Quality over quantity: a lifelong pursuit.

Last night while Benjamin and I were enjoying a magnificent performance of Dvorak’s 7th Symphony by the MN Orchestra- the first installment of their Inside the Classics series this year- I found myself contemplating the cost of the experience.  I should begin by disclosing that we were able to attend this concert at half of the normal ticket cost because I finally bit the bullet and joined Groupon.  However, each ticket was still about $22, almost nothing for an acclaimed orchestra performance, but substantially more than Ben and I ordinarily spend on a weekend entertainment outing.  Because we usually spend $0.  We look for free shows at local bars, of which there are many, and only some of them worth seeing.  This led me to wonder- how have I been unintentionally valuing quantity over quality?  Is this something I really want to continue doing?

No offense to the bands that play free shows at local bars; I enormously appreciate having that option as an evening activity, planned or spur of the moment.  Nonetheless, by valuing the ‘free’ rather than the performance itself, I have likely been missing out on countless opportunities to see stellar shows/theater performances/art shows/concerts.  There is something to be said for actually committing to an event enough to spend a decent amount of money, something enormous even in the event that one is supporting a local artist or musician or non-profit by attending said event.

I have discovered that this ‘free/cheap = best’ mentality has flowed over into other facets of my life as well, namely going out to eat.  As you may have noticed from several previous posts, I LOVE FOOD.  I love the ingredients, the preparation, the community, the fellowship, and the sensations of eating.  You would expect that as a result I would take advantage of the many fine dining establishments in the Twin Cities that highlight local, seasonal, and finely crafted fare (Lucia’s, The Craftsman, and Birchwood Cafe to name just a few).  For the most part, sadly, you would be wrong.  A combination of convenience and self-imposed frugality means that I eat out frequently, but not often at the pricier yet classier locales.

So here is my challenge to myself (and to anyone else who has noticed a quantity-over-quality mentality creeping into their decisions): do less, but do it well.  Go to fewer shows and performances, eat out less often, but when I do both, do what I truly desire.  Save my resources to go to the fancier restaurants I read rave reviews of in The Hot Dish, and for better known bands and unique performances and those beer festivals I’ve always drooled over.  And in the meantime I will work toward a couple of my 2011 Practices to Enact, cooking, walking, writing and exploring the city I love.

But don’t worry Parkway Pizza and The Hexagon Bar; I will still pass through your wallet-friendly doors once in a while.

~Lauren

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Words to live by: Rumi

Don’t Go Back To Sleep

For years, copying other people, I tried to know myself.
From within, I couldn’t decide what to do.
Unable to see, I heard my name being called.
Then I walked outside.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

—Rumi

This poem brings together so many things that I love, both past and present. The spiritual, mystical magic of dawn and dusk. The transcendental poetry of Rumi (I checked out a Rumi anthology from the library last year and was pained to tear myself away from it upon its return).  Yet another excellent tidbit in the weekly Parabola magazine newsletter.  And this particular poem always brings me back to a little-known favorite childhood novel: Belle Prater’s Boy.  I don’t want to spoil the plot in any way (and, truth be told, it’s been years since I’ve read it), but definitely check this one out at your local library.  Complex characters, marvelous mystic poetry, a lovely setting, and it’s a young adult book to boot which makes it an easy one night read.

May your weekends be filled with awe and joy ❤

My tastebuds are loving winter

Even though I failed to do any kind of comprehensive canning/freezing to keep the bounty of the summer around until deep winter, my tastebuds and tummy have been happy with what I’ve been serving them as of late.  Here are a few favorites, as well as a recipe I want to try:

  • Five Minutes a Day Bread – I make a batch of this almost every week, which probably results in more carbs than I actually need.  But it’s so amazingly easy/delicious.
  • Squash Hash – I sort of invented my own version of this that had squash, potatoes, onions, turnips, carrots and thyme, and no sorrel.  It lasted me many meals and filled me right up.
  • Local hydroponic lettuce – This goes on almost everything I eat: eggs, bread, the above squash hash.  My favorite part is that the mixed greens are different every week.
  • Ancient Secret Quinoa Salad – how do people feel about goji berries?  Quinoa is one of my favorite grains, and I can’t wait to try this salad.

The home-travel conundrum.

We all have innumerable paths our lives could have followed, futures that never came to be because we made particular decisions (or sometimes failed to choose, so a path was chosen by our apathy).  Sometimes these forked or many-tined paths differ only slightly, minor variations on an otherwise cohesive existence.  In other instances the possibilities may be polar opposites, and it seems as though an alternate universe must exist in order to accommodate the other ‘you’ that could be living and breathing if you had moved in a different life direction.

I have been lucky or wise enough (more likely the former) to have lived a life fundamentally without regrets.  No decision has been catastrophic, and I do not look back on my meager quarter century (almost) on this earth wishing things were different.  Even the small things.  I often engage in mind vacations to other selves, astounded at the bits and pieces and decisions and opportunities that have coalesced to form my life at present.  However, there is one particular major fork that has always existed in the future tense, sometimes becoming a more relevant decision of the present, other times a wispy far-flung possibility: owning a home and building community, or traveling and exploring the vast expanses of the planet.

These are not mutually exclusive possibilities necessarily.  Committing to community and the roots of establishing a home does not entirely discount the possibility of travel.  But it limits the extent of that travel, especially in the possible length of stay.  One cannot expect to buy a house and build a home community while spending months abroad- so much of community is in being physically present with the people and places that are part of it.  And I believe one cannot truly know a new place without spending a substantial amount of time there.  Visiting France for a week and half this past April was lovely, but I felt like a tourist entirely.

My conundrum often results in contemplative musings rather than stress, more mind vacations where I imagine ‘how things would be if I…’  I plan trips (biking the Mississippi River, hiking the Appalachian Trail, going back to India with my friend Abby, finding some way to get to Africa and Australia to hit all the major continents by the time I’m 30) and sometimes buy related books, but actual commitment to any of these adventures has yet to happen.  Because I’ve realized that while I am intrigued by travel and exotic locales and change and the constant new, I am committed to improving the world through sustainable, caring community.  Travel can be amazing, but for the most part it is selfish; most travelers do not substantially improve the world in their journeys (Peace Corps and other volunteer programs nonwithstanding) and while the impact I make on the world at large by building community here in Minneapolis may seem to be limited, it will be direct.  It will be relationship based, a place of compassion for others and the earth, a place to make and do and discuss and imagine.  And hopefully the community I help to build will be able to reach out to build other communities, to share resources, to encourage and support and coordinate.

I still plan to travel.  The world is too big and too glorious to not try to see at least part of it.  But in the Twin Cities I have found a place I am excited to call home, and in the next decades hope to make that home as compassionate, abundant, sustainable and beautiful as it can be.

~Lauren

A feminist manifesto.

One of the many activist/identity hats I wear (and am presently trying to own more confidently) is feminist.  I still find it difficult to call myself a feminist out loud without qualifying it, saying I’m not the angry/man-hating/crazy type, just someone who believes in diversity and equality.  In spite of several waves of amazing women changing the world as we know it, calling one’s self a feminist still carries a LOT of baggage.  So I am proud to share with you today the manifesto written by proud feminist women,  shared by a fellow woman bicyclist on Mpls Bike Love.

“FEMME SHARKS DON’T EAT OUR OWN.

FEMME SHARKS LIKE TO EAT THOUGH

FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES COME IN ALL KINDS OF SIZES AND EACH KIND IS LUSCIOUS.

WE WORK TOWARDS LOVING OUR CURVY, FAT, SKINNY, SUPERSIZE, THICK, DISABLED, BLACK AND BROWN FINE-ASS BODIES EVERY DAY.

WE REALIZE THAT LOVING OURSELVES IN A RACIST/SEXIST/HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC/ABLIST/CLASSIST SYSTEM IS AN EVERY DAY ACT OF WAR AGAINST THAT SYSTEM.

FEMME SHARKS DON’T THINK ANOREXIA IS CUTE. WE THINK EATING A BIG-ASS MEAL IS SEXY.

WE SAY SCREW “HEIGHT WEIGHT PROPORTIONATE PLEASE” IN CRAIGSLIST WOMEN SEEKING WOMEN ADS AND IN LIFE.

WE HAVE BIG MOUTHS AND WE KNOW HOW TO USE THEM.
DON’T FUCK WITH US!

ASK US IF WE WANT TO FUCK THOUGH !

FEMME SHARKS WILL RECLAIM THE POWER AND DIGNITY OF FEMALENESS BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY WE’RE GIRLS BLOWN UP, TURNED INSIDE OUT AND REMIXED.

FEMME SHARKS ARE OVER WHITE QUEERS OBLIVIOUSNESS TO QUEER OF COLOR, TWO SPIRIT AND TRANS OF COLOR LIVES.

WE KNOW THAT WE ARE A CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE

WE’RE OVER WHITE FEMMES AND BUTCHES WHO THINK THAT FEMME ONLY COMES IN THE COLOR OF BARBIE.

WE’RE OVER BUTCHES AND BOYS AND OTHER FEMMES TELLING US WHAT WE NEED TO DO, WEAR OR BE IN ORDER TO BE “REALLY FEMME.”

FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES, BUTCHES, GENDERQUEER AND TRANS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR SINCE FOREVER.

THAT BEFORE COLONIZATION WE WERE SEEN AS SACRED AND WE WERE SOME OF THE FIRST FOLKS MOST VIOLENTLY ATTACKED WHEN OUR LANDS WERE INVADED AND COLONIZED.

FEMME SHARKS WON’T REST UNTIL WE RECLAIM OUR POSITIONS AS BELOVED FAMILY WITHIN OUR COMMUNITIES.

FEMME SHARKS AREN’T JUST DIME PIECES AND TROPHY WIVES. FUCK THAT!

WE MIGHT BE YOUR GIRL, BUT WE’RE OUR OWN FEMMES.

WE RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES ARE LEADERS OF OUR COMMUNITIES.

WE HOLD IT DOWN, CALM YOUR TEARS, ORGANIZE THE RALLY, VISIT YOU IN JAIL, GET CHILDCARE HOOKED UP, LOAN YOU TWENTY DOLLARS.

FEMMES ARE WELDERS, AFTER SCHOOL TEACHERS, ABORTION CLINIC WORKERS, STRIPPERS, WRITERS, FACTORY WORKERS, MOMS, REVOLUTIONARIES DEDICATED TO TAKING THE SYSTEM THE HELL DOWN SO WE CAN BE FREE!

FEMMES ARE LEADERS IN TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS/ DEFENDING OUR QUEER AND TRANS OF COLOR COMMUNITIES.

WE USED OUR STILETTOS AS WEAPONS AT STONEWALL

WE WERE THE TRANSWOMEN WHO FOUGHT BACK AT THE COMPTON CAFETERIA

WE’RE THE GIRLS WHO STARE DOWN ASSHOLES STARING AT OUR LOVERS AND FRIENDS ON THE SUBWAY.

WE WALK EACH OTHER HOME

ACT CRAZY ON THE BUS TO GET ASSHOLES TO MOVE AWAY AND KNOW HOW TO BREAK SOMEONE’S LEGS

WE SHARE WHAT WE KNOW.

FEMME SHARKS STAND UP FOR THE NEW JERSEY FOUR AND EVERY OTHER QUEER AND TRANS PERSON OF COLOR IN THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX FOR DEFENDING OUR LIVES.

WE BELIEVE IN SELF-DEFENSE AND SELF-DETERMINATION.

WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A RIGHT TO DEFEND OURSELVES AND OUR COMMUNITIES AGAINST ANY KIND OF ATTACK-FROM ASSHOLES ON THE STREET TO RACIST WHITE CLUB OWNERS WHO WANT THREE PIECES OF ID TO FOLKS WHO INSIST THAT WE’RE STRAIGHT, TO PEOPLE WHO TAKE OUR LAND.

WE REMEMBER OUR DEAD- SAKIA GUNN, GWEN ARAUJO, AND MANY OTHER QUEER AND TRANS POC WHO DIED BECAUSE OF RACIST, HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC VIOLENCE. NOT AS A POLITICAL STATEMENT BUT AS WOMEN WE LOVED IN REAL LIFE WOMEN WHO COULD’VE BEEN US OR OUR LOVES.

WE ARE NOT GOING TO BE LEFT OUT OF “THE STRUGGLE” NOT THIS TIME

WE’RE NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE.

FEMMES GODDAMN WELL KNOW HOW TO STRAP IT ON, CHANGE THE OIL IN THE CAR AND PUT UP SHELVES.

WE CAN DO ANY GODDAMN THING WE WANT!

THAT’S WHY WE’RE FEMME SHARKS!

FEMME IS NOT THE SAME THING AS BEING OUR MOMS

FEMMES ARE BEAUTIFUL AND STRONG WHEN WE BOTTOM AND WE’RE HOT AS HELL WHEN WE TOP OUR BOTTOMING AND TOPPING ARE BOTH GIFTS TO BE MET WITH RESPECT.

WHEN WE TAKE OUR LOVERS FIST ALL THE WAY INSIDE; ASK FOR WHAT WE WANT; BE THE BEST DIRTY GIRL; OR MAKE OUR LOVERS FLIP; WE’RE A FUCKING MIRACLE.

IN THE WORDS OF JILL SCOTT, “YOU GOTTA DO RIGHT BY ME. IT’S MANDATORY, BABY.”

FEMME SHARKS SHOP AT ROSS, FOXY LADY, VALUE VILLAGE, THE H&M $5 RACK, TORRID AND THE DOLLAR STORE , AND KNOW HOW TO SHOPLIFT

WE CONCOCT BRILLIANT STRATEGIES TO LOOK FINE ON TEN DOLLARS OR LESS.

WE’RE ONLY “INVISIBLE” IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO LOOK FOR US.

WE TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES ARE EACH OTHERS’ WEALTH

HOS BEFORE BROS, ALWAYS!

FEMME SOLIDARITY AND LOVE FOR EACH OTHER IS A REVOLUTIONARY FORCE

WE BELIEVE IN GIRLS LOVING GIRLS, RESPECTING EACH OTHER’S BRILLIANCE

NOT FIGHTING OVER BOIS OR BUTCHES

NOT TRYING TO BE THE ALPHA FEMME

WE’RE ANTI-DRAMA

BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF COMMUNITIES THAT HEAL HURT, APOLOGIZE, LISTEN TO EACH OTHER AND MAKE THINGS RIGHT.

WE BELIEVE IN BUILDING OUR QTPOC COMMUNITIES
STRONG FEMME SHARKS WERE THERE WHEN FRIDA KAHLO HOOKED UP WITH HER GIRLFRIENDS

WHEN JOAN NESTLE, CHRYSTOS, JEWELLE GOMEZ, ALEXIS DE VEUX, SYLVIA RIVERA, DOROTHY ALLISON, MINNIE BRUCE PRATT AND AMBER HOLLIBAUGH MADE QUEER FEMME HISTORY; WHEN ZAPATISTA WOMEN HOOKED UP; WHEN AFRICAN QUEERS RESIST EVERRY DAY; WHEN OUR GRANDMAS AND QUEER AUNTIES SNUCK OUT AT NIGHT DIDN’T GET MARRIED TIL LATE- OR AT ALL HAS A BEST GIRLFRIEND AND STOOD UP FOR HER FEMME SHARKS WERE THERE

FEMME SHARKS ARE IN THE BODIES OF COUNTLESS SEX WORKERS, NEIGHBORS AND LADIES WAITING FOR THE BUS AND IN THE LINEUP AT CENTURY 21.

AT RIIS BEACH, FUNKASIA, LOVERGIRL NYC, BUTTA, MANGO, MANHATTAN’S, DESILICIOUS.

FEMME SHARKS LIVE ON THE REZ, IN CAPETOWN, NEWARK, OAKLAND!!!!!, THE SOUTH SIDE, NEW ORLEANS, COLOMBO, JUAREZ AND BROOKLYN SUBURBIA, THE FARM, AND LITTLE SMALL TOWNS.

WE’RE IN FOSTER CARE, THE PSYCH WARD, JUVIE, AND ABOUT TO BE EVICTED.

WE ARE SURVIVORS WHO ARE MORE THAN WHAT WE SURVIVED.

WE ARE FIGURING OUT HOW TO HEAL AND HOW TO MAKE IT SO THAT NO ONE WILL HAVE TO SURVIVE SEXUAL VIOLENCE EVER AGAIN.

WE BELIEVE IN THE TOTAL DESTRUCTION OF THE SYSTEM AS WE KNOW IT TO MAKE SOMETHING MUCH MO BETTA AND WE BELIEVE IN MAKING OUR OWN WAYS TO FIGHT AND RESIST ON THE DAILY.

A FEMME SHARK IS ANY GIRL WHO IS TOUGH, HUNGRY, FIGHTS FOR HERSELF AND HER FAM AND IS WORKING ON BECOMING THE KIND OF GIRL WHO FINDS GOD IN HERSELF AND LOVES HER FIERCELY

WE’RE YOUR BEST GIRLFRIEND AND YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE

LOVE AND RAGE
THE FEMME SHARKS

*****
FEMME SHARKS ARE ON PATROL!
JOIN THE MOVEMENT!
SHARK SHARK IT UP!
FOR MORE INFORMATION, EMAIL: THEFEMMESHARKS@GMAIL.COM

Written by Founding Femme Shark Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

The Femme Sharks are an idea that was dreamed up by SBBFFF (Slutty Brown Best Femme Friends Forever) Zuleikha Mahmood and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha in March of 2008, Oakland, CA.

This work is shared under a Creative Commons license- feel free to share if you give credit where cred is due.”

Updates on a year without SWM authors.

At nearly half way through my year of reading only non straight white male able-bodied authors (otherwise known as SWM), it is likely time for an update.  Check the link in the first line to get the background info on my personal challenge if needed, because these reflections will make more sense in context I think.

Personal insights:

  • Finding works by people of color is much more difficult than works by women.  Hence I have been reading quite a bit by straight white women, which doesn’t entirely get at  my original point for the challenge.
  • Comic books/graphic novels by non-SWM are almost impossible to find when just browsing at the library.  This is the main source of my ‘cheating’ this year (poetry being the other).  However, I have come across several great lists of female comic comic creators, including a twoparter at Jezebel.
  • It’s kind of nice to have a filter for my library browsing, because it’s easy for me to get overexcited/overwhelmed by the sheer amount of reading that is out there.
  • Works by women written from a male point of view are unsettling to me in a way that works by men written from a female point of view rarely are.  I’m still deconstructing this particular response.

Publishing industry/philosophical insights:

  • The publishing industry not only publishes an incredibly skewed percentage of works by SWM, it is staffed and supported by the same individuals (and some SWW as well).  However, a few amazing projects are working very intentionally to subvert this, namely the St. Paul Almanac, a collection of works that are written and edited by St. Paul’s diverse community.
  • As I said in my first reflection on this challenge, books reviewed in mainstream publications are primarily by SWM.  I have since noticed that most lists in general (ie People Who Did ____ This Year) have a disproportionate number of SWM.  Generally when a list has a reasonable number of non-SWM it is specifically mentioned as being inclusive/women specific/people of color specific.

So what am I reading right now, you might ask?  I’m a bit over halfway through Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, stuck in the middle of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, and have The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang waiting in the wings.  As I said above I cheated a bit to check out a graphic novel called Fray by none other than Joss Whedon of Firefly fame because I couldn’t resist and still majorly bemoan the early ending of Firefly.

What are you reading?  How is it challenging (or not challenging) your worldview?

~Lauren

The many projects of a deep Minnesota winter.

Between the coldest 24 hours we’ve had since 1996, and enough snow already to fill a normal winter’s quota, there has been ample time for projects thus far this season.  I’m still out biking and walking and adventuring to be sure, but much of my time off as of late has been spent creating indoors.  Here’s what I’ve been up to.

Birds!  I have proclaimed my love for them countless times, and finally started making them out of beer and cereal boxes.  Seen here finished are chickadees, cardinals, white breasted nuthatches, and blue jays.  The tannish blobs on the top right will be cedar waxwings.  I’m planning to make little tags to hang off of each bird with the bird’s name on one side and some lovely quote about birds/flying/freedom on the other.  If anyone has suggestions, please do share.  Ultimately I’ll probably put one of each kind together in a mobile of some sort, and might make little ornaments from the rest to leave on strangers’ bikes.

At long last I am progressing on my t-shirt quilt that’s been in the works for years.  The adorable pouch on top with eyes is my sewing kit, a birthday present from Benjamin that originally held my bicycle spoke engagement ring.

Yesterday Benjamin and I embarked on a massive veggie chopping adventure to come up with this delicious veggie hash.  It has carrots, potatoes, squash, turnips, onions and hot peppers, along with thyme, salt and pepper.  So tasty (and healthy!) along with…

bread, which no one can ever have enough of.  This particular loaf is a bit of wheat and rye flour (though mostly white to help with rising) with sunflower and flax seeds.  I’ve done breads all over the board though- a favorite had garlic chunks and fresh thyme in it, and a staple is 1/3 cornmeal rather than white flour.  It is amazing to know precisely what is in my food.

It is amazing how quickly time passes while I’m painting/cooking/sewing, especially if I have a record on (lately it’s been Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Ravi Shankar, and Bruteheart) and can completely meditate on the project at hand.  Being a homesteader/artist full time would be absolutely amazing; I very much enjoy my jobs, but many of my moments of true contentment and joy come when I’m lost in a project.

~Lauren