Winter Clothes and the Pre-Bitch

6 Oct

As a reverse horder, an east coast liver, a winter sport lover and one that loves comfort there comes a day in the fall when one must switch over the closet.
It’s a goodbye to summer, hello to fall/winter. It’s the day when you pack up your shorts, fun tees, skirts and dresses. It’s the day my closet becomes dark.
Dark with the deep colors of winter, the heaviness of the cozy sweaters and thicker materials. It’s when the boots, weather proof shoes some that might be wool lined come out.
It’s the – flip flops are put away.

Years ago, I did this with excitement and a little glee. The fun time of year is arriving – winter with it’s snow and coziness is coming.
Winter means snow. It means skiing. It means fun.

Now I see snow, and shoveling, darkness, overcast skies, cold. I see heating bills. I see gray sweaters, black sweaters, drab colors.
I see the “Happy Light” that I’ll need to try to trick myself into thinking I have been out in the sun. I see $$ for need to stock up on smart wool, long underwear and again the heating bill. I see Vitamin D supplements.

It’s the time of year that I think maybe I should live in California or South Carolina. Someplace with sun and a bit warmer. But as a Mainer, I need to stay put and suffer. Because really there’s no fun without a certain percentage of miserable. And being cold is miserable. Where I live, we have contests about when one turns on the heat. No self respecting Mainer will admit to turning on the heat in September, even if it is below 40 degrees. I don’t know many people who will admit to turning on the heat in October when its 26 degrees either. A few will admit to turning it on – but only for 20 minutes. To “take the chill off”, they might say so as not to appear a complete wussy. By November, we will turn on the heat. However, you must first put on slippers and wool socks, a huge bathrobe and be wrapped up in blankets before the heat comes on. Nobody I know keeps the heat on 68 consistently because then you would be just plan comfortable. We will say things like “that’s just to hot for me” or “I don’t really feel the cold”, so as not to appear wimpy. Secretly, I think most people do turn their heat up.

This rant by the way – is a complete pre-bitch. Pre-bitch is a great phrase that my brother coined. I am not sure if the rest of the country suffers from pre-bitch. But here in Maine, we need to get our complaining done in advance of any situation, adventure or outing. We don’t of course want to get to excited and start in on having any expectations of fun, good times and things working out well. If you pre-bitch, you get all your complaining done ahead of time, you contemplate all the ways things could go wrong, and ultimately set the bar as low as possible. That way you aren’t surprised. That way – you can focus your energies.

I know that this is contrary to the Law of Attraction but desperate times call for this. For example, if you are going skiing and its 10 degrees with 13 mph winds. There’s a good chance your gonna get frost bite on your face unless you have a neck warmer or something. So you might say “I hate wearing neckwarmers, because they get all soggy where my mouth is.” But you wear it, it get’s soggy (that point was previously acknowledged) and you are able to just focus on the fact you didn’t get frostbite.

So here’s my pre-bitch to winter. I have already planned my February escape in order to stave off the nervous breakdown that shows up around mid March and last until Mid May.

It’s gonna be a fun one.

You can’t do that to Haddock

23 Jul

In my family there are rules to cooking seafood. There are rules about overcooking, over seasoning, using the wrong ingredients, being too inventive. But the biggest rule, of course, is to only eat, cook and serve the freshest fish. My father is a fisherman, my grandfather was a fisherman, my uncles on both sides work(ed) in the industry, my brother is working with my dad, and my sister-in-law owns and operates a community supported fishery (CSF) called Salt and Sea LLC.

As a kid, I really don’t remember my mom teaching me to cook. I can cook; I think well enough so that when my numerous chef friends come to dinner, they eat my food and ask for seconds. Cooking feels instinctive to me, so my mother must have taught me something. I just don’t remember the lessons.

I do remember getting called in to the kitchen to smell the fish. There was and still is a conversation between my parents about the quality of the fish, and whether the fish came off my father’s boats, or was purchased at the fish market, there was a conversation. Now, if the fish is ok, nobody says anything. It’s just cooked. If it’s a little smelly then the sniffing starts. First, my mom would call dad into the kitchen. “What do you think about this?”, she’ll ask. Mind you, my parents have been married for almost 37 years, so I think she knows his opinion, but who wants to be to one to serve the family not-so fresh fish? My dad will deliver the verdict “it’s ok” or “no, get rid of that – we are not eating that”. (I should probably mention that most what we won’t eat, won’t make you sick, and most restaurants will serve it. The bar is just pretty high in the family).That’s when she asks if we (her kids) want to smell it. Now, I don’t know anyone who wants to smell fish that isn’t fit to eat, especially if you have a weak stomach and/or a strong sense of smell. I happen to have both, and it doesn’t take much for me to lose my appetite or worse. So most of my life, I would just ignore her. However, as I got a bit older, more daring and more curious about good vs bad fish, I started sniffing a bit. Here’s what it smells like: FISH.

Here’s what really good fish smells like: OCEAN. But not the ocean when the tide is going out and it’s thick and stinking. Not the ocean smell of contaminants caught in tidal mud. I am talking about the ocean smell when you are in the middle of the sea, preferably under sail power, when the wind smells sweet and just a bit salty. I know this because my mom would call me to smell bad fish, good fish, and great fish. Once you can recognize that really sweet, true ocean smell on your fish, you’ll start to get excited because you know. You know that even if you cook that fish with nothing on it, it’s gonna be good. When you can recognize the sweet, you’ll invite dinner guests to sniff the fish.

So I guess some of the cooking lessons stuck. I know how to recognize really fresh fish. I am now a member of the CSF: Monday night pick up, so I get a different type of fish each week. I have eaten fish that I honestly have never tried before, and I liked it. It’s alway fresh. I sniff it each week. But all day I wished and hoped for Haddock. Haddock is my favorite and somewhere along the way, my mom taught me how to prepare it. I’d say this is the same way she cooked fish for me as a two-year old (some thirty-four years ago!). It’s a family favorite and fit for company. A crowd pleaser. I was hungry for the Ritz Cracker Baked Haddock.

My wish came true and somehow my kitchen became a small test kitchen. I decided to Google the Ritz Cracker Haddock. There are a number of recipes, some similar to how I make and some not at all. One recipe to my horror added parmesan cheese (I don’t think cheese and fish mix well). Another added oregano (tarragon is best with fish). Another called for 1/2 stick of butter and a whole sleeve of 34 crackers (maybe for 8 pounds of fish). While still another suggested white wine. But I guess everyone’s palate is a bit different.

While I was cooking, my mother called to tell me about the Haddock she cooked for dinner. I am not kidding, she actually described how good, sweet and like the ocean it smelled. Then I reported my Google Ritz Haddock findings. She did not think any of that sounded very good.

As I ate my simple dinner of fish, mixed greens and toast with strawberry jam (I love the farmer’s market), I received a text to call my parents to give my opinion on the freshness of the small pieces. – And because I freely give my opinion, but love it when my thoughts are actually asked for, I called back and spoke to my dad. “Loved it, small fish pieces are some of my favorites.” I told him. He asked how I cooked it and I told him. Dad approved. Then I gave the Google results with all the funny ingredients, too much butter or crackers and my dad said ” You can’t do that to Haddock!”

So I decided to write it out.

Here’s how we do it:

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons butter
8 Ritz crackers (I use an organic version)
Black pepper
1 pound fresh fish from Local Boats

1. Set oven to 400
2. Place 3 tsp butter in glass baking pan. Melt in oven
3. Rinse fish and pat dry
4. Place fish in baking dish and turn over so butter is in both sides
5. Crush crackers and sprinkle over fish. Dice 1 tsp butter and add black pepper
6. Cook 12-17 minutes depending on thickness (better to under cook and add a bit more time)
7. Serve hot!

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Day 40: The Blvd Guy

21 Nov

There is a man I see every time I go around the boulevard doing Tai Chi in the same spot. “Go around” the boulevard is what I call it. It seems to embrace walking, running, biking, run/walks (I am partial to those), stroller rides – Oh! to be two and be pushed while someone gives you snacks and drinks, and the wagon dogs (there’s a man who pulls his dog around in a wagon). I see the Tai Chi guy almost every time I “go around”. I see him whether it 6:30 AM on a weekend or 8:30 PM midweek. He is there when it’s really too hot to stand there, when it’s humid, when it’s cold, when it’s nice.

He stands at the end of the soccer field, just before the curve, next to the stone bench. If you are a counter – clockwise traveler on Baxter Boulevard this will be the beginning of the three and a half miles. If you are a clockwise traveler, this would be the end. I am a clockwise traveler, so I see him at the end of my travels. Most often he is performing his Tai Chi. Sometimes, he is just standing there. Rarely, does he sit.

He is in constant motion. It very clear that this is a man with some dark past, perhaps some demons. I don’t know for certain but my sense is that there may be some post traumatic stress or possibly something worse. I often sense that through the movement of the Tai Chi, he is moving those demons, those memories, out of his body and attempting to heal himself.

If pressed, I wouldn’t characterize this man, as a functioning member of this community. But is he any different from me or any of the thousands of boulevard users? I think most of us exercise to move our demons or stressors out of mind. Perhaps my demons, my stresses are more superficial than his. But I use that place, the loop around the water, to forget my day and move my body, just like he does and just like thousands of others. While he stands in one place, day after day and hour after hour, in constant motion, the rest of us move through the loop in a short period of time. On my best days, I can tell you the mile marker where I left my stress. He is fully committed to his routine. His presence is a constant. There is a 98% chance that he will be there when I go to exercise, or when my friend who also observes him goes to run, or when we drive by.

Until very recently, this man was quite grizzly and somewhat unkempt. His hair had not been cut in a while, his beard very bushy. Typically, you can count on him to shave once a year. And when he does, you see what an attractive man he is. He is extremely fit. And while thin, he doesn’t appear to be malnourished. He dresses in worn but quality clothing, carries a backpack or over the shoulder gym bag. He has a Nalgene bottle with stickers, just like the rest of us. He is not homeless.

Lately, I sense a lightness to him. In September, I went around the boulevard fairly late one Tuesday night. It was beginning to get dark and I decided, for safety sake, to go the opposite way, so that I would be on a busier side when darkness hit. As I walked past him, he waved and said “Hi there.” I almost stopped in shock as we had never waved or talked before in all the years. “It’s nice to see your face,” I said. It was the first time, I had seen him without the shaggy white beard. And he laughed!

Now, almost every time I see him, he waves or says “Hello” or “Good to see you”. And when he doesn’t, I don’t. I don’t push it. Sometimes I don’t want to talk when I am working out either. He is maintaining his clean-shaven appearance. There have been a few times, that I haven’t seen him. I have taken this as a good sign. I have seen him wave to others. On Saturday, I saw him at the grocery store. He had on some very snazzy running shoes, bright green with yellow soles. He saw me and said hello with recognition even out of context. Perhaps, with all his Tai Chi, he may be finding some peace? Maybe he has moved some of the demons?

On Saturday night, a dinner guest at my house, told me that, a few times a year somebody finds him creepy and calls the police on him. This really makes me sad. I like his presence. I like that he uses a public space in a positive way. I like that he deals with his life and his issues. Yes, it unusual to spend so much time in one spot. But he isn’t hurting anyone. I think he is an example of someone who isn’t 100% but has created a life for himself. It’s not my normal, but he is just doing Tai Chi – not drinking, drugs or causing scenes. I hope that people will respect him and his space. I want him to be well and happy.

emBAREASSment

15 Nov

I don’t know why it took me 35 years to figure out that within the word embarrassment is BARe ASS. But this is the week that I figured that out. Now, it’s certainly not the first time that I have been in an embarrassing situation, and I am pretty sure that it won’t be the last. But at least, I learned something and it only took a 28 mile bike ride and several of my closest friends and my mother laughing their own asses off for me to get over this. I also want to point out that had this all happened 10 years ago, I would never have told you this. I was far too uptight to share this with anyone. But, well it’s laugh or cry, baby! Laugh or cry!

Years, ago, when I was about to start my very first teaching job, a family friend who had just retired as a school librarian, gave me some advice that I actually listened to at the time. She told me a story of a young teacher whose underwear gave out in the middle teaching her 5th grade students. They were old and didn’t fit. Apparently, while wearing a skirt with no tights or hose – the underwear just fell right down to the floor. The thought of that was so horrifying that I left the family BBQ and went underwear shopping so I wouldn’t have to worry about this. I only wish that I had remembered this on Monday.

On Monday, Veterans Day, I was working (my office was open), and I decided that I couldn’t possibly work any longer. It was quiet, I have vacation time to use up and it was 62 degrees in Maine in November. So I took the half day with the intention of taking my favorite bike ride to Higgins Beach. It would definitely be my last chance before winter completely sets in. So I just went for it.

I live at the bottom of a hill, a steep hill and the thought of starting my ride up that hill is just too daunting. To be honest, in the middle of the ride it would be hard enough, but at the beginning you might as well ask me to run a marathon. So I opted to go a longer route with a more gradual incline and far more traffic. I had to cross a busy intersection where 6 lanes of traffic converge at a stoplight. I guess I never realized that the light was also at an incline. As I was waited for the light to change from red to green, I realized that I was going to need a bit of power to get across the street without irritating all the cars behind me. So I prepared myself to clip back into my pedals and get up off my seat.

Here’s where the situation went bad. I didn’t realize how big my bike tights actually were. At one point when I was getting ready for this ride, I thought “Wow, these pants are a little baggy” but I didn’t have an alternative, shorts would’ve been too cold and the ride is long enough where a little extra padding is necessary. So when I got up of the seat for extra power, I felt a draft coming from the back. At first, I just really wasn’t sure what was going on. But then I realized, that my pants were no longer covering my butt and it wasn’t just a little crack showing. There was a lotta cheek exposed to a lot of people.

What amazes me, in these situations is how much one can think in such a short period of time. Because after the initial denial of “no my butt is not on display”, I quickly became fearful of falling. I could just see myself just tipping over because I couldn’t get my feet unclipped while I tried to hoist my pants up. In my mind, I just saw a heap of me in the middle of the intersection with my bike still attached to my feet and my bare bum just there for everyone to see. So, I just sat down pedaled across the street and then pulled those pants up.

At this point, I started peddling hard because I just didn’t even want to know if anyone saw this. There’s a large chance, given that its Portland, ME and everyone knows everyone here, someone I knew was behind me and saw this whole thing. As I pedaled frantically away, I sensed a car slowing down beside me. I put my hand up as if to block my face, because everyone knows, if you can’t see them, they can’t see you, right?

I heard a man’s voice. “Ah, are you all right?” I had some thoughts on that question none of them very kind, but I just responded “Yup, fine!”, I grumbled, hand still up, eyes straight ahead. “Well,” he said, “I’m sure you are trying to pretend this didn’t happened, but it might be the highlight of my day.” Thankfully, he drove off before I could respond. I don’t really think I could have been held responsible for what I may have yelled at him after that.

There was a moment after all this happened, where I thought “What now? What should I do?” I realized there really is nothing more to be done, just keeping pedaling until you are no longer so completely mortified that you just want to hide in your house forever. Just keep pedaling until your mind is clear. So I rode to the beach, my favorite route ever and watched a few people walk the beach, saw some waves and then turned around and came home. I put my bike away and threw away those pants (they are too big, clearly!).

I saw my best friend and told her the story, and as I mentioned earlier she laughed. I mean a lot and without hesitation, and really, who could blame her. I would’ve done the same. She may have snorted.

Later that night, at bowling, her husband who is on my team, leaned over and said “Do you think you can keep your jeans up long enough to bowl. Should I get you some suspenders?’

In case, you are wondering, my pants stayed up. I wore a belt.

Also, don’t wear baggy bike shorts or pants. If your ass gets smaller, just buy yourself some new ones. It’s worth the money.

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The trouble with writing, Halloween, and cards

1 Nov

I am having trouble with the writing. Nothing seems to come to a finish. I have the attention span of a nat. But right now, I am determined to finish something. I don’t really care if it good. I just want to write.

So I am sitting on the floor in my pajamas armed with my wine. I don’t know why but sitting on the floor seems to work better. Maybe it’s because I am at the desk all day? Wine definitely helps. Pajamas – well I’ll only change so many times in one day – work, then the gym, so then pj’s. I’ll change four times for something really fun.

It’s Halloween. I don’t like Halloween. I really never was that into it even as a kid. The idea of making a costume seems like torture. And then there is the financial aspect of it all. I can think of many, many ways I would rather spend my money – more wine, a massage, a vacuum cleaner…you know anything other than costume stuff. This year I dressed up as a spilt P.

Spilt P

This costumes cost less than $10 and took less than 15 minutes. The only thing better was when I was Bat Shit Nuts. That was the best costume ever because it was all my own clothes with a borrowed bat headband from my friend.

When I was a freshman in college, my mother sent me a Halloween card that said on the front “Want a good scare this Halloween?’ , and inside it said “List all the ways you are like your mother!”. I remember thinking – Oh no! There’s no way, I going down that road. Sixteen years later, I can appreciate this a bit more. I am self-aware enough to recognize my mom traits and my dad traits. Some of them I embrace, the others – well I am a work in progress.

Cards in my family are important stuff. Both of my parents love giving cards, and they are pretty skilled in the card picking department. My mother takes after her side of the family. They like their cards big with flowers, ribbons and all that sentimental stuff. (That Halloween card is the only witty one I received from her.) Mostly they are tear jerkers.

Not only does my mom’s family pick out these crazy over the top sentimental things, they underline! Yes, the maternal side of things loves to pick out words and underline them. Favorite words to underline “appreciate”, “love”, “thanks for being you”, and “always”. Some words even get underlined multiple times. This is how they show love. If you get a card with certain words underlined two or three times, you did good things that year! In fact, my mom and her sisters compare and actually track who got more underlines on their birthdays. Apparently, it shows who is the favorite at that moment. It’s highly competitive. I find this terribly sick and very hilarious.

Now, my dad, a man of few words, is a champion card picker. He finds the card of the moment that fits the mood with a little words as possible. I love them. My favorite was the congratulations, you are a woman card I received from my dad. It didn’t actually say that. The card had a picture of the Pink Panther and said “When I heard the news I was tickled pink.” At the age of fourteen, I was just horrified. I was so mortified and my poor dad just didn’t know what he did wrong. The fact that I was fourteen and a girl was enough, the fact that he gave a card because I started my period, was just beyond anything I could even handle. Years later, I realize this is just the cutest thing. My girlfriends are actually jealous of this. It is to this day my most favorite card.

I love to pick out cards. Sometimes, I will spend an hour looking at cards. I have on occasion bought them for events well in advance, especially if they hold some sort of private joke. I don’t underline and this may disappoint my mother. My card choices are typically on the witty side. I can’t stomach pre-made sentimentality. I can write well enough in a card to bring someone to tears. But I love to send cards and find those perfect ones for special people.

Since, my niece and nephew were born I send them cards for silly holidays – Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day (they are the only ones in my life who get those), and for no reason. They call them “Books in the mail”. It’s so cute, I hope nobody tells them they are cards.

So Happy Halloween (blah), send someone you care about a “just because” card, and if you are so daring – go ahead make a list of all the ways you are like your mother. But, if you do, tear up the not so flattering things and just focus on the good stuff.

It was a long time – That Time

19 Oct

No longer growing, and not dying,  just was, stagnant.

Like accumulated dew built up, the moisture not absorbed but not yet fallen.  It irritated and I shook it but it stayed.  And didn’t move.  

Remembered when, it was a long time, a long time. That Time.

Remembered the soul-searching, the stress relieving, the mind lifting, the inspirational gratitude stuff, like trying to create a new recipe and sensing something missing. Remembered giving up and then trying again. 

Remembered looking down at yourself – like a farmer at his crop – Grow! Change! Let me see something!

Remembered when, it was a long time, a long time. That Time.

But then…you remember, it was just a time That Time.  It was a Time, but not a long time.

What today was suppossed to be.

17 Oct

I started writing four times today but I can’t keep to the topic.  Saturday night before I fell asleep, I set my intention to write about the language of my relationships.  I intended to explore some of the words, phrases, looks that we share with each.  I intended to explain why these private jokes are so important to us. But I couldn’t because when I sat down to write, I started thinking about competition mornings – skiing and my dad.  I decided to go with that for a while and wrote maybe three very long rambling paragraphs.

Then I got distracted again. This time by my issues with asking and receiving help. Now this would be something very cathartic for me to explore through writing, but it’s not going to happen publicly.  Even in the extremely supportive environment of the 40 Days.  I’ll just explore that alone sometime.

I also could have written as a follow-up – another of my reverse hoarder events, as on Sunday I created another give away pile – a big one this time.  I also have a consignment pile – because now that I have emptied my closets, I probably need to add a few things to the closet. Of course, that didn’t seem to go anywhere either.

There was also a thought that perhaps I could explore the changing seasons and what it means symbolically to switch your closet over.  By the way, I am ready for winter now. But that didn’t seem to hold my interest very much. 

When I read the writing of others, I am always amazed, impressed and envious of what I see.  I imagine that the words flow effortlessly from mind, to hands, to screen and then appear before my eyes.  I know that it’s not true.  I know it’s not that simple.  I know that most writers spend years on their works.  I heard and I believe that there are writers who spends months on one sentence.  I know this.

Here’s what I did accomplish today:

I went to work, I went to the gym, and I just put down a mug of hot chocolate and a glass of red wine to write this (yup, double fisting), and I reset my mind:  this lack of focus – it’s just planning for future writing.

Now back to the hot chocolate or the wine…or both!