Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What Do the Simple Folk Do?

Today a student in Advanced Drama asked a fellow student, "If you could eat anything in the world that you haven't eaten yet, what would you eat?"

The student thought for a moment.  "I want to eat something fancy in Europe.  You know, like what a king would eat."

The other students nodded.  One asked, "What kind of food would a king eat?"

They all looked to me.  "Well," I said, drawing on my memories of recent fancy European meals, "I ate foam this summer."

"Foam?" they asked.

"Foam," I said.

"Foam?" they asked with a different inflection.

"Foam," I said.  "It was part of a 15-course meal I had in Spain."

"Foam?"  they asked again. It turns out there are a lot of inflections with which you can pronounce this one syllable word. "Like... foam?"

"Yes," I said.  "Like seafoam.  Little bubbles made from ocean water.  Foam."

"You ate foam?"


"Like the white stuff in water?"


"Like on an ocean wave?"



I cut them off, "What you're picturing right now when I say 'foam' - that's it.  That's what I ate."

They shook their heads, some in awe, some in confusion, some in disbelief.  "Foam," they say.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Murphy's Law

Shrugging has become difficult for me.  Over the last ten days or so my neck muscles have been cramping up again, perpetually constricted and sore much like they were last summer after the car accident.  I know that I carry my stress in my neck and shoulders, and I know what this stress is:

I'm waiting for the gun to go off.

Anton Chekhov said,  "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired."

This is beyond a question of unnecessary elements.  This is the tension that builds when a character on stage pulls out a gun and cocks it.  You know it's going to go off, you know what it will sound like, and yet every second that it doesn't go off just compounds the stress of waiting for the loud bang you know is coming.

Things keep going wrong.  The flood itself, the extent of the damage, the complete lack of work accomplished over my absence, the contractor quitting, the adjustor who went AWOL for six weeks, the broken air conditioning, and now my insurance companies are flat out refusing to pay for any of the repairs to the walls and floor.  No way, case closed, dial tone.

I have been fighting their decision, of course.  I've appealed twice and I am preparing to appeal for a third time.  People have implied that I'm lying, that I'm untrustworthy, that I'm trying to scam the insurance company, and I'm not, I'm not.  I am writing check after check to pay for these repairs and I'm watching my bank accounts get smaller and smaller.

On one hand, I am grateful that I don't have to go into debt over this.  I am emptying out my savings account, but I won't be in debt.

On the other hand, this means more than retrenching.  I am not allowed to buy anything beyond the necessities.  Worst of all, I can't travel.

Now, I do recognize that I live a privileged life.   Not being able to travel is hardly the same as not being able to buy food.  I have a job, I have an income.  I do recognize how fortunate that is.

But I can't stand the thought of not being able to travel.  We have an extra day tacked on to the spring break this year, ten whole days off in a row, and I can't travel.  Jason's going to the opera in New York again in January and my winter break works out perfectly with those days, and I can't travel.  I have a whole summer stretching out in front of me next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and I can't travel.

I will go to Chicago this fall.  That's a need, not a want.  I will see Metamorphoses at the Lookingglass Theater even if it means not eating lunch for a month.  But then... nothing.  Suddenly that Victorian image of young educated woman trapped by poverty like a bird in a cage is all to empathetic.

As I fight to reconcile myself to not traveling, I'm also waiting for the next thing to go wrong.  Hence my complete lack of surprise Saturday morning when the Lowe's delivery man pulled out my old dishwasher to install a new one.  "It's not going to work," he said.  "You've got a pipe back there.  I've been doing this since 1990 and I've never seen a pipe in a place like that," he said.  "This dishwasher's not going to fit.  I'll have to take it back to to the store," he said.  He left, I gave myself two minutes of despair over yet another thing going wrong, then I headed back to the store to see what I could do to fix it.

It's not a question of what could go wrong; we're way past that point.  I'm waiting to see what will go wrong next.  The stage is filled with guns, all of them loaded, all of them cocked.

And the tension is killing me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Just So You Know...

I am now teaching students who were born in 1998.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hello, New Carpet

It's nice to meet you.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sneak Peek

The wood floors are in!

Of course I couldn't resist whipping out my carpets as soon as the workmen were gone....

... but you only get a sneak peak since a) I'm busy and b) the house is still very much a disaster. For example, here's a corner of my dining room.

The dangling outlet will be featured in next month's Elle Decor.

Still, progress is being made! We may not be over the Rockies yet, but by golly we're out of Winter's Quarters! Calk the wagon and pop your cholera pills, there are streams ahead! Ho!

Saturday, August 18, 2012


There have been a few fits and starts and stumbles this week of course, but there are also signs of progress in my home becoming a little less disastrous. For example, about half of the walls that will be painted now have a first coat on them:

Home Repair
New color left, old color right

And, as of this morning, I now have several boxes of wood adjusting to the climate of my house:
Home Repair

Here's a sneak peak of it against one of the painted walls:

Home Repair

And here is a different piece against a different wall in different lighting:

Home Repair

(By the way, all four of those pictures have the same color of paint in them.  Strange how much variety the lighting creates!)

The flooring guy says they'll have it all installed; carpet, tile, and wood; by Wednesday.  Hopefully the trim guy can get his stuff done Friday then, and the painters can finish up the week after.  With any luck, fingers crossed, knock on wood, I'll have my home back to myself by Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Midnight Dilemma

Am I more likely to die by leaving the windows open on my ground-floor apartment thus inviting intruders to break in and kill me in my bed OR by closing my windows and breathing in the surely-toxic fumes from the paint and texturing and other construction materials all night?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pent Up

When I got home from my extended DC stay last year, I had a pretty rough month of adjustment. Things improved once school began and I could drown my loneliness in work, but it was a difficult enough time that I actually considered turning down Jason's invitation this summer for fear of what the after-effects would be.

Even though my housing disaster this summer has provided excellent levels of business and distractions, I've still felt the occasional pang of realizing that there's no one here with whom I can share a conversation, a meal, a TV episode, or simply a silence.

While I do miss the company (and, oddly, Jason's frequent dinner menu of grilled chicken and spinach salad), what I've truly been longing for are my daily workouts.  I worked out virtually every day while I was in DC, for anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes.  I enjoyed it, and coming back to an elliptical wrapped up in plastic sheeting and a home without enough floor space run through a yoga/Pilates workout has been rough.   I refuse to take up jogging (detestable!); and even if I had a bicycle, I still prefer cycling that looks like this over this.

I blame my resulting pent-up energy for the inescapable need I had at 10:30 last night to bleach and scrub my bathtub.  Well, my pent-up energy and my control issues.  My bathroom is the only thing in the house I can clean right now, since everything else is covered in plastic and a thick layer of white plaster dust.  Behold, my dining room:

This is why I was scouring my bathroom sink at 11:00 last night.
However, I recalled from my real estate hunt four years ago the mention of a clubhouse somewhere on the property.  Yesterday I made some phone calls to see what I could find, and as a result, I picked up a key to said clubhouse this afternoon.  Within ten minutes I was back in workout clothes pedaling my way up an imaginary hill while reading a novel and listening to Pandora's Britney Spears station (yet another sign of Jason's tastes infiltrating my own).

It's not as nice as the gym in Jason's building - the elliptical is broken and most of the other machines had a layer of dust on them, so I'm guessing the fitness center doesn't get much use.  The three-block walk isn't quite as convenient as riding an elevator six floors down, either.  Still, I got to work out today, and that felt really good.

Now if only I had access to my wee Foreman grill....

Getting Ready

I was excited to start the school year without having to put a classroom together. Sadly, those plans were foiled when I walked into my room yesterday morning and found this:

The custodians decided (mistakenly, I was told today) to paint my room over the summer, which meant they removed every show poster and mask.

I spent most of the afternoon repositioning my posters to meet the fire inspector's 18"-from-the-ceiling rule and my own 5"-from-each-other rule.

Once it's laminated, my newest poster will join the white background/red lettering/spastic young male club.

I also finally found a home for my set of Maurice Sand drawings.  Behold: The Commedia Cabinets!

With the exception of a district-wide meeting in the afternoon, I have tomorrow to finish getting ready for the students' arrival on Thursday. That means field trips to organize, pre-tests to create, disclosure statements to edit, and so on. I love the quiet productivity of these teacher work days; the hours I spend in solitude in my classroom getting vast quantities of work done with gentle music in the background.

These are my monkish days.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


After my breakdown on Wednesday, my parents came out for a quick weekend trip.  With their advice, homeowner knowledge, and support, I ordered new flooring for my entire apartment, a new dishwasher, and picked out paint colors.

It was kind of huge.  I'm very lucky to have these parents.

Happily, they also let me indulge in a little Moroccan show-and-tell.  For example, here are the new bedspread and pillows I got:

Due to the lack of room/total destruction of my apartment, I hadn't unwrapped my carpets yet.  With the potential of showing them off to fellow carpet-philes, though, I couldn't resist anymore.  Out came the carpet roll with my doting dad documenting the whole procedure:

I tried untying them first.  Note my mom's eager anticipation.  Like I said - carpetphile.
See?  She couldn't resist helping.  I'm attacking it with a knife at this point.
We're through the plastic!  Now we tackle the paper-and-tape layer.
Ooh!  Colors!  Almost there!

Carpet sausage!

I'm off to find floor to lay it down on!

Hmm.  I have no floor.  We'll just hold them up instead!
Ooo... pretty....

And here's #2!

I pointed out to my parents and to Jason that if we had gone to Russia this summer, per our original plan, I probably would have gone with carpeting the whole apartment.  A not-so-small factor in my decision to go hardwood was imagining these carpets on my shiny new wood floors.

And in three-to-four weeks I'll be posting that picture right here for your (and my) enjoyment!

P.S.  I also blame Morocco (and Jason for the link) for my plans to give this a whirl.

Playing With Putty

When they ripped out the drywall in my laundry room, the repair men discovered that a drywall nail had been driven right into a pipe from upstairs.

It's not what caused the flood; in fact, the nail seemed to be doing a fine job of plugging its own hole for the last four to ten years.

I didn't have a problem with leaving it as is, but the repair men did. They wouldn't finish the wall until I fixed the nail. They suggested I call a plumber, which I really didn't want to do. Most of my reasons were financial, but my longing for some control over my house definitely contributed to my reluctance to call in yet another professional.

 Instead, while shopping for a new dishwasher at Lowe's (mine stopped working three years ago. I've been fine with doing dishes by hand, but my parents insisted on a new one while I was getting a new floor installed anyway), we picked up a tube of promising-sounding uber-chemical putty.  Supposedly if I just break off a piece of this stuff:

Not taffy.

And mash it up in my hands until it's a uniform gray-ish color and smear it around the hole, in 15-20 minutes it will be "like steel."

See?  Helpful illustrations!

So I pried out the nail,

and puttied it up!

Voila!  Not pretty, but like steel it is.  And, more importantly, I fixed something in my home by myself (well, by myself except for the advice of five repairmen, both of my parents, and the guy at Lowe's).  And that was really satisfying.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012


Last year one of my students asked me when the last time was that I cried.  The fact that I couldn't remember surprised him, but I explained that I am pretty good at controlling myself and that I don't like to get emotional like that.

Today, however, I broke down.  After a fun excursion to Tiny Town with the Masons, which included Jack exclaiming "Choo choo!" a couple hundred times and drooling all over me in his excitement over ringing the bell on top of the model school house; I returned home to meet with my contractor.

I don't want to go into too many details here, but I have been unsatisfied with this contractor for a while now.  Generally, he's been unreliable and is often confused, especially over details I've reviewed with him over and over again.  Knowing this, I gave him a call around 1:00 to confirm (and remind him of) the appointment we had to meet at 3:00.

"We don't have an appointment today.  We never had an appointment today," he said.

"Yes, we do," I assured him.  "We set it up Monday, and you called me that evening and we confirmed the appointment again."

"I have no idea what you're talking about.  We never made an appointment.  I have a 3:00 today, but it's with a different client.  I never spoke with you about it, and we never made an appointment.   I don't think we even talked a few days ago.  You're confused or making that whole conversation up."

This went on for about five minutes, with several not-so-subtle implications that I was either inept or manipulative or both.  After the belittlement, he said that we seemed to have a problem with "connecting."  I agreed.  "What do you need from me to fix this?" I asked.  "Should we do everything by email?  Put it all in writing?  What would help?"

And then he quit.  "It's not working out," he says, "I don't understand what's going on with your insurance; I keep getting mixed signals from you; you've been really unclear with your intentions; I've been so busy this summer," and he quit.

He offered to give me the contact information for the various people he contracts with so I can hire them on my own to do the work.  "That'll save you a couple thousand dollars," he offers.  Which, yeah, would be good.  He said he would call the two guys who were in my living room at the moment cutting drywall and explain the situation and ask them if they want to keep working on my place or not.  And then we hung up.

And I knew that I was about to lose it.  I kept it together long enough to grab my car keys, get out of my house, and back out of my garage.  I couldn't be home because my home isn't a home right now and there were two guys working in there who may or may not be working there in an hour, so I just started driving and I started crying and, when I felt like I had a bit of handle on the sobbing, I called my mom.

My goodness, is my mom amazing.  My parents are in the middle of adding a new doctor to their practice, which is no easy task.  When I called her she was at their office moving furniture around to create a new examination space for him, and I knew she's wrestling with insurance and licensing to get this guy going on top of all of the billing and office-management she does normally.  And what does she do when her daughter calls her sobbing (because of course any emotional control I had scraped together flew out the window as soon as I started recapping the conversation)?  She offers to drop everything and fly out immediately to help.

Like I said, amazing.

She talked me off the metaphorical ledge (and by "ledge" I mean my sudden conviction that I could live with concrete floors and unfinished walls) and I convinced her that I could handle things at least until the weekend.  My parents will probably come out then, which I didn't do a very good job of talking them out of mostly because I've missed them both this summer and I do want to see them.  She offered advice, offered a plan of attack, and offered a heck of a lot of sympathy and support.  Then, red-eyed but under control once more, I drove home to talk to the guys in my living room.

They're going to keep working, and tomorrow morning we'll work out the numbers for me to hire them on my own.  That's one less worry for the moment, and while the contractor is not the only source of stress with this project (my insurance company is refusing to pay for any of the painting or flooring, I go back to work Monday, my bed is surrounded by my living room furniture, etc.), I am glad to see my interactions with him end.

He called me a little while later.  "The funniest thing just happened!" he said, cheerfully.  "I went to my 3:00 and there was nobody there!  I think I figured out what happened.  I must have thought I was talking to Pat and Ed when I made that appointment, but I wasn't!  I was talking to you, wasn't I?  Don't you remember me saying 'Ed' when we talked?"


"Well, I'm sure I did.  You probably weren't listening to me.  I'm sure I mentioned talking to Ed at the time.  Anyway, today's 3:00 must have been with you!  I apologize for that.  You know, they're just like you - a flood, they were out of town - I just mixed you guys up.  I could use a vacation myself.  Boy, I've been busy.  But it turns out that my 3:00 today must have been with you.  Isn't that funny?"

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


I'm back, Denver!

After an uneventful flight and a smooth pick-up at the airport from Ben (Thanks, Ben!), I arrived home to discover, to my satisfaction, two burly men nailing drywall in my apartment.  The work has finally commenced!

I dropped off my suitcases and made myself scarce, running out to get lunch and a few basic groceries before heading to Englewood to look at flooring samples.

Between those errands and meeting Rachel, Ben, and Jack for dinner I stopped by my place again to see how things were going.  The guys asked, "You're not staying here tonight, right?"  I assured them that I was, in fact, planning on staying.  I can see why that surprised them.  I mean, my place looks like this:

Dining Room

Music Room
My Bedroom (Now with Kitchen Table!)
Hall to Master Bath with Dutch Angle to Emphasize the Chaos

But while I'm not planning on doing any cooking on my stove-that's-now-an-island-in-concrete (those groceries consisted of milk, cereal, yogurt, and peaches), I did rearrange things enough this evening to have fairly clear access to my bed and my bathroom.  Which means I get to sleep in my own bed tonight!

Besides, I have certainly slept in far   worse   conditions.

Thanks, It Was Custom Made For Me

As I stepped up to the security station at DCA this morning, I hefted my plastic-wrapped carpets onto the metal table, then slid them forward to make room. 

The guy behind me lifted his bag onto the table.  It was literally a bag - a clear plastic garbage bag a little under half-filled with clothes and toiletries.  He checked out my carpet roll and said, with genuine admiration, "Nice bag!"

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Friday and Saturday

I went downtown on Friday. I had been taking a hiatus from tourism, in part because I had an awful lot of phone calls and research to do for my housing situation (or lack thereof) and in part because I was still recovering from our hard-core two weeks of touring about abroad. But Friday I only had a few phone calls to make, I had finished enough research to get to where I need to be before I go look at samples on Tuesday when I get back, and I decided to hie me to the Smithsonian for one last time this summer.

 I stepped out of the metro station there into the heat, marveling that although I knew it was hot and I did indeed have a damp neck from the sweltering humidity, it still just wasn't as hot as Marrakesh. I was surprised that I was still acclimatized to those ridiculous three days two weeks ago, and I wondered how long that will last.

Unsure of which museum I wanted to visit, I walked around the Mall watching the tourists. We hardly saw any American tourists on our travels, so it felt a little strange to be surrounded by them. While I did feel as though I belonged with them, my familiarity with DC and the Smithsonian and my being there alone made me feel separate and more than a little aloof. As is so often the case, I went for the art museum. The advertisements for some of the temporary exhibits at the National Gallery caught my eye, and I hadn't been back there yet this summer.

I did walk through the temporary exhibits about the photography of "the theater of the street" (not actually about theater) and extracts from sketchbooks of 19th century artists, but was quickly drawn to the sculpture rooms. I love sculptures, especially marble ones. I love to walk among them, and I relished seeing some pieces by Rodin who holds a special place in my art-enthusiast heart after visiting his house last November. I also found two new (to me) pieces that caught my eye: this reading girl...

and Honore Daumier's caricatures of the French National Assembly:

As I strolled back towards the metro, I decided to swing by the National Archives. I haven't been there since Mercedes and I visited on the 4th of July in 2005. The lines were significantly shorter this time, as you might expect. It also made me want to rewatch National Treasure, as cliche as that is. The highlight for me was not so much seeing the Constitution and whatnot as seeing Charles Ingalls' homestead application.

Jason got home late and, as you saw, we went out for Thai food. Saturday was a proper weekend Day of Accomplishing Things, where "Things" is shopping to redecorate Jason's bathroom and container gardens. We also enjoyed our traditional Saturday German wursts, dinner at Five Guys at the mall, and a showing of The Amazing Spider-Man.

 In between those things we stumbled onto a store in the mall called "Under the Olive Tree." To our delight, it was an olive oil and vinegar tasting room, with the bottles arranged from mild to robust and a very opinionated/informative proprietor. We enjoyed several varieties of both in small white sacrament-type cups, tempered with small cubes of bread. It was really fun to taste so many different options, although none of the oils were as good as the ones we tasted at Hisop. Dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, though? Delicious.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Thai Square

Just because I'm not abroad doesn't mean I can't take pictures of food, right?

Steamed Dumplings and Fried Wontons

Yellow Curry

Sticky Rice with Mango
Sadly, I missed taking pictures of our dinner last night. Mmm... Cafe Rio....

Thursday, August 02, 2012


I am adjusting my expectations.  I realized earlier today after a series of ever-frustrating phone calls and emails that the only thing I can control in this flood repair situation is my reaction to it.  I've been able to keep calm most of the summer, but I've been slipping the last few days, especially as I discover over and over again that the work just isn't going to happen on the timeline that I'd like it to.

So, I'm adjusting my expectations.  I will plan on being able to sleep in my own home, in my own bed sometime in October; and, with retrenching, I will be able to pay off whatever the cost of this thing will be in a year or two.  In the meantime, I will be patient, I will go back to work, and, like Phra Bart taught me, I will breath deeply and say, "mai bpen rai."

I will also figure out what I'd like my new home to look like.  Fortunately, I'm staying with a man who has two years of Elle Decor magazines on hand. 

I'm afraid I'm talking myself back into hardwood floors again, despite the expense. They're so pretty!

New Hair

It helps.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I pulled down my last post shortly after writing it because I felt like I was being ungrateful and very much wrapped up in first-world problems.  I have had a lovely summer thanks to outstanding friends and supportive family.  I get to travel an awful lot to some remarkable places.  While in these most recent remarkable places Jason and I often commented on the extraordinary circumstances that allow us to do what we do, to see what we see, to go where we go.  We are lucky, and who am I to gripe about not being able to go home when I want to or for having to go one year without a big trip?

I'm trying to maintain the right perspective while I work through feeling unproductive, homesick, and lonely.  Publishing and then pulling down that blog entry felt secretive, and I want to be honest about what I'm feeling right now.  Things are not all hunky-dory, no, but I am still very lucky and I want to acknowledge that as well as some of my struggles.