Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bon Braper

I dedicate this post to the gracious folks at Netflix, who, despite a huge increase in their prices come September, have recently decided to make Mad Men available via Instant Streaming. I just hope Netflix never finds out how much they could really charge me for unlimited, instant-viewing of Jon Hamm...
Ian and I were big fans of the TV show Lost.

That’s a understatement.  We loved that show so much that we bought all six seasons on DVD; I got a Lost themed birthday cake last year; and we even invented our own Fantasy Lost game with a few friends for the final season where we drafted characters and assigned them points per episode.  We tearfully said goodbye to the Island in May 2010, but we still get goosebumps whenever we hear that Fray song used to promote Season 5. Even today I may sock you in the jaw if you tell me that "The Constant" is not the single best episode of television ever.  But I think we’re closing in on the fifth Kubler-Ross stage of grief, acceptance, because we’ve finally discovered a more-than-satisfying rebound:  Mad Men.

We ordered the first season on Netflix a month ago, and now we’re so infatuated with Mad Men that seeing the red square DVD envelope in our mailbox feels just like Christmas morning. As much as I like the storytelling, I enjoy the aesthetic of the 1960s the most: the colorful angualrity of the Sterling-Cooper office, the skinny black ties, the curve-hugging dresses, and Don Draper, the main character played by Jon Hamm.  Just typing his name makes me blush.

Ian likes the show, too, but Don annoys him. He agrees with me that Mr. Draper is a fine specimen of the male human form, but he gets frustrated by the general ennui and unhappiness that pervades most of the characters on the show.  Not able to empathize with those feelings, Ian decided to invent his own Mad Men character, Bon Braper:  

“Don Draper drinks bourbon and cognac; Bon Braper drinks Mountain Dew and Icees.  Don Draper sleeps around with lots of ladies to fill some kind of emotional void; Bon Braper stays home and watches Real Housewives of New York with his wife.  Don Draper watches brooding French movies in black and white; Bon Braper watches Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 3-D.”

Best of all, Ian established a more upbeat alternative theme song for the show.  He has always been good at identifying musical themes - he even knew the melodies for each of the characters in Lost.  So whenever Mad Men gets too emotionally heavy for Ian’s tastes, he sings his Bon Braper theme. I'm sure you'll recognize it. It's the musical opposite of the Mad Men intro song -
just click the links below and listen to the first few notes of each song.

The actual Mad Men Intro:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mexican Pasta

A friend of mine brought over a Mexican pasta dish when we got together to watch the Bulls playoffs in late May.  It tasted great and provided some epicurean comfort during an otherwise anxiety-ridden event.  The Bulls lost to the Heat, and I mourned for Ian.  Honestly, though, I don’t care for basketball, which is mildly sacrilegious as a native Hoosier.  So I quietly celebrated the end of the season by looking up a recipe for Mexican pasta online. I’ve been tinkering with it ever since, and now it’s one of my go-to dishes.  It’s vegetarian (vegan if you nix the cheese), healthy, filling, and simple to make.  You can customize it easily by adding olives or jalapenos, etc.  I just made a big batch of it on Sunday, and took the picture above.

Mexican Pasta
1 pound of whole wheat rotini or seashell pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can sweet corn kernels
1 can black beans, drained
1 can peeled and diced tomatoes
1/4 cup salsa
1 package of taco seasoning mix to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheese & hot sauce (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onions and pepper in oil until lightly browned, 10 minutes. Stir in corn and heat through. Stir in black beans, tomatoes, salsa, taco seasoning and salt and pepper and cook until thoroughly heated, 5 minutes.
3. Toss sauce with cooked pasta and serve.

I suggest topping it with cheese (or Daiya if you’re dairy sensitive) and hot sauce.  If you live in central Indiana, I recommend Local Folks Foods Smoked Red.  Store the rest in the fridge to re-heat later, and enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Carnivore That Turned Me Into a Vegetarian

*I saw a T-shirt at the Indiana State Fair last year that said: "Vegetarian - Ancient trial slang for the village idiot who can't hunt." It offended me even though I'm pretty sure I had a pork burger in my hand at the time.  A few months later in Chicago, I encountered a vegetarian activist outside the El handing out brochures with photos of abused animals in factory farms. Way to cheer me up after a long day at work. But I know you and I aren't like those folks, right? We won't judge eat other for our personal food choices. So I hope you enjoy this post as just another one of my life stories...

When I wake up every morning, I adjust my blanket and reposition my floppy arms before slowly opening my sleepy eyes to see this:

That’s my dog, Teddy, giving me his “Good morning, time for breakfast!” stare.  He’s a 10-month-old, 105 pound Newfoundland puppy with a personality as cozy and huggable as his fluffy body.  And he wants me to let you know that he would love to meet you.

If he wasn’t a dog, his morning stare would creep me out.  It did initially: the first time he woke me up this way I found it so jarring that I jerked my head back onto Ian’s pillow because his huge head was only six inches away from my face.  Even today I never know if he’s been there for two minutes or two hours.

But now I look forward to seeing my Teddy Bear’s face first thing; it’s just a daily reminder of his immortal cuteness.  And, as a recovering omnivore, his stare reminds every morning me why I finally chose Vegetarianism in April 2011.

Before then, I had always called myself an “aspirational vegetarian.”  I had read lots of articles on the health benefits of plant-based diets and seen several documentaries on the ethical and environmental implications of the meat industry and had even gone through a few day/week-long stints of meatlessness since college.  But I shoved all that info behind my conscience whenever I stared at the delicious mushroom-swiss burger on Chili’s menu or smelled bacon crisping in the frying pan.  There’s no denying it: meat is tasty.

We adopted Teddy in December 2010, and four months later we saw Food, Inc.
 All I’m going to say is that if you eat food in America, you should see this movie.  I don’t remember many of the facts or persuasive arguments in the film, but I remember seeing the image of a black cow standing in a stockyard.

Then I looked down at Teddy who was also watching the movie (he likes TV), and he looked back at me and smiled. That was it.  They looked too much alike.  I knew I’d no longer be able to eat a hamburger without seeing Teddy’s face in it.  So I’ve been a vegetarian for four months now.  I realize that doesn’t sound like much time, but it’s significant to me because I know it’s the real thing.  Having failed before, I know what it feels like to know you’re going to give up, and I don’t feel like that anymore.

So Teddy is the carnivore that finally made me a vegetarian.  Even though he eats meat and has his own environmental impact, he’s helping me improve my own ecological footprint, and he’s converted me in the most significant way.  You see, as much as I care about the environmental consequences of meat production, I couldn’t stop eating meat because it pollutes our water and deforests our land.  I stopped eating animals because I started loving one, and I can’t eat something I could love.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

(Saving) Green Is The New Black

I recently discovered the fashion blog What I Wore after seeing the author on the local news a few weeks ago.  Jessica Quirk is a down-to-earth fashionista that posts pictures of her daily outfits for us all to enjoy.  Fair warning before you click that link: the cuteness and creativity of her ensembles are completely addictive.  I now check her blog every day.

A week after I discovered What I Wore I found myself in a hormone-induced cranky mood, so I immediately wrote myself a prescription for some retail therapy.  And I don’t just mean I wanted a little shopping trip to pick up a new blouse.  No, no.  I wanted one of those trips where you take so many clothes to the dressing room that you’re sure the attendant will think you’ve lost all your possessions in a house-fire, and you eventually come home with a panoply of colored bags in your hands, those little twisty paper handles digging into the pads of your fingers, and you’re just hoping you didn’t leave anything in that last store’s dressing room.  I wanted to do some proper shopping.

I came back two hours later with five dresses, four tank tops, a blazer, and two nightgowns.  Mission freaking accomplished.

Here are a few of my purchases:

When I walked in with my haul and newly jubilant attitude, I told Ian what I bought. A look of laughter and horror crossed his face: “Wait, you bought how much?!”  But I dropped a fact bomb on him that left him smiling:  I got all TWELVE pieces of clothing for $52.  

That’s right, I shopped at Goodwill.  

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical driving over there.  My steering wheel resisted the turn away from the direction of the mall, its stubbornness reminding me that I’ve only ever shopped at Goodwill for Halloween costumes and school projects.  I know, steering wheel, but you haven't seen the outfits on What I Wore.  So many of her staple pieces come from vintage boutiques and secondhand stores.  My closet might be full of Banana Republic and Ann Taylor right now, but let’s just give this a shot, okay?  So I grabbed the wheel and yanked a hard left into the parking lot of Goodwill.  I walked in expecting to see stains and missing hems and all the good clothes picked over by the more fashion-savvy in the same way antiques appraisers always take the good stuff from garage and estate sales.  

I saw a few stains (a rust-colored one on the most beautiful A-line, red-hemmed skirt - sigh), but mostly I saw stylish clothes for less than I would spend on a Chipotle burrito. That denim shirt dress I saw at Macy’s for $90?  There’s one for $5 sandwiched between a muumuu and a Mennonite skirt.  The khaki linen blazer perfect for summer? $6 - I just need to take the shoulder pads out.  Candy-striped Holllister tanktop? $2.   Color me shocked.  Going into the dressing room I had more clothes hanging over my arm than a Victorian laundress.  Even the high school girl who checked me out regretted not having snatched some of the items I found.  

I’m totally in love with my new/old clothes; they’re all I packed on our anniversary trip last weekend.  And I’m even more in love with all the dollar bills leftover in my wallet, not to mention the environmental and economic impacts of my thrift store purchases.  Buying recycled clothes prevents them from being thrown into landfills or being exported abroad.  Plus many thrift stores are charities, too, and Goodwill supports job training and placement programs.  

So many thanks to What I Wore and to Goodwill for styling me up for the rest of the summer.  Cute clothes that support a good cause; what more could a girl ask for?  Just a new purse to hold all the money I’m saving.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Memory Journal: Food Revolution

British Chef Jamie Oliver may be trying to create a “Food Revolution,” but his efforts pale in comparison to those of my parents in the 1970s.  They graduated from college in 1973, moved to Indiana and stopped eating sugar after reading a book called Sugar Blues. And I don’t mean they stopped eating Twizzlers.  They eliminated all forms of sugar, including white flour.  No Coke, no cookies, and whole wheat pancakes only.  Like any good gateway drug, the no-sugar diet also led them to eliminate meat from their diet.  They made all of their meals from scratch and maintained a huge garden, and they even canned the leftover produce.  They maintained this lifestyle of sugarless vegetarianism for EIGHT years.  Chalk it up to the revolutionary spirit of the times I guess.
Then us kids came along and messed everything up.  My dad was walking on the New Jersey boardwalk in 1982 with my then-four-year-old older sister who wanted ice cream.  He bought a cone for her and nervously ordered one for himself.  He hadn’t had any form of sugar for nearly a decade and worried that it might cause a bathroom emergency.
Fortunately for him and the patrons of the Wildwood Boardwalk, nothing happened.
It all devolved from there.  My mom now makes some of the best brownies in the world and my Dad recently ate some monstrosity of a hamburger as a food challenge at a local restaurant for Father’s Day.  He had his picture taken with his empty plate and signed it with a silver pen before the waitress hung it on the wall of fame.  ‘Twas a proud day for our family.
So my parents are no longer sugarless vegetarians, but they reminisce excitedly about those days. Once I became meatlessly-inclined a few years ago, my parents dusted off their recipes from the '70s and made me one of their famous nut burgers.  It tasted like I was cannibalizing the Planters Peanut Man.
They've redeemed themselves since that incident. Like the kids who discover their dad is Peter Pan in Hook, I've discovered the hidden talents of my parents aI've developed a new interest in local, sustainable, and healthy food. We re-birthed the garden together this past May, as I detailed in my last post, and we have tentative plans to make our own bread and to can our leftover veggies from the garden.
So I'm happily on board for gardening, vegetarianism, and from-scratch cooking; but giving up sugar...that's just crazy, right?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Prayer Garden

In the spirit of Dr. McCoy in Star Trek, I’m a housewife, not a gardener.  At least not yet.  I do have a vegetable garden, but it’s in my parents’ backyard and they do most of the work.  Combine my lack of gardening knowledge with my excitement about the final Harry Potter movie (which was awesome - and yes, I wore my Gryffindor scarf), and I’ve really been struggling with this post.  But I want to write about our garden because I love it, and I think that our 3 little leafy patches of soil are good for our family and maybe even the world.

This season I’m just happy to observe and learn from my parents who have thumbs as green as that wall in Fenway Ballpark.  They were hardcore gardeners in the 1970s, and their crazed devotion to health food merits its own story in the next post.  Stay tuned.

I may not be its #1 caretaker, but the garden was my idea.  I’d been getting irrationally annoyed at the wax they put on tomatoes at the grocery store, and buying lettuce in plastic bags just rubs me the wrong way.  Like individually wrapped candies, it just seems wasteful.  Plus maybe I could get Michelle Obama’s toned arms from pulling weeds.  She planted a garden at the White House after all, and even though we have very different levels of arm firmness, The First Lady and I are both familiar with the physical and emotional benefits of gardening:

  • Lowers food costs  
  • Reduces the use of pesticides
  • Reduces my food miles
  • Improves nutrition for my family
  • Improves food security for the nation
  • Reduces stress
  • Rewards patience
  • Deepens relationship with nature
  • It’s a good source of fresh air and mild form of exercise
  • It looks pretty.

So we planned to till the garden in late April or early May, but then the rain started.  It didn’t stop.  Basement sump pumps were so overworked they probably unionized behind our backs; Tornado sirens blared “Welcome back to Indiana” in mid-May; and Teddy had to go the vet after drinking out of a puddle of standing water.  Thanks a lot Mother Nature.

But we did it.  We dug through soil as thick as fudge and built three raised bed plots.  Building just one of them took us as long as it took Dan Wheldon (I mean JR Hildebrand) to win the Indy 500.  We planted onions, beans, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, lettuce and more.  And they’ve been growing.  Perhaps too well:  I found a deceptively cute bunny munching on one of our pepper plants.  It even had the gusto to stare sideways through the fence at me 15 minutes later, lusting after the carrots.  I have a renewed empathy for Mr. McGregor.  Peter Rabbit is a thief.

But here’s the thing, while growing plants is a challenge, gardening is a joy.  

I recently learned on a trip to a restored Shaker village in Kentucky that the Shakers believed that their work was an expression of prayer.  It didn’t matter if it took them two days or two months to built a chair or till the fields, the time they spent in pursuit of their craft was a meditation to God.

Deep, I know. But I totally get it.  Despite the late planting, the fudgey soil, the worries over rain or drought, the endless weeds and furry thieves, my garden is a haven. A leafy cathedral where prayers are made of sweat and laughter, where we improve ourselves and the world with each weed plucked.  So we head to the Backyard. My dad turns on the hose for me to water the plants, and I see the green tomatoes teasing me with red specks, the bright yellow squash peeking out from under its huge green tent, and the lettuce’s chubby leaves sitting in the dark soil.  And I see my mom picking tart blueberries from that stubborn plant, and Teddy stretching his legs on the grass while Ian shoots half-inflated basketballs into a hoop.
We wait for the harvest, but in a way it’s already here.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I often tell my husband that he’s the better spouse.  He takes the trash out, gets me endless cups of ice water, and doesn’t get cranky like I do sometimes. He even said what I now consider to be the sexiest words one spouse can say to the other: “You can leave your job if you want.”  Hot.
He’s better, and I let him know.  But between you and me, I really think Ian is the best spouse in the whole world.
Reason numero uno is that - and I know it’s cliche - he makes me laugh.  Admittedly, I’m no Buckingham Palace guard; I laugh easily.  In fact, Ian first remembers me as the only person laughing at a horrible stand-up comedian in college that looked vaguely like Roy from that one episode of The Simpsons: “At least Anne thinks he’s funny.”  I didn’t really; I felt bad for him.
But the laughter has always been genuine with Ian.  On the drive to our first date at Bennigan’s (rest in peace), he did an impression of John Kerry that was spot on.  And just now between that last sentence and this one, he called me over to show me an online clip of Stephen Colbert calling Rupert Murdoch an “Illuminati Dark Lord.”   As always, Ian crinkled up his nose in gleeful satisfaction that we both thought it was funny.
I like to laugh, and Ian likes to make me laugh: it’s the perfect symbiosis.  So I decided to start writing down some of the funny little things Ian says - I call them “Ianisms." Some of his sayings were intentionally funny; some were not.  Either way, he’s happy I’m sharing these with you, and he crinkled his nose when I read them to him.
  • Complimenting me on my jewelry today: “Your necklace could be a horcrux.” (We just saw the final Harry Potter movie 12 hours ago.)
  • Confused in March: “I don’t know what day St. Patrick’s Day is; I’m not Irish.”
  • On his dislike for thong sandals: “It feels like someone’s raping my big toe.”
  • A serious thought on a road trip: “Why aren’t scientists working on teleportation?”
  • Relating our two worlds: “Jill Zarin is like the Miami Heat of the Real Housewives.  Everyone hates her."
  • Concerned that Indiana will no longer teach cursive in schools:  “So will those kids not know how to sign their names?"
  • On my love for Chipotle: “One day I’m going to walk in and find that you’ve transformed into a veggie burrito bowl... and you’ll be eating yourself."
  • Seeing a nice sports car: “That Lamborghini would be a Decepticon.  It looks evil.”
  • And the most famous Ianism of all, on refusing a restaurant’s menu choice: “I can’t eat all-you-can-eat.”
I'm sure it's pretty obvious by this post that I think my hubby is the bee's knees. Believing in the uniqueness of your partner is, in my view, an important part of a healthy relationship.  We should all think our spouses are the best there ever was and ever will be... But Ian really is the best.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Memory Journal

If blogging had been around in the 1930s, my tech-savvy grandmother-in-law would have been all over it.  We’d be able to go to her blog today and trace her life through her posts. It'd be the online equivalent of finding a dusty collection of journals in the attic. Too bad Al Gore didn't invent the internet until much later.

Fortunately for us, Ian’s Grandma participates in an online project called Elder Storytelling where she and other folks in their golden years share stories from their lives.  It’s like retrospective blogging, and it’s really fun. You should check it out here.

Reading her stories got me wondering: if we’re the grandparents of tomorrow, won’t we have a pretty extensive digital legacy for our grandkids to look back on and learn about our lives?   I know it’s hard to predict when technologies will be replaced with new ones, but I think it’s safe to say that the Internet will be around for a long time.  So won’t our facebook pages, our web albums, and our blogs be around for everyone to see...maybe forever?
I started this blog - and the Dinnertime Stories chapter in particular - to tell my own stories and create my own digital legacy to share with you and perhaps my successors.  (Shout out to any great-great-great-grandkids reading this in the 23rd century!)  I can only hope that our future robot overlords will keep my pretty wallpaper and curly font on this blog when they archive it. For now, I'm happy it's just you and me here... 

To start off my Memory Journal, let me share my first two memories with you.   

  • This one’s sad.  I must not be older than three years old, and I’m at my dad’s Uncle's funeral.  I have something in my mouth - maybe a pacifier - and my Polkadot Blankie dangling heavily over my shoulder.  I’m standing in front of a large dark box, the smooth wood just above my eye level.  I’m too short to see inside it, but I look up and over my left shoulder see the grown-ups behind me crying. Adults crying is new to me.  I don’t understand why they’re sad. 
  • Onto the happy one.  I’m in the bathtub upstairs.  My parents just bought me the most beautiful purple innertube for me to play with at the pool.  It’s shaped like a dragon, and Daddy has inflated it to life.  Maybe the weather is too cold or it’s not even summer yet, but I can’t wait to take it the pool, so I swim with it in the bathtub.  Just me and the inflatable plastic dragon wrapped around my tummy, both of us splashing back and forth between the gray bath tiles.  My parents stand by the mirror, arms around each other waists, smiling at me playing in the water.  

I’ve heard that the older the memory, the more likely you are to see the experience as an observer, as if you’re floating above the scene.  For these two, I still see them from my own eyes.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vegan Ranger Cookies

(Recipe Below)

My dog inspired me to get tested for Celiac’s Disease a few weeks ago.  Teddy and I both have sensitive stomachs, and I’ve been stressing myself out trying to find him food that won’t upset his tummy. I realized that I should probably worry about my own digestive difficulties as much as I worry about his, so I scheduled the appointment for a blood test and mentally prepared myself to spend $9 on a bag of gluten-free bagels at Whole Foods.  

Oddly enough, I was kinda hoping I’d have a gluten allergy, for at least two reasons:
A. So I have a medical excuse to eat at my favorite place, Chipotle, which is very Celiac friendly.
B. So I could stop carrying Pepto in my bag all the time.  I’d prefer a diagnosis to a mystery.  

The test came back negative.  I don’t have an outright allergy, but I realize that I may still have a gluten sensitivity.  (I’ve been considering going gluten-free for a trial period, which I would of course share with you here.)

So, Gluten sensitivity = ?

Dairy sensitivity = absolutely. (FYI: Folks with Celiac’s Disease are often lactose intolerant - hence, the test.)

Yep, I’m super dairy sensitive, and I have been for at least 5 years.  My nose gets so stuffy after I eat cheese that I have to breathe through my mouth.  Weird, I know.  So the past few years, I’ve been experimenting with vegan baking.  

Anyone who’s baked with vegan butter and/or egg replacer may have chipped a tooth biting into a rock-hard vegan cookie.  Getting a butter-free, egg-free cookie to be moist is difficult, but I’ve successfully adapted a few cookie recipes and am including one below, which has oatmeal and coconut to hold in the moisture.  

Even if you’re not dairy-sensitive like me, remember that vegan options are usually better for your health and the environment. And I can personally attest to the triumphant feeling of accomplishment that comes after baking a no-butter, no-egg cookie that tastes good.  Your friends will be impressed!

Ranger Cookies
*Adapted from a recipe in Better Homes & Gardens

1/2 cup vegan margarine, softened (I use Earth Balance Soy Free)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg-equivalent of Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats (I use Quaker Oats)
1 cup flaked coconut (I use the sweetened kind)
1 cup chocolate chips (You can also use raisins, dried cherries, or other dried fruit.)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl mix the vegan margarine rapidly for 30 seconds.  Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.  Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg replacer and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour, the oats, coconut, and chocolate chips.
2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden and centers are set.  Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet.  Transfer to a wire wrack and let cool.

For additional vegan baking recipes, check out Chef Chloe’s website.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Squat Pen Rests

"The squat pen rests"

Those are the most popular words in the most popular poem of a popular - and decorated - contemporary Irish poet.

I first read Seamus Heaney's poem, Digging, in a British and Irish poetry class in college, which I took to fulfill my literature requirement mainly because I thought that a poetry class would have a light reading load.  (It did.)  Lucky me, I liked the class.  So much so that **Nerd Alert** I even got misty-eyed reading Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas.  

Digging didn't make me cry, but love rarely should, and I do love this poem, as evidenced by my musings about it here seven years later.  In fact, I almost named this blog The Squat Pan Rests because it so strongly resonates with me and my decision to become a housewife.  Above all, Digging is a universal anthem to do-what-you-love that touches on our insecurities about the choices we make and ultimately celebrates the determination to persevere in the face of doubt.

Born into an Irish farming family in 1939, Seamus Heaney left his agricultural roots in Northern Ireland to become a poet and one of the most celebrated writers of the 20th century.  He even has his face on an Irish stamp.

My face is only on Facebook, and my biggest professional accomplishment of late was getting a sauce stain out of polo shirt.  

But my decision to become a housewife mirrors Heaney's decision to become a poet.  He may be famous now, but Digging reflects a simpler time when Seamus was just a young man choosing poetry over farming and struggling against the weight of predetermination to choose a new life for himself. It is a poignant tale of the poet's family roots and his reverent determination to change courses.  I recognize his emotions and sympathize with his insecurities - the what-if's and what-will-my-family-think's that infuse specks of uncertainty into an otherwise solid decision.  Heaney now has the benefit of retrospection and public accolade to assuage his insecurities.  But right now it's just me and my hopes that I'm doing the right thing.  

Fighting against those hopes are the struggles and accomplishments of previous generations that most often infuse my mind with doubt.  Sometimes being a homemaker feels like I'm standing in front of Susan B. Anthony telling her why I'm not going to vote in the next election. But like the poet, who has great reverence for his forefathers' accomplishments farming the land - and perhaps a slight melancholy at not wanting to follow their path - so do I have the deepest admiration for the trailblazers before me.  The Rosie-the-Riveters, the Peggy Olsons, the Working Girls, "But I've no spade to follow men like them".  I'm choosing something else.

Thank you, Mr. Heaney, for reminding me that the right choice is the one you pursue with confidence. 

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it