Sunday, December 30, 2007

Doing my best ...

to hold it together.

Many days these days, I am trying my best to hold it all together. A plus is that I now have a job that I enjoy. With benefits. And as soon, as I get all the paperwork straightened out, I will be heading back to therapy. Because I know from past experience what with lies ahead, I will have a hard time holding it together without therapy.

On 23 December I learned that the doctors have stopped chemo on my stepmother. They want her to start a new drug treatment -- with no guarantees. This treatment has a lot of harsh side effects. My stepmother is debating the whole thing. If she starts the new treatment, it will be after the first. But I know that she doesn't really want to do it. She's been making statements about her "quality of life" and how it pretty much sucks already without the treatment. She has been telling my father that she wants to get all her affairs in order. In that long conversation with my dad on Christmas Eve, I asked, "She's given up, hasn't she?" He replied, "Yes." And the hard thing is that my father has not given up yet. And I really can't blame him. This is a woman who he has known for over 30 years, has been married to for almost 22 years. But in my heart, I know the truth. She's dying.

Most days I'm OK. But every now and then, I'll feel myself starting to cry. And that kind of surprises me.

I first met my stepmother when I was nine years old -- a year after my parents' divorce. My dad had just started to date her. They had met through their younger sisters who were close friends. Over the next ten years, I didn't see much of my stepmother. Well, not with my father at least. She lived around the corner from my mom and attended the same church that we did. Actually she started attending the church after she started dating my dad because she's Catholic. During those years there were other women. My stepmother explained to me a couple of years ago that she wouldn't really commit to my dad because of his drinking. (And yes, he is drinking once more. On Christmas I saw him down a shot of Patron with his cigar.)

When I turned 18, my father stopped drinking -- and smoking. Apparently one of his drinking buddies had attempted suicide and that scared the crap out of my dad. Within the next couple of years later he married my stepmother.

My stepmother, early on in their marriage, decided that I was a spoiled brat. We didn't get along. On my part, I know that I didn't have much respect for her. She came off as this bubblehead who could not make a decision without first hearing her husband's opinion. And this was a woman who holds a master's degree and has worked as a counselor at colleges. She could help others plan their futures but deferred to her husband in most things at home. I guess it went against all of my feminist sensibilities. Because one thing I am never willing to do is to play dumb for some man. OK. Maybe if there is a free drink involved but never in a relationship.

Then in 1989 my stepbrother was killed. He was only six months older than I. It wasn't until 2003 that I was ever able to discuss it with my stepmother. Circumstances had dictated that conversation though. I had discovered that the father of one of my students had been with my stepbrother when he was killed. And this guy -- his alleged best friend who left my stepbrother to bleed to death in a car in downtown Sacramento and then had his girlfriend -- the student's mother -- call my father and stepmother in the middle of the night to tell them the news -- wanted to speak to my stepmother about what had happened. I think this was a turning point in my relationship with my stepmother. Although I guess it happened earlier; I was just too blind to see that shortly after my stepbrother's death, my stepmother started giving me gifts for my birthday and Christmas that were solely from her.

And so yes, therapy will be in my future very soon. I'm a lot better about talking to people about what's going on inside of me but it's still not enough. Especially when I feel like I'm a conduit for everyone else's pain and loss at the same time. And it's probably part of the reason why I haven't been going out as much as I used to. I have found that going out and feeling so-so emotionally are not really a good mix. I tend to make some really dumb choices. But a part of me really wants to go out and to interact with people. So I've got to get my crap together -- and soon. Besides, I'd like to be able to post stuff that's not such a downer.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Finally something

Things have been a bit slow since Christmas. I get up, I go to work, and then I come home. But then something interesting happened.

Back in the summer, I signed up with OKCupid thanks to Fluffycat. One of the fun features is that you can see who has been checking out your profile. Well, this one guy kept checking out my profile daily. But he never tried to contact me. I eventually sent him a message asking what was up with his actions. And so we started sending messages to each other. Then I started working and I was rarely on OKCupid. So last night I read his latest message finally. He had sent me his phone numbers and his email address. So of course, I did some research based on the email address.

This guy is much older than my usual victims -- a little more than ten years older than I am. But here's the thing. He's a former actor who apparently used to party a lot back in the day. And he's related to a number of famous actors.

I'll admit it. I'm a bit of a celebrity whore. And so I think I should go on at least one date. Because at the very least, there could be some really interesting stories from that one meeting -- and I'd be sure to share them with y'all.

I've heard from some of you already on this topic but you're free to chime in once more.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Oops. Meant to post this in the morning but it's still Christmas day here. And even though I don't technically celebrate Christmas, my family does. So I show up out of respect. And when they do the prayer before the meal I just substitute a few words in my mind.

And this year was a little different. First of all, because my aunt cooked dinner. As in the one to whom I am always delivering food. It's not that she can't cook; it's just that she doesn't like to -- often. And we really didn't do the gift thing this year. It was just about being together. Because there's a good chance that my stepmother won't be around next Christmas. So that means that I'll be driving up to Sacramento soon to use her gift -- a gift certificate for a pedicure at her favorite nail salon in Sacramento. Funny how time has changed her opinion of the "spoiled brat" from her husband's first marriage. OK. I am a spoiled brat.

But then on Monday morning I spent an hour or so on the phone with my dad. He said that he would never tell me how to live my life because he knows that I am a different person than he. But he will always be around to support me in whatever I choose in life. And he trusts my choices because he knows that he and the others in our family gave me a firm foundation. We talked about my summers with his parents. He said the first time that he sent me there, others told him that I would absolutely hate being stuck in rural Alabama. But I didn't. And I told him why I loved it there so much even though it was so different from being in the Bay Area. And my younger cousin? Well, by the time she came along, our grandfather was dead and our grandmother was sick. She never got to experience the great kind of summers that I had. And I think that that would have made a world of a difference in who she is today.

Because today I snapped on her and told her what an inconsiderate, rude person I thought she is. It may have had something to do with the hour minimum she spends in the bathroom getting ready each day. I think my comment was something along the lines of, "You've never had to share a bathroom with someone else? If you had been my roommate in college, we would have had to have a chat." Or it may have been that she decided to borrow one of my tote bags -- without asking. Because if she had asked, I would have given her a bag. And this was after she had shut herself off in the bedroom Monday night until we left for our aunt's house on Tuesday because I had told her older brother on the phone about the scene at my dad's house. And he had a few words for her. But other than her drama, it was a wonderful day. Probably because for once someone else's behavior was more atrocious than mine. And I kind of like it that way.

Enough of the heavy stuff. On with the frivolity.

You Are Blitzen

Always in good spirits, you're the reindeer who loves to party down with Santa.

Why You're Naughty: You're always blitzed on Christmas Eve, while flying!

Why You're Nice: You mix up a mean eggnog martini.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Some things are not meant to intersect

Friday I ended up following Pearl's example. This would have been fine and all if I hadn't had a 10:00 a.m. hair appointment on Saturday morning. And I had told my dad that I would come to Sacramento after the appointment to help him shop for Christmas gifts. But it was 2 when I left the appointment and I had to go into San Francisco before heading anywhere to retrieve my debit card. Don't ask. And then traffic sucked and I wasn't feeling particularly well. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't believe I consumed any solids on Saturday. So I went home and slept but before that I let my dad know that I would be up on Sunday morning.

And I did make it on Sunday. And there was lots of tension in the house. Per usual I thought that my dad was pissed off with me but he quickly set me straight on that. My 23-year-old cousin is visiting from Alabama for Christmas. She arrived on Friday night. And it seems that she met a guy on the plane. Because he came by my dad's house Saturday night after dinner to take her out. And my stepmother proclaimed that he looked like a thug. And they said that they were going to a movie. And she got home at 5:00 a.m. Well, she says that it was 4:45 a.m. My dad and stepmother, of course, were not pleased. And here's the real kicker. My dad asked me if he was wrong to be upset. Ummmm. Not sure if he was asking the right person there.

See. Part of the problem is that my little cousin has often said that she wants to be like me. And what would I have done in her situation? Probably the same thing.

So my dad had a talk to her and I think she started crying. On Saturday they had managed to buy all of his gifts except for the one for me. Because I had to be there. So while my cousin composed herself, my dad and I headed to Costco to pick up some new tires for my car. I had one with a leak that I was going to have patched but my dad thought that was a ridiculous idea. Something about after five years, how I needed new tires and not a patch job.

And then my cousin and I headed over to my stepmother's sister's house. Where there was baking and wine. And a much more relaxed atmosphere. And we decided that they could all use a break from one another so I told my dad that I would be taking my cousin back to Berkeley with me and that we would see him on Christmas day. (She's still asleep right now.)

How did I pull this off? By saying that my stepmother probably didn't need the stress right now. (She was probably more upset than my dad was.) And she doesn't. The doctors have stopped the chemo because it is not working. They will be starting a new drug therapy that fortunately because of my dad's health insurance will only cost $350 a month instead of $2,000 a month since Medicaid would not pay for the drug. And this stuff has a lot of unpleasant side effects so we'll see how it goes. And maybe I know why many family members have had a hard time getting into the whole holiday spirit this year.

Meanwhile I am going to try my best to not be jealous. Because Natasha has become completely obsessed with my cousin and doesn't like it when my cousin leaves her sight. Actually it's rather comical.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sticking with it

I just can't escape the music thing. I got home last night and turned on the TV even though I knew that there was nothing but reruns on. And for some reason the TV was on VH1. And they were doing one of their countdowns -- Top 100 songs of the 90s. Squeee!

Unfortunately last night they did not show the top 20. They'll be running the series again tonight including the unseen top 20. And that's right. I set the DVR to record the whole thing. Because I'm weird like that. And mostly because I will probably sit around tonight with a pad of paper out. To write down the songs that I have "forgotten" and will now have to dig out to listen to once more.

And I wasn't going to do a video today but then I started trying to think of what was one of my all-time favorite songs of the 90s. And it was this one.

Because I still play it now and always will. Because how could you not feel happy listening to this song?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Getting ready for the holiday

I first wrote this post when I thought that there would be an end to what I had deemed as "Music Week." What I have now realized is that music is such a large part of my life that it would be hard to contain it to one week. So expect to see a lot more music, along with the food and other stuff, around these parts. Oh, and probably has something to do with the fact that my dad's older sister is arriving in town today -- the first of the relatives flying in for Christmas.

My daddy is from Georgia. When the family gets together, there comes a point in which we sing every song we can think of that mentions the fine state of Georgia. Here's the collection of songs. And I will admit, for some reason the first song always makes me kind of misty.

The fiddle playin' in this song is incredible.

Hmmm. That just covers my dad's side of the family. I should also represent my mother. I would say her side of the family but there is not much definitive there. Well, perhaps there is but I'll leave that to another post. Instead I give you these selections.

This is one of my all-time favorite songs and I regularly listen to it in my car while commuting. In fact, I was listening to this song right before the Marvin hit the radio about a week or so ago.

Oops. I forgot that my mother is not really into Brazilian stuff like I am. Here's one of her favorite songs by one of her favorite artists.

Celia? She partied until her death. I want her spirit. Just like when I reach 60 or so, I want legs like Tina Turner and a face like Lena Horne's.

I love this song so much that I think you should know the lyrics. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd give you the English translation that's in the liner notes of the album.

I like to think that part of the reason that my mother moved to Mexico started with her love of Spanish Harlem. Although she was born and raised in Virginia, she spent every summer until she graduated from college -- yes, even after she married my dad -- in NYC. When I was growing up, she regaled me with tales of going to the Palladium and seeing greats like Celia Cruz and Tito Puentes. Bottom line is that around age eight or nine, my mom taught me the cha cha. Next was the mambo. I guess I learned merengue and samba on my own. But once you have the basic rhythm, the rest is a piece of cake. We're still working on turns.

Even when my parents are at their highest level of irritation, I can still walk away from it. I remember the wonderful world of music that they gave me. Because even if I cannot fully express myself in speaking to family, I know that I can find a song that will do it for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Split post

Kind of like that pea soup. I never said that I'm a comedian so stop groaning.

So I haven't worked up the nerve to post the stuff that I am sure will infuriate some of y'all. It's my internal censor at work. The one that says, "Are you sure it was not a hormonal surge that made you say that stuff?" And I say, "No, it was not hormones -- really. These are thoughts that are bouncing around in my head but it only seems that under the influence of certain hormones -- or alcohol -- that I feel brave enough to step out on a limb and say the stuff that really matters to me." And then I start wishing that I was a stand-up comic. Because those folks? They have the ability to say whatever they think without really caring about the fallout. Maybe that's why I love them so much. To the point that most of my list of "future husbands" are comics. But then I woke up from that dream.

And that post still haunts me so I know that it will probably turn up here one day. In the meantime, I'm going to snip a bit of it away. One of my favorite stand-up bits.

Enjoy. And maybe this will give you a clue to the rest of that post. Oh, and yes, I was always the kid who pulled back the band-aid slowly. Don't know why.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why bother?

I'm starting to wonder why I bother to write the endless lists. Like my list for Saturday. OK. I did accomplish the majority of the list actually. It's just that things got changed up and the items that should have been then completed on Sunday are still waiting to be done.

Saturday was filled with numerous errands. I left home around 10 a.m. and returned around 3 p.m. The first stop, after checking on mom's house and then making the dreaded phone call, was to Sears. Because I needed more of the cute cabinets. Well, I was going to buy another quad unit and two of cubes with doors. But they only had one of the cubes with doors. And since it was about the same price as the two-cube unit I wanted anyway, I decided to get that instead. I'll find the other cube with door later.

And then I "wasted" time in the store when I ran into old family friends. These are people who went to church with my family when I was growing up. And even though I had my horrid "I'm running errands" look -- that may be why the husband hesitated when he saw me -- I did chat with them. We talked about where various family members are currently (Their daughter is two years older than I.) and how various family members are doing with their illnesses. The wife is a retired RN from Thrive! and is also a cancer survivor.

Next on the list was some grocery shopping -- a little more sane than going to the mall. And I don't know about you, but if there's a line at the grocery store, I will usually end up in a conversation with someone in line next to me. Like last week when I was in Andronico's and the older guy with the accent in line behind me started up a conversation. I kind of cut him off after he said, "You have a beautiful smile." So similar happened at Trader Joe's. Except it was an older woman and we were talking about kids and education. And then she asked where I went to school since I said that I had attended local schools. And then she asked my name and said, "Of course," when I answered. Because once she told me her name, I knew her instantly. She had been my English teacher my junior year of high school. And she's still teaching. And at Lucky, I discussed cheesecake recipes with the woman in line in front of me.

Once home, I made the above Beef Stroganoff. And another pot of cioppino. And was all set to rest and maybe do some cleaning when there was a knock at the door. The guys in the apartment behind me were having a party to celebrate the end of exams and were hand-delivering the invite.

Isn't this the cutest card ever?

So I took a power nap and headed on over the party. And got home around 4:00 a.m. Now you can see why Sunday was pretty shot. But I wouldn't have missed the party. Because no one parties like some engineering grad students. There were festive green and red Jell-O shots. And someone made a comment about, "There's always room for Jell-O." And there was a fridge full of beer -- really quite literally. And Belvedere and Jack. And there was music and engineers trying to dance. And then there was some beat boxing. Basically it had that kind of vibe if the guys at the Buy More threw a party. (Now if they had hopped into a car to drive to a field to bash some office machinery to the dulcet tones of rap music...) Oh, and the women there? Cute. Because as discussed elsewhere in the PRB, women with taste like their men kind of geeky.

Thankfully I had done all that cooking on Saturday because I only had the energy to make this on Sunday. My only splurge while shopping hungry on Saturday -- the mozzarella. Because who can really say no to cheese?

And I'm afraid of what could be in store for this week. Because on Monday, someone at work told me that I might want to wear loose pants all week...

And I guess I still haven't gotten over the music thing. So I leave you with another classic gem. In the meantime, I'm going to sit here at work and try to be pleasant to people while I'm waiting for the 800 mg of ibuprofen to kick in.

Monday, December 17, 2007

From dad

If you've been paying attention around here, I talk to my dad nearly every day. This is phone calls. That does not include the emails that I receive from him -- mostly jokes. And so this afternoon, I received a link to this gem from him. I knew I had to share it because, heck, I'm still wiping tears from my eyes.

So while you enjoy this, I'm going to head over to Buzzgirl's to get a little more Pearl in my life.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What I think when I hear the news

I so lag. I was supposed to have posted this yesterday but yesterday? More about that on another day.

Warning: The second and third videos contain some graphic images.

Check out the choreography...

And what the heck. Let's throw what I have always thought to be the companion piece into the mix.

I thought this was the perfect way to end music week. The first song came on the radio while I was in the car on the way home Thursday night. Of course, I had to turn up the volume.

Both songs seem just as a fitting now as they did when Marvin first recorded them. And I thought it was only fitting to post all three videos videos. Because as an African American woman living in the United States, I have started to question if we are not that far away from the images depicted in the last two videos.

My parents grew up in the segregated South. They did not have "regular" contact with non-Blacks until they moved to California after graduating college -- a year before I was born. And then my parents divorced when I was eight. In many ways it was the best thing for me. While my father has many friends who are not Black, they are not his "best friends." Without my father's narrow views of the world present, the home in which I grew up was one filled with diversity. When I was in undergrad, my mother would have the "orphan" Christmas at our house. The majority of the folks present were not Black. Heck. Some of them were even Jewish. And so I learned about different people. And I would say that I learned to accept them but that would be ridiculous. How can you learn to love people who seem to love you unconditionally? You don't learn because it is just a fact of life. I loved that we were different and yet still the same. Many of these people were my mom's co-workers who were from other parts of the country. And they were about halfway between my mom and me in age. So I will always think of them as being older siblings -- the ones I never had.

I often asked my mother when I was growing up if she believed that the world was a better place. She always answered, "Yes." Now my mother is lot more hesitant in her response. And that pains me deeply.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tim and Veronica are not allowed into my closet

You have to watch the video until the end so you can see the metallic dress. That dress? There are still dresses hanging in my closet that are that length. And I am now in my 40s. I haven't worn them for years. They really should be purged. That's what I discovered in the closet portion of the Great Organization Project of '07. That I haven't done a closet purge in over a year.

I used to purge annually. The exceptions were party wear that still fit and that I felt good about. And suits. I haven't had to wear a suit in years but I have some nice ones. So I am keeping them just in case I should ever need them again. Same goes with formal wear. Everything else? If I haven't worn it in two years, then it goes. That way I have room to start shopping again. Or maybe sewing up the endless amount of fabric that I have collected over the years.

A lot of those short dresses and skirts? Never going to wear them again. Time for them to go. Because I checked the BMI recently and I am in that borderline land of still being underweight so I'm not in a rush to drop the pounds that I have gained over the last five years. Especially since folks have been telling me that the extra pounds look good on me. (Depending on the scale and what I have on, I have gained five to ten pounds in the last five years or so. And if you've met me recently, try to picture that. And know that when I was 10 to 15 pounds lighter than I am now, I was told by an agent that I could stand to lose five pounds or so. I didn't listen to him because I like food too much.) Bottom line, why force myself into something like a sausage or that I would need to pick up Spanx to wear? That's just sick in my mind. Those clothes are taking up valuable closet space. So this weekend I'll be bagging up the trash and donations.

Oh, and I like just about any song that has an Eastern rhythm. It's an addiction.

This, along with Shakira, started the addiction. Probably why I can merengue so well. My mother is jealous about how I can isolate my hips and shoulders. Thank you, jazz dance and belly dancing lessons. Of course, if I was still taking dance classes and going out dancing 2 to 3 nights a week, then maybe I'd keep those dresses and skirts. Because then maybe my butt and waist would be two inches smaller.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seven random things

So it seems that I was tagged some time ago. Well, it wasn't that long ago but it feels like eons ago. This one is kind of hard for me because I've been all about sharing and being honest here. Read on because I haven't tagged anyone else but if you feel the urge to steal, then steal away.

1. I only had three dates in high school. Really. And for all three, I asked the guy out. High school sucked majorly.

2. I kind of lied on that first one. I was asked out in high school. When I was 14. By guys who were 18 or older. And it was kind of creepy. One of them ended up stalking me until one of my friends cursed him out. Really he did. I would catch the bus to somewhere and he'd suddenly appear.

3. Keeping with the theme, I have spent most of my life thinking that I was ugly. I had a long chat in the last week with my aunt (by marriage) in Savannah on this topic. Funny how other people can get into your head. Now I have a neighbor who says that she aspires to have the same kind of style that I have. Probably because I have a little more confidence these days than I did back in the day. Because I learned that if you're happy with who you are, then others will see your beauty. And this is the kind of beauty that survives even the ravages of aging. Of course, in my mind I will always have "An L.A. face with an Oakland booty."

4. The men on my dad's side of the family are huge Warner Brothers fans, besides being Clint Eastwood fans. We have long conversations about which of the Looney Tunes characters is the coolest.

5. As a kid, I was a militant non-smoker. I bordered on being the type of person who would either destroy or hide cigarettes. Imagine my parents' shock (They were both smokers.) when I revealed that I had become a smoker in college. I told them it was because I had missed them and their second-hand.

6. And speaking of family ... If you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be today, it probably wouldn't be here. I was supposed to be married with at least two kids. But I've learned that life sometimes takes unexpected twists. And even though I have not ended up with where I thought I would be, I have learned to be happy with how things are. Especially after teaching. Because I'm not sure if I'm prepared to have kids around all the time. The cats, mostly Boris, drive me nuts at times.

7. There is a little part of me that will always feel insecure. Even if I am the life of the party, I will have doubts. But I probably won't show these doubts because over the years, I have become a pretty good actress. Sometimes I even fool myself.

So that's the best I can do. Because like I said previously, I've pretty much laid every thing out. And that other stuff? Well, life has taught me that there are some parts of one's self that should be kept to one's self. Self preservation and all.

And now I need to come up with some music for y'all. Hmmmm. Well, let's just keep with that 80s thing. One of my faves from back in the days when my life revolved around the party schedule.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A disappointment of sorts

Last Friday I went into Andronico's with one thing on my mind -- King crab legs. But there were none to be found.

Because Dungeness crab season has finally started. And that's alright with me. So alright that I had more last night along with the last of the baked oysters. Yes, I loved that recipe so much that I just had to make it again.

And today, let's continue with the Art of Noise. Because this is how crab makes me feel.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My grandfather would be proud

Back in the day, my grandfather was an award-winning hog farmer. The majority of my meals over this past weekend involved pork in some form. Pictured above was breakfast on Sunday. The exact same thing I had for breakfast on Saturday. Because I was feeling slightly Southern and decided that bacon just would not do. I wanted meat. A slab of meat. As there were no fish fillets nor steaks in the fridge, I made do with a pork chop. That shortly after this photo was taken was covered in Texas Pete. And if you substitute biscuits for the crumpets and add some grits to the plate? Well, then you have a pretty typical breakfast on my grandfather's farm back when I was a kid. OK. One more change. If there had been biscuits, they would have been swimming in butter and maple syrup, molasses for my grandfather. (Lately I've been remembering those summers on the farm a great deal. Thanks to some other thoughts with which I have been struggling. Actually it's not the thoughts that are a struggle, but how to voice them here in a nice way that is the struggle.)

And then there was dinner on Saturday night at First Crush with Stacy and crew. A lovely double cut pork chop with chard and cheddar mashed potatoes. Heaven on a plate. Of course, I think that of just about anything that includes cheese.

Oh, and I've decided that this week is music video week. Sure the back still hurts some but you'd be surprised how well you can move after 800 mg of ibuprofen. Did that on Sunday night and I was able to fully drop it to yesterday's video. But today? Today is old school day. Back to the days of the first B-boys. Where's that piece of linoleum or cardboard to throw down on the ground? Oh, and I'm probably going to need some kneepads and gloves as well. Concrete burns can be a bitch.

Monday, December 10, 2007

So not me

When I was growing up, my Southern mother would lecture me on the wonder of all things domestic. When I would refuse to do some household thing, she would ask, "What are you going to do when you get married? Your husband will expect these things." But I was a liberated youngster. Housework? Only out of necessity. One day I would have a staff. The problem is that day has not arrived yet.

So here lies the problem. While I have grown to love cooking, I still abhor housework. Add into the equation that I can be rather particular about how things are done. And well, it's a recipe for disaster. Over the years I have become an excellent surface cleaner. Can it be thrown in a closet or under the bed? Then you're done.

The Great Organization Project of '07 has been an attempt to undo these wrongs. It started off great but then I quickly lost momentum. Until I got the cabinet. That also coincided with the first Saturday during which I did not need to be anywhere -- at least not in the daytime.

I arose Saturday morning with my list in hand. Number one on the list was to complete what I had started in the bedroom. Because half that stuff from the closet? All over the bedroom floor.

All the stuff got stowed away or thrown away. I believe I took out something like three bags of trash and some recycling as well. I finally hung those pictures that have been sitting around. And I winterized the bed -- put on the flannel sheets. The plan was that I would have at least one wonderful room to which I could return after an evening out with Stacy and some of the other women she knows.

At some point during my cleaning frenzy, I must have done a twist and lift. Because I started having severe muscle spasms in my back. And there was no flexeril in the house. Fortunately I had given myself a deadline that allowed me to rest a bit before heading out. But the pain was good since it allowed me to be just bitchy enough to the guy who tried to hit on me during my BART ride home from dinner. And it didn't stop me from meeting up with BWB and the Commander for caffeine on Sunday afternoon. Of course, I did take some ibuprofen and crawled back into bed after getting home. So much for my living room clean-up plans. Those plans are on hold until the back starts feeling better.

And the lesson learned here? I most definitely need a staff. I mean, it doesn't seem fitting that an Empress should have to do these kinds of things.

But the worst thing is that I can not dance properly to my new favorite song.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Foiled again!

Not me. Boris has been though.

I had reached my limit with his deciding that my prized LP's were a giant scratching post. I can barely look at them these days as the jackets are so damaged. I knew I had do do something before they were all lost. Especially after he added spreading the 45s across the floor into his repertoire. Yes, there have been times I have felt homicidal.

Do you know how difficult it is to find storage units with doors that look stylish enough to be in the living room? Oh, and said cabinets need to be large enough to house LPs. I have scoured the internet. There aren't many choices out there. Oh, and then most of them are either black or white. So not fitting with my idea of colors for the living room.

But I must say that I am pretty happy with this lovely modular set. Especially since the doors have magnetic catches thus ensuring that Boris will not be able to peruse the contents in my absence.

And that reminds me. Must get childproof latches for the kitchen cabinets. He has recently learned how to open those. Grrrr! He rarely tries to go in. Instead he likes the sound of the door banging shut. Continuously. As in for as long as it takes before you tell him to stop. And somehow he understands that direction, shouted from the living room, perfectly fine.

But back to the new unit. I like it so much that I think I will get more to house the stereo, TV, and other stuff. Kind of a cohesive entertainment center thing. But even more fun is that then I will be able to go shop for all the other stuff on my wish list.

Although I have selected the sofa sleeper that I will be getting to replace the futon in the living room. The only question is whether I should get the terracotta or the pale yellow. And do I get the matching chair? Or do I get this one that they had on display with the sofa in the store? Oh, and the chair in the store was in the leather, not the fabric.

(And no, Kapgar, I have not tied the remnants of the earbuds he chewed to pieces around him. Yet.)

Update: Apparently Boris is smarter than I have given him credit for being. He has now figured out how to hook his paw through the handle to open the doors. Obviously new measures must be taken.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bloggers on the road

One of my fave things to do when I have a longer commute is to catch up with folks on the phone. (Don't worry. I always use a hands-free headset.) That way when I finally reach home at the end of the day, I don't have to talk to anyone if I don't want to.

Over the last few weeks, one of my more common conversations is with BWB on the evening commute. See, we now basically have the same commute. And I often get on the road before she does. So I'll get the "How's the traffic tonight?" phone call. And then we discuss the route.

That happened last night. And traffic sucked hardcore. So I told her that I was taking my alternate route. Well, she decided to take the same one. And as I was describing where to make a turn, we suddenly realized that she had caught up to me and was directly behind me. And this was just as well. Because she had never been my secret route before and so I was able to lead the way.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Life with the delinquents

People keep saying to me, "It must be great to no longer work with kids." They don't know the guys with whom I work. For many years before teaching, I worked around guys who build stuff. And now I am a part of the construction trades once more. But they still won't let me have a hammer. No, instead I do billing and all that mundane stuff.

I also did not think that lunch time would be a fascinating time at work given the few nearby choices. I was wrong. I love this one place because the offer chow fun besides rice and chow mien as carb choice. There are not enough words to describe my deep love of chow fun.

And when I tried out the nearby taqueria, I thought that I would have no luck with Mexican. Then one of the guys told me about the deli in the market next to the taqueria.

Now I'm normally a carnitas kind of girl. And these were not a disappointment.

But the real treat are the cruncy tacos.

I had to try them because one of the guys told me they were like the ones from Jack in the Crack -- but on steroids. Ground meat mixed with carrots and potatoes and then put into corn tortillas. At this point they are fried up. Now you can stop here and they will only cost you $1.00 each. But I like the works which takes the price up to $1.50 each. By far one of the best lunch deals in the area.

And now, the downside to digital photography. Well, the guys (I'm the only female in our office.) like to take photos of each other's ass cracks and post the print outs on the walls. Every now and then I think to myself that if I wasn't so chill, the words "hostile work environment" would come to mind. But I don't want them to change. Because then, I couldn't occasionally yell out, "What the fuck did you just say?" Because I love being able to curse like a sailor when I want to.

And me? I'm Catwoman. Not because of B&N but because I tend to walk, unintentionally, in a very stealthy manner. So much so that I was able to surprise my boss and one of the other guys slinging back vodka tonics near the end of the day this past Friday. They were just having a bit too much fun and I could hear them at my desk. My boss told me that as the new kid, I needed to complete a three month probation before he would pour me a cocktail on a Friday evening. Uh huh. Nope. Don't think I'll be leaving this place anytime soon.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Confirmation can be good

Saturday at the baby shower, Jade had the opportunity to remind me why she's my BFF. We were talking to another friend of the mom-to-be about our mothers. Jade announced to the other woman, "Your mother sounds a lot like Dagny's. I should tell you about the time that Dagny threw herself a birthday barbecue at her mom's house and her mom totally took over the event." What?

Here's the thing about my relationship with my mom. She does things and I read the situation one way. But then I started doubting myself and think that I am just being overly sensitive or something like that. So I was kind of shocked by Jade's observation because that is completely how I felt that day -- like my mom had taken over.

Then Jade shared some more of her observations. Mainly that when I'm around my mother, I stop being me. Jade said that I'm normally bubbly and outgoing. But around my mother? I become withdrawn and nervous. "It's almost like you're afraid to say or to do anything." Ummm. Might have something to do with the fact that that's usually how I am feeling.

And then we all talked about minimizing contact with family members -- especially around holidays. Because it helps to keep up sane.

All I know is that it felt kind of good to find out that I'm not completely nuts.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A bad start

OK. I have decided that it's not a good thing to start a conversation with, "Whoever came up with the idea of going out for cocktails should be slapped." Because that's the first words I said this morning to Emerald's husband. When I called to let them know that I am still alive. His response? "You know that was your idea." Ummmm. Yeah, and it was a bad one.

Things started off OK enough on Friday. I met Buzzgirl for food and drinks after work. (Oh, because Friday was my first official day. That's right. I'm no longer a temp.) While out, my father tried to call me. When I went to return his call, he said that he couldn't talk. So he called me Saturday morning. Apparently my stepmother doesn't want to continue with chemo anymore. So I spent about an hour or so crying Saturday morning but then dragged myself up. Because Saturday was Emerald's baby shower and I was in charge of games.

Now I understand why we normally don't have alcohol at showers. Because we went through something like a case of champagne. And then one of the guys at the shower said that we needed cocktails. So I suggested my favorite bar. And then I met a boy wearing a bowler and things get pretty hazy after that.

But the Jumbo Jack with cheese and the Dr Pepper are starting to make me feel a bit better. Because you know you're in bad shape when Jack in the Crack sounds like a good idea the next day. So now I'm just going to curl up into the fetal position on the futon in the living room and watch last week's taped shows.

Friday, November 30, 2007

In preparation

Yep. Another topic I have been shying away from. But after reading Heather B.'s post, I knew I had to say it.

Over the last seven years, it seems like there has been this endless cycle of illness and death in my family. Yes, I know that this is what happens as we age. But some of these folks weren't that old. It got to the point in 2002 when I thought that I didn't have any tears left in me. But I was wrong.

Of course, watching my grandmother slowly deteriorate over ten years helped to prepare me for this past year. It also taught me a lot about the differences between myself and my parents. Me? If I hear that someone has a serious illness, then I start to prepare myself for the worst. In my mind, I feel like if I don't think about the worst case scenario and then it happens, the feeling will be like having the rug pulled out from under my feet. In an emotional sense. It comes from remembering the dark times of my teens and 20s and not wanting to ever go back to that place again. Because that's what it felt like back then -- the whole rug thing. My dad always believes that there is something that can be done. Even when all signs say otherwise. My mother is somewhere between us on the spectrum.

January will mark the one year since my stepmother was diagnosed with cancer. I had been telling my father since this summer that he needed to hire someone to be with her in the daytime. He did not do this until this past month. This would be after he went of town for a long weekend. One of her friend's stayed with her. The friend came to the same conclusion after that weekend. Because my stepmother fell four times because she can't see steps and all. And she washed clothes ten times because she had forgotten that she had washed them already.

I went to see them the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My stepmother answered the door and thought that I was her sister. Anyone who has ever seen her sister knows that about the only thing we have in common is our height. Well, and maybe our attitude. I knew from previous visits that my stepmother could not hear well; she's lost 40% of her hearing over the last few months. But this trip I could see the evidence of how much worse her vision had become since the summer as well as her memory issues.

According to her last tests, the two remaining tumors in her brain have shrunk some more. (There were originally five. The doctors have told us that these two will never go away completely though because they were so large.) Today she goes in for more chemo. And then there's one more treatment in this round. But there will probably be more chemo. Because the cancer seems to be growing in her liver. I'm not sure about the status of her lung. Yes, it's in all three places.

And so I have been preparing myself for her death as of late. There was a time in the spring when I was more hopeful. But not now. Because my stepmother is not a fighter in the same way that my aunt is. And things just aren't looking good. And I have to be prepared because my father isn't going to be. Maybe a little part of him is but he keeps that part hidden.

Because I remember my grandmother's funeral. The second time in my life that I can really remember my father crying. (The first was when he discussed the whole divorce thing with me when I was about 12 or so. I often forget that because the conversation was supposed to be about how I was feeling and instead became about all the pain he was in.) And then a year later I saw his tears again at his youngest brother's funeral. And I remember how he wouldn't really talk to anyone about how he was feeling until I asked the right questions.

I know that this is part of the reason why I am no longer in the classroom now. Teaching took a lot out of me emotionally. And with all the stuff that has been going on with my family, I haven't had much extra. Because that's always been my role in the family -- the one who can listen. Even though when some of them are pissed off with me, they will say that I'm not that good a listener. But when they're in pain? They tell me the stuff that they won't say to other people. It's also why I don't really like being around family on holidays. Because while they smile and make nice to each other, I know what they really think about one another. Some days it's hard being the keeper of secrets. And so sometimes I go to therapy just so that I can let the secrets out. Before they eat away at me too much. And so now I'm also in preparation for Christmas with the family.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Getting light again

After all that serious stuff, I thought it was time for something lighter. I found this meme over at Kapgar's.

The iTunes Meme!

How many total songs?
3,244 songs equating to 10 days, 4 hours, and 48 minutes of music.

Sort by song title - first and last...
"'03 Bonnie and Clyde" by Jay-Z with Beyonce and "Zoila" by Carlos Vive.

Sort by time - shortest and longest...
"Go On Miss Janet" by Janet Jackson at five seconds and "Summer Madness" by Kool and the Gang at 26 minutes, 26 seconds.

Sort by Album - first and last...
10 Things I Hate About You soundtrack and Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police.

Sort by Artist - first and last...
10 cc and Zuco 103.

Top five played songs...
1. "Georgy Porgy (Acoustic)" by Toto
2. "Deja Vu" by Beyonce (featuring Jay-Z)
3. "Tell Me" by Diddy (featuring Christina Aguilera)
4. "Show Me What You Got" by Jay-Z
5. "Mas Que Nada" by Sergio Mendes (featuring The Black Eyed Peas)

Find the following words. How many songs show up?
Sex: 25, Death: 0, Love: 289, You: 414, Home: 20, Boy: 70, Girl: 82.

First five songs that come up on Party Shuffle...
1. "My Girl" by The Temptations
2. "Fuck tha Police" by NWA
3. "I Feel Love" by Donna Summer
4. "We Want Some Pussy" by 2 Live Crew
5. "El Torso (Can 7 Fruitcake Mix)" by Torse

OK. That last one was a little too weird.

Bonus item I think y'all need a good laugh. So go check out this site. They have posters, t-shirts ... A coworker told me about the site yesterday. We're thinking of getting the "Tradition" poster for the office. I'm still in tears thinking about all the fine stuff they sell.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The end is a beginning

This post was what I had imagined to be all that I would have to say on the subject. I had thought at first that it would be better to begin at the end but then it didn't make much sense. And then I started to try to organize my thoughts in my head and realized that there was so much more to be said.

It all started one day last week when I was a little bored at work. I started off reading through the selections available on Project Gutenberg and then realized that there was no Kierkegaard available. I thought of this because while I've always wanted to read Nietzsche as a result of reading Crime and Punishment in high school, I've always meant to read Kierkegaard as well. And a number of other philosophers. I spent a number of my college years reading Eastern philosophers but very little of the Western philosophers. Although one could argue that one my favorite books, The Tao of Pooh, is an amalgam as the author argues that Pooh is the great Western Taoist. So I spent an afternoon searching through the writings of various Western philosophers online. But I was a bit confused as to what would motivate me to do such. Then everything clicked into place Thanksgiving evening.
"Julia, honey, that's exactly who I am talking about. You have to understand what we are trying to do here. We are trying to to keep these kids in the church, because the church is the only hope most of them have. They go to school, and they can dress any way they want and they never hear about God but they hear about sex and they hear about being themselves and doing their own thing. Well, maybe for the white folks in the suburbs, it's okay to tell kids to do their own thing, to be themselves, whatever they learn out there. I wouldn't know. I only know that for our kids, it's a disaster, Julia. Just a disaster.
Some stupid boy gets some silly girl pregnant, and the white folks say they don't have to get married and it's wrong to pressure them. We fall into line. We do what the white folks tell us. See, Julia, we're still basically on a plantation here. The white folks get to set the rules. The white folks say no God in the schools, so there's no God in the schools. The white folks say you can't tell the kids not to have sex, so they have sex. The white folks say you can't make them feel ashamed if they get in the family way, so nobody feels ashamed. Like I said, the white folks set the rules. And then they get to live in the big house. Down here in the fields? Nobody asks our opinion. So, we live on the street corner or we live in the Lord's house. Down here, there isn't any third choice."
From New England White

When I read that passage, I suddenly knew what had sent me on that search for materials of various philosophers. And why religion has always been so important to my family. I had been there before. And religion had been appearing throughout the book as well as other organizations of the well-to-do African American community. (I chuckled when I saw mention of the Boule and Jack and Jill.) Even though these things are not active parts of my life, they are still a part of me. Especially since they are still active in the lives of my family members.

And the hardest part of my mental journey was when I relived those days during which I decided to stop attending church. I remember the consternation of some members of the congregation when the choir started singing gospel songs as well as the old hymns. (In a Presbyterian church, the only music should be psalms and hymns.) And the hymns? There weren't enough hymnals to go around so over time I memorized them. Every now and then I catch myself singing one. And that's what I miss about not going to church -- the music.

But I won't go back. The man who was the minister passed away about ten years ago. The only time I set foot in that church since age 17 was for his memorial service. I felt that I owed it to him. Summers during college, I would take the bus into San Francisco to go to work. On my way home, I would have to pass the church. At least once a week, the minister would be out front sweeping the walkway as I passed. So I would stop to talk. I mean this was a man who knew me before I was me. (My parents had joined the congregation before my mom became pregnant with me.) And I could tell him all the things that I was afraid to tell my parents. And he never judged. Even more shocking was that he never asked me why I didn't go to church anymore. (And this was a man who was known for showing up at parishioners' homes if they had missed too many Sundays.) Because I like to think that he understood. Because those were dark times for me. I did not believe there was a God or any other higher power. I was in pain and had seen too much death, or so I thought.

It took a great number of years before I realized that faith and spirituality have nothing to do with going to church. Kind of like I had tried to argue to my mother back when I was 17 and had decided to stop attending church. But now I also realize how much of a wonderful place church was when I was younger. It was a place in which I could feel safe. In which I was encouraged to be all that I could be. And this was really important when I wasn't necessarily getting it from the rest of the world.

And I also realized that this was all important to me because over the last year or so, I have wandered from my spirituality. And I realized that the whole getting organized at home would help me to achieve this goal. Because then I could easily find the books and whatever else I needed. (And then the whole leg thing started up. Vicodin seems to cover the hip problem. The knee is a little more challenging. And now I know that I won't be heading back up to Sacramento next weekend for my stepbrother's birthday party like my dad requested. Besides I had other plans.) So now I have a new impetus for getting everything all together. Because I need to do some more reading.

Anywho. I hope that I haven't rambled too much. (I wrote the two posts over the weekend so that I could have time to edit. But then I didn't do much because that's just how my mind works. And I had already spent days thinking about what I would write.) There was just so much that I felt like I needed to get out. And I had to get it out. Because if I didn't, it would continue to haunt me and I wouldn't be able to move onto anything else.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Some things are hard to write

It's a good thing that last week I was preoccupied with food. Otherwise there may not have been any posts here. The problem was that I had some ideas but I needed them to marinate some. And I mean that I really had ideas because I was inspired to jot down notes for later reference. But the real problem is that I am a walking example of stream of consciousness -- in a crazy kind of Faulkner/Joyce kind of way. The great thing about those years spent teaching is that I have now learned to verbalize my thought process. So now my mom is less likely to say, "How does that have anything to do with what I just said?" But it's also what has made Emerald and me such great friends over the years. We don't need to verbalize the process because we can trace the steps. You should have seen the looks on her roommates' faces that time in college while I calmly explained her apparent conversational non sequitur.

But enough about that. On to the real thing. A subject that I would normally shy away from here -- religion. And my realization that I needed to lay some groundwork before I got to the main post. I may have said some of this in the past but I really don't feel like going back into the archives so bear with me.

Religion is slightly different for my mom's family than it is for my dad's but there are some things that just seem universal. At least they do in our community. And I'd put the difference down to economics.

I'll start with my dad's family because in many ways they are the easier ones. They're Presbyterian. And that's what I was raised. And I was always having to explain it since I was a kid. Because most Southerners, or descendants of Southerners, I know are either Catholic, Baptist, or Methodist. Or at least that's how it seemed to me. And so I would explain that it was basically a Protestant religion of Scotland based upon the writings of John Calvin. The same John Calvin whose work when taken to an extreme became the basis of the Puritans' beliefs. Now as a kid I really liked the Presbyterian services because they only lasted an hour. Except for once a month when there was Communion.

My maternal grandmother was Pentecostal. That meant services that usually last around three hours. And they weren't as big on education as the Presbyterians were. My mom stopped attending my grandmother's church her first Christmas home from college when the preacher gave a sermon about the dangers of getting too much education -- or something along those lines. At that time, my mother was the only person in the congregation who had decided to pursue college. She took it as a personal attack. I probably would have too if I had been in her position.

It took me many years to decide why grandmother would choose such a strict religion -- no makeup, no dancing, no going to the movies, no drinking, no smoking. And because I break all of those rules, I have never doubted that my grandmother truly loves me. (This is also the same woman who sees no problem with having openly gay people in the military. Because she says that it's not her place to judge; instead it's all about acceptance.) As I got older, I learned a little bit more of the family history. And every time my mother pisses me off, I remind myself of what her life was like and so can forgive her behavior. Some days I just get a little tired of being forgiving though. Go get some therapy already.

My grandfather apparently was quite the charmer and managed to knock my grandmother up. She was three months pregnant before he found out. Because she had no intention of telling him. His response was that they had to get married so they did. But she had never intended to marry him. Over a number of years, they had four more children. And my grandfather, who had been made to drop out of school after third grade so that he could help to support his family, worked two jobs. And when he wasn't working, he drank. A lot. And then he came home and beat the crap out of his family. My grandmother called the cops on him a number of times but she would always later drop the charges. This all ended when my mom was 14. One day he said goodbye to the kids as they went off to school. Well, at least those who were old enough. He then pulled the trigger on his shotgun and blew out half of his abdomen. He lived for a number of hours later (This is what saved my grandmother from ending up in jail. Because he told the cops that he did it and not her.) and ended up dying in surgery. He left my grandmother with five children to raise -- ages two through sixteen. And my grandmother, who had never worked a day in her life, refused to go on welfare. Instead, she cleaned houses while she went back to school to become a nurse's aide. She had wanted to be a nurse but they told her that at 34 she was too old for nursing school.

And so most of us in the family have concluded that my grandmother was doing penance all those years. For getting pregnant outside of wedlock, for marrying that man who was so mean to her. Church was a safe haven for her. Because of course her husband did not attend church.

Me? I stopped going to church when I was 17. I thought that going to church was a farce in many ways. Because going to church is also a largely social thing. And I guess that in many ways I really did believe in all those Presbyterian teachings, specifically the idea that one shows one's beliefs not only in one words but especially in one's actions, in my heart. And actually that part is still a huge part of who I am.

So for the first time ever, I am turning off comments. Because I'd really like to wait for the discussion, if any, until after you have read the next part.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Accidents of youth catch up

One summer I worked at an amusement park. My job was to pour beer and other beverages. Some shifts my job was runner. The runner's duties were to shovel ice from the ice machine in the kitchen and bring it to the various stations, restock cups, and most importantly, change kegs. The problem was that one was supposed to use the kegs with the oldest Julian date. And those? Well, they were at the top of the stack. I had worked out a method in which I "walked" the keg to the edge of the stack. Then I would bend my knees with my feet far apart and let the bottom edge of the keg catch me in my thighs. Yes, I had permanent bruises on my thighs that summer. Then I would let go and just let it drop to the floor. The key was having your feet wide enough apart so that the keg wouldn't drop on them. This method had worked for most of the summer. I had something like two weeks left at the job when one day I didn't bend my knees enough. So when the keg swung back, it landed on the side of my right knee. I guess I should be happy that there was just soft tissue damage. I finally ended up at an orthopedic surgeon a month later because the bruise was still visible and I was still in pain. He determined that I had bruised the soft tissue under my kneecap. (He also couldn't believe that they had me moving kegs since I weighed something like 125 back then.) I had to keep my knee wrapped for about two months. And there was lots of ibuprofen involved.

A few years later, I had a bad spill in a parking lot -- walking too fast in leather soled shoes. My feet just slid out from under me and I landed on my back. Well, mostly on my right side. I knew that I would be bruised. What I didn't expect was the morning a few days later when I couldn't get out of bed because my right leg was in so much pain. I called into work and then called the doctor. Apparently I had overextended the tendon that connects the hamstring to the hip. This is when I first discovered the joy of flexeril. And flat shoes. Another injury that took about two months or so to heal.

But both still come back to haunt me. Sometimes when it's cold. Usually when I spend too much time in a car. Like my drive back from Sacramento during which I spent two hours behind the wheel. I should have known that it was going to be bad when I felt some mild pain last night. Today? There is no comfortable position for my leg. I have constant pain in both my knee and my hip. And there's some limping involved. But I popped a vicodin. Because I promised my aunt some leftovers today and I really do need to create some space in the fridge. But when I get home, I'll probably break out the heating pad. And now? I'm going to look for the bandage for my knee.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Finishing it off

What's one of the best parts of a holiday meal? Dessert. Each year I try out something different.

Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie.

I did not have this yesterday. Instead this is the one that I took into work on Wednesday. My boss let me leave early on the condition that the pie would stay behind. Because if I like where I'm working, I will bring in food. Perhaps I should have put that on my resume. I probably could have gotten a job a lot faster.

My plan was to make another one for at home but I was too tired on Wednesday to cook. And I had so many other things to do on Thursday -- the roast, the dressing, the sweet potatoes, the beans. So I figure that I'll make it sometime in the next few days. And now I have enough to make two more. And I know how in the past I said that I am willing to share food. But I'm not sharing this when it's done. It's all mine.

Hope all of y'all who actually like to go out in the crowds had a good day shopping. Me? I stayed in to enjoy leftovers while relaxing at home. Well, after I headed out and made a couple of deliveries of leftovers. Well, one delivery and one attempt. The attempted one will be completed on Sunday after I get back from taking a package to my dad and stepmother tomorrow in Sack of Tomatoes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The main event

This year has been all about doing things a little differently. For one thing, I was kind of tired of the turkey thing. I was planning on trying a duck recipe until I read the reviews on the recipe. So I went for my second choice.

Pork roast with cornbread-poblano stuffing.

And I always have to have some kind of green beans. These are indeed with pine nuts.

And sweet potatoes. But this year I went for a roasted recipe.

Who says that you can't have cranberries if you aren't having turkey?

And I really love cranberries, so I opened that jar of relish that someone gave me long ago as well.

The roast was supposed to be a crown roast but after Frenching it, I just wasn't in the mood for all the other work. The sweet potatoes (OK. So I really used garnet yams.) were surprisingly wonderful. I would have never thought to combine all of those flavors in one dish. Overall, it was a rather satisfying meal. And now, I'm going to take a nap. And then read some more of my book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starting things off

... or how I begin to torture y'all for a few days.

Years ago when I decided that I had forgotten who I really was, I made one important decision. That I would start making my own traditions and would stop letting others dictate what I should be doing. The easiest of these was Thanksgiving.

When I was in college, I never came home for Thanksgiving. It seemed silly to pay for a plane ticket for a long weekend when I'd be going home in a couple of weeks for the much longer winter break. Besides by then, my mother was never home for Thanksgiving. And things were still pretty strained between me and my dad. I also argued that in the relative quiet around campus, it was easy to get a jump on studying for finals. By my junior year, I had started cooking the traditional meal for myself.

By the time that I returned to California after deciding to leave law school, I had spent at least six Thanksgivings completely on my own. Things were better with my dad and so each year he insisted that I show up. After a couple of years, I got tired of spending three to four hours on the road though. Because although things are now better between me and my dad, I am not particularly fond of my stepmother's family. Now I only go up for Christmas. But even when I was doing the drive, I began to miss having leftovers at home. I mean that is the best part of the holiday, in my opinion.

So I started cooking again. And by this time, I had acquired quite a few cookbooks and cooking magazines. Cranberry sauce from the can? Nope. I should make my own. Turkey? Nah, let's try a duck recipe. Makes much more sense for one person than a big ole turkey. And besides, I also get the opportunity to partake of one of my favorite pastimes -- list-making.

Now I spend the day at home alone. And I like it that way. I cook loads of food. I read some books. (And if I don't already have enough books around, I have been compiling yet another list of more stuff that I would like to read via Project Gutenberg.) Maybe knit a little. All in all, it is a stress-free day of relaxation for me. (Yes, cooking is relaxing.) And so this year, I decided to take the whole menu concept a little further. This year there will be appetizers and a soup course.

Blue Cheese and Carmelized Onion Squares.

Baked Oysters with Bacon and Leeks.

Pumpkin and Shrimp Bisque.

I made up the squares on Monday because I figured that they would keep fine. They did. Last night I made a small amount of the oysters to make sure they were as tasty as I thought they would be. I also made the soup but only cooked enough of the shrimp for tasting/photographic purposes. I liked all three but I think the oysters were my favorite. Probably because they contain two of my absolute favorite ingredients -- bacon and cheese.

Tonight will be work on side dishes, marinating meat, and dessert. Because there is always dessert.

And now another part of my tradition is that my aunt usually helps me to consume some of the leftovers on Friday. I know that this is something that I will continue to do for years to come. And maybe one day I'll get wild and crazy and stop being such a hermit and actually invite other folks over. But we don't want to get too crazy there. But if some of y'all are hungry and in the area over the weekend, let me know. I'll probably have some leftovers for you as well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cannibalistic tendencies

As y'all know, I am a Cancer. Symbol? The crab. Friends have made jokes about how I love to eat crab -- eating my own kind and all that. But crabs do eat their own so I guess I fit right in.

Surf and turf.

Things started innocently on Saturday. I took a steak out of the freezer to defrost because I really wanted beef and hadn't had any in quite some time. I probably would have been just as happy with spinach. Because I learned long ago that when I crave beef, what I'm really looking for is iron. Because I can get a wee bit anemic at times. And when I have beef, it has to be bloody.

So while the steak defrosted, I headed out to do laundry (Yes, there is a single machine in my building but I had let things build up to the point that I suddenly discovered that I had four loads of laundry to do. And try fighting it out for that single machine when there are eleven other apartments.) and to do a little grocery shopping.

95% of the time, I shop with a list. I am not allowed to stray from the list unless I suddenly remember a very necessary item, such as toilet paper, that I have forgotten to put on the list. This is what allows me to go shopping when I'm hungry. Usually. The problem was that I needed to pick up some shrimp. And there they were. King crab legs on display, calling to me. So I just had to give in. My only other impulse buy was some Coke so that I could have a cuba libre with my meal. Because that's the only time when I drink Coke. If you give me a 12-ounce can of soda on its own, it usually takes me at least four hours to finish it. I think this stems from the fact that sodas were only available as occasional treats when I was growing up. I drank loads of milk, fruit juice, and water. And tea. When I was nine, I was allowed to add tea to the list of acceptable beverages.

And no, I did not eat all that meat in one sitting. I ate about a third of the steak and half of the claw. Until I went to put the leftover steak away. Then the claw beckoned once more and I finished it off.

All I could think about on Sunday was more crab. Luckily I was meeting a friend for brunch at Crepevine. (Can someone explain to me how their menu is so similar to that at Savor?)

And so I ordered the New Orleans.

But I still wanted more crab. And I needed to stop at the store for some fresh oregano. (The two other stores I had already visited over the weekend were out.) And I knew that there would be more King crab available. Alas, they only had clusters and I really did not want that much. Just a leg or two. And so I passed.

But I'm starting to think that Zoomie has created a monster. As I entered the store on Sunday, I thought of calling this post Bride of Frankenstein -- especially since some mornings, I can have really scary bed hair. But then I was thankful. Because now I don't miss the delay in the start of Dungeness season quite as much.

Oh, and I apologized to Boris when I got home last night. Because he was just being a silly boy cat and really didn't know any better. While I sat at work yesterday, I realized that with my angry shouting that I had scared the bejeezus out of both cats. So there were lots of hugs. And new toys brought out of the cabinet. (I always keep a secret stash of toys for them. Never know when I might want to treat them with something new.) And we tried to bond again. Because I also realized that Boris is probably just a bit confused. He had gotten used to my being around all day and now I'm gone again for hours on end. And then I get home and I'm too tired to really spend time with them. He was just a little kid acting out.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Settling in

... or what I've been doing when not at work.

About a month or so ago, I finally came to the realization that I was "at home." As I have stated previously, I have always had a bit of wanderlust but now? Now I really feel like putting down some roots. That means making some changes at home. So I did some research online and I made a list. Because when it comes to major changes, I always make a list. And then I started carrying my planner again. Because I need to assign tasks to each day. And make more lists.

I think I was inspired by two things. The first was returning to work. When you have all day at home, it's easy to notice the lack of organization but not be too worried about it. After all, you have all the time in the world to look for things when you're in that situation. By the end of my first week of work, I was almost depressed to return home. Everything at work was so organized. Why wasn't it so at home?

Then there were the parties. My first two weekends after starting work, I ended up at parties in my neighbors' places. Nothing is more depressing than to see an apartment that is basically the same as yours (I say "basically" because this is the Winchester Mystery House of a building and no two apartments are exactly the same in their features.) but seem to look a lot better.

Those two apartments? Well, they probably looked good due the age of the occupants. They were rather minimalist in decor. I remember being in my 20s and not owning quite so much stuff. Life was a bit easier then. Well, at least in terms of storing things at home. And the two apartments I've seen on my floor? Obviously inhabited by grown-ups. With taste. Bottom line is that I'd love to invite the neighbors over but I am ashamed of my home.

But all of this came later in the thought process. It all started with a need for a new dish drain. The old one was wooden and was starting to turn a strange shade of green around the legs. Ewwww!

Then I realized that I had been having a hard time finding stuff in some of the cabinets. But since I'm renting, I didn't want to install anything permanently.

And then there was the fact that the coat closet has never had a shelf. There has always been framing for a shelf, but no shelf itself. I was thinking plywood but then I talked to my dad. He told me that I needed a 1x12. Luckily the fine folks at Home Depot will saw that board to the length that you want. I must admit that once it was cut I did freak out a bit though. I mean, I had only measured once. Look at all that lovely space just begging for stuff.

I like to keep my shoes in boxes. Unfortunately after a number of moves, many of the boxes had seen better days. The answer was plastic shoeboxes. I can't say enough how much I love them.

I've also preferred to keep bulky sweaters on the closet shelf, as well as a few other things. (Don't even get me started on the topic of sweaters on hangers. Bottom line is that my mother knows that I will rarely purchase a sweater in a store if it is on a hanger.) The problem is that the stack starts to look a little sloppy over time.

And I've always had lots of stuff in boxes. It helps me to stay nomadic. It's a mixture of books and craft stuff mostly. (Yes, with four six-foot bookcases, a four-foot bookcase, and another three-foot bookcase in the kitchen, I do not have enough shelf space for all of my books. And no, I am not getting rid of any of my books anytime soon, Mother.) The problem was that some of the boxes were starting to collapse, creating quite the hazard in the closet. Yes, I realize that I have a weird closet. Hibiscus, owner of Dumb and Dumber, (Yes, I finally came up with a name for her.) says that I'm in one of those weird buildings in which they were trying to make architectural changes but the ideas ended up being a mishmash that didn't take practical form until after WWII. (My building was built in the 1920s.) So I have a closet that is entered via a single door but then stretches for a length of ten feet or so. And Boris approves of the shelving. He now has access to the overhead shelf in the closet where I store my luggage. (I would have taken a photo but I was too busy trying to get stuff done. Just like I should have taken a photo of him standing on the top of the open closet door.)

So now that I have finished Phase I, I am ready to start saving for Phase II -- the one involving new furniture in the living room. The LPs must be protected from the cats. And the futon must go. Because I'm here to stay for some time.

Oh, and does anyone want a cat? Because it may be time for Boris to leave. Last night as I was dozing off, I heard a strange noise. I got up to discover Boris hanging from the Roman shade I had put up a few months ago. Apparently he had been there some time because I arrived in time to see him and the shade coming off the wall. And for a brief moment, I felt homicidal. And so now I am debating about finding Boris a new home. I'm not sure if I can take his destructive tendencies anymore. I was at my wit's end and just started to cry while shouting at him to go away. He kept following me. But then I was up so I got a cigarette. And the rage subsided. For now. He's just not helping in the home beautification department. I know there's that plug in stuff you can get. Do any of y'all think it will help him? Because we need some severe behavior modification around here. The place right now just isn't big enough for the two of us.