The best kind of gift

Pretty sure I have mentioned how excruciatingly painful it is to exist in a country where you don’t understand the language – especially if you’re a hopeless people person. I tend to get repetitive on this blog, but to sum up for those who are joining my rants for the first time: not being able to talk to people is the worst thing ever. And not just because it cuts you off from everyone at a really basic level, but because one of my only strengths is being able to communicate really well (with as much self-deprecation as happens on this blog, I think I’m allowed a pat on the back) and now I’m stripped of it. So having this imaginary zipper over my lips makes me feel a bit like a fish … my mouth keeps opening hopefully but nothing comes out. Kind of like my first debate round.

Conversation takes effort to begin with. Now try it without knowing the language. It’s hard. For everyone.

While helping Marilyn in the kitchen earlier this autumn (and I use the word “helping” very loosely, because no matter how much I do, she is always a thousand times more productive than I am), I confided in her some of my frustrations. I don’t know what I was expecting her to say as I watched her from the sink of soppy water my elbows were resting in. (She basically stops the rhythm of space and time when she’s working, conducting the cosmos in her own magnificent orchestra of productivity. I mostly just watch. I’m sort of like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice except … No, I’m exactly like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice).

Continue reading


The ugliest doll ever

Ninth-grade Mary sits in her swivel chair around 9:30 p.m. in 2005 pondering a dilemma. If she messages her brother will she interrupt his studies? And if she leaves him alone will she ever finish this research project?

She clicks on the gtalk box, causing a little blurping noise to ruin the sacred silence of the post-“lights-out” rule strictly enforced by a sister who will remain unnamed. Said sister rolls over in her sleep but does not wake up.

Scotty, are you busy?

Not for you. What’s up?

Little Mary pauses.

Are you sure you’re not busy? I don’t want to disturb you if you’re studying.

Mary inserts emoticon to affirm sincerity of concern because college is super important and 9:30 p.m. for her is after midnight for her favorite freshman.

I am busy, but I am choosing to ignore my other responsibilities because you are more important. You’ll spend most of your life choosing how to invest your time, money, etc. Some things are just worth more than others. What’s up?

Continue reading

Cranberry Sauce: A recipe for disaster

Thanksgiving 2013I come from a family of mostly competent cooks. If you ignore the ones not tall enough to reach the counter and the ones who spent more time perfecting the craft of eating growing up, my family’s cooking skills basically span the whole length of the spectrum from “Spontaneous experimental enthusiast” (just dump ALL THE GOOD THINGS into a pot/onto a grill) to “Stubbornly traditional” (if you’re not using a meat thermometer you are WRONG).

I was a member of the eating-skills focus group in our home.

I thrived in college. I’m a comfort food monster and I’m really good at settling for plastic that has been labeled as food by faceless corporations around the country. God bless those sodium-packing princes of capitalism. Cheese puffs saved my life in 2011.

Different story. The one I’m trying to tell right now involves me actually stepping into a kitchen to help with our expat-Thanksgiving.

Continue reading