Category Archives: origin stories

bumpwatch terror alert: week 25

if you look carefully, you can see charlotte’s tail in the background.

this pregnancy is racing by. only 15 weeks to go. it sounded like kind of a while until i realized that we’re talking fifteen weeks until jared & i become responsible for sustaining a tiny human life. not that i didn’t know that going in; it’s just kind of easy to lose sight of the big picture when the big picture is so fucking terrifying.

fewer than two weeks until jared is temporarily back in town (along with our friend amanda), two weeks to the day until the baby shower & the start of the second trimester. in three weeks, our babymoon in boston will be over & i’ll be back in lawrence by myself while jared tries to finish up his research on the east coast.

i have been going to bingo as much as i can while jared has been away. jared is generally pretty supportive of most things i want to do, in that he encourages me to do them even if he has no interest in joining me. i don’t think anything could compel him to play bingo. i myself have mixed feelings about it. it can be a very depressing scene. the game i play is at the american legion hall & most of the folks playing are clearly retirees. the young people that are playing would fit right in on an episode of “cops”. or in pretty much any scene from my childhood.

it’s not really a secret that i didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth. my dad had a decent job at an oil refinery, but he was an alcoholic & a drug addict, so the money he made was not well-managed. there were times when we had nice things, like a house big enough for all us kids to have our own rooms, or a nintendo system right when they were first introduced. there were other times when i had to get through the entire school year rotating two shirts because there was no money for a third.

now that i’m an adult living on a disability income, obviously i am not exactly rolling around in giant piles of money all day. & especially with a baby on the way, i’ve had a lot of anxiety about money. but my impending motherhood is also making me think a lot about my own childhood & the weird baggage i carry around from it & what values or assumptions i might pass on to my kid. for example, sometimes when i’m going out in the evening & am not going to be around for dinner, jared makes himself a dinner of lentils or beans on toast. i don’t like to eat meals like that. my gut reaction is, “why are we eating this way? we’re not poor.” (even though we kind of are.) but i was also telling him recently that i never really got into foods he thinks i would like, such as pancetta or lamb chops, because i think of them as “rich people food,” ie, food that people like me don’t eat. regardless of the fact that i undoubtedly buy groceries that are comparable in price. i’m not saying that any of this makes a lick of sense. i am saying that growing up with such limited means gave me a weird complex about money in ways that i am still unraveling, over fifteen years after i left my parents’ house. i think about what relationship i want my kid to have with food & i hope s/he will have an adventurous palate & like healthy foods, regardless of how much or how little they cost.

this weird class whiplash totally happens at bingo too, because, let’s face it. you can just tell that most people at the bingo game don’t really have a lot of money. the parking lot is full of cars manufactured at some point in the 90s, & a large percentage of folks in the hall are wearing sweatpants. & although bingo can be a lot of fun, & the prizes at the game i play are quite generous (the smallest payout is $40), the expense of it all can add up if you don’t watch yourself–& you are by no means guaranteed to win every night you go. in addition to bingo, there are other gambling games available, & they are popular. i’ve talked to a few people at bingo who told me they usually “only” play about $50 worth of bingo cards, but they easily drop $100 on the other games. $150. games happen twice a week. that’s $1200 a month. you recoup almost all your costs if you win a single progressive black-out within the time limit (a $1000 prize), but the likelihood of that happening is not good. so basically, going to bingo is an exercise in watching people who don’t have much money piss away what little money they have. in that respect, it can be very depressing.

personally, i try to limit myself to $40 in cards & i don’t play the extra games. the last time i went to bingo, i won the first special of the night for a prize of $200. that’s the most i have ever won in one night of bingo & i was very happy. more often than not, i leave the hall having won nothing. i just find the process of stamping the cards relaxing. i have heard tell of people who play bingo specifically to raise scratch for expensive hobbies they have (pageants, doll collecting, etc). i don’t get that. i haven’t kept track, but it seems like you pay more to play then you end up winning. the game i play actually posts statistics on this. they claim that they pay out, on average, 75% of their take. not 100% & definitely not more than 100%. & it’s in no way a game of skill, so there’s nothing you can do to increase your chances of winning besides get fast enough at dabbing to play more cards than anyone else in the game & give yourself more bites at the apple. & even that is a long shot.

none of this has much to do with the pregnancy, but it’s something i have been trying to wrap my head around for quite a while.

i call it crazy refrigerator lady blush sauce

photo challenge day #3: take a photo of something you ate.

oh, girl. i can tell you about something i ate! okay, many years ago, before i was even dating jared, & i lived with this crusty punk couple. i had a surprisingly rocky relationship with them. sometimes we got along beautifully, drinking beers & chainsmoking, introducing each other to new music, gossiping about our fellow punks, annoying each other’s pets (they had three dogs), tearing it up at parties, etc. & sometimes we got along really badly, for reasons i never understood. i got along better (more consistently) with the dude half of the couple, which is funny, because i don’t tend to get along with dudes that well. i almost always connect better with ladies. but this particular lady ran really hot & cold with me. i think she sometimes didn’t like how well i got along with her boyfriend. things finally blew up one day when i came home after being out all weekend & found a note on the fridge that said, “ciara–you have until october to find a new place to live. good luck.” it was august 28. & the note was actually written ON the fridge with permanent marker. by the lady. i found a new place to live that very afternoon & stiffed ’em on september rent (we didn’t have a lease, so there wasn’t much they could do about it). i still have no idea what caused her to believe that she couldn’t stand to live with me for one more second. i guess i’d been agitating for more equity in the rent distribution. i paid $535 for my bedroom, which was small to average-sized. they paid $275 each for their room, which was fucking enormous, about one-third of the entire apartment. if you add their rents together, yes, their room cost more than mine did, but only by $15 & i didn’t think it was fair that they got such cheap rent just because they were a couple who shared a room. i still think it’s pretty unjust, although i’m somewhat more understanding now. the only reason a couple would ever split an apartment with other roommates would be to score some cheap-as-fuck rent. i don’t know. i just didn’t know about the way rent was divided up before i moved in. i thought everyone was paying around $500 for their room because that’s what passed for pretty cheap rent in a shared apartment in boston at the time.

anyway, this lady i lived with was definitely a little bit bananas, with the writing notes on the fridge & all that, but she made this incredible dish that she just called “blush sauce”. despite my all-consuming love affair with italian food, i was unfamiliar with the concept of blush sauce (probably because it traditionally involves vodka & i was hardcore anti-alcohol until i was 26 years old or so–i didn’t even eat it in food). she only made it once every couple of months, but when she did, it was an all-day affair involving the huge pasta pot, a million hours of simmering, god knows how many kinds of cheese, & then she’d boil up a pound of two or penne & simmer it directly in the sauce until it was imbued with all the gooey cheesy tomato-y amazingness. she always made more than enough for herself & her boyfriend, & our fourth roommate was a pretentious vegan, so more for me! i asked her for the recipe, but she was really flaky & never got it to me. & then she turned on me & you know…refrigerators were drafted into her holy war against ciara.

yesterday i was hanging around the house, wondering what the fuck to make for dinner. & suddenly i was like, “BLUSH SAUCE!” i never got a recipe from her, i’d never made this dish before, but i have learned a lot about cooking since i started dating jared & i figured i could probably cobble something together if i couldn’t find a decent recipe online. in the past few years, i have been trying to perfect my macaroni & cheese recipe, which involves a cream roux that is mixed with cheese, & i figured i could adopt the principles of the roux for a basic blush sauce (sans peppers, onions, mushrooms, etc–i wanted my sauce to be a conveyance for nothing but creamy cheese & tomato).

i didn’t take any photos of the actual meal because i think that shit is kind of weird. an acquaintance of mine went on a blind okcupid date once with someone. they went to a restaurant, as you do on first dates, & after their entrees were served, the date whipped out a camera & was like, “i hope this is okay. i just have to take a photo before i eat?” my acquaintance was weirded out, mostly because no explanation was offered. why do you have to take a photo of your entree? do you run a food blog? are you the phantom gourmet? are you on weight watchers? do you have some weird camera-themed eating disorder? did you lose a bet? are you just a pretentious hipster who thinks random people give two shits about what you ate for dinner?

so here are my photos:

leftover sauce.
dirty dishes aftermath.

i didn’t end up using a recipe. i just kind of made it up. here’s what i did (warning: this is not remotely vegan–but it is vegetarian!).

melt about three tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. mix in a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. saute about two cloves of chopped garlic in this mix. throw in a can of diced tomatoes (like one of the cans that is about the size of a soup can, not one of the huge guys). pour in some heavy cream. i don’t know how much i put in. maybe half a cup or so? mix that all up & start stirring in fresh grated parmesan. i don’t know how much of that i used either. i’ll estimate 3/4 cup, maybe a little more. & then i tossed in a little handful of flour (like a tablespoon-ish? maybe two?) to thicken it up a bit. i was going to include mozzarella, but when i tasted it with just this, it was so insanely delicious that i decided not to fuck with a good thing. i served it over penne & it was enough for two people to have two big plates with the leftover sauce you see here chillin’ in the (permanent marker-free…so far) fridge. this was the best thing i have ever cooked, aside from a couple of especially incredible lasagnas. despite not being italian even a little bit, i really think i might have been an old italian granny in a past life.

more than you ever wanted to know about american girl

so, it’s wintertime, it’s getting chilly outside, & that is perfect weather for staying at home, curled up on the couch, reading my way through big stacks of library books. recently i have become somewhat obsessed with reading american girl books, especially the canonical six-book series that accompanies each historical character.

american girl is a toy company that is now owned by mattel, but was originally started in the mid-80s by an entrepreneur named pleasant rowland. she wanted to create dolls that actually looked like little girls (as opposed to the omnipresent baby doll or a fashion doll representing an adult woman, like barbie). each doll would be a character based in a different historical era, with a series of six books telling the character’s story. each series started with a basic “meet so & so,” introducing the character & the unique historical circumstances of her time period, followed by a school story, a holiday story, a birthday story, a story about the character doing something dangerous & helpful, & a story that sets the character on a new, more grown-up path. various accessories were also available for each doll, corresponding to her stories. for example, you could buy a replica school desk that was historically accurate for the character’s era, or a dress that matched the dress she is depicted as wearing in her birthday story, or even tiny miniatures of the toys she plays with in her stories. it’s all very cunning: catnip for adult collectors & little girls alike, & a perpetual moneymaking machine. wish i’d thought of it first!

the first three characters were kirsten, a swedish pioneer girl growing up in 1854 in minnesota; samantha, a posh edwardian-era orphan being raised by her rich grandmother in 1904; & molly, a spunky girl with glasses growing up during world war 2 (her father is off treating wounded soldiers on the home front). allow me to add, molly’s father is not an attractive man:


though he was rocking harry potter glasses 50 years before his time. hipster dads strike again.

the fifth character introduced was addy walker. growing up in 1864, she was born into slavery & ran away to freedom in philadelphia with her mother after her older brother & father were sold to another slave master. she was the first historical character of color, & until this year, the only black historical. (cecile rey, a free person of color growing up in new orleans in 1853, was released this past summer.)

as children, my sister & i were OBSESSED with the american girl catalogue, which must have been mailed to every little girl who happened to be between the ages of 6 & 10 at any point between 1987 &…i don’t know, NOW, i guess. my sister loved samantha because her collection was full of frilly dresses & clever little accessory sets like a butterfly-catching set that comes with faux-butterflies, or a doll-sized watercolor set with real watercolors. my sister has always been a major girly-girl. let me just tell you that she has enough nail polish that it requires an organizational system & we’ll leave it at that. (i’m 32 & still bite my nails.) i liked kirsten & felicity, the redheaded colonial character who rises up against the british circa 1774 (she was released fourth). i’ve always had a soft spot for both the revolutionary war & the “little house on the prairie” books, so it was a tough choice for me. but the dolls cost something like $70 at the time, & each little dress or accessory set was at least $15 more, & it all just seemed like a money pit to my parents, who said no way.

which set the stage for an adulthood of being weirdly obsessed with these dolls that i was not allowed to have as a child.

i thought i had read addy’s books ten years ago when i started researching american girl again, but i guess i didn’t, because i checked them out of the library last week & read them over the weekend & HOLY SHIT. i knew on some level that she was an “escaped slave,” but her first book is all about the work she has to do on the plantation, her brother trying to run off & getting hunted down by dogs & hauled back to the plantation to be whipped, addy getting whipped for saying goodbye to his father while he is manacled on the ground after being sold to another slave owner…i mean, JESUS. there’s a scene where addy is helping serve lunch to her master, who is hosting a fellow slave owner. the other slave owner asks if addy’s master would be willing to sell her, & then he pets her head. if you are an adult who is aware that female slaves of all ages were routinely raped & sexually exploited by their masters, you will definitely pick up on those undertones in this scene. god only knows how it reads to a child. there’s another scene where addy is distracted while working in the fields because her brother & father have been sold. she misses a few worms that she was supposed to be picking off the tobacco plants & the overseer forces her to eat them. GODDAMN. i felt traumatized reading that, & i am four times older than the target demographic. when addy & her mother finally decide to run away, addy’s mother explains that they have to leave behind addy’s one-year-old sister esther. they have to run too far & too fast to make it to the safe house before being re-captured, & carrying a baby will only slow them down. plus she could cry at any time & give them away. i mean, it is beyond imagining.

i feel like most of the american girl books are heavier than i expect them to be when i am just looking at their plastic smiling doll faces & their cute little accessory sets, but addy’s really blew me away. i feel like most of her collection is quite fetching (especially the retired stuff), but really? no one at american girl stopped & had a moment where they were like, “hmmm…we have created an escaped slave doll…& now we are going to SELL HER.” it’s a bit tone-deaf, no?

alive & more midwestern than ever before

my self-imposed hiatus has finally come to a close. i guess. i needed a break to finish up a personal writing project, & i did that last week. i wish it was something really exciting, like a novel or a zine or something, but…it wasn’t. let’s not speak of it again.

i feel rusty at this blog-writing thing. part of it is that i have never really had a clear picture of what this thing is actually for, if anything. it’s not like i lead an action-packed life that actually needs to be documented on the internet for the entertainment & edification of others. but it’s also not like i need an outlet to express my innermost thoughts & feelings. i have not one but two real diaries i use for that purpose, which i write in using actual pens.

my first ever experience writing on the internet was in early 2000. i didn’t have a computer of my own at the time, because i had no money, no one that might have given me a gift had any money, & i still thought the internet was probably just a flash in the pan anyway. when i wanted to use the internet, i walked to the portland public library & enjoyed the free hour allotted to all portland public library cardholders. it’s difficult to imagine now. i wonder what else i would do with my time if i only used the internet for an hour a day now. i can’t imagine that i am capable of reading more than i already do (i three or four books a week, plus every issue of “bitch,” “the new yorker,” “writer’s digest,” &–i admit it–“real simple” magazines, plus the “new york times” every day). & i get plenty of sleep. maybe i would actually write a novel. or socialize.

“blogs” were just starting to appear in 2000. i don’t know if anyone used that word though. i think they were generally called either “websites” (by people who took themselves seriously) or “online diaries” (by people like me, who were 20-year-old girls). i started one because i had just moved to portland a few months before & i still had tons of zine friends scattered all over the place & i thought keeping an “online diary” might be a good way to streamline the process of updating my friends on my life. it was a diaryland site with a background of orange stars. so perfect for a 20-year-old girl! i’m not even going to pretend to be ashamed. at the time, i loved diaries & i loved stars because i was still at a point in my life where i felt tremendous amounts of goofy enthusiasm for things that were really simple & maybe kind of trite.

sometimes i miss those days.

in retrospect, i had boundless enthusiasm for all kinds of different projects when i was twenty years old. so it makes sense that my “online diary” turned into an exercise in documenting my adventures & i found my voice really quickly. i was working at a bookstore that was in the process of unionizing, i was volunteering at an anarchist infoshop, i joined the radical cheerleaders, i started a feminist art collective, i was planning regular anarchist protests (especially after the 2000 presidential elections), i was writing zines, traveling a lot, going to shows, stenciling, making art…i mean, it was a little ridiculous. & unfathomable to me now. how did i used to be that person?

my life is really different now…which is a relief, actually, because it’s twelve years later. my biggest project recently has been trying to get pregnant. it has been unbelievably stressful. part of that may be because i am the kind of person who can find a way to make a walk in the park on a sunny day or petting a sleepy kitten stressful, but…seriously. i think any ladies who have actually had to try to get pregnant instead of just waking up one day & being delighted to find that they got pregnant on accident know what i mean. it’s hard to fathom when you’re not in the midst of it, & it’s nearly impossible to explain.

in the meantime, i am trying to live my normal life. it’s utterly bizarre to go through the paces of adult living while simultaneously hoping that your pleasant & streamlined daily routine will soon be upended by nausea, physical discomfort, doctor’s appointments, & eventually a screaming, crying drool machine. & to realize that you will actually be upset if you have to just keep living a peaceful life of reading library books, discussing literature at feminist book club, going to bingo night, & traveling without thinking about car seats.

that’s right, i said bingo night! when jared first told me that he was thinking about applying to KU, i thought, “kansas might not be so bad. i bet they have a bingo night.” then i forgot all about it until a year ago. i discovered that there is bingo at the american legion on wednesdays & saturdays, & i asked around, trying to rustle up a friend to go with me. (needless to say, jared is not really interested in playing bingo.) it didn’t happen, & i was reluctant to go alone, so i forgot about it again. until last week, when my friend jaimie started going to bingo with her mom. they invited me to go with them, & now i have a raging case of “dabbin’ fever” (as it is known in the bingo vernacular). expect this to become a regular element in my writing here. in twelve short years, i have gone from being a heavily pierced feminist anarcho-punk who rarely slept but routinely called people out for their political transgressions to being a cape-wearing, “new yorker”-reading bingo maniac who attends water aerobics classes & suffers from baby rabies. i did not see that coming.

friend appreciation month

one of my primary objectives for spinster summer was to shore up my relationships with people other than my boyfriend, & i think it’s been quite a success. i have never wanted to be one of those people who retreats into a romantic relationship. i have also never been a person who is really concerned with having a huge circle of friends. i am happy having a handful of people that i can really count on. so it’s kind of a balancing act for me to do what i have to do to keep my main partner relationship happy & healthy, & also do the emotional work of building & maintaining important friendships. it’s no secret that i have no relationship whatsoever with my mom, & once a person cuts their own mom out of their life, it gets that much easier to just bail on everyone else when the going gets tough. i do that a lot. i know people that still have good friends from high school, or even elementary school. that’s not me. i cycle through friends like other people cycle through underpants. i subconsciously put people through their paces before i let a friendship happen. it’s never a surprise to me when people say, “when i first met you, i thought you were really intimidating & stand-offish.” it’s not intentional…it’s just what i do. letting people into my life is hard for me.

wah wah wah, right? spinster summer has been a very mixed bag, but it’s made me have a newfound appreciation for the other people in my life. so i decided august will be my own personal friend appreciation month, in which i reach out to new friends & old friends alike & let them know why they are important to me & what i value about them.

let’s start with miss jessika rae disaster, my sister from another mother. i met jessika rae in the summer of 2003. she was 20, straight edge, vegan, & wicked fucking posi. i was 24, going through a divorce, & was hobbling around in a walking cast with the assistance of a cane thanks to an arthritis-related injury. i was getting divorced because my partner was finishing up his undergrad degree & talking about wanting to enter grad school, get a doctorate, & maybe become a professor. i was just not seeing myself as the long-term partner of an academic & a professor. i know, right? fast forward eight years & that’s exactly where i am. but in 2003, i had other goals. i wanted to travel & live in punk houses & organize anarchist conferences & go to basement shows. i wanted to make zines & get d.i.y. tattoos. the dynamics at play in that relationship made our plans seem like very divergent paths. i felt like i had to choose between doing what was expected & doing what i wanted. so i chose to do what i wanted.

amazing lady friend.

for the record, i still feel this weird push & pull sometimes. especially lately, looking at starting down the road of being a mom & not being able to predict how that’s going to change my life. i definitely feel like i am leaving my idealistic youth behind, which is sometimes a huge relief & sometimes a bummer. i also acknowledge that it’s probably a false dichotomy. there’s no law saying that having a kid means i can never get a tattoo or go to a show. i just know that it’s not going to be the same, & i have mixed feelings about that.

anyway, i was a mess the first time i met jessika rae. she had organized a zine fair in detroit & i was tabling my zine distro for the first time. but this was the weekend of the epic black-out that took out all the power in the eastern half of the united states for a couple of days. detroit is something of a post-apocalyptic hellscape on the best of days. this weekend was like something out of a sci-fi novel. no streetlights, no stoplights. the very few people milling around on the sidewalks were either setting off fireworks & shooting off guns. the zine fair was in the warehouse space behind trumbullplex, & it was lit with weird electric lanterns attached to generators & candles. everyone was riding bikes & playing spin the bottle & eating dumpstered snacks. i felt like i was a thousand years old with my cane. i cried a lot. jessika rae set me up in an empty room belonging to a traveling kid at trumbull. i went to bed at 8pm with a flashlight & read myself to sleep.

somehow, from this very questionable beginning, we forged a friendship. when i got home to boston, i wrote jessika rae a letter, apologizing for what a weepy, crabby mess i had been. she was totally unfazed. she wasn’t freaked out or put off at all, & we started exchanging lots of letters about feminism & mental health & bands & fucked up disappointing political shit & relationship issues. i went traveling the next summer & spent a week in detroit. i don’t remember much except for going to a soap-making workshop & thinking, “punks in the midwest wear overalls a lot. that would NEVER happen in boston.” i also remember sitting at the trumbullplex’s huge dining room table (used for collective meetings) by myself, listening to mischief brew & working on a zine based around “born to run” by bruce springsteen. then i played “stand by me” on the piano for like an hour. a few weeks later, i took a bus to bloomington for the first plan-it-x fest & jessika rae met me at the bus station & i just remember thinking, “yes. something about this moment is how i want my life to be.” i couldn’t even say exactly what it was. we spent a few scary minutes during which jessika rae couldn’t find the fest tickets for our little group of like ten weirdos, & i called her messika rae & she said, “i don’t like that.”

in the eight years since, jessika rae & i have never lived in the same town, or even the same state. but we write letters & call each other on the phone all the time. when i was in boston & she was living in maine, we visited a lot. i haven’t seen her in over three years at this point. but her presence in my life definitely helps keep me grounded. she’s gotten a lot less vegan, a lot less straight edge, & FAR less posi since we have known each other–all of which i appreciate very much. but she inspires the shit out of me & usually when i start feeling all fucked up about the choices i have made in life & getting consumed with crazy regrets, i think about jessika rae or i call her up & it makes me feel like, “yes. this is what i want my life to be.”

i encourage anyone reading this to make time to appreciate your friends. there are a million ways to let your friends know how you feel: call them up, write them postcards, sing them a song, go for a walk together. maybe your friendship has been plagued by drama & recriminations–it happens. put your shoulder into it & see what happens when you get to the other side. see if this is what you want your life to be & how your friends are showing you the way.

grief is a spiral

i realized the other day that spinster summer is more than halfway over. the first half went pretty smoothly. it seemed to fly by, really. maybe it was a mix of having the opportunity to see jared a lot (because i spent the first six days in boston with him, & then i only had about two weeks by myself in kansas before i flew back to boston to spend my birthday with him) & the novelty of having all the alone time i wanted. but now i am in the big stretch of not seeing him for a month, & some of the excitement of having the house to myself has dissipated. it’s getting more difficult.

i threw myself a little birthday party on saturday so i could spend some quality time with friends in kansas. i wasn’t anticipating a rager, because 32-year-olds, as a general rule, don’t really rage a whole lot. i also don’t know that many people in lawrence, & at least half of the people i do know are out of town for the summer. plus lawrence is a weird place. you actually have to be kind of popular to get people to schedule you into their busy weekends. maybe it’s a college town thing? or maybe it’s just a life thing. i was competing against a couple of going away parties & whatever it is more fun-loving people get up to on weekends, so it was pretty sedate.

jaimie offered to make me a birthday cake. although she is trying to maintain a gluten-free diet, she said that cakes are “how [she] best expresses [her] creativity.” she asked me for flavor & them suggestions. i offered chocolate, vanilla, hazelnuts, & cats.

this is what she came up with.

the cake part is shaped like a zine. half of it is chocolate & half is vanilla (though the chocolate got greedy & colonized the vanilla half a little bit). the creature is in fact a rice krispie treat molded into the vague shape of a cat & covered with fondant. it has fondant ears & tail & frosting features, including claws.

detail of the cat.

jaimie says, “i’m not a sculptor, okay?” she thinks it looks like a hairless pig rat. i think it kind of resembles jaimie’s dog, wallace tucker. he’s a terrier/chihuahua mix who grew up in a meth lab. after the meth lab exploded & his original owners were hauled off to prison, jaimie adopted him.

the cat is wearing an ice cream cone birthday hat with a sparkler in it. i refused to light the sparkler because i am still traumatized from setting my hand on fire lighting sparklers at kickball last summer. so jaimie lit it.

the cake with the sparkler lit.

i feel that i should mention that this cake is enormous. & literally only six people stopped by for my “party” (which is about five more than i really expected). only four of us ate cake. so i have tons of leftovers. they’re taking up an entire shelf in my refrigerator. thankfully, jaimie is hosting a barbecue/potluck this evening, so i’m going bring the leftover cake & also all the leftover beer that has been sitting in my fridge. i just don’t drink beer when left to my own devices. i don’t drink any alcohol. that’s definitely not a bad thing, but it does make me wonder sometimes why the hell i pay for recycling service.

people singing happy birthday to me.

the day of my party was in fact charlotte’s tenth birthday. if she were a person, she’d be getting ready to enter the fifth grade! she’d be able to write cursive! charlotte shares her birthday with my niece, malachite. she’s nine. halfway to adulthood! they really do grow up so fast. my sister may disagree, since she’s the person who has had to shepherd malachite along to turning nine, but i feel like she was just born last week.

malachite was in fact born exactly two weeks before my dad died. so the anniversary of his death is coming up on july 30. it blows my mind to think he’s been gone for nine years. i had just turned 23 when he died. now i’m 32. weirdly, jared’s father’s birthday is the same day my dad died. his mother’s birthday is the same as my ex-husband’s. people are sometimes surprised that i’m so good at remembering the birthdays of people i don’t even know that well, but it’s easy for me because there are weird clusters of significant dates in my life.

i guess nomy lamm is performing in lawrence on july 30. that’s where most people i know here are going to be on the anniversary of my dad’s death. i am still mulling whether or not that’s where i want to be. it could be good to be with friends, doing something potentially fun & definitely outside the confines of my usual routine. but it might be kind of stressful.

to be honest, i don’t really feel a lot of feelings on days that are associated with my dad–his birthday, father’s day, the anniversary of his death. i haven’t felt a lot of feelings about him in a long, long time, because i guess my philosophy is to just not have a lot of feelings about things i can’t help. but i do sometimes wake up in the morning or space out while reading a book & think, “i haven’t talked to dad in a while. i should call him.” then i remember. i wonder how long a person has to be dead before that fact finally sticks in your brain.

charlotte as a baby.
my dad, about two years before he died (the second to last time i saw him).

don’t sleep

i accidentally stayed up all night on the fourth of july. jaimie came by at 8pm & we went out to get some dinner. then we drove out to the country, where we attended a huge, weird party with bands & hours upon hours of professional-grade fireworks, which are not illegal in kansas. away from the light pollution of town, i could really appreciate how bright the stars were. & the crescent moon looked orange because it was obscured by smoke from the fireworks.

when i was a very little child & my sister was just barely a toddler, our parents took us to fireworks hosted by the little town we lived in. a chunk of spent firework, about the size of a ping pong ball, fell into the crowd & hit my sister in the eye. she was okay, aside from being a baby with a shiner. that is one of my earliest memories & as a result, fireworks have always freaked me out a little bit. i think they are nice from afar, like last summer in philadelphia, when jared, amanda, & i went to the park & could barely even see the fireworks because there were so many thousands of people that had arrived before us, or the years before that, when jared & i watched the boston fireworks over the charles river. but these amateur fireworks in the country were just being set off by random punk kids with very questionable dread mullets, like ten feet away. they were exploding right over our heads. as far as i know, nothing caught on fire & no one was maimed by debris. but it was really over-stimulating, especially because the fireworks were almost the only source of light at the party–which was huge & spread out all across a big country estate/farm. someone had lit tiki torches along pathways, right next to little trees. i really thought the tiki torches were going to catch the trees on fire too.

jaimie was all, “pretty much everyone in lawrence who is cool is going to be at this party. you’re going to get there & be amazed by how many people you know.” but out of hundreds of people, we probably only knew five folks. which was fine. i don’t really feel like i know that many people in lawrence anyway.

we were among the last few people to straggle out, which i regretted when it came time to drive back to lawrence. jaimie was just trying to reverse the directions she’d written down, & we had gotten lost on our way out, so i was all turned around. i wished we would have left when some of our friends had left so we could follow them back. but eventually we figured out where we were going (thank god that even country roads in kansas are on a grid system) & made it back by 12:30am.

jaimie came in & we just sat around & talked until around 3am. after she went home, i decided to polish off a little writing project i’d been working on earlier in the day, but when i looked out the window after i finished, the sun was starting to rise. i knew that if i went to bed then, i’d just sleep until 2pm & hate myself. so instead i made coffee & got started on a new day. i napped for an hour or two in the late morning, but i’m going back to boston to see jared for my birthday this weekend, & he’s on a pretty normal schedule because he’s spending all day everyday at the historical archives. so i decided to just stay awake until a decent hour & then go to bed & wake up at 8am today.

despite being so tired when i went to bed last night, i slept really badly. it was one of my worst nights of sleep ever. i kept hearing weird noises that i couldn’t totally identify over the sound of the air conditioning, & because i now live in my own little one-story house, i kept thinking it was someone trying to break in. not that lawrence, kansas is really a hotspot for criminal activity, but shit happens everywhere. when i did finally drift off, charlotte woke me up by parading through the house, meowing at the top of her lungs. she’s usually such a quiet, independent cat. she hardly ever meows about anything. but she seems to have a gift for recognizing the times when i really need my sleep, & then she’s as noisy as possible.

i did manage to turn my schedule back around & got up at a totally respectable hour–like 8:30am. but i immediately started thinking about how i’m leaving for boston tomorrow, which means i have to drive myself to the airport, on the highway. i have had to get a lot more comfortable with driving in the last few weeks, because i no longer have jared around to do the driving i’d prefer not to do. i have definitely noticed that i feel a lot more confident & a lot less anxious behind the wheel, & i am getting progressively better at driving things i used to struggle with, like parking. but driving on the highway still makes me anxious. especially when it’s followed up with getting on an airplane. i am not terrified of flying, but it’s a little nervewracking.

i turn 32 on monday & am getting started on making my list of 32 things to do before i am 33 years old. i made a list of 31 things to do before i am 32 last summer, but i lost it when my computer hard drive died in san francisco. i thought i had copied into my journal, but…i guess i didn’t. i wish i had it for reference, because i know there was a lot on there that i didn’t get to, & i am struggling to come up with items for this year’s list. any suggestions? i am stalled at ten items. they are pretty big & exciting items, but at least one of them is so big & life-changing that i am having trouble imagining what my life will be like once it happens & what goals may be reasonable to set.