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25 November 2010

24 November 2010

Organic Thanksgiving

I started today with a 2 mile wake up walk/run with Abbey. We talked about eating right for energy and a positive attitude, ridding our lives of all things toxic. Mostly I talked; she tuned me out. The rest of the morning I began the pre cooking ritual, gathering ingredients, finding the right bowls, playing Pearl Jam on Pandora.

Tomorrow we celebrate my first 100% fresh and organic Thanksgiving dinner. The menu includes Mr. John's famous smoked turkey and ham. A citrus brine with pineapples, oranges and apples stuffed inside the bird while it smokes all night make this turkey remarkable.

I handled the squash casserole and macaroni and cheese, sweet potato casserole with pecans, mashed potatoes, dressing with sausage, sage, and apples, green beans with butter and almonds, sweet peas, broccoli casserole, cranberry relish, gravy and dinner rolls, and also two organic pumpkin pies and an oatmeal, pecan, apple crisp.

We doubled everything and flash froze a second meal so when we see John's parents this weekend we can recreate the experience.

John made an eating rule: We can only eat leftovers if we introduce a fresh dish to the menu.

So on Friday, we'll add collard greens and black eyed peas to the ham leftovers. And I'm going to make, partly for nostalgia and partly because its dangerously yummy, my grandmother's peanut butter, banana, graham cracker cake, organic of course.

I spent the whole day in the kitchen. I love it. Abbey joined me from time to time, snapping green beans, or melting butter. Alex shredded some sharp cheddar cheese. I told them both to add a lot of love while they helped with the food so that it tastes better. I think they did.

Not even disaster could stop this meal's fruition. While Abbey was searching the spice cabinet for the pepper grinder, a narrow bottle of hot sauce landed plumb on a glass cooking bowl, sending shards o' glass all over the kitchen, contaminating every uncovered dish. The broccoli casserole, ruined. The sausage, sage dressing, ruined. The chopped apples, the cheese, all thrown away. Another trip to the store, another $1o0, and at 2:30 in the afternoon, I'm starting all over.

John wisely mentioned: Look at it this way, something had to go wrong to compensate for some other thing that wasn't right; disaster was necessary, so everything could be perfect. By 7:30, with everything in the kitchen prepped, nutmeg and ginger jump from dish to dish, and the once abundant produce in baskets, now mingles with rice and cheese and mushrooms and broth, morphing into delicacies in tin foil covered baking dishes.

Tomorrow, I will mash the potatoes with some butter and steam some green vegetables.


10 November 2010

Kickin' it with Ms. Clark

Jake says these are the only two things you need for a show:
1) be good looking, and
2) be yourself

So, I'm going to have a show: a liberal, authentic, middle aged teacher with baggage, in a small, private, Christian, conservative school. [JG], a senior at the school, named the show. As I covered the office for the secretary because she had to pick up pizza uptown, six or seven students came in during lunch. The headmaster followed and said, what's going on in here, to which [JG] replied, "just kickin' it with Ms. Clark." Instantly I knew that we were on to something. I said yes, like a reality conversation show. [JG] said, I'm thinking Springer, but not. Too which I quickly assured him, "no - more like Howard Stern minus the vulgar inappropriate stuff, just good questions, interesting conversations, and when one bores me, I'll tell the truth."

These are the segments I would have captured today, had the show already existed.

Segment 1: A very physically ill mother berates me over the office telephone because her son ignored her in the parking lot and she needed to give him something. SCREAMING WITH A RASPY SCREECH, all she needed me to do was get him from English class and send him to the car; she just saw him walk by and he ignored her. I did exactly what she asked of me, returned to the office and rolled my eyes. Then she called again. This time, apologizing because she was so upset that she forgot to tell me why she really called. She wanted her other son to sign out because she needed to take him to the DMV since yesterday when they were there all of the machines were broken down and now they had to go back between 12 and 2 today. I calmly assured her that if she came in to sign him out I would send for him. She said the real secretary doesn't make her come in. I said, well, I do.
She came in, embarrassed her son a little, and left.

Segment 2: [DP], a high school student and I discuss how I will not discuss atheism or religion with him until he familiarizes him with a source other than Christopher Hitchens. I also advised him to stop seeking out the opposition argument with recommendations from Christopher Hitchens. At some point he made a comment about another English teacher and me not being like Christians, to which I immediately corrected him, "we are the Christians, it is the others who are not."
He spent a significant amount of time with me as he was sent to the office to photocopy chapters out of a book. I suggested that there might be a law against that.

Segment 3: [JF], a student enters my classroom and says, "how long would you go to jail if you were caught with 30 lbs. of pot?" I said, "I think a really long time that might be intent to distribute." He continues marveling at how much that would cost and what it would look like. I ask, "why are you so interested in this? Or, never mind don't tell me." He says, Wiz Khalifa. I google this character. 60 grams is the actual amount of marijuana he had, 2 ounces. Not at all like 30 lbs. [JF] says, that's still a lot. The bell rings. He leaves.

Segment 4: [LW] the struggling student comes for help. He, like all the others, wants to write about the topics we have discussed in class. I'm asking him to explore ideas analogous to what we study. At first, I tell him what to think, but eventually, he catches on. He writes an introduction with a quote, an in line citation, and a thesis. I'm impressed. He asks if he can come back tomorrow with his draft, and this is why I teach, to watch someone try. He draws conclusions, they are wrong, and I'm proud of him for showing up.

Segment 5: [RK] the antithesis of the struggling student, also struggling, comes to work on his paper. Listening to me as I admonish my daughter over the phone, he motions, should he leave? I shake my head no, so he stays to write. After I hang up, he explains to me that he gives his parents a hard time too, but he really doesn't want to. He told me that his brother grew up without his father actively in his life, quit school his junior year, and cooks in a local restaurant. He's 24 and still isn't sure what he wants to do with his life. He does like to cook though, and he's good at it. [RK] doesn't want to disappoint his parents and plans to attend college. Generally a good student, he admits to laziness.
He writes one sentence on his paper: The wild beast will always exist in humans. He shows it to me apologetically; "I'm not trying to be vague," he says. I'm pleased he has a thought. He tells me he doesn't wish it to be that way, but it is. He continues, slightly digressing, but connecting it all in his mind, that he finds the idea of predestination troubling. If I'm put here to go to hell, and that is predestined, is it designed so that my life will be a lesson of what not to do. Hitler, Mussolini, Charles Manson. And if my life is destined for heaven, then will others learn from my goodness, Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa?
I interrupt. I think predestination is a troubling argument, I admit. Most of us are in the middle, with the paradox of good and bad. So we live in the unknown, thinking we may never really be forgiven for the wrong we have done, but hoping we can be, the purpose I guess being to develop faith. I don't think we can see as clearly as the extreme examples of goodness and evil, we are a combination of the two, so what do we do?
He says, "yes, that is what I struggle with."
I said, write about it.

09 November 2010

Sassy from the collection titled George - the gift that keeps on giving

Sassy lives on my porch.  From time to time, when the front door is opened, she'll run through the house to the back door, a short cut.  This week she brought me a headless rat and dropped it in front of the sliding glass door to the back deck.
Sassy came into our lives when George and I decided to live apart.  George thought he needed a cat, so that Abbey and Jake would want to be with him.  He sent me to the SPCA and we picked the scrawny, feisty gray and black striped alley cat.  During Sassy's life at George's condo, she lived in the laundry closet.  When not confined to her cage, Jake tortured her, chasing her, holding her by her tail.  Sassy clawed her way to freedom and ran to her hiding place behind the drier.
When George moved back in with us, he needed to bring Sassy.  First we tried to keep her in Abbey's room.  My asthma suffocates me and turns my eyes into glassy razor blades.  She must live on the porch by the lake.  The dark, cold January air caused Sassy to take refuge elsewhere and for nearly 4 months we didn't see her.  With death hovering in our lives, the loss of the cat seemed symbolic.
Two months after George's death, a woman from Lake Frances Drive called my sister Kim in the upstate.
"Are you missing a scrawny, gray and black cat?"  the woman questioned?
"No, I don't have a cat."  Kim confidently replied.
"Well, I live on Lake Frances Drive and I've been caring for this stray cat." she continued.  "I took her to the vet, and she has a microchip with your information as the emergency contact."
"Hmmm," Kim wonders, "I think that's the street my sister Melissa lives on.  I'll call her," says she.
That George would put Kim's name, rather than mine, as the emergency contact on Sassy's tag makes sense only that if they called me, I might say, I don't know anything about a cat.
I feel a mixed sense of relief, confusion, and annoyance with the news of Sassy's resurrection.  Abbey and Jake celebrate the news, and I send them down to the neighbor to retrieve the seventh of Sassy's lives.
I wonder though; "how long will she stay?  We offer her nothing but an occasionally filled bowl of food and some water on the back porch."
She stays, having learned the neighborhood, she supplements her feedings with small rodents, birds and human sympathy.
We leave the lake and move to the island.  Life dramatically changes again for Sassy.  This time, she gets a balcony, fifteen feet from the ground.  She needs to use trees and propane tanks to get to her food bowls.  She spits up worms on the front porch, wages war on predators in the night, leaves hairballs filled with raw animal guts and blood by my patio furniture,  tortures lizards and dragonflies only until she kills them, whines if it rains until Abbey sneaks her in the garage or in her bedroom, and reminds me of George.
Sassy brought me the headless rat to show me she was doing her job keeping snakes, mice and lizards out of our home.  I didn't refill her bowls for two days.  John finally came and removed the rotting rodent.