» Archive for August, 2010

Dinnertime

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by kara

So I’m working a job now where I don’t get home until after 8:15 p.m., but Rick is working a more normal schedule. That means that he gets home hungry for dinner three hours before I’ll even be hopping into the Buick Regal to wend my scenic way back to the nest. If I start fixing dinner when I get home, that means we’ll be eating as late as 9:30 p.m., and it’s not healthy for Rick to go to bed at 10 p.m. with a full stomach.

And unless I’ve been exceptionally proactive and motivated that morning, it means Rick is either cooking hamburgers/hot dogs/sloppy joes for himself, or eating (yet another) peanut butter and jelly sammich.

And we all know exactly how proactive and motivated I am in the morning, which is -4 on a scale of 1 to 10, so my Wonderful Pumpkin eats hisself a LOT of PB&J.

“Don’t worry,” he says trying to make me feel better, “I really LIKE peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” That doesn’t really work, because the Pumpkin likes a lot of different foods, but it doesn’t mean that he should eat them for days and days on end. Nutritionally speaking it doesn’t seem balanced, and I worry that it might eventually cause him to snap, and I’ll come home from work to find the entire 7-pound jar of Peter Pan we found at Sam’s Club pasted over the whole kitchen.

Rick insists he can’t cook, which is really not true. The man can make a mean chicken stir-fry on his own, with just the envelope of stir-fry seasoning mix from the store, which is still home-made in my eyes. He could do that before we met.

“But I can’t just go into the kitchen and say ‘Oh, we’ll have pan-fried chicken tenderloins with cole slaw and biscuits for dinner tonight’ and fix it,” he says to me. I have to remind him that I started cooking and baking when I was old enough to hold a hand mixer steady in a bowl of cookie dough, and anyone with 33 years experience in anything is going to be ‘better’ at it than someone with less.

When I was on the fire department in Highland Township, I’d be in the middle of fixing dinner when my pager would go off, and I’d have to abandon everything to respond. In the middle of grabbing my stuff and listening to the address of the call, I’d be giving Rick instructions on how to finish fixing all the food that was in-progress at that moment. “Finish steaming this until it’s fork-tender, drain and mash the potatoes with butter, milk and salt & pepper, and pull the biscuits out when they’re nicely browned on top!”

And when I returned, dinner was always done perfectly. So the man can cook–he just doesn’t know it.

Or maybe he doesn’t want to know it.

But I’ve been fretting lately over how poorly nourished we are, and the more often we opt for pizza or take-out food, the more money we waste on junk that just fills our stomachs without really doing us any good. We’ve got to figure out a way for us to have home-cooked meals with me on this crazy schedule.

The logical thing to do would be to plan the weekly meal menu, and then do as much of the food prep as possible ahead of time, either on the weekend or in the morning. I’d then leave instructions for Rick on how to finish preparing the meal, and he could have a hot, homemade meal when he’s ready for it, and I could have leftovers when I get home.

Again, though, that’s assuming that I can remain focused and motivated to plan all this ahead of time, stick to the schedule, and peel potatoes at 8 a.m. on days OTHER than Thanksgiving.

So we joined E-Mealz, to get their weekly menu plan and shopping list that will allow us to save money while still eating well. We were pretty gung-ho about it, until I looked at the first menu plan.

It sounds lovely, and I’d be very pleased to be working with a ready-made meal plan with such wonderful food, mostly from scratch. But I’m not the one who’d be doing most of this prep–Rick would.

I looked at the first recipe, Chicken Dijon, which calls for two chicken breasts pounded to 1/4″ thickness, and asked him “Are you okay with doing all this prep and cooking?” And then I knew that for this first week, at least, that Rick would be eating PB&J.

This weekend, we’ll take a look at the menu plan and see how much we can collaborate on the food prep.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

Smells vs. scents vs. odors

Thursday, August 26th, 2010 by kara

Scent is a very important sensation.  It jolts our memory, evokes emotions and stimulates our appetite, as well as warning us away from situations that may be hazardous to us, like 0bviously spoiled food, house fires, and skunks.

I enjoy experiencing many different scents: Other peoples’ colognes, freshly-washed laundry hanging on a clothesline or drying in a dryer, baking bread or toasting toast, and even scents that some people may not appreciate as much, like autumn’s first pungent whiff of skunk, combined with the sharp, sweet scent of wind-fallen apples in an orchard. Am I the only one who smells these similarities, or are there really scent elements shared by skunk, bologna and coffee? The Pumpkin says I’m losing my mind whenever I say that skunk has a ‘clean’ smell, and that it reminds me a little bit of bologna.

Of course, I may be a little warped, because bat guano (to me) smells a little bit like someone drank too much cofffee-flavored tequila and sicked it back up. Ack. Moving right along to more pleasant scents…

I also enjoy the smell of gasoline and mothballs, although not together.  (Yeah, I know, ‘How do you get your nose between their tiny little legs?’ Har dee har.) And although I like the SCENT of coffee brewing, I don’t really care much for the taste. Odd, no?

Here’s a nice one, and kind of a puzzling scent: I was on my way home from work a couple nights ago, and for once it was cool enough for me to roll down the windows in my car instead of trying to turn it into a mobile mini-fridge. Since that was our first rain-free day in quite a while, many people were mowing their lawns. Grass was universally tall, so the mowers were working hard and getting hot, and lots of people were making that oddly-appetizing scent of cut-grass-baked-on-the-hot-mower-deck.

Again, is it just me, or does anyone else find that scent really appealing, similar to toasting marshmallows and baking bread? When you’re cutting grass that’s so long the job almost becomes haying instead of mowing, the cuttings build up quickly under the hot mower deck, and the resulting scent is so much more appealing than just ‘freshly-cut lawn.’ I’d love to find out what it is about ordinary lawn that smells so darned edible when it gets sautéed by yard equipment.

One scent I truly miss ever since moving away from the Great Lakes shoreline is the smell of lake water. Nothing else has those same cool, clean-in-a-fishy-way notes like wind coming off the Big Lakes. I also miss the smell of sun-warmed cedar swamps, and the unique smell of sun-warmed skin after being on a boat all day. Olefactorily speaking, I miss Michigan, I guess.

So very proud of Emily and Corey

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by kara

Friday will be an amazing day for two people I love dearly.  My niece, Emily, and my nephew, Corey, are graduating from Marine boot camp on Parris Island that day, and I’m so proud of them!

I can’t imagine anything more difficult than making it through Marine boot camp.  It’s a psychological and physical trial that lasts three months, and is designed to tear a person down and then rebuild them into the Marine machine, capable of amazing endurance and resourcefulness.  The feeling of exhilaration after achieving such an important goal must be intoxicating for them.

Emily and Corey have proved that they got ‘the stuff’ to excel, and I’m so happy for them.  Kind of jealous, too–after learning that they could get through boot camp in one piece, what CAN’T they do now?  I hope that they’re riding that wave of pride and joy in their accomplishment, and that they carry that can-do, will-do attitude through into all aspects of their lives.  Success isn’t just one destination, it’s a journey, and this is the beginning of a long and successful journey for Em and Corey.  Congratulations, you guys!

Writing to feel good, feeling good to write?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010 by kara

I’d like to be able to write stories that entertain people, that take them away from their own world and into another place that allows them to relax and feed their souls with situations and feelings that are new to them.

Isn’t it the best feeling to have a great book in your hands, one that catches your attention and grasps it like a toddler with a melting ice cream cone? You can’t stop reading because the story is just that good, but you dread reaching the end of the book, because…well…then there won’t be any more wonderful story left, and then what will you DO?

I feel this way about stories written by Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Jefferson Bass, Nelson DeMille, Lee Childs, Jim Butcher and several other writers. I love getting hold of a new book by one of my favorite authors, and getting lost in the storyline. I’d like to be able to provide that kind of escape, that level of entertainment, for people with my fiction writing.

But in order to do that, I would have to actually finish one of the many stories I’ve begun writing.

Yes, yes, this is all related to my OCD and procrastination problem. I hate doing something if it’s less than perfect, and if I can’t make it perfect, I shouldn’t start it at all…and I have to do laundry right now, and very likely there’s something that needs cleaning, and I can’t sit down and start writing a story if there’s housework to be done.

And there, in one paragraph, is the summation of my 30 years of fiction writing.

I’ve been told I have a lot of potential. I squander it all, I’m an equal-opportunity-squanderer. But I really would love to write and be paid for it.

The ironic bit is that I feel better when I’m writing something, even if it’s just a meaningless little scribble like my blog–but in order to even scribble, I have to be in a relatively good frame of mind. (Can we call typing in a word processing program ‘scribbling’? Or does one need actual pen + paper to scribble?)

I’ve been hoping that writing on a regular basis, ANY kind of writing, would jump-start my prolific fiction writing career. Eh. Pretty much every single action word in that last sentence is just bunk. But I’ll at least keep boring YOU, Gentle Reader, with this ‘scribbling.’

Still not over it

Sunday, August 15th, 2010 by kara

I’m a slob.  Happily, I live in t-shirts (the bigger, the better to cover my muffin-top) and shorts during the summer, blue jeans in the winter.

So when I took a dozen t-shirts and one cotton button-down shirt out of my wardrobe last week, perfectly good, colourful shirts, you know there had to be a darned good reason.

Their commonality?  They all had “Jewelry Television” embroidered across the left breast.

Jewelry Television is the reason my Wonderful Pumpkin and I had sold our beautiful little house in Saline, MI and moved here to Knoxville, TN in 2007.  Seemed like a great, family-run company which cared about their employees, and Rick hooked up with a fabulous group of co-workers who meshed amazingly well, and had a blast while working very hard together.  Rick bought a bunch of t-shirts in every conceivable colour, with “Jewelry Television” embroidered on them, because employees couldn’t wear any shirts with other logos on them.  We’re talking purple and orange, and tie-dyed t-shirts, even rainbow tie dye!  He bought me a few, too.  🙂

Everything was going well until JTV laid my Pumpkin off in January 2009.  No pay for the three weeks of vacation he’d been promised when he got hired in, no severance agreement giving him some time to look for another job, no health insurance for even a little while afterward, just ‘boom’ and out the door.

I am a proud, judgmental woman with very definitive ideas about how the world should work.  I don’t like to make a fuss about anything in particular, but I will if my hand is forced.  Rick and I mourned the loss of his job, and we picked up the pieces and moved on.

And some while afterward, I realized that I didn’t want Rick to wear the JTV t-shirts anymore.  I didn’t want him to have that company’s name on his body because I had too much pride for and/or in him, so I asked him to stop wearing them.  Instead, I put them in my closet–it didn’t matter to me. After all, they’re perfectly good shirts, and it’s just a logo, doesn’t mean I endorse JTV by wearing it.  Lots of people even wear Detroit Lions jerseys without expecting them to win.

Or, at least, I thought it didn’t matter to me.

After all, I wasn’t wearing them anywhere of any consequence.  Until I started my new job.  We wear business casual during the week, and on casual Fridays we can wear jeans and t-shirts.  :::swoon:::

Without thinking, I put on my favorite jeans and a colourful, tie-dyed JTV t-shirt and went to work.  And one of my co-workers said “Oh, did you used to work at JTV?”

Grrrr.  I had to explain that no, I hadn’t worked for them, but my husband had, and they’d laid him off and left us high and dry for nine months.

The depth of my anger was surprising.  It wasn’t quite as bad as when we first lived through the layoff, but there was still a lot of animosity in me.  And then I shook it off and went on with my day.

Until I wore another JTV shirt to work, and had to explain to someone else how I had come to be wearing it.  And I was just as annoyed at the retelling of the story that day as well.

So I came home and pulled all the JTV shirts out of my closet.  I won’t wear them in public again, so that I can avoid this resentment.  I’ll still wear them to bed, and for working around the house (maybe).

But it’s plain to me and to anyone who asks me about it, that I’m still not over it.

Lists for remembering

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 by kara

This is probably a symptom of my OCD, but I’ve been motivated lately to create a list all of the addresses and telephone numbers at which I’ve resided throughout my life.  When I was applying to my present employer, I had to list my addresses for the past five years, and it was a little difficult for me to fill in some of those blanks.  Of course, there WERE four different addresses for me to write down, but it was disturbing not to be able to recall the ZIP code for our home in Highland Township, and I couldn’t quite remember of which big airliner the Saline house number reminded me.

Same thing with my working resumé: It’s morphed, through the years, into an abbreviated and truncated list of jobs I’ve held during the past 10 years. It’s by no means comprehensive, and sometimes I feel like I should go back and include every single job I’ve ever worked at, if only for laughs–and of course so that I don’t forget them. God forbid I should forget one of my jobs. God forbid I should forget ANYTHING AT ALL.

Thus I decided it was vital for me to create a list of all my previous addresses, so that if I ever forgot where I had lived, I could look it up.

Why this is important, I can’t really verbalize, but collecting data has always been comforting to me. Plus making a list to be archived against forgetfulness is proactive, so even if I do have the beginnings of Alzheimer’s I’ll have a head start on my personal encyclopedia.

That’s a little morbid, isn’t it?

For the first 22 years of my life, I stayed in one spot, at my family’s ancestral home.  I got married and moved in with my first wonderful husband to a little, rented kit-chalet near Harbor Springs, filing my first change of address form at the United States Postal Service.  And then things got crazy, address-wise.

Wonderful Hubby #1 was killed in a car accident just seven months after we married.  I was pretty much in shock for the next few years, and my address records reflect that. Like a forlorn gypsy, I moved from the chalet back to my mother’s house, and then into my friends’ house in Traverse City, then into my own apartment in Traverse City.

From there, I moved down to St. Clair to live with my sister, who was beginning her own household relocation and reorganization, and we moved once again, together. Eventually I moved in with The Wonderful Pumpkin and we stayed in that apartment for a little while.

No household moves at all for my first 22 years, then six moves within three years. I got good at moving, knew what to pack and what to leave out, when to file the change of address, and how to re-file just to make sure nothing got overlooked.

Part of me thinks it’s not necessary to have a list of all one’s previous places of residence, but the OCD side wants to know exactly what the house numbers and street names were, what the home telephone number was. The OCD Kara has moved from saving actual physical mementos to use as hints for reminiscing, to saving data for the same purpose.

When I think of the address in Highland Township, I think of the ferns that we transplanted from the wilderness that was our backyard, to the shady side of the garage.  When I think of our address in Saline, I recall how satisfying it was to paint the bedrooms in the vibrant colours Rick and I picked out, and how surprisingly cozy our home became.

Remembering the address in Oak Ridge reminds me of how optimistic I was to relocate to Tennessee with my Pumpkin, our first really big move together.  And it reminds me, too, of our low-class neighbors in that apartment complex and how we called the fire department one night, to have them put out a fire started in the mulch at the base of one of the support pillars by a discarded, smoldering cigarette butt.  The apartment building was made of cement block, but I had no interest in watching the fire consume the support pillar and destroy the overhang next to our kitchen window.

And now our address in Knoxville. This house represents what is probably the most-difficult period in Rick’s and my life together, dealing with the loneliness from missing family and friends, to coping with the fear and privation of losing our income when Rick was laid off from Jewelry Television.

Of course, we also have wonderful memories of fostering rescue dogs, gaining two more members of our family, and the family and friends we’ve had as guests here.  I guess it’s harder to encapsulate a particular memory or emotion for an address while one is still AT that address. It’s best described as a ‘work in progress’.

There are still some holes in my address list. I’ll have to go back through my files and see if I can’t find the house number of the chalet on Pleasantview Road in Harbor Springs, and some other tidbits but it’s comforting to know that I’ve started it, just in case I lose my mind tomorrow.