Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sorting it out.

Yesterday, Dad convinced me to go out to the farm and go through the wreckage to see if there was anything I wanted to keep. I bundled up, then walked in through the missing front door. Things crunched under my feet. The stairway looked just the same, but the rooms upstairs certainly didn't.

We went in J.B.'s room first, where I found a blue glass perfume bottle that belonged to my great grandmother.

Then we went to my room. In one place, the wall was cracked, and my curtains had gotten sucked off the window and through the wall (see photo at left).

My books were strewn everywhere (see photo below). Then I found my greatgrandmother's jewelry box. It's gold and plays "Sunrise, Sunset." I know it's not valuable, but I love it a lot. Inside was my ruby necklace. Then I picked up a few favorite books and some photographs.

In the attic, I found a box of my clothes. I sort of wanted to keep all of them, but in the end I just took my favorite jeans from high school (at some point, I'd already pinned a note on them that read "Please keep."), my brother's football uniform, a 4-H t-shirt and a Woodward-Granger (my high school) t-shirt. Then I salvaged a couple toys: a metal top that still worked, and a green, wooden grasshopper on wheels, with legs that moved up and down as you pushed it on the floor. Then I resigned myself to leave everything else behind to be destroyed with the demolition.

It was the possibility that was hard...the possibility that something I loved might still be intact, but hidden. But I made myself let go and walked away. Then Dad and I exited through the entirely-missing wall of their bedroom. I couldn't believe how much smaller it looked. It was like at funerals, when the person in the casket looks so much smaller than they did when they were alive.

My favorite tree survived, but I got a bit crabby when Dad told me they might tear it down, it and my second-favorite tree. I told him I was cold, and he said "Okay," but soon got caught up in showing me where the new house would go and pacing out the footprint.

"Daddy," I eventually interrupted, "I'm really cold!"

"But we're visuallizing!" he exclaimed. "Well, I guess I'm visuallizing you as a popsicle, and I'm not having to work very hard."

We realized I wasn't wearing a hat, so he put one on me, then we transfered my salvaged stuff to the semi-trailer they rented to hold our stuff. After that, I helped him load gates into the truck. (In all fairness, I had volunteered to do so the day before, but I hadn't been shivering and damp then). "Oh, sheesh," Dad said, "I better get you inside before I end up giving you pneumonia from this whole deal."

Then we drove over to Unkie and Helen's house.I believe that I've already mentioned on this site that Unkie and Helen and their daughters were like my second family growing up. Unkie is watching Dad's flock for him, and one of the ewes lambed early. Unkie is pretty generous, but he warned my dad that his sows farrowing and dad's ewes lambing would be too much. I imagine Helen's cancer doesn't make it any easier. So dad and I built a small pen for the ewe and her lamb, and Dad's looking for someone else to take on the ewes who are about to give birth. When we saw it was a Dorset ewe that had just had a lamb, Dad and I both chuckled that we (and Unkie) needn't have worried. Dorsets are wonderful mothers.

While I was there, I joked with Unkie, played with his Border Collie puppy, Callie, and arranged with Helen for me to come spend the night on Thursday.

That night, I fell asleep on the couch at 8, Mom and Dad sent me to bed at 9 and I slept until 7 a.m. this morning. Then I chatted with Mom, had breakfast while watching "You've Got Mail," walked the dog and took a three-hour nap. I must really be sick, because I am not a napper (as anyone who ever took care of me as a child can attest!) I wanted to go with my parents and some kids who are friends of the family to see Jolly Holliday Lights in Des Moines this evening, but I had a headache so I decided to rest some more in the hopes of finally kicking this bug.

Wish me luck.

Monday, December 26, 2005

White Christmas. (Warning: long one!)

Some people who know me give me credit for being adventurous. I'm not afraid to uproot and start my life over with new careers, new locations and new friends. The truth is, I'm rather traditional. It was the knowledge that my home base would always be there that let me go off to Spain or New York or wherever. I knew that my home and my family would always be there waiting for me.This was my first Christmas, my first time home, since my home was destroyed. That concept of home "always waiting for me" was easily disspelled. But my family has been here for me like always before, and hopefully forever after.

Saturday, my flights were delayed and delayed and delayed. I was sick and stressed out and started crying when I called to tell my parents when to come to the airport. A stranger who passed me to board his flight said, "Merry Christmas, dear. I hope it gets better." I thanked him and laughed at how pitiful I'd apparently become.

I didn't get to Iowa until after midnight, I think.We went home and opened one present each. My one present was an iPod Shuffle (YAY!). The next morning we went to church. Everyone was so nice and supportive. Mom and Dad asked if I wanted to go the the farm. I said no, because I was not in the mood to cry, but we ended up going anyway because they'd promised J.B. a load of firewood.

As they tossed walnut logs from a destroyed tree into the bed of Dad's pretty new truck, I circled the shell of what was our house. It wasn't just the structural damage that made it a shell. It was that the house was empty and cold. Without us living there, it had shrunken somehow. Tears streamed down my face, but I wiped them away and stopped sobbing before I met up with my parents. As we drove away, past the razed hillside that used to be an orchard, my dad said, "See? That wasn't so traumatic, was it?" But my face fell. "Oh," he chuckled sadly, "maybe I spoke too soon." I couldn't stop the tears then, but they didn't last too long.

We sang along to carols as we drove to see my brother, J.B.; sister-in-law, Erika and my niece, Brooke. When we got there we all hugged. Brooke was shy for the first five minutes, but instead of trying to hold her, I got down on the floor and played with her. Thus, we were fast friends. We had a soup supper (a Christmas tradition in our family). We opened our presents. I loved mine, Mom and Dad seemed to love theirs. J.B. loved his Dukes of Hazzard boxed sets, Erika loved her stamps (she's very crafty) and Brooke seemed to dig the books I got her. She loves to read, and I loved reading to her. Erika estimated that I read Brooke 253 books.

The next day, I changed Brooke's clothes, played with her and read her "The Polar Express," which lulled her into a morning nap. Cuddling her was so wonderful. She's so smart, right at the age when she's constantly picking up the language used around her. Mom sang her a lullaby, and she tried to sing it back to Mom, which was the cutest thing I'd ever seen until we were driving away and I saw Brooke in the window saying "Bye-bye! Bye-bye!" until we pulled out of sight.

Then we went to Uncle Jay and Aunt Dea's house for another soup supper. (Good thing I love chili!) I got to see my first cousin-once-removed (I think) for the first time. Logan is just as cute as can be, and it was hard for me not to hold him, but I restrained myself due to this nasty cold. Megan (my cousin and Logan's mom) was quoting "Anchorman" and holding the DVD. "Oh," I said, "I got that for my boyfriend for Christmas." This resulted in an instant uproar by my cousins (Jenny and her husband, Sam; Megan and her husband, Josh).

"Woah, woah, woah, guys! Calm down. I did not mean to make a big announcement."

"Well," Jenny replied, you just did."

Then Mom piped up that you could see his picture on my blog. Soon it was being booted up. The cousins informed me that they'd been through it, and now it was my turn. "No, I'm fine," I replied. They laughed and informed me that they'd be watching for big announcements. Then Sam started his own blog.

Now admittedly, I've not had a real boyfriend since the '90s, and I rarely mentioned the guys I casually dated. As such, I can't blame them for getting all worked up. The truth is, my life is up in the air right now. I don't know how it will turn out, professionally, geographically or romantically. I try to just take everyone's interest as a show of love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nothing says 'Happy Holidays' like a transit strike!

Yes, it's heartwarming...the sight of seven million New Yorkers bustling frantically around the city, not buying presents or looking at window displays but just trying to get to work and back home again. I've been bumming rides to and from work, and it hasn't been too bad. Luckily, I had most of my Christmas shopping done.

I've been rushing around like mad to get done all of the things I need to get done this week: the shopping, wrapping, packing, cooking, cleaning, laundry, lesson planning, etc., etc. On top of that, to save a little cash, I decided to make jewelry for some people's presents (see above). Yeah, I'm insane. I had also hoped to take a picture of myself in front of the Rockefeller Center tree (to frame for the grandparents' presents), but it's more than forty blocks from here and it's too cold to walk that far.

This Christmas is going to be weird. I'm big on tradition, and this year the house is gone. The old ornaments are gone. I won't even get to Woodward in time for the Christmas Eve church service. On the other hand, I'm really looking forward to seeing my family, friends and pets. I think that will be strong enough to hold me together.

Monday, December 19, 2005

A fight with my...boyfriend.

Last weekend, darling Laura's boyfriend met up with us.

"Oh, I'd hoped your man-friend-type-person would be here," he said.

"My 'man-friend-type-person?'" I replied.

"Yeah. I didn't know if you'd had the official boyfriend-girlfriend talk."

"We haven't." In truth, I thought the idea of an official boyfriend-girlfriend talk was lame...and yet I found myself broaching the subject with Mr. B.

"So, the other day Ryan said, 'I'd hoped your man-friend-type-person would be here,'" I said.

"Your 'man-friend-type-person'?"

"Yeah, he said he didn't know if we'd had the official talk about what to call each other."

"Ah," he said, laughing, "'man-friend-type-person' works." Heh.

But he officially crossed into Boyfriendland when we had our first fight this weekend. After work we went for drinks with a co-worker. Then Mr. B. said he might order a black and tan. I said I didn't understand how the Guinness floated on top of the other beer because Guinness seems so dense. He tried to explain it to me which just made me feel dense. I tried to understand, but I couldn't, which made me feel frustrated and dumb and insecure. So I said to him, "Forget it." But he tried to continue explaining, so I gave him a whithering look and told him to drop it.

Then, in the car, we began discussing an illegal habit of his. He was talking about how normal his little habit is. I said I think fewer people indulge in it where I'm from, especially teachers. Well, he took this an an invitation for debate and wanted me to statistically back up my opinion. I got annoyed, because everytime he discusses his habit he says the exact same things and only wants to hear what he wants to hear. So again, I said to him, "Forget it."

[AAARGH! What just happened? I finished this blog entry, and a chunk of it just disappeared! Where was I?]

Okay, I said "Forget it," and he went off. He said that I refused to let him be right and that trying to avoid those arguments showed something about my personality. It told him that I probably wouldn't care enough to go through the important arguments (one example he gave was 'the virgin thing.'). There was ranting (on his part) and a little screaming and crying (on my part) but eventually we managed to calmly get our points across. Then he played his guitar for me for the first time. It was really nice. We followed that up with a Ben Stiller movie (Keeping the Faith) an some making out before bed. In the morning, we had a mini-fight (it was an aftershock, really), but were on solid ground by breakfast, during which we flirted over our eggs in the diner.

That night I went out to good old Solas (my favorite bar--above, left) with the ladies. We used to go every Friday, but somehow fell out of the habit. The bartender greeted us warmly and remembered our favorite drinks. The next morning, I made it to church (Park Ave. United Methodist--above, right) for the first time in a month and sang with the choir (Vivaldi and Christmas carols, which I adore). It sounded and felt amazing.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The last ten days...

Quite a bit has happened since I wrote last. I remember nothing about December 5...perhaps something traumatic occurred and now I'm blocking it out. December 6 my counselor wasn't available for our normal session, so I went to a great store called Beads on Fifth. I've been making jewelry for Christmas presents, and I needed supplies. Since then, I've made six pairs of earrings and two necklaces.

I've noted that when I first met Mr. B, I was struck by the urge to bake. A while back, I bought a bunch of apples, but hadn't had time to actually make the pie (from scratch!) until Wednesday. It was a dutch carmel apple pie with a lattice crust (see photo above). I think I over-worked the shortening in the bottom crust, but the top crust was perfect and flaky. The filling was breathtaking, if I do say so myself.

Thursday...yeah, I blocked that out, too.

Friday I went out with my ladies. It was fun, but I had to go home earlier than usual because I was exhausted. The insomnia...she is back.

Saturday, I went to Mr. B's for dinner (his family is out of town). He made me chicken cutlets with garlic pasta and we had my pie and ice cream for dessert. He's a great cook. Also, there was much making out. More on this another time, perhaps.

Sunday I did laundry and turned a few black bananas into a loaf of yummy banana bread. I also planned my lessons. I also chatted with my parents. Mom said Hooligan has made to move to the apartment in town. She also told me Aunt Helen, with whom I'm very close, has lung cancer. Lung cancer! She's never smoked. Unkie never smoked. It's so unfair. But the doctors seem to agree. They said she's so healthy that she'll probably be okay.

Monday I had a tough day at work. Well, it started out all right. I had to video tape a grammar lesson for my Fordham final. I taught it to 702 and they were great. My 803 class was good, too. Then the tide turned: Kids in class 705 were swinging belts and I couldn't get anyone to come help me. Between that and having a cold, I almost cried. I then had a long staff meeting in which my administrators were trying to manipulate the staff. Usually our staff gets along well, but that day we were all CRABBY. On the plus side, that day I bought this miracle elixir called Zicam. As I see it, there are three possibilities: 1-Zicam is a wonder drug that has done wonders with my cold symptoms. 2-It's the placebo effect. 3-The cold is just running its course. I say who cares, as long as my nose no longer feels like it's full of jello, I can pronounce the letter d, and I don't sound like I've been gargling gravel.

Tuesday I finished the paper to go along with my grammar lesson video, which was due that night. My Fordham field advisor watched me teach and he thought I did a great job. 803 was okay, but 705 went nuts again. After school was Fordham, after Fordham was counselling (Quick summary: 'Props on getting the paper done on time! Don't try so hard to impress your dad. Don't be afraid to go for your dream and write. Good luck with the holidays!' Thanks, Angela!) I went home and made earrings (that was pair 6), then went to bed. I didn't get to sleep until almost midnight, though. Yes the insomnia continues. I must get more that six hours sleep soon or I will snap.

Today the kids were decent. It was photo day, and no one warned the teachers, so we were crabby at our administration...again...some more. Then, because it was so cold, Mr. B. gave me a ride to the train. On the way to his car, we ran into some of my students on the street. They went nuts, screamming that they had caught us. They were giddy, surrounding us like the paparazzi. Seeing us walking together was, to them, a sure confirmation of their suspicions. This shall feed their need for drama for quite some time.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see one of my students play basketball and another dance during the halftime show. It's the first time students have invited me to one of their activities, and I'm proud that they want me there.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fresh snow, fresh start

Last night was rough. Mr. B was late for our 7 p.m. date. Usually, he calls when he leaves his house, then again when he's almost to my apartment. At first, I panicked. On Friday I told him I had plans with Laura during the day Saturday. He said I could call him to let him know when we were done. I said, "No, let's go with 7 on Saturday like normal. I'll call you if that changes." Suddenly, I was stricken with uncertainty. Was I supposed to have called him? I left a message: "Hey, it's Erin. It's after seven. Are you okay? If I was supposed to call you and I forgot, I'm sorry. Please call me."

Half an hour later, the guilt was gone and I was 50 percent worried, 50 percent pissed off. Either something was wrong or Mr. B was pouting, which is a dumb and passive way to deal with a situation. I called a few friends for sympathy and advice. Then, at 8, I called him again. This time, he picked up. "Hello," he answered with no notable tone in his voice. "Where are you?" I asked. "My cousin's. Why?" "Why? I thought we had a date for 7." "We do," he replied, "Why, what time is it now?" "It's 8 o'clock!" "A.M. or P.M.?" "Are you kidding me?" I asked, incredulously. "No, I'm not kidding. It's 8 p.m.?" "Yes," I said, "It's 8 p.m. What are you in a basement? Didn't you notice that it's dark out? Are you alone there?" "Yeah, I'm alone. All the shades are closed because my cousin's in China, remember?" "How drunk did you guys get last night?" "Not very! I don't know what's wrong with me. Do you still want to hang out?" "Yes. Just get over here, okay?" (In his defense, my first year of teaching, I slept that long a few times. It's a stressful job.)

He came over and we ordered in Chinese food. Then we went to see Rent. It was a little hard for Mr. B to get into it at first, I think, but by the end he was on board. Actually, the hardest part for him was probably me silently sobbing during the refrain of "I'll cover you." Up to that point, I'd managed to hold it together, but I knew that refrain was going to kick my emotional ass. Sure enough, it did. (That said, I really enjoyed the adaptation.)

I love Rent, but it's tough for me because my uncle Carl died of AIDS when I was 12. No one told me it was AIDS for a long time, and even when they did tell me, they couldn't really talk about it. He was an artist and gay and used drugs. He was part of a community of friends what was whittled away by AIDS. He was the first one in the family to see the artist in me. I loved him in all of his eccentricities. Back then people didn't know how to discuss AIDS...or they didn't know how...or they didn't see why they should. Now time has passed. We've all become more aware and less scared.

The first real snowfall of the year fell last night. It covered the streets of New York with a white hush. That fresh new start doesn't change what lies beneath, but it lets us see the world around us in a new way -- with new beauty and new hope.