Monthly Archives: October 2013

When I Grow Up

How many different people have I wanted to be in my life?  Too many, and I’ve done many of them, but I think I’m about to embrace one of the paths and it’s sort of filling me with dread.  

 

I remember being in elementary school and thinking that the secretaries had a great job.  They had a nice big desk, got to play with a typewriter all day, had a never-ending source of pens and markers and tape and staplers and different kinds of paper, and they got to decorate their desks and answer phones.  What fun!  I could doodle all day with all the different markers, I could make posters, comic strips, draw dresses for fashion models, and talk to whomever I wanted on the phone. ( I was clearly a special child with a good grasp of what a job was!)

Teachers, too, got to do fun things.  First, they were the boss of the whole class so they got to say and do whatever they wanted.  If they weren’t in the mood for math that day, they didn’t have to do it.  If they wanted to give us silent reading while they worked on a craft project for us, they could, and they also had lots of neat supplies.  If they wanted to fill the blackboard with fancy writing in different colored chalks, they did and they looked like they were having fun.  Many of us truly believed the teachers lived at the school; one horrendously bad-weather day while I was stripping off my steamy raincoat in class and wiping my wet bangs out of my eyes and pulling up the sock that always slipped down into my boot, I decided to become a teacher so I would never have to deal with bad weather again, I could just slip out of bed, get dressed, and go into my classroom.  Clearly a well-thought-out career path.

Being a photojournalist seemed easy as pie.  You bought a camera, wandered around wherever you felt like, took lots of pictures and some magazine or newspaper paid you to have those pictures.  Wow, what an easy job!  I, of course, would take pictures of kittens and pretty dresses and maybe some flowers and I like the houses on the next street so they’re on the list too.  Why would anybody take a picture of a bunch of barns?  Or clouds?  Or just a bunch of faces?  I know, I’ll sell pictures to ALL the magazines and then I’ll be rich!  I already have a Kodak Magi-Cube camera, so I’m set.

Getting older meant broadening those career horizons.  I didn’t understand people in high school who knew what they were going “to be.”  How do you know until you’ve tried?  What does that mean, exactly, that you’re going to college for “marketing?”  Is that a career?  What made you decided that selling things had a fancy name like marketing?  And hey, business majors?  What is that all about?  Isn’t every single job a business?  How do you major in jobs?  What do you hope to get out of it?  And as a passionate math-hater, I just don’t get you 17-year-olds who are planning on majoring in accounting.  Really?  Spend your entire life adding up numbers?  (Full disclosure: I married an accountant, and no way could I ever ever do what he does.  I would cry.)  I didn’t understand communication majors, sociology majors, anything to do with science (see aforementioned hatred of math; science was the evil cousin) or archaeology…in fact, I was lost thinking of a college major.  I was lost thinking about college and really didn’t think about it much until I said halfway through my senior year and well after I bombed the SATs “yeah, okay, I’ll go to college.”  

I decided to be a music major, because clearly there was a huge need for female French horn players in the world, and I was just the gal to do it.  Or, more accurately, that was what I was good at, so that’s what I should focus on as my guidance counselor explained to me.  I suspect what he was saying was really “You aren’t displaying an aptitude for anything really except music and English so let’s get you squared away with music and good luck with making a living out of that.”

Except I didn’t.  College made me want forty different careers which was crazy because everybody else I knew had settled on “what they were going to be” at the age of 17, and here I was at 19 wanting to be a painter, a singer, a cafe-owner, a teacher, a secretary, a college president (because let’s face it, they get an awesome house), a star of a children’s TV show, a high-powered executive with a snazzy leather briefcase doing heaven-knows-what, work for an advertising agency (again, lots of markers and paper and doodling), work at a magazine because magazines were fun, and be a writer.

Which is a very long way of getting to the point, which is that I am going to try NaNoWriMo and put together that young-adult story that’s been simmering in the back of my head.  I have a rough first chapter done, but I haven’t looked at it in two weeks because … well, because.  It’s like beginning a new project in knitting.  I’m seduced by the colors and the patterns and the yarn choices and the urge to cast on and start knitting with the new yarn and follow the new pattern is irresistible.  Then you’re in the body of the thing and you read the dread words “continue until piece measures 24 inches from cast-on edge” and you realize you’re stuck for a good long while.  I’m worried that the beginning was so fresh and fun and easy and once I’m in it for the long haul I’ll run dry, hate it, do everything possible to avoid it, and realize that I just don’t have the internal drive to see it through.

Which is why I don’t make resolutions any longer and why I don’t do diets any longer.  I do not have stick-to-it-iveness.  I am not a disciplined person.  I do not follow self-devised schedules well and so I need lists.  Once I cross an item off the list, it is like being back in elementary school and getting those gold stars (although I preferred the blue ones, they were prettier and deeper in color than the flashy gold ones) and I have ACCOMPLISHED.  Maybe if I do this project it might be the metaphorical kick in the pants I need.  I’ve always wanted to write, without actually saying out loud “I want to be a writer” because I never saw it as a career, more as a “of course I have to write, how else do you cope through life?” and because I love reading so much that I want to create the same joy I have received.

This is way too heavy for a Wednesday.  Time to leave on a lighter note:

 

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Me and October: BFF

The shade of orangey red that is outside my window now is stunning, and that’s just from the mistake sassafrass tree that springs up like a weed every so often.  The huge maple out back is always the last to turn, and it’s a magnificent display of yellow and gold and bronze that could bring me to tears of happiness.  There are warm handknit socks on my feet, and endless cups of tea are consumed for warmth.  Still haven’t turned on the heat yet, as I’m trying to make it to November 1 for absolutely no reason whatsoever, just want to see if we can do it.  It’s about 52 degrees now but I’m counting on the sun to do its job soon, so all is well.

The front of the house has been decked out with corn husks, straw bales, pumpkins, gourds, mums of every color, and an old straw broom.  It’s so ridiculously easy to decorate with flair and style in October, so I am ridiculously happy that all we needed was to throw some stuff together with almost zero effort (and I mean that: Hubby tied up the corn stalks, Older Daughter arranged the mums and gourds, and I approved) and it looks like a magazine.  Well, the kind of magazine I would read, anyway:

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Front steps need re-staining. I’ll get the staff right on it.

One thing about October that makes us not BFFs is Halloween.  I realize I run the risk of alienating folks by that statement, but I just don’t like it.  I’ve tried it several times (just like I kept trying Brussels sprouts and I finally did like them so maybe there is hope for Halloween but I doubt it) and I’m trying to keep an open mind, but I don’t like it.  I loved it as a kid, naturally, because free candy, but that was about it.  I didn’t go crazy wishing and planning and dreaming of a costume, we didn’t exercise massive amounts of creativity, I didn’t have a trove of costume material waiting for me in some trunk in the attic.  For that matter, in my very early years we didn’t have an attic.  I’m sure we bought a costume at Woolworth’s, along with a giant paper shopping bag that had a goofy jack-o-lantern grinning and must have been wishful thinking on the manufacturer’s part because that puppy never got filled beyond a quarter of an inch.  

I vaguely remember being a princess in a pink dress one year with one of those awful masks that had the elastic going around the back of your head and causing your hair to get teased and felted both above and below the band so when you tried to take it off it invariably got stuck and the more you pulled the more it got stuck until you howled for your mom who tsked as she tried to get it off and there were usually scissors involved.  The mask was also that divine-smelling plastic that was a whole-face mask (before adults in a committee somewhere decided whole-face masks were dangerous; where were you when I needed you?) so the plastic allowed two almond-shaped holes for eyes and two small round holes near your nose for oxygen.  Being plastic, and being that trick-or-treating involved a bit of walking, heavy breathing happened and then condensation when warm air meets cool plastic.  Because the makers in China wanted a realistic Halloween effect for these selfish American children who go begging for candy, the mask was sculpted realistically and so the condensation pooled under my nose and my chin and truth be told, it was a miserable experience just for orange lollipops and Bit-O-Honeys and the occasional nickel.  I don’t remember getting a lot of chocolate.  I do remember my mother loving chocolate.  Hey….

As an adult, Halloween was pretty much ignored because I didn’t have the kind of friends that threw Halloween parties.  Well, once I did when I was seventeen.  I went with an older boyfriend to a Halloween party and we went as the Lone Ranger and Tonto, because I had long hair that could be braided and I owned a poncho.  This Halloween party consisted of bowls of chips and bottles of soda and music playing and people sitting around in their costumes.  Except for the costumes, not much different than hanging out at somebody’s house but we got the added bonus of being uncomfortable in odd clothes.  That was my only experience with an “adult” Halloween.  Not much to it, I admit, but that’s how I think of Halloween.  Anticipation and preparation and then the “Oh, is that it?” kind of let-down that comes and then “Well, that was a waste of time and money.”

When I had children, I somehow got bit by the crafty bug and I made all their costumes until they were of the age when they said “Really, Mom, could we please just buy something at Toys R Us that looks cool?” and I was off the hook.  If I played my cards right, I would even get Hubby to take them door-to-door so I could stay home and answer the door for all the little hooligans that came by.  I gave them a bowlful of Fun-Sized Treats from Huge Conglomerate Chocolate Factory to choose from and played little games with myself.  If they asked “How many may we have?” they got three each.  If they couldn’t be bothered to say “Trick or Treat!” I handed them one each.  If the older ones who couldn’t be bothered with a costume save for a few smears of face paint under their eyes representing either a zombie or a linebacker, I don’t know, just stood there holding out their grimy pillowcase and staring at me, I stared right back, smiling, until they said something.  (Even on Halloween I had to teach a lesson, didn’t I?  What a teacher.)  Then when my kids came back with Hubby groaning from the weight of their little plastic pumpkins, we had to go through all the candy, scrutinizing it for razor blades, small rips that could represent a hypodermic needle, ground-up glass, and discarding homemade treats.  I’m sure the original intent of a scary Halloween was not to be that scary.

Then I went back to teaching, and I had forgotten that Halloween is a revered time for the very young.  Everyone demanded to know what I was going to be for Halloween, and I was very mysterious about it, declining to share, but in my head I was thinking “WTH, I have to dress up?  When do I ever get away from this!”  Nine times out of ten I would do nothing, and when the little ones would demand “What are you dressed as?” I would answer as always, “The meanest teacher in the school!”  That’s my kind of costume.  One year I got creative and brought my knitting and stuck some needles in my hair and had several balls of yarn trailing out of my pocket and my answer to “What are you dressed as” resulted in “I’m a knit-wit!” and I would snort to myself as the blank stares got even blanker.

Middle school Halloween is just dreadful.  It’s all about how revealing your costume can be without going against the dress code, so forget the sexy pirate costume and anyway you’re only in 7th grade, why are you thinking about being sexy?  It’s also about making sure nobody has a weapon, nobody offends somebody else, nobody has something too scary… it’s just not a good place.  Then there’s the Mischief Night aspect of it, which is traditionally the night before Halloween where all the local groceries are descended upon for eggs, shaving cream, and toilet paper, and the little devils decorate the town in a manner not quite like the one pictured above.

Now my children are grown, I am no longer teaching, and we live on a busy road and get very few trick-or-treaters, especially since Halloween was cancelled for the last two years due to extreme weather conditions.  Yet I still have two giant-sized bags of candy for the day, manufactured by Huge Chocolate Conglomerate Factory, because I have a grown-up child by the name of Hubby and since he worked so hard on the corn stalks I can’t refuse him some treats.  It’s nice that somebody around here enjoys Halloween.

 

 

 

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Weekend Whee!

This is the time of year, friends, when all is right with the world.  The temperatures have dropped into the “crisp” zone, handknits are beginning to adorn the scene in the form of socks, shawls, and fingerless mitts, apples and pumpkins are the culinary buzzwords, and my people travel to Mecca, otherwise known as Rhinebeck, for the New York Sheep and Wool Festival.  I learned that if I leave between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. (otherwise known as holy crap it’s dark and early and I need a giant cuppa) that you get a primo parking spot AND you’re only about 15th on line.  Lesson learned.

It was an impromptu trip, meaning I was dilly-dallying about whether or not to drive up by myself (Older Daughter forgot she’d be in Ireland and unable to go with me – the nerve) and I casually mentioned this to a good friend.  Her eyes widened and a giggle escaped and in two minutes we decided to do it; the bonus is that she shares the same name as Older Daughter and so karma completed its own circle very nicely.

Waiting on line was the first best part, because you scope out all the handknits in the wild:

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Knit skirt – love it and am jealous for the body shape that can wear it.

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Sheep ears? Deer Antler? Still cute!

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Dainty shawl with nupps and beads and all the pretty and pink hair, too!

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The woman next to me in line had a stunning shawl made from all the perfect colors of the October day, plus some sparkle. ❤

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Quickly, the line behind us filled up. I understand the attendance on Saturday was 47,000 people. Sheep not included.

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Honest knitters waiting in line to pay for their loot. The booth in question, Miss Babs, was halfway into the hall. I love knitters.

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This is who I was waiting in line for, the lovely and talented Clara Parkes. Got me a signed book, too. My favorite moment of the weekend!

Now, I do not profess to know anything about sheep: don’t know my Jacobs from my BFLs, don’t know a short staple from a lock (that’s why I read Clara, she does it all for you!), but I do know cute when I see it:

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And Younger Daughter who loves corgis and loves to knit, would have appreciated this:

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A cabled corgi!

I exercised so much restraint, because while I have a very generous and enabling Hubby I am aware that my spendy habits on the yarn purchasing should not go for a free-dive, and so I purchased only one skein of yarn.  It is the lovely Sea Pearl from the good folks at Briar Rose Fibers and it’s impossible to do the colors justice:

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My precioussssss……

And I am so grateful that I had the wonderful Saturday that I did, and that I had a friend to share it with me, and that Life often knows just when to slap me upside the head and say “Look at all the beauty I have for you, now get out and embrace it.”

 

 

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How I was Corrupted at a Fairly Young Age

There is nothing, my friends, nothing like a good diner.  And there’s absolutely no reasoning or justification I can give on a general level.  There’s something about the soul of a good diner or the basic voice of the food that puts me exactly in the place I want to be in the exact right time; but it wasn’t always that way with me.  My education was of the immersion variety.

The first time I went to a diner I was in my twenties.  I missed out on the whole high school hanging-out after events because I lived in the sprawling suburbs with my parents and like the good hard-working folks that they were, they regularly went to bed at 9:00.  That’s the time events were winding down and people planning to meet up around 10, so I certainly wasn’t going to ask them to take me anywhere and deprive them of their sleep, especially when they’d be the ones behind the wheel.  I had my license but we only had one car, so there would be no shenanigans lest something dreadful happened.  Anyway, I went to a diner for the first time after a concert with a friend who I had met at work because she needed coffee.  Conditioned by years of my parents being deep in their REM cycle by now, I naively asked “Won’t that keep you awake?”  Luckily she had the grace to overlook my faux pas.  (I love using the phrase “faux pas” because anytime it was used in our house, my dad would say “fox paws” and make little paws out of his hands.)  

We were given a booth, which by diner law must be constructed of a Formica counter top with super long vinyl-covered benches that cause you to scoot awkwardly over until you’re somewhere in the middle of the abyss (and which is why you never went to a diner on a first date; awkward scooting faces are awkward), a “juke box” that charged twenty-five cents for three plays, and a scaffold of jellys and syrups.  Rounding out the decor was a paper place mat advertising the local businesses and the occasional house of worship (Come sing with our Christian Funk Group on Sunday evenings!), giant salt and pepper shakers, a half-empty container of ketchup, and mismatched utensils.  Just like home, eh?

Next came the presentation of the menu, which is roughly the thickness of the tablets Moses carried and by the aforementioned diner law contains thirty-seven pages, all laminated and spiral bound.  Me, being new to this subculture of diner visits at midnight, assumed we were here for dessert only and looked at my friend.  “Do we need menus?”  Honestly, why she didn’t move to another table and disown me from friendship is beyond me, but she was a patient teacher.  “Sure, let’s take a look, although I’m pretty sure I know what I want.”  That is the mantra of the true diner aficionado, knowing what you’ll end up with but willing to entertain the idea of something new.

Every good diner menu begins with breakfast, usually headlined with “Rise and Shine” and “Served all Day!” although how you rise and shine at two in the morning is something I didn’t want to think about.  Isn’t it amazing how many variations of omelets there are, and how they all vary in price by just a few cents?  You can get a cheese omelet (your choice of American, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella) for $4.95.  You can get a bacon omelet for $5.25.  But a bacon and cheese omelet?  That’s gonna run you $5.75.  However, if you order a bacon omelet and THEN add the cheese?  The bottom of the menu says to add $1.25 for cheese, so your bacon omelet with cheese is now $6.50.  Are you ordering the #2 special?  Your omelet will be made with fewer ounces of bacon BUT you’ll get coffee, tea, toast, and hash browns and a small juice for $6.95.  Don’t even try to figure it out.

Even though this was a midnight visit, I was poring over the pictures of the “Deluxe Dinners” featured that day.  (And was it still “that day” in diner world? It was after midnight, did the specials change automatically too?)  If I were so inclined, I could get a beef stew with fresh garden peas, sweet carrots, and pearl onions in a mouth-watering gravy with homemade mashed potatoes and a fluffy dinner roll and my choice of soup or salad, plus the bonus of jello, pudding, or ice cream for dessert.  I wondered whose garden the fresh peas came from and how they were able to find them in January, but the picture certainly showed an impressive meal and who am I to doubt my eyes?  They also featured “Chops.”  No particular animal named, just “Chops.”  Lamb? Pork? Sticks?  Oh, wait, I could also get “Fresh-Caught Flounder Filet” with a delicate lemon-butter sauce and tender asparagus.  Again, January, and again, who am I to quibble over something I’m not going to order anyway.

Here’s something that Diner Law decrees must be on every menu: The Happy Waitress. ( I once asked a waitress if she was happy was she then obligated to serve that meal, or if someone ordered it was she then obligated to be happy about it.  She snapped her gum and asked me what I wanted to order.  I guess she was not.in.the.mood.)  This is an open-faced grilled plastic cheese sandwich with tomatoes fresh from the gas-filled greenhouse and a heap of fries, plus a pickle and cole slaw.  Which brings me to another question.  Does anyone ever eat diner cole slaw?  I seldom observe anyone eating it, yet every diner I’ve been in on the East Coast of Murica serves it “on the side” which is where it stays.  There must be people eating it because they continue to serve it, but it’s one of the many mysterious puzzles of the diner.

My friend ordered a cup of coffee and a grilled blueberry muffin.  I was so flustered I ordered an English muffin and a ginger ale, and when she asked me if I wanted it grilled I didn’t know how to answer.  Who puts bread on a grill?  I’m aware that the foodie trend of the last twenty years or so lets you grill just about anything as long as you have the hardwood chips that have been soaking and the right marinade/rub/secret sauce recipe, but this was not that recent.  I said “No?” because I wasn’t sure what I would get.  When our orders arrived I received an English muffin with a pat of butter the size of the actual muffin on each half, which was melting and oozing all over the plate, and two containers of jelly to match the tower of jelly already at the table (strawberry and orange marmalade).  My friend’s plate was an oval platter, with a loaf-sized blueberry muffin split from top-to-bottom and buttered, then placed on the griddle (not the grill, but apparently when you place something on the griddle you are getting it grilled and no wonder people have a tough time learning to speak American English) so that it was golden and crispy yet still cakey inside.  She let me have a bite, and that evening was when I took my blood vow to be forever devoted to the American Diner.

To cap off that rousing history, here’s a gratuitous shot of my preferred evening meal at our local diner:

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Now go get yourself one of these bad boys and join us in the Cult.  It’s open Twenty Four Hours and All Baking is Done on Premises!  

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Rattling Chains

I think my laptop is haunted.  It’s a little bit ancient, and it makes a rattling sound when it encounters a site that requires those new-fangled moving pictures to come to life.  It has reached all the updates it can maintain, it’s never featured in any kind of alluring ads, and it weighs a hefty amount.  It also does things that baffle me.

It’s a 2007 black MacBook (the sight of which made my students gasp “You have a black one? That’s so cool! Where did you get it? Is it new?” because it’s so old it was new when they were in kindergarten) and it is running on some sort of Apple-determined animal system (lions and leopards and critters, oh my) that is the end of the line for me.  I also have the Microsoft for Apple suite of word processing, spreadsheet, and pointing the power, and that stubbornly refuses to update for various reasons.  

I think it’s haunted because it performs these cool tricks all by itself, with no input from me.  Open a new tab?  Switch to a psychedelic patterned screen with horrifying neon color combinations that force my retinas into overdrive.  Of course, once I blink, it’s gone, and the screen is blandly looking back with a smug attitude like “Yes?  You wanted a new tab open?  And?”  Or I click on a link in a website, and it magically gives me seven minutes of free time to do what I want.  I usually use that time to sit slack-jawed watching the spinning beach ball of doom do the dance, and then I’m hypnotized.  I don’t know what happens during that time, but when the link finally loads, I come back to life and look at the little clock in the upper screen and am mystified to discover those seven minutes have passed with no input from me.  What happened?  Invariably, I shift my eyes to see if anyone has noticed even though I’m alone in the house at the time.

Then there’s the mysterious box flashes.  You innocently type a website into your address bar, and as the page haltingly and begrudgingly deigns to load, a rectangular-shaped object flashes momentarily onto the screen and disappears.  Oh, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I do shrink the page to get rid of the ad that must be running behind the main page.  Except there’s nothing there.  It’s like when you catch a fleeting image out of the corner of your eye but it’s gone when you turn your head, or that whisper of a movement behind you when you look in the mirror and swear that somebody is about to go all Norman Bates on you.  I know I saw the box, I know it was there, why won’t anyone believe me?  

The strangest part is my Microsoft Suite for Mac.  I say suite because that’s what was on the box, but I really only use the Word application.  Whether I click on the stylized “W” in my side bar or I double-click a document I’ve saved to my desktop (for easy access!) I enter into a black hole of despair and gnashing of teeth and deep groans.  Because here is where the poltergeists take over.  The “W” icon bounces merrily away, deceptively looking for all the world like it’s excited to have been selected and it will be there in a minute it just needs to use the bathroom first.  If I listen closely I think I can hear “Tubular Bells” playing which in the movies is the cue that it’s time to hightail it out of there.  Then it stops bouncing and gives birth to an opening screen, as if it’s introducing itself to me (for the hundred thousandth time) and urges me to select a task: thoughtfully, the “new document” option is already highlighted, but that’s another black hole and I won’t go there.  I click on the document I am currently working on, and things start bouncing again.  (I’d like to report that this is the part where the lights flicker and go out, but thankfully my laptop isn’t that powerful.  Yet.)  Hesitatingly, the full screen brings itself up, moaning and clanking, and it’s completely blank.  

This is the part that used to give me a heart attack (which is one of the ways the older victims in the horror movies die and I believe they really get off easy; wouldn’t you rather have a heart attack than be subject to all the gruesome that’s headed the way of the oh-so-attractive and perky young people); the page then loads my words, but oddly enough it loads the last words first.  Seriously.  There they are, the last few words I wrote the day before, and a huge gap of nothingness before it; no intro, no hilarious metaphors, no scintillating ruminations, nada.  I’m patient.  I can wait.  No I can’t.  I attempt to scroll to find the pages, and it happens again!  The spinning beach ball of doom!  What in the world can it possibly be doing?  There are no ads to load, there are no pictures, there’s just the basic text.  When the seven minute gap has passed and I am returned to earth again, the page has loaded except for the last few words.

There are spirits toying with me, my friends, and it’s not amusing.  When I finally am able to get some writing done, and I hit the almighty “save” command, suddenly my disc drive begins to whir and click.  I don’t have a disc in there, I don’t have any settings remotely connecting the two, but the ghosts are not done playing with me, it seems.  I do get a message assuring me my document has been saved, and I decide to leave this nefarious program before something worse happens.  Mousing over to the upper task bar, I click on “Word” and scroll down to “Quit,” because I like closing out programs I’m not using.  It’s like folding and putting away a towel after you’ve finished drying the dishes.  Are you surprised to learn that HOURS later, the program is still attempting to quit?  I imagine those twisted souls hanging on to the document as it spirals down into the “Quit” drain screaming silently and refusing to let it go and clawing at it with their sharp dirty nails, consuming some of my written words in the process and vowing they will make me pay for this transgression.  It’s a scary set of events that I don’t think even the t-shirt-wearing geniuses at Apple can solve…

 

 

 

Or, I just might be letting all the Sleepy Hollow episodes get to me.

 

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Who Knew that Monday Would Rock?

After a really crabby day yesterday, imagine my surprise that I was able to get up at 6:15, be downstairs and breakfasted by 7:00, and have my daily word count completed by 8:30.  Who am I?  This is the routine I used to have as an employed person, and Hubby was shocked that I was up and dressed and making him tea before he even got up and wondered if I was feeling okay.  Maybe a crabby day is the precursor to an accomplished day?  

My crabbiness stemmed from so many sources and they were all illogical.  Why should an unsatisfying dream cause a mood?  It’s not real, for heaven’s sake, so why did it affect me?  Should I call my sister-in-law and demand an explanation for her last-minute change in plans for our cookie business?  For the record, we have no plans for a cookie business, but she left me high and dry in that dream and dag nab it, that was not a good thing.  It left me ripe for a confrontation which I had with my mirror.  (Please tell me you do that, too.  Makes for a cathartic venting of emotions, if a somewhat crazy-looking scene.)  I had my principal and my administrator and my superintendent in front of me (well, in the mirror in front of me)  and I gave them what for.  Clearly I am still carrying many conflicting emotions about this situation and a unresolved cookie business simply broke the camel’s straw or something like that.

Then I rolled the dice even more and went grocery shopping.  On a Sunday afternoon.  Every slow driver in the area must have decided that it was a perfect time to go for a sight-seeing drive, and never mind that the sight-seeing occurred at green lights, crosswalks, stop signs, and the middle of the road.  Really?  You’re actually stopping mid-turn to point to something of interest?  Got your license from a Cracker Jack box, did you?  (Yoda?  Am I channelling Yoda?)  And what’s up with the parking lot of the supermarket?  Do you really have to stay in the middle of the lane, blinker flashing desperately as you wait for the elderly couple to unload their cart?  Couldn’t you drive a bit further and find a different spot?  Oh, that’s good, blast your horn when you perceive someone is trying to cut you off and grab the spot you’re waiting for and in the process give the elderly couple a heart attack.  It’s a spot in a parking lot, not Mecca.  Your giant EscNaviBoat probably won’t fit in the spot, anyway.

Oh, Lord, help me.  I just want to get in, get out, and go home, but They are conspiring against me.  I’ll spare you the descriptive commentary of the Peering shopper, the Drifting shopper, the Just-Off-The-Mothership shopper, the Won’t-Pay-Attention-to-her-Screaming-Baby shopper, the Abandon-the-Cart shopper, the I-Forgot-Something-Be-Back-Quick line hog shopper who comes back carrying nine different items and is scanning the end caps for more stuff to add, and the Let-Me-Examine-Every-Item-Again-As-I-Put-It-On-The-Belt-And-Wait-For-The-Price-To-Show-Up shopper, who you know is going to wait until the total is announced before she dives into her overstuffed handbag to find her checkbook and pen.  My blood pressure is approaching the sort of comparisons you find on hot sauce bottles (Caution! Sizzling! Hell’s Gate!).

To make it a truly gripping tale for you, I’ll just throw out there that I had to go to THREE separate stores to find lard.  Why is this a thing?  Where else would I buy lard?  It’s not like there’s a plethora of pig farms out in the suburbs that I can pull up to a grab a bucketful.  Why do I need lard?  (Boy, is that a loaded question!  For that reason, I did not ask store personnel “where can I find lard?’ in case they answered “Why, I believe you can just look at your hips and buttocks, madam,” and instead asked the more direct “Do you sell lard?”)  Because Hubby is making apple pie and it has been drummed into our collective brains by my late father that lard is the only acceptable fat for a pie crust.  I’ve heard of butter, vegetable shortening, even vodka (and isn’t that an intriguing experiment to think about?) but I’m sure we’d be haunted severely if we ever deviated from using lard.  For the curious among you, this is the New York Times Cookbook recipe for pie crust.  

Reaching the safe haven of home did not improve my mood, and my poor Hubby was knocking himself out.  He had cleared three items off the To-Do List, fixed a sign that I broke because I was too impatient to slowly sink it into the ground, cleared off the counter in preparation for apple pie magic, and was going to be in charge of dinner.  He is Superman, and I was just a big old crab.  Hugs didn’t even uncrab me.

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I think the real kicker on the crabbiness was the fact I saw two of my colleagues (excuse me, former colleagues) in the supermarket and I avoided them.  I just didn’t want to get into anything, even though I knew they would have been super supportive and caring and genuine and offered lots of hugs, but I avoided them anyway.  And that did not feel good.  It was way worse than the usual reaction of seeing someone you want to avoid because you don’t want to be sucked into that conversation where you relive the last year of your lives minute by minute and irritated shoppers want to get something off the shelf exactly where you’re standing.  This was inexcusable and it sealed the crabbiness for the day.

I will say, however, that a cup of hot tea with Bailey’s Irish Cream is a remarkable cure.

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Amen.

Tell me how you uncrab.

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Oh What a Feeling

I am the recipient of a lovely gift today.

 

Because I am no longer working (and really, can I just take a moment for a huge thank you to Hubby for easing my guilt about not finding another job right away and understanding that a mental/nervous/emotional breakdown takes different spans of recovery and for being the best supportive and all-around awesome dude? Thanks.) and because my Younger Daughter is away at the Institute of Secondary Knowledge and Social Hilarity, and because my Older Daughter has taken flight and is now in the Land of the Wearing of the Green and the Guinness and because Hubby has a meeting tonight, I will be all by myself this day, until roughly 10:30 this evening.  You can’t see it, but I’m kind of squirming in my chair with delight.

It’s also raining.  It’s a cold October rain which is the forerunner of a project nor’easter for today and tomorrow, and the skies are leaden and there’s soggy leaves all about the lawn and I don’t need to go anywhere.  There’s a huge gift right there.  I didn’t have to get up at Dark O’Clock and struggle with gloom and soggy and wild hair and grumpy commuters and I didn’t have to throw an apple and a cheesestick into my bag and secretly wish for mac and cheese instead.

Today my gift is a precious day of freedom.  I am free to do what I want, when I want it, because nobody has requirements of me today.  (Well, apart from the obvious of please not burning the house down, but I’m reasonably sure that’s safely on the list of things not to do today.)  I will write, I will sip endless cups of tea, I will knit gifts for the gift-giving season soon upon us, I will watch Netflix and television and catch up on shows I have missed.  I will eat what I want, when I want, and there just might be popcorn for dinner.  

Although, part of me does feel a wee bit guilty.  But I’m working on that, too.

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And I’m going to build a blanket fort, too!

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The Artery-Clogging Memory

Yesterday I took a little side trip down memory lane via food.  (Anybody surprised I’m talking about food again?  Nope, me neither.)

First, when you’re a teacher, your lunchtime food choices generally fall into just a few categories: leftovers from dinner, a yogurt and piece of fruit, a Lean Cuisine, or heaven-help-you cafeteria food.  Then there are the teachers whom I call “The Borrowers” and, like their lesson plans, subside on whatever they can find laying around at the last moment; they’re the first ones in line when the birthday kid arrives with the mangled, germ-laden cupcakes.  You have about 17 minutes to consume said “meal” and woe to your afternoon classes if it isn’t easily digested.  Cafeteria pizza, I’m just sayin’.

A group of us used to coordinate a salad day, taking turns to bring in greens, proteins, cheeses, toppings, dressings, assorted fillers (tomatoes, peppers, onions, artichokes, olives, etc.), drinks, and dessert.  We had themes: Chef’s salad, Mexican salad, Italian salad, Deli salad, Cobb salad, etc.  We even did a baked potato bar one day.  It was a little island of normal in the sea of crazy known as a public school day schedule, and we were legend.

Yesterday, however, I went back to my late teenaged years and visited a deli with Older Daughter where we got sandwiches.  Oh, my.  I haven’t had deli in a very long time, because I convinced myself that it’s better to have an apple and cheese stick for lunch on a regular basis.  No, it hasn’t done anything for my health and well-being, it just meant I didn’t have to think too hard about packing a lunch.  But oh, the deli….

Visiting my aunt always meant deli.  A Saturday afternoon lunch was always a casual “let’s get some deli” and my mouth would begin watering.  A deli spread was a cornucopia of aromas and tastes and beauty and fascination and just a bit of overwhelming, because it’s all there and it’s waiting for you to nibble and taste and die a little.  The brown paper bags would be brought in and each treasure unpacked to be arranged on the table like an offering to our taste buds, their own little Christmas celebration of gifts.

Rye bread, with caraway seeds clinging precariously to the thin, crispy crust and embedded deep within the dough; little buttery rolls of softness with a special sheen and fluffy yellow dough; big, floury Kaiser rolls with their simple clover-like design on top and a gaping air hole within; and a wee bit of pumpernickel for the exotic tastes among us.

Freshly sliced meats, always roast beef with a deep red that boasted and an aroma that intoxicated; ham that was pink and pearlescent and rectangular and whisper-thin that begged to be rolled up into a thin pencil of yummy; bologna that had clear plastic covering on the edges that everyone forgot to remove until that first bite and then removed, spaghetti-like, from the first mid-chew; turkey that was a creamy tan with a darker brown edging and cried out for a tangy partner; liverwurst that was thick and creamy and a little foreign with its yellow casing and German writing; and salami, always Genoa and never hard, which I avoided because the fat spots contrasting with the peppercorns just looked like a war waiting to happen in my stomach.

Cheeses that were a colorful contrast to the meats: pale and nutty Swiss cheese (authentic from Switzerland!); provolone that was sharp enough to make you pucker and a perfect shade of off-white; muenster for the mild-loving members of the family; and American for the purists.  Usually there was a small package that stayed wrapped but emanating the most disgusting smell and that was always somebody’s special request of Liederkranz, the stinkiest cheese that reminded me of nothing more than overripe boy’s sneakers. (The sneakers were overripe, not the boy.  Although come to think of it…)

The sideliners that were not the stars of the show, but still needed to make an appearance at any decent deli lunch: the unnaturally white-colored potato salad that for some reason always had grated carrot in it, and really why would you do that to a potato; macaroni salad which always looked promising but every time disappointed because of being overly sweet, and who determined that macaroni salad from a deli should always require sugar, anyway; cole slaw which I learned to love in later years because the crisp texture and tang was a delightful answer to the smooth meats and cheeses; chicken salad without any crunchy celery or raw onion, thank you very much; tuna salad which nobody bothered with because we could get that any time; and a splurge on some shrimp salad which everybody got a teaspoon of and closed their eyes in ecstasy over; egg salad which everybody loved which is odd because it was just as ordinary as tuna salad but from the deli it was always better and looked so gorgeous on a slice of pumpernickel.

Last, but not least, were the pickles.  You could not walk out of a deli without buying pickles, and even though there was a lovely dish set aside just for the pickles and you couldn’t imagine a table without them, very few of us actually ate them.  They smelled heavenly, especially the dill pickles, but at what point do you eat them?  Try a bite before your sandwich, and you’ve compromised that initial bite of heaven you’ve been anticipating; in the middle of your sandwich time, like a commercial, and you have to re-acclimate your mouth to what it had been doing and needed to clear out the pickle coating on your tongue; and at the end? Well, I’ve never thought of pickles as dessert, and by the time the nibbling was done, the pickles just didn’t seem like the way to go.  So off they went, back in the container to sit in the fridge until somebody was looking for “just a little snack” during the football games on Sunday.

Yesterday’s visit to the deli brought all that back to me, and more: how does a deli manage to have chicken cutlets the size of a dinner plate? Where does the fake plastic parsley garland come from?  Why does nobody order the shrimp salad any more, leaving a spoon forlornly stuck in the untouched mound of pink creaminess?  And again, why does deli egg-salad look and taste so much better than mine?  I bet they put chicken fat in it, that’s it.  We did not order a “spread” like my aunt used to, but instead specific sandwiches, and mine was nothing like the deli days of my past: chicken, mozzarella, roasted red peppers, baby greens, and balsamic vinaigrette on focaccia bread.  

It was freaking delicious, but I wanted so much to be at my aunt’s table again.

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Still!

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Students on My Mind

Every now and then I find myself thinking of a former student.  For no singular reason, the memory of one will just pop in my brain and I relive my relationship with them.  Today it’s Frank.*

*(Insert obligatory disclaimer about names have been changed; but really, after fourteen years of teaching, there’s probably not too many names I haven’t had on my grade list so what’s the point?)

Frank was a taller than average kindergarten student and had meltingly beautiful eyes and a very sweet smile.  He was enthusiastic about everything and often clapped his hands when happy.  His attention would wander sometimes, as is the right of every kindergarten student, and when brought back on topic he would look as if he’d woken from a lovely dream.  Frank could get carried away a little bit (see: kindergarten rights and privileges) and one day I saw the tell-tale hand flapping and something-not-quite-connected-look that signaled an underlying issue.  But Frank continued to be gentle and loving and readily ushered into first grade.

Come third grade, Frank was even taller and his best friends were girls.  He still had his hand-flapping moments and still had his beautiful smile, but sometimes got very frustrated when people didn’t understand him quickly enough.  We shared some special moments and our agreement was that if he was going out of bounds and saw me raise an eyebrow, that was the signal to stop and breathe.  He confided later that it was easier for him to see my eyebrow than to hear another teacher yelling at him to stop, and I felt a profound sense of identity with Frank.  How many of us would find it easier for a quiet, trusting signal to get a point across than a harshly yelling voice indicating a breach of trust?  Frank was my inspiration to find those little reassuring signs for many other students and ultimately for my own children.

When Frank was in 6th grade, he was very tall, had an adolescent’s soft moustache, still had girls as best friends, and was more in control of himself.  He earned excellent grades and was sweet and sincere.  He tried out for the school musical and I was so proud of him; especially since he auditioned with a song and he really didn’t carry a tune all that well.  (okay, not at all, but he was so sweet!)  I cast him in a role of a silent king, and when he asked how he was supposed to act without a voice, I showed him examples of grand gestures.  “Sometimes, Frank, you’ll only be able to use facial expressions to show the entire audience what you mean.”

Frank got very excited.  “You mean, this time I get to be the one using my eyebrows to tell you something?  This is going to be so awesome!  I love this part!”

I have so much to learn from Frank.

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Stop Screwin’ With My Calendar

It’s Saturday in October and instead of feeling the crisp fall air invigorating me and prompting me to get out and do stuff, it’s another 80 degree humid day.  WTH Fall?  I anticipate you all year, October is my favorite month, I delay all gardening plans until I can count on the cool, clear mornings to not turn me into a limp rag of sweat, and this is what happens?  

*Grumble, grumble*

Now to find the positive:  

  1. I have to go to a dressy event this evening, and because it’s so humid I won’t have to fuss with my hair, I’ll just put it up and be done with it.
  2. I can watch Pioneer Woman on Food Network, because it’s too humid to do manual labor.
  3. I believe I will have a second cup of tea, because when it’s too humid to move quickly, you have a chance to take things easy.
  4. I can do easy tasks, like wiping down counters and tabletops; I can’t dust surfaces because the humidity makes the dust get all icky.
  5. I’ll clean out the refrigerator, because the humidity forces me to seek cooler climes to keep nice and cool.

See?  So positive!  I’m positive I hate humidity!

 

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Totally happens in my fridge.

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