Saturday, November 14, 2015

Best: September 2015.

On this day when the world seems scary and awful (which is the way the world looks most days depending on who you are), I am going to selfishly focus on the good stuff. Good stuff from September, which already seems ages ago. I've been labeling the date as "2016" for like a month. As far as I'm concerned, after Daylight Savings hits, the world has shifted and we are MOVING ON, FOLKS. But September was really good so I'm happy to make this slight timey wimey exception and go back to it.

This lemon pepper chicken orzo from my fave, BB, just SLAYED it for me this month. Instead of using whole chicken thighs as Beth did, I just used biggish chunks of chicken breast because HELL-O that is my white girl initiative. I also was able to use up the last of my fancy lemon pepper blend that my mom sent me for Christmas a long time ago, and I used a LOT of it, and I used a LOT of feta, DUH. My orzo turned out PERFECTLY which soothed my Orzo Anxiety, born after making a recipe earlier in the summer with Fancy Organic Orzo From the Organic Bins Aisle, which turned out slimy and mushy and gross. But this recipe proved that it wasn't me! Just get the mass produced shit in the box and everything will be fine!

Seriously, I could eat this recipe forever.

Oh my god, I'll Give You the Sun. This book gut punched me and I loved every second of it. Actually, this isn't true. For the first chapter or two, the artsy fartsy hyperbole of Noah's mind caused lots of eye rolling on my part. But when it drew me in, it drew. me. in. The writing, the structure, the yearning romance, it all held me in its rapture. It deserved every ounce of that Printz Medal. One of my favorites of the year thus far.

Anna and the French Kiss, on the other hand, was pure romantic fun, but such a GOOD romantic fun! Not as artsy fartsy as Jandy Nelson but I loved every second of this, too. St. Clair is the swooniest of all the swoony YA male romantic leads, but Anna is great, too--relatable and funny and interesting. I read Lola and the Boy Next Door after this, which, I should note, is the one book I received multiple complaints about last year at my library, and it was okay but just not as good as Anna. (Was it worthy of the complaints, though? My personal opinion: nah.)

September brought the return of new TV (THANK GOD) and the best season premiere of them all was Black-ish. Kathy and I started watching this at the tail end of its first season at the beginning of 2015, and quickly fell in love with it. I think I fell in love with the kids first, but now I am fully OBSESSED with the mom, played by the incandescent Tracee Ellis Ross. The first episode of this season WENT THERE by being all about the n-word, and without drawing any concrete or preachy conclusions at the end, was full of discussion that was poignant at the same time as it was HEE-LAR-IOUS. I have learned that teens at my high school have VERY strong opinions about the n-word; several classes have held Socratic Seminars about it. I can only cringe when I imagine the things that are said by all of our white students. I almost wish that instead of having to hear their peers' uneducated teen brain opinions about the word, they were just required to watch this episode in class, instead.

But really, this show is the best.

Manda's birthday is in September, and in celebration this year she wanted to go to the coast and blow some glass. Blowing glass is something I've never had a huge desire to do myself, but I was pumped about a road trip--which we spent almost the entirety of blaring P!nk and it was perfect. When we got there, though, and I watched Manda and Kathy mold their molten globs of beautiful, fiery glass [I was the documenter], I was FASCINATED and taken over by the uninhibited glee of being really awed by something you weren't expecting. It was the coolest thing ever, you guys. THE COOLEST. EVER.

Plus, we went to a burger place that wrote your name in ketchup in your fry sauce, and visited this weird geology store that had a huge animatronic dinosaur that roared and flailed its tiny T-rex arms at you. In short, it was THE PERFECT DAY.

While we missed the tulip festival this year for the first time in many, many years, we did make it to the dahlia festival in September. And while the pure scope of the tulip festival is the most impressive, the actual badassery of dahlias is far superior, and hence my favorite festival. What, you don't think flowers can be badass? I suggest you look at the fine specimens in these here photographs and think about how dumb you are.

These two lovely souls visited from SoCal this month for a friend's wedding, and it felt like we hadn't seen their faces in SO LONG. It happened to be a cold and wet weekend they were here, which was somewhat shocking to their SoCal-adjusted systems, but we went on a lovely hike anyway, because that's what Pacific Northwesterners do! Ellie and Matt are as thoughtful and genuine and kind and funny as ever and I am very glad to know them.

Brandi Carlile. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Edgefield. ~hearts for eyes emoji~
Kathy. ~hearts for eyes emoji~

My second year at work swung into full swing in September and while it's somewhat hard for me to talk about school here because I'm trying really hard to maintain a school / personal life divide, it'd be wrong for me to summarize my September without mentioning it. The start of my second year was so much better in many ways than my first because I already knew so many of the students, and it was so lovely to see them again, and staff already trusted me. At the same time, I feel more pressure than ever because staff and students do trust me, and I know there's so much more to be done to really advance student learning via the library. I also feel a lot more exhausted working at two buildings than I did last year. Last year I was probably just running on the fumes of the excitement of having a full time library job; this year, I'm feeling more and more that to really accomplish things at both schools, I need more time than a couple days a week at each one.

I also started GSAs this year, and while at this point, I don't think the middle school one will really get off the ground, the high school one has been completely awesome and gratifying thus far.

We also started a comfy reading corner at the middle school, and I'm making progress in making the high school library my own, and I have a decent budget, and my staffs like me, and I have an awesome new principal at the middle school who really supports us and what we do, so I should just shut my trap about any complaints. 

My life is good, and I'm very happy to be alive. I'm not going to pretend to say anything in French, because I have always sucked at French and always will, but I am very, very happy to be alive.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Best : August 2015.

August was a good/bad, weird/wonderful month for me. I've been struggling with how to accurately describe it, because it was so full of excellent, fun, exuberant things, make-you-feel-alive things, all while (mostly) being on Summer Break, a thing that most adult humans don't get to experience, and complaining in any way about it would make me seem like a selfish privileged bitch.

But the thing is, this is my blog so I can say what I want, and the truth is that I was so ready for this summer to be over. I am much more of a social being than my navel-gazing lonely teen self would have ever imagined, but at the same time that quiet navel-gazer is still at the heart of who I am. I think none of us ever truly leave who we were as teens. I like doing fun things but I also like being by myself. In fact, I NEED to be by myself. I need quiet. I need time to process all the fun things I've been doing in order to actually appreciate and process them. This quiet time usually results in me being my happiest, fullest self and ready to go out and live more life.

I had very little of that alone time this summer, and it was hard for me. I think it's okay to be honest with yourself when things are out of balance, and to say that things have been weird/wonderful, even if outwardly it really seems like you should only be wonderful.

So now that I've acknowledged the weird, let's do the wonderful.

Oh my GOD was the food this month wonderful! Like OH. MY. GOD. When Kathy's parents visited this month, we were tired of our regular haunts that we'd already taken everyone else to this summer, so we decided to try some new joints. Two of those joints were Podnah's Pit and Gravy. Now listen, we really weren't thinking outside the box or anything here, as these are both verrrrry established North/Northeast Portland restaurants, but somehow in our eight years of living here we had just Never Made It There, and how I am regretting that now. I ate all of my Podah's plate so fast that I felt so sick but it was so worth it oh my god. At Gravy, this is perhaps self-explanatory, but I really could've eaten that gravy forever.

I also made a meal for Kathy's parents at our apartment one night, an event that is becoming something of a tradition when they visit, and I think this might've been one of my finest ones yet. I finished the meal off with a peach cobbler that was especially excellent, and I felt SO PROUD OF MYSELF, like a real live adult!

Kathy, Manda, and I also chose Pacific Pie for our New Restaurant of the Month, an Australian themed place that specializes in "pasties," savory handheld pies, in addition to actual sweet pies. I had the Pulled Pork Pastie. It was good. How could a pie themed restaurant be bad?!

We saw Spy with Kathy's parents at my favorite second-run theater, The Academy, and enjoyed it 176213 times more than I expected to. If you like fun and funny things you will like it. If you don't like fun and funny things, you are doing something wrong and should stop trying so hard.

Couldn't narrow it down this month so here's the run down:

March is a graphic novel about Congressman John Lewis's life and the story is important and the art is just lovely. Book One focuses on Lewis's early life; Book Two focuses on the march from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Eager to get my hands on Book Two soon.

Nimona is a very different graphic novel, from one of the genius minds behind Lumberjanes, Noelle Stevenson. I have to say that Nimona took me a little while to get into--this is going to sound stupid, but Nimona was actually a little too violent for me even though this is essentially a comic for children, hahaaaa I am the wimpiest wimp--but by the end, I loved her SO MUCH and didn't want to leave her.

Brazil's Dance with the Devil is by Dave Zirin, a sports writer who frequents the Melissa Harris-Perry show. I'm filled with glee every time he's on the show because his anger and disgust with injustice and stupid people is so unapologetic and awesome and sometimes hilarious. I could listen to Dave Zirin rant about shit every day for the rest of my life. This was the first book of his I've read, and I swear I could hear his voice jumping off every one of these pages. I feel like I learned a lot from this book--about Brazil, about soccer, about international sporting events as a whole--and learning a lot from books is my favorite thing. Thumbs way up.

Lastly, I know that some avid YA readers take issue with some of Rainbow Rowell's writing and choices, and I get it, I do. But reading Fangirl confirmed that I'm on the Rowell train full steam ahead. Her romances just make me feel so good and warm and fuzzy, and her boys are always so sexy! I did feel like Cath could've fangirled harder, really--this story focused on fan fiction and fan fiction only, when fandom can really mean SO MUCH MORE!--and there were only a few Simon Snow excerpts that really drew me in. But the real story, of Levi and Cath and Cath's dad and writing in college being weird, I was totally there for.

And now for all the other stuff that occupied this month:

As you have surmised, Kathy's parents were here for a long visit, and so many things we did were fun and Portland-y and good. Particularly, we went to a fireworks show for the opening of the new Tilikum Crossing bridge downtown, and it was........amazing. AMAZING. THE MOST AMAZING PORTLANDY THING EVER. And we ate a lot of good food and Kathy's parents were very hilarious and Kathy's parents-y. This paragraph is very vague to anyone who isn't me. You're welcome.

Amester came to visit and in a relatively short amount of time, we managed to do a LOT of stuff. Like a LOT. Beer and donuts and street fairs and waterfalls and Mt. Hood and the coast and explosion of Pacific Northwest goodness!

Right after saying goodbye to Amy, Kathy and I hopped on a plane to DC for some family time, and it was so nice, from getting to hug babies and talk about numbers and letters with Genius Nephew Evan to getting to be a tourist in DC for the first time in forever to getting to eat and drink Dunkin Donuts. My mom helped arrange the whole trip and I am so grateful to her. Thank you, Mom! I love you!

One of the best parts of this summer was getting to go to multiple Portland Thorns games. Portland is Soccer City USA, and while I love going to Timbers games, too, there is something special about the Thorns. A ladies' soccer team is a force to be reckoned with. Next year we're going to be actual season ticket holders and true hardcore Riveters. I love the game, I love the chants, I love our stadium, I love our players, I love the fans. BY ANY OTHER NAME BITCHES.

It's such a cool thing to see people you love evolve their life into the best possible life for them, and that's exactly what Scott and Kelly are doing--buying their own farm where they can see Mt. Hood from their backyard every day, raising goats and pigs and a million chickens. And at their wedding at said farm this month, Kelly rode into the ceremony ON HER HORSE, the coolest wedding entry there ever was. We got to meet up with a bunch of good people that we haven't seen in too long at their wedding, and it rained but it was perfect. As I wrote in their guestbook, I can't imagine our lives in Portland without Scott and Kelly.

Thank you for all the good stuff, summer. I have somehow stumbled into the luckiest, best life.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Best : July 2015.

Today is the last day of my summer vacation, the first real summer vacation I've had since middle school, and to be honest, I'm a little relieved. This has been an absolutely wonderful and full summer, but it's also been exhausting. I'm looking forward to having a regular, boring, consistent schedule again, being able to just veg out in front of the TV at night. I'm ready to get back to my libraries and my kids, ready to contribute to something larger than myself again. 

But seriously, it was a good summer. Here's some highlights from the first part of it: Julio, Julho, Luglio, Juli--the most summer-y month of them all!

Hahaaaa so, July was a month of attempting to make a lot of new dishes and...failing miserably a lot. I tried to make baked beans from scratch for the first time and after almost three days of cooking, half the beans were still hard. I tried to make a bunch of slow cooker recipes that all ended up pretty terribly and all made approximately 298273208 servings. In the end, I think the dish I made that was tasty enough that I'd be likely to make it again was Pineapple Fried Rice from my Budget Bytes cookbook. I added some chicken to make it more of a full meal. This proves to me once again that no matter how I try to stray and experiment, Budget Byte meals are always the most satisfying. Which probably makes me a pretty mediocre and stereotypical cook, but I'm fine with it.

Say hello to two of the best recent YA reads I've had the pleasure of absorbing my eyeballs into--both with such pretty covers! But both so different! Shadowshaper is just so fun, while also being creepy and slightly scary--I was NOT a fan of some of these spirit creatures. While a totally different story, my reading experience of this reminded me a lot of Alex London's Proxy--short chapters, lots of action, a quick-moving and really unique plot, all with--gasp--diverse characters. So essentially, the type of book that teens will love. Plus, art! Caribbean inspired legends! New York! Diverse, urban fantasy like this is where YA needs to go.

As much as Shadowshaper might suck in reluctant teen readers, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender might repel them. The writing here is so lovely--it is genuine magical realism in YA, perhaps the best I've ever seen in the genre--so lovely and epic that this book will probably appeal to advanced readers, or adults. Anyway, even though the writing in this epic might seem whimsical at times, do not let it fool you! Shit turns real serious real fast in this thing. It is devastating, but still so very wonderful.

Okay, I don't know if this totally counts for this category, but goddamn was the Women's World Cup the best thing I watched on TV this month. My feelings about this team are too big to even put here.

And now to the real world stuff, the best things I did this month, or at least some of them:

Kim & Cliff came up and there was barbecuing, Drunk History watching, distillery tastings, Hopworks eating, Dairy Queen blizzards, and sparklers. And a heat wave. Way too much of the heat wave.

The most stressful part of this summer was that our dog got real sick, but before she was too weak, we went on lots of hikes together. She appears to be in recovery now, so I'm hoping we can continue going on weekend hikes this fall. I love that stupid goober, and I love this stupid beautiful state.

Cousin Brian and his wife Ann and their dog Charlie Bucket stopped by Portland for a few days on their epic road trip summer, kicking off our Summer of Visitors. I will feel eternally sorry for people who don't have cousins like mine.

Then Kathy's brother Jon stopped by for a few days. He got to experience the coast, Ground Kontrol, a Timbers match, our car breaking down on the side of the highway, and meth-fueled confrontations on the bus. Whatta lucky guy!

Chapel Hill friends Anna and Reiko ALSO stopped by for a few days! I know! Most of their short visit was consumed solely by eating and drinking...the way it should be.

The one Manda-Kathy-Jill vacation we made happen this summer was a weekend trip to Bend and Crater Lake and it was awesome and very much needed at the time. The weather at Crater Lake was perfect, the cider at Atlas Cider in Bend was so very very delicious, and the "hotel" we stayed at in Gilchrist was so very very strange. Other highlights included taxidermy, seeing a deer on the wrong trail, a weird Scrabble game, and the cider. I already mentioned the cider, but yeah, it was good.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to happen all summer was that after many many miles and many years of people telling us we needed a new car, we a new car. (Thanks to help from my mom, who was moved to my action by apparent concern for my safety. Thanks, Mom.) I thought I'd be all sentimental about the good ol' dusty red Corolla, and envisioned writing a nostalgic blog post about all the places she took us, and that might still happen one day, but to be honest, I've been so overcome by feelings of OMG MY NEW CAR IS SO AWESOME that it's hard to really concentrate on anything else. Our new child is a 2010 Honda Fit and let me tell you! The AC works! The engine is so quiet and smooth! Its paint is shiny! It is all a little too much to take in.

Love you, summer in Oregon. Thank you for the good times, but no thanks about the heat waves and drought. Let's do better about that next year, yes? Yes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Best : February 2015.

I made two dishes in February that have ended up being some of my favorites this year that I've since made and enjoyed again. One is almost exceedingly simple: Baked Italian Eggs from the Budget Bytes cookbook, the yummiest breakfast you can make yourself if you're obsessed with Italian food, and also an excellent use of the ramekins I got for Christmas last year!

The other is much more time consuming, what with the cutting of the chicken strips and then the breading and then the frying--always an extremely messy affair--but mmm, this lemon chicken is delicious.

The ALA Youth Media Awards are announced each January and are always a Big Deal for youth librarian folk such as myself. I still haven't read a lot of the winners from this year, but one I was glad I picked up was El Deafo, which earned a Newbery honor. A graphic novel that dramatizes author Cece Bell's own childhood growing up deaf in the '70s and having to wear a ginormously embarrassing hearing aid, this adorable book also deals with all the other stuff that comes along with being a young girl, particularly when you are "different"--figuring out which friends are real friends and what makes you happy. I also heart when graphic novels win non-graphic-novel-specific awards, especially big ones like the Newbery! Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier. 

Even though I don't write about TV on a professional level anymore, it almost means more to me than it ever did. Being able to just let my mind go blank and be taken over by a crew of characters after long days at work or just long days of whatever is such a privilege, and anyone who knows anything knows that TV > Movies x 1000 these days. And hands down, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been my favorite new TV experience so far this year. Which is shocking, because when Brooklyn Nine-Nine won at the Golden Globes last year for best comedy series I was like whuuuuuut and I feel like a lot of other people were also like whuuuuuuuut. Maybe it's because I never considered myself a huge Andy Samberg fan in the past, and the ads for it never exactly drew me in. But after hearing some good things--specifically, a bunch of gif sets on Tumblr that always made me laugh--I Hulu-ed a couple episodes and then couldn't stop Hulu-ing more and more episodes in many winter Friday nights of bliss until I realized there have only been two seasons and I had watched all of those two seasons and I was very sad.

B99's ace ensemble cast begs comparisons to Parks & Rec, yet I can't think of another show where I acutely love each and every character so much so equally. Obvs I love every character on Parks & Rec, but we also all know that Leslie Knope is our heart and soul and reason for being. While I enjoy Jake Peralta, Samberg's leading character, a lot, I don't watch the show for Jake Peralta. Some days Captain Ray Holt is what I live for, other times it's Rosa Diaz; sometimes I can't get enough of Amy Santiago, and I can never, ever get enough of Terry Jeffords! You guys, I just love them all SO MUCH!

The real story of February 2015, though, is all about these badass bitches who sneakily, out of nowhere, got together again and released a record for the first time in a decade, kickstarting my almost dormant riot grrrl heart. I mean, my volcano of feminist punk rock love will never actually be extinct, but feeling that magma rise up to the surface again felt all kinds of empowering and right and good.

My Top 5 No Cities To Love tracks as of 7/15:
  1. A New Wave
  2. No Cities to Love
  3. Bury Our Friends
  4. Price Tag
  5. A tie between Surface Envy and Fangless sorry I know that's cheating but they're both really good!

Along with releasing a new album, Sleater-Kinney also had the audacity to go on tour. While their Portland and Seattle shows, after first being non-existent, sold out in seconds, we trucked ourselves all the way to Spokane to see their very first show in almost a decade, which felt special, as Kathy and I had seen one of their very last shows in NYC way back when. Spokane is a kind of a weird town and ended up depressing me a bit but once the show got in full swing everything was adrenaline and Carrie Brownstein and nothing hurt. They played so many good songs and their energy was just the same and we had a perfect view and they were so happy too and I can't put into words how it made me feel other than a true and 100% alive and better version of myself.

The next day before the looong drive home, we did stop by a few of the more uplifting Spokane highlights that we had missed the day before, such as a diner inside of an old train car and the world's largest Radio Flyer and the Garbage Goat. So on second thought, Spokane isn't that bad after all.

February may be the shortest month, and looking back I can't remember at all what I did at work then, but man, it was a good one this year.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Best : June 2015.

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva was not particularly deep--although as the main character is Armenian-American, it does delve into some Armenian Genocide history--but geez, was it cute. And romantic. And gay. It was the best romantic cute gay YA book I've read in a long while! And reminded me that reading not-particularly-deep romances is just FUN and good and I'm vowing to spend more time reading them this summer.

This One Summer is a graphic novel about friendship and family and growing up and (obviously) summer. In fact I loved this one so much because I felt it wrapped up summer, and summer when you're a particular age as a kid where you feel kind of adult but also very much not, so very well. The art is gorgeous, and I liked the story a lot more than the previous Tamaki collaboration I read, Skim, even though Skim is a lot gayer.

Our new-to-us-restaurant-of-the-month in June was The Whole Bowl, a Portland vegetarian institution that started as a food truck but has had a brick and mortar location on Hawthorne forevah, where we enjoyed our lunches on a day that I remember as being pleasantly warm, before the hot-as-Hades heat wave enveloped us for the rest of the month. The concept of The Whole Bowl is pretty simple--it's just a lot of healthy stuff in a bowl. This is a concept that also forms the basis of Cafe Yumm, although Cafe Yumm takes it to a much more expanded and commercial level. Both bowl concepts also really depend on the secret sauce that forms the base of the bowl--in The Whole Bowl, a lemon-garlic concoction known as Tali Sauce, and in Cafe Yumm, Yumm Sauce, a more creamy and tahini based sauce.

My conclusion was that I like Cafe Yumm bowls more, but that The Whole Bowl undoubtedly tastes healthier and more, you know, whole-some for you. Yumm Sauce is...not good for you. Which is why it is SO DELICIOUS. But in general I am a big, big fan of bowl-based meals. I hope you enjoyed this bowl meal analysis! Bowl bowl bowl bowl!

Inside Out, Pixar's newest, was essentially made for me. It is about FEELINGS! And memories! It is so good! I cried so much! Ahhhh I LOVED IT! Leslie Knope as Joy and Phyllis From The Office as Sadness was also the most perfect casting I've ever seen.

One day this month I walked into the Kennedy School and as I waited for Kathy and Manda and Manda's parents for dinner, Rosalie Come and Go started playing from the speakers above my head and I was suddenly swept into that slightly bittersweet but comforting place that hearing a certain song you haven't heard in a long time takes you to, where you remember a person you used to be. And I realized that even though I haven't actively listened to any of his records in ages, and even though the critical part of my brain dismisses the age of my Ryan Adams obsession as melodramatic, and even though I am devastated that he and Mandy Moore broke up and am certain that it was his fault because he is kind of an asshole, in the end I will always, always love Ryan Adams.

Some songs that I will always love the most that I made myself remember this month: To Be Young! Let It Ride! Easy Plateau! So Alive! Rescue Blues!

Pride is always the best thing. It really really is. Made sweeter this month by the Supreme Court, but I've already told you all about that.

To celebrate finishing my first year as a full-time teacher-librarian, I also completed the whole hiking loop at Silver Falls this month, something I've wanted to do for quite a while, which I wrote about on my dorky hiking blog.

<3 you, summer. Here's to more of you.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Amazing Grace.

Last week, I watched a documentary called Limited Partnership. It told the tale of Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan, two homos who fell in love in LA over forty years ago. The one kink in their love story was that Tony was actually Australian, just visiting the US when he first met Richard. In order to stay--his childhood in Australia being extremely abusive, he had extra reason to not want to return--they thought getting married was the one solution. An extremely kind and adorable feminist behind a clerk's counter in Boulder, Colorado granted them their wish. 

As you would expect, the federal government did not deem this marriage certificate from Boulder in 1975 valid. In fact, Tony received an official response from the INS that stated: 
"You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."
This quote became an integral part of Tony and Richard's story, but I knew nothing about their story before watching this movie, and my mouth dropped open when the end of that sentence was read. An official of my government sent that out. If there were any superiors at the INS that reviewed that letter, they didn't find anything wrong with it, either.

After many failed lawsuits, Tony was deported, but eventually sneaked back into the US. He continued living with Richard illegally for decades, not being able to work or receive benefits, not being able to live openly as a US citizen--not that he exactly hid. I think the INS gave up the fight of chasing Tony out of the country eventually, but of course, that doesn't mean he actually won.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the documentary was a section that took place during the '80s, I think, where, after continually losing legal battles, they thought public opinion could help sway power to their plight. They went on Donahue, where a bitter woman, among other guests, spewed the most vile hatred at them, shouting from the audience in her shoulder-padded power suit, while they both sat quietly, placidly on stage--not angry, just hurt, vulnerable, and sad.

In the end--bit of a spoiler alert here--Richard's health declines; he gets cancer. Their lawyer strongly urges them to renew their vows in a state where marriage is now legal, something they've never done, to make sure that their old Boulder marriage holds up federally if Richard dies. In the last recorded interview with both of them on screen, planning this trip to get married again, Richard says, in his weak, strained words, that he loves Tony more than ever. He dies the next day.

I spent a lot of time during this documentary feeling humbled with my own gay privilege, and thinking about how often you hear that gay rights have swept the country so quickly. I married the love of my life in the first state to ever legalize gay marriage; filing for our license was easy and never questioned. We've filed joint federal tax forms for two years now. I have a lot of guilt and conflict in my heart about the fact that I've stayed mostly closeted at my new job for the past year. But when I cross the bridge over the Columbia River and come home again each day, I breathe freely; my muscles relax; I know I can be who I truly am, without complete fear of violence. I have lived in liberal cities for the last decade, taken the easy road. I work in a conservative town, but I was still able to walk into my HR office and ask if I could add my wife onto my insurance benefits and they didn't blink an eye, because they were legally bound not to. 

Yet Tony and Richard--and so many others--fought for decades; hid for decades. Tony kept saying, "Those were hard years," in reference to being deported, in reference to all their friends dying from AIDS and being blamed for their own deaths; in reference to being publicly humiliated and harassed on the Donahue show. "Those were hard times," he kept having to say, over and over and over.

When the words came on the screen that Richard died, before they could renew their marriage vows, before they could hear the Supreme Court normalize their life, I actually said "No," out loud and broke out into sobs. It was so unfair. One of the last scenes is Tony watching the news about the fall of DOMA, alone in his pajamas. He calls Richard's sister, happy, but sad, wishing Richard was there to see it. The last update to hit the screen before the credits roll is that Tony is again petitioning for citizenship, as the widower of an American citizen. He is still, in 2015, fighting.

I've read a decent amount of LGBT history--most LGBT people have. But even as a lesbo, I had never heard of Richard and Tony, even though their story seemed pretty important, pretty pioneering. I thought about how much of my own history I still need to learn, how much more meaningful knowing this history makes current events.


Yesterday, I watched a documentary called Love Free or Die, about now infamously out Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson from New Hampshire. Yes, watching documentaries that make me cry is a nasty habit of mine, and no, they're not always about gay people. PBS has just really been gaying up my DVR recently, completely out of my control.

Anyway, most of this one wasn't news to me, as I'm already familiar with Robinson. But there was a section at the end that just had me crying and crying and crying, for the same reason that I always cry at the Gay Pride Parade, as I did here in Portland a couple weekends ago. He was speaking at a church in NYC before their Pride Parade, and his plan for the day that he implored his parishioners to join him in was to pass out cups of water to the parade participants. It was such a simple act, this passing out of water, just like it's a relatively simple act for all the churches and synagogues and mosques to march in Pride Parades, as so many now do. But sometimes simple acts of kindness really do just knock you flat on your ass. Especially when there's emotional instrumental music flowing in the background.

"It's not enough to pull the people out of a raging stream who are drowning," Robinson says. "We have to walk back upstream and find out who's throwing them in in the first place."


I have been thinking a lot about religion lately. After spending every Sunday in church growing up, I stopped going when I went to college and obtained my own free will, perhaps for obvious reasons. Yet one of the most prickly topics for Kathy and I over the last ten years has been Catholicism--I still have this stubborn desire to defend it, even when I know the church has done so many wrongs, even though I still don't feel comfortable walking back into a Sunday mass again. My defense is often illogical to Kathy, because, well, it is illogical. Most deeply rooted emotions that we don't truly understand are. The election and continuing reign of Pope Francis has been raising my Catholicism defenses to all-new heights, almost making me want to be Catholic again. Almost.

And then this year, a student of mine that I find a particular affinity with stays after school sometimes just to talk and rant about life. One day, he begins complaining, loudly, about religion, a topic that he continues to talk about in other after-school chats, about how all the Christians at this school are hateful bigots, how all religion is stupid. And it's wrong to automatically tell him he's wrong, because some of these Christians have indeed said hateful things to him, supposedly in the name of God, and it's important to not erase that. But immediately I find myself protesting this bold, blanket statement of his, imploring him that he can't just say that all Christians are bad. If we did, we'd be doing the same exact thing as people who say that all gay people are bad. That there are a lot of religious people who do really good things and are in fact not hateful bigots.

For the record, I don't think he bought it, but it's often hard to buy what an adult's telling you when you're a teen and everything sucks.


This weekend, most of Melissa Harris-Perry's Sunday show was taken up with the live broadcast from Emanuel AME in Charleston, the first Sunday service since the terrorist massacre last Wednesday. The crowds spilled out onto the street. And I know I shouldn't have been surprised, but as a white formerly-Catholic girl, it was still shocking to me to witness how this church and community that had been brutalized to horrific lengths carried out their Sunday worship. There was hurt and anger and sorrow, of course, but the church choir that was on the front steps, singing to the people on the sidewalk and in the street, were singing upbeat, joyful sounding songs, swinging their hips back and forth. And when the preacher spoke inside, he kept making the congregants laugh. He kept making me laugh! The call and response of that church this Sunday was so powerful but also so normal: it was what black churches have done to lift their people up for centuries.

Today, after a joyful morning of absorbing myself in as much happy Internet pride as I could after the Supreme Court declared gay marriage the law of the land, I sat down and watched President Obama deliver the eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney at an arena in Charleston, one of the nine slain during bible study last week, a man that Obama and his family knew personally. The speech was unreal. It almost felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, it felt so spiritual and righteous and true. He talked about Pinckney and he talked about racism--the real, insidious racism that poisons our country, that has poisoned our country from the beginning. He talked about God, and grace, and he talked about them a lot. The call and response that I had witnessed on Sunday continued, but it was more charged this time, a deep electricity pulsing through it, because this was the president of the United States. And he was taking. us. to. church.

And while I believe fiercely in the separation of church and state, while I believe those lines are still far too blurred in too many of our public schools and institutions today, at that moment, I wanted to go to church. I needed to go to church, something I didn't know until I started listening to Obama's sermon. The talk of grace and hope and resolve felt so healing, such a release, after all the anger and fear I've been bottling up since last Wednesday. The anger and fear won't go away, and shouldn't, but man, did going to church feel good. When he started singing Amazing Grace, I felt weak in the knees. It was the most unreal moment of the whole speech, but it was only because of all the words he had said before he got to that hymn, all the truths he had spoken that we've been needing to hear him say. He had preached so intensely that by the time he started singing those words, we were all there. We were there with him, and I hate that we had to get there because of this atrocious act of hate, but it's moments like these when you are there that you truly feel that hate can never win. And without those moments, we are all lost.

It wasn't my church. I was just sitting in my living room in my pajamas. But I was awfully glad I was able to be there.


It was not surprising to me, when flipping through news stations this morning, that Fox News had guests on that started talking about how the Supreme Court ruling today sets up a future war on religious freedom. That people who believe in the sanctity of one man, one woman are now somehow going to be persecuted, that somehow, they are not going to be able to live their lives freely.

This week I also read a book called Audacity, a fictionalized novel-in-verse about teenage labor union fighter Clara Lemlich in the early 20th century in New York City. In one poem, she talks about how the garment shop owners hired men to come to the picket line and tell all the Italian girls that the union leaders hated them, and the only reason they were really on strike was to get rid of them. The Italian girls went back to their workstations.
It is a tactic as old 
as the stars,
the poem read. 
and conquer.
The divisiveness that Fox News tries to cultivate is so transparent, so boring, and most of all, so demeaning to people who truly see and hear their God, who are truly people of faith. By saying that gay marriage is going to lead to a war on religious freedom, one assumes that religion is automatically against gay marriage. This is such a disservice to so many faithful and loving Christians today, to so many Jews, to Muslims and Buddhists and WhateverReligionYouWant. 

There is this perceived division in America that either you respect the Bible or you don't; that you either love the gays or you hate Jesus; that you are either red or blue. And I think so much of it is such a lie. I think people, in general, are so much smarter, so much braver than you would believe. 

Because Gene Robinson may be one of the gayest people I have ever witnessed. He is so gay. But goodness, does he love God. So much. And I think a lot of people are just like him.

You don't have to love God, of course! You don't have to believe in anything! But the possibility that you could, while also being gay or lesbian or gender-binary-smashing, that you could contain multitudes--why is that so hard to accept? In what world does containing multitudes make us weaker, not stronger?


I kept thinking during Limited Partnership that if I had so much more to learn about LGBT history, imagine what the general populace could learn about LGBT history! 

And a second after that, I thought, imagine if every non-black person knew the history of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina? The hatred and the strength that had already vibrated through those walls over the decades before a terrorist stepped into it last week? That, as Obama said today, it is a phoenix? That it has already risen from the ashes and it will again?

Imagine if these stories were told in history books. Imagine if students across the nation knew the name Harvey Milk as well as they knew Abraham Lincoln. If students knew the name Clementa Pinckney as well as Martin Luther King. If they knew about the transwomen that sparked a movement at Stonewall Inn; if they knew about the number of trans people that have been killed in 2015. (According to Wikipedia, at least 14.) If we all knew each other's history a little bit better, imagine what the world could be.


I hadn't been thinking about the Supreme Court decision that much lately. I knew it was coming, and because of the way recent history's been leaning, I hoped and suspected it would be good news. But I live and work in states where my marriage is already recognized; the federal government recognized it, too. This decision, in a way, wouldn't affect me at all.

But then when it happened today, and I thought about all those people in states that never would have passed gay marriage on their own--all those queers in Mississippi, in Alabama, in Oklahoma, in Georgia--and I thought about all those people fighting immigration battles like Tony and Richard that can be hinged on marriage, and all the people who don't get to sit by their love's deathbeds. 

And I thought about all the people who never got to see this. The dykes and trans warriors of Stonewall, the queens of the New York balls that bravely vogued their way to dignity, the fallen activists of ACT UP. Richard Adams. Jonathan Larson. Leslie Feinberg. All the icons that would have declared marriage a patriarchal piece of bullshit anyway, god bless them. And I was overcome.

And a few hours later, I thought of all the slaves, the activists, the allies, the regular beautiful people that never got to see a black president sing, simply and movingly, Amazing Grace from the pulpit of a black church to the entire United States of America. How surreal it would have seemed to them that this black president was only singing from this pulpit because black people were slaughtered in their church--again--but what an overwhelming moment this would still seem, what a teetering precipice of hope.

How lucky are we. What a responsibility we have; what a future to protect.


Our president quoted Clementa Pinckney in his eulogy today, and all of my thoughts from the past week or so were crystallized, affirmed.
"Across the south, we have a deep appreciation of history. 
We haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”

Imagine if, even just for a few days a year, we could all go to each other's churches, whether they're in the heart of Charleston or on Christopher Street.

And imagine if we just listened.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Best: January 2015.

A lot of terror and hurt has been happening in the world lately. I've almost written about it here a hundred times, and I hope I still will, eventually, when I have adequate words, because if there's one thing I know it's that we have to talk about it. We have to talk about a lot of things.

But I still need to call out the good things in life that I like. To be able to do so at a time like this is definitely a privilege I have, but I'm going to push forward anyway at the same time that I own that privilege. And by 'push forward,' I actually mean rewinding to January.

2015 started with a reading bang for me, one of those runs where every book you pick up seems awesome and perfect and written just for you. If only these runs lasted forever! Jacqueline Woodson has always been one of my faves, but brown girl dreaming truly felt like a gift. A memoir told in verse, this is supposedly for middle readers but is really just for humans. Following her childhood from the North to the South and back again, this book aches of family and belonging and identity and longing and all the things Jacqueline Woodson's poetry says that I can't. I was so grateful for it, and it was so deserving of all the awards it racked up.

Ready Player One was the exact opposite, but so damn fun, the most fun I've had reading a book in years and years. I stayed up way past my bed time several times reading it because I was so wrapped up in its world, something my old lady body can hardly do for any book these days! And I don't even care about video games, and video games take up pretty much this whole book! It is spectacular and deserving of exclamation points! Steven Spielberg is slated to make the movie and I know it's Spielberg and all but still, YOU BETTER DO IT REAL GOOD, STEVE.

I made a couple actually decent meals this month, both just served over rice, one easy, one kind of a pain in the ass, but both delish! One was chicken tikka masala, everyone's favorite not-actually-Indian Indian dish. I used a recipe from the sriracha cookbook Manda got me for Christmas, which involved some marinating of the chicken for a while, among other things. Marinating chicken always ends up being worth it but like, you have to plan? And take extra time? Anyway, I also happened to make the basmati rice pretty perfectly, if I do say so myself, and it was a wonderful combo of tangy and creamy and spice.

My other favorite meal of the month was the "Cheater" Korean Beef Bowl from Damn Delicious, and lesbe honest, I think those should actually be triple quotation marks, because I don't think this thing authentically resembles any dish related to Korea. It is basically ground beef with brown sugar and soy sauce. BUT MAN does ground beef with brown sugar and soy sauce taste good! I added peas and potatoes to the mix, so, HEALTHY.

This whole year thus far belongs to T. Swizzle, both on a personal level and in terms of world domination, but winter was really all 1989 all the time for me.

Jill's Top 5 1989 Tracks, A List That She May or May Not Have Spent Several Hours of Commuting Time Contemplating:
  1. How You Get the Girl (I WOULD WAIT FOREVER AND EVER!)
  2. Welcome to New York (BOYS AND BOYS AND GIRLS AND GIRLS!)
  5. Shake It Off (Dwayne The Rock Johnson helped put this one on the list because now I REALLY can't listen to this song without smiling!!!)

We attended the Portland Dog Show at the Expo Center for the first time ever this month and it was...weird. It was so weird. And okay, to be truthful, I got really tired and moody towards the end of it but the weirdness of it all, and the fact that I got to see so many Newfoundlands and Bernese Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards all at once--all while getting to drink beer and eat salty soft pretzels--definitely marks it as the best thing I did during the inaugural month of 2015.

I went to the movies a few times in January, and saw other really great movies, like The Theory of Everything, but no other thing stuck in my mind and heart this month as much as Selma, a movie that was released at a strangely, heartbreakingly appropriate time. The work of Ava DuVernay and all of the actors in this film is remarkable and important, and I wish every single American watched it, and had conversations with each other about the real messages its stories told, and not about how the President was portrayed, as the President was a relatively minor character in all of it. The fact that LBJ was what America wanted to talk about in relation to a movie about MLK is all too apropos of what we do and do not talk about in America in 2015, what we shine light on and what we hide. It doesn't have to do with truth, but with what we're afraid of.

Watch movies about our history, read things, have conversations, rename that godforsaken bridge, and for the love of all that is good in this world, take down that damn flag.