Thursday, December 31, 2009

For the Love of...Lord & Taylor!

A storm caught me off guard today, perhaps because the weather forecasters--I mean meteorologists--downplayed this storm after over blowing the last, perhaps because I just haven't been paying a lot of attention to the weather while I've been on vacation (since snow days don't exist). But I was already half-way to the mall (well, to Lord and Taylor at the mall) after my unexpected (and emergency) trip to the credit union (that's another post) when it started to snow. And I didn't think road conditions would deteriorate so rapidly. Actually, they were terrible from the outset. So I put both hands on the wheel and proceeded slowly, as I passed vehicles that had spun out or had been involved in fender benders.

This is crazy!, I thought as I inched along, and then Jesus, Jesus, Sweet Jesus! I nearly screamed as I nearly rear ended a car on the exit ramp, then again in the parking lot of the mall. Road crews were not out yet, and there was clearly ice under the snow, but there was a clearance sale at L&T, and it was probably safer to take refuge. Right? My hope was that by the time I did my quick look for some new lined pants, and maybe a top, for the new year, the roads would be treated, and the ride home would be less treacherous. (Which was the case. Amen.)

I didn't have my coupon with me, since I really hadn't planned on going, but after a little pretty please/the roads are horrific/I'd come back with my coupon if I didn't mean risking my life--AGAIN to the nice woman who has been working in the women's department for as long as I've been shopping there, I got the additional 20 percent off and a sweet deal.

Lined Jones New York pants (to replace a pair from back-to-school shopping because they're too loose...Go, me!), originally 119, with clearance and coupon savings? $50

Adorable Liz Claiborne leopard print v-neck t-shirt, originally $45, with said discounts? $15

Getting there and back alive? Priceless.

Happy New Year to you, too!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Okay, if anyone has seen me out there somewhere, maybe looking through clearance racks at L&T, or browsing through the New Fiction shelves at Barnes and Noble, or maybe even tying one on somewhere, dropping f-bombs and rolling my eyes back in my head at some dim wit, could you send me back? Because I don't know who the hell it was sitting on my couch tonight, crying through the Kennedy Center Honors for two hours, but it certainly wasn't me.

We can do this without incident. Just ring my buzzer and we can make a quick switch in the dark of night and no one will be the wiser. No one has to know. Because if this Emotional Thing (as represented by the blubbering buffoon on my couch earlier tonight) is going to make friends with Hot Flashes in the near future?...Well, we're all screwed. Seriously screwed. So come on. Bring me back home.


I am a high school teacher, having once been a high school student, so I am well aware that I am probably known for things--and by names--I'd rather never learn. Smart Board technology has practically eliminated my need to turn my back to the class and thereby display both my ample a*s and jiggle my flabby arms in order to write (more anatomically appropriate) vocabulary terms on the board, but my instincts tell me students don't talk about my colorful array of v-neck cashmere sweaters. A few of the girls I know covet my Tiffany jewelry, and others love my nails, but none probably think her grammar is impeccable! What I am most known for, by my current and former students, is my sneezes.

My odd, no-two-are-alike sneezes provide daily entertainment for my students, especially those in my first period class. With my blessing. Well, they bless me, but I give them my blessing to laugh without risking detention or my death stare. I laugh at my sneezes too. Some are downright embarrassing. I sound tortured, startled, or tickled. Some sound like mating calls of yet unidentified species, and some of my long, drawn out ahs are never followed by a choo. Like trying to get a car to start and after the initial sound of the ignition struggling to catch comes the click.

Just the other day, after one of my first-period sneezes, my phone rang. I answered and heard “Bless you” on the other end. “Thank you,” I replied. “Excuse me.” Apparently, three doors down, one of my colleague’s Chemistry students who is a former Biology student of mine, heard me sneeze (as did the other 20 students and my colleague)and said “That’s Ms. K.” From there, they decided to have a little fun and call me in my classroom.

Well, those dust allergies that got really fired up before vacation in my dry, heat-less classroom successfully ignited a full-blown cold for me to suffer through this vacation. Bummer, right? Well, on one hand, it’s unfortunate that I’m not feeling 100 percent while I’m off from school. On the other, my tissue at home is much softer than school-issue tissue. And my sneezes aren’t nearly as cute, or odd, or funny these past couple of days. They’re more productive (I know: eww) than they are entertaining.

So I’ll let my sinuses drain while I’m home this week, and when I go back to school I can still be teacher with the silver jewelry and the funny sneezes. Among other things, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Is It Over?

In my adult life I have been a part of or privy to dozens of conversations during which married people (some, my friends and relatives) kvetch about their spouses and their marriages, and how they have gotten any "good gifts" in months, or years. If I am a part of the conversation I often respond with, Remind me why it is I should want to be married? Frankly, I like "gift giving"!...Even if I could make the leap of faith in marriage at my (early) middle age today I am reminded of another reason I would never have a wedding, an expensive production complete with white multi-layer dress and a multi-tier cake: how I feel today.

Mind you I didn't start Christmas shopping a year ago, choose a date, negotiate a guest list, and almost call off the holiday a half dozen times while spending the equivalent of two European holidays and two island vacations. I started shopping about a month ago (okay maybe only 2 weeks in earnest), limited my spending to about 600 hundred dollars, and I am spent. Financially, emotionally, and physically I am spent, and ready to hibernate for the week ahead that is my Christmas vacation.

How do newlyweds have the energy to “give good gifts” and enjoy their honeymoons after their wedding weekends? I made chocolate bark, I shopped, I wrapped. I even cheated and used gift bags. All I had to do was show up at my aunt and uncle’s house on Christmas Eve and my cousin’s on Christmas day. My delightful and well-behaved nieces slept over my house on Christmas night, and we drove together to my parents’ this morning to have our immediate family Christmas celebration.

One month of preparations and it’s over. [snap] Like that. I know it happened. My tree is still up, I have a new Food Network mug and a couple of new Pandora charms, and I am ready to pop a few ibuprofen and crawl in bed in my new flannel nightgown. I can’t imagine having to pack a suitcase and get on a plane to go frolic in the sun. [Read: “exchange a lot of gifts.”]Tomorrow I look forward to finishing my book and watching the Patriots game.

But would I do this whole Christmas thing again? Gladly. And I will.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Wishing you all a Christmas that is jolly, bright, and blessed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

[Heart] the United States Postal Service

My post office looks like something out of The Waltons. Good night, Jim Bob. Good night, Mary Ellen. It's a little house with hardwood floors and three parking spots out front. (I’ll take a picture eventually, but don’t know when—in these next few busy days—I’ll actually see it in the light of day. So I’ll post without a photograph now and let you know when I add one.) Right next door there is a little general store. Well, they don’t call it that anymore, but it’s a little store with a deli that sells bread and milk and other staples, as well as lottery tickets of course. But I digress. This post is about the United States Postal Service.

On Saturday, when a large part of the United States was crippled by a massive snow storm, I brought a package to my Waltonesque post office, paid $10.35 (“if it fits, it ships”), decided to pay another 70 cents for tracking and confirmation, and went on my way.

And while I haven’t heard from Tamara yet, I know she got the package because—get this—I even got an email from the USPS telling me my package was delivered. Of course I had already gone on line and looked it up because I get excited and impatient that way. But still. Not bad for 11 dollars. No looking for drop boxes in the foyers of Staples stores, or driving all over to find a (brown) store that will actually mail a package without a corporate account.

I [heart] my little post office. And I love the United States Postal Service that can get a package across the country in two days. Not two business days, but two days. In plenty of time for Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

White Christmas Guaranteed

Well, the southern part of the state (a whole 50 miles away) saw double digit amounts of snow. Some towns got over 2 feet. I think we got 3 inches. Maybe 5. And it didn’t start until after I went to bed. But it is enough snow to guarantee a white Christmas, and I’ll take that.

Now I just need to get through these last three days of school. Three full days. Not even an early release on Wednesday. I’m trying to do my part to keep students focused—my Biology classes have lab reports due Wednesday, and my Anatomy and Physiology class has a quiz on muscle actions Wednesday—but I’m afraid they’ll still be distracted. And I can’t blame them. I’m distracted too.

I keep playing the list of things I still need to do in my head, which includes wrapping and cleaning and finishing my shopping, and I’m looking forward to plans with Maureen this afternoon, and with Amy tomorrow. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or that there would be if we didn’t have to spend these 8 in school.

Sometimes it’s hard to relate to the kids. This is not one of those times.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

At this moment I am doing my best impression of a kid on Christmas Eve, looking through the mini-blinds for signs of Santa and his sleigh—only I'm looking for the first flakes of what promises to be a huge winter storm. Although the initial time projections are off , I do believe the forecast accumulation predictions of 8 -14 inches. Of course there's a 6 inch cushion there. But still. I first heard about this Nor'easter yesterday, while I was out shopping after school, from people stuck in long lines with me, and used the rumors to motivate myself to stay out and do as much as I could. And I did.

This morning I was content to go to the gym and run a couple errands (and stock up provisions as if this is the 1920s and a foot of snow will cripple us). I proceeded home to wait for the storm. I cancelled dinner plans with Mandy and I’m still waiting.

But I’ve made some chocolate bark with hidden treasures worthy of consideration at Ben and Jerry’s, I’ve written some cards and emails, and I’ve thought more about running into an old friend, whom I haven’t seen in nearly 30 years, at the mall last night. And getting home and finding an email in my in-box from a friend in Boston with whom I used to work at Crate and Barrel and with whom I fell out of touch a couple years ago. I called him immediately and we picked up where we left off, no hard feelings or hurt feelings, happy to laugh and promising to get together next time I’m there.

So as I wait for the snow to fall it's not because I'm hoping for a snow day tomorrow. (Although I must say the timing is off by a day...) Rather, it’s because I want Christmastime to look out my window as magical as it feels to me tonight.

If snow is not in your forecast, or if it is but you still need a spirit boost, click here. I promise it'll do the trick.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

[Heart] American Chop Suey

Growing up in a Polish family, there weren't any Sundays when a pot of spaghetti sauce sat simmering on the stove. I don't think I ever even saw a blue box of mac and cheese until I went to college.
Comfort food for my family was different. In fact, I can't really put my finger on what my comfort food of choice was when I was a kid--although I'd probably go with one of the many soups my mom used to make. Well, still makes.

But somewhere along the line, maybe at home, maybe in my high school cafeteria, maybe not until college I discovered what is called American Chop Suey by some, and I think is referred to as (American) Goulash by others. The joy here is that jarred sauce works. It doesn't need to be a labor of love. It just needs to coat the ground beef and onions and elbow noodles. Essentially, it's homemade hamburger helper (which I never had growing up either) and begs the question, Why ever use Hamburger Helper?

With four ingredients (onion, ground beef, jarred sauce, elbows or other twirly pasta), in twenty minutes you can make a vat of this almost mushy, scarfable comfort food. I [heart] American chop suey.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Too Much Information

or Oh My Goodness! How'd That Happen? , part 2
or Slow and Steady Decline , part 3

Clearly I don't hold back much in this blog. I don't think it's appropriate to air dirty family laundry herein, but if it is my pride and only my pride on the line, I am comfortable telling all. What the heck. It doesn't make me a bad person that I had a panty liner stuck to my shoe. It was funny--after the fact. I know it made other people laugh. And it made people tell their own embarrassing moment stories. Any time we can lighten the load in this journey called life, well, I'm all for it.

That being said, I don't want to go into any detail, and I know intuitively that you don't want me to go into any detail either. But it is another tell tale sign than the clock is not turning back. Middle age or bust! It is a story that needs only one word.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Holidays for Singles

This Christmas season, as I continue to be assaulted by all that is commercial and hokey, and feel grateful that I no longer feel lonely, I remember clearly how lonely I felt several years ago, when I wrote this in my main character Anna's voice...

On any given day from Thanksgiving to Christmas on television sets in every living room in America, proposals are made on snowy streets with sparkling diamonds, high end cars are bedecked with enormous bows and the keys handed over from one adoring spouse to another, couples cuddle in matching fleece leisurewear, and handsome men twirl gorgeous women wearing little black dresses while champagne is being served from silver platters around them. Any single person who claims to be unaffected by such advertisements I say is lying.

When do you ever see a single woman in flannel pants hanging out by herself wrapping gifts with a half-empty bottle of two buck chuck by her side? Exactly. They don’t ever show you that unless it’s a scene from a romantic comedy, and even then Hugh Grant is probably on his way over. Those of us relegated to spending some nights in the holiday season watching reality TV by ourselves while we wrap don’t quite know how to do it. Or don’t want to be doing it at all.

We look for clues from media on how to dress, which mascara will lengthen or thicken or curl, which detergent works best on darks and which works best on whites, and which credit cards to carry. There are no hints on how to get through the holiday season without a boyfriend, husband, or lover. It’s not there. Ergo it’s not normal. It’s not okay. It’s errant. Aberrant. And that makes the season grueling and lonely.

Shutting off the TV and avoiding ads might take away a seven o’clock sting, but it doesn’t eliminate family get-togethers and parties at which people invariably introduce new boyfriends or girlfriends, announce engagements and pregnancies, show pictures of their honeymoons or bring blueprints of their new houses. It’s maddening. You muster up the energy to get out of your own misery and into a velvet top and put on a happy face and go out to a party only to be assaulted by the sight of a woman wearing a Christmas tree sweater with pompons affixed, who is standing with a man who is clearly her boyfriend. And you look on, trying not to be jealous, and are eventually relieved he’s not your boyfriend because you realize he’s probably wearing snowman socks, and well, they’re made for each other. Every pot has its lid, right?

Then on the drive home you wish you had stayed home. Because as awful as all those love-is-in-the-air ads are, at least you wouldn't have had to talk to the woman in her thirties who looks like she’d been pelted with giant spitballs while keeping a straight face and trying to act interested in anything she had to say.

So you move on to the next event and with any luck hope it will be a family gathering where everyone knows and loves you, where you won’t feel so much like a Have Not. As much as they represent the married masses, they are your family. Then the camera comes out. Someone orchestrates: Okay, first one without spouses. Now with. Okay, couples no kids. Now with kids. You do the math quickly and figure out your presence was required in only a quarter of the shots taken, and feel humiliated that you actually stood there waiting in vain to maybe be called back into the field of view of the lens. And so it goes. Try as you might to banish the thought, you wonder why you haven’t found your lid, what it is that might be wrong with you. When the real despair sets in, you can’t help but wonder if your line of cookware has been discontinued.

Holiday Cliché

I’m in a good mood. I’m definitely in the holiday spirit. I got my requested snow day last week so my tree is decorated and my house is festive. I started my writing out my Christmas cards yesterday, and what gifts I haven’t yet purchased are on a very organized list. I’ve been making holiday treats and plans and am looking forward to vacation. Life is good.

I say all this up front because I’m about to go on a rant. (It has been a while, hasn’t it?)

Why is it that all advertisers and journalists feel that it is important to force every commercial or news story about shipping or shopping into The Night Before Christmas format. Ugh. All those forced rhymes and cadence. So overdone. So unoriginal.

If there was any important information, like shipping cut off dates for Christmas arrival, I missed it in this morning’s 4 minute rhyming news story on NBC. Given that I have a package to get out to Tamara in Seattle it might have been nice to have gotten and retained that information. Instead I just got annoyed as I listened to another abomination of one of the greatest stories ever. In fact, I think I tried to block it out.

Just sell what your selling, or tell what your telling. Leave the story book alone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

No Time for Awkward

Yesterday was a day that I really wanted to go to the gym. I know. Who am I and what have I done with my former self? That's not to say there's a dramatic physical difference; in three months I've lost 13 pounds, 10 in the first month, 3 in the last 2, making the average I guess around a pound a week. But it's not about the numbers. It's not even about feeling better in my clothes. It's about feeling better period. I have more energy, I'm more motivated, and I'm doing something good for myself. I don't even find I'm fighting urges to go home and hibernate. I like to go the gym. Take yesterday. The end of the school day was particularly frustrating and I felt frazzled, so I looked forward to sweating out some of that negative energy on the treadmill, to some me time before going home to correct more papers.

I got there just at that time before it starts getting really busy, which had been getting earlier and earlier before Thanksgiving. Getting there before 4 used to be fine to avoid the pre-dinner rush, then 3:30 was safer, and now even 3:30 is pushing it. I was glad I pushed myself to get there at that time--and relieved when I saw the parking lot was especially empty. Yay. No fighting for my favorite treadmill!

Yet 4 in that row of 6 favorite treadmills were taken. Two [wait for it...] by students. I HATE that.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate the students. Quite the contrary, as they are two very good students that I'd put on my list of favorites (which teachers don't have, of course). I don't feel weird for them to see me in sweats or for them to know I exercise, it's just well...I don't want the gym to be an extension of school. I may as well be shooting hoops in the gym when the bell rings.

What makes it worse is the reaction these girls have. I try to wave right away and get the moment over, but as happened the last time, they pretended not to see me at first. And I stopped trying to get their attention until they acknowledged me on their way past my machine. They seem uncomfortable and awkward, as if seeing me on the treadmill is the equivalent of witnessing parental copulation. Or just figuring out that they had to have sex in order to have them.

No matter how fast your machine is set, you can't run away, girls, I want to say. Let's get over the awkward moment and move on. We're here to work out.

But, oh, that's right. When I'm there I'm not their teacher.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Day After

The snow turned to rain yesterday (in the evening we actually had thunder and lightning), and the wintry scene out my window quickly disappeared. Nonetheless, I remained in the spirit and took advantage of the time and decorated my Christmas tree. I didn't get my cards done, but I got around to one of those monotonous projects of going through junk mail and catching up on shredding and recycling. And I thoroughly enjoyed my day.

Today I am rested and ready to catch up on the correcting that I need to do to prepare for mid-quarter grades, which are due at 7:30 tomorrow morning. I'll hide in my room during my free periods and do some power correcting, thereby also avoiding those useless, waste-of-energy conversations with colleagues who will complain about the snow day, about the overreaction of the weather forecasters and the 500 superintendents in the state of Connecticut who called off school yesterday. I'd rather get our earlier in June, they'll say, and I'll be hearing Charlie Brown's teacher in my head. wah wah wah wah wah wah

I say what's done is done. No use wasting energy complaining about what you can't take back. I'm sorry if you didn't enjoy the day. I did enjoy the day. I got a Saturday in the middle of the week. And now there's no use in me complaining about my anti-snow day colleagues. Especially since I have correcting to do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I promise today, on my first snow day of the season, to do my best not to sit and do nothing but read. I will decorate my tree and write out my Christmas cards and maybe correct some papers. On second thought, I will not correct papers. I will decorate my tree and read and enjoy the pretty scene out my window (and maybe a Brandy Alexander). tee hee

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Home

One of the first pieces of advice I got as a college student at Simmons--probably from an upperclasswoman--was, if you ever get lost [in Boston] just look for the Citgo sign. From Kenmore Square it was just a walk up Brookline Avenue back home. Fortunately, I never had to use it, I never got lost...

When I found myself driving through Kenmore the other night I felt compelled, as I hadn't before, to stop and take a picture of this Boston icon that was for many years my compass, and now will be part of my window of the world .

Friday, December 4, 2009

In My Next Life...

I might be a photographer. Or maybe I should try to sell some of my best photos in this life. Rent a booth at a high end town fair (West Hartford comes to mind) and sell prints of Tuscany, and London, La Jolla and Boston.

Or I could be a chef. With a show on Food Network. I could hang with Guy Fieri, and finagle a way for Deanna (and Gordon) to meet Ina Garten, and for Amy to meet Nigella--or get her own show. All my nieces (well, technically some are first cousins, once removed) who like to cook (and who put a tiara on my pillow at our Thanksgiving sleepover at Dawn and Henry's)--Meredith, Amanda, Maddie, Jenna--would be over the moon. I could influence the next generation of chefs. Maybe I could even hire them.

I might go the retail route, though, because I think I'd also like to be a shop owner. If I were, only the back of my eyelids would ever see 5:30 in the morning. If not a bookstore cafe, I would own a very cool boutique (of course, I would) selling handbags and jewelry and scarves and other accessories. The packaging would be art. And then I'd also enjoy being a buyer for Crate and Barrel, and get to travel to far away places on someone else's dime, to shop for dishes and vases and fashionable imports.

But for today, and the foreseeable future, I am a teacher, who had to ask permission from the principal to go to the bank so I could take care of a debit card fraud issue (how scary that some scam artist has my account information and ran a test 0 dollar PIN transaction; how fortunate that I am vigilant about my accounts!), who caught a student cheating and later sat and watched her cry, and who is oh-so-happy the weekend is here.

Let it Snow!

I want snow. Which means, really, that I want a snow day. In fact, I need a snow day. Not just for the mood (although I really am over the 65 degree weather in December) but for the opportunity to get ready for Christmas. Aside from a bunch of correcting I could catch up on, I have sixty invitations to my parents' 50th anniversary party to address, Christmas cards to write out, and a Christmas tree to put up. And those are just the high priority items from my list of things to do. There's always more I can do--closet and storage bin projects come to mind--but I'll get to those, and to my growing stack of new books I want to read, on subsequent snow days...but first I need one. The first of the season. Preferably in the next week or so.


My lucky snowman looked silly sitting on my desk the other day while it was rainy and balmy out.
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