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I am from Barbies and toy tractors.

From cute shoes and impossible standards,

From hard work and making things grow.

I am from a writing desk with lion pulls on its drawers, 

From roaring before I knew what roaring was for.

I am from a name that means lily but is not Lily,

From surprises just under the surface.

I am from macrame owls and cross-stitched ornaments,

From a people who create.

I am little black dresses and big black boots,

From pretty with pearls

And not taking any mess.

I am seasons and liturgy and praying the hours.

I am also feet washing and laying on hands and re-dedication.

I am all the places I’ve ever been 

But also none of them.

(I took wild liberties with this template to piece this poem together)

With the world being what it is and kids moving in and school starting and two of my classes for the semester getting canceled, I feel the need for comfort food this week. Sunday at Supper Club, I made chicken and dumplings (that post coming later this week, along with a vegan version that I not-so-secretly think is better).  Last night, on what would have been my first night of classes, I stayed home and built my own casserole. I used to use this skill a lot when I was in college because 1) it’s highly cost effective, and 2) it lets you use up ingredients of which you have a freakish abundance.

Enter The Zucchini.

photo (1)

(Guest appearance by the Gosdins’s Swarley. Observe cat-to-zucchini ratio)

The vegetable pictured above is not the actual one I used last night. The one pictured met its fate in the form of zucchini mini-pizzas, each slice serving as the crusts.

That’s right.  I have been the possessor of two such items in the last few weeks. My sister and brother-in-law have been equally blessed. This is what happens when a certain someone is retired and has the idea to “see how big they will grow.”

What is one to do when one is in possession of such a gargantuan courgette? Casserole time.

To build your own casserole, you will need a fair amount of each of these things:

  • a grain
  • a protein
  • veggies
  • something that binds/moistens (somewhat optional – see discussion below)

It’s also a good idea to have something to top it with.  This is not essential, but it makes it look pretty. It also adds a little flavor.

For my casserole, I used brown rice, ground beef, zucchini and onions, and shredded cheese as both binder and topper.

I know that my casserole is not anything close to vegan, despite the tag, but the basic guidelines give you something to work with.  As I normally have no meat in the house, I usually make vegetarian or vegan casseroles. I will use beans as the protein in a vegetarian dish. If I am making it vegan, I will toss the grain in a couple of tablespoons of oil, as that helps it hold together.  Holding it together, however, is not at all necessary. It’s really okay if it all falls apart on your plate. So if there is enough moisture in the veggies (true of most vegetables, particularly if you toss them with some tomatoes), you don’t really need anything to keep it from drying out. Dried fruits and chopped nuts make for a pretty topper for a dairy-free dish.

Because I did not have leftover rice, I had to make it anew, so I started that first. While the rice was cooking, I took my trusty knife…

photo 1

(shameless plug and full disclosure – if you buy it at this link, you’re buying it from me)

…and started chopping.  First, I diced The Zucchini into bite-sized chunks.

photo 2

It took my large stand-mixer bowl to hold all of them. That is a lot of zucchini. There was just enough room left in the bowl to add one chopped onion.

I browned about a pound of ground beef in my largest skillet (I’ll spare you the picture of that) and then added the vegetables in to saute briefly but mostly to combine the casserole elements.

The casserole is easy to assemble.  I just layered the rice, veggie/protein mixture, and cheese twice (i.e., alternating with two layers of each) and baked it.  Then it looked like this:

photo 3

Well, half of it looked like that.  There was so much zucchini that I ended up baking a second one in the skillet. I have so much casserole in my life right now.

Casseroles are not pretty foods, but what they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in taste. This one was wildly successful in that endeavor.

So to recap, for those of you who like specifics and don’t want to end up with a spontaneous extra casserole:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Gather – and keep in mind, leftovers make excellent casseroles:

  • 2 cups of cooked grain
  • 2 cups of cooked protein (e.g., beans or meat or your choice)
  • 2 cups of chopped veggies (if frozen, steam first and drain, or your casserole will be soggy)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (or 2 T oil – I like to use grapeseed oil) – optional
  • 1/2 cup of topper (e.g., nuts, dried fruits, more cheese, those french-fried onion strips, cracker or chip crumbs, etc.)

3. Mix protein and veggies together.  

4. Layer grain, veggie mixture, and cheese as often as the vessel you’re baking it in can hold it.

5. Sprinkle topper after final layer.

6. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

And there you have it! A money-saving, belly-filling, abundance-producing, comfort food meal. Enjoy!

“Until White America tells fear to fuck off, we’ll keep dying at the hands of ‘justice’ in a country they broke our backs and our souls to build for them.” – A’Driane Nieves, in “White Supremacy and Fear: The Cracks in America’s Foundation No One Will Fix”

Words have sat heavy on me this week. They land hard on my lily white skin and seep into me.

This sounds awful.  It’s not.  This is how change works. It strikes, and then it sinks in.

I suppose the easy thing to do would be to get defensive.  The danger in taking the easy route is that the events that incite heavy words are usually broken systems that aren’t worth defending. The easy route allows the stunted soul to stay the same and hide from anything that doesn’t fit into what it already understands.

I don’t want the easy route. I want the words and the stories of the angry and the oppressed and the dismissed to melt into me and change me.

I am trusting firsthand accounts. I am trusting their lived experience that says this is only the latest installment of a system of oppression. The learned inclination to trust a badge just because it’s supposed to be trustworthy is quickly unraveling. My trust in authority is no longer immediate (and let’s face it – has not been immediate for quite some time). 

I am praying with some of the bloggers I follow as they go to Ferguson to hear the stories of the people who have been there. I am praying that words will land heavy on them. I am also praying that they will be safe.

I am praying that the people – all the people – of Ferguson will be safe. I am sitting uncomfortably with the knowledge that feeling safe would be a first for many of the people of Ferguson, for many of the people in this country. 

But I will sit with that discomfort.  I will not run away from it to take the easy route. I will change.

I am linking up with Kate Motaung for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is “change.” Join us.

#Ferguson, Part Two

I’m finding it hard to think about anything else but the goings on in Ferguson, Missouri.

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday that his observation was that his conservative friends seem to be siding with the police, and his liberal friends seem to be siding with the victim and his family. That seems an accurate assessment of my Facebook and Twitter feeds as well.

I have little patience with the oversimplification of any issue to the point that it divides on party lines. I don’t blame anyone in particular (except maybe the general state of our country only having two major parties so maybe we should change that). I do uphold that justice should not be a liberal or conservative thing.  It should be an everyone thing.

When even the most conservative reports are indicating that the officer in question shot an unarmed man, I’m not sure how one spins that to make it debatable.  I’m not sure how a person says, “He shot him, even though he wasn’t armed, but…” There’s no “but” there.  I want to shake everyone who is trying to do so and yell, “What if that unarmed man were your son? What if it happened in your neighborhood?”

This may be cheesy, but I keep seeing Matthew McConaughey at the end of A Time To Kill as he described the brutalization of the defendant’s daughter, asking the jury to picture what happened to her. He ended his argument with, “Now imagine she’s white.”

Imagine Mike Brown was white.

But that’s just another problem.

Should we have to imagine that shooting an unarmed man – regardless of who he is or what he has done – is within a different demographic to be appalled by the event? Should his skin have to look more like mine, or his voice sound like my voice, or his address be next door to mine, in order for me to demand that his death be investigated and the officer be brought to trial?

The answer is no – hell, no – just in case you were confused by my phrasing it as a question.

I’m not suggesting that we convict without all the facts. I’m not suggesting that we blindly believe everything we hear (although I am personally inclined to believe people who are in Ferguson, taking pictures with their camera phones, posting firsthand accounts without having to run it through the filter of it being their job, which automatically spins it one way or another).  I’m not suggesting that we deprive the officer of due process (even though I understand the temptation to do so, as that’s exactly what he did to Mike Brown, according to even the most conservative reports of the event).

I am suggesting that we pay attention – that we never stop paying attention.

I suggest that we read things like this, even if they make us uncomfortable.

I am suggesting that we support people who have cause to press charges and people who have injustices to fight.

I am suggesting that we support them publicly by saying that we support them.  

I am suggesting that we then put our money where our mouths are and support them financially so that justice can be for everyone, not just the people rich enough to buy it. Don’t know where to donate? Let me help you – The Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and the NAACP.

I am suggesting that injustice is an everyone problem and that we should act like it is.

#Ferguson

It might be quiet here for a few days. I am watching what’s happening in Ferguson (yes, I’m even following hashtags on Facebook and Twitter – it seems I don’t hate hashtags this week). I don’t know what is going on, but I do know that unless all of us are equal, none of us are free.

Lord, have mercy.

Badass Boots

My style ebbs and flows. I go through phases where everything is loose and flowing (usually a winter phase). I go through phases where I want to dress like Cam on Bones (in fact, I found a fantastic dress a couple of weeks ago, so I feel that phase coming on again soon). Once, a friend said to me, “You dress like a cartoon character,” so apparently, there’s that phase, too.

But the one constant in my closet – the item that goes with every phase – black knee-high boots.

Boots Crossed

I am fond of the knee-high boot. I have had white ones (these will probably be the shoes I wear in my wedding), red ones, brown ones, and even green vinyl ones (I needed them for a Poison Ivy costume.  NEEDED.). But for the last twenty years, I have always had at least one pair of black boots.

Boots and Lace

They are practical. They go with everything. They give an edge to lace and velvet. They dress up a casual outfit while still providing some arch support. They make a dressy ensemble a little funkier.

And let’s just say it – these boots make me look like a badass.

I didn’t fully understand the power of the boot until I was old enough to go clubbing. I tried at first to go the sexy, strappy sandal route.  They looked great….at the beginning of the night. By the end of the night, my feet were angry. Now, I love me a strappy sandal, but unless they are specifically built for dancing (e.g., tango shoes, which is another post altogether), they are best suited for sitting still and looking pretty. As I’ve never had much interest in being an ornament, I needed a new footwear choice.

Enter the knee-high boot.

It is difficult to be a wallflower when you’re standing in fourteen inches of leather. It kinda makes me stand out. And I like it.

These boots are empowering.  Unlike the majority of shoes made for women, they’re functional.  I can dance in them easily without my feet getting tired. If necessary, I could run in them. And they’re sturdy enough that they could do some damage if I were in a situation where I needed to take out the knee of an attacker. I hope I never have to do so, but if such a situation presents itself, my boots and I are ready.

Boot Reflected

I’m writing 31 Days of Personal Beauty, even if it takes me until October to finish it.

At The Club

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On Sunday night, the club I used to frequent had its 20th anniversary party.

I missed going because my car decided to quit and I had to bring my mother’s car back with me, and Mama’s car doesn’t go to the club. 

But car issues can’t stop my nostalgia. 

Margat and I used to be regulars at the Lizard Lounge’s goth night.  It’s called The Church.  When we first started going, I experienced Good Baptist Girl Guilt from attending a place that clearly was subverting the term “church” in less-than-holy ways. But that didn’t stop me.  

Also, I got over that guilt pretty quickly because:

  1. Um…they kind of have a point. And I appreciate that they’re upfront about it.
  2. Good bartenders.  Goooood bartenders.  
  3. The Church creates an atmosphere that recognizes and respects beauty.

I feel beautiful there.

I wear the lipstick that I like, which is darker than beauty professionals have decreed that I *should* wear. I wear black eyeliner, even though I have been told that I really *should* wear brown. I wear dresses that are more sheer than they *should* be, as well as skirts and corsets that are more revealing than they *should* be. I often wear things that don’t compliment (read: cover up…because as it turns out, they compliment it just fine) my body type. Sometimes I wear bright colors; most of the time I go in all black, even though I’ve been told my skin is too pale to wear all black. When I go to the club, I actually dress the way I feel most beautiful, not the way I’ve been informed that beauty is supposed to look. And unlike every other place in my life, The Church recognizes it and celebrates it as beauty, too.

photo (24)

At The Church, I dance.  I love to dance. I love the way my body moves. And it doesn’t really matter how you dance there.  You can dance gothic. You can swing dance to Concrete Blonde with your roommate. You can tango. You can simply bounce in time to the music (or not…whatever). All (well, most…see below) expression is welcome.

My club experience outside The Church has not been a positive one. I can’t think of a single such outing that did not involve someone coming up to me on the dance floor and grinding on me without my permission, or groping me while we’re waiting at the bar (also without my permission), or if he did bother to ask my permission, yelling at me or belittling me when I had the audacity to say no. As if a total stranger has any business being up in my business. As if I owed them something just by daring to exist within their field of vision.

The unspoken rule at most clubs is that you have to make a choice – be seen or be safe.

That doesn’t fly at The Church. 

The sign by the front door says, “Enter without prejudice,” and they mean it. I’ve seen bouncers escort people out because they were being disrespectful of someone’s apparel or lifestyle. I’ve had a bouncer hover near me when a guy wasn’t hearing the no as quickly as he could have, just in case I needed him to intervene.  That same bouncer asked me after the guy finally did go away if everything was okay, making sure I still felt safe being there. As a result, there is an atmosphere of acceptance and comfort there that I just don’t get other places. When respect is the expectation of an establishment, it is often the outcome.

And it’s beautiful.

I’m woefully behind on writing about personal beauty for 31 Days.

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