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Posts from March 2009

Highlights of a Weekend in New York

The drive from Northern Virginia to Long Island (east of New York City) should be five to six hours. My younger daughter and I got onto the highway (495) at 4:22, after stopping at the store for essentials (aka junk food, but we did each get an apple, too), getting gas and returning a book to the library. The easy, breezy longish trip that should have gotten us into my brother’s house at around nine ended up becoming a trip to see how long we could be delayed in traffic in Maryland and Delaware. Delaware may be one of the smallest states in the Union but it sure didn’t feel that way as the hours ticked by. But we were both in good moods the entire time. This proved that, indeed, the journey is the key part of a trip. Or, if you’re going to get stuck in traffic don’t go with your extremely impatient child. We didn’t rouse my brother from his slumber on his LaZBoy until 1:30.

On Saturday I took my daughter to her camp friend’s Bat Mitzvah, and then I was independent until Sunday morning since the invite ended up including much hang-out time, including a sleepover at a hotel after the big party at a country club.

I was off to Manhattan to meet a friend. The rain cleared for what would be a glorious spring day. I was in the mood to walk (as I always am when I am in Manhattan). So I walked from Penn Station at 34th Street and 7th Avenue to 54th and Fifth Avenue where we were to meet, in front of Tiffany’s. While I waited for her I watched as countless tourists took pictures in front of the Trump building or the Tiffany’s sign, while others came out of Tiffany’s with their little TIffany blue bags. Me, I leaned against a planter and watched the river of people walk by.

As usual, I’m thinking that all or a part of my wardrobe is lacking. So while I’m thinking that I should have waited to buy more attractive walking shoes my friend comes up and greets me, telling me how great I look and how my red jacket looks so nice. Her, I haven’t seen her for at least six months and I was surprised and saddened by how drawn and drained she looked. She’s been trying to find a job in New York for a while but has only managed to land temporary things here and there, and it seems that even temp jobs have completely dried up in New York.

We walked up Fifth Avenue on the Central Park side to the Metropolitan Museum. Instead of going in and looking at the artwork (which we did last time), she used the restroom and then we walked and talked our way across a very crowded Central Park. We were on the search for Thai or Chinese food, but we could find neither. We walked from the park to Amsterdam Avenue to Columbus Avenue and then down from 84th Street to 72nd Street to find a Chinese restaurant. Not only was I surprised by the lack of expected diversity of restaurants, I was surprised by how many closed stores there were; although, the pizza places seemed to still be intact.

After lunch I headed back to Penn Station. I should have taken the subway, but I was in push-yourself mode, so I walked back down to 34th Street. At one point I was glad that New York didn’t have the muggings it used to have, since I didn’t think that I would have the energy to fight someone off.

Continue reading "Highlights of a Weekend in New York" »

It's My Birthday

It's my birthday. I am 48 today. Last year on my birthday I was in New York with my family celebrating my nephew's Bar Mitzvah. This year my daughter had a friend's Bat Mitzvah on Long Island on the 28th so I decided that this year, too, I will spend my birthday amidst friends and family in New York.  Well, they're not so much celebrating my birthday as enabling me to celebrate mine with people who I love and who love me. You know, the way a birthday should be spent.

I just hope there won't be a lot of traffic on the drive back to Virginia. If there is, I can just put it down to symbolism. That I am meant to stay embraced by those who care rather than thrust into a situation that just brings me down and makes me feel alone. BACK TO BIRTHDAY THOUGHTS.

To all those who share a birthday with me, especially my college friend Cindy Kane--wherever you may be, may your candle wish come true.

Looking for Love Online: Twists and Turns

For a while I had a profile up on and, since you can have a profile up for free. I had told myself that when I move out of the house I will pay, which means that you could actually make contact with someone and he can contact you, and not just dangle there in dating cyberspace. But for the past few weeks there had been so many nudges (okay, a few, or more than none) (that’s their term for someone who may be interested in you) from men on Chemistry, that I decided to splurge and pay for the three-month membership ($99). I figured that before I give up on finding a man who might be good for me I should expand beyond Craig’s List.

Wouldn’t you know it, but the minute the credit card numbers were sucked in and recorded no one has found me of interest again. And even those who had previously been nudging me were no longer nudging me back when I nudged them back. And those who I, in my forward woman of the modern world guise, nudged did nothing. Sure, most of the men probably haven’t paid their membership either, but what the heck. Maybe this is the Ponzi scheme of the dating world. I have a friend who told me that some sites will send you a picture of an extremely attractive man who wants to meet you to entice you to sign up.

And, indeed, that happened to me in the summer. But they did not trick me, because it happened within my free three-day membership. Yes, he was an attractive and very successful writer and screenwriter; although, the polo-playing was a bit over-the-top and I should have seen the set-up for what it was. Resist I couldn’t. So I responded to said polo playing writer only to have him disappear from view after I responded to his message or comment or love message or whatever the heck it is that they call it.

But back to now. For one week I was checking out men (you get five new matches a day) and putting them in my active matches file and archiving the men who just did not seem that they would be good matches. (For your information, I deleted on the basis of politics, appearance, lack of perceived compatibility in their “mission” statement, and religion if they didn’t even mark Jewish as an option for the woman of their life. And if I hedged, I archived them, figuring that I should see that as intuition to no.)

Combating the negativity that was surrounding me I decided (still being a woman of action and decision, not wanting to be passive) to return to Craig’s List. Yes, I know, what am I thinking? This time I was posting my own ad (I have done this a couple of times in the past and met some friend-quality men). The following is the ad I posted on Saturday night:

Words, laughter, smiles, and lots of walks - 47
The seasons seem to be unsure if it's time to switch, but I'm sure that it's time to switch from being single to being in a relationship.

Sincerity and compassion, as well as the ability to use a comma and an apostrophe correctly, are all things I desire in a man. Anything else? That the as-yet unmet man has a shoulder to lean on and knows when he needs to lean on someone else's shoulder.

Except for a few one-sentence replies that seemed to be the extent of their writing ability and the one man who sent the link to his own ad which ended up being a picture of him and his thingie in a very excited state in his boxers, most seemed to live up to the basic writing requirement. There was one gentleman who commented on two errors in the ad (I have corrected them here), so maybe I was a slacker for him. Two of the automatic deletes included a two-page response about himself and a cut and paste version of his ad (what, don’t I deserve some creativity?).

I shall admit in this public forum that there was a bit of back and forth (okay one email) that was ended when the gentlemen saw my picture. What is particularly upsetting about this is that in each case I said, “he’s not attractive, or he looks really old, or he looks really weird, or he has a huge chin, but maybe he is nice and we will click so I will respond with my photo” only to have me deleted by said undesirable.

By Sunday morning, when no responses came from the photo-guys, I figured that nothing was going to happen. So I went over to the Men Looking for Women section and responded to one ad. No response came from him. Luckily Sunday was spent grading papers, recuperating from the Saturday round of insults from slime, and being out of the house for yet another Open House so I had other things to think of besides cyber rejection.

Then Sunday evening came. And the man whose ad I answered responded to me that he had saved the best response for last—mine. And then a man who answered my ad piqued my interest and I piqued his interest. And to this day (a whole four days later) I am in email contact with both of said gentlemen. One man has seen my picture and has not voted me off his slender island (or is it the straight hair island?); the other man, let’s just say that we are exposing our minds to each other at this point and not our personages. Both appear to be intelligent and witty, or at least they appreciate my wit, and are intrigued by me.

I am trying not to imagine a scenario whereby I have met two men at the same time who I click with until I at least meet them. And since in the past whenever I was worried about getting two of something, I end up getting none—like in job offers—so I shall not worry. I shall continue with each gentleman in our repartee and see what happens.
Ah, the twisted turn of fate. Or at least a breather from all of the rejection.

* * *
It seems that I am not allowed to luxuriate for too long. I had a phone conversation with one man last night and it did not, in any way, replicate the easy interaction and charm of the emails, nor was it a conversation that effortlessly flowed. No, I needed to put my thinking cap on and ask questions to keep the talk going. And he did not send me an email this morning about how great it was to talk, as seems to be the norm. An email came in the early afternoon. I will not make a judgment until (if?) a meeting occurs.

The other man, the one who answered my ad, is sticking to a “go slow” method of emailing, keeping them to one a day, where each is almost an epistle (mine and his).

Life's Layers

The other day I started thinking of a different way to think of life, that life is not a series of steps that an individual takes in his or her life where each step leads one away from one’s previous steps. Instead, each series of steps is layered over those series of steps that came before it. Because, really, we do not walk away from our actions and our words, rather we build on them.  We are not going forward, because that would make the past as if non-existent, rather each experience is added onto those that came before it to create a layered life—a deeper life with more dimensions (layers). You may not remember previous layers, but that does not mean that they are not there.

I Have Nothing to Wear: Jewelry Department

There may be toxic assets out there poisoning the financial system, but I have toxic assets of my own that are bothering my system. Those poisonous assets would be my jewelry. It’s not as if I have a lot, but most of what I have has been tainted because they were bought with exman. No matter how beautiful something is, or how much it might suit what I am wearing, there is just no way that I am going to put on anything from our time together. Even if I didn’t pick it out with him... wait... no, there is no jewelry from that time that we didn’t pick out together. A sign. Yet another sign. Or is it a sign that we never had much money? Or that I didn’t spend money on myself?

The one piece that I really love is a diamond ring that we bought. It was after he had been a lawyer for about a year. It was a beautiful ring with ruby baguettes on the side of a round diamond. We loved the ring but couldn’t afford it with the diamond so we bought it with a zircon. A few years later he surprised me by buying a real diamond from a friend of his. (For all those not in the know, there is a very big diamond exchange in Tel Aviv.) That is a loved piece of jewelry. I think that I might even wear it in the future, when I am out of this house and the heat of hurt.

The few necklaces and bracelets and earrings that I have are history. I don’t want to recall the trip to the village in the north or the birthday or anything like that. Those assets shall be saved for the girls. The horrible platinum and diamond ring that he gave me for my 40th birthday I am still deciding what to do with. This ring is symbolic of the turn from my compliance to my non-compliance. This is a man, shocker here, who was never satisfied with a gift. (Did I tell you about the time I got him kayak lessons only for him to ALMOST drown when he overturned his kayak and got stuck in it? No comment.) So when I told him that I didn’t really like the ring—as he had done countless times in words or actions to countless gifts from countless people—he almost lost it. Lost it in the sense that he was so hurt, hurt in his big little ego. I told him I would reconsider. In the end, I said, yes, it is lovely and I will keep it. That was the second-to-last time I bent to accommodate him—wanting to accommodate him. (The last time was when we went to marriage counseling because I was already too broken in the marriage, I knew that it could not work, but I did it hoping to ease him into the reality of divorce.) Maybe I’ll sell it and donate the proceeds to a woman’s shelter.

Over the years since the divorce I have gotten some small things for myself, but nothing that became a layer over the old stuff. So when my temple announced that it was having its second annual arts and crafts fair with artists from Israel I knew that that was where I could find a necklace that would leapfrog past the old necklaces. And so, on a Sunday a few weeks ago I searched for a necklace that would be my Israeli necklace that would connect me back to Israel but without exman’s shadow.

I bought a silver necklace with pearls, clear beads, and a silver pendant. It is now the necklace that I can finger as part of my fidgeting repertoire. The pendant has a habit of twirling around, and I now have the habit of touching it to see if it is in place. I have a necklace now with which I interact reminding me, perhaps, that things and people need to be attended to and not taken for granted. Most importantly, oneself.

Trying to Make Lemonade

Saturday morning exman kept yelling at me and shoving his little tape recorder friend and his middle finger in my face while scowling at me that I am breaking a court order because I have brought in a handyman to do repairs without his approval. Then, he went to calling me balloon balloon balloon and that I finally look the way I am inside. He said this while a couple of the handymen were in the house, as well as older daughter.

When I told older daughter that I need to get out of the house she asked me why? Are you kidding? I just laughed back at her and she laughed back at me and nodded her head. I asked her if she wants to come, but she said no.

On my retreat from the house a minute later she texted me that she wants to get out too, and where am I going.

To get out of the garage an assistant handyman had to hold up the garage door because they were fixing it. Trying not to knock him over I ended up knocking over the paint container that he didn't move over enough. It ended up splashing my silver car with white paint. The chief handyman called me Madam and said that they would clean it, that it was acylic paint, not to worry.

There I stood, on the lawn facing away from the house, as I cried while a few men cleaned my car.

It was so much nicer to be called Madam than that other thing that stupid exman called me. 

Daughter didn't come with me, she didn't like my option of just going to sit somewhere.

Out of that house. Courteous greeting. Lemonade to me.

Later, I got a pitcherful of lemonade. Both daughters went out for a late lunch with me. How wonderful. We sat, we talked, we ate, we laughed, they ribbed each other and they even said thank you, as did I. How sweet a glass of lemonade can be.  

Sights around DC

On Friday afternoon, on my way to drop off my case files to my new lawyer, I had to take a big detour to my previous lawyer’s office because he forgot to give me all of the files when I went there the day before, I realized that I forgot my cell phone at school. I had to go back, since it’s my only phone, as in I don’t have a landline.

On my way back out again I spoke to both of my daughters since both of them wanted me—in similar but conflicting ways. Older daughter wanted me for my car so she could hang out with a friend. Younger daughter wanted me as a driver to pick up her and her friend from their Friday night movie and hanging out. I managed to reconcile both of their demands, satisfying both of them, but not enough to make them feel that it was a win-win situation (which they probably didn’t want anyway), and not enough for me to feel successful and skillful.

On my way from old lawyer’s office I discovered that the directions that I printed off from Google Map were very precise, except the name of a street seemed to have been changed from the minute I printed out the directions two hours before to then. But I managed to figure out THEIR mistake and find my way to the road I needed, a feat I was very proud of. Just as I realized that I had made it and it was smooth sailing to new lawyer’s office, I looked to my right and saw the Iwo Jima Memorial looming very, very large. Through the trees I could make out the huge statue and I even managed a bit of rubber-necking to look at it from different angles.

As I drove along the George Washington Parkway I also passed and saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Monument. I even saw some cherry blossom trees already blossoming in preparation for the Cherry Blossom Festival that starts next weekend. There’s something special about living near important sites or monuments that makes you feel a sense of pride for nothing other than having that thing or place in your life. Its proximity somehow embraces you and raises you up ever so slightly from the doldrums of your life and puts you, even momentarily, into an historical perspective. 

Are there places where you live that make you feel a part of history?

Observations from a Kindergarten Classroom

On Sunday morning I had the pleasure to substitute teach a kindergarten class at my synagogue. In “regular” school I teach 9th grade, and in religious school at the synagogue I teach 7th grade and 3rd grade, so this was quite an age difference, but not as many significant differences as I had expected.

Crying: This is one that is different, but not too different. I have not had to face a child clinging to her father that she wants mommy before coming into class tearfully, but I have had to deal with tears in class. As much as she clung to him and as much as I sweetly sweet talked her into the class with the temptation of drawing pictures, I must say that I was shocked by how quickly she forgot all the turmoil and became a calm, attentive little girl. I know they tell us that they forget us quickly when we drop them off, but I never saw it from that angle before. 

In the past year I have had two “big” girls cry in class. One girl cried because kids said something hurtful to her while they were in the hall working on a project and another after a confrontation in the cafeteria with another student. Teen teasing really does bring the maturity level down, or maybe keeps it at kid level, which we try to forget that they are. Although I didn’t see teasing with the little ones, I could see the potential.

There was more crying in the past year. I had a third grader cry when he couldn’t do an in-class assignment. And me, I cried in class last year when I read an email from my lawyer about another court delay. I yelled out “Oh No!” and turned around to face the board so my students wouldn’t see that they in control lady had lost the control. Maybe we all cried for different reasons, but it certainly was a needed release. The tension of being in a small room with twenty five other people and their egos and “issues” really has potential for more problems than arise. Perhaps we are at the core compassionate.

Storytime: There was one big-time difference during story time. I have never had a student climb over me as if I were a piece of playground equipment as one of the girls did. It was fascinating to watch as they sat in a circle for story time. Initially, only one boy was sure enough of me to sit really close, but by the time we got to the middle of the story, I had to shoo them off so that I could turn the page. It was like a huddle around a trusted leader and not a tentative group of kids around the new teacher.

Right in the middle of me feeling so confident in my role, one of the girls started crying quietly that she wants her mommy. She put her head down and let her hair cover her face until she was ready to rejoin the group. I don’t know what triggered her, but their inability to hide what they’re feeling and thinking made me realize that being a child is certainly not easy. It really is finding your way without a compass, because parents are their compasses and what are they when they leave us, even for two hours, at that age.

Slavery:  My assignment was to read a Passover story and talk about it with the students. Could someone explain to me how a kindergartener knows about slavery? There was a girl there who started talking about how black people were brought from Africa and were forced to work for white people in America and how bad that was. Unbelievable. I was impressed that she knew that, but wondered if it was perhaps too much to know at that age. Do five year olds have to have the weight of morality on their shoulders?

Script: How is it that kindergarteners can write their names in script? The students needed to write their names on their drawings of Pharaoh in Egypt, while some barely got sort-of letters on the page, others were scripting away. I’m not sure if this is a sign of small motor abilities, intelligence, or the sign of pushy parents, but really, script at five?

Snack: Oh the joys of snack time. We had challah, juice and graham crackers. This was toward the end of a two-hour class. Apparently two hours without food counts as fasting. Seriously, they can’t wait? Do we really have to keep reminding kids to eat? Wouldn’t less snack time and less snacking be better—for them and us?

Joy. When they were full of energy and I could tell that they could not be shushed successfully and seeing no need to quiet them down and get back to task, I just went with the flow of their energy. I didn’t have to force them to sit and do the work, no, the work became a reflection of their energy. I had them channel that energy and re-enact nine of the ten plagues (I thought the tenth plague of death to the first-born Egyptian son was unseemly). They quite enjoyed being bugs, frogs, wild beasts, people being hit by hailstones, and having a bad case of the itches and being caught in the dark. It was wonderful to see them unbridled.

While I found the mental stimulation not quite what I need on an on-going basis, it was surely a joy to direct children a little as opposed to being a constant dictator. There surely must be some take-away lesson for me here to bring to my big kid classroom. Could it be that I should let their energy flow more? Maybe I should worry less about the wasted minute getting them to be quiet between tasks and see it as their big kid way to release and use some of the energy that is stored in them. Maybe another plague is not letting kids be kids—sometimes, even when they are in high school.

What’s with this hair on my chin?

The other day I noticed that one of my male students has a single hair growing from his chin. It was about a half an inch in length, and it was all by itself, hanging there in the breeze. It was so hard not to keep staring at it. At the end of class his two “best” friends teased him about his chin hair and how he only has one and he should cut it off. But he was not parting from his chin hair. He was a man with that, his first chin hair.

So what have I become now that I need to trim the chin? Out of all the developments my body has undertaken since the forty-threshold has been crossed the chin hair one is the worst for me. I am not supposed to have anything more than blond fuzz growing on my chin. What the heck? as my younger daughter would say.

It’s so humiliating to have chin hairs. With those chin hairs I remember what it was like to feel that the entire world was staring at the most gigantic pimple that was at the center of my forehead. I know that I am not the most feminine of women (to me that means that I haven’t bought into the whole cosmetic-fashion-industrial complex), but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be attractive, to be a woman. It doesn’t matter whose terms I’m going by, the chin hairs invade my sense of self in such a horrible way. Chin hairs are to my face what kudzu is to the landscape at the side of the expressway, any expressway.

Ugh. Laser them out. No. I am fearful of all optional procedures. I am not a hypochondriac but I am a medical pessimist, scared that I will be the statistic that is used to show how infrequently a procedure goes awry with me representing the awry part. Besides, I like the fuzz part, just not the hair part.

Have I become one of those women who you want to take out to a dark alley and thrust a tweezer in her face menacingly? “Lady, either you pluck them out or I will.”

Even when I do pluck, I always miss a few hairs. Or do they grow so quickly that I can never keep up with them? I need to go to the store and invest in a few tweezers: for the car, school, and my pocketbook so that I can pluck as soon as an unwelcome hair is detected, wherever I may be. So I guess that means that I will be the ladyless lady who you just may see plucking out chin hairs in her car while stopped at a traffic light.

Note: In this diatribe I have totally ignored the little side of the mouth hairs that are growing in too dark. They hurt so much to pluck that I prefer to pretend that only I can see them.

Getting Up-to-Date

A coincidence, times two. I went to the neighborhood supermarket yesterday and who do I see? My realtor, the very woman I said to myself as I got into my car to drive to the supermarket that I need to speak to. So I did. A few aisles later I looked up from my perusals and there was the previous realtor. I saw him see me and then turn and walk away from the aisle I had apparently made poisonous. We changed realtors because he didn’t sell the house. But honestly, he could never get exman to agree to change the price and so the house never sold because it was priced too high because these realtors are all optimists. And they listened to exman’s analysis as if he knows anything about real estate. Now, well, now the newest realtor is facing his obstinacy and delaying tactics, and has started singing the same “but exman thinks this and exman thinks that” bullshit that has led me further into this tunnel with a light somewhere, very, very far away.

Speaking of home repairs. The newest realtor is now dealing with exman who will not commit to doing any repairs and whining about the ones that she suggests be done. We are both committed to spending $1,000 each on the repairs and so far we have only spent $300 between the two of us. All of a sudden he’s saying the condenser repair that we did a couple of months ago should be included in that. And he’s always too busy to get back to the realtor about which repairs he will pay for, and he is remarking that much of it doesn’t need to be done, we should just wait for the right buyer who will buy the house without those repairs. Stupid little man—have you not noticed that that strategy has not worked for almost two years! But me, I’ve had it. I told the realtor to go ahead with the repairs I told her I would pay for and I had her relay that information to him. Get the handyman was my big message at the supermarket meeting. Enough already. No one wants to do your dishes anymore and no one wants to smell the food you make.

And on the topic of men who are not really men at all. On Tuesday pseudo-man sent me an email after more than a month of silence; a silence which I expected to last forever. And now that I am a woman who is acting on her instincts and one who is also not so desperate for sex and to be called “babe,” I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just not answer him. There’s no law that requires that I respond to someone’s email, especially if my INSTINCT tells me not to.

And more lesser men. In an email to a friend I remarked that it would be easier to keep to my decision on pseudo-man if I had moved on, if I had another man in my life so that I wouldn’t see the relationship as any rosier than it was, and it wasn’t very. So I decided, after reading a New York Times wedding announcement wherein the couple said they met on Yahoo Personals through the Pen Pal section, to go to the Platonic section of Craig’s List. If there’s no spark, at least let there be someone I can have an occasional dinner with not at a diner in a mini booth for one. And low and behold the request was answered, and he was Jewish, too. We seemed to have a lot in common, and we even did a phone call. We were talking talking talking. We were laughing laughing laughing. We were entertaining each other. And then, all of a sudden, he said that someone’s at the door, that no one ever comes to his house unexpected. He asked until when he could call me back, I told him until 10 that night.

That was on Friday. I guess it was a line and I was “not that into you’d” on a phone call. I know that this man has absolutely no obligations to me, for goodness sake’s we only communicated for two days, but still, it was odd. Or was it just disappointing because odd seems to be so commonplace these days?

Not quite a mother-daughters event. My daughters wanted to go to the outlet mall and since the father does not let the daughter drive the other daughter, I got to be the driver of choice. On the way there I was called “bipolar brain,” upon which I turned around. Then we continued our fight about college money and how it would be handled. Did I tell you that my daughter got into college in California and now plans on leaving for LA as soon after her 18th birthday as possible?

Somehow we managed to get to the mall. They went their way, and I went mine. How much fun. I figured that since I have the two of them together we’ll go out to eat at a nice Chinese restaurant after the shopping. But when we met two hours later they had already eaten fast food and just wanted to go home to complain that there is no food in the house.

At this point I am blaming no one for my daughters and their attitudes and words. I have no energy. I don’t want to cook for them. I don’t buy what they want in the supermarket because I really have no idea what they want and I don’t want to be told the food I cook is bad. I just want to be showered with love and pampered. I want to be left alone until I absorb enough love to have the energy to shower it back on them.

Weekend work. Now, now I need to start compiling my list of harassments, non-payments, non-compliances by exman. And I am sick sick sick of it. Since October 2004 when I first filed for divorce this endless game has been played. And, obviously, things were bad for a while before that to have gotten to that point. My satisfaction with him being served the papers while he was dressed in just a towel that barely gets around his stomach has long since ceased to bring a smile to my lips. I have been paid back in nastiness to such a degree that my little victory is as a breeze in a hurricane.

Looking ahead. Just let the future prevent the present from being my past, present and future. 

At the Diner

On Wednesday afternoon I had an interview that was required for a teaching of writing class that I hope to take for four weeks this summer. I think it went well since the director told me at the end of my individual interview (most of the interview was with four other teachers) that he would like me to take the class, he then proceeded to tell me that my school district doesn’t foot the entire bill. Well, there goes more of the lovely tax refund that I already received because I filed early.

After the interview I was not ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave behind the public persona, the respected colleague and professional, the woman who made people laugh and say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying,” and the woman who seemed so confident and smart, full of ideas and, yes, in control.

I didn’t want to go to the House of Bitters so I decided to eat out, at a diner. I love eating at diners; I think this stems from being a New Yorker and the fact that I eat out often by myself and in a diner I feel fine with my book and my “One, please” answer to the “How many?” question. I was quite pleased when I remembered that there was a diner nearby, so I went there.

When I pulled into the parking lot I watched as a mother and daughter got into an SUV with Pennsylvania license plates. It was at that moment that I remembered that this was the first place we ate in as a family when we moved to Virginia. We had just driven down from New York City and we were all grumpy and tired; we didn’t recognize any restaurant chains, so the word “diner” sufficed for us.

Now I went in alone and was seated in a mini booth. After giving my order I looked across the room and saw a young couple bow their heads together and say grace. Then a much, much older couple came in. The husband bantered with the waiter; it was a diner so he assumed the waiter spoke Greek. The wife laughed as her husband recounted the scene to her right after it happened, with her there, as if she hadn't been there. And the way they spoke, as if in roles, I thought that they must have been doing this same thing for decades.

Across the room was a group of friends. One woman was the loud conversation hog. When she wasn’t talking she wasn’t listening and she was jiggling her leg. I thought that she would probably be one of my co-teacher’s students and I would probably be telling to be quiet all the time. And there was the woman talking on the phone very loudly about the purchase of a French-door refrigerator and its placement in her kitchen. I told myself that I shouldn’t be more annoyed at how loud she was just because she was on a cellphone and not in a live conversation, but that was hard to do.

While I ate I read a special Valentine’s issue of the Washington Post Magazine with short stories that I had in my pocketbook for a while. The story that brought me in was about a couple that had split up after their daughter died in Thailand on her wanderlust trip; I think it was called “10,000 Steps.” Of course, since it was the Valentine’s issue the couple got back together in the end. But before the re-coupling, the woman decided that she needed to do something to get out of her funk—so she decided to walk. The 10,000 steps came from her reading about pilgrimages people take to reach different temples in Thailand. At the end of the story she finally takes a walk that is 10,000 steps and she arrives at the playground at the school her daughter had attended and there is her husband. The thought bubble that popped into my head at that point was that the pretty symmetry of stories does not have their corresponding symmetry in life.

Then I realized that I was living the symmetry. There must have been a reason for me to be back at that restaurant with that thought in my head. Almost nine years ago I was starting something new with my family. Now, now I am starting something new on my own—the class (if I get in) or what I will do in its stead, because I know that I will do something new this summer (because I need it for me, and for my license renewal). Is the meaning then that there are new and exciting things for me to do and be involved in, and that they are not just in the past? Is the meaning that my life is a series of short stories and not a novel?

The next time that I go to that restaurant I should remember when I was last there; it would have been when I was by myself, living and embellishing my life through the lives of others and my own.