Monday, May 5, 2014

Sometimes, I Just Wanna Pinterest

It's that time of year.  I don't mean warm weather; I don't mean planting a garden.  I mean the end of the semester.  If your professional life is in any way tied to education, you know what I mean.  It is the time of year that brings a heady blend of restlessness, anticipation, and drama.

Today is the last day of classes at the college where I work.  Today will be followed by a week of final exams, some senior festivities, and graduation.  And although I work through the summer, I look forward to the relative quiet and ability to work on projects with (relatively) little interruption. 

And here I go getting ahead of myself.  Ahem.  It is the last day of classes.  It is the day when students who haven't gone to one or more of their classes since before spring break begin to panic. It is the day when would-be-graduating seniors realize they will not graduate with 119 credits.  Or with one teeny tiny requirement missing.  It is the day that all of the nagging emails sent and ignored over the last few months seem to register.  It is the day (and I swear this literally just happened) a student walks in and says he just realized he has two finals scheduled at the same time... tomorrow.

Very little of this shocks me at this point.  I've worked in higher ed for nearly thirteen years and I've seen, if not everything, a fairly representative array of student crises.  It's time-consuming and angst-ridden, but it doesn't blow my mind.

That said, I am of a mind that I should be able to get it done, wipe my hands, and move on.  Move on to the draft of the novel that is stuck at around 50,000 words.  Move on to clever blog posts that will make me more like Queerie Bradshaw and less like an assistant dean.

Yet.  Yet, I don't feel inspired or energized or feisty.  I want to sit at my desk and drink my diet coke and look at Pinterest.  I want to zone out and look at pretty bathrooms and over-the-top kitchens and million-calorie desserts and ways to burn off said calories. 

This isn't a bad thing, especially when I can resist comparing my life to the photo-shopped fantasies that are rampant on my boards.  It's just that it isn't moving me forward.  It isn't helping me to make the life I want to live.  I'm inclined to do it anyway, then feel guilty about it.

This morning, I gave a floundering student advice on how to think about and value his experiences, how to make priorities and work towards things.  I told him that every good decision counts; every twenty minutes you spend doing something worthwhile puts you in better shape than when you started. 

So, here I am. I'm writing a blog post instead of merely thinking about it.  I'm going to hit the "publish" button.  Then I'm going to click over to Pinterest for a few minutes before my next meeting.  And I'm going to feel awesome about it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm Not the Problem

I wanted to call this post "I'm Not the Crazy One," but I'm going to try to refrain from tossing around DSM diagnoses that I am not qualified to make, so "problem" seems more appropriate.

Are there people in your life that have the uncanny ability to make your doubt yourself?  I mean doubt how you see yourself in the world, how the world operates, good and bad, right and wrong.  I mean individuals who aren't bad people but who are so entrenched in their own world view that spending time with them makes you start to wonder if your own sense of the universe is somehow askew.

There are a few such people in my life.  They are people I love and care about and respect (at least on some levels).  I suppose that's the rub.  If they were completely antithetical to everything I stand for, it would be easy to maintain boundaries, to see them as other.  These people, on the other hand, share enough commonalities that it is easy to accept as valid/true/real feedback that can be deeply undermining. 

I spent lots of time with my therapist figuring out ways to resist these forces. As one who errs on the side of conflict avoidant, arguing the point is not an option I care to pursue unless necessary.  I had to create (literally) a mental reminder system so that I wasn't swept up in the rhetoric.  It is unlikely that, as she so adeptly phrased it, I have everyone else I know/trust/respect snowed.

Am I being too vague?  Perhaps.  But I'm guessing if it's happened to you, you know what I mean.  And I'm here today to tell you that even in the spirit of openness and growth and self awareness, the criticism is bogus.  So take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are not the problem. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Southern Fried Literate Baker Femme

I used to joke that was one of my great fears in life was a collision of my worlds.  The feeling was that there were distinct versions of myself, displayed to various people at various times for various reasons.  The fear was that, should people get together and begin to compare notes, I'd be found out.  Can open; worms everywhere. 

There was the liberal, but still fairly subdued niece/cousin/daughter.  There was the confident higher ed administrator.  There was the domestic goddess.  There was the queer femme inclined to submission and occasional kink.  It wasn't that these women couldn't get along; it was that the people who liked one of them wouldn't like the others. 

Over the last few years, I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my identities.  The goal was to become a single authentic self that didn't have a compulsive need to be liked by everyone.  In some ways I've succeeded.  I'm much more comfortable with who I am and I think that makes a huge difference.

Yet.  Yet I still have a queer writer blog and a baker who likes to write blog.  I'm okay with that because they are different outlets and I envision them as having different (if at times overlapping) audiences.  This, of course, goes back to my preoccupation with the reader.  It begs the question, again--for whom do I write?

All of this over-analyzing comes courtesy of the apple crisp I made last night.  It's the apple crisp I make every fall, the one my girlfriend loves once in the evening and then every subsequent morning for breakfast until it's gone.  It's the one I write about every fall in my other blog, The Literate Baker.  It's the one I'm sharing now for anyone who happens upon this version of myself:

It really is delicious.  It's easy to make and will leave your entire house smelling divine.  It has both the Literate Baker and the Southern Fried Femme seals of approval.

So I haven't figured it all out; perhaps that's okay.  At least all my selves get along.  And they all love to cook.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Wisps of smoke tell you you’re doing it right.  It is important to swirl the pot; stirring with a spoon can set off a crystalline chain reaction that will leave you with useless chunks of sugar and regret.  It is important to swirl the pot slowly; they don’t call it culinary napalm for nothing.

When you see the wisps of smoke, swirl for just a few more seconds.  When you are on the verge of fearing all is lost, whip the pot off the heat and add cream.  When the fury of bubbles abates, toss in a pinch of the best salt you have and some vanilla if you’re so inclined.  Return the whole thing to a gentler heat, stirring until your sauce is smooth and dark and lustrous.

Caramel has a thousand and one uses.  It will coat, cover, fill, swirl, flavor, or complement just about any fruit, nut, cookie, cake, or pie.  Yet its true beauty lies not in the kitchen at all.  A spoon, perhaps, and a willing participant are all you really need.

You’ll want to start with the inside of her elbow, or maybe her wrist.  It is as much a tickle as a tease to lick the soft creases.  She smiles and, for a moment, becomes shy.  Her thoughts have begun to wander; she knows what you are thinking.

You lay a thin smear across her belly, working your way from her left side to her right with your mouth—tongue and teeth and lips.  She sighs and pulls at your hair, wanting to touch, wanting to taste.  You coat your fingers and allow her to suck them while you continue to work your way up her torso. 

The underside of her breast is salty and warm.  It is here you really begin to taste her.  Her nipples are erect.  You worship one, then the other until her sighs become moans.

When you drizzle caramel on the inside of her thighs, she starts to squirm in earnest.  With her body, with a handful of semi-coherent words, she implores you to be fast and hard.  You remain slow, methodical even.  Some indulgences are meant to be savored.

Later, you lay with bodies pressed together.  Her pulse has finally slowed.  The evenness of her breathing assures you she is both sated and spent.  The taste of her lingers, mixed with the bitter-sweet of caramel and the salt of your shared sweat.  The half-empty jar sits on the bedside table, the promise of another night, waiting to be devoured.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

On Day Jobs and Daydreams

At many times in my life, I've lamented having/needing to have a day job.  Having a day job felt like a necessary evil.  It paid the bills, contributed to retirement savings, offered health insurance. Aside from those (albeit very important) elements, a day job stood between me and all that I wanted to be or become.

Sometimes, I was dreaming of a future as a best-selling novelist.  Others, I saw my fledgling cake business as an adorable storefront with steady traffic and a staff of its own.  Some mornings, I simply didn't want to get out of bed and put on big girl clothes; some afternoons, my boss drove me up a tree.

Still, being the proprietor of Much Ado About Cake opened my eyes to the sheer weight of responsibility that comes with owning a small business.  Vacation and sick days cut directly into your ability to generate revenue.  Bookkeeping and liability insurance and health department inspections are far less glamorous than the ooohs an ahhhhs of delivering a cake in the shape of Fenway Park.

About six months ago, I left my job of more than eight years to accept a new position.  It wasn't a drastic change from what I'd been doing, but it was definitely a promotion.  I'm now an assistant dean at a college much smaller than the one I worked at previously.  I have a ton more responsibility and I've already worked more evenings and weekends than I used to work in a year. 

Yet, I feel invigorated.  I'm doing a much wider variety of work, which is great.  I'm also part of a decision-making team.  I work with and for the associate dean and dean--two smart and savvy women.  I earn a good salary--enough that I don't have to fret over whether I'm actually bringing in any money from  baking or writing.

Don't get me wrong, I still do my fair share of whining.  This is especially true when I have to work Saturday morning admissions events or talk to megalomaniacal alumni.  (Okay, they aren't really megalomaniacal, but I don't get to use that word enough.) 

I still fantasize about having my own show on Food Network or being on the bestseller list.  I'd abandon my day job if either of those things ever came to pass. I just no longer look at my day job as the thing that stands between me and those things.  It's more of an acceptable livelihood in the meantime--not a bad gig.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

All the Little Things

When it comes to relationships, it is, of course, about the big things.  Intelligence, integrity, humor--without such things, there is no basis for a meaningful relationship to take hold.  With the big things squarely in place, it is lovely to bask in the little things.

I spent two days this week in New York City for work.  More specifically, I spent two days shepherding thirty-five college students around the city to visit accounting and finance firms.  I wore a suit (which I loathe) in 85-degree weather, I listened to wealth managers and risk managers and stock brokers talk about what it takes to make it in the industry. 

I arrived home at 11:30 on Friday night to a smiling partner, a glass of wine, and these:

Not only did they brighten my evening, they make me smile as I sit at the dining room table writing.  They are just the right thing after a few days of not nearly enough soft-and-pretty stuff. 

And what's more?  If you look very closely, you might detect my honey in the background, doing the dishes.  I made breakfast today, so she does the dishes.  She also got up early to walk the dog so I could sleep late.

Yes, I'm feeling a little spoiled this weekend.  Yes, I'm feeling a little smug.  It's nice to revel in being tended. 

It's more than that, though.  I used to think the little things were important because they added up, and that is true.  I've decided they are really important because they tell us our partner gets us.  They tell us that she is paying attention.  They are her way of giving us exactly what we need even when we don't have the wherewithal to know what those needs are. 

I spent a lot of my life trying to let the little things go.  I convinced myself, as a child and as an adult, that if a family member/friend/partner was smart/kind/funny, that was all that mattered.  Demanding more seemed so, well, demanding. 

It took being with someone who does all the little things to understand the difference.  The little things, and they're different for every person, but they matter.  Perhaps, they matter most of all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Femme Knowing, Knowing Knowing

Some are born femme.  Some achieve femmeness.  Some have femmeness thrust upon them. 

Of course, it's rarely that simple.

I like to think there is some is some femme essence that has been with me always, long before I even knew what femme meant.  I like to that the inexplicable fascination I had with the sporty volleyball player who I tutored in algebra was my first authentic girl crush.  I like to think my secret obsession with the k.d. lang/Cindy Crawford cover of Vanity Fair came from a place of deep knowing.  I like to think that both my body and my subconscious knew before I did, and waited patiently for the rest of me to catch up.

File:Vanity Fair Cover Lang Crawford.jpg
Yeah, you know the one.

I am a notorious over-thinker.  Uncertainty gives me a certain amount of anxiety, so I turn things over in my mind.  I turn them over and over and over, convinced that there is an answer that someone with my intellect should be able to deduce.  Perhaps, despite undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, there is some engineering DNA hardwired in me.

My therapist has a different take.  My intellect, you see, has always been valued.  It has been praised and nurtured and it has served my well.  My instinct (or gut or soul or heart), on the other hand, has not proven itself in the same ways.  Moreover, the combination of analytical minds and Catholic indoctrination do not place a premium on feelings.

My therapist, lovely and wise woman that she is, has a saying.  Perhaps it is not so much a saying as it is something she has to say to me nearly every time that we meet.  "The brain," she says, "is an excellent servant.  It is not a very good master."

Each and every time that I begin to fret about my job or my weight or my relationship or my ex or my family or my future, she whips out this truth.  We talk about meditation.  I sigh because I am not very good at meditation.  We talk about sitting quietly, breathing deeply.  We talk about the fact that the answers--all of them that I need--are there.  My body knows, my very cells know what I need, what I want.  I know.  I've only to stop trying to figure it out and simply listen.