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.

Friday, November 16, 2007


I have been remiss in marking off milestones but I was determined to mark this one. (It was supposed to be for number 500 but as you see I kind of spaced that one.) The idea first entered my head around the time of my oral surgery. Ya know. I had all that vicodin-induced free time on my hands back then.

First of all, I must say thank you to Gloria. She is the person who got me started in the world of blogging. Without her, this blog would not exist.

I have never been big on marking anniversaries but somehow I thought that this one was worthy. Yes, this is my 501st post here.

When I first started blogging, I thought that it was a passing fancy that would quickly fade. Little did I know. Along the way I have met some wonderful people. But there's more to it than that.

In younger days, I wrote all the time. As well as writing in my journal, I wrote a great deal of fiction. And my fiction moved people. Probably because it was semi-autobiographical. I learned this in eighth grade. My mother read the stories that moved my teachers and classmates and recognized elements of myself in the characters. I learned that if I couldn't be emotionally open, then my fiction was crap.

For years, the stories just flowed. And then one day they dried up. I had the most extreme case of writer's block. This happened sometime in college because I remember Emerald telling me that I was a wonderful storyteller. I remember sitting at parties, slowly gaining an audience as I wove whatever tale struck my fancy that night. (OK. I'll admit it. The stories were usually the lesser known tales from Hans Christian Andersen. And I always told folks the source of the tale.) It was like magic to me. And then the magic ended.

Then Gloria mentioned blogging to me. I saw it as an opportunity to once more write. And to find myself.

When I started blogging, I had reached the conclusion that I had forgotten who I really was. I thought that it would be a way for me to find my way back there -- back to the person I used to know. The person who wasn't so busy trying to make everyone else happy. Because that's how my family makes me feel. That I shouldn't say anything unless it's pleasant. And over the last four years, that's how I felt at work. My job was to go in and to act through a role that wasn't necessarily me most of the time. I came to realize that I could not escape the family thing but I could make a choice about my job. I'm tired of pretending to be someone who I am not.

And finally there was a breakthrough. And yes, I realize that some did not enjoy the post but it felt really honest. So much so that I was afraid to post it because I was so used to being someone else. And so yes, now you know the truth. The supposedly hardened partygirl is rather sentimental. (And yes, the partygirl thing is yet another defense mechanism. I am naturally a painfully shy person.) For years I have told folks that a cynic is just a hopeless romantic who has been burned one time too many.

So I would like to say thank you to all of you who have come along with me on this journey. Of course, this journey is nowhere near the end, and so I hope that you will join me for the next 500 posts -- or more. Who knows where this will all lead.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Things I do while at work

I promise a much longer post in a day or two but in the meantime, let me throw this out there.

Yesterday while browsing, I came across this article. I seriously started to rethink this whole job thing. Obviously I have made a bad choice. (Not really. Just couldn't afford the likes of these trips.) Or maybe I need to rethink this marriage thing. Of course, I will need to come up with funds for Boris's rehab soon so I guess a vacation isn't likely in the near future.

*sigh* Back to work...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Give me strength

There's another one of those sales going on again. Please give me the strength to resist the temptation of shopping. But there's a little voice in my head that keeps whispering, "Come on. You are working again after all. All you need to get is one bag..."

Monday, November 12, 2007

The San Francisco treat

Or as I also like to think of it, yet another way to torture cats.

But before I got to the main event, I'd like to throw something else out there. After reading Kelly's comment to this weekend's post, I'd like to add the acoustic version of "Georgy Porgy" to the list. Now back to the main event.

It all started with a post from Zoomie. I was intrigued. What should I do with King crab legs? And then, while sitting at work last week, the answer came to me. I would try out a new recipe with an ingredient that was new to me as well. Why not? It wouldn't be the first time I had been so adventurous. Besides, I'm pretty comfortable with cooking with seafood these days.


Somehow growing up in the Bay area, I had never once sampled cioppino. I know that when I was a kid, my dad would often order the dish when we went to Scoma's. (There was a time when we used to go there at least once a month. I don't think I have been back there since my teens though. I really should get back there one day.) I think I had issues with a dish that required that you wear a bib. I mean is there any outfit that goes with a plastic bib? I think not.

The verdict? I love cioppino. And it takes much less time to make than gumbo does. Yet another recipe to add to the arsenal.

Oh, and if you should find yourself in the Berkeley area tonight, drop on by. I have plenty.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shall we play a game?

No, not that one. This one you could say was in some part inspired by my BFF, Jade. Back when we were in college, Jade would call our group of friends "The Ho Patrol" whenever we were heading out. Her motto was, "It's OK to look like a ho. Just don't look like a tacky ho." Thus there was a great deal of lycra in my wardrobe back then. And really short stuff.

Then I started working at my first real job in the 90s. Not as much lycra in the wardrobe but still plenty of really short stuff. I used to party with the receptionist. I partied at least four nights a week back then. One of her favorite songs was "Connected." She swore that if she was a stripper, that would so be her song.

As a result of her comment, I now often find myself thinking, "Is that a stripper song or not?" I think that my song would be "Fly on the Windscreen." (Yes, I know it's kind of morbid but it has a hip shaking kind of beat.) Or perhaps "Wherever I May Roam." Or if you're in the crawling across the floor mood, there's "No. 1 Crush." There are other songs as well but they often seem like such the obvious choice.

So now we have the game. What would be your stripper song?

And yeah, this is what happens when you awake at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and are procrastinating about all the chores and errands you could be doing? There was no vicodin involved. Just lots of caffeine. And there was also the fact that I was subjected to that video twice in a three hour span.

I'm just impressed that I was able to type this all with a cat sitting on lap between me and the keyboard. Thank you, Boris.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Second time around

Crap! Now I have that song stuck in my head.

Jasmine rice, samosa, saag paneer, and butter chicken.

I always love making a new recipe another time. That way I can work out the kinks. Like this time I increased the spinach and decreased the onion in the saag paneer. And the butter chicken? Well, I looked at some recipes online after making it that first time. The majority of recipes call for boneless meat. But we all know that bones add flavor. So this time I trimmed most of the meat off the bone but then threw the bones in the pot along with the meat. When it was done, I removed the bones. This would be after I skimmed off the 1/4 inch or so of fat floating on top of the dish. I think I forgot to mention that last time. Because yes, there will be a pool of fat floating on top. Ewwww! Bottom line is now I don't have any bones with which to deal this time around. Oh. And I didn't make the samosa. It came from the KP Deli. And I bought a few. Because I like to have them for breakfast with my tea.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Police have invaded my life

Funny how it takes someone else's post to remind you of a topic upon which you had planned to write. Happened to me Monday night.

I have always loved this song. Thankfully now there is a video. I really love the crazy chola hair in the second segment -- the one after the fashion show.

I like to think that this song is for me and all the other single women out there.
"A girl like me don't stay single for long
Cuz everytime a boyfriend and I break up
My world is crushed and I'm all alone
The love bug crawls right back up and bites me and I'm back."

Yep, we just keep coming back.

Oh, and speaking of things coming back, Retail Boy sent me a text message last week.
"U Still annoyed with me? wanna get 2-gthr soon. dinner n drinks on me. :)"

I kid you not. This was written by a 36-year-old. And no, I did not answer. There were way too many places to begin. But I won't even get into the fact that he writes a text message like he's a teenager.

No, I'm not still annoyed. I've just moved on. And my current life does not include his whiny-ass bitch self. In past days, I would have said OK and then have milked him for the free meal. The current me thinks differently. There is no meal worth more than the time I would lose putting up with his whining at this point. (See? I have grown.) In fact the thought of sharing a meal with Retail Boy almost makes me vomit in my mouth. He is not the "love bug" for which I am waiting. But I'm patient. The right one will come around eventually.

I had forgotten about the message until Friday night. Because during my lovely scenic drive, I passed his place of employment. Such a shame that I also noticed a fascinating looking restaurant located next door. So now I'm trying to figure out how to check out the restaurant yet still avoid him. *sigh* Of course, if Cookiecrumb really needed stuff from that store at discount, I'd be willing to bite the bullet. But only then.

And finally, something made me check out the band line-up at my former fave bar here. It seems that one of my all-time fave bands played last weekend. I am bummed that I missed the show. But upcoming shows? Seems that Drummer Boy's band will be showing up later this month. Part of me wants to show just so that I can sever all ties completely. But then there's the part of me that's afraid of what I will say/do after a few cocktails. Even with this fear, I'm still leaning toward showing up. At least so I can tell him off -- while giving props to the rest of the band. Because I still love their music.

And for those of you who might care -- a cat update. The cute little fur mice? Tailless. Actually, the black one is not only tailless but also gutted. There's this piece of fur on my carpet that used to be a toy mouse. The white one is also tailless and looks like it suffers from mange. That's because there are patches of fur all across the carpet that I haven't vacuumed up yet. And before you yell at me, I only have enough energy to eat, watch TV, and read blogs besides working these days. Cleaning has once more been relegated to weekends. Unless I do it before eating. But last night I was beyond starving when I got home. That's the only way that I can explain taking a wrong turn after leaving Bed Bath & Beyond. I was just following my original path even though my path should have changed after my shopping trip. Yep. Brain death due to low sugar levels.

And if I have snacks handy, I go for protein-rich snacks like nuts instead of carbs. Carbs are temporary energy. And evil to folks who have a family history of diabetes. Even though my last blood test said that I was well on my way to hypoglycemia instead of diabetes. But carbs are the enemy for folks who are hypoglycemic as well. (Now that I think about it, my mother has often suggested that I am bipolar because of sudden mood swings. Perhaps instead is is due to sudden changes in my blood sugar levels. Because when my blood sugar is low, I am one cranky ass bitch.) Then again, a friend told me that most adult-onset diabetics are usually borderline hypoglycemic before they become diabetic. So I try to keep an eye out on things. Just like the glaucoma.

I hope to find balance once more. That point at which I can work and be productive when I get home. Hopefully without the insomnia. Because in the past that's where I've usually found my energy. Nope. In bed by midnight. After that, there's no telling what could happen.

And if I'm up too long, I use music to re-ground myself. Here's the lyrics to one of my favorite songs in the wee hours of the night...
"See I picks my friends like I pick my fruit
& Ganny told me that when I was only a youth
I don't go 'round trying to be what I'm not
I don't waste my time trying ta get what you got
I work at pleasin' me cause I can't please you
and that's why I do what I do
My soul flies free like a willow tree
doo wee doo wee do wee

And if you don't want to be down with me
You don't want to pick from my appletree
And if you don't want to be down with me
Then you don't want to pick from my appletree
And if you don't want to be down with me
Then you don't want to pick from my appletree
And if you don't want to be down with me
You just don't want to be down."

Because Erykah Badu can almost always get you in the right frame of mind. Just like Jill Scott can.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Why I don't do drugs

I awoke early on Sunday. I had organizing stuff to unpack. And a ton of TV to watch. Guess which won out? Yep, the TV. So there I was curled up with my blanket and pillow. And then Boris decided to use me as a pillow for his nap. Next thing I knew, I had missed the second half of "Chuck." This was after something like five hours of viewing. Don't worry. I finished the show later. But what was really disturbing was remembering the dream that I had while napping. Probably even stranger because I rarely remember dreaming.

Apparently there is a secret room in my apartment. And apparently I knew about the room when I moved in. I have just chosen to ignore it over the last couple of years. But I was hell-bent on getting organized so I opened the door. To discover a room that was at least 12 x 12. It looked a little rundown but not too much. As in, I would never sleep in the room but it looked like a perfectly good place to dump my extra stuff. And then I noticed the window. That turned out to be a sliding glass door. Leading to a covered balcony. And suddenly I had gardening space. I'm sure there's more but then I woke up.

I took it all as a hint and got up and got to work. Yep. All the bags from Bed Bath & Beyond and Target have been unpacked. And at least a couple of items from Bed Bath & Beyond will be going back tomorrow. Seems they didn't fit my kitchen cabinet. But the shelves that I picked up did and now I can once more find various cookware with ease. And I knew that 20 plastic shoeboxes would probably be just a start. It seems I need at least ten more. And there's more shopping to be done next weekend after I get my next paycheck.

Why all the insanity? It wasn't just the organization of my desk at work. It's also been seeing my neighbors' apartments. Seeing their apartments over the last couple of weeks has made me realize that I would have to do a lot of straightening up before I feel comfortable in inviting them into my apartment. And then there was the realization that I have lived here longer than any other place with the exception of my mother's house. And that my nomadic tendencies appear to have disappeared. Well, I still want to travel but now I get to return to a place that I truly consider to be home. After I finish organizing, I'll probably be looking at furniture next. I think it's really time to start putting down roots. Furniture that can travel in the back of my car just doesn't seem to say this.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lots of time in the car

First of all, I'm still working and things are going well. This working thing takes some getting used to though. By the end of the week, I find myself with tons of saved shows on the DVR. In fact, I am still working my way through last week's shows.

Commuting has also taken some getting used to. For the last five years, I have had a commute of no more than 30 minutes each way. Friday night I was not looking forward to what was going to be a long time in the car -- more than likely an hour and a half -- so I did what I used to do when I worked in South San Francisco. I took the scenic route home. 280 to 1 to Skyline to Great Highway to Lincoln to 25th to MLK Jr. Way to Park Presidio/1 to 101 to 580. And then I decided that y'all deserved some photos. Not many because I had to take them while stopped at lights or stop signs.

Along Great Highway.

I've always loved the houses along Lincoln Way.

Along MLK Jr. Way in Golden Gate Park.

Entering the Golden Gate.

My next stop was to do some shopping. On Friday, I was noticing how everything at my desk was so organized. And then I started wishing that I could organize some of the clutter at home. So I stopped at Bed Bath & Beyond. My intention was to start on everything Friday night. But I got home to a party on the stoop. Needless to say, nothing has made it out of the bag yet. Because not only was there a party on the stoop but my neighbor two floors above me was having a party as well.

Saturday I awoke and suddenly remembered that I had planned on going to Pt. Reyes Station. Saturday was the last day of their Farmers' Market. So I downed lots of liquids, got dressed, and hit the road.

Nicasio is one of my favorite parts of the drive.

I also love this bridge on the road between Nicasio and Pt. Reyes Station.

I was happy to see both Beekind and Windrush Farm at the Market. And they actually had the Redwood honey at Bee Kind this time. It's dark and kind of tastes like coffee. One of these days I'm going to have to make it up to the store. Every time I go to the the Market, I get asked when I plan to visit the store. And apparently the folks at Windrush are having an event next week -- with an opportunity to see the sheep, llama, and alpaca. I'm supposed to have a hair appointment but now I'm debating about rescheduling it so that I can to join in the fun.

And of course, I had to stop by Cowgirl Creamery to check on the latest offerings from Wild Pear. As luck would have it, they recently got in a supply of the Bartlett Pear Jam, one of my absolute favorites. And then I needed another jar of the Pink Lady Apple Jam. And what the heck. Let's give the Lemon Curd a try as well. Right before getting everything rung up, I mentioned how last year around this time there had also been Mandarin Orange Marmalade. There was this time too; they just hadn't had time to put any out. So I grabbed a jar of that as well.

While driving back to Berkeley, my mother called. I had to call her back though because cell phone reception is kind of sketchy in western Marin. Of course, she asked where I had been with such bad reception. She then proclaimed that I was nuts for driving all the way to Pt. Reyes for jams. I explained to her that she would understand if she tasted the stuff. Her answer? "You belong in Berkeley."

Once I was back in Berkeley, I stopped at Target -- more storage containers -- with the intent of stopping at Chipotle for lunch. (In the Bay area, Chipotle uses meats from Niman Ranch. Tasty burritos.) Leaving Target, I guess I was taking too long to make the left onto Gilman. So the jerk behind me started leaning on his horn. Driving up Gilman, the car in front of me stopped to make a left into the Office Depot parking lot. The jerk behind me started leaning on the horn again. This would be about the point in time that I flipped him off. I also toyed with stopping the car and getting out to give him a piece of my mind. Near Chipotle, the street widens and so the offending jerk pulled into the lane next to me. His passenger window was down, so I rolled down my window and yelled, "Why don't you lay off the mother fucking horn?" And then I rolled up the window and pulled into the Chipotle parking lot.

Luckily the stop at Chipotle was able to get me back into my nice peaceful state that the asshole had disrupted. That and the view on the rest of the drive home.

For Neil because I seem to remember that he likes fall colors.

And today? Well, it's time to finally unpack the bags. And to make some more butter chicken and saag paneer.