Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I'm reading a book that has a surprise twist in the first chapter, as a girl knocks on a woman's door and says, "I think you're my mother."

I can't stop thinking: are all darkest secrets about sex?

Abortion vs. adoption.
Sex: what/who/where you desire. what age it began. with how many.

As a habit, I don't write about sex, because I don't tweet, Facebook, or blog anything I wouldn't want my grandmother to read... and I regularly print my blog posts and mail them to her so that she can read what I write without having to learn how to use a computer.

But I'll see my grandmother next week, and I think it's worth asking. For example, did she have as many friends as I do who simply could not get pregnant? Is it because we're all waiting 10 years later or because we're all on hormonal birth control or because we all eat more fast food or, hell, more organic food than our parents and grandparents?

Or did she (or my mother) talk about these sorts of things with her girlfriends? Are we in some kind of post-Sex and the City freedom of speech era? Certainly nothing I could write about would be a surprise to my grandmother. She does, after all, have cable. (Not that you need cable to watch Dr. Phil.) (Not that I've watched Dr. Phil, so I'm conjecturing.)

The highest court in our land allows men to marry men and women to abort. We have clubs devoted to women taking off their clothes for money, men dressing like women for fashion, anonymous group sex for fun.

For better and worse, privacy is one thing that unites us all. Shame, guilt, or the freedom from either. Experimentation and experience, lust and love.

The point is: having secrets makes us human.

I hope that, whatever yours are, you find a way to make them lighter. Or at least to accept them.

Monday, August 19, 2013


I drive by her house
when I need a reminder:
she is alone. too.

Sunday, August 18, 2013


sipping coffee on someone else's front porch

daydreaming of
major and minor
shifts and twists
my life would need to take
to buy the antebellum home
for sale (for months)
then use its six bedrooms
six bathrooms
as a bed and breakfast.

daydreaming of
all the wedding receptions the home has hosted
and could host
the family reunions it could house
the refuge it could offer
to the bereaved

daydreaming of
what wines to serve at cocktail hour
who I'd hire to cook (or would I?)
and to clean (I would not)
what room rates would be
how expensive it would be to furnish

daydreaming of
my $88 per square foot
cypress and crystal home
built two centuries, a civil war, two world wars, and the advent of electricity ago
with the sweet money of sugarcane

with the hope that all who made the pilgrimage
(especially me)
could find solace and comfort and salve
in freshwater
in major and minor
shifts and twists
without current or tides

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bikram cooking

Love languages. I talk about them a lot. It's a theory that we all give/receive love in primarily one or two of the following five ways: acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation. We all give/receive all five, and we all need all five, but you tend to speak/hear fewer.

I think one of my primary love languages is food. I love to cook for people (give). I love to share meals with people (give/receive). And I really, really, really love to eat (receive).


My godmother's daughter will deliver some truly well incubated twins tomorrow. My godmother and my mother are in town for the occasion and to help out wherever possible, since Leslie is currently full of almost 13 lbs of baby.

It's a lot of baby.

And since I have the luxury of plenty of free time these days, I decided that I would cook for them. I plan to bring five dishes frozen, a box of produce from Hollygrove Market, my Crockpot/Cuisinart/Microplane, and all of my favorite cookbooks.

I started planning meals on Monday night, making lists which turned into one Google spreadsheet and one Google document. I went to three different grocery stores to get everything I wanted, and I started cooking yesterday afternoon. Pozole turned out much spicier than I intended, and meatloaf turned out much blander than intended. This morning, I made ribollita. My father's braised short ribs will come out of my oven when I finish writing this, and then I will start making his chili. The recipe calls for a (one.) beer, leaving me with five delicious Shiner Bock to partake of.

I've earned it.

For those of you who have houses with insulation or air conditioning that evenly cools your whole house, allow me to explain to you what it's like to be in my kitchen in New Orleans in August. Especially when the oven is on.

It's like Bikram cooking.

Additionally, when I say I'm using my father's recipes, you need to understand:
1. my father is a really excellent cook, and anything I make of his will merely mimic the original;
2. my father's recipes are crazy ridiculous in the amount of effort they take, from grocery shopping for ingredients the store clerks have never heard of to getting stew meat cut especially for you to using twine to hold together bacon, celery, herbs in a "bouquet."

All of these are demotivating factors, but that's how much I love my mother, my godmother, Leslie, Leslie's husband, and these giant twins.

Oh. I forgot to mention Leslie's husband. He doesn't eat produce of any kind, except for iceberg (if that counts) and fried okra (because Alabama). So I'm cooking a lot of meat for him and a lot of vegetables for the rest of his household.

I have frozen or will freeze the soups in one cup portions. That way you don't have to heat up an entire pot of chili when you just want a cup of soup. I made the meatloaf in a muffin tin (that I had to borrow from a friend, because that's how little I bake), so they are also in single servings.

Knowing that the twins' helpers might have allergies or that the twins themselves might develop them, I have labeled each of the ziploc bags I have frozen: name of dish; whether it contains egg, dairy, or gluten; and SPICY across the pozole.


I like to think that food is a love language I speak well, and I hope the twins first days at home are filled with the kind of love they'll live their whole lives knowing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I am really lucky: my last job search was five years ago. I basically stalked my boss until she gave me a job, and my second day she said, "Here's $1.6 million. Build your program."

I built my program. I improved schools. I changed children's lives, for the better. 

But, sadly, the money has run out.

So I am job searching, but everything about job searching has changed in the past five years. And I hope that y'all will have feedback: what I should be doing differently; whether I'm doing something right; when I can start working for you, your company, your cousin, or your cousin's company; etc.

1. LinkedIn

So, it's not just creating a profile for yourself. You add in companies you've worked for and BAM!, their logos just appear, like magic. You can add in descriptions of these jobs, which I copied and pasted from my resume, so it reads like a boring/showoffy/concise paragraph. I knew to use a professional photograph of myself (thank you, Julia Pretus). And then I let them access my email account to make initial connections (which are "friends" on Facebook and "followers" on Twitter). I was selective, since not everyone in my address book can speak to what I do professionally, but I got enough connections to feel like I was doing it right.

Then you add skills, so that anyone who cares will know what you believe your expertise to be in. Then people "endorse" you for these (or other) skills. I have been really surprised by what people think I do well.

Then, within two months, LinkedIn had found every person I've ever known in the history of my life... not through my email. A girl I interned with, and our boss, in 2006. People I interviewed but didn't hire, and people I interviewed with but who didn't hire me. People whose names (first and/or last) I'd forgotten: brief romantic entanglements, girls who have performed in burlesque shows I've been to, my cousin's ex-sister-in-law, my ex's ex-wife.

It's overwhelming.

2. Email

Of course email was a thing in 2008. But so were thank you notes. In my previous position, I hired at least 20 people, and only some of them knew to thank me for the interview. By the last round of hiring, all of the thank you notes I got were electronic.

So I asked some friends about this, and I was told to send a follow up email the day of my interview, thanking the interviewer(s) for his/her/their time and clarifying/repeating anything I thought needed saying. Like why I think I'm a great candidate.

3. Negotiation

Five years ago, I negotiated a start date. I was living in Austin and had to move to New Orleans, which meant moving my life after finding somewhere to live.

Now, I know that there is much more to a job than a salary. There are holidays in New Orleans that do not correspond with the federal holiday calendar. So it's important to know whether you'll be expected to use vacation time for Mardi Gras. Which is more than one day. 

Health insurance: are you eligible from your start date? is your family? how much does the company pay, and how much do you pay - and is this percentage or dollars?

Retirement accounts: are you eligible from your start date? what's the company willing to match - and is this percentage or dollars?

Travel: will you get a company credit card for your expenses, or will it be out of pocket? will they pay for your parking or for part of your insurance? are you expected to attend a certain number of trainings per year, and, if so, are those trainings offered where you live? does the company pay for them?

It's also important to understand a company's (or a particular manager's) policy on flex/comp time, working from home, doctor's appointments for yourself and your dependents. I once had to take two hours of sick time when I woke up with pinkeye, because I went to the doctor first thing in the morning and then went to the pharmacy so I wouldn't infect my coworkers. Other places would have made me report nothing. Other places would have required me to work from home, while taking a whole day. It's nice to know what kind of environment you're getting into so that everyone'e expectations of your time can be managed appropriately.

4. The Louisiana Workforce Commission

Don't get me started on how many hours I have wasted finding and inputting and saving information for my online account... hours that I could have spent reading job listings or figuring out how to live on $247/week.

I have to input three different employers/jobs each week in order to collect unemployment:
  • I have to list three persons' name and official business title. 
  • I have to list three companies' "record of address."
  • I have to choose the job title I talked to these people about via a drop down menu that basically doesn't include any titles belonging to anyone in the nonprofit sector. 
If I apply to a job online, I do not have a person's name and title. In some cases, I don't know whether to list the national organization's "record of address," or the local/state affiliate. I'm worried that I'll get in trouble for applying to jobs "outside" of Louisiana. 

Also, this is not the way to get a job. It is mostly about who you know. It is about having regular, consistent conversations with who you know. It is not about a specific job at a specific company. It's often a specific job or a specific company, but it is rarely both. The universe doesn't work that way, because life is unfair.

I will talk to at least three people about any given job I apply for. I want to make sure it's a legit org that can offer strong leadership and kind support and opportunity to make an impactful difference. I want to make sure the people who work there are happy, and I want to know why the people who left did. 

That's a much better way of tracking how many people I contact a week, State of Louisiana. 

Monday, August 5, 2013


In my continued
effort to boycott New Orleans
during the month of August


I decided that it might be fun to go camping.

Not the kind with a tent or hookups:
the kind with an air-conditioned cabin
and decently appointed kitchen
and maybe a lake breeze
to minimize mosquitoes
and to maximize comfort.

Then I realized
that a room in a charming bed and breakfast
(you know, where breakfast will be provided for me)
was less expensive.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today, I cleaned off the top of my chest of drawers.

To most of you, this is probably a matter of putting pairs of earrings/cufflinks back into their compartments or putting a hat back on a shelf. Where things belong.

My best guess is that the top of my chest of drawers has not been cleaned since the summer of 2011, and I only know that date because that is when the mail towards the bottom of the pile was postmarked.

It does not belong here. It belongs in my file folders or in my recycling bin, circa 2011.

It's a collection of bills (long since paid), financial statements (unopened), magazines (now in a pile to be donated to a school for their arts program)... and one thousand other things. Scraps of paper, letters, picture frames with(out) pictures, nail polish, 3 pairs (!) of earphones, one (1) AA battery, the black and gold feather boa wig I'll need for football season, business cards from people I've forgotten... all with clean, folded laundry from months ago (anyone's guess) on top and some really cheap (but sentimental) earrings I was certain I'd lost at the bottom.

The favorite things I found:

  • a thank you note from Anne Berry for hosting our annual orphan Thanksgiving dinner, where she thanked me "for making New Orleans feel like home"
  • a picture from my senior year of college, snogging my gay best guy friend, due to the effects of (a lot of) fermented beverage
  • the invitation to my and Brooke's one-year anniversary party: Champagne at Sunset
  • pictures of me and my college roommate, who is now expecting a son, at parties or in our jammies in our dorm room
  • pictures of me and my best guy friend from high school, with whom I traveled a great deal in the 5ish years after high school, and who is now expecting twins :)
  • books I meant to give as presents or to read or to just have sitting out to look fancy
  • a note from one of my dearest friends: "Thank you so much for dropping everything and coming down to Miami for my mother's funeral."
  • love notes from my beau, when we were beginning
  • a haiku a lobbyist wrote me when I was working in the Texas legislature, on one of our designated "haiku Thursdays"

All of these are messages that I belong
that I have the exact love I want
that my friends have added richly and deeply to
my definitions of kindness, grace, beauty

I belong to this gratitude
and to these memories
and, for now, to a fresh clean surface

where I will lay new words
frame new pictures
place old earrings and bobby pins

and find renewed pieces of myself and others
to belong to.