December 30, 2010

"Or to begin again"


Dear Readers,

Hello from New Orleans! I thought I'd stop in for a moment to ask if you have any New Year's resolutions. I've switched from comfy couch to sun-dappled backyard this afternoon, and it dawned on me that I haven't really made one yet.

I've been writing every day and was thinking I'll probably keep up the habit, resolution or not. has been a great new addition to my writing practice, even though I tend to be a tried-and-true pen-and-paper kind of gal.

I was thinking I might also learn to bake ALL of my favorite kinds of cookies. What do you think? That could take me through pretty much all of this year and the next and the next.

In the spirit of new beginnings, above is a photo of a sunrise, for your viewing pleasure. It was taken back in Boston, very early on Thanksgiving morning.

I've also been thinking of a book of poetry by Ann Lauterbach, entitled, Or to begin again. I remember going to a reading of hers a couple of years ago, and I was a little mesmerized. It felt more like an incantation. She didn't say much, except, "I'm just going to read, if that's ok with you." Now there's a book I'd like to get my hands on in the New Year.

When I found this video of her reading as a 2009 National Book Awards Finalist, I was reminded again that her voice and her words speak for themselves.

Wishing you a new year filled with poetry and pomegranates and all of your favorite little things.

December 21, 2010

Growing wings

Guess what. This little couch potato is flying south for the winter.

Lately, I've been dreaming of beignets from Cafe Du Monde and reading up on the 1895 World's Fair.

It's hard to believe I'll be leaving my cozy nest, but it'll be nice to take in new scenery and new faces, for a change of pace. Actually, I'll still be going at the same pace: slow. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, here's a photo of my little sunflower, Beulah, who's been keeping me company.



December 14, 2010


When I first got sick and the doctor came to see me in the infirmary, he said it would be important to "simulate game-time."

By this, he meant that even though I could barely walk and didn't have anywhere to go, I would have to wander aimlessly up and down the little hallway with the nurse at least twice per day.

I hated that. I hate treadmills for the same reason. They make me feel like a hamster in a wheel.

Anyways, I did it without too much fuss, and pretty soon, I got restless enough to actually want to come home. Before that, I had been pretty content with the steady stream of popsicles and pudding at my disposal. That is, until they made me do stuff.

One day last week, I woke up feeling especially terrible. This was nothing new, but I decided I'd had enough. I was tired of being sick, and I was getting restless. I decided I was having a day out, and I was going to walk to a café to have a drink and read a book, like any normal person might do.

So, I prepared myself mentally all morning. "Act cool," I thought, taking a cue from some friends in Budapest. I got some breakfast down. I took a bath. By early afternoon, I had a few articles of clothing on. I struggled with the last layers of winter regalia. My fingers started to tingle. I began to sweat. I got a little woozy.

I reached for a new bottle of gatorade. I couldn't get it open.

"Oh, forget it," I said to the bottle, as I held it like a baby and flopped over onto the bed. "At least I simulated game-time today."

The next day, I aimed a little closer to home. I set my sights on the slow cooker, instead of Starbucks. Turns out, a batch of rice pudding goes down easier than a latte, and the crock pot holds enough for two.

In recent days, similar pursuits have led to stuffed peppers, "pieless apples," and a first attempt at butter cookies, as you can see below. Thank goodness there's a consolation prize for warming the bench.

In process: "Pieless apples"

In Process: Butter Cookies

December 9, 2010

Things that make me smile

1. Reinventing the sky (via Joanna Goddard)
Ever wonder how to bring the sky inside? Or how to wear it around your neck? Artist Maria Alexandra Vettese did just that. As the days grew shorter, she photographed the sky and created an art installation entitled "Come Darkness, here we are again," along with a book and silk scarves, all featuring the changing light of the autumn sky.

2. Dance clips
Since I can't move much right now, and I used to be a dancer, I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time searching for great dance clips on youtube. Here's my latest favorite. Just try to sit still while you watch it.

3. The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
This compact book begins with a series of metaphors for writing, strung together with such humor and grace, I couldn't help but smile. I just started it when my favorite person ever brought it to me for a surprise Chanukah present (you can guess who—he bakes cookies), but I'm already sailing along (there's a sailboat on the cover—I approve). Anyways, if you like to write, or you just like reading about writing, I think it's great. And it's short too, which I also like.

December 3, 2010

On mood lighting and pencil skirts


I tend to be very concerned with creating the right conditions for things. I always thought I could write best in a café with medium-level background noise and gentle lighting. I have a certain kind of pen I like and favorite notebooks.

I like to have the right kind of music for the right kind of thing. Running music for running. Cooking music for cooking. Dinner party music for dinner parties. I think somewhere along the way, I must have picked up the idea that I would fall in love wearing a little black dress. Or maybe a pencil skirt.

These things are all so nice. It's really sweet to make things just so.

But when I got sick this semester, I really kind of thought I'd lost everything for the first little while. I was afraid to open my eyes and see what was left when the dust settled. I'd gotten so attached to all the little things that I didn't realize I'd mostly only just lost the icing off the cake.

Turns out I did some of my best writing while horizontal, notebook smashed sideways against a hospital bed railing. Turns out I can write with or without a needle in my arm. Turns out I can also write while taking a bath or while frying an egg (although, admittedly, the egg did not turn out so well).

Turns out the pencil skirt and little black dress were kind of unnecessary too. You can also fall in love in your pajamas, not having brushed your teeth in kind of a long time.

I think I knew that. I'm not sure I really believed it, though.

I'm still convinced that the little things really matter, but I've had to remind myself how the big things fit in too. If I had any confusion about my priorities back in September, I suppose I've had a little help sorting them out. When you can only do one thing in a day, then two, then three, you start to learn very quickly what matters to you, what you really need, and who you love.

As for that icing on the cake? Well, I've had plenty of new little things to fill in the gaps left by afternoons in cafés and mornings out running. Here's a little list of my favorite little comforts.

Gatorade flavor: light blue
Comfort foods: soda bread, matzo ball soup, cookie dough ice cream, avocados, cheese, chocolate chip cookies
TV shows: Big Love, Gossip Girl
Movies: Forrest Gump, Good Will Hunting, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

As for the big things, well, you'll just have to come back later. I'm still mulling them over.

November 30, 2010

Things I've been loving

1. Rice
Now that I've been getting off the couch more and more, the kitchen has become my second favorite haunt. My newly rediscovered appetite also keeps me scrounging around for things that fill me up and make for easy leftovers. Hence, the rice. I love to make a big pot and throw in whatever I have on hand. Basically, everything but the kitchen sink. This week's batch had basmati rice, red and green peppers, onions, and pineapples. Yum.

2. Jordin Sparks
Now that I'm feeling a bit more peppy, I'm really in the mood for somebody who can belt. I like to turn the music up loud and dance around a little, especially while I'm cookin'. And then I like to take a nap. Her last album, Battlefield, has a little bit of everything. Apparently it was released in the summer of 2009. I can't believe it took me this long to add it to my life.

3. Saul Bellow: Collected Stories
I dug this anthology out from my bookshelf one evening last week and was so glad I did. My favorite is the last story, "Something to Remember Me By." When I'm not reading poems, I love short stories, and these are the kind that stick with you forever.

4. Stillness
For the longest time, I had to be still. I didn't really have a choice about it. Sometimes I couldn't move. Sometimes I couldn't talk either. Sometimes I couldn't get out of bed or get off the couch. These days, as I get my strength back, I'm beginning to have some choices about what to do with my time. It's strange. I almost feel guilty about it, or even a little overwhelmed. I still know my limits, and they're pretty limited. But as the possibilities come trickling back in, I'm actually thankful to take solace in stillness sometimes. That's where I sort things out. Or just remember where I am. Or how I got here. Or who I am and what's really important.

November 23, 2010

It would be my pleasure

Dear Readers,

Please forgive me for a moment while I gloat:

I just fixed my own problem. I love it when I do that.

Here's the thing. For two months, things have not being going as I'd planned. I like to keep things in order. I like to put my ducks in a row.

But when everything turns upside down, it starts to become very difficult to arrange your ducks. Or to find them even.

When I first got sick, I discovered that one of my most wayward ducks was insurance. If you're anything like me, chatting about insurance is not your favorite way to pass the time. Especially not when you're trying to keep your food down and your head on straight.

But on Saturday night, when I was cleaning off my dresser, I came across a fortune cookie fortune that turned out to be prophetic: "You are primed to come up with a creative solution."


The wheels have been turning since then. This morning, I stayed in bed longer than usual. I read from a favorite book before getting started on my oatmeal. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I called up Company Number One and told them what I wanted. They said, "We don't usually do that, but let me talk to someone and call you back."

I love it when they do that.

Pretty soon, it was done.

They wanted to know, Could I submit an extra letter?
Could I sign on the dotted line?
Could I include a check for less than I was originally asked to pay?

Of course I can. As Marcel the Shell would say, "It would be my pleasure."

November 19, 2010

From couch to kitchen

snowball cookies (mexican wedding cookies)

Dear Readers,

You're not gonna believe this. Someone has been cooking for me. Actually, a lot of people have been cooking for me.

But someone has been chocolate chip cookie cooking for me. And making waffles. You know what I mean?

Anyways, I thought he could use a break and a little surprise, so I decided to venture back into the kitchen yesterday, when no one was home. I set myself up with a new playlist and a ponytail. I thought a little Lady Gaga might do it. Eventually, I switched to Cuban hip hop.

This summer, I tackled salad and soup. I started to get cozy with my stovetop. During my extended hiatus on the couch, I began to contemplate the oven. I'd been avoiding it for a long time.

There had been many excuses. They ranged from confused mutterings about religious piety and feminism to extensive analyses of my fear of the dark mystery which took place inside. I thought of biblical and extra-biblical stories about ovens. They had never gone well.

As you can see, I am not a very methodical baker. I ran out of parchment paper. I do not own an electric mixer of any kind. I tend to get distracted and make pretty shapes on the cookie sheet.

In my past life, this would probably matter. I might have found myself halfway through a daydream and a half-baked cookie sheet and ended up very stressed out. It would have seemed very important to bake the perfect cookie and to do it fast.

Now that I'm on the couch, though, I seem to have all the time in the world. I have to admit, I kind of like it that way. To be honest, I don't like to be rushed, even in my regular life.

So yesterday, I baked cookies for my sweetheart, and it took all afternoon. Today I'll probably write a poem. Or maybe I'll just sit back and read one. Along the way, I think I might just get better too.

snowball cookies (mexican wedding cookies)

By the way, you can check out the recipe for these babies here. I used to call them "snowball cookies" until I learned their real name, "Mexican Wedding Cakes," from the author of Sweet Amandine. They're fun to make and surprisingly simple, even for an amateur like me.

Happy Friday.

November 12, 2010

On Beauty

Lately I've been fascinated by the world of beauty. I can count on one hand the number of times I've been outside in the past seven weeks. I can count on two hands the number of times I've walked into the bathroom, stared at the make-up drawer, and had to mumble to myself under my breath, Don't even think about it.

I've never been one to paint up my face. For school dances and ballet performances, my younger sister practically had to tie me to a chair to get a little blush on my cheeks. I could see her coming a mile away with that dangerously pointy eyeliner.

"I already did my make-up," I'd tell her, inching away.
She'd shake her head at me, unimpressed. "Mmm hmm. Great job, Lis. Now, sit still and let me do my work."

These days, if I can manage to get dressed and eat breakfast before noon, I'm lucky. Nevertheless, I find myself eyeing not only my tried and true mascara and eyelash curler, but also the sea of new beauty products appearing on the scene for the holidays.

I can't remember the last time I've worn eyeshadow, but wouldn't you know it, I can't stop staring at Tarte's fancy Lock and Roll Eyeshadow Wand. Isn't is beautiful?

It has cream shadow on one end and a rollerball with loose shadow on the other. I just lie here with my laptop on my stomach all day ooing and aahing. And speaking of sitting still and painting my nails, Essie Nail Polish has all kinds of tempting Fall shades, as well as standbys like this beauty, "au natural."

I'm not sure whether it's pride or vanity or cabin fever that keeps me rummaging through the makeup drawer—even to the very back, to the lipsticks and the eyeliners I haven't seen in ages. Perhaps I'm preparing for my debut back in the outside world. Perhaps I'm fumbling around for memories I had thought were long gone. A lipstick I wore only once transports me to a ballroom downtown. A dusty, deeply used, golden eyeshadow puts me on a stage. Somehow I'm glad I haven't tossed them yet.

Don't worry, I probably won't be playing dress up most afternoons, while no one's home. And I'll probably save the Marilyn Monroe bombshell lipstick for another occasion. But I will be worrying about my eyebrows and painting my nails. I hope you don't mind.

November 3, 2010

Local things I've been loving

Since last Wednesday was devoted to decadence, today I thought I'd finally get around to sharing with you some of my favorite local treasures. They're just as decadent (if not more), but perhaps a bit more globally-conscious.

1. Taza chocolate: This chocolate is unlike any other chocolate I have ever tasted. It also happens to be locally produced (at their factory/store in Somerville, MA). If that weren't enough, it's also organic, direct trade, kosher, pareve (dairy-free), soy-free, gluten-free, earthy, intense, delicious, and incredible. Basically, it is everything you ever wished for, packaged neatly in a cute little round disk. My favorite flavor is Guajillo Chili. My roommate recently brought me some from the farmer's market in Harvard Square. It is the key to my heart. Along with chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin ice cream, and matzo ball soup. Actually, there are a lot of keys to my heart, and they are almost all food.

2. La Tuza is a Mexican roots band, based here in the Boston area. I heard them first at the Harvard Peabody Museum's Dia de los Muertos celebration last year. (By the way, it took place again last night, La Tuza performed, and I heard there was a waitlist for tickets). I liked their sound so much that I tracked them down again when they played at Toad in Porter Square. Listening to the album tracks on their site will give you a better sense of their "infectious spirit" than any description I could provide. My favorites are "El Colás" and "La Petenera." They also have a song about chocolate, which you could potentially listen to while consuming Taza. I won't say I haven't tried it.

3. Formaggio Kitchen: This is the kind of place that would normally intimidate the heck out of me. I would stare at it longingly from across the street and think, well, gee, I'm not that gourmet. I probably can't even read any of the labels. They're probably all in French and Italian, and I only read Spanish and Hebrew. Oh well. But thanks to my roommate's splendid parents, I tiptoed inside one time, and boy, am I glad I did. Turns out, there is nothing to be afraid of. They do carry all kinds of very incredible, very delicious things, from all over the world, but there are always friendly people around to translate or help you find just the right thing. On one trip this summer, I discovered champagne grapes. On another, grapefruit sorbet. On another, the best crackers I've ever eaten in my entire life. Their specialties are wine and cheese, of course, but they also carry a dazzling array of baked goods, produce, tea, spices, and other wonders you'll just have to go in and experience for yourself. Yes, there are samples. They also carry, guess what, Taza chocolate.

November 1, 2010

The secret to seeding a pomegranate


Ladies and gentlemen, I have another confession to make. There is a portion of this blog which I have been neglecting. It is the "pomegranate" portion. You may remember it from my very first post, back in June.

This past weekend, my frustration finally came to a head. I ate a lot of cookies. I took it out on you. I took it out on the floor. I decided to do a little frustration-sweeping, even though I could barely hold myself up, nevermind a broom. Actually, it was a swiffer. The wet swiffer is my favorite, because it has a little button you can push, and it sprays things.

Anyways, in the wake of my silent, pathetic attempts at a tantrum, my loyal roommate returned from a grocery run. I was lying on the couch, exhausted from my efforts, and she plopped something down in front of me.

"I think you know what to do with this," she smiled, and then returned to unpacking her bags.

I stared at it for a while. It was round and pink. I was too tired to reach for it. It was my favorite fruit. Eating it would require some effort and my special secret. That's what she was talking about. It was a pomegranate.

The pomegranate is my favorite fruit for a number of reasons. This is a fruit which actually has no edible flesh. Just a tiny little bit of bitter-sweet nectar, which is next to impossible to extract from its tiny, ruby-colored seeds, firmly planted inside of a completely unforgiving shell.

Ha! Now that is a badass fruit.

If that weren't enough, the pomegranate has been for ages a symbol of seduction, fertility, and temptation in a number of different mythologies and religious traditions. I love that kind of thing.

But I've been flat on my back—no end in sight—for five weeks with a very serious case of "kissing disease." Whether or not that's how I got it is beside the point. Wouldn't you like to know.

Anyways, I haven't really been in the mood to talk about love. Nevermind seduction. Or fertility. Can you blame me?

I'm usually feeling particularly fruitful if I can make it through the day without crying about the number of times I've had to switch to lying down from my preferred upright sitting position. This does not bode well for my dating prospects, my seduction rating, or my fertility meter.

When my life came to a crashing halt a little over a month ago, a lovely expanse of reflection time opened up before me. I wasn't particularly thrilled about this. I was ambivalent at best.

Past loves and losses were still looming on my horizon. I figured I was going to have to face them if I wanted to get on with it. Hence, the pomegranate.

It wasn't that I'd been avoiding dealing with the past. I'd talked with friends. I'd eaten my fair share of Ben & Jerry's. And then some. I'd watched Bridget Jones. I went on a trip. I wrote poetry. I painted my toenails.

And just when I thought I was all better and could move on with my life, I landed in the infirmary. I stared at my honeymoon red toenails. It wasn't over. There was still more work to be done. Still more thoughts to think. Still more words to be written. Still more peace to be made.

The weeks wore on, and things started to happen. Wheels started to turn. Doors creaked open that had been closed for a very long time. Light came flooding in. From the outside, it probably looks as if I've just been sitting here on the couch the whole time, getting up every now and then to have a fight with a broom.

As I marveled at that pomegranate this weekend, I thanked my lucky stars that it was mine. All mine. I had learned to like it on my own one day. I had done my own research on its symbolism. I had googled "how to seed a pomegranate" by myself, dammit.

The point is, I may or may not have just seeded a new pomegranate today. While listening to Cuban hip hop. See for yourselves. The evidence lies before you. It had been a while. It felt good.

Pomegranate seeds

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's time to turn a new leaf. Or a new fruit, rather. I think the couch is as good a place to start as any. Wish me luck.

If you would like to seed a pomegranate of your own, here are the instructions:

1. Cut it in half.
2. Submerge it in a big bowl of water.
3. Allow some of the seeds to float to the top, and gently loosen the rest underwater.

As always, this blog is dedicated to all the little things. Until next time...

October 29, 2010


Dear Readers,

I have a confession to make. While you have been enjoying my candles and roses and bubble bath (well, that sounds very romantic, doesn't it?), the wizard behind this curtain has been having a very hard time of it.

I wasn't trying to be all fakey or anything. Every time I found a silver lining, I just ran here (figuratively) to share it with you.

And I really am learning a lot from being sick. Thank goodness this isn't life threatening. Three-quarters of the time, I can't help laughing about how ridiculous this whole thing is.

But the rest of the time? Well, honestly, I'm having kind of a hard time doing pretty simple things. Trying to tie my shoes generally brings me to tears. Not that I need to tie them very often. Not that I have anywhere fancy to go. Heck, I could probably just show up to the doctor's every other week in my slippers if I felt like it.

I like my bed, but sometimes I feel a little trapped in it. I like my body, but now that it isn't working for me, I feel pretty trapped in that too. Sometimes I try to do things I know I can't really do right now. Sometimes I give up on doing things I know I can. Usually I'm tired. Sometimes I can't fall asleep. It's very unpredictable.

The days are stretching into weeks, and the weeks are stretching into months, apparently. I've already passed the one month mark, and walking to the kitchen and back still feels like running a marathon.

I know, this is only temporary. I've been reassured many times, by many wonderful people. But this is one of the hardest temporaries I've had to deal with so far.

The beginning was very challenging and scary and confusing. Then I settled into a kind of routine, a much, much slower pace, a quiet, still life. And now, I am stopping just to take another deep breath and just to say that the middle is kind of hard too.

This is very extremely incredibly frustrating sometimes.

There. I said it. Thank you for listening. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

October 28, 2010

Autumn leaves

The sun is out today, so I've had a chance to admire the leaves from the front porch. Thought I'd share a little glimpse with you.




October 27, 2010

On spoiling your skin

On spoiling my skin, I mean.

Ok, so maybe I've been a little bit spoiled these days. I can't help it. I can't really move, so I had to do a little something to cheer myself up.

Turns out you still have to get clean when you're on bed rest. Might as well do it in style, don't you think?

Seeing as how I can't really shop around in person and pick up little goodies to pamper myself, I decided to poke around online to see what's available. When I finally settled in for a browse, I was amazed at all of the sparkly new treasures to be had. I guess it's been a while since I've updated my stash.

Here's what I discovered.

1. Even on bed rest, you still have to wash your face. With soap. And water. Those cute little "facial cleansing cloths" don't work. I tried them. Two different brands. Don't bother. Although, they're probably nice to bring along on an airplane. They'll give you kind of a refreshing illusion, at least.

2. Neutrogena has a cool new Acne Stress Control Skin Care line. Glamour tells me in their latest issue that stress is a common cause of adult breakouts. I'll buy it. Either way, the Power Foam Wash is really mild, and it smells nice. And it's only $7.99.

3. Do you have a bathtub? Have you ever used it? As a bathtub, I mean? If I wasn't sick, I would add a glass of wine to that. I'm just saying, it's too bad it took me a whole year and getting sick for me to discover my bathtub. Also, CVS has some very cheap peaches and cream bubble bath. No more excuses.

October 26, 2010

Boston Ballet Season Previews

As you've probably already read, I am stuck on the couch for an undetermined period of time. This is practically killing me. Here's one good reason why.

Last spring, I saw a couple of spectacular dance performances here in Boston, and I have a little hunch that things are only going to get better this season. Here's the thing. I used to be a hardcore ballet dancer. I'll leave out the gory details, but suffice it to say that it takes a lot to impress me.

But when I saw Boston Ballet's Black and White near the end of last season, I was completely blown away. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. It was strange, scary, overwhelming, beautiful. Has there ever been a moment, during a ballet performance, when you've actually felt afraid? I can't really find words for the choreography, by Jiří Kylián—it was completely original—and the dancers pulled it off spectacularly well.

Afterwards, I wished it was a film and that I could go back to see it again, just the way it was. But that's the thing about a live performance—you can only experience it exactly the same way once.

Anyways, I thought I'd let you know that they'll be performing another piece by the same choreographer next April. You can bet I'll be there, even if they have to cart me in in a wheelbarrow.

This one's called Bella Figura, and here's what the Los Angeles Times has to say about it: “in an increasingly dark world, [Kylián’s] dancers are beautiful enough to give almost anyone renewed faith.”

In the meantime, here's what they've got in store for this season...

La Bayadère (November 4-14): I've seen this ballet a number of times, and I still have no idea what the story is supposed to be. It doesn't matter. It is sensual and extravagant. The choreography tends to be very exciting. It is a really good show, no matter how you cut it. That's all you need to know.

The Nutcracker (November 26-December 31): It's been several years since I've seen Boston Ballet's version of this holiday classic, but I remember it was a really magical experience. Highly recommended, if you can snag some tickets and spare the time in the next couple of months.

Elo Experience (March 24-April 3): This is a performance of two pieces of contemporary choreography, entitled "Plan to B" and "Brake the Eyes." This could be a great way to catch a glimpse of something fresh and interesting, if you don't want to sit through a longer story ballet such as Nutcracker or A Midsummer Night's Dream.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (April 7-17): This is one of the first ballets I ever learned. In fact, I was so young, I don't even remember my role. Flower? Cupcake? No, I've got it: Woodland Fairy.

Anyways, for those who aren't familiar with dance performances, this is a more traditional story ballet, based on the play by Shakespeare. This version is based on choreography by Balanchine, set to music by Mendelssohn.

Bella Figura (April 28-May 8): This is the one I've been waiting for. By the way, the performance notes explain that the ballet features partial nudity. I am not surprised. Black and White, a collection of five pieces by the same choreographer, also pushed the boundaries in different ways. It challenged me. It made me laugh, smile, and cringe. I don't know what to expect this time, but certainly I'm willing to go back for more.

Balanchine/Robbins (May 12-22): Boston Ballet is known to have a knack for Balanchine choreography, but I've never seen them in action. I would love to catch them this time—they're performing Afternoon of a Faun, Antique Epigraphs, Divertimento No. 15, and Symphony in Three Movements. It's all happening right after my exams, so maybe this time I can swing it.

Another reason I was particularly excited about this season has to do with the promotion of one of Boston Ballet's starlets: Lia Cirio. When I was in high school, I spent a summer at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, her home training ground. I am sure that I once watched from the doorway as she completed a long, tedious barre exercise, balanced en pointe, one long leg in the air, no hands, for what seemed like an eternity. Perhaps it was my imagination. Probably not.

As you can see, she is powerful and stunning. I saw her in Black and White last year, and I've seen her in pretty much every Boston Ballet performance I've been to for the last five years. So I'm not surprised, but I'm pleased to notice that she's been promoted to principal dancer.

That's probably all of the ballet notes you can stomach for now, so I think I'll bow out and return to my soup and gatorade. And perhaps a little daydreaming about sugarplum fairies...

October 25, 2010

A view from the couch

Since my Sunday was filled with a steady stream of lively visitors, I didn't have much time for writing. In lieu of words, here are some views from the couch.

My roommate brought these cheery flowers on her way back from the Head of the Charles regatta this weekend, along with some dark chocolate from one of the vendors. For some reason, the chocolate didn't last long enough for a photo.

Sssh.. don't tell. I'm eating these cookies for breakfast, out of a bowl I made in a pottery class in college.

And here are some beautiful books that have been keeping me company.

Happy Monday.

October 22, 2010

On Prayer

Uh oh. Don't get nervous. I'm not going to get all preachy on you. At least I'll try not to.

Someone asked me the other day whether I've been praying.

It's a good question. I normally pray on a regular basis. And I had some very good reasons to pray when I first got sick and was trying to figure out what was going on. And now I have some time on my hands... So?

I hesitated. "Well," I said. "Not the way I like to."

Let me explain. Normally I pray using a liturgy. I show up to a service, where I am surrounded by friends and by the community I love. That liturgy involves some standing up and some sitting down, some singing along and maybe a little mumbling.

Right now, I can't really do any of those things. I'm flat on my back. I can't even show up.

That liturgy also involves some silent, personal prayer. And I appreciate that. I like doing my own thing. But I like doing my own thing, knowing that other people are doing their own thing nearby. You know, just in case lightning strikes or something. I wouldn't want to be too far from civilization.

What I'm saying is that I've never been a big fan of praying all by my lonesome. And I've also never been very interested in praying while sitting still. And now, here I am, by myself, sitting still.

So yes, I've been doing a little bit of praying, but it's not the way I like it, that's all.

Sometimes I look over at my siddur, my prayer book, and then I just have to turn my head in the other direction.

"Leave me alone," I say. "I'm not in the mood right now. I think I'm just gonna eat another cookie."

As I learned on Tuesday from a New York Times interview with Syrian poet Adonis, and on Thursday from an audio clip sent to me by a friend, there are many ways of "reading" poetry. Perhaps it's time for me to expand my definition of prayer as well. Of course one can pray lying down, and sitting still. I have been doing it all along. But it goes much further than this.

I would venture to guess that the ways in which we can pray—like the ways in which we can read poetry—are endless. Each time, each person is different, depending on her relation to God or to the page, the sacred spaces she seeks, the places from which she came.

In the years and months I have spent with my trusty siddur, I have found that a liturgy is meant to be a framework, a spiritual practice, so that when you land flat on your back (hey, that sounds familiar), you have some words to draw from. Just to pick up a conversation with the Divine where you may have left off. Just in case the impact of a fall may have left you speechless.

A liturgy, a psalm, or a religious text, is simply meant to be an anchor, not a ball and chain. At least that's the way I see it.

But there I go preaching again, when I probably should be praying. Or eating cookies.

Shabbat Shalom. Happy Friday.

October 21, 2010

Things I've been loving...

1. Art for Aidan via Etsy. Aidan has leukemia. The people who love him set up an Etsy shop to sell prints of his drawings to raise money for his medical bills. They think he draws great monsters. I think so too. Prints are $12.

2. The Daily Puppy. Don't start laughing at me. Ok, go ahead. Laugh. But for those of you who are like me and can't have a dog right now, but want one, you are going to thank me. This site allows you to live vicariously through others. Here's a photo of my latest favorite. His name is Cello. If that's not cute, I don't know what is.

3. Audio Poetry via Slate. The other day, another dear friend of mine sent me some audio clips of poetry, after I was moaning about the recent decline in my reading abilities (hey, did I ever tell you I have amazing friends?). That inspired me to snoop around and see what else I could find. Turns out I hit the jackpot when I stumbled upon Slate's poetry podcast. You can subscribe to receive a free poem each week, read by its author. And don't worry, you can even go back and download past poems. Believe me, I checked.

October 20, 2010

Looking at the pretty pictures

As I mentioned on Monday, I haven't been able to read much lately, but I have been able to look at the pictures. It started with a beautiful book of Judaica, which some very wise and wonderful friends gave me when I graduated from college.

Then I stumbled upon news about the 1952 cover art for Charlotte's Web, which has been recently sold at auction for $155,000, more than five times its estimated value.

It made me stop and think for a moment about how much a picture is worth. A thousand words? Hundreds of thousands of dollars? I suppose it depends on the picture, who drew it, and which story it belongs to.

I've always loved children's literature. My parents read me bedtime stories—most in English, maybe a few in Spanish—and the magic never really wore off.

As an undergraduate, I had the pleasure of learning from Marie Rutkoski, who is now the author of The Cabinet of Wonders. It's not a picture book, but it's pretty darn magical.

Last Fall, I took a course on children's literature and religious education, and I got to meet Donna Freitas, the author of The Possibilities of Sainthood. She got me thinking about the possibilities of this world.

Do you ever feel like you're straddling two worlds, or a few worlds? Donna made me start believing that perhaps I don't have to choose only one. I think she has a very expansive imagination.

Then in the Spring, I went to a lecture by Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Some very thoughtful and highly educated person asked him a very complicated question about how he came up with such a genius tool for teaching very little kids how to read.

English is Eric's second language. German is his first. He was trained as a graphic artist, not as a writer. He simply answered that he made pretty pictures that he liked and that he wrote simple sentences to go along with them.

When I was little, we must have read Are You My Mother? a thousand times before I was tucked into bed. I loved it for the part with the tractor. I wrinkled my nose and giggled with glee every time my mom said it.

Go on, say it, I would think, waiting in anticipation.

And then, she would turn the page, look at me, and sigh, "SNORT! said the tractor!"

Corduroy was another of my frequent requests, but only because there was a girl in it named Lisa. I barely remember the plot line. I was also obsessed with some nursery rhyme about a girl who died because her parents wouldn't buy her a pony. Tragic, I know.

So how about you. What are your favorite children's books? Nursery rhymes? Pretty pictures? I'm always accepting good recommendations.

October 19, 2010

On Poetry: Adonis

Just wanted to say that I was stunned, really stunned, by an article in the New York Times Books section on Sunday. It was an interview with the Syrian poet Adonis. I'll be honest. I haven't read his work (yet).

But this little English major saw "poet" and couldn't help taking a little peek at the article. I was lying here on the couch (just where you left me last time we met), lazily skimming along, and suddenly, I came across this gem:

“Poetry cannot be made to fit either religion or ideology. It offers that knowledge which is explosive and surprising."

I practically fell off the couch, scrambling for my trusty notebook and pen. I just had to write that one down for later. I loved it. I also had some questions about it. Isn't religion sometimes explosive and surprising? What about religious poetry? And does secular poetry necessarily transcend some boundary which religious poetry cannot?

But then they just kept coming, one after another, bam bam bam:

“Every artist is an exile within his own language,” he said. “The Other is part of my inner being.”

“Happiness and sadness are two drops of dew on your forehead,” he writes, “and life is an orchard where the seasons stroll.”

Isn't it strange, that proximity of happiness and sadness? I've felt it here, being enclosed in the house for the past three weeks. It almost feels dishonest to take pleasure in things. I'm sad to be in this state. But undoubtedly, there is pleasure in each day too. There is some kind of freedom in imagining happiness and sadness as seasons, each following swiftly, one after the other. Or as dewdrops, existing side by side.

And how about this one: “Poetry that reaches all the people is essentially superficial. Real poetry requires effort because it requires the reader to become, like the poet, a creator. Reading is not reception."

I love the idea of reader as creator. But I think the first part of this view is too limiting. I think poetry can and should reach all people. If it cannot be read, it can be heard. If it cannot be heard, its letters can be touched. The possibilities for "reading" and responding to poetry are endless. I think it is the responsibility of poets and teachers to reach all people who wish to be reached.

So there you have it. That'll give you something to think about for a little while, won't it? Basically, I just gave up on the whole pen and paper thing and decided to sit back and take in the whole article. And then I thought I'd pass it along in case some of you might be interested too, especially since the title of this blog starts with "poetry."

And from the looks of that article, it sounds like Adonis has been hanging around Ann Arbor lately. Maybe I should drop him a line about that spectacular bakery and their chocolate chunk sourdough bread. What do you think? Does he look like a chocolate lover to you?

October 18, 2010

In case you were wondering...

Maybe you've been thinking, if you're so sick, how come you've been writing all these blog posts?

That's a good question. Let me explain.

I'm usually a busy girl. Not a too-busy-for-you kind of girl, but I like to keep myself entertained. I like to bop around from one place to another. I like to meet you for coffee. I like to go to class. I like to talk a lot. I like to run—not especially far or fast, but I sure do like to get up and go.

Now it's like somebody's closed up all the stops. I can't go to class because I can't get down the stairs or out the door on my own. I'm too tired to talk for very long. I have a headache, so I can't read much. Caffeine? Forget about it. And let's not even talk about running.

All of my energy is gone, but there's still something inside of me that needs to come out. Fortunately, it still leaks out through my fingertips sometimes. Isn't that funny?

While I'm sitting here, I'd like to introduce you to one of my favorite places to go for breakfast. Now that eating and staying hydrated has become a full-time job, I like to have something to look at while I eat—besides my food, I mean.

What I'm really saying is that I like to look at other people's food. So sometimes I go to Simply Breakfast, a creation of Jennifer Causey, and this is what I find:

Isn't that sweet? I thought so too.

October 16, 2010


Things I've been loving:

1. Anthropologie headwrap. Spotted on A Cup of Jo, a delightful blog by Joanna Goddard, who also blogs for Glamour (see? I told you, I need Glamour in my life). Promptly purchased and adored. Keeps me warm while I'm sick and puts a smile on my face. Small enough to fit my little head, stretchy enough to fit a bigger one.

2. Music by Sara Bareilles, Brooke Fraser, and Corinne Bailey Rae. Oh baby, these ladies can sing. Also, Brooke has this adorable tote on her site, featuring all of the lyrics from her new album. I keep eyeing it, even though I'm not allowed to get up yet and carry anything around. Isn't it great?

3. Zingerman's bakehouse. My fabulous San Francisco friends (remember Diana from my visit to her in June?) sent me fabulous bread from this Ann Arbor bakery. How's that for global living? My favorite is the chocolate chunk sourdough. It combines two of my favorite things. Let me explain. Dense, crusty, sour, dough. Filled with gigantic, dark, chocolate, chunks. I know. Tell me about it. I'd show you a picture, but I'm too busy eating it.

October 15, 2010

Soup: The Saga Continues

I've never been much of a soup person. But somehow, back in June, this blog started with soup. And here I am again, in this golden October, lying on the couch, inundated with soup. And you know what? I love it. I can't get enough of it. I love every steaming spoonful—even when it drips down my chin. Bean soup, noodle soup, chicken soup, squash soup, beet soup, soup, soup, soup. Oh my God. You know what I mean?

As I told you in back August, I made a resolution to surprise myself, and it keeps on happening. Dammit, I've become a soup person, and I wasn't even trying. I guess I should have seen it coming, considering I've got friends in some serious gourmet kitchens.

I've never been much of a cook either. If it's any consolation, I'm a fantastic eater. I tried all summer to expand my repertoire of recipes, and I even created a few of my own. Maxine Hong Kingston has a great passage in her book, The Woman Warrior, in which she describes feeling the weight of an entire culture resting upon her shoulders, in her kitchen. She insists: "I do not feed people."

I felt that way for a while. I didn't want to be expected to feed anyone. I barely knew how to feed myself. But this summer, I decided to open up my heart and my kitchen for a while, just to see what might happen. It was interesting. I was taking baby steps. I finally learned to open a bottle of wine. Chopped an onion or two. Made a salad. Risotto. Ceviche. Soup.

Pretty soon I was singing along to Sara Bareilles (my favorite) in the kitchen and licking spoons nearly every Friday afternoon. Feels like I was just getting started, and now here I am on the couch. Eating soup. At least this time I know a good soup when I see one.

October 12, 2010

Letting go

Things to be thankful for while on bed rest:

1. I do not wear a bra. (But I do wear cute pajamas sometimes).
2. I do not carry groceries.
3. I do not do make my bed.
4. People feed me.
5. I write.
6. I discovered free Amazon Prime 2-day shipping for students.
7. I am learning about the complexities of giving and receiving help.

It is very complicated. I've never had a problem with asking for help when I needed it. I used to be very shy—painfully shy—so I always take a moment to consider the best person to ask, the right number to call, and then force my little turtle head out of its shell.

But when you need a lot of help for an extended period of time—even for a few weeks or a couple of months—there are a lot of things to consider. Schedules, feelings, relationships, costs, talents.

And I'm learning that with illness, it's a little hard to plan ahead. That's frustrating for me. I'm kind of a planner. Not a five-year-plan kind of planner, but I at least like to put things on the calendar to have something to look forward to.

My calendar has been wiped clean from here to January. I still haven't learned to stop checking my calendar every day. There's nothing on it but this: Get Better.

Maybe it's time to let go. To ask for help and then take a deep breath, close my eyes, and not worry about it anymore. Just get better.

Here's a photo of my writing table. I decided to put down my pen and light a candle. How's that for letting go?

October 10, 2010

Stopping to smell the roses

Stopping to smell the roses

Last week, I had a very important conversation with God. It went something like this.

Me: Sorry, but there’s no way in hell I’m sitting on that hospital seat to take a shower.
God: Well, Miss Lisa, that’s very interesting, because you can’t seem to stand up, now can you?
Me: I suppose it just so happens that I can’t.
God: I guess you don’t really have a choice then, do you?
Me: It seems I don’t. Thank you for pointing that out.

Later that evening, the wisest man in all of Cambridge appeared by my bedside with a dozen roses (see above photo. Sorry ladies, he’s already taken).

Many dear friends have been asking me for the past two weeks if I needed anything. Isn’t there anything they could pick up for me, drop off, cook, buy? It was true, I needed so many things. Thank goodness, my friends are so smart and talented, they just figured out on their own what I needed, in exactly the right sizes, shapes, and flavors, at exactly the right times. God knows I was too much of a mess to tell them what to do.

But after I'd been lying there for a while and Mr. Wonderful showed up with the roses, he said he thought maybe I needed something nice to look at. Something colorful to keep me company. Had I taken a deep breath lately? he asked. See? Didn't I tell you he was wonderful?

After a whirlwind two weeks of doctor visits, fevers, and general upheaval, I think I finally learned something that day about stillness. About stopping to smell the roses. Or just looking at them with a smile on your face if you can't really get up.

Also this week, I’ve added another thing to the list of things you can do from bed rest: paint your nails. In fact, there has never been a better time in my life to paint my nails. I’ve never been more still. Since I'll have to take a break in between each one, they're going to look spectacular. Thank goodness for fabulous roses, irridescent nail polish, and slow living.

By the way, as a follow up from my August post, I’ve had a little change of heart. I’ve decided to keep my Glamour subscription. More on that, and other little things, next time.

October 3, 2010

Notes from the Underground: How I went from kickass to keeled over

Two weeks ago, I was very busy. I was starting my second year of graduate school. I had a lot of classes to attend, lots of homework to do. I was also running a few miles a day. As you may have read a few posts ago, I've been having a lot of fun with running, so I decided to keep up with it, even after the semester got underway.

I also started a new job, which I was very excited about, teaching fifth grade Hebrew school on Sundays. The fifth graders are focusing on the book of Exodus this year, and even though this is my first time teaching, my nerdy obsession for things like Moses and the burning bush totally started to outweigh the butterflies in my stomach.

But suddenly, last Monday, something very funny started happening with those butterflies in my stomach. They morphed into a fever and a lump in my throat and a lot of other strange things. Before I knew it, several days had flown by, while I had been lying in the infirmary trying my darndest to take in some fluids.

At this point, I'm back home on bed rest, trying to cut back my semesterly plans to the bare minimum, in the hope that I can both stay in school and recover at the same time. It feels like I've just come back from a time warp.

Two weeks ago, I was thinking of taking a fifth course. Now I'm wondering if I can just get credit for being able to stand up long enough to brush my teeth. It's funny how your perspective can change in the blink of an eye.

Anyways, I hope that none of you will ever need this list, but in case you were wondering, there are actually plenty of things you can do on bed rest. Here are some of my favorites:

1. read
2. write
3. listen to music
4. make mixed CDs
5. smile
6. cry
7. dance from the shoulders up
8. head bob (see above)
9. shop online
10. window shop online
11. write emails
12. respond to emails
13. make lists
14. cut out inspirational quotes and images and tape them to the walls surrounding your bed
15. make a pillow fort
16. take a nap
17. wake up
18. watch netflix
19. develop your online presence, in direct proportion with your increasingly limited physical presence in the surrounding neighborhood
20. look out the window with deep longing
21. look out the window without any shred of longing when it appears to be very cold and rainy outside
22. eat ice cream.  with or without guilt.  your choice.

The photo above is me in the summer, working on a very healthy portion of eggplant sub in Boston's North End. I hope to be engaging in similar pursuits sometime in the near future.

August 15, 2010

Don't you want to be a little bit rock star?

I'd thought that my subscription to Glamour, which I bought when I first moved into my apartment over a year ago, had long expired by now, but to my surprise, the bulky September issue showed up in my mailbox a few days ago. Jennifer Lopez stared seductively from the cover, poured into a leopard-print bustier, with something like a come-hither look on her face. Haphazardly, I tossed her on a chair and figured I'd need to add "subscription cancellation" to my list of annoying things to do before the Fall semester starts.

Don't get me wrong. I loved my year with Glamour. I always looked forward to that day each month when I would be schlepping through the rain or the snow or the hail, carrying piles of "very intellectual" (and also very heavy) theological and literary books on my back and in my arms, and there, peeking out of my mailbox, would be a glossy, ever portable issue of Glamour, spattered with hot pink letters and top ten lists. Somehow, I felt I was undermining the system.

When I finally found myself flipping through the glossy pages of the September issue ("our biggest issue in 20 years!") one lazy afternoon, I took note of the patterns and repetitions which lay before me. When it comes to magazines, I'm much more of a flip-through-quickly and look-at-the-pretty-pictures kind of girl. I certainly wasn't thinking very hard, but eventually, a general theme began to take shape before my eyes.

Sometimes Fall fashion takes a very romantic turn. A bit of lace here and there. Cowboy boots. Twirly skirts. Brown leather. Pearls. But for September 2010, this is most certainly not the case. Here you will find knee-high black leather boots. Lots of black, in fact. And hardware in all kinds of places. A little bit of bling. Throw in something masculine, like a blazer. And a little bit of sassy. Oh, and don't forget leopard print (re: JLo on the cover). Basically, Fall 2010 is a little bit rock star.

Back at the beginning of the summer, I made a resolution to start surprising myself. It started with running. Cooking was another thing. I also got my nose pierced. There were a lot of little things, but the specifics are really not important. The important thing is that by the time I was halfway through the magazine, I couldn't help but smile.

It was as if I'd sent out a message in a bottle in June that read, "Surprise yourself." And then, here in mid-August, I found it again on the beach. The very same message. Only this time it had doodles all around the edges, and someone had written at the bottom, "P.S. Don't you want to be a little bit rock star too?"

Thank goodness for leather and pearls and other little things. Above is a photo of a recent experiment with oriental salad. I love it when surprises turn out to be delicious.

July 28, 2010

Off and running...

When I called my sister and told her I'd started running, the conversation went something like this:

me: so guess what I've been doing lately.
her: what now.
me: running!


me: hello?
her: (hysterical laughter)
me: (hysterical laughter)
her: Lis. you do not run.
me: I know, but I bought some cute running shoes, so I thought it'd be fun to try them out.
me and her: (more hysterical laughter)

Needless to say, I am not known to my friends and family to be much of an athlete. In fact, I would be much more likely to exercise if it required, rather than prevented, the wearing of pretty dresses. However, it is never too late to surprise yourself and others. It is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.

I never thought I'd get any pleasure out of running. I hate sweating. And breathing heavily. But as it turns out, when properly attired, hydrated, and mentally prepared, this average civilian may be easily transformed into something of a runner.

It's been kind of fun to finally follow in the footsteps of my longtime role model, Forrest Gump, and leave my worries in the dust. I even did a little research to learn about intervals and such. All in all, I was pretty shocked to find that a good pair of shoes, a little stretching, and a badass playlist could carry me quite a ways down the road and back.

After five years at Harvard and two more to go, it is a relief to be reminded that sometimes (often) it's kind of unnecessary to read a book about something and become an expert on it first. Sometimes it's better (and more fun) to just get up and do it. Pablo Neruda has a poem about this. It's called "Ode to the Book," and he writes,

"He aprendido la vida
de la vida,
el amor lo aprendí de un solo beso..."

"I have learned life from life,
love I learned from a single kiss..."

So how long will this cardiovascular business will last? The test of winter will certainly be a good measure. All I can say is that it felt pretty great to try something new that was so simple and yet, so far out of my comfort zone.

Thank goodness for a sister who doesn't let me take myself too seriously. This post is dedicated to sisters and sneakers and little things like mini-quiche.

Last weekend, my fabulous roommate had a birthday party for which she made salmon and crème fraiche mini quiche, chocolate cake, and spanikopita. Here are some photos. Unfortunately for you, they are not edible.

June 30, 2010

To begin with: soup.

At the start of the summer, I straggled, sleepy-eyed, out of a haze that had settled over myself and my habitat, making my way to San Francisco for a visit with my dear friend, Diana. My first year of graduate school was (strangely, unbelievably, exhaustingly) complete. Library books, post-it notes, and other remnants of a paper-writing fiasco still littered my desk, floor, walls, and yes, they had even invaded my bed.

Although Boston had become home to me over the course of the past year, I knew that as soon as the last page of my last paper finally spat out of my cranky printer, it was time to hit the road. Sometimes going away is all it takes to remind you how sweet it is to return.

I soon found myself catapulted out of the semesterly daze into a whole different kind of fog. San Francisco was refreshingly chill (in demeanor and in temperature), so I wrapped myself in a summery sweater as I set out each morning to explore. With flip-flops and a big, clunky camera, I probably looked like such a tourist. As far as I could tell, though, no one seemed to mind.

Over the course of the week, I experienced countless spectacular views, delightful bookstores, vast museums, and decadent meals (including a gigantic, heavenly soufflé). When I returned home, however, I was surprised to find that my trusty camera yielded a rather random assortment of photos commemorating the trip. In lieu of Golden Gate bridges and magnificent soufflés, I found images of quirky street signs, a friendly garbage man, and in the photo above, soup. I'm happy to report that I was far from disappointed. In fact, the little soup photo proved to be my favorite.

I was meeting Diana at a café for a quick bite after my long day of exploring and her long day at work. Soon other friends and acquaintances would trickle in for a book club, but in the meantime, I ordered soup and settled in for a friendly chat. I don't remember what kind of soup—perhaps carrot and ginger—but it was the kind of soup that's a little orange and a little sweet and not too watery and not too creamy. And it was the kind of chat that's easy and wandering and not too rushed, because with old friends you seem to have all the time in the world.

As I looked back at the photo, I realized that I must have taken a breath to pull out my camera and enjoy the little things that make life wonderful. Like soup and friendship. Like poetry and pomegranates.

So here's a quick list of my latest favorite little things...

the secret to seeding a pomegranate: simply cut it in half and submerge it in a big bowl of water. some of the seeds will float to the top, and the rest are easily loosened with minimal mess.

waterproof journals: these magical notebooks were created by Rite in the Rain for "outdoor professionals." even those who are neither archaeologists nor lumberjacks could surely benefit from the spill- and rain-proof paper.

reading in bed: enough said.