Thursday, October 15, 2015


: characterized by malformation

 Over the past fifteen years, my body has continually betrayed me.  Whether I gain or lose weight, for example, my buddha belly is always present. And for about a year now, I've been plagued with plaque psoriasis, for which I am currently undergoing phototherapy.  And so, over the years, I've begun to obsess about those parts of my body nearly to the point of developing an actual disorder (no, it's not clinical, thank goodness).  And it sort of snuck up on me, or I simply wasn't consciously aware of how bad it had become until a well-intentioned colleague took the lead in a little photo project in our department.

We'll have a bulletin board in the office, she said. With everyone's photo and name, so that our students -- not to mention our new faculty in an ever-growing department -- will know exactly who is who. And I ignored it, and ignored it, for months.  Good fucking god, the last thing I wanted to think about was a photo of myself, complete with buddha belly and red crusty skin lesions. But as the last academic year ended and nothing happened, I thankfully thought it had died an agonizing death ... as it well should. Whew! Dodged that freaking bullet, eh.

But this fall, it reared it's ugly head all over again, with more drive and purpose than before.  The board with photos began to form, with more and more photos added almost daily, it seemed, at least at first. While trying to ignore it, I became more and  more stressed, my though processes moving to foot stomping, fist thumping, what-about-my-rights diatribes within my own head. Then it hit a lull, and I hoped the faculty person had ended her push for photos and the board would stand as-is.

But then I was blindsided one afternoon as I walked near the board, with the colleague pressuring me about my photo, and in front of whomever might be in the front office area. You'd think a psychologist would know that publicly embarrassing an introvert might not be the best idea, I thought -- knowing full well that I had never mentioned my introverted nature to said colleague. So I went out on a limb, stepped close to her, and admitted that I suffered from body dysmorphia, assuming that this would be all a psychologist would need to know. Surely that would stop this process, she would understand, and there'd be no photo.

Instead, there was a seemingly complete lack of understanding, and my name was actually publicly mentioned at a faculty meeting as one who still lacked a photo. And so, yesterday afternoon, I gave in to the pressure and allowed her to take some photos of me with her phone.  It quickly became clear that I wasn't the only one who didn't think I was particularly photogenic (I'm the least photogenic person I've ever met), as she checked the photos, then tried to advise me on posing for the camera (put your hand on your hip, stand sideways, smile bigger), took a few more, then scrolled through them with a sort of frowny, concerned look. She knows as well as I do that there was nothing usable in what she shot, but she didn't want to say anything. So know I have no idea what will show up on that bulletin board; I only know that I'll have to walk by it every. fucking. day.


I used to love to write. That's probably fairly obvious, given that I've had 2+ blogs over the years, plus Facebook, Twitter, et al.  Yet I've allowed this blog to go defunct for a few years.  Loving to write doesn't always equate with time to write.  And loving to write can change when faced with "have to" write i.e. publish or perish.  When your job depends upon writing for publication, whether you want to write or not, it affects both your available time, and your desire, for writing for fun.

But I have become frustrated, stymied, and word constipated over the past few years, so from the ashes of my long dead blog, the phoenix shall rise.  And I can only hope that I still have a few words left in me after the travesty of publish or perish.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

ringing in the new, grandma times two!

I can't believe it's been a month since I posted something. Things are always crazy at the end of the semester, and this last one was no exception.

I'm still grading a dozen or so short papers from last semester. Those students are in internships and received temporary INC grades to finish their hours in the agency, so I put off reading the rest of their work, but now I have to get to it. Ugh.

And I seriously have to finish my syllabi -- at this point, they are only about half done. And I only just ordered the textbooks yesterday, so I have no idea if they'll be here for the first day of class.

My academic program coordinator is out of the country for the next week and a half, and I've been given the honor of signing on her behalf while she's gone. I love that she came to me instead of the other junior prof who just got tenure. She clearly trusts me more with making decisions about overtallying courses (in our dept., individual profs don't make that choice -- the dept is trying to avoid enrollment creep) and changes of majors, and even meeting with another college about developing an articulation. And I don't even have tenure yet!

My new year started with me spending a whole week with my son, grandson, daughter-in-law, and step-grandson -- and my rugrat, of course. I met the in-laws, we did lunch with my mother, and we had three friends (we've known them for 30 years but haven't seen them for several) come for coffee. I can't begin to describe how lovely the visit was, and how incredible my grandson is. I have lots of photos on the face place, so come check them out. And an announcement: grandbaby number two is in development and will arrive next summer!

It's funny, but I've never liked crowds, or even small groups of people, for long periods of time. As an adult, I've never lived with more than my two rugrats. But I enjoyed the full house (albeit a rather large house at 3100 sf), and my little apt seemed rather lonely when I got back. My first day back I spent at the movie theatre rather than at home alone. But I think I'm back to normal now. I'll leave you with a photo of my son's backyard; beyond the fence is county land and the little spokane river. Gorgeous!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

along the cherry lane

The music played at the laundromat I go to is eclectic. Today, for example, I heard Puff the Magic Dragon, followed by Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, followed by Bohemian Rhapsody, followed by an old version of Ray Charles' I Can't Stop Loving You. Hence the post title.

I went sailing again yesterday. I enjoyed it, but the dynamics were different, because the other "crew" and the instructor were different -- and there were more "crew." I didn't get the level of hands-on this time, and the instructor -- while good enough -- wasn't so much instructive as just giving everyone a chance at the tiller. Which isn't really sailing, if you know anything about it.

I'm really going to have to try to save up money to take some serious, and private, lessons to satisfy my desire to learn. I really do like being out there on the water. This sailing thing can be murder on the body, though. I am sporting a huge dark blue/purple bruise over the entire middle of my back left thigh that is sure to cause questions at the pool Wednesday. I got it when I was up helping with the larger front sail, and we hit a wake. It tossed me down on a spot with some metal brackets that hit me squarely at the back of my leg. And I didn't want anyone to see I'd been hurt, so I sucked it up and just gave a surreptitious rub when no one was looking. And the calf muscle on the same leg is very tender from stretching to brace my freakishly short legs on the opposite side of the boat when we were heeling.

The crew were two tourists from Italy who were in the city for a few weeks. They were pleasant, and nice to talk to. The other was a man who had moved to NYC with his wife about three months ago. I spoke with him for a couple of minutes when he was sitting next to me. He and his wife came here to teach at NYU and live in faculty housing, so they're getting a hell of a financial break on living expenses. Believe it or not, he is an astrophysicist; his wife is a legal instructor (instructor in higher ed lingo means she either she's in a non-tenure track position, or she doesn't possess the terminal degree necessary to be an assistant professor).

If you are familiar with higher ed hierarchy, you know that teaching at the ivy leagues are considered top of the line. Then (in general -- there are a few exceptions) come other private universities, public universities, and then community colleges (yes, I'm leaving out proprietary colleges). Those of us teaching at CCs are widely disregarded (and very often viewed with outright disdain) by those in the upper echelons of higher ed. So of course, when I mentioned I taught at a CC, he did what they all do and turned his attention elsewhere very quickly. I was snubbed, as I knew I would be. But I wouldn't let him get away with it, and I regaled him with exactly what we have to do at our CC for tenure, and that we do it while teaching a 5-4 load (he probably teaches a 2-1 load at NYC). I think I impressed him a bit -- but he still snubbed me.

Speaking about work, I have been chronically behind in grading work and getting it back to the students. I am so tired after the week of teaching, meetings, pool and gym, that I wind up sleeping most of the weekend. I'm getting further and further behind, and then of course I get stressed, because the students need to get regular feedback. The longest I've been at any job is five years, and I'm in my fourth year at this job. Of course, since I'm aiming for tenure, this is supposed to be a long-term job. I knew it going in, and I knew I was taking a risk in whether I could last at a job long-term. I really, really love being in the classroom, but there are parts of this job that are wearing me down, and I'm afraid of not being able to go the distance. And what would I do with myself if I couldn't make it in this?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

‎"10 things I hate about you"...dedicated to Lucille Roberts

I hate...

‎...that you cover every fucking inch of wall space with floor to ceiling mirrors. If I wanted to look at myself, I sure wouldn't want it to be when I'm in workout clothes with sweat dripping from every pore in my skin.

...that you play bubblegum pop crap on the speakers so loudly that I can't use my own mp3 -- 'cause I'd have to turn it up so loud to be heard over your crap that I'd probably blow out my eardrums.

...that you don't keep the water fountain cold enough in an effort to push us to buy your ice cold bottled water.

...that the instructor, when showing the class the 'wimpy' way NOT to do the workout, always looks right. at. me. And then a couple of people giggle.

‎...that someone else always migrates during the class too close to me, and when we wind up bumping, looks at me like it was my fault, then turns to their friend and rolls her eyes. I can tell by where I set down my water bottle and sweat rag that I was moving out of your way, bitch -- not the other way around.

‎...that a fat, white middle aged woman trying to do salsa moves and hip circles when her body wasn't built that way looks 1,000 times dorkier than a fat, brown middle aged woman trying the same moves.

...that I never fail to wear the exact opposite of every single woman in the room -- if I'm in shorts, they all wore long sweats -- if I wear long ones, they are all in shorts. I'm serious -- every single one of them.

‎..that there is seldom another woman as large as me in any given class -- and never anyone larger.

...that I have to go right from class dripping sweat so badly that two inches of hair at the roots is soaked, right down into the sauna that is called a subway tunnel, where I drip even more sweat.

...that I'll be back again next week, 'cause you kick my butt more than I ever could my own.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

tacking and jibing and heeling, oh my!

I spent two hours on the Hudson last Friday, with a sailing instructor and one other passenger. I've never even been a passenger on a sailboat before, yet here I was, manning half the boat. The passenger and I took turns with the front and back sails.

We sailed an 18 foot boat; yes, this one:

After the instructor explained things like the no-go zone, beating, and tacking, I was put in charge of the jib sail and rudder first. We didn't put up the main sail till we'd both had a turn there. We headed up the Hudson, into the wind.

I took my only chance to grab a few photos in the time while my fellow passenger was in control and before the main sail was up.

I was able to snap a few quick photos of the river. Looking west at New Jersey.

Again, at New Jersey.

Looking north to the George Washington Bridge; NJ on the left, NYC on the right.

One more shot looking across at NJ.

And I snapped one quick shot as we headed back down the river on the way to pier 66. This is NYC on the left, NJ on the right, and a very tiny dot at the end is actually the Statue of Liberty.

This was so incredible; I haven't had a better time with complete strangers in my entire life. I have found my calling, and it is sails and water. I'll be back out there again, as soon as I can drum up the bucks.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

flutter the cherry tree till every blossom falls down upon us

You know those moments you have sometimes. When every sound, smell, sight seems as though you have lived it, will live it forever.

And you want the moment to go on and on, but you know it can't. That as you live it, the moment has already changed. But for that split second, life was utter perfection.

I took my time getting ready to go out, didn't focus on dressing up much. I'd picked a place online ahead of time for dinner, and decided to eat before the opera instead of after.

First stop Rosa Mexicano, at 62nd and Columbus, one block away from Lincoln Center. I walked in at 5:30, trying to beat the dinner rush so they wouldn't balk at giving a single person a table for two -- I hate eating at the bar, which is where I often get relegated.

The restaurant was the type of place that didn't list prices online, so I figured I'd be ordering slim, but that was ok with me. I wanted to try a new place, and mexican is my favorite.

I had a nice table by the window with a view of the street and the sidewalk diners. That's one of the unique things about NYC -- most restaurants move tables to the walk as soon as it gets warm, so we can 'fine dine' with a view.

The weather was incredible, 60 today, and sunny. I decided to do something I almost never do, and ordered a drink. One of their specialties -- also something I seldom do. A pomegranate frozen margarita -- a bit tart, but it grew on me as I sipped it throughout dinner.

I ordered my fav meal, carne asada. But oh, how they do it at Rosa's! It's about the taste [I]and[/I] the presentation here. No slapping a huge steak on a plate and piling on beans and rice. The carne was sliced into strips and served on a tasting plate with side tasters, and tiny little corn tortillas the side of my palm.

It was hands down the best meal I've had in NYC so far. After dinner -- at which I took my time and read edgar wallace's the daffodil murder on my ereader -- I declined the dessert menu. I hadn't finished my drink, so the waiter left me alone for a bit. He was cool about giving me plenty of time, despite knowing I was only one person i.e. one sale. Anyway, after a few moments, I decided to go for the dessert after all. I mean, I can always go to the gym tomorrow, right?

So I had the Pingüino, a Mexican chocolate cupcake filled with hazelnut mousse and topped with créme fraiche whipped cream, and served with an espresso- piloncillo- chocolate sauce. Words cannot do this dessert justice, my friends -- it simply can't.

I eventually managed to get myself up and out of the restaurant and across the street to pick up my ticket. I had a half-hour to kill, so I went out to sit at the fountain. It's a popular spot, a picture-taking spot, and sitting in the sun, slightly buzzed from the margarita, very full from dinner, watching people, and reading...that's when I had my moment.

That I-don't-want-it-to-end moment, there with the sun warming my hair, the sounds of people and laughter, the fountain shooting funnels of water in a pattern that builds to a crescendo and earns the applause of the crowd, the smells of the sidewalk vendor's roasted sweet nuts wafting on the breeze. God, I wanted to cry it was so poignant.

And then it was time to find my seat for Mda Butterfly. I was very lucky to be seated in between a couple of friendly, outgoing groups who said hello and were pleasant throughout the evening. And then I was treated to the most incredible evening of the most beautiful voices NYC has to offer.

You can all read about Mda Butterfly if you're not familiar. What I found very interesting is that my first ever Broadway play in NYC years ago was Miss Saigon. Check that story too, but they are similar stories. White dude does young Asian girl wrong, takes the resulting kid, and mom kills herself.

I have to admit there's a bit of the surreal in watching a play about a white American man and a young Japanese girl, being sung in Italian. You know what I mean? But the whole play was lovely, just lovely. Today left me feeling quiet and peaceful, and I don't get enough of that these days.

photo of the fountain at Lincoln Center, and dessert at Rosa Mexicano taken with my cell...apologies for the quality

Friday, April 02, 2010

assessment- the process of assessing the situation

The title is a definition from one of my student's study guides.

Another one:

Termination- the act of terminating or the condition of being terminated. I love it when my students don't have a clue, but try to bullshit their way through it.

I'm heading to my first opera Friday night. I'm seeing the NYC Opera do Madama Butterfly at Lincoln Center. It's the first time I've been to Lincoln Center, too.

I already anticipate that I'll be moved near to tears.

photo from the NYC opera

Friday, March 26, 2010

where trouble melts like lemon drops, high above the chimney tops; that's where you'll find me

I wish I could record all the swishing, dripping, banging, clanging, knocking, thumping, bubbling, whistling, rushing, thundering, and clicking noises that the hot water pipes for our complex -- which happen to run through our basement apartment -- make each night. Then you'd understand why I don't sleep through the night (other than the sinus problems, of course).


12 minute mile + 3 years of no workouts + medical issues = 30 minute mile. Sheesh. Math really does suck.


I heart swimming!!!!

Dudes, I pulled the breast stroke out of my hat Wednesday night... haven't done that one for 30 years. I'd been pissing around with the backstroke and a paddle board, 'cause my breathing was so ragged I didn't trust my face in the h20. But today for the first time I got the breathing under control and spent 35 minutes straight on laps alternating the crawl, backstroke, and breast stroke. I was fucking awesome!!!


Dear Whole Foods: broccoli and shrimp do not belong on a pizza. That is all.


My guilty pleasure (the mindless People mag) + another guilty pleasure (Haagen-Dazs chocolate/peanut butter--dude, it's not even fro-yo) + George Lopez on the telly?



Walking up 8th Ave on a mild march evening, from the kmart at 34th to the modell's on 42nd (after a full day of work, an incredible workOUT, and an evening of student advising for which two whole students showed up), with IZ K serenading me via my ear buds?



Standing on the A platform at 42nd and watching two maintenance men search the tracks with flashlights, find something, reach down with a claw attached to a long pole, pull it up... and hand the cell phone back to the dumbass woman who dropped it on the tracks -- all before the next train came and smashed it to bits?



I'm going to the circus tonight.

And to a wine tasting workshop tomorrow.

I fucking love my life!

photo mine...some funky plant in fort tryon park

Saturday, March 20, 2010

sunny day, chasing the clouds away

I've been posting over on FB about the travesty that is the tax system. I don't have any little rugrats under age, so I'm now single with no extra exemptions. I filled out a W4 last year with one exemption, figuring I'd break even -- wouldn't get anything, but wouldn't pay anything. Apparently, I should have claimed zero fucking exemptions to break even. Which just doesn't make sense. I'm going to owe the feds, the state, and the city this year, and I have no idea how I'll pay.


I saw the super's wife today, and she asked me if I'd lost weight. Whoo hoo! I know it's not enough to be noticeable, especially for people who see me every day. But she hadn't seen me for weeks, so maybe there is a slight visible effect of three weeks of working out.


The landlord came by to collect the rent today. He collects it in person, in cash, each month...I don't mind. He had a welcome surprise -- the preliminary paperwork for the next lease period.

My lease isn't up till May 30, but something may be afoot in NYC. It seems that when the city is short on cash and Mayor Bloomberg can't get it directly from the people, he'll increase taxes to owners of buildings with rent stabilized apartments. Then, he'll allow the owners to charge higher increase percentages for new leases so they can recoup some of that cost.

That means that if he'd waited till May, it's possible that my 6% increase for a two-year lease could have been, say, 8%.

Also, he's maintaining the preferential rent for two years. This means that although my normal rent would be about $1500, the 6% increase will be on my $1175 preferential payment. So, while my rent will go up to $1245 on June 1, I'm assured of keeping the apartment at that rent for two years, regardless of whatever stabilization increases occur.

I also found out that, while I had thought that when an apartment reached a monthly payment of $2000 it ceased to be rent stabilized, I was only partly correct. If the apartment is rented to a new tenant after it hits that mark, then yes, they can charge whatever rent they want -- there is no more stabilization if the owner doesn't want to go that route.

However, if someone is already in the apartment and continues to renew the lease every two years, and if that someone makes less than $250K, the apartment will continue to be rent stabilized. That saves the tenant from freaky, unexpected rent hikes. In general, it goes up 3% for a one-year lease, 6% for a two-year.

Basically, that means I'm safe in my apartment indefinitely. Even if I were to become unemployed, the UE would cover the rent so I wouldn't be homeless.


Winter's OVER, dudes! It was so nice outside today I went out in just a short-sleeve shirt and a not-too-heavy hoodie. I had to take off the hoodie! The sun was shining to beat the band. I'd planned on going in to the office so I could workout/swim and then do a little work, but I decided I wanted to be outside instead. I swear I think I've got SAD from being cooped up in this basement apartment all winter.

So, I decided to run a bunch of errands today, and to walk as much of it as I could -- exercise, sunshine, and getting things done, hey! I started with a quick trip around the corner and a block north to the post office, to mail some more tax forms to the rugrat in Florida. She doesn't have access to a printer where she is.

Then I needed to go up to 181st and Broadway to have my cell checked out by a sprint repair shop, so I walked up there from 191st and Broadway. I say up 'cause there's a definite uphill -- which is good for a walking workout -- but really it's south.

I walked past the funeral home at 189th, right across the street from a big apartment complex. Past PS 46 between 187th and 185th, across the street from the Key Foods and the BP gas/Dunkin' Donuts.

Past the Staples at 185th. Past the 34th police precinct between 184th and 183rd, across from the Social Security Admin building. And to 181st, with the New York and Company store across the street from the McDonald's.

Unfortunately, the response from the repair shop was to go to a main Sprint store, where they could do the work immediately, and where they had a replacement phone in stock if I needed it. The nearest Sprint store was at Marble Hill (225th). It's down the street from the Target and I needed a few necessities, so I decided to go for it.

So I walked back down (north) Broadway, stopping at Key Foods to pick up some produce and a couple of necessities like ketchup. Hey, I don't care how much sugar it has in it, a person can't function without ketchup in the house.

Spinach and romaine, those little peeled baby carrots (they're sweeter than the big carrots), onions, cucumber, and a couple more of those really yummy sweet potatoes. And not a single goodie -- not one!

I carried those the rest of the way home, unpacked and put away what needed to be refrigerated, and headed back out for the Sprint store and Target.

This time I walked a block north and turned northeast on Nagle Ave. It's about four blocks to the 1 subway. We're smack in between two stops on the 1, at 190th and at Dykman. The route to the 190th stop is mostly underground, so we use that when the weather sucks. Otherwise, I walk up Nagle. Well, this time, let's just say I sort of strutted up Nagle. I was in such a good mood with the sun, and with the weight comment from the super's wife. My feet felt very light today.

Nagle is 'the hood' for sure. The streets are lined with locally owned shops -- everything from pizza, chinese, chicken, spanish foods; beauty and barber shops; a grade school; small medical/dental clinics; small bodegas; western unions. And 80% of the signage is in spanish. People (more men than women) bring lawn chairs down from their apartments and hang out on the sidewalk, and guys work on cars parked along the street.

I hopped on the 1, which was above ground at that point, so I was still enjoying the sunshine. I stood for the three stops, got off, and left my cell at the Sprint store for an hour.

I walked by the Lane Bryant on my way to Target, and saw a sweater in the window that I really liked, so I had to stop in and check it out. I tried on a few things, and wound up with two spring-y sweaters that are good for casual professional work attire.

Then on to Target, where I mostly picked up necessities, but also found a handbag on sale. And I did not get soda or candy or munchies. But I did pick up a pint of ben & jerry's froyo. What can I say?

Back to the Sprint store an hour and a half later, only to discover I hadn't given them my pin code to unlock the phone.

-- Insert homer simpson doh! moment here --

So I waited around another fifteen minutes while they did their thing. They fixed it so I can get online, supposedly fixed the problem with freezing and the phone shutting off on its own, and installed a new battery. We'll see if that works.

Then I used said online service to find the nearest Supercuts. Spring was in the air, and a haircut was as well. So back to the 1, and back down Nagle to take home the packages from Target.

I decided to go the other direction back to the 1, and picked it up at 190th, riding it down to 103rd, walking a block to 102nd and Broadway to the Supercuts. Where I took a deep breath and had the stylist cut off most of my hair. Not only can't I pull it back into a ponytail or clip, I can barely tuck the front behind my ears anymore. I'm trying to get used to it. I think once I shower and style it in the AM, I'll like it.

Now, back on the 1, I decided to get off again at 181st, walk the two blocks to Broadway, and walk home one last time back down Broadway. Along the way, yes...I hit up the mickie d's. After all that walking, I figured I'd burn most of it off.

My mp3 battery had gone dead just as I reached Supercuts, but I didn't mind. It was nice to walk down the street and hear the multiple languages being spoken, the occasional car driving by with reggaeton blasting, windows open.

It was, in a word: NYC. My NYC.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

for goodness' sakes, look at those cakes!

I don't know how anyone could workout without James Brown. He's my constant companion when I'm sweating and hurting on the elliptical or treadmill. When I think my shins and knees will quite simply stop functioning on me, leaving me screaming in agony and rolling around on the ground.


Shopping at Costco is a very different experience in Manhattan. First, one must be sure you're wearing very comfortable clothes and shoes, as this will take some time. Your handbag must be something small (just the necessities ladies) and have a shoulder strap that goes across your body, leaving your hands and arms completely free -- and your metro pass easily at hand.

Because Costco is on the upper east side, and you live on the upper west side, it will be a bit of a trick to get there -- because you sure as heck aren't going to pay a taxi. So, you'll walk a couple of blocks to the subway, where you'll take the 'A' from 190 to 125, the 'C' from 125 to 116, and the 'M116' (that's a bus, for you non-nycers) from west 116th to east 116th, and walk a couple more blocks to Costco. You'll repeat the process home, but with heavy bags.

Now, you can't shop like you used to at the Costco in Yonkers. You won't have your car to pull the cart up to and load full of crap you think you might need over the next six months. No, you'll have to seriously consider every little purchase, asking yourself if you can carry it home.

After shopping and checking out, you'll take your cart outside and unpackage some things so they'll fit in the three elizabeth haub reusable grocery bags you've brought along. When you pick up the three bags and begin the walk back to the bus stop, you realize you've underestimated the total weight of your purchases. Badly.

When you finally arrive back home (four hours after you left), you discover that the total weight of your bags (of course you weight them!) was 55.5 pounds. The next day, your neck, shoulders, and back are...well, you won't be doing the weight machines in your workout for a few days.

And you didn't get nearly everything you wanted to get, which means you'll have to go back again in a couple of weeks. Why not use a wheeled cart like you do for regular grocery store trips? Because it won't fit on a bus filled with people.


I'm still struck sometimes, in moments of reflection and introspection, with the fact that I'm 50. It seems so earth-shattering. And those little panic attacks I get, when I fixate on no longer existing at some point, are getting more frequent.


I miss my son, over there clear across the country. I haven't seen him for four or five years now. And I haven't yet seen my grandson, and probably won't till my son is able to get a home of their own. He's currently living with his in-laws, while he sells his house across the state. I keep having dreams about them, he's usually a child, and I have lost him somewhere and can't find him. I often still wonder why I moved so far away.


photo mine, the last cup of mexican chocolate I made before my cocomotion machine went belly up

Friday, March 05, 2010

girls, girls, girls

Not a typical post title for me, since I'm not into girls at all. But I went to see a play tonight, and the actors were from the Queen's Company, billed as NYC's all-female classical theatre company. Can I just say they are fucking incredible?! What talent! And apparently, many of the cast appear without monetary compensation.

The play I saw was The Wonder, something originally circa 1700s England -- old language, quick wit, humour you have to think about -- with some hilarious 21st century tweaks.

I absolutely, positively, haven't had that much fun in a very, very long time. I'm seriously considering buying another ticket to see it again before its run ends.

Screw Broadway, dudes, off-off-Broadway is where it's at!

On another completely unrelated note, I worked out again today despite a full day at work and the play after; I wedged it in between the two.

This is day four, two in the pool, two in the gym (treadmill & weights). I like the pool better; since it's lower impact, I can get my heart rate up higher painlessly. The treadmill & elliptical cause some serious shin and knee pain.

I seem to be down a couple of pounds, but it's early. One more week, and I'll pull out the tape measure. As the doc says, the waist is more important than the weight.

Still running out of time grading student work. I had planned to put aside one day a week this semester for the MFD 'cause I have a course release to do research, but damn...I don't know where the time goes every freakin' weekend. I'm working on it, but it's so constantly overwhelming.

And ironically, the stress/pressure/too much to do is about all the things one has to do to ultimately get tenure in addition to teaching. All the extra work is keeping me from the MFD, and yet of course I won't get tenure without the MFD completed.

As David Bowie said in Labyrinth, "I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me."

(photo from the queen's company website)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

shows we ain't gonna take it, shows we ain't gonna stand shit

Most women would lose a few pounds before going swimsuit shopping. It makes sense; most of us don't want to be showing our 'wobbly bits,' as a former blogger I liked would say.

But when you decide, based on feedback from your doc, encouragement from a few students and your office mate, to use swimming as the exercise of choice to lose the weight -- it's the most non-impact and safe for iffy joints -- it means that you have to go swimsuit shopping while. you're. fat.

Hey, when your office mate offers to be your workout partner for four nights a week -- two swimming, two gym -- and she has been running in the morning for the past eight years so you know she's dedicated and will keep you honest, you sort of jump at the opportunity. Right?

So you schedule a Thursday after work to go swimsuit shopping, only to be hit by a major snowstorm. Only you won't let that stop you...oh no, a little snowstorm won't get in the way of next Monday's swim.

So you trod through slushy snow and icy temps to penn station, and hit the only two stores in the area that might have suits that fit: Lane Bryant, and Macy's. You walk two blocks to Lane Bryant first, only to find that they won't be carrying suits in that particular store, just online. The closest store to carry suits will be in Brooklyn.

Hello? Buying a swimsuit ONLINE???!!! You'd have to have a good $1500 handy to order a dozen of them to try, or try one or two at a time -- which would take you six months to find a fucking suit that fit.

So on you trudge, back out in the treacherous, slippery, wet cold, back a block to Macy's (did you know you use entirely different muscles to stay on your feet in slippery circumstances, than you do for regular'll be very sore later on). Their directory says plus sized swimsuits on 5, so you go there. No suits at all. So you try 7, where the other plus clothes are. Nothing. You finally ask someone. Have you tried 8, the salesclerk says. That's where everything was moved to from 5.

Sure, that makes sense -- not. But up you go to 8, and there you are greeted by a fairly large selection of suits. You walk through the lot, but don't see any plus sizes. So you ask the salesclerk, who says the plus sized suits haven't been delivered yet.

And of course that makes perfect sense. Because as you well know, the designers, the retailers, and half the world are not-so-subtly telling you that they don't want you fatsos even trying on swimsuits, let alone actually wearing them in public. They wouldn't be able to handle the trauma of not being able to take their eyes away from the train wreck of you in a swimsuit with all those wobbly bits actually wobbling.

So you walk through the suits, over and over, pulling anything off the racks that might come close to fitting you, and you take the first dozen into a fitting room. The clerk in the fitting room is quite nice, so your experience isn't horrible in that respect. But let's just say that everything you try is an exercise of its own -- an exercise in futility.

And you're not even looking, at this point, for anything pretty or that makes you feel good about yourself. No, you just want something that fits, something simple, and something on the modest side. Modest, because you'll be exercising in the university pool, and you wouldn't want to be embarrassed all to hell if you ran into a student, or god forbid, the college president.

So you go out to pick through the racks again, willing to try two-piece tankini sets and swimskirts and things, as long as you're covered. And you try one more time in the dressing room. And the very. last. thing. that you try on, actually fits. It fits! Nearly three hours and two dozen suits later, you hit paydirt.

And while it doesn't make you look lovely, it doesn't completely embarrass you either. It's not so tight that anything hangs over the edges. And if you adjust the straps in the front, it'll keep the top up to a modest coverage in the chestal area.

Talk about a miracle on 34th street!!!!!!!! Sure, it mashes your boobs down which emphasizes your huge tummy even more, but you're willing to deal with that. Really, you are. It fits!

And then you look at the tag and discover it's a designer suit: Calvin Klein, of all people. And it's a whopping $112. So you go up to the cash register to use your Macy's card, and it's denied. Apparently the payment you made online two days ago hasn't posted to your account yet. So you have to pay with your debit card.

And so, you do what any reasonable woman would do after such a traumatic evening. You pay for the suit, and then you find yourself just a little bit of some really good chocolate. And you find your guilty pleasure: a People mag.

After a stop at Modell's for a swim cap (required in the pool) and goggles (a necessity for a contact lens wearer), a subway ride, and a brief walk, you arrive home soaked from toes to knees, frozen, and exhausted.

A quick dinner of leftovers, and you plop on the sofa with the portable heater and a blanket, your chocolate, and the People mag, to watch the finals of the women's figure skating in Vancouver. But because the stupid station has split up all the sports, you'll need the crossword puzzle in the mag, and the chocolate, to keep you occupied when the station goes to something totally lame like curling.


You know there's a special place in hell for swimsuit designers. One where they all get fat. And then have to wear their own designs.

photo is the actual suit, but of course picturing it on the model won't help you visualize it on me, now will it?

Friday, February 12, 2010

open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind, in this darkness which you know you cannot fight

I’m still coming down from the high of Phantom on Broadway. There’s just nothing quite like seeing it in person, even from the cheap seats. I treated myself tonight, for my birthday. Treated myself to a little magic.

I started the evening with dinner; I had a brief window of opportunity between work and Phantom, so I chose a place in Times Square that I’d wanted to go to but hadn’t been yet. Bubba Gump’s was right around the corner from the Majestic, where Phantom was playing. I sat at the bar, as single diners tend to do, and had – what else – the shrimp. Crab stuffed, to be exact. It was just ok, but nothing to write home about.

While I was eating, the table behind me had one of those birthday things where the waitstaff sing to the customer. It seems someone was turning 21. I wanted to shout ‘hey, it’s my birthday too! And it’s another milestone, just like 21.’ In fact, I felt like saying ‘it’s my birthday’ everywhere I went tonight, but resisted the urge – seeing that I’m totally non-exhibitionist.

A show isn’t absolutely perfect unless it ends with a tear in my eye…and it did. But then, I went expecting that it would, and so I wasn’t disappointed. Of course, I have the soundtrack on my Zen, so I listened to my two favourite songs all the way home. Yes, that would be Phantom and Music of the Night. Aren’t those everyone’s favourite songs? Hell, I would have watched the movie version when I got home if I’d had it.

I felt so great leaving the theatre, despite the strong realization that I was, in fact, alone on the evening before my birthday. I went to dinner alone, the theatre alone, and home alone. And yet, I realized that until I got home, I wasn’t really alone. I was surrounded by people.

I was happy despite the tear in my eye, content, excited, enjoying myself. I moved to the music while waiting for the subway, and even stood all the way home on the subway, playing those two songs over and over. Yep, eleven at night, and the woman who grumbles when she can’t sit and sleep on the train refused to sit even though there were open seats. I stood, and silently sang along with the songs, keeping my good mood going. I may have looked like a crazy bag lady, but I was feeling fine.

The Majestic Theatre is a few doors down from a branch of NYC’s very own Junior’s. I figured I owed myself a little treat, but you would have been proud of me. I didn’t go hog wild and bring home a whole cheesecake, much as I wanted to. I picked up two little items, as seen in the photo: a chocolate ambrosia, and a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing. I ate half of each when I got home, and am saving the other halves for tomorrow. They were heaven, absolute heaven.

I didn’t want the evening to end. It was early, by NYC standards, only 11 when I hopped on the train. I would have hung out in the Square for an hour, but it was so bitterly cold, windy, snow still filling the gutters. But I need to do this more. Get out, among people, instead of shutting myself up alone in my apartment for three days a week. Do things, fun things. Things that make me happy, that make me feel like I’m part of…the world. Things that make me feel like I’m alive.

Happy birthday to me!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements?

Even if it leads nowhere...

Although classes began last Thursday, this was the first full week of classes for the semester. Hence, the word crazy could be used to describe the goings-on. Last minute syllabi, overtallied courses, not enough desks, nervous students in 101, more savvy students in the upper level courses.

An example of the hilarity: Last night, student A came to me after class to lodge a complaint about Student B, who apparently sat next to Student A. According to Student A, Student B "farted constantly, slept through the whole class, and smelled like booze." Student B, incidentally, had missed the first day of class completely. Of course, Student B slipped out while I was speaking with other students, but I don't think I would have confronted him/her anyway. Everyone gets one chance. But if it happens again, there will be a discussion -- no one shows up drunk or hungover for my classes.

I stayed late at work today, mostly because I wasn't paying attention. I didn't have my watch today, because of something that happened earlier that had me frazzled. Anyway, I was hard at work and looked up at the time on the computer and it was 8:30! So I packed it in, and then spur of the moment decided to pop into a classroom where a fellow prof, a part-time adjunct, had just finished class, and chatted with him for about an hour. While we were in the classroom, the mice came out to play -- literally. And I teach in that classroom too...shudders.

Today I spent the morning at home instead of work because I was waiting for a fedex delivery. It turned out to be a really good decision, because there was a minor disaster just as I was getting ready to leave. The elderly woman above me had apparently turned on her kitchen faucet and then forgotten about it. I noticed when it started raining water from my bathroom ceiling, literally as I was walking out the door.

So being there meant I could call the super. Of course, he was at work, but his wife came over, saw the mess, and went upstairs to find out what happened. I was able to put down heavy towels, put the roaster pan under the remaining drips, and unplug all the appliances. All seemed well, but when I got home, I turned on the bathroom light and noticed it seemed 'off' somehow. It was more yellow, and not as bright as it should be. I checked the light, and saw a drip or two of water coming down, so I thought I'd take off the light fixture and check it out.

Whoa, baby! As I unscrewed the screws holding up the upside-down glass bowl fixture, hot hot hot water began to spill out. The fixture had filled up completely with water earlier in the day, and when I turned on the light, the heat nearly boiled the water. Of course I'm scared now, as there is white foam all over the wires and the ceiling, so I'll have to have the super check it out tomorrow.

So, no surprise that I blew it and bought something bad for dinner. It was late, it'd been a rough day/week, and I felt like I'd been doing really well with my food plan for the last couple of weeks. I picked up a pepperoni roll on the way home, walking in the front door about 10:30.

And I'm beat.

And very glad I get to sleep in tomorrow.

photo mine, from the ziplining ecosafari...this is one of the aerial bridges we zipped can still see the holiday lights hanging, from their holiday evening zipping tours

Monday, January 18, 2010

you're still a young man baby; don't waste your time

It's been a rough two+ weeks without the laptop. It's meant going in to use the work computer to get things done. That wouldn't have been so bad, if I hadn't still had that cold. Happily though, after 18 days of feeling like crap, I'm down to just some stuffy sinuses and an occasional cough -- which is pretty much status quo for me. Friday the tech came and set up the new hard drive, and I've spent some time over the weekend reinstalling all the software.

I'm still behind work-wise; in fact, I still haven't finished updating my syllabi for the new semester. I'm last-minute trying to write a letter of reference for a student who is graduating in the spring. And need to do some more grading for the internship students who have incompletes for fall...they need to be finished with their work by next week so they can start the second semester.

This last week I had another visit with the doc. I've been trying to eat better, and my bloodwork did show a drop in glucose, cholesterol, etc from last August. NOt where it needs to be, but on the way. I've only done Taco Bell and Papa John's once each this month, which is awesome for me. But I still have so far to go. He gave me a lecture about the exercise, which I haven't been working on at all. So, now I have to get my butt in gear there I have nothing else to do with my time, grumble grumble.

I took the train upstate on Saturday and had a lovely dinner with "Wistful" and her soon-to-be husband. We had a great time catching up on things.

Yesterday was a cold rainy day, but I was going stir crazy and went to the movies. I did a triple tear-jerker: Invictus, Lovely Bones, and Blind Side. I popped into the Dallas BBQ next door afterward to get something to take home, and as I was sitting and waiting, a Journey song -- Don't Stop Believing -- came on their music system.

The two young customers and the employee sitting on the bench next to me recognized the song from commercials and were commenting about liking it. I said that I had seen the group in concert in 1980 -- which pretty much blew them all away. Hell, it was probably before the two younger ones were even born. And as I was thinking about it, it hit me -- that was 30 freaking years ago.

I'm having a much harder time over this impending 50th birthday than I thought I would. And when things come up in discussions like that, it hits hard. There's a whole angst thing going on that's driving me crazy. Ah, well...this too shall pass, I suppose.

Friday, January 01, 2010

helicopters and airboats and ziplines, oh my!

I came home from my vacation with a head cold, a crashed laptop (working in safe mode), and massive paperwork that I am woefully behind in completing. But the time there was freaking awesome, despite the unusual cold weather. I decided to combine a big 5-0 'thing' with my vacation, and do some things that I've wanted to do, considered, or were very afraid to do.

We stayed in a great resort hotel, thanks to Try them, I'm serious -- 50 bucks/night for this.

First, the rugrat treated me to Medieval Times for christmas dinner; it's a dinner theatre, and we had terrific food and some nicely performed knight competitions.

The next day, we took a helicopter tour of International Drive. I have some great aerial shots of the parks, and our hotel. This, for example, is Aquatica Park near Sea World and our hotel.

The next day, we went an hour south of Orlando to the Boggy Creek area, which apparently feeds into the everglades further south. We had a one-hour private tour of the area on a small airboat. While we didn't see any alligators (too cold) we saw bald eagles, blue herons, and several endangered waterfowl. It was terrific.

The next day we went a little further south of Orlando (1.5 miles) to a eco-safari location. It boasts something along the lines of 30,000 acres of well preserved land. We spent the morning on a one-hour private horseback tour, and the afternoon ziplining -- yes, ziplining! -- through the trees. The course included 7 ziplines (highest 55 ft., the longest 700 ft) and two aerial zip bridges. I was terrified with the first two, but learned to love it, and even learned to 'steer.' I'm looking for a ziplining place closer to home for the future. What a rush!

Of course, we had to do one of the parks, and with my motion sickness problems, the sedate Universal Studios it was. We stood in line, did a ride; stood in line, did a ride; stood in line, did a ride. Ate lunch. Stood in line, did a ride; stood in line, did a ride. Had a snack. Stood in line, did a ride. Shopped. Had dinner. Went back to the hotel exhausted.

And what trip would be complete without some shopping? We aren't into expensive designer outlets; our favorite store is Ross Dress for Less, but there aren't any in the NYC area. So of course we had to hit Ross. Then we also made a quick trip to Supercuts for trims, ate, etc.

Aside from the laptop crash that has me behind schedule, and the head cold, I'm a very happy camper right now.

More photos are coming as soon as the laptop issue is resolved.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

it's a long way down the holiday road

Three courses down (final grades submitted to registrar) and one to go. I'll read most of the material tonight, but I'll have to run into the office tomorrow afternoon to pick up a few last-minute submissions in that class.

Then some cleaning around the apartment, laundry, and packing tomorrow night, and on the train Thursday AM for Florida. All I can say is the sun had better shine, shine, shine while I'm there. I might also get a chance to touch base with friend Pooh, who moved back down there the first of the year.

I've railroaded myself into a corner though, in terms of vacation time. I jumped at the chance to serve again as a peer reviewer for the Corporation for National and Community Service grant cycle. I have nine -- yes, nine -- grants to review and complete an individual reviewer sheet with my notes. The grants are shorter than typical, as these are additional, short-term grant projects, but I have to have the reading and reviews done by the first of January.

This means that I either read them all in a marathon session on the train -- which was supposed to be my relax and catch up on sleep time -- or do a couple each evening while in Florida, after fun in the sun.

Either way, I did it to myself. Why? Two reasons. First, I'm not one to turn down a $700 stipend for work I usually find enjoyable. Second, I'm always concerned that I'm not doing enough for tenure, and this looks good under professional activities.

Back to reading/grading for now. And probably some Ben and Jerry's.

photo mine, a typical stack of student papers on any given weekend

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

when the working day is done

I have

--two more finals to give,
--four sets of final exams to grade,
--one more set of final papers to grade,
--an all-day conference on human trafficking,
--prep/orientation for CNCS grant proposal peer reviews,
--grades/attendance to submit for four classes,
--a department holiday party,
--a another office holiday party,
--a little christmas shopping, and
--at least six individual student meetings

all by the 23rd.

The $64,000 question is will I be physically capable of taking that vacation on the 24th.

'Cause I really just wanna have fun!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I think it's funny as hell

That Oprah, Obama, and Michelle colour-coordinated their outfits for the big interview.

And Obama is still damn nice on the eyes. Yep.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

shameless product plugging

I don't have to go to the local laundromat weekly, thanks to a couple of handy-dandy products. It's a bit of a hassle to find a time to go that fits my schedule, is when they are open (they close early evening), and when they aren't horribly overcrowded.

So now I wash my clothes with this little item:

I can fit a work week of blouses in one load, two pair of slacks in another, etc. I do a half-dozen small loads, and my work clothes are done. Put them in, fill with H2O from the bathtub faucet, agitate for 5 - 6 minutes, pour out wash water, fill with rinse water, add fabric softener, agitate again, pour out water.

Then I put the load into this lovely little helper:

This thing spins clothes much dryer than the laundromat washer manages to do. After this, I hang the clothes up and they are dry in a couple of hours max. Between the two, I only have to go to the laundromat once a month or so to do towels and sheets. Everything else can be done at home in the evenings. It works very well to do the laundry while cleaning the apartment -- I intersperse dishes, vacuuming, dusting with loads of clothes, and it breaks up the monotony of doing one thing for too long.

And if I need something to dry more quickly, I have this:

It hangs over the door and funnels hot air into an enclosed square of fabric. Today I washed a sweatshirt-type hoody, and I used this to dry it so that it would still be soft, not slightly stiff like some heavier fabrics come out when hung dry. It only took about 45 minutes to dry it completely.

It sure beats packing all my stuff into a wheeled cart, dragging it to the laundromat, and fighting for available washers and dryers.

Monkeys made of gingerbread and sugar horses painted red

As any professor will tell you, the week before finals is not-so-affectionately called 'dead week' for a reason. Zombie madness. The brain is mush. Excuses and begging abound as students realize the end of the semester is here. Tempers are short as faculty field requests for leniency from students.

I was happy to have an evening off from the madness, thanks to a fellow blogger who shared a ticket to this event at Carnegie Hall on Wednesday this week. It was a lovely concert, and I had not been to Carnegie Hall yet, which added to the fun.

But the next morning, it was back to trying to finish reading final papers and create final exams and grade final exams and finish committee work and write letters of recommendation so that I can have an actual freaking vacation for the first time in years -- which of course is frying my brain.

My last final is on the 21st; as long as I have the other three classes done and grades input before that, I should be ok. I can complete the work related to that last course on the 22nd; wash clothes, clean the apt, and pack on the 23rd; and be off on the 24th.

But in addition to that, I am again serving as a peer reviewer for grant proposals to the Corporation for National and Community Service. They are running a special review for summer 2010 projects, and the review begins December 18. So there are conference calls to listen in to at the same time as finals.

And while I get to leave for an actual vacation to Florida on the 24th, I'll be taking probably five grant proposals with me to review over the week (I do have to pay for the darned vacay after all, and the peer review comes with a $700 stipend -- plus I enjoy doing something different from teaching that's still professional). When I get back the first week of January, the team I'm assigned to will do conference calls to come to a consensus on how to rate the proposals under our review.

There are also two all-day conferences, one on December 18 related to human trafficking at Safe Horizons, one on January 7 related to grant writing by the CUNY system.

One saving grace in all this is that for the first time in 30 years of single parenting, I won't have a kid in the house for the holidays -- which means I don't have to bother with holiday decorations. Whooo hooo!

And then hopefully, if it fits with their work schedules, I'll be able to fly to Washington State to see my son -- and for the first time, my new grandson. I really do hope that all works out.

And somehow in all this, I am supposed to get some work done on the MFD*. If you figure out how I can do that, please let me know -- I'm all ears.

I found this very early Bowie album, and love this song. I've been playing it fairly nonstop for days now (I have no idea why the hell there's a cat in the middle of this photo series).

photo mine, taken outside work 10-29-08

*MFD = mother fucking dissertation

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

betcha by golly wow

I uploaded some stylistics recently, and I've been listening today.

I have to be careful about what I post on facebook. I'm linked to work people, including a department chair who is very influential. So, no whining on FB...all smiles, good to go, yessiree bob. Pile it on, I can take it.

I am so fucking mindnumbingly brain dead that I might as well be a a coma. I'm so exhausted that my right eyelid has started twitching -- something that has happened only rarely since the encephalitis, and only when my body has given up the ghost.

I think I've lost all hope of finishing the MFD, which means I won't get tenure when the time comes. I just don't see a way clear to getting the thing done. That means I've got five more years after this one, and then my contract won't be renewed. How the fuck do other people finish their diss while teaching full time anyway?

This semester has been so bad that I'm actually beginning to question my career choice. Just a little bit, but still...the question is beginning to nag at the back of my mind. I still love the actual teaching, but the committee work and focus on research and writing, which I can't even begin to get to, have me spinning my wheels.

I just want it to be over. And yet I don't think it will ever really be over.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Where else can you get the munchies, decide to make a run to the store for chips and donuts, not have to get in your car, not even have to cross the street, and be back home in under ten minutes.

Literally right around the corner, there's a grocery store, a chinese/mexican fast food place, a pharmacy, a hardware store, a nightclub (for the young crowd), a couple of small bodega/deli-types, a laundromat...


(photo is not mine, but these fire hydrants really are around the corner -- they are a bit faded now though)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

precious: yet another movie that doesn't 'get' social workers

Of course, being a social worker, I'm more observant of how the media screws up depictions of social workers.

First, social workers play many roles in the professional world. While most people think of child protection workers when they think of social workers, we can also do clinical work; work in schools; do case management; work in the corrections field; work with kids, elderly, veterans, or people with developmental or physical disabilities; as victim advocates in court systems; as policy analysts/advocates; in the international arena; as agency administrators; as professors (hello!); and the list goes on.

In other words, we aren't just the devil who takes away people's kids (or don't take them away when we should have). In fact, in most cities, to be a child protection worker, you don't have to have a degree in social work specifically -- you can have a bachelor's degree in any helping profession.

So far, I'm aware of only one show that got the social worker role correctly -- for a specific field within social work -- and that would be the series Judging Amy. Amy's mother, played by Tyne Daly, was a social worker in the child protection field, and she played it like it is in the field.

But the movie Precious does it again -- depicts a social worker inaccurately.

First, when a social worker visits the family at home, the movie suggests that it's to keep them eligible for welfare. But then the social worker asks questions that make it appear that she is actually a child protection worker. A welfare financial services worker is a completely different job than a child protection worker. In fact, most welfare financial services workers are not social workers -- that job doesn't require a bachelor's degree.

Then the Mariah Carey-as-social worker role also seems to combine the financial worker with a child protection worker. Precious first goes to see Mariah supposedly to get welfare. Later on, Mariah is facilitating a meeting between Precious and her mother. It doesn't work that way -- as I said, they're two different jobs. If Mariah is a financial worker, she wouldn't be facilitating family meetings. If Mariah is a child protection worker, she might be supervising family meetings, but she would not be determining eligibility for welfare checks. She wouldn't be saying "Okay. Well, I'll see you next time then. Or maybe you'll see someone else. But you're going to have to talk to someone if you want your check, sweetie."

Then, there is the way that Mariah acts during the meeting between Precious and her mother. Most people not in the field will think that she was great -- she supported her client, held the mother accountable, etc. Whoo hoo. The problem is, the methods she used are not appropriate social work methods; she was judgmental, confrontational, interrupted, lost her cool and yelled, and lost control and cried. I assure you, that's not what we teach our students. I'll definitely be using that particular clip as an example of what not to do in my direct skills course.

Does it ever occur to any of these shows/movies that they might want to consult with a local chapter of the NASW to be sure they get it right? Or don't they care if they get it right?

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book, so I don't know if these inacurracies are from the original.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

So, let's start this trip down memory lane with your separation from her mother. She can remember some of that, you know.

She remembers her mother scrambling to find both her shoes -- she was forever losing just one of the pair -- because she was late taking your kids to see you. She remembers her mother saying that since you never wanted to see your kids, she wasn't missing this chance. That if she had to dump the kids on your doorstep, she'd do it.

She remembers her mother taking them by the pizza place where you worked. They stood on the little ledge meant for kids, in front of the window to the kitchen, watching daddy make pizzas.

She doesn't know whether this was before the separation or after, but it seemed that the mother had brought them there to see you -- to remind you that you had kids. Or she was dropping them off at the end of your shift. That memory is a little bit hazy.

But she remembers being fascinated by daddy making pizzas. As if it were rocket science, and you were the most incredible daddy in the world. She could have stood there on that platform, looking in that window at you, forever.

Much later in life, as an adult, her mother let it slip that she'd briefly been in a psych ward in a hospital during that time. That she'd only gotten out because a visitor for someone else turned out to be someone she knew, and that person helped get her released. She doesn't know how accurate that is, because,'s mother, and her stories are always skewed to make her seem the victim.

But one thing that has always puzzled her: the mother hinted that you had played some role in her being in that hospital. In fact, she thinks the only reason the mother told her was because she thought it would make her angry with you for 'doing that terrible thing to her.' She laughed inside, because it confirmed what she'd 'suspicioned' all along.

Of course, this confirms that you must have realized that there was something wrong with the mother. And that begs the question: why, oh why in the bloody hell would you leave your little ones with the mother if you sensed that something wasn't right with her?

She's well aware that in the mid-60's, the mother always got custody of the children. That it was generally accepted that children had to be with their mother. But you could have stayed close, visited them regularly, made sure that they were alright. You could have protected them from the mother's mental illness, and the subsequent abuse.

Instead, you chose not only to leave the area, but to move to Canada. So you wouldn't have to pay child support. Which the mother never let them forget. In her anger over having to support her kids completely on her own, she never failed to find moments to tell the kids just how much you didn't want them.

And from the moment you left, you never looked back. No phone calls. No letters. Never once a birthday card. You left your babies. With a woman who was mentally ill. Never an attempt to find them again.

In fact, she can't figure out how, years later, the mother's second husband was able to legally adopt the kids (and wait till she tells you about him, dear daddy). How was the adoption done legally? Were they unable to find you and the kids were officially deemed 'abandonend'?

Or did they find you, and you signed them away with a pen. Wiped away your name on their birth certificates, and put his there. She can't decide which is worse. But as bad as it is, she thinks she'd prefer it be the former, rather than the latter.

When she was very young, she was sure you'd come back for them. Later, it became her regular fantasy -- daddy would find his kids and take them away with him. Only you never did. Her later fantasy was that she was completely adopted, or switched at birth, and her real parents would come and save her one day. That second fantasy got her through lot, dear daddy -- a hell of a lot.

And if she's really being honest, a part of her still wishes she'd been switched at birth. She'd rather believe her real parents don't realize they don't have her, than to believe that one of her parents didn't want her, and the other one resented her.

There's more, so much more, dear daddy, but no time right now. She'll be writing again, soon, with more memories...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

letters to an erstwhile father

Dear Daddy,

Do you mind if she calls you that? It is, after all, what she called you in the beginning. You were Daddy then. Before you left. The next time she saw you, she didn't feel comfortable calling you anything. Calling you by your given name didn't seem right. Neither did Daddy. Or even Dad. 'Cause you weren't either of those at that point. But they were all about appearances in their family -- and she uses the term family loosely. Very loosely. Or maybe not so much about appearance, but about avoidance. Or about doing what's expected. And so, when she saw you all those years later as an adult, she did what was expected -- she called you Dad.

She's wanted to write this letter for a long time. Or perhaps what she means to say is that she's been thinking forever about all the things she'd like to say but hasn't had the courage. Or things she'd like to ask, but doesn't. Because they don't discuss things in their family. They pretend problems don't exist. Outwardly, at least. Perhaps because they are afraid of the potential answers. But these thoughts have sure as hell been in her head for a long time. Forever. Or since she was big enough for her my pint-sized brain to begin to form them. To wonder. It's time to let them out. To give them wings. To watch them soar. To give her peace.

Have a seat, dear Daddy, and get comfortable. This might take some time...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

sit there, and count your little fingers

God, she was having a hell of a rough night. She tried to chalk it up to hormones, of the menopause variety. And maybe it was. But she was overcome with recurring visions of this memory.

Or perhaps, it was the fact that this was the only memory she could muster in which any affection occurred between her and either parent, that was preying on her psyche. That was making it so very poignant.

Try though she might, she simply couldn't bring to light a single memory that involved either parent holding her, hugging her, or engaging in any other parently type of loving touch.

They must have done it sometime, right? That's what parents do. They hug their kids. They tell them they love them. Right? Sure they do.

So they must have done it, and she just can't remember it. But shouldn't she be able to remember at least one time? Just one? Why would her mind unilaterally block every single memory of any loving gesture?

She'd been lying awake at night for a couple of nights now, tears leaking out the sides of her eyes unchecked. Did the hugs happen and she just can't remember? Or were neither of her parents -- not the mother with the borderline personality disorder, nor the father who left and never looked back -- capable of that kind of normal parenting behavior.

Strangely, she felt as though she were in mourning. Little girl blue.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

to infinity and beyond

I became a grandma last month. And the little guy came a bit early and wound up in the NICU for almost a month. He's home now, though, and gaining weight nicely.

How to put into words the feelings?

The sense of life and continuity, simultaneous with the realization, hitting smack between the eyes, of one's own mortality.

How eerily he looks like my son at that age, even though he's so much tinier.

Wanting like crazy to hold him close, but he's cross country and I can't get away mid-semester.

John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

Monday, September 14, 2009

learning to live all over again

One challenge of this move has been finding a new doctor.

Actually, finding the new doc wasn't a huge was his diagnosis when I finally met him and he ran a bunch of tests that was tough.

I have high blood pressure, and I'm diabetic -- type II. Seems I've likely been this way for years, but by health insurance standards (they look only at specific tests and specific results) I was 'borderline,' or 'pre-diabetic.'

Of course, an actual diabetes diagnosis gets you much more aggressive treatment than 'borderline' does, so I never really took it seriously. Till this doc told me my blood glucose was >500 and the sugar in my urine was so bad that I had a UTI that I hadn't even noticed, and that there was evidence of problems with kidney functioning. After he threw around terms like diabetic coma and future dialysis, I was sufficiently impressed (read: terrified).

So now I'm on avandamet 2/500 twice a day (and micardis hct), and my life is even more chaotic than it used to be. Now I have to figure out how to eat small, healthy meals every few hours instead of the one or two large, totally unhealthy meals I used to do. And I have to try to take my meds twelve hours apart, at the same times every day.

Both of these challenges are proving to be... well... challenging! My work schedule just doesn't allow for small regular meals, or even for taking meds at the same times. And whatever is in that avandamet, damn! If I overeat, or eat really unhealthy stuff, I get very sick.

I know that they say this whole thing is about a lifestyle change, but until you actually have to change a lifestyle that's 20 years in the making, you just don't realize how difficult it is, what a huge impact it has on everyday living.

What to eat becomes a major focus of your day, even more so than it did when you ate fast food. Not too much sugar or other bad carbs, the more refined the worse, veggies and protein are your friends. Except that I hate most veggies, so I keep getting stuck with the same ones till I'm going nuts. Then I blow it and eat something horrible and feel sick all night.

Sigh. I've purchased all kinds of pots and pans and knives and small appliances to make cooking for myself more appetizing than eating out. Little forays into things like sauteeing shrimp and throwing it over angel hair pasta have been good.

Of course, cooking for one adds an additional challenge to the mix. Because of course, I don't like leftovers either, lol, so I don't want to cook too much food.

I've also ordered a special pair of sneakers so that I can exercise -- at least walk -- which I haven't been doing because of pain and numbness in my toes. Oh yeah, that's another symptom of diabetes, for those who don't know. Has to do with circulation. If it doesn't improve, I could lose those toes ten years from now.

But hey, no stress at all.

Chill out...what I'm tryin' to do...

(photo taken at ft. tryon park)