Archive for the ‘everyday life’ Category

Overwhelmed

April 29, 2009

I mentioned I had carpenter ants in my bathroom in a previous post.  Well, as the weeks passed I saw fewer and fewer of them.  Then on Sunday, the temperature went up to 90 degrees.  That morning, my parents came over to help me put up my Ikea blinds that I had bought 5 months ago.  Then I went to brunch with some friends from Hampshire, then I wandered through Prospect Park with Manny and our friend Sam for the rest of the day enjoying the weather.  A red tailed hawk flew right over our heads and we saw a black and white warbler.  Then I got home that evening, I opened my bathroom door and saw dead ants everywhere. On the floor, tub, floating in the toilet, in the sink, windowsill.  They were everywhere.  And they all had wings, which I thought was weird.  So I consulted Google, which told me that many people confuse winged carpenter ants with winged termites.  Google told me that winged termites swarm during the first warm days of spring.  Google told me that if I had winged termites in my house, then I have a problem.  

So, I freaked out.  The next day I called my building management company, declared that I had swarming termites in my bathroom and demanded they send over an exterminator.  And the lady on the phone was all like, yeah ok you really don’t have termites and you need to calm down.  But she obliged and called the exterminator.  So the exterminator came, took one look at a dead insect on my bathroom floor and informed me they were just carpenter ants.  He squirted some peanut butter smelling ant bait in little cracks and crevices and behind my shower head, declared the situation under control, and left.  Three days of stress and fear of swarming insects resolved in less that 15 minutes.  

Why can’t all the issues in my life be resolved so quickly and easily? 

I was accepted into both U of Michigan and Hunter College here in the city.  Michigan has offered me almost a full scholarship.  But just this week they told me I have to take 4 prerequisite classes in order to go there – chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and calculus.  It is even possible to take all these classes in one summer?  Plus, most of deadlines for summer semester at the community colleges in the city have passed.  Plus, some of these prerequisites courses also have prerequisites – for example in order to take calculus I need one year of college math.  In order to waiver this college math requirement, I have to take a test, which I will surely fail because I’m a terrible test taker and particularly suck at math.  So… what do I do? 

I don’t need any prerequisite classes for Hunter, as far as I know.  Going to Hunter is clearly the easiest choice.  I get to stay in the city and not go through the stress and heartache of up-rooting my entire life and being separated from my significant other for months at a time.  While Hunter may not be as prestigious as Michigan, it is still a well respected institution.  And I do really want to go there.  Hunter has been my first choice of school, that is until I was accepted into Michigan.  Is a masters degree worth all of this?  Isn’t what I do with my degree more important than where I get my degree?  But,  I should not just settle on a school just because its the safe and easy choice.  I should go the school of dreams, right?  Up until 2 weeks ago I thought that was Hunter.  Now I’m not so sure.  I want someone to just tell me what to do and how to do it.  

By the way, everything has to be decided by May 5th.  In case you didn’t realize, that’s in 6 days. 

I started reading The Great Bridge last week, a book about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, but it was not entertaining enough to distract me from my school dilemma. So I quit reading it.  I’m sure its a good story and one that I would like to hear, just maybe I’d rather watch a History Channel documentary about it instead of a read a 600 page book about it.  So I started reading Another Roadside Attraction which has been sufficiently entertaining and distracting so far.  I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about Tom Robbins but never read anything of his, so I wanted to fix that.

The Wishbones

March 23, 2009

wishbones

I went in the library last week looking for something that was like chick lit but with substance.  I don’t want to waste my time reading a brainless book about a girl who’s only goal in life is to get married.  But I want to read something that is entertaining, something that doesn’t require too much brain power, but at the same time doesn’t feel like I’m killing off my brain cells by reading it.  If anyone has suggestions for chick lit with substance, please let me know.

Anyway, I came out of the library with Tom Perrotta’s first novel, The Wishbones. I love Tom Perrotta.  Although I think he missed the mark with The Abstinence Teacher, his earlier novels Joe College, Election and Little Children are among my favorite books.  The Wishbones is about Dave, your average 30-something guy from suburban New Jersey.  Even though he would love to be the next Bruce Springsteen, Dave plays guitar in a wedding band and is engaged to his high school sweetheart.  His life seems very safe.  But then he meets a new and exciting girl from the city – a poet from Brooklyn.  Does he play it safe and stay in Jersey or risk loosing the life he has now for a chance to live the life of his dreams? 

The Wishbones is like High Fidelity meets The Wedding Singer.  It’s hysterical and touching and manages to be authentic and original even though its your typical coming of age / becoming an adult story.  It was good to read since I’m sort of going through a “now I’m adult what should I do with my life” phase. 

Last week I got rejected from Columbia for grad school.  It’s not a big deal, their program was not one of my top choices and I think they’re just an over-priced brand name school anyway, but it was the first grad school I’ve heard back from.  And the rejection comes at time when I’m really, really starting to strongly dislike my job.  Last week I found out a number of my co workers are quitting and I got this panicky feeling like I’m on a sinking ship and I need to get out.  Grad school was my out.  There is only one other school I applied for in NYC.  If I don’t get in there what will I do?  Last week when I got my rejection letter I just felt like quitting my job, recession and finances be damned, and doing volunteer work cleaning up nature trails through the Meadowlands.  But realistically?  I’d never do that.  But I would love to.  Sometimes I don’t even know if I want to study public health in grad school anymore.  But maybe this is just the burn out I feel from my current job.  Who knows.

Yesterday I went to Manny’s house because his nieces wanted me to teach them how to bake cookies.  All four nieces were measuring ingredients at the same time, so needless to say our measurements were not the most exact or precise or accurate.  We might have confused the baking soda with baking powder.  But something went wrong because our cookies came out completely flat, like crackers (but still tasty!).  The girls told me that in Mexico they call this el ojo (the eye).  It happens because we were thinking too much about the cookies, which caused them to deflate.  The oldest niece told me this happens to her when she bakes cakes.  She tries too hard and thinks too much about it, and the middle of cake deflates and sinks.  We put the next tray of cookies in the oven and we made the decision not to think about cookies.  We talked about our favorite movies.  The cookies came out better (still flat but less deflated).

Whatever happens with my job, grad school, my career, and the direction of my life, I hope I have the courage to: 1.) not be afraid to do what I want to and 2.) not to settle and 3.) not become a victim of el ojo by over-analyzing everything in my life like I always do.

No Love For The Wintery Mix

January 28, 2009

Oh how I hate you, wintery mix.   You make it snow, then sleet, then freezing rain (what’s the difference?) then rain and make everything gross.  This morning I navigated around giant puddles (more like small lakes) of muddy slush and ice coated sidewalks.  What I wouldn’t give for a snow day right now, to be home, eating the delicious chicken and dumpling soup I made last night, and curling up with The Savage Detectives.  I am right in the middle of this novel; actually this book is less like a plot driven story and more like a meandering collection of journal entries about the state of Mexican poetry, of which I know absolutely nothing about but somehow the book is still interesting and I cannot stop reading.

One of my favorite authors and the only fantasy/sci-fi writer I enjoy, Neil Gaiman, has won the Newbury Medal for his children’s book The Graveyard Book.  Yay!  The film adaption of his book, Coraline comes out soon as well.  If you haven’t read any of his books, what are you waiting for?  Winter is the perfect time to lose yourself in fantasy novels.

Winter and Revolutionary Road

January 14, 2009

I know there’s a lot of snow-haters out there, but I gotta say it, I love the snow and I love winter.  There’s only a few days of good snowy winter weather in the city, and if I don’t go outside to appreciate it, I feel like winter has passed me by.  I love the snow, love the cold winds, love glistening ice on the trees (but not the ice on the sidewalks), love the look of  bare tree branches, love dressing in layers with hats and scarves and warm jackets, love trampling through snow in my winter boots, I love when the sun is warm but the wind is cold.   I especially love coming inside and sitting down to homemade lentil soup after sending the day out in the snow.  Which is exactly what I did on Saturday . 

Saturday Manny and I wandered through Prospect Park during the snowstorm.  (Sadly, Manny doesn’t quite share my enthusiam for winter, but he came out with me anyway).  We really liked this enormous tree:

dsc012111

Just as it starting snowing really badly, we walked out of the park right in front of the B16 bus stop just as the bus was approaching.  Perfection!  There was hardly any traffic on roads due to the snow so we had a nice scenic ride home.  Our bus driver was particularly chatty and told us about his tricks for driving in the snow. 

Sunday I went walking through Shore Road Park.  I cannot even begin to describe how happy this park makes me, a little slice of wilderness close to home, wedged between the Belt Parkway and Shore Road.  It has walking paths through the trees, wide open fields for soccer and baseball, and a bike/running path along the water.  During my walk yesterday, I saw a red tailed hawk sitting in a tree branch close to the path, near the tennis courts and ball fields that are apparently closed for some sort of reconstruction.  Its crazy to think if I didn’t happen to look up while I walked past it, I would not see it.  Because those birds are huge.  The bird was all fluffed up to fight the cold winds.  It looked rather relaxed, not moving except for turning it head from side to side, checking things out.  I watched it for about 10 minutes.  It was still there in the same branch on my walk back home about 25 minutes later.  Of course I didn’t have my camera with me.

I have been waiting on some books for the library so in the meantime I’ve been keeping myself busy with magazines discarded on the subway, free newspapers, The Village Voice, The Onion, and the occasional Us Weekly.  Oh, and also, the movie tie in edition of Revolutionary Road.  Being a being a kid from the burbs I am intrigued by books about how the suburbs suck… plus how bad could the plot be if Kate and Leo are in the movie adaptation?  

yates2

Turns out, Revolutionary Road, first published in 1961 was one of the first books about how the suburbs suck. We meet Frank and April Wheeler who are stuck in a failing marriage.  Frank works at a dead end corporate job in the city and April is stuck being a housewife.  They like to think they are more superior than their suburban neighbors.  They are cultured, they help start a theater group in their suburb, they have big plans to move to Europe.  But throughout the book they are forced to come to terms with the fact that they are like everyone else and their lives are nothing but ordinary.

Frank and April Wheeler are not the most likable characters, but we can all relate to their circumstances in some way.  In the same way people slow down to watch car wrecks, I kept reading the book to find out what happens to them.  You know they are in for a volatile ending, but you keep reading, partially to find out their mistakes so you make sure you don’t make them in your own life.

The book is told mostly from Frank’s point of view, but it is April Wheeler is the most intriguing character.  At first, she seems like a shallow, neurotic housewife, only because we don’t know much about her.  Only in the end does her character fully develop.  In an interview, author Richard Yates spoke about how April’s character embodies the rebellion against 1950’s America:

I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the 1950s. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs – a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price, as exemplified politically in the Eisenhower administration and the Joe McCarthy witchhunts. Anyway, a great many Americans were deeply disturbed by all that – felt it to be an outright betrayal of our best and bravest revolutionary spirit – and that was the spirit I tried to embody in the character of April Wheeler.  I meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 had come to something very much like a dead end in the Fiftes.

I hope I get my library books come through soon.  I’ll definitely need some reading material by this weekend.  My dad now lives in Arlington, Virginia so my entire family is driving down there this weekend to crash at his place and maybe score some tickets to Obama’s inauguration.  This is should interesting.

Lately

November 17, 2008

November is the best month for us civil servants.  Being a civil servant is not glamorous.  We work for the government, so most of the time people hate us.  But, in the month of November, we have three days off. Three paid holidays – Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day.  Three days off in one month.  No other month is as generous with its holidays as November.  I love November.  So how am I spending my free time during this joyous month?  By watching the most depressing TV and movies and by reading the most depressing books ever.  Its not like I purposely decided to watch TV and read books about insanity and death, it just sort of happened by accident.  Maybe it the universe’s way of balancing the joy and elation I felt earlier this month with Obama’s victory.  So let’s review, shall we?

First up, I saw the movie Rachel Getting MarriedIt got the best reviews ever, but I’m sorry, I hated it.  It was so pretentious, unrealistic, and unbelievable.  It is about a dysfunctional family, with Anne Hathaway playing the troubled ex junkie/alcoholic who comes home from rehab for her perfect older sister’s wedding.  I’m usually all for good family dramas, but the problem was the movie was filled with, as one reviewer on IMDB said, “a bunch of boring, self-centered, too good to be true people” that annoyed the crap out of me.

Then I saw Synecdoche, New York with the always amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman, which gets the prize for most depressing movie I’ve ever seen.  Hoffman is a theater director who is slowly loosing his sense of reality and increasingly blurring the lines between the autobiographical play he is directing and his own life.  Manny says its supposed to be existential, but I say that it made me want to curl up in bed with hot chocolate and watch cartoons. 

But instead, I went home and watched this terrifying Frontline episode on PBS called Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.  Lee Atwater was a Republican strategist, he was the Karl Rove of his time, actually, Karl Rove was Atwater’s protege.  Atwater spent his career planting the seed of fear and distrust into the public mind about his political opponents and then sat back and watched it grow.  What happened to him?  Dude was killed by brain cancer when he was only 40 years old.  Towards the end of his life, he freaked out because he was afraid he was going to hell for the things he did and spent his last days apologizing to everyone he knew and praying to every religion for forgiveness.  If you don’t believe in karma, watch this documentary, and it will make a believer out of you. 

On to books – I read the morbid and gross The Almost Moon  by Alice Sebold about a woman who kills her elderly mentally ill mother, and the tragic and depressing Cost by Roxana Robinson about a mother and her disconnected family who try and rally together to save her son who is addicted to heroin.  They were both good books that kept me awake on my morning train ride, they were suspenseful and well written, but l don’t have that much to say about them other than that. 

This weekend I stayed home, watched Kung Fu Panda, cooked this strangely delicious black bean chili with butternut squash, and started reading a book about the first breeding pair of red-tailed hawks in Central Park.  This pretty much makes up for all those sad movies and books.  Plus I have one other holiday to look forward to – Thanksgiving.

Bridge of Sighs

October 1, 2008

I’ve been immersed in Richard Russo’s Bridge of Sighs.  It is my favorite kind of book, the kind of book you can get lost in, when you read it you completely forget where you are or what you’re supposed to be doing.  Luckily I often come to my senses just as the subway pulls into my stop.  I snap back into reality, get off the train and walk up the stairs into the morning daylight and head to work.  I look forward to my commute, when I can finally escape the stress and anxiety that is my job right now, find myself a nice seat on the train (the only good thing about the local train is you always get a seat)  and read alone in peace for 50 minutes.  Ah, it is heaven.  I’m nearing the end of the novel and I’m trying to read it slowly, not wanting the story to come to its conclusion, which I fear, won’t be a happy one. 

This book kept me company during some lonely times these past few weeks.  I had to find a home for Oliver, which was harder than I thought.  Seems like lots of people talk about wanting a cat, but when it comes down to actually taking one home, they change their minds.  Finally, I convinced my co-worker, our resident cat lady, to take him because obviously 4 cats is not enough for her and surely she’d like one more.  Once she saw the picture of him, she was a goner.  She tells me that he’s adjusting well, is making friends with her other cats, is being spoiled by her kids, and gets himself into trouble, including falling into a tray of white paint and knocking over a 2 liter bottle of soda.  The first few days after he left were hard, I missed him more than I expected.  I’ve had pets since the 2nd grade so its hard to be without one now.  But I had Bridge of Sighs to distract me and keep me company.  Once Oliver left, I had to wash everything I own to destroy the cat dander so that Manny could come over without experiencing another life threatening asthma attack.  Bridge of Sighs kept me company at the laundry mat, where I must have spent 20 dollars in quarters in 3 nights, washing everything that had potentially come in contact with the cat. 

I also, I’m not going to lie, the fact that my favorite TV show of all time is on DVD helped too.

I love The Nanny and Fran Drescher.  I am not ashamed. 

 

Then I went to the 3rd to last Yankee game at Yankee Stadium.  Here’s where it offically changed from 3 to 2 games remaining. 

 

 Best seat in the house?  The bleachers, of course.

 

 

So I’m slowly finishing Bridge of Sighs and slowly coming out of my lonely funk and back to reality.  This weekend, my entire family makes our yearly pilgrimage to the World’s Largest Garage Sale, which we refer to lovingly  as the Crap Fair.  I haven’t been there since high schoool, because I went away to college.  The last time I went to the Crap Fair, I found a Tori Amos bootleg from a 1996 concert and felt so cool.  Oh let’s face it, if I found another Tori bootleg this year, I would still feel cool.

Show and Tell

September 10, 2008

I present to you a show and tell of the week’s events, in pictures. 

So a few days ago I went over to my local library and got one of these:

 then I got these:

 Yeah that’s right.  Two big, fat, new, HARDCOVER NOVELS for me to enjoy.  After weeks of reading 99 cent Strand paperback specials and books swiped from friends and family, I finally have a permanent address which means I am finally a card carrying member of the Brooklyn Public Library.  Sweet.

Also?  Two weeks ago I adopted this kitty:

And I named him Oliver after Oliver Twist, because he’s an orphan boy with no mommy who was found alone and starving, along with his brother and sister in the parking lot of a New Jersey sex offender rehab prison where my friend works as an inmate counselor.  But one trip to the ER and 4 new asthma prescriptions later, we’ve come to the conclusion that he makes Manny really sick, so now we have to find him a new home.  We are really sad about this situation, but Oliver remains oblivious and is content to sleep in a shoebox surrounded by all of his toys:

And occasionally taking a swipe at the camera from his toy-filled shoebox lair:

Summer Snapshots

June 10, 2008

I think if you live anywhere in the Eastern U.S. you know that its summer and its really hot right now. I am not complaining about the heat. How can I when I go from air conditioned bedroom to air conditioned car to air conditioned train to air conditioned workplace and vice versa? I always used to ask my dad how he could fight fires in this heat. Imagine its the hottest day of the year in the city, with a heat index of 110 with all the humidity, and you have to go into a burning building? I thought my dad must have superhuman strength to do that. But he always told me it was much worse in the bitter cold, when water from the hose froze all over and guys felt cold for days. I’m not going to be cranky about the heat, that’s one thing about the summer that I like, is that you cannot stress out. Walk down the sidewalk nice and slow, take your time, you cannot let anything bother you or get under your skin. Because if it does, your heart rate increases and your body beings to tense up and you feel additional, unnecessary heat waves come over you. Over the weekend we put the air conditioners in our windows, something my mom doesn’t like to do until July. But after spending all day in air conditioning I just want to be outside. After work I take my book, my dinner, my dog and my glass of ice water and sit out in the porch until it gets dark and just enjoy the first heat of the summer.

Right now a thunderstorm is approaching. Our neighbors have lost power and branches fell down across the street. My mom is afraid of lightning. She has turned off the TV, will not answer the phone, placed candles around the kitchen, and is flipping through a magazine while holding on to her flashlight. We always loose power during the hottest days of the summer. Tonight one side of the train station had power but the other side was dark. When I was younger my neighborhood lost power for 2 days. Every kid on our street spent the day in our little backyard pool. Parents brought over meat they had sitting in their freezers and we barbecued every last piece of meat on the block so it wouldn’t spoil. At night the kids went to bed and the adults took over the pool. Someone brought over floating candles and someone else made the cocktails. My bedroom window looked down into our backyard and I stayed up most of the night, unable to sleep in the heat, listening to the conversations outside. I looked down into the glowing pool thinking I had rarely seen parents – moms and dads – just hanging out like that having fun without children, like normal people! They told stories and laughed and drank in the pool all night. I always sort of liked blackouts. They shake things up a little, a little deviation from the typical routine. There are two exceptions: the 2003 blackout, because after you have no power for 2 days, its not fun anymore; and the time I had to babysit two of the brattiest kids ever and there was no power. This meant no TV, no movies, no video games and two very bored, very hot, very cranky children to watch all day, for 10 hours. It was too hot to go outside, too hot to go to the park, too hot to do anything. We played battleship. Many, many games of battleship.

So lets talk about summer reading. I secretly loved summer reading assignments because I got to pick any book I wanted from my school’s summer reading list. To me, reading is more fun when you choose what book to read. This is why I hated English in school, because we had to read whatever the teacher assigned. Even though I like reading, I hated doing it for school because I had to. Yes I’m that stubborn. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction lately and I’m feeling like I want to read some history and science this summer. I’d like to read something by Bill Bryson, I hear good things about him. I’d also like to read more books by David Quammen because I think he’s a great science writer. (Here’s a NY Times Review of his book Monster of God, which I read last year.) If I’m feeling especially smart, maybe I’ll try reading The Fabric of the Cosmos or The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, who organized the World Science Festival that I was so impressed with. Maybe I’ll check out Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin, which I found while browsing Amazon.com today, now tell me that doesn’t sound like a fascinating book?

As for reading right now, I’ve finished The Giver for my book club, then finished In Defense of Food and almost finished with Drown. So more book blogging is coming. After this heat wave is over.

Things That Make Me Happy

May 30, 2008

Lately I’ve been stressed and worried about everything, for no apparent reason.  Here are things I’m focusing on that make me happy:

  1. The 3rd season of Weeds is coming out on June 3rd.  Best show in the history of TV.  I have been waiting for what seems like years to finally see the 3rd season.
  2. The World Science Festival is this weekend.  I won’t be able to attend any of the presentations, but it makes me happy knowing that it is happening.  If I could, I would attend “Future Cities: Sustainable Solutions, Radical Designs“, “What it Means to Be Human“, “Faith & Science” and “The Sixth Extinction
  3. Listening to a wonderful conversation called “How America Can Take the Lead in Science and Technology” on WNYC yesterday morning
  4.  My BFF lets Manny and I sleep over her place whenever we want, no questions asked
  5. Seeing my ex-coworker and fellow science geek friend this weekend before she leaves me for grad school in Michigan
  6. The South by Southwest music player, perfect for doing mindless data entry at work(Click on “SXSW Player” on the lower left corner for listening enjoyment)

Oh yeah, this is a book blog.  I Finished A Gift from the Sea last week.  It was actually a really thoughtful, well written book.  Nothing too life changing, but it probably was really radical when it was first published in 1955.  The book was basically about how women need to balance out their lives and the needs of people who depend on them by finding solitude – time for themselves.  I can relate because I start to loose my mind a little if I don’t have some alone time.  A nice, peaceful, meditative read. 

Then I finished Saving the World, my first Julia Alvarez book.  It was just OK.  I think the main reason I finished it was because I was at my uncle’s house in the mountains with nothing else to do.  But that’s for another blog post, because this one is about happy things.

Eat Your Veggies

May 26, 2008

I spent this Memorial Day weekend at my aunt and uncle’s house in upstate New York. Lots of family, small house, one bathroom, lots of laughs, and lots of reading. I’ll write about the reading later.

I love my extended family, but they think I’m some strange hippie child and they don’t really know what to say to me. For the past 10 years or so they have all convinced themselves that I am a vegetarian. I am not a vegetarian, I have never been a vegetarian, and never wanted to be a vegetarian. But I don’t like red meat, so to my carnivorous family, this automatically makes me a vegetarian freak-child. Every time we go to my aunt and uncle’s, my aunt makes sure she goes out of her way to buy me an appropriate meat substitute for our barbecue dinners. “Don’t worry, Tree-Tree! I got you veggie burgers for the grill,” she yells at me with such enthusiasm that I don’t have a heart to tell her I would be just fine with chicken. So we sit down to dinner, I eat a nice juicy piece of grilled chicken and choke down at least half of the gross patty of squashed unidentifiable veggies, and everyone is happy.

Here’s a scene that happened this weekend. I’m in the kitchen making a turkey sandwich for lunch. My cousin, he’s about 8 years older than me, comes over to me.

Him: Theresa! I just saw the perfect bumper sticker for you.

Me, stacking pieces of turkey on my sandwich: Oh yeah, what did say?

Him: “Veg-et-ar-rian = Indian word meaning poor hunter”

Me, thinking that’s a terrible bumper sticker: Oh

Him, looking down at my turkey sandwich, then up to me, gets confused: Wait! You’re eating turkey! I thought you were a vegetarian?

Me: No, I’m actually not a vegetarian.

[Pause]

Him: Wow, you’re not as weird as I thought.

Me: Thanks.