30 June 2009


I got to have dinner the other night with my aunt, my uncle, and this guy.

We talked about a broad variety of subjects including religion, porn, socks, wealth, revenge, and of course, the state of journalism today.

It made me think, what do more of people my own age think about the state of journalism? Do most of us think about it? I believe that if tomorrow all newspapers disappeared, most of us would feel it. We'd miss the touch of newspapers, the physicality of the information and images. I can't argue against the power and scope of news on the internet, but I think we've arrived at a disconnect between us getting our information and actually appreciating where it comes from.
Reporting - actual journalism, people - takes time and *money*... Until the last decade plus, the sale of newspapers and advertising fed that need. But now, since everything is a click away and they stopped making us pay for it, they are quickly going out of business.

So what do we do? I know I've thought a lot about it, and I know there are smarter and more powerful people thinking about it and actually trying to do something. Inevitably newspapers as we know them cannot last. I really really really hope they can figure something out though so I can still sit with a paper on my lap as I sip coffee. That is one of my true pleasures. In fact as I flipped through the New York Times this morning I actually got excited to spend some quality time with it later because every single cover story was one I wanted to finish. It's going to be a treat sometime later in the day.

Every day as I acknowledge how much smaller the paper has gotten I send out a silent wish. "Please save yourselves, newspaper people. We'll pay as soon as you start making us. Love, Caitlin."

29 June 2009

Djibouti Independence Day!

I turned another year older a couple days ago, and I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend. I started 28 on a wave of love and joy, filled with intense gratitude and wondering how the hell I got so lucky.

I did the farmers market on Saturday morning, and some farmers and chefs started the day of well by giving me arugula, basil, tomatoes, pizza dough, and fresh mozzarella to enjoy for my birthday.
Friends arrived to the farm mid afternoon and we played in the pool with drinks and music for the rest of the day. (Lesson - if you want to get people to get to know each other quickly, throw them in swimsuits on a hot day with lots of beer and music, and make sure a few of them are from the midwest [more on that later]. Inevitable friends.)

Aunt and Uncle spearheaded dinner, which started with brick oven pizzas (with fresh eggs on top), cheeeeeeeese, and favas, had roasted chickens and veggies from the markets in the middle, and ended with a smorgasbord of desserts including lemon bars, some ridiculous pie bars, cookies, and s'mores cupcakes. Uncle started the dinner almost making me cry by toasting me with a 1981 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (I know that because I now have the bottle sitting right next to me on my desk. It looks important.)

Then I opened up some presents (Presents!!!) that were lovely, including a shoe necklace from the Met in NYC, a series of singing lessons (singing lessons!!! And I thought Auntie wasn't paying attention to me in the car...), pretty smelling things, books, lottery tickets, and a handmade card.

I got to listen to a few amazing save-worthy voicemails, including a birthday-version of "You are My Sunshine." The night ended with me so full, so happy, and so so grateful. I woke up to a hot gorgeous day, a run, coffee, goodies, brunch, and the Sunday paper with some lovelies. It's gonna be really hard to top 28, and that's a really good place to be.

Some moments...

"Making Mom's Proud Since 1980"

Num Nums

More Num Nums

Aftermath... (This was after a bunch of clean-up)

I woke up to Lilly's adorable feet. It was 7am Sunday morning and I woke up with "Push It" in my head, giggled and tried in vain to wake anybody else up, and took this picture instead.

26 June 2009

Secret III

There is somebody in my life that I would probably say "yes" to if they asked me today to marry them. We've never dated.

25 June 2009

The Laundry Is Damp

My hilarious friend just started a blog dedicated to first date stories:

I met her in a bathtub our sophomore year in high school, and up until just before that had thought she was a student teacher who liked to talk to the cute boys in our school. She went pee, I found us a joint, and the rest is history.

Reading her blog came at a great time for me as I am in a moment of thinking of Relationships and Dating and just the circus of it all. In fact last night as I was feeling really alone I realized I should write a book entitled, "Everything You Need To Know About Long Distance Relationships (Or Why Long Distance Relationships are almost always a Bad Idea.)"

Another alternative title could be "Why The Hell Do I Keep Making The Same Mistake" but I digress. I did choose to live in a dead-zone (not my words) for dating, so I guess I have to deal with the consequences. Which appear to be habitually getting emotionally involved with men that live more than 500 miles away, biting my fingernails, and wearing out batteries.

24 June 2009

Once in a while, every little negative thing blends together and builds up and becomes almost unbearable. And then I come home and I see his sweatshirt, or I hear a certain song, or see a photo, and I realize it's not the little things. It's just me missing him. It's my terror of accepting he's gone, it's my fury and rage at how he left, and my frustration at not being able to ask him one more question. Maybe two. It's my fear of the years that come without him. It's the emptiness of what should have been for him and for our family. It's the sadness of missing him. It's just me missing him.

Here Piggy Piggy

It is remarkable how quickly Pig turns into Pork.

Here on the farm my aunt and uncle raise pigs for food. These pigs are some of the happiest critters I've ever seen, snorting around in a nice-sized pen under a big old tree in the shade, surrounded by some woods, some chicken houses, and some olive grove. When they're not munching on pig feed, they're eating people food scraps (especially in the late summer/early fall when all the fruit comes in and we are constantly picking, peeling, coring, seeding... they get all those leftovers.)

About twice a year, or every nine months or so, my aunt and uncle hire an itinerant butcher to come and butcher the pigs. This is a guy who drives around the county in a truck that is basically a remote butcher shop. It's really a wonder to see. I'd watched this process once before about a year and a half ago, when he did three pigs and he was there maybe two hours. We're talking 3 animals that all weighed in the neighborhood of 300 pounds. This most recent time, a few weeks ago, there were two pigs to kill, a 350 pounder guy and a 400 pounder. This is a lot of pig.

One of my aunts best friends was there, and a couple guys with her who are chefs at her restaurants in the city. I met them at the top of the hill right around 9am, at which point JT the butcher had already been there for a while and was all set up.

JT goes in the pen with his big gun, and generally kills the pig with one swift shot to the brain. (In this case, the bigger 400-pound pig took two shots. JT said the first one probably just gave him a big headache.) Surprisingly, this does not seem to cause the other pig or pigs left in the pen much concern. In fact, the next step is slitting the throat of the pig to drain the blood, and when done in the pen as he usually does, the pigs scurry to eat up what comes out. That was probably the most unsettling step the first time I watched.

After the pig, which momentarily will be pork, is shot and bled, it is hooked up to a chain to drag it over to the "butcher shop". It rests in a tub with scalding water in order to get the hair off. (I think what happens is it softens up the bristles enough to basically be scraped off.) JT has long rubber gloves on which he fills with cold water from the hose in order to keep the temperature on his skin down as he's working with the pig in the hot water.

The pig is then laid on a rack for the rest of the hair removal and cleaning. At this point, there's really no confusing pork for pig. When the rest of the hair has been scraped and the nails popped off, the pig is hung up side down to be cleaned out and split up. He starts by cutting out the genitals etc, and that all goes into a waste bucket. Then he slices down the middle enough so that the innards that will fall out do (the intestines, bladder, stomach), he catches those and sets them aside. He removes all the organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidney) and when he gets down to the head he pops out what is an extremely tiny brain. (Well, at that point, it's two pieces of a tiny brain.)

Throughout this process he's hosing down the pig, and the insides really look like a whole lot of clean meat. When the insides are empty, he uses what is basically a big cleaver with a long handle to completely split the pig into two pieces. Each half of the pig is hanging from a hook, which than slides to the back of the truck which is basically a big cooler.

The pig goes in the truck to an actual butcher where they will separate it into ham, bacon, stomach, loin, etc etc. My aunt's friend and her chefs took the bigger one and used every last bit, but the smaller (350 lb) one will be here at the farm stored in whatever fridge space we can find and it will take us a good year plus to go through it (this includes hosting many, many guests over the course of the year that will mostly be served pork.)

I like to understand where my food comes from. I am fortunate to live in a place where I get to watch the production of food from very beginning to very end, and as a result I have such an appreciation for what I eat. It is an incredible process, particularly in this transformation of animal to meat, and it is a privilege to witness it particularly in place that is clean an respectful of
the animal and the food they become. Not to mention - the pork is delicious.

22 June 2009

Once Bitten

Trust is such a fickle thing.

What can I possibly write about trust that hasn't been written? The question of whether you DO or DON'T trust somebody is one we've all asked ourselves countless times.

What I struggle with is whether it's possible to trust someone once it's been broken. There are probably as many different ways to trust someone as there are people in this world - that is to say, we all have our own unique rules and qualifications and ways of trusting.

A friend reminded me yesterday of what I have believed to be a simple fact - when trying trying to build a relationship, at a certain point it's necessary to just "let go"... Let doubt and uncertainty and mistrust go. These things will kill a relationship before it even starts.

As I know I have made bad decisions before, I am having a really hard time trusting my own instincts. I worry that they may very well be clouded by attraction, desire, and maybe even loneliness.

I guess the first step for me is to trust myself. If I can be secure following my instincts, then I should be able to just "let go" for someone else.

And if I end up twice bitten? I bet I will have had some fun and maybe even learned something, and therefore will have gained more than lost.

15 June 2009


It is a beautiful sunny summer day in Madison, Wisconsin. There are sounds of construction, birds, neighbors talking, my Dad talking, bikes going by... I am near convinced this is the best city in the world. I feel like I am waiting for something to prove to me that it has serious drawbacks so I don't just give up and move on back. I have slept about 4 - 5 hours every night for the last five, and I don't want to take a nap because that would mean less awake time with my family, my friends, and Madison.

13 June 2009

Following Instructions

I realized with some surprise last month that I followed my own instructions.

My dear Aunt Colleen asked me if I was trying to get my needlepoint project done in time for my sisters' birthday which was less than a month away. I replied that I was in fact trying o complete it for that same date, only for my parents anniversary instead. (My sister was conveniently born on my parents 10th anniversary.) I explained that I felt the significance was that this project was the first thing I've made with my hands since probably middle school art class, and that it was probably more suited for Mom&Dad.

And although I hadn't made this connection directly before, I went on to say how one of my instructions in my eulogy at Brendan's funeral was to "make art":

"... Just SEE ART where you haven't before because Brendan taught me that art is where we may least expect it.

Then make some."

As I was explaining this to Colleen it made me think of something I wrote in a letter to Brendan last week:

"I started writing a blog and I think you'd get a kick out of it. You know I can't draw or sing but the words come out of me in a way I like most of the time, and I'd like to think you'd be proud of me."

Go figure.

08 June 2009

When it rains...

My sister and I are planning a 40th wedding anniversary party for our parents. Since they happened to be married 39 years and one week exactly before their youngest child was killed, this has turned out to much more of an emotional enterprise than it might normally be.

My head is spinning - the planning of everything (anniversary party, somehow marking Megan's 30th although she is trying to pass it off, and then commemorating Brendan on the anniversary of his death) is taking a lot more time and energy than I bargained for. It's all happily spent and well worth it, but I am exhausted. I fly back to Wisconsin in two days and am preparing to strap in and enjoy the ride.

It's always the best and the worst of times, isn't it? A huge happy milestone so intrinsically intertwined with tragic loss and heartbreak. I am ready to celebrate and commemorate, and then I will be ready to take a big breath, and a long nap.

03 June 2009

p. 188

"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with lost. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be 'healing.' A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to 'get through it,' rise to the occasion, exhibit the 'strength' that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to seel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heard of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."

-Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking, Ch. 17

01 June 2009

Secret II

Sometimes I wear an old housedress of my mother's to sleep in.

It is cheap terry material with horizontal white and neon green stripes.
It is clingy and very comfortable and hideous.

I should have known it was over between my ex and I when I was willing to wear that in front of him.