Tag Archives: Coffee

COVID Blues

This is just one of those days where I feel like I don’t have much to say, but feel like I should be writing anyway. Life is different (for now) in a way that I never expected in my lifetime. My state (Maryland) is on lockdown. You can get arrested for going to a non-essential business. If you have a job, you are only allowed to go into the office if you have a piece of paper from the government that says you are an essential worker. Work is still getting done, of course, but through voice and video chats, most of DC and its suburbs working from home. I don’t know how long this is supposed to last, but some at the CDC say that we will experience breakouts until 2022, expanding and retracting the economy as we open up and experience a new wave. I am just like the protestors. I want a haircut. I’m just smarter than to actually protest. I’d rather be safe in my home. In that way, I feel like everyone else.

No one except the protesters think we all like being cooped up, but 99% of us recognize that it’s not safe to be out and about. If we get sick, there are not enough resources to be tested, much less treated. The president told the governors to get their own testing supplies. Governor Hogan did, and now the president is mad about it.

I’m sorry, what? It is a confusion which passeth all understanding, as are most reactions from the White House. It is as if we are rolling back into the Articles of Confederation, every state for itself, and we are taking those responsibilities seriously… And at the same time, even though the president is saying this is what the governors should do, his ego gets butt hurt that he can’t take credit for all that’s going right. With him, it is always a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I think that’s the hardest part, actually. Tweeting that we need to “liberate” states way too early isn’t helping matters… because of course, if said states are opened back up and restrictions are loosened, there will be another string of tweets saying “I told you it was too early.”

At this point, I am so shaggy that I am beginning to think I will have a ponytail before this is all over. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that my hair is growing at all different rates and I have really thick hair, so I’m embracing the Harry Potter look. I did find water-based wax from Viking that’s making my life a little easier, but that’s not saying much.

I also find myself putting on makeup more and more often, because otherwise I think I look terrible on camera and will spend an entire video call picking apart my appearance. Most of the time, it’s just mascara and eyeliner so my eyes don’t get lost into my glasses. Maybe I’ll dye my hair red again to keep me from looking mousy on camera- but that depends on whether there’s any hair dye to be had. The last time I dyed my hair red was shortly after I moved to DC, where Samantha shoeshined my head and hosed me down in the front yard as not to make my bathroom look like a murder scene. I still have that towel, and everyone thinks that I’ve had blood on it for almost five years. Nope, it’s Feria, and it won’t come out.

But if whether or not to dye my hair is the biggest worry I have in all this, I’m not doing it right.

Well, actually, I am.

My anxiety at leaving the house is overwhelming, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing cool about getting arrested (although I would for the right cause…. this isn’t it). And I don’t know where people are getting arrested in the first place. I don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I take Uber directly to the doctor’s office, then directly to the pharmacy and grocery store, and then I can’t get home fast enough. Public transportation is probably okay in terms of not getting handcuffed, but there’s so much higher a risk that I’d get sick. Even in the Uber, the drivers wear masks, and now I have my own. You would think that would make me more comfortable about getting out. So far, no dice.

I’m taking care of myself as well as I can. I still get dressed every day. Sometimes I even take a shower. That may sound gross, but if I shower too often, my hair and skin dry out too much, and no one’s going to see me in person, anyway.

Speaking of which, now that I’ve had two cups of coffee, I’m going to go run some water through my hair and see if I can come up with something relatively aesthetically pleasing. Maybe I should try a fork.

What’s Making Me Happy

I did not come up with this title on my own. One of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” Pop Culture Happy Hourand they end with the panelists saying what piece of media is speaking to them. Their recommendations are always solid, and I hope that mine can be as well. I’ve gotten several that have stuck with me, such as “Steven Universe.” It has become more important to me over time, because it takes place on a Delmarva beach (code for the coast of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia), and I have a college friend that reminds me so much of Steven that it’s hard not to believe that I am actually watching him. In the same vein, they also introduced me to “Adventure Time,” which I have found to be a complicated, winding mythology that is supposedly for children.

These panelists have encouraged me to make my own list, important especially because I often need to look back and find things that will make me feel better when I’m grieving (grief is too small a word to encompass all the emotions one experiences). Sometimes I exhibit behaviors that I don’t even realize are connected to grief, but if I dig down deep, I find they usually are. The media I have to recommend is sometimes hilarious, and sometimes heart-wrenching because I need the catharsis. One of them comes from last night.

This is Us” is not an easy show to watch, and I would never recommend a binge, even though they are on their third season. It is listed here because of the episode “A Hell of a Week: Part Two.”

***Spoiler Alert**

Kevin’s most significant love, Sophie, calls him to tell him her mother died. He decides to go to the funeral, and when she starts to break down during her eulogy, she looks out into the crowd and sees Kevin’s face, allowing her to continue. Flashbacks of Kevin’s relationship with Sophie’s mom populate the episode, but the thing that touched me the most was the reflection of my own feelings. She says her husband has been great through all of this, but she can’t believe she’s going to be married for the rest of her life to someone that never knew her mother. She also looks pained that her husband’s parents are still alive, which if my experience is any indication, it’s the reason she called Kevin in the first place.

Particularly in the beginning, I only wanted to talk to people who could understand my plight implicitly without me having to explain it in words that always failed to get the point across, anyway. People have told me I have a gift for words, but I could not find any that would explain in the moment how my world had turned completely upside down. I didn’t know the path to the new normal. I didn’t even know how to take the first step. I was in complete and total shock. Part of it was that my mother had died, and that was enough, but the insult to injury is that it happened in an instant. I wasn’t there. I heard the news over the phone… and so did Sophie. The difference between us is that her mother had multiple sclerosis, and had suffered for a long time. Her mother’s death didn’t come out of nowhere. If you are just joining the fray, my mother was perfectly healthy save a broken foot, which caused an embolism that loosened and traveled straight to her brain. She did make it to the hospital in an ambulance, but lasted less than a half hour there. My only comfort is that a couple of days before, I got to have a phone conversation with my mother that lasted two and a half hours. Though we did not talk about life and death issues, it still felt like we got to talk long enough that there was nothing left unsaid, no unfinished business. In fact, a good bit of the conversation was that she wasn’t working at all. She’d recently retired from teaching (elementary music), and the church at which she was playing the piano/organ had closed. She didn’t know what to do with herself. So, my absolutely black humor that makes me laugh to this day is, “Mom, if you’re bored with retirement, maybe signing up for yoga would have been a better choice.” I didn’t cry through the episode, I was excited to see my emotions reflected back to me. Enough time has passed that it just felt comforting in all the right ways.

I am also finding solace in books, some fiction, some nonfiction. The last novel I read that cut right through me was “Where the Crawdads Sing,” part murder mystery, part love letter to the North Carolina coast. I don’t want to give anything away about this book. I will just say that the prose is transcendent, and the ending a true “AHA! moment.” Telling you more than this is just robbing you of picking up a book you might not have read on your own and finding a rare treasure. It is one of the few that I might listen to as an audiobook later, because there are some sentences that I just want read to me, with the ability to rewind.

In terms of non-fiction, I am reading two books on very disparate subjects.

The first is “Spydust,” by the incomparable Jonna and Tony Mendez. Though it is technically about espionage, I wouldn’t classify it completely in that category. It is also a love story between two spies who have each other’s back at work…………….. and slowly realize they want to support each other in all areas of their lives. While learning about spycraft is infinitely interesting, I am really enjoying the parts of the book that explore spies’ lives beyond their operations. For instance, Jonna is on an op in which she writes a letter to her sister, “Jennifer.” It is not clear whether Jonna’s sister knows she is writing in code by saying that she’s “traveling,” and that’s why she missed her birthday, or whether her sister only knows that traveling is part of her job. My only clue that “Jennifer” actually does know is that from the letter, it seems as if the sister does know where she is, but the letter only references “this part of the world.” I would think that letters (and now e-mails) to family and friends are so hard, constantly wording them in such a way that they are not outright lies, but highly necessary sins of omission.

It is possible that is why so many spies date each other, but even that is problematic if you don’t have the same levels of clearance. You can get into just as much trouble for reading your spouse in on something that is above their pay grade as you can for talking about your work with family and friends…. which I learned from a TV show called “Covert Affairs,” which makes me ridiculously happy because it is not a dramatic procedural in which everything has to be spot on. In fact, it’s kind of ridiculous, but highly entertaining….. exciting without taking all the myelin off your nerves.

The second is by one of “my kids,” the term of endearment I use for all the computer users I tutored in the lab for the Graduate School of Social Work at University of Houston. Her name is Brené Brown, and even though I know there’s not a chance in hell she would remember me, I enjoy knowing that I had a tiny role in getting her papers in on time with the correct formatting. The book is called “The Gifts of Imperfection,” a book that “explores how to cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to embrace your imperfections and to recognize that you are enough.” It’s probably one of the books I’ve needed to read since the moment it came out, but I’m glad I found it recently. Brown’s work on vulnerability and shame is slowly bringing me back out into the world, because vulnerability is not one of my strong points unless I am writing. In conversation, I have trouble letting people in. I do have two friends with whom I am completely authentic because I’ve known them for a relatively long time and they were there for me when my mother died, which carries a lot of weight. With people I do not know well, they are unlikely to hear anything from me that’s deeper than a glass of orange juice.

The last thing that’s making me happy is the movie “Jojo Rabbit.” Set in WWII, it’s about a little boy who wants to be a Nazi soldier and fight for his country…. to the point that he daydreams that Adolf Hitler is his imaginary friend (brilliantly played by Taika Waititi of “What We Do in the Shadows” fame). It is a farce, with many, many laugh lines… but also packs an emotional punch as Jojo begins to realize that being a Nazi isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Oh, wait. There’s one more thing. Coffee. Coffee is making me happy. You want a cup? I’ll make it for you myself. Do you prefer Cafe Bustelo or Kenya single origin?

[_])

Komodo Dragon, Straight Up

I am a huge fan of independent coffee shops, and spend my own money there. However, there are lots of people who send me Starbucks gift certificates, so I don’t think I’ve spent my own money there in years. This is because I buy the beans and drink the coffee at home, and the stars add up.komodo-dragon-blend231ac7452d2168f58d66ff0000024ad1 I bought two bags of Komodo Dragon yesterday. That means I can stop by Starbucks and get my free reward coffee for quite a while.

But just because I love independent coffee shops doesn’t mean that I don’t like Starbucks beans. Komodo Dragon is so good that if I could, I’d just snort it. It is best black, because for a dark roast, it’s quite sweet and fruity, just like me.

And, of course, I have a friend who I’ve called “my dragon” for years, so the label doesn’t suck, either…. it’s just that in my head, my friend is not gold. She’s blue and green…. although I suppose they’re a little gold. There are bright spots on the end of their tail. Rubeus Hagrid would fall all over himself….. and love them and squeeze them and call them “George.” (If you get both of those references, you win a prize. And the prize is you’re old.) But let’s be clear- the label is just an added bonus. If I had to pick one coffee that I’d drink every day for the rest of my life, this would be it…. and not for lack of searching for something from a coffee shop that actually needs the money. I will keep looking, but I am terribly picky.

I made a pot this morning and all my housemates liked it as well, which is good since I have two pounds of it.

But I didn’t start this entry just to talk about coffee. It’s just that most of the time, I begin by telling you what I’m drinking. This entry is actually about a realization that knocked me on my ass, and led me to make some life changes that I hope will pan out.

I worked through all my issues surrounding dating and why it’s been five years. Why I haven’t wanted to put myself out there, why I was more nervous about things working out than not, why it was just too much bother.

After I came to those conclusions, I used a friend as a sounding board and it was good. I told her that my knee-jerk response to figuring all of this out was to get on dating apps and try to match with anyone I thought was remotely attractive and had a good line in their profile that made me laugh.

Me being me, though, I don’t know how I came across. Not a whole lot of feedback yet, except one woman I definitely asked out. I told her that I just wanted it to be easy and comfortable, to meet each other instead of only knowing a fourth of us through text.

She said yes.

If things go the way I think they will, this is someone I can picture having long conversations with. In her profile, she said she was a chef. So, of course, I had to ask if she was a line cook or an actual chef, because there can be only one. She told me she had her stripes, where she’d been executive chef, etc.

Having been married to a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, I had to overthink about why this woman being a chef was important to me. My immediate thought was that I had taken ownership of my love of cooking and working in restaurants long ago, and therefore it didn’t have anything to do with my old life/relationship. It was a good talk to have with myself, though, just to make sure. I have also told her why I don’t work in restaurants anymore, and her immediate reaction was understanding.

Am I ready for a relationship? I don’t know. Waiting five years was probably the right choice, because I have no lingering thoughts or jealous exes that would try to make an appearance.

What I do know is that unless I marry the woman who delivers pizza to my house, I’m not going to get anywhere hiding from the world. Although, as I have said before, there are three pluses to dating the pizza woman, because up front, I know three things:

  • she is employed
  • she has a vehicle
  • she already knows where I live

There are galaxies of possibilities to that “yes,” and I’m looking forward to finding out what they might be. Whether they are positive or negative is of no consequence, because this isn’t about trying to find my forever love. This is about me, and why I’ve been scared to interact at all, especially on the dating level.

As my personality type (INFJ) dictates, I have maybe one or two friends at a time, but I know them all as intimately as friends do- walking around in each other’s inner landscapes, calling each other on our own bullshit, mutual respect and happiness between us. I am not very good at small talk, so I prefer to be able to have friends in which I can just be myself and say anything, because I know that my friends accept me whether I’m wrong or right. Most of the time, my friends have to call me out on logic, because when I think with my emotions, it’s often upside down and backwards. Creative basket cases are where logic dissipates into the ether.

And because I have such close friends, I have never been able to say I was a lonely person looking for someone to complete me. I don’t have need of the fairy tale true love. At this point in life (late 30s-early 40s), we all have our own quirks, are a bit set in our ways, and we just have to hope all of it lines up.

When I said that I just wanted to hang out- make it easy and comfortable, she said, “I feel you- it seems like nobody goes on romantic dates anymore.” I want to meet her in person first, to see what I need to see in terms of spark, but I did file it away under note to self.

Right now, I’m just feeling grateful for the coffee, and the light bulb I finally realized needed changing, because it just wasn’t helping to sit in the dark.

Dame Blanche

This story starts at a restaurant near the Sacré Cœur, but it won’t end there. There’s more to tell before and after. I am choosing to begin with dessert.49759214_10156642200665272_7175104310940794880_o Literally.

For all my Outlander fans, in Paris (or maybe all of France, I don’t know) a “Dame Blanche” is a vanilla ice cream dessert with hot fudge and lots of Chantilly cream. Not only is it rich and heavy, there’s a lot of it. The portion size is enormous. There is a chocolate version called Liégeois Chocolat, which is equally delicious but not necessary to my French Outlander experience. These are both presented in the same line on the menu (no space or slash), so I think it’s all one dessert, and the waiter is confused. I keep pointing, and the look on his face as he walks away clearly says “I hope she has a hollow leg,” but that is only in retrospect.

What arrives is two overflowing parfait glasses, and I proceed to take them down like I have never eaten before and am new to the concept. I think my dad might have taken a bite or two, and that’s being generous.

To be fair, I had walked with my dad for over four miles that day, so by the time we got to dinner I was famished… even after having what seemed like an entire braised and shredded duck with mashed purple potatoes (akin to Shepard’s pie) for lunch… and that was just the main course. The entrée was a cream seafood soup and bread. Dinner was a veggie burger and fries. Given the way I usually eat, this was way past “I had too much to eat” and solidly into the perfection of gluttony.

Not being hungry has never stopped me from eating ice cream before, and I have my doubts it ever will again. French vanilla tasted roughly the same as it does in the United States, but chocolate ice cream is beyond comparison… less sweet and much darker, closer to a 60-65% cacao.

Incidentally, the rich desserts sort of made up for the lack of good coffee. Perhaps I was just ordering it wrong, but I thought it was terrible. The one thing I didn’t try that they had at the Charles de Gaulle airport Starbucks was a chocolate cereal milk latte. The rest of the time, I went to independent cafes or had instant Nescafe in my hotel room, which was arguably better than purchasing coffee elsewhere. Go to France for the food, clearly.

Earlier that day, I got my Doctor Who fix. One of the most famous episodes of the show takes place in part at the Musée d’Orsay Van Gogh exhibit, and to see it in person was astounding. musee_dorsayEvery Van Gogh you’ve seen in print is there. I saw the real Starry Night. I saw The Church at Auvers. I was mere inches away from haystacks and sunflowers. If I’d had four or five weeks in Paris, at least one would be dedicated to that room alone. I am not a visual artist by any definition. I would have just stared. I would have let his crazy mix with my crazy and see what writing came out of “us.”

Since I was short on time, I fairly quickly wandered around to the other Impressionists, spending a good five minutes looking at one light green stroke of paint on a Monet up close, then backing away until it looked like a leaf. I marveled at Gougin’s use of color and how it seemed he was the only person who painted people of color in that era. I loved his use of bright, engaging colors with cartoon-like black outlines so that everything stood out, like words with every syllable accented. Gougin’s art didn’t so much speak to me as it yelled in my direction, screamed and dared at me to look. Simplicity was complex. These were island people with spartan houses and blank expressions, so the question for me was, “are they happy?” Perhaps they didn’t so much like being painted, but it was more than that. I wondered if they felt impoverished or empowered.

The next truly overwhelming installation I saw was Monet’s Water Lilies20190106_151827, in permanent residence at the Musée de l’Orangerie. It covers several rooms and defies speech. Yet another work in which you constantly get very close, then very far away, then very close, just to see how the magic is put together. Monet was in his eighties when the collection was painted, and then stitched together to be hung. If you look very, very closely, you can see the stitches, but like everything else in an Impressionist’s work, blends “seamlessly.” When people talk about Water Lilies, they generally only mean the light blues and purples, but the actual cycle is so much more. The way they are hung now is, in essence, virtual reality. You don’t so much look at the paintings as step into them…. Claude Monet in “Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound.”

I am finding that talking about Paris is more suited to several entries and not one gigantic read, so you’ll see more as the days progress. My Facebook friends have seen all my pictures because I couldn’t snap a photo without posting it five seconds later. Sorry I’ve kind of left you out in the cold, Fanagans. I was too full to move, much less write.

And not nearly caffeinated enough. What is sold in the United States as “French Roast” is just a terrible, terrible lie they tell little kids at bedtime.

Christmas 2018

I am sitting at my desk with a very large cup of coffee, praying to the little baby Jesus that I don’t spill it on the sweatshirt I’m wearing. I used to wear it for Christmas when I was a teenager, then I gave it to my mother, and when she died I took it back from her closet. The first year I wore it was to a Christmas choir party at my friend Suzanne’s. David, a notorious troublemaker of a tenor, looked at the bells stitched on the front (the graphic is a Christmassy horse) and announced that “everywhere you go, you tinkle when you walk.” So, of course, that’s the first think I think of when I pull it over my head.

The sweatshirt came in handy during the carol singing portion of the evening. As Suzanne played “Jingle Bells” on the piano, I jumped up and down. People howled, as did I. I am nothing short of extraordinary at laughing with and at me.

As I got older, though, I was embarrassed by it, and wouldn’t wear the sweatshirt even when my mom asked me specifically. As I go about my day, I’m thinking that she would have enjoyed me wearing it a lot more when she was alive. In the spirit of gentle chastisement, when your parents ask you to wear something ridiculous, just do it for them. You will be less uncomfortable knowing just how much joy it gives them. I mean, I’m sitting here looking like a third grade teacher who just can’t give up appliqued anything and so far, I’m fine with it.

And another gentle chastisement for parents. If you’re anything like my mom, even though you hate having your picture made (especially in the first few moments of mad dash to the tree with your hair unbrushed), just take the damn picture. I can’t tell you how many precious moments I am missing because of her reticence. Don’t be camera shy with your kids. Those photos will be everything to them when you die. I repeat…. everything.

I have really loved all my Christmas presents, but I am even more excited to learn how my friends and family like theirs.

The funniest thing I got was a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure…. and two are tied for the most useful. My weighted blanket is worth its weight in gold, as is a teapot for a single mug with an infuser and lots of looseleaf tea. I have a teapot, but I don’t often drink four mugs in a row. The sizing fits me just right. I also like that the infuser is very deep, so I can make black tea strong enough to put hair on my chest. I like a builder’s brew with a little extra cream, and I use CoffeeMate in my tea because I can make it creamy without bringing down the temperature of the water.

I also got a bag of Starbucks coffee that I’d never tried- Holiday Blend with maple notes… and of course, I opened it after I’d made a fresh pot and kicked myself because I’m a sucker for new food and drinks. I am an advertiser’s dream woman. 99% of the time, if I haven’t seen it before, or it says “new and improved,” I’m buying it. I’m surprised my friends didn’t get soda and cookies under the tree from me.

Not that they would have minded.

Additionally, I talked to my family (both chosen and biological), and actually took a shower today. I prefer most of the time to just fix my hair, because it’s so cold I don’t want to take off my HeatTech extra warm long johns and warm sweaters. They didn’t have “extra warm” last year. These are new and improved. 😛

And, of course, right after I bought them they came out with ultra warm.

But taking a shower and putting my HeatTech back on came secondary to answering a video call from Ryan and his family.

Because I take the damn pictures.

Flavored Coffee is for Young People

This entry is going to start out with a story that seems like a million years ago, but was really only about 17 (I think….). Before I met Dana, I dated a woman that was much older than me, but captured my heart with the simple fact that to her, everything was magic. Just an incredible lightness of being, the art of wearing rose-colored glasses no matter how crappy life got. Her attitude was just #goals for someone as alternately perky and jaded as me. And as different as we were, we were at the same points in our lives- both having just broken up with people we loved despite our differences- realizations that our partners were great people, but not great with us.

It was interesting to see people’s reactions to our age gap. My friends loved her. Her friends hated me, and hate is not too strong a word. They viewed me as the midlife crisis girltoy, and not a fully functioning adult with agency. The worst was judgmental anger from people in an age-gap relationship two years smaller than ours. I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on. But I wasn’t. I took everything personally and just hid in my shell.

I don’t think she was immune to judgment, either, because ultimately our relationship ended because she thought I was too young. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. Hard to tell in retrospect. I just know that I could have handled whatever life threw at us, but if we hadn’t broken up, it wouldn’t have created the door for Dana to open. She became my best friend because in the beginning, we didn’t know each other well at all. I just had to find a new gaggle of friends since most of my friends in Portland were also my then-girlfriend’s, and it didn’t feel like a safe place to fall. The friends I had that were the ultimate support didn’t live there- they met her through phone calls, as archaic as that sounds. I mean, I could still be friends with the ones that were mutual, but it wasn’t my goal to express anger or sadness in front of them, especially since I knew their reaction was going to be a ten gallon jug of “I told you so,” which is always so helpful in a breakup.

But the main thing our age gap provided me was an immense amount of laughter.

We were in Starbucks and she ordered a soy latte. I can’t remember exactly what I had, but if I’m guessing, either a raspberry or mint regular latte. She looked at me and said, “flavored coffee is for young people.” I wish I had been strong enough back then to just say “bite me” and move on.

And now it’s almost 20 years later, and every time I have a flavored coffee… every single time… that line runs through my head. Today it’s French vanilla creamer and dark roast. At 41, now I need to feel like a young person. So there. Flipping the script.

I’m drinking a lot of coffee this morning because even though I slept well, I’m working dish tonight from 1700-2300. I could take a nap, but I don’t want to. I want to watch the first snowfall of the season. It’s just magical, especially since I don’t drive. That way, I can just enjoy the snow without worrying about scraping off my car, or getting into an accident on the way and having to call the restaurant and say “I just slid into a ditch.” Well, unless my Uber driver does. I doubt the bus has that capability. I tend to take the bus in the snow, because if we’re in a wreck, the bus is gonna win.

It’s important for me to stay alive, because no one else is going to update this web site, and Facebook nags me all the time. I have 105 followers on my author page, and I’ll get passive-aggressive messages saying they haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s annoying, but also necessary. I took this job as a cook and dishwasher partly because I needed any job, and partly because my level in IT is “constantly connected to my job, tethered by phone and laptop.” I thought I would have more time to write, but what has actually happened is that I am so physically exhausted all the time that writing has taken a back seat to enjoying sleep and Aleve.™ I am constantly in pain, because I had arthritis before I started cooking, and the acrobatics required on both the line and in the dish pit don’t make that easier. However, I do think it has made my muscles stronger, which helps. More muscle mass has allowed my bones to relax a little, because they’re supported now.

It is not lost on me that I could have a cushy desk job and have a hell of a lot more money, but I am not convinced that I would be any happier, at least not yet. There are things about both blue and white collar jobs that just suck. But I’m never going to learn how to do things in a desk job that genuinely make other people’s faces light up.

My sister is a lobbyist, a rock star in her world. I used to be intimidated by that, until I realized that powerful people love to talk about food, so when I walk into a room, I’m also a rock star. People who have never worked in a restaurant, but whose imaginations are captured by TV shows, love to talk to me. I don’t really like the current slate of shows on The Food Network, etc., because I prefer the old school stand-and-stirs that actually educated people. Emeril before Emeril Live, for instance, even though I watched Emeril Live and learned to love it over time. But I’d rather watch old Julia Child episodes, or Justin Smith, or Martin Yan.

To date, the movie at which I’ve cried the hardest is Julie & Julia, because it reminded me of Dana- particularly the scene where Julia is chopping a mountain of onions to improve her knife skills…. and also myself, because I also had to buy mountains of carrots and celery to improve my own knife skills, and ruin lots of pieces of bread to learn how to flip eggs properly, as well as learning how to mix things like (pre-cooked) macaroni and cheese sauce by flipping it in the frying pan instead of using a spoon. We had a lot of mirepoix in those months. Interestingly enough, even though I am French-trained, the only thing I don’t know how to make is an omelette.

I tried the other day, because my roommate left eggs behind when he moved out, as well as Presidente butter and sharp cheddar. I got closer than I ever have, but it still looked like a waffle cone with cheese at the top (I was doing tri-fold). I need more practice, so eventually it will be off to the store to buy my own butter and eggs, because everything in my own pantry is vegan. This is because eventually, my restaurant will serve brunch, and I think I need to be prepared for the possibility that omelettes will be on the menu, and I refuse to be the only cook that can’t make one. Can’t is not in my vocabulary. I will make a hundred of them if I have to. I just need to invite 99 people to my house to eat the mistakes, which will still taste amazing, but look like a five-year-old made them. This is a problem because I barely know nine people in DC, much less 99. However, if Eight is Enough, I’m sitting pretty.

I just need to ask them beforehand what their views are on flavored coffee.

St. Elmo’s Wired

Dan and I are sharing a small table at St. Elmo’s, a coffee shop that serves Stumptown. I told the barista that I’d lived in Portland for a number of years and she stared at me like I was from outer space. You’d think if you were serving Portland coffee, you’d know it (Stumptown is Portland’s “official” nickname). But that’s neither here nor there. Less expensive than Starbucks and twice as good. They didn’t have a dark roast, so I just got a large and added some espresso shots to it. Depending on where you live, this is either a “red eye,” a “shot in the dark,” or a “wizard jump.” Personally, I picture it as stumbling into a coffee shop with my eyes half open and saying, “just fuck me up.” Although doing that rarely gets me the required results. Lindsay does. My sister is a magical being with coffee. For some reason, everything she orders is perfectly calculated to not quite stop your heart. When I’m with her, I don’t even bother ordering. I just stand next to her and say, “I’ll have what she’s having.” I don’t care what it is. Dragon skin, unicorn blood, nine shots double meth, whatever.

Caffeine is really my only vice, my favorite drug. I will occasionally drink alcohol, but I tend to go weeks without it because I get enough calories from all the crap I eat. I just don’t feel the need to add to them, especially since I go mental when the alcohol kicks in and I am not in complete and total control. Most people don’t feel this until they’ve had a few. I feel it immediately because of my size and lack of tolerance. I’ve also noticed that the sugar rush from even one beer will keep me up for hours, so a “shift beer” literally means “let’s not fall asleep until 0700.” I’m sure for some people, this sounds really fun. For me, not so much. I tend to keep resetting Stitcher, because I think it will take 30 minutes to fall asleep, then it’s “End of Episode,” then it’s 60 minutes, then the sun is up and sleeping through the day is a special kind of hell, especially on the weekends, when there are generally contractors working on the house when I’m trying to sleep. Nothing like trying to fall asleep to the uneven rhythm of a hammer.

Because I get sometimes very little and mostly uneven sleep, I have so much to do that I am overwhelmed, from laundry to organization to just getting a haircut (I like the one I have now, just need to get it shaped again). On the way home might be my best bet, because I also have to get a few things at the store… and by that I mean pads, because my period tracker application finally has enough data to warn me beforehand. When I got the e-mail, I was all like, “SO THAT’S WHY I ATE HALF A LARGE PAN PIZZA LAST NIGHT!!!” In case you’re wondering, cheese, cheese, more cheese, jalapeños. I’m lucky I still have some left. Really.

All of my rules about eating vegan at home go out the window when I am basically a premenstrual Cookie Monster, except that it’s not just cookies, it is anything and everything within my reach. Today it was a Carolina pulled pork sandwich and a Cheerwine™ If you have never had a Cheerwine, I do not know what you are doing with your life. If you live in a place where they don’t sell them, order off the Internet. They’re that good.

Also a big fan of Maine Root lemon lime soda, because it also has ginger in it. Great for a cold shift drink with no caffeine, because I’ve generally overdone it beforehand. I am extremely proficient in this area. Reminds me of a funny meme I saw on Facebook:

Me: These edibles are shit.

two hours later

Joins search party for myself.

Wait, you mean coffee takes a few minutes to kick in? #mindblown

It’s been about 20 since I finished my red eye, and I am still dragging ass. But, because it’s 1500, I am reticent to order any more, and I have a feeling it wouldn’t help, anyway. I have taken my clonazepam, Zyrtec, Sudafed PE, etc. In order to combat all that, I’d have to have an energy drink as well, where I would end up tired AF and staring at the ceiling most of the night. Right now I just feel like I am up, dressed, and still asleep at the same time. In fact, when I was at the Metro station this morning, I fell asleep while standing up against one of the columns. It was delicious. It was only six minutes, but it was a really good six minutes. I figured I’d wake up when the train came roaring into the station, and I was right, thankfully. I got a good enough cat nap not to trip my way to a seat.

I brought my Kindle on the train, and bailed out of “Trump,” by Bob Woodward, to give my brain a rest from the utter insanity of a world without time travel.

I switched to, unsurprisingly, a time travel novel instead. It’s part of a series. Though it’s not the first book, I got “The Chronothon” by Nathan Van Coops for free from BookBub, and as the months have gone on, some of the others have appeared as well. I just got the latest one from Amazon. I don’t want to tell you much about the series- too many twists and turns to give away that are awesome, but I will say that “The Chronothon” is a set of Olympic type games in which you also have to find your way through time to get to them. It’s the perfect “I’m going to Alexandria” read, because it’s light and fun so that I don’t get so engrossed I miss my stop… although that’s kind of hard, because if I am even remotely paying attention, I know that when we pull into the airport station, it’s time to pack everything up. I am rarely even remotely paying attention. 😛

I tried to get a good picture coming across the Potomac, but it took me a second to get my camera open, and then the lens was facing me. By the time I got all that straightened out, I’d missed my shot completely. Just imagine it was awesome. All DC pictures are. I don’t have to work very hard. Just quickly if I’m on the train. Blink and I miss it.

My next shooting expedition is going to be the new Spy Museum. So happy they’re getting expanded digs, sad that the James Bond exhibit is on its way out. With the Spy Museum, I have this funny image in my head of the museum in “Futurama” where all the heads are in glass jars so you can talk to them and find out how they died, etc. Everything from “trying to save the world” to “tripped on a sidewalk in Kabul.” The latter being me as a spy, of course. I can totally picture talking to the CI, getting the intel I need, and dying on the way back from something totally and completely lame. Like, my nickname would be “George W. died” for all eternity, because W. was almost taken out by a pretzel. At the very least, he never got stuck in a bathtub, though I’m not sure which is more embarrassing. Thoughts?

I would probably put it in my will not to put a star on the wall at Langley for me if the cause of my death was akin to tripping over my own feet.

“She gave her life in service to this country.”
“How?”
“She didn’t see a tree stump that was literally right in front of her and it was the one thing for a hundred miles with a big rock right in front of it.
“Brave. Like, that is seriously Seal Team Six valor right there.”
::uncontrollable laugher::

Which is totally how time travel would come in handy for me, being able to back up ten seconds at will…. except you can’t cross your own timeline.

“Are you sure you can’t let me walk around the tree stump?”
“Fixed point in time. I’m so sorry.”

I just have to hope that on the days I’m most likely to trip, my sister is there to help make me quicker than usual.

Writing Anyway

I don’t have much time to write today, as I have to be at work at 1700. So, this entry may be a little shorter or longer than usual. It’s hard to say. Sometimes I don’t have time to edit to make it shorter. 😛 I think Mark Twain originally had that idea, but it’s true for me as well. When words just flow from my fingers, since this is a blog and not formal writing, most of the time I just hit “Post” whether I think it’s perfect or not….. tpyos and all.

Today for work I am wearing two birthday presents from my sister. The first is a pair of black Bistro Crocs that have The Swedish Chef on the top. I’ve gotten an enormous amount of compliments on them, as I wore them yesterday as well. The second is a red t-shirt with a skull and “crossbones” (a knife and fork) that says, “GO CRY IN THE WALK-IN.” My old chef from Tapalaya says that it should say, “…and take the mop with you” on the back. Either way, it is perfection. I wish I could wear my “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” baseball cap with it, but unfortunately it is like, five sizes too large and therefore makes my ears stick out like an elf. I need to find a way to display it, because there’s no way I’m giving it to someone else. It is, again, perfection. Kitchen conversation is generally unprintable, and be grateful for that. You don’t know you don’t want to know, but you don’t. Trust me.

In other news, I’ve heard that Hurricane Florence has made landfall, and after having seen the devastation in Houston from Harvey last year, I am praying for all the people of The Carolinas. I wish there was more I could do from here- it is a very helpless feeling. Since my work runs Thursday to Sunday, if I had a car I would be there to help rebuild, but it’s not time yet. The storm isn’t finished, and the waters are still rising.

As for DC, we’re virtually safe from all this, save getting some thunderstorms. Old Town Alexandria was flooded the other day, but that’s about all the “badness” I’ve seen in this area. Mostly just a few broken trees. It’s always devastating when we truly do get a hurricane in this area, because things will happen like Mt. Vernon losing trees that George Washington planted himself…. no word on whether they’re cherry or not. But my relief at not being hit is not tempered in the slightest, because I’m too worried about those who have been.

Thoughts and prayers seem empty without shoe leather, but at the moment, it’s what I can do. I hope that the people who’ve been affected can at least feel the love coming toward them, because it is certainly there for them.

I also don’t own my own house, but if I did, those who are flooded out would be welcome to stay with me. Again, it’s a helpless feeling to want to do more, but to be limited in my ability. My only recourse is to stay busy, because otherwise, I would just spin out with empathy. I don’t compartmentalize well, except at work, where the pace is so fast that I am unable to think of anything else.

The thing that gets me the most is taking money from FEMA and diverting it to ICE just in time for hurricane season. It is stunning to me how little the United States government cares about that particular dumbass attack. Or maybe it wasn’t an egregious oversight, but that they truly don’t care- even more frightening. It’s already obvious how little the government cared about Puerto Rico, but at the same time, I doubt even President Trump knew he was their president, too. He doesn’t have that luxury now. I am not making excuses for the president’s behavior, only pointing out his utter incompetency. Maybe this time, he’ll throw out a few more rolls of paper towels. /eyeroll

That last sentence was very sarcastic, which I am trying to mitigate in my daily life. Sarcasm doesn’t seem to help much in the face of disaster, but sometimes it leaks out of my pores. I’d rather give my love and positive affirmations, but at the same time, when people are suffering it seems trite.

Or perhaps not. Maybe it’s what people really need. I just know that in the grief of my mother dying, trite sayings drove me up the wall. And, as long as people are safe, I know they’re just losing things, but that’s its own kind of grief. I know because I’ve been through a house fire. It taught me not to get attached to anything you could call “stuff.” But especially for people who are losing all their “stuff” for the first time, it’s difficult to let go, particularly photo albums that there’s no time to save, or if you’re able to go back into your house after the waters recede, seeing all your albums ruined with water damage. For instance, all the pictures we were able to save from the house fire either had weird streaks across them or smelled like smoke.

Our grandparents did their best to help recreate them, but I was grateful and devastated, because they were different memories than the ones we’d recorded on our own. Again, though, I am thankful that they tried so hard, particularly since I only have one grandparent left, and a lot of the pictures they gave us had them front and center.

So, my empathy comes from sympathy as well. Not only do I identify with their pain, a lot of it, I have worn on my own skin. I remember what it was like to evacuate from Galveston during Hurricane Alicia in 1983. I remember my house fire in 1990. I remember lots and lots of ruined pictures and journals from an air conditioner that leaked all over my closet in 1995…. a small thing compared to a storm, but water damaged pictures and journals never recover in either case. Some of the journals went as far back as 1990, words lost that were at times poignant… and terrible in the way that all tween and teen journals are.

I would have been a star at a show like Cringe if they’d made it. Pretty sure there’s a recording of some of those shows on Netflix if you’re interested. It’s basically people reading old journal entries and poems in front of a live audience…. insanely funny and touching at the same time.

And now, it’s time for one last cup of coffee since the kitchen is open until midnight on Saturdays, and since it’s open until midnight on Fridays as well, I am still dragging ass. All of this was easier when I was 25. It’s either Aleve, Tylenol, and get on with it…. or… GO CRY IN THE WALK-IN.

The Hours, Part II

Working more hours has seriously put a dent in my inspiration for writing. It takes a lot of brain power to put words together in the correct order, and when I get home, I can barely pour myself a soda and walk upstairs…. which is better, I suppose, than pouring a soda on the stairs, so at least I got that goin’ for me. Even right now, when I’m supposed to be “rested,” as I have to leave for work in an hour, I am dragging ass. Last night I was on the closing shift, and I overdid it on the caffeine to prepare. As a result, I didn’t get to bed until 0400, and while that’s not a problem time-wise, I didn’t sleep deeply. I got the correct number of hours, but that’s about it. Lying horizontally with my eyes closed is not the same as drifting down into the depths of sleep one has to achieve to arise alert. I could have slept 12 hours like that and it wouldn’t have made a difference. I would still be in as desperate a need for coffee as I am right now. I will probably go to Veridian Market, the little convenience store that’s right next to the restaurant, for some type of cold brew. Starbucks has really upped their game in terms of their canned and bottled drinks.

Energy sodas don’t do as well for me as coffee. Maybe it’s the aromatherapy. I once did an at-home experiment with that. For a few days, I drank decaf in the morning, just made it as strong as I usually make the real stuff. The smell alone was enough to trick my brain…. for a while, anyway. Notice I said I made it a few days.

The biggest news I got yesterday was that I didn’t get the job at UMD, but two things about that. The first is that they encouraged me to apply again in the future, because they really enjoyed meeting me. The second is that I’m really happy where I am right now. So, all in all, not something I feel terribly bad about… just a little bummed. New opportunities are always around the corner. That this one didn’t pan out is not a real thing in terms of an ice cream level emergency. I am nothing if not versatile and easygoing… well, about certain things, anyway. I pick my battles, though sometimes not wisely. But, as Nelson Mandela said, “I either win, or I learn.”

Sometimes I feel as if I have “learned” enough, but that is neither here nor there. I can definitely put being happy at my current job in the W column, because people who are happy at work seem incredibly rare. Maybe it’s just not cool to say you’re happy with your job, because misery loves company. I have never been cool.

I wish that the people who were truly unhappy in their jobs would find a way to quit and do what they love, realizing that all jobs come with drawbacks and you have to find the positives yourself. My biggest positive is not working in any kind of customer service, whether IT, retail, or waiting tables. I have a very pleasant demeanor (especially through chat and on the phone) and will do it, but I prefer the layer of separation that comes from being in the (very, very) back of the house. You have to go down two flights of stairs and past the brewery before you can even open the door to the kitchen. Customers couldn’t even find me by accident.

Even with all my extra hours.

 

Prep

Yesterday was both easy and difficult at the same time. I am not used to starting my day in the morning anymore. I go to work between 1500-1700, so I tend to wake up between 1100 and 1300, depending on how jazzed I am from the night before and what I have to do the next day. Flipping my schedule around for one day threw me into the “I got up on the wrong side of the bed and I’m very grumpy” set of feelings. I got two Rock Stars from 7-Eleven and I am not ashamed to say that I drank both of them. I did not sleep well the night before, and with prep, I have to be alert, because to not is to hurt oneself… badly. For instance, my first job was par cooking French Fries, so that the people on the line only have to drop them in the fryer for a minute or two before they’re ready. Therefore, I was standing in front of a 350 degree fryer for almost two and a half hours. Had I been sleepy, that could have ended with blisters, or waiting for them to bubble. Even when I’m at the top of my game, accidents happen. I think I burned off one of my fingerprints on Wednesday. I got some ice on it immediately, so no blister bubbled, but for the moment, at least, I have no feeling on the pad of my left index finger and part of my thumb.

I was proud of myself, because since I was able to get ice and extraordinarily cold water on the burns immediately, it allowed me to keep working steadily. It’s a long story, but we’ve changed lead line cooks again, and it was magical. The same give-and-take that was there with the last one is still there with him. I got the compliment of my life- “I’m going to put you on all my shifts, because you can keep up with me, and I’m fast.” Also, I was absolutely kidding, but I told my kitchen manager, “of all the line cooks in all the world, you had to pick a Yankees fan?” Turns out, he’s actually a Mets fan, but from Brooklyn, so as he said, “whaddya gonna do?” I’m not even that much of a baseball fan, though I will watch it more easily than anything else, save soccer, especially if the Giants or the Dodgers are playing…. especially against the Astros. I’ve spent too many years of my life rooting for the Dodgers and the Giants to give up now.

Here, I root for the Baltimore Orioles, for a nerdy reason specific only to me. I can’t get behind the “Walgreens W.” Come to find out, the W belonged to the Senators first, which makes me feel sort of bad about it. Still. Just. Can’t.

Fonts matter. Also love that they call the Os park “Birdland.”

I do like Bryce Harper and his ever changing hair, though. Believe it or don’t, the rumor is that the Nats are thinking of trading him to the Astros.

I am sure that I will eventually get on board with the Nationals, only because it’s so much easier to take the Metro to the park than it is to get on the Marc to Baltimore. When I was thinking about moving from Houston to the Mid-Atlantic, I actually thought about Baltimore in addition to DC, because as I said then, “I’m really more of a John Waters than a John Boehner.” But again, what changed my mind was the public transportation infrastructure, because I know how to drive, but don’t. The traffic and parking around here suck. DC barely has room for the cars that the people own who live there. Bringing them in from Maryland and Virginia is just a “goat-ropin’ clusterfuck,” my favorite Texas swear.

Plus, because of supply and demand, the cost of parking for even a couple of hours is outrageous. As long as I have the time, taking the train is is easy. If I have to get somewhere fast, the cost of an Uber is infinitely less expensive than even buying a cheap cash car and trying to maintain it, plus insurance, plus parking if I go anywhere near “the city….” I have proven over time that I need a lot of it. Such a stereotypical woman driver who gives my gender a bad name. I would much rather zone out in the back seat with a good book or podcast.

For instance, I got a Facebook direct message from Dan, who told me she wanted to watch Argo with me, because it seemed like it was my favorite movie. I told her it didn’t seem like that, it was that. So even though I just watched it last Saturday, we watched it again last night. It was perfect over a glass of wine and some Wheat Thins, of which I am very proud I did not eat the whole box.

For that reason alone, it was nice to be done with work by 1600. It was also nice that I still felt caffeinated, because otherwise, I would have fallen asleep five minutes into the movie, especially after a glass of wine.

Meeting Dan has been one of the great blessings of my life, because not only did she fold me into her own life, but introduced me to a great friend circle as well. She is the connector- every friend I’ve hung out with over the past two years has invariably come from a chance meeting at one of her parties. Jaime lives the closest to me, in Columbia Heights, a quick trip down 16th street or a short train ride away. But even going out to Alexandria is faster on the train than I could drive it, because the traffic between Silver Spring and anywhere in Virginia is atrocious.

Every time, I am thanked for making the trek out there, but it is really no sweat. The yellow line connects two stops from my house (at Ft. Totten), and I can take it all the way to Braddock, which is one stop past National (the day I call it Reagan will never come unless I’m senile- which, incidentally, objects in mirror are closer than they appear).

Slowly getting ready for my interview at University of Maryland on Tuesday, mostly surrounding what I should wear. Business casual has changed so much over the years. I have no idea what I’ll see when I show up. For some universities, a collared shirt will do. For others, everyone will be in jeans and t-shirts. Generally for an interview, I wear a suit, and I will probably do the same now. Although funny story- when I interviewed at Marylhurst, one of the things they said to me after I started was, “when you walked in wearing that suit, we thought, ‘she is going to eat us alive.'”

I, in fact, did not.

I am the Type B poster child, so by the time I actually started, I was in jeans and t-shirts and/or Polos just like everyone else…. and like in all offices, a coat or a hoodie for my constant battle against the air conditioner. I am always thirsty and cold, the temperature made worse by drinking cold water. As I joke with my friends, “I drink a lot.”

At Alert Logic, everyone could hear me coming because I put ice water and an energy drink packet in my Nalgene, so it sounded every day like I was shaking a martini on the way to my desk. I’m surprised no one asked to taste it just to make sure. 🙂

We also had a free Starbucks coffee machine, so there were many days in which I overdid it, because hey, free latte. It was amazing because it didn’t taste like hospital coffee. I spend most days wired for sound.

In fact, I’m prepping for it today.