New Years Day feast


Pork Loin with Grape and Pomegranate Sauce, Pan (not so) Fried Black Eyed Peas, Citrus and Honey Green Beans, and Buttered Pretzel Bread.


I mushed a lot of New Years Traditional Foods together.


Pork = Abundance because they root forwards rather than backwards like a chicken.


Pomegranate = Abundance. The Greeks believe that the pomegranate seeds symbolize fertility.


Grapes = In Spain they will eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight to bring luck for the next 12 months.


Black Eyed Peas = Wealth because they supposedly resemble coins.


Chinese Long Beans = Green = Wealth because money is green + Length = Longevity. In Asian cultures they believe noodles symbolize a long life.


Orange and Honey = The Chinese believe that eating Orange and Honey will bring good fortune, wealth, and money.


Buttered Pretzel Bread = Buttered Bread = Good Luck. The Irish believe that banging buttered bread on the door will ward off bad luck. And sharing buttered bread with friends will bring good luck + Pretzel = Luck and Prosperity. The Germans believe pretzels bring luck and prosperity… for some reason…

Xmas ’22 – Day After

It was a day like any other day (at my parent’s place). But for some reason the fatigue weighed on me. We had a hearty breakfast, and then set out to see what remained of the world.

Already it was clear that something had gone down.

The weather wasn’t favorable. The storm the night before had knocked out the power and flooded some of the roads. It looked a mess down on the beachside, but a crime had clearly been committed. The storm may have uncovered something. Though it could easily have been overlooked by the average passerby, to me the sign was in bright neon. There were drag marks leading into the tall grass.

It would be impossible to follow the drag marks into the grass. It was taller than my head in some places, and married with dead rose bushes. The only ones skilled enough to brave it are the small birds, grown fat without competition for food or risk of predators, and the small bunny rabbits, who burrow in like their own underground network of quick escape routes. Them, and apparently the culprit.

Further down the trail more evidence appeared. The discarded remains of a beach snail. Large as average hermit crabs and some of the residents of this area. They live peacefully alongside the small birds and bunny rabbits. They all live nonviolent lives. To find these remains was proof enough that something bad had happened.

Because the trail was washed out and the wind and tides had carried flotsam and jetsam higher inland than usual, the chances of finding more evidence seemed slim. And there would only be a few more hours before it became full dark.

There was no sound out there. Not the singing of the small birds, or the flapping of duck wings on water, or the gentle wash of the tide on the beach. It was as if everyone knew something had happened. And no one was telling.

Eventually I happened upon an area littered with a dozen empty snail shells. Some were partially burried, some looked fresh. I had somehow stumbled upon the culprit’s killing grounds. And it was a horrendous scene. Who would bear enough hatred to go on a mass killing spree such as this? Or maybe they had been killing for much longer and the storm unburried old evidence…

It was hard to know yet. This crime seemed to run deeper than just the random killing of a beach snail. The birds and the bunnies seemed to know something, but weren’t saying. I’d have to find another way to uncover more evidence. I needed to come up with a motive, and hopefully, a suspect. I needed to know why. But the sky was growing dark, and the rain was moving it. It would be a race against time, …and the elements…

Xmas ’22 – The Day

…and mistletoe and holly and snow and slush and poop…

…and there was a poop…

At some point the smell of coffee hits. Or the sound of music drifts into your consciousness. Or dreams finally bid you farewell, and you wake from your slumber. Who really knows how it happens? But it is never a question as to what day it is.

When you were young it was a day of great mystery. All the things you have wanted and hoped someone had been paying attention, maybe, just maybe someone thought you have been good. At least for the last two months you have been on your best behavior. And you would make your way down the stairs, never running. Not like all the movies. You have had too many accidents on the stairs to dare running down them. But the smell is always the same, and the music is always the same, and the air is filled with some kind of excitement.

It isn’t like that anymore. Certainly you open your eyes and smell the coffee and hear the soft crooning of Christmas music from somewhere below. But there is no mystery to the day. No magic or wonder.

The threat of getting no present should you be bad no longer stands. When one says they don’t want anything, they still will get something. It is too socially unacceptable to NOT get them something. This is a day of giving.

People create shopping lists of things they want. There is no mystical being breaking into your home at night to steal sweets and leave suspicous packages behind. Stockings become holders for all the random candy and other items too small to justify wrapping. And the mystery that is the very purpose of wrapping paper is gone, because you already knew you were getting everything you get.

We finally gather together and begin opening presents around close to noon. No one is in a rush to get moving. Some never changing out of their pajamas. When the first corner of paper begins to tear, it is the dogs who show the most excitement. My parent’s older golden retriever long ago learned the fun of tearing up paper. What once was cute that she could open her own presents has now become a battle of whack-a-mole, except it is snatching presents back from her before she can open them for you. Combined with my cousins’s black energizer doggy who has learned the same game… Slowly unwrapping presents to savor the mystery is a thing of the past. The ground between us is littered with ignored dog toys and shreds of paper.

Somewhere in the background the warm smells of food drift from the kitchen and hunger pulls us from the living room. We snack on random bits while playing with our new toys. Except me. For some reason I never ask for things I can play with. I walk around in my new boots. I flip through new books I won’t be starting yet. Until finally I get on my computer and work on school stuff that has no impending due date.

It feels like a short day. Maybe the shortest. We wake up late. And then it is dark out so early. By 6pm it feels as though we have all been milling around for days. By 9pm we are struggling to justify staying up. What did I even do today? This day that is about family and togetherness. We did not talk to any extended family, and everyone sat around staring at their electronic devices. Maybe that is Christmas now. An internet live time map showing you where Santa is as he flies across the world. No reindeer. All electric fireplaces. Instant video notification of anyone who even gets close to your front door. I made cookies. “World Famous” my cousin calls them. And I left the bottle of White Christmas (rum and brandy) out on the counter, just in case anyone wanted some eggnog. But the dog only barked at my cats. And the nog was only being drunk by me.

In the end, it it’s not really about the presents. The things we ask for. And while it is no longer a mystery as to what is under the sparkly paper, it is an indication that we are not alone. We make a list and send it into the world, and the message we receive back is saying, “I am here, I see you, and I love you.” Maybe there is no cherry cheeked fat man laying down the fear of coal unless you pay him in sweets. But there is the promise of love and warmth as long as you put in the effort to nurture it. Maybe it won’t snow, and maybe you won’t get kissed under the mistletoe, but the mere presence of unconditional love is the gift you are given by an extraordinarily happy man who brings you all together.

Xmas ’22 – Day 3.5

Cutting Hair

I had somehow gotten the idea in my head that in Asian culture one cuts their hair after they have suffered loss or heartbreak etc. It seemed to make sense.

In actuality cutting hair is more of a sign of shame and disgrace.

Maybe it is the same..

In my head though, it still feels like something symbolic. If nothing else, it is symbolic of letting go of what is old, what is past. And bringing change, allowing a fresh start.

I was ready for this. I woke up determined to cut my hair. My entire year has shown me loss, betrayal, and heartbreak.

But a couple hours after waking up, we received a call. My hair appt had been cancelled for unforseen reasons.

You can see that I am an oddly spiritual person. And I can’t help but believe in signs. I was extremely disheartened when I realized I was not going to be able to get my hair cut. But I also wondered what the sign was. For some, unknown reason, I was not meant to let go yet. There is still more for me to do.

I read my horoscope, my tarot cards, and runes. They are certainly not hard and fast truths. In a sense, they are the frames for which you put your own image. Everybody interprets them in their own way.

Today, the message was to trust myself because I have the strength to move forward.

In some cultures long hair is a symbol of strength and responsibility. There is more for me to deal with in my future due to events that have occurred this past year. Perhaps that is the reason.

Xmas ’22 – Day 3

Xmas Invasion

I spent the afternoon busting into fallen alien pods and harvesting their strange alien seeds. It felt almost cruel, yet cathartic. Occassionally, sneaking a taste of the undeveloped alien, red running down my fingers.

Until I eventually found it. The single most unique seed. The one seed with the power to either rule them all, or to destroy everything…

Luckily, I was able to capture and prevent that seed from developing into the alien leader it was destined to become, and to somehow call down more of its alien pods.

Though I fear I may be too late…

What strangeness is this candle whos light is made of water??

Xmas ’22 – Day 2

Playing elf..

Spent some three hours wrapping presents. It was okay, I was determined to do it. Despite finding it tedious. I try to make it fun.

“Oh just put the gift card in a small bag.”

“No way! I much prefer putting it in this big jewelry box with a hand full of candy. That way they think they’re getting something really good!”

The wrapping paper companies must make off like bandits. The only thing more wasted than tissues. At least tissues are useful. Wrapping paper… you spend three hours sizing, and folding, and taping. And you spend 10 seconds ripping it off. Add another five seconds to ball up the paper and throw it at someone.

Three hours. And it is never some elvish stream-lined process. You can never cut a straight line. Despite the dotted grid guide on the back of the paper. Despite utilizing both methods of cutting. The slow, measured snip, which always results in a jagged and sometimes slightly torn edge… or the fast sliding slice, which can sometimes result in a grossly crooked edge, or in the case that your arms are not long enough, the paper bends and the scissors catch and grievously tear the paper…

Oh well, that’s what tape is for right? This magic ‘invisible tape’… that is completely, glaringly visible. Either finish, smooth matte, or vivid gloss. You may as well be using that neon 90’s hip-hop era colored duct tape. …actually, duct tape would probably stick better to some of the cardboard. So much for magic tape.

And, of course, you can never get the piece of wrapping paper just right. You either have too little and thus toss that piece aside and hope you have a smaller present to wrap… or you end up with too much, in which you either stick with it and roll and roll and roll the paper around the gift like a roll of paper towels… or you snip the extra off creating those annoying and useless strips of wrapping paper you’ll never be able to wrap anything in…

It is all well and good. You will hear people constantly and self assuredly announce that they don’t like surprises. Almost as if hanging a sign around their neck that says, “Sucker. Someone hide around the corner and jump out at me when I get close.” And yet they always, always fall into the magical mind game that is wrapped presents. The very purpose of wrapping presents is that the gift is mean’t to be a surprise. The object of opening it is that you want to be surprised. Weak constitution or control freak, whichever you are, nobody DOESN’T want to be surprised. The world would be so disappointing if you knew everything and every action and every event. It is the purpose of our brains to be challenged in even just some slight way. Shake the present (hope it isn’t fragile because wrapping paper with the words “fragile, this side up” would remove some of the magic) and attempt to guess what it is.

And when you tear back that paper (unless you are like me and carefully unstick each piece of tape individually…) even if you knew what it is, you still feel a slight swell of surprise. Because the purpose of a gift is not just to spend money on someone that you know. The purpose of a gift is to show that person that you see them, and that you care.

(Wrapping paper is still kind of ridiculous though… one roll of baby shower paper and you only had one gift to wrap… )

Xmas ’22 – Day 1

Crazy Coincidence, or are we entering Crazy Town?

On the morning of Nov. 13, 2022 police received a 911 call that led them to the bodies of four university students of my alma mater, The University of Idaho. They had all been brutally stabbed in their rental home off campus. None of the victims was older than 21 years of age. The house also had two more roommates, one of whom had made the 911 call. All six of the individuals living in the rental were white. There were no signs of forced entry. And the police strongly believe it to be a targeted attack.

Dec. 20, 2022 the murder still remains unsolved. The police do not have any suspects.

In the early hours of Aug. 13, 2021 police responded to a 911 call in rural Salem, Or. A young husband and wife had been brutally stabbed in their home. The husband died, the wife sustained serious injuries but survived.

Aug. 13, 2022 the murder still remains unsolved. The police do not have any suspects.

They do not believe the two crimes are connected.

In 1987 a man named Michael Francke was hired as the new director for the Oregon Department of Corrections. He uncovered incredible amounts of corruption within the prison system. On the night of Jan. 17, 1989 Francke is found stabbed to death outside the entrance of his office building in Salem, Or.

(Also not connected, but another gruesome stabbing in Salem, Or. just an hour or so north of my current home town, Eugene, Or.)

On Dec. 7, 2022 police released a statement asking for the public’s help locating a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra believing the driver or passengers might have information. They did not have a license plate number and the police have identified over 22,000 vehicles.

Dec. 20, 2022 police have identified a white 2011-2013 Hyundai Elantra in Eugene, Or. and are looking into its possible connection to the quadruple homicide in Moscow, Id.

The police have deemed the car unrelated..

—————————————————————–

I tend to live in my own little bubble. I woke up to coffee and some six inches of snow. Crime is something that happens to other people. It happens somewhere else. It happens on TV and in novels. But all of this feels very close to me. I, and I am sure many other children who watched it, found the show Unsolved Mysteries to be absolutely nightmare inducing. It was because there was no happy ending, the murderers were never caught, the crimes were never solved. That is this crime. The brutal stabbing of 4 college kids. And the news articles keep pointing to Oregon..

Xmas ’22 – Prologue

And we travel through the wardrobe..

The world is grey and cold. Rain comes tumbling down without hesitation. Water falls as easily as lies off lips. And the air is thick and biting, chasing you away..

My car is like my spaceship, encompassing me with warmth and safety. Through the speakers comes the audio mystery of the 1989 murder of the Oregon Department of Corrections director. The murder, a mystery, spurred on by all the incredible crime and corruption in the state. Most prominently, just an hour North of my home town.

So I fly away. I fly from the unhappiness and hurt of my everyday life. I fly past the town of murder and corruption. I fly North.

Eventually the world grows more and more dark while I glide along through space and time. And as I slide across a bridge, suddenly I am somewhere else. Like the Pevensies climbing through the wardrobe.

The sky still falls. The world grows white the further I go. A hundred shaken snow globes in each cone of orange light I pass. My headlights setting the ground aglow, flashes of twinkling light. Diamonds drifting down without hesitation. Blanketing the ground in a regal gown of white.

And when I finally come to a stop, arrived at my destination, the world I left behind is simply a memory, drifting down to the ground, where it will melt away.

Pork Chops and Squash

2 inch Pork Chop cooked in Butter, Sage, and Garlic. Roasted Acorn Squash with Sage and Garlic. Wild Rice with Onion, Walnut, and Blueberries, cooked in Cider and Chicken Stock. And Chicken Stock, Cider, Brown Sugar, Pan Dripping Gravy.

—————————————————————–

Second Pork Chop. With Walnut Pumpkin Risotto

—————————————————————–

Leftover Wild Rice with Walnuts and Blueberries. Roasted Squash with Sage Pesto. And Quartered Chicken with Blueberry Sauce.

—————————————————————–

Leftover Pumpkin Risotto. Seared Duck Breast, cover it in Cranberry Sauce and Toasted Walnut Crumbs. Roasted Endive covered in Bacon and Goat Cheese. And roasted Fennel and Apple plop.

—————————————————————–

Cleaning out the Fridge
Leftovers Edition:
When you have too many leftovers, but a freezer full of chicken stock.

The Baked Potato journey

When you have a crazy craving for a Baked Potato…
You throw Chili, Cheese, and Sour Cream on it!
Then add some Cream Corn, and cut up an Avocado, and grill some Scallions.

—————————————————————–

Baked Potato round 2.
With like Steak, and Roasted Romaine with Butter Balsamic Sauce

—————————————————————–

Last Baked Potato.
With Beer Braised Chicken and Apple Sausage, with Beer, Onion, and Mustard gravy sauce.

—————————————————————–

The meal the keeps on giving.
Leftover Sausage and Beer and Mustard Gravy Sauce with Pasta and Braised Cabbage

—————————————————————–

Leftover Braised Cabbage with Bone-in Pork Chop and Mustard Cream Sauce

The Wedding – Epilogue

The End

I always think about the idea of nostalgia. It’s probably because I have a terrible memory for my childhood. Just foggy snapshots, hazy impressions, and lingering feelings. But the feelings are real, no matter how strange and alien they are. Nostalgia is the longing for a time, not a place. And while my memory is only of images, my dreams are more vivid. My dreams have always been vivid, like being entirely transported to another reality. I have woken still sobbing from some heartbreak, I have woken with cuts in ny palms from clenching my fists, and I have had to stop myself from reminding people of an incident that never happened. My dreams are like experiencing another me.

And this was like a dream. A dream that felt strange and real. A dream of people dressed up and swirling on the dance floor. A dream of flowers and flowing creeks and beautiful stone walls. A dream of a prince and a princess kissing outside a castle. And I am there, standing by a warm fire, looking into the faces of people from my past. And they are so familiar, and yet such strangers to me. Do people change so much while you are not looking? Am I drunk on the sweet bubbles in my glass?

The clock chimes it’s bells, and the dancers begin to fade away. Sleep doesn’t come, but I must already be asleep, this is a dream.

Even days later, my body still feels like it is floating. I am not sure if I truly saw those ghosts from my past. Those warm feelings, personified from my childhood. Those strangers of my adulthood.

I can’t tell what is reality, and what is dream, but I know that soon my alarm will go off, and life will be as it was.

The Wedding – Done

Love Actually

You know that scene at the beginning of Love Actually, with all the videos of people smiling and hugging in the airport, and a voice over of Hugh Grant telling us all about love and how it is all around…

I mean, so maybe that movie is two decades old now, but I feel as though airports are the exact OPPOSITE of a love scene montage.

Outside of rush hour traffic, I have really never seen such humanistic ridiculousness. The sheer number of people who CANNOT stop staring at their phones, as they press forwards in lines, irritated that the line isn’t moving faster, all the while NOT reading the signs or listening to the various TSA people yelling out instructions, and then end up doing something wrong and holding up the line. The TSA guy who waved me through the scanner actually THANKED me because he didn’t have to send me through multiple times for having left something in my pocket. (That they all told us multiple times to take out of our pockets…)

And it always seems as though everyone is in such a damned hurry. I am constantly thinking to myself, as I get shoulder checked by some White Rabbit, that, just because you reach the gate first, doesn’t mean the plane is going to leave any earlier.

And the common courtesy has just become extinct once you enter the airport. In certain airports you must catch a train to go from gate area to gate area. It can get tight. When we reach a gate area that I am not disembarking, I am rudely shoved out of the way so people can get off, and end up being shoved into more people who shove me out of their way.

At one point, while walking I had stopped to allow a group of people walk through a narrow area (due to millers about dawdling…) and in the process was shoulder checked by someone behind me in some damned hurry to get past me.

One woman cut in line to get through the TSA check. While waiting at baggage claim two separate gentlemen literally stepped in front of me, as though I wasn’t practically standing at the front of the mosh pit with my thighs smashed into the stage. While sitting in a seat waiting, multiple times, people walked up and stopped infront of me, like RIGHT in front of me, like would have stepped on my toe if I hadn’t moved my foot. Nevermind the fact that there is an ENTIRE walkway between my seat and the gate…

Nobody looks at each other. Nobody acknowledges each other. I get more social anxiety and anger at the airport than I do at a Walmart. And that isn’t even counting once I am ON the plane.

The people who cannot CANNOT just do what the flight attendants have told us to do three damned times. I look over and old guy STILL has his tray table down, with his phone that is STILL plugged in. Dude, we are about to smash into concrete in like 3 minutes..

Or the parents who let their toddlers freely kick the seat back infront of them. Yes, this is not some fiction, this has happened to me. Were I a bolder soul, I would maybe have turned around and asked them what they thought it meant when the flight attendants said it was a completely full flight. That somehow this ONE seat infront of their child just happened to NOT be occupied?

Or when I am leaning forward and using my tray table appropriately and the person infront of me decides they want to lean their seat back back. All two, life altering inches. With some twinkling of a hope that if they fling their entire weight into it, they may get a blessed extra inch out of it. Instead, they hit me in the head with their seat back. Also, not some fiction, but an actual skull jarring incident.

I had seen this meme once that said, dress as though The Doctor might show up any moment. I sometimes wish he(/she) would, if it mean’t I could avoid airports.

Even first class isn’t safe, as I walked past a woman with a screaming baby. My seat was in row TWENTY-FOUR and I could still hear the monster screaming. I am certain the rest of the first classers were extraordinarily happy they had spent the extra money to be in first class.

Okay, okay. So this is some really long hate mail on air travel. It always makes me angry and hateful though. And extra disdainful at Hugh Grant for trying to make airports such lovely, frolicking through the meadows places. Well, lets see how well you recite that monologue about love while TSA is wanding you between the legs…

(No feelings towards Hugh Grant were actually harmed during the writing of this post.)

The Wedding – Day 6

Breathe

Frodo said, “how do you pick up the threads of an old life?”

And it is a little bit like that. Yesterday we drank ourselves into oblivion. And fought the pull of sleep, because there was only morning on the otherside.

I woke painfully early. Feeling kind of like I had only just crawled into bed. But, I couldn’t let myself fall down. The hardest part of this time of my life was over. And my body felt as though I were like chocolate left in someone’s pocket. A little bit smushed, a little bit broken, and a little bit soft and warm. And nobody hates this kind of chocolate. It is like finding a dollar on the ground, a happy surprise. Chocolate is chocolate, and this is the best sort of chocolate for smores.

I am not sure where that analogy was headed. I was tired. My stomach felt confused. And yet, I was also so hungry.

The day was warm. The rain and thunder had stopped threatening. A warm Saturday and we headed for the local Farmer’s Market. The streets were busy, and almost surreal. This small down full of strangers, suddenly filled with familiar faces. Everyone having spent a dreamy evening together at a remote castle outside of cellphone range. Which probably sounds like the premise of an updated Agatha Christie novel. The guests rode a shuttle bus up a winding road, under grey clouds…

The afternoon air was nice, but the pace of our travel, slow and meandering, as one would through a Saturday Market, the weight of the energy expenditure last night began to slow us even more. Until a couple members fell into feeling ill, and a few more members fought the extreme wash of fatigue. Crawling into beds, once returned to the hotel, to sleep as the sleep of vampires. Rousing only when the pull of hunger becomes insistent.

When evening hits, we venture out into the world, a bigger, busier world, with too many faces to recognize any. The friendly, flirty barista, replaced by a barista who refuses to make eye contact and does not say “good morning.” We separate and go different directions in search of food. Perhaps needing an escape from each other.

The pub I end up at is loud with an amateur musician, creating an atmosphere that robs of the ability to converse with the person sitting right next to you. We eat. And drink. And the energy is low. I try to joke, but instead I yawn.

Maybe today wasn’t meant for productivity. It was merely passing the time until the snoring can commence.

The Wedding – Day 5 (a day late)

The Big Day

How do you prepare for a day like this? This day you always knew would come, but never really expected it. The way one knows they will grow up and be an adult, but never notice it happening. The way you know the Earth is moving, but you never seem to feel it.

When you are young, if you are lucky you are wrapped up into a little nuclear family with ribbon and bows. A picture of my brother and I having drawn all over a large chalkboard to make our mother feel better. My brother’s side filled with random doodles and words. My side, an exact copy of his side (only much sloppier). He was my absolute hero. He still is. And I would have followed him anywhere.

And in that wrapped up nuclear family, I felt safe. I needed to feel safe. In my heart I have been lost. Only half of it beats because the other is still with my birth mother. And the idea of losing any of my family terrifies me. I can’t lose anymore of my already damaged heart. And it clings so desperately to my family.

I think I wanted to deny that this day was coming. It wasn’t someday sometime. It was now. But if I didn’t think about it, I wasn’t losing my brother.

But as the sun moved across the sky, and my brother watched his bride to be, I realized that I didn’t know this person existed. We have struggled, and fought, and beat every challenge that had come to us. My brother loves me. But I had never seen him love like this. I had never seen such adoration and happiness in his eyes. He loved to be in band, and he loved nerdy math and computer stuff, and he loved cooking, but I had never seen this love.

And as things moved forwards, as we sat in the seats, and the bride’s father walked her to my brother, and he took her hand and led her to the ceremony table, I realized this was real. This was happening.

And the truth is, my heart broke. And when I asked my mom if she was okay, and she said she was. I took a beat, and then told her that I wasn’t. And I cried. Because my brother, my hero, was now so extraordinarily happy. And, a little bit, it was like the Earth moved under my feet. And, a little bit, it was like we were suddenly adults.