Secret Santa Can Suck It 2014: ShellHawk

As usual, I’m late, but as usual, I’m having a blast picking out Secret Santa gifties for someone I don’t know that I don’t actually have to give! Over at Shadow Manor, the Caretaker organizes an annual “gift swap” that involves unlimited budgets and lots of images but no actual exchange. It’s perfect.

This year, I drew ShellHawk, a ceramicist extraordinaire. I only know about ceramics because I took a 101 course in college, so I know that “cone 10″ is a thing and that the stuff she creates is super hard to do. I was going to get her some ceramicky-stuff, but I’m kinda out of my depth, there, and she’s probably got most of what she needs already anyway. A little more digging revealed:

every time I read Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, I dream of becoming a baker (in addition to being a very special kind of heroine, who always does the right thing at the right time.), getting up early every morning and creating incredibly addicting confections for an adoring crowd of regulars. Hey, I like baking, so why not, right?

Well, now that I can help with!

She’ll start off with some Amish Friendship Bread starter because it’s the holidays and it’s the perfect, fool-proof baking, for beginners and veterans alike. It’s also the baking equivalent of a chain letter and I have so much of it, please let me give it to you, oh gods!


Next up is the real present: a full course of baking at America’s Test Kitchen’s Cooking School! She’ll cover classic breads, pies for the holidays, rockstar-grade desserts, even gluten-free baking (we all have/are that one friend, right?). She’ll start with the beginner courses and work her way up to advanced.

Of course, once she knows how to make incredible things (are you hungry yet? I am.), she’s gonna need professional-grade equipment. A Blodgett Zephaire oven should fit the bill quite nicely. After all, it’s smaller than most kilns and only has capacity for, like 22 loaves at once, so it’s nice and small for personal use. (If something is worth doing, it is worth overdoing, I always say.) Plus it’s on sale right now, so it’s perfect! And, of course, a full spate of Kimball-approved sundries, including half-baking sheets (that’s a thing?), parchment paper, springform pans, square baking dishes, and cake pans.

Finally, she will need only the highest-quality ingredients, so a year-long all-you-can-bake subscription to Azure Standard is in order. Bulk orders of organic flours, sugars, baking powders, sodas, fruits, and chocolate, delivered to a drop-off close to her direct from local farms.

As for “always do[ing] the right thing at the right time”, well, that will come with practice, but really good recipes usually give good advice about that—just take into account learning how your oven works.

Happy Holidays, ShellHawk! I hope you enjoy your gifts! I’d love to eat your delicious baking any time :)

P.S. and because I love these folks, since ShellHawk clearly likes mystery novels, I’m including a year of Poison Pen’s Mystery Book of the Month Club. They talk to you about what you like and they will send you a personalized selection, every month, for a year. Like Robin McKinley’s Sunshine? Well, they will turn that into a year of similar titles for you to enjoy. With a cup of tea, perhaps, and a freshly-baked good.

Documenting One Mormon’s Excommunication for Apostasy.


With Mormon excommunication threats in the news again, I want to share links to my own experience of excommunication for apostasy. Five years ago, when I received a letter very similar to the ones that John Dehlin and Kate Kelly received, I wrote that:

I feel compelled to document all of this, because I’m a writer, and I do believe in transparency. I also feel strongly that I’m part of a community of marginalized former believers. I feel less isolated because of my many blogging friends who left…feel some obligation to leave a record for others who are struggling now, or who may struggle similarly in the future.

And when I received my first hint of discipline:

Transparency and openness are fundamental values…This is one area where I will probably always butt heads with the LDS Church, because of the institution’s culture of secrecy and manipulation of information that has a profound impact on the lives of its members…I’m deeply indebted to others who have spoken candidly about their experiences and left a record online. Anything I can document becomes a part of the public record and a resource for dissenters and skeptics and others who are struggling and face church discipline.

These describe why I chose to attend and document my disciplinary council and to share it all online. The Church maintains much of its power through its lack of transparency and by branding its internal critics as apostates and the gravest of sinners. I don’t know how much help these accounts are, but putting these out there seems much better than staying silent. For what it’s worth, here’s my story:

What Do You Look Like in Heaven?

This is one of my fundamental problems with bodily resurrection (or even some kind of spiritual resurrection where you still look like yourself): what do you look like when you’re bodily resurrected or spiritually residing in heaven?

I only knew my grandmother when she was my grandmother: short, white hair, friendly hugs, matriarch…but when I attended her funeral, there was displayed (among other photos) her wedding photo: young, sexy, stunningly good looking, in her prime. When she got to heaven, which “her” got there?

There is a kind of camaraderie that is borne of the indignities of modern air travel and I have never been shy about sharing with strangers. As I helpfully pointed out some goodies at the restaurant in Tokyo (and steered the unsuspecting Americans away from umeboshi, to the extreme amusement of the Japanese woman in front of us), I realized that I’ve become “the lady” instead of “the young lady”. In high school, the bemused businessmen would say, “The young lady recommends…” but now, I’m just “the lady”.

This has been on my mind lately, because, although I notice that my flab is more evident than it was in college, I don’t feel like I look any different—no older, no wiser, no greyer…in my mind’s eye, I haven’t changed. For some reason, the bemused businessmen (and the young au pair) made me realize I’m older. But not in my mind.

Music Monday: I might just have to get back into this

I am a massive fan of Sweet Dreams remixes. The original is a darkly upbeat jam with lyrics that are pretty creepy, if you think about it. Of course, it’s a classic, and Annie Lennox’s shoes are not easy ones to fill. And speaking of classics, Marilyn Manson’s is a classic alt-version with a slower tempo that better matches the theme of the lyrics. (I’m surprised to learn that I’ve never Music Mondayed Manson’s version!)

So I am pleased to find a new version to share:

Secret Santa Can Suck It: KSena

This is one of my favorite times of year: the virtual gift-exchange that the Caretaker over at Shadowmanor organizes. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of how infrequently a blog…

The rules are simple: what would I give to my Secret Santa (wait, I’m the Secret Santa, my secret…naughty child…?) if I had endless time, money, and desire to do so.

This year, I got KSena. What I know we have in common is that we’re both readers of Shadowmanor, so I like her already! Continue reading


I’ve been thinking recently about the closets that we inhabit. Specifically with regard to my beliefs. I’m an atheist, a humanist, a pagan, awestruck by the majesty of mountains, the simple clarity of the moon, the taste of night on my tongue, the smell of winter…

And of course, some of these things are utterly contradictory. I heard recently, “We all have cognitive dissonance.” I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s definitely true for me. I am almost positive that no gods exist yet I feel Their presence. So, my closets are that, with my atheist friends, I’m a closeted polytheist; with my pagan friends, a closeted atheist.

Labels serve the purpose of shorthand—it’s easier to say “atheist” than to explain all the nuances of my disbelief…or belief. But they’re also closets we shut ourselves into; they can become cages, if we’re uncareful.

☯ I use that term, not to co-opt an LGBTQI term but to use a term we’re all familiar with. No offense is intended.

Narrative Techniques via Alt J’s “Breezeblocks”

In spite of the violent content of Alt J’s “Breezeblocks”, I’m intrigued by the storytelling techniques used in both the song and its video. The video starts with a killing, and by going in reverse slo-mo reveals the moments leading up to it. The percussive and rhythmic elements of the song build and release tension, and it’s sometimes whimsical tones (especially the xylophone) create dissonance with the dark lyrics, and perhaps reinforce the contrast with the narrator’s professed love and his desire to “eat her whole.”

I’m trying to figure out how to transfer these techniques into writing. What stories could be told more powerfully in reverse? (Memento comes to mind, but this is also a film). Can you effectively capture a sense of reversed time in the written form, especially when individual scenes typically move forwards in time? I’m also thinking about how we can use words and sentences to create contrasting textures and rhythms, to reinforce the building and releasing of tension in the stories we tell.

Warning: Both the video and the song are disturbing–the lyrics reveal a narrator who is unhinged and sociopathically obsessive, probably murderous. The video’s core theme is violence, primarily against women.

Some thoughts on “Patriot Day”


So, I’m struggling with the fact that today has been designated, and is commonly referred to, as “Patriot Day.” (most folks leave off the unwieldy “and National Day of Service and Remembrance”, which I think is far more appropriate.)

It seems most appropriate to remember and honor the victims of the 9/11 attacks today, and designating it “Patriot Day” co-opts their memory in service of a nationalism that many of them may or may not have supported.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a patriot is “A person who loves his or her country, esp. one who is ready to support its freedoms and rights and to defend it against enemies or detractors.”

There were nearly four hundred non-Americans who were probably not American patriots. And I would like to think that the courageous people who did risk their lives for others, including the many valiant emergency workers and first responders, did so because they were saving their fellow human beings, and did so regardless of the national origins of those they served.

9/11 happened in large part because people keep identifying primarily by their differences–as members of a nationality, a religion, an ethnicity–rather than by what we share–our common humanity.

Photo link:

Tribute in Light, 9/11/03

Music Monday: It’s Where You Keep the Rooster

Yesterday, the Bloggess posted this, which caused me to go here and read this.


Mary QoE June 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm
When I first heard the Three Dog Night Song, my girlfriend and I thought the lyrics were, “Eli’s coming in a cocksafe . . .” and we asked another kid, what’s a cocksafe, because we had NO idea (just that it must be really gross and how could they play a song like that on the radio, anyway). When the kid we asked stopped laughing we found out the lyrics were actually, “Eli’s coming and the cards say. . .”

Still. I cannot hear that song without thinking it says cocksafe.

Never having heard this song, I googled it and learned two things:

1. Three Dog Night is not a ’90s grunge band, as I previously thought.
2. This is an awesome song.

Unfortunately, I didn’t hear either “cocksafe” or “cards say” the first time through so I had to google the lyrics. And then I did gospel hands the rest of the day.

*too lazy, didn’t click

“I will not become my mother.”

One of the podcasts I listen to, Women on the Line ended with this poem recently. And I love everything about it.

Maxine Clark

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
A long way from home

When we say, “I don’t want to become my mother,”
that isn’t an invitation to laugh.
Thinking about your mother-in-law.
And maybe the way she talks too loud
Or repeats herself when she gets excited.

Or maybe you hate
that somehow
your children love her
more than they do you.
‘Cause usually men don’t understand
that to their child,
“that woman” is also their mother.
There is no distinction.

If you listen to us,
you would hear that when we say,
“I don’t want to become my mother,”
what we are really saying is
“I want to be like my mother never had the chance to be.”
Or maybe even,
“I want to be like my father never let her be
or even understood she was.”

Listen hard.

Because when we say,
“I will not become my mother,”
What we are really saying is,
“I will leave you
if you buy me a big, square house
in the ‘burbs
and especially if you present it to me
like we’re a match made in heaven.”

We are saying,
“Who are you?”
“Do you even know who I am?!”

What we are really saying is,
“As bad a mother as you may think I am for it,
my children
are just my children.
And not my dreams.”

I would’ve been about seven
the first time I saw my mother on stage.
It took me seven years to realize who she was.

When I say, “I will not become my mother,”
What I am really saying is,

“I am my mother’s dreams.
I can’t afford to fail.”

She was our mother,
I loved that, but damn,
this woman!
she could’ve really been something.

When I say, “I will not become my mother,”
What I am saying is,
“I am going to be.
I will be.
I am.
What my mother was.
Before the world and his dog told that girl to stop.”

And I am saying,
“If you love me,
then when I say,
‘I will not become my mother,’
and be frickin’ smart about it.”

It’s from this episode (iTunes link; poem at 25:40) and I copied it while listening to it, so apologies to Maxine Clark if the punctuation or line breaks are all kinds of wrong.

[Belated] Secret Santa Can Suck It: Selfish Santa

The best part of the countdown to the War on Christmas each year is, in my estimation, Secret Santa Can Suck It, organized by the Caretaker over at Shadow Manor. It’s a virtual gift swap which means that money is no object—one is only limited by one’s imagination. And possibly by how well one knows (or doesn’t know) the recipient.

This year I was super excited because I drew the Caretaker herself! (She had me one year and I got a Cthulhu makeover, eeeeee!) I immediately began scheming about what I was going to get her. Muahaha. Continue reading

Music Monday: All You Have to Do is Dance!

[All linked YouTube clips have NSFW audio.]

I have just discovered Macklemore, an extremely irreverent musician who walks the line between hiphop and nerdcore. (I recently tweeted his Thrift Shop, which is simultaneously Ke$ha’s fashion anthem, my approach to steampunk, and an indictment of corporate fashion culture. So…yeah.) I think what I love most about his stuff is that he’s having so much fun!!!, which makes it so much fun to listen to.

[Aside that will be relevant to readers of MoF: Macklemore did an amazing piece called Same Love in advance of the vote on Referendum 74, which eventually legalized marriage equality in the State of Washington. It’s a beautiful song: I cried.]

But this song is currently my favorite.
Continue reading