The Ticket (a sestina)

Last week for school, I wrote a paper on the postal service reform of 1840, and how the postal service in the Victorian Age parallels what the internet is for our age. I won’t bore you with that.

This week I wrote a bunch of stuff about Isabella Beeton, who wrote The Book of Household Management, the full title of which is The Book of Household Management: Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort. I don’t know about you, but I find stuff like this awesome. It reminds me of the Emily Post Etiquette books. I have read some of The Book of Household Management (you can get the Kindle version on Amazon for $2.99) and there is just something so fascinating about how specific the guidelines are for a woman’s behavior, duties, and role in society.

But, I actually have a whole second class too, which is a writing class, called Studies in Place & Setting. I’ve been worried that I’m neglecting this class a little bit, because the Victorian era class is taking up a lot more of my time (see above). But I think that’s the nature of the two different types of classes. (Also, I’m a little jealous of people who take classes without also having a full time job, and/or a 2 1/2 year old running around.)

Anyway, for Studies in Place & Setting, this week we were asked to write a creative piece about someone who loses something or someone, tangible or not. I decided to write a sestina, which is one of my favorite poetry forms. This is basically the first draft of it.

The Ticket 

Lydia hitches her bag up onto her shoulder
And makes a break for the turnstile. The train
Is coming, moving faster than seems safe,
As it hurtles into the station. She skids to a stop
On the platform, the train a wall of silvery gray
Blurring in front of her, like all the friends she has lost.

The doors slide open. The riders look lost,
Fitted in like puzzle pieces, shoulder to shoulder,
Just another Monday morning commute, slate gray
Like the sky outside the windows of the train.
Lydia gently shoves her way in, looking for her stop
On the map above her head. She feels safe

Among these people. Lydia thought safe
Was the last thing she’d feel, essentially lost
In a big city. Her parents had tried to put a stop
To her leaving home. Her mother had cried on her shoulder
When Lydia boarded that Amtrak train,
Leaving that little town of black and white and gray.

She maneuvers her hand into the cool gray
Interior of her purse, checking that her ticket is safe.
She knows she needs it to get off the train.
But her biggest fear: the ticket is lost!
Not in her purse, not in her pocket; her shoulder,
The one not stuck against the wall, starts trembling and won’t stop.

The people lurch as one as the train heaves into its stop.
Lydia feels like her skin is struck gray.
A man stumbles into her, briefly touches her shoulder
As passengers exit around her, their tickets clutched safe
In their fists. Lydia thinks for a second of the lost
Opportunity: the job interview waiting just off the train.

She is still standing there as the punctual train
Doors close, and the beast rumbles out of Lydia’s stop.
She thinks of all the things she’s willingly lost:
Her parents, most of her accent, the horizon-wide gray
Skies of home. That limitless sky made her feel safe.
Anyway, she was never sure about taking this job onto her shoulder.

There is always another train home, and a gray
Farmhouse at some nameless stop. She holds this safe
In her heart, the lost ticket suddenly a weight off her shoulder.

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TBT: First memory

While we were in Lakeport a couple weeks ago, I mentioned something about how I wanted to get some ABC cookie cutters. (Kinda silly since do you know how complicated making roll-out cookies is?? I never do it.) But my mom said she had some, and she went to find them.

She didn’t have the ABCs, but she had a set of numbers, which is also cool…and she also came back with this box:

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I saw this box and it was a huge immediate blast from the past. I feel like my first real, conscious memory (unlike the vague “feelings” I have about being at my grandparents’ house in Van Nuys before they moved to Northern California) was standing in the kitchen looking at these cookie cutters, and being delighted to have them for my very own. I have the notion that they came from the SF Exploratorium although that’s probably wrong.

But look at the back of this box. That is some juvenile handwriting there. That has to put at least a “no later than” date on it.

Memory is a funny thing, because it just goes, doesn’t it? Not even just your first memories, but then also like, what did I spend all my time doing in high school? (Hanging out with my bff?) When was the first time I ever met Drew? (A class, I think?) What was B like in those newborn days? (I remember him sleeping a lot, and us stressing over his weight gain.) How do I not remember these things that you’d think would be kind of important…?

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Fun with Fire Hydrants

B has gotten really into spotting fire hydrants, which is interesting for me because I never really paid any attention to them. But they’re all over. (I guess that’s a good thing.) They also come in a surprising range of colors.

We were driving home from somewhere, and talking about all the fire hydrants, when Drew mentioned something about “the blue reflectors.” I didn’t know what he was talking about, so he started pointing out the blue reflectors, just off of the center line, every time there was a fire hydrant on the side of the road.

I have noticed these reflectors before, but accepted them as…what? Nothing? Sometimes I deliberately run over them because it’s satisfying to aim for something and feel that bump-bump. But now that I know what they represent…I see them everywhere. I feel like a whole new world of city planning has opened up for me.

Am I the only person who didn’t know the purpose of the blue reflectors??

  

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What I Learned from Meal Planning

I got this idea in my head that meal planning is a grown-up thing to do. I remember as a kid having a weekly (or monthly??) menu posted on the fridge, and then I think that for the most part we actually followed that menu.

I have said before (loudly and frequently!) that the hardest, most tiring part of being a parent is being in charge of someone else’s meals every single day, particularly when that person is a 2-year-old who primarily wants pappunoni pizza, watermelon, meenut butter and jim, or cake. So when meal planning, I tried really hard to take this opinionated little guy into account, and plan things that we could all actually eat together.

We did one week of following a meal plan, and here’s what I learned:

You can’t actually shop for the whole week at once.

This was my original grand plan. I had a gift card to Safeway and I went and stocked up on basics and necessities, and I was really proud when all I paid was $18 over the gift card amount. But the truth is, you can’t always buy produce on Sunday that’s for eating on Friday. We lost a couple things that way, and I had to do a second trip partway through the week.

I guess I should have known that. I’m aware of how quickly produce goes. But I got so caught up in the money-saving, time-saving, health-conscious extravaganza that I was taking on that I didn’t really think about all the logistics.

Cooking meals each night takes a lot of time.

It was really nice to have the pressure off at 5pm when the “What’s for dinner” conversations started happening. But, here’s the thing: Usually, B eats at 6pm and we just hang out with him, and then Drew and I eat after B goes to bed. So not only was one of us spending a bunch of time each night preparing a more elaborate meal than usual…but that time was happening between 5-6pm, prime play time.

Also, Drew and I probably forage for dinner 2 or 3 days a week. For example, last night he had eggs and chicken-apple sausage, and I had a sandwich. These took 10 minutes to prepare concurrently. So just in general, cooking a family meal every night added a lot of time to the in-the-kitchen schedule.

…But it is nice to have leftovers.

It was really nice to have interesting leftovers for all of us to take for lunch the next day. B gets a lot of repeat meals, so being able to throw something new in there was probably nice for him, and made me feel like I was being a good parent. Also, since I went on a big grocery shopping trip, I wanted to be able to parlay that into lunches so I didn’t have to spend money during the week.

There’s actually an element of “planning.”

I didn’t realize how to manage the details. I just threw things on different days, and tried to space out all the chicken. But now I know, if you have two meals that use basil, maybe put them closer together so your basil doesn’t completely wilt between them. Or, if you know Survivor is on on Wednesday nights, don’t plan something elaborate that you’re going to have to be either cooking or cleaning up while the show is starting. And give yourself an “egg sandwich” night in the middle of the week, as a break from all the “shepherd’s pie” nights.

Sometimes something comes up.

There’s a lot more life getting in the way than I realized. When planning, I had to work around such things as Easter, dinners out with friends, and other events. We ended up doing this on the least busy week possible, so that we could really give it the old college try, but there always seems to be something coming up.

We also have a slight disadvantage in that Drew doesn’t get home before 5pm, and I am usually at least half an hour behind him. When I think about my parents or my friends, many of whom are teachers, I realize that they have a major heads up over us in that they are home earlier in the day. One friend of mine posted a recipe on Facebook, saying that it was super easy because you could just stick it in the oven and come back 2 hours later. While I do appreciate the ease of that, and plan on taking advantage of it on a weekend, I just don’t have 2 hours’ worth of cooking time on a weeknight.

Overall

It’s really nice to just have a plan in place. And to have that plan include vegetables, which are already in the fridge and ready to be cooked. Without a plan, we have nearly nightly conversations that go, “What do you want for dinner?” “I don’t know, do you have any feelings?” “I don’t know, I just want you to pick something.” “Well, I don’t know…” So going a week without having that conversation was really nice.

Some nights, B would eat what we were eating and it was like this magical curtain of “we’re doing it right!” fell around us. Some nights he was not interested at all and we had to settle for “oh well, we tried.”

I tried to make another weekly schedule but then it just kind of fell through. Maybe next week we can get back on the wagon, because I think overall it was beneficial, albeit tiring.

Help me out with next week, and leave me a comment with your favorite plan-in-advance weeknight meal! (Bonus points if a toddler will eat it.)

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Impromptu Clear Lake visit

This week was the last week of my second term of school, so when I had pretty much wrapped up everything by this weekend, I was eager to get all of us out of the house. Drew suggested we go visit my parents, since we haven’t been up there in awhile, and the weather in Lake County was supposed to be sunny and in the 80s. So yesterday we drove up there for a quick random visit (we were only there for about 5 hours).

It was so nice to see everything again and see what my parents have been doing to their house and yard. B was perfectly happy to play in their garden storage area, which has a gravel floor, and practice scooping and pouring (and dumping and mess-making). I had been thinking a lot about the county park which is nearby their house, so after lunch we all drove over there to check it out.

The play structure I remember is gone, but replaced with one that’s more plastic-based (and probably safer). My dad was pushing B on the swing and B said “Awesome! Is AMAZING!” So cute. My dad said, “Has he been on a swing before?” We were like “YES all the time.”

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Then, since the lake is RIGHT THERE, we couldn’t resist letting him go in a little bit. I walked in with him and he splashed and picked up rocks and algae. He kept saying “Go out there” and pointing out to the lake. Next time we’ll have to take him swimming for reals.

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We went back to the house and he drew with my parents on a chalkboard for awhile, and tried to get close to the cats (good luck) and played with blocks and letter magnets. We left right before 4 when he started melting down from not napping. Drove all the way home with him chatting in the back and not napping. He told us a bunch of times he “had fun with Grandpa and Grandma.”

5+ hours in the car? Totally #worthit!

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Sleep Talking 32: The Snake

I’m currently reading Augusten Burroughs’ A Wolf at the Table, which is a memoir about his father, and I know some people have had issues with the story because he starts with “memories” from when he’s a toddler, but you know what, I’m okay with that. But it’s a hard read, because all he wants is affection and love, and his mom has some problems with her mental health, and from what I can tell so far, his dad is insane and possibly dangerous. I keep telling Drew, “You have to be a loving father. You have to give him lots of attention.”

Anyway. I was reading last night, and then I turned off the light, and Drew said,

“Did that snake come to bed with you?”

I said, “What?!”

And he said, “The snake. On your shoulders.”

EXCUSE ME? Ew! And for the record, NO.

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Some ideas about “The Last Five Years”

Drew and I went to see The Last Five Years at ACT in San Francisco. They did it as a concert, which I am now convinced is the way this show should always be done. I’ve seen I think 6 productions of The Last Five Years, and with the exception of this most recent one, they’ve all tried to stage every scene. And (I know I may be biased but) Drew’s version from college is the only one that accomplished staging it with any sort of panache.

If you don’t know the show, it’s almost entirely music. It’s the story of a five-year relationship between a man and a woman, only she tells her story going from the end of the relationship backwards, and he starts at the beginning and moves forward. The music is incredible, and even though the concept (love gained and lost) is simple, it’s well done.

Since they are almost never in each other’s stories, they are technically always in different spaces, even when sharing the stage. And it just makes the physicality difficult, especially later in the play. I think it is actually a lot cleaner to just put the actors onstage and let them sing in front of microphones, rather than worry about creating the visual world for the audience. We’ll get there on our own with just the actors and the music, I promise. We certainly did with just the talented actors and musicians at ACT.

But! I had two thoughts during this production that I found really interesting.

*Spoilers follow*

The first is that, from the beginning of the evening, I decided I was going to go through the play as Team Jamie. I am always on Cathy’s side, I always find her more sympathetic. So I wanted to really commit to going on his journey. And I did. I was right there with him until he cheats on her. And then all my sympathy goes out the window. So maybe there is a legit reason I’ve been Team Cathy all these years, and it’s not just because I like her songs better.

The second thing is just a conceptual idea. While watching this time, it occurred to me that they very specifically give you Jamie’s age at the beginning and end of the play: this five years spans his life from age 23 to 28. But Cathy’s age is never mentioned. I’ve always assumed she was the same age, but…what if she starts the play at age 30? So then: that’s why his mom doesn’t like her (it’s not just the fact that she’s not Jewish). It’s also why she feels so much pressure to succeed, and so much resentment when her 23-year-old boyfriend is succeeding and she’s not. She also mentions having kids a couple times, and I know that people can think about that at any age, but it becomes more poignant to me if she’s, you know, 33 and feeling pressure about it, while he’s 26 and it’s not on his mind. I’m not saying this is necessarily the way it’s written, but I think it would be a really interesting choice to make in a specific production of the show. It would add an interesting dimension.

All that aside, I still love this show as much as I did in college. And I’m so glad we went and saw it last weekend. I would tell you to go, but it was just a three-nights-only event, and it’s taken me too long to get around to saying, “Go see it.” My bad! I will burn you a copy of the original off-Bway cast recording to make up for it.

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