Friday, December 31, 2010


Good things happened in 2010. Max was born. My book came out. The Huffington Post gig. But that good stuff brought a lot of conflicting stuff too. For instance, 2 months after Max was born, I felt hard-pressed to promote the book as best I could. Leaving him to go to AWP was so hard. Or, rather, working myself up about the leaving was so hard. Being gone wasn't so bad. Fear of what might happen--like what if he doesn't sleep? What if he won't drink a bottle? What if Zoe throws up all over Erik? Admittedly, I didn't preconceive the throwing up and it did happen but the gist is, freak out or not, it happens anyway. My attempts to stop things with the power of my mind were no greater in 2010 than they were in 2009. I worry and stress and feel like crap about, for instance, the Huffington Post. Great as it is/was a collaborative project, I still had to extend offers, worry that I wasn't inviting everyone I wanted to (which I didn't and still want to invite people I just haven't yet and still had to worry almost daily how I was screwing that up. And still worry), send reminders, fix technological snafus, worry over artists' responses to writers' and vise versa, and generally hope I wasn't pissing people off--even though this was, in terms of out reach and artistic realization, the best thing I ever did. My book--it came out. It felt great and then I got addicted to that feeling and now I just want more more more books. I also wanted to change things and make new poems and make it an even better book although I think it turned out beautifully.
Here's another conflict--like breastfeeding Max. I should do it a lot! More! It's so rewarding. So bond-making and healthy-making. So there was no sleep and a lot of worry that maybe he wasn't even getting enough milk and how much milk does he need anyway when there's so much yogurt in the world? I still don't know but I do think we're on a weaning kick. In the middle of cold and flu season, should I quit? But what if one of my goals of 2011 is to sleep?
Like all goals, I'm pretty sure that just the act of having them makes them suspicious and unobtainable. If I say sleep, I'm pretty sure I'll get an extra dose of insomnia. And if I think I can think myself out of it, I imagine that mind-power I pretend I believe in will in fact guarantee 2-3 hours at night saying to myself, I really shouldn't think about sleep when I'm trying to sleep.
One goal of 2011 feels like it should be fulfilling obligations--do the best at what I've already set up. I'm supposed to be called for jury duty. Since I'm already thinking of weaning Max, my duty might be to go full force and do my citizenly duty. But then I'm conflicted that perhaps my real duty is to breastfeed Max in the middle of flu and cold season. I'm also supposed to interview biotechnologists in Phoenix on Wednesday. Is it my true obligation to keep those appointments?
Again, it doesn't really matter how much I worry or not about it. I'll get called or not and be asked to stay or not and there's probably not that much I can do about it.
Perhaps that's my real obligation this year: to figure out what I can do and can not change/make happen which is kind of like that icky serenity prayer/Sinead O'Connor song.
Last night, I was complaining to Erik that maybe my food book should be more like Nick Flynn's "The Ticking is the Bomb." More meditative and retrospective. He said, you can only write like you write which I strongly objected to because what then about revision and craft and manipulaiton of scene and voice. But on the whole, he's probably right. I write like I write. I will probably worry and not sleep. I'll probably breastfeed Max and then wean him and then breastfeed him one more time. And yet, maybe I'll do it enough that he sleeps through the night. Maybe I'll go to AWP. Maybe I'll invite all the people I want to to the Huffington Post. Maybe I'll publish another book and I'll love it even more than I did This Noisy Egg. Maybe I'll write a lot and revise less since in revising, I worry about how I should make it more like something else instead of just making it.
Maybe making it. That will be my goal of 2011. That's a goal that I don't think you can avoid and yet can be a great thing or a muddling through thing which will make it a lot like 2010 but maybe less fraught.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Nutcracker

It had been like 30 years since I'd seen the full William Christensen's (some distant relation of mine, actually) full Ballet West version of the Nutcracker. I remember the growing tree. I remember a gigantic lady under whose skirts out came hundreds of dancing babies. I remember thinking Clara was the star of the show.
This year, just like when I was a kid, I sat in the Capitol Theater on the main floor behind really tall people. The theater has wised up and hands out extra cushions for the kids but the people who sat in front of us were even too tall for the cushions to overcome so I watched the back of my niece's head for the most part as she sat on my lap and strained her neck.
Not being able to see might account for part of my troubles but I have some questions about the plot.
For instance, why would invite that Dr. Drosselmeyer who is obviously up to something when he put on a patch right before he went into the party? Was he pretending he was a pirate? Is it a bit weird he brought a special present for a little girl?
In these days of post-Spiegelman's "Maus," how can you not root for the giant mice and cringe when little Clara kills the Mouse King? The Nutcracker turns into a Prince? He takes Clara out all night? Isn't she a bit young to be out with a boy past say, 7 p.m.?
I kept telling my mother-in-law, who invited me and Zoe and Zoe's cousin, that the Sugar Plum Fairy was being danced by a man. She was like, "No. It was a woman." She looked it up in the playbook. It read Jacqueline something. I was like, "Otherwise known as Jack."
"Do you mean Mother Baffoon? She's played by a man."
"That big thing with the dress isn't the Sugar Plum Fairy?"
"No. That's Mother Baffoon. The Sugar Plum Fairy is the ballerina that dances the whole time." I always thought the little kids were the sugar plum and the Fairy would give them sugar plums. Maybe after they did their good dancing? I don't know I was 7. Again, another clash of other stories. "Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads."
So I did learn something although this Mother Baffoon only had like 8 kids run out from under her dress so it wasn't quite the spectacle I remember. Still, it was good to see The Nutcracker again only so if Zoe asks questions about how the tree grew so big and why Mother Baffoon has such a big dress and such big man-hands, I can try to explain although how it is that the nutcracker cracks no nuts through the whole ballet I have no answer for.

Friday, December 17, 2010

An apology

Dear Erik,
Although it was indeed only I who stood over the kitchen sink, cracking the legs of the Dungeness Crab open with my teeth and digging my fingers into the crevices and joints to pull out every thread of meat while you hung out on Facebook, I do recognize that our marriage vows included sharing every crab that comes within our midst. And although I did put on Facebook that all I wanted for Christmas was a Dungeness crab and realized that I was the only one likely to take me seriously so I bought that crab on sale $1.60 off the regular price so at $5/lb, I was not breaking any Christmas bank, I admit that while I dug and cracked and picked the crab that I promised you could have some crab later. And although I did in fact make you some crab dish that you liked (see yesterday's post) better than I, I have to admit that I did not mention that there was some crab leftover. And although you said, just that night that you loved crab sandwiches as much as I, I nodded and said, well, let's try this crab-stuffed trout thing instead.

So yesterday, when I had about 6 oz of crab leftover from the crab-stuffing project and Max and I decided that 10:30 a.m. was a good time for lunch, I have to apologize that I went straight for the crab. And I'm sorry that I chopped the celery into such tiny bits and minced the onions finely. I'm sorry I stirred in mayo and a bit of mustard. I apologize for adding celery salt and a titch of your favorite hot sauce. I'm sorry I was so gleeful to use gruyere instead of the usual plastic swiss we slice for these sandwiches. I'm sorry that I toasted the English muffin perfectly and dolloped the just-enough-crab mixture onto the muffin, then topped that with the cheese. I'm sorry I broiled the sandwich until the cheese bubbled brown. It was, I admit, delicious. And it is possible that it might have tasted even better if you'd been here to share. But I would have still been hungry. As it was, I still wanted another one.

With some regret, although not quite enough,
Your only wife

I promise to pick you a new crab clean, like any good otter-wife.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dining Disasters

I wanted to title my food book "Dining Disasters" and just lament all the times I tried to cook for people and failed. The book would have been long but I guess it would have become tiresome eventually. I would have included a few success stories but I think the crux of the book would hinge on describing the people I fed and, since I mostly like my friends and want to keep them, it wouldn't have been very revealing. And, maybe it's kind of ridiculous--the way I shoot to make something so delicious and fail so often.

One of the things I wanted for Christmas was Dungeness Crab. No one believes that I want ingredients for Christmas (well, my sister Val believes), so I bought one on sale at New Frontiers for $7 and came home and cleaned it. It had been awhile since I'd had to clean a Dungeness Crab but it came right back. I stood over the sink and cracked and dug. I ate the green butter on the inside. I picked the legs clean with my nutcracking tools. I got about 12 oz of crab out of that dude. Not bad for $7 and half an hour of picking.

So, last night, I tried to make crab-stuffed trout. That's a dish, right? I started at 4:30. This should have provided enough time. But, as often happens when Erik and I hang out in the living room, talking and having a pre-dinner drink, I wander into the kitchen for five minutes here and there but mostly return to hang out by the fire and with Erik and the kids. This dinner should have been easy: mixed green salad with French vinaigrette, roasted fingerling potatoes, spaghetti squash and this crab stuffed trout. I love crab. I love trout. I love butter that makes the stuffing that makes the crab stick to the inside of the trout.
This dinner was the kind you could make in five minute spurts. Squash in the oven at 4:30. Potatoes in at 5:00. Make the vinaigrette at 5:30. Stuff the trout at 5:45. Dinner should be ready by 6:00.
Stuffing: egg, scallions, melted butter, lemon juice, breadcrumbs. Stuff the crab inside cleaned trout, read the recipe. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes and then broil for five more minutes.
I pulled the fish at 6:10, having given it 7 more minutes than the recipe called for. When we went to pull the bones out of the trout, the stuffing fell out. Worse, the bones wouldn't come loose because the fish wasn't all the way cooked. I tried to restack the fish and the stuff and baked it again. For ten more minutes.

I did not like it. The trout was soft. The skin. Soft. The stuffing. Soft. The potatoes, overcooked, were soft and so was the spaghetti squash. The only things sharp were the salad and the salad dressing. Mostly disaster in my book. The only good part? I had roasted the potatoes in butter but, in this disaster dinner, the butter didn't soak in even though I poked the potatoes. So Zoe and I broke the potatoes in half and dipped them in butter. That was success. But the crab? Barely tasted.

Fortunately, I have some crab leftover for which I have to write a different kind of apology.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I spelled etiology wrong on my last post. I fixed it here. Apparently, fixing Zoe's stomach ache was equally easy although how it actually worked, I'm not sure.
We went to see the ever-lovely Dr. D. She asked a million questions and then listened to Zoe's lungs. She'd checked them out just a few weeks ago but this day, she could hear the wheezing. She thought, just in case, to test her out for a possible urinary tract infection but if wasn't a UTI, she suspected pneumonia, which sometimes presents with stomach pain. But before we got to that, she'd try to UTI. She asked Zoe to pee in a cup. Zoe thought this was madness and she leaped off the table and hid behind me. I finally talked her into it and took her into the bathroom. Once I explained it's just like peeing in a tiny toilet, she relented.
Of course, no UTI.
We've been the pneumonia route before. Last time, it was the last part of an 8 day stay at the hospital. But the doctor did not seem panicked so I tried not to panic myself.
So we headed downstairs (radiology downstairs. How handy). I took Max and ran to the appointment at the university I had at 1:30 to cancel. This sucked in several ways: The first was leaving Zoe. The second was that the appointment was to help the printmaker who was helping my poetry students put their book filled with letter-pressed pages together. I felt horrible about leaving him to do all the work. I can't stand that I did not see my students' final books. I knew I'd done the right thing though. As I drove back toward the doctor's office, I kept imagining them admitting Zoe to the hospital to treat the pneumonia, wondering how one has a baby at home and a kid in the hospital and no family around for 500 miles. Apparently, Dr. D's non-panicking effect only works directly in her presence.
Zoe did have a little pneumonia but the not-panicking doctor, described the streaks on her lungs as very tiny. She prescribed a different anti-biotic from the one she'd prescribed last week for what she suspected was a sinus-infection--ampicillin does not help pneumonia but arythromax does. She had the former first. Now she is taking the latter.
But! Here's the rub. On the way home, my stomach started to hurt. We all went home and took a nap. Zoe for her usual 2 hours, Max for his usual 45 minutes. I slept too for those 45 minutes and my stomach still hurt. Like I'd been kicked in the gut. And in the back. And like I wanted to throw up but couldn't. I drank 64 ounces of water. When Zoe woke up, I made her drink two big glasses too. We both started to feel better--Zoe more than I. By six o'clock last night, there was no more, "it hurts. It hurts." She slept through the night. She's been fine all day.
So now, all the fine people we saw and ate and drank with this last week--I hope you didn't get what I believe now happened to be a short-lived stomach virus that Zoe couldn't fight off because she was fighting off the pneumonia too. Once the anti-biotics started working on the lungs, her body took care of the stomach--well, that and the huge amount of liquid I made her drink and that uncanny way of the virus that seems to abandon one person as soon as it's safely ensconced in another. If you did get it, let me know and I'll repay you with a dinner made without any infectious children around.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Zoe's illness-- an eitology? Please?

So Zoe's had a cough since right after Halloween. She's been to the doctor, taken albuterol, antibiotics and finally, prednisone (a coriticosteroid) to help her beat the cough. Suddenly, she's developed so really weird nighttime stomach ache. She said she felt like she wanted to throw up but couldn't. She writhed on the bathroom floor for an hour, got up and went back to bed, then got up again another hour later. The next day we called the doctor's office. The nurse said it was probably her sinuses, dripping into her stomach and her stomach was rebelling from all the mucus that now lay therein. That sounded sort of plausible even though she always has a cold and has never had a stomach ache accompanying.
The next day, she's 100% fine. Running, bike riding, movie-going, regular kid.
That night, more writhing. More chants of, my tummy, my tummy. No sleeping. More Erik and I saying, poor Z. I'm so sorry and rubbing her back and feeling totally helpless.
Two nights later, on Saturday night, we called the triage nurse, having been on the verge of taking her to the ER. That nurse said, if she's not coughing up blood or bile, if she can walk without clutching her stomach, and if it doesn't hurt on the right side (appendix) then she doesn't need to go to the hospital. Stomach things are weird, she said.
The next day, she's 100% fine. Running, bike riding, movie-going, regular kid.
That night, more writhing. More chants of, my tummy, my tummy. No sleeping. More Erik and I saying, poor Z. I'm so sorry and rubbing her back and feeling totally helpless.
Last night, more writhing. Less sleeping. Max decided 45 minute-stints of sleep were sufficient. I think I called him "numb nuts" as a rocked him to sleep--in a nice voice but these are the words that escape my mouth when I haven't slept in six nights.
Her stomach actually hurts now (in the day time!). We're more, "I know your stomach" hurts now. And more "yeah, stomach things are weird." Also, we've cut out all milk-products on the off-chance they're mucus-making or lactose-intolerable. But as Zoe says, "It doesn't help. Nothing helps. It just hurts."
We're also on our way to the doctor in a couple hours. But here's my guess what the doctor will say: She says, "it's a virus. Stomach things are weird." Or, at the other end of the spectrum, the battery of tests begins with an endoscopy and ends with a colonoscopy and has some CT scans in the middle.
So if you guys haven any ideas before the battery of tests begins, then let me know. Also, I don't think she's contagious. Max nor Erik nor I have any stomach pain as far as I can tell but if we did contage you, I'm sorry in advance and I hope that you sleep again one day.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Sort of. It was so cold in the middle of November. And then it snowed a bunch, delaying our return from Torrey from Thanksgiving. Today though? 58 degrees. Zoe and I went bike riding/running and we both had to take off our coats.
Why are you and Zoe bike riding/running on a weekday you may ask? Well, Zoe was up all night with some stomach ache that wouldn't go away. At least not until morning when it miraculously disappeared. The doctor thinks her stomach's hurting from some sinus/post-nasal drip thing. I think I shall invite Zoe to sleep standing up tonight.
But we're having a fun day even though I'm a bit of a zombie. Did I mention Max's babysitter quit to move to Austin? So Erik and I have been juggling Max which means I'm really barely keeping it together.
But it's the end of the semester and although I have a million things to do, most of them are semi-mindless. At least the way I organized this semester. I have to lay out type for the poetry/print making collaborative project. I have to alert students to next semester's course offerings. I have to review a few poems but I didn't have students turn in portfolios this semester because I've come to realize that the portfolio is perfunctory (mostly) for students and the comments I give them sit in the folder waiting to be picked up and rarely are. Plus, they already worked their butts off this semester. Parties (College and Department receptions rather) and dinners (thanks Sandy!) and letters of recommendations galore makes me feel like it is time to go to Amazon and click presents that read "prime shipping." Maybe I'll make something Christmasy for dinner tomorrow. Or maybe we'll grill steaks because it's almost 60 degrees and feels cheatingly like spring.

So. Lots of Max and Zoe these days to go with the end of the semester stuff.
Max can almost always successfully crawl backwards down the stairs so the level of danger-mouse activities is lower than it was last week. Max still checks out most of the world with his mouth, including your nose and your mouth which I guess counts as a kiss even though if you were trapped in the desert for months you could rehydrate with the amount of saliva that kid drools into your mouth. Zoe made him laugh the deep belly laugh today while she dangled her Zhu Zhu pet (early Christmas) from its name-tag by her mouth and let it drop to the table. Max was trying to eat yogurt at the time. Max likes to make raspberries while eating yogurt. Raspberries plus yogurt plus laughing at Zoe's amazing Zhu Zhu trick made for a delightful if yogurt-blown lunch.

We finally got Max to sleep and had our own lunch. I made a spinach salad from a giant box of spinach and gave Zoe the rest of the box. She laid on the TV floor and ate spinach by the handful. How this kid ever gets sick is beyond me. But apparently, her sickness and sleeplessness doesn't affect her--she was happy to go on a bike ride and is wondering when we're going shopping for this holiday that I am really almost ready, even though it's 58 degrees outside, to acknowledge exists.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Other Thanksgiving Food

I've written a long essay about Torrey in the winter but I imagine more people (6 people) read what I write here than they do in lit mags (4 people), so I'm not feeling incredibly redundant. In the olden times, the years of the great drought, Erik's parents kept the cabin in Torrey open all winter long. When you left the cabin after a long weekend, we had to drain the whole water system, including the water heater, put RV anti-freeze in the toilets and turn the heat down to fifty and pray that the amount of water left in the pipes wouldn't freeze. The cabin had suffered two major pipe explosions that resulted in much re-drywalling. Not even Erik, master drywaller that he is, likes to do the same walls three times so now they shut the house down completely. Rick, Erik's stepdad, hooks up the air compressor and blows every spot of water out of the pipes.
But they opened it up this year for Thanksgiving so we could see them and my mom and so we wouldn't have to drive all the way to Salt Lake.

It was cold. 1 degree one of the nights. All of the stores were closed. The only restaurant open was Tom's "Chillzz" which is more of a soda shop than a restaurant. If we neglected to bring whipping cream, well, then no whipping cream on your pie.

I did forget whipping cream but Erik's mom, El, brought three tiny cartons of it. My mom brought steaks, brussel sprouts and cranberry sauce. Rick brought ancho peppers and goat cheese and stuff for breakfast. I brought the turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, celery, butter, breadcrumbs, apples, pumpkin and evaporated milk. Nothing makes me think of cooking in dire circumstance as evaporated milk. I didn't know El would bring whipping cream so all along the drive I wondered how I might convert evaporated milk into pie topping. I also brought flour and sugar. So did El. She also brought potatoes and onions. A little redundancy goes a long way. She would have been redundant to bring whipping cream if I'd remembered mine but I didn't. She also brought beans, tortillas and sour cream. This would be key to our happiness later.

Thanksgiving went as thanksgiving goes. Everything was easier than it seemed like it would be and everyone ate faster than one thought humanly possible. Mom's cranberry sauce with pineapple was particularly good. I just cut the sweet potatoes into wedges and tossed half of them in cinnamon and black pepper and half in cayenne. That might have been a high point. The gravy I made like an hour early. That made finishing the mashed potatoes, the brussels and the rolls (El made rolls from scratch. I burned them by putting them on the bottom rack of the oven. Sorry El) totally easy. Gravy first. A good policy.

Pies were fine. I couldn't even eat any that night. Zoe and I had to take a short run down the street just to try to overcome the feeling that my stomach was full of rocks and on the verge of making me tip over like the wolf in Red Riding Hood.

The next night, we had steaks. Rick made them with a delicious roasted red pepper, ancho chili sauce. He cooked the steaks, topped them with goat cheese which didn't look like it melted but it had, and then a dollop of the sauce. In terms of flavor, maybe because it was new and maybe because it was spicy-ish, this dinner trumped Thanksgiving. I even loved the baked potato, with just scallions, butter and sour cream, better than the mashed potatoes. But maybe it was better because I cooked none of it.

The next night, we went to Chillzz for pizza and it was just fine. We got fries too which came with fry sauce which means that fry sauce is within a 6 hour drive rather than 8.5.

Speaking of 6 hour drives, we were supposed to leave the next day (Sunday) but a huge storm came in and the roads were awful. So we stayed even though there were no grocery stores open and we only had what was in the house. It turned out to be a surprising lot. El had made pinto beans. There was a box of vegetable broth and tomatoes and another can of beans and another ancho chili pepper equaled chili with bean burritos. This might have been the best meal of all.

I love Torrey in the winter. It's completely empty of people. Austerity measures apply. You have to make do. I love that. I also love hiking in the cold even though it was too cold for Max. His cheeks didn't thaw for an hour after one of the hikes. We did see the most amazing petroglyphs I've ever seen. The size of a Volkswagen, some of them (a small Volkswagen, maybe just a wagon. But still.)

And the pipes in the cabin did freeze a little--even with the heat on--but Rick caught them in time and with a very strong spotlight, he warmed the pipes and the dishwasher and shower worked again. Super-austerity averted.