Saint Patrick’s Day in a couple of words

In the United States Whiteness is a monolith that assumes (or promotes for capitalist aims) a lot of assumptions around class, religion, and ethnicity. The Irish weren’t always considered white, but now their assimilation is celebrated in the form of St. Patrick’s Day. Along with parades and silly socks their former oppression is used as the ‘I may be white but my family had it tough too’ set of folks denying currently experienced racisms.


Add to that mess that Saint Patrick’s real accomplishment was driving out the indigenous religion, jokes about car bombs and that the food is very boiled and meat centric you might wonder what a vegan, pagan, activist might like about the holiday. The only real ethnic identity my family discussed was our Irish Catholic branch (maternal grandfather). My grandmother’s family emigrated from Germany as the First World War was kicking up, so they very much downplayed their home country. My father’s family rarely discusses lineage – in fact they would barely acknowledge they had only recently left Appalachia, and my father’s adoption by his stepfather (and we knew little to nothing of his biological father). Given this context it makes more sense to latch on to my family’s St. Patrick’s tradition. We never did bars or green beers – it was a ‘family holiday’ with special food, movies, and my Mom’s Clancy Brother’s records on repeat.


It’s that connection to my Mother, to the special meal, and calm (not all too capitalist) idea of ‘where we came from’ that I want to celebrate.  Proudly I now ‘fake’ corned beef (a slow cooking seitan with the same spices), cook up a big ol’ batch of colcannon (with kale!) and sneak a tiny bit of whiskey into dessert. As other days are gobbled up for merchandizing opportunities (es: Cinco De Mayo) and our histories are flattened into caricatures today is a reminder of much I dislike the narrative of today, and how relatively easy my family has had it. Yes, the Klan chased my family down – but that was 4 generations ago. Our whiteness is assumed, and our privilege is plentiful.  It is not a radical act to say ‘my family’s heritage does not include green beer’ or to even extend that courtesy to any other person’s heritage – but it is at least a step in the right direction.

Being a morning person

I am both a morning person, and an optimist. I am outgoing, and perky. These facets of my personality (perhaps more than my wit, or love of gloomy metal music) can be oppressive and reinforce a lot of nasty cultural and capitalistic narratives of how ‘we should be’. The tension between my own nature, and the knowledge of how damned obnoxious it can be can spiral into former-Catholic-kid guilt and self defeatism that stamps out the things I actually like about myself.

banana bread
banana bread

To be honest I am a morning person after about 2 hours of actually being out of bed. When I first get up I am groggy, confused – and if I am running late, downright angry. In the two hours I am awake, I need to ease into my day preferably with some kind of accomplishment that I can look back on if I start feeling a bit defeated. So I sometimes go for a run, do a cheesy dance workout video, or tackle a mountain of dishes. For example it is too cold to run outside today so I worked on a batch of banana bread, cleared out the sink, and did my standard sitting meditation. I was thrilled to find that I was still ‘running early’ so I could sit here, at my desk, and write.

When I carve out this time for myself to let my brain slowly wake up (I usually don’t have coffee till 8 or 9, so I have been awake for 2 to 3 hours) before really even interacting with my husband, I am mentally in a better place. My basic needs for quiet, movement, and groggily figuring out my day have been met. The small task done gives me a sense of accomplishment and the endorphins from the movement/run/meditation don’t hurt either. This morning time lets me ease into myself – from there I am able to be friendly, and perky, and generally try to be the goofball I present to the world.

This is all of course situated in my privilege. While I have a lot on my plate (job/school/activism) I only have one job, no kids, and a secure house to sleep in. I have a room/office to meditate in, and a safe (and pretty!) neighborhood to run in. My commute – either through getting a ride from coworkers, or by mass transit never takes more than an hour and a half (a luxury in some areas), and I have a partner who respects and supports my needs.

Perhaps I have been wrestling with Tony Rella’s blog post about the tyranny of positivity, and how to achieve that delicate balance of respecting others needs and my own. At work I generally have it handled – as a manager I strive to not tell folks how to emotionally react, I encourage breaks (‘if you are stressed – walk away from your desk!’) and do not expect others to really be morning people. At home it is a little harder – and I think this is rooted in guilt over my own needs and a history including severely depressed and alcoholic parents who needed tending. Squashing those needs, or being weirdly silent about them when the topic comes up with friends is not helping anyone.

The reason I wanted to write about this (rather than preach the good word of doing dishes in the morning) is because the current framing is all wrong. Positivity is promised as a solution to all ills, and out of those same mouths we are told to spend far too much time ‘being productive’ or ‘living for our jobs’. Sense of peace, and ‘relaxation’ is sold to us through expensive evening yoga classes at the gym in the gentrified part of town, pricy weekend work retreats, or vegging out to cable and carry out. Energy for our day is predicated on fancy coffee and caffeine shooters sold at the drug store. It is not as though I live ‘off the grid’ or haven’t gotten a mani-pedi when I felt down. I’m not picketing yoga studios, throwing TVs out of windows or slapping kale out of assumed-yuppies hands at the farmers market.

There is no ‘either or’ and this is not a zero sum game.  Self care is not about commerce, and the world needs morning people as much as it needs the night shift – after all: who is going to make your banana bread?

The Incredible Vegg

today’s breakfast:

I’ve been vegan for over a decade, and while I don’t remember the date or the year I can approximate the time span by other anniversaries. The more time passes, the more I am sure my belief of what is convincing ‘cheese’ ; ‘meat’ or other animal products devolves since I haven’t eaten the stuff. Still there are some things I miss and I enjoy finding or making equivalents. In the past 5 years faux cheeses have made huge advancements. no more sad soy cheese that just sits in planks on food not melting or doing much of anything. now you can buy Daiya products that melt and stretch (around DC several pizza places offer Daiya topping to the joy of vegans and lactose intolerant alike). If the flavor of more refined cheeses you’d have at a wine and cheese event are more your thing there have been great strides in cultured nut cheeses (yes, lets all collectively giggle at the word ‘nut cheese’). I really got into making cheeses, and basically want to host parties all of the time to justify keeping a fridge stocked full of vegan cashew chevere.

A food that I miss, but haven’t really tried to approximate was fried eggs. I’ve made frittattas and quiches (relying on tofu, and the aforementioned Daiya) and baked a ton never thinking of eggs – but the particular mouthfeel of squishy slightly slimy fried eggs is something I missed. This of course is a joke I often make – while veganism isn’t inherently more healthy than consuming animal products eliminating fried eggs from my diet has probably saved me from the heart disease that is so prevalent in my family. Still, it is a flavor/mouthfeel I miss. So when I saw Vegg being mentioned on twitter, I was intrigued. Fake egg yolk? The cookbook was even more interesting – a fake fried egg? Last week I visited Pangea (a local treasure – but a mail order hub for all of your vegan needs) and picked up a book and canister of the vegan goodness. Now, a few of the recipes – fried egg included- call for obtuse items you can only really get from a restaurant supply shop or Amazon.

My fried egg experiment resulted in success (tasty faux eggs!) that had a hefty up front cost (not the vegg, but rather Himalayan salt and stuff like calcium chloride) and prep time.

Still I’m glad I got all the ingredients – it’s fun to sometimes let your food be a science experiment (see also my kombucha brewing). The next real test will be serving some fried vegg to my Mom – an adventurous eater who isn’t vegan, but a person who loves trying all my ‘food tests.’ I don’t think this’ll be the magic ‘anyone can go vegan’ item (being an obtuse ingredient that requires a lot of fancy other stuff to replace a cheap protein source) but for those of us missing yolk flavor, or the joy of a sunday morning fried egg Vegg is a great substitute.

Toxicity, Fear, and Feminism

If feminist space is indeed an actual space, an intentional community in which we create projects, have conversations and have connections. The way in which we behave, and interact has repercussions. While I am an activist in what some might lovingly refer to as ‘the real world’ or ‘meatspace’ online feminist space (listserves, livejournal, twitter) has had a real effect upon me. My closest friends were met online, projects that I love and hold deal were birthed through online interactions (and allowed for collaborations across states and time zones) and I have learned more through the more accessible (and immediate) resources of feminist writing online than my years of gender studies through night school.


There is real toxicity in some places. After all TERFs (trans exclusionary feminists) have been on the internet attempting to sabotage the lives of trans women for merely existing and speaking to the harm that trans exclusionary actions (within and without feminism) have. Another example would be the way in which Hugo Schwyzer was given a platform (a horrible one at that) on numerous feminist spaces and targeted WOC in an attempt to silence their critiques.  She didn’t talk about the long history of WOC’s concerns of racism within feminism being dismissed online (a quick Google search I found posts about feminism and racism here, here, here and here).


Rather than focus on the toxicity of oppression, Michelle Goldberg decided to focus on the feelings of primarily white feminists when confronted with critique. Full disclosure: I own both of Ms. Goldberg’s books on reproductive rights issues. I’ve cited them in my class work, leant them to friends, and have enjoyed her writing. I had stopped following her on twitter a while ago when I found some of her articles were lacking a rigorous analysis that I had thought her more in depth writing had (specifically her wish on giving ‘Lean In’ a pass. I though had chocked up our different analysis to my being a pretty strict ‘capitalism causes a majority of our problems’ kind of feminist that has little patience for a movement invested in helping a few ladies get to the 1%. I follow (on twitter)  @karynthia , @DrJaneChi ) two of the people focused, and critiqued in the article (which I will not be linking – I don’t want to add to the page counts – internet currency as it were).

To be blunt, if a pundit was arguing ‘but what about the feelings of men when you tell exactly how sexism hurts’ I don’t think Ms. Goldberg would be as delicate. I think if male journalists complained that they feared writing at all just in case some woman claimed offense that it would be a score against feminism. The difference is only in where the power dynamics lie. Because this feminist space has provided some paying gigs, TV talking head time, and a sense of authority (in greater number to white women) there is an investment in holding onto that space. Flavia Dzodan outlined this pretty clearly the day before on her blog.


I don’t want to argue about the validity of feelings. At the end of the day what really matters is in what ways we are perpetuating or ending oppression. We don’t need the conversation re-focused to how to make someone feel more comfortable in their fucking up. Yes you are allowed to make mistakes (we all do!) but once the mistake is made – what are you going to focus on? How you feel in that moment, or how to stop fucking up? If someone is curt when they are telling me I am fucking up – they are still spending their time (and resources) to educate me about how I am oppressing them. Again, they are spending their resources (already more limited than mine because of systematic oppression) to teach me. That is a fucking gift.

I don’t think it is bad for anyone to pause before posting out of fear of enforcing a kind of ism. Even this writing – off of the cuff starting at 6 a.m. went through some revisions, some contemplation about inclusion, and language choice. I am sure it isn’t perfect, and if critiques come I’ll read them and take them to heart. If ‘feminism is for everyone’ we can’t just have the same 15 posts about white cis lady experiences. And if a white cis lady is writing about her experiences and is treating them as something universal rather than also situated in her relative privileges the critique must come.

Its vital read the tweets of: @andrea366 , @graceishuman@suey_park , @scATX , @ChiefElk and @redlightvoices (to just name a few) who have on twitter provided excellent critique of the article, feminism and society in general.

Roe V Wade

Normally I spend the anniversary of Roe v Wade decision volunteering at a clinic and organizing a fundraising event. This year I stepped back because of other commitments I have going on. For a moment I felt a pang of not being ‘in the mix’ of the protestors downtown – but as I crawled back in bed with a vicious head cold (not a planned commitment)I reminded myself that it is the sustained efforts of the abortion rights movement that is important.
But it is important today to speak to how a Supreme Court decision has shaped our lives. I grew up in a post-Roe nation. As a member of Gen X I had decent sex-ed provided by my school while my home didn’t so much address humans sexuality. When I started dating an aunt handed me a copy of “Our Bodies Ourselves” and my mom added by shouting into my room “I’m not raising any grandkids”
I first understood abortion as a personal rights issue when my friend Sandy* called on a Saturday when were 14 or 15. Her mom was out of town, and her stepdad was freaking out: screaming at her & throwing things because of an abortion she had scheduled for the following week. She need a place to stay and asked if she could come over . She hadn’t mentioned the pregnancy before then, or any issues with the boyfriend, which weren’t details she was obligated to share with anyone. After conferring with my mom Sandy came over and stayed until her Mom returned.
After she left my Mom and I had a long talk about the whole thing. While she never questioned the importance of legal access my mom had wavered about what she saw was the morality of it. But she always saw it a personal choice up to the pregnant person. In fact that night she told me stories of driving friends to illegal abortions before Roe.
That night that Sandy stayed with us was formative, I wouldn’t get involved with clinic defense for nearly a decade – but it was Sandy’s brave insistence at her personal autonomy, her own mother handling the issue with Sandy’s needs at heart, and my mother providing shelter for person in need that taught me the how important access is.

* not her real name

If you haven’t already this month, consider giving to a local abortion fund (I can vouch for the DC Abortion Fund) and get involved into your local, and a national politics for abortion rights for all.

Writing about not writing

When I bought this domain and decided to blog again I began writing down topics that I would like to cover I put them in a list organized by week. I even varied by topic, and tone. I keep opening the document when I have a spare moment to add whole topics, or just notes to it.

But I haven’t written here in two weeks. I don’t really buy into New Year’s resolutions (I consider the start of my year Winter Solstice) but there is a sort of collective energy in the air that encourages new projects. The television is still running diet aides and gym memberships with all of the high gloss of ‘starting a new year right’ but I am settled in a little bit into avoiding creative space. It would be easy to blame the house right now – we are in a state of repair which means we are sleeping on the floor, getting dressed in the living room, and in general spending too much time discussing such fun things as carpet and contractor quotes. But I purposefully avoid my office. Suddenly cleaning dishes is way more interesting, or three hours of Minecraft seems like a totally valid creative outlet. I have about 25 knitting projects queued up on Ravelry, and I swear to god I started brewing my own kombucha over writing.

I used to love writing.

I cannot tell if school or my day job (both requiring high volumes of dry technical and corporate sounding writing) have sapped my energy for this work, or if it requires the same kind of emotional work as a healthy relationship. When I write I sit in my office- quiet and centered. Incense will burn, source books surround me in piles growing in height as I become more passionate about the topic.  Instead my desk is litered with receipts, items to return at the store and a pile of papers sits on the floor – the last victim to my cat Abacus’ tantrum over being locked in here during a construction day. I feel her pain. Maybe I just need to toss everything to the floor while shouting ‘clean surfaces’ like Edina from Ab Fab.

Sunday Night

It is Sunday – which means two things: Meditation and Food. The first is that I strive start my day with more in-depth spiritual work. This often includes altar cleaning, specific guided meditations, and catching up on religious class ‘homework.’ The other sure thing is ‘Sunday Night Dinner’ where our good friend Robin comes over for tasty vegan food, and some dramatic TV watching (we are skipping Downton Abbey so we can finish watching the first season of ‘The Top of The Lake’).

Both of these weekly traditions anchor me, remind me of the things that are important to have on the weekend, as well as a weekday. Our weekends often sway between over-packed with activities, or a haze of laziness (ie. knitting and law and order marathon watching). Also the contrast of a very ‘solo’ activity, and some schedule friendship ‘hang out’ serves to remind me of the various forces that are at play.

It’s hard, when living in a society where forces are only seen (or understood) as a ‘force over.’ There are laws limiting my body’s reproductive rights, there is capitalism forcing me to choose between a variety of ‘lesser evils’ and subjugation all in the name of ‘commerce’ and there are the cultural forces that encourage some modes of dress, speech, or expression over others. It is important for me to let myself acknowledge the other forces. How each direction and its coordinating element hold me in place, and can encourage growth. My work with deity also furthers not just that contemplative work, but adds fire to my belly allowing me to do activism in the night, or find the energy to reach out to friends. The forces of my family, friends, teachers, and work all pull/push me in (generally) good ways, that I am still constantly amazed by.

By doing the longer meditation in the morning, starting with the clearing of my altar I am welcoming the various energies and staking a claim to show up each day for the upcoming week. Like a clean kitchen begs a baking project, or a pile of new yarn asks to be woven into something a clean altar draws my attention and interest.

Similarly, concluding Sunday night with home made food with a friend dedicated to veganism, and social justice… who gets me and my partner, our cats, and life in general is another anchor. It is informal – we don’t have to vacuum, and never judges on those days where my clothes are a mess and I am cranky and yelling about ‘the internets’. In fact Robin and Zach stay up late ‘bro’ing down’ (ie. staying up to discuss dandy fashion, and watch Golden Girls) and I either retire to my office to finish homework, or crawl into bed so I can run early Monday Morning.

I live in a country where we are not supposed to look too hard at those laws, and cultural dictates shape our life.  I grew up in a home where we were never supposed to admit how much the abuse hurt, or how hard the poverty and emotional neglect made life. I am slow still to bring up pain, or joy- fearful that I do it in the moment that it is experienced it is still too raw, and un-inspected- and my reaction will be questioned and judged. There is a tiny bit of vulnerability here – admitting I like starting my Sunday from a place of devotion, and ending it with ‘intentional family’ is somehow ‘too fluffy’ or ‘boring’ as if an enjoyed life is something to suspect, rather than relish in.


The art of transformation

Some changes take a long time, each life itself being a slow progression. Living in a world where only quick results are celebrated it is easy to want to give up, or stall out. Not too far from where I live the ‘Paid Sick Days for All’ coalition took 2 years of hard work to pass real change (both raising the minimum wage, and ending the exemption of food service workers from receiving paid sick days). It is inspiring to see real change when their work could be easily forgotten in the world of constant news cycles and social media memes.

Years ago I kept a blog where I truly tried to write to all of my interests, and aspects. The site LiveJournal provided a service beyond just hosting a page – I was able to filter my posts to audiences (both a blessing and a self censoring curse). I took to twitter as LiveJournal faded, and missed the space I had to write. Specifically I missed linking how a news story, or a march, or a knitting pattern had made me rethink my approach to something else entirely different. I am incredibly lucky(1) in how rich my life is. A song I might hear will encourage me to get up and run before I get started with my day. In turn that run gives me some moments of clarity that allow me to better focus on my job, or remember to answer that email I owed members of a feminist collective.

knitting pic

The whole story behind my internet handle is that I think the idea of transformation is a process to be crafted – ie crafting change. Be it knitting, smelting or alchemy there are hours you have to put in practicing (and failing) before you can come out with one tiny thing that you like. The ‘work’ that I do – at the day job, or the night school, and the local activism – all of it is full of big failures and small successes. They all contain their lessons, and on those rare occasions where I ‘get’ the lesson on the first go, the learning gets easier, and the crafting gets a little more complex. There are times where you still have to tear a project apart and start from the beginning, or just know that it isn’t working and you need to walk away for a while (1/2 of the sweaters I have done).

I am striving now to have what writer T. Thorn Coyle calls an integrated life. I am not ‘balancing work and home’ but instead have a daily life that has home stuff (companionship, cooking, cleaning), work stuff (day job, night school, activisty stuff), physical stuff (running, yoga, dancing), thinky stuff (smart twitter folks, books, and art that all challenge me) and spiritual stuff (meditation, ritual, magick). I realized, in thinking about all of these things that make a day feel wonderfully varied I missed writing. Twitter is great, but limiting – and LiveJournal stagnant, and ill fitting. So I’m creating this new place to write about what is moving me, or giving me pause. Lets see how this works out.


(1) Most luck and blessings are really just nice labels for privilege (for example: buying a home was no act of luck – but a tidal wave of privilege that I rode out).