Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Words: Drive by

Every now and again I want to use this space for what my old blog, my creative writing blog, was meant for: to house some adventures out of the "lifestyle" game and let me play around with my words
I used to participate in Magpie Tales linkups once in a while, and I was really feeling* this week's image — so here goes nothing...

Drive By 

When I came to visit you / That's when I knew / that I could never have you

you fascinated, you fascinating thing, you were fascinated with me. with my ring. my clunky silver and stone ring, the ring that sits on the finger that he used to hold, and when he didn't anymore, my clunky silver and stone ring did instead. and while you slid my clunky silver ring from my finger and twirled it in yours i stole the chance. the world was fixed on you; i was fixed on you. your hands were fixed on my ring and then your eyes moved to fix on me. i blushed.

I knew that before you did / Still I'm the one who's stupid

i wouldn't let them call you calculated. but in the hushed words, the looks that lasted a single second too long, the clink of bottles, the padding on pavement, the turning of pages, the heavy silence, and the sounds of quiet torture between us, i tried to figure out the math. i always came up with one too many, and you promised my math was off. i was fooled.

And there's this burning / Like there's always been

it didn't add up that i, me could fascinate you, yes you. that i could make you want to run with me, and that you could make me want to run. but i did and you did and suddenly 'safe' meant something new and strange and where was i? where were we? i was interrrupted.

I've never been so alone

i was in over my head
And I've never been so alive

and i walked through fire for more.

Visions of you on a motorcycle drive by / The cigarette ash flies in your eyes / And you don't mind

every minute, every waking moment, every moment together and even the whole of every single solitary one apart, you set the world on fire and called it a gift to me. you burned bridges and forests and made walls tumble down and the sirens screamed out under the weight of your imposing fist and so did i, and my siren song became your anthem. you sang along like you knew the words (i helped you learn them)

You smile

and muted my song when it suited you. and i was silenced.

And say the world, it doesn't fit with you / I don't believe you

and so i sang your song instead. my teeth broke and tumbled out of my mouth in crumbs when the words wouldn't fit, but for you, i tried. and my tongue bled when i bit it one too many times so you could have your peace, so i could keep you safe and so you would only hear the song you wanted to dance to. and i broke.

You're so serene / Careening through the universe / Your axis on a tilt / You're guiltless and free

i should beg forgiveness but i can't muster another word for an apology after i used every one i knew to figure out how to break you too. for half a moment it felt and looked something like relief: the sharp, jagged pieces of these grandiose ideas we once had of who i was, who you were, who we could be and what we would never do. but it was fake relief, like the moment your body goes numb after the hundredth lashing, the way your nerves call it quits and your skin becomes water, the way you spend just a heartbeat thinking you'd rather feel nothing at all, before you remember that at least when you burn, you know you're alive. and sweet, merciful hell did you make me feel. and i burned.

I hope you take a piece of me with you

but your skin turned to water and i lost you on the current.

*I'm fine. I just have a good memory.  :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Six Real Reasons I'm Pretty Much Undateable

As may be painfully obvious (and totally understandable) to most of you, I'm single. I think I'm required to clarify that I'm 25 and single, because that suddenly makes it a whole new ball game. Because at 25 I'm not supposed to be single. Or at least, I'm not supposed to be this single. By that, I mean I haven't had a quantifiable "relationship," ya know, with a person who called me their girlfriend out loud and in front of their parents in... well, the better part of a decade.

What I have had instead is:
  • A horrendously undefinable seven-year off-and-on stint with a man who I should have cut things off with (or kept them cut off with, as it were) about 1,000 times before I actually did
  • A summer fling with a magician 
  • A winter fling with a firefighter
  • A late fall fling with a college kid after I'd graduated
  • A lot of conversations with people about all the reasons we can't commit to each other right now
  • A lot of attention from people in relationships who were shocked that I wasn't cool with entertaining their scandalous ideas
  • A month-long summer fling that nearly had all the intensity of the seven-year thing
  • A couple of exes who reappear for no explicable reason
  • A handful of encounters and adventures I maybe shouldn't talk too much more about
  • A lot of conversations with people who are apparently way more uncomfortable with me being single than I am, in which I repeat my whole-hearted philosophies on love/relationships:
    • (a) A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. (- Irina Dunn)
    • (b) I like myself, I like my life, and I'm happier being alone than I am in a bad or bad-for-me relationship.
    • (c) If I'm going to be with someone, it's because they complement my life; not because I need them to make it better.
This is, unfortunately, not acceptable to a lot of people. And by a lot of people, I mean my aunts and most of my friends who are in relationships.

But I mean that a, b, and c with all of my guts. And it's a good thing I do, because I'm not a great dater. I mean, I'd totally be friends with me if I were someone else. Well, someone else with a decent sense of humor and thick skin who isn't going to whimper at every snarky comment I make.
But as far as dating me? I'm not going to lie, it's certainly not for everybody. It's not easy. As evidenced by the trail of broken-down, shuddering, confused men I've left in my wake.
Kidding. Sort of.

So to satisfy grandparents, aunts, friends of parents, coupled friends, and single men who think "how are YOU still single?" is a valid pick-up line everywhere, here you go:

An Honest Explanation as to Why I Am Still Single, At 25, When I Should Apparently Already Be Engaged or Married or At Least Living With Someone, Even Though It's Not Like My Life Is in Shambles As It Is, and Why I'm Not Suicidal Over It, Because I'm Actually Just Pretty Much Undateable

1. I get really easily annoyed by people and am extremely selective with my patience. Basically, and I know this isn't a great thing to say, you kind of have to earn my patience and annoyance. If we're still getting to know each other and you annoy me, then you're just going to be a person who annoys me. On the flip side, if I've already gotten to know you and I like you and THEN you annoy me, then at least I know (a) you aren't 24/7 annoying and are maybe just having an annoying day and (b) you have redeeming qualities that make the annoying ones pale in comparison.
2. I can and often prefer to spend time with you without touching you. This is important: I am not a touchy person. Do not play with my hair. Stranger at the bar/grocery store/beach/every other place this has inexplicably happened: Do not touch/trace my tattoos with your fingers. (Yeah. WTF?) This ban on touching is lifted when I feel comfortable and then, sure, it's fair game. But even then — a point which most people don't wait for — why do we have to be touching constantly? It's annoying (see #1.) Don't say affection, because poking me in the shoulder with your shoulder or something isn't affection. I don't need you stroking my kneecap during the movie to know you're into me. That's weird. And also annoying. And listen, I'm no prude, but I don't dig extensive PDA. I have a feeling people will know we're together even if there is an inch of space between us, and even if they don't, I actually don't care at all. Please give me some damn space.
3. I don't receive or give out early terms of endearment or expressions of affection well. By the way, I'm fully aware that I'm a poster child for intimacy issues. Let's just get that out of the way. I'm aware. Anyway, here's the thing: It's rare that this feels genuine to me, whether I'm trying to dish it out or take it. Remember that seven-year thing I mentioned above? It was then that I learned how easy it is for (some) people to make someone feel loved when they aren't. Terms of endearment don't take any effort to say, and very little effort to sound genuine. I've been told a whole lot of things. And I'm a writer — if anyone knows how words can lie and manipulate, it's me. So I've had my fill of being told, and now I care much more about being shown. Because I've been called precious terms of endearment countless time and heard expressions of affection even more, but that's just not enough to make me believe it. So unaccompanied by any actual gesture of affection or love... sorry baby. Talk is cheap.
4. If you don't know me well or can't keep up, you probably think I'm insulting you most of the time, and I don't care. I don't care because you got yourself into this mess by insisting you "can keep up." You can't and that's okay. Listen, I am a very sarcastic person. I always have been (I blame books and hating everyone I knew as a kid) and I have a really hard time checking it. And I also don't think I should have to change the whole way I speak, ya know? Anyway. I tend to test the other person out early with an innocent and fairly obvious snarky comment. If it goes over their head (it usually does), I explain that I'm just kidding (I have to say that a lot more with most new people than I'd like to) and that most of what I say is sarcastic. I invariably get a response like this: "Oh yeah me too, I'm really sarcastic. Hope you can keep up ;) ;) ;)" (in person and in text). And then I get all ragey because STOP BEING ALL "OMG I'M THE BEST AT SARCASM" when it just sailed RIGHT over your head. It's annoying and misleading because I'm just going to keep saying sarcastic things. And if I have to explain 15 times per date that I was just kidding, I'm not having a good time. Snark back or get out.
5. I have no interest in being "rescued" from myself, my circumstances, or the the world in any way shape or form: My life is good, and I want it to stay how it is for a while. I'm just open to making some room for one other person in it. Yes, I understand that being with someone means shifting priorities and being accommodating. I can do that. What I can't do, however, is listen to you give me advice on how I should talk to my boss, service my car, approach my "father issues," change my career, forget about this one goal and work on a different one, stop running because it's bad for my knees, stop seeing my chiropractor because you "fail to see any applications of chiropractic that would have an effect on migraines" (<- actual quote), adjust my voting practices, alter my view on feminism/politics/religion, eat differently, "stop being uptight and get drunk once in a while," or any of the other ingenious pearls of wisdom people seem to think I am in desperate need of, unless and only unless I ask for your opinion or advice or make it apparent that your feedback on how I'm doing things is welcome. I've kept myself alive and thriving for 25 years, I have a pretty good idea of how to keep doing it.
6. I love being by myself. I can love you too, but that doesn't and will never mean that I want you around all the time. Telling this to people is often like kicking a puppy though, and I'm against animal abuse, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it is for me. I can like spending time with you and like spending time by myself in equal measure and still want to be in a relationship with you and still love you and still like the look of your face. But I've always been independent and I've been taking care of myself for a very long time. I'm used to and very much enjoy my alone time. Please respect it. (Spoiler alert: They don't.)
But other than all that, ya know... I'm a real catch.

Oh! Total non-sequitur: Here's your reminder that one week from today is your next chance to link up with Tracy and me for another installment of Training for Tuesday! Let's chat training before the holiday season is officially set in motion and we all gain 30 pounds at Thanksgiving, shall we?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Recipe: The Best Spinach & Artichoke Dip

My mom has been best friends with her best friend for over 30 years. The two met when my mom moved into the neighborhood in second grade and they've been through everything with each other ever since. My "aunt" has been as much (or more!) a part of my life as some blood relatives, but as we all grow up and get busier, it's harder to make time to enjoy each other's company.

Over the past few years, we've made it a mission — my aunt and her two daughters who are my age — to get together a few times a year for a classic girls night: wine, snacks, catching up, and belly laughs.

We gathered at my mom's this past Friday for the latest installment. For the occasion, I pulled together my favorite, go-to bring-to-a-party dish: spinach and artichoke dip.

I found a recipe for this ages ago, copied it down, manipulated it a bit, and have been hassled for the recipe countless times. This stuff is good. Not even remotely kidding: I went to a party once and set out the spindip on the snack table. I stepped outside for about five minutes, then figured I'd go in and grab some snacks. THE ENTIRE PAN OF SPINDIP WAS EMPTY! Next time I brought two trays.

I've emailed out this recipe to various friends of friends since I started bringing it and this weekend my "cousin" said she wanted a recipe too. I figured I'd share it here for any of you hosting holiday parties or attending a Friendsgiving or Friendsmas who need something easy to whip up that will make any crowd happy.

Disclaimer: I don't know where I got the original recipe, but I've worked it a bit differently over the years. If this looks like your original, please let me know so I can credit you!
One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it's easy to make modifications without satisfying flavor, and easy to cut calories (though there's really not planet on which this is "figure friendly") using lower-fat ingredients.

What I Use:
1 can artichoke hearts
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 8oz. package "lite" cream cheese, softened — you can buy full-fat, non-fat, store brand, or the good stuff: it makes no difference in the flavor
~ 1/4 cup (I just eye-ball a few tablespoons) mayonnaise — You can use Miracle Whip if that's your preference or, if you're like my cousin's husband and despise even the mention of mayonnaise, skip this part altogether
~ 1/2 cup grated cheese — I just use whatever I have on hand. Sometimes it's Parmesan, sometimes it's Romano, sometimes it's a blend. It makes no difference
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Garlic powder

What I Do:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and find a pan. I usually use a round Pyrex dish, but you can use any small-medium glass pan or pie plate
2. Rinse and chop artichoke hearts and add to a mixing bowl
3. Add cream cheese, mayo, and grated cheese to artichokes and mix together gently
4. Dry (by wrapping in a paper towel and squeezing out the excess water) spinach and add it to bowl
5. Gently mix in the spinach and add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. If you want to get crazy you can add in onion powder as well
6. Spread the mixture into your baking pan and smooth over top. Add a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella over the top
7. Put pan into oven, uncovered for 15 minutes. Take out, and use a fork to turn mixture around and redistribute cheese. Put back in oven for 15 minutes — add another layer of cheese over the top if you like it really cheesy and want a browned top — and then take out ready to serve!
Now if you're preparing this at home to be served right out of the oven, you can "cook" it all through right here. If you're bringing it somewhere else, I suggest doing the second 15-minute heat-through at your destination, if possible. This dip is best when warm and melty.

Serve it up with pita chips, pumpernickel bread or pretzels, or any other sturdy crackers. Enjoy!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Gratitude

Today, for the sake of getting some words and a splash of creative energy out of my system, I decided to join Ashten for Gratitude Friday. I have a much longer (lucky for you guys! ;)), more heartfelt post on gratitude coming up (because really, who doesn't this month?), touching on my own adventures in gratitude journaling and practicing thankfulness, but since this has been such a trying week, I thought it would be a good one to begin counting my blessings.

In no particular order, this week especially, I am grateful for...
  • My new Jeep baby, Sirius Black, with its heated seats
  • The fact that I haven't come upon any new spoilers in the last few weeks as I come SO CLOSE SO VERY CLOSE to the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • The fact that I am able to read the books of my own choosing and for leisure, even if the time to do so this week has been limited
  • My ability to turn my degree (B.A. English) into a career (writer) that while I may not enjoy 100% of the time, I am good at and can do with a degree of ease that allows me to (on most weeks) balance my work and personal life healthily
  • The freedom to write where and what I want — for this, I'm thankful always
  • My chiropractor, who not only fixes my battle wounds but entertains and amuses me during every visit, and without whose expertise I'd surely be suffering right now
  • My own independence from my family, my financial independence, and the knowledge that I can and do take care of myself and handle my bid'niss
  • The trust and friendship of a brilliant novelist who is going to rock all of our worlds when her book, that I'm honored to be editing, hits shelves
  • Chipotle
  • The paycheck I received today and the knowledge that it enables me to live a life I create intentionally and with care
  • My friendships — again, always
  • The fact that even though I'm 25 and unquestionably jaded about love and irredeemably bad at romance, I managed to feel some flutter of butterflies over a dude in a red bodysuit
  • Mariah Carey's complete discography on Spotify, which I was prompted to tune into yesterday after the radio blessed me with THIS on my drive into work
  • That it is Friday once again, and that I'm off the hook for that whole using-my-brain-at-work thing for the next few days
What blessings are you counting right now? What are you grateful for? Are you up to anything fun this weekend? I hope you have an amazing one.  :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jessie Spano Just Gets Me & Other Time-Consuming Things

I'm here! I'm here! I know it's only been a day but it was almost two days and when those two days aren't weekends I get anxious about everyone up and leaving because two weekdays sans post obviously means I'm never returning to this blog and why should you stick around? Sigh. Oh right — I'm going to be calm and normal and not spazz out this holiday season. Right? Easier said than done.

10 Things I Don't Have Time to Do Right Now That I Have to/Should Do Anyway Because Life
  1. Finish an initial full read-through of a novel I am editing for this brilliant author who has put her heart and soul into my hands by hiring me for this project. (It's a brilliant novel. I have terrible time management lately.)
  2. See my chiropractor for a second time this week because since I was in a car accident a few weeks ago, my already messed-up back is in even worse shape and I don't want to get even worse still so it's trekking the half hour to and from his office multiple times a week for me until he puts the kibosh on that. I love my chiro, but it would be so much more convenient if he could just come adjust me in my office or apartment.
  3. Yoga. I totally slept in and skipped yoga this morning. I'll be regretting this move within the hour. Though I did leave my mat out, thinking that maybe I'll squeeze in a quick practice this evening but let's not be ridiculous.
  4. Blog. This is such a bad use of my time right now but whatever. See above.
  5. Work. Because there's all that life stuff in the way. Work and life just constantly seem to be battling each other for my brain space. Tell me again why they only ask working moms — particularly those who usually have a partner to give them a hand with at least one of those things — about work/life balance? #SINKsForWorkLifeBalance (SINK = single income, no kids)
  6. Finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This week I've read a total of maybe 10 pages. I'm SO CLOSE to the end, but I just can't make the time to read right now and it might actually be killing me. (For anyone new to the party, this is my first read of the series, no spoilers!)
  7. Go to pub trivia, but I did that last night anyway because I like living on the edge and sometimes I like to drink hard cider and eat potato skins with excessive sour cream.
  8. Write an article for Feather Magazine due this week. HEY — you guys can help me out with this. What are your favorite holiday traditions? I want to feature the yearly must-dos of Feather Girls of all backgrounds. So whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice or none/all of the above, drop me a line sharing your favorite winter holiday tradition. One present on Christmas Eve? Dinner at Grandma's? Midnight mass? Chant naked in the backyard holding big sticks? I won't judge. Please and thank you for sharing your memories with me!
  9. Go on dates with The Flash, but...he's got a really awesome full sleeve tattoo and he made me dinner and we have the same favorite Shakespeare comedy, so I think I'd actually be more foolish not to keep seeing him.
  10. Run. Seriously, this is not a good week for me with running. I last ran on Sunday — it was awesome, by the way; this whole "not in training" thing is doing wonders for my pace! — and am hoping to get in some miles tomorrow or Friday but. We'll see. 
Linking up with Helene for #SOTWW!