Jenn


I hate writer’s block.  Especially when it seems to be selective writer’s block, only specifically blocking the one thing I really, really, really need to be working on right now.  And I was on such a roll this morning before I had to stop to go to my first class.  Why can’t I get back there now?  Arrrgh!

So I’m blogging.  Because that helps with writer’s block, right?  Right?  Well, at least it’s an attempt.  It’s better than reading Veronica Mars recaps on Television Without Pity.  Not that I’m, you know, doing that at the moment or anything.  Though it would be research for when Justin trades me his DVDs of the first two Veronica Mars seasons for the Heroes Season One DVDs I just finished.  (I still like Sylar the best, except for perhaps Mr. Muggles.  Is this wrong?)

Ok, moving on… I had a good Easter break.  I dug the vegetable garden and planted sweet peas and lilies of the valley.  Hopefully the seeds haven’t frozen in the ground by now, what with all the random snowflakes flying around, but they’re cold-weather plants, so I think they can take it.  I think.  It was one of the happiest times of the last couple months digging out in the garden under the wide, open sky.  I forget, during those months when I don’t have access to the ground, how much being outside helping things grow fills me up inside.  I don’t know how people could live in urban concrete jungles with no access to growing things.  I couldn’t do it.  I think part of me would die inside.

The Easter Vigil was fun.  I wore my new peep-toe shoes (Liv: “Peep!  Peep!”), and got to sit next to Eric, who is one of my favorite relatives ever.  (No, really, ever.)  We can’t sit next to each other in church too often.  We find the same offbeat things utterly hilarious, and can’t help pointing them out to one another.  It makes for a very distracting sort of Mass.  The Easter Vigil always starts with the lighting of the new fire, followed by the candlelight procession into the church.  After the Easter proclamation, everyone blows out their candles and sits down to listen to the Bible readings.  There are a lot of them since this is the Easter Vigil.  Eric was fidgeting with his candle during the readings, peeling layers of wax off of it, then breaking it into segments and folding it into a figure 8 which then got reinserted into the paper cuff that’s supposed to catch the wax.  This meant that when the time came to relight the candles later in the Vigil, his candle had two ends we could light.  So we did, giggling silently as we watched them burn down extra quickly.  Then I had to recite him the oh, so apropos Edna St. Vincent Millay poem (“My candle burns at both ends,/ It will not last the night./ But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,/ It gives a lovely light.”)  That was pretty funny too.

The other fun thing was that I took Liv home with me for Easter dinner.  I love watching her hang out with my family, especially the guys in my family.  The thing is that she’s really, really beautiful.  However, she doesn’t see her own beauty, particularly since she pays little to no attention to her looks whatsoever.  In her book, her blond sister is the beautiful one in the family, and Liv is the tomboy that nobody looks at twice.  Plus, she grew up rough-housing with two little brothers, so she doesn’t quite understand how the same behavior that’s really annoying in an older sister could be, well, really encouraging in a cute young woman sortof your own age.  It’s a kind of innocence.  Mikey is still young enough that they can play together without worries (plus he’s the one she trusts enough to carry her from my car into the house), but it was interesting watching Larry, my oldest brother.  He had just gotten his hair buzzed really short, so she had to rub it (she rubs her little brothers heads when they’ve just gotten a buzz cut).  It was awesome watching his brain melt and dribble out of his skull right there in my aunt’s living room.

And the other good part about Easter?  I got to talk to Joe.  When I was getting ready to leave my aunt’s house I saw that I’d missed a couple of calls, one from Ella, and one from a number I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t really think it was him, but part of me hoped (I’ve been missing him a lot, and it had been over a month since I got his last letter).  So I listened to my messages right then and there.  One of them was from him, telling me that he’s in New Orleans and giving me a number where I’ll be able to contact him from now until May.  Do you know how long it’s been since I had a phone number I could dial and connect with Joe any old time I wanted?  Years.  I mean, first he was in Afghanistan, then world traveling, then sharing a phone with the whole Jesuit novitiate.  It’s been a long time.  I got myself and Liv home as quickly as I could, went directly up to my room and called 14.  We talked a long time, the first time I think we’ve been able to talk ourselves out since he left town a year ago.  Then last night I called him again, just because I could. 

Now I’m trying to finish up school projects, clean the house to make a good impression of the potential roommate who might come visiting this weekend while I’m gone, and getting ready to leave for Boston.  Yup, friends, it’s time for the Boston Tea Party!  I’ve been waiting for this since I came home from my first Tea Party last year.  I’m so excited and nervous and stressed thinking of all the things that have to happen between now and when I fly out of Columbus on Thursday.  Thank goodness this year I have a room in the actual hotel, and if all goes well I’ll actually make it out for Thursday night instead of missing my flight like last year.  I’m also registered to compete in the West Coast Newcomers Jack & Jill.  Also, John Lindo owes me two dances.

Eeek!  Just thinking about it makes me nervous.  Breathe, Bernadette, breathe.  Ok.  I’m going to take another stab at that paper writing, and if that doesn’t work, I’m doing laundry.

Jenn just messaged me that K-Mart is selling roses for cheap!   Maybe I’ll have my rose garden after all!

The other night I was talking with Jenn, who launched into her list of Christmas cookies. There’s the standard cutouts, and chocolate pretzels, and Russian tea balls, (which gets amended to Russian tea cakes with a look at Mark, her husband, who just can’t resist going there with his dirty mind), and Lord knows what else. She has peanut butter dough and gingerbread dough and sugar cookie dough, and then there’s the plans for when she’ll get each kind made, and how she’ll arrange the platters and who she’ll give them to. Her associates at work each get one, and then there’s family, and… yeah, like that.

I remember when that was me. I would be reading the food and housekeeping magazines, with their feature stories on cookies and families who make lots and lots of cookies in a heartwarming and family spirited sort of way. There are gorgeous pictures of these cookies, arranged tastefully and appetizingly in ways that just scream, “Omigosh, the person who made these is amazing!” (No, really! They do!) I would clip recipes and make shopping lists for ingredients and garnishes. I planned out days and baked accordingly. There were some memorable cookies in those years. I particularly remember the chocolate sandwich cookies with Bailey’s Irish Cream flavored filling. And then there was the year of the gingerbread people. I baked bazillions of them, icing them to resemble various members of the family, and hung them up as an edible part of the Christmas decorations. Of course, it was one of those unpredictable southern Ohio Christmases. Somehow we got a spell of humidity, which softened the gingerbread, making them slowly start to fall off their hangers. This meant we had to eat them quick before they fell. I still have the recipe somewhere, along with the one for little gingerbread mice with black licorice tails (too insanely cute) that I just never got around to making.

Then I went back to school, and the first weeks of December became irretrievably associated with exams instead of Christmas preparation. I’m all good with the holiday fun up through Thanksgiving, and then life becomes a blur of final projects, final papers, and tests on books that, oh yeah, I might want to actually read. The holiday hype buildup becomes reduced to vaguely noticing the Christmas songs playing at the grocery store as I’m blearily stocking up on necessities before another all night study session. In my world, school is all there is. People keep inviting me to Christmas parties (I have four this weekend alone), and I think to myself, don’t you people realize it’s exam week? I become very grateful for the liturgical season of Advent, which gives me a good reason not to be thinking about this stuff right now. I’ll do that later. When exams are over, and it’s actually Christmas.

I just got home from our annual Family Christmas Planning Brunch. Thank God this only comes around once a year. There’s just so many of us (eleven kids plus two parents, though two kids are overseas and one’s at college so we only had seven), and everybody has to chime in on everything. It was three and a half hours that felt like a small lifetime. Even then we didn’t get everything done, so we’re going to have Christmas Planning Brunch: The Sequel sometime in November. I love my family, I really do. Just they make me feel so… claustrophobic.

What made it even more fun was that Heather, the sister I get along with the least, was especially fragile. She just found out that she’s being laid off. Her employers lost a major contract, and since she was the one most recently hired, she gets the ax. There had been some planning mix-ups about the brunch itself, and I hadn’t been notified that the time had been pushed back two hours to accommodate Heather’s schedule . At the beginning of the meeting, I asked that if we were going to change the time of a group event like this that we have at least a week’s notice. Heather decided that this was a personal attack against her, and said that the time had been open to change since no specific time had been set on the calendar. I stated that this wasn’t true, since I’d had it on my calendar with the original time for months. She decided this meant that I was calling her a liar, and proceeded to have an emotional outburst, complete with swear words, at the brunch table. Perhaps this is nothing unusual for most families, but I have a mother who doesn’t want us to even use the word “crap” because she considers it unacceptably vulgar. Thankfully Heather reined herself in about that point, or things could have gotten even more dramatic. Unfortunately, since this was in front of the entire family, everyone had to chime in immediately afterwards with their analysis, attempts to reconcile the two of us, recommendations for avoiding similar situations in the future, etc. By the time I got them to move on we were already an hour into the meeting and had accomplished precisely nothing. It was lovely.

The good thing is that we’ve established some important groundwork for the holiday season, including scheduling all the major family events, of which there are many. We’re a family who really likes to celebrate the whole Christmas season, not just one day. So there’s Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Family Gift Giving Day, Going To See A Movie Together, Preparing for Events, and the Huge Blowout New Year’s Day Party, with smaller things tucked in here and there between. I really like how we celebrate. I just wish there were a way to do it without the meetings.

In other news, I wore my Princess Pupule costume to the Halloween dance last night, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  The costume was a hit.  As I was paying my admission, Jenn spied the basket of papayas I’d parked on the counter.  “Are those papayas?” she asked incredulously.  “Yes,” I said, “Do you know why?”  “Oh, yeah!” she said, and started laughing.  It was awesome.  And really, if you need a costume you can dance in, a hula girl costume is hard to beat!  It’s comfortable, not too hot, and the grass skirt really flies when you spin.  I wore two of them over my ballet leotard and tights, with leis around my neck, one pinned in my hair, and another twisted around my ankle.  I’ll wear the costume again at the weekly dance on Wednesday.  I have to say I’m looking forward to it!

So it seems like my Higher Power has decided that I will have a Midterm Break whether I like it or not. And for that I say meekly, “Thank you, Higher Power!” My planned schedule had involved:

  • a full day of classes Wednesday, plus teaching Swing I that night,
  • a Cooking Day with Jenn on Thursday,
  • a full day of work and a wedding on Friday,
  • lots of house chores and a birthday dinner for Michelle on Saturday,
  • then going to Indianapolis to dance Westie on Sunday.

In other words, a pretty normal Bernadette schedule. Then half my classes Wednesday got canceled, Jenn had to cancel on me, my boss asked if I wanted to change my work schedule for Friday since it was Midterm Break, and the birthday dinner got turned into a birthday brunch. Sunday (so far, at least) is the only day that has remained the same. The great thing about Jenn pulling out is that I had already made all the arrangements for my jobs at Theology On Tap to be covered, so I had this wonderful and unexpected thing: a completely free evening. It was lovely.

I finally figured out what I’m going to do for my costume for the Halloween swing dance. The Dorothy costume I had planned with such loving care just wasn’t getting finished, and the way my schedule has been, it’s not going to. I knew I needed to figure something else out, and after all the talking about my other costume idea, it needed to be good. Last week I was dancing with Doug to one of my favorite songs, a silly novelty song about a Hawaiian princess with lots of papayas, which she generously distributes to the populace. (“She loves to give it away, I mean papaya…”) The next day I googled the lyrics and discovered that the song was Princess Pupule Has Plenty Papaya by Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiians. So now I’m figuring that I’ll get a grass skirt, some leis, wear them over a dancing skirt and a tank top with a tiara, bring a basket of papayas, and be Princess Pupule for Halloween.

My social life tends to be a little schizophrenic.  There’s the swing dancing part, and the Catholic young adult part.  Historically, the Catholic young adult part was the biggest and the deepest, where my good friends were, where I drew my emotional support, the people that I hung out with on the weekends, the people I took care of.  Swing dancing was that odd thing I went off on my own to do.  I wasn’t very close to the other swing dancers, and I was happy with that.  There were already too many people who felt they had a right to my time and attention.  Swing dancing was the place I could go and just be, the place where I could be selfish.  All I wanted was to dance, and so I did.

Then I started getting closer to people at swing.  First Mark and Jenn, then Chiara, then Trey and Anna and others.  I started dancing a lot more, and spending most of my free time (and a lot of time that wasn’t really free) dancing.  Little by little I began to pull away from the Catholic part of my life.  Being Catholic is still one of the foundational facts of my existence and my friendships with my Catholic friends go way deeper, but my social life is now focused on swing.

Last weekend I had a party.  I called it Big Party @ Bernadette’s, and I invited my whole life.  I told everyone that this September marks my 2nd year of swing dancing, plus I’d moved into a new house that I wanted to show off, and I wanted to see all of them.  And they came.  I had maybe 60 or 70 people there, although they came and went, so I think the most we had at one time was maybe 50.  We had beer, and chicken on the grill, and a dance floor in the basement that everyone was having too much fun to use.  It was a great party.  People are still telling me what an awesome time they had.  It was a huge success.

Except my worlds didn’t mix.  My Catholic friends and my swing friends pretty much stayed in their own groups, warily acknowledging each other’s existence at a distance.  I think each group intimidated the other, but for different reasons.  And while my Catholic friends are well aware that my life has a cast of thousands, I think my swing friends didn’t really realize what a large circle of acquaintance I have.  I can’t make people talk to each other, but I guess I’d hoped that there might be a little cross-over.  And… no.  I’m still stuck in the middle.