Friday, July 27, 2012

Help! I'm Scared of My Phone

Ok, so maybe scared is the wrong word. Hesitant, nervous, unsure, intimidated by…those might be a bit more accurate.

I ordered the Sprint Intercept sometime last week. I’ve had it now for two days and have yet to take everything out of the box. I will—soon.

A slim, shiny, Droid-capable, touch tone device, I should be excited to begin my next technological journey.

I’m not.

I got this phone by default, more aptly by the fault. I broke my Rant. To say I loved my old phone is to exaggerate. I liked it. Even now my mind—as non committal as ever—is replacing my technology. I like it—my Rant I mean. We shared moments of frustration, joy and adventure as I learned to navigate it as phones of its kind should be navigated: effortlessly (mostly).

I don’t remember this hesitation when I got my old-new phone.

I have come up with several excuses why I cannot or have not activated my Intercept. I was planning to go to the Sprint store to have them activate it so I can get my pictures and contacts moved to my new phone.

What? My pictures are stored online?


What about my hundreds of contacts?

Ok, now would be an excellent time to delete some of those uncontacted contacts.

I have run out of excuses.

Still, the thought of being tied to this phone is somehow bothersome. Internet, video, camera, email, IM, secrets, they were all features I enjoyed on my—other—phone. So why this shimmering one peeking out of its cardboard cradle is now both intimidating and alluring is somewhat surprising.

Larger screen, touch tone keypad…

Is that it?

Am I so intoxicated by having a device of this magnitude respond to my touch? Hmm…maybe.

Now, as my broken Rant hangs on with one bar of energy left in its cool, cute little body, my new phone awaits to spring to life with one touch—mine.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Miracles of Medicine

Medicine always makes me feel better—especially when I don’t take it.

I have my Aunt Cliss—Great Aunt Cliss—to thank for that. Growing up we didn’t think she was so great. She didn’t seem to have patience for my sister or me. And so, we devised ways to annoy her. It was the 70’s; “Kill them with kindness” wasn’t popular yet.

For years my sister and I were convinced Aunt Cliss was a witch. Her long silver hair tightly wound in a bun or loosely hanging past her shoulders, her thin yet muscular body, the glasses she fretted over but seemed to be able to see perfectly fine without, her frequent unexplained long walks followed by a knack of returning at the wrong time, her disdain for everything ‘us’, and her medicines convinced us she was a witch.

Growing up, we spent a lot of time with our grandmother, and since she lived there, we spent a lot of time in the presence of Aunt Cliss.

If we were sick, Gran would make us wheat pancakes, scrambled eggs with cheese, and bacon. We would spend hours huddled under blankets reading, watching TV, laughing—when she was there.

When Gran was away at her apartment where she stayed during the week because of her job, there was Aunt Cliss.

As soon as one of us said we were sick—Aunt Cliss sprang in to action.

The clanging of cauldrons, shuffling of ingredients and boiling of water was quickly followed by the peeling of onions, rinsing of lemons, and pouring of syrups. Onions, lemon, corn syrup, honey and a pinch of what tasted then like spite but was probably humor: I will always remember it as a thick, bubbling, brown concoction with the sting of honey.
I’ve hated honey ever since.

She made her brew many times before she died in 1986. I only remember tasting it once. After that one spoonful I felt better—instantly. Today, when I’m sick I imagine the pungent aroma of onions and lemons and I feel better. A pound or so of peeled onions, scrubbed lemons, a jar of brown, thick, sweet liquid, a dash of humor and a vat of honey: A magical cure for imaginary ailments.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My Relationship with Food

Over the last few years, my relationship with food has grown infinitely more intimate.
Growing up, food was power. Oil shaped alliances: My mother couldn’t cook, my grandmother could. Flour forged allegiances: my mother wanted to become a vegetarian, my grandmother’s fried chicken made it impossible for me to consider life without meat.
My childhood memories are a plethora of aromas: fried onions, fried chicken, smoldering greens, cinnamon.
Food was a weapon. Crunchy bacon and Ex-lax were weapons against anyone who didn’t love hard enough, long enough, enough.
One of the first times my sister and I prepared dinner for our grandparents, we seasoned a whole chicken—oregano, salt, season salt. We put it in the oven at 350°as soon as my grandmother pulled out from in front of her pink and white house in Atlantic City. We took it out one hour later when she arrived to our townhouse in Somers Point. Juice and blood oozed as knife pierced the raw flesh.
I don’t remember cooking anything for many years after that—though I of course continued eating.
Years passed. My mother left. I went to college. One semester later, I was home.
My early 20’s is a haze of late nights at clubs, cranberry juice and Vodka, beauty salons, malls, working and sex. My relationship with food was strained. I didn’t require much of it—it didn’t require much of me.
I ate, but didn’t cook. If before running out the door to go to work after 4 hours of sleep, I placed a frozen chicken, a blade of grass, and a cheese cracker on the table, I came home to a home-made dinner of fried chicken, greens, and macaroni and cheese.
I moved to Maryland. Life on my own did not at first awaken cooking skills. When it did, I discovered cinnamon. I baked cinnamon chicken, cinnamon pork chops, cinnamon fish. When my boyfriend moved in, he cooked, we ate. I didn’t truly start cooking until I got pregnant. Food became my weapon against Baltimore’s conspiracy to underfeed me.
Children, marriage, work, undergrad, writing, reading, loving, hating, affairs, graduate school, losing me, finding me: my thirties saw food as an ally, a distant friend, an accomplice—never a lover. You feed those you love. In my 30’s, when my then-husband stopped cooking, it signified the end of the marriage in a way his affairs had not. When we tried again to “make the marriage work” his food sat like a lump in my throat: I could not swallow food marinated in lies.
I stopped trying to eat his cooking. He stopped cooking. We divorced.
Today, I am nearly 40.
Like many of my relationships, my relationship with food is complex. Food tempts, teases, flirts, fulfills, indulges me. It fills me up and leaves me hungry. It does not complete or define me. It is not an extension of me or a reflection on me. I savor and sample. I try new foods. I do not eat twice what I do not like once.
May people I date savor memories of me as they might recall a delicacy: tender, flavorful, juicy, spicy. A coveted treat they would like to try again perhaps when I am again in season, available, ready.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Life in Narration

I realize it’s unnatural. This fascination I have with publishing my thoughts online as if people are less apt to find them has become an addiction of sorts.

I expect to be heard when I speak, to be listened to when I utter, to be read when I write. 

 But, when I blog…

I blame the power of publishing. This ability I have to indulge in textual espionage –exposing the secrets, thoughts, plots of others—goes exponentially beyond the power of words.

Who among my friends would expect me to write about the perpetual death of one of us? We are 38, 39. We are too young to die. And yet one of us insists on doing it.

This first line demands to be written, and so do the ones to come tumbling after it. It’s how I think—on the page. My life in narration.

How else does a friend calling at 2 in the morning to talk about her dying relationship as opposed to her dying body make sense to me?

Maybe it’s not supposed to.

Maybe I’m supposed to just listen. Listen without writing. Listen without blogging. Listen without understanding that we are 38, 39. We are too young to die. And yet, one of us insists on doing it.

Learning About Learning

My son is failing algebra. As an English major I can’t help him. Well, not in the way I would expect to be able to help him. I would love to be able to open the book, flip to the page and see not the answers, but how to solve the problems.

But Algebra 2 does not make any sense to me.

Because my son goes to a Title I school in Baltimore County, they offer students who need help free tutoring services in Math and Reading. The system allows parents the freedom to choose from an array of tutors claiming a number of specialties that in my experience so far, they just may not have.

I first contacted Title I a few months ago; at the tutoring fair they handed me a booklet filled with data, information and resources; and the freedom and responsibility to choose the best provider.

The information is good, relevant, but something in this system is broken and I know broken when I see it because I have broken many things—and I’ve fixed a few too.

My first choice was Gap Busters. They looked good on paper and in person when I met them at the fair. If only they had called back. My son was set up for their services but they never contacted me.

A week later I chose C2 Education. The representative was also nice, friendly and at the fair—I should mention that most of the providers did not attend the fair. While C2 Education offers help for children struggling with standard math, they cannot seem to educate children in Algebra 2. Optimistically, they thought giving the tutor pamphlets would refresh her memory and help my son.

It did neither.

And so we went to A to Z tutoring. Now, I could call them A to F because my son is still failing. But, since he was already failing before he was set up with them and because he is failing not because they did help but because they didn’t, I won’t play with their name.

The representative/supervisor again seemed nice. My son does not need tutoring in how to be nice. On the phone I was told a tutor would contact me between “today and tomorrow.” That was a few tomorrows ago.

I waited Monday, then Tuesday; on Wednesday I left a voice message.

Three tutors later and my son is still failing Algebra 2. My son is learning a lot through this experience. He’s learning that you have to be your own advocate and that sometimes systems fall apart.

So, what do I do? I call; I complain; I write about it. And then I find a tutor who will help my son learn Algebra 2. And what do I learn? I guess it’s time to learn Algebra 2 and time to fix the system.

Backstory: Reflections on this Month's Theme for Stories at the Storey

Meeting deadlines is as soothing to me as a creamy cup of flavoured coffee. Checking a project off of my mental to-do list settles me. ...