grad school, parenthood, identity crisis. welcome to the rabbit hole.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

november-december reads

Letters to a Young Artist, Anna Deavere Smith (+++)
Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel, Anya Ulinich (+++)
Gold Fame Citrus, Claire Vaye Watkins (++)
The Invention of Nature, Andrea Wulf* (++)
Pacific, Simon Winchester* (++)

+++ = inspiring, hilarious, thought-provoking
++ = informative, compelling

format stolen respectfully and with much admiration from Aileen.

*listened to on audiobook

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

my wild children

My Wild Children

My wild children: in the morning
they eat my dreams, at evening
they wolf down my memories.
I am their manger.
I feel their rough tongues
on my soul.
I hear their sweet and empty slurping
day and night.

My wild children, my barracudas
sopping up my madness, muting my scream.
I dig into them.

I want to light my eyes
from their eyes,
as on a dark nocturnal street
a man asks for a light
for his last cigarette.

Yehuda Amichai
translated by Robert Alter

Saturday, October 31, 2015

october reads

The Skies Belong to Us, Brendan I. Koerner (++)
Go Tell it on a Mountain, James Baldwin (+++)
Me Before You, Jojo Moyes (+)
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates (+++)
Paulina and Fran, Rachel B. Glaser (+)

+++ = magnificent, memorable
++ = highly enjoyable
+ = meh

format stolen respectfully and with much admiration from Aileen.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

a glimpse

Life lately has been a series of starts and stops. There are moments of ridiculousness and brilliance. Here's what's been happening lately.


On my way home from work, I stopped at the ATM to get cash for "the babysitter" before going to dinner with our Distinguished Lecture Speaker. I ate oysters, while Mikey refused to take my twenty dollars for pizza, and texted me this picture during dinner. "Just hanging with uncle mikey!"


I have been so frustrated with my 9-5 work-life balance. It is the most tenuous part of my life, the part I am most insecure about. I leave work at 5 every day. I pick up Lena. I make dinner. We play, chat, do homework. I put her to bed. I soon follow.  And then I read a profile of Julianne Moore in the New Yorker, and I thought, yes. This. In its entirety. Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. Her great adventure is her imagination. Just, all of it.

UNC and duke both won Nobel Prizes for Chemistry this week, and everyone should have a State fan in their life for moments like these. Also, Cam Newton. 



Go listen to it go listen to it go listen to it. 

That's all.


Hope you all are having a wonderful changing of the seasons. 

This is your friendly neighborhood rachaels signing off and reminding you that it's all going to be ok. 

Monday, September 28, 2015


Mikey only calls me now for one reason.

Friday afternoon, on my way to pick up Lena, I see his name on my phone, and I ask myself, do I want to have dinner with Mikey at Cinco de Mayo? The answer is yes, and I answer the phone.

When we get to the restaurant Mikey is half a margarita ahead of us, which really if you think about it is kind of how he lives his life, half a margarita ahead of everyone.

Over dinner, Lena asks Mikey, "Have you heard about the three holes?" And Mikey says, "Yes." Lena blinks at him, and Mikey laughs apologetically, "I mean, no." And Lena's eyes light up and she gets to finish her joke, "Well, well, well."

There's a pause, and then the ridiculous head shaking laugh that you give at puns. The laugh you give when you don't want to admit amusement.

Mikey leans over the table earnestly and says, "You know what I wanted your mom to name you? I wanted your mom to name you 'Amirah.' What do you think about that?"

Lena doesn't say anything so she probably doesn't think anything of it.

Mikey continues, "And then when you came out, your mom named you Lena. And that is a great name, you know why? Because you are such a Lena!"

She is such a Lena though. Right? Like look at that kid. She just looks like a Lena!


A friend that I absolutely love and respect is having a baby and she's fortysomething and she's kind of worried and in my twentysomething way I tell her that it's all going to be okay. And then she tells me she wants to have a natural childbirth and I say,

"I had a natural childbirth! It was great!"

She looks at me. "Great?"

"Well, ok, maybe great isn't the right word. It was horrible, but it was really great!"


Like two weeks ago I wrote about being articulate and boy that has just fallen by the wayside.

Look at this Lena. Look at this life. How great!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

out of context

In a college creative nonfiction class I wrote about the banalities of being pregnant. I wrote at lengths about the bathrooms in all of the buildings. I remarked on which ones always seemed to be out of soap, which were the most crowded, which ones had the green, water-saving flush handles.

In a writing workshop the professor leads the discussion. "What is meant by this detail," he asks. "What is the author saying about the green, waters-saving flush handles?"

I remember the class staying silent. Me thinking, nothing. I meant nothing about the green, water-saving flush handles.

The silence is broken because it will not be broken until someone breaks it, and someone, I don't remember who, says "It's because she had to go to the bathroom a lot?"

I don't remember the ensuing conversation on my bathroom habits, instead I thought of the intention of words, writing, speaking, sharing. How great it is, how terrifying to let go a part of you, let it float around. What it is like to have your words in someone else's mouth. To hear them with a different accent, different emphasis.

(A word is dead//when it is said//some say//I say//it just begins to live that day.)

But to be misunderstood, to be taken out of context, is this not the worst thing you can do to a person? To judge someone, unfairly, to take a piece of them and construct a picture based only on that? The greatest injustice! To take someone's skin color or religious affiliation or political party (or words said in the dark, words in response to a gaze) and to judge them based solely on that?

Oddly enough I find myself echoing the sentiments of this New Yorker piece, about the lawyer Judy Clarke, who has most recently defended the Boston Marathon bomber, and generally defends, to borrow from the title "the worst of the worst." What she does is to ask the jury not to judge the defendant on their worst moment, but to consider them as a whole.

Consider not, only, the green, water-saving flush handles, but the whole toilet, if you will.

It turns out I meant a lot about the green, water-saving flush handles. I was trying to say, look at the small ridiculous details of life. Look how much we miss, going through the motions. Look how many things are right in front of us.

Y'all. I have so many goddamn stories about bathrooms. Because when you're pregnant you have to pee all the time and literally someone asked me what I missed most about not being pregnant and I said being able to expel everything from your bladder at one time. LITERALLY. Also this is still the most satisfying feeling in the world, it's up there with an orgasm. Be pregnant, and you will never take peeing for granted ever again.

And also the green, water-saving, goddamn motherfucking flush handles. (In Greenlaw and Peabody but not yet in Saunders.)

In my preliminary examination I was told to be more precise in my language, and I get that now. And again. Be intentional with your words, I learned in writing, because they are they one thing you give to the reader. (Or the audience. Or the boy, in the dark.) And those words, those are all you can give, and it is all you can do to hope that they live on without you.

It is unfair it is unfair it is UNFAIR, I used to scream at the world. For my decisions, for my life, it is unfair. And then something flipped in me, a switch, a green, water-saving flush handle if you will, and I started to live my life with intention. With precision.

Now I am taken less out of context. Less is taken from me without my consent. But some things still are. And to them I whisper, this is unfair. And I gather my words in my mouth, and turn and walk away.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

the time of our lives.

Growing up is funny, ain't it? Filled with lots of learning and growing and...learning and growing.

In high school I learned about poetry. The stage. Sharing and performance and reading. And poets. Oh, oh, the poets.

In college I learned about And the importance of protected sex. 

And now. Graduate school. Graduate school is this amazing combination of paralyzing insecurity and exciting ideas and one minute you're flying and the next falling but the best part, the best part...the best part is the friends.

Between the falling and the flying there's someone that's right there next to you falling and flying with you. 

I passed my preliminary exam today, so I'm officially a PhD candidate. (oh that reminds me gotta go change my email signature...brb....ok back.) And the best part, the best part...well. 

Aspen sent me a pie, a pie! From Pie in the Sky! From WOODS HOLE. Aspen sent me a PIE. from PIE IN THE SKY. 

When I opened the air mail box from Woods Hole, Massachusetts, I immediately then ran back to lab to grab my phone to inform Aspen that she had in fact, sent me a PIE, and throughout the lab I sang/squealed, PIE. ASPEN SENT ME A PIE. 

And Firas. Firas got me DIPPIN DOTS, because you know they are the MICROFLUIDICS OF ICE CREAM. And samosas. Because 90% of the time I talk about indian food. 

Pie. From PIE IN THE SKY. Dippin Dots. And samosas. 

Oh yeah, and friends. Those too.