Friday, April 27, 2007

Class of 07 Forever! Never Change!

The fifth graders are starting to put their yearbook together. Each of the kids gets a half page and they say what they want to be when they grow up (lots of pro baseball or football players, teachers, and interestingly enough, one fisherman) and what their most memorable moment at school was. It's sort of like what I remember from high school yearbooks, when some people try to subtly work in how they lost their virginity in various cringe-worthy ways like "David, 2/14/94, ILY." But my students are still young enough that their memorable moments are hysterical, like "when Brian McCartney drank my milk" or "feeding bread to those ducks but then one died."

Speaking of yearbook scandal, my friend Katie's boyfriend at the time put something so nauseating and over-the-top in his senior quote that it's burned into my brain to this day: "Katie, my heart and soul are forever filled with the deepest and truest love for you and only you until the end of time. I love you so much." Not sure why he felt the need to drive the point home with that second sentence but oh, it made for yearbook gold. Granted, I quoted St. Elmo's Fire and My So-Called Life in mine, so who am I to talk? What did you guys put in yours? A bunch of initials and inside jokes that now mean nothing? Liz Phair/Dead Milkmen/Bryan Adams lyrics? Declarations of love for people you'd broken up with a month later? Inquiring minds want to know.

And speaking of high school, my friend and I are going to New York next weekend, where we'll each see a plethora of high school friends. Between the two of us we have four friends in the city and somehow all of them are having parties on Saturday night. What are the odds? As she said, we're going to be like Paris Hilton, minus the herpes and stuff.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Anatomy of a Family Road Trip

I spent last night at my parents' in preparation for our, ahem, journey, but the power's out, rumor has it parts of 95 are closed, and everything seems touch and go on account of the monsoon. I'm sorry, but rain now counts as a nor'easter? Doesn't the fact that we're nor'easterners mean that we can brave precipitation? Are we just getting desperate for some inclement weather? I've so geared myself up for this road trip and at this point am of the mindset that if we're doing this, WE'RE DOING IT. We load the car, Dorie's daughter brings us some muffins, and I've taken two Excedrin before 10 AM. Along the way, my mom proceeds to exhibit her inexplicable weather competitiveness, wherein every place in the world that isn't her front yard doesn't know from bad weather, and my dad puts Rush Limbaugh on the radio. (He's also a Republican Yankees fan. Is there no end to my capacity to love?) Seven hours later, Dorie has called twice to mock me and suggest car games, I've read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, decided that since I didn't see any damn gardens that New Jersey should actually be called the Burnt Out Factory State, and learned that Pennsylvania puts fake tree branches on their cell towers. The hotel is pretty generic but has an adorable little wine bar in the lobby. We finally get to my grandma's (my dad's mom) and take her to dinner. Phew.

I take my grandma shopping for a new comforter. I foolishly assume it will be an easy task, since she just wants something simple and blue. I quickly learn that a down comforter with a duvet cover is "too puffy," cotton is "too wrinkly," quilts remind her of the one she started in high school but never finished, sateen feels weird and flannel is tacky (okay, agreed), and the rest are "just too funny-looking, Red, I couldn't put anything that silly on my bed." Meanwhile she has a fake bird on her coffee table that chirps when anyone walks by it, but okay. We leave with nothing but a detailed description of the comforter that she wants that I'm fairly certain doesn't exist. Next we try to find her a sofa bed. Mark calls during and I learn that while my cell phone doesn't work in my kitchen at home five miles outside of Boston, it works beautifully in a furniture store in Delaware. He asks if I want to go to a concert with him. "I'm in Delaware," I tell him in the flat tone that Mike Myers uses to deliver the same line in Wayne's World. "What? You're where?" "I know. It's ridiculous." Then I notice a store employee sitting on a couch nearby shooting me a look of death, presumably for mocking her hometown. I mouth "sorry" and she shrugs; it seems somehow appropriate. Later on I find that out of boredom/insanity, my mom has visited the gift shop at my grandma's place and purchased a bear dressed like an Italian chef that sings That's Amore. Back at the hotel, she decides we need a drink and buys a bottle of wine from the front desk, which she proceeds to drink in the lobby (with some help from yours truly, of course). The guy that I'm dating texts me updates of the game that night since I'm trapped in Phillies territory. The Sox lose to the Blue Jays, the stupidest freakin' team in baseball.

Did I mention where my grandma is living? It was actually the whole premise of this trip. She just moved to a retirement community that was started by a guy who didn't like the options available for his own aging parents. It's basically like a lovely (and huge) apartment complex for people over a certain age, and they have their own restaurants and shopping and clubs (like book clubs, not nightclubs... ha). It's like college, fifty years after the fact, with nicer accomodations and better food. And no pregnancy scares! Um, so anyway, it's a great arrangement for her. Also, her sister lives downstairs. I text Favorite Cousin that, no shit, this is the kind of place I want to live when I'm 80. He texts back that I need a drink. Temporarily unsupervised yet again, my mom purchases a trio of jungle animals that sing The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It's time to go home.

Headed back, finally. I miss my friends, whom I love all the more for making me feel missed (via text, which I have subsisted on for the past few days). I miss my bed. I even miss work a little. Now that I'm home, the only thing I miss is my grandma. And Wawa, of course. When are we going to have those gems of convenience up north, already?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Life Is A Highway, Apparently


I'll be gone for a few days because I have the week off work and I'm going to Aruba. Oh, no wait, that's Supergirl. Me, I'm going to Pennsylvania. It gets better! My grandmother moved there in January and wanted me to come visit, so I told her I'd come down during my April vacation. When my mom and dad heard that, they decided to come too. So it's somehow turned into every road trip from my childhood, sitting in the backseat of my parents' car like I'm nine years old. Where's my Walkman? At least I'm staying in a hotel. They better have one stocked bar.

I may need to capture this journey in pictures: Here's me not finding my name (as usual, only crappy variations of it) on a wall display of personalized four-color pens inscribed with "Put the Pedal to the Metal on the New Jersey Turnpike!" Here's me and Petunia, who serves the best grilled cheese ever at the Flingin' Flangin' Diner in Hartford! Hell, that sandwich was worth being riddled with bullets from the drive-by. Love ya, 'Tunia! Never change!

Re: the new blog - thanks for your emails - I'm going to set it up once I'm back.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Yeah, it's still a little colder than most of us would like around here, but you really can't beat a day that involves:

1. The home opener at Fenway! Obviously Boston is a baseball town, but it's still fun to see my kids at school glued to the TV during the opening ceremony (which I rationalized was okay to watch on the basis that it was, ahem, a historical event), cheering as enthusiastically for the pitching coach and team massage therapist (now there's a career option to consider) as they do for Youk and Big Papi. Plus there's the cute kindergartener who turned to me and said, "Miss Red, where's your boyfriend?" Yikes, where'd he hear that? I should probably correct him. "He's warming up in the bullpen, sweetie. And he's not my boyfriend. He's my husband."

2. And with baseball comes jumping on the T to Faneuil Hall to watch home games at the Ames Plow, Bell in Hand and even Cheers (I know, I know, but they have ginormous flatscreens and nice bartenders). I actually prefer to watch there rather than at bars on Yawkey because places like Beer Works are pink hat territory in season.

3. Getting the Barney's spring beauty catalog in the mail. Everything inside is totally unaffordable but oh, the heavy, glossy pages, the lotions, the potions, the silky purifying pore clarifying essence of it all. I need air. Or at least that Natura Bisse diamond cream, which can be mine, all mine if I conveniently lose my excise tax bill.

4. Making my most adventurous meal yet as part of my now fairly established Tuesday cooking-for-friends night: Chicken breasts stuffed with artichoke, lemon and goat cheese over rice pilaf, and carrot coins with maple-balsamic browned butter (Good Eatin' will be updated shortly).

That's a big yay, woo, sigh, and yum for the day.

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's Always Something

I read the blog of a local woman in her 40s who has three children, one of whom has autism. It sounds like the sort of empty compliment you'd pay when introducing a motivational keynote speaker or something, but I really admire her candor. She talks about her difficulty connecting with other people, struggling to accept her body, her role in her family as her kids become more independent, and dealing with the minutiae of everyday life.

At the same time, she acts on issues that motivate her, is a self-proclaimed writer who actually writes, and seems to have an incredibly warm and happy relationship with her husband. There's no glossing things over, no melodrama, just the silliness and grittiness and mundaneness of a random Tuesday. Funny enough, I couldn't really imagine clicking with her in person, which in a weird way almost makes me like her more, because she doesn't pander.

I mostly read her blog because I like her perspective on being the parent of a child with special needs. She's open about the struggles and grief that have come with raising her son, but at the end of the day accepts him for who he is. She has educated herself and advocates to get him the services that he needs, but sees many of his behaviors as quirks, instead of acting like children should have their idiosyncracies therapied and medicated and hammered out of them, lest they not be athletic scholars who can play the piano and speak three languages. Basically, she wants him to lead the fullest life that he can, but she isn't trying to fix him. It sounds easy enough, maybe, but I think it's a pretty profound place to be when every day you look at your child and are reminded of what life could have been like for them, and for the rest of your family. She has a lot to teach anyone about accepting and eventually embracing a difficult path that your life can take. Anyone can pontificate about the meaning of life when theirs has mostly been a peach, but of course it means more coming from someone who has actually experienced something besides smooth sailing.

And the thing is that even people who have had mostly smooth sailing still have their own shit, and when you're in the middle of it, no one can tell you that it isn't that big a deal, that it'll work out and not to worry. There are periodically people around you who experience mind-bending tragedy and they provide that occasional contrast for you of what actually is and isn't a problem, but for the most part, you're just wrapped up in where you're at. You're worried you won't get into law school, worried about finding a job, worried about moving, worried that you won't get pregnant, worried you won't find the right partner, worried about getting married, worried about affording retirement, worried about making friends, worried about whether you're doing everything you can for your autistic son, and worried about what his life will be like when you're gone. Worried, as one of my best friends is right now, about your seven-year-old having to wear a heart monitor for a month, and what the outcome of a bunch of squiggly lines could mean.

I try to think of this kind of stuff when I get bogged down with something that isn't really a problem but feels like it in the moment, like when I'm on another date smiling into my salad but fantasizing about being home in bed reading and putting on cuticle cream, when I feel compelled to turn a discouraging evening into a funny story after the fact, like I need to put on a tophat and dance around instead of letting myself feel a little sad (okay, that mental image just kind of cracked me up... in that particular metaphor I think I'm tapdancing to the my little buttercup song from Three Amigos).

There's a tendency of some people to comfort themselves in their own imperfect lives by telling themselves that other people probably aren't as happy as they seem, but I hate that. I get discouraged by other people's misfortunes, about their relationships falling apart. When married men hit on me, it's not a rush of attention; it makes me want to scream because I imagine being the wife of a guy like that in fifteen years. I feel like the more happiness that I see around me, the more likely it is that I'll find it myself, when God knows what you end up with seems to be more of a crapshoot than the result of a well-executed plan.

And despite the shit that I know other people deal with, sometimes I find myself thinking that where I am right now is hard because I'm alone, because my choices don't get a lot of external validation, because dating means constantly auditioning my personality. Don't we all do that sometimes, tell ourselves that our own little foxhole is filled with the most shit? That's when I have to mentally kick my own ass and just get over myself, because life is just too short for the negativity. And trust me, I KNOW how Oprahfied that sounds. But it's true and it's been a pretty profound shift for me. Not that I was ever really an incessant bellyacher, but I try really hard to keep things in perspective, and more than that, I think now I'm starting to understand how important it is to do that, to recognize what I have and how great it is, and not obsess about what I don't have. That's actually been the best thing about getting older, I think, and in a way I'm glad I didn't get everything I wanted right when I wanted it, because I don't think I would have appreciated it.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I still want what I fucking want. I've got more than a little Veruca Salt running through my veins, I can't deny that.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


My mom made Easter baskets for her godchildren across the street, customized for each kid with stuff like candy, crossword puzzles, games, and a plastic lizard that grows to three feet long once it's put in water. Which is actually kind of terrifying when you think about it.

She made one for me, too: lip gloss, Kiss My Face products, mints, Band-aids, a gift card for a couple pedicures, and a bottle of Simi chardonnay. Somebunny knows me pretty well, I'd say.

Hope you all had a good weekend, or as strangers say to one another in the religiously diverse city that I work in: Happy Easter!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Old School

Supergirl and I are under siege (siege, I tell you!) by the woman in the office next to us. She's a reading teacher and also happens to be a Purveyor of Utter Pointlessness. Some of you may have thought that title was already taken by me, but surprisingly, you'd be wrong.

Purveyor is about 100 60 and doesn't know much about computers. She never married and doesn't have kids (oh hello, worst fear of my life, glad to see you're alive and well) and I think that's contributed to it, as singleist as that may sound. Obviously there are exceptions, but I just think that a lot of women of that generation seem to have become well-versed in computers because of their husbands and kids. For example, my mom knows about computers because my dad is techy and taught her everything, I'm sure waiting patiently while she sighed and swore and kickboxed the air around her out of frustration. And while she was really only motivated to get on email when I left for college, now she communicates with everyone that way and even runs her little volunteer organization online. So without the influence of my dad and I, I could imagine that she would be among those staring suspiciously at that glowing box in the corner wondering what it wanted from her and why it was looking at her that way.

Anyway, back to the Purveyor. She's really nice, just, well, overwhelmingly ditzy. First she asked me for computer advice and when I deferred to my dad, she came back and asked if she could trust his recommendation or if he only suggested it because he makes a tiny profit off of every Microsoft Office for Teachers that Amazon sells.

She'll wander into our office sometimes and just smile. Supergirl and I will take turns dealing with her depending which one of us is busier or unwilling at that moment to accept a world with the Purveyor in it. Then she'll ask a question like, "So if I want to write a letter on the computer, how would I do that?"

"Okay, well, you can just open a document and..."

"A document?"

The other day she told me she was having trouble sending an email. Turns out she wasn't in her email, she was online and typing in the email address where you type in a website. How was she planning to write the message? With her mind?

I don't mean to be impatient, but you cannot say, "Open that folder" without her saying something like, "You mean touch it twice, right? Or once? Or do you mean click?" I mean, I work with little children. This sort of thing shouldn't be infuriating to me. AND YET IT IS.

Today it was this, which came about because she was there and I'm making chicken marsala for the first time tomorrow night.

Me: Do you know what marsala wine is?
Her: What? Who?
Me: Marsala wine, for chicken marsala.
Her: Oh! I thought you were asking me about a student with the last name Marsala.
Me: No, well, I was just wondering if it's a cooking wine or a wine-wine.
Her: You're wondering if you need it to make chicken marsala? That would make sense. Marsala.
Me: Oh yeah, well, I do need it, as it turns out. It's in the recipe. I was just trying to figure out if I can buy it at the grocery store or if I need to go to a liquor store.
Her: That's a great question! You're so cute! You've probably never even been to a liquor store.
Me: I have, actually. I'm almost thirty.
Her: I love chicken marsala!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Opening Day Eve

April! Spring has sprung, people are outside, baseball is starting. On Friday night Dorie and I got swept up in the awesomeness of the weather and then a few seconds later had to cave and run back inside where it was warm. It won't be long, though. Pretty soon it will be bare feet, barbecues, open windows, the Cape, and lazy afternoons/nights with friends. Well, that last one is a constant, regardless of the season.

Speaking of baseball, in honor (sort of) of the season kicking off tomorrow, here's someone doing the worst attempt at a Boston accent you will evah heah. It's pretty horrific but worth it, in my opinion, for "The only thing Boston sucks is a victory pipe."