Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

Giving Thanks

One of my friends calls Thanksgiving a no-brainer holiday. She means it in the best sense. The whole premise of the holiday is simple. Gather family, cook rich food, eat food, sleep.

Sometimes you can add a football game in the mix, if you like.

The thing gets a little more complicated the first year you’re married (yay newlyweds!) or the first year a relationship gets serious enough that spending Thanksgiving together becomes a real possibility. All of a sudden, “gather family” becomes tricky. Whose family?

We’re at my in-laws this Thanksgiving, and we’ll be with my family for Christmas. Then next year, we’ll switch. It’s a fairly standard arrangement, pioneered in my family by my older sister. They are with her in-laws for Thanksgiving, so we are too. That way my sister and I don’t keep missing each other by having opposite holiday schedules.

It meant that we both abandoned my parents for the holiday, but they have been most understanding. I was worried that this Thanksgiving would be way too different, with someone else’s family traditions. But it turns out that most people do Thanksgiving in a pretty similar way. Gather family, cook rich food, eat food, sleep.

So that’s what we did. We toasted absent family, ate heartily, and went to sleep early. I gave thanks for no-brainer holidays, for in-laws who are happy to see me, for my new baby family, and for my loving family of origin, far away though they are.

For turkey gravy, roasted squash, nouveau beaujolais, old recipes and new, and learning to appreciate what we have.

Happy Thanksgiving to You All.


Practice: Books for the Journey

What I’m reading during the 20+ hours I’ll be in the car in the next week

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht
  • Not Quite What I Was Planning: And Other Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure
  • A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr

And of course, my ever-riveting Federal Courts Casebook! Hopefully, I will in fact be reading the most out of this last one, but should my eyes glaze over, I will be well-stocked. I am indebted to my wonderful parents for keeping me in Amazon gift cards. As my in-laws subscribe to The New Yorker and let me read it on their couch while visiting, my wealth of literary riches is extensive indeed for this break! (I just read this paragraph over. Please pardon my convoluted wording. I’ve been watching the BBC Pride and Prejudice while packing, and have apparently taken on their convoluted sentence structure. Heavens!)

I do hope to get caught up on reading for class and ready for finals, but a little time to read other things will be welcome as well. I’m a book fiend from way back – I was one of those kids who wouldn’t sleep because whatever I was reading was too riveting and could never get a big enough stack from the library.

Whenever we would go on car trips, my mom would take us on a special trip to the bookstore to stock up, and then I was strictly forbidden from reading our haul until the car pulled out of the driveway. The specter of me running out of reading material was not one my folks wanted to deal with, apparently.

So now that I’m all grown up, I have refrained from sending these books to my Kindle until tonight, the night before we leave. Aren’t you proud, Mom?

City Love: Trains!

Not the big ones that carry you and me to and fro, in higher volume than usual this week I’m sure, but the little ones that can be seen chugging and whirling along at Union Station starting today.

Union Station Holiday Train Show

I know, I know, it’s one more bit of Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it’s also absolutely magical. And if you’re offended by Christmas Creep – come back in December!

Sometimes, it’s really enjoyable to live in a city with surprises around every corner. Sometimes, you’re just running a quick errand when a train exhibit appears around a corner, complete with big-eyed kids watching the simple and beautiful locomotion unfold. It totally made my day, and made me think about how pretty the city is around Christmas, when it puts on its finest.

I can’t wait for the giant wreathes to go up on the front of Union Station, and storefront windows to be tended with care.

On the other hand, I can wait for the endless holiday soundtracks that play in stores, some of which have already started. Doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, Baby It’s Cold Outside will always creep me out. Back off, dude!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, on the other hand, can stay. Also the Peanuts theme.

Now apparently I’m contributing to the ever-expanding holiday season by holding forth on my favorite Christmas tunes pre-Thanksgiving. For shame! When I should instead be extolling the magic of Thanksgiving, a holiday for which there are no presents to buy, and the main event is a meal shared with those you love. More on that tomorrow.

Until then, a Very Merry Thanksgiving Week to you all, and to all, a good night.

City Love: Cheap Eats

I feel that the only way to follow up yesterday’s more serious take on the recession and its effects on us is with a more lighthearted take. And apparently, that will take the form of me declaring my undying love for cheap, delicious food.

There is no one like a hungry grad student (except perhaps our cousin, the unpaid intern) to hunt down the best food and drink to be had for little money. DC is a notoriously difficult place to find good bargains for anything, and food is no exception. It has taken my parents years of visiting to get used to what our lunch tab will be, just about every single time.

But luckily, if you look around, there are good deals to be found. My favorite starting place for any culinary search is the Washington Post’s Going Out Guide’s Best Bets section. The editors break down their pics for things like best hamburger or best for groups or best vegetarian.

And sure enough, there is a Best Cheap Eats. I trust that all of these places are wonderful. But today I simply must tell you that a prime candidate for best cheap eats in the city is Taqueria Nacional.

It’s a hole in the wall place – you’d never know it’s there if you weren’t looking, but man oh man, once you find it, your DC taco scene will never be the same again. My personal favorite is the fish taco. Chorizo also blows me away.

Now I really want some tacos.

And I feel my mission today is complete – spreading taco love throughout the land.

What’s your favorite cheap food spot?

Hard Things: Recession Generation

In which I am hopeful and idealistic. It’s chronic.

I’m young and unemployed. Technically I’m still in school, but I graduate in May, so I’m looking hard for how to pay the bills afterward. I would say that this situation makes me acutely aware of this terrible economy, but the truth is that we’re all acutely aware of it. There is simply no way to avoid awareness, whether it’s your own business taking a downturn, hearing tales from friends that have been hit hard, struggling to put together a non-profit budget when donations are down but need is up, or, like so many of us, paging endlessly through job postings hoping something looks promising.

I don’t mean to be so depressing here. I’m hopeful that my job prospects will turn up any day now. My point is that this downturn pervades our sensibilities these days, and, if we pay attention, it can’t help but change our perspective.

I recently read this article on the things people are doing to cope with the recession. It reminded me of nothing so much as the stories people tell about those who lived through the Great Depression saving bits of string, tinfoil and disposable cutlery to use again. Waste not, want not.

I think this Recession with a capital R will likewise stick with us. The economy goes up and down a lot, but it certainly seems like this downturn has had a greater impact than, say, the tech bubble bursting. When that happened, people lost some stock value (which hurt, for sure), but this time it’s our homes and our jobs that are at risk. That feels more personal, and the emotional impact of the Great Recession may well be something that lasts, that shapes us into as distinctive a generation as the octogenarians still saving bits of string to this day.

It’s impossible to say at this point just how we’ll be changed, but I have a guess. Really it’s more like a hope.

My guess is that we will remember how fleeting our financial security is. This will likely make us save more, spend less, and waste less. These are all great, practical things. But I wonder if the change won’t be broader. If we feel deep down that the bottom could drop out at any point, will we be more sympathetic to people going through hard times? Will we finally turn our backs on the anti-poor rhetoric of the 80’s and 90’s and see people with fewer resources as really not so different?

I’ve spent a lot of my time working with people who come from very different backgrounds than I do, both through working in a direct service non-profit jobs and through making sure my internships in law school were with organizations designed around the needs of the unrepresented. This experience has planted in me a deep and abiding belief that people have more in common than we usually admit. That people who can’t afford what other people can afford and have to look elsewhere for support are just like everyone else. They are everyone else. They just caught a bad break. They probably caught several.

And it’s my fervent hope that this perspective is spreading. That catching a glimpse of our own economic mortality will mean that looking out for our own personal advancement is diminishing and supporting policies that favor the common good is growing.

Someday, times will be better. Someday, this will be a story we tell to people who weren’t there. What will we say?

I’m hopeful that we’ll say that this was the time we learned that we’re not so different from each other after all. Many people who grew up middle class suddenly see that they too could have to give up going to the movies or owning a car. Our economic security is never more than an illusion, but it’s so easy to forget that when times are good. When times are bad, the path to the bottom becomes much clearer, and it’s scary. But if we let it, it can also make us see that those who need help are just like us.

We’re all in this together after all, or we should be. Maybe a better way to put it is that we CAN all be in this together, if we choose. If it becomes abundantly clear to me that my financial security could evaporate at any moment, maybe I won’t look down on your need to go on food stamps, or the hard choices you had to make to support your family. Maybe I’ll give you the extra dollar I have at the moment. Maybe I’ll let my gratitude for being able to put food on the table overflow into helping you put food on your table.

If I know it could happen to me, I’ll be more inclined to help you. As part of the Recession Generation, I hope that is the lasting legacy these trying times leave on us.

Elsewhere: Tournament of Muppets

I promise I’m not usually this obsessed with Muppets, but there is just so much awesomeness coming out before the release of their new movie that I HAVE to post it. I must! It is irrestible!

That’s right, Kermit. I cannot resist you.

So here’s this March Madness-style bracket that pits Muppets against each other to determine the greatest. My money’s on the frog.

Tournament Of Muppets 

Though The Great Gonzo could also have staying power. It’s the nose.

Everyone pretend it’s Thursday

And read this excellent article about the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

A Fiery Gospel

You know that saying, “Well behaved women rarely make history?” It completely applies here. Thanks, Julia Ward Howe, for not submitting when you’re husband tried to stop your poetry.