Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fun Times

This weekend, even though we've been world travelers, Corey and I journeyed to the fine town of Littlestown near Gettysburg to visit college friends. It was an amazing adventure and I'm so glad we went. The drive out there was gorgeous and productive (in terms of my knitting) and the party was a fantastic demonstration of Penn State football victory, darts, eating, and crazy night time antics.

The best part, however, was the drive home. Corey insisted we stop at a fun filled place called Mr. Ed's. It was a sort of elephant emporium, with peanuts for sale, stale fudge, and about ten million elephant statues. I don't know why Corey knew of its existence and I don't know why the store doubled as a candy shop, but we left there with my hands full of fudge and Corey's mouth full of red licorice.

Sadly, I didn't have my real camera with me. Instead, I took pictures on my cell phone. Here is Corey, posed with the elephants he loves so much.


As I walked around the store/museum silently making fun of the whole thing, Corey asked me why I couldn't just appreciate Ed's love for the elephants.

I suppose I'm just not able to emote properly. How could I not be overwhelmed? Look at the meaningful signs.



No matter how many elephants Corey showed me, even the statues from India, I was not moved to tears. Thankfully, Corey wept with joy for both of us as we ate candy in the car. He also turned the heat up to ten thousand degrees, both to imitate the African climate the elephants love and to melt my icy heart.


I think we should go there every Sunday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Torn

We drove around like crazy people this holiday because Corey doesn't get much time off from work. The hardest thing about being in a relationship for me has been the span of space between our families. We love living in Pittsburgh, but miss our families like crazy. We have been up to this point trying to see both families for both holidays (just because Corey is Jewish doesn't mean his family doesn't get together at Christmas!). This means driving six hours to New Jersey and having a whirlwind visit and then, two days later, driving almost three hours to Lebanon, PA for another whirlwind visit and then sitting in awful shopping traffic four hours back to our home.

And the worst part is that I have two more weeks until I go back to work while my little penguin is slaving in the bike shop. I made myself big long to-do lists to occupy my time, but I can't motivate myself to do things like scrub the toilets or put away piles of clothing. Somehow sitting on the sofa knitting or even just staring out the window is more exciting than washing the car in the freezing cold.

It all leaves me feeling very torn. On one hand, I could be holed up in Lebanon enjoying my family for a few days and taking advantage of their cable TV. On the other, I have a new husband whom I love to pieces and can't bear to think of him here all alone enjoying our Christmas tree without me. So I chose to come back and I also chose a new path for us for holidays going forward.

We will no longer drive around like crazy people. We will spend the whole of our Thanksgiving vacations with one family and the whole of our Christmas time off with the other. It will make my heart sad not to see my family a little less frequently, but at least I'll know I'll get longer and more satisfying visits with them.

It was a very big, hard move for me the year Corey and I started splitting up the holidays. Letting go of Christmas morning with my mom was probably the hardest thing I ever did and I still wonder what will happen next year when I'm waking up in New Jersey. Perhaps Corey's mom will wake everyone up at 7am yelling "Ho! Ho! Hoooooooooooo!" and then clap her hands while we open our presents. That might make the transition a little easier...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

World's Best Day

Today has been amazing. For starters, I successfully used up a lot of the perishable foods in my house by baking a breakfast casserole. All the cream, stale bread, canned peaches, and bananas and eggs are now in my belly! I even got Corey to eat a small bit of it.

Next, I discovered my reimbursement check was in from school for my New York trip. Bank account in the black, check. Credit card payment, ready to send.

Then, I made tons of progress on my new knitting project while watching season two of Queer As Folk, a flock of turkeys waddled through my backyard, and I got the fiction issue of the New Yorker in the mail.

Since it's almost three, I'm going to settle back with a bottle of wine and read a new Junot Diaz until Corey gets home. I love winter break!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Yikes! Identity Theft!

I have always secretly judged people whose identities get stolen. Those people, I decided, were the ones who left passwords taped to their monitors or did banking on public computers. Turns out I was secretly throwing stones from a glass house!

This morning at 8am I got a call from Chase. They usually call me when I am on vacation. Actually, I kind of love them because as soon as I make a purchase somewhere other than Pittsburgh, the phone rings. "No, no," I tell them. "It's me! I'm just here buying museum tickets in Chicago because I am glamorous!" Not today.

This morning, the charges were for things like porn in California. Or several small charges to iTunes. It all got very confusing because I use the card a lot and have been doing a lot of Christmas shopping. Turns out the last time I actually used the card was for a purchase on Amazon. I usually love Amazon, but now hate them.

I suspect Amazon of compromising my identity not only because they were the last place I used the card, but also because of the spam email I now get. My brother-in-law taught me to use a different email address with each company. (I can do this because I have my own domain name) So when I bought my Amazon supplies, I used amazon@myemailaddress.com. Shortly after this fraud call, I checked my mail and had zillions of junk emails in my account using the Amazon email.

Since my Amazon purchase was for a used book through their marketplace, I first suspected the sellers. But then I read Amazon's information about financial transactions and realized they must be the culprit. They have a system where I pay Amazon and Amazon pays the book seller, so the leaky information came straight from the big evil corporation. Not from the little book seller. I feel significantly shaken up to stop online shopping for a bit until I can find some really secure methods. Clearly, Amazon does not have these and will no longer be enjoying my business.

I guess identity theft has become so standard that the Chase people really didn't need to involve me in the process much. I just said I didn't make the charges, they canceled my account and are mailing me forms to sign, plus a new card. Only because my credit card company is so on top of things was this a minor inconvenience instead of a huge disaster. I just hope my Southwest flight credits carry over to this new account!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nutcracker

When I was in elementary school, the BEST days were when they would hand out those recycled paper catalogs filled with books you could order. I would circle almost every book in red ink and beg my mother, insisting that I might die of ignorance if I couldn't have them all. She usually made me whittle the list down to like three books. What an ogre, right?

Anyway, the best of those books to arrive was As the Waltz Was Ending, by Emma MacAlik Butterworth. This was a book sent to me when they somehow put an Anne Boleyn book out of print and thought I might like a substitute about a little Austrian ballerina. Turns out I did like it. Butterworth described in beautiful narrative detail her training with the Austrian ballet before World War II turned her life to poop.

I wanted to be a ballerina. I practiced barre exercises like Butterworth described, alone in my room holding the book and leaning on my bookcase. I always wanted to go to the ballet, to watch the young women and pretend they were her. I thought I would have secret insight into their bloody toes and aching thighs.

Almost twenty years later, I finally went to the ballet! I went to see the Nutcracker yesterday, and it was exactly like Butterworth described it! When the toy dolls came waddling out of those boxes, I felt like I could feel them in there, holding their breath and getting their eyes ready for the stage lights. When the Arabian dancers slid around the stage like they were on ice skates, I felt I knew exactly what the other dancers were thinking as the puffs of wind brushed their faces just off stage.


When I got home last night, I wished I could re-read my book to live it all over again. But it isn't here with me. It's hiding in a box in the closet at my parents' house far away. Instead, I'll just stay up all night Christmas Eve and pretend again that I am an eight year old girl in Vienna, about to take my first curtain call.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blunder

I went to Williams-Sonoma yesterday to spend the rest of our wedding gift certificates. I put the trip off for a long time because it's dangerous when I go into WS. This time, I found the sale bin. Baskets and baskets filled with discounted pumpkin-flavored food stuff! I kept hauling out $2 mixes and oils and sauces, making a pile beside me on the floor.

The sales staff came over every few minutes to take my pile to the register and tell me about products that were not on clearance, but I kept my focus on the important things: pumpkin spice bread kits. I bought four. I had grand plans for them for upcoming holiday parties.

When I got home, I engaged Corey in the baking process. He argued with me for a bit about the amount of butter in a stick. Surely it couldn't be 125 grams when his cell-phone calculator reveals it to be 112.5? How could this be? Something was amiss in the recipe!! He got out the food scale and everything. (This is a man who measures out the amount of water needed to boil pasta)

As I hissed at him to just hand me more butter, I stopped paying attention. I added four times the amount of water I was supposed to! Instead of making just one loaf of pumpkin bread, I had to make all four! Worse, Corey had to get the scale back out and scoop more Smart Balance (we don't actually use butter, you see). And we only had five total eggs where we needed eight.

I called my mother. She talked me through it. How is it, at 26.6 years of age, that I cannot manage an egg crisis on my own? Why does my mom know that five eggs will turn out ok when the recipe calls for eight? When do I get this knowledge?

Fifty minutes later, I had four huge wedding-gift ceramic loaf pans filled with crusty pumpkin bread, and I had to stuff three of them in the freezer so they wouldn't get stale before my parties. I try to look at the bright side of my carelessness. At least I won't have to watch Corey use his nanometer on the Smart Balance before the next parties. Instead, we can just squabble about appropriate thawing time and relax.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Balls

I am taking a wee time-out from online Scrabble. Not to finish my paper or register Pittsburgh Rugby for dodgeball this winter. No, this break is to write about lawn balls.

We got one as a wedding gift. Here is us enjoying the lawn ball:

Corey's former roommate/current business partner and his lady-friend bought it for us. We are now white trash. In Lebanon, PA, where I grew up, people hoard lawn balls the way some women hoard cats.

Usually, the lawn balls show up next to lawn butts, or those black wooden cowboys leaning against light posts. Even next to plastic forest creatures or Virgin Mary icons. When I was little, I thought they were crystal balls that would tell the future. Now I know they are just strange.

We kept our lawn ball (or gazing ball) indoors for a long time while I sought the "perfect spot" for it outside. Corey began decorating it for holidays:


And he moved to to the front porch, where the mail carrier, Peggy, gets to look at it every afternoon.

In the spring time, I'm going to move it to the garden in the back yard and hope that it will keep deer and rabbits and turkeys from eating my pepper plants. For now, though, it will sit on the porch wearing a new hat for every Hallmark holiday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hooked

I am playing online scrabble with 9 different people on facebook right now. That's kind of inaccurate, since I am playing two simultaneous games with one friend. Anyway, I can't stop. I actually said the following words to a student tonight, who showed up on on time, responsibly attending his appointment. "Hang on, sir, I need to finish my turn on scrabulous."

Something is wrong with me. I am obsessed! I find I want to wake up in the middle of the night to see whether my friends have taken their turn yet so I can play a good word.

I walk around filled with rage that my cousin is beating me by hundreds of points or that my co-workers are also beating me by hundreds of points. This is so stimulating! I don't want to ever stop! Whoever invented online scrabble is the smartest person in the universe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Persecution

I jut got off a jam packed 71A. After all the bus cuts have settled, this route runs at 30% of its former frequency. Three times an hour versus ten. The bus was always a full one, and now that it is cold and rainy my morning ride was a wonder to behold. Perhaps there were smaller people on this ride or something, because I just know there were way more riders than usual. They were crammed in the doorways, clutching each other on the steps, pinned against each other between seats.

My good friend Patsy often points out that she hates exiting a full bus like that because she has to rub up against the private parts of the other passengers as she finagles down the aisle. Nobody is immune. Nobody is safe!

But one grumpy lady, wearing a sequined red hat and a holiday sweater with a smiling reindeer, thought nobody should touch her. She had an aisle seat near the front and as students entered the bus, she screamed at them. "Get that backpack off of my head! You are so disrespectful! Take it off!"

One rider looked amazed and apologized. "My gosh! I'm so sorry. It was an accident." He took the bag off and held it at leg level.

"Don't go hitting it off my leg, either!"

The poor boy looked horrified, not knowing what to do. His friend stepped in to help. "Lady," this dude said, "there are like 400 people on this bus. You are going to get bumped." Everyone around me made approving faces, silently encouraging this brave rebuttal. The two guys exited at 5th and Craig.

Another tiny little red haired person got on the bus, struggling under a zillion chemistry books. Her boyfriend helped to stabilize her on the rocking bus. The lady bellowed again. "Get those books away from me! Get 'em down! Down!" The couple really didn't know what to do. They kind of looked at each other and ignored her.

I wish so badly that as I squeezed past her two stops later, at Bigelow, that I had displeased her. I had the scene all planned out in my head. I would stomp on her foot and then I would have said, "Shut the hell up! You are not being persecuted!"

But I am a rugby player, well versed in evasive running. I can slide out of the 71A without anyone noticing and never once bump a penis, let alone a grumpy sequin hag.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Decking Duffield's Halls

After yoga this morning, I made Corey put pants on (I went to yoga wearing pants while Corey stayed home NOT wearing pants) and drive down the street to the tree guy, who was miraculously open for business! The man immediately bombarded us with questions, his white bowl cut flopping around in his excitement. He ran up and down the aisles of trees, practically pulling us along with him as his yellow rubber overalls squeaked like crazy.

"What do you want? I'll show you anything you want!!!"

Did we want a Douglas Fir? One that smelled like oranges? How about an expensive one? No, no, no. We just wanted an inexpensive, alive tree, please.

It turns out there is a lot to know about tree purchasing. Like do we want a fresh cut on the bottom so it drinks more water? We decided yes. Did we want to use string or bungees to strap it to the roof? We chose bungees, since we were only going 2 blocks up the hill. Also, do you tip the Christmas tree man? I felt like yes, so we gave him $2.

I felt kind of sad for the tree man because he was so socially awkward, but Corey said the man was just rural and rural people are like that. Who knows why Corey says these things? Either way, we got this lovely beauty home and set up in the tree stand the previous owners had thankfully left behind. (The one good thing!)

To decorate, I used all the ornaments I've had my whole life, plus a few juicy ones that Corey's mom gave me. Because of the wonders of public school, Corey made this:

Such yarn! Such painted macaroni! I love it almost as much as I love him. I can't wait until someday our own children have painted macaroni ornaments hanging next to their father's.

My elementary school was clearly more crafty. I made ornaments using felt, glitter, and glue. This bell is Corey's favorite of mine, which my mother donated. It features me giving what was then my biggest, brightest smile:


Because Corey was being such a curmudgeon, I played several albums of Christmas music while I decorated. He hates such music, so I helped myself to some loud singing along with Nat Cole and finished off the house by decorating our gazing ball with this fine hat:


I feel so much better about life now!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tubas?

As I was walking to work yesterday, head buried in my collar to fight the cold, I looked up and almost walked smack into two tuba players. They were sliding down DeSoto street carrying enormous, shiny tubas, trying to protect the mouths of the tubas from snow and crap blowing in there.

And they were FEMALE tuba players! I love that! I feel like tubas are traditionally male instruments, so it made me feel happy that Pitt seems to have at least two ladies on that big horn. I just wonder why they were out and about. What, during the cold snap wintry mix, made them think, "I should take my tuba for a walk today"?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

More Woes of Graduate School

Yesterday I set out to purchase a Christmas tree. I understand it's a bit contradictory to shine a bicycle menorah in your front window alongside a Christmas tree. But Corey and I want to combine all our traditions. And this would be my first live tree and my first any sort of tree in my own home. I realized I have no idea how to go about buying a Christmas tree. I assume equipment is involved, and a water dish. But I don't know what to do!

So I asked Cookie from next door where he buys his trees, and he told me. His wife later stopped by to confirm that I should, indeed, buy a tree from the Jancey guy because his rates are the best around. She also complemented my work with the Wovel.

Anyway, I turned on the car and cleared off the snow and drove down the hill to Jancey, slipping through three stop signs and telling myself it was very unwise to be driving in such conditions. I drove to the joint, and there were no trees there! So I shook my head and drove to the church on Stanton and Negley, where they sold trees last year, and there were no trees there, either. I refuse to go to Home Depot, so I drove back to the Jancey place just in case I missed the trees.

No trees.

I parked in front of a fire hydrant and ran into the bank, where a police officer held the door open for me and called me sweetie-pie. I asked the tellers, "Why aren't there trees out there? The sign says there are Christmas trees!"

"Oh! Well he only starts selling at 4pm. Sometimes 5. He works at night, that guy."

So I can't even buy a Christmas tree with my work and school schedule. I also can't convince Corey to stop and buy one for me (he also has class at night and works late the other days), so I have to wait until the semester ends and I don't work at night anymore.

I feel a little sad about that because I lined up all my ornaments yesterday--the ones my grandmother has made for every year of my life and the ones my godmother gives me each Christmas. I even have an angel for the top, now resting sadly on the floor in the living room waiting for a tree to protect.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Team Lev December

We got a sprinkling of snow the other day, so because we are home owners Corey went out and bought some salt at Home Depot. These are things you have to do when you own a home. Salt the walks.

I got very concerned about nature and the chemicals in the salt, so even though it was very late at night and they were about to close, I made Corey read the bags and find the best thing he could. This bag, apparently, is calcium chloride and is supposed to be ok to go into the water system. I don't know. I still feel anxious about it.


But then I woke up this morning to see the world transformed! Snow! My first snowstorm as a married person.


I went out to get the paper and realized Corey and I had not yet assembled one of our wedding gifts: the Wovel. A combination shovel and wheelbarrow that promised to make all our shoveling needs easier. I figured, hey, we are responsible for the walks and stairs. We don't want to get a fine or get sued or have one of our elderly neighbors break a hip when she comes over to yell at me for not moving the car during street cleaning.


So we assembled the beast. And my, was it large. Since Corey typically is the one wearing pants, I decided he would be the one to use the Wovel most often. There are different settings for how tall you are, you see. Look at the size of this thing! It didn't fit up the steps and as I finagled it out the door, we accidentally dug up our neighbors' oregano plant with the plastic blade.

I set out to shovel the walks while Corey turned the car on and started cleaning that. With every load I wheeled, chunks of oregano came flying out of the Wovel. I just know they are going to notice that. Corey says that's what they get for letting the oregano plant grow so it spills into our driveway. Our yard now looks a bit like a mint snowcone, with round little heaps of shoveled snow topped with an herbal garnish.


THEN I realized I had made a terrible mistake. The radio announcer told me with my alarm that YESTERDAY was the first day of Hanukkah. Facebook told me it wasn't until Thursday, and because I'm a dumb shiksa, I listened. I hadn't gotten out the menorah or bought candles yet, so before the sun came up, Corey and I lit the Facebook menorah in bed with my MacBook and I feel like that counts since he sang the prayer and everything.


After I took care of business with the walks, I rustled up the menorah and some birthday candles. Corey told me to melt the bottoms so they would stand in the little holders and I got us all prepped for this evening. Which I found out is also a faux pas. You apparently aren't supposed to even set up the number two candles until the right time. I fear I will never learn.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Chicago: A Visit

Our cab driver from the airport started our trip right by saying, in heavily accented English, "You like party? Music?" He blared this incredible Indian techno music as he gave a guided tour of the city. He even raised the roof a few times. We then went to a bar where there was no smoking. None! I didn't have to burn my coat or anything when I got home. I just got to enjoy teammates who I haven't seen in almost four years!

In the morning, we ate at a diner that served a basket of fresh bread. As if it were a swank restaurant. They also put a banana on the side of your plate. To save for later I suppose. I certainly liked it! Bananas in pocket, we went to the field museum and I looked at maps all day! Maps! They even had J.R.R. Tolkein's original sketches of Middle Earth. He was so meticulous. He calculated miles walked based on hobbit leg length and had sunset charts and stuff to make sure his writing sounded viable. I also enjoyed the cross-stitched maps of England and felt very lucky that young ladies like myself are no longer required to pass sewing tests to be considered appropriate women.

Because it was miserable and raining and there was lots of upset football to watch, we just stayed in Saturday night and alternated football and Guitar Hero as we ate Indian food in honor of our cabbie. Did you know you can have beer delivered to your house in Chicago? Late at night? It was like a miracle. I almost died.

Sunday morning, my new cabbie's credit card machine ended up being broken when we got to the airport. I felt badly that I only had enough cash to give him about half of the fare. I called the hotline to give him a customer complement in hopes that it would make up for it...at least my flight out was on time.

All in all, I returned an energized, positive human being. Something about Lust beating me at Wii boxing and Jenny spanking me at Guitar Hero returned my sense of place in the world. I just love those ladies! Old rugby teammates are my crack. I am addicted and I just feel so good after I spend time with them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Chi-Town

I'm going to see my J-Lui-Poo this weekend in Chicago! A wee Penn State Rugby reunion will descend upon the Windy City. I can barely express how excited I am for this experience. I have had the most rough semester of my life. The first six months of my marriage have been a blur of stress and responsibility. Grad school caused me to miss, in fact, a full blown rugby reunion in State College.

Seeing the people I played with in college, the women who formed me into the person I am today, always makes me feel refreshed. As I just wrote in a chapter of my manuscript, it is my college rugby teammates who have helped me make all the positive choices of my life. They suggested graduate school. They suggested Corey was a keeper. In every difficult thing I do, they are in the background supporting me. This weekend will not be about stress. It will be about, as the great Robin Williams says in Dead Poets Society, sucking the marrow out of life.

So this weekend, I am going to put on my beer pants and tackle a new city. I can only hope that, despite the cold, we will play a wild game of spoons. I call wood paneling!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Back to the Garden

I had one last interview for my article at the Phipps Conservatory yesterday. This time I remembered to bring my camera. Each time I go to that place, I am reminded that there are indeed good people in the world. After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma I really felt like there was no hope for the world, what with all our industrial corn and nitrogen runoff. Not so! The Phipps folks will change it!
They have their own fuel cell in their rainforest!
They make their own power!


Without revealing too many of the goods from my article, let me assure you these are truly GREEN gardeners. They have all these visions for the future to make their offices and buildings completely off the grid. Each innovation they make for the better sets off a wave of the staff suggesting more green ideas.
The green construction in the welcome center, with sculpture

Like waterless urinals. They have these magical urinals (which I was not privy to examine) that don't flush. The urine sinks down the drain into this tank that has a liquid on top. The liquid is lighter than urine, so the urine sinks and it creates a sanitary seal. Plus, the urine isn't mixing with water, which evidently creates the odor. So it doesn't stink. It all sounds pretty nifty.

They have a new sun in their desert room

And new plants trying to grow toward it...

No matter how many times I enter that space and examine both the innovations for technology and the amazing exhibit, I never get tired of looking at it. Every time I round a bend, I am totally surprised to see:
This IS the boat where, in my dreams,
I sailed afar into the Land of Nod


This is definitely my favorite article of the year.
This is the first thing you see when
you enter the room. Hello!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Timmy the Barber

Corey's barber is a dude named Timmy who operates down the block on Morningside Ave. He keeps limited hours and is the only barber in his little shop. Corey likes him because he is cool and only charges $9, and Corey gives him $5 as a tip. Even though he knows Timmy will be getting $12 from him, when he goes to the barber Corey takes a twenty, has Timmy make change and asks for two fives and a one. He then hands one of the fives back to Timmy.

Men, apparently, get into routines with their barbers that cannot be altered. Because of Corey's work and school schedule, he can only make it in to see Timmy about once every six months, so his hair is about a foot long and his beard looks like an upside-down Irish man with dreadlocks. He won't go see another barber, either.

Corey could trim his own beard at home, but he has lost the chargers to his various sets of clippers. We have a cabinet filled with clippers and clipper parts, that we are not allowed to throw in the garbage but will nonetheless not trim the wad of hair growing out of his face.

This only bothers me for one reason. It's not that he scratches his chin with the back of his hand like an Italian person signing a swear word. It's not really problematic that he looks shaggy, because who doesn't like to hug a cave man? No, my problem is with the mustache.

It curls over his lip like baleen, touching his teeth, moist with saliva. "Give me a kiss!" he says when I walk in the door, and I feel like a little piece of plankton swimming for my life away from that horrible set of whale teeth.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Working Through Vacation

I show up to work Tuesday night, after all the students have left campus except the football and basketball teams, who have games. Every door to the Peterson Event Center is locked. Apparently security misunderstood the building's role as a University building? The University is open until Wednesday at five, even though the students are "on break." I am already flustered because, somehow, I shooshed my very famous professor in class today. He talked while I was talking and I forgot my place in the world and I shooshed the man who is quoted in literally every composition textbook in existence. I shooshed, he laughed, and I began to sweat profusely. Then I go to work and the doors are locked.

I begin to panic because I know my students. They are already sad and pissed that they have to be here over break. They tend to give one tug on a locked door and head home for the PS3. I have to call my big boss in order to get the doors unlocked. Crisis #1.

I run into my hungry student from last year and he gives me a hug. I ask why he has such a huge beard, one that would make a Sikh proud. He tells me there aren't any good "black-folk-barbers" in Pittsburgh, at least not ones that are open during hours he has free. He has to wait until he goes home for Christmas to get a shave. He is very disgruntled about his facial hair and said that I have drawn attention to it. Crisis #2.

My first student of the evening is an enormous student. A doorway sized person with hands the size of my face, thick as a New York bagel. He chooses to hand write his assignment and I ask him, sticking my foot right back in my mouth, why he holds his pencil so awkwardly. He shakes his huge hand in my face and says, "my hand's too damn big! Look at my hand!" I realize that the pencil hides between the folds of his fingers like a sewing needle would in my own paw. Of course he can't hold the pencil properly and of course his fingers, bigger in circumference than a keyboard key, make typing awkward. I have made him aware of his unusual penmanship and he gets frustrated that nothing is his size, from the tiny chair he spews over to the standard door frame that smacks his forehead when he doesn't pay attention. After a few minutes of lamenting, he decides to leave and write his paper another day. Crisis #3

I end the night working with a Floridian student who misses his aunts' cooking and is jealous that I get to see my family when he can't go home until mid-December. He is writing a paper about class in America and doesn't know how to describe adequately the experience of growing up in a poverty stricken neighborhood outside of Naples, wishing all his life for a beach house or at least access to the pristine sand the rich people seem to never let get dirty. The paper and the holidays overwhelm him. He takes frequent bathroom breaks, but discovers the doors to the bathroom have been locked again by security. He wants to give up and go home for the night. We start talking about being left handed and smile that we don't have to switch seats, because neither of us will bump or inhibit the other. He decides to stay for awhile and writes most of his paper. I end the night on a high note.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

True Love Indeed

Sometimes, I get really naggy and I make myself think that Corey is a dirtball. I look around the house at heaps of underwear and dirty Pasta Roni dishes. Then, I walk into the basement and I see my helmet all hung up properly on the chamois tree and my bike, which he carried in from the car for me because he knows I struggle on the stairs, propped up nicely against the wall. Then, my heart skips a beat when I see that he has taken my headlight and charged it for me, so I don't have to ride home in the dark. He doesn't want me to get run over by a car! He really and truly loves me and takes care of me the best way he knows how.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Li-berry

I spent a long, long time at the library today working on a project for a big famous professor whose class is really hard. Every few minutes, someone would stand near my reading heap and be on the cell phone and be really annoying. Most of the time, I stared daggers at the person until they shooshed. One time, though, my study buddy and I were distracted by this tall, over-dressed freshman-looking girl who was having a super loud conversation. It went like this: "So am I ok about how I acted last night? Cause I would hate to think I was bothering anyone."

Kathy and I looked at one another and whispered, "You're annoying us!!"

The girl kept talking and talking and I noticed that three tables of people were staring daggers at this yatch. I knew something had to be done.

I shooshed her. Loudly. Simultaneously, Kathy said, "PLEASE BE QUIET!" The girl turned red and hurried into the stairwell.

An hour later, I had to seek help because I was too darn short to reach the book I wanted from the top shelf. After I walked back to my table recovering from that embarrassment, I was bummed to find out that the girl had come back from her conversation and gave Kathy the bird. I was so jealous that I missed that! It would have given me hours of martyrdom to use to procrastinate and instead I had to do my stupid homework.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Two Selves

I feel more and more like I am two halves of a whole person, and one of the halves is a sad girl.

On one side is the energetic rugby player, freelance writer, wife of Corey. She does great things like help with her team's Brewfest fundraiser, explore once again the Phipps Conservatory, or play intense games of speed Scrabble with her friends. Last night, this half of Katy got a ride from a dude named Nickel after a rugby meeting and went to a vegan feast. It was awesome. We played a board game called Screwball Scramble. We had fun, we laughed, we cheered when people beat a hard section of the game. Everyone was straightforward and nice.

On the other side is the graduate student, who hates just about everything related to school. This Katy can't believe how anti-student academia turns out to be. This half of me feels shocked that "the system" is broken and that nobody really seems to care much about teaching at a large university. Not one but two faculty members cancelled meetings with me today, citing reasons such as not having read my manuscript. I turned it in a month ago. How am I supposed to feel welcome here? How am I supposed to revise 363 pages in time for the spring graduation deadline if I can't get feedback? This half of Katy cowers in fear from strange mental politics she doesn't understand. Her mind reels at unwritten rules and goes crazy with the strange competitions created at school.

I have to figure out how to reconcile the halves of myself, or at least make the fun half of my life strong enough to tide me over until April 28. I had no idea graduate school would be the thing to turn me away from academia and make me despair. I always, on the other hand, knew that rugby and other healthy competition would increase my love of life.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Work Never Ends

Many of my students have ADHD. I have worked enough with the diagnosed students to recognize the symptoms of the undiagnosed ones just as readily. What does that look like during a tutoring session? I will show you:

I worked with Bob (name completely changed) last night on his English paper. Bob has diagnosed ADHD. He doesn't medicate or use any other sorts of intervention techniques. He came in and paced around the cubicle for ten minutes whining about life and using avoidance tactics to not write the paper. He finally sat down to write, asking me a question before and during every sentence. He took frequent bathroom breaks, bought a smoothie and a burger, and kept checking his Facebook. After two hours, he had a little over a page written, threw down his pencil and said, "man, I don't know. I hate this shit." He started text messaging for a long time until I could convince him to keep working a bit longer. The cycle repeated.

So then I came home to wrangle Corey into thank-you-note mode. We, after six months, are starting to field angry phone calls questioning our gratitude. It had to be done. Corey paced around the living room for a long time while I started writing. "What should I say?" he asked. Repeatedly. He asked if, instead, he could just address the envelopes. He fidgeted with the DVD player. He finally sat down to write, and asked me questions before and during every sentence. "Did I spell your grandma's name right?" "Is this ending too harsh?" "Do I thank them for coming to the wedding? It's ok to say I want to catch up at Thanksgiving? Can I talk about the house in here?" He took frequent breaks to get snacks or drinks, helped make bruschetta, and got a PBR. He became so distracted by the movie that we had to turn it off. After two hours, he got a handful of cards written but forgot to lick the envelopes. I realized that I was having deja vu.

We have talked often about Corey's certainty that he has ADHD. Such is his disorganization that he says I have to make the doctor's appointment for him to talk about it or he'll keep forgetting. Instead, I spent another shift tutoring my husband in thank-you-note etiquette and now I'm about to leave for work to tutor football players again. How does this happen?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Married Life in November


Beneath the large letters are smaller words, which contain the following phrase: "...with its' many bridges..." I wanted to burn the whole puzzle for the typo, but Corey encouraged us to drink beer to make assembly more fun and the glaring error less noticeable.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bus Drivers

I eavesdropped on the most fascinating conversation on the 54C today. The driver was chatting with a grumpy passenger about life. The driver was encouraging the passenger to join a company that was unionized, talking extensively about how unions can take care of him while he worked and after he retired. It seemed to be news to the passenger that unions could help set a fair wage, ensure health benefits, and eliminate (or attempt to eliminate) unfair hiring/promoting practices.

Then the passenger started bitching about doctors making too much money. The driver said he was using his union benefits go to night school and was about to graduate with his nursing degree. He felt that doctors earned a lot of money because they work really hard and the real enemy is hospitals and insurance agencies and pharmaceutical companies, who are profit monsters. The passenger grumbled. He tried to change the subject.

The passenger was outraged that EMTs were being fired and firefighters were expected to fill these roles. But then, he felt, firefighters were overpaid and mostly sat around all day.

The driver has a brother who is a firefighter. The driver feels they deserve lots of money because they put their lives on the line on the occasion they do get called to work. He, the driver, wouldn't want to enter a burning building and was glad his tax dollars were supporting people who were braver. The passenger grumbled.

He felt, then, that women should have no place in a firehouse. Well, the driver pointed out, he met a woman who was physically stronger than many men he knew. She and another Pittsburgh woman had passed the fire test years ago, when women and men had the same standards. The passenger thought he finally found an in, something to officially declare unfair. "Aha! See?? Women have all these loose standards! I don't want them coming to rescue me if they aren't as strong as the other firefighters!"

"Well," said the driver, in the same level and patient tone he had been using for an hour, "To be fair, activists are saying it would be pretty simple to design lighter air tanks, axes, and equipment that would enable more women and even more smaller men to work better as firefighters. I think things could be changing pretty soon."

It was just so remarkable for me to hear this amazing man, with his amazing world view and fantastic intellectual curiosity, educating the entire bus. Each one of us left realizing that context is everything and the only thing bitterness will get us is tight shoulders. I can't wait for this driver to be my nurse someday.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ooooooommmmmmm

I needed to move my body and also relax after a week of rushing around with intense nerves. I got up early and went to a yoga class in the Strip District. It was in an old warehouse building that was really decorated snazzily, and you access the studio through one of those glass elevators that lets you look down on basically the whole city.

I've been doing yoga on and off (mostly off) for almost ten years, but have never taken a class that was quite so hard. It was called Intro to Ashtanga Yoga. It was insane. I loved it. There were only seven people in the class, including two pregnant ladies and a pair of men, one of whom was a superstar. The other man kept looking over at me while the class formed their bodies into impossible postures. We sat in our "preparation poses" breathing through our noses and raising eyebrows at one another as if to say, "Maybe the word intro means something else to this crowd?"

The teacher didn't bat an eyelash, however, and was very hands on. And feet on. She went at a slow pace and explained everything patiently. Then, she used all her appendages to correct postures, including leaning her back against the wall and using her feet to push my "sit bones" into the right place. I guess she needed more leverage because my sit bones were a bit mightier than she anticipated.

Usually in yoga class, I have to force myself to focus, to calm down my thoughts which run a mile a second ordinarily. Today, I was so intently focused on being in the right place on the right breath, I forgot to worry about stuff. My mind forgot to wander and my body, apart from falling down or pinching its own fat pockets, began to shed its tension.

I want to go there every day, even if I never get my down dog right. I have never felt so light and airy. It makes me want to eat cupcakes.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Whew!

I am back! I am exhausted. I have seen more publishing professionalism in one week than I will probably see in an entire lifetime. We had over four appointments each day, and when you are sitting there pitching your livelihood to someone younger than you and better dressed with the power to shoot you down, that can get intense. Again, and again, and again.

If I divide the appointments of the trip into categories, here is how I felt after each one:
AGENTS: nobody seemed really that interested in my project. They all kind of nodded and said, "mmmhmmm," before moving on to the next person in our group. This is a problem because agents are the gatekeepers. I need one to even really begin to hope I will see my book proposal slide across an editor's desk. Everyone uses the word "platform" and talks about how I have to build one.

EDITORS: I saw two of these, and both seemed really interested. Even said the words, "that sounds like a great idea. Get an agent." Promising, yes! Still work to be done? Enormous amounts.

MAGAZINE FOLKS: We went to some big smoking guns. New York Times Magazine. Harpers. New Yorker. I didn't expect any sparks to fly in these places, and none did. We also went to some more manageable guns, where my pitches seemed to generate a wee bit of interest. This week, I am frantically revising my written proposals to their suggestions. We'll see! I feel good inside about two publications and feel confident that others will at least offer me solid advice.

I think I want to make this trip a sort of annual thing. A few writers will still be around Pittsburgh next year, and we have decided that as a group, if we contact these folks and say we are writers coming to town to discuss ideas, they will let us buy them sandwiches and listen to us for a second.

I also learned that new writers shouldn't really be that bothered by the big editors/agents in an organization. The person to look out for is the 26 year old with the word "assistant" somewhere in her job title. This lady/dude is the up and coming star, looking for new talent, wanting to show the boss a hot new writer. These are the people I am following up with and these are the people I vow to woo with my sharp ideas and professionalism.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why I Don't Miss New York

I walk along 45th Street today, headed toward the bagel cart with my mouth already watering. My arms stick straight out from my sides and my elbow accidentally bumps a man.

"Oh, gosh! I'm so sorry I bumped you!" I say to him.

He turns to look over his shoulder, the cigarette dangling from his lips, and says, "Fuck you!"

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trickertreat!

I had to tutor until 9 last night and thus missed the Trick-or-Treaters. I had to leave Corey in charge. Here is what I was able to gather from the event from my monosyllabic husband. The following bullet points are the result of literally hours of questioning:
  • The neighbor kids did come. They were wearing costumes. One had a shopping bag with a hole in it and refused the offer of a replacement bag.
  • The grandfather and great-grandfather of the neighbor kids refused the offer of beer for their treat.
  • Patsy held out the pumpkin and let the kids reach in on their own. Corey feared their "little arms weren't even freaking long enough to reach in"
  • GW handed out some candy. Dave didn't
  • Corey didn't know pumpkins were supposed to be lit for this event. Thank God Patsy was there to take care of business
  • One older kid came without a costume. GW made him sing for his treat an act as if he were driving a bus. The kid had to drive a fake steering wheel, make engine noises, and beep the horn. For this, he received ridicule and a Snickers bite-sized chocolate
Who knows what else happened? Who is to say what amazing costumes there were or clever disguises? The world may never know what happened last night, but I'm sad that I missed it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Preparations

I have an intense week ahead. I will be going to New York City to pitch my book and magazine ideas to editors and agents at lots and lots of publications and publishing houses. Big ones. Meetings that make me want to implode with anticipation. I have eight magazine ideas and one book idea ready to go. My goals for the trip are to come home with one assignment for a story and one interested editor who wants me to keep in touch. A big dream would be to sell my rugby book. That would be nice. But it is not a goal. As my college rugby coach taught me, you can only prepare for things within your control.

I cannot control what editors think would be good ideas. I can only control how well I prepare my ideas. Consider me prepared. After three years of graduate research and writing, I could market rugby to a Russian ballerina. I just need to find the right ballerina.

In additional preparation for this journey, I have purchased three pairs of trousers in the petites department, so the pants don't drag on the ground from my stubby legs. I bought red shoes, because Patsy convinced me they were necessary. I got my face waxed and I got a hip haircut that says, "This woman can write AND carry face framing layers."

I have an umbrella that doubles as a flash light, copies of every magazine I am visiting, and a bag full of clips of my published work. I feel ready.

On top of these preparations, I have been cleaning my brains out because Corey's parents are coming to visit this weekend. We have some pretty sweet activities on deck, but the excitement and joy of those are slightly dulled by this professional opportunity. I will return to the internet at a different stage in my writing career. Huge, right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Silver Bullets

Our coach, Brian, showed up to Angels practice one day a few years ago with long, silver, shiny tubes. We looked at them with wonder, as he also made us tackle with socks on our hands and throw lineouts at target brooms.

These little bullets of love are secret sandbags in disguise, sixty pounds of hell. When they come out of the car, we know we'll be doing stationary squats or walking lunges. We might do shoulder presses or stand in small groups and have relay races as we pass the bullets overhead. Most often, we combine all of those activities into a half hour of intense sweat in which the bullets become slippery.

Since we usually practice in a park of some sort, Brian sometimes stashes the bullets in a dark corner. Who would harm a sixty pound sandbag? They usually get stolen or ruined. I almost feel like any thief who is willing to drag something like that away deserves his or her spoils. Each theft brings the tiny glimmer of hope that we have seen the end of the bullets, but they rejuvenate. I suspect Brian has a sand mountain at his house, resting atop a river of duct tape.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Karma

I'm in the left lane on Centre Ave, waiting to turn left on Negley. A man driving a silver Lexus SUV (not my father-in-law), talking on his cell phone, begins to honk angrily, even though the light is red. I can't help myself. I turn around.

"What? What is wrong?"

"Get on the [expletive] curb."

"The sidewalk is for walking! Read your driver's manual."

"Get in the [expletive] right lane!"

"I'm turning LEFT!!!!"

The light turns green, I turn left, and begin my way up Negley. There is traffic and many red lights. I move faster, on average, than the cars stuck in congestion. It is the sort of rush hour traffic that makes my dad call cities "the armpits of America." At each red light, I pedal past the angry man and give him the finger, since he is getting nowhere faster than me.

After a disastrous homecoming, locked out of my dwelling, Soupie intervenes and delivers keys to me. I lament my journey home. He commends my tenacity and reminds me that I am a homeowner and a tax payer. Those roads were paid for partially by me and my bike. As I hoist my inexpensive, environmentally-friendly, and speedy transportation into my house, I remember something. That angry SUV jerk is not only polluting the atmosphere, but his karma as well. I will have a good day, and he will have clogged arteries.

[See this great New York Times article, which shares my sentiments with more panache.]

Speaking Their Language

A few weeks ago, the hip students at work all started saying, "What's good, Katy?" when they walked into the lab. At first, I thought they were talking about my food since I'm always eating. I responded, "oh, chicken lo mein." Or something similar. Then I noticed they were laughing at me.

So I asked Gary one day what the appropriate response to and definition of the phrase might be. He told me it has replaced, "what's up?" and I'm supposed to say, "Nuttin. Chillin."

Today I got to test it. I was working with Gary, who is 6'10.5" (I was dwarfed by his thigh, which I decided is the exact length and girth of the 60 pound sandbags we lift at rugby practice). Gary was hunched over the too-small chair with his knees up at his ears, typing on the too-small keyboard in front of the too-small monitor when another student walked in and screamed, "WHAT'S GOOD, Katy?"

I tapped Gary knowingly and told the student, "Nuttin. Chillin." Gary laughed hysterically, leaned back in the too-small chair until he tipped over. Then he lay on the floor with his enormous legs, each taller than me, sticking straight up in the air as he howled.

"Shit," Gary said, "You something else."

An hour later, the angry Beowulf kid came in to write a paper. He had chicken parm with him, a tub of yogurt, and two Power Bars, which he ate in about nineteen seconds. When, two hours later, he got up to go get more food, I asked him how much he eats each day.

"Oh, usually 9,000 calories." Again, he weighs 330 pounds of muscle and was roughly the height and width of a doorway. He needs to eat every two hours to maintain his muscle mass. He's like a highly oiled Ferrari, or maybe a Hummer. While he was getting more sustenance, I noticed that he tended to use a lot of comma splices in his paper.

As he sat down to feast, I told him, "Friend, you are making your commas work too hard."

"What do you mean? What's wrong with that?"

"You wouldn't ask a wide receiver to play left tackle, would you?"

"Well, no. That would be stupid."

"It's the same thing with commas. They get tired and aren't strong enough to carry two sentences. You need to call in the big guns, like the semi-colons or the dashes. Punctuation that needs 9,000 calories to stay strong."

He paused for awhile, contemplating. He nodded, mouth full of breadstick, and said, "That totally makes sense when you put it that way."

Sometimes I get it right.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Best Job Ever

I am writing an article about the Phipps Conservatory Spring Flower show, so I got a behind the scenes tour today. At first, I was thinking, "how exciting can flowers be?" The answer is VERY! The landscape architect who designs the shows is so passionate. I had no idea you could do such things with flowers, feel so impassioned about impatiens. She made me so excited for March when the show goes in.

She also gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how the Chihuly exhibit arrived. Hundreds of hours went into digging the pond for the glass boat, moving soil to rearrange rooms for glass installations. Each little piece of glass comes packaged separately in custom made foam. Five tractor trailers filled with boxes delivered the glass pieces and the steel frames they hang from. I just feel so informed.

The exhibit designers at Phipps are unique because they change out entire rooms of flowers four times per year while most conservatories have permanent exhibits. So Dale Chihuly could come here and say what he wanted the rooms to look like, rather than make glass to fit what already existed like at places such as New York Botanical Gardens.

He took a peek at a display and made a computer generated image of a glass work he thought would be cool. Then the florists designed a garden to go around it. The whole artistic exhibit looked so organic, as if the glass grows from the earth. All because of this rad lady I met (a Penn State landscape architecture grad!)

Man, it is energizing to see someone excited about her work and to get to be a part of that for a morning. The best part was the free admission to the Chihuly exhibit after I was done. I got to see the gardens and glass by day for free!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Be Careful!

Yesterday proved a perilous day for riding. On my way down Negley (going faster than the 71A thanks to the new paved portions of the road!) a woman drove past me in the left lane, beeping and slowing to match my pace. I kept looking over my left shoulder, wondering what she could possibly want.

"Be careful!" she yelled out her window. Thanks. Thanks for that observation. I had my helmet, rear blinker, front headlight, professionally built bicycle from my very own cyclist husband. Yet she was blocking traffic, causing me to look away from the road with her stupid advice. I want her to get a paper cut on her tongue. That's what I've decided she deserves. She will be licking an envelope to mail her cell phone bill and cut her tongue. Be careful!

Leaving work to go to class later, I got the green light on De Soto street. This is a VERY steep hill & I was barreling down toward 5th Ave, not using my breaks because I had the green light. Two feet in front of me, a pedestrian started to walk across the street. On a red light! He didn't even look at me. I just started screaming, "Hey! Oh my god!" as I grabbed a handful of breaks. The wheels locked up. The bike tipped over to the right, but I kept my feet and just stood in the street not believing what happened. The pedestrian didn't even apologize, just kept walking after glancing wide-eyed at his near death.

I was so shaken up I had to walk my bike down the hill and eat a pumpkin muffin to calm down. I never fully appreciated how dangerous it is to ride a bike in an urban place. I am in constant danger of cars AND pedestrians. It has only served to heighten my anxiety for when Corey goes out riding.

I am reminded of advice given to me in Driver's Ed by Mr. Shelhorn: SIPDE in all things! (Survey, identify, perceive, decide, execute) In other words, whether on car, bike, or foot, be careful out there.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unthinkable

This weekend my family went to State College. I was introducing Ken Bruffee at the NCPTW conference and Corey was hanging out with his business partners at Freeze Thaw Cycles. I want to introduce the trip by pointing out that I was frazzled and excited. This was the English nerd's equivalent of introducing Bob Barker, perhaps, or maybe Orson Welles.

Friday night before the conference was pretty chill. We stayed with friends and played Scrabble. Obviously I was secure in my lead, well ahead of the competition. By 14 points. Corey was in last place. Then, on the very last round, he emptied his tray and got a triple word score by placing a B and an I next to a G. BIG. Fifteen points, victory by one point. Over me. Corey beat me at Scrabble. This did not sit well.

Upstairs I started to lay out my outfit for the morning, coldly ignoring my smug husband. I realized I had forgotten to bring underpants. No underpants to introduce Ken Bruffee. In a skirt. I began to freak out, lament, tear my hair. Corey just climbed into bed and said, matter of factly, "The only thing you lack more than vocabulary is underwear."

And he went to sleep.

I washed my undies in the sink with Dial hand soap and laid awake in horror at my double misfortune. Fate was not smiling on me that day.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Have a Good Weekend!

I worked with a student this morning who has learning disabilities. He has trouble with words that sound similar. I can't quite figure out if the best way to help him is to sound out words, or sort of draw visually the difference between certain words, or what, but for now there are just some sounds he genuinely cannot tell apart.

Beyond that, his teacher has a terribly disgusting habit of crossing out his words and putting in things she thinks would sound better. Like he wrote, "to answer Gladwell's question," and she crossed that out and wrote, "in answer to Gladwell's question." What the heck? We were finishing up his paper and he just had to finish his conclusion. He was having trouble rephrasing his thesis statement, so I suggested looking at the assignment to see if he could glean any language from there.

He said, "Man, I don't want to use her shit!" Haha! I love that, troublesome and difficult though it may be, he feels ownership of his words and wants his paper to reflect his thinking.

The second student was a mess. I asked him for his assignment sheet, and he started pulling random things out of his backpack. A math book. Headphones. Finally, he extracted an enormous pair of blue brief underpants and pulled a wadded piece of paper from inside them. This was his assignment sheet. He slid it across the table and told me I could photocopy it if I wanted to. I said, "how about you put it in the machine and I go get you the Windex?"

He looked at the underpants and just said, "Aw these are clean! I got to have fresh ones for after practice. You know how it goes!" I still made him be the one to place the paper in the copier.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Context

I am a Malcolm Gladwell fan. My students recently read part of his book The Tipping Point, the chapter on the Power of Context. There is a section in the book where experimenters trick priests into thinking they are late and plant a suffering person on the ground. When the priests think they will be late for an appointment, most of them literally step over the moaning body. I swore that would never be me.

Yesterday, I was tested. I was riding my bike to class, on a tight schedule, and a man was moaning from the sidewalk. He looked like just a raggedy homeless person, but he said, "Miss! Please call the paramedics for me." At first I thought he asked if I could spare a dollar for him, but something made me stop and turn around.

"What??"

"Please! Call the ambulance for me. Please, god!"

"Are you serious?" But I was already off the bike and digging for my phone. Another lady stopped at this point and saw how long it was taking me to disentangle my phone from my stuff. She called the ambulance and we both waited.

It turns out Ronald is a dialysis patient and has a fluttering heart (his description). He had come from treatment and was just having some sort of episode. Sweating profusely, feeling nauseous, freaking out. He needed to get to the hospital. When the ambulance arrived (driven by his niece, in a strange twist of fate), I stayed just long enough to make sure he was going to be ok and then rushed to class, where being late was certainly not the worst thing that would have happened to me had I not stopped.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Singing!

I turned it in. I turned in my thesis!!!! Three years of fretting and staying up and not sleeping are nearly gone. I will revise for six months and then be done with graduate school. Only revision is my secret pleasure. I love doing it. Getting the words on the page to begin with is the agony for me as a writer. But that's all done with.

Last night, I celebrated with my classmates at the nerdiest party ever. One of the other third years decorated her whole house like Hogwarts and we had a sorting hat party, since the first years in our program were sorted into committees yesterday. There were deviled dragon eggs and cauldron cake and I made butter beer thanks to a recipe from Carl. I was so light hearted I practically floated around the party. If only it weren't too hot to wear my Gryffindor scarf.

This morning, despite my homework for other classes, I've just been skipping around the house singing the Irish national anthem (because it's a fun one) and making turkey soup. Nothing could go wrong now. I have submitted my thesis!

The one cloud in my sky is that my rugby team travels to playoffs this weekend and I cannot join them. I am speaking at a conference and just can't get myself to Milwaukee. I am trying to just sing a little louder and not think about it because I know they will be victorious. We have worked too hard to fall now!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Not Good

Today I feel terrible. I have done a bad thing to a person who has been a great friend to me. When something unusual happened at school, rather than just ask my friend directly to alleviate confusion, I gossipped about it with some other students. Because I wasn't up front with my friend, her feelings were hurt hearing about things second hand. I hurt someone who has never done anything but be good to me.

Today I called to apologize and talk to her about it. I feel much better about this specific situation, but still sad that I allowed this to happen. So much of my graduate school program is shrouded in secrecy. I so often feel like I have been thrust into a complicated dance, and nobody will tell me the steps so I have to struggle to follow the music. I feel like I let myself get caught up, not thinking of other people's feelings but only my own need to keep going and I don't like that. I don't want to be someone who contributes to rumor mills, I don't want to be someone who hurts feelings to get ahead.

I am reminded of the ending of Mean Girls, when Tina Fey drags all the girls into the gym and makes them share why they feel hurt. I think we need a meeting like that at my school. I am sad today wondering who else I have damaged. It would be nice to just know and get it all out there so I could begin to make amends.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hooo Boy!

George Saunders was in town a few weeks ago and the students in one of the comp classes are writing essays about him. The assignment asks them to write letters to him, feeling free to express all their feelings in language he might use. Here are some samplings of some conversations in the writing center this week.

Student A: George, you are fucked up! What was that shit all about bricks on penises? That's so fucked up.

Student B: Man, I think you are a huge pervert. There could have been kids in the room!

Student C: I was tired as hell that night and your sexy reading woke my ass right up.

Student D: What's up with your short stories, man? They all about doing nasty sex. Don't you have a life? Why'd they give you a genius grant?

Then, poor Student E who was working on a different paper, felt the need to chime in with colorful language. His assignment was to write about something that didn't meet his expectations. He told me, "I thought learning to drive would make me a pussy magnet. Turns out, all I did was work my ass off for gas money and I looked nothing like The Fast and The Furious. I might as well have grown a mustache."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Yard Freak

We have lived here for 4 months now and today, I got sick of being the family with the yard growing corn instead of perfect grass. Despite my father's assurance that the Round Up will eventually kill the weeds I sprayed it on, I got out of the shower today and decided I had to harvest my lawn.

The first things to go were the corn stalks. I'm sorry, but they just aren't a front yard crop. After I yanked those out, I got angry at the dandelions coming up through our sidewalk. And then the waist high grass in the flower beds. And suddenly all I could see in every inch of pavement or each speckle of my yard were weeds, weeds, weeds. I forgot that I was wearing wedding pearls and dressed for a meeting with my professor. I just rolled up my sleeves and yanked out two black trashbags full of yard crap.

The beds look barren now, but I feel like that is better than overgrown. Also, the front yard looks like grass instead of a cornfield. Next step: back yard. And then I'll get ride of all the cinderblocks and scraps of rotting wood the previous owners left for us. Thanks, guys!

Thesis? Forget it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

More Corn

We have corn growing in our front yard. I noticed the stalk a few weeks ago and said, "Corey, we have corn growing in our front yard."

He took one peek and said, "No, silly, that's bamboo." Thinking I had no idea what bamboo looked like and knowing I had not planted corn in my front yard, I believed him.

Only now there are ears on it. Actual ears of corn in the front yard with silk and kernals of yellow juicy corn. I feel like Michael Pollan is following me around somehow, encouraging me to not consume.

Our soil seems to be magically fertile. Maybe I should just dig up the whole yard and actually plant some food. I could get a goat to eat the grass and fertilize my crops and have my own complete food cycle in Morningside.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Appropriate?

I rode the bus today because it is too hot to ride my bike. This is not nonsense. I would have to bring a whole change of clothes or work soaking wet, and with the weight of my day already on my back it's just too much to carry.

So I was on the 71A, happy to be back. The passengers squeezed in at the normal places, still refused to give up seats to blind or elderly people. Then, a young man got on the bus wearing no shirt. I know it's hot outside. Very hot. Like 90 degrees and awfully humid. But no shirt? On the bus? He just leaned up against the seat and started reading Dante's Inferno like he was at the pool on a bench.

I would wager that this lad was a high school student, not in school for Columbus Day. But where was his shirt? I had no idea these things were legal. Clearly, I was very jealous and wished I were sitting on the bus not wearing a shirt. Or pants. I sat under the weight of my bookbag, suffering from lower back and crotchal sweat in the failed air conditioning, totally green with envy.

When he got off at Thackaray, I almost chased him down the street to shake his hand.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Unacceptable

I turned on the radio today to 93.7 and heard "Walkin in a Winter Wonderland." I at first thought this was a joke, because it was 92 degrees outside today. Haha, snow jokes in the abnormal heat. Look out for global warming! But then, White Christmas, Blue Christmas, Jingle Bells and other Christmas songs came on during my drive home from Shadyside.

I almost rear ended an old man as I stared at my radio dial, convinced I had dipped into a time warp. It is October 5. October! This proves to me at long last that our society has become inextricably immersed in consumerism. There is no escape. The only hope is to send our children to Waldorf Schools or move to hippie communes at the Rainbow Gathering.

When I worked at K-mart, back in the day, they didn't get out the Christmas stuff until the day after Thanksgiving. As I was telling some teammates last night during our rugby carpool (see? Some people like to reduce their resource use!), on Black Friday, K-mart switched from the regular K-mart Radio Network music to the Christmas loop, about 18 songs heard again and again through New Year's. Shelbie and I used to stand before our registers and sing along to Bing three, four times per shift.

Because I was young and didn't have children yet at sixteen, they often scheduled me to work on holidays. I worked one Christmas Eve until closing at 8pm. Desperate shoppers flooded the store until the last seconds, screaming at us for being sold out of almost all items. "Wal-Mart would never treat me this way!" they would yell, and Beth the register supervisor would scream back, "Wal-Mart closed at 5!!!"

Teenagers just shouldn't have to work until 8pm on Christmas Eve and radio stations just shouldn't play Christmas music on October 5. I think my sister and brother-in-law have the right idea. They go away every year to a yoga retreat over Christmas. They have a magical spiritual experience with their family unit while the rest of us feed the corporate machine.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Why Do People Like Me?

It is flipping hot today. Over 85 degrees. In October! So I was riding my bike to work and sweating profusely. All of a sudden, my back started to feel really wet. I thought perhaps I had just finished a tough interval. It was, after all, very hot.

As it turns out, the soup (chicken corn chowder) in my backpack had come open and spilled all over everything. My copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma. My planner. My shirt. The other food in my lunch parcel. When I got to work, I had three students waiting at the computers already, so I had barely any time to blot. I just sort of stood between their large legs, like a Liliputian, scraping creamy gook from my shirt and possessions.

My boss came in and saw my pathetic state. She sent me off to clean up and mopped out my bookbag for me. I was able to save the apple and plum and trail mix and convinced some lady in the bathroom to help me scrub the back of my shirt. I am that girl who somehow gets soup on her back. Who spills soup on her back?

As I walked back into work, a man near me said, "Tired, huh?"

I thought, how can he know that??? but said nothing. He said, "Cause you made that little sigh. You know."

"Oh!" I said. "That."

As it turns out, he had caught me not amidst a sigh but trying to conceal a very large burp. You see, I got excited after I rinsed off the trail mix and ate it along my walk. It had raspberries AND chocolate in there!

So I'm the tutor with the 6'7", 310 pound students who has soup on her back and burps up almonds in the hallways. What a fine example I set for them.

Cat Fight

Every morning, a ginger cat walks up my driveway and looks at me through the dining room window. He seems to say, "I hate that you moved here." I think he spits on the driveway and then leaps up into my garden, where he shoves the soil around and then climbs into a sunny space to lay and stare at me for a few hours.

Right now, he is out there howling. Loud, obnoxious human baby sounding howls. What the hell is wrong with him? Is he angry at my pine bark mulch (a 4-inch layer over thick newspaper covering that is a failed attempt to halt weed growth)? Does this cat know that I have squirted Round Up on the neighboring leaves?

I kind of want to shoot it with a pellet gun, but we do not have such things at our house. It's standing right now with it's back arched like a Halloween cat howling its brains out. I just want it to go away.

Shoo! Get out of here! I think now we need a dog for certain.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Crunch Time

The thesis is due in 12 days. I am actually writing a bit today, which is good because I still have like 30 pages to go. I realized, when I almost opened the door to get the paper, that my writing habits are kind of disgusting.

I wake up at 7 and sit on the sofa with my laptop and a bowl of cereal. I don't put on clothes, so I'm usually wearing what I went to sleep in the night before. I don't brush my teeth or wash my face, either. You can imagine my horror when I looked down at myself and paused with a hand on the door knob. I was about to enter my front porch with bed head, moldy mouth, wearing just a tank top.

I'll be honest, on writing days I don't shower or do any hygiene things until about a half hour before I have to leave for work. Which leads me to fear the professional life I am choosing. When grad school is over, every day will be a writing day. I'll be a writer. Does this mean I'll stop showering and wearing clothes? I don't want it to be a big day when I put on socks.

Sometimes, I'll be doing a phone interview for my thesis or another project and giggle to myself, wondering if the person on the phone could possibly imagine the writer, me, at home with Cheerios stuck to my face grease. Why am I so disgusting? Maybe I should get an office somewhere just so I have motivation to put on pants in the morning.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Round Up

Upon visiting our house, my dad took one look at the wilderness in the backyard and declared I needed Round Up. "You got locust trees back there! You don't want anything to do with locust trees, Katy, " he said.

I have tried hacking and sawing away at the wilderness with an axe and a hoe and a rake. I got the low lying stuff. But the big weeds that have grown trunks and become trees? Those have to go.

I felt hesitant at the thought of using a chemical back there. A weed killer sounded to scary next to a plot of land I intended to plant full of food for my family. But I did a bit of research (not an exhaustive amount, but some) and felt as my dad did that Round Up would be ok.

So I bought some and squirted my wilderness on Sunday during the Steelers game. I was supposed to notice results within hours. Now, two days later, I sit in the dining room and stare at the back yard waiting for the weeds to fall. I think they have become a dim brown, but this might be my hopeful imagination. When will they turn yellow and crumple? What will I do with their carcasses? Is Soylent Green People????

I just can't bear the suspense.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Panache

Yesterday, we played a rugby game against Erie. This is their second season and for many of the players it was their first ever game of rugby. We played 13s and 2 of those players were Angels, including me. It was, I must say, one of the most inspiring days of rugby I have seen in a long time.

The Angels won the game 103-0. But so what? What impressed me so much about that team was Erie's attitude throughout the whole match. Every single play, they stood back and talked about what they did well. Did they realign that time? Yes! Did they participate in a ruck or cover the outside? Yes! And each time, they felt proud of that improvement. I think that attitude is so awesome. I have played against so many teams that self destruct on the field when they make mistakes. We find it laughable when teams are negative toward one another. I'm so glad for Erie that they are starting their team out on such a positive model.

Honestly, they have good players. Another few seasons, a bit more depth on their bench, and they are going to be a threat in the Midwest. They made smart kicks, came up hard on defense. They have all the pieces there, they just need to solidify their foundation. It was a real honor to take the field for them yesterday.

(Obviously it was an even bigger honor to put on an Angels jersey for the second half)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Encore

I found out from my boss that after the students left tutoring, they went to their night class. 13 of them, all from one sport, in the same basic writing course. On the best of days, they are rambunctious.

On this day, one of them went in without a shirt on. Just walked into the classroom barechested. He must have meandered through the entire classroom building this way until the professor asked him to please clothe himself. This is the same student who often comes for tutoring dressed in a sort of Superman tube top midriff shirt thingy. What the hell is wrong with him?

Then, his teammate started periodically spitting grapes. This is a seminar table, where they sit in a circle. And this kid was spitting grapes across the room. Grapes! When asked why, he said they were very sugary and he felt wound up.

Now, my boss tells me that I have to imagine them not as babies but as 18 year old boys, which amounts to the same thing. What would happen, she asks me to think, if 13 members of the same fraternity were in one class. I suppose I can imagine similar shenanigans. But I would shudder as a parent to think my son had grown into the type of man (because when you are in college you are a man, let's face it) who walks around with no shirt or spits grapes at his classmates.

What are we doing in society when we revere athletes to the point where they aren't allowed to develop as normal people? They are walking around naked and spitting grapes! Grapes!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Terrible Night

I just had a terrible night at work. One student kicked another student (from another sport) in the nuts and then denied it, even after I said I saw it happen. "I didn't do nothin'," he said. Like a child. The poor victim limped around saying, "I'm good. Nothing wrong here."

Then, a female student athlete loudly proclaimed to the whole lab that she had to go do a number two. When I went into the work bathroom awhile later, there was her number two. Just sitting there. Unflushed. I wanted to kill her.

So many of them work hard and really appreciate us. Then there are assholes, who text message their friends WHILE I AM SPEAKING to them. They demand I do their work for them, freak out when I refuse to type their papers or rewrite their sentences. I need some of the good ones to come in each day so the few unappreciative jerks/babies don't ruin my morale.

Picnic!

Last weekend after our Buffalo game we had a picnic at a teammates' house instead of our usual pub social. I was super excited because my whole family was in town, dressed to the 9s in extra special Christmas presents, and they were coming to the picnic. It was their second ever rugby picnic, the first being at parents night in 1999 when we crammed into Pete's backyard and sang the Two Little Boys song for our relatives.

It made me so happy to see my dad eating burgers and chatting with grill master Luke. To see my mom learning about Baseball, the drinking game. We brought orzo salad and ate ice cream sandwiches and my dad revealed drunken secrets to my lawyer teammate, the Ultimate Slytherin. We burped, we teased, and we all hung out.


Later, at 2am, my sister burbled over with facts I've known for years: It's so cool that we chill with the other team after ward. People are really nice to each other, like for real honest to goodness nice. Everyone is real and genuine. Everyone is successful and amazing. Everyone has cool tattoos.

Well, duh! Haven't I been saying this for years? Rugby is the solution, people.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sad and Lonely

Corey leaves today for a business trip. He'll be off in Las Vegas gambling away our fortunes while I sit on the sofa and write my manuscript. I hate that it's due in 2 weeks, yet I can't wait to be rid of it for a few months while my draft is examined. Maybe, like last time, I'll get to start all over again after my committee meeting! I sure hope so.

While Corey is gone, I have made a menu for myself including corn chowder WITH POTATOES, bean foods, fish foods, and all the onions I can manage. So life won't be entirely void of pleasure.

Still no skim milk, but I've been eating pumpkin muffins for breakfast and putting the creamy whole milk in my tea.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Milk

My family were in town this weekend and while Betsy and I went to a rugby party, Corey and my mom went to Trader Joe's to buy organic snack food. I phoned Corey and said, "Can you please get me a half gallon of regular milk?" The next morning, I went to add milk to my tea and discovered a half gallon of whole milk in the fridge.

I meant regular milk, as in not soy milk made from soy beans. Milk squirted from cows, please! He interpreted real milk as milk only going through one step. Pasteurization only, please! My lactard husband doesn't know my milk.

I got very sad at this. I have drunk skim milk only for decades. As any milk drinker knows, one can go down in milk fat, but one can never, ever go up. And I can certainly not consume whole milk. How can my husband not know my milk? I started quizzing him on other things. What is my favorite trail mix? What is my cereal? He said, "I know your tampons!"

I suppose this should be a small consolation, but what am I t0 do with the half gallon of heavy cream in my icebox? One friend has suggested some delicious milk shakes. I might have to go for it. While I am out buying ice cream, I can just pick up some real milk.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Invasion

"Something happened the other day, and I didn't want to tell you until I saw you in person," Corey told me this morning. I hadn't seen him awake since late Wednesday and only saw him this morning because I couldn't sleep when he woke up at 6am.

"A little mouse got in the house," he continued.

"A little mouse????"

"Just a cute little field mouse, that's all. I heard it making some sounds over in the recycling area."

I tried to remain calm. I immediately felt certain it had made a family in our walls. Corey told me, "I went on a mission to capture it. I chased it over to a teeny hole over there, by the door, and I was sure it got out. So I plugged the hole with [that expandable foam stuff he's been using to seal the windows]."

"We have to disinfect the house," I said, nodding. I'm certain there is typhus in here now.

"Well it hadn't left through the hole after all. So I chased it around and dropped the trashcan upside down over it. Then I slid some cardboard under the can to make a seal and I released it into the woods."

I became immediately terrified that my husband was now emulating my sick father's rodent capture techniques. After my dad had some sort of mid-life crisis, he began capturing squirrels in Have A Heart traps, spray painting them orange, and driving them to the park to set them free. The orange paint was a marker, so he could gage whether he had repeat customers. I can just see Corey going on secret missions into the basement to save little mouse families, finally finding use for the pumpkin paint for the guest room, while I kneel in prayer that my family won't die of the plague.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Beowulf

One of the student athletes signed up for a literature course in which he must read Beowulf. When scheduling classes, his adviser told him, "Whew! Beowulf, eh? That's a tough book."

"I'll be fine," he told her, and scheduled the class.

Last night, he brought the book into the writing center to get started on his homework. He opened to the first page. "What the f^$k is this?"

"That's Beowulf," I said. "It's a classic."

"But what is this? I can't read this. It's another language."

I looked at him, a bit stunned. Surely he would have realized this by now? "It's Old English. Or maybe it's called Middle English. Anyway, all the books for this course are like this. Look, you have Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain, lots of stuff."

He starts freaking out. He throws his hands in the air. "Are you kidding me?" He calls for his adviser. "Why did you let me take this class?"

"You told me you could handle it. I told you it was hard."

He is freaking out now, way past add/drop period. Stuck in the class. "I can read a real book. I'll read any real book you want. This isn't a real book."

He puts his feet up on the desk and crosses his arms, like a little baby who is angry that we turned off the television. Only he is 6'7" and weighs 310 pounds. "I can't believe it's not even a real book."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Proof of Corey's Omnipotence

Katy: "[...whine...moan...complain]."
Corey: "[Grunt! Grunt!]" (rustles magazine pages)
Katy: "Man, my knee hurts."
Corey: "Where? Front or back?" (folds down edge of magazine to look at me a bit)
Katy: "The back. It's killing me!"
Corey: "Your seat is too high." (puts magazine back to face)
Katy: "Really?"
Corey: "Mmm."
Katy: "But how do you know this? You knew just like that it was my bike seat? This is amazing! How can you diagnose like that? Do you have magical powers?"
Corey: "Mmmmm. [grunt, grunt, monotone sounds]."