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Thank you all so much for your input into my decision process: whether to stop blogging here, start a new blog, or both. I have pretty much decided to do both. Due to your comments and conversations with Chuck, I’ve decided not to stop using this forum to express and share my more personal thoughts and feelings, as I’ve always done.
Chuck feels comfortable blogging with me on a new blog, including having his photo posted! I have already taken about a week’s worth of photos (mostly food but also one of him standing before a dinner he cooked).
The only thing holding me up now is a name / URL for the new blog. All the cute, punny stuff is taken. Some of the titles I’ve wanted to use are too close to the names of other blogs, some of which are about cooking or food but some of which are full of porn. So I have to be very careful when creating the new blog name. I’m trying to come up with something so unique that a Google search doesn’t take you anywhere but to my blog. I don’t want to duplicate or have a name that is similar to any other website name.
I would like to allude to the area somehow. (Windsor / Detroit) I would like to focus on the potential for transformation for these two cities, his and mine, as well as discover and showcase the little jewels that are everywhere but go unnoticed by so many (restaurants, events, festivals, groups trying to make a difference–such as Broken City Lab).
The new blog would also be where we could post about trips we take and any other adventures that he’s comfortable sharing with the world.
As for Chuck, he may post the odd socio-political diatribe now and then. That’s yet to be seen. I’ll let him decide what he writes and how often, if at all. I know for sure he’ll be contributing content for my recipe posts. He’s an awesome cook!
Can you help me brainstorm? Even if you just throw a word my way, it will help. Many heads are better than one.
It started out like any other day. I was running a little bit late, but that just means I wasn’t quite as early as I usually am. As you know, I like to beat the traffic and get to work when the building is still quiet. I set up the tea station, make my copies and get all my duckies in a row before people arrive. This way I am not multi-tasking, which I’m incapable of anyway. Also I can do my prep with mindfulness and later pay full attention to each person who wants to chat with me before classes start.
When I walked through the classroom door, everyone was seated already. They were talking and reading newspapers. I greeted them all. I felt good. I felt cheerful. But soon I noticed that I was having trouble focusing. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt an odd feeling in my body. I realized my thoughts were racing, and my heart was going pretty fast, too. My breathing was too rapid.
My first guess was that this was the result of nearly a month of not meditating. (You know how new relationships can throw you off your routines at first.) I knew I had to slow my breathing down. I felt really funny. So rather than continue asking the students how they were, I plopped down in my chair behind the desk (I almost never sit during class) and closed my eyes. I just started taking deep breaths. I felt an urgent need to quiet my mind so I could–hopefully–focus on the task at hand: teaching the class. Everyone quieted when they saw their normally vivacious, smiling teaching doing something she’d never done before.
In about a minute I opened my eyes and looked around. I felt a bit better. I wrote “meditation” on the board and we had a little impromptu discussion about verb-meditate, noun-meditation, adjective-meditative. The most pious Muslim woman in the room, who has the lowest level of English mastery of all of them, was the only one who seemed to understand what I was trying to convey. She said that she rises every morning before dawn and watches the sun rise from her 23rd floor balcony. She does this every morning. It centers and calms her. She didn’t say it, but I know she also prays.
I thought that might be the end of it and that we would be able to continue with the lesson. I tried. But before I knew it, something else odd was happening. I felt rage rising in me toward one student in particular… a student who is very high maintenance. He has multiple disabilities and requires a lot of help. Sometimes other students help him; sometimes I do. When he started in with his usual list of extra demands on my energy and time, I snapped at him! Then I couldn’t believe what had just come out of my mouth. What the hell? Have aliens invaded my body? What’s going on??? It was when I started peeling off my cardigan on this 45 F morning that I finally clued in.
I was having my second ever hot flash. I don’t know if I was pre-menstrual or not since there is no regularity to that anymore. Mood swings. It all started to make sense. I went out in the hall to take a drink from the fountain and again started to lose my ability to think or focus.
I couldn’t teach.
When I popped my head back through the door, one especially sensitive and caring woman noticed I wasn’t myself. I whispered to her a hint at what I thought was happening. “I’m going to be 50 in July,” I said. She knew what I was getting at. That’s how she is: very bright and very caring.
“What can we do to help?” she asked where the other students could hear her.
I do not easily ask others for help.
But I was desperate. And I felt incapable of continuing the lesson.
“Well,… let me think. Ok. I’m going to put some discussion questions on the board. Could you all put yourselves in discussion groups of 3-4?”
Okay, I thought. Pick one student and try again.
“Samir, would you help everyone get into groups?”
It’s something we’ve done a million times. They know how I do it. They know where to move the chairs. They know not to put all strong students together or all Arabic speakers together, nor all Mandarin speakers together.
I turned my back to the class hoping Samir would take the baton I was handing off.
Samir asked one question; I don’t remember what it was.
“You decide,” I said. “I trust you. Just do it.”
I turned back to the board to do the one thing I felt cognitively capable of: copying questions from my lesson plan sheet to the white board.
When I turned back around, the eleven students had divided into three groups. Each group had one of the three strongest students taking the lead, helping the lower level learners understand the questions. I heard Samir saying, “No pencils! No dictionaries!”
Hell, I’ll bet the students I can never get to set down their pencils and electronic dictionaries will listen to their peers! This is better even than when I do it.
A feeling of deep gratitude and relief swept over me. I was able to walk out, stroll down the hall, get a drink of water or anything I needed because the class was under control. That’s when I realized I was about to weep.
The students debated the discussion questions until the end of class. I thanked them over and over. One came up to me and said to let him and his family know if I needed anything at all.
“You’ve already helped me. Thank you,” I said.
“No, I don’t just mean here in class. In your life. If you need anything at all, just say it.”
This is the blessing of a class that has bonded like a family. Other teachers (and there are other teachers going through this very same thing this year) have to excuse themselves, call in the Teaching Assistant to supply, and go home. My students take over the teaching!
I spent the lunch hour cocooning (after receiving moral support from my sweetie via Facetime and from two other instructors going through their own hormone-driven issues) and by the time my second class began, I was in better shape cognitively. I was still feeling a bit rough around the edges, but knew that I could get through it because my afternoon class of only 9 students and I are equally close and bonded.
I was not, however, prepared to deal with the new T.A. when he showed up to “help” me, as the schedule dictates he do every Tuesday. I tried hinting that I was feeling a bit stressed, but he didn’t get it. So I placed my hands on his shoulders and turned him toward the door.
“Are you kicking me out?” he asked.
“Yes, please find another class to help today.”
I really couldn’t believe I’d just done that. I am usually so careful with others’ feelings. But I knew exactly how much energy and patience I had left; it was just enough for the lesson and no more.
As soon as he was out the door, I told my students, using gestures, simple language and Google translator (menopause is إنقطاع الطمث in Arabic) what was going on with me. They were very supportive. We let our hair down and had a fun, relaxed lesson on prescription medicine bottle labels. Once again, I got through the day because of the quality of relationships I have with my students.
When three o’clock finally rolled around and I had locked up the class, I just felt such deep gratitude. Had my brain come back online in time, I could have thanked them.
I’ll thank them tomorrow, I thought. Although I wanted nothing more than to be home in my comfy sweats, a tee shirt and maybe a glass of Moscato in my hand, my first thought was to pick up a big thank you card and address it to all of my saviors. Then I knew what I wanted to do.
As I drove through the Arab quarter, I looked for a particular word on shop windows. I’ve learned a bit of Arabic from the students. I pulled into a 2-hour parking spot when I saw the word and went inside the shop. I came out with their largest box of baklava.
He had spent a long day tasting my hobby last Saturday at Point Pelee National Park, and so yesterday we had planned for him to show me around his favourite place in all of Detroit: the DIA.
On Friday a coworker had asked me if I had any plans for the weekend. When I’d mentioned Mexican Town for lunch before the DIA, she had asked, “where in Mexican Town is he going to take you?”
“It’s a woman’s name,…I can’t remember…”
“LUPITA’S?” she had asked excitedly. Her husband is from Mexico.
“Lupita’s! Yeah, that’s it,” I’d said.
“Oh, he’s a keeper,” she’d added. “We can never talk our friends into joining us there. It’s just a little hole in the wall, no liquor license. But the food is the best.”
As soon as we stepped out of the car, the fragrance of corn tortillas cooking greeted my nose. At the sweet little taquería that is not as frequented by suburbanites as are nearby larger restaurants, the pico de gallo and tacos al pastor passed all tests to which I submit authentic Mexican food–which I have direly missed since moving to Windsor.
I’m embarrassed to say that in the entire six years since moving to Windsor, I’ve only talked about visiting the Detroit Institute of Arts. I had no idea how large it really was or how comprehensive the collection.
When the museum staff let us both in for free after Chuck flashed his membership card, I was intrigued. “I get in free, too?”
“At my level of membership? Uh, yeah,” he’d replied.
You’re thinking what I was thinking, I’m sure.
We started with the Diego Rivera murals, Chuck acting as museum docent, and made our way through antiquities of the Americas. I especially liked the frog effigies.
As Chuck guided me slowly around the four walls of each of the subsequent rooms of paintings, I had no inkling that we would only make our way through about a fifth of the collection during the next four hours. I found myself tarrying in American Art before 1950. Gazing at the paintings of the late 1800s, he and I marveled at the treatment of sunlight.
“I think my mom would like this,” I found myself saying as we passed an Andrew Wyeth.
Having started just after lunch time, it was late afternoon before we had wound our way around and to the Arts and Crafts collection. I felt like a kid in a candy shop as I stood just a foot in front of the Frank Lloyd Wright window and Stickley Brothers patinated copper jardiniere with ring handles. The Carlo Bugatti rocker made me wonder aloud if there was a connection to the car maker.
“Fallingwater is on my bucket list,” I’d said.
“I’ve been there.”
“You’ve been there?”
The afternoon went like that. Many of our talks go like that.
By four o’clock I’d taken in about as much as I cold for one visit, so we agreed to continue another Saturday. Before exiting, we toured the Arms and Armor collection, which proved far more interesting than I’d anticipated. We took turns trying to imagine what each type of sword was used for, how heavy the armor felt to wear, how horses felt about metal face coverings.
Naturally we had left time for me to tour the gift shop, the same place where Chuck had acquired his Salvador Dali wrist watch.
After the DIA but before dinner, Chuck played tour guide of the neighborhood where he’d worked for many years. Through his reminiscences, the streets lined with decaying houses and vacant lots became images in my mind of thriving neighborhoods where well-maintained houses, shops and even a library had once stood. The Packard plant, now a cavernous multi-level catacomb with no window left unbroken metamorphosed in my imagination as I listened to Chuck’s description of its heyday.
The line-up for tables at The Polish Village in Hamtramck extended onto the sidewalk. We managed to squeeze into a nook next to a pillar by the bar to wait for a seat and the bar where we would continue to wait for a table for two at this–his favorite eatery–while sipping Polish porter and Zywiec. (You can guess who had the porter.) While we waited, Chuck explained the menu items to me. By the time we were seated, I’d decided on Dill Pickle soup and the Polish Plate, though nearby diners’ selections of PLACKI ZIEMNIACZANE or KOTLETY SCHABOWE looked very tempting. My sampler plate included a stuffed cabbage, a pierogy, mashed potatoes, a fresh sausage and sauerkraut which was, as Chuck promised, not as sharp with vinegar as the German kind.
Due to sensory overload, Chuck let me off the hook when it came to adding the Hiedelberg Project to the tour. That can wait till our next excursion south of the border.
I would like to sit down with all of you and have a chat. I want to let you know what’s happening in my life, because it’s big and it’s intense.
It’s no secret that I can be very impulsive at times. Or I can SEEM impulsive to the outside view. An example would be the time my realtor was taking me around to look at houses. We were inside the second one she’d ever shown me when I said, “I want it.” She thought I was being rash. What she doesn’t realize is that this moment of “I want it” was the culmination of months of screening hundreds of houses on MLS. I knew when I was inside that little 1908 bungalow with the compost bin enveloped in a raspberry patch and a cottontail rabbit munching clover at dusk under the apple tree that this was my little dream house. Nothing the realtor said could change my mind about that.
When I saw C for the first time, there was an instant connection. I knew right away that I adored him. The more he spoke, the more smitten I became. When he walked around the car to open my door EVERY TIME, I swooned. When he consulted me carefully before ordering dinner, I smiled. When he taught me a new word (pica), my heart went pitty pat.
This is a kinky thing to admit, but I really get off on food talk and expertise. C has got that one in the bag. He stops at his local Italian market and bakery on the way over to pick up olives I’ve never tasted, breads I’ve never heard of, ingredients I haven’t seen since traveling through the south of France.
You know I like a well-read man. Not only is Walt Whitman in the “to be read to one another aloud” pile, but so is The Death of Ivan Illych and other Stories. Things like this make me wonder if I subconsciously submitted a wish list to the heavens and it was scooped up by an angel–one of those angels who is assigned to matchmaking detail.
Last night I finally cooked for him for the first time. He’s cooked for me once and we’ve collaborated on a few meals.
You know I like a cultured man. Over stuffed sweet peppers, C told me about the D.I.A. He’s been a member for years and will be taking me there this weekend for my maiden voyage into one of the best art museums in the Americas. As he was describing the Diego Rivera murals to me, I wanted to pinch myself. Am I dreaming?
While the peppers were in the oven, C was putting up a bird feeder for me, a special one designed to hold meal worms. Nesting Orioles really like those. I had asked him where I might hang it so that orioles would feel safe at it while squirrels would not feel comfortable investigating it and dumping the worms all over the place. C had suggested the metal canoe rack at the water’s edge. The next time he came, he brought his drill bits and tapping tool. While playing assistant on the project (oil spritzer), I learned about drilling into and creating threads in metal.
So anyway,… I guess I could sum it up by admitting that we have been all but inseparable since that first date. Wow, eh? We’re just entering our third WEEK of knowing one another yet it feels as if it’s been a few months. There is nothing I can’t tell him and I think he could say the same about me. We are working out a very functional system for communicating with mutual respect and consideration.
Here comes the part I want to talk to you about. It has to do with that fine line between knowing when to compromise for the health of a relationship and losing oneself.
There are areas where C and I see things differently. One is religion / spiritual beliefs. He is a traditional Catholic and I’m certainly not either–traditional or Catholic. Another is political stance, though we really aren’t that far apart on most of the major issues. Another is how private or public we are. You know I’m pathologically honest and that I have no problem revealing very intimate details of my life here on a public forum, content to let the chips fall where they may. C is not completely at ease with that much public openness.
I know many of you have significant others who do not appear on your blogs. Either you use a pseudonym or refrain from showing his/her face or both. So this is something C and I are working out now.
No, I don’t want to lose myself or give up something that is important to me for a man or for a relationship. But I do want to be flexible and willing to compromise. I believe that’s an important component of a strong, resilient and long-lasting relationship.
So here’s what I’m thinking.
I’m thinking of stopping blogging here. I’m also considering starting a new blog. The new one would be about exploring Windsor and the Detroit area (much the way I started this blog by exploring Waterloo). I would like to do restaurant reviews again; I’ve enjoyed doing them in the past. I would also like to do something along the lines of what Foodie and the Beast do… showing the meals they make for one another in their own home and then rating those. I was thinking of something with the word “pilgrim” in it, something referencing our two cities in their current throes of decline and rebirth.
Anyway, I’m still in the brainstorming phase and haven’t even gotten a vote yet from my partner in crime. I would love to hear your thoughts, though.
One surprise is that the distance from his driveway to mine can sometimes be as short as 30 minutes, including the border crossing. I never imagined that an international romance could be so easy.
A co-worker asked me the other day how it was going with the hot one–the tall, handsome guy who looked so sexy in his designer eyeglass frames and long wool coat. I told her he’d decided not to continue after three dates.
“It’s pretty slim pickings here in Windsor,” I’d said to keep the conversation going.
“You should open it up to the Michigan side,” she had advised. “There are LOTS of good men over there. But who wants the hassle of the border crossing every time you want to see each other?” she had asked rhetorically.
Wednesday he came through the door with an armload of groceries and two bottles of wine. He shooed me out of my own kitchen and told me to work on my lesson plans while he proceeded to cook scallops and monkfish in a white wine reduction, roughly mash Yukon gold potatoes (skins on) with butter, minced mushrooms and garlic while gently steaming fresh asparagus.
Clearly the man is hell-bent on impressing me.
I’m not exactly sure where I left off with the Plenty of Fish saga. I’m sure I told you that it hadn’t worked out with bachelor #2. After that I met “R” at a Timmies between our two cities and we had a great time chatting, mostly about birds and birding. After that meeting we emailed each other and agreed that we probably didn’t have enough in common in other areas to sustain a relationship in the long term.
And so I went back on PoF to reveal my profile once again. It occurred to me that I was getting plenty of bites, but not from men who were really my type. I decided to make a change to the text of the “about me” section. I wanted to start attracting men with a higher level of education, those who read books, men with large vocabularies and perhaps someone who remembers what it was like to have a bit of a rough time on the playground. So at the bottom I added that I am usually drawn to fellow misfits, the geeks and bird nerds, aspies and culture vultures.
This time I got two nibbles, both from Michiganders who were university educated, had good jobs and interesting profiles. The first one (A), was very handsome with lots of photos in which he’s showing off a fantastic physique on some beach. He was quite flirtatious with me via text. I certainly expected him to ask me to meet him that upcoming weekend, but he didn’t.
The second fellow didn’t even have a photo on his profile. I normally skip right over those, but when I got the alert that C wanted to meet me, I read his profile anyway. I was very impressed by the fact that he volunteers all his spare time with the Red Cross. There were a few other details that impressed me. The end of his profile said, “If you want to see a photo, just ask.” I decided to send him a quick message and not request a photo. I didn’t want to come across as superficial. :) My restraint was rewarded by an email and soon thereafter with two pictures. He looked like your better than average-looking nice guy… bald on top, glasses, a kind face, maybe a little extra weight around the middle.
In the next email I warned him about my limited sense of humour and tried out my favourite joke on him: There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.
He came back with a list of authors he likes and proof of having understood the binary joke. His emails were long and without spelling or grammatical errors. The author list included Gogol, one of my favourites. He had my attention.
C and I exchanged a few more emails before he said he was intrigued and wanted to meet me. His interest was especially piqued by the last bit on my profile. He was pretty sure his friends would describe him as geeky, in a loving way, of course. He said, “I am the guy at the lunch table who can sometimes give the answer to the guys doing the crossword puzzles when the answer is way out there.”
Be still, my heart. :)
I agreed to the meeting. He would drive over from his Detroit suburb and we would meet at Dieppe Park downtown then take a stroll along the waterfront.
Our date was already scheduled when I woke up with my back in spasm, so it was a little awkward, but I didn’t want to cancel.
Up until this point, I had never passed the chemistry test with anyone from PoF, so I was prepared for the worst. I was very happy, however, when C got out of his car (we were both early) and I saw his face. He has a nice smile, I thought. This could go well.
So we walked and walked and walked almost to the Ambassador Bridge until I was afraid I might be stranded should my back give out. He then suggested we grab a bite. He’s of Italian descent on both sides, so Little Italy seemed only natural. We spent the next two hours getting acquainted over an appetizer of calamari followed by prosciutto pizza.
Finally it was time to give up our table, but neither of us wanted the date to end, so he suggested yet another walk–this one up Erie Street. By this time I was sure the chemistry test had been passed with flying colours; with perhaps a little boost to my courage from the red wine, I looped my arm in his while we walked. When we reached the end of the promenade, I offered to treat him to gelato.
Two days later we were back sitting at the same table in the gelateria, this time sharing one large order with two little spoons. Yes, things were/are moving very quickly.
I’m not sure what happened next, but we’ve seen each other on eight out of eleven days. Once he came bearing Leaves of Grass. Another time some music CDs: Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra.
He’s begun telling select friends and family, “I’ve met someone.” It might be time for me to do that, too.
I realize it’s been several days since my last post. A lot has happened that I’ve wanted to share here, but a bad ileo-psoas muscle spasm has prevented me from sitting at the computer. Even now I’ll have to make this brief because the pain comes when I sit or lie. My back and left leg feel better when I’m walking around doing things.
I think I pulled a muscle on the back extension machine at the gym. I can’t be sure if that’s what did it. It didn’t hurt at the time, but I was in pain on waking the next morning.
Not having slept at all for two nights straight–I had to go to the E.R. at 3:00 a.m. a couple of days ago. Since I’m in Canada, the ambulance will send a bill for a nominal $45 or so. I won’t pay anything for the E.R. visit. I only waited about 2.5 hours to see the physician, which is reasonable considering I was not bleeding or experiencing any life-threatening conditions. The physician was very nice, thorough and explained why he was doing everything he was doing. In the end we agreed that I could continue to let the strained muscle heal (and continue to get chiropractic care) but in the meantime, he could give me some prescriptions to help relax the muscles, ease the pain, reduce the inflammation and help me sleep.
Drugs can be a godsend.
First it was the female stuff. My fibroids are swollen and sore now, and I’ve had to cancel yet another blood donation because of menorrhagia. On top of that, I have a muscle spasm in my back that my chiropractor told me yesterday is probably from improperly setting up the ab crunch machine. He says I need to be sitting with my legs and torso at no wider than a 90 degree angle for the crunches. This is difficult to achieve on that particular machine because the place where you tuck your feet under for leverage is way out in front of my body and is not one of the adjustable parts of the machine! He is quite short of stature and could relate to my feeling that the machines are often not designed for us diminutive folks. To top it all off, I haven’t been able to keep food down for about three days. It started with a big raw broccoli salad on Wednesday, which may have been contaminated. Either that or it was just too much raw bulk for my tummy to handle at once. In any case, it came back up at midnight. The next night, hardly able to eat anything all day, I tried some probiotic yogourt. That came back a few hours later. Sigh. So far miso soup stays down, as will a cup of tea or coffee or a few rice crackers.
The interesting thing about all of this is that when I arrived at work yesterday and answered my colleague’s “how are you” query, I just reported the facts. She put the “Oh, so you’re not having a good day” spin on it. On the contrary, I said, it’s still a good day. Why condemn the whole day with a negative adjective just because I’m gimping around a little? I know she was just making small talk and my brain is being too literal, but it just got me to thinking about how much my way of seeing the world has changed since doing ACIM and similar mind training. Things are what they are; I no longer find it helpful or necessary to let so-called unfortunate events or circumstances dictate my mood or feelings about that whole day or week. There is still room for joy. I can spend the day noticing how caring people are toward me while I’m feeling under the weather. I can take the time to thank each one of them for small gestures that help me get through it.
I’m still just so thankful for Patti Digh and the Complaint-free World challenge that I did many moons ago. My thinking hasn’t been the same since I finally, after about five months, made it through 37 straight days of no complaining, gossiping, whining or criticizing. Neuroplasticity rocks. The brain CAN be changed.
That’s what my tee shirt says–the shirt I wore to the gym this morning. What a great way to start the day! Hormonal fluctuations have me waking at really weird hours, so this morning I figured I would just go ahead and get up and get my workout out of the way super early.
I am not much for exercise, that’s for sure. As a child, I always had my nose in a book and my least favourite class was P.E. I’ve led a pretty sedentary life so far, with some sporadic exceptions. I know I will not stick to any regimen that involves cardio, except maybe cycling outdoors and swimming. Zumba and step classes or stationary bikes are not for me. Weight training, however, is a whole different story. That is something I managed to stick to for about three years at one point, but it’s been over a decade now since I quit.
Because my workplace offers a free gym membership, I really have no excuse. Plus, the gym is IN THE BUILDING. So I don’t even have to get back in the car and drive anywhere. How easy is that? I’m going to give it another shot.
The other day, I had my tour and was given a program to start with, one that is super easy and gets me in and out of the gym in under an hour. Once I’m in the groove on this core workout, I can add a few more machines.
Back when I worked out the first time, I read up on different philosophies of weight training and decided that the Nautilus system was for me. Hence I focus on high weight, low number of sets (just two). I take on the weight at which I can handle six reps. I try to increase that to twelve reps over the next few workouts. Once I am doing two sets of twelve reps with ease, I up the weight. In this way you can build muscle without spending a lot of time on each workout. Well, it worked before. I had hard abs (hiding under a layer of baby fat, mind you) and Michelle Obama triceps. I could see them in my wedding photo where I’m wearing a sleeveless 1920s style dress. Beautiful arms!
So today was my second workout. I was amazed at how different my entire day felt after having begun it with a visit to the gym. I felt energized and was so productive for the rest of the day.
My next project is to return to good eating habits. Shopping was really fun today, though admittedly a bit expensive. But can you really justify pinching pennies when it comes to your health? I figure that since healthcare is free in this country, the least I can do is invest some dough in preventative care. I got hemp hearts, ground flax seeds, quinoa, red chard, rolled oats, broccoli, salmon, plain yogourt, lemons for the salmon, avocados, free range organic brown eggs, and coconut oil. Already in my house are Ontario apples, raisins, raw almonds, celery, sweet potatoes (thank you, Olivia, for this recommendation; I love them!), brown rice, olive oil, frozen berries, garlic, and other healthful goodies.
In my house now there are no processed foods and almost no products containing sugar–just a few salad dressings that do, and I use those VERY sparingly. Mostly now I emulsify my own dressing from oil, vinegar, and a pinch of herbs and spices.
The whole day has been extra shiny. I’ve been singing more loudly along with my Eddie Vedder CD, was humming and smiling while I swept and washed the deck.
The weather was warm enough for me to leave the door open for short periods. I spent the latter part of the day working on lesson plans for the coming week while watching the squirrels just outside my window fighting over the peanuts. Gulls were swooping down to get fish from the river. The Kingfisher was rattling away. Song Sparrows were singing to announce their nesting territories for the new spring. A pair of cardinals came to the shallow dish where I had spread mixed seed and cracked corn.
Indeed, life is good.
I have a student who might possibly LIKE me. He’s a lot older than I am and happily married, so I think it’s just a harmless crush. He’s a very well read, cultured, analytical thinker who loves to explore current events, history, the workings of government, etc. He certainly seems to love class.
I have a habit, as many teachers do, of leaving my classroom and cabinet keys in my mailbox each day at 3:00 so that if I’m ever sick and have to call a supply teacher to cover my next morning’s class, she or he will be able to take the keys from my box and have access to my hole punch, stapler and dry erase markers.
Tuesday, I did what I RARELY do: forgot to leave the keys at school. I said to myself, halfway to my car, “It’s okay; I’m never sick.”
So naturally I woke up sick the next morning. Well, not really sick. I had consumed some Chinese herbal medicinal tea the night before without reading carefully what it was for or how it acted on the body. It was a laxative…ha! Having that in the house was the result of my forgetting mainstream stores would be closed Sunday, which landed me at a Vietnamese food market on Sunday trying to satisfy a craving for fruits and veggies as well as stock my pantry for the week. The herbal tea was an impulse purchase.
This whole long and winding story has little to do with anything. It’s just background. I recovered by noon and was able to teach my afternoon class. That evening I got a nice email from the student who is so attentive saying he hoped I felt better soon and that he had missed my “contagious verve.” That comment landed on me so nicely, I’ve been repeating it to myself ever since.
One thing my client and I did talk about yesterday was how my dating was going. I told her that he was setting a very slow pace for us, which was good for me because I tend to be impulsive, which hasn’t necessarily always served me well in the past. I told her I found it a bit confounding, though, not knowing whether this slow pace was due to timidity and awkwardness with women on his part, or whether he just wasn’t that into me. She said, “Maybe he doesn’t know yet how he feels about you.”
And that, I learned today, was the case. He was doing what I imagine most normal people do… taking the chemistry for a good long test drive, seeing how it felt to be together in a number of settings, before committing to something like …dear me… a good night kiss.
We won’t be seeing one another again; we’ve wished each other well.
I am so very, very glad that I didn’t cave into my initial temptation to cancel our first date. I’ll admit it: I was feeling intimidated by his looks. In fact, his physicality was distracting to me for periods of time during that first date, to the point where I actually spaced out and didn’t hear some things he said!
I’m thankful to Olivia for helping me get into a frame of mind that allowed me to walk into that cafe in the first place, and I’m thankful to my mom for coaching me through the hour or two I spent thinking about canceling the first meeting. I am even thankful to R (Bachelor #3), as he also cheered me on and told me to go into that cafe with my head held high, then to relax and be myself. I’d be fine, he said.
I’m so glad I stretched WAY outside my usual comfort zone. I did indeed hold my head high. I did mostly relax. I wasn’t totally myself, though, LOL. I caught myself trying a bit too hard to impress and then had to talk myself back to ME.
Fairly good Buddhist that I am, I observed myself over the past three plus weeks. I dropped two pant sizes in less than a month. Sooooo…. all this time I’ve had within me the power to start eating well again, but couldn’t find the motivation without a hot date? Hmmmm. That’s interesting. So someone else can inspire me to try to be the best I can be (physically), but I can’t give that motivation to myself from within…when nobody else is watching???
All interesting stuff. Juicy material for reflection.
Yes, I am dating.
I used a popular dating site on the Internet. After a few weeks of seeing the type of man who responds to my profile, I was thinking it’s pretty slim pickings here in Windsor. I have to say, though, that I have some rather weird deal breakers. If a guy isn’t smiling in any photo, I pass. If he still has the cheesy moustache he had in the 70s, I pass. If he can’t spell or correctly punctuate the text in his profile, I move on to the next one.
So for a few weeks there were no instances in which a guy I found interesting was also interested in me.
But you know what they say… when it rains, it pours. Right after my session with Olivia, there were suddenly and simultaneously THREE guys who were both interested in me and interesting to me. I’m calling them bachelor #1, bachelor #2 and bachelor #3.
#1 – (G) Handsome, very tall with average build, good job, kids moved out.
#2 – (M) Smokin’ hot, tall, athletic build, good job, kids moved out.
#3 – (R) Handsome, husky build, good job, no kids, and shares my MAIN HOBBY!!!!
All of these guys communicated with me about the same time, though the suggestion to meet came at different points for #1 and #2.
I then took down my profile before anymore attractive, well-employed guys came through the woodwork.
G and I exchanged a few emails. He suggested a coffee date. We met at Starbucks and the next two hours really flew by. It had gone well and when he suggested we do it again, I agreed. When I got home from that date, I had a message from M suggesting a meeting. I agreed. I then immediately emailed G to let him know that I had the “test the chemistry” date with M. I told him I definitely don’t date more than one guy at a time, but in this case it was going to take me a week, no longer, to test chemistry with three people. I didn’t know how else to do it. He said he understood. “You’re an attractive woman with a nice personality. You’re going to get a lot of attention on that site. You’re exploring your options. Understandable. But I have been in this position before and don’t want to be an option.” I told him I totally understood and wished him luck. I was not about to cancel my coffee date with M.
I told #3 (R) about my upcoming coffee date with M. He wished me luck and didn’t seem at all perturbed by the process I was going through to figure things out.
So I met M at a cafe and we had a very nice time over smoothies and ending with a long walk in the snow. He expressed a wish to see me again. (!!!)
So when I got home, I emailed R to let him know I would not be having coffee with him for the foreseeable future, as it had gone well and I wanted to see if it would continue to go well with M. He was very nice about it.
Date #2 with M was fun, as well. After an hour at Colasanti’s, we went birding briefly and he was a real trooper considering that this hobby of mine can be rather slow and boring for the uninitiated. We had dinner at a very nice Italian place and ended the date after that in the parking lot where our cars were parked.
Easter and the accompanying family gathering interrupted the once a week flow we were getting into, so he offered to meet me for lunch this week, which was today. We are both phonophobes, so a quick face-to-face meeting served to break up a two-week period with no contact other than emails.
That’s it for now. This Saturday is my turn to treat.
I finally got news the other day regarding what is up with our jobs. Mine is not changing at all, thank goodness. I am quite relieved. When I first got my foot in the door at this great not-for-profit, I was determined not to take it out. I didn’t care if I had to clean the toilets, I was not going away. I also knew it might be five or ten years before a teacher retired, but I was in it for the long haul. I could T.A. until that time, picking up supply hours whenever a teacher was sick. That’s how hard it can be to break into teaching and land one of the much coveted positions. I was prepared for the wait.
Then I got the morning class (special age-related demographic), and continued to T.A. in the afternoons. And then–recently–the teacher of an afternoon class moved on and I interviewed for that and got it. That’s the one where I get to teach refugees how to read and write. It is a BLAST. I just can’t describe how this class jazzes me. I’m doing so many things with them that no teacher has ever done with them before. (I will give you a peek soon.)
With the recent end of our contract year with the funder, I was led to believe I might have to choose between my afternoon class and continuing as a teacher full time. That is to say, I might have been forced to teach something different in the afternoons, something that didn’t really appeal to me. But now that the dust has settled, I know that’s not in the works. Whew!
The good news is that our centre didn’t lose any class that wasn’t replaced by another, plus we gained a half-day. So nobody lost a job and one person (my replacement T.A.) probably gets to start teaching half days. That opens up some T.A. hours for someone new, someone out there in Windsor looking for his or her first job in the field.
I’m thinking back to when I first came back from Toronto–from getting certified–and asked each of the centres’ coordinators in this city for a tour of their program. One never answered my email. Of the remaining four, I didn’t have a very good energy or chemistry match with three of the coordinators. My first choice for employment was where I am now.
When they first hired me, it was just for four hours a week… a lunch hour pronunciation class…an experiment of sorts. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before our government funder cut it. At that point, I had other teachers saying to me, “You should apply at so-and-so college,” or “I can probably put in a good word for you at such-and-such school.”
I told them not to bother. I told them I had landed where I was supposed to be and that was that. They were surprised. One woman would not quit telling me I’d be “a good fit” at another school. I wouldn’t listen at all. In spite of not having any hours beyond supply T.A. and supply teacher off and on, I wasn’t budging. I knew what I knew.
Now that I’ve got a full load at the agency of my choice, it feels like I’m now reaping the benefits of having pledged my loyalty to this organization.
I was looking back through old blog posts the other day and was astounded by how prolific I used to be. I was in the habit, in the beginning, of writing monster posts. I took lots of pictures. I interviewed people on the streets and did restaurant reviews. I still take photos when I try a new restaurant, but somehow no longer have the motivation for the follow-through.
Another thing that struck me about these early posts was the fact that negativity sometimes surfaced. I could gripe from time to time. It’s wonderful to be able to see that in just five or six short years, I’m no longer the person I was. The Complaint-free challenge really did stick. Taking up meditation and mindfulness practice truly has changed me. It’s not that I never complain or whine anymore. I still do sometimes. But I no longer want to write a blog post about the gripe or even include that complaint in passing. I just like to recognize that I’ve slipped into that mindset and then get back on track, back to my movie where I can just change the script instead of whinging.
I can also see the impact that ACIM has had on my life, my mindset, my perspective.
I wonder sometimes if I should just shut down the blog. I’m tempted just to delete the entire thing, much like Tibetan monks will wipe away a sand mandala that it has taken days to painstakingly create.
I probably am not ready for that drastic a move. I’ll just let this phase run its course and see what happens. I am interested in taking some creative writing courses, or at the very least reading Writing Down the Bones, which I started ages ago and put down. It feels difficult for me to focus on that while teaching my classes. I pour A LOT of energy into my class prep. So maybe this summer when we have two months off, I’ll get back into writing.
In the meantime, I just have small updates… which I’ll put on the next post.
Thanks to my happening to be in the car yesterday just as a story was airing on This American Life about it, I learned a name for a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing since I was a young child.
My first and very lasting memory of it goes back to a summer day when I was in first grade in Fresno, California:
All of us are seated in our little desk-chair combos working on something. The classroom door is open. It must be about 76 Fahrenheit out and mostly sunny. I can see tree branches blowing softly in the light breeze. I can still see the blue blue of the sky, the green green of the leaves.
My workbook is open in front of me, but I can’t concentrate on what it is I should be doing. No. A child about two seats behind me is working on something and is moving his or her pencil mechanically, repetitively across the paper. The sound of it has lulled me quite instantly into a trance state. It’s a very pleasant feeling of utter tranquility. I want to stay in that state forever. I set my pencil down, not caring if the teacher catches me and punishes me for slacking. I just want that feeling to last.
I don’t get triggered very often, though a pedicure or haircut will do it, especially with an experienced stylist who knows to shut up or talk very softly to me while I listen to the snip, snip of the scissors.
Now I know this response has a name: autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). I’ve just subscribed to Ilse’s YouTube channel. I especially like the video where she scratches in a plate of sand, and the one in which she brushes her hand with a make-up brush.
I am grateful to Suki for her points and want to answer them. She wrote, as a comment on my last post:
you have a lot of self control. On the other hand, what is infatuation for but to daydream about possible scenaros once in awhile. it seems pretty natural and normal to me as long as one doesnt believe these scenarios and knows they are just daydreams and out of the ground of the present moment. there is some pleasure in such things.
This can be very true for another person, but it isn’t fitting for me.
The first point I want to answer is about my self control. Actually, I don’t have a lot. That is why I need Buddhism. Ha! I am very quick to let infatuation turn to obsession and am also quick to lose myself in the confusion. I have done this over and over in relationships with men. I don’t know how, really, to indulge in a harmless little bit, knowing it is just fantasy. I go in all the way or not at all. I do not know the scenarios are just daydreams. They begin to render me helpless. They trigger fear, longing, sadness, distraction, despair, euphoria, confusion, imbalance…
Another point is that in my Buddhist practice, any time I give in to a temptation to escape the present moment, I am reinforcing neural pathways that I don’t wish to strengthen in the long run. Practicing is hard work. You have to stay vigilant and remember which neural pathways / habits you are trying to extinguish and which muscles in the mind you are always trying to build up and make stronger. I am always trying to build the one that makes me able to choose where to direct my attention, and where I always want to be able to bring my attention is back to the Holy Now.
I want to be the captain of my mind. I don’t want Monkey Mind to be able to hijack my thinking whenever it has a whim. I want a choice in the matter in everyday things and at that most important eventual moment: when death is imminent. This takes a lifetime of committed practice, but it pays off. I’ve been at it ten or more years and am reaping incredible benefits now on a daily basis.
I feel better (about life, about me, about him, about us) when I do not indulge in the fantasies but keep myself planted in the gorgeous present moment. After all, this is where precious life happens. Why would I want to escape it even for two seconds? The future will come when it comes, and it will be 1000 times more wonderful than any fantasy, because when it arrives it will be the real thing. I am in love with this practice.
After I had thought about my response to this comment, I happened to open my iPhone and go into my work email, which is where I have delivery of a daily Dharma email from Shambhala Sun. I had not yet seen yesterday’s, which reads:
CONFUSION MAY SEEM LUXURIOUS
Basically we are trying to put a stop to frivolity of any kind. Frivolity is an interesting word. It can mean being crazy and indulging unnecessarily in a very crude fashion, but it could also mean indulging in something in the name of humor and overdoing it slightly. If you are embarrassed to deal with a particular subject, you find another subject to discuss. If you are tired of drinking vodka, you switch to sake. If you are bored with talking to one person, you switch to somebody else. Frivolity is anything that creates further confusion, or the longing for further confusion. Confusion may seem luxurious: when you no longer have it, you begin to miss that confusion, and you would like to re-create it. It is like going back to an adult bookshop and getting more magazines. But with discipline, you control any form of potential escape from reality.
The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma. Volume Two: The Bodhisattva Path of Wisdom and Compassion, by Chögyam Trungpa, page 218.
Teachings excerpted from works published by Shambhala
Publications and Snow Lion Publications.
Meditation becomes especially important now.
Everyone knows what infatuation feels like. I spend a lot of time engaged with Monkey Mind. I do, that is, if I allow it. Or I can pull myself back to the one precious present moment. I can centre once again on the breath. I can find teachings to help me, such as this one. I appreciate very much what that blogger is getting at.
It’s relatively easy for me to remember that happiness doesn’t come with more money. I taught myself a while ago the folly of “when” and “if” thinking when it comes to happiness. Some people spend their whole lives thinking they’ll be happy after they get that promotion, after the credit card is paid down, after the kid moves out, after they lose that weight, …
It can be harder for me to remember the same lesson when it comes to another person, especially in the early stages of getting acquainted. But happiness, as the article explains, does not come from an object or person outside of us. It comes from the mind.
I’m finding it very challenging not to spend a lot of time projecting, a lot of time fantasizing about that thing we mistake for something real: the so-called future. Like all challenging situations, then, it becomes juicy material for my practice.
This morning I sat on the edge of the tub with water droplets evaporating from my clean skin and assumed a good straight posture for meditation. Feet flat on the floor. Spine straight. Why not now? Why not here? One hundred in breaths, one hundred out breaths. It didn’t take much longer than I normally spend at one or two stop lights on the way to work. Anyone can carve out that much time from the beginning of their day to get grounded.
It helped. I feel calm now. Monkey mind is still playing around, but now it feels more like he’s way off in a back room of the house where I occasionally still hear his voice, but no longer up in my face begging for attention at every turn like a whiny, bored toddler.
This is a good thing.