an aside

Why is writing a cover letter (or personal statement or the like) so much more difficult than writing just about anything else? The first draft always sounds like a prolonged apology. I am terrible at talking about myself without immediately diving into self-deprecation. This is one of the many reasons I hate it when interviews or conversations include periods of time where I’m just supposed to monologue. I invariably feel like I’m taking up too much time and space.

I’ve been so socially/culturally trained to downplay my achievements and desires and expectations that I can’t even be forthright about them to a metaphorical piece of paper without apologizing for having them in the first place.

this is not what i want to worry about

Last night, Adam and I went to go see Captain Marvel. About thirty minutes from the end of the movie, the screen went black, the lights came on, and the emergency alert sounded. The fire alarm lights flickered and a pre-recorded robotic announcement told us to exit the theater in an orderly fashion.

And because I live in the United States, where we refuse to do anything about rampant gun violence despite everything, I didn’t try to look for or smell smoke. I didn’t try to remind myself what to do in case of fire. No.

I immediately thought, Oh fuck. What if this is an active shooter situation?

I looked around at the nearly evacuated theater and then around at the people crowded with me at the front exits, and I thought about how easy it would be for someone to come in up top and kill us.

I’ve been in places before when the fire alarm goes off or some other alert sounds. Usually, the people in the crowd joke with each other or roll their eyes or are exasperated at the inconvenience. Usually, people look around and wonder if it’s a mistake or a drill. Last night, we all got up pretty quickly after the alarm went off. As we were all leaving the theater, everyone was hushed. There was a quiet urgency as we all tried to leave, nearly pushing but not quite.

Once we were all outside in the cold night air, the tension broke a little. There was nervous laughter scattered across the parking lot, pockets of anger here and there. And all I could think about was how very fucked up it is that “active shooter” is the first place my brain went. And how fucked up it is that that’s now a normalized response.

What the fuck.

when the roses speak, i pay attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on. “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

– Mary Oliver, “WHEN THE ROSES SPEAK, I PAY ATTENTION” from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

a cancelled dinner party: sweet potato galettes

We have been trying to have a small get together with one of my friends and her husband for months now. It’s been hard to coordinate because her schedule is rather busy and she’s wrangling littles.

The plan, as most of our plans tend to be, was to have them over, ply them with drinks and childfree time, and have a nicely adult dinner.

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Vegetables! Textures! Being an adult!

She is vegetarian, so my usual dinner party stand-bys don’t really work. I don’t have much practice planning a vegetarian menu, but I knew that I wanted to stay away from the here-is-some-pasta-I-guess? vegetarian solution. I wanted to put together a meal that was still simple, but didn’t rely too much on bread/pasta/rice to act as filler.

Enter, my Ottolenghi cookbook. (And also the Serious Eats website, as per usual, for ease of referencing in the kitchen.) Between it and it’s predecessor Plenty, both by Yotam Ottolenghi, there are plenty (heh) of tasty and beautiful vegetarian recipes.

We settled on a date — it was supposed to be this past weekend — but at the last moment, childcare plans fell through and they had to reschedule.

At that point, I had already gathered ingredients for Ottolenghi’s sweet potato galettes, as seen on the cookbook cover. I could have abandoned the cooking plans altogether, but why waste the opportunity to try a new recipe and go meat-free for the weekend in the process?

It turned out, as has everything else I’ve made from these cookbooks, delicious.

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Sweet potato galettes.

I’m already thinking about possible future riffs:
– Purple potatoes, chili powder, cotija + parsley cilantro oil
– Beets, pistachios, goat cheese (plus figs if additional sweetness desired)
– Carrots, garam masala, spicy pecans
– Turnips and apples, parmesan, maybe some bacon + tarragon in the oil

But if you want to try to original, here’s the recipe.

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cat palace

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Got Nukat an over-the-top cat palace and finally put it together today. It is massive and heavy and much taller than I anticipated… How much do you want to bet that she ignores it completely and plays in the box?

making time

It’s the month of setting new goals and resolution. I find that when we’re talking about  resolutions, people tend to talk in terms of things they want to add to their lives. I want to work out. I want to read more. I want to write/draw/paint/spend more time with friends. Etc.

Often, these resolutions don’t stick. There are hundreds of articles circulating the internet about why. About how to set goals. About specificity and actionability. But one thing that I think we need to spend more time thinking about is this: what are you going to give up to reach that goal?

Given that you are a living person (an assumption, but a relatively safe one, I think), you are already using up all the time that you have in each day. That’s not to say that you’re using it wisely or productively, but it is, most definitely, being used, simply because you are traveling forward through time (another assumption, but again…). So it’s all well and good to want to add to your life or pick up a new hobby or do more more more, but unless you’ve got a time-turner or can somehow freeze time, something has to give way.

For me, it’s useful to frame it this way because I want to be more mindful about what I’m doing with my time. There are things that I do way too much of (read Twitter, watch Netflix, the internets) because they are easy or habitual or I just need that sweet, sweet dopamine kick. But there are also many things that I would rather be doing, that I feel badly about not doing. I imagine that this is a nearly universal feeling.

So in addition to identifying the things we’d like to do more, we should deliberately figure out what we are willing to give up. Identifying the things that you want to cut down on this year will also give you a series of cues to check in with yourself.

Once you have a list of the things that you’d like to do less of, the next step is finding the time. That requires being honest about how you currently spend your time. And we all have a tendency to fudge the numbers. Some of the things we do are mandatory and regular (e.g. jobs, childcare), and that amount of the time varies from person to person. And some things are mandatory, but not fixed (e.g. self-care). But when you take a good, truthful, granular look at how you spend your time, you can usually find a hour (or five) here and there that isn’t being used the way you like.

That’s the place to start. What are you doing with those minutes or hours? Is that what you want to be doing? What else could you be doing with that time that would prioritize your goals and well-being?

And sometimes, maybe the answer is watch TV/movies, veg out, and otherwise give your brain a break. That’s totally fine too. I have plenty of those moments. But if I’m watching Netflix, I want it to be because I chose to watch Netflix, not because I fell into a bad habit loop. I don’t want to have those behaviors be thoughtless and automatic.

Tim Urban (Wait But Why) did the calculus: we have roughly 100 ten minute blocks in each day (assuming you sleep 7-8 hours a night). How do you want to spend each of those finite blocks?

all of the histamine

I have an appointment to establish care with an allergist today. The plan is to get allergy testing done and then re-initiate allergy shots. I had a truncated course of shots back during medical school when it became impossible to mesh the schedule of the shots (weekly and then monthly) with the schedule of clerkships (all over the fucking place, changing from week to week). I think I had maybe a two year stretch of them? Optimistically, three at the most. The usual course is five years, I think.

So I want to start getting them again because they did make my allergic rhinitis symptoms so much better. It’s a self-imposed problem, of course. I’m somewhat allergic to cats, but I’ve always had cats. And I anticipate that I will keep having cats in the house. I’m also allergic to dogs, and everyone I care about in my life right now has dogs. So… Yeah…

In any event, in anticipation of the appointment and allergy testing today, I’ve been off cetirizine (Zyrtec) for five days now. And IT. HAS. BEEN. FUCKING. MISERABLE. My original allergist in Dallas advised me to take it daily, not so much for allergies, but for my dermatographia (aka skin writing). Basically, minor trauma/pressure (i.e. scratching, poking, nudging OR hell, too much heat or too much cold) to my skin causes a histamine response, leading to hives along the trauma. It’s called skin writing because you can literally write out words and my histamine response will follow.

This is not my skin. From Healthline.com.

Not only does it lead to unsightly welts, EVERYTHING IS FUCKING ITCHY. It’s torture. I’d rather be in pain than be itchy like this. I try to refrain from scratching–it only makes it worse seeing as the scratching causes more hives causes more itching causes more…–but there’s only so much a person can take before the claws come out. There is a small line of petechiae (from broken capillaries) along my right inner arm from a self-attack in my sleep last night.

I can’t fucking wait to be back on Zyrtec. Being off of it has left me irritated (literally and figuratively), grumpy, sleep-deprived, distracted, and, of course, itchy. Medicine is the goddamn best–I will fight you.


Edit @ 2:41p

I ended up having a blood test done instead of skin testing. The allergist tested my dermatographia, took one look at the response, and was like “yeah, that’s going to be too hard to interpret.” I said that I didn’t care how the allergy testing got done as long as it was done today, so she sent me to the lab. She mentioned that you didn’t need to be off Zyrtec for the blood test.

WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME THAT WHEN I MADE THE APPOINTMENT.

I totally would have opted for the blood test straight off the bat and avoided the last five miserable days. But I suppose this is something that the appointment schedulers aren’t trained in.