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It’s My Party

Lesley Gore died yesterday. This makes me sad.

I used to listen to my mom’s old 45 single of It’s My Party. It reminds me of my Junior High years spent lying on my bed on my stomach, writing in my diary (complete with lock and key) about my various trials with age-appropriate melodrama. Overhearing people talk about a party to which I wasn’t invited. Boys whom I like-liked who didn’t like-like me back (and the confession of boys a few years down the road who did like-like me but never said anything because I was so focused on like-liking someone else. A likely story.). A drive in the park with Mom when we talked about things that she had overheard – when she wanted to make sure I was okay.

It’s a song that reminds me of Mom. The song came out when she was about twenty. I often tried to picture her listening to the song on her bed when she was younger, just like I did.

The song might not be the feminist manifesto that her later hit – You Don’t Own Me - became, but its lyrics fit my junior high heart just fine. I named my first Barbie Lesley. She often had parties, and she, too, acted how she wanted to act at them.

Rest in peace, Lesley Gore.

My Funny Valentine

This Valentine’s Day was a weird one. Usually, I’m in one particular mood. I either love all the gush and mush, or I want to wear black all day (convenient, as black makes up the majority of my wardrobe) and ignore all of it. There is seldom any in-between to it.

But this year was different. I was all over the place all week long. It was exhausting.

One minute, I would get all teary over a sweet thing that a friend did for a beloved one, and the next minute, I was cackling over a friend’s “No one really likes your squishy heart vomit; we’re all lying to you” post.

I told residents “We love you every day.”

I responded to the snorty quip, “Bitter much?” with “Um…yeah. Unashamed and card-carrying, actually. Go ahead. Share your naive, uninformed commentary on that. I dare you.” [She declined to share. I have smart friends.]

I loved myself with three of my favorite meals on Saturday – biscuits and gravy (vegan, because love means not having to take a pill) for breakfast, poached eggs and hash browns for lunch, and risotto (with Parmesan…and a pill…because some things are worth it) and roasted Brussels sprouts for dinner.

I mused about how long it would take someone to find my dead body if I died from a heart attack (and I would die, because there would be no one with me to call 911 while it was happening, much less to unlock the door and let them in when they arrived. I’m pretty much doomed.) and worked myself up into a nice, respectable panic attack, which kind of feels like a heart attack. Well played, Universe.  You asshole.

I barely managed not to live-tweet Chocolat. I sort of regret not live-tweeting it. I love that movie.

I made this list of awesome things I do as a single person living alone that would probably change if I had a boyfriend or a husband or a roommate:

  • Making my bed with the flat sheet on the bottom so that I can sleep curled up inside the fitted sheet like it’s a cocoon
  • My Friday night ritual of staying home and resting in solitude with a TV marathon or reading binge or a big batch of whatever-I-damn-well-please
  • Eating popcorn dipped in goat cheese and calling it dinner
  • Planning my “Family? Nope – just me and the Christmas mice” card (my inspiration is hilarious, and I wish her buckets of love and happiness, whatever that looks like for her. People this funny deserve a willing and enthusiastic audience.)
  • Coming home and EVERYTHING BEING EXACTLY WHERE I LEFT IT. It’s like Christmas every day.
  • Having all the risotto to myself (this might remain a thing even if I do meet a fella. He’s grown. He can make his own risotto.)

So my Valentine’s Week was emotionally chaotic. Just like my love life. I guess that’s appropriate.

Obsession

You know those days when you are so stressed out that you just want to curl up and sleep, binge-watch TV, read fashion magazines, and eat your feelings, and you’re mad because it’s impossible to do all those things at once?

That has been the last two months for me.

So when I woke up this morning, and one writers’ group is asking what I need to dismantle in my life to leave room for artistic goals, and another writers’ group is asking what is keeping me from achieving the weekly goals I set, the answer came almost immediately.

Job seeking.

I have been saying forever that I want a better way to earn income – specifically, one job/career that is well-suited to my skills and qualifications and that covers all my expenses. And then I resolved to make finding it a priority this year. And I have definitely made it a priority.

But.

Sometimes when my mouth says, “Make this thing a priority,” my brain hears, “Become possessed with making this thing happen tomorrow.” And that’s not the same thing. One looks like keeping my eyes open and not avoiding opportunity out of fear. The other looks like feverishly searching keywords and applying for anything for which I am remotely qualified without stopping to think about whether it would actually be something I’d want to do. One is freedom; one is obsession.

I’m stopping the obsession.

This goes against everything I’ve been taught about productive job seeking. In seminar after seminar, workshop after workshop, it has been drilled into me that, until you find the job you want to do, the job hunt is your job. You make ten thousand copies of your resume (or ten thousand versions, because a good resume/cover letter will be tailored to the prospective employer) and you send it out to all the places. This method seems like it exhibits a nice, can-do spirit. It certainly looks like good advice.

One problem with this method is that I already have a job. Two, if you count everything I do to earn money. Three if you count everything I do to earn money and the writing that (I hope) will bring in money some day. At any rate, I don’t really have the time or the energy or the sanity to take on another “job,” even if it ultimately helps me to tame my schedule.

Another problem with this method is that my entire professional experience defies it. I have never gotten a job I liked enough to stick to it for any length of time by acting like a go-getter. Every job I’ve ever gotten where I did well and where I thrived? An opportunity arose, and I fell into it. More specifically, I got it by performing well at whatever I was doing at the time and by networking. A professor who led the teaching team for the basic course while I was in grad school was impressed by the way I ran my recitation sections, so she hired me to teach my own course at the community college when she was promoted to department chair. She also enthusiastically recommended me to her colleagues at other schools, and they hired me based on her recommendation. A friend with whom I had planned a conference was in a position to hire someone, and she thought of me. Our interview started with her saying, “So you got the job – fill out this application.” I often joke that I don’t interview well, but the truth is that I’ve never really had to interview well (I’m sure if I had to, I’d be fine). I am most impressive when I am in a position to allow my work to speak for itself.

So I’m looking for the opportunities, but I’m done with hunting them down and wrestling them to the ground. Just saying that makes me breathe more easily.

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[I always feel weird saying I’m writing “haiku,” because while I can totally do the 5-7-5 thing, there’s a nuance to it that I miss because I don’t know Japanese. Part of me wants to learn Japanese just so I can write proper haiku. Maybe that will be my goal for my 50th year.]

My Facebook page has informed me that the “113 people who like Suzanne Terry, Writer, haven’t heard from you in a few days.” It’s just been 5 days, Facebook.  Calm down.

The problem this week has not been writer’s block. I don’t often have that problem. I can produce some words. The problem is producing words that anyone else would want to read. So this is one of those weeks where I have oodles of content but nothing ready to share. It’s like all the words are locked away for safekeeping.

Writer’s lock, I guess.

But here’s what I can do. I can unlock a few words and give you my week in haiku(ish) form.


Monday, a liar

Easy lulled tranquility

Leaving unprepared


 Tuesday, a charmer

Books, wine, and friends – piece of cake

Sunshine in my hair


Wednesday, a chaos

Spinning, dancing, speaking, rush

Untimely dew spritz


Thursday, a fresh breeze

Calm madness of life and work

Friends gift friends coffee


Friday, a welcome

Whatever comes, light follows

Into shadow night

January felt productive. Maybe it’s because it’s the start of the new semester, so it’s productive by design. Maybe it’s because it’s a new year, so I have a new zest for getting things done. Whatever it is, I’m happy about it.

1. I am in love with the Duolingo app. Every day, I learn new language skills. I started with just brushing up on my Spanish. Then I added Italian. Then I added French. Then I added German. So I have daily practice with each language right on my phone. Spanish and German are the easiest so far, since I have a little background in them. Italian is easier than expected. Of the romance languages I’ve studied, it seems the closest to Latin (I knew those four semesters of Latin would not be in vain!). French is kicking my butt. That’s okay. I enjoy a challenge. I know how to order coffee and affirm my singleness by declaring “I have four cats,” so the basics are covered.

2. I am almost done with my taxes. I am going to have them sent by the end of next week. This is curious new territory for me. This will be the earliest I have ever filed.

3. Speaking of curious new territory, I have displayed some mad budgeting skills this month. January is usually a pretty sparse month, because I don’t get my first teaching paycheck until February. Yet here it is, the end of January, and I still have a nice little cushion in the bank. I am so proud of me I don’t even know what to do with myself.

Last month may have been the month for food scavenging, but food prep has made a roaring comeback in the new year.

1. I am obsessed with a certain espresso-infused balsamic vinegar. My friends Beth and Kim are in the process of starting an oil and vinegar shop in town (Denton Olive and Co. – click and like!), and I might have to have them order it for me by the case. I put it on sausage and roast. I pour it on goat cheese and eat it with crackers. I may or may not have poured some in a shot class and sipped it like a fine brandy. It’s so delicious.

2. I made a lot of shortbread this month. It’s an easy thing to throw together and take to a party, and if I make two batches on the Friday night of a busy weekend, that covers every party that weekend, as I am not interested in any party where shortbread is unwelcome. It all started with this Earl Grey shortbread. From there, I discovered that you can pretty much substitute anything (lemon zest, cocoa powder, chocolate shavings, espresso powder, etc.) for the tea, and it will be delicious.

3. My supper club helped with the first round of testing for Feast. It was a glorious success. Steak, potatoes, chipotle mayo, and peppermint cocktails. Happy.

I enjoyed a lot of outings with people.

1. My new hall director, Jessa, and I had our first one-on-one. We had lunch at Seven Mile Cafe, and I splurged on an almond milk latte. Sooo good.

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2. We threw a tea party at the Aubrey Area Library, and it was a lot of fun. We had scones, cookies, tea, costumes, and trivia. I felt fancy. Check out this spread:

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3. Story Feast was also this month. We gathered at Adela’s house and had so much food and got to hear about what everyone is working on.

I have done quite a bit of reading this month, and it’s all been good. I can’t choose a favorite, but I especially loved Eleanor and Park (Rowell), Nocturnes (Ishiguro), Tables in the Wilderness (Yancey), and Still (Winner).

If I lived in Austin, I would be into having food delivered – quite possibly on a weekly basis, because every menu has looked amazing – from The Lavendar Goat. If you are in Austin, you should order every week and then tell me all about it. If you are not in Austin (like me), you can also get help with meal planning and follow him on Facebook or sign up for his email newsletter. We learned basic knife care this week. Do it!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer. Come join us! What were you into this month?

Eleanor and Park

I rarely feel compelled to write a review of a book unless the author specifically requested it, I signed up to help promote it, or I received it for free in exchange for a review. I don’t really put a lot of stock in reviews until after I’ve already read or bought a book, so I forget that other people might.

But I can’t hold back with Eleanor and Park.

This book has been recommended to me a lot, so I recommended it for book club this month. I’m so happy I did.

I love it.

I felt 16 the whole time I was reading it. I relived the angst and the constant inner monologue of what-everyone-must-be-thinking and all the feels. It is the best description of a teenage crush/love story that I have ever read. Eleanor and Park are sweet and weird and cute and awkward, and I love them.

There are some great lines here. I usually jot lines down, but I couldn’t stand to put the book down long enough. So I took snapshots of them.

[PSA – what follows is vaguely spoilery, so if you’re a purist and haven’t read it yet…well, stop reading and go get it so we can be fans together!]

It started with a teacher describing Eleanor’s speaking voice:

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“That’s a voice that arrives on a chariot drawn by dragons.”

Eleanor describing Park:

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“Like the person in a Greek myth who makes one of the gods stop caring about being a god.”

Park describing Eleanor (forgive the bad quality – it’s highly possible I was in mid-squee while taking the photo):

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“She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.”

Park second-guessing his present for Eleanor:

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“Jewelry was so public…and personal, which was why he’d bought it. He couldn’t buy Eleanor a pen. Or a bookmark. He didn’t have bookmarklike feelings for her.”

This line. Oh, Park. Sweet thinker:

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“If she weren’t made of so many other miracles.”

Seriously. *heart cleft in twain*

I have more pictures, but you get the point.

Read this book. It won’t take long. I read it in one sitting (and you’ll want to, so put aside a few hours for it).

It’s been a long time since I read something this impossibly sweet.

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Saturday, the Aubrey Area Library hosted an afternoon tea, complete with dainty cups, fancy hats, and Downton Abbey trivia.

I started at the Lady Mary table and live-posted trivia questions on their Facebook page.

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Then I moved to the Great Britain table to chat with some friends who also attended. You can’t really see my favorite bear, because it’s hidden by the books, but whoever designed that white bear really, really loves the flag.

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I was also on cookie duty for the tea. I baked three types of cookies – my mom’s surprise cookies (the surprise is coconut and pineapple), Earl Grey shortbread, and blueberry jam thumbprint cookies.

Some baking observations:

  1. I remember why I lose weight when I bake on a regular basis. The smell is enough to satisfy the craving. By the time the cookies are cool, I don’t really want one anymore.
  2. Also, baking makes the house hot, so I drink more water when I bake.
  3. My house should always, always smell like butter and sugar. Heaven.
  4. I enjoy baking, but I forget that I enjoy it. So I dread it…until I give in. Then I remember. I’m not sure why I forget. Maybe writing it down will help it stick.
  5. Shortbread is delicious.
  6. I am a planner in the kitchen…except with baking (which is the thing in the kitchen that one really should plan). This often results in catastrophes and/or starting a recipe only to discover that I don’t have one of the vital ingredients. Of course, this is how I discovered that I could leave the eggs out of the surprise cookies and have them still turn out amazing.
  7. This cavalier attitude is also responsible for not remembering that my mixer was broken until I had cookies in the oven and butter for the next type of cookie already in the bowl, room temperature and ready to be creamed with the sugar. Do you know what takes a long time to do without a mixer? Creaming butter and sugar. My arms were so angry afterwards.
  8. I remember now how my kitchen stayed cleaner when I baked regularly. What else is there to do while eight dozen cookies bake?
  9. Seriously.  I could sell this shortbread.
  10. I always end up with a baker’s dozen on the last batch.  Not sure how that happens.

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And now, after tea parties and DFW Story Feast night and spontaneous cookie giftings, I am all out of cookies. Time to bake some more!

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