Saturday, October 31, 2009

In the Moment

I have a very vivid memory of being on the T in Boston, holding the overhead bar, standing as the C-line car rode up Beacon Street out of Coolidge Corner toward Washington Square, thinking I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I don’t know where the feeling came from, or what prompted it, but it was visceral. And it was a powerful moment. I remember feeling so content and at ease and in the moment. Everything in my life, every moment previous, had brought to that moment and it was right. I was centered and grounded and certain.

These days, as much as I feel certain and sure, I also feel distracted, sometimes dissatisfied, sometimes uncertain. I wonder if I should change careers again, or if I should move back to Boston—if not now then when I retire from this career. I wonder how different my life might have been if I hadn’t moved back to Connecticut to teach. And I wonder if I will ever be paid to write something other than quizzes and tests and lesson plans. Still, despite those moments, I believe that I am content more often than I am not.

I have moments, when my feet are up on the coffee table or up on the couch tucked under my throw blanket, and my house smells good—perhaps of something I cooked, or the scent of a candle or both (the other day, the smell of fresh brewed coffee and my pumpkin spice candle combined to make it smell like a donut shop in a weird way)—and I’m reading a good book or flipping through a magazine when I think, what a perfect day. That kind of contentment feels close to what it was like that moment, but not quite.

The other day I came even closer. I decided to stop at a restaurant I used to frequent but no longer do (for no particular reason) to have a quick bite to eat and a drink on my way home from shopping after work. I ended up having an absolutely delightful conversation with the gentleman to my right, who was also on a first name basis with the bartender and whom my instincts knew was a good person. (How nice it was not to be in my twenties and not to have wondered for one moment about ulterior motives!) Indeed, through conversation I found him also to be a good husband and father. We talked easily, about food and wine, and Boston, our favorite restaurantts and hotels there. We talked about Florence and Rome and London and his children, and his wife, and education. I was able to have that conversation because of every moment that had come before it in my life, because of all the places I had been and the experiences I brought with me.

And at that moment, I was in the moment. I was content. And I was glad I stopped in.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Making Things Right

or follow up to Breakdown

I think it’s only fair that I update you on my tire nightmare…

Early this week I decided to pursue a formal complaint with the Customer Service Coordinator at the tire company (that I said sucked) after my experience with them last weekend. The CSC replied to my initial email and asked me to call to discuss specifics. I did, and was able to share my frustration and disappointment--along with names and times. In return he offered his sincere apologies and told me that he would refund me the labor costs associated with the four hour nightmare (actually six--two on Friday, four on Saturday), for which he said there was no excuse. I have not received my check in the mail yet, but I should get it any day.

Obviously I would have preferred good customer service last weekend, but at least they (he) tried to make good. I won't get those 6 hours of my life back, but I'll take the 67 bucks.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I have a thing with chili. I love to make it in the fall and winter but never make or eat it in the summer. In the spring, a frozen portion may find its way into my lunch bag, but for me chili is seasonal—in a way that makes sense, I think. Which implies that I know someone with food season rules that don’t make as much sense. In fact, my brother-in-law Jim thinks soup is seasonal (winter food) but will only eat clam chowder, and only in the summer. And then there’s Amy. Her rules are not seasonal, per se, but she has a list of foods that are not Amy-approved that I can’t figure out. Miss Foodie McFoodenstein, who was just a finalist in a recipe contest, won’t eat mushrooms, or fish. She’d probably eat offal before eating squash. But I digress. (Which I imagine you are beginning to see is common with me. I may circle around the airport a few times, but I will land the plane. I promise.)

I didn’t grow up eating chili, and I can’t remember when I decided I liked it, but I do remember being in search of the ultimate chili recipe when I lived in Boston. I tried recipes, combined recipes, used some elements from different recipes, tried those out, then tweaked them and ultimately came up with the recipe I use today. Which I continue to tweak. I make it with ground beef and onion and garlic and beans and crushed tomatoes, seasoned with chili powder and cumin and garlic powder. It’s not quite Cincinnati chili, but it’s not Texas chili either. Because it has beans, it’s not chili con carne. I guess it’s just my own concoction, which always gets great reviews.

I think chili for me is the equivalent of my mother’s chicken soup, which in Polish we call rosół. When I make chili I am my mother’s daughter. Food is love. I make it in a big pot and share it. I always have Jodi and Mandy over for chili in the fall and send them home with the leftovers, and I usually have my friend Kim over for some. Amy gets it for lunch (it is Amy-approved), and a batch usually makes it to a Patriots tailgate. Sometimes I bring some to my parents, and my sisters. Yesterday I brought some for Erika and Juli to try. If there’s any left, I’ll freeze it in portions for lunch or dinner in a pinch. But I’d be just as happy to give it all away then to keep some for myself just in case. Happier, in fact.

Like my mother’s rosół, I secretly hope that—even when I share the recipe—people can’t replicate it, that there’s just that something about my chili that makes it better and worth waiting for me to share it again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Purple Pens

Several years ago, maybe ten, my friend and colleague Fran (who also teaches Biology) gave me two boxes of purple pens for Christmas. It was a bit of a gag, because she knows how much I covet school supplies in general, but also how much I loved my purple Pilot (Precise Roller Ball extra fine V5) pens and how I watched them like a hawk. I guess she figured if I had two boxes, which equals two dozen pens, I could relax. Au contraire.

I still guarded them with my life, and meted them out sparingly, taking a new one out of a box only if the one I was using was almost out of ink, or if I decided it was important to have one in a location other than my school bag. Like my purse. Or one for home. That sort of thing. That is, having two boxes did not give me permission to be careless with them—especially when they stopped making them! I kept them locked in my desk.

Alas, I am down to my last one, and there’s probably only enough ink in it to correct one more set of quizzes. So it was time to go to Staples, of course, to gear up with more. But what would I pick? What could replace the Pilot Precise V5?

If you are like me, you need to test drive a pen before you can buy it; you need to see how smooth it writes, how it feels in your hand, that sort of thing. Well, when they’re packaged in sets of 5 and 7, it’s hard to do—but even more necessary since it becomes a bigger risk in said packaging. Imagine taking a pen home and hating the way it writes, and having 6 of them. I was not going to fall into that trap. No way. They might take advantage of me at a tire place, but I know my way around school supplies.

So I stood in the aisle and discreetly opened three packages of pens and tested them on the back. I was conflicted. I liked all three that I tried—one liquid ink, two ball points. I looked at price and unit price per pen. In the end I went for one with liquid ink (the Pentel Energel, metal tip 0.7mm), and one ball point (the Zebra Z grip, medium). Today, I rather enjoyed correcting with the ball point.

Moving on was not as hard as I thought it might be.

[Heart] the Mechanics at my Oil Change Place

After all the inconvenience and aggravation I suffered over the weekend trying to get my alignment done, I still had one more car care issue to deal with. I needed an oil change and I made an appointment.

Imagine how tentative I was walking in. Would they be as cavalier about my appointment? Add to that the fact that I was early and wondering if they’d take me early so I could get to the gym before the dinner rush and tentative now looks like crazy. Well…

They took me early! And they didn’t try to sell me a half dozen filters or parts that probably don’t even exist! I used my coupon and left spending only what I planned to.

“You made my day,” I said to the mechanic at the counter. And I thanked the one who changed my oil. "Thanks so much!" I stopped just short of saying, "I [heart] you guys." But I said it here.

Monday, October 26, 2009


After the tire debacle on Saturday, I wasn't in the mood to do much. I was exhausted--emotionally, physically, financially. But Sunday was another day. And I needed to make up for lost time.

I woke up early, did laundry, went to the gym, ran errands, and was home for kick off by 1. I watched the Patriots game and afterward decided to have my favorite BAT (Bacon, Arugula, and Tomato) sandwich for dinner... Again proving that there's nothing bacon can't fix, and always room for a little arugula.


Picture this, if you will. It's just before 9:30 on a rainy Saturday morning. The strip mall is not quite astir yet, although eager shoppers stand with their carts in front of Costco, ready to rush in the moment it opens. Further down the way, in front of the Dollar Tree stands a woman--in jogging pants, a hoodie, a jacket--who is crying, glasses fogged, hair matted from the rain, patent leather bag between her feet as she crosses her arms in front of her, as if to warm up, or to comfort herself.

That woman was me. (Did the patent leather bag give me away?)

Because just minutes earlier, after adding 2 more tires to my weekend's expenditures, bringing my total to $400, I was told it would take 2 hours for them to put those tires on and do the alignment I had paid for the day before, that I had an appointment for that day as well. Yes, despite my appointment on Friday afternoon for an alignment, they could only manage to put on my new tires. I rescheduled the alignment for 9:30 that morning, and was told I'd be in and out in a half hour. Only, as the sales person handed my back my debit card after he rang up the additional two tires and took my keys he said “that'll be about two hours.”

“Two hours?!?!? But I have an appointment! I had an appointment yesterday and you couldn’t do it.”

Apparently, that didn’t matter. And no one had the decency to be honest the day before and say “we like to get people in and out with new tires. We usually do alignments in between other customers, in the lulls, so your best bet is to make arrangements and plan to leave your car for the day.” Or that morning, when I announced myself as Joanne, having a 9:30 appointment, the salesman should have said, “Did you make arrangements to leave your car? I’m sorry you have an appointment, but it looks like it’s going to be a couple of hours before we can get to it.” Instead, he was too eager to ring the sale and let me know afterward how long it would be.

And so there I was, in the rain, not having made arrangements, not able to reach my parents, wondering what to do. I was overwhelmed and upset and all I could do was cry.

Flash forward about 4 hours, after my sister Mary saved me and took me home to dry while my car stayed behind waiting for tires and an alignment, after I’ve been sitting home for 3 hours. I call my father to pick me up and take me back there, no longer crying but using language I never use with my father, because after 3 1/2 hours I decided to call and check on the status of my car and found out it’s done. At 1:15.

Car care sucks. Town Fair Tire sucks more.

I should have called my dad to begin with.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I learned to drive a 1972 Pontiac Catalina; my friends called it the Kielbasa Wagon. I drove around in that for years—until the day it died one summer day when I was on vacation during college, at the drive-thru window at the bank, doing the banking for Dr. B. If that car could have talked before its demise, it would certainly want to tell the story of how the horn got stuck when Jill and I were driving around in it and should not have been, maybe because we were cutting study hall our senior year of high school. I didn't have the car with me at college, given that I was in Boston and didn't need a car, so it wasn't hugely devastating when it died. It had been on its last leg for years. The Fonz could have opened the trunk just looking at it; I could do so with a little push. I could pull the keys out of the ignition while it was running.

At the end of my senior year, my parents bought a used Plymouth Horizon, which became my car after I graduated. I had that car through my twenties, and it was loyal to me. It got me back and forth from Boston to Hartford and back to Boston umpteen times—for every holiday, birthday, wedding, and christening—although I was not as kind to it as I should have been, neglecting regular maintenance and ignoring noises as they got louder. Every ping and grunt I drowned out with a turn to the right on my volume dial. If I got to 65 miles per hour on the Pike, God help you if you made me decelerate. And if you beeped at me, well, screw you, I couldn't hear your horn anyway over the sound of Frampton or U2. Maybe Pearl Jam or Live. When it was beyond all hope, too expensive to repair, it wasn’t even worth the standard $50 junk yard trade. The twenty-five dollars I got barely covered lunch for my roommate and me—as a thank you for her following me there.

I lived without a car again, taking the T for a couple of years instead, again memorizing the Peter Pan bus schedule to Springfield that I had known when I was in college. I actually enjoyed those years in Boston without a car and all the associated expenses. Eventually, when I got a job as a textbook editor in Lexington, it was time for a new car.

My Geo Prizm was my baby: the first car I actually owned. My dad went to the dealer with me, of course, but I got the loan and made the payments and was more responsible with it and better about maintenance, although in the end I ran that one into the ground too. It was ten years old and had more than 100 thousand miles on it when I traded it in (well, when the dealer took it off my hands) and I bought my 2005 Toyota Camry.

And here I am again, with an aging car, wondering how long I’ll be able to drive this car if I take good care of it, curious about how much that will cost. I didn’t name this car, as I did the Black Pearl (my Prizm) but I do love it. I needed a water pump and timing belt this past spring, and a new battery a couple of weeks ago. Today I have an appointment for an alignment (my bracelets clink as I try to steady the steering wheel) and probably two new tires. Tomorrow I have an appointment for an oil change.

I’d rather two new outfits, and shoes, and matching bags, of course, but I love my car, and I’d love to have some time with it and without car payments. (As Amy hoped in vain she and her husband could, before his Volvo died the other day.) So I’m going to do the right thing and keep my car appointments this weekend--and I'm not even going to ask my dad to come with me. My nails will wait until next week; my highlights will wait until my next paycheck.

How’s that for prioritizing?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


One of the nice things about getting older is having fewer and fewer (what I call) Nervous System Shutdowns, those moments when looking back on an event makes you lose feeling from your gut out to your limbs, to the tips of your digits, followed by an instinctive eewwww or I can’t believe I fell for him/that or, alternately, I can’t believe I was so stupid/drunk/desperate.

I think we make better choices as we get older, so we have less cause for such recollections. More importantly, we learn to forgive ourselves for our indiscretions and mistakes, and the forgiveness creates more distance in between those debilitating memories. In those spaces I find myself a bit more nostalgic lately, randomly remembering things that make me laugh or feel good.

When I was at the Big E recently with my sister Liz and my nieces and nephews, I remembered being there in my twenties with Jill, indiscriminately tipping the bathroom attendants with singles from the pockets of her jacket that I was wearing. Meaning I was spending her money. And she didn’t get mad at me. I often think of how she would tap dance and sing down the aisles of 7-11 or anywhere she was inspired to embarrass me and make me laugh. I have at this point three decades from which to draw memories with Jill—most of which make me laugh, all of which make me miss her.

The same goes for experiences with other friends; though I have known them for fewer years, smiles outnumber Nervous System Shutdowns, which works out well. I’d rather chuckle or say aaawwww any day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

[Heart] Coffee

I don't drink nearly as much coffee as I used to. I drink it daily, but I don't drink it all day long. I can even get out of the house some mornings without having a cup first. Of course, then I am in search of one, but...

Today I woke up and still needed to wake up, if you know what I mean. I didn't sleep well and wasn't rested and refreshed. My coffee smelled and tasted better than it had in a while, as if I had brewed the perfect pot, when really it probably because I needed the caffeine. I could have sat sipping my coffee for hours. And I could use another cup right about now.

I love my coffee. And I can't imagine life without it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Self Control

There I was on a Friday afternoon, having found the perfect scarf for my new green jacket and made my way to Domestics. Or is it Tabletop? You know the department: dishes, platters, vases. Porcelain, pottery, crystal. Five minutes later I was lost on a world tour—China, Portugal, Italy—looking for red clearance tags on things that, albeit on sale, I do not need. I do not have room for. I know. It is a sickness. As far as I can tell, infection occurrred during my employment at Crate and Barrel. I have been symptomatic ever since.

Some things were easy to pass by, like the kitschy pilgrim and turkey salt and pepper shakers, and anything in cat motif. Then I found an adorable tea cup and saucer (here I remind you that I am a COFFEE drinker)—made to look like terra cotta whose off-white glazed has been worn on the edges. And another. Three. All slightly different, their own patterns. They’d look so cute on my dining room table on a serving tray with a tea pot, maybe a bud vase. OMG. Four cups and saucers!


Make that three cups and saucers. I knew I should have taken a cart.

Then, as I put them on a shelf so I could rearrange them in my hands so as not to break any more, it occurred to me that I should not be buying any of them! That was my sign.

I walked away.

But they were so pretty….

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Several years ago I went into a gas station to pay for my gas and was surprised to receive a free car wash coupon—although I had not filled my tank. The clerk explained that there was a gas minimum (I can’t remember it now; 10 gallons?) so even though I hadn’t filled my tank, I had purchased enough for a free car wash. I continued to use that gas station and convenience store, and continued to enjoy my free car washes. Then one day I paid at the pump, and was just shy of the gallon requirement, although I had, in fact, filled my tank. My Prizm wouldn’t take another drop. So I went in to ask for my validation code. It was literally, a fraction of a gallon, which equated to cents back then, but the clerk denied me a car wash. I asked to speak to the manager who, with a slightly better command of the language, also told me that I could not get a free car wash. I pursued the matter, spoke of past experiences, and did the math. In the end I asked, “Okay, you’re sure? For twenty cents today you are willing to give up my business forever?” They still refused. I have not been back since. Years—and thousands of dollars I would have spent there on fill-ups and coffees and snacks—later I have kept my word. They lost my business that day forever. And whenever possible, I try not to patronize any stations in this particular gas chain whose name rhymes with hell. As in: rot in.

I try to limit my trips to WalMart to Human Birth Control Experiences. That is, if I for a minute think my ovaries are crying out for a match for one of the remaining, withering ova, I go to WalMart to snap out of it. Still, it has its bargains and when timed correctly I can run in and out without incident. I just keep DCF programmed on my cell. In case. Anyway, I stopped going altogether when WalMart countersued a family, after a woman (WalMart employee) suffered a tragic accident on the loading dock. Eventually they made good, pressured by people like Keith Olberman and my msnbc heroes. I decided I could lift my personal boycott, but tend not to go there first if I can help it. They seem to be in the news a lot, and not for good things.

My issue today isn’t with a store, or a national chain, but more with an idea—spurred by an incident, and then another—that I intend to fuel with that kind of stick-to-it-ness (stubbornness?). Some time ago, I went into a convenience store (that doesn’t rhyme with hell) and paid 99 cents for something—probably a bottled water, or a Big Grab. And when I gave the clerk a dollar, he took it, and closed the register. Hm. I was too in a hurry to be pissed and ask for my penny back, but I thought about it.

Then just this weekend, I went into a service station, and gave the clerk one dollar in change for a 99 cent item. He put my coins in, took a penny out, and dropped it in the penny cup. I looked at him all askance and when he realized he probably did the wrong thing, I said, “forget it,” although I won’t.

I started to wonder. I contribute to them far more than I take from them. Is that true for most of us? Do these stores have glass jars under the register counters where they periodically empty those change cups? Do they really help random consumers who are a penny or two shy, or are these cups magnets for the two or three “extras” that costumers drop in, to later line the pockets of the franchisees?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind helping people, but I’m not much into leaving extra pennies behind for the store owners who are already over-pricing their merchandise. So what I’ve decided is that I’m going to stop contributing to those cups and start collecting those pennies in the change cup in my car that yesteryear would have been an ashtray. And I’m going to keep track of how many of them I collect. Then I’ll donate them to a good cause. And I’ll give periodic progress reports.

Feel free to join me. Grab an old change purse or empty said compartment in your car and save your pennies. This could be fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New England in October

The leaves are still changing here. As I drive around, I find myself taking in the colors and monitoring the progress of my favorite trees along my routes, while hoping that the fall rains and wind won't take down the leaves before the foliage reaches its peak.

So imagine my shock when I reached past the pumpkins on my coffee table to grab a tissue and looked up to the TV and saw news footage of snow falling in Connecticut. On October 15. Though not unheard of, snow is rare here in October--but boy was it coming down!

After my initial WTF?! response, I started thinking…about what a hassle it was to leave lesson plans so that I could stay home to blow my nose ad nauseum, and about how nice it would be to have a day off that requires no planning—or catch-up the day after... And even though I had just decorated with pumpkins and autumn leaves, and my pumpkin spice jar candle is only half gone, and I want to see the fall foliage reach its peak, I admit that I thought ahead to my first snow day--the wistful way I would, on the first warm day in April, dream of sitting by the pool in July.

But I’m over it. It was snowing yesterday morning on my way to school and it was far too bizarre to see the flakes coming down on orange leaves. I decided I could wait for my first snow day, for my first tee hee of the season. The next season.

Friday, October 16, 2009

[Heart] Apples

If in one of those annoying, get-to-know-your-friends emails--hugs or kisses? seconds or dessert?--I were asked fruits or vegetables, I would definitely go with veggies. If I didn't love meat and fish so much I'd be a vegetarian. Not that I don't like fruit.

In fact, I love watermelon and can eat it all summer without getting sick of it and grapes often make appearances in my fridge--finding their fate in my curried chicken salad or cheese plates. But I can go all winter without a piece of fruit, much to the distress of my mother, unless the orange juice in my mimosas counts as fruit.

In between the daily treat of watermelon in the summer and those fruitless days of winter I fall in love with apples. Every year. There's nothing like biting into a cold, crisp, sweet but slightly tart apple: nature's perfect fall food. And even though I have to cut the apple first because it hurts my lips, I [heart] apples.


Actually, I won’t make excuses, but I will explain my absence. Yes, it has been a few days. More than a week, even. In a weird way it makes me happy that some of you are thinking, Where is she? What the heck? Not that I want to upset you in any way, it’s just nice to know that you look for more, that you’ve made a daily habit of reading my posts, and that a week away is uncharacteristic of me.

That being said, I didn’t have writer’s block. In fact, I don’t believe in “writer’s block” anymore. There was a quote I came across years ago by a famous author (his name and the exact quote escape me now) that essentially dismisses the notion of writer’s block, and says that inspiration is the act of getting your butt in the chair, sitting down to write. I have been making my best efforts to do just that, despite teaching and otherwise living. Writers write. They don’t make excuses about writer’s block.

That being said, I wish I could say I flew off to London for the long weekend and decided to take a few extra days abroad, chunneling over to Paris. Or that I got a great deal on a ticket to California, and Jill and I took off for some R&R at her timeshare in Palm Springs. But I’ve got nothing glamorous to share. Remember, I’m a teacher. We give up all rights to spontaneity September through June.

As you know, I don’t have any kids, so I can’t use the sick kids excuse. Not that if I had kids I’d want them to be sick, but I am fascinated by how easily people with children can get out of anything—baptism, wedding, backyard barbeque. Even if the responses have been sent and the bride and groom have committed hundreds of dollars for their meals, mention your kid has a fever and you’re all set. No one might ever suspect you’re lying. I, on the other hand, often feel like the only acceptable excuse would be that I am on my death bed. Even then, since I don’t have children to tend to, it would probably be expected that I get my childless, sick ass off my bed and get there. In fact, something similar did happen a few years ago. I didn’t attend a potluck surprise 40th for an old friend because I was in the throes of an allergic eczema attack—my eyelids pink and puffy and peeling—and (go figure) was not in the mood to attend this party in said condition, by myself. And I couldn’t call to say so without giving away the surprise. On Monday I had an email from the caring nurse, mother, and wife of this friend, asking what happened. When I replied her response was pretty much “oh.” No hope you’re feeling better, or glad you’re okay. Clearly, she didn’t believe me or didn’t think it was a good enough excuse. This incident created a somewhat bitter divide between me and them, and exacerbated the one that I think exists between breeders and non-breeders, but I digress.

I wasn’t jet-setting, nor was a nursing a sick child or a case of writer’s block.

I had a furlough day on Friday and a long weekend to follow. Over the weekend, I went away for a couple of days and came back Monday not feeling very well and have not been feeling well since. All the while, my computer at home is still temperamental. Trust that, even when I am not at the keyboard publishing posts, I am writing in my head or longhand in my notebook and there are posts in the hopper and I’ll catch up.

So let me get right to it.

(Thanks for noticing I was gone, Mo.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Somewhere someone has a voodoo doll of me. Last night s/he kept throwing me against a wall, then decided to stomp on me, do a little dance. I swear. Take that, Ms. K, I couldn’t go snowboarding because of my detention. They took my X-box away! It’s so pathetic, and I can hardly tell the story (again) without laughing at myself. My colleagues in the science department were in tears as I told them during lunch.

After school I went home quickly and changed, and then went to the gym. After that I stopped by my parents’ for a few minutes to visit before heading down the street to my nail salon. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home for salad bar for dinner, as I was craving a salad that would not require any slicing or dicing or protein preparation on my part. I went home and ate it. And the next thing I knew, I ached from head to toe.

How sad! How inexplicable! I considered that maybe I was flu-ish but I didn’t have a fever. I hadn’t been in a fender bender, although I remember feeling that way after being in one years ago. I certainly did not recall being run over by an eighteen-wheeler. And 45 minutes on a treadmill should not render such a result.

I just needed a good 800 milligrams of ibuprofen…but I didn’t have any in the house! And I hurt too much to go out and get some. Seriously. Instead, I got out the Icy Hot and rubbed it on the tops of my feet and the back of my neck. I wondered if it would work on my aching hips. For God’s sake I wondered if I should rub some on my a*s, as that almost hurt, too. I covered up with my fleece blanket and did nothing until I went up to bed at 9 o’clock.

This morning I was good as new. Rested. Feeling perfect.

More evidence that someone is practicing voodoo on me. No?

Happy Birthday, Blog!

My first post about my sincere love of arugula sat in the hopper (my drafts) for months. I had chosen a name and a design for my blog but let it sit while I figured out if that’s what I wanted to do, then mustered the courage to start, to put myself out there and share my writing.

I needed to get in the practice of writing daily, and I thought blogging might be a good experience. If I started a blog it would be a place to get rid of the autobiographical/non-fiction stuff in which I have seen first time authors get bogged down—thinly disguising their lives as fiction. I was over my initial distaste for blogs as being narcissistic. Everyone was doing it, it seemed, including my friend Amy, and I knew of bloggers who were actually discovered, now making their livings writing—like Molly Wizenberg, aka Orangette, blogger turned contributor to Bon Appetit and now author of A Homemade Life.

Eventually I got inspired to write about pork products and flowers and grammar and patent leather shoes and with a few pieces written, I thought maybe I had enough to share, maybe it was time to click publish and let people know that I had done so.

I crafted an email and selected some recipients from my email address book, those who have been supportive of me as a writer, and those who might be interested in reading my musings (not necessarily the same people). And October 7 I did it, I clicked publish and included a link to my blog in that email.

There were months I didn’t write much, and months I decided to share my blogging life with more people—again, not necessarily one and the same. The last few months have been writing much more regularly, even as I get to that novel that is yet to be written start to finish. But I have been at it a year, with a regular group of readers as far as I can tell. I haven’t been discovered yet, but I haven’t given up hope.

I thank you for reading and for staying with me through this first year!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Oh, My Goodness! How'd That Happen?

or The Slow and Steady Decline, part 2.

When I was in graduate school, my friend Tamara and I attended a job fair at one of the shmancy hotels in Boston. Before heading over we thought we might grab a cup of coffee (and have a couple of smokes) at the dining hall (that tells you how long ago that was). On our way in, I fell. Just out of nowhere took a spill on the steps leading to Bartol Hall.

Funnier than the sight of me falling on the stairs, in a skirt, and ripping my stockings in the process (an expensive commodity for someone on an RD’s salary) was my composed response. I, Queen of Expletives, said “Oh, my goodness! How’d that happen?” Tamara couldn’t stop laughing she was so put off by my not saying What the f**k?! Those months of student teaching at Stoneham High had apparently taught me to control my language in front of students, and I was exercising great restraint even in front of college students who were walking in and out of the dining hall.

Tam and I still laugh about that, and still use the expression “Oh, my goodness. How’d that happen?” to demonstrate disbelief, or when something catches us by surprise, or any other time it remotely applies to the situation. We take poetic license just so we can laugh at it all over again.

Lately I’ve been having a lot of those How’d-That-Happen moments, most of them related to being in my mid-forties. I don’t mean to infer that just getting to be in my mid-forties is a miracle in and of itself, although, come to think of it, there may be a little truth in that. Clearly, I have an angel on my shoulder who co-pilots my life. And I am in the company of many with similar good fortune. (I think our angels are all friends, too.) What I mean is that one minute Friday afternoons brought on a Woo Hoo! and were celebrated in groups, with cocktails. The next minute Friday happy hours are spent supine on the couch, with bed time following close behind.

Deanna and I, in our weekly Sunday phone calls, share changes we’ve noticed in ourselves, like our hair having less body (foil highlights no longer providing that extra texture for long), and wonder aloud if they are related to being perimenopausal. When we share the same (dare I say) symptoms, we figure they must be. On our girls’ weekend in Vermont, there were three different versions of a daily pill case. Weren’t those only for old people? I have been in the company of friends as they experience hot flashes and am bracing myself for my first, wishing my friends the good grace of their angels getting them out of the way. Clearly, it’s not going to pretty. (Remember, I don’t blow dry my hair all summer because it’s too hot. Even in air conditioning.)

A year to a teenager can be interminable, especially if the prom is at the end of it. Time stands still during a 30 minute detention or a week of being grounded. They are incredulous [insert image of eye roll here and thought-bubble filled with “yeah right”] when grown-ups around them say “time flies!”

It was a lifetime ago that I was one of those teenagers. Now I’m a grown-up who knows that not only does time fly, but “the older you get, the faster time flies.” Now, could you pass me the Tums?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

I struggled with whether or not even to write this, to go there, that place where so many get stuck, the vantage point from which so many women (men, too, but women especially) derive their self-esteem, or the spring from which they nourish it, which is all too often dry.


I’ve gone there before in these pages but not in the context of I’ve lost weight; I’m happy to have done so as I’m trying—both of which are true. My first month at the gym has been successful: I have lost ten pounds on the treadmill. But before you get mad at me for valuing this accomplishment, let me explain.

I have never been thin. Ever. I do have a memory of being my most fit in graduate school, but even then, I was only “thin” for me. Never by society’s standards have I been thin. I am a full-figured woman, and in general, have made peace with food. I don’t consider food my enemy, secret contraband to be eaten out of eyeshot of anyone whose attention I might be trying to garner or keep. (See previous posts). I think society places too much value on thinness and bombards us with unrealistic and often unhealthy images of women.

It bothers me when parents play Food Police and in this day and age don’t understand that what they create, especially with their girls, in their effort to keep them slim, is future women who will treat food as contraband and sneak it, maybe even purge it once they do. At minimum, they will struggle with food. And probably, therefore, they will struggle with weight as well. Especially since these same Calorie Cops most likely celebrate and reward their kids with food. Confusing, isn’t it? Now imagine being 8. Or 10. And a little overweight. One day you’re getting the death stare for wanting another piece of bacon at breakfast, and the next you get to go out to a special dinner for getting good grades on your report card.

That was not the case for me. In my case, I think my struggle with being weight came from being sedentary (I was not an athlete) and knowing, once I was overweight, that it was frowned upon in society. Which fueled my being overweight. I guess way-back-when I was one of those people who snuck food, who’d go to a high school party and not eat a single potato chip, afraid of what I thought people would say, and I’d go home starving. If I could go back, I’d have participated in sports. But by the time I was in high school I was already too embarrassed to try.

Eventually, fascinated by eating disorders and including obesity in that list, I did research in graduate school and wrote papers and got good and pissed off—vowing to fly in the face of the world’s warped values—as, ironically, I got into shape.

Some twenty years later, I have never gotten back to my highest weight ever, which was the beginning of my senior year in college, when I was 21. Nor have I gotten down to my lowest weight ever, which happened at 25. My weight has fluctuated in the decades that have passed, but I eat in public, and I enjoy good, healthy foods as much as I enjoy junk food on occasion. And I don’t punish myself for eating it. My greatest victory is that I have not based my opinion of myself on how much I weigh. I am smart and successful and loving. I am attractive and I dress well—even if and when my clothes have a W at the end of a number.

My efforts at the gym come from my recognition that menopause is knocking on my door…I am getting older and my metabolism is slowing and I need to keep my heart healthy and muscles and bones strong.

But if I continue to be successful at the gym, which I intend to, won’t it be nice to have an excuse to buy new clothes? And rather than go up a size, I’d can buy them in a size smaller. Even if they still have a W at the end.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

[Heart] Halibut

I am so over salmon and I’m sick of shrimp. I cannot resist halibut, however. If it’s on a menu, I’ll order it. If it’s in the fish case at Costco, I’ll buy it, even though it’s $10.99 a pound. I love it, love it, love it. It tastes the way it looks—fresh, simple, pure. It’s easy to prepare and when I eat it I feel like I’m doing something good for myself.

I really [heart] halibut.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Signs of Fall

September 22 came and went, the official beginning of fall, and it was 80 degrees (or close to it) in southern New England. Then it was 60. At least the most obvious, tell-tale sign of fall—the changing leaves—was a reality check. But even with the foliage underway, it sometimes takes other events or signs for it to really sink in that the seasons are really changing. This week has been a succession of such signs.

1. I made my first pot of chili of the season for my weekend in Vermont.
2. As you know, I am a coffee purist. I don’t like flavored creamers or coffee—except for pumpkin spice coffee. I had a cup yesterday. It was delicious.
3. The daily scent in my house is Yankee Candle Pumpkin Spice.
(Guess there's a theme there.)
4. When I got home from the Big E the other night, still frozen, I closed my windows.
5. I wore long pants three days in a row.
6. I know that I really should have worn closed-toed shoes today.
7. I took my fleece blanket out of the closet and put in on the end of my couch.
8. I wore the sweatshirt I bought in Vermont the other day.
9. I wore fuzzy socks to bed.
10. I've been eating apples.
11. I switched back to red wine from white.

Maybe fall is here to stay. Then again, this is southern New England.
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