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Posts from June 2009

Meet the Neighbors

Last night when younger daughter and I returned from seeing Up (highly recommended and if you’re like both of us, bring tissues), going to a friend’s house, and then to the supermarket we received a “welcome to the neighborhood” pie (apple crumb crust and delicious) and even a toy for Poops (who is now with exman for his week). This gift was from the neighbor whose door is right opposite mine on the second floor of our little four-apartment part of the building and who I see very rarely because it seems that he is out and about a lot, as am I.

On Friday afternoon we received brownies from a red box baked by the downstairs neighbor. How do I know they were from a box? Because she showed the box to me. These brownies came after about three weeks of telling me that she will give us a welcome gift and then asking if we keep kosher or have any food allergies, and then if we like walnuts in our brownies or not. Word of our not liking walnuts in our brownies is getting around the neighborhood since I heard her telling another neighbor this morning that “Laura doesn’t like walnuts in her brownies.” While this might be critical to someone, the very notion that our food preferences are circulating around is a bit off-putting.

This food talk follows on my realization that the downstairs neighbor is a “bit” nosy or overly-friendly from day one when she drew a little map of our four apartments and the four right next door and who lives where and how old they are and even, yes, that one couple doesn’t want to hang with everyone. Oh, shocking to learn. News of Poops was carried from that little tete-a-tete. Now maybe this is a small town thing, but I grew up in New York City in an apartment building where you had a lot of neighbors who were all in pretty close proximity so you knew that there had to be boundaries as to what to ask and say until you decided to invite the person into your life. This neighbor certainly grew up in different surroundings.

I am trying to see it as friendly that whenever I come home or leave, or when I open my terrace door I seem to hear “Hey Laura.” I shall remain friendly but I need to establish my boundary or personal space that is visible to her. I didn’t move here to feel uncomfortable in my home again. But she’s a tough neighbor to crack. Her yard and porch is right under my terrace. From day one when I went onto my deck to sit and talk to a friend on the phone she decided to call up to me to tell me something uber-important about storage space and would not stop even when I told her I was on the phone. To when my parents and I were taking pictures on the terrace two days later and she called up that she’ll take them for us. To the other day when she invited me down to hang out with her and another neighbor the moment she heard me open my screen door.

I guess the thing that pushes the boundary is that she is trying to keep track of younger daughter and her friends. Seriously, a forty-something woman (with no kids) should not try to become friends with my daughter and her friends. I understand the “she’s lonely” but she shouldn’t try to force her way into my life to fill her own. 

Friendly, yes, and I am not wishing it away, I am just going to make sure that my kind of keep-it-at-a-distance friendliness is respected.

How are your neighbors?

The Best Watermelon, Ever

Now that it’s hot my mind looks back on the time when I lived in Israel. It’s no surprise that heat does that to me, since it was very hot over there half of the year, while the other half was a fall/spring combo that never required a lining in a raincoat. The one thing that I love about the summer on the East Coast is that there are these marvelous, refreshing rains every once in a while and even if the rains are warm, they’re still a break from the relentless shine of the sun. Israel has a dry season and a rainy season, which correspond to the summer and fall/spring combo. I remember telling a friend on the kibbutz where I was living that I didn’t get why it wasn’t raining in the summer, that we needed a break. He looked at me and explained, as to a child, that not every place in the world has four seasons and not every place in the world has rain in the summer. Oh well, wasn’t I chastised from thinking that I was worldly since I came from New York City but in fact knew so little of other ways and places.

On one standard hot day I was assigned to work in the watermelon field. In the way that people always have something bad to say about everything, I was told that it was going to be horrible, that it would be hot and it would be back-breaking since I would need to be bending down all the time. But in the way that my optimism always outshines reality, I was excited to work at something new. Tempt me with the new, with an adventure, and I will sign up.

Our job (if I remember this correctly, since it was 27 years ago) was to pick the ripe melons and bring them to a truck on the side of the field. The negative-speakers were right, it was hot and it was hard. But that all dissipated when the crew leader told us that it was break time. In my life, I have never had as wonderful a break as this.

He took one of the watermelons, threw it down on a rock which split it in half. Those who had experience with watermelon field break-time knelt down and scooped up a hunk of red, dripping, watermelon with their field-dusted hands. The juice trickled down their arms and their faces. Another watermelon was sacrificed on the rock. My reticence over touching a watermelon with my hand (I was a knife and fork eater) which happened not to be clean was overcome in the “go with the flow” feeling that overcame all teachings from home when tempted enough.

In I went, scooping up my own hunk of melon. And in my teeth sank, more like melted, into the redness that was as ripe as ripe could be before souring into overripe. Surprisingly, the melon was cool, as if the hard shell protected the melon from predators and climate. It tasted red, and it tasted cool, and it tasted like a summer day that had been spent in a marvelously lazy way. It was amazingly crunchy and full of sweetish juice, but not too sweet, as sweet as a kiss before the tongue gets involved. I didn’t taste the dirt on my hands, but I did taste the moisture of experience in the guise of the best watermelon, ever. 

I never worked in the watermelon field again, probably because it was a small field and it didn't take long to pick all of the melons. But that memory, that moment, that taste has become quintessential to me, of me. Am I the melon or the melon-eater? Maybe I am both.

Do you have a moment that you look on as quintessentially you?

Some Men I Have Been Annoying Lately

I’m not sure what’s going on, but it must be that either I grate a lot of men the very wrong way or the men with whom I have come into contact lately are in very bad moods. Is it me or is it them? Is it some prickliness that seems to have become a part of me? Or is it my mouth—and fingers—and how they say what I think are fine things but other people, boy, they hear other things.

Man at graduation ceremony: During the graduation ceremony for my school I was working the security detail, which means that I was to stand at a portal of the sports center to ensure that people were sitting in their seats and the space for the handicapped was used appropriately. There was a “professional” security person at that portal as well, along with two other teachers. We got there an hour before the ceremony began, which is when the doors opened.

A woman with her mother in a wheelchair arrived at least a half hour early. The mother is afraid of heights so she didn’t want to sit right at the railing, instead the two of them sat back a bit.

For some reason, the security guard agreed to let five very heavy women sit in seats in the handicapped area, but enough space was left so that the mother and her daughter could see from their spot away from the edge.

A half hour after the ceremony began a man arrived with his mother in a wheelchair, his wife and kids. I approached him and (I think) politely told him that he can’t put the chair in that spot since it would block the view of the woman sitting in her wheelchair. His comment to me was basically, “You’re going to tell me what to do?” “Yes,” I said, “I am.” At which, I swear, I could hear his chauvinistic wheels turning. He said that the woman needs to move there and if not there is no reason why he can’t put his mother there. “Because you can’t,” I said. I saw no reason to explain to this man this woman’s fear of heights and just said that she came early and she was unable to move up. Again the chauvinistic wheels churned, he said “Call security,” and he shoved his wheelchair forward, put his mother into place and went to sit in the stands. (There was still space for them to see, they needed to do an angle thing to their bodies.)


Settlement attorney:  Not only was he extremely unfriendly [perhaps because he didn’t like that he felt obliged to let my lawyer (a woman) and me sit in his golf-obsessed office] but he, too, had the boy tantrum thing going on. When we got to the signing part of the day, when exman threatened to leave because I wouldn’t sign something, that was okay. But when I went out of the room for a moment to talk to my lawyer I could hear him raise his voice and say something about “she.” I didn’t hear what he said, but I am sure it was about how “she’s playing games.” Really? I’m just trying not to get screwed anymore and that’s interpreted as playing games. So be it.

Man with no humor: For no real reason, I answered a Craig’s List ad (I know, I know, DON’T GO THERE) and after I made, what I thought was a joke based on a funny spelling mistake that he made, I was told, that he didn’t like being laughed at. I even prefaced the comment with a caveat that I am an English teacher. The puns were funny; what would you do if someone talked about a navel base? Sure, better without him, but what is happening?

Or is nothing happening and I just keep meeting men who quite obviously don’t mesh with me and not to sweat it. But still, you know, it hurts. It hurts to be misconstrued. It hurts to be told that you’re mean when you don’t think you are. It makes me wonder how we can communicate when there are so many ways in which thoughts don’t get understood the way they were meant to be. I did mean to be funny, certainly not hurtful. Was he too sensitive? Am I too insensitive?

Man who really should be spanked: Then there’s the man on Plenty of Fish (no, there aren’t, and yes, I turned my profile off) who about a week ago wrote to me something about being spanked. I did not reply. Today he popped up again, and when I said something about how capitalization and apostrophes are important to me he replied that he has a Ph.D., that I am too anal retentive (is there a proper amount or does my asking this mark me as definitely being anal?) and that I am obviously ignorant, stupid and judgmental. And this from a man who wants to be spanked and compares himself to Einstein because he, too, couldn’t spell. He obviously thought everything he said was okay, but not everything I said. Before I could he reply he had me blacklisted from his account. HELLO, shades of control all over the place.

Is there something I’m missing? Were my years trying to survive exman more damaging than I thought? Is my desire to be blunt and open so that I won’t go into another relationship that will end up leaving me voiceless leaving me open to being insulted and misunderstood? Are men really as controlling as they seem to be? Seriously, what’s with the insults? And why, why do they see everything they utter as charming and me, well, I’ve been blacklisted, deleted and side-swiped. 

It’s been about two years since I started dating. In that time, I only dated one man more than three times and he turned out to be the incredibly unreliable pseudo-man. I’ve been told I’m too picky. I’ve been told that being friends is not enough. I haven’t been moved by anyone. It took a while, but now I’m really wondering about my man antennae, after all I picked exman/slime and pseudo both of whom turned out to be controlling, mind-game players and dangerously selfish. I’ve been told I’m fat (sorry, not “height-weight proportionate”). I have not responded to men who were not attractive to me or with whom I did not feel that there was enough to go on for a relationship to develop. Time, yes, time may be what will bring about a meeting of man and woman. And going with the flow and not trying to force things may also work. I’ve been told to join groups, and maybe I will (other than women’s groups that is, and the political group turned out to include women and retired people). But that still doesn’t answer my question as to why I feel that I have been encountering so much negativity and nastiness.

I genuinely don’t get it. Are men too serious or am I too irreverent? Oh, who cares. (Yes Microsoft Word, I am overriding your desire to have me put a question mark there.) They’re not even funny stories anymore; they’re not entertaining and they’re certainly not making me feel good about my prospects for finding a decent, loving, intelligent, caring man who doesn’t go running to the hills at my humor or try to mini-sermonize me.
Alone is good. I know that. And I revel in the freedom I feel and the joy of a simple flow of life. I should stop reaching for a while. I should stop worrying about what others think, that is until I find others who like how I think, then I will attend to them.

My heart. I guess I need to put it back into my chest, but it keeps wanting to find a playmate. 

SOLD; Bitter to the End

The house was finally SOLD on Thursday, but as usual, not without a long drawn-out process and a “this never happened to me in all the years I have been a lawyer” scenario. I am grateful that this has come to pass, but annoyed that, as usual, I didn’t get the money and the respect (yes, that’s the word) that I deserve. No, I don’t think I’m being spoiled, this divorce struggle has not been about money but about regaining self-respect and getting respect.

Rather than a brief little signing around a very big table, I got to spend more than four hours getting frustrated and annoyed. I even had nasty lady lawyer on the phone and an associate of hers on the spot (with a record for putting deadbeats in jail), but neither of them got me any more money out of exman-slime than he had been prepared to pay the previous day and now I will have some hefty legal fees to pay. (This lawyer’s assessment of exman-slime: a chauvinistic hothead.) I was trying to recoup some of the money he owes me for not paying the mortgage for six months (because this lowered the amount of money paid by the mortgage company), not paying his share of the electricity for more than a year, and in general not paying his share of home and daughters’ expenses since the divorce in 2007. He was willing to pay a portion of what he owes on the past-due portion of the mortgage, but not nearly all that he owes. So this was my chance to finally get what is due to me (monetarily).

Before going there I had been asking my lawyer about putting money in escrow and she had assured me that it would be no problem. Well it was. The settlement company refused to place money in escrow if it was not agreed upon by both parties. WHOOHOO. This was the Las Vegas winning scenario that never happened in 40 years. I had nothing to hold over him; I had no leverage to get him to increase what he was willing to pay. It was his "Get Out of Jail" card. And to make it even more annoying, the settlement attorney was nasty to me because I had the gall to be annoyed at this. Oh, and all of a sudden the realtor (who saw me right after the almost-fight in the house the other day when I ran out with a box of photo albums with him right behind me with his little recorder friend) was on his side. The realtor, who he told he would sue (this seems to be what he tells everyone, even my attorney’s receptionist when she didn’t put his call through but took a message) and who refused to show him rental properties, was there for him. I guess she felt bad that I had a lawyer there and poor little him was all on his lonely. Nothing but frustrations.

As a side matter and pick me up, I did get a letter from an assistant principal at school yesterday that was put into my file that stated how much of a team player I have been in the past few weeks and how helpful I have been to my colleagues.

So now I’ve filed in court for next Friday to try again to get some of this money. I know I should let it go. But I feel I need this one last attempt or this one last stand and then, then I will be ready.

He did tell his best buddy, the realtor, that he is thinking about leaving the area, which would be marvelous, except he said that he might go to California where oldest daughter is recuperating from life at home.

Now, now I am going to my bathroom to color my hair. Suddenly the gray looks gray and not chic. Yes, I am ready to move on, but I need this one last attempt to know that I have fought as sanely as possible, that I wasn’t a frier (Hebrew for someone who is taken advantage of and one of the worst things you could say about someone in Israel).

And after that, when younger daughter and her two friends who slept over last night get up, I will make blueberry pancakes for them and they will still have more to talk and laugh about. Then we will get field hockey equipment for her, and I will drive her to another friend’s house, and I will shop for curtains and a drainboard and whatever else I need to make this apartment more comfortable. But how, how could it be more comfortable because right now, right now I couldn’t be more comfortable.

Comfort to you, always.


Dissolution of a Marriage

I’m trying to come up with some lessons learned to share, other than not to marry a psychopath, but I’m not coming up with anything. There’s just too much of so much to distill into a list of do’s and don’ts.

In 1985 I couldn’t have foreseen that I was marrying a psychopath. In 1985 I couldn’t have foreseen that the man who was full of promise would accuse me of stealing plastic containers and insult a receptionist at my lawyer’s law firm, and become a virtual joke through his capacity to be evil and petty. In 1985 maybe I did see a glint of “my tribe before all others” but then I thought that it meant that he would protect me and not that he would try to take from me whatever he could. How can you convey the pain of the wrong decision, or the pain of “people change,” or the pain of “no longer have common goals and interests”?

I did not go through this “for a reason” nor did it make me a “better person.” I went through this because it happened, because it is my life, as others live their lives. There is no higher purpose to pain, as there is none to pleasure, it is what it is. And no, I have not become cold and hard, this is the way I have been, taking life into myself and trying to live it without bestowing it with otherworldly qualities.

Rather than being elated in the last few days, I have been tired and bothered by an intermittent headache. Last night I went to bed at 7:30 (mainly because I had two beers because I didn’t want to think, and the beer made me tired), but when I woke up at 10:30 I didn’t get out of bed (except to go to the bathroom numerous times). I just lay there listening to the cars on the highway not far away and music on the radio. I was not really thinking, I was just there, but I wouldn’t call this my time to meditate. Or maybe I could. Maybe I’m going through an invisible wall that divides between the tunnel of “where I have been” to the path (surely not another tunnel) to “where I am going.” Or maybe I am simply tired of life as it’s been lived and now that it is over my body can finally take a break from holding me up.

This stillness bothers me, but I don’t want to fight it. I should probably start going out and doing things, but I find the inertia calming. What is it that I want now that I have gotten the chance to get it?

  • I want to do new things.
  • I want to be comfortable with who I am.
  • I want to be calmer.
  • I want to be less guarded.
  • I want to touch other people’s lives in a positive way.
  • I want to find the balance of motherhood to a teen who is just starting high school and a teen who is on her own.
  • I want to be loved.
  • I want to love.
  • I want to create happiness.
  • I want to share.
  • I’d also like world peace, afterall my graduate studies were in how to prevent and stop conflicts, so why not.

Beware of the Bread Knife Thief!

For some reason I wish I could pity ex-man, but he insists on making sure I don’t land in pity territory, but stay firmly rooted in disgustland.

This morning, I got to the house to take some of my things. Surprisingly and oh, so happily, he was not there, so I took Poops for a walk, took most of what was left in my room, took my food items from the refrigerator and pantry, and assorted kitchen items that were not in hazy “Whose is this?” territory, but were firmly mine, and left. I have no desire to quibble over little glass dishes or Chinese soup bowls, so I’ve taken what I know is mine (from the PSA) and things that are so “mine” since I used them all the time—and he didn’t pick them out (and maybe, even, I received them from my parents)—that I felt that they belonged to me. I made my get-away before he returned and made it back to my apartment before younger daughter and her friend woke up. (Yes, we have had our first sleep-over.)

At around six I took younger daughter to the house to pick up some things before taking her to yet another party. I figured that that would be a good time to pick up some more things. The verbal attack that greeted me was unexpected, unexpected because I had just spent my first night at my new house knowing that I will never sleep under the same roof with exman again, knowing that I will never have to put up with his tantrums and abuse again, knowing that I will never have to face him again. But I was wrong.

The floodgates of his mouth and venom opened as I opened the door. Apparently I have stolen the toaster that we have had for nine years, one of the “parents at the soccer game” type of chairs, and the BREAD KNIFE!

To which I replied: the toaster is mine, it’s in the PSA, but I will check and if it is yours I will bring it back. The chair, I said, we had agreed that I would take two, but I will return one of them. And the bread knife back off from my bread knife because you’re not getting it. Not only was this certainly from my parents, but it is also the knife whose handle broke and whose tip flew off when I slammed it down—point first—on the (I mean, your) cutting board when older daughter told me that you told her that I had put shit on your car and she thought that that must be true. Nope, you’re not getting the knife.

“Thief! I’m making a list of the things you stole.”

“Take me to court.”

And as I trudged upstairs to take apart the shelving unit that I had put together in my closet when I moved out of the master bedroom into the guest bedroom four years ago he screamingly proclaimed that his new hobby would be to make my life miserable (for five years, I guess until younger daughter goes to college in four years).

“You can’t,” I said to myself. "There is just no way that you will invade my life any more. The kudzu is cut."

Tomorrow I need to go back to the house to divide the photograph albums and boxes of assorted daughter-artwork that I have saved. I will wait until younger daughter gets home from her sleep-over because I have no desire to be in the house alone with him, nor do I think it wise.

The knife stays here. Thief my ass. If tears were money, I would have gotten to keep the house and everything in it and he would have had to build a pool for me to house the tears. Bum.

Coming soon: The Annoying Downstairs Neighbor. Let's just say "busybody" is fitting.

Two Days’ Worth of Enough Beads

•  Yes, evil teacher here because I accused a student of plagiarizing an essay. About three-quarters of his essay was word for word from an online essay. His mother, unfortunately, accused me of underestimating the intelligence of her child. She, unfortunately, believed her son when he told her, “NO, of course I did not plagiarize. The horrible, terrible teacher who has been yelling at me all year because I never stop talking in class or calling out or laughing in a stupid guffaw way or saying stupid things doesn’t like me.” Ugh. Two days of accusations against me, with stern notes to the assistant principal until under extreme pressure (torture?) the student admitted to the assistant principal that he did get “some” help from “someone.” I guess after an at-home council he admitted to more to Momsy because suddenly the mother apologized to me. Thanks, but it would have been nicer if you didn’t think I’m the evil teacher from Mathilda (Agatha Trunchbull,) and confronted your son and not me. 

•  Yesterday, after a colleague declined to help another colleague, after another colleague suddenly realized that he couldn’t help, I was asked to help. Of course I said yes. So, poof, there went my planning period. Well, it didn’t totally disappear, I just had to spend it supervising five students taking a final exam in the room of the teacher who had declined to help.

• Today, I was told by the head of the department that I need to sit in on a meeting for her for five to ten minutes, which is generally how long a regular teacher needs to sit in on these meetings. But today, of course, it was special, so instead of a diversion from my planning period, I got to sit in a meeting for 45 minutes about a girl I never met and will most likely will never meet when I finally said that I have to teach a class in five minutes (and I have to pee and eat something). They were oh, so gracious, in letting me leave—even though I had asked the person running the meeting before it started if I could leave after a first few minutes.

    o Just as I left the meeting, my department chair appeared. There was a sorry sorry sorry, and when she tried to catch up to me after talking to someone she ran on the knee that she had operated on two months ago, and then there was a “what do you want from Starbucks?” I am so hoping my thank you and sorry chai tea latte appears tomorrow morning.

• This might sound callous, it’s not, it’s just an expression of frustration or exhaustion or enough! Or maybe it’s just being selfish, which I think we all need once in a while. A close relative of my team teacher’s was killed in a car accident this past weekend, which means that he was physically absent and even more absent-even-when-present than usual. I do care, honestly, but I’m just tired of having to do more and tired of the help I’m supposed to have not helping me. And I need to work on this inter-personal relationship because next year we are slated to teach three classes again together. And maybe, too, the ache of his loss has also seeped into me.

Continue reading "Two Days’ Worth of Enough Beads" »

It Could Have Been Worse (One & Two)

1.  There was lightning and thunder this morning. It was a kind of rolling thunder that sounded like a god waking up from a heavy sleep rather than a force of nature attacking. After hitting the snooze button on my cell phone five times, I finally stopped resisting the inevitable and woke up. After three lovely, wonderful, peaceful nights at the apartment, it was hard to adjust (even if only temporarily) to the former marital residence. I dragged myself down the steps to the basement, turned on the water and got into the shower.

Just a few moments after full body coverage by water, the lights went out. Needless to say, a bathroom in a basement is windowless. So there I stood, in the comforting flow of warm hot water not ready yet to concede that it was uncomfortable in the pitch black of the bathroom. That is until I realized that if the electricity is out, then how am I going to get to work since the garage door is electric? And then I remembered that I had parked the car in front of the garage because I have boxes and furniture that need to be donated blocking my part of the garage. Which meant that my car was not in the garage, which meant that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my brief warm hot shower because, well, it could have been worse.

2.  Yesterday I had the briefest of conversations with slime. Since I have not noticed that he has packed a single thing, I told him that the organization to which I am donating things is coming on Tuesday, and, oh by the way, are you going to be packing. He said, yes he would be packing and moving onTuesday (which I knew) and good that the organization is coming then. Okay, I thought after that exchange, I could manage what my lawyer asked of me, and that is to see if he plans on paying the mortgage company what he owes it. I should have known, but I was lulled once again into thinking that he is on the normal scale as opposed to the psycho scale.

And he was off. First trying to tell me that he owes half of what he owes. Then he was trying to explain to me how the mortgage company applies payments (which I am well aware of without your lecture stupid little man). But when I repeated that he owes more and that I don’t want to be screwed out of the amount that is due to me because he is behind, I got the tantrum. After the whole “I’ll sue you” and “my lawyer is a bulldog” BS that came out of his mouth, he was off on a tangent. It’s always interesting (well, it could be interesting in a psychological way if I were a therapist or a researcher, but I’m not) to see where he takes off.

This time he took off to the world in which he is a wonderful guy. Yes, he apparently let me take things from the house. But once he said that, he was convinced of how great he is and then he got mad at how truly terrible I am. Yes—you stole a painting. I admit it, I almost took a photograph that is his (the division of assorted stuff is: if he picked it out, it’s his, which means he gets a lot of stuff), but he saw it in my hands and commented that it’s his and I put it back immediately. But that does not matter, what matters is that he saved the painting from me. And then he was onto how I stole wine glasses, apparently there had been eight. Some broke I said to his hearingless ears. The world in which glasses break because the glass is too thin is not the world he inhabits, no, he inhabits the world where ex-wives steal hree wine glasses (and ex-husbands notice that).

Oh my. But, it really could have been worse if the UNDER CONTRACT sign were not in front of the house and I had not basically moved into a lovely apartment which will be my full-time place in NINE days. 

Here’s to the optimist’s credo (“It could have been worse”): May it provide you with comfort and hope. 

Mideast Peace, Northern Virginia Style

A day after Obama made his Mideast speech in Cairo I went to dinner theatre at my daughter’s middle school. The lunch school tables were set up around the cafeteria with white table cloths on them for that special school dinner theatre feel. Since we got there early, my parents and I sat at an empty table. As the room started to fill up one woman and her two young children sat next to me. Then, when it was already quite full, another family joined the table; there was a husband, wife, two older sons and a grandmother with a kerchief tied around her head.

I’m not sure how they got onto this, but it turned out that the woman next to me is Iranian and the husband and his mother on the other side of the table are also Iranian. It seems that people have sensors about people from the old country or maybe they detect a slight vocal inflection, in any case, they immediately identified themselves as homies. The woman sitting next to me saw my daughter and asked if we were Iranian too. No, I said, she’s Israeli. Well, we’re all from the same part of the world, she commented. I didn’t tell her that on all sides of the little Israeli’s family we’re from Eastern or Central Europe because my family is originally (just go back a few centuries and then a few more centuries) from that part of the world.

After the first act the woman next to me and I were served our cheese tortellini because neither of us went for the meat lasagna; she commented on how Muslims and Jews both eschew pork and shellfish. Yes, we both commented again on the similarities and how we’re from the same part of the world.  Which made me think of Mideast peace and how it’s so easy to hate someone or deny someone or ignore someone or harm someone when she is never sitting down to share a child’s play and a meal on paper plates.

Obama and all the other politicians can say what they want about the Middle East, and even pieces of paper can be signed, but until there is sharing of lives around tables, there will never be peace. In conflict studies there is something called negative peace; that’s where the sides don’t fight, but they don’t exactly partake together. Surely the paper signing is a goal and one that seems so far into the future because, honestly, having yet another American president trying to bully everyone to do what he wants is not the path to peace. I remember one day in class (for my master’s in conflict studies) we were bandying around the idea for a project that would involve baking bread and sharing it, how that would bring Jewish and Arab women together for a real peace conference, not the men with their weapons and hot tempers.

Could a kind of shared meal be an indicator? Could all of the interreligious dialogue and work be an indicator? Could a student who is Palestinian and a teacher who is Israeli be an indicator? Could humanity be an indicator? Could the throwing of weight and desire for power and control be a negative indicator? Could an intense desire to protect one’s own above all others be a negative indicator? What will it take for the men who control the delivery of flour, at whatever level, to realize that breaking bread together might be the ultimate goal? What will it take for tears to overpower rage and fear? What will it take for people to realize that we all break, but we don’t have to?

Maybe we all need to go into the desert to wander for forty years to see what is really worthwhile in a life. Maybe the longer we are away from the desert the more we forget about what is essential, about how we need each other to survive, about how we each have different skills that are necessary for survival. Maybe we need to know that an oasis is communal, as are the sands and dust storms. 

And those on the same side who are not on the same side, need to make those same realizations too. A somewhat related metaphor applies: there are as many opinions as there are ways to cook, but there's only one way to eat. What's more important: getting sustenance or how it's flavored?

I Have Nothing to Wear: Summer Clothes Department

It’s supposed to be in the 80’s outside today, but I’m dressing the same as when it’s in the 50’s. Besides the fact that the air conditioning makes summertime the time for sweaters and the heater in the winter makes it time for tee shirts, I just don’t seem to have any summer clothes. And it’s not just a question of not wanting to expose myself and the world to my fat arms, it’s a money thing. (By the way, I just saw a picture of Julia Roberts, whose name I temporarily forgot in acknowledgment of some kind of age thing happening in and to my mind, and her arms were definitely not toned.)

It’s quite interesting to watch the clothing happenings in the English Department these days. There are the teachers who have summer dresses from the nostalgic time when Little House on the Prairie dresses were in. Well, they were never in in Northern Virginia, no matter what you think we are not that hick here, so please, please save the rest of us teachers from the mockery by retiring those dresses and donating them to the National Archives down the road.

Then there are the teachers who don’t depend on just their income for support, you can tell who they are because they have new clothes at each turn of the season, and then, perhaps, a few times in the season. One teacher had on a lovely new sweater, tee shirt, Capri pants and sandals today. Not only did she look lovely, but she looked new. Looking new is the thing that I miss, okay, not quite miss because I was never there, but long to look. I’d love a wardrobe that is not enhanced by one or two new things every six months, but by a wardrobe that is enhanced by one or two old things in amongst the new. Mind you I am not an acquirer, but it seems every woman’s right, for at least a part of her life, to be able to be in style and/or feel in style and/or not feel tired like her clothes. 

There are two teachers who seem to have stock in Ann Taylor and who, between the two of them, have wrapped themselves in every shirt and dress style that has hit the mannequins. I shall not turn green or snippy and so will respond simply by saying that I prefer Banana Republic. But seriously, what’s with the matchy matchy everyday? Even their shoes must come from there, it’s all such a look. New I want, but without the adherence to catalog.

Then there is the teacher (I will refrain from commenting on the fact that she is from the South because that might seem unseemly) who favors colorful floral prints. Yes, I understand in the bayou you need to make sure the alligator (or is it a crocodile) can spot you, but up here we don’t have that type of predator. But I do marvel at her ability to always find prints, since I am having such a hard time to break out of the solids on-top mode since the choices are the aforementioned florals and swirls (I don’t look good in swirls) and perhaps a check or two. No wonder white, solid white, is my top of choice.

Which brings me to my clothing dilemma: not only do I not have money for a new wardrobe, I can’t even find a shirt that fits nicely and have a print for which I can use my $25 gift card that I received from a student. (Validation from a third grader!) Maybe it’s good that I don’t have the money to spend because I would just waste it on more whites. Maybe I shouldn’t have just peeked through some pictures at, but should have kept focused on something really useful, like skimming through an article at www.dailykos.combecause now I am getting green. Green for so many things. Could this be because I am finally getting out of this hellhole and so I need new things to tempt and torment my brain, is this a sign that I am doing well and am able to move onto vanity, or is it just that I am plain tired and need to focus out of the inside and into the outside? Or do I really want to look different on the outside, do I need an overhaul out there just like I have done with the inside?