Archive for the ‘project life’ Category

Adventures in Egg Bake

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I received a crock pot for Christmas. To be honest, I’m always a bit confused when I get kitchen appliances for gifts since I’m not bestowed with any grace in the kitchen. In fact, I may lack grace in most areas of life, aside from being able to remember a lot of random facts about my many interests (Tudor England, New Media, Horror films, certain TV shows). But, as a single person and as someone in her 30s, I can see why people would get me such gifts, and I do appreciate these gifts and utilize them, though I perhaps may not always do that well.

My adventures with the crock pot, thus far, have told me that I was meant to use a slow cooker. My main problem in the kitchen is that I overcook or burn everything, mostly because I’ll find myself peering curiously into a pot, skillet, or my oven wondering, IS IT DONE YET?! and overestimating that it needs just five more minutes. During these five more minutes, I sit down at my computer to research one of my interests above and COMPLETELY LOSE TRACK OF TIME. So five minutes can turn out to be a lot more. Hence the burned food. Hence the overcooked meal.

I know. I should invest in a timer. The problem with that is that when the timer went off, I would be in the midst of this REALLY INTERESTING FACTOID about Tudor England or composing in new media and I would just shut it off and keep reading thinking a minute or two won’t hurt.

Yeah.

But my crock pot has also caused me to explore new recipes, and some of them are not something you would want to cook in a crock pot. One of these recipes was an egg bake, which I chose because I had extra stove top and this recipe called for stove top dressing. Great! I thought. And it looked easy, too. Fantastic! I thought. I’ll make that for supper RIGHT NOW.

So I make it and ate it. It seemed to better this morning than it was last night (maybe things just needed to settle, or something? or maybe i was just hungry? I don’t know) but here is what I have learned about egg bake:

  1. Egg bake is deceptive in its appearing simplicity. It actually takes time. It takes experimentation. I did OK, but I really overshot the simplicity=immediate goodness factor.
  2. Sausage, ham, or bacon might be helpful.
  3. I think layering would be a good idea for next time. Mixing all those ingredients together, as the recipe called for, was meh. At least for me.
  4. Cheese is absolutely necessary.
  5. When a recipe calls for two cups of Stove Top, make sure you only put it two cups and just don’t put in the whole box and say to yourself, THAT LOOKS LIKE TWO CUPS.

My egg bake with stove top wasn’t a total failure. I mean sometimes I can taste the eggs, and it is called egg bake, after all. But the stove top is a tad overpowering. But, because I’m stubborn about this egg bake thing now, I am going to try it again until I find something that works.

To be continued.

Quiet Rebellion

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

For one reason or another, I’ve spent the last couple days mulling over why I don’t listen to people very well. To be real with you, I’ve kind of been like this for as long as I have been conscious. Here are a couple examples:

  • As a young child, I was basically told by a teacher that I would never get anywhere in life, much less graduate from high school. (Long story–I later learned she told my parents the same thing). I didn’t listen to her. I remember thinking something along the lines that I don’t have to believe what this person is telling me, and rightly so. Perhaps this isn’t the best example, but I think as a young person being told something like that can become pretty damn debilitating to someone, if you let it. And maybe i am being a uncaring hardass by putting it that way, because I do know a child is very vulnerable to suggestions, but I am just very stubborn. I just chose not to believe her.
  • If someone says that I cannot do [insert activity here], I often do it anyway. For example, if someone says I cannot have one more drink I’ll be like puhleeze, and order one more drink. And then drink it quickly. Right in front of them. For effect. And because I can.

But the question I have been asking myself is why. Why do I not listen to people sometimes? Sure, I do listen to people more often than not, I think, or at least I think I do. As a graduate student, I have to follow directions. As a teacher, I have to follow university and department protocols. As a grant writer, I have to carefully follow funder’s requests. I do these things. I have deadlines. I meet them. But all the same, there is this strong part of me that says IDGAF all in bold, harsh language.

I know that sounds angry in tone, and sometimes it is. But mostly I am testing the response, or I want to find out mistakes for myself. I don’t always trust (in) your expertise because you are different and handle things differently than I do and goddamn, I will do it my own way whether you like it or not. And maybe, I do it because I know you won’t like it and that just might make you a little mad. Just a little. Just enough to get your attention.  Along with this, I am also stubborn. I am stubborn to a point it isn’t even helpful for me to be stubborn sometimes. My stubbornness, actually, is something that I think might be genetic since it seems to run in my family, like my stature and my eventual hearing loss that has already started to crop up in my early 30s. I think stubbornness is built into the brains of everyone in my family. (Of course, this isn’t true. It is a total learned behavior.)

I also started to consider that idea that maybe I just think that I am above the law, in one way or another, but decided that no, that wasn’t true. The rules, as much as I sometimes despise them, still apply to me. It makes no sense that they wouldn’t apply to me. And when it comes to where I am in life (whatever that means), I think I am barely just keeping up with everyone else, because as a Millennial, I have been taught that not even good is good enough. Why have the medium size fries when you can have the large? Why not get the combo meal?  Honestly, society has taught millennials that they/we aren’t good enough and need to do more and while at it, why not take this unpaid internship and do some good work for us and prove that you are not lazy slouches.

I think there is just a deep part of me that thrives on rebellion, in whatever form it is in. Even if it is a quiet rebellion where I subtly moved the chess piece when you weren’t looking and when it wasn’t my turn. When you finally notice, you just see me there, polite and smiling, and asking you about your day. It sounds a little passive-aggressive, but I am midwestern, so I’ll take that charge. But so far, this thriving on rebellion is the best reason I have come up with, considering all the other possibilities I have so far considered. And quiet rebellion is, honestly, what helps me get through the day.

After the first week and some good advice

Sunday, September 1st, 2013

On Thursday, I finished the first week of teaching for my grants and proposals class. Overall, it went pretty well and I think I have a good group of students this semester and I’m definitely excited to be back in the classroom. One thing that I noticed that is different about my class in comparison to the other upper division writing classes I have taught is that I spent most of this first week basically talking students away from the ledge.

To give some perspective, grant writing and research has a bit of a reputation of being “hard.” I put hard in quotation marks because I see it more as challenging and not hard. Yes, grant writing and research is challenging. Yes, it takes a lot of writing and revision. Yes, it takes a lot of communication with others. But I always try to tell students that even though this class is a lot of work, it is going to pay off in the end because no where else will you have the ability to practice grant writing skills, get feedback, and have constant encouragement the whole time. Plus, taking this class is actually saving you money considering how much it costs to learn these skills from other organizations that charge buckets of money for the same information.

Telling students that usually puts it in perspective, and my 5pm section got this right away when one student said, “wow. we are getting a good deal here.” Indeed, you are getting a good deal. I could also remind them about how at our university, they are receiving a fantastic education and won’t be straddled with as much debt as someone who attended an ivy league or top tier school, but I didn’t go into that. I figure that they probably know this anyway since they all are juniors or seniors, or at least they better know this.

So while I was talking students away from the ledge this week, I kept thinking back to some advice I was told as a new graduate student as I entered my MA program back in 2006. The advice is this, and it is deceptive in its simplicity: get the work done, treat yourself well, and stay away from the jerks. When I was told this the first time, I thought oh, for easy. I can do that. In reality, this is advice that is much harder than you immediately think.

Getting the work done, at least for me, is usually the easy part. I love work. I love what I do. I work probably too much. I can definitely get the work done. Not a problem. Treating yourself well is the next bit of advice, and sometimes I maybe need to follow this better than I do. While I do make sure to get in my required hours of Netflix viewing and reading for pleasure, I could probably stand to take a whole day off or two here and there, especially since I kind of have four day weekends (which, by the way, is already wigging me out a bit in the sense that i have to remind myself if it is Saturday or Sunday or what day it is). But at the same time, I kind of don’t have four day weekends since I also have to read for my comprehensive exams coming up this fall. (Meeting is next Monday, ya’ll!) So that is something I know I need to pay more attention to. Finally, staying away from the jerks sounds easy enough, but sometimes you are surprised by who turns out to be a jerk and who doesn’t. Admittedly, while I think I am ok at reading people, I sometimes don’t understand their intentions the best. Thus, I make mistakes in judgement. I’m trying to get better at that. And it is awkward to try to explain to someone the reason you have not hung out lately is because that person is kind of a jerk. So it goes.

But the point is while I was talking these students down and away from that ledge, and I could understand their feelings since I have also taken this class as a student, I thought back to that advice and honed in on it. I told them a lot of this work is collaborative, so while it looks like a large amount of work, it isn’t as bad as it seems outwardly. The collaboration will help create a good final product. But at the same time, it is also important to have fun with this and be creative. So yes, while they have a lot of work to get done this semester, just like how I do, they also need to give themselves downtime when appropriate and make sure they build good relationships with their team members. If they can do that, they will probably create some great projects and I am looking forward to seeing them.

Get the work done. Treat yourself well. Stay away from the jerks. I’ll just keep repeating that.

On Bullies and why you try to be better, but aren’t.

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

I read this Jezebel article today and would like to tell you I had some feelings about it, and I don’t often like to have feelings, though I have to admit I have them from time to time. I just want you to know I don’t particularly like having feelings, though that isn’t the point. The point is that I know exactly, like to a T, how this girl feels, or I am pretty sure that I do. I was bullied in junior high as well, and that was probably where bullying happened the worst. Just to set the stage for that, one instance of bullying had a boy from my class write in ink on my favorite denim jacket a sarcastic “I’m cool.” I didn’t know about it until I got home and saw it on the back and was mortified. I remember going down to the basement laundry room to wash it off and hoping to goodness that my mom never found out about it.

There also were the “cool girls” or whatever (I doubt they had a name like “The Pink Ladies” of Grease) who I remember looking at me at school daily like I had something gross stuck to my face or caught in my hair. While I could recount awful, awful things these girls did, I’ll share a less traumatizing experience. When my friends decided to try out for cheerleading, after the “cool girls” responded negatively toward cheerleading, I remember one of the cool girls coming up to me and asking “are you trying out for cheerleading, too” in that tone that told me if I was about to try out for cheerleading, I just made her question every view of reality she had. No, I remember saying,  but didn’t bother explaining to her that I had no desire to wave a pom pom around.

Then I moved to a new school, so I have no idea what happened to any of these people, though I assume many of them just live in the town we lived in then, with families and kids and boring almost-upper-middle-class lives. The only thing I do know is that the girl who asked me if I was also trying out for cheerleading ended up being diagnosed with MS later in her life, along with her mom, and she does a lot with MS Walks for Life and other MS-related organizations in our community. Even though she is doing good works, I still wanna say, “karma is a bitch, isn’t it?” even though that is an awful thing to say and Karma exists throughout lives, and so on and so forth, if you have ever read anything about karma. So the karma comment is kind of irrelevant, and honestly, it is terrible she has such a debilitating illness.

Though bullies don’t just reside in junior high, as they also reside in adulthood. The thing is, bullying is way more passive-aggressive in adulthood and it is so much weirder, less in your face, and more regulated to people’s closed offices and some people simply call it gossip, though I think gossip can become a bullying mechanism as well. The thing is, as an adult, you know it goes on, but the less it becomes an issue, or a painful issue, though I would say it still sucks.  And I often wonder why they bother anyway. Is there something they are missing in their own lives? Are they upset by something you got that they didn’t? It must be something like jealousy, right? Or maybe just stunted personal growth? The good news is, of course, it is easier to avoid as an adult. You can do tons of things to never hear about it, and that is I think what makes bullying different now as compared to bullying in junior high.

But, in the linked article, the author talks about that even though our old bullying tormentors have “moved on” as have we and now have their own lives, babies, etc, there is still a part of you that wants to respond thusly (and I’m having a lengthy quote here because I wanna give some context):

Sure she had the backyard trampoline and the boy-girl parties I coveted when we were 13, but some day my hard work would pay off and I’d leave town for a good college. I’d end up living somewhere far away from Wisconsin, somewhere like Boston (I was obsessed with Boston, due to bricks being a sign of class and also not knowing what class was). One day I’d be working a job I loved, I’d have a life rich with experience, a million stories for dinner parties. I’d travel. I’d know things. I’d know interesting people. I’d experience things she’d never experience. And that’s how I’d “win.”

But part and parcel to my “winning” was my middle school tormenter agreeing with my definition of what it means to live a better life than another person.  I’ve traveled the country and lived abroad, but I’ve had a string of relationships that didn’t work out including a failed engagement. I graduated from college and my job sitch is fantastic, but I live in an apartment around the corner from a liquor store that has to buzz you into the room where you can buy wine. I couldn’t be happier with my personal life, but I don’t own a car. I live in one of the most exciting places in the world and can do almost whatever I want almost whenever I want it, but I’m childless. I met all three Hanson brothers one time during a shoot and one of them winked at me but I’ve never been to a Green Bay Packers game. What I really want is for her to acknowledge that she wishes her life were different, that she wishes her life were mine.

For sure. I could write a similar paragraph. I stayed home writing stories and reading books convinced that someday it would pay off. It did. I like to remind people of this now and then. I think my life is pretty awesome. But that last sentence in that paragraph is so important. There is this crazy, delirious part of you on the inside that totally and completely wants the harassers from the past to come up to you and say, “you know, I wish I had a life like yours today.” Just once.

But of course, they probably never will, even if they felt that way.

The closest I ever came to such a statement from anyone who picked on me in the past was at my ten-year reunion. The person gave an acknowledgment to what I had done so far in my life, in just ten years, and they were impressed. I remember smiling and saying something like thank you and I enjoy my life a lot. That person lives in the town we grew up in, has a family, and works a job where there is No Degree Required. I think the person even owns a home. I, meanwhile, am still in school, though in a Ph.D. program, living on a GTA stipend, in an efficiency apartment, but I have no kids and I can pretty much do whatever I want if I have the time and money, with money being the real kicker.  While that person starts the weekend with making dinner and maybe making sure the kids are all ready for bed soon, I start my weekend with a movie and a beer and no kids to interrupt my dinner, drinking, or movie watching and it is my version of bliss. And like how Erin Gloria Ryan points out in her article, still linked above, there is no way you can really right all the wrongs of what happened before. It would come out sounding bitter and you would only become the bully, even if it would be a little cathartic and maybe, there was some catharsis for the bullies back then, too, though I have no foggy idea of what that could be.