Saturday, April 28, 2012

Almost there.

Summer is so close I can taste it. We've been filling our days with lots of almost-summer stuff: Disney movie marathons, gardening, baseball on the front lawn, (monkeys) running throuh the sprinklers, eating frozen yogurt. This week I walked Hurley a lot and I think it was good for us both in terms of getting the nervous energy out. I do better when I see water and sunsets.

These next few weeks at school? They're the half mile at the end of the long run: miserable. If I pay too much attention to how much I have left to do, it's going to go by even slower. If I start the sprint too early I'll poop out and it will be worse than it has to be. My job for the next 23 days is to keep moving slowly and to enjoy the scenery.

My plan? Choose to be happy right now, rather than when I get there.

Spring.Catch.Twinkle helps edit video.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Catching up on book posts: Empire Falls

Ah, back in the habit. March was too busy for much reading, but I'm gladly back in Booktown this month.  I have said it before and I will say it again: being in an MFA program is WORTH. IT. if only for the book recommendations I'm getting.  I enjoyed the heck out of this recent read (and I'm so getting used to reading things that don't suck).  I'm becoming such a book snob.

Bonus: Now that I'm done I can check out (my) Paul Newman in the 2005 HBO miniseries based on the book. Good book + Paul Newman + HBO?  That's an equation that makes sense to me.

Okay, I've started this book post about three times since I finished the book. Time to finish the post.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Empire Falls is a great read with an easy feel to it.  This is just the kind of book I dig.  The book takes place in Empire Falls, Maine, a mining town that's all but extinct.  It's full of (for lack of a better term) colorful characters: the crochety old man, the newly-divorced wife who's redefining herself, the angsty teenager, the disapproving matron, the town full of lovable stereotypes.  Empire Falls felt comfortable for me to read; it didn't race to any kind of conclusions, but I also couldn't really tell where it was going to end up.  For me, that's a good read.

The main character of Empire Falls is Miles Roby, the newly divorced father of an awkward teenager and son to the drunk and manipulative Max Roby.  The last remnant of the family that once controlled the town, Francine Whiting, still holds power over Max and exerts it whenever it suits her.  The book is about family, secrets and the ephemeral nature of towns born out of industrialization.  It was funny.  I like funny.  It was also sad and familiar.  Russo writes characters that make sense and he envisions a town trying to hang on to the story of the glory it believes that it once had.  Whether that glory is real or a manufactured memory is up for debate.

This is just a story about people.  E read it right after me and he was surprised by how ordinary it was.  It's not boring--not at all--but it's a lovely look into families, legacies, guilt, obligation, and secrets without being sensational.  Just good writing about great characters.  I loved it. I would count it among my favorite things I've read in the past few years.

My recommendation: Yes.  Yes, sir.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cant sleep, version no. 832323454001


Now, with more predawn action.

Don't mind me.  Just up early, entering my latest gift card into my Starbucks account so I can keep them free drinks a-comin'.  This one was a thank-you for helping my friend Karin with a slideshow for her AVID seniors.  The truth is that I was happy to help out because I believe in AVID and I believe in Karin.  And working on slideshows is hardly tortuous work.  Still, it's nice to be appreciated, even for small things.

I've been sitting here waiting for my family to wake up, thinking about appreciation.  I guess you could say it's this week's theme.  It's Staff Appreciation Week at work, and for the first time in recent memory I have an awesome secret student pal. (And perhaps I'm liking this whole thing better since this time it's not a secret for me who it is?  I don't like secrets...they're like lies told cheerfully.) My pal's been bringing me presents all week to make me smile; even though most of the time that kind of thing is way too awkward, knowing it's a student who means a lot makes it better this time.  And perhaps since it's happening in conjunction with my having a class of ninth graders who actually get Shakespeare (for real!), I'm feeling great.

Last night at the AVID banquet I got to see Karin receive the kind of true appreciation that makes people think they want to go into teaching in the first place (a kind of appreciation which is--in times where classes approach numbers near 35 or 40--not real common).  Most of the time we do what we do and then we send the kids on.  It can feel a bit like working on an assembly line--you never see the end product, but you work hard every day to do your one part.  But last night Karin heard from student after student who said with complete conviction that they loved her, that she was the reason they were going to go to college, and that they knew they could succeed after high school.  Wow.  I came home feeling happy that one of our ranks had received her due.  Appreciation of any teacher is, in a way, validation of what we all do.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A green age

<This is where the awesome picture of the blue and pink sunset would go, if I had remembered to take one tonight.>

I had to get the heck out of Dodge, or, more accurately, my house/room/funk tonight.  I took Hurley for a  long walk.  When I get angsty, it's always a sign that I need to sleep more, eat better, and GET OUTSIDE.  Since I've decided to forgo running indefinitely, I also need to be moving my body a whole lot more than (you know) never.  I don't want to be a disgusting slug, it sort of just happened.

I feel good knowing--as I said in my last post--that I'm just riding the crazy train until the end of May and then I get to be me again.  It's the time of year when school just plain needs to be over.  I'm over it.  Ovah.

But.  I'm reminded today that life's about to get reeeaaal simple and my sphere, very small.  Life just is that way when I'm not teaching and it is my favorite thing.  Case in point:  I purchased me veggies not two days ago for me awesome wee vegetable garden.  Since this is year two of planting in my fence-protected, no-dogs allowed space I know a little bit more about how I want to do the layout.  I might have used a spreadsheet the other day to plan how many plants I need and where they will go.  Yeah, that happened.

Here's my haul.  I hope to get it in the ground by this next weekend.


It's a happy goal, too. I'm about to be 33, and I'd like my plants in the ground before my birthday.  (Green plants, green birthday.)  Planting a garden is such a gentle reminder of my Dorothy Gale-ism:   that home is where I have everything I need and care about, and I don't need to go looking any farther than my own backyard.  I feel settled, thinking about how much real life I have ahead in the summer with my two monkeys, E and the garden.

Walking tonight was good for me, too.  I needed to stretch my legs and think.  I needed to be quiet.  I needed to reconnect with the sky and the duck poop on the sidewalk.  Okay, maybe not that last part.  But there's a weird thing that happens when I'm not walking or running much where I'm just disconnected from the (for lack of a better, non-cliche term) world around me.  I'm sorry if that sounds so annoying.  I know.  But when I take too much time off and get stuck inside, I just don't feel right.  I'm hoping I can push myself to get outside again and enjoy the air.

Twenty days to freedom.  Not that I'm counting.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The agitation of fans

My early morning company.

By 6:00 I had enough of the fan and I had to get up. The current it generated had been scratching away at my skin all night. I have a thing about fans, both their noise (if there is one) and the agitation of the "fake" air on my skin. Scratchy, sand paper-yuck. Give me an open window, a natural breeze any night; any kind of humming fan or constant, unyielding man-made blast of air is bane to my existence. Our ceiling fan in our bedroom is completely silent, and I can tolerate it for E on hot nights so the air in our room doesn't grow stagnant, but only if 90% of my skin is shielded from the direct flow of air. Invariably, though, as I toss and turn I stick out a leg or an arm or an ear. By morning I feel like someone has been harassing me all night.

So I'm up and it's not 6:30 yet.

It's probably just as well, anyway.  My insides are just as agitated as my skin and I wasn't sleeping.  It's been seven nights in a row of anxiety dreams.  Seven.  No matter what I take or eat or drink or watch or meditate on before I sleep, I wake up in a cold sweat sometime in the neighborhood of 3:00 and 5:00 AM because my brain is re-imagining new metaphors for the anxieties I'm tamping down all day.  Lost airplane tickets and ID.  Crumbling buildings.  Imminent danger for my children.  Wandering alone, lost.  The real anxieties I'm avoiding in the daytime are nothing I can't overcome, but I know they can't be overcome yet, which is one of my least favorite time-frames.  Life is a-changin' and though I know it will be fine, I'm not feeling confident about how.  Yet.  See, there it is again.  For all my big talk about being a grownup, some of the principles still escape me, like patience.

I don't like change, either. I'm not sure we humans really do, but I'm sure there are a few that handle it better than me. Even when I handle it all day, my brain rebels and keeps me up nights.

But anyway.  On top of that is just normal end-of-the-year stuff. Normally I get the May Crazies in the last month before school is out. This year school is out mid-May, so May Crazy showed up for April. Last year I had an important moment when I realized that teachers live different iterations of the same year over and over again, and the same frustrations. I was able to let go of trying to "fix" May Crazy and just let it pass. There hasn't been a May (or, April, now) since I've started teaching that I haven't just wanted to curl up into the fetal position for one reason or another. Now I just look at that and go okay, we're almost done.

Other stuff from this week (since I didn't feel like writing much until today):
Wednesday baseball game (with the boy, who now has his cast off but shouldn't really play for 4 more weeks. i.e. the end of the season)
Standardized testing at school
Grading, grading, and more grading
A wee bit o' poetry-writing
Drinkin' with friends on a hot patio, Friday
Melted cats laying on stuff
Saturday baseball game under the heat of a thousand fiery suns
Date night with E: more patio-drinkin'


Monday, April 16, 2012

Wedding pics, ancient scanners, and the time iPhoto ate half my album

Opening wedding gifts - Version 3

So. Yesterday was our 12th wedding anniversary.  (I know, way to write something nice about it, P.)  I have to say it's the first one in a long time where I haven't felt conflicted.  I feel like it's okay to celebrate our ups and downs and bumps and turns and the fact that we nearly split but dag-gammit, we decided to do it all over again.  And I feel like I'm in a place where I can be happy about the first time we got married without any kind of guilt about what it does or doesn't mean.  It's a day worth celebrating, and when I look at our pictures I'm struck by how much joy there is in our faces.

Yesterday was a beautiful day inside and outside our house.  And in-between soaking up a lot of sun and hacking dead wood off my peach tree, I decided it would be really nice to haul our antiquated scanner out of the hallway shelf where it resides (and doesn't get used).  I plunked it down on the dining room table (where it still sits, naturally) and started pulling candid shots out of our photo album to scan.  Plus one for digitizing memories.

We took the kids to a low-key family sushi dinner to celebrate our 12th, and it was nice in the way that things are nice when you don't have to wear makeup to them and you can laugh with a kind of inside joke code that exists in family units.  We sat at the sushi bar with the monkeys for the first time, which was (accidentally) the best thing ever since our kids are trained to go into a special catatonic fugue when there is a large LCD television in their line of sight.  At one point I think Roo was staring at the constant sushi advertising feed and Henry was drooling over the Angels' game.  I thought they'd think the man making rolls was cool, but not so much.  They only have eyes for tempura shrimp.  It was an easy dinner, which seems to be the best kind for people with kids.  It was a nice way to relax into the end of the day.

Or so I thought.  I came home and began to crop the photos (why did I scan them three at a time???) so I could make an album in iPhoto.  I finished pretty quick and uploaded them and...

for some reason, about 20 of them disappeared.  No big deal, right?  This is my fancy cool Mac and it basically manages my house for me and writes all of my short stories without any help.  No way it was going to eat my photos, right?  Well, in the process of trying to recover them from a backup, I lost about EIGHT BILLION (no hyperbole here, folks) other photos (or thumbnails?  Either way, annoying.) that I wasn't missing in the first place.  Minus twenty for being a computer bozo.

At 10:30 PM I was out of TV to watch, energy, and patience.  I had crossed the line between "oh, this is hard but I am totally competent" and "I CAN'T DO ANYTHING RIGHT; ALL OF MY INSECURITIES ARE CONFIRMED!"  I shut the damn computer and went to bed.  Of course this afternoon I managed to at least find the 20 or so wedding scans I lost.  The other pictures?  Now that's a scavenger hunt for another day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

En route to the park


Me: Buddy, I like your no-front-teeth "s" sound.

Henry: Yeah, I know.  Hey mom, did I tell you about the dog who ate the diamonth?

Me: No...

Henry: He thaid "note to thelf.  nexth time no thparkly thnackth."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mmm, Quiche.

I like eating it, so why not learn how to prepare it, right?  A while ago I decided it was time to find out.  I liked this recipe because it could be customized for whatever kind of cheese and veggies I have on hand.


Easy Goat Cheese and Veggie Quiche
adapted from this recipe


1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/2 bunch (1/2 pound) asparagus, tough ends removed, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 handful of fresh spinach, washed
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups half-and-half
a pinch of ground nutmeg
refrigerated pie crust (I like Pillsbury)
3 oz crumbled goat cheese


1.  Roll out uncooked pie crust and place in a pie pan.  Crimp edges.  Sprinkle pie crust with cheese.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position.
3.  In a large skillet, melt butter over medium.  Add asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is almost crisp-tender, 3-5 minutes.
4.  Add onion and mushroom, cook until veggies are crisp tender.  Stir in spinach and wilt.
5.  In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, 1/2 teaspoon salt, teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
6.  Top pie crust with asparagus mixture. Pour egg mixture on top.
7.  Bake until center of quiche is just set, 50 to 60 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Only this.

I had a stupid bad day at work.  It wasn't anything serious, but it made me super frustrated.  I came home and this cheered me up.  Check it oot.

Caine's Arcade from Nirvan Mullick on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bleedin' feets and bad poems


Not much exciting tonight, 'cept I made some not-disgusting fried chicken for dinner, and Biggest Loser is on which always makes me happy in a voyeuristic/cheerful-uppy kind of way.  I know there are all kinds of things wrong with that show, but it inspires me to see people change that much.

Anyhoodles.  I'm just back from the longest pedicure ever... not long on relaxation, but long on pain.  My bad ballerina toes are wont to be ingrown, and tonight I drew the lady who digs out things until (sometimes) she draws blood.  Tonight there was blood (not on the saddle... remember Big Al?).  I had to stay there until things calmed down and homegirl worked all kinds of ancient secrets on mah toesies to get them to settle.  I'm hurting, but I know my feet will feel better by tomorrow.  I should just up and have that thing where they fix your toes so that doesn't happen anymore, but it scares me.  (More than a crazy woman going at my toenail pits with a metal tool.  I know it doesn't make sense.)

Today I had the monkeys at work with me which made today feel like the longest day in the history of ever.  I like them, but I worry too much when they're at work with me.  We all had a good night, though, and E came through the door looking equal parts Mad Men and 2012 Guy Who Wears Purple Tie With Aplomb.  We had a good dinner.  I left for my pedicure.  I came back, and now I'm going to give poetry a second night of trying.  All of the sudden since I'm in a poetry class, I am questioning my every word.  I'm glad for the stretch, though.  Hopefully something awesome is going to come out of all this discomfort.  It's like a pedicure.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Easter smells like vinegar


Easter happened in a hurry this year.

Typically we spread out the Easter cheer over a few days, but this year we didn't have the luxury of such scheduling since we'd been out of town.  We dragged our Vegas-weary feet through Safeway's aisles the night before to buy three eighteen-packs of eggs for dyeing.  In between boiling the eggs and coloring them, I snuck back to the bedroom to upload a packet of fiction for my new class.  We stayed up late into the evening turning our fingers green for Sunday.  I love how Easter smells like vinegar.

Sunday was low-key and beautiful, though the early morning sunshine got pushed out by some hazy late afternoon clouds.  We had our traditional hunt in Grandma and Grandpa's yard, the same place where I searched for eggs in trees and flowers when I was a kid.  Half of the fun is the hiding--this year the grown-ups hid 166 eggs in total.  When the five kids found most of them, it was time to go out and hunt for the eggs we'd lost, ourselves.  We always hide 'em too good.  There are no eggs in grass for this family.

By 4:00 PM my entire body went on strike.  The late nights and early mornings of vacation left me a little weary.  I was still fighting it today when I was back at work.  Good thing we have five billion pastel candies at our house to help me get through the rest of the week.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Who, What, When, Where: Vegas

Details, details...

StocktonLobbyAtrium at bellagioSerendipity3UntitledCEHViewMesa Grill

We flew: Allegiant out of Stockton

Uber-cheap and no hassles out of the tiny airport.  We also got our room through the airline.

We stayed: at Bellagio

I figured just in case I never wanted to go back, at least I'd stay someplace beautiful.  And it was.  Our room had a great view of the fountains and the strip.  We could sit and watch the water show out our window.  I'm really glad we picked this hotel because it was not just a nice place to stay, but the quality of the guests was a little higher than some of the ones we walked through.  It had a warm ambiance which I enjoyed; it definitely contrasted with some of the other nicer hotels in that it seemed more inviting rather than cold.  The room was nice, the people who worked there were nice, and the restaurants were amazing.  We stayed in the newer Spa Tower, which is all non-smoking.  I liked that too.

We ate:

a lot.

Wednesday for lunch we ate at Harley Davidson Cafe, which was exactly what you would picture it being.  We wanted beer and barbecue, we got it.  Our waitress was nearly unintelligible as a human being under all of her hair dye, boobs, and false eyelashes.  But the wait staff was friendly and they made good greasy food.

We shared a frozen hot chocolate from Serendipity3, which is nothing like its counterpart in New York, but the chocolate's the same. E bought a doughnut the size of his head.  I saw a lady who may or not have been a dude.

Dinner that night was at Yellowtail, a Japanese restaurant in the Bellagio.  We didn't have a water view, but we DID have a table on the corner near the entrance to the casino from the shops, so it was prime people-watching.  We were wearing our best and I had my Vegas hair goin' on, so we were feeling all kinds of attractive.  See and be seen, beezies.

Thursday's lunch was at The Buffet at the Bellagio.  We were too hungry, so we scarfed it too quickly to enjoy it, but it was arguably the best buffet I've been to.  Definitely felt like we got our money's worth on that one.  I tried to eat my weight in steak and shrimp.  Forget vegetables... they take up too much room.

Our best meal was Thursday night when we had our anniversary dinner at Mesa Grill in Caesar's.  Several friends recommended it and it didn't disappoint.  I had a spicy spinach salad and a corn and shrimp tamale.  E had pork tenderloin and a duck pancake appetizer.  I had my margarita and half of E's--they don't mess around with margs at M.G.  Yummy.  The service was so good and the food was just perfection.  We counted this as our anniversary dinner and it felt really special.

We did:

Walk all over God's Green Earth Sin City. I did not anticipate E wanting to be a go-getter while we were there, so the only casual shoes I packed were CHEAP flip flops.  Oops.  We saw: Bellagio, Caesar's, the Flamingo (quickly), Bally's, Paris, Planet Hollywood, the m&m store, Vdara, the Cosmopolitan, Aria, the shops at Aria, New York New York, Excalibur, and the Luxor.  My poor feets.  My blisters have blisters.

Buy touristy stuff for our kids.  We came home with some sweet, sweet m&ms PJs for the monkeys.

Window shop.  E walked through his first two Tiffany & Co stores as well as a Jimmy Choo.

People watch.  I taught E about how the girl needs to wear the shoes instead of the shoes wearing the girl.  We marveled at why people would bring their children to such a place where they'd have to explain all that nakedness and beer.  We walked past miles and miles of card-clicking smut-sellers, and laughed at all the starred-out boobs that littered the ground and dotted the roving billboards in the streets.  We tried to see where we measured up in terms of attractiveness/youth/trashed-up-ness and decided we came out more than okay.  I eavesdropped on people talking in French.

Gamble.  Not crazy-like or anything, but we made a sizable donation.  We played a long time--that's what matters according to my Grandma Lila.  We hit the roulette and blackjack tables pretty good and wasted some major time playing bonuses on penny slots.  Our last day, we won a lot which A) didn't make our overall losses so bad, and B) meant we left on a positive note.  Win.

Drink our fair share of adult beverages and then some.  'Nuff said.

Dance the night away.  We ended up in clubs both nights.  The first night most of the places we wanted to go were dark, so after dinner and lots more walking around to sight see, we ended up at a small club at Planet Hollywood: Gallery. The second night we were at a crazy-packed club at the Bellagio, The Bank.  I had a blast at both.  I don't know if I can say E did, but he usually does a good man-dance while I prance around in front of him and do my best to make him look good.  Dancing isn't something we'd exactly do at home since we'd have to get someone to stay in with our kids while we went out like twenty-somethings.  But it seemed like it would be fun to both of us and we worked our younger-than-32-years-old looking faces to get in free and get our groove on.  Observation: we are not the oldest nor the ugliest people in the club.   Not.  By.  Any stretch.  You know I love me a chance to shake my booty, anyway.  Yeah.  That happened, Vegas.

Remember that we really like each other.  The whole trip was like one big date.  We get stuck in our routines at home and our roles as mom and dad here and it was nice just to be H and E.  We missed our kids but we felt like we needed this trip.  We enjoyed each other's company and we were glad we had the freedom to do so.  I really like my husband, you know?

Spend a shit-ton of money.  But it was worth it.  Amen.

Get me a massage at the Bellagio.  Good lord, I love me some high-end spa and massage.  I imagine heaven like the long hallways of the Bellagio spa.  As usual I tried to use or partake of every possible free amenity in the spa itself before and after my treatment.  The prices are crazy, but I'm telling you it was the one thing I reeeeally wanted to do.  (And it was the best of all my Vegas experiences.)  Check.

We did not:

See a show.  Being there mid-week meant some of the things we would have seen were dark, but there also just wasn't anything playing that we were thrilled about, so we didn't.  Maybe next time.

Hang out by the pool.  This is the one thing I'm sad about, but the one day we tried to go it was closed because it was so windy.  Oh well.

Rest much.  As I said, E wanted to trek all over the place, so we didn't rest or read or stay in one place as much as I'd imagined we'd do.  But now we both feel like we've seen it, like we have a good sense of everything if and when we go back.

Vegas was a good spot for our quick getaway without the kids.  Neither one of us had been before, but I'm glad we didn't go until we had enough money to actually do stuff and enough sense not to drink until we passed out and wasted the next day.  I spent all three days thinking about how lucky I was to be with such a handsome young lawyer, and appreciating the freedom we had to just take off and go wherever the wind took us.  Vegas is a strange, busy place.  I don't have much to compare it to except New York in terms of bustle and 24 hr stimulation.  I think the difference is that New York doesn't give two shits whether you like it or not, and Vegas is bending over backwards to cater to your every whim.  New York is the confident older woman, Vegas is the teenage girlfriend who's trying to figure out a way to entice you to stay longer.  Or something.

I would totally go again.  Totally glad we went this time, but totally EXHAUSTED.  Totally.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Chore | An American Sentence

"Costco card?" she demands by the ambulance-blocked door; my flip flop's wet.