t? Who would you write a letter to if it could be anonymous? Don’t tell me on here…start writing the letter.”

Do you have something to purge? If so, maybe it would help to send an anonymous letter out into the ether. You never know. Even the process of writing the letter alone can be profoundly cathartic.

trip to the zoo – a photo essay

Animals don’t speak our language…or perhaps I should say we don’t speak theirs. Yet somehow they still communicate so much, through a look, through body language, through posture, even in their silence.











Happy for No Reason

Yesterday, while running errands, I tuned into a segment on NPR where Marci Shimoff, author of Happy for No Reason, was giving an interview based on her research into happiness. I only caught a brief snippet of the interview, but what stood out to me was that she said everybody has a happiness quotient. This is the baseline ratio or number of how happy a person is, regardless of circumstance. You could win the lottery and within a year, you’d return to this baseline number.

This happiness quotient is about 50% genetic, but the rest of it is largely up to individual choice: how one chooses to view the world and respond to it. True happiness has nothing to do with what happens to you, what things you have in your life or what things you don’t have. That happiness is superficial and fleeting. True happiness comes from what you give out. So for example, one of the things she said is that being loved is not a cause for true happiness. But giving out love, in gratitude, forgiveness, doing for others, caring for others…that’s what brings true happiness. She quoted a Chinese proverb:

“If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”

It seemed from what I caught in the interview that much of what she said was based on scientific research, though when I went to her website, it seemed very commercialized, with very little mention of data or credentials. So that makes me a little skeptical. But what she says has a lot of face validity to me – it sounds logical and true on it’s face. It certainly reflects my own particular perspective and experience in the world.

What really struck me was the notion that people have a baseline happiness quotient regardless of circumstance-and that that happiness level has an affect on the people around you. I have known people whose mere presence in a room can either brighten it, or suck all the energy out of it.

There is a very remarkable difference between happy people who fall on hard times, and truly sad or angry people. Even if the hard times are lasting for happy people, and they turn to others for support, it is never an encumbrance to help them and be there for them. But people who are naturally more negative can be intensely draining to be around, even when they are in a decent mood. With them, there is always a problem, always a drama, and in my experience, they always find passive aggressive ways to let you know they’re upset. And while I have been known to be passive aggressive when I was younger, once I got old enough to really see what I was doing, I worked hard to recognize and change that about myself because I can’t stand passive aggressiveness. It’s weak and ultimately harmful because: 1) it makes solving the problem infinitely more difficult because you’re never dealing with the real issue, only smoke and mirrors and symptoms of the issue, 2) the passive-aggressor is only punishing everybody else for the unhappiness they feel, instead of ponying up to their own responsibility, and 3) the passive-aggressor gets to pretend they’re the victim, they’re misunderstood or unappreciated. They’re so good at pretending this, they can’t see past their own bullshit. They martyr themselves for others and resent it all the while.

But I digress. You can see this is a pet peeve of mine.

I don’t know if Shimoff’s argument is appealing because it contains both an ability to blame unhappiness on something over which we have no control, and an element where we can tell ourselves we can change how we feel-that we do have choice and control. We can tell ourselves, “I’m not to blame, but I have the freedom to change if I want.” It’s the epitome of American dogma, isn’t it? I have long believed that happiness comes from how you choose to respond to the hand life deals you, but maybe we are predisposed-whether through nature or nurture-to be more optimistic or pessimistic. But I do know, of the unhappy people I’ve known, some could benefit from a healthy dose of gratitude for what others do for them and the others could do with a little bit of forgiveness.

But then, perhaps, they don’t want to be happy. This is something else I have observed: some people are actually genuinely and perfectly content to wallow in a cocoon of self-pity.

The Language of Love and Grief

Several years ago, I heard a theory that people give love in different ways and it is important to learn to speak each other’s language of love so that your loved ones perceive and appreciate your tokens of affection and so that you can see when others are giving love in return. It is when we misinterpret or don’t even see each other’s efforts that feelings of hurt and under-appreciation arise.

According to this theory, there are five languages of love: quality time, words of appreciation, expensive gifts, acts of service, and physical intimacy. We all engage in all or most of these actions to greater or lesser extent, but we usually tend towards one or two predominant ones. We give love and expect love back in those terms (or at least recognize it most easily). Quality time people relish most the time spent in their loved one’s company. The act of being together, even if not really doing anything, often is more meaningful than the finest diamonds in the world. Words of appreciation people love to lavish praise and verbal affection, and it is warm words that mean the most to them. Meanwhile, for others, words are not as important as other gifts. For some, love is measured in extravagance. These people love to spoil and pamper, and the cost of the gift is proportional to the act of love. For others, love is measured in gifts of devotion. Cooking special dinners, helping with various and sundry tasks, and otherwise doing for others becomes a demonstration of love and affection. And finally, physical intimacy and the need and desire to embrace, hold hands, or just be in touch with someone (literally) becomes a manner of expressing love and affection.

I would say my language of love is primarily acts of service, with quality time and physical intimacy as secondary traits. I do engage in the other two, but to a much lesser extent. My husband, however, I would say is primarily and “expensive gifts” person, with quality time and physical intimacy as secondary traits. I used to expect more acts of service from him, and felt slighted and undervalued when I didn’t always receive them. It wasn’t until I began to see all the little and big tokens of affection – anywhere from buying groceries, to taking me to dinner, to the fabulous, expensive coats – as all the ways he shows me he loves me that I could truly see and appreciate his devotion on the level it deserved recognition. But with quality time and physical intimacy as both our secondary traits, we speak easily in those domains.

However, I think what might be true of love, might also be true of stress and grief. I’ve been listening to various family dramas lately and it occurs to me that people deal with grief differently too, and if we don’t understand and respect each other’s way of dealing with grief, increased conflict and hurt feelings could result.

From what I have seen in my limited experience, I think there might be four languages of grief: sympathizers, bottlers, imploders and exploders. Sympathizers (of whom I would be one) reach out to others for empathy in their grief. They love to console and be consoled, and this constitutes a major part of the grieving process for them, as well as a way to bond with others. They see empathy in times of need as another way to deepen a relationship. Bottlers, on the other hand, shut people out. They may even act passive-aggressively in dealing with their grief, but they keep it close to their chest and much prefer to deal with grief and anger on their own terms. Imploders are similar to bottlers in their sense that they are better left to themselves when upset. They grumble in anger, they may even be spectacularly violent in their fury and perhaps destroy a few inanimate objects, but if left to their own devices, their pain is usually short-lived. Finally, exploders are those who deal with anger and grief outwardly. In more positive ways, they may insist upon dealing with problems and hashing out concerns with the targets of their frustration, working at a problem until it is resolved. In more negative manifestations, they may engage in accusations, argumentation and blame.

I think these categories may even fall along two dimensions: intimacy and time to deal, where intimacy refers to how inwardly or outwardly grief manifests itself in relation to other people. Time to deal refers to how long it takes to manage and resolve the grief.

While I’m a sympathizer, I would say my husband is an imploder. But I quickly learned to give him space and he learned that a warm embrace and a few sweet words go a long way towards me finding me inner peace again. Thankfully in doing so, both of us help each other deal with grief more efficiently so the bad times don’t last any longer than they have to.

But this is just a theory based on my own personal observations. I would be very interested to know if this theory holds true in other lives. Also, being a sympathizer and married to an imploder, I feel I might understand these perspectives a little more clearly – and may have given short shrift to the other two personality types. If anyone feels they can elucidate those two perspectives better, I would be most willing to amend my little theory here. It’s a work in progress. Please pardon my dust.

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