Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Letter Sponsors

The kids are on spring break this week, and I'd say that so far, the week has been brought to you by the letter V.

For VIRUS.

G would work, too...for GERM.

Because all six of us are either in the recovery stages of or suffering from some bad bug that decided to sweep through our house. The plague, it is not. And it's not the worst germ we've had in this house, but after a winter full of so many different viruses--one about every six weeks, if you can believe that--I'm really done. And ready for spring.

Thankfully, today, the windows are open and I'm hoping to exchange the dull, germ-filled air with some healthy, warm, springtime freshness. And I'm grateful that we don't suffer from allergies, or we'd be starting over from the beginning.

Aa-a-choo!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Read It?

I LOVE books. If you cannot tell that by now, methinks you have not been paying attention. The only thing I love more than books is my family. I think. (Just kidding.)

One of the things I love about books is how I can be captured by the words. I can be reeled into the story, or the feeling, or the image on a page. I can be taken in and seriously spend some time there, wherever there is. And when I do that, I find that other people think the same way...that the words I like and want to treasure have been treasured by someone else.

Such is this quote:
But we do wake, each of us, to find things have gone differently. The love we thought had killed us has not killed us after all, and the dream we had for ourselves has shifted elsewhere, like a planet our starship is set for; we have but to lift our heads and right ourselves, move toward it once again and start the day. We will not get there in our lifetime, and some would say: What's the point? A journey to stars that no one will see but our children's children? To see the shape of life, is all we answer. ~Andrew Sean Greer, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells
And because I've now quoted twice from that book, I'll stop. I'll leave you to decide if you'd like to read the story.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Born on...





No, I wasn't born today. I was simply messing around and thought is was somewhat amusing. Do I know anyone born on this day? I don't know. Maybe by next March 29 I will have figured it out.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A New Friend

We acquired a new addition to the house today. A much-needed new addition, I might add. If you've been to my house recently, you'll admit that I could stand to vacuum a bit more. It's not that I wasn't vacuuming, it's that the vacuum wasn't picking the dirt up. Anyway, here he is, in all his red glory.


It will be nice to have lint-free carpets and floors again. By the looks of this photo, though, I'm thinking we need to consider decluttering bookshelves, too.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Friday posts seem to find me at times. I'm usually tying up the ends of a long week, wondering how I can possibly find the time and energy to put my fingers to the keyboard, and then, I stumble across things that make me go, Hmmm. When that happens, I don't have to write. Just cut and paste and acknowledge. And I think today's little picture is worth so much at this point in my life. Can you say the same?

Original picture can be found at: https://instagram.com/hustlegrindco/

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fiesta Time

If someone asked you why you cooked each day, what would you say? I'd say that I cook so we can eat. That's the answer, plain and simple. Most of the time, I don't enjoy cooking. But if I don't cook, I'll have four hungry children on my hands, and someone would call social services on me. So what I normally cook--relatively healthy menus--are largely unimaginative recipes meant to fill our bellies and leave enough leftovers so I don't have to cook the next day. (See, there is a method to my madness.)

Every once in a while, though, I cook because I want to. Say, for a birthday. Well today is one of those days. Dear old Timmy turns 44. Where did the time go? And since he never complains about my cooking (or lack thereof), I decided to make one of the meals he enjoys. It's a party for the palate, aptly named Fiesta Casserole, and found between the pages of Maryana Vollstedt's The Big Book of Casseroles.

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, chopped (size can vary, depending on your liking for onion)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese (I'd use a bit more than this for a heartier filling)
1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package (about 12) corn tortillas, cut or broken into strips
1 can (16 ounces) refried beans (or any bean, really)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
4 cups Colby/Monterey Jack/Cheddar or some combination thereof

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small skillet, warm oil and add onion. Saute until tender, or about five minutes.
2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, cottage cheese, chiles, cilantro, seasonings and onion. I usually add a bit of cayenne to this step.
3. Oil a 9 X 13 baking dish (or smaller if you want a thick casserole) with oil, and add half of the following, in layers: tortillas, cottage cheese/egg mixture, beans, tomatoes, and cheeses. Before I toss on the cheese, I sometimes sprinkle fresh salsa on top. Repeat the layering.
4. Bake, uncovered, about 30 to 40 minutes until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes before you serve it. Add toppings as desired (olives, guacamole, green onion, sour cream).

This meal goes well with a side of rice. And tortilla chips, of course. 

Happy Birthday, Tim. If you're reading this, you know what's for dinner.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Specificity

If there's one thing this writing journey has taught me, it's to find the silver lining in any rejection. And with the most recent rejection, it was easy to find that silver lining. This is what the letter said:
Hi Christina,

Thanks so much for the kind words! It’s always nice to hear. : )

You have some great things in your concept here, but unfortunately the voice to me feels more middle grade than young adult. Though unfortunately I’m not able to move forward with it at this time, thanks again for the opportunity to consider this project. I wish you the very best as you find it the perfect home!

Warmly,
K
Why am I actually pleased by this rejection? Because I sent K the YA version of Beyond the Trees, but--prior to sending it--I was certain that the story needed to be categorized as middle grade. K confirmed that notion with a simple, specific statement, and if I feel like querying any other agents--at this point, I'm pretty much done with pursuing agents for that book--I will only contact those interested in middle grade literature. Sometimes specificity can be a great thing.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Unavailable

She calls them every week now, whether or not she has any news to share. Because if she doesn't, they wonder what she's up to and why she hasn't called in so long. No matter that she usually speaks to them more often than once a week. Time moves in different circles for them. One day flows into the next. Tomorrow could be next week for all they know. She wonders how each individual minute passes for them...

The line continues to ring as she skillfully holds the phone between her shoulder and ear and chops the cucumbers for a dinner salad. The automated voice attenuates the last ring: The party you are trying to reach is unavailable. Please leave a message after the tone.

She's heard those words before, many times. But in that singular moment, with the sun streaming into her eyes and the paring knife poised over the cucumber, a realization washes over her. The party you are trying to reach is unavailable. She drops the knife to the cutting board, and grips the phone between her fingers as her shoulders slump. Turning, she leans back against the counter top, willing her voice to make a noise as the beep sounds in her ear. The party you are trying to reach is unavailable. She pushes the end button and replaces the phone into its cradle.

One simple phrase really, that manages to propel her thoughts into a hurricane. She thinks back to conversations from last week, last month, last year. If she thinks about them in detail, every one of them sounds the same: words dotted by talk of the weather, and the kids; work and home. No details, just vague brush strokes against a blank white canvas. Rush on, rush off the phone. She knows they will get back to her when they see her number on caller ID. Their physical unavailability is temporary; their mental unavailability, though. Well, that's another story now, isn't it?

The party you are trying to reach is unavailable. It's a thought that could hurt her, should hurt her. But the last couple of years have hardened her hide as well as her psyche. Wiping her hands on the dish towel, she adjusts her spine and moves on to the next task on her list.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Go!

I feel like we haven't had a really good conversation here in a while, and I'm not entirely sure why. Could be that I've been busy (saying those words is an understatement), or that my longing to write has waned (saying those words is also an understatement). Plus, I try really hard not to convert every moment of my life into writing. No one needs to read about everything we do out here. (Like last week, we had one kid at the doctor for a hearing aid, one kid at the doctor for spots, and one kid at the doctor for an ankle injury. The last kid didn't go to the doctor, but he did get a cut on his foot that I contemplated heading to the doctor for stitches. I could also inform you of all the other, mundane tidbits, but that would bore you more than what you just read, right?)

So when I have these jags, I wonder if the realization of my dream is ever going to happen, and if the contemplation of the dream--just having the dream at the back of my head--is enough. Am I simply waiting for the dream to happen? And if so, what can I change in my life so that I'm moving forward instead of stagnating? I don't want my waiting to become a habit, right?

Someone once said, "Never allow waiting to become a habit. Live your dreams and take risks. Life is happening now."*

I'm thinking about what risks I can take over the next couple of months to spur my publishing journey in the direction I want to go. And if I can do that, you can begin making your dreams become reality. Life is happening. Not in the past. Not in the future. Right now, in the present. Go!

*I'm still trying to find where this quote originated, but I can be sure to say I didn't come up with it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Epidsode 45: Trapped in the Dreamhouse

If that ain't a story prompt, then I'm no writer. Thanks, Barbie.

(Perhaps I'll eventually fill in the rest of this post with whatever comes of that prompt. Stay tuned...)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You Complete Me

"The person who completes your life is not so much the person who shares all the years of your existence, but rather the person who made your life worth living, no matter how long or short a time you were given to spend with them." ~Susan Meissner, A Fall of Marigolds

Friday, March 20, 2015

Head of the Table

Last night, we held the first Plot Sisters meeting since having our friend, Traci, move away. She might have moved many miles to the west, but we have no plans on dissolving the writing group or the friendship. Our solution for our bi-monthly meetings? Here you have it:


She's even sitting in her usual spot, at the head of the conference table.

Write on!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Correct Choice

In my current anatomy and physiology class, we've gotten to one of my favorite chapters: nerve. This chapter is one of the most difficult to understand because it's the first chapter I require the students to really synthesize the information and apply what they learn. We're not just memorizing anatomical structures...you need to know the physiological mechanisms and everything that can go with them.

Having said that, I ease them into the unit. We cover the anatomy of a neuron (it's like a representative cell, which we covered in Chapter 3), including all of its special parts. You see, not all cells have dendrites, axons, axon endings, and myelin sheaths. I've unearthed a very simple picture of a neuron and shared it below (courtesy http://the-works.net/tag/the-neuron-diagram).

 
The one detail that is not visible on the picture above is that the entire structure is surrounded by a plasma membrane. All cells have plasma membranes. They are phospholipid bilayers that allow some substances in and keep others out, a boundary between outside and inside, if you will. The plasma membrane is very important in nerve, and so, we discuss the topic at length. (In case you're curious, a zoomed in picture of a generic plasma membrane is shown below).

Courtesy of http://biology.tutorvista.com/animal-and-plant-cells/plasma-membrane.html
We spend a long time trying to understand what happens at the plasma membrane because changes in the ion distribution across that membrane are the basis for how the nerve communicates. We talk some math (don't leave me, FRN, this will be okay), but not much. The bottom line is this: the plasma membrane has ion channels in it (see the purple protein above). If you open those ion channels, ions can flow through (the channels are usually specific for one particular ion, but you don't need that information here), and when those ions flow, you are creating a change in the system. In effect, you're making change to the concentration of ions inside the cell, and that change inside the cell will make the neuron send a signal.

Okay, I realize to some of you that what I just said might not make sense. But believe me, with the PowerPoint presentations and the 50 times I repeat important points, I would at least think that the students in my class would walk away from the lectures knowing a few things. Namely, that the plasma membrane has different concentrations of ions on either side of it, and if we alter that distribution, we can, in effect, send a message. Furthermore, I would hope that they'd realize the plasma membrane exists on all cells, including the neuron. We did, after all, learn about all the intimate details of said structure.

But you all know where this is going, don't you? I gave an exam the other day, one I thought was more than fair. I'd reworked my questions so that I had a large percentage of easy questions, hoping that the easy points would bolster the students' confidence. One of the exam questions asked the following:


  1. Which of the following is not true with respect to axons?
    1. It is the conducting region of the neuron.
    2. It generates nerve impulses.
    3. It can carry on many conversations with different neurons at the same time.
    4. It lacks a plasma membrane.

Yes, we discussed that the axon is the portion of the neuron that conducts the signal, and that the signal can be called a nerve impulse. We also talked about the fact that no neuron acts alone! Our brain is made up of 100 billion neurons and so one single neuron must carry on at least several conversations at the same time. Which gets us to the last choice, d. Does the neuron lack a plasma membrane? Hadn't we just discussed (over and over again) the idea that neurons possess many characteristics of all cells? Hadn't we belabored the point that ions pass through channels in that membrane? Why yes, yes, we did. So the neuron must HAVE a plasma membrane and therefore the correct choice must be d. Right?

And you wonder why I worry about our future. These kids these days. My bet is most of them didn't understand what the term "lack" meant, and if that is true, my friends, the world is worse off than I thought.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tell Me How You Really Feel:18

This edition of TMHYRF is inspired by reading. No kidding. I do a lot of that, right? But I read mostly books. Good books, bad books, classic books, YA books, even some middle-grade books. And I know how hard it is to write a book, so I try to keep my complaints to a minimum. Unless the book is poorly written. And that quality--really bad writing--seems to stop me on the internet, too.

I mean, if you're writing for your own personal blog, I'm not going to talk about whether or not your prose is tight, if you have used proper punctuation, or if you've employed active verbs instead of passive verbs. (If I did cite you for those infractions, I'd be such a hypocrite: over half of the drivel you read here is chock full of errors in so many ways.)

But if you're writing an article for a national outlet? I don't know say, a rather large online entity such as Slate for example? Well, I think you should be a good writer, meaning you should carefully choose your nouns, verbs, and adjectives; limit your adverbs, be sure that your participles aren't dangling, and that it is clear what your pronouns are referring to. In short, your article should be worthy of being published at that large online entity. 

I'm not here to point fingers. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dear Agent, Part III

Dear Agent,

I know you've heard enough from me, so I'll keep this message short and sweet.

Please do not advertise that you "will respond in a timely fashion to every query" unless you plan on following through with those words. And I don't think that six months time (or more) would be considered a "timely fashion" by anyone I know. (I mean, if my children arrived six months late...You see where I'm going?) Furthermore, if you don't plan on responding at all, I can respect that decision. But change your submission guidelines to include a phrase stating, "while all submissions will be read, only those that we feel strongly about will be responded to."

I appreciate your time and effort, and can only hope that my simple letter will spur you to look again at your website. (And yes, I checked my spam folder. Thank you.)

Sincerely,

CMC

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dear Student II

Dear Student,

Much like the last student letter I wrote, this one has been a long time coming. I've watched you enter class each day, dragging your overloaded bag behind you. You usually have a soda in your other hand and a quick grin on your face. You sit right in the front corner, near my podium, and you pay so much attention to what I say, that I always hope the words will sit right in your head. I pray that when you nod your head up and down, you are doing so because you comprehend what I'm saying. But as I found out today, when I spoke to you at great length, it is clear that you do not understand anything. At least when it comes to Anatomy and Physiology.

So unlike last semester, when I lamented the presence of a student because that student never even bothered to try, I lament now that I have to say this to you: I think you need to go. As much as I enjoy having you in my class and answering your questions and as much as I want to help you understand the intricacies of the plasma membrane, the writing is on the wall, as they say. (Or, on the Smartboard.)

Why, you ask? Because you're missing out on the fundamentals. (I won't belabor the point and go into the details. That would be like rubbing salt into a wound.) But without comprehension of those fundamentals, learning anything beyond a narrow scope of focus will be difficult, if not impossible. Don't believe me? Look at your scores. (And truly, I KNOW it's not all about the scores. But when we spoke today, despite what you said, I could hear that you didn't understand what I was talking about...that the information seemed new to you, when really, we'd covered it three times in class.)

So, much to my dismay, I think you should walk away from this course. That means you will need to deal with a W on your record, but W is better than an F when it comes to the GPA. And instead of registering for my course again in the fall, I'd suggest finding an alternate class--a lower level biology perhaps, or a course that provides the basic biology and chemistry background necessary for true comprehension of the body systems. If you do as I suggest, I think you'll thank me.

It's a tough job, this teacher thing. Especially when you care for your students. And you? I care about you. Which is why I'm writing. (In case you didn't quite get that.)

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Move On

Someone posted this quote on Facebook and the words made me say, "Oooh" out loud. I think this sentiment is a great Sunday reminder that sometimes, we need to move on.


FYI: I nabbed this picture from this quote site, but you can find variations of the quote all over the internet. Which makes me wonder who wrote it in the first place?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day


http://www.physics.ucla.edu/k-6connection/pi,p%26p.htm
Always.

Even you non-math types have to admit that fact is just darn cool.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Bummer of a Birthmark

My mind roams all the time. I find myself thinking about odd things at odd times. The other day, I thought to myself, "I haven't played a good game of strip poker, ever." Odd, right? I was reading a book when that thought jumped into my mind, and it wasn't a smutty book, either. And if you're wondering...yes, I've played strip poker. But my cohorts and I layered ourselves up so much, I wouldn't really call the game fair.

So today, as I was getting ready for work, I thought of an old Gary Larson cartoon. (Remember good old Gary? The creator of The Far Side? I used to laugh and laugh at his cartoons in the paper. They--along with Calvin and Hobbes--were the only characters who coaxed a chortle out of me.) Anyway, this morning, right out of the blue, I thought of an old high school friend. And when I think of that old friend, I always think of this cartoon:


Made me laugh way back in high school. Makes me laugh now. Happy Friday!



Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Mole

Back in November 2014, I went to the dermatologist to get a mole removed off my back. The mole ended up being "abnormal" but "nothing to worry about." At least that's what the nurse told me. But the pathology report--which I requested to have sent to me--said this: "There is proliferation of focally atypical melanocytes at the junction, singly and in nests that focally bridge between ridges. The underlying dermis shows fibroplasia and patchy lymphocytic infiltration. The dysplasia is moderate. The changes are occurring within a compound nevus. The lesion extends to a lateral margin."

I'm not a physician, but warning bells sounded because of two phrases: 1. atypical melanocytes, and 2. extends to a lateral margin. Anything involving melanocytes ignites the fear of melanoma inside of me, and the fact that the specimen wasn't all taken out? Well sign me up for an excision.

The original mole measured 13 mm across. It was brown-black and ugly, but it hadn't grown unruly. It just looked bad. And, it tingled. Yes, that might sound funny, but the mole tingled when I pressed it, and I read an article that said tingling = bad. So here I was this morning, with a small bit of mole present, but a large circle of where it used to be. I thought I'd run into the office, have the little thing cut out (I knew they'd go deeper than the first doctor did, but I didn't really know what I was in for) and move on with my life.

After waiting 20 minutes past my appointment time to even be brought into the examining room, I didn't have to wait long for the doctor. But he had to wait for me, because the amount of lidocaine needed to numb up that region of me was more than we expected. This occurrence should not have surprised me. The girls were born by c-section with me under general anesthesia because the epidural didn't take. The mole I had taken off a month ago? I felt the sharpness of the needle for far longer than I should have. So today, as I continued to feel the pin point against my skin, I thought to myself, here we go again. As we neared the upper limit of lidocaine for my body weight, I began to wonder how my systems would react to so much local anesthetic. And in that instant, I finally felt a sensation of pressure instead of sharp.

I'll spare the details. And I'll spare what the piece of skin looked like, but only because I didn't think to ask for a picture of it. But I will tell you what the slice looked like: a diamond that measured 11 cm across and at least 3 cm wide. Sweet bacon crackers! I wasn't expecting quite that much of me to go. Twenty-three stitches later, and here we are:



After all that lidocaine, I didn't feel much for much of the day. In fact, it wasn't until 5 p.m. that my back started to regain feeling, which means the pain started to set in. I'm thinking that with 23 stitches, I can end up with a might nice scar. Now if only I had a better story to go with it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sweet Bacon Crackers!

How's that title for an expletive? I love it, don't you!?! I plan on using that phrase from here on out. Scared out of my gourd? Sweet Bacon Crackers! Exasperated by the mess in the girls' room? Sweet Bacon Crackers! Amazed by the fact that Timmy remembered to empty the dish drainer without me asking him to do so? Sweet Bacon Crackers!!

Okay, we're moving on...

I said I wouldn't turn this blog into a recipe blog. AND I WON'T. But Tim forwarded a recipe to me that I knew FRN would like. And if you like bacon as much as FRN does, you might also enjoy the recipe. It looks simple, but tasty. (Okay, to be honest, it doesn't look tasty to me. But I agree with Tim that the kids would like it.)

Ingredients

36 butter crackers (Keebler Club, Townhouse, or other sort)
12 slices of bacon, cut into thirds (see how math is involved here?)
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

How to make:

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F, and place tin foil onto two cookie sheets.
2. Place crackers on the foil-lined cookie sheets in a single layer. Top each cracker with a piece of bacon. Spoon about a teaspoon of brown sugar on top of the bacon. (Reading this now, I'd use less sugar. Much less.)
3. Bake snacks in the preheated oven until the bacon is browned about 45 minutes. Be sure to drain on paper towels before serving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I Ran (II)

Thirty-two minutes.
About three miles.
Two breaths in, one breath out.
No lung pain,
No twinge, no pull.
Slow, slow, slow.
Mixed with walking,
I ran.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Life is Good

"Life turns on a dime. Sometimes towards us, but more often it spins away, flirting and flashing as it goes: so long, honey, it was good while it lasted, wasn't it?"

Stephen King wrote those words in his novel, 11/22/63, and I remember stopping at them when I read that book. I often sit and think about words as I read them; I reflect on them, turn them around in my brain, and see if I can apply them to my entire life. I did that with those words. For some reason, it probably took me a full five minutes to get past those sentences...they just stuck with me.

And those words are what popped into my head this morning as I drove up Dixie Drive toward work. I'd just reached the point where Dixie turns into Patterson Boulevard. I was driving in the left lane, and to my left, a car drove almost parallel to me. He drove toward a stop sign that he was supposed to stop at before merging into my lane. Yes, HE WAS SUPPOSED TO STOP. And you know where this is going. THE CAR DID NOT STOP.

I anticipate this scenario every morning when I drive to work. I've always tried to be a defensive driver and I often think about what the other driver is thinking because by golly, people don't pay attention. Either they're on their phone or applying lipstick or running a hand through their hair and looking in the mirror. So each morning, I'm on the lookout for drivers like this one. At this point in the road, I'm very wary, and my hand hovers on the horn. So this morning, like most others, I could see the car wasn't going to stop. But unlike other mornings, I was late on the horn and there was no room on my right to move.

The powers-that-be must have been looking out for me. The small beep I managed startled the driver, who moved left; I moved right as much as I could. The driver on my right side beeped at me (of course, so would I) but moved farther right, and as we danced the dance, all three of us miraculously moved forward without a scratch. It could have been bad: I was traveling at 40 mph, the non-stopper was driving at least 30 mph and I'm thinking the third, whom I almost ran into, was also going 40 mph. Yes, it could have been really bad.

Oddly enough, my blood pressure and heart rate didn't rise much. Instead, in the heat of the moment, I saw those words of Stephen King flash in my head. What is wrong with me? You'd think a little sympathetic nervous system would kick in, and here I was, thinking about Stephen King? Yes, yes I did. I guess these days I eat, sleep, think, and breathe writing.

My life could have turned on a dime. Instead, I'm sitting here thinking just how good life is.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

I Must Remember...

“I wrote a book. It sucked. I wrote nine more books. They sucked, too. Meanwhile, I read every single thing I could find on publishing and writing, went to conferences, joined professional organizations, hooked up with fellow writers in critique groups, and didn’t give up. Then I wrote one more book.”
― Beth Revis

(Who is Beth Revis, you ask? I did, too. I had absolutely no idea, but I knew I liked the quote. Anyway, I looked her up, but I haven't read anything she's written. Yet.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life on the Beach

I've been thinking a lot about the beach lately. A LOT. My thoughts probably stem from the long, cold winter, and that I'm ready--really ready--to move on. So when I think of the beach, I think of a wonderful recipe that Tim brought home a few years back, which can also be found here. The dessert is easy, and best of all, a party for the taste buds. If you like sweet and salty, this one's for you.

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

Crust:
  • 1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers (60 crackers or 6 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
Filling:
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice (can mix the two)
  • Fresh whipped cream, as garnish
  • Coarse sea salt, as garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Crush the crackers into fine crumbs, but not so far as to make dust. A food processor or your hands are fine. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8-inch pie pan and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Bake for 18 minutes or so (until crust is golden brown).
  3. Set aside crust to cool. Beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the juice. Be sure to completely combine these ingredients. Pour filling into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until it is set. Refrigerate until cold. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Parting Shot

On Thursdays, I volunteer in the first grade classroom with math centers. I did the same when Aaron was in first grade. At that time, Melina was three years old. She stepped into the role of helper and learned some math to boot. Now, I go into the classroom by myself, as my sidekick is a part of the class. Which means I have no one but myself to help against any crimes that might be committed by the first graders.

Yesterday's incident was a perfect example of what I see on a weekly basis:

Mrs. W split the class into small groups. One of those groups meandered my way. I began to spread out the materials the children would need for the activity. "Okay guys," I said. "Here are the dice." I placed a die onto the carpet for each pair of children, and then prepared to explain how to play the game.

"Uh, Mrs. C. He just called you poopy-pants," a little spectacled first-grader said. "C said 'Ooookaaaaay Mrs. Poopy-pants!' when you handed out the dice."

Within an instant, I felt my face turn into a mask of slight disapproval, and I forced my voice to remain low and calm. Our school encourages good SPIRIT in the kids (Success, Pride, Integrity, Respect, Involvement, and Teamwork). Had the child called Mrs. W "Mrs. Poopy-pants" I know she would not have tolerated the action.

"First off--" I looked at the child who told me."You are tattling." The kid's face fell, but that child consistently tattles. By yesterday, I'd had enough of that behavior. "And secondly," I turned toward the other child, "Did you say those words? Be honest. Did you?"

The child hesitated for a moment. I looked into his eyes. I really wasn't mad, but inside my head, a few different words bounced around. I GET ENOUGH OF THIS EXCREMENT TALK AT HOME. DO I REALLY NEED TO COME INTO SCHOOL AND HAVE YOU SPEAK LIKE THAT? WHAT ARE YOU, A FIRST-GRADE BOY?

The child swallowed his lie and admitted to calling me Poopy-pants. I had to give him credit for being honest, so I thanked him, and told him I forgave him. I then swallowed the next words that perched on my lips: SIT YOUR BUM DOWN, PLAY THE GAME, AND STOP FOOLING AROUND, YOU LITTLE PIECE OF POOP!

A few seconds later, that same child (who I will now call Mr. Poopy-pants) started making tooting noises. Now, let me say this. We were supposed to be working on Tic-Tac-Ten, which as you probably can surmise is very much like Tic-Tac-Toe. This child had no business other than rolling the dice, writing down a number, and trying to get three numbers in a row that would add to ten. I understand that first-graders might not be able to sit still for 20 minutes while we perform the activity. So I could see if Mr. Poopy-pants might have to  adjust his body a little, or move his legs out to make him feel better. But we'd just started the activity, and standing and sticking your bum out in the direction of a classmate all while tooting with your mouth? Not going to happen on my watch.

In slow motion, I turned my face toward Mr. Poopy Pants and gazed directly into his eyes. He froze. WHAT IN THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? I wondered. "Please stop," I said. "That's not appropriate behavior."

Five minutes later, Mr. Poopy-pants was at it again. There was no counting to ten. It's like he just couldn't perform that task. For some reason, he needed to pretend like he'd had beans for lunch. Some toot jokes can be funny. This...this just wasn't. I was tired of telling him to stop. I wanted the kids to learn, and he was being disrespectful. WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU THINKING? TALK ABOUT RESPECT. DO YOU DO THIS AT HOME? WHAT SORT OF PARENTS DO YOU HAVE? JUST SIT DOWN YOU $%#%^&! But I'm old enough to filter myself, so again, I simply asked him to stop. I emphasized that his behavior was disrespectful. I hoped that we could go on and learn something in the few minutes we had left.

I have to be honest, Mr. Poopy-pants didn't interrupt me again before our time was up. But as he left the group to move onto the next activity, I looked down at the card he'd been using. At the top, where a number should have been written, was the word, BERP. A fantastic, yet misspelled, parting shot.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

March 5, 2015

What happened on this day? I have no idea. I just went back and looked at my blog and realized that a post here didn't occur. I thought I said I planned on blogging every day all year. Did I forget this day? Did it slip between the cracks? Did I live it all within another universe? NO IDEA AT ALL.

Or, am I teasing you and just pretending that I missed this day, when really I wrote this post simply in an attempt to mess with you.

You'll never know.

What a story prompt...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Impossible

They say there are many worlds. All around our own, packed tight as the cells of your heart. Each with its own logic, its own physics, moons, and stars. We cannot go there--we would not survive in most. But there are some, as I have seen, almost exactly like our own--like the fairy worlds my aunt used to tease us with. You make a wish, and another world is formed in which that wish comes true, though you may never see it. And in those other worlds, the places you love are there, the people you love are there. Perhaps in one of them, all rights are wronged and life is as you wish it. So what if you found the door? And what if you had the key? Because everyone knows this: That the impossible happens once to each of us. ~Andrew Sean Greer, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shopping for Pants

If I didn't know any better, I'd think that she walks around half-naked. But she's too modest to do that. I mean, we're talking about a person who really doesn't wear shorts--not even in summer--so the idea of going sans pants is ridiculous. Which means she must have at least a few pairs of trousers hanging in her closet. More than a few pairs, probably, considering how many times a year she shops for pants. And yet, at least for the last 20 years or so, she's always searching for those pants.

"I need to head out and look for pants," she says, forking the last bits of egg into her mouth.

"You don't say." Inside my mind, I reel. I roll my eyes and huff my breath, any number of gestures that exhibit my impatience, all unbeknownst to her since she's looking elswhere. "What do you need the pants for?" I wonder if she is scheduled to attend a function, or if she has accepted a job or a volunteer position. Any of those reasons would be good excuses to go shopping for pants.

"Well, you know. I don't wear dresses." She blinks twice, wipes her mouth with her napkin, and says no more, indicating she's done with the topic. Maybe she thinks I understand, that I, too, go shopping for pants several times a year. But I don't go shopping for pants and I don't understand, because what I want to know is why on earth she needs to shop for pants today. On the day I drove into town. To see her.

Maybe it's my fault. After all, she didn't know I was coming. I had planned a surprise, a quick trip to say Hi, and all of a sudden, there I was, standing before her. But a shopping trip could wait, couldn't it? I knew she wasn't down to her last pair of pants, and I'd just traveled 200 miles to see her. Couldn't she have said, "I had planned on going shopping for pants today, but now that you're here, I won't. I can do that another day."

For she can go shopping another day, as she's shown me for so long. But in the moment when I think this, I realize that the actual act of buying pants is not the point. Finding a pair of pants, paying for the pants, bringing home the pants...it doesn't matter if those actions occur. If she finds a pair of pants, she will still, two months from now, need to go shopping for more pants.

The question should be "Why does she need to go?" but clarity overtakes me, hard. Shopping for pants is similar to the never ending stack of mail that she needs to go through, the files that always must be taken care of, the weeds that threaten to overtake the house. Those concrete tasks represent a busyness that takes her away from the world she lives in--the one full of denial and pain, the one in which she's lost much control.

It's my fault for not saying something or not asking why she couldn't stick around to visit with me. But I've learned a few other things over the last 20 years besides the fact that she goes shopping for pants more frequently than some people shop for soap. I've learned that even if I inform her that I'm annoyed, she'll have a rebuttal. I've learned that the rebuttal will make her frustrated. And that even if she caves to my demands, and stays to spend time with me, the change in her mind will be due to guilt, not based on sincere intention. So the time she does spend with me will be awkward and forced. I don't like awkward and forced conversation, so instead of sticking around, I say, "Goodbye and good luck. I hope you find some pants."

As I wave to her and turn away, I remember something else I've learned: how to be sympathetic toward someone's place in life. I don't know what she's going through and thankfully, I've never walked a mile or two in her shoes. And so next time, when she says that she needs to go shopping for pants, I'm going to offer to drive her.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Another Story

I've started on a new story entitled The Chocolate Garden. I have the entire story outlined, a map, if you will, of where I'd like it to go. I've already written the beginning, the end, and some of the middle. The book deals with a character who has Alzheimer's disease, so I've been doing some looking around, some searching for good information. What I found recently, thanks to Facebook no less, is this video. Check it out:


(Video posted by David Shenk, who does a fantastic job simplifying this devastating disease.)

I'm not actively going to work on this story (as I promised I wouldn't a few days ago) since I'm on my break. But when I find small tidbits like this video, I get excited again about the possibility of finishing another story. That excitement is a good feeling when you're staring at over a half a foot of snow.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Heart and Mind

There are days you run across a saying and find yourself nodding your head in agreement. This is one of those days. (You can find the picture below over here.)