Monday, September 28, 2009
What I will share is the view from the kitchen window, the beautiful backdrop for our belly laughs and the canvas for our conversations.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Once at school, I logged on to my computer—like every morning—and opened everything that I need to function: my on-line grade and attendance book, the on-line text book for my Biology classes, a few Word and Power Point documents, and my email account. But today—unlike most mornings— I had an email in my inbox not from another address in my district. It was from a former student.
“It's [LK]. I was just writing you to thank you so much for teaching me about neurons and the brain! I know it sounds random, but I am a psychology major and we are learning all about the structure of neurons (like the dendrites, and we learned about the end buttons) and all the different parts of the brain (like the frontal, occipital [lobes] etc.). Me and a few other kids in the class [sic] are the only ones who know what the professor is talking about. I just wanted to thank you because your class has made it so much easier for me to follow along in the lectures! Thank you again!”
I wrote back immediately. I had time to, of course. “Hi, [LK]! Thanks so much for writing. I’m glad you are finding it easier to follow along in lectures because of your experience in A&P. Your hard work is paying off! […] Your note made my day.”
I’m glad I didn’t stay home sick. Today I’m even glad that I choose to continue to work in this Petri Dish Dust Ball that resembles a high school.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Now if we could have a National Possessive vs. Plural Day or maybe we could just call that Apostrophe Awareness Day, and a Pronoun Protection Day that teaches when to use objective and subjective pronouns and eliminates the wasteful use of I when me is appropriate. We celebrate things like cotton candy (December 7--I looked it up) and baked beans (they get the whole month of July), so why not use these awareness days and month-long celebrations to brush up on grammar? Perhaps I should look that up before I continue on my rant....
Oh my! There is a National Grammar Day! March 4. I can hardly wait.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I thought for a moment (more like a nanosecond) and said, “English.”
The class was somewhere between shocked and confused, and the student thought he could elicit the answer he expected by asking, “If you couldn’t be a science teacher or an English teacher, what kind of teacher would you be?”
Again, they were incredulous. They all thought I would answer that I’d be a math teacher. I was happy they made a connection between math and science, but not willing to tell them what I’m about to reveal here.
I became a science major because I was tracked in an honors program that was heavy in math and science. Biology came easy to me, and I liked it enough to major in it, to think I might become a doctor. But now I look away from the TV when they are showing someone get a flu shot. If I open up a fetal pig to demonstrate dissection I struggle not to vomit. I hate labs. The idea of counting individual grains of rice is more appealing than setting up dropper bottles and divvying up pH paper. And more than anything, I hate correcting lab reports. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t be a science teacher.
I do still love learning about science, hearing about the latest in research. I get thrilled when I hear something on the morning news that I can talk about in class, especially when it happens to be on topic. (Those are the days I feel like God is telling me to keep teaching…) I like being the one in a conversation circle who can shut up the blow hard who doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about when he starts to wax scientific about nutrition but doesn’t know the first thing about carbohydrates, which include both sugars and starches. Or the hypochondriac who confuses viruses and bacteria and whose doctor’s appointment suddenly becomes fictitious. I like being the one who friends call to clarify how one counts days in the menstrual cycle or to ask what mucous is.
But I don’t like being the one who understands genetics and mutations and can explain what the BRCA2 gene is to family members who are being tested, while the third woman in my family in as many generations is fighting “breast cancer, early onset.”
I’d rather be an English teacher.
I love Trader Joe’s because I can get some things there that I cannot get elsewhere, and all things I can get reasonably priced—with no coupons or gimmicks. I don’t mind printing a coupon to get an outfit at L&T for a steal, but I resent coupon clipping for groceries. I do it, begrudgingly, but I resent it. At TJs, there is no need. I bought a half gallon of milk for $1.49—with no silver coin. I bought arugula for $1.99, without having to buy 2 to get the bargain (BOGO) price. Aseptic quarts of broth are always 1.99 and a package of eight 6-inch whole wheat pitas is $1.49.
I love their Soyaki, which I always have on hand in the fridge along with their mango chutney and Thai yellow curry. Their tomato-less corn salsa is addictive—a cycle of heat and sweet that keeps you coming back for more, and their gyoza is a freezer staple for a quick dinner in a pinch that can ward off a Chinese take-out call. I have been happy with their cheeses and flash frozen fish, and am never without a bag of their haricot verts.
In addition to my standard fare purchases, there is always something new that catches my eye and appeals to my culinary curiosity or stimulates my appetite. Their confections, on shelves above their freezer bins, are always worth a second look. Try as I might to look down and focus on the frozen vegetables, my eyes always find something sweet to consider. Saturday two things made their way into my cart: Seriously Nutty and Seedy Wafers, and Dark Chocolate Crisps.
Imagine a lightly candied disk of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and cashews atop a wafer that without said mixture on top looks like a giant Eucharist, presumably to keep the nut and seed disks separate, and possibly an alternate route to Heaven. And picture Pringles, only thinner and made of dark chocolate, with just the right amount of crunch provided by tiny puffed rice. A. Maze. Ing.
But maybe the best part is that after all my shopping, I still have money left to buy flowers. The bunch of roses and alstromeria in the picture was 3.99. The fifteen stem bunch of alstromeria on my dining room table was 5.99.
So, do you get why I [heart] TJs?
Friday, September 18, 2009
I hesitate because yesterday I planned, after my visit to the gym and a quick dinner at home, to run errands and go shopping. I had to go to Wal-Mart, and to Target to pick up some pictures from Seattle that I finally had developed (printed?), and I thought I might head further away to Lord and Taylor. (I have a coupon!) But apparently the universe had other plans.
I got in my car and it wouldn’t start. Nothing. No click, no laboring. I tried using my power windows; they budged an inch and stopped, and wouldn’t go back up. I figured it was my battery. But I wasn’t sure. The only person who could be sure is my father, of course. So I did what any respectable and responsible single forty-four year old woman would do in a situation like that. I called my dad. Who needs AAA when my dad lives 10 minutes away? He confirmed it sounds like my battery, and offered to help me out today. He and my mom were headed out somewhere, so I told him I could get a ride to school today and we could deal with it Saturday if he wanted, but he was willing to help today after school.
I am grateful for his willingness to help and his ability to do car things. I have my fingers crossed that after buying a car battery, because I really have no idea how much that will cost, I’ll have money left for those errands. But as for this afternoon, there will be no margaritas with work friends. (Wow, no shopping, no margaritas…)
As for tomorrow, well I guess that’s for the universe to decide also. But I’m feeling pretty hopeful that it won’t have issues with an early autumn day of nesting.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
After big hugs and smiles they started talking a mile a minute, sometimes talking over each other, sometimes taking turns telling me stories, with excitement and the pure, unadulterated joy of children.
“Asia,” Charlie said. “I learned my F words today!”
OMG. My heart stopped and I bit my lip, because I was on the verge of laughing, thinking, what the hell did my crazy sister say that he overheard?...
“Firetruck. Fan. Fwends. Fuzzy[…]”
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
For the two plus years I have had cable TV (I was a hold out. I don’t know if I’m proud or embarrassed), it has been enough to use info, guide, select, last, volume, and number keys. I look at what’s between channels 2 and 63 (Bravo), and that’s the extent of it. And there I was, using the A, B, and C keys, somewhere in the 900s!
Music?!?! I have cable music channels? I thought that was on a fancier, more expensive plan—if that’s possible without being criminal. Wow! All those times TV shows were just white noise I could have been listening to commercial free music (since I don’t have an ipod and speaker set up. I don’t actually even have an ipod)?! I couldn’t believe it.
Really I couldn’t. I doubted my luck, thought maybe it was a free weekend special. So last night, as I was getting ready to watch the Patriots season opener (go Pats!) and not interested in a third consecutive half hour of local news, I thought I’d double check. Could I find it again? Would it still be there?
Well, not only did I still have music available, but I decided to search the guide again—by category even (go, me!)—and use new buttons on my remote and when I did, I found…[wait for it]…games! Sudoku on my TV screen! And the music was still there. While classic rock continued to play—Jimi Hendrix followed by Aerosmith, then Neil Young—I did a Sudoku puzzle with my remote. How cool is that?
And I found a channel that runs back to back PBS cooking shows—Ming and Lidia and Joanne Weir—and then, thank goodness I set my timer for the game because I would have missed it.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I haven’t bought new sneakers in years, and the ones I have just don’t feel right. Honestly, they never did. So with my coupon in hand (well, in cute pink bag), I went to a sporting goods store to check out some new fitness trainers. Listen to me. I fell in love with a pair of Nikes and bought them. They are white mesh, with little patent leather reflective thingies on the side (I guess technically they are “adjustable midfoot support straps, for stability”), and turquoise blue (one of my favorite colors!) on the tongue and sole. They’re so cute—and comfortable! Without my 25 dollar off coupon they would have been the most expensive sneakers I have ever owned. Even with the coupon, I think they are. But the point really is more that I got as excited about wearing them as I did those patent leather shoes whose days are numbered. In fact, I had to wear them the very next day—while I was running errands. I was like a teenager wearing corduroys in mid-September, back-to-school heat or a Fisherman’s knit sweater during Indian summer—excited and unable to wait until the moment was right. There I was tooling around Costco and Shaw’s in my new trainers.
I had already bought a new five pack of socks (so comfy!) when I bought three new sports bras the day before. (My last sports bra purchase dates back longer than sneakers!) What’s next? A fancy, sporty gym watch with built in heart monitor? Matching turquoise ear buds?
Yeah, you’re right. Definitely the matching earbuds.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Monday through Friday begin at 5:30 am, and end around 9:30 pm. Between 3 and 5 I try to take care of errands and the gym. I try to watch the local and national evening news, eat dinner by 6 and start really winding down by 8. Weekends are for cleaning, and grocery shopping, other errands, laundry, and some sort of fun. Sometimes it includes a big Sunday breakfast, maybe Friday night dinner out, maybe a shopping trip.
That is, once I’m back to school I have structure again, and make good use of my time. I’m productive. And I get more done in a weekend than I do in a week on vacation. (As I tell Tamara, Gas expands to fit its container.) I balance housework and play. My weekend is my both my reward for making it through a week at work and my time to prepare for another one.
I love weekends. Almost as much as I love summer vacation.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
A piece of baguette cut to double as a hoagie roll and lighted toasted in the oven, mayonnaise, bacon, native tomato slices and arugula.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
There we were, Auntie Joanne and her monkeys (except Charlie, who wasn’t born yet), on the gondola-style Ferris Wheel, so that all four of us could ride at once, suspended above the parking lot when I came as close to a panic attack as I ever have in my life. Keep your cool, I coached myself. Look at the kids, not at the ground below. I was shocked. How many times had I been in an airplane, on roller coasters? And now, I was going to panic on a Ferris Wheel? With kids? For whom I was responsible? So not cool.
My next near panic attack came almost a year later on the Newport Bridge. I focused on the road rather than the beautiful scenery and made it across without incident. But I wondered about this height thing. What was going on with me? Had middle age (did I say that?) zap all the boldness out of me? Why was I a scaredy-cat all of the sudden?
Eventually I figured out that this fear wasn’t out of the blue at all. Just a little different.
My father loves to tell a story about when he was building a porch with my uncles and I, 4 or 5 years old at the time, got on a pile of 2 by 4s in the back yard and started crying because after I had climbed up, I was afraid to get down those 6 or 8 harrowing inches. Legend has it I wailed. And I’ve always hated ladders. I don’t mind climbing up, it’s the journey down that makes my heart race and that I avoid at all costs. And now I guess just looking down from somewhere high makes me anxious.
I wonder what that says about me. What might a therapist scribble in a note? Fear of falling, so avoids climbing and heights altogether.
And that's a little too much to think about without a bag of those Big E mini-donuts.
First they talked about rides, amusement park vs. carnival rides, which went on for a moment or two. Then, after a lull in conversation, I heard the girl say to the woman waiting, not her mother I assumed since she called her something other than Mom, “It’s okay if you want to go back to the table. It’s going to be a while. [pause] I’m pooping.”
“Okay. Just remember to wash your hands. See you soon.”
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I usually heart the Food Network, but lately they’ve been airing an ad for The Best Thing I Ever Ate, a lame filler show. The commercial says “What Makes Their Mouth Water?” What?!?!?!? All the chefs and FN celebrities share one, collective mouth? Isn’t that interesting? And that’s not even a sentence that would require two singular, gender appropriate options. All that takes to correct is an s. Make mouth plural, and it agrees with their. What makes their mouths water? Each chef has his or her own mouth.
Doesn’t the Food Network have editors? They should. And maybe those editors could spend a little time coaching the chefs and celebs on the overuse of adverbs when adjectives are required, and ending sentences in prepositions. Cooking shows are a hotbed of grammatical gaffes. Why can’t we just fry anymore? Or sauté? Cook or bake? Measure? Seems every time I turn on a cooking show they are cooking or baking something off or frying something up. Since when?
Maybe it happened when healthy foods became healthful. Which is probably about the time all houses became homes, even when they are empty structures. But that’s another post.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thanks again for reading! Next celebration: 1 year!
There is Ann Marie. She had knee replacement surgery last winter (on both knees) and retired recently and loves to cook. While we waded near the steps at the low end and chatted, she introduced me to a new produce stand in town, we exchanged some recipes and cooking tips, and she shared with me a couple stories of some tragedies in her life. Last year I ran into her at CVS and at the polls; this year she asked for my address and phone number. “I thought of you at Christmas, and would have loved to send you a card, but I didn’t know what unit you’re in or your last name even,” she said. So during my last week of vacation, she walked over to my chair with an address book and asked for my address and phone number. She had brought a scrap of paper with hers already written on it. “If I don’t see you, have a good year,” she said.
Kristina is a regular like me, usually there in the mornings during the week. She is a high school math teacher (it’s easy to figure out who the teachers are!) and a soccer coach who had a few more days of vacation than I had. Funny, but once over the winter I didn’t recognize her by the mailboxes. It was a snowy day and we were all bundled up and I didn’t realize until I walked away that the fair skinned woman in the winter coat was Kristina; I was so used to seeing her on her lounge chair in a bikini, skinny and tan.
Caroline is in her late twenties. This was her second season by the pool, and her last season of being able to tolerate a roommate, so she just bought a new condominium in her home town. She has been by the pool with her mom (also a teacher) and dad, sometimes said roommate. She enjoys an incognito cocktail by the pool like yours truly, and also like me enjoys peace and quiet to read. We decided it would be nice to go out for a drink before she moves on, so we programmed each other’s cell phone numbers one afternoon recently. A weekend die hard, I’m sure I’ll see her over the weekend. Maybe her mom will be there too.
And there’s Susan, who recently moved into the complex. She’s a visiting nurse to whom I lamented about my cankles when I got back from Seattle, who raised her children on the Cape, lived in New Mexico for 10 years after a divorce, and now has moved back to be closer to her children, especially her grandchildren. One daughter lives in Florida and is getting married next month. I hope to wish her a safe and happy weekend away, and perhaps exchange phone numbers with her so that we might go out for a drink too. Both of us like the new Mexican place down the road, so a margarita would hit the spot.
Of course there is Dean, who like me prefers the pool child-free. If I am the Queen of the Pool, he is probably the King. He lives in my building and we frequent the same restaurants, so I see him year round. And there’s Jen, yet another teacher, who just got married (and with whom I share a small world connection); and Bill, a single dad of a teenage girl. Others I know by face, or bathing suit, or chair, but not name.
This cast of characters is a bunch of nice people and I wish them all well. I guess it’s like getting to know people at a country club. (And maybe the gym?) That is, I don’t imagine we will become BFFs, but I do enjoy their occasional company. And it seems only right to say goodbye to the summer with them.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
"Do you think I should do band?"
"Well, what instrument are you thinking of playing?"
"Oh. I didn't know you liked the trumpet. Why do you want to play the trumpet?"
"It's the easiest. "
"It is?" I asked.
"Yeah, it only has three buttons."
I am ready for my first.
First of all, it appears the last time I used gym equipment was in the Dark Ages, or at least before the dawn of technology. After my tour of the facilities and signing up for the first of my four training sessions, I thought I would start simply with the treadmill. From there I could use a StairMaster. If I stayed in the cardiovascular room, away from the resistance equipment and ellipticals and the free weights, in that big room where everyone seemed comfortable I could probably fake it, hop right on and act like I knew what I was doing. Um, if it weren’t a treadmill from a science fiction movie! (And I hate science fiction) I might have been able to figure it out. But instead the buttons and arrows and flashing lights made me want to cry. But I didn’t. I got off and remembered that a person with inner dignity is never embarrassed. I found the fitness instructor and asked him to show me. He did. And while I really didn’t absorb it all (partly because after two minutes he sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher), and he was lying when he said once I learned those particular computer controls I could use all the machines (more on that later), I was able to use the treadmill when he walked away.
About five minutes in I was sweating. Ten minutes later the blood vessels in my face had dilated, mixed with my tan, I had a purplish-crimson tinge. I looked away from the mirror and kept walking. I wondered if an alarm would sound when the red heart was flashing, but I increased the pace and kept walking. And walking. I even broke out into a bit of a jog. And eventually decreased my pace before the end of my 20 minutes on the treadmill that felt like no 20 minutes I have EVER exercised in my living room or my neighborhood. And, damn, the calorie burn counter must have been broken, because I barely burned enough on the treadmill to earn a glass of wine with dinner.
So I took a sip of water, wiped down the machine, and stepped on the Stairstepper, as the manager called it, and for the life of me couldn’t figure it out or am clearly not ready to be on that machine. My strides were short and I couldn’t change the pace. But I gave it a go. Then got off after 10 minutes. I went home with jelly legs knowing the toughest part was behind me.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
In life, mostly, we know how much something costs up front before making the decision to buy it. In retail stores we see price tags on items or shelves. It’s $120, but everyone needs a cashmere sweater in black, no? Nowadays you can even find scanners in the score which serve the dual purpose of identifying a price and satisfying the frustrated inner cashier in some of us.
You bring your car to the shop, they give you an estimate first, right? You want to build a deck, have your local contractor come by and work out the plans and price. You pull up to the pump, you know what you’ll be paying (reluctantly) for a gallon of gas. And menus have prices. Never do you eat a bowl of pasta then get bowled over by the price. You know up front.
But it occurred to me recently, as I seethe at a bill from my dentist, that such is not the case in medicine or dentistry. There’s no signage when you walk in an office that says:
Blood pressure reading: $50
Blood pressure and pulse combo: $75
I don’t know how much a Pap smear costs up front, nor would I be in a position to negotiate for one. (Literally.) But maybe worse than not knowing is that, really, if we did know up front, we can’t really do anything about it. We’re stuck. For those of us who are fortunate to have insurance, the only way we know how much a dentist or doctor charges is if our insurance doesn’t cover it all and we get a bill.
On a recent bill from my dentist I saw a charge of $175 for a crown recement. Even if I walked in with a crown in a coin purse because I was silly enough to eat a Sugar Daddy I’d find this high, but such was not the case. In order to prep another tooth for a crown for which they would bill me, they needed to take off an existing crown, then recement it later. But it wasn’t considered a part of the new crown prep cost. Unbelievable. And yet if I did know up front that it would cost the equivalent of 6 manicures, I could not have said, no, I’d rather you not uncement then recement my crown so that you can prep the tooth next to it for a crown. Now I’m just pissed that I’m stuck with the bill.
And yet I know I am fortunate. I can’t imagine what it must be like to live without any health or dental insurance coverage. At all. I'd have shabby hands and one less tooth, I'm sure.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I’m nervous. Of course I am! I know that my first time there I am going to feel as vulnerable as I did when I was in grammar school and we picked teams for kickball, or when I had to change into a one-piece gym suit in the locker room at the middle school. I’m going to put myself back in that self-conscious place that none of us likes to go, but it’s clear to me that since I am not willing to give up food or wine, and my logy metabolism is slowing down even more now that I’m in my mid-forties (did I just say that?), I need to exercise more.
The last time I frequented a gym it was a painless and successful and free experience. I eased into it slowly with my friend Candyce. We were both Resident Directors at Simmons College at the time, and fortunate to have access to the newly constructed, state-of-the-art Sports Center. We started by walking together on the suspended track, and eventually felt confident enough to tackle the Stair Master. Gradually we used all the equipment regularly—rowing machines, bicycles, treadmill. And it was great. I stayed with it for two years, and got fit enough to run. Yeah, like outside, with a walkman, which—once I no longer had the luxury of free gym membership—was a good thing because it was free.
Alas that was a long time and a foot surgery ago, and I have no friend to accompany me or encourage me this go-around. But I do think it’s about time I moved a little more. So wish me luck.
(And think of the material I’ll get there, the stories I’ll have to share!)
Once my air conditioner is off for the season and the days get shorter and colder, I find my way back to the kitchen. I experiment with new recipes and make old favorites like chili, whose recipe I developed decades ago, before anchovy paste was among my refrigerator staples and I knew what Sriracha was. Recent faves include an Italian sausage soup, and spicy sesames noodles with pork tenderloin medallions. Because I am my mother’s daughter I usually make more food than necessary, so I tend to freeze or share. Sometimes both.
As I have mentioned before my friend Amy is also a foodie and avid cook, so she and I developed a lunch club of a sort, where we take turns trying out new recipes on each other or sharing leftover favorites. There is no formal schedule or pressure to supply (even though Amy apologizes a lot when her husband leaves no leftovers), but on occasion one of us will deliver to the other a lunch, packed nicely in a gift bag or small shopping tote, including any necessary accoutrement, like a hard roll for soup, or grated cheese, or tortilla chips for said chili, and a sweet treat. Neither of us claim or desire to be pastry chefs, but can usually muster a couple of Hershey kisses from our pantries, or something from our respective chocolate stashes like anyone with two X chromosomes should.
I though about making chili the other day, but wasn’t there yet. Soon enough. Again, I’m not ready to rush the seasons, just looking forward to the treasures they bring.