In Spite of Fear

I wrote someone a letter this morning and told them to be brave, but know that it is also okay to be afraid.  Later I  had several people ask me what I’m doing for spring break. I told them I was going to drive, somewhat randomly, around the southeast and see what there is to see.  They each eyed me with a mixture of suspicion and envy and told me to be safe.  No one told me to be brave but what they don’t know is I’m scared as hell.

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I’ve grown increasingly afraid over the years to go anywhere and do anything, weighing the possible awful things that could happen with the relative safety of just hanging out at home.  I had thought maybe it had (partly) to do with the decline of my vehicle and that the one bright side of getting a new one would be that wonderful feeling of freedom I used to have.  It’s still gone and I’m not sure why, but I keep pushing myself to do the things that I theoretically want to do, trying to ignore that feeling of Impending Doom.

Eventually, luck will run out AND I DON’T KNOW WHY THAT THOUGHT COMES SO EASILY.

I’ve always been a prepared (and maybe a bit paranoid) traveler but this is something completely different, this Impending Doom feeling even if I’m going out to run errands.  Like time is running through that Days of Our Lives hourglass.  Is this what happens in your 40’s or is the anxiety that I’ve been able to control on my own for years starting to crawl all over me in a way I don’t know how to manage?  I go on acting as if everything is fine and planning to do all I want to do but in the back of my mind I’m dreading every decision that I make because it could be The Wrong Decision that makes everything fall apart.

Wonderful?

I used to feel this way but now I’m not sure wonderful is not knowing for sure…

Just so you know, my Grand Southeastern Tour begins Monday morning.  Until then I’ll be wondering why the hell I think this is such a great idea when I seem to be dreading it so much.  I’m sure it will be fine and all this worry is for nothing.  Until the next time I want to leave the house.

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Epitaph: The Mighty Geo

The Mighty Geo
The Mighty Geo

(Disclaimer:  This is about my car.  If you aren’t into cars you may want to skip this post.)

Dear TMG,

I knew it would be painful when the time came to let you go – partly because I figured we would go out together in a fiery crash as the wheels came off or catastrophic engine failure occurred on the highway.  You know we were headed in that direction. I was going to drive you until the end of time (mine or yours) and I tried, just as you did.  I think you tried harder, and you were a better car than I ever deserved.

You brought me from North to South, where mechanics would marvel at your road salt-corroded undercarriage.  There was that brief custody battle where I learned what “title holding state” meant, and experienced both the horror of vehicle property tax and joy of no state inspection.  The southern heat tried to break you but only succeeded in breaking a few door handles over time.  The important parts were indestructible.

Together for 21 years; that’s a long time for any relationship.  You were my most important possession. My safe place.  My escape route when I felt I needed one.  My freedom when I felt trapped.  I’m sorry we never made it across the country like I wanted to, but we saw oceans and highways and mountains and swamps and Mardi Gras and Disney World and Canada.  We were in a parade.  We were in a funeral procession.  I covered you with blooming Rustoleum vines and you managed to keep your dignity while making everyone smile who saw you. You have always been my joy.  You will be the car I drive in heaven.

Make no mistake – you have not been replaced.  Everyone knows you and will miss you.  People will see me get out of a nondescript black car now and ask where you are, and no matter when, it will still be too soon.

A water 2
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When Work is Not Your Passion: It’s Okay

I joked with a friend today ( The Amy Experience ) that I’d need to get irate about something soon because I’ve been so long without a blog post. And then it happened, simmering all evening and boiling over right in the middle of trying to get through a workout (sorry Shaun T.).

Passion. Work. It would be wonderful if those two things went together, but most of the time they really don’t. A lot of jobs are not meant to be your passion to begin with, so you don’t have any expectations to eat, sleep, and breathe them. For example, I loved my McDonald’s gig in high school, but nobody expects you to or cares if you do. My current field is not like that and maybe yours isn’t either. But guess what? It’s really okay if you aren’t in love with what you do for your paycheck, as long as you do it well. It’s okay and don’t let anybody tell you different.

Oh my God I’m a terrible person. Wait – no I’m not – I have a life outside of work that is important to me. I have people in my life who don’t understand or care what I do for a living and that’s just fine with me. I have a job with a high burn out rate AND I live where I work, so you’d think I MUST love this gig to be doing it so long.  Nope, I just seem to be good at it. Passion is not as important as competence. Passion also shouldn’t replace work-life balance.

Ask your supervisor which is more important: that you are good at what you do or that you love what you do. A good supervisor will say they want you to love what you do so that you are happy; an honest supervisor will say they need you to be good at what you do so that they are happy. A lot of your job is probably doing things that make your bosses’ jobs easier. So be good at it, but don’t let people make you feel like it has to be your entire life. You know why people like you to labor under the illusion that you must have a passion for what you do?  If you talk yourself into believing it, you’ll be more likely to work yourself to death doing it.  YES! you think – when those other shameful rats are going home on time to be with family or take care of personal business or exercising or pursuing their dream of becoming the next hot YouTube makeup vlogger or going on vacation – I WILL BE HERE!  SHOWING MY DEDICATION!  GIVING YOU EVERYTHING I HAVE! SACRIFICING FOR YOU BECAUSE I AM SO ESSENTIAL!

Not to break your heart, but you can be replaced at work without much trouble.  We all can.  Your family, your friends, the things that make you thrive?  That’s where your passion needs to be focused.

For a long time, I thought something must be wrong with me for not pursuing those next-step jobs or that higher degree or writing that article or becoming well known in my field. Guess what? I don’t care about that stuff. I DO care about having health insurance and a place to live – I’m pretty passionate about that.  But I like working behind the scenes to make people’s lives easier. I don’t need to be the best of the bunch at work but I do need to do the job to the best of my ability and I do.

Don’t suck at your job, but don’t forget about your life. Your life isn’t waiting around for you to finish running yourself ragged and it is impervious to disapproving looks.  If you happen to be in a career that you absolutely love, I am so happy for you!  Feel free to let me know if you find a job with solid pay, travel to fun places, and lots of chocolate.  I’ll be all over that.  Until then, I work for a paycheck, not passion.

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FOOD: Easy Dutch Oven Bread

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A few years ago I posted a recipe for bread and it was my go-to…but it didn’t always come out that well.  Part was the ingredient ratio, part was getting a good amount of steam while cooking and part was probably not letting the dough rise way beyond what the recipe suggested.  I recently found something similar and easier, and I get a good excuse to bake in my little 2.5 quart dutch oven!  This can also be made in a larger dutch oven; I think most people probably have a 5-6 quart size if they’ve got one at all, but it makes a slightly more oval loaf instead of round.  Great flavor, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside.

Mix with a whisk in a medium-large bowl:

  • 3 c. flour (all purpose, or 1/2 AP and half bread flour)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 packet dry active yeast

Add warm water – I usually use @1 3/4 cups but you might want to start with 1 1/2 cups and see if you like that consistency.  I like my dough a bit on the wetter side.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set somewhere out of the way…FOR HOURS AND HOURS.  Seriously, I usually do this at night before bed and then I can bake bread the next morning, or even leave it until I get home from work the next day. Then:

Turn oven to 450 and put your dutch oven in (including lid) to preheat.

Turn out your dough onto a floured piece of parchment paper, cover with plastic wrap and let sit 30 minutes while the oven warms.  I find it’s easier to put the parchment paper in a bowl about the size of my D.O. and cover with plastic wrap.  Then I don’t have all the dough sticking to the plastic.  After 30 minutes I just lift the paper & dough out of the bowl and pop it in the hot D.O.

Put the lid on and put it in the oven for @35-40 minutes (I do 40, depends on your oven).

At 40 minutes, I took the lid off for another 5 minutes.  The idea is to brown the top, but really, my little loaf was already browned because it filled up the D.O. nicely and touched the lid while baking.  Trial and error.

Done!  Lift paper and bread out and dump bread onto a rack to cool!

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FOOD: Sick day Soup

Have one of those people this week with a questionable stomach who refuses to stop eating all the spicy holiday snacks because they hate bland food?  Try this soup for them, tailoring the broth and protein to what you have on hand.  I used beef broth (okay, boullion cubes) because I had a bit of leftover Christmas Eve steak I chopped – after scraping off all the Montreal steak seasoning I could from it. This recipe makes 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry/daring your sick folk are.

  • 4 cups broth/boullion
  • steak or chicken (optional but SOMEONE must have meat or it doesn’t count as a meal)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic (more or less, I like more)

Heat 1-2 tablespoons oil (I used peanut) in a big pot; I have one of those big cast iron enameled Dutch oven pots with a lid. Looks like the fancy expensive brand but it’s not.  Works just the same, imagine that!

Chop the onion well (I used sweet yellow) and saute it in the hot oil for a few minutes, reducing it and doing some caramelization. Just before you think you’re done, throw in the garlic.  If you don’t keep a jar of minced garlic in your house at all times, I don’t think we can be friends.

Do not let the garlic burn! Just stir it around a minute and then add the broth and the rice. Stir, and add protein if you are putting any in. Turn the heat down to a simmer.   I let that simmer for probably 45-60 minutes tonight because I had time, even though it overcooks the rice.  I added chopped celery and carrots for the last half hour. That made them nice and hot but still a little crunchy.

By the time we were ready to eat, the rice was mushy (which I think is a good thing for an upset stomach) the veggies still had crunch and it all had a good flavor without anything super spicy and potentially irritating like cumin or pepper. It was a thick soup because of the rice but if you want a soupier soup you could always add more liquid while cooking.

All in all, it was a non-irritating soup for the stomach and tasted good enough for healthy people to enjoy. It got the seal of approval from Nauseous McCrankypants which is a rare and wonderful thing so I thought I’d better write this down so I remember what worked!

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Rage Against the Holiday Gift Exchange

A newish co-worker leaned over yesterday in a meeting and quietly asked a question about the gift exchange my division does at the holiday party.  “I don’t play that game, I hate it,” I told him – perhaps a bit too bluntly because he looked at me like he had made a mistake or perhaps like I eat kittens for breakfast.  Some explanation was in order.

I don’t care for gift exchange games.  Nobody’s on the same page about what kind of gift to bring, everyone argues over the rules of the game, and there are always people disappointed by the outcome.   I know, it’s just a GAME and it’s meant to be fun and not taken seriously.  I don’t find it funny when I spend money on a gift and bring home crap that’s going straight to Goodwill.  Or when I pick something nice and my friendly co-worker steals it from me.  Someone recently told me a story about a gift exchange where she unwrapped an empty box, and everyone laughed and laughed like it was the funniest thing ever.  That sucks.

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I wish people could just get their gift exchange shit together, and not treat this as an opportunity to unload junk you have been too lazy to donate.  As a fan of de-cluttering, this is one of those activities it’s easy for me to back away from.  Yes, I’m the one person sitting among 40 or so not playing, but I am snacking and visiting with co-workers just the same and having a fine morning NOT getting angry that my gift has been stolen for the third time and now the only thing left for me is the VHS tape of George of the Jungle that reappears every year.

A “White elephant” is defined as a possession that is useless or troublesome.  Why don’t we stop encouraging that and have GOOD gift exchanges?  Come on – you see what the coveted gifts are every year.  Why are we not all bringing those things and everybody goes home happy?  How about don’t shop at Spencer’s for a gift?  How about not having a full page of rules and instructions on how to play?  How about just bringing:

  • Chocolate
  • Booze
  • Scratch-off instant lottery tickets
  • Whatever is a coveted food item in your area: a box of Krispy Kreme, a bottle of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, Biscoff cookie butter, etc…

WAIT you say – What about that person who is a recovering alcoholic, has a lot of food allergies and thinks gambling is a sin?  They can swap out their gift for that George of the Jungle tape we’ll be keeping in the back for just such an emergency.  Or that coffee mug filled with generic hard candies wrapped in red and green foil, because I’m sure you need another coffee mug.  Hint: NO ONE NEEDS ANOTHER COFFEE MUG.

Please, please, people who get the unenviable task of putting together their office holiday party, set some gift exchange ground rules to make it suck less.  I know there will always be that one asshole who insists they need to carry on the tradition of passing off that Yanni cassette to some poor celebrant who was hoping for a Godiva bar, and that’s not your fault.  At least you tried and I for one appreciate it.

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Easy Consent Primer

My Facebook news feed runneth over with opinions and outrage over the recent light sentencing of the Stanford student found guilty on three counts of sexual assault.  I won’t rehash that – You’ve read plenty already I’m sure.  So many things to be angry about here like white privilege,  rape culture, binge drinking, inability to accept blame for one’s actions, consent and what it is or is not.

As someone who works with students in a university setting, all the arguments and excuses that come up during a sexual assault investigation are familiar to me.  I think what makes this crime really dig into my heart is that SO MANY of them are in this case.  This is like a case study to end all case studies when it comes to how certain types of people are able to get out of horrible things and somehow continue to remain completely oblivious to the wreckage they leave in their wake.  Part of my job is to educate the students in my care, and we all know simple can sometimes work best for busy folks with short attention spans.  Therefore, to assist everyone who finds themselves in the same confused and deluded boat, trying to sail away from responsibility on the river of Denial, I bring you a short primer on what to remember when you find yourself on top of a person who is unconscious (BESIDES quickly getting help to make sure they are okay).  Feel free to use as necessary.

ApeConsentDandelionConsentFrogConsentSleepConsentWineConsentWoodsConsent86deffe3b45540462efc9d972d2b48b3DogConsent

Posted in college, Life, Residence Life, Student Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Me and Moses and Losing My Religion

Happy Easter!   

 

Our only Easter tradition these days seems to be watching all the hours of The Ten Commandments (The REAL version with Charlton and Yul) and buying a pile of chocolate for ourselves.  We’re even a holiday behind this year, with corned beef and cabbage in the crockpot.  Maybe we’ll do ham for Cinco de Mayo and have margaritas for The Fourth of July.

Easter always gets me thinking seriously about my religion (or lack thereof) in a way Christmas never does.  Must be the torture and death.  I’m such a bad Catholic now that someone had to remind me what Good Friday was all about.  And thank goodness for that infogram on facebook breaking down the horrors to specific hours.  I know, I know…  But looking from the outside in, Good Friday seems like a really poor choice of titles for the day. I haven’t been to a church service in years that wasn’t tied to a wedding or a funeral.  I don’t consider myself a Catholic anymore, although I was raised that and went through Confirmation and all. Cecelia is the saint name I chose, for those that are curious. Today, I consider myself a human being who tries to be as good as she is able on any given day.  That’s not a religion, that’s just not being a dick.  I’m okay with that.  If we have a higher being I feel they will be okay with that as well.

Organized religion just stopped making sense to me and no one could give me answers that seemed right. It probably happens to most people and then they somehow reconcile and put away thier doubts.  That’s faith?  When something doesn’t make sense but you’re going to believe in it anyway?  Yeah…no.  I couldn’t do it.  It never seemed right that somehow I happened to be part of the “real” religion and everyone else was mistaken and doomed.  I lasted until shortly after confirmation when I finally said this religion stuff was bullshit.  I probably said exactly that, I don’t recall.  But I know what the last straw was, the last stupid little thing that make me think people were totally lying to me about how serious all these rules were that I was brought up with and was supposed to be terrified to go against.   

 
St. Patrick’s Day on a Friday was all it took.

Buffalo has a pretty big Irish population and apparently there was consternation over not being able to eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s day since it was a Friday during Lent.  The Cardinal over the Buffalo area then gave Special Dispensation to eat corned beef that Friday that year.  I went WHAAAT………..?  Suddenly, all these rules of what you could and could not do to avoid going to Hell got pretty hazy. I was out.  I didn’t make a big stink about it but slowly I withdrew from “churchy things” and once I was in college I only went to mass on major holidays to make my mother happy.

I may not be part of a religion on purpose now, but I can’t exactly remove everything I was raised with.  It’s just a bit different these days.  I do believe there was a man named Jesus.  I have a feeling that some stories in the Bible are loosely based on true events and others are completely fabricated to suit the needs of important men. I think Mary Magdalene was far more important than we have been told and might have been Jesus’ wife.  There’s so much we don’t know about that people just have faith in but that’s never been me. 

I just try not to be an asshole.  

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The Trump Report

I went to a Trump rally held at my institution in January because we get a lot of candidates coming through there and I thought it would be a hoot.  It kind of wasn’t, and I just realized today that I posted the story to my facebook but forgot to put it here.  So sorry for the two month delay!

First of all, the man let me down. It was the same old rhetoric I’ve heard from every candidate. He’s going to fix the social security problem, the immigration problem, the healthcare problem, blah blah blah. You and everybody else. I did think it was funny when he started talking about Mexico and said “I love the Mexican people – a lot of them work for me.”  He had zero explanation for how he would implement any of his plans.

I walked there and I’m so glad because the line of cars and line of people was amazingly ridiculous. (In fact, while in line I learned that our 6,500 seat coliseum actually seats 14,000 and 20,000 tickets had been claimed. Our facilities folks told me Trump’s people would never tell them how many tickets they had given out.) If only our basketball team drew that many supporters into that building. I was the only one not freezing in line because I was wearing all my fluorescent winter running gear – and a sock monkey hat – because you know me. I like to blend in. While in line, I could have shopped for many delightful items including a Trump scarf, t-shirts and buttons that said “bomb the shit out of ISIS”, bumper stickers proclaiming that if Hillary can’t please her husband she can’t please the country, another that simply said “Trump that bitch”, and oddly enough, Trump underwear (white briefs).  

It was clear that Trump feels really threatened by Hillary judging by those stickers and the number of times he disparaged her. Other than that, the only remotely interesting thing was the instruction given to the crowd in case of protesters or hecklers. We were told to immediately begin chanting TRUMP and point towards the person until the police could grab them. No other candidate I’ve gone to see has started off their event with a plan to have attendees shut down dissenting opinions. To see it happen several times tonight and see how excited everyone got about doing it was kind of chilling.  

They stopped letting people in a little after 7 and then let a few more in at some point. There were still at least 100 empty seats during the event in my section alone. People who couldn’t get in were beating on the windows and cussing out the secret service guys. The attendees of this freak show were far crazier than Trump tonight.

The Muslim woman standing silently while Trump talked about Syrian refugees?  That’s all she was doing and it made someone mad so the crowd around her turned into a pack of jackals.  I’m amazed she wasn’t injured on the way out.  At the time, I had no idea why she was being escorted out until after I saw the CNN report, but the police sure hustled to get to her. There were several times the crowd would turn on a person and start pointing and chanting TRUMP – which is what the audience was instructed to do if there were any protesters. It happened so quickly and loudly I couldn’t tell you what any of them said or did.

I got so bored (and frankly a bit spooked by the crowd mentality – it’s like I was in the Milgram experiment or the Stanford prison study) hearing the same old same old that I gave up and left but as I did he finished up and it was that little incentive I needed to jog all the way home because I couldn’t get away fast enough from all those normal looking crazy people. Kudos to our campus police and facilities folks that have to deal with all the headaches of hosting all these candidates.

P.S. Because someone was wondering – the music playing when he walked out was “Eye of the Tiger”. I am also sharing a photo someone at the university took which shows not only the woman who was eventually escorted out when she stood to represent peaceful Muslims and Syrian refugees, but a nice homemade sign next to her that someone snuck in accusing Trump of liking Nickleback. LOL

  

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Making Handmade Leather Journals

  
Lately I’ve been obsessed with de-cluttering AND blank journals.  Especially leather ones, which can be amazingly expensive.  I horde blank journals because I can never figure out what’s important enough to write in them but then I realized I could get rid of a bag of random leather scraps by making journals.  Win-win, if I actually use some and get rid of some in the etsy shop or as gifts.  Most of what I am making is teeny and oddly shaped but of course this tutorial will help get you started no matter what size and shape you want to make.  If you want weird ones, get your 40% off Michael’s coupon and buy a $6.99 bag of leather scraps!

  
Some of my journals are two leather pieces stitched together with pages in the middle like a sandwich. Others are one piece of folded leather and  inserts of folded pages.  The basic stuff I used is above and I happened to have most of it because I’m crafty.  Besides leather I have some cording/ribbon if I want to tie the journals closed, several types of string for binding, embroidery needles $1.29 at Wal-Mart), exacto and scissors, pliers (in case you need help pulling the needle through the pages), and two awls.  You really only need one awl but I just happened to have two around.  And paper of course!  You can use anything and some of my books are using 100lb drawing paper from pads I haven’t touched in years.  The heavier the paper, the more of a challenge it will be to get the awl through.  

For the teeny gray guy below, I cut some scrap copy paper into pages slightly smaller than the leather covers.  

  
This is a small enough book that I worked the sharper awl through everything at once but you can also work in stages.  Just use one page with holes on all sections as a template.  The number of holes and stitching patterns are up to you and I’ve seen some pretty fancy patterns that confuse the hell out of me.  Just do what you like and what works.  For this type of book without folded pages, the knot will be on the outside.  

For the slightly larger green journal I am using a single piece of leather that I will fold over.  I’m using 100lb paper and will fold those as well.

  
I poked the smaller awl through everything but using the larger one would have made stitching much easier. I used waxed cotton cord which is thicker than my other options so using pliers to pull the needle straight though was a huge help.  For stitching folded pages the knot can be on the inside.  With this folded type of book, I like to add a tie to it to help hold it shut.

  
Just cut two small slits in the back and weave a tie of some sort – in this case faux suede cord. Ta-da, you can even remove and add new pages when it gets used up. Now force yourself to write in them! 

  

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