Hate It When That Happens

Tonight, I got to the end of a chapter I was reading for my schoolwork. . . I started reading the conclusion. . . I turned the page to finish the conclusion. . .

The page is blank. I bought this book brand new, so needless to say I'm a bit miffed. It will be interesting to see if anyone responds to my post on the discussion board. Help a fellow student out, y'know? I must know how it ends, even if it was the driest chapter in the book!


The Friday Five: Elsewhere

So I'm dreaming of faraway places this week. Definitely when I dropped 22 oz. of soda in the middle of the convenience store yesterday, I was ready to be somewhere else. So here are five places I would love to visit someday:

1. Barcelona. I've wanted to go since high school, particularly to see Gaudi's work.

2. Rome. Kinda obvious reasons. Younger Sister went in January and wants to go back (most likely for another pair of Fendi shoes).

3. California. I would love to see if I could find the neighborhood in San Diego where my mom lived for a few years when she was a kid. She always speaks of it wistfully.

4. Mexico. It's not technically a new place for me, but I didn't get to see everything in the two weeks I was in Mexico City.

5. The Bahamas. My aunt (yes, that aunt) has friends who moved there and it sounds like an interesting place. I like beaches.

I have no idea what my choices say about me.


Feeling Strangely Fine

Today was starting to look like one of those days where I was going to come home and rant about my annoying co-workers, stress over my Field Experience and my fears that the teacher I talked to today won't take me (and what the #$!@ is my school doing when she doesn't have the CV and intro letter I slaved over?), sob about the very embarrassing moment in the convenient store where PMS-induced clumsiness had me knocking a (paid for) cup of soda off the counter and all over my new red shoes (but praise the kind cashier who told me it was O.K., let me get more soda, and handed me a candy bar as I sniffled), scream about being denied compensation for extra work I've been doing since a co-worker left in February, whine about all the rush hour traffic I sat in thanks to a fire and an accident within the vicinity of the office, and call myself an idiot for almost forgetting I needed my car inspected this month (hello, May 29th, idiot).

Somehow it got out of my system by the end of dinner. I threw myself into my cooking and managed to pull off dinner considering the fact that--again, thanks, PMS--I broke the cardinal cooking rule of reading the recipe before I started making it. You know, so I'd realize it serves six and requires six cups of chicken broth. I didn't even have two. (Must've hallucinated that second can in the cabinet.) So originally I was going to make this*--although now I realize forgot to buy pepper, too--duh! But I realized that the risotto recipe I had was similar and sounded more interesting. So for shallots I subbed onion, for portobellos I subbed regular mushrooms, for fresh tarragon and parsley I tossed in poultry seasoning and some Italian salt-free blend, and for the chicken broth. . . Well, it was interesting. I had one can of broth. That was 14 oz. The first addition required four cups. So I made up the rest with water, pouring it first into the can to pick up any residual broth, and then doing the math to bring it up to 32. Then, as that phase of cooking was happening, I scoured my cabinets and found a can of Healthy Choice Chicken with Rice soup (hey, the first ingredient is chicken broth!). I strained it into a measuring cup. I had one cup, and I needed one more cup, so--you guessed it--more water.

Of course, I also skipped the Parmegiano cheese--although it occurs to me I do have a little bit of sheep's milk Romano in the fridge. That'll be perfect on leftovers. I have plenty of those, including one serving I froze. Overall, it turned out surprisingly well. Even if I had to wait until 8:30 for it to be done. But I don't need to complain right now. Yay.

BTW, I've been enjoying the comments on the previous posts, and that has made me very happy, too. If anyone had told me a year ago I'd be blogging and enjoying my kitchen again, I probably would've laughed derisively at such a prediction. Good surprises are always welcome, and in the case of posting this week and trying new stuff in the kitchen, successes from taking chances are way cool.

*The original recipe I saved from the package, as well as the risotto one, actually involved sausage links. I've never seen their sausage in a "roll," and I'm not sure why they don't have the risotto recipe online. I'll post it if anyone wants to have a look.


Silent Influences

Even though I'd started reading at an early age, I had a hard time with composition in high school. There were a number of factors at play that I didn't realize at the time. One was that this was a college preparatory school, meaning they made it their business to challenge the students. (An experience my first week in college had me appreciative of this aspect in a particular way: I was one of only a handful in my class who tested out of the rather pathetic "Grammar Workshop" which was the bane of my friends' coursework for several weeks.)

I loved all the reading we did in my Honors English classes, but the writing sometimes got me down. We started getting into analytical papers my junior year, and it was hard for me. My teacher, Mrs. M., was tough on me, but she really wanted me to "get it." I wanted to, as well, mostly because I didn't like to get things wrong (perfectionist much?). When I started my junior year, things went a little haywire in my life. I'd started getting help for my anxiety, but just to even things out my mom decided to tell me, six months after the fact, that my grandfather (her father) had married his secretary. It had not been even two years since my grandmother had passed, and at not quite sixteen I didn't know how to process that new information at all.

At the end of October, my other grandfather (dad's father) went into the hospital. His health was failing, and in early November he died. I couldn't even deal with my own grief about it--he was the grandparent I'd spent the most time with--because so many relatives, many of whom I didn't know, kept coming to the house every night to hang out and mourn, for several nights. Try doing your homework when there are a million people and a ton of food around. It was too dark and too far to go to the library, and I felt helpless and ignored.

Of course, I had a paper due in Mrs. M.'s class, and I was stuck. I felt horrible telling her, but she was understanding and granted me a short extension. (I never said she was a pushover.) I'm not sure of the timing but I wonder if the new due date coincided with a break in the school calendar (Thanksgiving, maybe?), because I remember having to mail it, and sticking a post-it note to the paper thanking her (but trying not to sound like a suck-up) before I folded it and stuffed it into an envelope.

The turning point was my analysis of "The Pardoner's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. I got an A- and Mrs. M. gave me such positive comments that finally I started to feel confident as a writer. I was still working on my novel in isolation, but it really started taking off. My senior year, Honors English wasn't offered, and I was too nervous to withstand the pressure of AP English, so I dropped down to "regular" English. Other than The Great Gatsby, it was dead boring. I dashed off "A" papers in one night. I had to promise myself that if I took care of my homework right away, I could work on my novel. It was a good deal.

A chance meeting in a study hall connected me with a classmate, J., who was a heavy science fiction/fantasy reader. We became good friends, and I had fun parceling out my novel chapter by chapter for her to devour. She caught up so fast that at one point she was reading it just as soon as I was drafting it. One of my favorite moments was the morning she came tearing down the hallway toward my locker--she always had a flair for the dramatic--demanding, "Who is this 'Aras' person, and why is he there?" This sort of reaction always thrills an author. It should, anyway.

I was reminded of Mrs. M. this weekend because I found her obituary in the Sunday paper. She was the same age as my dad. Cancer. (Shout out to my Pints Posse--CCFOAD.) Cancer also took my friend J. It will be five years in October, the day before my birthday. They were strong influences on my development as a writer. Though silent now, they continue to inspire me today.


Now for the Real Post

Animal Kingdom trauma aside (see prior post), and crazy aunt trauma aside as well (see prior-prior post), it was a pretty good weekend. Movies on Saturday, Mass (we got to sing God Bless America!) and cookout on Sunday, and yesterday. . . yesterday was just the kind of day I needed.

I upgraded my cable a week ago, and I have some free movie channels for a while. So I got to watch an entire movie in the morning. It was O.K., but the most enjoyable part was that I could just sit there eating my breakfast, watching it.

In the afternoon, my mom called and said my parents' backyard was available if I wanted to sit in the sunshine and read. Yes. They still had Sunday's paper, so I sat there devouring it for a while. They went to their friends' house for a cookout, and I was welcome to help make a dent in Mt. Macaroni Salad. Which I did, happily, along with some leftover deviled eggs, baked beans, and a glass of wine. I live about a mile and a half from my parents, so it's not as if I have to rush to get home. Then I played with my sister's cat, and kept an eye on my late great-aunt's cat who is sixteen (!) and is the only cat with outdoor privileges. She likes to sleep on the bench on my parents' front porch, because it is warm and probably feels good to her little arthritic bones.

When I got home, I put on a small pot of coffee and got to do the only thing I'd actually planned for the day: work on my novel. The novel I started at age fifteen (first in my head, then transcribed to a used Apple IIe), completed the initial draft my freshman year of college (age 18, Mac LCII), and have been polishing on and off for years (iMac G3 from 1997). I haven't done much writing, just making notes for adding and revising, for way too long. It was time to just do it.

It wound up being a bit of a bender. I was up until 2 a.m., because I couldn't work on just one section. I had to look over the whole thing. At one point, for no apparent reason, the power supply cut out. It was too late to scream my head off, so I calmly unplugged the power cord and plugged it back in. Hit the power button. It started up fine and gave me the OS9 smiley face. I wish I'd hit "save" more recently, but what I'd lost was still fresh in my mind.

It's somewhat emotional for me to work on. I started it as an isolated, lonely, depressed, insomniac teenager. Now that my food allergies are under control, all that's with me these days is a little isolation, so to be honest, it has been hard to get into that strongly focused of a writing frame of mind. There's no question that being stressed out at work, working on the computer all day and being online for school at night all have a negative impact as well. (Interestingly enough, I know I am relaxed when I wake up in the morning and I'm thinking about writing.)

In any event, I got into it last night. And I love reading what I've written and taking an honest look to revise what doesn't work. I did, after all, write some of it when I was a teen. (Although it is surprising how a lot of the stuff the teenage me wrote still stands.) Maybe tiredness was making me emotional, but I read over a part that I had written relatively recently--a difficult conversation between the two main characters, fighting against circumstances that threaten to separate them--and my chest tightened as my mind's eye went over the words and felt the confusion, the perceived betrayal, the sorrow. I thought I could hear the one character's sobs.

I know, I know--it's probably just a signal to shut the computer down and go to bed. Or is it? This story and these characters have been with me so long that I find it's easier sometimes to put myself into the POV character's shoes and just let the story play out in my head with plans to write it down later. I seem to recall learning in high school about authors who based characters on themselves, or even split aspects of their personalities among more than one. F. Scott Fitzgerald comes to mind. I would not be surprised if either of both of my main characters turn out to be a lot like myself, or what I think I am like. How I want people to understand me. In a way I think I might have been one as a teen, and now that time has passed I see myself more in the other. The weird thing is, one is male and one is female--and they love each other. If that says anything about me maybe it's my struggle for self-acceptance.

It was a satisfying, well spent chunk of time, and I plan to get back in front of the iMac more often from now on. This could be the year I finish the novel for good.

And there's a half-started sequel as well.

Just Another Day in My Life

Yup, when I get home from running errands after work and all those cups of water are telling me to make a beeline for the loo. . .

. . . and on the carpet, right in the path to the loo, is something that makes me (1) scream--my memory is fuzzy but I suspect I broke the second commandment--and. . .

(Note: semi-graphic nature picture below. View at your own risk. And put down your beverage.)

. . . (2) force myself to say, "Good kitty. What an excellent huntress." And pretty much mean it.

Yes, that is blood splatter on the recipe pages I was trying to save. She's getting a little sloppy in her advancing years. I don't know why the apartment community is charging me so I can have a cat. I think they should be paying her.

UPDATE: I e-mailed the picture to my mom, and she said, "He is rather big--maybe the mob boss. . ." Maybe this will send a message to the rest of the mob--trespassers will be splatted!


No, Thank You

Why don't the above words ever come to mind when my aunt starts in about, I don't know, how I should drive 40 minutes to hang around her friends' garden center to flirt with their employees?

Instead the wrong thing comes out and I wind up being cast as bitter and prejudiced. Lord have mercy.

I'm off to drown my sorrows in the mountain of macaroni salad my parents are stuck with because Older Brother canceled at the last minute (surprise). Too bad we can't ship some to Younger Sister and make her extra happy.


No Spoilers, Just My Opinion

Saw the new "Indy" movie today with some former co-workers. Excellent cast, spectacular effects, weak storyline. Anybody else catch it yet? What did you think?


A Rather Tasty Friday Five

Well, Memorial Day is this coming Monday for those of us in the United States, and that means it's time to have a cookout. Mr. Bingley is getting started on some delicious stuff. I can't grill in my apartment community (well, maybe I could if I carted the grill over into the courtyard or something), but my parents will be grilling on Sunday. I'm invited (naturally) and I'm bringing dessert. I'm also going to try to make this beverage.

So for today's Friday Five I thought I'd talk about five of the things I like to enjoy at cookouts--just maybe not necessarily all at the same time.

1. Grilled hot dog. It's a totally different taste from when they're boiled on the stove.

2. Macaroni salad. My mom's recipe is good, and it is one of Younger Sister's most frequent requests.

3. Deviled eggs. When my Great-aunt E. was alive, she used to make tons of them for family parties. They go down easily.

4. Cole slaw. As long as it's not soupy, I'm happy. Cabbage is yummy.

5. Roasted marshmallows. I can't believe my parents used to let us use metal kabob skewers to roast them over the charcoal in the hibachi when we were kids. Well, we never set fire to anything. (Uh, at least not that way, anyway.)

If it's any consolation to those who don't eat meat, I'll be using a vegan recipe to make frosting for the brownies. And no cats will be harmed in the making of said brownies, unless a particular cat gets underfoot in the kitchen and I accidentally step on her. Well, some say cooking is an art, and sometimes suffering has to happen before you get art.

Or you could just sit on top of the refrigerator to be safe.

Here's to a lovely weekend and may there be no rainouts on your cookouts!


My Quotable Family

I was at my parents' after work because I was going to interview my mentor-of-sorts, who lives next door to my parents, this evening. So after dinner (penne and sausage, yum), I went next door and did my interview.

While I was over there, my aunt (as in My Maiden Aunt) stopped by my parents'. I could hear her feisty laughter as I walked in the back door and into my parents' tv room. She always has stories to tell when she does long-term substitute teaching (music). This time around it's at a high school.

"Where was I? Oh, yes--so, we're having our auditions for Beauty and the Beast, and this girl C. is auditioning for the part of Belle. Honestly, I didn't know what to say at first. She's a good kid, it's just that, well, for starters she has a tongue piercing. But it doesn't stop there. Her two front teeth are missing!"

Holy cow, we all said.

"I know, right? So this is a serious issue for singing, you know, S's and D's and T's. This is for the lead role. I had to ask the obvious question. 'You do know you don't have any front teeth, right?' And she says, 'When I got my braces off, the two front ones were wiggly, but I didn't think anything was wrong.'
'C., honey,' I said, 'how long ago was this?' 'Eight months,' she says to me. 'Are you going to get them fixed?' I asked, but she didn't have an answer for me. I don't get it--her parents are loaded."

We're all kind of wondering if her parents pay any sort of attention to her at all.
My aunt goes on, "Oh, and did I mention--and I'm not exaggerating here--she's about 100 pounds overweight? Right, so we're going to have a pierced, toothless, obese Belle."

God forgive us, we all lost it right there.

I think that's going to be the running joke for the entire weekend.

UPDATE 5/24/2008: I got a little more background from my mom, and this was not one of her school students but rather a former voice student from her private practice, who was back in touch with her and (I'm guessing) auditioning for college or community theater. But still--jeez, what happened?



I have a paper due tonight, and it occurred to me that I'm writing it backwards. Meaning I wrote my outline forwards, but when it comes to fleshing it out in actual composition. . . I wrote the conclusion first, and I'm flipping each page of the outline forward as I'm completing it. This is far from the first time I've found myself working backwards on a project. I also do some things left-handed (I'm a righty) but I've chalked that up to my left-handed mom's influence.

Is it narcissistic to be fascinated by how my own brain works? Or is it just one more reason to ask myself why it took me so long to figure out I should get involved in teaching?


When Group Projects Work

Admittedly, I prefer to work alone. Most of the courses I've taken in this program have embraced "collaborative learning" and have required some sort of group project or group discussion. I usually dread them--groups selected at random and way too many personality conflicts. And when communication is strictly online, well, you can probably guess that people misinterpret things and say things they wouldn't say to another's face. I even had one group treat me terribly because I was late checking in--I was so sick this time last year that I couldn't even look at a monitor, let alone read and type. No compassion among some information science types.

The best ones have been where either I was able to work with a classmate I knew I could get along with, or the group was assembled via a questionnaire, usually involving our goals for our degree (i.e. what type of librarian). Going into my project this quarter, I was really hesitant. Would I get along with these people? Would they get hostile with me because I can't check in during the day?

My apprehension has melted away, thankfully. I'm working with three very personable classmates. We even have side discussions going (reasons for entering program, family, work, podcasts for children)! It's awesome. It probably also helps that we all think the template we're using is pointless in some areas.

Now, if this analysis paper I'm doing for my other class would just start coming together. . .


Friday Five: Smile Time

Today was one of those days where I was on the verge of tears (from frustration) a couple of times and managed to laugh instead. I've heard a saying about life being not what happens to you but how you react to what happens. . . well, probably it was less clumsy than that, but you get the idea. So I thought for tonight's Friday Five I'd talk about five things that brightened my spirits today:

1. Seraphic's cute idea about a spiritual dance card for the wedding she's attending this weekend. Some of us non-marrieds get caught in this happy-sad feeling about weddings, and she fleshes it out well. I remember going through what seemed like a year of one wedding after another when I was first out of college. Younger Sister, unmarried like me, also seems to run through these cycles of weddings among her friends. Now she's dealing with wedding fallout--babies! Nine arrived or expected to arrive since last Fall. So far--it's early in the year. (One of the few times I am glad I don't know that many people and that the people I do know are already married or not interested.) Anyway, at some wedding receptions people dedicate songs to family and friends. So I'd like to dedicate "Ruby" by Kaiser Chiefs to Seraphic, for her beautiful ruby red hair and for the lines, "Let it never be said/The romance is dead/'Cos there's so little else/Occupying my head."

2. Dave E.'s helpful statcounter comments on the previous post--and the ensuing "lose your cookies" jokes. Hee hee!

3. Making my co-worker laugh--when I was ready to strangle our other co-worker for believing "leave this program up until we can resolve the problem" means it's O.K. to go ahead and use one of the applications the program is running (computer illiterate)--by declaring, "I want whatever she's taking that gives her such amazing delusions and always makes her come out smelling like a rose to our boss." Cripes.

4. Election bumper sticker making fun at Wunderkraut's.

5. The neighbor gal who smiled and said, "Come on in" to me as she held the door to let me into the building when I got home. It was raining (as it had been all day) and my hands were full of bags and schoolbooks, so that was lovely. (Number 5-1/2: My trunk doesn't seem soaked from all the rain as I'd feared, so maybe there isn't a problem after all. Hopefully.)

Here's to a nice (and in my case, productive school-wise) weekend.


Up over 1,000

Whoa! When did my hit-meter get past 1,000? Granted, I have a roving IP address so I know around a hundred or so are mine (if anybody knows how I can get it to ignore me, please enlighten me), but still--I seem to have gotten quite a few hits this week. So. . . hi, visitors! Feel free to leave me a comment or send an e-mail. Don't be shy--you know, just because sometimes I can't control my mouth, like this morning:

Co-worker (female, late 40s, married ten years): I'm making a list of things I want to do for my birthday. Wanna hear? [Rattles off a few things like places she wants to eat/tour/shop.] My husband wants to take me to [hotel west of their home] but that means I have to worry about what shape the house is in because [the lady who watches their dogs] will be coming in.
Me: Tell him if he wants to go to the hotel, how about getting a maid service to come?
Co-worker: Oooooh! Good idea. I'd love to have breakfast in bed.
Me: (slightly wicked grin) Is breakfast optional?

Don't worry, she laughed. I hope you laughed a little, too. I know, in spite of the amount of whining about school and rude people, I try to make sure the humor is still there. It's such a joy for me to make people laugh. Don't get me wrong, I like to help people out, too, but sometimes humor gets the job done best.

I still need to go make dinner, so I'm gonna run. And crack open a soda to celebrate my mixed feelings about not being called for jury duty tomorrow. (And yes, the county courthouse's website does give a confirmation, unlike certain other school sites. Hmmmph.) Later, pippa!



I rewrote my introduction letter on my lunch hour--sitting in the car at the very crowded township park--and filled out the online application to the best of my ability. Hit the "submit" button and. . .

Blank page.

No "Thank you. Your form has been submitted." No date and time stamp. For a school that brags about its technology I find this highly incongruous. Not to mention freaking unnerving. I haven't even had the temerity to close the window yet. The mini-marshmallows that fed my writing skills are threatening to come up (a little). Well, I e-mailed my program advisor about it (the form, not the marshmallow problem), and that's all I can do. The deadline is tomorrow, so hopefully that takes care of it.

I guess now I should start looking at my schoolwork for the week. Whew.

UPDATE 05/15/2008: After I finally got my internet back (and honestly I wish I could get those 30 minutes with the tech support lady back), I received an e-mail from my program advisor saying she did get my application. Yaaaaay!!!


Still Working Things Out

My program advisor replied to the nice long e-mail I sent her. Of course right off the bat she misunderstood question #1 (proving my point about communicating solely via e-mail), but otherwise her response was adequate. She said her employer worked out a leave of absence with her. (My problem is, I don't know what I'd be returning to afterwards.) Gonna take another crack at my introductory letter tonight--just scribble everything out and cut down afterwards. I don't have time to be stuck anymore. It's due by the 15th.

We had pouring rain all day yesterday, and when I opened the (recently repaired) trunk of my car this morning to take the last two bottles of water from the case, I made a unsettling discovery. Underneath the case and a few other items in the trunk was a very wet trunk floor. Does that mean the seal was messed up when they fixed my trunk? Greaaaaat. Now what?

My mom called me to tell me that she saw my mentor-of-sorts today (they're neighbors)*, who told her that her FIL passed away over the weekend. Bummer. I knew he hadn't been doing well at Christmas, so it wasn't surprising news, but still sad. And I feel like a total heel b/c I'd just sent her an e-mail asking if she'd let me interview her for an assignment. She's been incredibly gracious about helping me, though. She mentioned to my mom that she'd gotten the e-mail but hadn't had the chance to respond yet. I'm not going to worry about it right now. I have a different assignment due for the class this week, anyway, and I may or may not have been nominated to lead the group project in the other class. But all that can wait until I get this darn application done, intro letter included.

These are such complicated times. I get tempted to think, "Well, good thing I'm not seeing anyone," but honestly--not to sound like a total codependent--when I think back to trying times in the past, I really benefited from having someone at my side then. Maybe it was also because I had more friends at the time as well, but I'm not sure. Well, in the present, I'm just going to have to make do with what I have. I am nothing if not resourceful.

*My word, does this post have enough hyphens and parentheses?


Sunday Night Reflection

Today was one of those days of so many commitments, so little time. Was up late Saturday night trying to finish some really dry reading for class, so this morning was a little rough, but I had to be there to cantor the 10 a.m. Mass. It's Pentecost (a.k.a. the birthday of the Catholic Church). Stopped at my parents' to have a quick cup of coffee and a little breakfast, then ran home to check in on my group project for school before heading to my nephew's christening. Admittedly, I was dragging my feet. They didn't ask me to be godmother, for the third time in a row. (My SIL's younger sisters are godmothers to the other two, and this time they asked some married friends from college who of course live out of state and didn't show.)

The christening was already underway when I got to the church--honestly, I hadn't expected them to start before 1:00. My younger sister was standing up there as one of the proxy godparents. My mom told me they were going to ask me to be proxy but they forgot. (Not buying it.) I was simultaneously embarrassed (for being late) and annoyed (at not being asked). If they had asked me I would've been there ahead of time. Managed to see the little guy get anointed with chrism and be clothed in the symbolic white garment.

Ultimately, though, it didn't matter. Afterwards at my brother's house, I was far more useful (and appreciated). My oldest nephew showed me the video he took--so I did get to see what I'd missed--and I surprised him in turn with a calculator gadget he'd mistakenly left in one of my bags last summer. I'd discovered it while unpacking last week. I took the two toddlers outside and helped them blow bubbles and chase them as the wind carried them down the driveway. And the newly christened baby hung out in my arms for a while, alternating intense blue-eyed gazes and quiet, motionless naps.

Afterwards I went back to my parents' and gave Mom her Mother's Day present and Younger Sister her (early) birthday present. Had dinner with them and then headed home to finish up schoolwork for the week. I'm wrapping things up for the night, dreading work tomorrow and feeling the pressure of my not-yet-completed application for my fall class.

I remain, however, soothed by the lingering spicy scent of the chrism from my innocent little nephew which somehow attached itself to me during the time we spent together this afternoon. So I'd hoped to be a mother by now. Or at least a godmother. Sometimes I feel like "less" because of that. Not right now, though. The little ones who appreciated what I had to give them, saw me for who I am and not what I lack. For the moment, I feel "good enough."


The Saturday Sub for the Friday Five

Hmm, all quiet on the blog front. I know I didn't do my Friday Five yesterday, but it was nice to get out and hang with some friends I haven't seen in a while. One half of the couple is the mastermind of the supermarket set-up, and the other is his adorable wife who is originally from Slovakia. She is smart as a whip and while her English--which I believe is her third language--has improved tremendously over the last few years, she is always looking to add to her vocabulary. I never realized how much I tend to pepper my speech with all sorts of crazy idioms and expressions, and it's a riot when she stops me to express her appreciation of them. I don't even think twice when they're rolling off my tongue. The word of the night was "squeamish."

So, yeah, you get a bunch of blabbermouths like us together and you wind up coming in at 1:30 a.m. Between that and the fact that this week was rather trying, no Friday Five. But thank goodness for tracey, who has come up with quite the lengthy meme with all its number-y, shout-y goodness. And away we go. . .

56 Superfluous Questions:
1.ONE OF YOUR SCARS, HOW DID YOU GET IT? The scar on my right inside calf came from one of our old dining room chairs when I was a little kid. My mom had one of her girlfriends over, and while they were talking, I plopped myself down in the chair beside them, and unbeknown to anyone a nail was sticking out of one of the legs and stabbed me. I don't know if I was in shock or had been taught not to interrupt but I think I sat there for a few minutes before I finally called out for help.
2. WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM? Nothing. Thanks for badgering me about unpacking still, memey.
3. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU WERE BORN? Well, there was no clock in the hallway of our old house, but the guess is 4:10 p.m. I think the paramedics showed up at 4:25.
4. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW? Everything to work out so that I can take my course in the fall and not have to worry about having enough to live on and where I'm going to work.
5. WHAT DO YOU MISS? Some days I miss milk-containing edibles such as pizza, tiramisu, and white russians. Thankfully I don't miss feeling crazy-sick, so it passes.
6. WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION? I don't know about most prized, but I really love my bedroom set. It belonged to my great-aunt E. and when she passed away after a long illness, one of my other great-aunts said to make sure it was given to me because I'd helped take care of Aunt E.
7. HOW TALL ARE YOU? My license says 5' even but I'm pretty sure after yoga I'm at least a half inch taller. :)
8. DO YOU GET SCARED IN THE DAY? I'm a little puzzled by the phrase "in the day." Generally being "in the day" doesn't scare me. "In the rush hour traffic on the bridge," yeah, a whole lot.
9. WHAT’S YOUR WORST FEAR? That I'd be asked something like this.
10. WHAT KIND OF HAIR COLOR DO YOU LIKE ON THE OPPOSITE SEX? No preference but it must be clean and well-groomed regardless of length.
11. WHAT ABOUT EYE COLOR? Hey, wait a minute--are you trying to set me up with somebody?
12. COFFEE OR ENERGY DRINK? Coffee. It's easier to find coffee that tastes good than an energy drink that tastes good.
13. FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING? Well, lately I've been making "fake" pizzas with a little bit of pepperoni on them.
14. IF YOU COULD EAT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Chicken cacciatore. Get out your pans, memey--it's 11:30 and I'll be looking for lunch soon.
15. FAVORITE COLOR OF ALL TIME? Nothing consistent but I know good color when I see it. Right now I'm loving my new pear-colored loveseat.
16. HAVE YOU EVER EATEN A GOLDFISH? Only the Pepperidge Farm crackers as a kid.
17. WHAT WAS THE FIRST MEANINGFUL GIFT YOU EVER RECEIVED? I don't know about meaningful but I know a thoughtful one: When I still lived at home with my sister, she'd borrow my nailpolish and manicure things a lot. That Christmas, she got a snap-top plastic box and decorated it, labeling it "Nails" so I'd know I could stash all my stuff in it.
18. DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH? I don't really have crushes. I mean, I notice people are nice and hot or whatever, but I don't fantasize about cuddling on the couch with them or brushing their hair.
19. FAVORITE CLOTHING BRAND? That I wear? Well, lately I've been buying Banana Republic but it's hit-or-miss with the fit and the price point. I kind of like that American Eagle knock-off stuff that JCPenney put out but they don't do petites.
20. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU WANT? Honestly, I don't see myself driving anything other than a Subaru and just having my car back to the way it was when I first had it (no squeaks, more pep) would be cool.
23. YOUR WEAKNESSES? I'm not taking three hours to complete this meme. Next!
24. MET ANYONE FAMOUS? Yeah, Matthew Sweet. He was cool!
25. FIRST JOB? I babysat when I was a teen.
26. EVER DONE A PRANK CALL? It's a preteen requirement, isn't it?
27. DO YOU THINK EVERYONE OUT THERE HAS A SOUL MATE? I'm not 100% convinced there is such a thing.
29. HAVE YOU EVER HAD SURGERY? Not where I've been completely knocked out, no.
31. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY? Nothing that comes from a store, I'll tell you that much.
32. HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU WANT? As many as I can take care of.
33. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Sort of. It's my grandmother's middle name but spelled differently.
34. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TURN OFF WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX? Low self esteem. Call me when you're sure of yourself.

35. WHAT IS ONE THING YOU MISS ABOUT GRADE SCHOOL? Those big honking textbooks we had for reading. It was a bummer we never got through them in a year. . . until I realized I could read ahead. Ohhh yeah.
36. WHAT KIND OF SHAMPOO DO YOU USE? What day is it?
37. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? No. College lectures and timed exams ruined it.
38. ANY BAD HABITS? I'm human, so, yes. You didn't ask to specify.
39. ARE YOU A JEALOUS PERSON? Sometimes I can't help it. I'm the middle child!
40. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? Only if I wanted the best friend ever.
41. DO YOU AGREE WITH FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS? Oh, jeez, is that misnomer still around? That is messed up.
42. HOW DO YOU RELEASE ANGER? I'll let you know when I figure out how to stop turning it inward.
43. WHAT’S YOUR MAIN GOAL IN LIFE? To know, love, and serve God, and to be happy with Him in the next. (/Baltimore Catechism.)
44. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY AS A CHILD? A stuffed animal who was a raccoon named Rosa.
45. HOW MANY NUMBERS ARE IN YOUR CELL PHONE? Not many but I guarantee half of them are school-related.
46. WERE YOU A FAN OF BARNEY AS A LITTLE KID? He hit the big time when I was in high school, so I'm gonna disqualify myself for this one.
47. MASHED POTATOES OR MACARONI AND CHEESE? I have never liked mashed potatoes--yeah, revoke my citizenship right now. Mac and cheese--eh. Don't miss it.
48. DO YOU HAVE ALL YOUR FINGERS AND TOES? What do you think I'm typing with?
49. DO YOU HAVE A COMPUTER IN YOUR ROOM? If you mean dining room, then yes.
50. PLANS FOR TONIGHT? What've ya got in mind?
51. WHAT’S THE FASTEST YOU’VE EVER GONE IN A CAR? My brother found out we could hit 100 on this one part of I-95 when we were heading down to school together.
52. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO? The cat giving herself a bath post-finishing her breakfast.
53. LAST THING YOU DRANK? Water, to wash down my vitamins.
54. REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT? I'm registered "R" but I don't always vote that way.
56. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING? The Bad Catholic's Guide to Good Living. It's hilarious.



I had ordered a bunch of summer clothes and shoes from a catalog, and there were three separate shipments--supposed to be, anyway. I was starting to wonder when the second pair of shoes would arrive. I checked the order status online and it said "complete." Uh, I don't think so. Good thing they provide tracking numbers.

Bad thing is, somebody stole my shoes! Before they even got to me!


Guess I know what I'll be venting about over at Emily's tomorrow.

Rolling Along

Thanks for all the positive and encouraging words on the last post. I tried calling my (new) advisor on my lunch break, but I couldn't get past the rottweiler- I mean, work study student answering her line. He was thorough and cool as a cucumber. I left a message with him and on her voice mail, asking her to leave me a message on my cell to let me know if I have a chance to talk with her tomorrow sometime between 12 and 2 (the O.K. window for taking lunch at work). No return message. Maybe she's just going to try me tomorrow between those times?

In my gut I feel I should just keep going and that everything's going to work out. In spite of the fact that I don't see how at the moment. The other two looming questions are. . .

(1) How bad does it look that I have practically no library experience to speak of? I mean, my career experience hasn't been library work per se, but I work on systems and our tenant files pretty much are a library. And I am the go-to person for information research (a.k.a. "font of obscure information") in my department. (I'm kind of excited to realize that--it's going in my intro letter. Whew--blogging is productive!)
(2) My mentor-of-sorts (who lives next door to my parents) has mentioned that she--and some of her colleagues--are looking to retire in the near future. (How sweet would it be to get her job? Very!) I just don't know if she's hitting retirement age in June 2009 or 2010. Is it indelicate to ask? I have to talk to her about possibly interviewing her for an assignment, anyway.

In the meantime, I'm going to go back to working on my letter and arguing with my group project partners (ugh). I have to get some things taken care of before the weekend 'cuz it's gonna be busy. Tomorrow after work I'm seeing Iron Man with my friend (the one trying to set me up) and some of his co-workers, then hanging out with him and his wife for a little bit at their place. Probably discussing the progress of the set-up. Saturday will probably be a "work" day for me on school, because Sunday is my nephew's christening. My sister will be in town and I think we're cramming her birthday in early, on top of the christening and Mother's Day (which thankfully is no big deal as long as somebody remembers the Jean Nate'--I did!).

I can't even begin to think about possible jury duty a week from now, a paper coming due, and Lord only knows what else. But I guess that's just life as a responsible adult (sort of) and grad school student. I'm glad to be healthy, even if my back is acting up again, and things are fairly quiet at my residence. So I think I'm just going to count my blessings for now and keep rolling along--"one bite at a time," as Lizzie said below.


The Future Is but a Question Mark

On the way home from picking up groceries after pilates class tonight, the song "Bring on the Night" (The Police) came on the radio. That's where the title of this post comes from, because it had me thinking. Well, thinking more about what's been on my mind a lot as of late.

When I applied to grad school, one of the major factors was that I had nothing to lose. In the year leading up that I'd suffered the worst heartbreak of my life, serious loss of friendships as lines were drawn and tales were told, my brother's second (!) illegitmate pregnancy with his girlfriend/not-girlfriend (now wife, thank God), a virtual eviction by my roommate (more tales told), the violation of a supposed friend helping me then taking up with the Ex (and further loss of friendships with more lines drawn). Seriously, I said many times I was going to move to a cave in Indiana and change my name. In addition to the personal/family grief, I had a genuine lack of a sense of fulfillment with my job and no prospects of advancement. In the back of my mind for years had been this desire to teach but not in the pure sense of standing up in front of classrooms. Yet, when I spent the day with my (now) mentor in April 2006, the school library environment just felt right to me.

I didn't know how going back to school after almost ten years would work, or how I was going to pay for it. I put down a bunch of intentions for a novena to St. Rita and prayed my heart out. Her feast day is May 22, and the novena (nine days of prayer) starts so that the ninth day ends on her feast day. One of the intentions was that if I was meant to go to school, there would be a way to pay for it. In June, I received a fellowship that helped with a significant portion of tuition. I also got promoted right as school started--twice in the span of six weeks--so I got two raises. (I checked off nearly every intention answered--culminating in my brother's wedding in November 2007. The unanswered ones, I guess, are "no" or "not now" ones, and they were minor favors.)

Now, I'm staring down graduation in December. Before I get to that point, I have a class to complete in the fall, where I will observe and most likely also will teach in a couple of schools. I'm working on my application right now, and I'm struggling with my introductory letter. I think it's a mental block.

On Saturday my mom came over to help me do some more unpacking. When she was finished, she hit me with a barrage of questions about what's to come. She has this relentless style of hammering people with questions. They were almost all valid--just asked so rapid-fire that you feel they're all urgent and must be answered right now. I already was having a blood sugar crash, and the questioning overwhelmed me and made me burst into tears. Do you really have to be at school all day? Well, even if you're done at three can't you go into the office and do your work? Your father and I said we'd help you but we can't do it for very long--will a school hire you in January?

She seems to have this bizarrely optimistic idea that my work will be perfectly supportive of my taking twelve weeks off to do my last class. And, you know, let me work off-hours and pay me. When the class is done and I'm, I don't know, looking for a new job in my new field, they'll let me come back and keep working for them. I don't think so. She also thinks that one of the schools I visit could hire me on the spot and/or create a position for me. I don't see how that's possible. Schools have to get even more approvals than companies do before they make a move like that.

I am so angry with myself for not thinking this through and finding out all the program entailed. I had no idea there would be a course requiring me to do a field study, let alone one that lasted twelve weeks. But here I am. I blew through the program because the fellowship had me taking three courses a quarter. (I currently have just under a 3.9 GPA.) It wasn't until last Thanksgiving that I found out that I had to do this--take this course by itself--and there really isn't much getting around it.

I'm torn. I really want to finish the program as soon as possible--I feel as if the real estate downturn has affected my company so work feels worse than ever--but is it really practical from a financial standpoint for me to do this right now? Am I better off waiting until the spring? Would a part time job help?

I've tried talking it over with my school advisors for the past year--what do people do when they take this course? Their answers: Some take out personal loans. (I have enough loans as it is.) Others have spouses supporting them (not this Maiden Aunt!) or have moved home (not feasible). Actually, I recently got a new advisor--for the third time--and I think I'm going to try the old questions with her and see where they get me. But at the moment, I'm feeling really confused and down. The novena starts next week and at this point I'm not even sure I have a prayer. . . but they also said St. Rita would never see her dreams fulfilled, either--the convent didn't want to take a older woman whose husband had been murdered and sons had dropped dead before they could carry out the traditional revenge--but it happened. So at the very least I can ask her to put in a good word for me. I've gotten this far, and deep down I just know I can get to the end, but when all the questions are hitting me, the light at the end of the tunnel gets rather dim.

And I'm still feeling compelled to finish this introductory letter and get my application in. Now.


Talking with Strange Men

No, I don't mean Mr. Bingley.*

I did laundry tonight using the facilities in the building's basement (bye-bye quarters!). Most times I go to my parents' but something made me decide to stay home this time. While my clothes were drying, I received a phone call from the other party in my friend's matchmaking scheme. I tried my hardest to be my witty self, avoid TMI or weird topics, and so on. We talked about where we grew up, what schools we attended (I hope the five-year age difference won't give him pause; I get along better with people who aren't the same age as I am), admitted we're both introverts (whew). So at least the ice has been broken. We wrapped up after about half an hour--not sure how it went, but I think when he says, "You have my number, right?" that means he'd like me to call him so we can talk again--but anyway it was fine because I had stuff in the dryer I needed to check.

The basement is divided and the steps closest to my apartment are on the "wrong" side to access the laundry, so I just take the nearby lobby elevator down to the basement when I do wash. As I was waiting for the elevator to come down from the third floor, I noticed that a fellow was having trouble getting his key to work in the lobby door. (I figured he must be new--it's hard to remember to put the key in, turn it in the lock, and turn the handle as well. Weird door.) Just as I went to let him in, he got the door open. I asked if he was O.K. and he said he was new (boy, I'm good).

He waited for the elevator with me, and when it arrived we both got in. I pushed the button for the basement; he didn't push a different floor. He asked, in what sounded like an African-type accent, if I had lived here long. I told him I moved here in March--and he said, "Oh, a long time--we moved in four days ago." Relatively speaking, he's got a point. I felt bad when he seemed surprised we went to the basement and it was my stop--all I had in my hands was my keys and some quarters, but, well, the first few weeks in a new apartment are full of surprises. Even I got a surprise when the one washer I set on "warm" yielded clean but steaming hot clothes.

But in any event, it's nice having a few strange conversations.

*I kid, I kid.


Living Things

One of the neat things about having an office is that the offices in my company have at least one plant in each of them. When I had a cubicle, a plant sat atop the filing cabinet outside of my cubicle, so I hardly ever paid attention to it. A plant service provides care and maintenance for all the company plants, and the one lady who usually comes around to water and check our plants is really cool and very personable. She knows and addresses everybody by name, a gesture I find very considerate.

This afternoon was the first time she came to water the plants while I was in my new office. In fact, I was just returning to my office from the kitchen when she was watering the plant in my office. So I said, "Thank you." She grinned. Then she shook her head and remarked, "All the times I've come here, that's the first time I've ever heard someone say, 'Thank you.'" All I could say was, "No!" in disbelief as she went on to the next office. I've been there over five years now, and I remember meeting her early on. It's not as if people don't like her, so that just blew my mind.

Now, maybe it's that people don't consider the plants "their" plants, if they even consider them at all, so they don't really care whether or not the plants get maintained. Or maybe they just think, well, that's her job. But think about it: When you do your job, don't you like being appreciated for it? Don't some people come home from work and wonder why they keep going back to a place they feel doesn't appreciate them? So it has to mean something, IMO, to show appreciation.

Heck, we've got some people falling over themselves to treat plants better than they treat people (hat tip to Rachel Lucas). Granted, that's an extreme case, but really, I don't understand how some people who would do anything to avoid "killing trees" don't think it's worth their while to bother looking the "hired help" in the eye. If anything, having respect for the smaller living things should lead to an increased respect for bigger ones. You know, like. . . people.


Someone Appreciates My Cooking

She hasn't eaten scrambled eggs in years--and never scrambled eggs and zucchini seasoned with garlic salt! Well, uh, thanks for pre-treating my pan before I wash it. . . I guess. . .

The Friday Five: Face Time

Thanks for all the suggestions about the armband. After work today I went here (the brick-and-mortar version) and found one for Younger Sister's iPod. There were two in the store so I did a side-by-side comparison. I'm pretty sure I ended up with this one--and I'm relieved to see it has pretty good reviews now that I'm reading about it. Hopefully she'll like it, too!

I also spent too much on other things there, and on top of the $42 I had to shell out for gas (arrrgh!) it got me thinking about ways to save money. Last Friday's post was about the extravagance of a pedicure, so this week (sorry, fellas) I thought I'd share my five step plan for an at-home facial, because those can be very pricey. It's adapted from a Burt's Bees kit I got several years ago; it came with a little booklet and a tiny bowl for mixing up the facial mask powder with water. I've had a hard time finding the powder since, though, so last night--as I did one to de-stress--I used a pre-mixed packet I had picked up at CVS on clearance for 49 cents a few weeks ago. So pull your hair back off your face, and. . .

Step 1: Cleanse. I recommend a creamy/moisturizing cleanser, because the mask can be drying. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Apply and rinse off cleanser. Gently pat dry.

Step 2: Scrub. Any facial scrub you have on hand will do, as long as it's gentle and not full of rocks or huge pieces of shell--ow. Apply, rinse, and gently pat dry. If your skin's thin and/or sensitive, skip this step.

Step 3: Mask. Make sure you use the right one for your skin type; thankfully, nowadays most of them are labeled to help you out. Read the directions so you know how long to leave it on. Slather it on and set your timer. Prop your feet up and read a trashy magazine, or just close your eyes and enjoy the sensation of the mask drying on your face. It might even crackle! When time's up, rinse with cool water. I suggest using a very wet washcloth to help get the mask out of your hairline and the nooks around your nose.

Step 4: Tone. No harsh toners like Sea Breeze--see if it says "normal," or "soothing," or "balancing" on the bottle. Put a little on a cotton ball and sweep over your face. This gets rid of any remaining mask residue.

Step 5: Moisturize. Use your favorite moisturizer. If you're going out, make sure it has SPF! (I just had this talk with my mom. She's 60 and she's never used moisturizer with sunscreen.)

So try it out sometime, if you want. It should take less than half an hour, so it's even faster than going to a salon for a professional one. (Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like product suggestions.) Have a relaxing weekend!


The "Inside the Actors' Studio" Meme

I've been tagged so much I'm beginning to think I'm popular or something! I'm doing this one because (1) Amy G asked, and (2) I can't quite get a big enough chunk of time to post about my H.S. reunion (if anyone cares). . . so thanks for help with some in-between fodder, Amy.

1. What is your favorite word? I've never thought about it before. But "thanks" is a pretty good one.

2. What is your least favorite word? I'm not going to spell it out but it's the "M-F" word. Don't wanna hear it.

3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? I probably could say *music* for all three.

4. What turns you off? People who talk with their mouths full, and people who talk loudly. The volume goes up, and I shut right down.

5. What is your favorite curse word? I don't like to curse per se but there's a lotta vulgarity I like to use given the right occasion (or wrong, depending on how you look at it).

6. What sound or noise do you love? The trilling chirp of my cat when she talks to me, and hearing my niece and nephew call me "Aunt Kake."

7. What sound or noise do you hate? See #4.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Full time novelist. A successful one.

9. What profession would you not like to do? Veterinarian. It distresses me to see hurt animals.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Whaddya mean, "If"?

Technocessory Bleg

Younger Sister's birthday is in mid-May--most likely we'll be celebrating it on or around Mother's Day because Baby Nephew is being christened then and Younger Sister will be in town. Last weekend she came for a visit and said, "If you haven't gotten me anything for my birthday yet, I could really use an armband for my iPod." (This is how she operates. I'm guessing it's effective about 99.9% of the time. Can you tell she's the baby of the family?)

I don't know a thing about anything iPod related. It's a Nano, 3G. Where can a poor grad student find a good armband without breaking the bank? My early investigations are saying around $30 at Target or Best Buy--and if I go with Target I'll probably have to pay to have it shipped. Any recommendations?