A return to things remembered after a voyage always has the possibility to reveal an unrecognized lesson unknowingly learned. I have spent the last few weeks unfolding the recent past to see what it is that I have been taught, because there has to be something good to lift up out of the heartbreak and shattered illusions around me. This telling wanders (and there is some blue language), but there is no other way for it to travel because, at the moment, I only have so much control over it. The anger and confusion are still raw. I am still thrashing, searching for That Thing to smash and make the pain stop. This is my first attempt at denuding the experience of the emotional affects.

In the beginning: I have long been accused of being an idealist, of only seeing the best in people, of believing too much in the goodness of people. I have had so many people explain to me that I am naïve, and just don't understand the complex reality of people. (Did my eye roll make it to the page?) None of which is true, but a convenient way to dismiss the work of social justice: to halt thought and quiet voice.

I meet each new person and enter each new environment with eyes open, looking for opportunities, looking for possibilities, looking for intersectionality, looking for the full richness of potential: looking to learn. So, yes, I do see the best in people. I do not look for malignant behavior, but, I will bring it out into the open to dissect it when I find it. 

In the middle: I fell in love with a little corner of Pennsylvania, and it loves me back. I have people I will love until the day I die. These people embolden and empower me, and make it possible for me to live my life true. Not that that is easy, or without costs.

Sometimes the price is heartbreak, the work is transformation of loss into resolve, and then resolve into resiliency. Sometimes the cost is the belief in a stability to be found in life, despite never having experienced it to be a true thing. 

Even though I truly believe humans are capable of great beauty, and that we can create a better organized social structure, you do not want to fuck with me. I will tear down walls and force view to mirror through a magnifying glass if you fuck with me, and nothing will be the same after. Not that I will see the results as quickly as I want, or even at all after moving on, but tremors can bring people to their knees and topple unstable entities. I play a long game.

I believe in the dignity of human life, and that we each deserve to be treated with respect. I believe that for myself, as well as for others. I made a pact with myself, decades ago, that I would never allow myself to be trapped within an abusive relationship: personal or professional.  

In the end: I spent the last four months working for a local affiliate of a well-known international non-profit. I left a job doing good work with people I love in a beautiful environment because I was told I would be able to let my skills loose, I was told I would be part of a team to inspire and invigorate people across 37 counties, I was told my skills and ideas were highly valued within the organization and that I would be of service. None which was true.

By my second week in, I knew that my Senior Director viewed me as a threat, and not an asset. I began documenting my work days in a little black book. Eight weeks into my position, that little black book let me produce an eight page document to challenge the charges and the narrative my Senior Director tried to bury me under. As dramatic as that sounds, it does not even come close to presenting the richness of the crazy that exists. A crazy that is allowed to exist because no one in Executive Leadership will challenge the Senior Director. 

This one individual has control of an entire administrative office, and reigns with forceful lies. And everyone knows it. That's the part that blows my mind. Everyone there knows the Senior Director is a disruptive force within the affiliate, yet no one does anything about it. The lies are rationalized, and the Director's perspective and narrative are never challenged. What. The. Fuck. It took me all of seven business days to figure out that shit was wack, and that one person was at the center of the drama.

So, yeah, I quit, almost to the day after four months. Then, three other people followed within the two weeks after my exit date. I wrote an epic exit letter, by the way, calling the Senior Director out by name and listing reasons for my departure. Ask me about it next time you see me. I will read it to you. I have it on my phone.

In the present: Things we are not supposed to talk about: abuse, personal or professional. If personal, why did you instigate it? You must have done something: did you make fun of them; did you laugh at them; did you challenge them; what were you wearing; how many drinks did you have; why didn't you just shut up? If professional, you know you have to play along to get along, why did you instigate it? You must have done something: did you make fun of them; did you challenge them; you know how it works, why didn't you just play the game; why didn't you just shut up; what were you wearing? As if we are all trapped in MadMen, and it is just not possible to change abusive hierarchical behavior, let alone change the system so that abuse is not tolerated. 

That is where the heartbreak lies: abuse is tolerated and excused away in an organization that is supposed to defend and protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It is institutionalized. It is justified. 

But, I will not be abused. Throughout my life I have been forced to accept it as true and good that I understand the abuser's perspective: understand their motivations, so we can all move forward and heal. I give not one single fuck about an abuser's perspective anymore (but if I am to be honest, I never really did). I fully understand why the Senior Director is abusive. I fully understand why the organization allows the behavior to continue. Does not matter one fucking iota. It Is Not OK To Abuse Others. It Is Not OK To Institutionalize Abuse. Full Stop. These are not difficult concepts to grasp.

Yet, somehow, it is still radical to call it out, to refuse to participate, to refuse to look away. My actions have a cost, one I can afford because of the people I share love with, one not everyone can afford. Which is why Community and Unions matter. But that is another story. Let's eat.


Rigatoni with Roast Acorn Squash, Leeks, and Walnuts alla Carbonara

Ilb Rigatoni

2 medium Acorn Squash

2 tbl Olive Oil

1 tbl Unsalted Butter

1 tsp Duck Fat

6 small Leeks

3 cloves Garlic

Aged Cottage Ham

2 cups (1c, 1c) Chicken Stock 

Grated Romano

Raw Walnuts 

2 Eggs (room temperature)

Coarse Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper

Mise en place

Cut and deseed acorn squash. I cut mine into 16 slices. 

Thinly slice Leeks into rounds.

Mince Garlic.

Dice Ham. You really want this for flavor, so use as much or as little as you like, but it does need to be present. I used about 3oz.

Grate Romano. I used about 1.5 cups, but, whatever floats your boat. Add Fresh Cracked Pepper to grated cheese. I like A LOT, but, to preference.

For Sauce: You can use a Dutch Oven, or a large skillet. You want something large enough to allow you to mix the pasta into the pan you use to cook the sauce in.

Oven at 350F

Place cut Acorn Squash on baking sheet and cook at 350 for about 30 minutes. You want it firm, but not crunchy. I did not brush mine with oil before roasting, since they cook additional time in the sauce pan later, and I wanted the firmness of the squash crust.

While squash is cooking:

Start satlted pasta water. You can always keep it at a slow boil if it comes to temp before you need it.

Place Olive Oil, Butter, and Duck Fat into sauce pan on medium heat. When the fat starts to shimmer, drop in leeks and ham. Cook until leeks begin to soften, and the aroma of leeks and ham fills your kitchen, then add garlic.

Cook leeks, ham, and garlic until the garlic is fully sweated and started to break down, then add 1 cup Chicken Stock. Lower temperature to low-medium, and let cook down while barely bubbling. The low and slow will bring out more of the ham flavor, and sweetness of the leeks and garlic.

Remove squash from oven and place on wooden cutting board.

When cool enough to touch, scoop out flesh from shell, and place in a bowl large enough to hold all the squash.

The bottom of the sauce pan should have just a film of stock on the bottom: Add Acorn Squash and remaining cup of Chicken Stock. As the stock cooks down, and the squash begins to soften, go ahead and break up or mash the squash, if you want.

Place pasta in water to cook.

When there are 4 minutes left to the pasta, check the sauce. Season with Coarse Salt, if needed.

When there are 2 minutes left to the pasta, mix together the eggs and the cheese. 

As soon as pasta is done:

Remove sauce from heat, add drained pasta directly to pan: Immediately pour Eggy Pepper Cheese to pasta and mix. The heat from the pasta and the sauce will cook the egg and melt the cheese, but it must be off heat. It can scramble, and that would probably taste ok, but look really weird, and you just do not want that. Then you miss the unctuous combination of fats and proteins from the fats, egg, and cheese...I'm drooling again.

After mixing to coat all noodles, toss in Raw Walnuts. I used about a cup, but really it was just a handful or two until I achieved optimal ratio. Toss again to fully mix walnuts into pasta and sauce.

That's it! You can top with more cheese, if you like. I always like to finish mine with Olive Oil and Fresh Cracked Pepper.