Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cuatro Cosas

1) Walking With Dinosaurs was amazing. Awesome lights, cool effects, real-life looking dinos. There were a lot of little kids wearing green foam dino hats, but whatever. My chair wasn't sticky.

2) I went to a Mongolian grill for lunch with relatives on Saturday, got a fortune cookie, and the numbers on the back were 4 8 15 16 23 42. Okay, so actually they were 2 7 13 17 33 49, but what if they had been the Lost numbers? I want to make a bunch of fortune cookies with the Lost numbers and hand them out to people I know who watch the show.

3) March is going to kill me. I'll tell you why sometime later this week when I have a lot of time on my hands, like from 7-9pm Friday. Natalie knows, because we are both conspiring together.

4) I have to work at McDonald's on Thursday. I never dreamed this day would come. If you are anti fast food, you should just donate $100 to my school so I am not forced to participate in McTeacher's night.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

You Probably Don't Know Who You Are

I still think about you now, even though you're gone. No, that makes it sound like you're dead. And you're not dead, you're just away, living some other life that I am no longer a part of. I felt guilty, because I hadn't thought about you for a long time, and then I remembered everything.

And the remembering stung. Like when you get lemon juice in your eye, only this time, it was my heart. 

At first, I thought about you everyday. Then I thought about you every week. That drained down to one or two times a month, and then I stopped. I think I stopped because I couldn't take it. All those times I thought of you, I prayed for you. Then that stopped too. I know. I'm lame. But it was hard for me, because I'd keep praying the same thing over and over, and I didn't see you, so I didn't even know if anything was changing.

I wanted everything to change for you. Or go back to the way it used to be, I guess. I wanted to tell you in person that I thought you were brave, that I knew all of this was hard for you. Mostly, I wanted you to talk to me about it. I think that was what was difficult for me. You never wanted to talk to me about it. You never said anything. But I knew. I knew too late, that's all. Because by the time I put all the clues together, by the time I had it figured out, you were gone. Or I was gone, depending on how you looked at things.

But I want you to know that I am thinking about you again. Sometimes I want to be like The Giver, you know? And take all those memories from everybody. But then I know I'd be bad at it, because what I do have is overwhelming. That's why I stopped thinking about you. I should probably read that book again. I read it in seventh grade, and a lot of it didn't make sense. But when did anything ever make sense in seventh grade?

Just like how I prayed for you all those times and never found out if anything ever changed for you, I won't know if you read this or not. In fact, I'm probably counting on "or not." But I guess that's okay. The important thing is that I'm remembering.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Good Parts

I already told you, read When You Reach Me. I said I wanted to read it all over again so it would make even more sense. I've never re-read a book immediately in my life, usually I wait a few months. Sure, after I've finished I might go back and re-read all the good parts, but not cover to cover. I started re-reading When You Reach Me again. Seriously. Find a library card. 

" out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It's all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never," (2).

"I was named after a criminal," (7).

"While she listened, Belle made me a turkey sandwich and gave me about ten chewable vitamin Cs because she though I sounded nasal," (8).

"Nice tights," I snorted. Or tried to snort, anyway. I'm not exactly sure how, though people in books are always doing it," (10).

And that part about the ring with diamonds all around it? How each diamond is like a moment, and they are all happening at once? It doesn't matter where or when you came from, because when you jump to a moment, you're there. There is no time in the moments, it's the jumping from place to place that is the time. I'm still thinking about all of this. Reminds me of The Time Traveler's Wife. All the moments are happening at once. It's the people that move. It doesn't matter when you leave. It's just whether or not you get there that matters.

Holey Swiss cheese, I love books.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today during lunch

Somebody started eating an apple, but didn't finish.


Just kidding. Not in my class. We like oranges.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

On using shovels for purposes other than grave digging

I always seem to be missing some tool, device, or knowledge that would complete my domestic bliss, if I had it. A month ago it was a rolling pin, but we problem solved with a full wine bottle. Two months before that, it was a ladle, which I improvised with a measuring cup. This time, it was a shovel.

I had to bury the dead.

Just kidding. But I am a pro at digging animal graves. Living in the country where my sister and I adopted every possible creature as a pet (which led to their untimely death), taught me how to grieve quickly, dig a hole, slap a cross together with two sticks and some twine, and etch a tombstone with a sharp rock. But I digress.

My mother dearest gave me a rose bush for Valentine's Day. She's the only living organism on the planet (all the others being dead in their animal graves), who loves me, and I had neglected planting her token of love, due to the fact that I had no shovel, and I wasn't about to go all paleolithic and start clawing at the earth with my hands.

The day she brought it by (February 12th), I had planned on asking my sister or Handy Dan (the neighbor) if I could borrow a shovel. It was a long weekend due to President's Day, and I had all intentions of burying the thing, er, I mean planting, on Monday. It was even a decent day. The thing was, I forgot that my sister would be at work, and I had neglected to pick up the shovel beforehand.

All this to say the rose stalk and roots (because it's not a bush yet) sat on my back patio for a week. My mother warned me when she gave it to me that it would die if I didn't plant it immediately. But sometimes your brain or your schedule doesn't work out, so immediately ends up being 8 days later.

It was a gorgeous day today, and I had my sights set high. I would weed my bark chips (because there's not enough there to call it a flower bed), pick up the pine branches that had fallen, and plant those rose roots.

I dialed my sister to see if she was awake yet. No answer, but she did finally change her voice mail greeting to say her new last name. And she took off that liar part about how she'd call you back. I resolved to start on the weeding and branch picking-up, and then call again when I was done.

An hour and brownie break later, I called again. Then I just drove over there, because she didn't answer, and I figured she must be outside. Upon arrival, I discovered no one was home. Both her and my fake brother's vehicles were gone. I went home and maybe checked Facebook or watched trashy MTV shows or something. I can't quite remember. Actually, I was probably reading C.S. Lewis.

Finally, I called my fake brother and he told me that he was at his grandma's house and that Jess, my real sister was at a business workshop. I said "thanks for nothing, you marrying into the family has really helped me a lot." But then my sister called me a half an hour later while on a break, and told me where the shovel was, and how it wasn't locked up, it was just being guarded by three Rottweiler dogs, collectively weighing 289 pounds.

After going to her house again (btw, she lives two blocks from me), I sidled up to the six foot cedar fence. I heard barking. "Hi Thor," I said. "It's just me. Your Aunt Jo Jo." I could hear him sniffing. I struggled with the latch and then opened the gate. His big scar face head made me think for a second that I was in the ER with mutilated patients. Jess told me he had gotten in a fight with his brood, the young and viable Squishy, but I had no idea it was this bad. One of his eyes had practically been ripped out and then stitched back in, and hair was missing from behind his ears. I won't get into the details of how the fight happened, but just know that Squishy weighs 118 pounds, which is more than me, if you really want to know. He's a force to fear.

So I'm shoving Scar Face out of my privates, trying to walk to the dog kennel, to get the shovel that is supposed to be near it. Thor's really excited, because he's had no friends for a week, since he was in rehab. I see the other two dogs are locked in the kennel. I spy the shovel, grab it, and manage to sneak out while Thor is distracted chasing a butterfly or something. Or maybe he was taking a poo, I don't know, I didn't look back.

I locked the gate, put the shovel in my car, and drove home to plant my rose bush (which remember is really some roots and a stalk at this point). Only it wasn't actually that easy. There are a lot of extra steps you have to take, but I'll spare you the details. This isn't the home and garden channel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Read This

I understand now why When You Reach Me won this year's Newbery Award. I read the whole thing in two days. From page one you are intrigued, trying to solve this mystery. It's not a mystery book, but the narrator of the story isn't telling you something, so it doesn't make sense, and you keep reading to figure out what it is that the narrator knows but isn't telling you yet.

The whole book is good, but then at the very end it all makes sense. And as soon as you're done reading, you realize you need to read it again, because when you do you will look at everything differently, now that you know.

It was easier to follow than The Time Traveler's Wife, but still makes your head hurt a little bit.

Monday, February 15, 2010

At this time 15 years ago

This is what I was thinking. Another great treasure from The Files of...


Shaggy is my stuffed bear. I used to celebrate her birthday and throw her parties, too. 

I wonder how much allowance I got. It was probably 50 cents. Notice my budding Spanish skills. 

Yes, my family would often dress up in costumes before going to Pizza Hut. And it was always great! Can I point out that mysterious Y. after the word letter? What does that mean?

Man, was I pissed I never got that Valentine! My sister Jess and I were freaky for Legos. We played with them during the winter months when it was too wet and cold to be outside.

I'm also really glad that I am mentioning horse's butts here. Patches was the neighbor horse. She probably was catching some disease. Some white butt disease. Good thing I noted it. 

Okay, so that whole Indian thing at Pizza Hut. I'll tell you what really happened. We used to do Book It! where you read to earn pizza. We were supposed to come to the group dressed as the character of our latest book. Apparently mine was Pocahontas or something. 

And that was what was happening 15 years ago, mid-nineties.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hey there, Cupcake

I now cringe when I think about every cupcake I've ever made. They should have got straight down the garbage disposal. I passed them off as something good. Hah! My world was revolutionized this Friday when I spent three hours making the most scrumptious cupcakes yet, under the tutelage of master cake maker Judy, aka my fake brother's mother.

It all started (okay, well not all of it) when I went over to my sister's house a few weeks ago. Judy, her mother in law, had made her a birthday cake. It was chocolate with peanut butter frosting. So delicious. I ate a giant piece. I told her I wanted Judy's recipe. Judy had made the wedding cakes for my sister and fake brother's wedding. They're good. Thus, my sister arranged a cake making lesson for February 12th.

The rest of it started several years back, like junior year of college. I got really into cupcakes after discovering the blog Cupcakes Take the Cake. I was into all things cupcake. I tried to get good at it but my homemade frosting really sucked. I tried various recipes, but the frosting was always too runny and not conducive to crafting into beautiful swirly decorations. But I really liked to decorate them.

For a brief moment in college, my friend Liz and I were going to start a cupcake/cookie business called Suite Delivery. We would deliver fresh baked goods every Sunday to the students living in the dorms, straight to their doors. Fifty-cents each. Sadly, it never came to pass.

I have two tubs full of candy colored sprinkles, various cupcake papers, toppers, food dye, frosting tips, etc. I'm also very excited about the ruffly apron I acquired circa November 2009. I had all the supplies, yet my cupcakes were below par.

Until Judy.

When I got to her house on Friday night, she divulged all her secrets to me. Recipes were written on the backs of envelopes. Inhaling the very scent of the various frostings made me nearly fall over from ecstasy. We made 152 cupcakes. One-hundred fifty-two.

(not the cupcakes I made)

We made chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Vanilla cake with lemon filling, topped with a vanilla-almond buttercream frosting and raspberry filling. Cherry chip cake with pink cherry flavored frosting. It was all scrumptious. Think of the high you might get from smoking an illegal substance and times it by ten.

Judy showed me how to properly fold parchment paper and make it into a pastry bag. She talked about her early days in cake making class, working under the head baker of Gerry Frank's Konditorei.

In the end, I came home with 30 mouth-watering cupcakes. I ate one for breakfast on Saturday morning, and it was divine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Kevin's Grief

I was on the dance floor, twinkling lights overhead, classic oldies playing tunes. My new bride and I had finished our first dance. She was absolutely radiant. Her white dress tucked in at her tiny waist, and her cascading train swished as she walked. Now we were trying to rake in the dough for our honeymoon by doing the money dance. She had a row of 15 men lined up behind her, waiting to give her cash for a dance. So far I had danced with my sister, my grandma, and my great-aunt Teresa.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Grace. She was one of my good friends from college and I had a feeling she was just coming over because she felt sorry for me. I wasn’t sure if I should have invited her to the wedding, considering my past feelings for her, but my wife convinced me that it was fine. Well, that’s not the whole truth. My wife doesn’t know the whole story. There wasn’t that much to tell. I was turned down.

Grace smiled as she walked up to me. She held out a twenty. I took her hand as the DJ put on the next song. I didn’t really say anything to her, since I was watching my wife dancing eight feet away from me with one of the groomsmen. Grace leaned into me, so that her mouth was right near my ear.

She whispered, “Out of everybody, I loved you the best. I wanted you the most.”

My gut jumped. Why was she telling me this now? On the day of my wedding? It’s what I wanted her to say four years ago, not now. Definitely not now.

“Why are you telling me this? What do you expect me to do?”

“Nothing,” she said softly. “I’ve never wanted you to do anything. I just need you to know that I love you. I don’t need anything back.”

What was I supposed to say? I loved you before. Before her. Before my new wife. I took a step back from Grace. I could tell she was about to cry. But really? You don’t tell someone that you love them the day of their wedding. Not after the ceremony, anyway. I was at a loss for what to do, but Grace took her cue from the ending song. She disappeared into the throng of guests and left me puzzled on the dance floor. My wife came to my rescue, and I gave her a kiss before we started our next dance together.

We left for our honeymoon that night, and I didn’t see Grace again. My wife and I spent two and a half weeks in the Bahamas, and then we came home. On the next lazy Saturday my wife and I began to unpack all of our wedding gifts. I was reading the paper and found the Milestones page. There was our wedding photo in it, with a short blurb about the two of us. On the page opposite the weddings and birthdays were the obituaries. I nearly fell over when I saw it. There was her picture, staring back at me. Grace. I couldn’t believe it at first, or even a second or third time. Why had no one called me? How does Grace die at age 26? I still didn’t really believe it when I dialed her parents’ number.

“Mr. Parker? This is Kevin. I saw the paper.”
“You should come over,” was all he said.

I knocked on the door and it opened immediately. Mr. Parker gave me a hug, and I could tell he had been crying. He tried to explain it to me. That it wasn’t a surprise; it was just a matter of time. That she had made it longer than the doctors expected. I didn’t get it.

“How could she have been sick that long? She was studying abroad for a whole year in Ecuador our sophomore year of college.” That was her excuse for why she couldn’t be with me. She would be gone.

“Oh sweetie.” Mrs. Parker said. “Gracie didn’t spend a year in Ecuador. She went for three weeks because it was her dream, but after that she spent the rest of the year at a specialty hospital in Colorado.”


“I have a letter for you. Gracie wrote it a few weeks ago. Right after you got married, actually. About a week before she died.” Mrs. Parker went to a room and came back with a white envelope. I opened it on the spot.

Dear Kevin,
I love her, too. I love her because you need her. She knows. She always did. You don’t know this, but I found her for you. I told her she needed to love you, because the day would come when I wouldn’t be there to. I know how much you loved me, and if you had known about me, I know what you would have done. But then you would have been all alone now, wouldn’t you? Really, all I wanted is for you to love her more than me, because I love you so much that I never want you to be alone. You have her now, and that’s what I was holding on for.

I loved you yesterday.
I love you today.
She will love you tomorrow.

Peace be with you,

 It was too much. I started to sob. All those years ago, when Grace would e-mail me “from Ecuador,” she was really sick in a hospital bed. That was about the same time I met my wife. I told Grace how I was going to a church group that met on Tuesday nights, and a few weeks late I met my wife there. Grace was e-mailing me about how much she loved Ecuador, about how great the food was, about how different the culture was, and about how she thought she might move there permanently if she could.

I thanked the Parkers for their time, offered my condolences, and cried some more on my drive home.

My wife was organizing the kitchen when I got there.

“How much did you know?” I asked, waving the letter.

She wrapped her arms around me and said, “Oh Honey…I loved you yesterday. I love you today. I will love you tomorrow.” 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear Katie

I hope you are reading this because I don't know where you went! I went to message you and explain how 0.75 of a bathroom means that it has a toilet, sink, and shower (no tub), but you were missing! I hope you didn't get nabbed by the mob or a drunken Californian celebrity.

I'm really good at cracking codes, so if you need help send me a cryptic message.

Your Friend,

I Need It Fast

Or, The Cost of Convenience, Part Two
It kills me when I have to spend a dumb amount of money because I need something fast. But it saves me time.

Case in point #1
I need these color copies so that I can make a book for my upcoming GLAD science unit. It's about animals and their habitats. I don't have color ink at home, and our school building does not have a single color copier either. So good luck with that. The GLAD lab (where you can go to make your GLAD units for free) is open four days a week, but in order to use it I have to leave my school early and drive across town to get there before it closes. I don't have that kind of time. So I ordered 21 pages of color copies off of Digital Store Front, which is what teachers use to order all the print they need. It cost me $10.29! That's like 49 cents a copy. Robbery! It costs 3 cents for a black and white copy, BTW. But like I said, I don't have the time to go to the GLAD lab before I need the print.

In case you are not a teacher and are wondering what GLAD is, it is not a happy way to teach science. It stands for Guided Language Acquisition Design, and it is primarily aimed at children whose native language is not English, AKA 65% of my class.

Case in point #2
I try to save money on paying bills by doing it online. Unfortunately, the old-school-ness of two of my utility suppliers do not have online bill paying functions. Thus, I have to mail them a check. One of the aforementioned supplier living in the stone age is located only eight minutes from my house, but it is inconvenient for me to stop there to drop off the payment. Thus, I have to spend 44 cents in stampage. Grrr.

For an even worse waste of money, read The Cost of Convenience.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Let's Party!

Oh my gosh I have discovered party blogs and I love them. These people have all these lovely photos of themed parties, and it makes me jealous. I kind of want a kid just so I can throw an awesome children's birthday party. Is that sick?

Here are my favorites.

This one is for birthdays  And a sample photo below.

This one is for weddings

And the best for last, Amy Atlas, who is a sought after party planner in New York. She does stuff for Martha Stewart, for goodness sake. Check out the "eye candy" photo gallery on her page.

Amy Atlas Events  I was so excited when she showed a photo of a baby naming party, whereupon the glorious name of Joelle was printed everywhere. We are underrepresented.

After looking at all these photos I totally want to throw a beautiful party. Anybody need a planner?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Currently Reading

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. It came out in 2004, so I guess I'm a bit slow jumping on the bandwagon, but whatever. It's a young adults book (like ages 12-15ish), but it's good. Super good. It's one part historical (set in 1935), one part fiction, three parts witty, one part serious, one part baseball. I mean, thus far. I'm only on chapter 12.

Here's the opening line. "Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water."

One of my favorite similes  is "I want to be here like I want poison oak on my private parts."

I don't know what I can say to convince you to read this book. It's a Newberry Honor book. It is fantastic. Five star rating.

Also, if you are in to TV, LOST is on tonight. As in, hot doctor Jack Shepherd, Dharma initiative crap, Sawyer if you like that kind of thing, smoke monsters, numbers, and time travel.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sappy love and kisses

In honor of the month of February--which we all know is filled with pink hearts, polka dots, and chocolate--I'm thinking about doing a fictional series with the theme of love. Or heartache. Whichever you prefer. I have one story so far, something that's been pushed to the back of the dusty e-files of my computer.

So you know, check back sometime this week to see if I actually do what I say I will. I think I may have some time tomorrow.
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