Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New world order

... because I feel it's part of the process of winning folks over to make my whole move for universal domination.


Apparently Anna has thrown down the gauntlet. I've never been a punk beyotch so here goes.

How I hope to achieve universal domination

1. First of all, some of y'all may have noticed that I used the word "universal." That's right beyotches. I'm going interplanetary and all. I mean, have you listened to Al Gore? This planet is dying. Why the hell would I want to take over a dying planet? Nope. I'm going to round up my peeps here and then we're outie. If you're lucky, you get to come along for the ride.

2. Fool the felines into thinking that they actually have a say. I'd do the same for dogs but let's get real. "Dogs have owners; cats have staff." If I win over the cats, the members of their staff are mine for the picking. Just don't tell Natasha. She still thinks that she is the one in charge around here. And just ignore the fact that I keep looking over my shoulder. I can't risk her seeing this. She'll kill me in my sleep.

3. I'm only taking folks who have an IQ of 100 or less with me. As long as they have been vetted by the cats. I have this funny notion that the leader of folks should be more intelligent than their people. This number used to be higher but I have found that prolonged time on the internets seems to have dropped my IQ. Or maybe it was the years of spending six-plus hours a day with little folks. I don't know. All I know is that my IQ seems to be declining -- kind of like money for some folks. Then again, charisma can go a long way and I think I have plenty of that.

4. I'm hoping to take a good deal of the PRB (That's the People's Republic of Berkeley for those of y'all who are new to here) with me. There seems to be a lot of book-smart folks around here. I think I can use them. In exchange for the passage, I am promising them a diet of all organic food and that we will make a moderate, if any, carbon footprint. Oh yeah. And their kids can run wild in all public places.

5. I think it's time to weed the gene pool some. Seeing as I am that crazy ass Berkeley liberal, I think this may be possible. When my peeps roll out to explore new worlds, maybe I'll mention the existence of dinosaurs on other planets. Or the fact that gay marriage is OK with me. Leave the rest of the fools on the dying planet. Besides we will have all the great technology. It will be so easy once we leave to crush those who have been left behind.

6. Life with me will be a non-stop party. Don't tell the rest of them but here's the thing. If you spend all of your time partying, it's hard to notice the other stuff. Like my secret bank account on Neptune. Not that I have one.

7. Sunday night dinner at the palace. Everyone is invited. Every now and then it will be a potluck. But most of the time, it will be me trying out a new recipe or two. You must take at least a small sample (of the Kool-Aid) but I won't force you to finish it all.

8. Now here's the big seller. In my world you can be whoever you want. As long as you are not a threat to me. If you're a threat? Well, then we're sending you back to Earth. Enough said.

Yep. I can feel that universal domination is well within my grasp.

Still no food

... but perhaps tomorrow.

I had the best of intentions to do some more cooking last night. The thing is that I had a two hour training session for the mentoring program. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait to receive my match.

Tonight there will be cooking though. After I remember to stop at the grocery store. Somehow in all my weekend shopping, I forgot to buy toilet paper. I hate when I do that.

So stop by tomorrow for more photos. I promise.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I couldn't resist

I meant to post this on Saturday but then I got busy doing stuff like laundry and grocery shopping.

I found this quiz over at Cursing Mama's and knew I had to take it.

Your result for Reincarnation Placement Exam...


58% Intrigue, 54% Civilization, 72% Humanity, 45% Urbanization.

Live well, ride fast, and die young, baby!

Well, you turned out to be something of a rogue. This may not be exactly the life you wanted... but it's difficult to place people who want to enjoy all the romance and intrigue of civilization, without actually having a demanding job. Besides, since you enjoy the benefits of humanity so much more than you enjoy the press of humanity itself... you shouldn't have much trouble with your role in life. As long as you aren't afraid of danger there's a place for you in society, even if it's a rather dark and wicked place. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to fulfill the role of a spy.

The good news: You're free and clever, and you can do whatever the heck you want. The bad news: everybody else is free and clever too, and they're not all on your side.

With the flick of a blade, you can change the course of history. Might be fun. Might be a little messy.

Take Reincarnation Placement Exam at HelloQuizzy

Woohoo! Can't wait for the next life.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Last night I ended up calling my cousin. She's always been like an older sister to me. I told her about the problem with the sucky friend. The first thing out of her mouth was, "Does she have kids?" I told my cousin that was bullshit. Having kids should not instantly give one a "Get out of jail free" card as far as friendship is concerned.

I don't always check my mail when I get home in the evenings. If it's dark and my hands are full, I figure I can just grab it in the morning on my way out. For this reason, I did not see the card until I headed out on Saturday morning. The card that said, "Thank you for being my friend."

The card served as a reminder that not all women who are married and have kids suck as friends. And so to this friend, I would like to say thank you for the reminder. And thank you for being the friend that I need, I want and I deserve.

Friday, September 26, 2008

There will be more food

Just not tonight. Tonight I have been toying around with loads of thoughts. So here goes.

This post all start from being angry -- at myself, at others. Then I reminded myself that I was trying to move past being that person. Deep breath.

A few weeks ago my dad sent me an email about a documentary that was coming out. It sounded fascinating and so I passed the email onto some friends. One of these friends then wrote back saying that she wanted to see the movie. (No, Zombie Mom, it was not you.) Correction. Two friends stated interest. One -- who was not Zombie Mom -- started discussing when we could go see it. The first weekend didn't work for her. I expressed concern since it wasn't a huge blockbuster. "Who knows if it will be playing the next weekend?" Fortunately for her it was. Unfortunately she could not make it to the movie that weekend either. (Here's where I was going to go into a tirade about her husband. And then I was going to end with why at times like these, I'm glad that I'm not married.) I decided to be OK with it since the film did win an award at Sundance. Then yesterday I checked the listings for this weekend. The film is no longer showing in Berkeley; last night was the end of the run. (Insert in here a tirade about how I hate trying to make plans with my married friends. There could also be a whole discussion of how this mirrors my relationship with my dad when I was growing up after my parents' divorce.) I didn't call the friend yesterday though. Let's get real. She wasn't going to head out to a movie last night. I toyed with the idea of going to catch it alone last night but I was too tired. I did call tonight though. She immediately said, "You know the movie thing? I'm not going to be able to make it tomorrow like I said after all."

Good thing I had already come up with a contingency plan. Yes, it's no longer playing in Berkeley but it's still playing in the Bay Area. So I decided yesterday that I'll just head over to Marin County tomorrow evening to catch it there. And I think I should take myself out to dinner beforehand. I have never had any problem with doing things on my own. Hell. If it wasn't for the friend, I probably would have gone to see the film the first weekend it opened -- alone. So if anyone has any restaurant recommendations for the Larkspur area, I'd love to hear them.

The whole thing has left some questions in my mind though. If I'm so good at dealing with and doing stuff on my own, why are they still in my life? Are they really necessary or are they merely accessories at this point? * I'm starting to think that it's time to move on with my life. And that just may mean new friends.

* Yeah, I know I can be a bitch. If by being a bitch, you mean brutally honest. Live with it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wrapping it up

Pineapple upside-down pumpkin gingerbread

If you haven't guessed yet, I am quite enamored with this month's issue of "Bon Appetit."

I used to bake on a regular basis.* My junior year of college, I would get up each Saturday morning and bake baguettes. And there was usually some sort of pie or cake around as well. I think my roommates loved me.

In law school it usually happened on Thursday. I started to notice that I ended up throwing out part of the baked goods each week because I just couldn't eat it all fast enough. So I gave some to a friend. And then someone else learned of the gift. So I added another person to the list. By the end of that school year, I was making deliveries every Thursday evening to about seven or eight friends on my way out to the delis. Because everyone went to the delis on Thursday night.

Then I dropped out of law school and moved back to California. Once I got my first real job and my own apartment, I resumed baking. Not on a regular schedule but when the mood hit. And I would bring whatever I had baked into the office. Coworkers would exclaim, "I can't believe you went home and baked after working all day!" But remember? It relaxes me. Plus for the first time ever, I didn't need to jockey with anyone else for use of the kitchen.

That's where I'd like to be. At that place in my mind where I can come home after working all day and suddenly feel like baking. And actually have the energy. Because I must admit that if I hadn't mentioned the possibility of the cake to coworkers, I may not have actually baked it. One day, though, it will be different. Hopefully soon. In the meantime, I'm off to plan this weekend's menu.

* A confession. I keep reading about how baking is an exact science. Here's the thing. I stopped being real regular with my measurements many years ago. Yes, my grandmother taught me about leveling stuff off and all that. She was also big on sifting. I almost never do either these days. But I also have a pretty good eye for measurements. Little extra flour in that first cup? Well, a little less in the next then.

Even worse is when I make dumplings. Look at the chicken in the pot. Then dump enough flour in a bowl to go with said chicken. Eyeball the flour and add some baking powder based upon how much flour is in the bowl...

What I'm trying to tell y'all is to not be afraid of baking. Sure you may have some disasters along the way -- like any time I try to use a box cake mix -- but pretty soon you'll get the hang of it and know where the margins of error lie.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How I spent Friday evening

Braised pork shoulder with quince

... and Saturday evening and part of Monday.

I was intrigued by the recipe because of that one ingredient -- quince. As far as I knew, quince was simply a "Food that starts with the letter Q."

What will I remember the most? That when one is working with quince, one must have a very sharp knife. Did I mention that the knife needs to be sharp? Reading through the recipe, there was a note that quinces are hard. I have never tried to cut through anything that is harder, denser than a quince. Quartering a ripe apple is easier. (This comes to mind because once peeled and quartered, quince does remind one of an apple.) It was more akin to the feeling of slicing through a large potato. But more difficult.

Why bother? For me, it's the challenge of working with an unfamiliar ingredient. While I had heard the word "quince" before, I had no other frame of reference. And so I was deeply interested.

Everything went swimmingly until Saturday evening. (Friday night I applied the dry rub and popped the sucker into the fridge.) Perhaps it had something to do with my late start. (I had originally planned to do the Saturday step in the morning. Unfortunately I did not prepare the two earlier dishes on Friday as was the plan and they ended up being prepared Saturday morning.) Shortly after 11 p.m. the dish was ready to leave the oven. But my brain was a bit addled at this point -- might have something to do with the fact that Boris felt I needed to be awake at 5:30 a.m. every morning this weekend -- causing me to try to lift the lid off the pot without the aid of a potholder. (I do this all the time with things on the stovetop since the handles are usually cool.) So now I have second degree burns on my thumb and forefinger. I poured a cocktail and used the fingers to the hold the cocktail glass. Felt just as good as holding them under a running faucet of cold water. The good thing is that initially I thought that three digits were involved. I ignored the receptionist at work on Monday when she said that I should pop the blisters. Not trying to get any infections here.

But Monday evening I pulled the stuff out of the fridge and got it all layered in the casserole dish. And that quince may be a bitch to cut up, but it's mighty good tasting once cooked. Oh, and this was also in my mom's care package. Actually the trip to mom's was more of a food exchange since my bag was just as full when I left as when I had arrived. And I took some to work yesterday as well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Never too much of a good thing

Lamb patties braised with eggplant, peppers and tomatoes

You would think that it was enough that I made soup and went to Chilebrown's on Saturday. Why stop there though? Because I made this dish as well before heading out for the pepper tasting.

I mean look at it. It has eggplant. And lamb. And because it has eggplant, I can tolerate the tomatoes. Of course, I did follow the recipe and use heirloom tomatoes.

This was also part of the care package for my mom. It's kind of funny. For many years, my mother would rarely eat my cooking. It would be, "I don't like that" or "I'm not in the mood for that." When she did eat my food, then often it was, "Why didn't you do this instead?" Because my mother is the first to tell you that she is a great cook; the rest of us are merely pretenders to the throne. And then she'd get mad because I frequently cooked food for my dad and my aunt, but not her. Why? Because they showed appreciation. Food can be a very personal, emotional thing for me.

In recent years there has been a shift in my mother's attitude toward my cooking. It seems to coincide with the point in time when she started telling me what apparently she had been telling others for years -- that she is proud of me.

My childhood was a painful time filled with, "You didn't try hard enough." Might explain a great deal about my body image issues. I have too many years of hearing others say that I was great only to have my mother tear me down. And in those earlier years, I often thought that I was great just to hear otherwise. So I learned to distrust my judgment as well as that of others. But food was a safe haven for me. No matter what she said, I knew that I cooked well. Now I sit here questioning why I wanted her approval so bad for all those years though.

Yes, I even ask this now that I have her approval. Now I bring her food and she calls me the next day to ask for the recipe. And I bring enough so that she can share with her neighbors, other retired folks. And they ask her why I don't do this for a living.

Yes, I have toyed with the idea. There. I said it. Cooking, just like re-reading The Tao of Pooh, helps me to rediscover my center. I am at peace in the kitchen. No TV, no computer. Not even a phone since I realized long ago that cellphone coverage is pretty sketchy in my kitchen. As a result, the majority of the time I do not bring my phone with me in the kitchen. They can leave messages. It is my time to create. And so why not take the plunge? Because I'm afraid that if I have to do it everyday, then I will grow to hate one of the things that I truly love in life. Besides I've had more than enough change for right now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy times with mom

The first time I went to visit my mother in Mexico was the first time that I tasted squash blossoms. We had gone to the house of one of her friends for lunch and the woman sauteed the flowers before using them as filling for quesadillas. Delicious. She then explained to me that this had been an experiment as she had never bought the flowers before. But she had had them in soup.

I somehow tasted the soup before I left and fell in love. My mother brought me a can of the Campbell's version on her next trip back to the States. For years I was OK in not having a recipe for the soup. After all, where was I going to get the flowers? Duh. Berkeley Bowl. So for many months I have been on a mission to find a recipe. Most of the recipes I found are written in Spanish. That's OK but they often lacked measurements. I finally found one posted in English -- with measurements. But the directions were rather garbled. What I present to you is what I concocted based upon all of this.

Sopa de Flor de Calabaza

1 cup butter
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 cups zucchini, diced
2 cups of squash flowers, stem and stamen removed and chopped (I used 12 and was a little short. I'd recommend about 18)
Epazote (Berkeley Bowl was out so I substituted a little oregano.)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup tomato puree
3 cups chicken broth
2 jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/2 cup cream

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a pan. Add corn, zucchini and flowers to pan. Saute until vegetables begin to release juice. Add epazote. Simmer on very low heat.

In another pan melt 1/2 cup butter. Add onion and cook until onion is soft. Add tomato puree. Cook for about five minutes.

Stir tomato-onion mixture into other pan. Add chicken broth and jalapenos. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let soup simmer about another 20 minutes or so.

Turn off heat and stir in cream.

Oh, and of course I'll be taking some of this over to my mom's house. Along with some other items. But you'll get to see those later in the week.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

No comment

So why throw something out into the blogosphere and then not allow comments? I've thought about it off and on throughout the day. I also thought about whether I "owed" anyone an explanation. Yeah, I do. I owe myself. No one else.

The first part is easy. I often write posts for myself. I just don't post them. The thing is that eventually there is a point that I end up deleting the stuff that I don't post. I didn't want these words to disappear. I wanted needed a permanent record.

I guess the second part is easy as well. I wanted to say what I felt I had to say without interruption. That's what happens with my family. I go in thinking to myself, "Here are the things that I want to say." Sometimes I get to say them and then they are glossed over.

I understand this though. I am the caretaker, the one who tells everyone else that it's going to be OK. And some days I ask myself how I ended up here? How am I taking care of these people who are 20 to 30 years my senior? I mean, I knew it would happen one day. Thing is I've been doing it since my teens. What made me seem like the rational, take-charge person? Of course, this is what has usually allowed me to do well at work. Funny, huh?

I am also the keeper of secrets. But they're not really secrets. Each just thinks that it is. And since enough folks already know them, let me enumerate the ones I have heard over the last few weeks.

Before my stepmother got sick, she went around telling her friends that she was thinking of divorcing my dad. I know she thought that he was having an affair. He was -- with a bottle of vodka. Before my stepmother got sick, my dad went around telling his friends that maybe he wanted to divorce my stepmother. Her family was driving him nuts. Then my stepmother got sick and everything changed.

This past week my stepmother started hallucinating. She also did not want to try to walk anymore. The hospice folks told my dad's older sister -- she visits my stepmother every day -- that the hallucinations will get worse. They also think that the cancer is now everywhere including in her bones. That's why she doesn't want to walk; it's too painful. So the end is probably near. And I think of silly things like how I still haven't used that gift certificate for a pedicure that she gave me last Christmas. We were going to go together but then she got too sick to go. My aunt has a return ticket home for October 3. My dad's cousin thinks that my stepmother will be gone before then. We'll see.

Marin says that we're alike in that we're both stuffers. We take the emotions and stuff them away in some dark closet in our minds. One day the closet reaches capacity and it all comes spilling out. Monday through Friday I go to work and field calls from family members. On weekends my family allows me to fall off the face of the earth, so to speak. And that's when I usually let the closet door open.

The multiple layers of grief? I'm lucky if I can remember what day it is. I wake up Monday morning counting the hours to Friday evening. And as I told my boss last month, I just take each day as it comes and do the best that I can. But mostly I keep telling myself that this -- and the world around me -- will get better. And it's kind of hard when something comes along that shakes your belief. But I'll get through this as well. I have to. Who will my family have if I don't?

One of those days

First of all, I must say that these days are becoming less frequent. But they're still here. What kind of days? The ones during which I miss my aunt. A lot.

I'm trying my best to put my thoughts into some sort of order in between the sobs. Because with order, maybe I can make the sobbing stop. And because I had plans for today that did not involve curling up in a ball in bed for the entire day.

It probably all started a few days ago when I was talking to my dad. He started talking about his parents and my aunt. His big thing these days is about how he's so happy that I got to spend as much time as I did with his parents. He's just finally realized what a big impact that my grandparents had on my life. I think it was my aunt's death that made him realize this.

My father was devastated when his mother died. My stepmother had no clue what to do, what to say. At least that's what she told me. Then again, this is a woman who didn't even bother to attend my grandmother's funeral. So I helped my father deal with his grief and I dealt with mine alone for the most part.

If things were different, I would try to talk to my dad about all of this. His wife is dying, though, and he's dealing with his crazy ass in-laws. He has more than enough on his plate. He doesn't need my crap as well. So I lie to him when he asks how I am. I tell he doesn't need to be concerned when he says that he's worried about me.

Friday afternoon my former supervisor stopped by my office. He asked how I was doing and quickly took the question back. He knows. He's lost a lot of family members to cancer. How do I answer that question when asked? "Fine." "Coping." "Taking each day as it comes." What else is there to say?

We then talked about movies. He said that a few months after one of his relatives died, he made the mistake of seeing My Life. He ended up having a complete meltdown in a movie theater. I told him that I've been trying to stick to comedies and action flicks lately. I then mentioned that perhaps I should try to avoid Stepmom and I felt a tear slide down my cheek. Wouldn't you know that the movie was on some cable channel yesterday. I didn't watch it though. I did try to watch Soul Food though. That lasted for about 15 minutes and then I had to find something else. It just hurt too much.

I've tried to fill my days with classes and volunteering. Oh, and cooking. But cooking is another trigger. I don't really know how to cook in small quantities. There's only so much my freezer can hold as well. I often delivered the surplus to my aunt.

I started this practice when she was first diagnosed with cancer. At that time I worked about a ten minute drive away from her house so I would stop by after work. When I started working farther away, Sundays became the day that I would most likely stop by. I would call to make sure she would be in. When I mentioned a delivery, she would ask, "What's on the menu at the restaurant today?" I would drop off the containers of food and pick up the empty containers from previous weeks. And then we would sip tea and talk. That's what I miss. Our talks. I still find myself picking up the phone to call her at times. And then I remember.

This week I've really wanted to talk to her -- especially today. She spent most of her career teaching people how to empower themselves. She wanted there to be an even playing field -- for everyone regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any of the myriad ways in which we try to classify one another. She didn't like to watch the evening news because she said it was so filled with negativity. It doesn't mean that she wasn't aware of what was going on in the world. She just wanted to believe that we -- society in general -- could be better than those images she saw on the news.

In the past week there has been a great deal of discussion about privilege on the internet. As I read the first piece, I wanted to call my aunt. We had had this discussion for too many years to count. And finally it looked like everyone else was talking about it as well. My hope in people was renewed.

Then the discussion continued and I became frustrated and saddened. Now I really wanted to talk to my aunt. I wanted her to remind me that this is part of the discussion. Yes, the discussion is often phrased in terms of black and white. That's because that has the longest history in our country. Even if it is only put in these terms does not mean that it doesn't include all of us though. People will feel that they're under attack and become defensive. Some people will never really get it no matter how many ways you try to explain it to them. That's OK though. Those people usually end up being the minority. As long as I can believe that most of us can reach that point of consensus, then I can still have hope. Because I got to thinking that if you can't believe in the possibility of something difference, then what's the point of it all? Why try? Why do anything?

I had to remind myself that this is what living is though. Being a part of it all. Sounding like a broken record because maybe someday someone will finally pay attention. I thought about how it's just so overwhelming to try to change society as a whole. I can handle it one person at a time though.

Now I'm OK with the frustration. These problems didn't happen overnight. Nor will the solution.

And the sobbing has been replaced with the occasional quiet tear so maybe this has done it's job. Right now I don't miss my aunt as much. I just needed to remind myself that she's not really gone since she's so much of who I am.

Probably for the second time ever, I am turning off comments. Today I'm not much in the mood for dialogue, but tomorrow I probably will be. This was a hard decision because I figure that if I throw something out into the universe, then I should be willing to discuss it. This just isn't one of those days though.

With that, I'm off to do laundry and more cooking. The surplus? I'll probably take some to my mom. And maybe I'll bring some into work tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hot fun in the summertime

Summer's almost over and it's only right that it should end with a bang. Today I went to Chilebrown's for a pepper tasting. Because I'm crazy like that. The first bite was sweet. And then then heat started. I initially thought that it was not much worse than eating habanero. Now that I think about it? I've put a substantially larger piece of habanero in my mouth previously to produce the same level of burn that the cute little peppers produced.

Pictured above is the stuff I brought home from the garden -- minus the Bhut Jolokias. Can you believe that Chilebrown wanted me to sign a waiver before leaving with two of those babies? Don't worry though. They'll probably be heading to my dad. He was indeed jealous when I told him about my pepper bounty. Now what to do with all the others...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fuck vanity

I have so many topics swimming around in my head right now. I just got off the phone with my dad and we talked about family, music, and the election. But I don't think I'm going to go there tonight. Instead it's going to be completely about me.

This week was "fat" week for me. Even worse? I need to do laundry. This means that the stuff that I could comfortably wear during "fat" week is dirty. This is how I found myself in the "wrong" skirt on Wednesday.

Up until about 20 years ago, I wore a size six. Then one day I walked into a store and tried on a size six. I was swimming in it. The saleswoman said, right before she brought me a size four, "Our sizes run large."

I thought that this was an isolated incident. But no. Suddenly instead of a size six, I was a size four. And as the years progressed, I became a size two.

I sew. OK. I used to sew. But the thing is that my size never changed as far as commercial patterns are concerned. I was a size six. And in recent years, I became a size six with size eight hips.

I am vain though. I loved saying that I wear a size two or four. Three years ago my former neighbor and I made a pledge. Each would kill the other if she ever had to go higher than a size four.

So this week due to bloating, I suffered through clothing that was beyond uncomfortable. Wednesday I had mistakenly chosen a skirt that I am still sure to this day, the cleaners shrank. Really. I sucked it in until my ribs were quite prominent and the skirt was still too tight. This was not the case in the past. And Wednesday night was tutoring. After spending eight-plus hours in this skirt, I just could not imagine spending an additional hour and a half. Oh, and the driving time home. And did I mention the lower back pain?

Fortunately I had a break between work and tutoring. That's when I headed to the mall. The store had loads of denim on sale. At this point I only owned one pair of jeans without holes. So I thought that denim was a good idea. I grabbed loads of pairs in size four. And at the last minute added one pair in size six.

I tried on a couple of pairs of the size four. In both cases I thought to myself that they would be completely comfortable in a week or so. They just weren't now. The whole point of the shopping expedition was to find something that was comfortable now -- besides the sweats that I wear at home in the evenings. And so I stepped into the size six jeans. They not only felt great but they looked great. And they were on sale.

Pretty cute. Right?

So now that I've crossed that threshold, I have decided that going up a size after 20 years isn't that bad. But it does stop here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The interview

Monday night I was kind of bad. I skipped my Portuguese class. Because I was busy with my interview to become a mentor.

It was time to fill in those gaps from my application. I went in knowing that I should mention that I am a Bay Area native. I've learned over the years that we are not as common as I had thought previously.

I talked about the things many of us take for granted -- applying for college or finding a job and an apartment. If you've never had a support system, do you really know how to do these things?

And college? Well, we all know that the SAT and other standardized tests can be culturally biased. If one has never been exposed to these things, then how can one answer questions on these topics?

The last part of the interview was answering questions about certain scenarios. The first was one in which the young woman was involved in risky behavior -- sex, drugs, or some combination of the two -- and how you would respond. And so I was honest. "I am not necessarily trained to deal with these kinds of situations but there are lots of people out there who are." I then went on to say that I would tell the young woman how her behavior is jeopardizing her future and that I can help her find someone to talk to. The program director loved how I said, "We can go and make an appointment." She said that her experience has taught her that while these young women will say that they will do whatever it is that you have asked of them, they rarely follow through with the actions. Just by my saying "we," I was holding this fictional young woman accountable.

The next step is to go through training. Part of this training is setting boundaries. Funny, but during the interview, I mentioned how there is often a lack of boundaries in these young women's lives. I gave a concrete example from my teaching years of how to be supportive yet set firm boundaries at the same time.

Basically I totally rocked the interview process. But from y'alls comments, I think you already expected that. I just wanted to let y'all know that I lived up to your expectations. And now I'm totally excited about getting my match.

And no, I don't see any problem with this post as a follow-up to yesterday's. Because I'm all multi-faceted and shit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

One less debt

First of all, I am sure that a few of you have been wondering about what happened to this post as it made a brief appearance in y'alls readers this weekend. Yes, I meant to post. Just not at that time. Remember how I am prone to write stuff days, sometimes weeks, in advance. I just kind of hit the wrong button. But on with it all...

A few weeks ago, I mentioned exotic dancers in a post. That same week Hilly wrote a whole post about them. In my comments to her, I said that perhaps I should share a story. So now I'm sharing.

My first exposure to dancers was through a college roommate. If there was a Chippendales review in town, then she was there. And after we became roommates, I'd tag along. That same year I dated a guy who belonged to a certain fraternity.

This guy announced after a month of dating that he had been watching me for a year. I know this because he was able to describe outfits that I hadn't worn in about a year. Over this time, he had decided what kind of house we would have when we were married -- and the names of our children. I was going to say, "And for some reason," but I know the reason. When I met him, I was barely hanging onto life. I was looking to others for my reason to stay around. And so we "learned" how to be cruel to one another off and on over a two year period. I say "learned" because I know that at least on my part it was not something new. I may have not exhibited it previously but I knew long before I met him how to be cruel to another person.

This is not the story though. I mentioned this guy because his fraternity had an annual Chippendales night as their big fundraiser. I still joke to this day that that was the only night each year that all of the guys in the fraternity got laid. Really. Right before I left the place, I headed to the bathroom. To see some chick who had one of the brothers pinned to the floor while her friends were trying to drag her off of him saying, "But she has a boyfriend." Yeah. Right.

A few years later I ended up in a summer school program in England. The first Friday night found me and a few classmates walking through the West End. We'd pass by clubs and they would say that ladies didn't need to pay the cover. Well, our group of six was half female. And the female half? We were adventurous. We eventually told the guys that if they paid for a round for us in a pub, we would go with with them to their strip club of choice.

I remember our shock upon entering the club. They had a one drink minimum. And that two pound pint? Was eight to ten pounds in the strip club world. And then the girls started dancing. And the first chick had totally not taken care of her bikini line. Ewwww. I would have had more drinks if they had not been more expensive. But I had had enough drinks to warrant a trip to the bathroom. And while I was in the stall I got to hear the chicks talking about the cheap bastards in the club. You should have seen the looks on their faces when I stepped out of the stall. After about twenty minutes of this, during which we got to witness the girls literally clean out a German tourist's wallet, my guy friends decided that they had been cheated. One headed back up to the door to complain. The door guy was not there but the roll of entrance tickets was. My friend ripped off a long strand of the tickets before returning to find us. When we finally made it back to the dorm, all six of us were wearing a "boa" of these tickets. I'm sure the other students with whom we met up in the lobby after they were returning from a night at the theater and four-star dining thought that we were extra classy. I know this much. Our story is probably much more interesting today than theirs.

The last time I set foot in a strip joint is the most memorable by far though. It was during the height of my partygirl days in San Francisco. Every Friday night after work, I'd head to North Beach. To this old Italian bar. I still think of it as one of the safest places in the City. I was seated at the bar next to an older guy. He looked at me and asked, "Sweetheart, why you look so sad?" Now at this point the bartender, who I knew well enough to call "Uncle," had told me to not talk to this guy. Something about his fear that one day I would end up dead in an alley. Whatever. (Jade on the other hand used to ask me why I always told these guys that I understand Italian. I told her because I've seen the movies. First to go? The accountant and the girlfriend. Just didn't want folks saying things in front of me about which I shouldn't know.) I told the guy, "Some guy just insulted me." And then I pointed out the guy to him. I caught the offensive guy's eye as I pointed and smiled really nicely. Because I can be a bitch like that. The nice guy sitting next to me said that no one should ever insult me.

As the evening progressed, we started talking about smoking -- specifically cigars. Turns out his friend owned a place with cigars. So we decided to head on over. Turns out the place was a strip joint. All that mattered to me was that they had Jack and cigars. The girls were a wee bit classier than my previous encounter but I didn't really notice that much.

How does one follow up cigars at a strip joint? Playing pool. By the time our pool game ended, I realized that I was quite intoxicated (OK. Maybe I realized it when I was puking in the ladies room at the strip club but the night was young. And my stomach was empty.) and explained that I should probably go home. Especially since I had not eaten much that day.

"You should have told me you were hungry. Next time I'll buy you dinner."

And then he called the bartender over to get a cab for me. And pressed some money in my hand. I tried to give some of it back because it was more than what I knew that the cab ride home would cost. He wasn't having any of it. After reaching home, I briefly thought to myself that if he had given me five dollars more, I could have broken even for the evening.

The next week I was out with a friend and her coworkers. One of her coworkers had grown up in San Francisco and knew all kinds of interesting types of people. She mentioned a former classmate who had been acquitted on a hit. I told her that her classmate had the same last name as the guy I had met the previous weekend. When I told her the guy's full name, she said that he was the uncle of her classmate. And that I had not been mistaken in pegging him as a made man.

Every now and then I wonder about the guy who insulted me. Because I haven't seen him since that night. Oh, but he probably just moved out of the area. Yep. That's it.

Ummm. And now maybe you understand just how wild and out of control I was back in those days. Because stuff like this? Kind of normal back then. But I had a lot of fun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Making lemonade

This would be figuratively, not literally. The way my weekend started, it could have been a total disaster.

Friday afternoon while at work, my cellphone rang. It was the fraud prevention unit from my bank calling. The automated voice asked if I had recently tried to use my debit card, or had authorized someone else, to make a transaction in the amount of $102.50. Ummm nope. So I hit the button to indicate my answer of "No." Then the music started while I waited for a real person. After a couple of minutes, I decided to pull my account information up on the computer. WTF?!!! Someone had made two withdrawals of $202.50 from my account earlier in the day. Not pending transactions. Transactions that were already posted to my account. It gave the address so I looked it up online. A gas station to which I have never been. More music playing. At this point, I was freaked out to say the least. I stayed on hold for about 25 minutes. And then I was disconnected. I called the bank back. I was on hold for about another 40 minutes on this call before I got a live person. She once more asked about the transaction for $102.50 as well another attempted transaction for about $150. I explained to her that I had not authorized either of these transactions. She said that she would cancel my card -- that was still in my possession -- and issue a new one. I then asked about the two that had posted to my account. She put in for a provisional credit for those two. And then told me that the money would be back in my account by the 19th. The thing is that I had already sent out some checks to pay some bills. And my current account balance? It was not going to cover all of those checks. She said that if the checks hit my account before the bank had returned the money to my account, then yes, the bank would be returning them. But they would reverse any fees incurred because of this. Really assuring. I tried my best to think happy thoughts. OK. So the wine I picked up on my way home helped some.

Saturday morning? I had resolved to get through the weekend on my credit card. And so I got up to take my car to the shop so that they could complete the repairs. Last weekend, I had been told that it would take two hours. I had brought a couple of books with me for the wait. Right before I headed for the waiting area, I asked how long it would take. "Two hours for each part. Four hours." This would be when I felt like crying.

And then I remembered all of that stuff I had written in the last week. I reminded myself that I had updated my iTunes software on Thursday night and the software on my iPhone on Friday night. So I put on my headphones and tried out the new genius playlist feature. I chose "A Beautiful Mine" (Some of you may know this as the theme song to "Mad Men.") as my first song. And that little genius in the software? Came back with a mix of some of my favorites including NWA, Public Enemy and EPMD. And so while I read my book, I found myself chuckling at Chuck D. saying, "Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps." I smiled when I heard a guy talking about, "A girl who's shooting up this world like Shaft." From the first time I heard this song, I always imagined that I was that girl. By the time that I heard EPMD say, "Relax your mind...". I was well on my way there. And I threw in a little "Woo sai" to be safe.

I started thinking that my luck had turned around when I drove over to the Berkeley Public Library and instantly found a space in front. I thought to myself that my unwillingness to give into the negative had led me to this parking space. And then I went inside and discovered that the self-checkout machine was not handling DVD or CD rentals. Just my luck. I had scraped the change out of my wallet to pay for the meter fee. Fortunately I was out before my time expired.

I still had that residual daringness left from "Looking Out the Front Door" left in me though. And this is what made me daring enough to try something that only an insane person would do -- go into Berkeley Bowl in the middle of the day on a Saturday. And unfortunately my list was too large for a hand basket. So I got a cart and "ditched" it at strategic moments -- like when dealing with the produce section. I left the cart at the periphery in these instances and walked my finds back to it.

After sitting in the chair in the car dealership waiting room, my lower back pain had returned. Did I mention that I walked into Thursday's belly dancing class with this pain? And that it was still present on Friday morning? But by Friday evening it was non-existent. But by Saturday afternoon, the pain was fully raging. And so as I maneuvered the narrow aisles of Berkeley Bowl, I silently prayed that no one would bump into me.

All was good until I got in line at the checkout. The family in front of me had "that kid." This kid kept weaving his way through the various carts for entertainment. And if your cart was in his way? Well, he just pushed it out of the way. Now I must admit that the majority of the time while this was happening, it was just him and his dad. I figured that dad was clueless so I forgave him. Then mom showed up and I changed my mind. Especially after the kid started picking up my stuff from the conveyor belt while his parents were being rung up. Hello, people. Your germ-ridden kid is touching my stuff. It's moments like these that makes me want to slap entitled, oblivious liberals. (Oh, and did I mention that PMS also kicked in this weekend. Ummmmm. Yeah.) Instead I gave the kid "that look." He dropped my stuff and fled back to his parents, never to be seen in my personal space again. Oh, and this was the only kid with them. I dunno. I figure that two adults and one kid? One of the adults should be able to keep the kid in check. So all this crap happened but I was determined to keep the positive things I had planned for the weekend going.

And so I give you moussaka -- once more. With ground lamb this time. Because early last week I realized that I had not consumed any eggplant the entire summer. And there was also that change in weather. Except for yesterday, most of this week has had a distinctly fall kind of feeling in the Bay Area.

But the moussaka in many ways took second stage to this. The chop is from a pork rib roast that was brined before roasting. (And so could not be eaten on Saturday.) On a bed of polenta. With braised Swiss chard. You can thank the fine folks at "Bon Appetit" and Zoomie for this menu. The article was about local foods, I believe. And this particular dish was about how Southern meets Italian. The recipe said that you could use Swiss chard but it was originally made with collard greens. Love me some collards. Just didn't feel like cleaning them.

And so food is what got me through the negative. Even if I did have to put it all on my credit card since I no longer had any cash. But that's the positive upon which I chose to focus. What if I hadn't had room on my credit card to get through the weekend? That would have sucked completely. However, I did. And while it is not my favored method of payment, I was still able to do the things that I had originally planned for the weekend.

And then I thought about Taoism. This is precisely the kind of situation that Taoism speaks to. Sometimes life hands you a bunch of crap. It's all about how you deal with the situation. You can freak out and say, "Poor me." Or you can move on. Because true happiness comes from realizing that things happen and not trying to fight the crap but instead managing to move through it all -- with yourself intact.*

* Yes, I have been reading The Tao of Pooh once more. I told y'all that the book keeps me grounded.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What summer used to be

About five years ago, I got my mother hooked on the idea that summer meant Cobb Salad. She cursed me at the end of that summer because it seems that she had put on some pounds. I attributed it to her habit of assembling a salad and then dumping salad dressing on top. In this case it was some extra thick blue cheese dressing.

Me? I like to shred the greens in the bowl and then I add the dressing -- usually about two tablespoons worth. After tossing the greens in the dressing and making sure that the leaves are lightly coated, I then added everything else on top. As I eat everything else gradually mixes in with the greens. And nowadays, I no longer use blue cheese dressing but instead use a vinaigrette and add some crumbled blue cheese on top. And this dressing? Well, instead of using oil, I used the bacon drippings from the bacon I had cooked up just for the purpose of using on the salad.

The first salad -- the one pictured -- was pretty good but subsequent salads this week were made even better by the inclusion of these. They come from a coworker's garden. I have never been much of a fan of tomatoes, but these? The first time my coworker brought in a bowl a few weeks ago, he stopped by my office to announce their presence in the kitchen. "They're like candy." I was skeptical. And then I tasted one. He was so right. I have never tasted a tomato this sweet before in all my life. I find myself eating them as snacks while at work. If my mother had served these when I was a kid, I might have a different opinion about tomatoes today. I sure do hope that he'll be bringing more in some time soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hanging from a telephone wire

Yep, I guess I told a fib. I said the other day that I would leave a discussion of this past Saturday to one paragraph. After reading a couple of other blogs, I decided to go ahead and share some of my thoughts. The more I think about it, I think the reason why I misspoke was because I felt that I needed to do my last two posts first.

Saturday's brunch was at times very emotional for me. After everyone had a chance to eat, we sat around and shared stories about my aunt. While the group consisted mostly of my aunt's friends, my dad and his other sister were also present. But before I get into the statements that were made about her, I'd like to get into some of my choices.

Some of you may have noticed that I my presence in the blogosphere has been less over the last few weeks. That's because one of the decisions I made was not to use my feed reader -- for almost two weeks. (I won't even begin to describe how many posts there were waiting for me when I opened it yesterday.) I knew that I needed to take a step back, much as I have done with many of my family members.

In many ways, I was feeling like my life was in a rut. I love structure, thus my love of lists, but I also love the unexpected. And I decided that sitting on my butt in front of the TV night after night was not as much of a variety as I need. Besides I have DVR. The shows will be there waiting for me when I want to see them.

Now don't get me wrong. My workdays are not always the same. It's just that the daily "surprises" have gotten to be the same in some way. I can handle most of these "surprises" in my sleep at this point. And so often by the end of the day, I do indeed feel half asleep. Then I reminded myself that my job has a seasonal quality to it. When we are in our peak season, I completely love my job. This meant to me that during the slow time, I needed to add more things to my life. Like the classes. Oh, and I have an interview scheduled for Monday for the volunteering.

Deciding what to do was in some ways the hard part. When trying to decide what to do, I suddenly heard my aunt's voice in my head. Because not long before her death, she had been asking me why I no longer did things like taking classes. And what really resonated with me was the memory of her saying, "When you do these things, you seem really happy." So I made decisions based on things that give me joy.

And now that brings me to Saturday's brunch. One of her friends mentioned how she was always so much fun to be around. In 2001, she pissed me off. I kept my contact with her to a minimal until 2003 -- when she was first diagnosed with cancer. Because she was sick, I was able to forget our past differences. But there was something else. I had missed her during that time because of the simple fact that she was so much fun to be around.

As the discussion continued, one of her friends mentioned why she was so much fun. This friend said that she had a serious side and could take care of business when needed. But she also had this childlike quality. I remember tearing up this point because all I could think was that perhaps we weren't that different from one another. Perhaps this was to be expected since my grandmother had such a great effect on both of our lives.

And then someone else summed it all up best. No matter what she was doing, my aunt had fun doing it. If there was no possibility of fun, then she just didn't do it. And she could make the most mundane of activities seem like the height of fun. She could even do this when she was sick and suffering from great amounts of pain. By doing this, she made it possible for the rest of us to forget that she even was sick.

So now I'm going to do my best to make sure that every day is filled with some sort of fun. Because as that article that Heidi quoted, this is what life is. And I am so ready to get on with living.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Another section possibly filled in

The weekend before I started tutoring again, I went to brunch with the foster parents of the girl I tutor. (They also happen to be family friends and I had to pick up my mother from their house.) During brunch they voiced their surprise at my relationship with their foster daughter. I was too mentally fried at the time to explain to them that she shows deference and respect toward me and feels safe in telling me the truth about what is going on with her at school because these are the boundaries I have set for her.

If you know me, then you know that I spent a lot of time thinking about that post a couple of weeks ago.

The first part of the thought process was looking for local volunteer opportunities. I think I may have found my match in a volunteer program through the local YWCA. The program matches women with young women who are about to age out of the foster care system. My mother -- typical of her -- thinks it's a horrendous thought. Of course it is. It's probably a little too personal for her. Her idea of volunteering is to dish out food at the soup kitchen. Oh, and she has also signed up to volunteer two days a week at the Democrat campaign office. Her neighbor has also signed up there as well as the Obama campaign office.

In toying with this idea, I had an epiphany. Of course, I have been feeling off-balance. Volunteering has been a part of my life for many years.

It all started when I was twelve or so. I joined the Red Cross club at my junior high. We made stuffed animals for hospitalized kids. At age 13, I put in over 100 hours volunteering at a local daycare center. At 14, I put in 50+ hours at the V.A. in Tuskegee, Alabama. That was definitely an eye-opening experience. The next thing that sticks in my mind was when I volunteered in pediatrics at the university hospital my freshman year. I learned that sometimes babies get horrible diseases. My job was to help them forget all of that. When I worked at the Death Star, they asked for volunteers. I helped to paint the dining room at a transitional shelter for families in the Haight.

What I realized was that when I started teaching, I stopped the volunteering. And that was OK then. I did still volunteer. I would sign up for committees and whatnot. But I'm not teaching now. And I realize now that by not finding some other volunteer opportunity has left a void in my life.

I worked for a non-profit briefly. I recognize the power in people giving dollars. But there is so much more in giving of one's time. Or at least that's what I think. For me, it started at a point of not having much money but wanting to help. Now I could write a check but that somehow feels lacking in my mind. Ten seconds to write a check? Is that really doing something? Yeah, maybe it does but I want to know firsthand that whatever I have done has changed the world in some way. And the best way to do this is to do things, interact with people. I was about to say that I am an introvert but then I thought that I should take a Myers-Briggs again. (I'm a ENTJ if you're wondering. Might explain my incessant list-making.) Apparently I am a "slightly expressed extrovert."

Hmmm. I really am an extrovert at heart? Might explain a great deal about my feeling of disconnect as of late. And why volunteering that allows me interact with others is so important to me.

And so today, I submitted my application to be a mentor. One more thing done. But I'm still not done reclaiming the old me yet...

Afterthought: If none of y'all hear from me tomorrow, please call the cops. I am afraid that Natasha is going to kill me in my sleep tonight. I went to Berkeley Bowl to pick up her favorite canned food. They were sold out because the friggin' stuff was on sale. So I tried out some other stuff since I refuse to go to Astronomico's or Whole Foods -- the only other stores that carry the stuff. I know that Astronomico's charges at least fifty cents more a can than Berkeley Bowl does for the stuff. Then again, maybe I should have spent it. My life is definitely worth more than that.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Over the weekend I had thought about writing a whole post about the events of Saturday. They can be summed up in a paragraph though. I went to the library and put my car in the shop. The car needs to go back this Saturday so that they can finish the work since they had to order a part. Grrrr. Then I will be already to start taking road trips. Saturday was also my aunt's birthday. After the errands, I went to a brunch that one of her friends was having to celebrate her life. Then I went out to dinner with family to do the same. My stepmother is still the same. Her birthday is later this week.

Now onto the real subject here. A few weeks ago I was talking about reclaiming my life -- and my sanity along the way. Tonight I took yet another step in that direction. I am once more enrolled in a Portuguese class. The surprising thing is that the instructor remembered me from before. It's been three years since I've taken a Portuguese class. It's slowly starting to come back.

Of course, I still could not escape death. We had to pair up with a classmate to do introductions. The woman with whom I was paired said that she was taking the class because her sister-in-law who passed away in June was Brazilian. And now this woman is raising her twin three-year-old nieces. She is taking Portuguese because she doesn't want them to lose their mother's language. I don't know about you but I wanted to cry. But then we got to hear from the one guy in the class who said that he wanted to learn Portuguese so that he could meet more women the next time he goes to Brazil. And so we got to laugh. All in all, it seems like a fun group of folks. When I had to describe myself later in the class, I said that I was faladora. That would be talkative. Because I figured that I should be honest.

Tomorrow night and Thursday night I am going to try to enroll in a couple of dance classes. I would have tried for one on Wednesday as well but I tutor on Wednesday nights.

I'm nowhere near done in reclaiming my life though. There is still at least a couple more pieces to the puzzle.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I keep forgetting to take a picture for y'all every Wednesday evening. Because school is back in and that means that Wednesday evenings are spent tutoring. Math and English in case you're wondering. So instead, I give you this photo I found through Google.

The nice thing is that recently it has actually been sunny in Pacifica -- a rarity. So I get to go to a place that I find lovely and I get paid. Sometimes I get dinner as well. Can't get any better than that.

I am seriously trying to plan some vacations for myself but right now I feel as if my head is going to explode from attempting to make plans. So I took this quiz instead.

Your result for Zombie, Zombie Food, or Zombie Survivor Test...

The Survivor

You are well prepared and knowledgable and will no doubt live a long and happy zombie-free life. You might want to think about setting up a zombie survival group in your area, an anti-undead militia. But please, for everyone's sake keep it low-key. We don't want the government to think we are on to their scheme so take your band and keep moving.

Take Zombie, Zombie Food, or Zombie Survivor Test at HelloQuizzy

I wonder if these skills can get rid of irritating relatives. Hmmm...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Summer of death continues

First of all, my stepmother is still here. More about that in a bit. The new death is the father of one of my aunt's best friends. I am so over these calls.

But back to my stepmother. My dad learned today that someone has filed an elder abuse charge against him. WTF? Once my stepmother passes away, I know that it will only get uglier.

And so this is my daily existence. I can only hope that karma will kick these folks's asses really hard.

I just want the Summer of Death to end. Now.

Monday, September 1, 2008


By Thursday afternoon I was dreaming of getting away from it all. But then reality set in.

I realized that starting Thursday night, I was responsible for two fish,

two dogs,

and three cats for the holiday weekend.

No, the first cat is not Natasha. He's my neighbor's cat. He's even more camera shy than she is.

So much for getting away. I contented myself with making a list of places. Then I realized that everywhere on the list consisted of day trips. So I made a new list of weekend trips. Maybe once I start doing some of these, I can start making a list of places that will take more than a weekend. I figure for now, I should start small though.

And so since I could not get away, I did the next best thing and headed to the roof. (Please ignore the singing. I'm just trying to drown out the voices of the guys from work telling me that it is not good for the roof to walk upon it constantly. La-la-la. Whatever.)

My neighbor started an herb garden last year but it appears that she gave up on that idea. Now we're left with a few pots of this.

And since y'all enjoyed the 'hood photos, I leave you with these. I had not been on the roof since they finished the new building. Unfortunately this building blocks most of our western views. Grrrr.

I hope to start on the lists the coming weekend. The best I'll be able to do is a day trip though. Actually, it may be this way for a bit more time. I have a family obligation Saturday evening. It's my aunt's birthday and so we're having the party that she would have wanted.