A Day at the Farm

As discussed in a previous post, I recently spent a crisp autumn Saturday at Homestead Farms in Virgina with the WIN’s Travel Network. We picked apples, had great conversation about WOOFing as a means of traveling cheaply, drank hot apple cider, bought veggies and gourds galore and even took a hayride!

It was such a wonderful respite from being in the city. As much as I enjoy aspects of urban living (amazing food, diverse populations, walkability, etc.) there are definitely things I miss about living in the country near a small town. In addition to my friends and family (and as the years pass I come to appreciate my friends from home more and more – there’s just something special about people who have known you through your adolescence and still manage to like you, haha), one of the things I crave most about where I grew up is SPACE. My parents always had a garden in the back yard where they grew corn, green beans, tomatoes, strawberries, zucchini, cucumbers and all other sorts of things in the summer. I miss the fresh air, grass under my feet and raking leaves in the fall. This was such a great chance to get a small slice of rural life into my otherwise crowded urban existence.

In addition to all of this, I was really needing some autumnal experiences. This is my absolute favorite season and I have really missed out on my favorite activities over the past 4 years living abroad. The crisp cool air after the hot, humid summer, trees bursting with color, U of M football, hot apple cider, cozy sweaters and the feeling that there is something new and full of potential just around the corner fills me with such contentment and peace. So, imagine my disappointment when, despite being in the US again, I am still listening to football games (no TV! At least I’m now in the same time zone?), the trees haven’t yet changed (DC is still full of green!) and I can’t get out of the city to an apple orchard (no car!). What a blessing it then was to get the notification from WIN that their October event was out to rural Maryland. This trip allowed me to exhale a sigh of relief and refresh my soul. It also provided me with lots of Pink Ladies with which I promptly went home and tried my hand at apple butter 🙂  I also splurged and got a caramel apple to take home. These are such a guilty pleasure hang-over from my first job at Diehl’s Orchard. I was 13 and could make a tray of 21 apples in 3 minutes!

So, here are the pictures from my afternoon away. These pictures aren’t the greatest – I’m normally not a fan of over-processing pictures (as I’ve done here), but I was really more preoccupied with enjoying my day than taking nice shots, so I decided to edit them up a bit so they’re more visually interesting. Enjoy, and if you’re in Michigan please go have a donut for me 🙂

We took a hayride out to the ‘pumpkin patch,’ which they were clearly filling up with foreign pumpkins! We’re just going to assume that the real pumpkin patch wasn’t hayride accessible and pretend we never saw this…


The Reach of History

I’ve been meaning to post about the book Roots ever since I finished, and that will come soon when I have a bit more time to put all of my thoughts to paper. But today I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic (as I do every day) and he has a post talking about digging into his family genealogy. The post goes into discussion of how close the past really is – that slavery, and the story that unfolds in Roots, really isn’t that far removed from where we are today, despite how far away it seems.

To that end, one of the commenters posted something that still has my mind reeling:John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States (from 1841-1845) still has two living grandchildren. This man was the President before the Civil War, and some of his grandchildren are still living; there are still people alive today who personally knew slaves. We’ve accelerated so quickly with technological advancements; our world seems so foreign compared to the mid 18th century that we forget how very recent that past is.

One thing I know that I will take away from this: my grandmother (age 76) and grandfather (late 80’s) will be visiting from Florida over the holidays and I want to hear their stories. They will likely be very different stories, since my family is largely made up of late 19th and early 20th century immigrants who lived in Canada and then Michigan, but they must have some good ones. I will report back.

Well, that was predictable…

So, it’s been over a month and a half since I last posted! I knew that was going to happen (what is it they say about best laid plans?).

Not coincidentally, my last post was on 12 September, which was also the day before I moved into my new home. Since moving I’ve been preoccupied by a ramped up job search (and all of the networking/events that come with it), scouring craigslist and freecycle for furniture, arranging to pick up the stuff I’ve bought, and, most of all, hanging out with a new housemate! I love the experience of becoming fast friends with someone, and this is definitely the case with Tina, of Tina Bark Designs. This amazingly creative and talented woman is a jewelry designer by day (check out her shop! Buy something!) and since moving in we’ve been doing tons of cooking together and even embarked on a cleanse (inspired by my other beautiful and amazing friend Katie of Rooted Wellbeing – check out her site too!). I haven’t done much picture-taking of food or recording of recipes, but I’m hoping to get back on the horse soon – I have apple butter, butternut squash and barley risotto with dill and classic spaghetti bolognese all in the line-up.

I’ve been keeping myself busy with lots of events through the Women’s Information Network (WIN)  – an organization for pro-choice, Democratic women in DC. These ladies are amazing! After urging by multiple people, I finally ponied up the $50 annual membership and I’m so glad I did! There are events galore – networking, movie screenings, a clothes/book swap, a book club, and even a trip to a local farm for apple-picking! I even have some lack-luster pictures from the last event that I will post… but be warned that my efforts were half-hearted as I was just too preoccupied enjoying the fresh, non-city air. If there are other women in DC looking for jobs, friends, like-minded amazing women to socialize with and be rejuvenated by, I highly recommend getting on board with WIN.

Overall the theme of the past 6 weeks for me has been the amazing women in my life.

I have always found a huge amount of dissonance between my own experiences and relationships with women and how the media portrays us. The meme of women being competitive, jealous and catty just has never rung true for me (as an adult, anyway – adolescence is a different matter). There is the possibility that I’ve either been inordinately lucky or experienced selection bias with my friends and mentors, but the women in my life are my rocks. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my mother, aunt, cousins and friends and their love and support is always without grief, judgement or drama. I believe that my experience is actually a lot more common than the media would have us believe and that these relationships are what sustain many (most!) women throughout their lives. This isn’t to say that I don’t have great relationships with men, just that the bond that I have with other women is altogether different and unique and something for which I am overwhelmingly grateful.

So to conclude this re-entry into the blogosphere, I just want to give a shout out to all of the women in my life – old and new  – who bring such joy, love and light to me every day. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is what love looks like

A Decade of Farce

Well, no reading round-up this week unfortunately. I was pretty busy at work, which is when I normally do most of my browsing. So, as an alternative, I’m providing a video clip: GO BLUE!

9/11 Reflection

I sort of feel like it would be remiss not to mention that today is the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I have avoided pretty much all media surrounding the anniversary because I wanted to write something reflective but without the noise of the media and commentary influencing my own memories and thoughts.

Yet, here it is nearly 11pm and I am just now forcing myself to write something – anything. I suppose this is because I find it very difficult to ‘remember’ 9/11 without also remembering what came before and what has since passed. I hold what are probably some pretty unpopular opinions, but I just can’t for the life of me bring myself to grieve for my countrymen and women without also grieving for the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in our subsequent quest for vengeance. Why did we expect to be insulated from the violence that we have for so long perpetrated against others?

I force myself to imagine what it must have been like to hear bodies crashing onto cars; people so desperate to escape the smoke and flames that they leapt to their death. I imagine what it must have been like to have a loved one who never came home from work that day. It is heart-breaking and horrifying. But then, I remember these photos (WARNING: NSFW – disturbing photos, viewer discretion is advised) and can really only conclude that we are no better than those we seek to destroy. When I look at these pictures I can really only think of how sterile the attack on the WTC was; the hijackers did not actually have to witness the death or pain of their victims, let alone continue to inflict that pain hand-to-hand. Just as I imagine it is easier to pull a trigger than sink a lethal stab, how much easier must it have been to fly a plane into a building, compared to tying up naked men, and humiliating and torturing them? Evil has no national boundaries, that is one thing of which I am absolutely sure.

Today I will remember, but not selectively. I will mourn those who perished and empathize with their families, for their lives lost is truly tragic, but I will not watch the patriotism porn and feel sorry for the USA. I will not support the view that retribution is justice, no matter what the collateral price. Today, I remember that an Iraqi’s life – their humanity – is no less than an American’s. Some may call me a bleeding heart liberal; my only reply can be that I would rather have a bleeding heart than a calloused one.

I could say a lot more, but it’s late.

Reading Round-Up

Okay, starting off this week’s ‘reading round-up’ is… another video. This one is of Beyonce’s performance at the VMA’s last week (apologies to international readers, I’m pretty sure mtv restricts viewing to in the US). I love everything about this. From the snazzy, 80’s style blazers to the simple choreography, to Adele singing along and Lady Gaga’s commitment to her character, Beyonce’s strutting around in massive heels and knee jumping while pregnant, Jay-Z’s pure joy and pride at the end and the song itself with its Motown vibe… it’s just all over amazing.

So, to kick off the links, here is a Beyonce related flow chart from Good. And while I’m at it, an article contemplating whether Jay-Z is a feminist, from Feministing.

And now onto more serious things…

First up, a study on language and gender that is particularly interesting can be read here. I think a really interesting thing would be to have people submit samples of their own writing and see where in the bell-curve they fall in regards to how gendered their language is. I’d definitely be a willing contributor.

Next, anyone who’s read African travel literature should read the article How to write about Africa by Binyavanga Wainaina. I generally stay away from this kind of literature and it pleases me to no end to see it mocked mercilessly.

This isn’t new, but Stephen Colbert’s imitation of a T-Rex trying to put on a condom shouldn’t be missed by anyone (also, not technically reading material and apologies to my international readers).

For some perspective, the Earth as a star.

To round out the list, and in celebration of Labor Day and Unions (aka the people who brought us the weekend), an article that explains what is just plain common sense to anyone who has lived and worked in Europe: the value of vacation.


When I contemplated beginning a blog again one of the issues foremost in my mind was the issue of anonymity. I notice, with unease, the amount of personal information some of my peers, but mostly people a bit younger than me, put on the internet. My facebook profile does not include an address, birth date, relationship status, or interests (this slate article talks about how in 87% of cases a person can be individually identified with just their zip code (retrieved through an IP address), birth date and gender. Yikes.), I often do not use an actual picture of myself for my profile picture (currently, it’s this) and I am pretty diligent about removing tags of pictures that I wouldn’t want an employer to see (even though my profile is private). I am baffled by the amount of people who ‘check-in’ to different programs that track their location or leave their profile open to the public. Despite being a Millennial, there are aspects of the information overload that make me deeply uncomfortable.

This is why, for now, I am not putting my name on this blog. Sure, most of you (probably all) who are reading this are doing so because I’ve linked to it from my facebook profile. You obviously know who I am. But, as someone who is going through the process of looking for jobs, I would really rather not have my personal writings so readily available to someone who is supposed to be evaluating me professionally.

There is also an aspect of writing for the public that I do find problematic. While in college, a friend from high school once recalled something that I had said to her, which reflected pretty poorly on me. And do you know what? I didn’t even remember it! And this was a close friend, not someone that I would intentionally have tried to put down or hurt. But luckily (for me, anyway) this was verbal and the only place it still exists is in our memories (well, hers – I only have the memory of her recalling the event). I was a pretty smug, pretentious person as a teenager and I really am so very pleased that the bulk of this immaturity is not written down for posterity (I do have a bit of writers remorse when I look back at some of the pieces I wrote for my high school newspaper, but luckily those are mostly in landfills now). Similarly, I kept journals throughout college. I love reading these! They give me an insight into the person I was and consequently the person that I have grown to be. But I’m also so pleased that these are for my eyes only, and whoever I chose to individually share them with (probably no one! Ever!). To put something online is for it to be there forever. There are some things that, while I’m happy to share now, I may not want available for all to see 15 years from now.

So, why start a blog in the first place? Well, I guess it’s because while I didn’t think it was possible to ever procrastinate more than I did as a student, apparently it is. I really identify with the young blogger in this New York Magazine article who says, ‘ “I always find myself more motivated to write things,” Xiyin, now 19, explains, “when I know that somebody, somewhere, might be reading it.” ‘ As much as it pains me to admit, knowing that someone might read this crap actually motivates me to get writing. Which is nuts because I really enjoy writing! But, after a day staring at a computer screen at the office, it’s not exactly my first choice of activities once home in the evening. I love to write, but often I’d just rather be reading a book outside on a nice day, which I don’t think is unreasonable.

So, in an effort to force my hand and getting pen to paper (er, fingers to keyboard?) I’m going to give up a bit of my anonymity. But just a bit.