Left Over

There are two ways to think about leftovers: evidence of plenty or that which has been passed over. I have been feeling both this week.

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Camaro, on the other hand, has been posing for a very artistic portrait

Very small Keegan was never the kid who never got picked to be on a team at recess, at least not to my recollection (we all know how meaningless that is but still). This was in part because I did have friends, some of whom were sporty, and in part because I mostly just avoided being in that situation because sports are the worst. Anything more athletic than four-square was very much anathema to very small Keegan. And honestly still is. In other words, ‘that which has been passed over’ is not a new feeling to me but I have been blessed to have avoided it in that common scenario.

On the Thanksgiving front, of course, there were a great deal of leftovers in the former sense. Really a lot of mashed potatoes. Turkey living a second life in many forms. The pumpkin pie that I made and devoured altogether too much of. So many rolls. All of which is a great thing. To be provided for. To participate in having plenty.

There are a few things that I’ve been waiting for lately, and none of them have come to pass. Not in a not-happening kind of way, but in a (hopefully) not-yet kind of way. It’s unpleasant nonetheless and I’d much rather have a yes or a no than a who-knows but here we are. Still. Waiting. Other things seem to keep piling up behind those things but it’s been slower than molasses on this side.

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If only I could look that good while waiting

Anyway. On to other things. It’s December. Christmas is practically here. Needless to say, I am pumped. There is a welcome, a comfort, in Christmas that invades me even when I’m feeling my least Christmasy. For that, I am very grateful. It is very easy for me to turn inwards, generally speaking, but it is doubly true in times like this when self-pity occupies an unfortunate proportion of my day. This season is the perfect antidote to selfishness–or, rather, it is the antidote and (as I said last week) I am imperfectly trying to be cured.

It’s no fun to be the dregs of mashed potato left over after a feast. But at the same time, I know that my God is a God of Plenty. I don’t believe that God is out there preventing me from getting a job because God wants me to do something else and it’s not the right time yet. I believe even less that God wants me to wait just for the sake of waiting, because it will build character or faith or something. What I do believe is that God is with me in waiting as God is with me in action; God is with me in times of plenty, when there is much left over, even as God is with me in times when I am left over, passed over, not yet chosen.


If I were a cat, I do not know if I would prefer to be an indoor cat or an outdoor cat. It partly depends on the indoor and the outdoor in question, I suppose. A nice house, friendly people, large spaces. Decent weather, interesting things, few predators. The real key, as any pet owner or parent of a human child could tell you, would be how well I was fed. Not needing an excessive amount of food, to be mindful of my cat health, but having plenty. Something delicious and timely.

I say this as a random tangent because I am very tired while writing but also because I’m considering the lilies of the field, if you know what I mean. The cats. Consider the cats. They always have food leftover in their bowl because someone cares for them. I don’t imagine that God is some great cosmic cat owner but at the very least, I’ve had some of that bread of life so I should be good. My cup runneth over and so on.


I won’t apologize for the above but I will acknowledge it as the ramblings of a lunatic. It is what it is. I should sleep more. I’d love to not work at Michaels with awful hours. Only time will tell.

The Difference between Chicago and a Space Colony

Most important update first, of course. This Airbnb has a cat, goes by California. Is super cute. We snuggled a great deal over the past couple days

I drove into Chicago on the early evening on October 8th and it was 87°F which, I’ll be honest with you, wasn’t great. Too hot in general, definitely too hot for the middle of October. Anyway.

I got an early start on Tuesday morning and, without much forethought, walked from where I was staying in Uptown to the Art Institute. Which is a long walk, FYI, especially when it’s hot. I worried about sunburns since I followed the shore directly south for approximately three hours. Luckily, I think I mostly escaped unscathed. Just felt kinda sticky and salty–not from the ocean breeze (would that it were so) but from sweat.

The Art Institute presented, of course, a large selection of Very Beautiful Things. I am no art critic but I do enjoy a good walk-through of art museums. Romantic landscapes, that’s the thing for me. Got to see several famous works in person, always cool. After the Institute, I walked along most of the Magnificent Mile because it seemed like the thing to do. There is some truly wonderful architecture in this city. Later, as I was staying in a very Vietnamese neighborhood, I had to go for Vietnamese for dinner.

On Wednesday, I got a much needed later start (though it wasn’t really that much later). Pastries for breakfast from the patisserie down the street, then onward to Navy Pier. Had a personal deep dish at Giordano’s, it was fine. Poked around Museum Campus and actually went through the planetarium because it was starting to rain. I went to Cheesie’s for dinner. They serve only different kinds of grilled cheese. Please go, it will be good.

I’m headed back to Michigan this morning. Back to fall, too. Trying to think of a big idea to take back from the trip and to share with you.

Overall, mostly positive Chicago experience. The fountain was drained and empty, my car was towed but only to a nearby park, the Art Institute store had a teensy postcard selection. But overall, plenty good. One little story for you as an applicable takeaway.

In the planetarium–which is more of a space science center, really, I didn’t even go into the original planetarium part. Very rainy outside. Extending my stay to avoid the rain. That’s the scene.

I found myself ushered into an open talk with one of the institution’s astronomers. A professional astronomer, how neat is that. She talked about some stuff, answered loads of questions. One question was along the lines of: should we colonize the moon or Mars? Her answer was terrific. I’ll summarize her main points because I liked them and they tie into things, you’ll see.

First, there’s feasibility. She suggested some starter stuff on the moon to prepare for a long-term and large-scale settlement on Mars. But her primary caution was not about the science, it was the ethics. Looking at the example of indigenous peoples and pristine environments here on Earth–and our abuses thereof– she insisted that any space colonization must first avoid the huge problems that we’ve created for ourselves here. She also said that systems of power, where the powerful get more powerful and the have-nots get even less needs to be righted in any theoretical space colony.

It doesn’t matter in the slightest what you’re doing with your life, justice is the cause of everyone. Even astronomers can forward the cause of justice. In my mind, I’m returning to that Mandela quote; let us live free and enhance the freedom of others.

Chicago has a history deeply marred by injustice and inequality. Space colonies don’t have to. You’ve heard it before but that’s just because it’s true: be the change.

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He Was My North

Once again, Tuesday proved to be my adventure day. Adventure in the relative sense, of course. I went into Traverse City and wandered around the “Commons” which appeared to be a really cool insane asylum repurposed as a hip shopping center. Anyway, I went to a brunch place and had red velvet pancakes, which are Important. Cream cheese in addition to whipped cream. Very Important. Obviously tremendously delicious.

After wandering around for a bit, nosing through the shops, I found out that it was, in fact, an asylum! The location was a state hospital and everything, very creepy. It didn’t close until 1989. Still, it’s a cool place now. Lots of interesting shops, chic hipster kind of vibe. Yes, I did have to look up how to spell chic again, I still think chiq or chique are better options. Anyway.

On my way driving back, I decided to just meaner around because I figured it was the likely last day of warm, sunny, pleasant weather until spring. I ended up going the opposite direction of Empire to Leland and the little historic district of Fishtown. Basically little shacks on the water, very destitute-fishermen-turned-touristy. Then I had the best sandwich of my life from the Village Cheese Shanty. Which, obviously, was Even More Important. I mean, a place called the Cheese Shanty. We were destined to find each other.

Just to be clear, the sandwich was the day’s special: turkey, cherry goat cheese, kream mustard, sunflower seeds, cucumber,  and lettuce on homemade pretzel bread (different from pretzel buns which I’m not wild into). Life changing. Such. A. Sandwich.

Moving right along. On Wednesday, I took a sec to do nothing (as per usual) and watch a couple movies that I’d been meaning to check off my list. Namely, Trolls and Moana. The first was alright, pretty nice. The second was marvelous. Moana in particular I enjoyed. The whole wandering over the horizon just to see what’s on the other side thing. That’s kind of my scene.

There’s really not much else to report for this week, just work and life and stuff. I like having thoughtful thoughts to think for you, but I feel kinda like I’m fresh out. I did really have a pleasant day on Tuesday. And Wednesday was plenty nice as well.

I was just thinking how I didn’t really have any existential angst nor contemplative philosophizing for you this week. I’m feeling pretty good, which is nice. But, as I was wandering through the internet as I wrote this, I encountered afresh the wonderful poem by W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues. Which is also a lovely jazz number and also an amusing satire on dictatorship–at least, according to the play that he originally wrote it for. So I’ll leave you with that thought. Tyranny is satire, doves can’t wear mourning, and compasses aren’t attracted to human beings.

Doughnuts, Sweaters, and Being Together

So the super important news of the week is that the Paris Baguette across from work, which has been closed all month, is finally open again!! It’s been magically transformed into a Paris Baguette Café which means I’m not sure what. But it looks very fancy and shiny and new (but also mostly the same). Yesterday was the grand reopening and everything in the store was 20% off, obviously I bought everything in the store. It really was almost exactly the same but still. One new product I saw was blueberry doughnuts so I got one and it was delicious (though it kind of made me miss Tesco).

It was truly a hardship while it was closed. There’s another one ten or fifteen minutes down the street near my grocery store, but I only ever go there on Saturday, it’s such a burden.

Okay, that is all the first-world complaining I have for this week, promise.

I would like to share a really precious picture of Camaro who just wonders why life gotta do her like that.

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Work continues to be pretty generally fine. I covered one of the three hour sessions of the extra course I taught last term and, while the class itself was fine, it did renew my gratitude for being free from teaching that this term. We’re also having a little Halloween poster contest for the whole hagwon, a fun diversion for them instead of stressing over the test. Some of them are taking it very seriously which is always nice.

My students are pretty good, several of them are definite favorites. Teaching higher levels is a major plus for me and hopefully I’ll finish strong next term with similar classes (and I’d love to have a bunch of my students again). Next week is the level-up test which means there’s only one more month left in this term.

Sweater weather is finally here, too. A great relief after long-enduring days of too much heat. It hasn’t been hot hot for a while, and we long ago left the humidity behind, but it was getting pretty late for an actual start to fall. So I’m very much enjoying wearing all my sweaters again, giving them some fresh air after too long stowed away in the closet.

Not much else has been going on this week. Doing some reading. Doing a lot of waiting because I’m on hold at the library for like twenty thousand books and it’s taking forever. Also, I have not suddenly become fluent in Korean, I’m referring to the Pierce County Library which has on online lending system for Ebooks that I’ve been using.

Also, how crazy is it that Martin Luther nailed up his theses 500 years ago? Five hundred years of protest. Maybe next week I’ll have some thoughts about it, I didn’t realize that it was actually on 31 October, just sort of interesting because, like, Halloween and stuff. You know. Not feeling eloquent today, and feeling generally lazy, so that’s all I’ve got on that but there is plenty to be said, maybe next week.

I don’t have much to say this week in terms of discussion topics, but I did have a little moment of almost déjà vu. Did you ever see those Android commercials from several years ago? With the animals playing together? I do happen to use an Android phone but regardless of that I really love the slogan for that ad campaign: Be together, not the same.

That’s my closing thought for today.

Unexpectedly Delicious

There’s really very little to say this week. Classes have continued to be alright and I think I do prefer this term’s classes to last, though it’s hard to say. My extra class of very small humans is trying to me but it’s not really that bad. Sometimes getting answers out of students is like pulling teeth but again, it’s nothing exceptionally unpleasant (so it’s not really like pulling teeth after all, but you get the idea). Maybe rather boring, but it isn’t awful by any stretch.

I’m trying to venture out more with my fellow teachers, just to socialize after work and the like. “More” is a relative term so it doesn’t mean much actually, but it’s the thought that counts. My outings have increased in frequency; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s much easier to be social with this group because, while I really liked the teachers from last term, they had all been together for a year at least–not that they were exclusive, they were just used to each other. This new batch is new, so it’s not like I really have to break into super established social circles.

I do have one quick story. Last Saturday night, my neighbor’s alarm went off. I didn’t note exactly when it started, but it was around 9:30 pm. It continued all through the night, was still going the next morning. I left at 10 am or so, it was still going strong. Luckily, it had stopped by the time I returned a few hours later. It wasn’t incredibly loud, but it was 100% audible for the duration. It wasn’t a great night’s sleep.

This story comes to mind because I just heard the same alarm, starting at 10:19 pm, but it lasted for less than ten seconds. So they weren’t actually dead, the killers returned to the scene of the crime, or zombies.

If it’s the zombie apocalypse, you heard it here first.

I recently purchased a bottle of peach and golden kiwi drinking yoghurt and it was really good. There are few delights in this world to compare with consuming something that is unexpectedly delicious. (Also, I spell yoghurt with an h. Sue me.)

This week has furnished precious few moments worth mentioning, but that one was particularly enjoyable. If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting some great peach golden kiwi drinking yoghurt, I’m sorry. I hope you do someday.

In the meantime, feel free to share with me your experiences of things that you may or may not have had expectations about but which turned out to be super tasty. Precedence will obviously be given to bread products and things that are sweet, but I won’t discriminate. I like food.

Until next week, here’s to tasty things. Especially the unlooked-for kind.

Impatience, Presidents, and Squid

I was going to write about flowers this week, but I think my frustration is mostly due to impatience so I’ll withhold final opinions for a bit longer to try and be fair. Patience is a virtue, yeah? Instead, I’d like to talk about some random things that have had me thinking this week.

Yesterday, I finally watched the Swedish film adaptation of A Man Called Ove. It was really good, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend (after reading the book, duh). The book obviously had way more detail, so many more stories, so much more life and emotion. But the movie was in no way a disappointment.

Also, did you know that only two presidents have been born west of Stonewall, Texas–a small town just west of Austin? Nixon was born in California and Obama was born in Hawai’i. Wikipedia lists California as the primarily affiliated state for two others, but still. As a West Coast individual through and through, I’m not sure whether to feel relieved or upset by this. It’s not really a surprise, I sort of know in the background of my mind, but I jsut thought that was kind of a lot, considering California has been the msot populous state since the sixties, and was in second place from the forties, overtaking Pennsylvania. And, as of the 2010 census, California had in excess of 12 million more people than the next largest state, Texas. I mean, being president isn’t and shouldn’t be directly related to population, but seeing as the West Coast is the Best Coast, I feel like we’re generally just better. But whatever, that was my random rant for today.

I’ve finally gotten my Alien Registration Card, so I think I’m done with all immigration things for the duration. I hope. But also, it wasn’t hard at all, I literally just showed up, gave them the sheet that said I’d applied, and they handed me the card. In and out in like fifteen minutes, wait time included. So that was nice. And, once I had that, I could get my bank card. So I’m pretty much all in here. I also bought trash bags for the first time last weekend, it wasn’t really a difficulty but it was more difficult that I wanted it to be.

I did have lunch with a friend and her mother this week. The friend is Korean and my family had hosted her as an exchange student a few years ago and now she’s going to college in Washington. She was visiting for spring break and it worked out that we were able to meet and I’m so glad. We had a lovely lunch of…something chicken and noodley that was served with an entire squid on top. The squid was fine, but nothing great. It was better than I expected of strange seafood (as I already don’t like seafood much) so I can say that I can handle it if needed in the future but I’m not ever going to seek it out deliberately. Anyway.

I wish I had some goings on to share. I still haven’t been to any of the palaces. I haven’t participated in any protests. I haven’t done much of anything. I’m getting through my book, which is good, and I’m reading various Wikipedia articles as per usual. I’ve settled fairly rapidly into my standard do nothing, ever sort of routine. Teaching continues to get more normal every day, though I will no longer say it is getting easier. It got easier for the first while, now it just feels a bit better as I get used to it. But it’s still hard.

Toast

A number of years ago, I watched a film simply entitled Toast. It was about the childhood of a famous British chef whose mother could literally only make toast–she struggled with heating up cans of beans on the stove. Anyway, she dies when the main character is fairly young, maybe ten, and his father eventually remarries, this time to a woman who is an excellent cook. I honestly don’t recall much else about the movie, but I remember how special the toast was because it was made with love. Not even that, because it was often made in frustration. But something about it was special because it connected him to his mother. Supposedly, studies have shown that the smell of toast puts people at ease–during state testing in eighth grade, my teacher made toast beforehand to help us perform better (much like cinnamon in real estate).

Food is necessary. And delicious. Usually. But it is remarkable in so many other ways as well. Food is identity, comfort, culture, connection, memory. And more. Sharing food with someone is a mark of friendship (or charity), being invited into someone’s home for a meal is in many cultures (and certainly in my estimation) a major mark of relationship. As a human being, I think about food a lot and as a social scientist, I think about what food means. Let me tell you, it can mean some pretty incredible things.

This past week, some friends and I were talking about what we would want our last meal on death row to be, should we find ourselves there. Then we decided just go with last meal in a general sense–what do you want the last tastes in your mouth to be? We gave ourselves three courses. For an appetizer, I went for steamed gyoza from Kinza. The entrée was to be porcupine meatballs (which are not made with porcupine meat) as prepared by my mother. For dessert, it was no contest, a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake as prepared by my step-mother. Then I cried for like ten years because I don’t have access to any of those things. I have to settle for Tesco doughnuts. Anyway.

Isn’t food incredible? I bet, reading my choices, most of you were thinking, “No way, I’d have to have this.” And that’s exactly my point, we are (in more ways than one) what we eat.

I have a couple of quotes for you from a reading we had this week in one of my classes. One author, Minkenberg, said, “Government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ is not at stake, but the concept of ‘the people’ is.” This sums up both a lot of what I study (who is the people) but also is super relevant to your life–particularly you fellow Americans with the presidential election process at full force. It’s a big political debate about who counts and it has major effects for every one of us. Some people say, “Illegal immigrants don’t count because they’re here illegally.” Others say, “People who don’t speak our language or share our values don’t count.” Still others argue, “People who aren’t citizens don’t count, even if they’re legal residents.” It makes me feel very much like Esmeralda, thinking to myself I thought we all were the children of God.

Another writer, Mudde, in talking about the supposed rise of the far right in Europe, used the phrase “tabloidization of political discourse.” This, too, is super relevant and deceptively straightforward. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I demonize the media kind of a lot. But also, the media is kind of crazy. Particularly at issue here, for me, is the idea of simplification. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that really anything in politics is simple. Reading headlines, then, provides an absolutely ridiculous understanding of politics. This is super evident with this presidential campaign, surprise, everyone’s oversimplifying their opponent’s ideas. It’s easy to say, “Ah, he wants to make everything free and so we’ll be in loads of debt.” It’s harder to actually explain tax plans and fiscal reform. It’s easy to say, “They want everyone to own guns and shoot first and ask questions later.” It’s harder to explain the actual complexities of crime and the legal system. Not that either of these necessarily reflect my own views. But like I said last week, it’s absolutely crucial to consider everything thoughtfully and critically–including things you already agree with. And to listen to other people’s explanations. And to do your own thinking.

Ugh, I was hoping that this week would be a more upbeat post because the last few have been so serious. But I can’t help it, the world is a serious place. Ugh. Also, sounds a great deal like last week’s post. And sorry, critical thinking is such a buzzword.

I honestly just wanted to talk about food this post. It is what it is.

I am typically a ravenous toast-eater, I must confess. Truth be told, I like my toast mostly just warm bread, only toasted to the point of barely having gotten that slight firmness on the outside. Not really even brown. But. Since being in Ireland, though, I’ve had remarkably little toast. I don’t know exactly why. But this term, I’ve stopped making sandwiches for lunch and so now rarely eat bread. I’ve sort of developed an alternative eating pattern of sorts. It’s been interesting. Anyway, so there you have it. Food. Thoughts. Food. A good pattern, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Next post, I’ll have put two more pins into the map of my travels (figuratively speaking). So look forward to that! See you on the other side.