chicken spaghetti: the one my mama makes... courtesy gwen hruska

March 17, 2014


two quarts (thirteen to fifteen pieces) chicken, diced
four ribs celery, chopped
two large onions, chopped
green pepper, chopped
two cloves garlic, minced
sixteen-ounce can rotel tomatoes, diced
can cream of mushroom soup
tablespoon seasoned salt
teaspoon pepper
tablespoon worcestershire sauce
pound velveeta cheese, diced fine
twelve-ounce package thin spaghetti


boil chicken: reserve one quart of broth. while deboning chicken, add celery, green pepper, onion, tomatoes and garlic to broth. let simmer until tender, increase heat bringing water to a boil. add spaghetti (broken into pieces). cook until done (do not overcook). add chicken and remaining ingredients. simmer until cheese melts. put into greased nine-by-thirteen inch casserole. best if made the day before. heat at three-fifty until center is bubbly.

the thirty-fourth question

March 14, 2014

this post is one of many for a creative nonfiction project i began several years ago. i call it the griffin inquisition. i've asked my friends and family to pose questions, things they want to know about me that would require more than a yes or no for an answer.

the most recent addition comes from my friend, caleb.

you strike me as the kind of person who has a very negative outlook on life, almost cynical. where did it start; what do you think the root cause of it is; why would you continue to think that way; and what are the first steps to repairing the issue.

it's not always that way. i'm capable of seeing good. i do strive to do this, and yes, i know my efforts aren't always the best. i think the biggest issue, really, is that i've grown accustomed to a certain...

people treated me a certain way in my youth and adolescence. and it was exceptionally rare for that way to resemble anything like kindness. this mistreatment started at a very early age, so that by the time i'd reached my teenage years, it was all i knew.

but you want me to tell you when that outlook began to be negative...

i can tell you that, with all the medical issues i faced in infancy, with all the poking and prodding doctors did to determine the necessary remedies for correcting those issues... that when the poking and prodding by my third-grade peers began, i must've been overly susceptible to it. maybe my mind had already begun constructing defense mechanisms. maybe it had subconsciously begun to anticipate pain. i know when my friends stopped being friends, it hurt, and my inability to discern the cause made it hurt even more.

it doesn't take much to make me happy. because any kindness shown to me is such a welcome surprise. like today. i got a box in the mail. i'd forgotten that i'd ordered something. i stopped by the store i use for shipping things (where my mailbox is) to send out a copy of a manuscript to a friend, and, seeing an envelope in my box, i stopped to collect my mail. inside was this tiny, bright green slip of paper telling me i had an oversized package. FOR ME! YAY!

i'm not hard to please.

but it's easy to hurt me. it's what i've come to expect.

the other day, as i walked from the kitchen to the stairs, i looked out the windows--it was a beautiful day, the kind that warms your heart because it's so perfect. i saw a school bus pass and wondered if, in my childhood, my mother had waited there for me. if she had stood where i stood in those rooms, watching me come off the bus and crossing the short distance to our house. i stopped, stared at the road, at the sunlight and shadows upon it. i thought of her standing there, watching my remarkably tiny self... i asked her if she stood there, waiting for me. yes, she'd said. i asked her if she could tell how my day had been before i'd gotten to the door. yes, she'd said. and then she asked me when i was going to put this down.

i hadn't thought of it because i wanted to remember my pain. i'd stood there, thinking of what it must've been like for her. how it must've disappointed her that i couldn't've come running to the door, eager to share what i'd learned that day. my mother was a teacher. she loved school. i did not.

i can't tell you that. it's like it's stored in some wreckage that had sunk to the bottom of an abyss. and some unpleasant experience in my day, some thought, something like a passing school bus will trigger it, jostle it so that pieces of it rise up to float on the surface, and i'm not strong enough to carry them to shore and dispose of them.

why would i continue to think this way? because so often, now, i feel as though i'm invisible. in my childhood and adolescence, too many people made a point of noticing me and my flaws. and then it got to be that they'd rather not see me at all. so they don't look, now. they don't care to.

if i'm going into a building and a gentleman's coming out, he won't hold the door. and all i can think is that if i were prettier, he would've. i know this because i'm a people watcher. i've learned how the world works.

and i don't know which is worse... animosity or ambivalence.

what are the first steps to repairing the issue? oh, i suppose it starts with being better to myself. shucking some pounds and keeping tidy spaces. and trying harder to be more courageous.

the first two things are easy enough.

you get what you give, right? i've been given a whole lot of negative...

after i wrote this, i went outside to sit on one of the benches in pappadeaux's parking lot. it made me sad to write it. and i don't cry in front of people anymore. it's gray out today. and breezy. but it was peaceful, sitting out there, with the clouds and the breeze and the quiet.

i came back in, and tinkered some more with this blog. i was looking at the pictures from my project self love post when another of my friends, aidan, came over and badgered me about taking a happier selfie, so...

the thirty-third question

this post is one of many for a creative nonfiction project i began several years ago. i call it the griffin inquisition. i've asked my friends and family to pose questions, things they want to know about me that would require more than a yes or no for an answer.

the most recent addition comes from my friend, stephanie.

what is your spirit animal?

okay, first of all... stephanie and i are like complete opposites. when she offered this question, my reaction was to sort of blow her off. i mean.... spirit animal? seriously? and when i told her today that i thought it was kind of a bogus question (fun, yes, but bogus), she scoffed at that and said that everyone has one and blah blah blah... google it, she insisted. so i did.

and the first thing i saw was this:

and since i LOVE quizzes (and because when i told her of the existence of such a quiz, her reaction was BAM!), i figured what the hell, why not.

my first reaction was CRAP. why can't i be something cool like a dolphin. a wolf? they're alright, i guess. a spider? ABSOLUTELY NOT. and then i read the summaries (and yes, yall, i know not to take it literally.... bogus, but fun, remember?)

it's just that i am loyal, devoted, passionate. my worst fear IS being alone (because that's usually when i have the hardest time combatting the crazy). and yeah... i'm capable of smothering. of dumping. 

i like the spider's summary better. on my good days, i'm more like that than the wolf.

the thing i find most interesting is that wolves and spiders should watch out for each other. like they are worst enemies. how ironic.

steph, by the way, is a hawk. according to the site, they are the messengers of the spirits. adept with language, hawks might be writers or teachers (she's a bartender, studying to go into real estate). their ability to assess situations impartially means that people often seek their guidance before making decisions. brilliant visionaries, they sometimes forget the mundane details of life like eating, sleeping, or paying bills. (the other day, all she'd had to eat was a banana.) she was quite pleased with this result, raising her arms as though flying and making crazy bird noises. and, since she's a seahawks fan...

anyway. so this was interesting.

find your spirit animal here.

random quarter: the west wing edition

March 13, 2014

september twenty-second. fifteen years ago. nbc aired the pilot episode of the west wing. i was twenty-six. it's kind of fast-paced, this show. it requires you to pay attention. they talk fast. they walk fast. and then all the sudden shit's happening, and if you didn't catch it two minutes ago, then you'll miss quite a bit. but it's not the politics that inspired me to love this program. it's the people. i never get tired of their stories. so... here are twenty-five of my favorite episodes.

season one
one. a proportional response. 
two. the state dinner.
three. celestial navigation. 
four. white house pro am. 

season two
five. in the shadow of two gunmen
six. and it's surely to their credit
seven. bad moon rising.
eight. two cathedrals. 

season three
nine. bartlet for america.
ten. h. con one-seven-two. 
eleven. hartfield landing. 
twelve. dead irish writers.

season four
thirteen. twenty hours in america.
fourteen. election night.
fifteen. life on mars.

season five
sixteen. the dogs of war.
seventeen. shutdown.
eighteen. the supremes.
nineteen. memorial day.

season six
twenty. the birnam wood.
twenty-one. king corn.
twenty-two. 2162 votes.

season seven
twenty-three. requiem.
twenty-four. transition.
twenty-five. institutional memory.

ten things i like about myself

March 11, 2014

one. my voice. many, many days over my forty years or so, it has been the one that thing that has kept me sane. i'll sing almost anywhere. when i was little, i'd sing on the bus on the way to school. as an adult, i'll sing while i'm shopping, while i'm working, while i'm walking. anywhere but a stage. i won't do that. and yet last saturday, after mass, i found myself chatting with that evening's choral leader, saying i wanted to join. we'll see how that goes.

two. the texture of my hair. although in high school, i didn't love it so much. my freshman year, it was, at once, every color under the sun. the roots were black; the tips were green. and in between? brown, then orange, then blonde. i swam, okay? and the only the time i wore a cap was in a meet. in my twenties, it wasn't much better. i've taken much better care of it since then, though. it's very, very soft. i like it a lot.

three. my ability to craft a sentence. my brother was quite arrogant about how he looked--just before he'd leave the house, he'd pause in the foyer, grin at his reflection and say, i am a goddamned good looking man. he was right, of course, but being the good, little sister i am, i had to point out how stupid he sounded. he could brag about that. i can brag about this. i'm a damned fine writer. one of these days, some agent or editor's gonna acknowledge this. hopefully soon.

four. my sense of compassion.

five. my generous nature.

six. the color of my eyes. the shape sucks. but the color... i'm quite fond it.

seven. i love my characters. and since i made them up... can that count? i'm saying yes.

eight. my sense of style. i don't always bother with it when it comes to my attire (and certainly not as much when i'm wearing a damned size twelve as i do when i'm in a six... and i swear on all that is holy, i will be remedying this situation soon), but my personal space, my tastes in film and music and literature (and when i have the money, my wardrobe), they're pretty awesome.

nine. tenacity. this isn't always a good thing. there've been a number of times in my life where i've hung on when i should've let go. but... the number of times when i could've let go, when many might've thought i would've let go but didn't, they far exceed the times i should've. i get back up. sometimes it's a bitch to do it, and i might wonder why the hell i bother with it, but i get up.

ten. i hope. even when it seems silly to do so. i still believe in possibility.

linking up with christy at avoiding atrophy.

it only took eleven years... a letter to my brother

but i think i'll be okay tomorrow. i think i've gotten used to this grief thing. of course, the past few years, the folks have left in the wee, wee hours of the morning, flown to colorado, to your grave. to sit on the concrete bench that is your headstone, sip their coffee and chat with you, like you're still here.

it only really sucks, now, when i think too long about it.

all day today, i wondered where the whammy was. in the past, on the day before, the dread takes the day to creep up on me, so that by the time midnight closes in, all i can think of is you.

but today, this morning, the bitch of a migraine i got seconds after i woke consumed my thoughts. four episodes of the west wing, three advil, a long, hot shower and a giant coca-cola on ice later, the pain receded to a dull ache.

i ran some errands. i edited. i ate.

and now i'm sitting here, at this bar with all these people. and i think i'm alright now. i think tomorrow might just be a day.

then again, the folks'll be here this time around. so i guess my okay tomorrow will depend on what i see when i wake up. on whether they'll be okay.

but for right now, i don't miss you all that much. i think i've gotten used to this.