Sunday, December 26, 2010


My sock monkey (center) looks a little overwhelmed, but grateful for the arrival of backup monkeys. Every time one of the kids has had a fever, snotty nose or general misery, they have asked for my monkey. He wants to know why he has to be the "moco" monkey. It sucks to be cute and popular. Simon is reminded of the Utah legislature...
Santa brought Nintendos, with some hesitation. Let the negotiations around screen-time rules begin! Sara already has two written proposals ready to present to us. (Sigh!)

According to Nate, this is an "extra stylist", meaning that he now has "two stylists". Given that, how do you explain his hair?

With Sara around, there is no discussion: it's all reuse, renew, recycle. She will squirrel all of the cardboard away to add to her enormous dollhouse thing, the Mondo Condo. It already has its own section of the basement...

Sara opened this dress from her Nana and pulled a mouth. "WHAT? Are you KIDDING me? You don't like that?!" "Well, it's a little elegant, Mom." "Can I have it?" "Mom, I'm eleven. My clothes don't fit you." "Give it here." It looks cute on me! Of course, on me it is a rather sexy mini dress: with dark stockings and high heels, it will look mah-velous. I'm not afraid of "elegant".

Sara gave Nate this little Lego-guy flashlight. First thing he says is, "Damn! I can't pull his head off."

Brother Charles sent me this, which is the most mysterious gift I have received in some time. A letter my dad wrote to President Nixon in 1973, complaining about the cost of train fares. Hmmm... I will need to call Charles for the back-story on this one. Did Nixon write back? Senator Hatch always responds to my letters, and tells me to get lost.
Sara made me search out a gift via treasure hunt. This one was themed "Mom's Quotable Quotes" The above clue takes us to the pool table...

This takes up to the antique china....

Which takes us back to the Christmas tree.

Uh, is this a quote? "Oh, I got tired of that."
So, what does a good mother do on Christmas? Pick up snippets of ribbon? Call all her loved ones? Finish her Christmas cards (maybe the ones that are still partially done from 2009)? Poke cloves into something? No.

She puts on her long-johns, hangs her pass around her neck and goes skiing. Christmas dinner will get short shrift. Ski Utah.

We're going to experiment with using the insoles from my running shoes in my too-big ski boots. Too-big ski boots are very comfortable...but you can't actually turn your skis, which is a problem.
It worked a trick! Tight enough that I got cramps in my instep, but I just undid my second buckle while we were riding the lifts, to let a little blood to my feet. All the quad-building at the gym paid off. I have also been secretly defying Dr. Perfect and working on my left pec a little. I was getting sick of only being able to pole with my right side. Fine if you just want to go around in a tight little circle...

Here's Nate's action-man pose.
At any rate, a good time was had by all. And when your quads are burning, there's one thing they want. "Feed us ham!"

Just a small-ish ham. We'l trim a little fat off it first.

Vestiges of my call home to Mom. First time I have spoken to her since...August...?

Pulling crackers.

At the Queen's Christmas dinner, she has fabulous crackers, we've heard. Hats with feathers. Diamond tennis bracelets. I would have considered blowing off skiing if I could have joined the Queen and her tennis bracelets for Christmas dinner. Maybe. If she were nice and joined me in eating with gusto. I have heard that she won't eat in front of commoners. That would make things awkward, even if there were diamonds involved. At any rate, here are my crayons, my hat and my riddle.
Christmas dinner. Very simple: ham, corn spoon-bread, green beans with mustard.
And plum pudding. Can you see the flames?
Sara practiced on her skateboard until late. "Mom, come and watch me from the sunporch!"
Diane came over to hang out and play, but we can't figure out FIFA soccer for Wii. Too complicated for grown-ups. Nate has no problem.
Now, Real Salt Lake can take on LA Galaxy even in the dead of winter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

On Poverty

[Look out, this is a socio-analytical rant. I very seldom indulge, but I think I will today. Hate me all you want. But not before you admire my title, inspired by Keats. The Victorians were expert ranters. At least I didn't call it an ode to anything. That would be too barfy.]

Around this time of year, a lot of do-gooders appear at my school (people we only hear from around the holidays), wanting to help The Poor. Don't get me wrong - I don't object to the help. People need the toys / food / money / coats / blankets and I'm grateful for them. But could we please do away with all the judgements and expectations?

I see this on a macro level. If I mentioned the name of one of our funders (which I won't, because today, I like my job ) readers across the country would know whom I'm talking about. They are a conduit for major corporate charitable contributions; and the message they've been getting from these pillars of the community is that they are sick of poverty! Geeze! Poverty is such a hassle. It just never goes away! They don't want to fund agencies that provide for basic needs any more (homeless shelters, food pantries), because those agencies are not "solving the problem". This year and for the next three years, any agency that receives their largess will have to show how they are Solving the Problem, and provide the statistics to prove that, over those three years, poor neighborhoods have become prosperous.

Wow. All that from my little school. Let me add it to my to-do list. "Eliminate poverty".

Sure, Mr. Rich Guy. I'll get right on it; because I know it bugs you, having to just GIVE without some sort of balance sheet.

At both macro and micro levels, it is a pattern I have observed over many years of seeking assistance for low-income people. Are they sufficiently humble? Are they wallowing in their handouts? If they are so poor, why are their houses so clean? That TV screen is WAY too big for a poor family to have.

"My husband and I would like to adopt a family for a Sub for Santa this year. We'd like a married couple with one son and one daughter. The children must still believe in Santa Claus. They have to be REALLY POOR." In other words, this is about us and our need to experience shuffling gratitude.


This was a point of discussion at our last staff meeting. ARE THEY GRATEFUL? Donors want assurances that they are.

Want my honest opinion?

No, they are not. Well some of them are, but most are not. Gratitude, generosity, empathy, gentleness, humility. These are character traits that those if us who are safe gently nurture in our comfortable children. They get jettisoned when life is tough. If people live with chronic shortage, they are not going to be generous or grateful. They will be graspers and hoarders, because that's how they get by. Those are the behaviors that get results. In similar circumstances, how much you wanna bet that we would also grasp and hoard? It's hard to admit, but there you have it. As time goes by, I find myself privately admiring certain behaviors that are not really admirable. I think to myself, "Yep. She just walked off with 40 rolls of toilet paper and she's going to sell them to her neighbors... and that is pretty fucking resourceful."
We have an annual holiday potluck and I watch folks as they go down the line. The people who push to the front will pile their plates with more food than they can eat. Then they rush to their seats, dropping food as they go, sit down and stuff themselves. Then they will fill two plates with as many desserts as they can carry. They don't care how many people are in line behind them. In the real world, shortage doesn't beget sharing. It begets greed. This year, it was worse than usual. Extra shortage? Extra greed. Hard times make people hard. Poverty breaks down kindness.

Judging this behavior from the vantage point of privilege is wrong.

If you need to feel good when you give to others, I'd recommend a paradigm shift. Don't find your gratification in the gratitude of your beneficiary. Hold out your gift, open your hands and let it go. Be gratified that your good fortune allows you the joy of loving your neighbor without a balance sheet.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Letter to Dad

Hi, Dad!
I thought I'd drop a line, 'cause three different things made me think of you this weekend.
1. I was talking to a friend whose mother is in a long-term care facility in another state and has not been doing well. It reminded me of last January: my dread every time the phone rang; the exhaustion in Mom's voice; the guilt; long conversations with my siblings, filled with "if-then" scenarios. Oh, and more guilt.
Then the 3 AM departure for the airport. The long, icy drive down the rural roads. Tater-tot hot dish that Kathy Kohn made just for me. Slipping an Oreo into your sleeve during the visitation (Hey, you would have done the same for me!) (Mom was pissed when she found out! "Katherine Elizabeth! Is it true that you put an Oreo cookie in your father's casket?!?" Snnnrrrk...) Women - a long procession of women who have known me all my life - filling and refilling my coffee cup in the church basement. Packing china, washing walls. "Kids, if someone doesn't take these wool shirts, they're going in the Goodwill." And I was so frazzled that I walked out of the church where I was baptized, confirmed and married; walked out of the house I grew up in; drove my U-Haul down Highway 44 and out of Markesan for good without a backward look. Yeah, I know: where were the tearful good-byes? But there had been a big snowstorm the night before, and the roads were drifted. I was concentrating on drift-busting in my U-Haul. By the time I really had a chance to think, I was in DeMoines and too tired to give a shit.

Sorry, Dad. I digress. Why couldn't you have died in the summer? No drifting and blowing snow. And I could have lobbied to carry out our plan: launching your corpse into Hills Lake in a flaming canoe, Viking-style. Not the good canoe. One of the old ones.
OK, the other two things that made me thing of you were uprooted from the boxes of "inheritance" still awaiting my attention in the basement.

2. Ah, yes! I was rummaging and found your embroidered Goraly vest from Poland. I cooked Polish last night and thought, "If Dad were here, he would definitely have worn his vest." Like you have to every family celebration since you got it 20 years ago. I would wear it in your memory, but it's way too big.

3. (And this is HUGE, Dad!) I am sick to death of being cold in my house in the winter. In the same box as the Goraly vest I found my new best friend: your favorite Pendelton fisherman's sweater. You wore it constantly for years, until you shrunk it. Mom was throwing out your clothes and tossed it on the "out" pile. "Hey, can I have this?" "It's all shrunken!" "Yeah! It's a perfect fit!" And it IS! I have been toasty all day in your shrunken sweater. And to prevent wool-itch, I have one of your ratty duo-fold undershirts. Nice touch, sewing Velcro to the back bottom edge. I'm not sure, but I guess that somewhere in the world is a pair of long-john bottoms with the other half of the Velcro. As always, I admired your sewing skills. Perfect, regular stitches. Where did you learn to sew like that? Oh, yeah. Medical school.

Check it out! I'm a lucky girl!

I miss you Dad. Even your shop-worn jokes. Even your strange collections. Even the way you mortified me by crying every time you said the blessing. Even your ponderous "bum-bum-de-bum" hum. Even the way I couldn't whistle a tune without you drawing attention to it by joining in. Even the Oreo addiction.

It was pretty fun to call home, even in my middle age, and be greeted with, "It's KATE THE GREAT!" It was good, being great. Thanks for being my loyal fan. And thanks again for this sweater. Its the bomb!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wild Hare? Wild Hair?

Beats me. But which ever one it is, I've been catching it for the last few weeks. The Migration Policy Institute is offering up their recognition of exceptional Immigrant Integration projects; and despite the fact that only four of these are awarded nation-wide, I couldn't resist the lure of fame and fortune. Ah, the sweet taste of futility. Lift the glass to my lips.

So, I've been writing. And writing. And swearing and beating my head against the wall and writing some more. I haven't been to bed before 2:00 AM in a week. But it's done now, and sent in.

Time to bake cookies. Paint my toenails? Look at myself in the mirror and think, "Ya' look like hell! Go to bed!"

Five things that amused me today, now that I have the award monkey off my back:

1. Hearing about a grown-up pinata, filled with condoms instead of candy. I want to have a pinata at my next party.
2. ABBA. They never fail to amuse. They are belting out "Dancing Queen" right now.
3. Myself, arguing with the State Director of Adult Education about whether the state should lay down oppressive regulations on the use of volunteer tutors. I bludgeoned her with language so intense that, when I finished, I dubbed myself Poet Laureate of the Utah State Office of Education.
4. My batch of biscotti I made tonight. They expanded a little more than I expected and when I took them out of the oven, the cookie sheet kind of looked like a doormat.
5. Nathan, as always. I was listening to him squabble with Sara on the way home tonight.

Nate: So, I heard you on the playground today, Sara. I heard you call me a nigh-anderthal.
Sara: Nee-anderthal. And I didn't call you one, I said you laugh like one.

I say nothing; but I wonder, as you do, how a Neanderthal laughs...

Nate: Well, I wasn't sure whether to tell on you to the teacher or not. Mom, what is a nigh-anerthal?
Sare: Nee-anderthal.

I explain Neanderthal.

Nate: Right. OK, Sara, now I know what it is. And turns out, I AM offended. I'm telling the teacher tomorrow.

And it MUST be wild hare. How crazy can a hair be and why would anyone chase it?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exhausted, and Sick of it All

I am slightly blue, today. Pale blue. I am tired. My eyes are burning. Usually, I have a reservoir of energy in here somewhere. Hold on, while I look for that [imagine me rummaging in Hermione Granger's bottomless handbag: clank, clatter...]. Nope.

I hate to say that it's my job. But, it's my job. Sorry, job.

I LOVE my job. When it isn't trying to kill me. I should count myself lucky! Eighteen years I have popped out of bed eager to go to my job; I have lavished affection on my job; I have bragged about my job. But it has always been semi-feral, like a pet lion. So cool; and you tell all your friends and neighbors how cuddly and affectionate it is. Until it eats you.

Suddenly, there are other things I would rather do! Can you BELIEVE it?!? Here we go: ten things I would rather do than go to work tomorrow.

1. Lie in a sunbeam with my feet up and read a book.
2. Bake cookies.
3. Go skiing. Let's make it a powder day and take a bunch of girlfriends along.
4. Work out for more than 40 minutes. Maybe a nice long run...
5. Fly to Mexico and lie in a hammock with my feet up and read a book.
6. Shoot pool, eat four slices of pizza and drink two beers.
7. Hide in the periodical room at Main Library and look at old "Life" magazines.
8. Call Mom, Aunt Marian and my friend Robin (who will bullshit me in three languages and tell me that I have to get my rock-star ass back to work).
9. Get in my truck; move to a cabin in Ten Sleep, Wyoming and get a job in the little mom & pop diner there that I like so much. As a side note, the diner has a big, shiny foil star rigged to the ceiling so that every time the door opens, the star drops toward the floor; and when the door closes again, it goes back up. I was charmed by this. When people say, "reach for the stars", I don't think this is what they have in mind. Yet, there you have it - just now, I aspire only to the foil star in the diner in Ten Sleep.
10. Go rent a cottage on the Oregon coast, build a fire in the wood stove watch whales from the window while toasting my toes and (of course) reading a book.

Instead, I shall now spend another hour sorting paperwork; then drag my sorry self to bed, and work on adjusting my attitude. Hot shower. Cozy flannel sheets. Snuggly husband. Five to six hours of precious sleep. A new day starting bright and early at 7:30 AM - that's my first meeting of the day. But it's about immigration policy, so it will be interesting. (OK, this pep talk is getting a little out of hand...) And it's at Frida's Bistro. Maybe there will be food! There will be laughs in the office - as always. There will be my lovely students - as always. And I will look at them and strap on my metaphorical crampons and climb Mount Paperwork one...more...time.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chapter One

I have started reading the latest selection for our book club: "The Daily Coyote". Maybe I'll enjoy it; or maybe not, 'cause I am already pissed off with this author for stealing my fantasy life from me.
So far (and I'm only at chapter one!), she has bagged her previous life (something I used to do regularly - not anymore) and decided to move to Wyoming. As she writes about this decision in her book, she describes her initial journey through the state and as she begins to rhapsodize about the Bighorns, I found myself thinking, "What if it's Ten Sleep she's going to fall in love with? Ten Sleep is MY secret love!" Sure enough, she decides to settle down in Ten Sleep.
AND she's living in my cabin! With MY woodpile! Sorry my cabin is so blurry. I was photographing the book with my cell phone. I know, I could do better.

Oh! And she's just fallen for a sexy blue-eyed cowboy who fills out his Wranglers like this. Man, that was MY cowboy! Is this what the whole goddamn book is going to be like?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Squash is my New Muse

My friend C. recommended this recipe enthusiastically - I was a little sceptical. Pumpkin just is not that tasty, you know? Unless it has submitted to the civilizing forces that make into into pie filling.

But then this squash came into my life, courtesy of another friend, Marilyn. Hmmm... OK, I know a sign when I see it. Forces beyond my control wanted me to try the recipe. Except that I just glanced at the basics and then kicked up my heels and did my own damn thing. It was liberating. Ooooooohhh. She's such a rebel.

So, the thing needs to be hollowed out, a la Jack-o'-Lantern. This is serious business, calling for a serious knife. Cut the top off your squash. I have to tell you that, the moment my knife pierced the skin of his squash, I was TRANSPORTED by the fragrance of it. The flesh of this variety is...FLORAL! FRUITY! Oh, my God! I get to eat this?!? I was running around the house, holding it under everyone's noses. "Get a load of this! Can you believe how it smells?!?" "OK, Mom. Were you going to cook it or just stab it?" Right. On task.
Cut the top off and use a spoon to hollow it out. Resist the temptation to carve a face. That was last month. Here's what I ended up with.

Rub the flesh with smashed garlic cloves, season with salt and pepper. Then open the fridge door and stand there for a minute, looking in. Hmmm...What can I throw into a squash? My eyes lit on some slightly wilted green onions and leftover peas/mushrooms from Thanksgiving. My advice would be to choose any kind of cheese you like, and then just mix in stuff that you like with that cheese. Eyeball your available space, then mix up equal parts starch and cheese. I did stale bread cubes and Swiss cheese. Then throw in anything that goes along. Here go the peas...

I also threw in the green onions, half an apple, a handful of walnuts. I opted out of any meat. Now, if you're feeling guilty about the cheese, shut up and open a bottle of red wine. I don't want to hear any crap, especially because I'm about to slather the mixture in full cream. Drizzle it on while tossing the filling around. You want it to be moist, but not soaked. Cast sidelong glances at your husband who is watching his cholesterol. He'll die happy, I promise.

Put its hat on and put it in a 350 degree oven on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Go away for about 90 minutes.

Yes, I know - there's a lot of stabbing going on at my house. What! I had to test that it was done. And it WAS.

And that's all there is to it. Scoop out stuffing mixed up with the squash and dish up! Nate had five servings.

Then let your imagination run. Cheddar with bacon? Would Chevre be too soft? Brie / raisins / walnuts? Mozzarella and sausage?
I want another one of THESE squashes, though. I need Marilyn to fix me up. She's coming over for supper next week. I'm going to call her and say that, if she can give me another one of these, I'll cook it up for her.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Frozen Articulators

Thanksgiving was fun this year: we discussed meditation and danced to "Can't Touch This". Or, at least I danced to "Can't Touch This". I want MC Hammer pants, now. The only mishap was the inside of my oven bursting into flame. I amused the panicked masses by opening the oven door and blowing out the flames, like a giant birthday cake. We did have to open the windows for a few minutes, though; and it was pretty chilly out.

How's that for a segue? Because what I really want to comment on today is how it felt to try running fast while feeling my lungs crystallize. I pre-registered for the Cottonwood Heights 5k last week, observing that the average temperature for this day is 37 degrees. How would it be to run wearing nothing but tights and a sports-bra? And to actually sweat? To visualize my heated muscles loosening as they powered up the big hill? But it was 9 degrees, so instead the only vision available to me was of myself plunging desperately across the snow-crusted tundra; stumbling as a howling wolf pack, their breaths steaming, close in upon my helpless form. Hey, whatever gets me through.

Two undershirts, lucky shirt, two hoodies. Stocking cap, neck gaiter. I know my pain points: fingers, thighs, back of neck. Not much I could do about the back of my neck, but I put Hot Fingers in my gloves and pinned one to the inside of each pant-leg so they pressed against my quads. If I could have, I would have taken 400 Hot Fingers and pinned them together to make a body-suit. Think chain-mail.

Then came the tough moment at the Start line. Unable to run wearing all that shit, I decided to ditch a hoodie. Neck gaiter? Or no neck gaiter? Aw, I'll be fine. Ditch the neck gaiter. So I lined up with 1,800 other idiots. First my lips went numb. I would try to purse my lips a little to blow air out and after a bit, they just stopped paying attention. Next it was the tongue. Bye, bye tongue! See you later! I tried sort of tucking it under itself. It's really hard to swallow your tongue and run at the same time. Are you imagining me with my tongue lolling uselessly out of my mouth like a demented cow? Maybe that's how I looked; but I have no idea, since I couldn't feel a damn thing. But then my uvula (you know, the dangly thing in the back of your throat) also checked out. That was new... The second I crossed the Finish line, I slapped my hand over my mouth to warm up the air I was breathing. Talk to me! Talk to me! Wake up, lips! Can you hear me?

I went back to the rec center to warm up a little before I tried to call Si, but even then, I got on the phone and said, "aiunycamimuh?" [Translation: "Hi, Honey, can you pick me up?"] Home into a hot shower; cup of tea; cozy sweater. No good. I've got almost no voice at all. Glottal frost-bite: who knew?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Think Too Much

A friend told me today that I think too much. Hold on while I just cut THAT out.



Ah! That's better. I'm all empty, now. Whoops. Shit. I'm thinking AGAIN!

Well, this is a long-bemoaned Kate-design flaw. First observed by V., my best friend in college, who asked me if I could just please live in the moment for a moment? Then by a co-worker, who said, "You fret." (I thought that was a little mean.) And most frequently and famously by my darling and now departed Edie, who summed it up as, "Quit mind-fucking yourself." Followed by, "Go get a gin and tonic."

Here's the deal. I like to solve problems. Quickly, even. I am a fully posable action figure. When it's something like an injury, a broken zipper, a swamped rowboat, a broken cake, I'm good! When it's people and no action is currently required...I think too much. [Look out! Here comes the self-justification... comin' at ya.... NOW!] Well, hell, yeah! Because my actions cause reactions; because I want to be wise! Sensitive! Live a considered life! Ergo, I ponder.

[Another] It's bad to speak ill of the dead, but Edie could be...a little...abrasive.... Any of our mutual friends out there care to weigh in? To love Edie, her friends had to accept an occasional (or frequent) bludgeoning. And now we all miss it, of course.

[Oh, no. Here come the little-voice-that-dares-to-speak-the-truth. Bitch! I HATE her.]

I ponder for the same reason I used to stand on the high-dive while my friends called, "JUMP, for Chrissakes!" But if I tell her I'm pissed off, will she say... If I accept one iota more than I have a right to, will I... And furthermore, will jumping off this metaphorical high-dive make my butt look big?!?

I will keep working on this (hopefully while NOT giving it a moment's thought).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pinata Season

Winter has arrived, although the promised "blizzard"? The reason I cancelled classes tonight for the first time in eight years? Was that dinky little snow-shower IT? I used to live in Big Cottonwod Canyon, so it takes a lot of snowstorm to impress me.
At any rate, I'm beginning to realize that it is almost time for the holidays and with them comes the dreaded pinata season.

I used to think that I struggled with pinatas because I was not sufficiently familiar with Mexican culture and therefore missing out on some sort of pinata etiquette. This misconception was partly fueled by Diego Rivera. How can something this beautiful possibly be evil? Well, for starters, Diego Rivera was not urged by the children in the painting to "Get a Batman one! No! Dora the Explorer!" Every year in which I can't think of something more wholesome to do at our Adult Education Christmas Party, I am the Pinata Czar... Uh, -ess. Naturally everyone brings their kids and Kate, idiot that she is, imagines a Rivera-like pinata activity. Let me tell you why it's not. Just in case you haven't yet been stupid enough to try this.
1. Rigging the thing. It weighs about 12 tons. After years of pretending that we had NO IDEA how that ceiling tile at the neighborhood church hall got destroyed, we finally figured out to remove a couple of tiles and rig the pinata to the structural stuff underneath. Now we have NO IDEA how the structural stuff got destroyed.
2. The pinata bat. I used to think that there was such a thing: the right tool for the job. One that couldn't permanently maim someone. Uh-uh. The possibility of being maimed is all part of the pinata experience. We use a mop handle. One of my many jobs is to try to keep the bystanders (especially the ones holding the babies up for a better look) BACK! BACK! WOULD EVERYONE PLEASE STAND BACK! No, they won't. The kid who has a turn, particularly if s/he actually makes contact with the pinata, will start whacking like some sort of crazed axe murderer. It's supposed to be my job to disarm this windmill of death after a few whacks. I do this by going in low: I crouch, then SPRING, expertly tackling the child.
3. Turn taking. Forget about it. No matter how formidable I am, the kids will clamber, nag, tug, elbow each other in the face, whatever it takes to have the next turn. Any child under seven who thinks s/he is going to get a look in will only have a chance if they have an older sibling to be the fixer.
4. But the finale is the worst. You would think these kids had never seen a Tootsie Roll in their lives. Monkey piles four children high, over a mini Snickers? The best year was the one when the rope was still attached to the pinata while it was on the floor being savaged by the roiling masses. Mark, faithful rope-man, was trying to intervene in the melee, which he did by walking into the fray and lifting out children one at a time, with the end of the pinata rope still held absently in his hand. What he didn't realize was that one of the kids had the rope wrapped around his neck. So every time Mark waded into the pile, he was pulling the rope tight and strangling the kid. Who totally deserved to be strangled. Finally he figured out why the kid was being yanked into the air by his neck every time he approached, and let go of the rope. Profuse apologies to the parents followed for the ligature marks on their son's neck, to which they simply replied with a shrug, "Ah, that's pinatas for you."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Running Into Rain

Miserable weather in Salt Lake today. Two of the five words I still remember from German paced back and forth in my mind all day:

Schlechtes wetter.
Schlechtes wetter.

It lends itself so much better than the English equivalent: This weather sucks!

Still, I went for a run. I don't like being cold, so I put on my long-john shirt under my usual stink-bomb running shirt and dug out a little pair of knitted gloves. When I first climbed out of the warm truck and started stretching, I was not thrilled. My neck is particularly fussy about being kept warm. The rain slipped down my back.

But about three minutes after I started, I was suddenly transformed by one of those crazy moments of grace, in which you feel as if you are in exactly the right place at the right time. I ran to meet the rain as it fell - collided with it. My face slicked with moisture, I ran fast, without tiring. I stepped on a rock that rolled out from under my foot and sent me skittering. My ankle did not care. I jumped puddles with a flourish, just because I wanted to.

The last half-mile is all downhill and I stretched my stride just a little, trying to get another inch or two out of each step. I spread my arms out to the side and flew down the hill - I'm a bird! I'm a plane! I grinned at the guy walking his dog and stuck out my tongue. The rain pattered on my skull and my body steamed.

So, there it is. For a few minutes, my happiness was perfect. I keep promising myself that this is who I will be all the time. After I recovered from the mastectomy, I said I would remember to be grateful for the gifts of strength and motion. (That's one problem with a blog - I believe I committed myself in writing...) After Edie died, I promised myself that I would live in the moment more - she was always bugging me about it: ponder less. And especially, now that Dad is gone, I keep swearing to myself that I would try to remember to find a little more fun, a little more human connection in every day. Uh... Hmmmm.....

Pretty much, I suck at self-transformation. Particularly at the pondering stuff. Edie would be exasperated if she knew. But I had twenty solid minutes today when I was everything I have been wanting to be. Not bad for a lousy day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bored as a Captive Monkey

Introducing Grandpa Mario, as we call him at my school. He is a 70-something gentleman from Colombia - he and I ADORE each other. I do not have a bigger fan. Every time Mario encounters me in the hallway, I will receive hugs and kisses and flowery compliments, such as (translated from the Spanish) "My love! My beauty! How is my precious darling today?" Who else calls me "precious darling"? He will occasionally visit me in the adult education office to chat. With everyone else, I encourage English as the language of random bullshitting; but Mario sees himself as my Spanish teacher. We talk about his childhood and about his various fitness kicks. He claims to keep up his (really good) physique entirely from isometric exercise. He likes to hear about my running.

Today, he taught me a fabulous new phrase. This is typical of our teaching/learning style. He was venting some of his frustration about work, and said that he was:

Mario: Tan aburrido como un mico amarado.
Kate: As bored as a WHAT?
Mario: Un mico! Mico!

[I dive for the dictionary.]

Kate: Ah! "Mico" is "monkey"!

[We both indulge in monkey noises for a second, cuz why not?]

Mario: [in Spanish] You didn't know the word for "monkey"?
Kate: [in Spanish] You know, Mario, it's not a word I use every day around here. OK, so: "I'm as bored as a somethingsomething monkey....."

[I think about this for a minute. No! What?]

Kate: Amorado!! Amor- Love? Shit! An enamoured monkey?!?
[I make a pitty-pat motion above my heart]. Mario! How can an enamoured monkey be BORED?
Mario: No! No amorado! AMARADO! [At this point, Mario grabs both of my hands in an isometrically enhanced grip and deftly ties me up in my own telephone cord.] Amarado!
Kate: Aha! [trying to wriggle free from the phone cord] HOSTAGE monkey!

The dictionary recommends "captive".

"Bored as a captive monkey." The only problem is that I will never use this phrase, cuz I'll never be bored as long as I'm getting tied up at work.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sorrowing and Pain

Home field advantage! 21,000 fans! How could we possibly fail to knock out FC Dallas (those wankers)?

But the truth? They brought their A-game tonight. I have to admit that FC Dallas were on FUEGO. Our guys couldn't keep posession. At one point, a guy in our section leapt to his feet and screamed over at the Dallas fans' section, "HEY, DALLAS!! HOW COME YOUR GOALIE BLOCKS LIKE A LITTLE GIRL?!" Sara was not impressed: "What's THAT supposed to mean?" And the Dallas goalie was god-like, in all honesty. So we ended up with a nail-biter...

(Nate wouldn't let me publish the tearful picture.)
And finally, a silent stadium filled with gloom. That's it for Real Salt Lake until next year.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Today's Piss List

1. One of my students is trying to blackmail me to the tune of $1,800. [Un]fortunately, because of language barriers, I can't figure out why or how.

2. I am suffering from acute PMS, which, combined with the easy availability of Halloween candy is causing a serious lapse in discipline.

3. A particular big-name stakeholder has changed the criteria for funding this year. And although I sat on a conference call today and listened to the stakeholder's 45-minute explanation, I still do not understand what the hell they want. Neither do they.

4. My hair has been sticking straight out behind my right ear from four days, and will not lie down.

5. I had to go to Nathan's parent/teacher conference at 8 AM this morning. I am not able to create complete sentences until about 8:30.

6. My program has almost no materials budget for this year. That is why Ray's computer needs a new hard drive; why the CD player is broken; why the shipping for the new text books was much more expensive than I thought it would be; why the printer needs a new "Maintenance Kit", whatever the hell that is.

7. All attempts to scale Mount Paperwork have been foiled by one fire on the mountain after another, all of which need to be stomped out before any more progress can be made.

8. My summer clothes are still hanging in the closet. My winter clothes are still in trash bags up on the closet shelf. I wear the same pair of pants over and over rather than take the time to get out my warm clothes. I am in denial.

9. I hate my house - it's ugly. And my street- it's noisy. And my fingers - they are bony. And my hormones, which are the cause of all the trouble. I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The End of an Era

There was the year of the skeleton costume!

And the Anakin Skywalker year, with the bat costume.

This year, Nate wants to be David Beckham. And I'm actually feeling bereft, despite the fact that I whine about Halloween costumes all through the month of October every year. "But Nate, don't you just wear your Beckham jersey and some other soccer stuff? That's a BORE!" No, 'cause I'm doing a Mohawk for him. That's all that is required of me this year.

Sara? WILBUR WRIGHT. I kid you not. All that is needed is a jacket, tie and a bowler hat. "Well, and planes, right Sara? You need to fill your suit pockets with paper planes and bombard the other kids during the costume parade." She asked permission to do this, and was denied. Against school rules. Someone could lose and eye, I guess. Or start feeling like they want to join a gang. I explained to her the virtues of apologizing instead of asking permission. I helped her make the planes as well. "Do you want me to get sent to the Principal's office?!?"

Geeze, Sara, if you are going to be sent to the Principal's office once in your life, please let it be for exuberant plane throwing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

More Crazy Cock-Ups in the Kitchen

The weather sucks today! So windy that there were times when I looked out the window and expected to see a chicken coop flying by, a la Wizard of Oz. So much for hiking with Diane! But all is not lost - there's still wine; and Diane had beets from her garden. We decided to play kitchens, while it was Si's job to uncork the lubricant for our talents. Or something. Tonight's menu: Two Potato and Beet Hash with Poached Eggs and Greens. [Ohhhh. Now that I am looking at the recipe again, I see, in small print under the name of the dish, "For tips on poaching eggs, see p. 230." Would that have helped?]; crusty bread; Pear Upside Down Spice Cake.

First, the cake. I make this cake all the time, and I think I have even blogged this recipe, so never mind about how it is made. I'll just say this: it's easy enough that you can chat and drink while making it.
The kids each got a beater. Rubber spatula? Mine! Diane is company, so she got the bowl.

She's such a lady.
Now, down to business on the hash.
Ingredients, for 4 servings:
1 T of EVOO

1 C finely chopped onion

3/4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed

3/4 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1T chopped fresh sage

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 lb cooked beets

1/2 t salt

1/2 t black pepper

1 T red wine vinegar

4 lg. eggs
First, chop all this shit. Drink while chopping.

1. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion to the pan, saute for 5 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Check.
Add potatoes, 2 t sage and garlic. Here's my sage. Still holding out in the garden.
Cook for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. We were roasting the beets in the meantile, so I get those out and peeled them.
I look lke a murderer. It's one of my favorite things about cooking beets. Out! Out damn spot!

OK. Stir in beets, 1/4 T salt, 1/4 t pepper, cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Still looking good...

2. Poached egg time! OK, I confess, I have never poached an egg. Scrambled, fried, over-easy, hard and soft boiled, yes. Poached, no. So, sue me! It's just never come up! But the instructions were clear, and I followed them.

Add water to a large skillet, filling it two-thirds full. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer. Add 1 T vinegar. Break each egg into a custard sup, and pour gently into the pan.

Look how gentle I'm being! See how the water is slightly tinged from the vinegar, and that we have a good amount of water!
Cook for three minutes, or until desired degree of doneness. Uh... are they supposed to look like that!?! Now, I have to tell you that I went to page bloody 230, and there was no additional wisdom there, except to tell me that poached eggs are tricky. You don't say... Remove eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon. Unless they are kinda stuck to the bottom of the pan...

Still, it plated up beautifully. Look at that!

And the taste testers agree: IT SUCKED! Uneven doneness in the potatoes, messy eggs, and an overall lack of melding in the flavors. Simon did not complain, but just now I saw that he has made a big "X" across the recipe in the magazine. I get the hint, my love. It wasn't apalling, but it is not a keeper. Diane, there are only a few friends that I wold invite over to cook and eat experiments!

But, there's still the cake. God, I love an upside down cake. Just the "voila!" factor. Watch this!


Now I just have to clean the egg out of the bottom of the pan.