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No Thanks, Seems Like I Already Ate at Home

06/20/2017

I’m just admitting this, and I’m not sure if anyone else has this problem, but I have a fear of potlucks. I probably need an intervention or therapy or something, but the issue is pretty minor compared to my other quirks, so I don’t see myself pursuing that. With some phobias, there might be one traumatic childhood event that caused this fear to settle in and take hold, like being bit by your best friend’s dog, or nearly drowning in your neighbor’s pool. I have no weird potluck stories from my youth. If anything, my childhood was marked by a lack of potlucks and adult parties in general. My parents did not “have people over” or “host dinner parties.” We were ahead of our time on that whole not trusting your neighbors thing. So maybe I didn’t learn at a young age how to potluck (if I may just use it as verb now), but I definitely did not have any traumatic potato salad or tuna casserole experiences that I can recall. Still, I want to analyze this issue, just for fun.

Possible reasons for my strange potluck aversion:

Cheese rules:  I don’t mean “Yay cheese! cheese rules!”  I mean, there are not many ways I like to eat cheese, and potlucks violate the Rules of Cheese for me. For example, there might be some quinoa thing, which sounds safe until somebody chops some feta cheese into tiny, impossible-to-avoid pieces and mixes it all in. Rule violation. I don’t eat raw cheese. The cheese must be melted. And the cheese must not be feta, or any type of blue or brie or stinky. So basically I’m this weird person who only likes melted pepper jack, mozzarella or cheddar. Also I don’t really like processed cheese food. You know, that Velveeta-y gunky cheese. Exception: salsa is mixed in to the cheese food, the concoction is HOT, and I have a cold beer to wash it down.  Possibly there is a football game on in the background. But a a potluck will always include cold, congealed, previously melted processed cheese food. Unacceptable.

Cleanliness: This one time, at a baby shower, I saw the food prep happen. The cat sat on the counter as the dip was being prepared. I mean, the cat was so close to the dip, its tail was touching the bowl and then hovering over the top. Normally I’m not super picky about animal proximity to food. But this was the same potluck that had the rainbow meat. Which brings me to the next thing….

Meat:  I’m kind of weird about meat. I was a vegetarian for three years, so I don’t know if I wrecked myself but I’m super skeptical about meat. I also really like to watch food documentaries and they often talk about how consuming meat will slowly kill you. Lunchmeat and ground beef are very suspect. So back to the rainbow meat: it was roast beef, and it was shiny and very much more roygbiv than I like meat to be. I also get scared about meat temps, because I worked in restaurants for years and took hourly soup temps that I then put on a record sheet on a clipboard every day of my damn life.

Mayonnaise, pudding, jello: I hate mayo. I don’t even think of it as food. It seems like mayo is a potluck staple, as is pudding and random things suspended in Jello. Along these lines, I also don’t like cream cheese, cottage cheese or sour cream.  More potluck landmines.

Food allergies: So I also have weird food allergies. Like basically, if it’s an easy-to-cook meal that involves cream-of-anything soup, Bisquick, instant potatoes, or sauces that start as powder from a packet, I can’t eat it. To clarify, I can eat it, but it causes minor breathing problems and congestion. Less fun at parties. So rather than track people down and ask about ingredients, I stay away from things that look like they might contain these landmines.

So there is my list. But, P.S., this happened once at a work potluck. A coworker signed up to bring hot dogs, and she forgot to cook them. So she put them in a foil tray and placed them on the dashboard of her car all morning. This happened in July in Reno. The coworker then presented these “cooked by the sun in her 4-Runner” hot dogs to the potluck table. I don’t think a hot dog can kill you, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

The bottom line is, I’d just rather eat my own food that I cook, or food that has been cooked by someone who’s kitchen has been inspected by the Health Department. And I guess maybe instead of calling this potluck thing a fear, I should just call it snobbery. I am a potluck snob. There, I said it.

So basically, that veggie tray is looking pretty safe.  Just for fun I googled fear of potlucks, to see if I’m the only one, and found this.

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/15/health/he-potluck15

After reading this article, I seriously can’t partake in any potluck at all, ever, because new scary things have been introduced to my psyche. I just can’t handle it.

Reading:

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade

I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro

Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

Hulu, Twitter, Sleep…

06/12/2017

A blog, like a daily running habit, is patient. It waits around. It stays there, quietly chilling out, and sometimes metaphorically tapping you on the shoulder to say, “Heeeey….  still here if you’d like to partake.” It can be forgotten, for months on end, and when you are ready to post (or run), it says, go for it.

Back when I had an office job, blogging was easier. Those days, while others might be checking Google Reader, I was posting about important stuff like the state of the work bathroom or why llamas never gossip. But then I left the boring job to go to the not-boring job, and now I go home every day exhausted. My name is spoken 500 times a day (really, we tallied it once).  I answer the same questions over and over. I repeat directions three times. I get asked if I need a hug (always yes).  I advise on proper  hand washing techniques.   I positively reinforce, collect data, write and repeat objectives, post schedules, email parents, put band aids on owies, change pants (not mine but theirs), and tie shoes a million times.  Is it better than Project Management?  Hell yes. But being a teacher means I need more quiet time than I used to.  What suffers is the writing and running, because my quiet time these days involves Netflix, Hulu, and staring at my phone.

I started thinking, if my life was succinctly summed up like one of those old triathlon shirts (Run! Bike! Swim!), what would it say? Currently it might say “Binge Watch Hulu! Scroll the Hell Out of  Twitter! Sleep!”  I have a great life. But I’d like to create a new, fresh triathlon shirt for myself. Because I don’t really want to look back on my life and say, “Yes, I watched all 15 seasons of CSI, and re-watched all the Golden Girls episodes.”

The new shirt I want to design for my life says Write, Sketch, Run. It’s always been those three things for me. I just sometimes forget. Like most people, I get sucked into the show of other stuff.  I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t analyzing and goal setting my life, so perhaps it’s time for a little less social media and TV, and a little more writing.  My summer and beyond goals involve a little less observing and a little more creating. Well, that and teaching summer school , reading, doing the Arch Rivals Superhero Run and trying out that new slide at the waterpark (might need liquid courage first).

Currently Reading:

Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

Music of the Ghosts by Vaddet Ratner

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Best books I’ve recently completed:  The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz, The Girl With All the Gifts by Mike Carey and Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Skrypuch.

In the queue: Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade and The Eight by Katherine Neville

Happy Summer!

 

 

Happy to Help. Or…Not.

08/18/2016

Lately I’ve been receiving weird customer service, which has caused me to say old-lady things like, “This shit’s really going downhill” and “Back when I worked customer service that bullshit wouldn’t fly.” I’m not saying the customer is always right.  I might even be high maintenance, I don’t know. But what I am saying is, as a customer, I’m a pain in the ass for wanting the thing the business offers, things like food and groceries.

So this happened at a restaurant recently. I wanted to sit at a table, order food, have the food brought to me, maybe drink a beer, and of course, be a good tipper, as I tend to do whenever I go out because, hello, I lived the dream of restaurant work for 14 years, so I know how bad it can suck. But it’s like I’m bothering them by wanting these aforementioned things, because I guess before I got there with my intrusive desire to be led to a table, they were talking. And now, they have to like, stop talking and work.

There is this trend to make the customer do the job, unpaid, while the workers can look at their phones and resent the customer’s presence.  I get it. Self-service, self check, seat yourself; it’s not like it’s new. I’m just saying, it could be going too far. That kiosk at the table, for example, where I have to order my own dessert and run my own credit car, is too much. For all that work, do I get free trivia games? No. I have to pay for that. Last time I used that thing, I started thinking about how people surreptitiously install credit card reader identity theft dealios at gas stations and ATMs. Those people at least probably wear dark hoodies and brave the elements. But now someone can do it while eating a breadstick and drinking a Bellini. Am I paranoid? Yes, I think so.

So at the restaurant, I wanted a beer. I asked the server about a certain kind of beer that I did not find on the menu, the name of which I could not remember, that I had last time I was there. And he said, “Let me make it easy for you, the beers are listed here.” Then he tapped the menu, like I’m too dumb to find the alcohol on a menu. I think “let me make it easy for you” might have been this guy’s code for “hey dumbass,” but I let it go because I really wanted a beer and this guy was like the gatekeeper. Although maybe soon that will be my job too, the beer getting. I ordered a Blue Moon and the guy disappeared. Then, a minute later, he returned with this line: “I gotta be honest with you, your beer rung up as a Blue Moon but it’s really gonna be a Shock Top, which is pretty much the same thing.”  Really?  Shouldn’t I, the drinker of this beer, be the judge of the sameness? This “I gotta be honest with you” thing led me to wonder, were you gonna lie to me? Did you have some kind of moral struggle, during which, after weighing the pros and cons, you decided to just come clean? Thanks for your honesty man, you are a GOOD person. Back in my day (the geezer said), we said things like, “I’m sorry, we are out of Blue Moon, but we do have Shock Top, would you like that instead?”  Not this guy.

So here’s another example of weird customer service. We went to the store that has been advertising all over the radio that they have Hatch green chilies and they will roast them for you. Now normally I roast my own New Mexico chilies, but it’s about 500 degrees outside and I feel lazy. So at the store and I asked the guy outside, who was standing in a roped-off area surrounded by cases of chile and a roaster, if we could get a box of roasted chilies. He wiped the sweat off his brow with the hand not holding the lighter and said, “Welllllll…” Like he was not roasting anything at all. Like he was just outside on a break and someone set this whole thing up around him without his knowledge. I waited him out while he played all hard to get about the chilies. “ Ya…,um….. I guess I can put you on the list”  he finally said. Okay, cool. I asked when we could pick up the chilies. And he actually said, “I’m not sure, a few hours at least because you have people before you on the list and sometimes the people after you will want theirs right away.” Say what? So in order to get my chilies sooner I have to what, stand here and bully you into doing my order before the five people on the list before me?  When I worked in a very busy coffee shop in Albuquerque, never did I tell a customer “I know you got here first but the guy behind you in line can be a real dick if he doesn’t get what he wants right away, so I’m gonna need you to wait while I take his order first,  K?” No. No. No.

All I’m saying is, I just want to go places and not feel like I’m putting people (the paid people) OUT by wanting the shit they sell. That’s all.

Reading:

Fahrenheit 451

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight (very fun and actually kind of enlightening)

Books downloaded from the library that might get to:

1984

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

Can I Just Slow Down This Quantitative Life?

07/29/2016

Do numbers define your life? This is the question posed by Tiny Buddha contributor Katie Jensen. http://tinybuddha.com/blog/lives-measured-love-not-numbers/. A great post. It definitely got me thinking.

My job is very data driven. As a teacher, I am highly encouraged (translation: required) to track my students’ goals and objectives regularly. In fact, if it is not “measurable and observable,” I am advised (okay, told) not to make it an educational goal for my students. This makes sense for work, but what about the rest of my life?

I’ve never thought of myself as a numbers person. Many math teachers from Los Osos and Morro Bay California can attest to this fact. I chose seemingly less quantitative courses of studies like journalism, English and special education (jokes on me, math is everywhere). But in reality, most of the time, I let my brain rule and assign value to my life based on numbers. How much do I weigh? How much did I weigh 20 years ago? How old am I? What size do I wear? What size should I wear?  How much is my house worth? How much will it be worth ten years from now? When I evaluate my life, quantities pop up:  number of relationships, number of workouts, miles covered or not covered, words written, grams of sugar consumed per day, years at my current job, the balance in my checking and savings accounts, credit card debt, interest rates, etc., etc., etc.

Would my life be better without these constant numerical assessments? Could I let the numbers go, and concentrate on people, places, things, ideas, love, all the things that make for a full, wide life? Perhaps I need  a list.  I do love lists. Maybe I won’t care about the number of items on the list;  I’ll  only care about the contents.

Like, for example, here is my summer list of places:

Gerle Creek/Loon Lake. Homage. Sparks Coffee Shop. Scheels. Galaxay Theater. Century Theater. Carson Valley Pool. Great Basin. Rounds. Lighthouse Coffee. Anytime Fitness. Washoe County Library. Walmart. Squeeze Inn. Jacks. Hometown Café. The Western Village. Hub. Coffeebar. The Truckee River. California Burger. Big Pines Mountain House. IV Coffee Lab. Chuck E. Cheese. A & W. Scoopers. Home Depot. Base Camp Pizza. Sun Valley Pool.  Pah Rah Park.

Or, my list of things: Books, coffee, s’more’s, lemon Oreos, watermelon, black bears, guns, movies, swimming pools, video games, camp stove and propane, flashlights, creeks and lakes, letters to friends, journals, weeds and fresh paint, dogs and leashes, Netflix, water slides, and  cold Cokes with frozen Jack.

I want to think more qualitatively and less quantitatively, while still making my lists (I do really love lists, did I mention?) Maybe I could look on my life- past, present and future- with understanding and even awe, rather than judgement. When I read biographies or Wikipedia entries about peoples’ lives, I don’t judge the numbers of marriages or kids or jobs they’ve had. I definitely don’t care how much my favorite authors weigh or how many calories per day my favorite actors consume. So why am I kinder to the strangers, living and dead, than I am to my own self? Why do I let numbers define me?

I am working on choosing different systems of personal evaluations. Even with running, I am focusing less on distance and time, and more on avoiding zombies (Zombies, Run) and making it fun. I am only competing with myself, not my Facebook friends and not my younger, super fit, and frankly very neurotic self. I mean seriously, I don’t want to go back to that time, when I was in my twenties and  had nice leg muscles and worried so much about what everyone else thought about me. So how about I let it go? Okay, good talk.

Currently reading:  For the 2016 Book Challenge: “read a book published before you were born”:  Jonathon Livingston Seagull.  And because that was so short, How to Win Friends and Influence People. I guess I’m going old school self-help or something. Also trying to finish What is the What and Urban Monk before I start any new stuff.

I gave up on My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. One hundred pages in, and I was still bored. I think next I will try A Man Called Ove, also by Fredrik Backman.

Lessons Learned While Camping

07/18/2016

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Our dog is the best possible camping dog ever. She is smart enough to be scared of bears. Very scared. Good call Javanater, good call. I was scared too.

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No matter how you fold it or roll it, that tent will not fit back in its bag until you try three times and drop lots of F bombs.

Mr. Bear will steal your snacks. And camping without snacks is kind of a bummer. I mean really, isn’t that why lemon Oreos were invented, for camping? And camping without S’mores is a bit sad. At least the thievery happened on the 5th night. I went all Paleo on accident after that.

The moment is the moment: be here now. At some point, the site its done. No more fixing stuff, you have dug in and you are set. Enjoy it.

Going to someone else’s abandoned site on Sunday afternoon to take firewood is not stealing, it is being resourceful. We were resourceful ten times.  Also scored 12 bottles of water from a bear box. Suck it weekenders, we ain’t done with our campfires yet!

You must completely submerge yourself in a cold, snow-run-off body of water (in this case, creek), at least once. It feels amazing.

I should remember how good it feels to have the simplicity of choices, the ease of decision making. A book. Not a choice of ten and the pull of the other five I should read before school starts. The cool sweatshirt, the warm sweatshirt. The one pair of flips. It makes me want to be a minimalist. Kind of.

A media hiatus is a great idea. No Facebook, Instagram, Medium, or Pinterest. No Trending Now anything. Thumbs up to not caring about what is going on in the world for a few days. The only trending thing was the morning discussion about the bear who visited us all six nights, and the discussion of the daily plan. Should we hike? Shoot some guns? Go to the lake?  These decisions were great to make. Trending now, it’s time to move our lawn chairs into the shade. And is 11:00 too soon to start drinking beer? Nope, it isn’t.

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Best Book: Gone with the Wind

Best coffee: Blind Dog, Nevada Black:  Melitta pour-over-the-cup style.

Best Hacks: Frozen water bottles in the cooler keep it all cold for days,  crack all the eggs ahead of time and store them in a container to just pour at breakfast time, and premake soup, freeze, defrost at site, heat, eat.

Worst hacks: Make pancake mix ahead and freeze it in plastic baggie, defrost, squeeze on to pan. No, didn’t work so great. And really, when all you have to do is add water to the powdered mix, how hacky do you have to get?

Highs and Lows:

Highs: Tommy reading Survive the Night to me. I love hearing that boy read. Coffee time that went on for at least an hour in front of a crackling campfire or a dancing creek. Shooting a gun for the first time. Lots of reading and journaling time. Talking with my family with no technology interruptions. Love.

Lows: Well, a bear did steal our snacks.

Classics Rock

07/02/2016

In trying to explain to my friend why reading classics, writing letters, and hanging out in coffee shops (but mostly the classics) appeals to me, I said this:  I might be nostalgic for a time when avoiding an active shooter was not a life skill. Of course, in that statement is so much privilege.  My country is still relatively safe. I have easy access to food, water and shelter. I have the ability to type this post and put it online. My gay bars of the 90’s and early 2000’s were safe. Yes, there was hate outside the bar. There were insults yelled from passing cars when I was out walking my dog, invasive questions about my sex life, secrets kept and lies told by me about my personal life to people I deemed unsafe. But in the bar, there was safety, acceptance, and belonging.

I am privileged.  I get to move about and live my life safely. Yet still, it’s a more worrisome world. Maybe the world has always been thus, since humans began, but I’m just paying more attention.

I’m working on a 2016 reading challenge, which asks me to read a book I should have read in high school. I chose Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Reading a book that I pretended to read when I was 16 made me nostalgic for that time, something I rarely feel. It also made me feel connected to one of many messages in the book- it might be dangerous to ignore your literary history (well, that and living your life hooked on soma will fuck you up). Maybe that’s why I need to read more classics; I’m communing with literary history. The 2016 book challenge also advises reading a banned book. so I chose Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Classic? Yes. Considered one of the 100 best novels? Yep.  Entertaining and Funny? Check. Vonnegut is reminding me that this being human and being saddened by our unkindness to each other is universal and timeless. The thing to do is choose kind, and I guess for me, read classics.

For camping, I am bringing What is the What because my bookmark has not moved from page 113 for months.

That Damn GPS Lady

06/23/2016

I’m pretty sure I don’t have anger issues, but IF I do, I might be taking my anger out on that damn GPS chick on Google Maps. My quest to write in different coffee shops this summer (and side note my quest to find the Schat’s Bakery in Carson for an Elephant Ear), means I have been using her services more lately. And I would just like to say, she could do better. Like, for example, she should stop saying “You have arrived,” all proud of herself like she got me to the place, when I am still driving around aimlessly trying to find the damn place. And also, when I am almost to the place, I need her to say SOMETHING. Anything. I could do without the “in 15 feet, TURN!” thing she does. And yes, I did yell at her to “Say Something Lady!!!! Talk!”  And I might have even called her a f%$*er.  But I’m just saying, technology is so rad these days, couldn’t the lady say things that work for my sense of direction, like “turn left into the shopping center that has the Joanne’s Fabrics and drive towards that Mexican food place and you will see the Schat’s on your left and now…. Park.” I’m saying that is the level of GPS I need.  But I’m going to try to stop yelling at her. She probably deserves better.

Reading:

Brave New World (2016 reading challenge: Read a book you should have read in high school. I’m struggling)

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman