A New Chapter

On February 7, 2014, I celebrated an anniversary.  On that day, I had not had a full-time job for two years.

holy cow

Those who know me already know this about me – I like not working every day.  I don’t like thinking about from where my next dollar will come, but I no longer place any value on myself in reference to my work status.  I used to.  After I was fired from Mintz & Hoke in 2003, I learned not to.  I figured if they could fire me after all I had done while working there, I needed to rethink who I was.  There is a party game.  It goes like this.  What are you?  Name three things.  The most true thing first.  For years and years, I was

1.  A production manager

2.  A wife

3.  A friend

production managerWife-t-shirt friend1

Two and three varied, but for 20 years, I was a production manager first and always.  A cruel lesson I had to learn, but like many tough experiences in life – I am so much better for it.  Cancer – better for it.  Battered woman – better for it.  Infertile – better for it.  All true.

Now this sound like it could be a depressing blog but I tell you, it is not and will not end up that way.

smile face

I am selling my condo that I have owned for the last 10 years.  I can no longer afford to live here.  It is my favorite place I have ever lived.   I suppose I could find two lousy-paying full-time jobs but I don’t want to.  And lucky for me, I have another option.  I am moving in with my parents. (Plus a huge shout-out to the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare.)

condocondo1

And this is what this blog is really about.  Me, moving back to my childhood home.

home

You read about this all the time.  You are reading about this now.  We are living in a strange world.  This economy is in an uproar.  I always did the right thing.  I saved money.  I supported myself.  I owned my own home.  Three times I bought a home.  I started at the bottom and made my way up to a spot where I could do what I wanted.  Within reason.  I remember buying my first house in 1985 and when we came out of the closing, we had about $100 left.  But we made a comeback.  We were careful and frugal.  And later on we, and then I, went on nice vacations.  I drove a relatively new car.  I picked up the tab.  If I wanted something new, I bought it.  New Nikes.  A prime rib to feed my friends at dinner.  Sushi once a week.  A mani/pedi.  A book.  Flowers for the dining room table.  A pizza delivered.  A massage.  Just regular stuff.  Nothing too extravagant.  What everyone wants to make life nice.  I don’t buy any of these things now.

nike sushimani

When I was a kid, I moved to Florida.  It was 1977.  I answered an ad for a job with “Kelly Girls” to work at a printer as a secretary/receptionist.  Voila!  The rest is history – I went into printing – remember drinks around the table – what are you – I am a production manager.  I was made for that job.  I had never heard of a production manager when I was growing up and all at once, I was one.  And I was good at it.  But print is dying a slow and painful death.  It won’t die all the way.  It will reincarnate as a smaller type of business.  PDF and the internet took care of that.  And I’m OK with progress.  I love the internet.  I was a library freak when I was a kid and I’m an internet freak now.  I love looking stuff up.  I used to keep a dictionary by my bed.  I read in bed.  Every night.  I liked to open an encyclopedia to any page and read about what I landed on.  Encyclopedias are gone.  Now we have Wikipedia.  And I like Wikipedia too.  And Google.

librarycomputerencyclopedia

So I was laid off two years ago and I looked for a job.  But I had been working in printing since 1977.  This is 2014.  I am 58 years old.  It is hard enough to get a job at my age, but I’m a one-trick pony to employers.  I know what I am.  I know I am not a one-trick pony.  I’m smart and funny and patient and passionate and flexible and fast and a very good student.  But I have given up on convincing anyone new of that.  And I no longer worry about it.

I have done some volunteer work at the daycare at the Y.  That led to a job as a sub Pre-K teacher.  I helped a friend with an older relative.  That led to respite care.  And work through Care.com.  I’ve done some editing for a university alumni magazine.  Now I’m driving escort cars.  With the oversize load sign on top?  And the flashing lights?  And a CB radio and orange flags?  And I have to say, I love it.  And it pays quite well.  Not much going on in the winter but it’s good.  No politics.  No crap.  No fighting.  And if there is, I pay no attention.  I go where they tell me.  I do what they tell me.  Then I go home.  I am going to try to support myself for a long time doing this.  My “friends” say I am a paid escort.  I love them too.

pre-koversize loadcb

So back to moving.  I like my parents.  They like me.  Dare I say, it might be love?

C&V

At the end of last summer and early fall, I let a friend stay in my condo.  I spent most of that time with my parents, in both Maine and Connecticut.  I had been considering moving in with them and in the back of my mind, I was afraid we might drive each other nuts and I wanted to test the waters.  And you know what?  I dove right in and the water was fine.  I kept asking my mother, “Am I driving you nuts?”  And she kept saying, “No.  Are we driving you nuts?”  And the answer was no from my end too.  When I finally came back to my condo, my mother called me and said, “Come back.  I don’t want to do my own laundry.”

maine laundry

Another thing to know about me.  In addition to being Self-Appointed Hair Critic to the World, I am the Queen of Laundry.  Believe it.  I separate.  I do the hot, warm, cold loads.  Every single time.  I use bleach as needed.  Every single time.  Yes.  No short cuts.  I’m a good production manager.  Probably why I was able to stay in my condo for two years without a real job.  I sold my Wii, my grandmothers crocks and kitchen antiques, my china and crystal, my jewelry, my jewelry armoire, designer clothes, and many more things that I cannot recall right now.  And I will sell lots more before I am through.  Because I am moving.

old country roseswaterford j3

I am heading toward a new chapter in my life.  I will live with my parents.  It will be good for me.  It will be good for them.  I won’t have to work ever again in a full-time job about which I do not care. I will do for them the things that become more difficult as they age.  And they will make my life easier.  We will take turns cooking.  My father and I want a big garden.  I love yard work.  I will do dishes and laundry.  I will run up and down the stairs.  I can watch their dog if they want to go somewhere and they can watch Dante for me.  I will drive my escort vehicles.  I will be busy in the nice seasons and slow in the winter.

breadgardenmushrooms

I will enter a new phase of my life.  I will peel down another layer and explore the person who is there – someone different yet the same in many ways.   As I have done many times before.  I look forward to it.  I embrace it.  My life is good.  It was good and will continue to be.

I am at a party. I am playing the game.  I am

1.  A daughter

2.  A dog mother

3.  A friend

daughters dante friend

I another few years, I may be someone else.

But for now – with my family, my friends and my dog, I’m happy.

Happy

Bad patch, better patch…

I have not written a blog for a very long time.  I have been in a bad patch and I could not write because I didn’t want to let people know how crappy “my patch” was.  But I am trying again.  And I feel better.  And I am taking my own advice and pulling myself up by my bootstraps.  See below.

bad patch

You don’t owe anyone your life.  Not one single person.

It is OK to tell your grown children to try to make some decisions on their own.

If anyone treats you like you are stupid – and he/she is being a superior bitch – you may tell him/her to fuck off.  If you are not able, call me and I will do it for you.

girlfight

Attitude is everything.

Don’t be afraid to cook.  If it doesn’t come out right, throw it in the trash.  And don’t let anyone else decide if it is “right”.  That is for you to figure out yourself.  I have been amazed to find out how many people worry about this.  I think many of you know I can cook.  But I will have you know that as a child, I once broiled a birthday cake for my mother.  It was very flat.  But I tried.  And we all laughed.  It was OK.

flat cake

Do what feels good.

When you are 40 or 50 years old, it is no longer OK to blame your parents for the things you do.  You are an adult and it is time to take charge of your life and make it right.

Put effort into everything you do.  You can make things better.  Love hard.  Play hard.  Sleep hard.

sleeping

The truth will set you free.  Don’t keep bad secrets.  Tell someone.  It forces the badness to dissipate.

Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

Life is about choices.  Make good ones.  If you wake up every day and feel crappy, then that is what you have chosen.  If you live with someone who abuses you, you are allowing and choosing it.  If you never feel happiness, you are choosing that.  Think about it.

choices choicesA

Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  People can help you but only you can sustain a change, an improvement in your life.  Where there is life, there is hope.

boot straps

Never eat anything bigger than your head.

sundae

Many things will be as good as you make them.  For example, if you put effort into learning about and training your dog, you will have a fantastic dog.  It is not a coincidence.

dog training

There are people out there who are sociopaths.  When you discover them, leave a wide berth.

Don’t assume anything about people.  You really don’t know what is going on in their heads unless you know them awfully well, and for a long time, and you have the capacity to keep your mind open.

Try not to be so hard on yourself.

Eat the ice cream.

cone

Thinking

As many of you may know, I love thinking.  Pondering.  I love reading.  I like looking at situations from every side.  And I have spent a lot of time thinking about intelligence.  This blog was born from a Facebook link a friend of mine posted.  And it tells those of us who love animals and spend good, quality time with them what we already know.  That animals are smart.  Really smart.  And their smarts are different from ours.

mike

There are many various types of intelligence.  I’m a really good student.  I can read, comprehend, learn a language, write a story, take a test.

I cannot fix my car.  I don’t understand when something is wrong with it.  I glaze over when someone talks to me about the mechanics of my car.

But I can sew.  I can cut out a pattern and follow the directions and make clothing.  And something I learned from living with a carpenter for several years, is that sewing and building are very similar.  Different raw materials and different tools, but alike in many ways all the same.  Prepare your pieces carefully, assemble them precisely – let them know who is the boss – and Voila!  A new dress.  A deck outside the slider.

patterndeck

And those math problems about Joe on a train going east and Sally on a train going west and riding to school on a bus or packing your lunch in a paper bag and the answer is blue and green?  What?  Huh?  Je ne comprend pas.  I don’t understand.  I learned that in my French class.  Where I excelled.

je ne

And I can cook.  I know this because I made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon.  Reading, and again – the right raw materials, following directions.  I can do that.  Take a look at the recipe. I can definitely cook.

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-recipe/1/

julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-lg-150455

I spent many years as an advertising print production manager working with art directors, designers, printing press operators.  All with very different kinds of intelligence.  Me, the creative problem solver, the executor if you will.  The art director/designer – the one with the idea and the vision.  The press operator – the mechanic with ink-stained hands and an artist’s finesse.

light boothCMYKpress1pressman

I write all this to try to sell you on reading this fabulous essay I just read about intelligence.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Go ahead.  It will only take you a couple of minutes.

 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323869604578370574285382756.html?KEYWORDS=the+brains+of

chimp

My favorites – reading, cooking, Paris, introspection

Sometimes when I read a book I really like, I do a Facebook post recommending it, and every now and then I get really inspired and write a blog.

This blog combines a book, my transparent emotional life, and this god-awful earache I am experiencing.

Today I finished “The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry” by Kathleen Flinn.  And knives notwithstanding, I cried when I read the last pages.

I’m having an emotional day.  I have an awful ear infection and I feel miserably ill.  In my usual style, I waited way too long to see the doctor and I now know why little kids cry and pull their ears.  So when one doesn’t feel good physically, it is easy to feel emotionally crappy.  I have no job and have not had one for nearly a year.  I am told that is enough to make anyone cry.  Last week I had a conversation with a friend about not working, depression, insanity.  As you can see, our talk apparently degenerated rapidly.  I told her I had decided years ago that I was intellectually insane.  Defined by me – I’m so overly-analytical that no matter how hard I try, I cannot always tell how I feel because I’m intellectualizing everything instead of just being.  This may be why I’m not feeling crazy about being unemployed and almost broke; I just keep thinking about it.  And turning it over.  And looking at it from the right and the left and the top and the bottom.  And concluding there is no reason to be depressed.  I’m alive.  I have a great family and nice friends and a dog I adore.  I love where I live.  What good would being depressed do?  Attitude is everything.  Right?  But part of me “feels” like crap.  I think I say all this to try to explain why I cried over a book I loved without good reason.  For one requires a reason to weep?

I am programmed to have loved this book.  A woman is laid off from her job, depletes her savings account, moves to Paris, attends and graduates from Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, falls in love and gets married, learns tons about herself, and writes a book about it.

eiffel-tower-dayle cordon bleu

I learned again I know nothing about cooking.  The hardest, and by hardest I mean most time-consuming and detailed thing I have ever made, recipe I have ever followed, is Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon.  Recipe here if you have a snowy Sunday afternoon to spare.

http://www.tablespoon.com/recipes/julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-recipe/1/

julia-childs-beef-bourguignon-lg-150455

After I did it, I swore I’d never do it again.  But time has dulled the memory of this undertaking and I’m planning on doing it soon.  This winter.  Why not?  It was fabulous.  I think everyone who loves to cook should stretch now and again.  It’s good for you.  Kathleen Flinn cooked every single day like this.  I’m impressed.  Her book includes recipes.

The very end of this book, there is a paragraph that reads as follows:

How many tears did I cry because I didn’t know what I wanted?  “The sharper your knife,” as Chef Savard had said, “the less you cry.”  For me, it also means to cut those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it’s meant to be lived.

Also from the book – toward the beginning (I looked hard to find this passage for you):

“Chef says that with a dull knife, it’s true, you end up pressing too hard on the onion.  This crushes the cells, causing volatile oils from the onion to be released, and it’s the oil that makes you cry.”

onions

I was also very happy about how much written French I understood – like 98% of it.  The cooking and the French relate like this.  I am considered a decent cook by lots of people – even myself.  I can speak French – more than most and some people think I am actually good at it.  But here is what these two things have in common.  I cook enough to know I’m not that good.  I speak enough French to know I’m not that good.  But I keep on trying and enjoy learning more.

Kathleen Flinn met Julia Child twice – the first time at a food writer’s workshop.  Also from the book:

She took copious notes of the morning’s session.  As we broke for lunch, she closed her notebook with a satisfied smile.  “I always love to come to this workshop.  You learn so much. “This amazed me. After all, she was Julia freakin’ Child.  I assumed she knew everything there was to know about food and cooking.  I politely told her so.  She laughed.  “Oh, no, you can never know everything about anything, especially something you love,” she said, patting me on the knee.  “Besides, I started late.”

juliachildmastering-the-art-of-french-cooking

Kathleen Flinn grabbed the opportunity that presented itself to her.  It wasn’t exactly what she wanted but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to her.  She was brave and she was rewarded with a wonderful experience.

In conclusion (laughing at myself), I loved this book.  I can see lots of my reading friends loving it.  Especially those who like to ponder, cook, travel, learn.  Those who strive for something a little more.  Those who have considered, if only for a moment, of tossing it all and doing something different.

Happy Reading my friends!

http://www.amazon.com/Sharper-Your-Knife-Less-You/dp/0143114131/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359164666&sr=1-1&keywords=kathleen+flinn

Soup

Several of my friends have suggested I should write about cooking.  And with that I mind, I am going to write about soup.

I love soups and stews.  I like eating them, making them – I love chopping.  I have a nice big heavy knife that I keep reasonably sharp and I could chop all day.  When I was working and I had a bad day, I would think of something to make for dinner that required a lot of chopping and swing into Stop & Shop on the way home to buy it.  I’d walk in the door, change my clothes, don an apron, pour a nice big glass of wine and start chopping.  I found it relaxing and therapeutic.  I love chopping.  So I’ve said – twice.

Anyhow, soup is something that usually requires lots of chopping so here is my story.  Recently I have been wanting soups with beans.  I was at a friend’s house looking at a pile of cooking magazines she had saved.  And I came across a recipe for Ribollita.  The recipe is here.

FNM030111_075

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/slow-cooker-ribollita-recipe/index.html

And the first time I made it, I followed the recipe pretty closely.  But I have made soups in the slow-cooker several times since then following the same basic idea and they have come out nice and tasty.

Wikipedia tells us about Ribollita – link here also.  Seems to me that it is everything that is left in your fridge but we don’t always do that in this country so the recipe above is another way to do it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ribollita

But now I get to my point.  For less than bold cooks who worry about cooking without a recipe, you can do this.  And make your soup any way you want it to be.  The last time I made a bean soup, here is how I did it.  I have a very big oval slow-cooker.  I used one cup of dry white northern beans.  But you could use any dried bean you want.  I use about 7 or 8 cups of water per cup of dry beans.  You don’t have to pre-soak or cook the beans.  Just use enough water.  Then I went to the refrigerator and my vegetable basket.  I added to the slow-cooker most of a bunch of celery that I chopped.  Maybe 6 or 8 chopped carrots.  Coarse chop, not fine mincing – you are making a hearty stew.  I had half a box of mushrooms.  I cut those up.  I had some fresh parsley so I chopped and threw that in.  My mother had given me a baggie full of fresh brussel sprouts.  I washed them and cut off the bottoms and outer leaves, and then cut them in half the long way and put them in.  An onion.  A whole head of garlic.  A big hunk of cheddar cheese cubed.  And about a half pound of bacon that I diced up – raw, not cooked.  That was about it.  Put the cover on the slow-cooker and turn it on.  About 5 hours on high.  If you’re going to be at work all day, turn it on low.

But please be sure to turn it on.  One time in the relatively recent past, I set up my slow-cooker and plugged it in and went to work without turning it on.  Luckily someone was home that day and noticed that the lovely aroma usually created by a roast and vegetables in the crockpot was non-existent.  Not kidding.  He turned it on.  Thank goodness as company was coming for dinner.  But I digress.

So essentially what I ended up with was a slow-cooker about 2/3 of the way full and the amount of water just covered everything in it.

So you can make this same soup using any vegetables – broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, green beans, spinach – whatever you like.  I like tomatoes in my soup but not always all the juice.  One time when I made it, I drained a can of tomatoes and threw in the solid pieces right at the end.  That worked out well.  Any meat – bacon, pancetta, chunked up chicken, hamburger, sausage, diced pieces of boneless beef or pork.  Any dried beans you like.  Or any combination of beans – just use enough water.  You could substitute wine or chicken broth for some of the water.  Be careful if you use chicken broth.  One time I did and my soup was a little too salty.  And it is hard to get salt out.  You can add more at the table if you like but once it’s in, you’re pretty much stuck with it.

Here is a picture of my last soup using this method.  I am available to advise insecure cooks.  And would love to.  Make it your own!  Good Luck and let me know if you try it.

soup