Thursday, December 22, 2011

Breakup gifts

Last night, I came home to find a gift of a somewhat cheesy little gold necklace with a dragonfly pendant waiting for me, along with a note from Doctor O:

Heathen:

I'm afraid I have sad news. I've decided to start an exclusive relationship with another woman.

I've been seeing her a couple months longer than I've been dating you. Only in the past two days did our relationship progress to the point where we both decided to explicitly agree to stop seeing other people.

I wanted to tell you in person as soon as possible, but despite Love Letters' ideas, it's often difficult to make this happen in real life. I fear if I delay any longer that it would be unfair to you, so I apologize for this email version, but I really wanted to try to see you in person. I also didn't want you to alter your plans or make you unnecessarily worry about what we'd be talking about.

I think you're very special. Though I'm not certain how you feel about me, I definitely feel you're "my type" and I've enjoyed getting to know you and I find you very attractive. It simply appears I've met you at an inopportune time--I'm insanely busy with work, and I started dating the other woman earlier when I did have more time. Otherwise, who knows what might have unfolded between us. Nevertheless, since I'm very serious about my commitments, I'm going to give my new relationship everything I have and with regret I'm going to have to say good-bye to you.

I still got you a gift because I wanted you to know that I treasured the little time we've spent together. You're a terrific woman, Heathen. I wish you the very best.

While I find it a bit strange that my Instaboyfriend was seeing someone else he was excited about even as he was saying things to me like, "I told my mom about you the other day. I told her that you are kind, pretty and VERY stable," and was inviting me to parties to meet his friends, I have to give Doctor O props in his breakup technique. I couldn't help but compare the thoughtfulness of this breakup (after five dates) with the utter thoughtlessness Dreamy displayed in our breakup after a year and change. So, I've decided to remember Doctor O fondly, as a kind, somewhat odd but very communicative guy, and to mail him the Christmas gift I bought him after he told me he had one for me.

I hope he enjoys On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, about a relationship that fails on the first night of a marriage. It seems even more appropriate now than it did when I bought it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The power of suggestion

Doctor O invited me this weekend to a holiday party at a friend's house in his building. "Funny story," he said when he told me about it, "Last year, I got really sick not long before the party. I thought I was better, but then I collapsed in the middle of the party. Good thing my place is right across the hall! I just dragged myself over there."

I laughed, then forgot all about his story. We had a nice time at the party, eating yummy chocolates and chitchatting with some of his friendly neighbors. But after a while, one of the friendly neighbors who had been asking me lots of questions stopped asking questions and started talking about how frustrated she has been lately at work. I began to get bored, and to notice that the champagne I was drinking was going to my head a bit, and that it wasn't helping the sore throat that was just beginning to develop. Then, I noticed that my vision was getting black around the edges and I was feeling woozy. I put my champagne glass down and tried to surreptitiously move about without seeming like I wasn't listening to the woman's monologue, which by now had stretched long past ten minutes. I ran my fingers through my hair, pushed up the sleeves of my sweater, and wondered if there would be a short break in her story so I could excuse myself to go to the bathroom. Nothing was helping, so I started coaching myself: "Heathen, do NOT pass out. That would be really embarrassing. You can prevent it if you concentrate hard enough." (I have a history of passing out occasionally, once every five years or so, due to low blood pressure.)

To my relief, the blackness started to dissipate. I smiled and tried to tune in again to the friendly neighbor's ongoing monologue. By now she had moved on from her particular situation to the general sexism rampant in her profession. The blackness faded to the very edges of my vision, but then it turned around and came back, stronger than before. For a moment I tried to push it back again, but soon I was past the point of caring. Next thing I knew, I was looking into Doctor O's face as he said alarmedly, "Are you all right?" He had caught me mid-tumble.

Hopefully that lady will think twice about telling a really boring story next time she's at a party. I wonder what will happen next year at this guy's party?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Instaboyfriends

A friend and co-worker of mine started dating a man recently, and it soon became apparent that this was going to be an Instaboyfriend situation. Within two weeks, they were introducing each other to friends and spending entire weekends together. She was sleepy every day at work from staying up all hours of the night talking on the phone with him. He told her he felt the term "girlfriend" didn't sound serious enough to describe their relationship. At the 5 week mark they met each others' families. At week 6, he told her he's in love.

During a recent crafting session with my friend M, I related all of this to her.

"I wish that would happen to me!" she sighed.

"Me too," I agreed.

Who doesn't want to skip all the pain of dating and go straight to Instarelatioship? It sounds so appealing -- skip the questions about if they're seeing someone else, where this is heading, whether you should keep dating other people, and go straight to comfortable commitment. But shortly after week 6, the downside of Instaboyfriend reared its head when I came into class one day to find my co-worker looking depressed and exhausted.

"I think we're breaking up," she whispered to me as soon as the kids were busy with their work. She surreptitiously peeked at her phone to check for text messages from him. "He told me he wants kids, but now he says he's not sure. He's not sure he wants kids, AND he's not sure he wants them with me."

I've experienced Instaboyfriend situations many times at this point, both personally and through friends. Several Instaboyfriends ended up as good, solid husbands. My high school boyfriend's parents married after they had known each other for just a few weeks, and they still seem very happy. One friend introduced a boyfriend of two weeks to me as her "partner;" six months later they were married, and not long after that came Instadivorce. La Moustache was my Instaboyfriend, who told me just a few weeks in that he could see us getting married. Apparently, this was much harder to envisage several years later.

After that experience, I took things very slow with Dreamy. We didn't exchange "I love yous" until we had known each other for 6 months, and every step we took was slow and deliberate. And in the end it didn't matter; our relationship didn't have a very solid base despite our caution.

Now I have a bit of an Instaboyfriend situation on my hands again. Doctor O is making it clear that he likes me, a lot. He pulled his online dating profile two days after we first kissed, giving as his explanation that he doesn't want distractions from work. He showers me with compliments and tells me that he likes me and feels good with me. He's a divorcé who's a few years older than me, and he's very open about how much he wants to remarry and have kids. I'm not gonna lie: I like being wooed in this way. Because I like him a lot, too.

All of this is making me wonder, how fast is too fast? Is it an automatic red flag when someone wants things to move quickly? Was my co-worker making a mistake by allowing herself to get swept off her feet? Did I end in that quagmire with Moustache because I let things go too quickly, or because he was a master of deception? I don't have answers to all these questions, but my conclusion is that it's a personal decision. Of course feelings are tenuous after a few weeks, but that doesn't mean they won't morph into something more real and solid. (If they're the kind of person who meets people frequently they feel that way about, that probably IS a red flag.) Dating means putting yourself on the line, and no matter how you go about it, there's always the possibility of failure and hurt. That said, there is such a thing as too fast for ME, and I've made it clear to Doctor O that I'll go at a speed I'm comfortable with. I declined his invitation to go out on a second date two days after our first, and my dating profile is still active. And I'm also eagerly awaiting our next date.

In the end, my co-worker and her beau had a lot of long, difficult conversations and decided to stick things out. He's in therapy. She's thrilled and glowing again. I'm crossing all my fingers and toes for her that things work out. Maybe it's the romantic in me, but I think there's a good chance it will.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Just say no

I've become aware of a problem I have recently: It is very difficult for me to say no and disappoint people. I came to realize this soon after Dreamy and I broke up, when, after overcoming my initial sadness, I felt a huge sense of relief. It dawned on me that I would have broken up with him much earlier if I hadn't felt bad about disappointing him.

I actually did try to break up with him in early August, on the eve of Ms. Swamp's wedding to the Sensitive Bostonian (now my brother-in-law). I felt weird bringing Dreamy as my date knowing that I'd probably break up with him soon, so, on my friend Miami Nice's advice, I called him and was brutally honest. I told him that I'd still like to go through with our plans to attend the wedding together and go on a vacation together, but I didn't see a future for us. He asked if there was any chance I'd change my mind, and I said I didn't think so. And then he said that he was fine with coming to the wedding and going to Costa Rica, and we did those things, and I pretended to myself that I'd changed my mind even though I hadn't really and even though I often felt that I'd much rather be by myself than with him.

In the end, things worked out fine. His departure for New York made for a convenient break, and I don't regret staying with him for those extra couple of months. In a way it made it easier to remember our relationship fondly, since I had a lot of negative feelings toward him over the summer that dissipated during the early fall. Dreamy wasn't a bad guy; we had a pretty good relationship, even though we weren't right for each other. But I wonder what would have happened if he hadn't moved to New York. How long would I have continued to try to convince myself that maybe I'd start to feel in love with him again? And who did I think I was doing any favors for by staying with a guy who I knew I didn't want to marry? Having experienced several times how difficult it is when someone (La Moustache, the Brazilian) didn't want to be with me but had trouble telling me so, I know firsthand how much easier it would be if they would just say it.

Now I'm faced with the task of disappointing someone again, a guy I've gone out with three times and had an unpleasant, makes-me-want-to-scrub-my-mouth-out kiss with at the end of our third date. I was pretty sure after our first date that I wasn't into him (as were some friends who happened to be in the same bar and were observing our interactions), but I kept going out with him partly to make sure, and partly because it was easier than disappointing him. Now the time has come, because I REALLY can't go through with another one of those kisses, and I've set myself a deadline of 3 p.m. today and pulled out Ms. Swamp's much-used breakup email to revise and send off.

The good news is I'm also dating someone who I like a lot, who is smart and interesting and likes me too and tells me three times before every date how excited he is to see me and wants to make me dinner next week (date #4). I'm excited to see him, too, and to get to know him better and continue adding to the lists of green, yellow and red flags in his section of my Man List. And if I should uncover some red flags in my research, please remind me to SAY NO.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dreamy fledges the nest

Dreamy took off for New York last week. Since then, during phone conversations in the evening after work and a weekend visit involving an epic trip to IKEA, I've had several moments in which I've asked myself, "Who is this person??" and, "Did aliens abduct Dreamy and replace him with Martha Stewart?" Here are a few examples:

Me: Hey hon, what's up? I just finished cooking and eating dinner.
Dreamy: Oh, me too!
Me: What did you have?
Dreamy: Pasta made from quinoa, with sauteed veggies like bell peppers, onions, kale [I didn't even think Dreamy was aware of kale's existence], and garlic. I started with the garlic and onions just like you taught me!

Dreamy: What do you think I should do about getting internet at home?
Me: Why don't you ask your neighbors if anyone wants to share?
Dreamy: How do I get in touch with them?
Me: Just knock on their door and introduce yourself. Or wait until you meet them in the hall.
Dreamy: Or maybe I could bake something and bring it to them as a little gift! It could be a fun project for us to do together this weekend.

[Late night text message from Dreamy:] These heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market are so delicious!!! I can't wait to get more next week.

Dreamy [repeated about 10 times throughout the weekend]: I'm just so excited about that kitchen island. I think it'll work really well in my kitchen. The blue is the right shade to go with my blue color theme in the kitchen, it's the right size, my silverware tray fits in the drawer, and I think it'll make cooking a lot easier. It's been so hard to cook without much counter space! I can't wait to assemble it.
Me: I know. You really love your kitchen island. I'm so happy for you.

Is this the same guy who needed detailed instructions for how to wash and chop carrots? Who needed constant reminders to wash his dishes and take out the garbage? And is his next request of me going to be to teach him how to knit so he can make an afghan for his new IKEA couch?? All of this is making me reflect that, much as I miss him, in the long run it is a very good thing for him to be living on his own for a while. Turns out he's got his own inner Martha Stewart just like the rest of us. He just never got the chance before to let her shine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fickle-o-meter, part II

I opened my computer this afternoon to discover the following new entry on my fickle-o-meter:

9/15/11

Was printing a document this afternoon from my girlfriend's computer when this came up. Annoyed that she seems to be keeping a daily ledger of issues in our relationship and scoring my "performance."


I got a score, too: an F. Which he subsequently deleted.

Apparently it doesn't do much good to give your document a fake boring name, like "Financial records 2011," if you then forget to close the document on your computer.

The fickle-o-meter may not be long for this world, since Dreamy doesn't seem to like it for some reason. But perhaps it's not so much the actual document that counts -- after all, I hardly ever consulted my Man List -- as the purpose behind it, to remind me not to get bogged down in the moment and to try to keep track of the big picture. I am smart enough to do that without the help of a document on my computer.

Still, I couldn't help but tell him, when I discovered that he did the laundry AND the dishes today, that he might just get a 10 for the day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Fickle-o-meter

In a few days, Dreamy is taking off for New York for his year-long job. This leaves me pondering the same question I've been trying to get to the bottom of for months: Is he my future husband? Because if he is, then a year of long-distance is just a blip on the screen. And if not, it's a colossal waste of time.

I was hoping that things would become clearer over the past three months, since we started co-habiting in June. The problem is, my feelings about Dreamy have fluctuated crazily during that time. A trip to Italy involving a visit with my ex, l'Artista, made me feel for weeks afterward that I don't feel as connected to Dreamy as I once did to l'Artista. But then Dreamy was sweet, supportive and an amazing dancer during my sister's wedding, even though I had told him two days before it that I didn't see our relationship lasting past the summer. We bonded while ziplining and feeding hummingbirds during our Costa Rican vacation. Nose surgery in July that involved four days of nostril tampons made me feel a strange mixture of tenderness and revulsion. And last Sunday, as he stroked my hair while I puked following a few too many vodka shots, I felt sure he was the one.

Somehow, even though I may have felt totally differently five minutes earlier, I always feel convinced that what I'm feeling in that particular moment is a true reflection of how I really feel deep down about Dreamy. I've finally decided that to get to the bottom of this I need to start keeping records, à la my Man List. So I'm starting a new document on my computer (top-secret with a fake, boring name, of course) in which I'll keep track of how I'm feeling about Dreamy every day. I'll write a few notes as well as rate my feelings on a score from 1 to 10. I'm calling it the Fickle-o-meter because I've never felt so fickle in all my life, even when I was two and got kicked out of the candy store because I couldn't choose which candy to buy.

The crazy thing is that between when I first came up with the idea during my bike ride home and now, two hours later, Dreamy's score for today has somehow skyrocketed from a 6 to an 8, even though I haven't seen him during that time or had any communication with him. Talk about fickle! I guess I'll have to wait until after our date tonight to finalize his score for the day.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Austerity Times

To deal with reduced financial circumstances, I've temporarily had to implement austerity measures. I'm hoping it won't be for long, because two weeks in I'm already missing the little perks in life, but in the meantime here are a few things I am not allowed to indulge in:
  • Bars. Drinking is allowed only within the confines of a house.
  • Eating out. But, austerity measures are not about being cheap, so if a friend treats you, you still need to reciprocate.
  • Parking tickets/towing fees. So hard to resist their allure.
  • Pottery lessons. Big frowny face.
  • Yoga? Still trying to figure that one out because I'm not sure I can live without it.
  • Clothes. If you have enough clothes that they overflow your ample drawer space AND several boxes in the basement, it's enough. (I may have slipped up a bit this afternoon when I HAPPENED to be on the JCrew website and saw some crazy sales. But I put it on a gift card, so it doesn't count.)
  • A Smartphone. I'm up for a new phone from Verizon, and had planned on joining the masses and getting an iPhone. But it'll have to wait. (On a related note, when did it become so rare to only have a Dumbphone??)
  • Gas. Hence, I am biking everywhere. Which means I am often sweaty, a bit smelly, and very buff.
  • Cheese that costs more than $8. Not totally sure I can live without that, either, but we'll see.
  • Mani/pedis and waxes. Sorry in advance for all the extra hair.
And here are a few things that can help one get through Austerity Times:
  • Friends who are also on austerity measures to plan fun, low-cost activities with and help you stick to the plan.
  • Benefactors who ship you boxes of free clothes. Because there's always a LITTLE bit more space in those drawers. Or in the basement. Or on the floor. (Thanks, D.)
  • Foraging. Rather than head to the farmer's market and purchase pricey organic berries for my annual late summer jam-making extravaganza, as I have in the past, I visited a few crab apple trees near my parents' house last week and picked away, free of charge. On the way back, my arms laden down with apple bags, I was inspired when I passed some Rugosa roses and noticed their bulging hips, and I picked some of those, too. I also found some elderberries, but at that point I was running short on time and had to stick with my first two finds (but I have high hopes for next year!). Downside to foraging: Lots of worms. Like, really lots. I'm pretty sure neither my apple jam nor my rose hip jelly can be considered vegetarian. Upside: extra protein.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Please stop calling me, New York

Over the past five days, as Hurricane Irene wended its way slowly but surely toward the Northeast, I have gotten a total of 8 phone calls from the City of New York, directed toward its city workers:

Your city needs you in this time of crisis! You have been called upon to work at a hurricane evacuation center. You will be expected to report for duty tomorrow. Press 1 if you would like to work the first shift, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Press 2 if you would like to work the second shift, from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. On behalf of the city of New York, thank you!

Hey, New York! I think you're having a little memory lapse. Remember how you fired me two years ago? Remember how I had to move to a new city because a mysterious lawyer called every public school that tried to hire me within the 5 boroughs?

So, which button should I press for "Screw you, New York"?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Incontro in Toscana

Last Wednesday, I left the villa we were staying at in a tiny town in Tuscany and set out on foot. I veered right at the vineyard, down a steep hill, and up again into the old half of the town. The paved road petered out eventually into a rutted dirt road, then ended at a gated villa, and I continued on a path so narrow that brambles plucked threads from my dress and scratched my legs. Finally, I came out onto another road in the slightly-less-teeny town nearby (about 25 houses over our town's 8 or so), and in front of me, sitting at the only bar in town and drinking an espresso as though it were the most natural thing in the world, was my ex-boyfriend, l'Artista.

It had been close to six years since the last time I saw him, in the fall of 2005 in England. The first few hours were surreal, in part because of how normal it felt, as though no time had passed whatsoever. I wasn't sure if I wanted to throw my arms around him or run the other way, but as the time passed we began to feel more normal around each other. Eventually, we made our way back to the villa in his little Yaris, where he got over his initial embarrassment at seeing my family again, settled into a chair next to the pool with a slice of watermelon, and chatted with my aunt, uncle and immediate family.

I wasn't sure how much I'd want to see him, but it turned out to be a lot, to try to get used to our new relationship and learn how to interact with each other non-romantically. Not that he didn't try; I politely declined his suggestion that I leave with him that evening and spend the next few days in Florence. I did make my way there as planned on the weekend, though, and on Saturday was able to realize my dream of eating a home-cooked l'Artista meal (he continues to be the best cook I have ever met). Watching the way he moves in the kitchen, how he slices vegetables, pinches salt and times everything perfectly, is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, I was so tired from waking up at 3:45 a.m. to catch the train that after a plate of pasta and a small glass of wine I conked out on his couch and missed course #2.

Last night, I came home to a clean house, a vase of flowers, and a sweet little "welcome home!" sign that Dreamy made with Crayola markers. I told him about the past few days since we had last spoken, including the plate of pasta. "You know," he said sweetly, "I could be a great cook, too, if someone would teach me."

Based on the contents of the kitchen (Honey Bunches of Oats, Alfredo sauce, sardines, and spaghetti), he's got a ways to go. Nice that he wants to try, though.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Backlash

Mom: Laura, Mademoiselle isn't going to be coming back to school next year.

Laura: What?? Why?

Mom: I think it's because some kids didn't always do their homework.

Laura: No! I did! I did always do my homework! I swear! [She didn't.]

Mom: Oh, well I guess it must be something else, then.

On Thursday, my school had the 1st grade Field Day. While sipping a lemonade and chatting with several moms, they asked me about next year. Not knowing what else to say, I told them the truth: I'm not coming back, it's not my decision, and I'm not sure why.

Before I had fully gotten the sentences out of my mouth or managed to extricate the lump from my throat, the shit hit the fan. Expletives flew. Next came the text messages; the news spread like wildfire. Soon I was getting BCC'ed on emails to the superintendent and principal, telling them how happy the parents have been with me, that I'm one of the best teachers their kids have had, how they've loved what they've seen in my classroom, etc. Others have made appointments to meet directly with the superintendent. In addition, I received some incredibly thoughtful, touching personal emails:

"Dear Mademoiselle, I haven't been able to stop thinking about this since I spoke with you on Thursday. It makes me feel sad and upset to know that I live in a town that treats its teachers this way. Please don't hesitate to ask me for anything."

"It is outrageous that they never asked our opinion when we are the ones who really saw your work through the kids. This REALLY pisses me off."

"I am so sorry about your departure... I really think you were truly awesome! I would not quit that early yet... Maybe they will change their minds..."


All of this, of course, is incredibly affirming and gratifying. At the same time, it makes me feel sad and disheartened to see what a disconnect exists between my parents' opinions of me and the people who make the decisions. And I wonder: will I ever find a school to work for that is not dysfunctional?

Last week, I was scheduled to go in to a school for a demo lesson at 9 a.m. on Friday. At two o'clock the day before, they emailed me to cancel: "At this point, we've decided that we need to continue interviewing candidates before we move on to the next step. It's a really busy time of year. We will keep in touch as we move forward with the process. And would you mind mailing the book we gave you to read to the class back to me?"

No apology, not even a little tiny "Sorry for the inconvenience" or an offer to reimburse me for the cost of mailing the book. I would think that schools, of all places, would be employers who would treat teachers with dignity and respect, to be a positive role model for the kids if for no other reason. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

But, with one and a half days of school left to go, maybe now is the time to stop worrying about it and just enjoy the summer.

Prolonged adolescence

My friend Slinky and I met up last night for some Friday night drinks after a long, hard week. I was a few minutes late and by the time I got there there were no seats left at the bar, so I awkwardly pulled up a stool behind Slinky. Thankfully, a few minutes later a middle aged woman having a cocktail by herself got up to leave. I started pushing my stool back to its original spot to get ready to take over her seat when the woman turned to Slinky.

"I'm leaving, but she can't sit here," she informed Slinky in a firm but pleasant manner.

"Why is that?" asked Slinky.

"Because she's underage," the woman replied, without a hint of doubt in her voice.

"Ummm... she's 32," Slinky informed her.

"Really! I thought you were 14," the woman said, turning and addressing me directly for the first time before disappearing out the door.

I am not actually 32. I have a good solid half-dozen days before my 32nd birthday. Still, even though it has not quite been two decades since I was 14, it has been a while. Four years ago, I went on a trip and ended up sitting in the emergency exit aisle in 3 out of 4 flights, and was asked every time if I was old enough to sit there (you have to be 16). Last year, when I was 30-going-on-31, I was mistaken by a mentally disabled lunch lady for an 8th grader. Now, this. I have to wonder: How long will this continue?? Will I still be asked for ID to get in to R rated movies when I am in my forties? Will it ever at least move on to the point where I'm mistaken for being in my twenties, a mistake that's at least somewhat flattering?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A different kind of Hospice lady

On my way back from a visit to Northampton last weekend for my sister's bachelorette party, I stopped in for visit #2 with my new Hospice lady. We chitchatted about this and that while she chainsmoked and we watched Hoarders, until eventually the subject of the bachelorette party came up.

Tammy: Oh, yeah, a bachelorette? Did you get any strippahs?
Me: Nope, no strippers. But we did have some balls. We asked the waiter to deliver them on my sister's dessert plate. Then we put a purple mustache on them.
Tammy (pokerfaced): That's cute. No strippahs, eh? That's too bad. I suuuuure do like strippahs.

She went on to tell me about a time when she and her friend went out to a stripper bar, leaving her kids alone at home and telling them that they were going to the movies. ("We did see some movies that night, but not the kind my kids THOUGHT we saw!") There were lots of details, and indeed, it does sound like she really likes strippers. Another thing she seems to really enjoy is shocking me.

Gone is the era of the demented old Catholic Hospice ladies. I gotta say, this new era is shaping up to be interesting.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finger violation

My little lovebird, Persil, turned one year old recently. He's changed a lot over the past year, from a tiny little antisocial ball of pin feathers to a lovable, friendly parrot. Next week I'll be marking the one year anniversary of the day my previous lovebird, Haricot, flew away. They say pets can't be replaced, but frankly, with lovebirds I haven't found that to be the case. I still feel sad that Haricot's gone, but for the most part it's pretty hard to tell the difference between him and Persil.

Of course, as well as his personality, Persil's sexuality has developed over the past year from a newborn to a young adult, and like any young adult, he's got a high libido. Like Haricot, Persil enjoys occasionally partaking in mating rituals with me -- he regurgitates seeds, for instance, and does a little mating dance that involves making clicky noises with his beak. However, for the actual business of masturbating, Haricot liked to find dirty tissues lying around and mount them. Persil, on the other hand, prefers the more traditional route of masturbating with something alive -- and there's unfortunately only one living thing around: ME. Specifically, he tries to mount my fingers. It's hard to imagine feeling taken advantage of by a creature who weighs a scant 50 grams, but having my fingers raped by him feels very disturbing. And it's harder to put a stop to than you'd think. You can get him off, but as soon as you stop paying attention he's right back in the saddle.

I don't mean to boast, but this isn't the first time an animal has wanted to have sex with me. My pet rabbit used to try to mount me, too, though with less success than Persil. At the time, it seemed less disturbing, probably because I was ten years old and didn't really understand what he was doing.

Sigh. Maybe he'll discover the eyass soon and move on to greener pastures. In the meantime, I really need to go take a shower.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My very own eyass

Dreamy flew back from a quick trip to Mexico last night, and bought me the gift I never thought I could have: my very own baby eaglet (eyass), just exactly like the one on the New York Times Hawk Cam that I've been obsessed with. Well, pretty much the same, anyway. Here's the comparison:
My eyass

Pip from the NYTimes

Hard to tell the difference, right? I'm naming mine Topes, after my favorite Mexican word. It means speed bump. (They love speed bumps in Mexico.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Frocks and Frets

When I was 3 years old, my mom took me to the candy store in our town and told me I could choose one thing. ANY one thing. This store was, like, the Maine version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with gigantic chocolate moose heads galore, delicious, mouth watering chocolate covered blueberries, those gummy coke bottles that now disgust me but seemed so yummy when I was young, saltwater taffy, etc. (I worked there as a teenager so I know their selection pretty well. Lotta accidents involving chocolate dropped on the floor happened while I was their employee.)

When I couldn't decide right away, my mom told me I had two minutes to make up my mind.

At the end of the two minutes, she took me out of the store. I was kicking and screaming, and I did not have any candy. The candy store lady remembers the incident to this day.

I wish I could say my decision-making skills have improved in the past 29 years, but really, I can't say that they have. Most of my life decisions I've made pretty much by playing some version of eeny-meeny-miney-moe, and even minor decisions sometimes paralyze me.

For instance, I've been shopping recently for a dress to wear as bridesmaid at my sister's wedding in August. I'm the only bridesmaid, so I have full authorization to pick whatever dress I want -- any color, style, etc. I went shopping a couple of weeks ago, and found two dresses that I liked: one cost $240 and was on final sale; the other cost $125 and could be returned for a full refund.

I was able to narrow it down to the two dresses, no problem. But that's where I became totally stuck. So, I did the logical thing and took pictures of myself in both dresses, bought the dress that was cheaper and returnable, and then sent the photos to everyone I know to ask their advice.

Turns out that everyone was on pretty much the same page. They all liked the more expensive dress (which I'll call #2), NOT the one pictured to the right that I had bought (#1). My friends Miami Nice and Ms. B both voted for #2. My mentor at school ooohed over the first dress, until she saw the second one and liked it much better. My mom sent the following cryptic email regarding dress #1: "Hi Heathen,
I like this dress so so. It is very short and I think I prefer one color.
Love, Mom."

There was just one exception... MY SISTER. The bride. The one who I'd be wearing the dress for. She liked dress #1, and wasn't crazy about #2. At this point, I should have just asked myself which one *I* liked better, but I was so divorced from my own perceptions that I had no idea. I threw caution to the wind and spent $240 on the second dress, figuring that it would probably look better on me if 99% of my friends preferred it.

Dreamy is moving in in a couple of weeks for the summer, until his September move to New York, another major life decision that I've worried about at times (not as big a decision as what dress to wear to my sister's wedding, of course!). He will be the third boyfriend I've moved in with, if you count my temporary stints at my ex-boyfriend l'Artista's. We have talked a lot about how we both want things to work out between us, but we are also very different, and there are plenty of times that I worry that things won't work out and that I'm being naive by hoping that they will. And then I worry that if I'm worried after 9 months things are definitely doomed. While Dreamy seems very well-adjusted on the surface, underneath he's got some heavy baggage that he doesn't readily show. I made a joke the other night about how he seems like an open book, but actually he's an open book written with invisible ink; Dreamy thought it was very apt. But when I think about my own baggage that Dreamy has been so kind about, and how much I care about him, and how wonderful it is that he's able to talk about his baggage with me, I feel very lucky and hopeful.

Sometimes I wish I had a life coach who would tell me what to do, which dress will make me look best, whether Dreamy is a hopeless cause, what I should do with my career, even what I should eat for breakfast (sometimes I sit and stare at the choices for a good ten minutes). Since I don't have one, I guess I'll just rely on my imperfect instincts and maybe a few rounds of eeny meeny miney moe, hope that I look okay at my sister's wedding, and that the fact that Dreamy really loves me and wants to make things work is enough. Because, as I learned from my mother when I was three, it's better to make a decision than to stay on the fence. People who stay on the fence end up with nothing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Ode to the Toad

I asked another first grade teacher in my town recently if she had named her toad. She replied, "No. I am very careful with that. I tell them that it is a wild animal, not a pet like a cat or a dog. It is there for us to learn from and observe, not to love or cuddle."

Hmm. All good points that I'm sure the kids would benefit from, although at this point I think it's a bit late for our beloved little toad, Hoppers. I checked with another teacher to get her opinion, and she said that she thinks kids learn eventually not to personify animals anyway, so not to worry about it. Unfortunately, it seems not to be a lesson that I've ever really taken in.

It all started on my first camping trip when I was five. My sister, dad and I went hiking in the White Mountains. We hiked approximately 12 miles in to the shelter we stayed at, with packs that were around 50, maybe 60 pounds. (Though when I repeated the same trip at age 17 I discovered that it was actually 2.25 miles and the "packs" weighed circa 7 pounds. They were those mini-sized LLBean backpacks that preschoolers use.) Anyway, it was hard, and bordered at times on child abuse, especially since we stopped to pee in the woods before we were even done driving and I chose what looked like a great spot -- right smack on top of a bee hive. The bees were not appreciative, and came out to let me know, so I started the trip with about 12 bee stings covering my butt cheeks.

To try to take our minds off the pain and burden, my sister and I started collecting toads. We collected 27 in total, all of whom we named, and also collected urine samples from all 27 before letting them go. (Did I mention that it's a defense mechanism for toads to release a gush of pee when they feel they're being attacked? One that's particularly effective on humans, I might add.) It was, in a word, awesome.

I noticed this personifying tendency resurge on one of the first days I took Hoppers out for the class to observe. I was holding him up to get a good look at his ear holes before showing them to the kids, peering close into his face, when suddenly I had the urge to kiss him. I know my mom always told me you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince, but somehow I don't think this is what she had in mind. (In my defense, he's about the same size as my pet bird, who craves endless kisses.) I resisted, but did bring him a bit closer to my face and made some silly kissy noises while cooing his name, which my kids thought was hilarious.

Today we took Hoppers out again, and sat still and silent in a circle to watch what he would do. Well, lo and behold, who does he hop up to -- ME! A few kids piped up: "Look! Hoppers likes Mademoiselle!" "Nooo, he felt safe because I was sitting still. Or maybe he likes the color of my pants. Or he thinks I'm a good escape route to get away from all these people," I protested. But secretly, I was elated, and I couldn't help but croon to him: "Viens ici, Hoppers!" ("Come here, Hoppers!") Just then, he hopped up onto my leg. The kids gasped with delight -- Hoppers had listened to me!

Of course, I know Hoppers wasn't listening to me. But I still think he's pretty freakin' cool, and sometimes I like to imagine that maybe, just maybe, he thinks I'm cool, too. I'm almost considering asking the science director if I can take him home at the end of the year -- except I think Persil would be jealous.

P.S. Speaking of animals, check out Pip, the red-tailed hawk in Washington Square Park. Little dude is all of 2.5 weeks old, and he is HUGE. He's, like, the same size as a wild turkey, and he could probably swallow Persil whole. And this photo was taken 4 days ago!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Little Miss Fucking Sunshine

Dreamy got me a gift recently after I found out I'm getting laid off from my job next year. It's to bring to any upcoming meetings at school:


And also a book of dirty French to help me improve that (admittedly weak) aspect of my vocabulary.

So now it's time for some soul-searching. Do I want to continue with the French? If so, I can have a permanent sub position at my school next year and probably a classroom the year after. I've loved every minute of this year, but it's a bit exhausting to think about a brand new class of kids arriving September after September who speak not a word of French. It feels like a Sisyphean task, and I can hardly believe that I've accomplished it -- every morning, I feel like I have to pinch myself when I am confronted with a class full of seven-year-olds who spend the entire day speaking in French. But do I want to perform the same miracle over and over again? It will surely get easier, but somehow I doubt that it will ever not feel exhausting. And, do I want to spend my life forcing kids to use their fingers to track the text of an uninspiring basal reader, a la Dick and Jane?

In any case, I absolutely love my new mug. Dreamy is the bestest.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Crappy the toad

We got a new class pet in the first grade last week. It's a toad, and my students (and I) are all pretty excited about him. Even though he gushes an astonishing amount of pee every time I pick him up, he's pretty awesome.

Today we held an election to vote for a name for the toad. I took a bunch of suggestions in both English and French, then everyone voted with a block. Some of the possibilities included Lily, Feignant (Lazy, my personal fave), Bob, Sauter (jump), and Hoppers. Then little Siobhan raised her hand: "Crap," she said sweetly, with her perfect little French accent. I wasn't sure if she realized the implications of the word or if she was just inspired by the French word for toad, crapaud, so I wrote it on our list. Next someone else raised their hand and suggested Crappy. Then I stopped for a moment, contemplated the list, and realized how wildly inappropriate (but hilarious) it would be to have a class pet named Crap or Crappy. I erased them regretfully and told the kids they were out of contention.

We eventually settled on Hoppers, but secretly I still think of him as Crappy le Crapaud. Pronounced with a French accent, of course.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Hawk Channel

The past week or so has been an emotional roller coaster, ever since my friend L'il JC introduced me to my newest bird cam obsession: the Hawk Channel. The main characters on the Hawk Channel are a red-tailed hawk named Violet, her frequently-absent mate Bobby (you could do better, Violet...), and her fluffy, ridiculously adorable baby, born 8 days ago, the only one of her three eggs that turned out to be viable. Violet and the gang live on Washington Square Park, and their preferred cuisine is rats, which works out well for them because there are plenty to be found in that vicinity.

The emotional roller coaster part stems from a bizarre injury that Violet has. She was banded some time ago, and somehow the band rode up on her leg like a badly fitted brassiere. It eventually rode up so high that it started to cut off circulation, and the leg is now swollen and difficult for Violet to stand on.

As a bird owner, I know how perilous such leg injuries can be. Lovebirds sometimes lose their leg because of something as delicate as a human hair getting wrapped around it. But lovebirds can survive just fine with only one leg, partly because they have humans to wait on them hand and foot. Violet relies on her talons to catch rats, and she and her baby both risk death if the injury is too severe.

At first, the plan was for two bird experts affiliated with NYU to catch her and check her out, but they warned that catching her would be like threading a needle while riding a horse, and that even if they did manage to catch her it would be unlikely that they could save her leg. Then for a few days, there was a respite when it was decided that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would take over the decision-making.

After several days, they decided to act. On Thursday, they planned to catch Violet and see if they could remove the band and quickly fix her leg. They thought, however, that she would probably need more medical treatment than that, in which case she and her baby would both be removed to the Bronx Zoo -- and separated FOREVER, because once removed from the nest her maternal instincts would vanish and she might try to eat her baby. Only Bobby would be left behind to fend for himself (good riddance), and once captured, the baby would have to live its entire life in captivity.

This was enough to break me down to tears. On Wednesday, I watched Violet feeding her baby, and thought about how it would be their last dinner together and they had no idea how their lives were about to take such a tragic turn, even though all the thousands of people watching knew. I thought about how sad life is sometimes, and how the baby had only lived for a few short days and was already having such sad things happen to him.

I tuned in on Thursday during my lunch break, and then again after school, but there were no updates and Violet and the baby seemed to be continuing their lives peacefully. Finally, late in the day on Friday it was announced that after observing Violet for the day, the experts had decided that she is fine and it's better not to intervene. WHEW. I sure hope they're right, cause sometimes it seems like these experts don't actually know all that much. Also I don't know how much more of these changes of plans I can live through without getting an ulcer.

Nature, man. It's better than fiction every time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Goodbye, Midge...

I received the following email a couple of days ago from my Hospice coordinator:

Dear Heathen,

I have a new patient who I think you might enjoy. She is in her late 60s and has cardiac disease. She is alert and very talkative, and lives near you. Let me know what you think!

Well, I was pretty psyched, and even more so when I looked up her address and discovered that her house is just steps away from my yoga studio. But what did that mean about Midge, my current Hospice patient, who is 103 years old and crazy in a verbally abusive kind of way? Was my coordinator suggesting I switch patients, or that I take on both? I crafted a reply to try to feel her out and possibly edge her in the direction of switching me to the new lady:

She sounds lovely, and you're right, the location is very convenient for me. However, I'm worried about having time to visit two patients 2-3 times a month. Do you think it might make sense for someone else to take over Midge? I don't think she recognizes me so I'm not sure it would make a difference to her. She is very nice and personable sometimes, but at other times she can be quite belligerent, which can be difficult to take. (Usually I don't stay long when this is the case.) Let me know what you think.

Heathen

Well, she wrote back and said I should make the switch, effective immediately. I'll go check out my new lady this weekend. Goodbye, Midge. I'm sorry I didn't get to know you when you were younger and not crazy. I hope your remaining days are happy and filled with all the things you love -- nuns, the military, red shirts, purple pants, and imaginary friends.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Indulgences

I'm the kind of person who has lots of routines and rules that I follow every day. When I wake up in the morning, I have to brush my teeth first thing. I never, ever eat a meal at home when I'm not sitting at my kitchen table. I can't stand to leave lots of dirty dishes in the sink.

Dreamy, as I'm sure long-time blog readers can imagine, is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, impulsive guy. If he feels like it, he'll go right ahead and eat dessert before dinner. He doesn't think twice about skipping teeth-brushing when he's sleepy. He doesn't even own a kitchen table, and because he doesn't have a kitchen sink either, dirty dishes pile up on his bathroom floor. And cleaning his apartment is... not a priority.

So it was probably under his influence that I exclaimed on Sunday night, after concocting a pair of delicious post-dinner Old-Fashioneds, "Let's take them to bed with us and drink them there! We can watch Glee at the same time. It will be the best Sunday night EVER." Because I so rarely indulge myself like this, the idea seemed incredibly fun and exciting.

We headed to bed, orange-garnished Old-Fashioneds in hand, and set up Dreamy's iPad to watch Glee. A few minutes in, shortly after the opening credits, Dreamy got up to go to the bathroom, and on the way back snagged the remaining candy from my Easter basket and brought it along to bed. He started peeling chocolate eggs and shoving jelly beans into his mouth, leaving tiny pieces of pastel-colored foil scattered around him.

I'm usually a pretty generous person, and would be happy to share just about anything with Dreamy. This includes my precious Easter candy, even though it only comes once a year and is amazingly delicious. But I could see that if I let Dreamy keep at it there would soon be no Easter candy left for me, plus the foil all over the place did not appeal to my sense of order. So I cut him off, grabbing the bags and placing them carefully on the bedside table.

A few minutes passed in silence. Then: "Hey, what happened to that chocolate bunny your grandmother sent?" We opened up the bunny and started gnawing on its ears. After a few bites, I thought to ask if Dreamy might prefer dark chocolate to the milk we were presently consuming at unprecedented speeds. My students are very generous with their chocolate gifts, so there is never a lack of chocolate in the house. I got out a box of truffles that I received for Teacher Appreciation Week last week.

In the morning, I opened my eyes to take in my bedside table: empty Old-Fashioned glasses with the orange rinds hardening at the bottom. A decapitated chocolate bunny lying horizontally with a half-open box of truffles perched precariously on top of it. Tiny pieces of foil scattered across the bedside table as well as the bed. And Dreamy? He had a big dollop of chocolate on his neck where one of the truffles had leaked on him, midway toward his mouth.

I'm not going to make a habit of it, but I have to say, it kinda was the best Sunday night ever.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Midge

My visit with Midge the other day got off to a promising start. She broke into a huge grin, causing a nearby nurse to remark, "You sure brought a smile to her face!" I nodded happily, thinking myself the perfect Hospice volunteer. Until I looked closer, and noticed that Midge was not in fact smiling, but laughing maniacally.

It went downhill from there. I soon became acquainted with Midge's imaginary friend, seated next to her and wearing an identical red shirt ("because they're the style these days," Midge informed me). Our conversation settled into a pattern: Midge would ask a question or make a comment, I would respond, then she would repeat the conversation to her imaginary friend, except that instead of repeating what I'd actually said, she'd twist my words around to make me sound mean. Examples:

Midge: Why is that woman in a wheelchair? If I couldn't walk, I would never let someone push me in a wheelchair. [Note that Midge was seated in a wheelchair as she said this.]
Me: I'm not sure. Maybe she's sick.
Midge [to imaginary friend]: I asked her why that woman is in a wheelchair, and she said she didn't care.

A few minutes later...
Midge [leaning close toward me]: You're a beautiful girl.
Me: Thank you!
Midge [to imaginary friend]: I told her she's a beautiful girl, and she said she KNOWS.

And then, after another pause...
Midge: Do you have a date?
Me: Yes! [thinking, maybe we are getting to a more positive topic of conversation...]
Midge: You're far too young to have a date! [Turns to imaginary friend]; I wonder, does her mother even know she's here??

At this point Midge started to laugh again, this time so hard and with such utter abandon that I wondered if she was crying. When I ascertained that she was, in fact, laughing, I wondered what to do. My policy is to leave if either a) she seems to be getting no pleasure out of my visit, or b) she's so mean it makes me feel bad. However, I wasn't totally sure on either point. Was her laughing totally maniacal, or was there a hint of pleasure in it, too? Was she making me feel bad, or was she just frustrated that she couldn't hear what I was saying?

Midge made up my mind for me by announcing that she was tired and wanted a nap. With a small sigh of relief, I patted her hand and headed for the elevator.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My dreamy boyfriend

A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend Miami Nice in her new town a few hours from where I live. While I was there, I talked to her about some of Dreamy's annoying habits, and how he can be thoughtless in small ways. Then, I asked if she thought I should break up with him.

"Are you crazy?!!" she asked. "He sounds like he's wonderful in all the right ways. Those little problems you're talking about, they're just superficialities. Believe me, Mr. Miami Nice has had issues in that department, too. All men do. But Dreamy sounds perfect for you."

It's taken me eight months of dating him, but I have finally come to realize how right Miami is. Dreamy is sometimes bad at the technicalities of being a boyfriend -- showing up at the right time, remembering to offer to do the dishes, calling while he's away... I could go on. Believe me, it's frustrating sometimes. And it's a contrast with La Moustache, who was very good at all those little details. He called me every day when he was away. He bought amazing gifts for my birthday and Christmas. He made me delicious Raclette dinners every year for Valentine's day. He did my laundry for three years.

And in the end, he was an utter disaster of a boyfriend. He wasn't good at all the things that most matter -- being there when I needed him, being emotionally available, telling me that he loved me and MEANING IT (he did tell me all the time, but it was certainly hard to believe given the way he treated me).

I had a hard week last week, and Dreamy was wonderful. He came over every night. He talked to me about how great he thinks I am. He told me that he loves me and that I've become an important part of his life that he relies on, and I believed him because Dreamy is always sincere. Last night, we went to a dance together, and when I told him I didn't feel like swing dancing with him, he offered to pay me $100 for five minutes of dancing. And then we danced, and he twirled me around and dipped me and we giggled and gazed into each others' eyes, and I forgot all about my troubles.

I got together with some friends last week, and we were kvetching about men, and how frustrating it can be to go on first dates and find again and again how self-centered men can be. There are so many men out there who are terrible at asking questions that even ones who ask inane questions start to seem like prizes. Men who are afraid of commitment are out there in droves, as well as men who struggle to open up. But there are also a few Dreamies out there. They are rare and hard to find, but they are out there, and it's worth the trouble to look for them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Chinchillas and centenarians

I had a refreshingly fun visit last week with my sometimes-bellligerent 103-year-old Hospice patient, Midge. This was a relief on a number of levels, including:

1) The guilt I was starting to feel because every time I arrived and checked the nameplate on her door and it was still there (read: she's still alive), I felt a little bit disappointed.

2) She was clearly once a kind, caring woman and loving mother, as evidenced by the frequent visits from her children (now nearing their eightees!), grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It's nice to know that that is still inside her, somewhere.

3) I'm not in denial, and know that one day it'll be me being passive-aggressive with the nurses and aids. And that's if I'm lucky and don't die in my late middles ages from a slow, painful disease. I'd like to think it's not all misery.

So anyway, Midge was in a very good mood when I got there. I could catch a little glimpse of what Celine, my former wonderful Hospice patient, saw in her, and why they were best friends. In fact, I felt so comfortable that I pulled out my ponytail and let my hair hang down, for once confident that she wouldn't reach out one of her hands and grab ahold of my hair and pull with what little strength she has left in her.

Midge generally has a theme or two that she focuses her conversation around. Often, this involves some branch of the military, and last week was no exception. In addition, she also asked me a lot of love-and-marriage type questions. Here's a snippet of our conversation:

Midge: So, you're in the Navy? (This first question was in sharp contrast to our last encounter, when she made it clear that I am not fit to be in the Navy, Army or anything remotely related to the military.)
Me: Yes. Yes, I am.
Midge: I like your uniform. Do you have a hat to match?
Me: I do. (I keep my answers short because she's deaf and blind.)
Midge: Tell me about your boyfriend. How old is he?
Me: He's 32.
Midge: Oh, 38. That's a good age. What does he do?
Me: He teaches.
Midge: He's a waiter. That's nice. Everyone's getting married these days.
Me: Not me.
Midge: When are you going to get married?
Me: I don't know.
Midge: Well, you should. I got married when I was 26. I loved to dance with my husband. You could do that, too.

Just then, a 50-something-year-old man came along carrying a chinchilla, bringing it around for some animal therapy with the patients. I tried not to flinch. I don't know if you're familiar with chinchillas, but they're basically very large, gray rats with round ears, and they're disgusting. Kind of like a cross between a rat and a squirrel, two of my least favorite animals.

Midge gave a cursory glance toward the chinchilla and patted it absently on its hindquarters, then focused in on the man. "Is this your boyfriend?" she asked me, in what she probably thought was a subtle whisper but was actually more of a loud bray. "No," I said, trying to be both emphatic and quiet at the same time and failing at both.

As if the embarrassing conversation weren't already painfully obvious, Midge decided to be perfectly clear. "I asked her if you were her boyfriend," she said to the man. "She said no."

After a few more questions about his marital history (divorced, single), Chinchilla-man thankfully moved on. Midge, however, did not: "Why don't you want to date him?" she queried. "Too busy? Works too much? That's the way they earn the money, you know."

Thanks for the advice and the attempt at setting me up, Midge. No offense, but I think I'll pass on Chinchilla-man.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nature, via my computer

It seemed like it would never come, but Spring is finally beginning to arrive. Little buds are appearing everywhere, and the chill is disappearing from the air, along with the last mounds of gray snow. And I, as usual at this time of year, can't tear myself away from my computer because of one of the most amazing innovations technology can offer us: animal cams.

Last year, it was a hummingbird cam that riveted me. The camera was zoomed up so close to the nest that the birds looked huge, but in fact each baby was about the size of my thumbnail, and most of that space was taken up by their wide open beaks that followed their mother around like weathervanes. It looked exhausting, frankly, but it sure was fun to watch. They got bigger, and sprouted little pin feathers, and I could hardly stand to miss a second of it.

I wasn't watching, though, when disaster struck: a crow attacked the nest, sending both babies tumbling to the ground. The person whose property the nest (and cam) was on went searching and was able to rescue one baby, but the other one didn't make it. Finally, not long after the crow attacked, the lone remaining baby fledged, and I (of course) cried. After that, he could still be seen nearby for a while, but gradually less and less and eventually I moved on to other things, like leaving my house.

This year, my new obsession is a bald eagle cam. It's much grittier than the hummingbird cam, highlighting several of the more bloodthirsty aspects of nature (well, so did the crow I suppose, but the hummingbirds themselves seemed the epitome of pure innocence). The three babies are cute, but if the mom were a celebrity, she'd be more Dustin Hoffman as Tootsie than Julia Roberts. And she's messy: she constantly has blood all over her feathers, and sometimes drops entrails on her babies. C'mon, Mom! You're teaching them bad habits.

And then there's lunch, which is prominently displayed in the foreground of the screen. It varies from day to day, but often consists of some body parts of a rabbit, like the head or hindquarters, which Mom greedily dips her beak into from time to time, coming away with long strands of rabbit meat hanging down the sides of her beak; a fish, or some part of one; and, frankly, I wouldn't be that surprised if a cat showed up one day. Yum!

It's pretty awesome, as you can tell. Coming up soon on the eagle cam: sibling rivalry continues; the awkward teenage days; and the outcome -- will all the eaglets survive? Seriously, it's better than a soap opera.

Check it out!


Live streaming video by Ustream

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Overextended

On Saturday morning, Dreamy and I boiled coffee and chatted about what we might do the following day: visit his dad, go someplace for a walk, do our taxes, or maybe just loll around on the couch and read. "Just let me check my calendar to make sure I don't have something planned," he said hastily, before committing to anything.

When he checked his calendar, he groaned. Turns out he had an all-day workshop, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., that he had to meet with his boss for much of Saturday afternoon to plan. I couldn't help but unleash some wrath upon learning of the workshop: Dreamy was at work past midnight several days last weekend, worked 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. last Saturday and all day Sunday as well, and the weekend prior to that came back late Sunday night from a 10 day work trip. "But I'm free for dinner tomorrow," he said meekly. Then, a minute later: "Actually, I'm invited to a work-related dinner. Would you mind if I go?"

Why on earth did he agree to do this workshop, which, to be clear, is not a requirement of his job? (It's freelance work.) "It's a lot of money," he explained lamely. I could be earning a lot of money tutoring, I informed him, but I don't, because I know I would be overextending myself. Dreamy seems to say yes to everything, without really thinking about what all these yeses mean his calendar will look like. He claims this is one reason why he's been so successful in life. However, here is just a small sample of the consequences: He hasn't visited his father, who is ill, in months. The skis he borrowed in December are still in his car, waiting to be returned. His apartment looks like a hurricane hit it. I doubt he's managed to fit more than a couple of loads of laundry into his schedule in 2011, and I suspect he may be starting to wear his dirty boxer shorts inside out.

Turns out I shouldn't have bothered chastising him, because people who overextend themselves have a way of punishing themselves. Or at least Dreamy does. On his way to meet me for dinner last night, he was loading supplies for his workshop into his car, and set his laptop down on the hood. Ten minutes after driving off, he remembered it with a shock, and after hunting around for a while located it, banged up and with a cracked screen cover but amazingly still working. I don't know whether to be more amazed by his luck or his incredible spaciness.

Oh, Dreamy.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Two of my not-favorite things about teaching


The stomach flu.

Lately it's been a barf-fest in my classroom. The funny thing about first graders is, they THINK they feel nauseous all the time, and ask to go to the nurse approximately 400 times a week, but when they actually are about to barf they have no clue it's about to happen. So it erupts out of them with no warning, hitting anything that happens to be nearby -- you, other kids, worksheets, books, etc.

Inevitably, every so often teachers catch the stomach flu from the rampant germs that infest the school building. I should probably count myself lucky that I have not had it for three years, but on Friday afternoon, just an hour or so before the official start to the weekend, it hit like a ton of bricks. It could have been much worse; I got off pretty easy this time. Still, it does not make for a particularly fun weekend.

Being a crossing guard.

Not normally part of the job description of a teacher, I realize. However, at my school, each teacher has small weekly duties that we perform, like helping with dismissal, making sure kids are safe as they get off the bus, etc. Several weeks ago, we signed up for new duties. I'm not sure if I didn't sleep enough the night before, or didn't have enough caffeine, or was just temporarily insane, but when the sheet came around I saw "crossing guard" on it, thought "That sounds like fun!" and signed my name. Biggest mistake ever.

So now, every Thursday morning for 15 minutes, I am the crossing guard. And what I've discovered is that yes, teachers work hard, we're underpaid, yada yada yada. But teaching is nowhere NEAR as hard as being a crossing guard. Seriously, I don't care if they only work half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon (what DO they do the rest of the day??), those guys should be earning six figures.

I stand there with my little red stop sign, usually pointing the wrong way until someone points it out, and wave my arms alternately at the pedestrians and the cars. They look at me, wonder "Why is that crazy lady waving her arms at me?", and ignore me. Occasionally as they're driving past me, ignoring my stop sign and my shouts to stop, they roll down the window, a student sticks his head out, and calls, "Hi, Mademoiselle Heathen!" On another crosswalk nearby, a seasoned crossing guard has only to wave her pinkie finger and a whole row of SUVs screeches to a halt. I try to imitate her, but to no avail, so instead she ends up directing both her traffic and mine -- from approximately a quarter of a mile away. Usually, after it feels like I've been on duty for at least an hour, I check my watch -- and discover that it has been all of 90 seconds since I started.

Thank goodness, on Friday my principal told me that he hired a real crossing guard to stand in my spot, so I'm off the hook. Somebody must have realized that a car was going to hit a kid and the school was going to get sued, big time. Just glad it didn't happen on my watch.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crushing

I've been a fan of crushes ever since I was three years old, got my first crush on my sister's best friend, and got in trouble for wrestling with him at my babysitter's house. (He was just so darn cute, how could I be expected to keep my hands off him?) From there, I went on to have an illustrious crush career, encompassing older men, younger men, men of all colors, famous men, and fictional men. Whether or not you're in a relationship, I think a little crush is healthy and helps to put some spice into life.

My co-worker, Madame B, is a fan of the Dad Crush. She likes to have handsome dads volunteer in the classroom and, while the kids are busy doing work, takes a few minutes to flirt with them. Sometimes she even lures the attractive fathers of MY students into her room, since they have to pass by her door to get to mine. But because I'm easily embarrassed, the Dad Crush doesn't work for me, despite having quite a few good-looking dads in my class. I once had a sex dream about a dad (NOT an attractive one -- I really don't know where it came from), and it was so traumatic I couldn't look at either the mom or the dad for weeks. Sometimes it was even hard for me to look at their daughter.

Instead, I like to focus my crush energy on my yoga instructor, Grant. He's the perfect crush: handsome, chiseled, cute butt, wonderful personality, I don't have a chance in hell with him, and I can stare at him all I want during out two-hour yoga class without seeming weird. Occasionally he tells a story during his opening monologue about his girlfriend, and I just tune him out or pretend he's talking about his pet dog. (Turns out his pet dog has a lot of physical issues related to giving birth to two puppies.)

A couple of months ago, Dreamy decided to start coming to yoga class with me. He immediately took a shine to Grant, and stayed after class asking Grant all kinds of questions about different poses. Then, one day I let slip that I think Grant isn't bad-looking, which completely floored Dreamy. I told him he needed to get his eyes checked, because even if you're a heterosexual male you'd have to be blind not to notice how attractive Grant is. Later, I casually mentioned that I sometimes try to look up Grant's shorts while he's helping me with my wheel pose (never with any success, unfortunately).

A few days after my accidental revelations, Dreamy announced that he's giving up yoga for the time being -- possibly because of a shoulder injury, his purported motive, or maybe he didn't want to get in the way of my crush. I have mixed feelings; having Dreamy come along made it a lot easier to make it to my 10 a.m. Sunday yoga class instead of lolling around in bed, but couples who do yoga together do make me feel slightly nauseous. (Almost as bad as couples who do pottery together, an idea that Dreamy also once brought up.) Plus it was embarrassing to ogle Grant with Dreamy next to me, and Dreamy's feelings were hurt when I suggested he move his mat down a few spaces.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The toxic zone

Today was the long-awaited Spring Concert at my school, complete with kids dressed in fancy satin dresses with patent leather heels, boys in ties and button-up shirts that they could hardly wait to unbutton, parents videotaping, etc. In preparation, we had a dress rehearsal yesterday, and the grades that did not participate in the concert were invited to come watch.

The first calamity hit as the kindergartners were just beginning their second song. Right smack in the middle of the risers, as the entire school watched, one of them lost her lunch. All over the risers. The other kids kept singing as though nothing had happened, while adults rushed over and a space was cleared around the murky brown puddle.

The music teacher calmly announced that the rest of the concert would take place on the floor in front of the stage, while the custodians cleaned the stage and the afflicted child was tended to by the nurses upstairs. After the kindergartners had done a few more songs, they sat down and the first graders -- including my little ones -- stood to perform.

Lo and behold, just a few lines into "Down By the Bay," my little Michael upchucked. Five times, or at least in five different places, since he was running toward the nurse's office even as he continued to puke. The first time, his vomit landed squarely on Maeve next to him, a blonde, blue-eyed little girl who comes to school every day in dresses that make her look like a cross between an American Girl doll and a beauty pageant contestant. She handled it with remarkable aplomb, waiting calmly to get cleaned up and then, when she was given a simple yellow polo t-shirt, quickly bunching it up in the back and tying her hair band around it so it wasn't quite so out of sync with the rest of her outfit.

I'm not exactly sure what happened after that, since I was upstairs with Michael and Maeve for the next while, cleaning them up, calling parents, etc. By the time I got back, the second graders were well into their act, and somehow we got through the rest of the concert. Afterward, the music teacher sent out an email to say that, given how badly the dress rehearsal had gone, things could only get better for the second concert.

A short while later, however, she had to amend her earlier statement: The night after the dress rehearsal, she got hit by the stomach flu and was up all night puking.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

You know you're working too hard when...

1) You can't stop thinking about what you're going to teach in math next week during Savasana (final relaxation) in yoga class.

2) You go out for dinner with friends on a Friday night, guzzle down your first drink before anyone else has even had a chance to ORDER theirs, then become catatonic while downing drink #2.

3) Your mind is so tired you feel like you can't handle real news. Protests in Libya? Tsunamis in Japan? I don't know what you're talking about. Out of all the articles last week in the New York Times, this was the one I was riveted by. It's the tragic tale of a hamster named Princess Stephanie's cruel death (actually, two hamsters' deaths, but somehow Stephanie got all the attention -- maybe because she's royalty) and the criminal charges pressed after the incident following a 9-month hunt for the perpetrator. And then I went in to work the next day and told my co-workers all about it over lunch while they pretended to be interested. [Update: the charges were dropped. Are there no consequences to hamster cruelty??]

4) You can't stop thinking about whether the mealworms in your classroom will live through the weekend and questioning whether you should have brought the poor little guys home -- all 80 of them in their 9 separate containers. After all, being responsible for 80 mealworm deaths is even worse than being responsible for 2 hamster deaths, and dying of dehydration is more painful and prolonged than dying from the trauma of being slammed on the floor.

Sigh. When will summer vacation be here?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dreamy's disorder

Monday night found me standing in the middle of a dark , frigid street in Cambridge, yelling at the top of my lungs into my cell phone at Dreamy (who didn't seem so dreamy to me at that particular moment): "I know that you didn't hear your phone ring. I figured that out when I called and got your voice mail THREE TIMES. The bigger question is, WHY THE F*** AREN'T YOU HERE?"

I'll admit it, sometimes I'm crabby during the week. Especially when I didn't sleep super well the night before, when it's late (e.g. after 7 p.m.), and when I worked and then went straight to pottery class. Which is why I tried to make my needs very clear to Dreamy when he called and asked if it was all right if he met a friend for a drink before I came over: "It's fine with me, but I need you to be there when I arrive at 9:30. Can you tell him you have to leave at 9:15 even if you're still in the middle of a conversation? Please don't forget."

Can you tell I'm developing some strategies to deal with Dreamy's executive functioning disorder? With limited success, apparently, because when I pulled into a choice parking spot at exactly 9:31 and dialed his number, there was no answer. So I tried two more times. Then I broke into his building by following on the heels of someone else walking in and went and knocked on his door. Then I stormed back outside and headed for my car, vowing to head straight for home and screw it if I didn't see him again for another two weeks till he gets back from his business trip. And that was when my phone rang (9:50, for the record). "Hey babe, just saw I had three missed calls from you! Oops!"

Yeah, oops is right. I let him have an earful as the undergrads on the street turned to look at the crazy yelling lady. When he tried to tell me where he was, I screamed, "I don't care where you are. Make it so you're HERE, PRONTO!" And then there was, "What kind of excuse is that, that you didn't have your watch?? Bring your goddamn watch when I tell you to meet me at 9:30!" I mean, come on, he seriously deserved it.

But as soon as he showed up, looking all sheepish with a silly little smile on his face, I forgave him. Because after all, I know he has an executive functioning disorder (in fact, I diagnosed it with the help of a social worker friend), and I'm dating him anyway. Not that he shouldn't try to be better; I made him sit down for a brainstorming session afterward about what he could have done differently -- text me his location before he met his friend, leave his door open, leave his phone on the table, etc. But at a certain point you also have to accept people's limitations.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Half a ticket to anywhere

When Dreamy and I first started talking about meeting in Europe next summer, it kinda seemed like everything would just fall effortlessly into place. Dreamy would be there for a work trip; my parents, amazingly, won a villa in Italy in a raffle, and the dates lined up perfectly. When his friend Brian suggested the three of us travel for a couple of days together before Brian left to attend a wedding in Tuscany, I agreed breezily.

We hit the first road bump when it turned out that Dreamy had run out of vacation time, and might not be able to spend a week at the villa after all. Luckily, he was able to get an extra week by extending the end date of his one-year contract. But when I took a closer look at the calendar I realized that I should not have been so blasé about the trip: Between Dreamy's business trip and my family vacation, we only had two days to ourselves. Two days which we had foolishly promised to spend with Brian.

So Dreamy and I sat down last weekend and discussed our options. I asked him to think about what he really wanted, since that sometimes seems to get lost between the demands of his work, his friends, and me. I told him that I would like for us to change the plans and make it so we have some Heathen and Dreamy alone time not because it's what I want, but because it's what both of us want. I had been hoping he'd agree to cancel the two days of travel with Brian, but after mulling it over for a day he told me that he felt like the $4000 he was supposed to receive for his work trip wasn't worth giving up the vacation days he could be spending with me, and he wanted to bow out. (Confusingly, even though it's a work trip, it comes out of his vacation days since it's freelance work.)

WOW. I don't think I've ever had a boyfriend put quite such a literal price on me: a week with me is worth more than $4000. I was so happy and flattered that I immediately, and without fully contemplating the meager contents of my bank account, offered to foot the bill for half of his ticket to Italy. We could now have two weeks: one at the villa and one to ourselves.

It turned out not to be quite so easy. Dreamy had promised months ago to go on this trip; he assumed it would be easy to find a replacement, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So instead, Dreamy came up with a new plan: I go to the villa and have family vacation without him, and then we will go on our own vacation elsewhere. "And babe," he reminded me, "I'll have lots of money from my work trip. I'll pay for half of your ticket to anywhere you want to go. Brazil, Thailand, Greece, Turkey, you name it. And then I want to buy you some amazing dinners while we're there, too."

Dang. I'm a little bummed he won't be coming to Italy, but I don't know if I've ever gotten quite such a sweet-sounding offer. So the only question that remains is: Where to go???

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A night at the symphony

When Dreamy and his friend Brian made reservations for the symphony six weeks or so ago, Dreamy optimistically told him, "Maybe by then you'll be dating someone and can invite him." So they both went ahead and bought two tickets for Mahler's 9th last night, one for me and one for Brian's future boyfriend.

Unfortunately, that's not the way things worked out. Brian did go on a few promising dates, was very excited and, I'm sure, the thought crossed his mind that he could put his spare symphony ticket to good use. But after date #2 his suitor got in touch to say he had just gone through a breakup, wasn't ready, blah blah blah.

It was only two dates, but Brian was crushed. He's been on many, many dates over the past few years, and hadn't felt this excited about anyone. We've all been there, in one form or another, realizing too late that we've gotten ahead of ourselves in our hopes and expectations.

This happened several weeks ago, but I'm sure last night was a reminder of his disappointment. Brian brought along a good friend, but it just wasn't the double date he had been hoping for. After the symphony, his friend headed home, complaining of a head cold, and the three of us made our way through the cold and snow to the nearest bar, where we guzzled down a few cocktails to warm us up.

When Brian headed to the bathroom, Dreamy turned to me, gave me a sweet smile, and started to kiss me. "Why do you keep looking off to your right and squirming around?" he asked. "Because Brian is coming back soon!" I reminded him, and sure enough, just then I spotted Brian, barely in time to distance myself from Dreamy. Later, during a conversation about baseball in which I mostly let my mind wander off, I tuned in briefly to make a disparaging comment about the Yankees. (Really, I'm only marginally more interested in the Red Sox than in the Yankees, but don't tell Dreamy that.) "Isn't she wonderful?" Dreamy asked Brian (a Yankees fan), leaning in to give me another kiss -- with tongue! I elbowed him in the ribs, hoping that my gesture would give him the "be sensitive to your friend" message he clearly needed.

Dreamy has many wonderful qualities, but sensitivity to other people's feelings is not always among them. He certainly feels for his friend, and dropped his plans to head to a bar with Brian when he received the breakup email. But by now he had forgotten that Brian might still be feeling the sting of rejection and might not appreciate being the third wheel to a pair of lovebirds who couldn't keep their hands off each other. So when he headed to the bathroom a second time, Dreamy again edged closer and started putting the moves on me. "Sweetie, we really need to be more sensitive to Brian. He's not going to want to hang out with us anymore if we keep making out while he's in the bathroom," I told him, pushing him gently away.

After one more round, we headed out into the snowy evening and said our goodbyes to Brian. Dreamy and I walked off hand in hand, and after a few minutes he turned to me and said, "Finally, now we can make out!" We stood on the snowy, silent street, and it was very romantic. Romantic, that is, until a car slowed down and honked next to us. "Night, guys!" Brian called out through his open window.

D'oh. Really sorry, Brian.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rebellion 2011

There wasn't much to rebel against this year, since Camping Snobs, my sister and dad's exclusive (read: they did not invite me) cross-country ski trip was kaput, but Rebellion 2011 was a resounding success anyway. Here's my top 10 list of great things about Rebellion:

10. It's so far from school in every way that I couldn't possibly think about work even if I tried.

9. Mom flailing like a cockroach on its back when she falls over. Big letdown this year: she didn't even go down once. I sure hope you don't disappoint next year, Mom.

8. Hot cocoa with a little special something after a long day of skiing.

7. Mushing. This year we got to watch two dog sled teams but didn't get to do any ourselves; I'm considering adding a mushing component to Rebellion 2012.

6. Arriving in camp to a cozy fire burning in our cabin's stove; and, to go with that,

5. Saunas with a woodburning stove and easy access to the out-of-doors where you can grab chunks of icy snow to rub on your aching muscles. And, um, parents who remember to keep their towels wrapped securely around them in the sauna. (Good work on that this year, guys. Much better than last year.)

4. Baby back ribs. And waffles, bacon, split pea soup, and abundant (real) maple syrup.

3. Those nice, easy downhill sections where you glide right along and there's no stream at the bottom that you risk falling into.

2. Coming home to my two sweethearts, Dreamy and Persil. (Yes, Persil is still alive! Dreamy didn't kill him.)

1. Composting toilets! I know it doesn't sound very luxurious, but believe me, after a day (and night) of using outhouses in subzero temperatures, it sure feels it. Of course, it's still a long way to get to the Clivuses in the main building from the cabins, so in the middle of the night either peeing off the porch or just holding it start to seem like better options. I went for the latter, and my bladder may have expanded to twice its former size in the past week.

Looking forward to Rebellion 2012!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Whoopsies

My archnemesis and jerky ex-boyfriend, La Moustache, has returned recently from his quixotic, 15-month trip around the world. Congratulations on driving your gas-guzzling vehicle an astonishingly far distance, Moustache! How do I know this? No, not because I've been googling him or reading bad articles by him (thanks to the Sensitive Bostonian for bringing that one to my attention), but because I've been in touch with him quite a bit since his return to New York.

It turns out that that nagging feeling I had in the back of my mind that I should return my car's New York license plates to the DMV was correct. (Mental note: pay attention to nagging feelings.) Because the car was registered in Moustache's name, and because I stopped paying for my New York insurance but did not cancel my New York registration, they revoked Moustache's license and slapped him with some heavy fines, thinking he had a registered vehicle that he was driving uninsured. (How does this work in other states? Do you always have to "unregister" a car when you move? Seems like kind of a crazy system.)

While some might say this is karma for being a jerk, it actually feels less than satisfying to be furiously angry with someone and then be responsible for causing them a huge inconvenience and major expense. I've been working hard this week to right my wrong, Fed Exing the plates back, making up a bill of sale, and photographing documents. Still, I appreciate the irony that the man who is now notorious for driving around the world no longer has a valid license and can't even drive down the block in Brooklyn.

P.S. Tomorrow is the 6 month anniversary of my first date with Dreamy :) Time flies when you have a nice boyfriend.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Persil: Dead or Alive?

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that a year ago my family was split asunder for February vacation. My father and sister headed off on a cross-country ski trip entitled Camping Snobs 2010, which they neglected to invite my mother and I on. Hence, Mom and I planned our own trip, Rebellion 2010, which was a resounding success.

So successful, in fact, that this year my entire family is embarking on Rebellion 2011. That's right, Camping Snobs is officially dead, and since Mom and I are welcoming, non-exclusive types, we've decided to allow the former Snobbers to join us.

All of this leaves me with a familiar dilemma: Who will take care of the apple of my eye, my helpless little lovebird, Persil? Dreamy has become quite fond of Persil, and now insists that he be present when we Skype. He plays birdcalls to watch Persil's reaction, and when they shower together, I often hear peals of laughter coming from through the bathroom door. As soon as we enter my house, Dreamy asks, "It okay if I let P-Diddy out?" When we first started dating my sister expressed surprise when I mentioned that Dreamy liked Persil, and the Sensitive Bostonian's brother commented that, if he were Dreamy and he liked me, he'd like Persil, too. At this point, I think it's safe to say that Dreamy likes Persil for his own sake, not just mine.

So Dreamy immediately offered his services in caring for Persil when I'm gone. Then I had a conversation with his friend Brian, who pulled me aside and whispered to me, "You might want to leave Persil with me, not Dreamy. I wouldn't want anything to happen to the little guy."

So, is Dreamy responsible enough to keep my bird alive and happy? In his defense, he did successfully turtlesit over the summer, and as far as I know the turtle in question, Franklin, is still alive and healthy. Moreover, a couple of weeks ago, when I got the flu, I asked Dreamy to feed Persil one night when I felt so exhausted it seemed impossible. But as I was heading into my room, I got worried: Would Dreamy remember? I turned around and filled his bowl, only to berate myself for my lack of trust when Dreamy poked his head into my room as I donned my pajamas to ask where his food was.

On the other hand, this weekend I asked Dreamy if he'd mind waiting till after I showered before I heated up our leftover boeuf bourguignon Valentine's dinner for lunch. He answered, "Get in the shower! I can heat it up, silly." I followed his instructions, telling myself there was no reason to feel nervous, only to emerge a half hour later to a merrily boiling "stew" that was no longer quite so stew-y, with at least an inch of boeuf glued to the bottom of the pan. "Oops," Dreamy said, "I got involved in my work and forgot about it." Will he get involved in something and forget about Persil??

Nonetheless, Dreamy is my boyfriend, and if I'm going to do this thing I'll have to trust him at some point. So I've decided to entrust little Persil to him, and to tell Brian that I think he can handle it, although I'd love to use Brian's birdsitting services at a later date. And maybe I'll send a few text message reminders.

'Cuz seriously, if he kills my bird, I will be PISSED.