Making sense

Anne Lamott, on writing ...

"We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little. But we do. We have so much we want to say and figure out.”

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Not doing well eating well ...

Considering school starts OFFICIALLY Monday, Aug. 18, it occurred to me very recently that my new students might, just might, given the size of my newest upper abdominal fat roll, think their communication arts teacher is a pregnant communication arts teacher.
Seriously. I look about six months along, unless I'm exhibiting a strategic suck-it-in maneuver and standing straight on, no profile view. Where this fat roll came from I have no clear idea.
I have several foggy ideas, however, and these explanations have mostly to do with cheese. Vast cheese consumption, as a matter of fact. I love cheese -- in any form (cubed, shredded, melted) and in most any flavor (cheddar, mozzarella, provolone). Pretty much I've visited the Cheese World most of this summer and sampled about six thousand bites.
Is there time to look, maybe, say, four months along? Is it even possible to lose fifteen pounds in eighteen days?
Feeling panicky.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Biscuits and gravy and eggs, oh my!

I made a ginormous breakfast this morning for my guests: bacon and sausage and scrambled eggs and bacon gravy with buttery biscuits and strawberry jam and apple butter and orange juice.
It. Was. Delicious.
Last night at the baseball game? Not delicious.
It was so annoyingly hot and humid (there must be something to that dry heat that people in the Southwest rave about ... ) and, what with no air movement AT ALL, I was a cranky beast sitting in the nosebleed section at Kauffman Stadium. Also, the Royals lost, a defeat which put us back to the bottom of the American League.
Additionally, there was a plethora of skinny women cheering in the stands, their tiny torsos sporting spandex-tight halter tops, whilst, meanwhile, there sat I in some ridiculous-looking turquoise number that I thought looked cute in the mirror at home but only wilted on me and stuck to my fat roll in an oh-so-unflattering manner. I felt obese and frumpy and hot and gross and, actually, rather bored with the game by the fourth inning. Yes. The FOURTH inning.
When we got home from the game it was around 11:30 and Helen Homemaker's sweaty husband (you should have seen us -- we were all a wrinkled/haggard mess) got out the air mattresses and Helen set to spreading sheets around and fluffing pillows and making sure blankets smelled fresh, not "been-in-a-closet-too-long" stale. When everyone was near settled, Helen gave her 22-year-old daughter her debit card and a quick grocery list (three pounds bacon, two dozen eggs, orange juice, gallon skim milk) and then went immediately to bed, whereupon her husband, who'd been out of town all week on business, lay snoring, peacefully, a smile on his face.
For him, it's never too hot for baseball.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Dancing Queen"

Dang, I love this song! Takes me back to when I was seventeen and so carefree and optimistic and able to dance for hours on end without waking up in pain.

"Dancing Queen"
Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus & Stig Anderson

You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
See that girl
Watch that scene
Diggin' the Dancing Queen
Friday night and the
lights are low
Looking out for a place to go
Where they play
the right music
Getting in the swing
You've come to look for a
Anybody could be that guy
Night is young and the
music's high
With a bit of rock music
Everything's fine
You're in the mood
for a dance
And when you get the
You are the Dancing Queen
Young and sweet
Only seventeen
Dancing Queen
Feel the beat from
the tambourine
Oh yeah
You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
See that girl
Watch that scene
Diggin' the Dancing Queen
You're a teaser,
you turn 'em on
Leave 'em burning and
then you're gone
Looking out for another
Anyone will do
You're in the mood
for a dance
And when you get the
You are the Dancing Queen

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Company's comin' ...

In approximately 24 hours I will have five additional people in my home. And, yes, they'll be staying the night, which means that today I must become Helen Homemaker, who is, of course, the mistress of the stripping and the laundering of sheets and the scrubbing of the tubs. She is a dusting doyenne, too, which is a Very Good Thing, considering someone shook a thin layer of talcum powder on the surface of my dining room table and now someone (Hello, Helen!) must swoop in and tidy it up.
It is the Day Before Company Comes that I most regret having wood floors in the entry and sitting room. Those who read this blog know how much I adore vacuuming: A lot. So cleaning the hearth room and bedrooms is not an icky task; to the contrary, I can get some meditation in while the vacuum sucks up all that is sucky.
There's the grocery to attend to as well. Not knowing what people eat is always tricky. To my benefit is the knowledge that all who are coming do, in fact, eat meat, as they are all Nebraska prairie spawn and therefore happy to hunker down to a plate of Something Carnivorous. Considering meatloaf is my specialty, I will bake a big one this evening. I mean, who doesn't like meatloaf? Or, even better, a cold meatloaf sandwich?

************ Kate's Marvelous Meatloaf **************

2 lbs. ground chuck/ 2 eggs/ 1 sleeve crushed Saltines/1 jar Heinz chili
sauce/ mix all into a delightful goo and then bake in a 350 oven for
approximately 60 minutes. (I pour ketchup over the top about 45 minutes
in; ketchup is a Midwestern thing, akin to using Miracle Whip
and ranch dressing whenever possible.)


To put an additional smile on Helen Homemaker's oh-so-happy face, there will be much playing of the soundtrack of "Mama Mia," which I saw recently and adored from the very beginning. I highly recommend that any woman over forty attend a viewing of this remarkable film. Yeah, I said it: film. It's just that good!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Twenty days remaining ...

While picking up a three-way lightbulb at Target the other day I had a wee bit o' panic when I walked by what used to be an outdoor furniture display but is now SCHOOL SUPPLY CENTRAL. (When did that happen?) Replacing patio umbrellas and floral-covered cushions are bins and boxes and cardboard carousels of pens and pencils and glue sticks and scissors and erasers.
This means one thing and one thing only: My summer break is about to end.
My life's stress is going to triple ... quadruple, perhaps.
During summer break, my biggest stress revolves around which car I'll be driving to the shopping plaza or grocery, considering the children are all licensed and working absurd shifts and in need of vehicular transportation. If they're off to work before I get out of bed -- I like to awaken at the crack of noon these days -- then I'm the one sans Chevy, or the sorry soul stuck with the gross car that smells like dirty dog paws.
A lesser summer stress concerns what I will eat for "breakfast": Shall it be something I have to cook (think omelette or Cream of Wheat) or something previously cooked, say, spaghetti or brussels sprouts adorned with congealed butter from the night before, that I can simply eat from the pan whilst standing in front of the fridge. Or, sometimes, someone drinks all the milk and doesn't replace it. That's summer stress, especially if there's a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and I'm feeling the cereal vibe. I've been known to have a bit of a meltdown when I reach for the jug and there's approximately a quarter teaspoon of milk remaining.
But when school is in session, when I go from being a mom of three kids to a school marm of 150 kids, well, then the stress level increases, let's just say, somewhat tremendously.
As a result, at the pool today I wasn't able to relax entirely. Oh, I tried. Lying face down on a floatie thingy, I imagined I was in the gentle part of the ocean, being lulled oh-so-tenderly, and then, without warning, a vision came to me of a seventh-grade boy ramming me with his boogie board (or whatever it's called). While inside making my lunch plate, instead of focusing on the awesome sandwich wrap I was assembling, my mind took a disturbing detour and reminded me of my school's load-'em-in/load-'em out cafeteria routine. Will I really be back to fourteen minute lunches?
Is it time again to learn 150 names and 150 learning styles?
To make parent contact sheets? To figure out which kids need preferential seating and modified lesson plans and alternative assessments?
In twenty days I'll be back to pantyhose and pumps and navy blue suits. No more flip-flops and swimsuits, shorts and wrinkled tees. I'll smell like Estee and the classroom ... the delicious sunscreen scent will have to stay in its bottle.
I'm likely to have a weird back-to-school dream tonight, which will, more than likely, feature a surly seventh-grade boy, a patio umbrella, a box of erasers and a three-way lightbulb.
That's how my dreams roll.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Of cavities and old-lady glasses

At my (yearly) eye exam today I was informed oh-so-delicately that I am in need of bifocals. I suppose I knew this day was coming; still, it smarts a bit on the inside to digest what this really means: half glasses on a beaded string. Won't I just be the marmy schoolteacher? Next thing you know I'll have to buy five pairs, like my Uncle Terry: one for every important room, including the car, which isn't exactly a room, per se, but you know what I mean.
I think it's true that the body starts to decay -- I mean, fall apart -- once forty hits. I clearly remember my dentist telling me that very thing back when I was eleven years old, sitting in his uncomfortable green plastic chair, having eleven cavities filled. Yep, that's right: ELEVEN cavities. (After all the smoke and drilling, the dentist went into the waiting room and yelled at my mother, and then I got yelled at in the car during the entire ride home, which would have been fifteen minutes, only Mom stopped at Zarda Ice Cream to get herself a rootbeer float, to deal with her "nerves." Of course, I got nothing, what with my ELEVEN cavities and all.)
But anyway, the dentist, Dr. Cox, told me these words, exactly: "You'd better take good care of your teeth now, Young Lady, because once you turn forty everything starts to go downhill." He then cited several health concerns that appeared following his fortieth birthday, chief among them a predisposition to "throw his back out," which meant nothing to me because I was, after all, eleven years old and limber in every way possible.
So, to recognize all that ails me now that I am in my 42nd year, prepare to be either impressed or distressed. I present, then, a list of my bodily decay:
1) need of bifocals
2) propensity to "throw back out"
3) new fat roll (upper abdomen)
4) breast sagginess
5) gray hair, kinky and stand-straight-up at the hairline
6) parentheses wrinkles around the mouth
7) need to have fourth crown put on (related, I'm quite certain, to those eleven cavities all those years back)
8) random heart palpitations (although, I'm glad to report, since I started taking a magnesium supplement those have gone away ... )
9) complete inability to understand the lyrics to 75 percent of the songs kids listen to these days
10) acute awareness of my bowel's performance and knowledge of every bathroom location within a thirty mile radius
11) forgetfulness, especially when it comes to words ... so, so many words these days are "on the tip of my tongue"
I'm sure this list could grow, but my bladder is beckoning. That and I need to go walk the dog ... she's over forty too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Always late to the party ...

I am SO upset at SELF these days. In the last two weeks, I have learned about three, THREE I say, books that I SO should have known about when they were new to the public and therefore exciting readers throughout the country, and maybe even the world.
Quickly, here are the titles, in the order of my retarded discovery:
1) Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell
2) The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook (and Financial Planner), by Jill Conner Browne
3) Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook & Kitchen Reader, edited by Martha McIntosh

Aargghh! As usual, I showed up late to the party and missed the opening of the presents. Missed the presentation and silver-trayed passage of the crudites. Wasn't there to see the most beautiful woman on the planet trip over an extension cord, hysterically exposing her granny panties (when previously EVERYONE figured she was a thong-wearing princess... .)

No exaggeration, I am PEEVED for missing these titles. Upset because I loved them so much, albeit only recently. I could have been feeling this love and sharing the fun for the last four, five years. And longer when it comes to the Jan Karon cookbook, considering this woman created an entirely fictional town called Mitford, and then went and populated it, apparently, with Anne Tyler type characters (and everyone who knows me well knows how much I lust for Tyler's writing) LONG before this cookbook ever came into being. The silver lining in my dark, dark cloud is that I now have a list of Jan Karon titles (I understand there's a boxed set, even!) to look forward to reading.
Now, in terms of the Julie/Julia book, it's one of my favorite reads EVER ... and I read a lot, so this endorsement is really saying something. Reader: If you love to cook and read about cooking and don't get all freaked out when someone has a potty mouth, this is the book for you. Anyway, here's a synopsis: A bored, 29-year-old NYC secretary concocts, to escape the ennui that is her pathetic little life, a "deranged assignment" to cook, over the course of one year, every single recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Hilarity ensues. I read this book by midnight's oil, in bed with a sleeve of saltine crackers, with only one eye open (the eye with perfect vision thanks to a 1996 RK surgery). The other eye I sqinted closed for hours on end, having removed my contact lens for sleeping. (Yeah, I'm lame: I wear only one contact lens.)
What makes this book especially exciting is that I found out yesterday that Powell's book is being made into a movie STARRING MY ALL-TIME FAVE ACTRESS MERYL STREEP. I am giddy awaiting the launch of this film. Streep will play Julia Child. Can you believe it? In case you cannot remember the warbling voice that made the giantess (OK, she's only 6'2) a kitchen character of mythic proportions, you must check out some Julia Child vintage clips on I spent the better half of an hour last evening watching her make a "20-second" omelette. Delightful! Imagine Streep playing Child! My pulse quickens!!!!!
And then, in terms of the Sweet Potato cookbook, I laughed out loud about 36 times reading the little book, kinda misnamed on account of its "Big-Ass" title. It's not just recipes: There's good ole Southern-style aphorisms thrown in. Already (today, actually, before noon) I've cooked three items from its pages: Pig Candy (OMG), Bacon Monkey Bread (OMG again), and, the cherry on the sundae ... (drumroll, please ...) The Gooiest Cake in the World. This I haven't sampled yet, as it's currently sitting on my kitchen counter, cooling.
I'll get back to you after the official taste testing!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Prairie Nirvana?

I'm still in Nebraska -- and lovin' every minute of it. The verdant countryside is a spectacle to behold. From my sister-in-law's office window (an enormous, beautiful oval), this is what I see: first, a row of "Fat Boy" pine trees -- a wind break to guard the west side of the house; behind, a gravel drive, heading north, to a house my brother and sister-in-law built; beyond the gravel is a farmer's field, manicured, sculptured, almost, in its purposeful rows. The corn is getting high, thanks to early summer rains. I stood yesterday among the stalks, thinking back to that Shirley Jackson line from "The Lottery": "rain in June, corn be heavy soon." West of the corn is a farmer's house and outbuildings, all painted white. Several silver silos stand sentinel north of his house. The shorter silos are partially occluded by tall trees. Folks 'round here MUST plant trees: prairie winds are furious at times. It is nearly always windy in Nebraska. Good if you're a wind-loving person. Most annoying if you're a careful hairdo sort of gal. Prone to allergies? Do not live here.
One of my strongest memories of living on the prairie happened during a blizzard. Husband had already gone to work; school was canceled, and so the children were with me, young and energized by the possibility of erecting enormous snowmen. No playful romping on this day, however, as the snow was so heavy and the wind so strong that it was impossible to see where the land divided from the sky. You know that phrase, "blinding snowstorm"? Well, there is such a thing. No hyperbole. I learned this myself when I went to retrieve our trashcans (massive containers made of hard plastic). After much bundling of heavy scarves/hats/mittens, the oldest daughter and I ventured out the garage door. Should have tied a rope to our waists, anchoring it to something heavy, like, I don't know, the house! Truly, I felt like Ma Ingalls out on the prairie, fighting to save the family's only calf. It was exhausting just trying to get to the trashcans. At times, I couldn't see my daughter; I worried that she'd been swept away. I yelled for her but the wind yelled louder. Amazingly, we arrived at our destination simultaneously, but once we reached the cans we were unable to pull them up the long gravel drive. Knowing we'd been beaten, we returned to the house, our mission an unsuccessful one.
Since that time, I have never been in such a weather fix.
Today, looking out at a cloudless baby blue sky, it is comical to remember The Day We Went Into the Blizzard and Survived.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A car trip and shower

By bedtime tonight I will be sleeping in "The Elvis Room," the second-floor guestroom of a house on the Nebraska prairie that my husband and I built back in 1997. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law live there now. Located high on a hill on Church Road, thus named on account of the multitude of tall-steepled, stained-glass windowed churches that line the road (paved since '93), it was the finest home I have ever occupied. Gorgeous sunrise and sunset views. Built-in cabinetry in every single room. Six ... six, I say! ... lazy susans in the kitchen. Extraordinary craftsmanship.
Not my house anymore. Within 15 months of living in my dream home, Husband received a career location to Kansas City, Missouri.
Unbelievable! Fortunately, however, family now lives in the house, and so when I go to visit it really is like going home again.
Niece Emily's baby shower is slated for Saturday. There's a lot I love in this world, and any kind of celebration (bridal/baby) is icing on the cake!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Exuberance deflated

Well. It was about to happen. Two red-letter days IN A ROW and then today.
First, I slept in far too long. What is it with me and all this sleeping lately?
I'm either depressed or there's something seriously wrong with me. Or maybe I'm staying up way too late. Here it is 1:40 a.m. and I'm wide awake. Posting a blog entry, for crying out loud! Ten minutes ago I was loading the dishwasher.
Another reason -- HUGE reason my day sucked -- was because my PVC's showed up around 2 p.m., and then lingered long enough for me to think: OK, is this the day I die? (PVC's are an abbreviation for premature ventricular contractions, which is a long way of saying "palpitations" or "irregular heartbeat.") I was vacuuming the stairs when they started. Immediately thought of that horrible scene in About Schmidt where the Jack Nicholson character comes home from an errand and finds his wife dead, the vacuum hose encircling her lifeless body.
Yeah, yeah, I've been checked out. My cardiologist tells me that my PVC's are the "good ones," the kind that won't cause my heart to quiver in a frenzied mess and then stop altogether, say, while I'm picking out peppers at Price Chopper. According to the doctor, my palps are probably with me for life: I just need to deal with them by, largely, ignoring them. Easier said than done, let me just say. Oh, and even though they're supposed to be "quite common" in women over 40, none of the Bunco gals has experienced them. I've polled every female at Northgate Middle School, and only the librarian can identify.
Third sucky reason to dislike today: I am down to $135 in my checking account, which means I'll have to ask Husband to deposit some money from the joint account into my little piddly expense account, which will more than likely peeve him greatly and cause a great poutage and the silent treatment for, say, oh, about ten days.
And then, I went and did something extra stupid: I watched a movie called Two Weeks, whereby Sally Field plays a 60-ish mother who is dying from cancer (stupidfreakingcancer) and hospice has come in, along with her four grown children, all of whom are there to be with her in her last days.
The movie's a Kleenex box jerker. My eyes will, most assuredly, be super puffy in the a.m.

Here’s what critics have said about TWO WEEKS ….

“Writer-director Steve Stockman is writing from experience, as the script artfully melds the honest, cold facts of dying with the awkwardness and humor that can be found in such circumstances. It’s a film to be sought out.”
Jeffrey Lyons and Alison Bailes, WNBC-TV

“Sally Field creates an agonizing portrait of Anita Bergman. Ms. Field’s tough, accurate performance is all the more compelling for its understatement. A knowing cinematic primer on what to expect when a parent dies.”
--Stephen Holden, The New York Times

“There’s an honesty to this film’s portrayal of what cancer does to family dynamics. Unsentimental, darkly funny. (Stockman’s) gifts as a writer are beyond reproach.”
--Jason Shawhan, The (Nashville) Tennessean

“Very real, very moving, and very funny. Sally Field is breathtaking.”
--Bob Rivers, CBS Radio

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I need a math tutor/want a diamond ring/survey says ...

Proof of why I am not a math teacher. In reference to yesterday's post ... It seemed too good to be true, to be able to purchase a diamond ring for just a penny and a half a day. (That Tivol's salesclerk is a tricky one.) So I sat down with a calculator and crunched some numbers: it would have to be one dollar and fifty cents a day, every day for one year, times 25 years, well, only then would I have the amount needed to purchase the ring I am currently coveting.
Actually, I am torn on the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry that could get lost in the garden come tulip planting time. There's guilt to consider, too. Six houses in our neighborhood have gone into foreclosure in the last three weeks. That kind of money could help keep people in their homes. But, wait, Kate, is that your responsibility?
Readers, I'd like your opinion: Should I or shouldn't I desire from the spousal unit a 25th anniversary diamond ring? Am I asking too much?
Consider our history: Married in 1985. We were poor college students. Didn't have two nickels to rub together. Put our $250 worth of simple gold bands on layaway. Fast forward to first anniversary. Still poor. Within six years we had three babies. Still poor! Fast forward to tenth anniversary. Ah, finally some cashage. Not a lot, though. And even though we had debt (house buying/car buying/student loan repayments), it was then, in 1995, that I first approached Spousal Unit about desiring a diamond ring. At the time, appliances in our house were having nervous breakdowns; therefore, instead of a ring we purchased a new dishwasher, matching washer/dryer and a side-by-side refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser on the outside. Very cool at the time, BTW. Looking at that beige behemoth in my kitchen, I felt that we'd made it in the world. Oh, such is youth.
Year 2000: The world survived the Y2K paranoia. Again I asked for a ring. Cut out pictures of the style I wanted and taped them to Husband's bathroom mirror. Still no ring. Spouse thought paying for the kids' college educations took financial precedence.
And now, 23 years into my marriage, here I sit at my computer, the simple gold layaway band on my hand. I value its presence; it's been with me more than half my life. We've washed 2.3 million dishes together, changed 673,000 diapers, and mixed 1,020 meatloaves. Still, I desire the platinum Michael Beaudry Ballerina ring. My Catholic guilt tells me I should be giving alms to the poor and to forget about material desires, which can only lead me down a path to eternal hell and suffering and a great gnashing of teeth.
My 25th anniversary is 21 months away, which gives Husband plenty of preparation time.
Am I being selfish? Too materialistic?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Another red-letter day! Glorious time spent with daughter ... shopping, dinner, conversation ... photo opportunities for future scrapbooking pages. Met two women who are likely to become friends. Discovered a ridiculous kitty stroller that I feel inclined to purchase. My beautiful Himalayan needs some fresh air, too! Bought an a-m-a-z-i-n-g trench-style coat for $75. Unique sleeve detailing. Most exciting: Half price. Woot!
Imbibed in delicious coffee in a bistro-type setting. Elizabeth and I shared a cannoli. Decadent. I picked out a 25th wedding anniversary ring from Tivol's. It's only $13,000. A quick math calculation: an expenditure of 1.5 pennies a day (for the last 25 years). Reasonable, indeed!
A 45-minute walk with neighbor gals (an indoor track, so necessary considering the hateful humidity!). Time to blog, catch up on my e-mails.
Two videos and leftover lasagna waiting for me. Clean sheets on the bed.
Heaven on Earth.

Monday, July 7, 2008

This kind of day needs bottled

Slept in until 10:45. Made vanilla bean coffee, read most of The Kansas City Star. Showered. Put on new bathing suit. Admired my body; did not berate one bit the cellulite/thigh jiggle. Taste tested the chicken salad I'd made the night before. Enjoyed 60-second fantasy that I have my own cooking show. Opened garage door and there was my next-door neighbor, wheeling her cooler up the driveway. "I put some sodas in here," she said. "Oh, and some of those raspberry cooler things you like." Drove to Candy's house, stuck the chicken salad in her fridge and immediately got into the pool. Stayed in pool for the next five hours. Drank numerous sodas, ate numerous potato chips, enjoyed my chicken salad, Sheila's pasta salad and Nancy's brownies. (Before baking she places butter pats on top/sprinkles with brown sugar. Stupidly simple. Seriously divine.) Got home around five. Elizabeth had cleaned the house! Major surprise. I thanked her for cleaning the house; kissed her on top of her head, old-school, like she was seven years old again. She smelled of expensive hair product. "Hey!" I said, somewhat breathlessly. "Let's go see that Kit Kittredge, American Girl movie." A quick shrug from Daughter. I had expected some whining. Something along the lines of, Aren't I Too Old To See That? No whining at all. Major surprise. Before getting to the theater, we stopped at Wendy's. Ordered some cheeseburgers. "We'll eat at the show," I told her. "Here, put these in your bag." At the ticket counter, we got a soda. The movie was cute. I laughed out loud several times, which was OK because we were the only people there. I caught Elizabeth on three separate occasions thoroughly enjoying Kit's escapades, although afterward she told me the show wasn't "great by any means" and she "definitely wouldn't have to see it again." Stopped at Walgreen's to buy quality tweezers and pick up a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Ran into one of Elizabeth's old friends, a sweet girl I considered a third daughter. Hadn't seen her since the girls were in eighth grade. Immediately I hugged her. "I am SO going to make you one of my famous PMS cakes," I told her. "Are you going to be home tomorrow? I'll be there at noon ... ."
Hugged again. Purchased quality tweezers/ice cream and then took Elizabeth home. Ryan (20-year-old son) hopped into my car. "Taco Bell, Mom?" From nowhere, he informed me the grocery store where he works had been robbed that day. Robbed?! What?!?! "Well," he explained, sensing my obvious anxiety, "really it was a kid trying to steal some Jack Daniels. It wasn't like he had a gun or anything." Oh. Thank God. ... At the drive-thru, Ryan ordered an obscene amount of food ... where does this slim young man put five burritos and two tacos? ... While he chowed in the Pontiac, I went into the grocery to buy cocoa and powdered sugar for tomorrow's cake. Again imagined having my own cooking show. Got stuck with creepy bagger man at the register, but other than that, this day was nearly perfect.
What blessings have been bestowed upon my head!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The teaching nightmares have begun

Uh oh. They're here, the dreams.
Oh, they start out all right: I'm standing at the head of the classroom, wearing my best suit and most confident smile. The students, lined up neatly in rows, smile warmly at me in return. Hands are positioned Catholic-school style on the tops of desks. Everything is right with the world. I turn to write my name on the board and then ...
.... suddenly the room grows three times in size; the children, who are now out of their chairs, scramble helter-skelter throughout the gigantic room. They're chasing each other. A desk is tipped over. Swooosh, Bang! A chair flies past my head and leaves a huge gouge in the chalkboard. Curse words pepper the air. It's snowing paper balls. I try to get the class under control. "Children, children!! Sit down!!! Please." I shrink in stature; the students grow large, larger ... . Total mayhem ensues. I start to cry and pound my arms at my sides. I work my mouth, trying to find something to say. No words come out. I am now a sobbing, miserable mute.
It's a terrible scene. Something out of a Roald Dahl children's book.
I awaken; the hair on my neck is wet. I look at the clock: 3:24 a.m. Remind myself of the date. Calm down by imagining I'm at the beach. Remind myself of the date again.
It's only the first of July, Kate.
For Pete's sake .. get a grip!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Nowhere circles

I've been walking around the house aimlessly today. No motivation to get anything real accomplished. Did Windex the dog snot off the front windows. Did rearrange the kitchen island. Did two loads of laundry. Read some of the Bible: Proverbs. Berated Self for not being able to memorize scripture. Why can I memorize entire poems ("maggie and milly and molly and may") and song lyrics and literary passages but no Bible verses?
Walked past THE MEMORY KEEPER'S DAUGHTER approximately fifteen times, never stopping to pick it up. (One should never watch a movie before reading the book that inspired it.) Want desperately to just stop reading it altogether, but that would mean my ADD got the best of me. There are three YA titles waiting for me at Border's, books I special ordered a week ago. They're Truman Award Nominees; I think it's important to know about these books before school starts up again.
I haven't showered yet today, and considering it's nearly 5 p.m., I just might not get around to it.
Part of me wants to get cleaned up, heat up the hot rollers, try out the new Mary Kay mineral foundation, pull some cashage out of the ATM, and go shopping: I need a new bathing suit and the house needs some paper towels. Another part of me wants to climb into bed and roll around on the sheets, drifting in and out of sleep.
Today is the one-year anniversary of my dad's "official" death.
I'm trying not to think about it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On relationships ...

I've long been fascinated by the manner in which people enter -- and leave -- my life. Some come into my world and stay for years; others show up for a few months, or mere days. All who have come, regardless of their stay, have affected me. Taught me how to be better. Teachers, editors, next-door neighbors and two-blocks-over neighbors, coworkers, students, the Bunco babes. A retail clerk.

Serendipity, I believe, has placed a significant role. Consider the seventy-three year old neighbor I wouldn't have met had the mail not been misdelivered one,two,three,four times. After the fourth doorbell ring -- "Here's your mail ... again," I told her, smiling sheepishly -- she invited me in. Poured me a cup of coffee. Her big gray cat circled around my ankles. I noticed a voluminous dictionary stationed on a pedestal table in her eat-in kitchen. "Ah, a word person you are, huh?" I asked, smiling sheepishly. Instant recognition! She saw the same in me. Out came a Scrabble game. We played two games that afternoon. I lost badly. A weekly game ensued. Lots of coffee. Lots of laughter. For several years Pat and I played the weekly game. Her health dwindled. Cancer. She died a few years back. I miss her lots.

About a week ago I struck up conversation with a young lady at a nearby home improvement store. She was ringing up my paint, and shortly after the usual chitchat ended she divulged that she'd lost her mother at the age of 17. "She hadn't told me she was sick," the girl told me. "It was just the two of us. She suddenly died. I found out later she had cancer ... ." I told her about my dad. We looked at each other with an intensity that made my want to reach out to her, to invite her out to lunch. I asked her how old she was. "Twenty two." The same age as my oldest daughter. No wonder I felt so maternal. Amazingly, I bumped into her -- her name is Heather -- Saturday night at a coffee shop twenty miles away from my house. It was my first time in the shop, a sort of urban hangout I normally wouldn't patronize. I'd gone there to watch my daughter compete in an improv show. I felt seriously out of place. The tiny shop catered primarily to artistic types wearing sleeve tattoos and bandannas.

"You're the person at Lowe's, aren't you?" Heather asked, immediately recognizing me. She smiled widely. I could smell her perfume. "I'm going to be at Panera at two o'clock tomorrow, if you want to join me."

I already had plans. No problem, though. I am certain that Providence will align our schedules soon.