Monday, May 31, 2010

Summer Mode

Days don’t get much better than yesterday. I was up by seven, doing laundry to start, but by noon I was ready to relax. Donna and Lindsay came to join me by the pool, where we lounged for a few hours before heading in for dinner. Donna brought ginger dressing for salad and some dumplings; I made halibut and spinach. For dessert we had a mini birthday cake they brought for me and some baklava I had in the freezer. They left around 7. After a long and refreshing shower I slept in my freshly made bed with clean, soft sheets.

It’s been a great weekend overall. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in a while, had dinner with my sister and niece and nephew the other night, got to do a little birthday shopping, and have had time to both be productive and to relax. And the weekend isn’t over. Today is Day Four of the extra long weekend, and it’s another spectacular day—sunny, high in the eighties again. I won’t have company today, but after another cup of coffee I will head to the gym before packing up to sit poolside again.

There are only 13 days of school left (9 days of classes and 4 of final exams) but with the wonderful weather and the extra time off, I am already in summer mode. My question is this: how—when it is summer in my head and my routine—will I ever finish the school year?…

With the grace of God, I suppose, who delivered on this fantastic weekend. And surely without your pity.

Friday, May 28, 2010

[Heart] Peonies

Every year around this time, when the peonies bloom in my friend Fran's yard, she brings them in to school to share with me. For a week my room is fragrant with peonies--in burgundy, pink and white. Unfortunately, I left two Erlenmeyer flasks full of them (who needs a vase if you're a Biology teacher?) at school when I left yesterday for the long weekend. I was disappointed that for four days they would sit un-enjoyed. And equally as disappointed that I didn't have them at home to enjoy.

But my mother's sixth sense must have kicked in, because when I visited today these stunnning flowers were waiting for me. She went over to a friend's house this morning and cut them for me to have for my birthday. Simply gorgeous.

Thanks, Fran. Thanks, Mom. I love peonies.

A Perfect Day

It's going to be a great day. How could it not? I have the day off--and it's not a holiday. The sun is shining and it is predicted that today will be mostly sunny, with a few clouds and a high temperature of 79. I brewed a perfect pot of coffee this morning, and have time to drink the whole thing if I want. Or I could save some of it to make iced coffee to have by the pool later, since my pool opens today. Perfect, right?

Before I park myself by the pool I'm going to go to the gym and do some housecleaning, maybe some laundry, and my parents would like me to stop by because it's my birthday. I'm 45 today, smack dab in the middle of my life--if I live to be 90. But that's too much to think about.

Today I'm going to focus on today, thankful that the sun is shining, grateful that I am happy and healthy and able to enjoy it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

[Heart] Watermelon

Every fall I rediscover that I like apples, but watermelon is my hands-down, all time favorite fruit. I could eat it every day in the summer. And I probably do. Starting now.

Watermelon is nature's candy, and even though it gets a bad rap of being nutritionally void, it actually has more lycopene than tomatoes! But who cares anyway? There's really nothing like biting into a cold, sweet, crunchy, juicy, refreshing piece of watermelon on a hot summer day. I don't spit seeds anymore, and I'm not afraid anymore that if I swallow a seed I'll grow a watermelon in my belly, but it remains a summertime favorite I'll never outgrow.

I [heart] watermelon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Gearing Up

This time next week, if the weather is even remotely similar to this weekend’s weather, I will be marking my territory at the pool—although, of course, there will be no urine involved. (I’m turning 45 on Friday—not 95.) Perhaps then I will be staking my claim with my beach chair and matching bag and towel on the far side of the pool away from the bathrooms and water bubbler and, therefore, the path of children, who don’t really get the concept of quiet reading time.

I have not yet chosen what my first book with be, but I will start a new book from the pile that has been growing during the school year and will begin keeping my Summer 2010 list. It will be the first of many days I spend relaxed, melting away a long winter, dissipating a school year’s worth of tension while elevating my Vitamin D levels (which, by the way, are still low after two months on supplements). And, I’m not going to lie, I will be getting in touch with my inner sunbather, too, as Liz says. Getting my Zen on.

Initially I will be getting in touch with my inner sunbather in small doses—on weekends and after school when I can, but once I have corrected my last final exam on June 17 and handed in my grades, I intend to be by the pool as much as possible.

25 calendar days.

17 school days.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

At some point, perhaps when one of my sisters was tested for the BRCA gene, I decided I would not have the test.

Donna tested first, although for her it was a foregone conclusion really. She was already in the throes of cancer, fighting it with all her might. But testing and knowing that she is BRCA2 positive enabled them to tailor her cancer treatment. And it gave the green light for her daughter, and her sisters, and her cousins to be tested too. We can be tested and it will likely be covered. We have more than family history to report now. In addition to reporting to my ob-gyn that my paternal grandmother had breast cancer, my paternal aunt had breast cancer, and my cousin—my paternal uncle’s daughter—has breast cancer, I can say oh, and she knows she is positive for the BRCA2 mutation.

Which is exactly what I did. While she was gingerly doing her thing with speculum and swab, I updated my medical history.

I can’t quite remember the next detail, but I think she simply asked if I wanted the test, and I told her I didn’t.

“Why not?” She asked.

I was too busy trying to hold back tears to answer her—lying on one’s back on a table with your feet in stirrups not being an ideal place to cry.

She asked again, and I still didn’t answer, although at this point—despite my efforts—a few tears had leaked and were running down the side of my face.

She answered for me. “You don’t want to know?”

And there it was, the answer I couldn’t speak: I don’t want to know if I have the mutation. I don’t want to know if I have a genetic predisposition to cancer. I’ll deal with it if and when I have to.

“No, I don’t, “I finally said.

“Why not?” she asked, but instead of waiting for an answer gave me a litany of good reasons to find out.

Then off came her gloves, and she instructed me to get dressed and meet her in her office, where we would talk about it some more.

I was content to be happy-stupid and she gave compelling reasons to be tested. If, and it’s still an if, I were positive I would be followed by a surgeon, I’d have better preventative care—up to and including having my ovaries removed (because with the mutation is a high risk of ovarian cancer) if I know for sure I don’t want children.

I was moving along thinking Ignorance is Bliss. What I was reminded was Knowledge is Power.

Monday, May 17, 2010

[Heart] my Mother

I stopped by my parents’ over the weekend to visit, and walked away a recently ingested Krakowska szynka sandwich in my belly; a bag containing 4 slices of rye bread, more sandwich meat from the Polish deli, two red and two yellow onions, scallions and butter lettuce from her garden; and, last but certainly not least, a dozen pierogi.

Somehow, some way, my mother knew that I’d be in a sh*tty mood today. As if on cue, my mother’s sixth sense knew that despite my best efforts to be positive and approach everything these days with a Bring It! attitude, there would be nothing like a plate of pierogi today.

For everything in my goody bag and my belly, for not giving up being a mom who believes food is love and likes to take care of her kids, even though the youngest of them is almost 45 (me), I love my mom. Even more than I [heart] her pierogi.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I'm in a particularly good mood this weekend. I have a lot of energy and I'm feeling motivated to do things with that energy. Case in point, I just ironed 3 pairs of cropped pants (or are they Capris? which is which?) that I plan to wear this week. (And I hate ironing. Before the ironing episode? I organized my shoe closet.)

By 10:30 this morning I had done my laundry and had been to the gym--and that was after a leisurely 2 cups of coffee.

Even though I have spent a fair amount of time indoors this weekend, I'm not hibernating in avoidance. My windows are open, the sun is shining in, and I am not dreading tomorrow or the day after. I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow and the day after, and next weekend, and the weekend after that. I'm doing things and making lists as if in preparation for something great, something indistinct and unidentified thing just over the horizon.

I'm getting ready.

That thing on the horizon? It must be vacation.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ten Signs...

(in no particular order) that the school year should be over.

1. You realize, as you're walking out the door, that your sweater is on inside out. (me)

2. During your 1st period class a kid tells you your bottom layer shirt is on inside-out because you actually didn't notice at home (Amy). (And you can't actually change it until you have a free moment--four hours later! That detail would be perfect in a ten things that really suck about teaching post...)

3.  "A" students become "B" students.

4. And don't care.

5. At least once a day a student asks, "can we have class outside today?" [Sure, let me see if I can channel Samantha on Bewitched: wiggle my nose and have my white board appear in the soccer field.]

6. You're so sick of taking time to make a healthy lunch at home to take to school, which you have to scarf in 20 minutes the next day, that items on the school lunch menu like "chicken fryz" become appealing.

7.  Hair clips become a daily accessory necessity.

8. You are aware of, and counting, how many days are left. (25)

9. You wonder how many of those you could get away with calling in sick. (Yet undetermined.)

10. You remember fondly that there was a June with a heatwave and early releases were called...Too hot for school...tee hee

Monday, May 10, 2010

Matter over Mind

I tried. I wanted so much to make it through to the end of Celebrity Apprentice (don’t judge me) to see who got eliminated. But in that commercial break, the last one before the final 2 minute segment, I fell asleep. Eleven o'clock is way past my bedtime on a school night, but it was do-able, I thought, after a weekend's rest. And I actually made it through until 5 minutes before 11, but then, despite my best efforts, I conked out. Just like that [cue the finger snap]. I'm just gonna rest my eyes during the commercial was the actually the beginning of 6 and half hours of restorative sleep.

Falling asleep half way through SNL the night before I could actually understand; I haven't seen 1 a.m. in a while, certainly not regularly for the sake of watching TV. I mean that's the next day on the calendar. But I tried. And at least I saw some of the much anticipated SNL hosted by Betty White. The monologue, the NPR skit, McGruber? All hysterical. But not funny enough to beat my Circadian rhythm.

So two nights in a row, I was defeated. Mind over matter no longer matters, I guess. Even where there's a will, there's an almost-45-year-old body trying to see it through. And some nights it just needs to sleep, and the need for sleep wins over the desire to keep up with pop culture. Oh well.

Add that to the growing list of things going on that make me more and more aware that I am in the middle of life, trying my best not to have a crisis.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Perfect Storm

It's official. I have spring fever. I've made the transition from wanting to hibernate all weekend--content to leave the house only to go to the gym and grocery store, then hunker down with cookbooks and magazines and not leave again until the next morning to go the gym, and do it all over again--to wanting to be outside, in the company of others, enjoying the sunshine, suffering through the pollen. I go from being comfortably reclusive to being Suzie Social. A deck, a porch, a patio, all work for me. Outdoor cafe? Twist my arm. I start counting the days until school is out (27), and the number of weekends until my pool opens (3).

But this morning, unlike every other day this week when the sun was up at 5:15, it was still dark at 7:30 when I opened my eyes. Because it was stormy.

And in my world, thunder, wind, rain, dark skies, soft sheets and a comfy bed on a Saturday morning make a perfect storm, which gives me permission to linger there a while longer.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Prom Season

I'm not a big fan of prom season. This time of year students don't focus well in class because they'd rather be talking about their dresses and how much the dresses cost. I hate to see my female students turn orange and for the life of me can't understand why they don't see how unnatural and unattractive it looks. Fake-and-bake tans abound. Acrylic nails appear on the fingertips of girls who normally snack on them during tests. Boys aren’t nearly as preoccupied with the prom as the girls, but in general it upsets me that such a premium value is placed on a day that really will mean very little to them decades from now. Moms and Dads are happy to pay more for a dress than a season of pay-to-play or the tax increase they refused to take which equates to a fraction of pay-to-play usually, minuscule in comparison to the hundreds they drop on prom. This is how I feel as an educator.

But last night, my nephew went to his prom, and I was there at his house at four o'clock—along with my parents and his cousins—to see him in his tuxedo and take pictures and meet his date. He looked handsome of course, and his date was very pretty (and her dress was elegant and tasteful). As an aunt, I was proud of him and excited for him. I could tell he was excited, that he and his date and his friends would have a great time and talk about it for some time—not for decades, necessarily, but long enough for it to be an important night in his life. So instead of rolling my eyes back in my head I shielded them with my sunglasses so that he couldn’t tell I was a little emotional about how grown up he’s become and about seeing him off on his prom night.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Waste Not, Want Not

When I came back from Haymarket last weekend with asparagus, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and broccoli, I needed to prove to myself that I didn’t overbuy, that I didn’t get lost in the magic and randomly buy vegetables because the price was right. I would use all the produce. Despite the fact that it didn’t cost very much, only $5.00 in fact, I wouldn’t waste it. So I set out, in a (childless, non-emaciated) Robin Miller kind of way to plan meals that would use it all. And I did. Only I did even better than that. I used other leftovers too.

On Monday I boiled enough pasta to have leftover meatballs and sauce from last week (and share some with Amy), and to have later in the week with some of the veggies. While the pasta cooked, I roasted a bunch of asparagus. I tossed the extra spaghetti in a little olive oil and put it in the fridge for another day. After snacking on a few of the delicious asparagus spears, I packed that away too.

On Tuesday, I made halibut. Before I cooked the fish, I sautéed mushrooms—enough for dinner and for that pasta sitting in my fridge. While the fish cooked, I warmed the asparagus in the same pan. I halved some grape tomatoes and tossed them in the pan too.A few minutes later I enjoyed my fish and asparagus topped with mushrooms and a few cherry tomatoes.

After dinner, I cut up the leftover asparagus and added the pieces, along with the mushrooms and leftover tomatoes, to the pasta. I decided to add some protein to the dish, and quickly thawed and sautéed some shrimp. There, I thought, lunch and dinner for later in the week.

The pasta was my lunch on Thursday and my dinner last night.

Thursday night I made a quick and easy dinner after a long and taxing day.  I took a little help from Trader Joe's and added some steamed and seasoned broccoli to their mandarin chicken.

Today I used the remaining broccoli in a family favorite dish that I will bring to Meredith’s birthday party at her request.

So there.
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